Paranoia (007 of 170)

—of —
by Joseph Finder
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Macmillan: Paranoia

Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder.
All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.

Part One: 3 (Cont'd)

The note-taking woman reached for a Kleenex and blew her nose. She was glowering at Arnold Meacham now. Meacham winced.

I whispered, "I just had to show him what he meant to me—what he meant to all of us. I guess like it was my own sort of Make-A-Wish Foundation. I told him—I told him I'd hit the trifecta at the track, I didn't want him to know or to worry or anything. I mean, believe me, what I did was wrong, totally wrong. It was wrong in a hundred different ways, I'm not going to bullshit you. But maybe in just one small way it was right." The woman reached for another Kleenex and looked at Meacham as if he were the scum of the earth. Meacham was looking down, flushed and unable to meet my gaze. I was giving myself chills.

Then from the shadowed far end of the office I heard a door open and what sounded like clapping. Slow, loud clapping.

It was Nicholas Wyatt, the founder and CEO of Wyatt Telecommunications. He approached as he clapped, smiling broadly. "Brilliant performance," he said. "Absolutely brilliant."

I looked up, startled, then shook my head sorrowfully. Wyatt was a tall man, around six foot six, with a wrestler's build. He just got bigger and bigger as he got closer until, standing a few feet away from me, he seemed larger than life. Wyatt was known as a sharp dresser, and sure enough, he was wearing some kind of Armani-looking gray suit with a subtle pinstripe. He wasn't just powerful, he looked powerful.

"Mr. Cassidy, let me ask you a question."

I didn't know what to do, so I stood up, extended my hand to shake.

Wyatt didn't shake my hand. "What's Jonesie's first name?"

I hesitated, a beat too long. "Al," I finally said.

"Al? As in—what?"

"Al—Alan," I said. "Albert. Shit."

Meacham stared at me.

"Details, Cassidy," Wyatt said. "They'll fuck you over every time. But I have to say, you moved me—you really did. The part about the Salvation Army suit really got me right here." He tapped his chest with a fist. "Extraordinary."

I grinned sheepishly, really feeling like a tool. "The guy here said to make it good."

Wyatt smiled. "You're a supremely gifted young man, Cassidy. A goddamned Scheherazade. And I think we should have a talk."

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Macmillan: Paranoia
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