Paranoia (056 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.


The next morning was Sunday, my only chance to sleep late, so of course Arnold Meacham insisted on meeting me early. I'd replied to his daily e-mail using the name "Donnie," which told him I had something to deliver. He e-mailed right back, told me to be at the parking lot of a particular Home Depot at nine A.M. sharp.

There were a lot of people here already—not everyone slept late on Sunday—buying lumber and tile and power tools and bags of grass seed and fertilizer. I waited in the Audi for a good half hour.

Then a black BMW 745i pulled into the space next to mine, looking a little out of place among the pickup trucks and SUVs. Arnold Meacham was wearing a baby-blue cardigan sweater and looked like he was on his way to play golf somewhere. He signaled for me to get into his car, which I did, and I handed him a CD and a file folder.

"And what do we have here?" he asked.

"List of AURORA Project employees," I said.

"All of them?"

"I don't know. At least some."

"Why not all?"

"It's forty-seven names there," I said. "It's a decent start."

"We need the complete list."

I sighed. "I'll see what I can do." I paused for a second, torn between not wanting to tell the guy anything I didn't have to—the more I told him, the more he'd push me—and wanting to brag about how much progress I'd been making. "I have my boss's passwords," I finally said.

"Which boss? Lundgren?"

"Nora Sommers."

He nodded. "You use the software?"

"No, the KeyGhost."

"What'll you do with them?"

"Search her archived e-mail. Maybe go into her MeetingMaker and find out who she meets with."

"That's penny-ante shit," Meacham said. "I think it's time to penetrate AURORA."

"Too risky right now," I said, shaking my head.


A guy rolled a shopping cart stacked with green bags of Scott's Starter Fertilizer by Meacham's window. Four or five little kids ran around behind him. Meacham looked over, electrically rolled up his window, turned back to me. "Why?" he repeated.

"The badge access is separate."

"For Christ's sake, follow someone in, steal a badge, whatever. Do I need to put you back in basic training?"

"They log all entries, and every entrance has a turnstile, so you can't just sneak in."

"What about the cleaning crew?"

"There's also closed-circuit TV cameras trained on every entry point. It's not so easy. You don't want me to get caught, not now."

He seemed to back down. "Jesus, the place is well defended."

"You could probably learn a trick or two."

"Fuck you," he snapped. "What about HR files?"

"HR's pretty well protected too," I said.

"Not like AURORA. That ought to be relatively easy. Get us the personnel files on everyone you can who's associated in any way with AURORA. At least the people on this list." He held up the CD.

"I can try for it next week."

"Do it tonight. Sunday night's a good time to do it."

"I've got a big day tomorrow. We're making a presentation to Goddard."

He looked disgusted. "What, you're too busy with your cover job? I hope you haven't forgotten who you really work for."

"I've got to be up to speed. It's important."

"All the more reason why you'd be in the office working tonight," he said, and he turned the key in the ignition.

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