Paranoia (079 of 170)

—of —
by Joseph Finder
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Macmillan: Paranoia

Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder.
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Part Four: 39 (Cont'd)

"Wrong. The Alpha usually doesn't have to do anything more than glare. Maybe posture a bit. Raise his tail and ears, snarl, make himself look big and fierce. And if a fight does break out, the Alpha will attack the least vulnerable parts of the transgressor's body. He doesn't want to seriously maim a member of his own pack, and certainly not kill anyone. You see, the Alpha wolf needs the others. Wolves are small animals, and no individual wolf is going to bring down a moose, a deer, a caribou, without help from a pack. Point is, they're always testing."

"Meaning that I'm always going to be tested." Yeah, I didn't need an MBA to work for Goddard. I needed a veterinary degree.

She gave me a sidelong glance. "The point, Adam, is that the testing is always subtle. But at the same time, the leader of a wolf pack wants strength on his team. That's why occasional displays of aggression are acceptable—they demonstrate the stamina, the strength, the vitality of the entire pack. This is the importance of honesty, of strategic candor. When you flatter, do it subtly and indirectly, and make sure that Goddard thinks he can always get the unvarnished truth from you. Jock Goddard realizes what a lot of other CEOs don't—that candor from his aides is vital if he's going to know what's going on inside his company. Because if he's out of touch with what's really happening, he's history. And let me tell you something else you need to know. In every male mentor-protégé relationship there's a father-son element, but I suspect it's even more germane in this case. You likely remind him of his son, Elijah."

Goddard had called me that a couple of times by mistake, I recalled. "My age?"

"Would have been. He died a couple of years ago at the age of twenty-one. Some people think that since the tragedy Goddard has never been the same, that he got a little too soft. The point is, just as you may come to idealize Goddard as the father you wish you had"—she smiled, she knew about my Dad somehow—"you may well remind him of the son he wishes he still had. You should be aware of this, because it's something you may be able to use. And it's something to watch out for—he may cut you some undeserved slack at times, yet at other times he may be unreasonably demanding."

She turned to her laptop and tapped at a few keys. "Now, I want your undivided attention. We're going to watch some television interviews Goddard has given over the years—an early one from Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser, several from CNBC, one he did with Katie Couric on The Today Show."

A video image of a much younger Jock Goddard, though still impish, pixielike—was frozen on the screen. Judith whirled around in her chair to face me. "Adam, this is an extraordinary opportunity you've been handed. But it's also a far more dangerous situation than you've been in at Trion, because you'll be far more constrained, far less able to move about the company unnoticed or just 'hang out' with regular people and network with them. Paradoxically, your intelligence-gathering assignment has just become hugely more difficult. You're going to need all the ammunition you can collect. So before we finish today, I want you to know this fellow inside and out, are you with me?"

"I'm with you."

"Good," she said, and gave me her scary little smile. "I know you are." Then she lowered her voice almost to a whisper. "Listen, Adam, I have to tell you—for your own sake—that Nick is getting very impatient for results. You've been at Trion for how many weeks?—and he has yet to know what's going on in the skunkworks."

"There's a limit," I began, "to how aggressive—"

"Adam," she said quietly, but with an unmistakable note of menace. "This is not someone you want to fuck with."

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