Paranoia (027 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 Two: 13 (Cont'd)

I got a burger and Diet Pepsi and he got some kind of mysterious Asian stir-fry thing. It was ridiculously cheap. We looked around the room, holding our trays, but Mordden didn't find anyone he wanted to sit with, so we sat at a table by ourselves. I had that first-day-of-school feeling, when you don't know anyone. It reminded me of when I started Bartholomew Browning.

"Goddard doesn't stay at Motel Sixes too, does he?"

"I doubt it. But he's not too in-your-face about his money. He won't take limos. He drives his own car—though granted he has a dozen or so, all antiques he's restored himself. Also, he gives his top fifty execs the luxury car of their choice, and they all make a shitload of money—really obscene. Goddard's smart—he knows you've got to pay the top talent well in order to retain them."

"What about you Distinguished Engineers?"

"Oh, I've made an obscene amount of money here myself. I could in theory tell everyone to go fuck themselves and still have trust funds for my kids, if I had any kids."

"But you're still working."

He sighed. "When I struck gold, just a few years after I started here, I quit and sailed around the world, packing only my clothes and several heavy suitcases containing the Western canon."

"The western cannon?"

He smiled. "The greatest hits of Western literature."

"Like Louis L'Amour?"

"More like Herodotus, Thucydides, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Montaigne, Kafka, Freud, Dante, Milton, Burke—"

"Man, I slept through that class in college," I said.

He smiled again. Obviously he thought I was a moron.

"Anyway," he said, "once I'd read everything, I realized that I'm constitutionally unable not to work, and I returned to Trion. Have you read Étienne de la Boétie's Discourse on Voluntary Servitude?"

"Will that be on the final?"

"The only power tyrants have is that relinquished by their victims."

"That and the power to hand out free Pepsis," I said, tipping my can toward him. "So you're an engineer."

He gave a polite smile that was more of a grimace. "Not just any engineer, take note, but, as I said, a Distinguished Engineer. That means I have a low employee number and I can pretty much do whatever I want. If that means being a thorn in Nora Sommers's side, so be it. Now, as for the cast of characters on the marketing side of your business unit. Let's see, you've already met the toxic Nora. And Tom Lundgren, your exalted VP, who's basically a straight shooter who lives for the church, his family, and golf. And Phil Bohjalian, old as Methuselah and just about as technologically up-to-date, who started at Lockheed Martin when it was called something else and computers were as big as houses and ran on IBM punch cards. His days are surely numbered. And—lo and behold, it's Elvis himself, venturing into our midst!"

I turned to where he was looking. Standing by the salad bar was a white-haired, stoop-shouldered guy with a heavily lined face, heavy white eyebrows, large ears, and a sort of pixieish expression. He was wearing a black turtleneck. You could sense the energy in the room change, rippling around him in waves, as people turned to look, whispered, everyone trying to be blasé and subtle.

Augustine Goddard, Trion's founder and chief executive officer, in the flesh.

He looked older than in the pictures I'd seen. A much younger and taller guy was standing next to him, saying something. The younger guy, around forty, was lean and really fit, black hair run through with gray. Italian-looking, movie-star handsome like an action hero who was aging really well, but with deeply pitted cheeks. Except for the bad skin, he reminded me of Al Pacino in the first couple of Godfather movies. He was wearing a great charcoal-gray suit.

"That Camilletti?" I asked.

"Cutthroat Camilletti," Mordden said, digging into his stir-fry with chopsticks. "Our chief financial officer. The czar of frugality. They're together a lot, those two." He spoke through a mouthful of food. "You see his face, those acne vulgaris scars? Rumor has it they say 'eat shit and die' in Braille. Anyway, Goddard considers Camilletti the second coming of Jesus Christ, the man who's going to slash operating costs, increase profit margins, launch Trion stock back into the stratosphere. Some say Camilletti is Jock Goddard's id, the bad Jock. His Iago. The devil on his shoulder. I say he's the bad cop who lets Jock be the good cop."

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