COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
Part Two: 13 (Cont'd)
I finished my burger. The CEO and his CFO were in line, paying for their salads, I noticed. Couldn't they just walk out without paying? Or butt to the front of the line or something?
"It's also very Camilletti to get lunch in the employee dining room," Mordden continued, "to demonstrate to the masses his commitment to slashing costs. He doesn't cut costs, he 'slashes' them. No executive dining room at Trion. No personal executive chef. No catered lunches brought in, not for them, oh no. Break bread with the peasants." He took a swallow of Dr Pepper. "Where were we in my little Playbill, my Who's Who in the Cast? Ah, yes. There's Chad Pierson, Nora's golden-haired boy and protégé, boy wonder and professional suckup. MBA from Tuck, moved from B school right into product marketing at Trion, recently did a stint in Marketing Boot Camp, and no doubt he's going to consider you a threat to be eliminated. And there's Audrey Bethune, the only black woman in ..."
Noah fell silent suddenly, poked more stir-fry into his mouth. I saw a handsome blond guy around my age gliding quickly up to our table, a shark through water. Button-down blue shirt, preppy-looking, a jock. One of those white-blond guys you see in multipage magazine ad spreads, consorting with other specimens of the master race at a cocktail party on the lawn of their baronial estate.
Noah Mordden took a hasty swig of his Dr Pepper and stood up. He had brown stir-fry stains on the front of his Aloha shirt. "Pardon me," he said uncomfortably. "I have a one-on-one." He left his dishes spread out on the table and bolted just as the white-blond guy got there, hand outstretched.
"Hey, man, how you doing?" the guy said. "Chad Pierson."
I went to shake his hand, but he did one of those hip-hop too-cool-to-shake-hands-the-normal-way hand-slide things. His fingernails looked manicured. "Man," he said, "I've heard so much about you, you stud!"
"All bullshit," I said. "Marketing, you know."
He laughed conspiratorially. "Nah, you're supposed to be the man. I'm hangin' with you, learn a trick or two."
"I'm going to need all the help I can get. They tell me it's sink-or-swim around here, and it definitely looks like the deep end."
"So, Mordden give you his cynical egghead shit?"
I smiled neutrally. "Gave me his take."
"All negative. He thinks he's in some kind of soap opera, some Machiavelli-type deal. Maybe he is, but I wouldn't pay him much attention."
I realized that I'd just sat with the unpopular kid on the first day of school, but that just made me want to defend Mordden. "I like him," I said.
"He's an engineer. They're all weird. You play hoops?"
"Every Tuesday and Thursday lunchtime in the gym there's always a pick-up game, we gotta get you on the court. Plus maybe you and me can go out for a drink some time, catch a game, whatever."
"Sounds great," I said.
"Anyone tell you about the Corporate Games beer bash yet?"
"I guess that's not exactly Mordden's thing. Anyway, it's a blast." He was hyper, torquing his body from side to side like a basketball player looking for a lane to make a monster dunk. "So, bud, you're going to be at the two o'clock, right?"
"Wouldn't miss it."
"Cool. Nice having you on the team, bud. We're gonna do some damage, you and me." He gave me a big smile.