Paranoia (061 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 Three: 31 (Cont'd)

Slowly I extricated myself from my contortionist's position, moved noiselessly toward the door of the closet. There I stood for a few moments, listening intently. I couldn't hear a sound. It seemed a safe bet that they'd gone—they'd put out the fire, satisfied themselves that there hadn't been a break-in after all. Human beings, especially security guards who must on some level resent all those computers that have all but put them out of a job, don't trust machines anyway. They'd be quick to blame it on some alarm-system glitch. Maybe, if I were really lucky, no one would wonder why the intrusion-detection alarm had gone off before the smoke alarm had.

Then I took a breath and slowly opened the door.

I looked to either side and straight ahead, and the area seemed to be empty. No one there. I took a few steps, paused, looked around again.

No one.

The place smelled pretty strongly of smoke, and also some kind of chemical, probably from the fire extinguisher stuff.

Quietly, I made my way along the wall, away from any outside windows or glass-paneled doors, until I reached one of the sets of exit doors. Not the main reception doors, and not the rear stairwell doors through which the security guys had entered.

And they were locked.

Still locked.

Christ, no.

They hadn't deactivated the auto-lock. Moving a little more quickly now, the adrenaline surging again, I went to the reception-area doors and pushed against the crash bars, and those too were locked.

I was still locked inside.

Now what?

I had no choice. There was no way to unlock the doors from inside, at least no way that I'd been taught. And I couldn't exactly call Security for help, especially not after what had just happened.

No. I'd just have to stay inside here until someone let me out. Which might not be until the morning, when the cleaning crew came in. Or worse, when the first HR staff arrived. And then I'd have some serious explaining to do.

I was also exhausted. I found a cubicle far from any door or window, and sat down. I was totally fried. I needed sleep badly. So I folded my arms and, like a frazzled student at the college library, passed right out.

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