Paranoia (069 of 170)

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


Part Four:
Compromise

Compromise: The detection of an agent, a safe house, or an intelligence technique by someone from the other side.
—The Dictionary of Espionage

35

Jock Goddard's office was no bigger than Tom Lundgren's or Nora Sommers's. This realization blew me away. The goddamned CEO's office was maybe a few feet bigger than my own pathetic cubicle. I walked right by it once, sure I was in the wrong place. But the name was there—AUGUSTINE GODDARD—on a brass plaque on his door, and he was in fact standing right outside his office, talking to his admin. He had on one of his black mock turtlenecks, no jacket, and wore a pair of black reading glasses. The woman he was talking to, who I assumed was Florence, was a large black woman in a magnificent silver-gray suit. She had skunk stripes of gray running through her hair on either side of her head and looked formidable.

They both looked up as I approached. She had no idea who I was, and it took Goddard a minute, but then he recognized me—it was the day after the big meeting—and said, "Oh, Mr. Cassidy, great, thanks for coming. Can I get you something to drink?"

"I'm all set, thanks," I said. I remembered Dr. Bolton's advice, then said, "Well, maybe some water." Up close he seemed even smaller, more stoop-shouldered. His famous pixie face, the thin lips, the twinkling eyes—it looked exactly like the Halloween masks of Jock Goddard that one of the business units had had made for last year's company-wide Halloween party. I'd seen one hanging from a pushpin on someone's cubicle wall. Everyone in the unit wore one and did some kind of skit or something.

Flo handed him a manila file—I could see it was my HR file—and he told her to hold all calls and showed me into his office. I had no idea what he wanted, so my guilty conscience went into full swing. I mean, here I'd been skulking around the guy's corporation, doing spy-versus-spy stuff. I'd been careful, sure, but there'd been a couple of goofs.

Still, could it really be anything bad? The CEO never swings the axe himself, he always has his henchmen do it. But I couldn't help but wonder. I was ridiculously nervous, and I wasn't doing much of a job of hiding it.

He opened a small refrigerator concealed in a cabinet and handed me a bottle of Aquafina. Then he sat down behind his desk and immediately leaned back in his high leather chair. I took one of two chairs on the other side of the desk. I looked around, saw a photograph of an unglamorous-looking woman who I assumed was his wife, since she was around the same age. She was white-haired, plain, and amazingly wrinkled (Mordden had called her the shar-pei) and she wore a Barbara Bush–style three-strand pearl necklace, probably to conceal the wattles under her chin. I wondered if Nick Wyatt, so consumed with bilious envy toward Jock Goddard, had any idea who Augustine Goddard came home to every night. Wyatt's bimbos were changed, or rotated, every couple of nights and they all had tits like a centerfold; that was a job requirement.

One entire shelf was taken up with old-fashioned tin models of cars, convertibles with big tail fins and swooping lines, a few old Divco milk trucks. They were models from the forties and fifties, probably when Jock Goddard was a kid, a young man.

He saw me looking at them and said, "What do you drive?"

"Drive?" For a moment I didn't get what he was talking about. "Oh, an Audi A6."

"Audi," he repeated as if it were a foreign word. Okay, so maybe it is. "You like it?"

"It's okay."

"I would have thought you'd drive a Porsche 911, or at least a Boxster, or something of that sort. Fella like you."

"I'm not really a gearhead," I said. It was a calculated response, I'll admit, deliberately contrarian. Wyatt's consigliere, Judith Bolton, had even devoted part of a session to talking about cars so I could fit in with the Trion corporate culture. But my gut now told me that one-on-one I wasn't going to pull it off. Better to avoid the subject entirely.




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