COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
I arrived at Wyatt's house at the same time as Meacham, who made some crack about my Porsche. We were shown in to Wyatt's elaborate gym, in the basement level but, because of the landscaping, it wasn't below ground. Wyatt was lifting weights at a reclining bench—a hundred fifty pounds. He wore only a skimpy pair of gym shorts, no shirt, and looked more bulked-up than ever. This guy was Quadzilla.
He finished his set before he said a word, then got up and toweled himself off.
"So you get fired yet?" he said.
"No, Goddard's got things on his mind. Like the fact that his company's falling apart." He looked at Meacham, and the two men chortled. "What'd Saint Augustine have to say about that?"
The question wasn't unexpected, but it came so abruptly I wasn't quite prepared. "Not that much," I said.
"Bullshit," Wyatt said, coming closer to me and staring, trying to intimidate me with his physical presence. Hot damp air rose from his body, smelling unpleasantly like ammonia: the odor of weight lifters who ingest too much protein.
"Not that much that I was around for," I amended. "I mean, I think the article really spooked them—there was a flurry of activity. Crazier than usual."
"What do you know about 'usual'?" said Meacham. "It's your first day on the seventh floor."
"Just my perception," I said lamely.
"How much of the article's true?" said Wyatt.
"You mean, you didn't plant it?" I said.
Wyatt gave me a look. "Are they going to miss the quarter or not?"
"I have no idea," I lied. "It's not like I was in Goddard's office all day." I don't know why I was so stubborn about not revealing the disastrous quarter numbers, or the news about the impending layoffs. Maybe I felt like I'd been entrusted with a secret by Goddard, and it would be wrong to break that confidence. Christ, I was a goddamned mole, a spy—where did I get off being so high and mighty? Why was I suddenly drawing lines: this much I'll tell you, this much I won't? When the news about the layoffs came out tomorrow, Wyatt would go medieval on me for holding back. He wouldn't believe I hadn't heard. So I fudged a little. "But there's something going on," I said. "Something big. Some kind of announcement coming."
I handed Wyatt a folder containing a copy of the strategic plan Goddard had given me to review.
"What's this?" Wyatt said. He set it down on the weight bench, pulled a tank top over his head, and then started leafing through the document.
"Trion's strategic plan for the next eighteen months. Including detailed descriptions of all the new products in the pipeline."
I shook my head. "Goddard did mention it, though."
"He just said there was this big project codenamed AURORA that would turn the company around. Said he'd given it to Camilletti to run."
"Huh. Camilletti's in charge of all acquisitions, and my sources say Project AURORA was put together from a collection of companies Trion's secretly bought over the last few years. Did Goddard say what it was?"
"You didn't ask?"
"Of course I asked. I told him I'd be interested in taking part in something so significant."
Wyatt, paging through the strategic plan, was silent. His eyes were scanning the pages rapidly, excitedly.
Meanwhile, I handed Meacham a scrap of paper. "Jock's personal cell number."
"Jock?" said Meacham in disgust.
"Everyone calls him that. It doesn't mean we're asshole buddies. Anyway, this should help you trace a lot of his most important calls."
Meacham took it without thanks.
"One more thing," I said to Meacham as Wyatt continued reading, fascinated. "There's a problem."
Meacham stared at me. "Don't fuck with us."
"There's a new hire at Trion, a kid named Kevin Griffin, in Sales. They hired him away from you—from Wyatt."
"We were sort of friends."
"Sort of. We played hoops together."
"He knew you at the company?"
"Shit," Meacham said. "That is a problem."
Wyatt looked up from the document. "Nuke him," he said.
"What does that mean?" I said.
"It means we'll take care of him," Meacham said.
"This is valuable information," Wyatt said at last. "Very, very useful. What does he want you to do with it?"
"He wants my overall take on the product portfolio. What's promising, what isn't, what might run into trouble. Whatever."
"That's not very specific."
"He told me he wants a helicopter ride over the terrain."
"Piloted by Adam Cassidy, marketing genius," Wyatt said, amused. "Well, get out a notepad and a pen and start taking notes. I'm going to make you a star."