Paranoia (115 of 170)

—of —
by Joseph Finder
A Message from our Sponsor: Macmillan | Become a Sponsor right arrow
Macmillan: Paranoia

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


Goddard and Camilletti were seated around a small round table along with the COO, Jim Colvin, and another Jim, the director of Human Resources, Jim Sperling, plus a couple of women I didn't recognize. Sperling, a black man with a close-cropped beard and oversize wire-rim glasses, was talking about "targets of opportunity," by which I assume he meant staff they could lop off. Jim Sperling didn't do the Jock Goddard mock turtleneck thing, but he was close enough—a sports-jacket-and-dark-polo-shirt. Only Jim Colvin wore a conventional business suit and tie.

Sperling's young blond assistant slid me some papers listing departments and individual poor suckers that were candidates for the axe. I scanned it quickly, saw that the Maestro team wasn't on there. So I'd saved their jobs after all.

Then I noticed a roster of New Product Marketing names, among them Phil Bohjalian. The old-timer was going to get laid off. Neither Chad nor Nora was on the list, but Phil had been targeted. By Nora, it had to be. Each VP and director had been asked to stack-rank their subordinates and lose at least one out of ten. Nora had obviously singled out Phil for execution.

This seemed to be more or less a rubber-stamp session. Sperling was presenting the list, making a "business case" for those "positions" he wanted to eliminate, and there was little discussion. Goddard looked glum; Camilletti looked intent, even a little jazzed.

When Sperling got to New Product Marketing, Goddard turned to me, silently soliciting my opinion. "Can I say something?" I put in.

"Uh, sure," said Sperling.

"There's a name on here, Phil Bohjalian. He's been with the company something like twenty, twenty-one years."

"He's also ranked lowest," said Camilletti. I wondered whether Goddard had said anything to him about the Wall Street Journal leak. I couldn't tell from Camilletti's manner, since he was no more, or less, abrasive to me than usual. "Plus given his tenure with the company, his benefits cost us an arm and a leg."

"Well, I'd question his ranking," I said. "I'm familiar with his work, and I think his numbers may be more of a matter of interpersonal style."

"Style," said Camilletti.

"Nora Sommers doesn't like his personality." Granted, Phil wasn't exactly a buddy of mine, but he couldn't do me any harm, and I felt bad for the guy.

"Well, if this is just about a personality clash, that's an abuse of the ranking system," said Jim Sperling. "Are you telling me Nora Sommers is abusing the system?"

I saw clearly where this could go. I could save Phil Bohjalian's job and jettison Nora, all at the same time. It was hugely tempting to just speak up and slash Nora's throat. No one in this room particularly cared one way or another. The word would go down to Tom Lundgren, who wasn't likely to battle to save her. In fact, if Goddard hadn't plucked me out of Nora's clutches, it would surely have been my name on the list, not Phil's.

Goddard was watching me keenly, as was Sperling. The others around the table were taking notes.

"No," I said at last. "I don't think she's abusing the system. It's just a chemistry thing. I think both of them pull their weight."

"Fine," Sperling said. "Can we move on?"

"Look," said Camilletti, "we're cutting four thousand employees. We can't possibly go over them one by one."

I nodded. "Of course."

"Adam," Goddard said. "Do me a favor. I gave Flo the morning off—would you mind getting my, uh, handheld from my office? Seem to have forgotten it." His eyes seemed to twinkle. He meant his little black datebook, and I guess the joke was for my enjoyment.

"Sure," I said, and I swallowed hard. "Be right back."

Goddard's office door was closed but unlocked. The little black book was on his bare, neat desk, next to his computer.

I sat down at his desk chair and looked around at his stuff, the framed photographs of his white-haired, grandmotherly-looking wife, Margaret; a picture of his lake house. No pictures of his son, Elijah, I noticed: probably too painful a reminder.

I was alone in Jock Goddard's office, and Flo had the morning off. How long could I stay here without Goddard becoming suspicious? Was there time to try to get into his computer? What if Flo showed up while I was there ...?

No. Insanely risky. This was the CEO's office, and people were probably coming by here all the time. And I couldn't risk taking more than two or three minutes on this errand: Goddard would wonder where I'd been. Maybe I took a quick pee break before I got his book: that might explain five minutes, no more.

But I'd probably never have this opportunity again.

Quickly I flipped the worn little book open and saw phone numbers, pencil scrawlings on calendar entries ... and on the page inside the back cover was printed, in a neat hand, "GODDARD" and below that "62858."

It had to be his password.

Above those five numbers, crossed out, was "JUN2858." I looked at the two series of numbers and figured out that they were both dates, and they were both the same date: June 28, 1958. Obviously a date of some importance to Goddard. I didn't know what. Maybe his wedding date. And both variants were obviously passwords.

I grabbed a pen and a scrap of paper and copied down the ID and password.

But why not copy the whole book? There might well be other important information here.

Closing Goddard's office door behind me, I went up to the photocopier behind Flo's desk.

"You trying to do my job, Adam?" came Flo's voice.

I whipped around, saw Flo carrying a Saks Fifth Avenue bag. She was staring at me with a fierce expression.

"Morning, Flo," I said offhandedly. "No, fear not. I was just getting something for Jock."

"That's good. Because I've been here longer, and I'd hate to have to pull rank on you." Her stare softened, and a sweet smile broke out on her face.

A Message from our Sponsor: Macmillan | Become a Sponsor right arrow
Macmillan: Paranoia
Message from DailyLit
Question of the Week: in exactly 50 words (no more, no less), tell us your scariest, creepiest most chilling story. Click here to enter your 50 Word Fright.
  • Want more? Get the next installment right now.
  • Ideas or questions? Discuss in our forums
  • Need a break? Suspend delivery of this book.
  • Want to adjust your reading schedule or make other changes? Manage all your settings.