COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
On my way out of the lobby men's room, where I did my best to blot up the coffee spill, leaving my khakis damp and wrinkled, I passed the small newsstand in the lobby of A Wing, the main building, which sold the local papers plus USA Today, the New York Times, the salmon-colored Financial Times, and the Journal. The normally towering pile of Wall Street Journals was already half gone and it was barely seven in the morning. Obviously everyone at Trion was reading it. I figured copies of the piece from the Journal's Web site were in everyone's e-mail by now. I said hi to the lobby ambassador and took the elevator to the seventh floor.
Goddard's chief admin, Flo, had already e-mailed me the details of my new office. That's right, not cubicle, but a real office, the same size as Jock Goddard's (and, for that matter, the same size as Nora's and Tom Lundgren's). It was down the hall from Goddard's office, which was dark like all the other offices on the executive corridor. Mine, however, was lit up.
Sitting at her desk outside my office was my new administrative assistant, Jocelyn Chang, a fortyish, imperious-looking Chinese-American woman in an immaculate blue suit. She had perfectly arched eyebrows, short black hair, and a tiny bow-shaped mouth decorated with wet-looking peach-colored lipstick. She was labeling a sorter for correspondence. As I approached, she looked up with pursed lips and stuck out her hand. "You must be Mr. Cassidy."
"Adam," I said. I didn't know, was that my first mistake? Was I supposed to maintain a distance, be formal? It seemed ridiculous and unnecessary. After all, almost everyone here seemed to call the CEO "Jock." And I was about half her age.
"I'm Jocelyn," she said. She had some kind of a flat, nasal Boston-area accent, which I hadn't expected. "Nice to meet you."
"You too. Flo said you've been here forever, which I'm glad to hear." Oops. Women don't like being told that.
"Fifteen years," she said warily. "The last three for Michael Gilmore, your immediate predecessor. He was reassigned a couple of weeks ago, so I've been floating."
"Fifteen years. Excellent. I'll need all the help I can get."
She nodded, no smile, nothing. Then she seemed to notice the Journal under my arm. "You're not going to mention that to Mr. Goddard, are you?"
"Actually, I was going to ask you to have it mounted and framed as a gift to him. For his office."
She gave me a long, terrified stare. Then a slow smile. "That's a joke," she said. "Right?"
"Sorry. Mr. Gilmore wasn't really known for his sense of humor."
"That's okay. I'm not either."
She nodded, not sure how to react. "Right." She glanced at her watch. "You've got a seven-thirty with Mr. Goddard."
"He's not in yet."
She looked at her watch again. "He will be. In fact, I'll bet he just got in. He keeps a very regular schedule. Oh, hold on." She handed me a very fancy-looking document, easily a hundred pages long, bound in some kind of blue leatherette, that said BAIN & COMPANY on the front. "Flo said Mr. Goddard wanted you to read this before the meeting."
"The meeting ... in two and a half minutes."
Was this my first test? There was no way I could read even a page of this incomprehensible gibberish before the meeting, and I sure wasn't going to be late. Bain & Company is a high-priced global management-consulting firm that takes guys around my age, guys that know even less than I do, and works them until they're drooling idiots, making them visit companies and write reports and bill hundreds of thousands of dollars for their bogus wisdom. This one was stamped TRION SECRET. I skimmed it quickly, and all the clichés and buzzwords jumped right out at me—"streamlined knowledge management," "competitive advantage," "operations excellence," "cost inefficiencies," "diseconomies of scale," "minimizing non–value-adding work," blah blah blah—and I knew I didn't even have to read the thing to know what was up.