Paranoia (092 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.


I was up most of the night: unfortunately, I was starting to get used to this.

The odious Nick Wyatt had spent more than an hour giving me his whole take on the Trion product line, including all sorts of inside information, stuff very few other people would know. It was like getting Rommel's take on Montgomery. Obviously he knew a hell of a lot about the market, since he was one of Trion's principal competitors, and he had all sorts of valuable information, which he was willing to give up for the sole purpose of making Goddard impressed with me. His short-term strategic loss would be his long-term strategic gain.

I raced back to the Harbor Suites by midnight and got to work on PowerPoint, putting the slides together for my presentation to Goddard. To be honest, I was pretty amped up about it. I knew I couldn't coast; I had to keep performing at peak. As long as I had the benefit of inside information from Wyatt, I'd impress Goddard, but what would happen when I didn't? What if he asked my opinion on something, and I revealed my true, ignorant self? Then what?

When I couldn't work on the presentation anymore, I took a break and checked my personal e-mail on Yahoo and Hotmail and Hushmail. The usual junk-mail spam—"Viagra Online BUY IT HERE VIAGRA NO PRESCRIPTION" and "BEST XXX SITE!" and "Mortgage Approval!" Nothing more from "Arthur." Then I signed on to the Trion Web site.

One e-mail leaped out at me: It was from I clicked on it.

FROM: KGriffin
TO: ACassidy

Dude! Great seeing you! Nice to see you looking so slick & doing so well—way to go! Very impressed by your career here. Is it something in the water? Give ME some!

I'm getting to know people around Trion & would love to take you to lunch or whatever. Let me know!


I didn't reply—I had to figure out how to handle it. The guy had obviously looked me up, saw my new title, couldn't figure it out. Whether he wanted to get together out of curiosity, or to brownnose, this was big trouble. Meacham and Wyatt had said they'd "nuke" him, whatever that meant, but until they did whatever they were going to do, I'd have to be extra careful. Kevin Griffin was a loaded gun lying around, waiting to go off. I didn't want to go near it.

Then I signed off, and signed back on using Nora's user ID and password. It was two in the morning, and I figured she had to be offline. It would be a good time to try to get into her archived e-mail, go through it all, download anything that had to do with AURORA, if there was anything.


I re-entered her password, this time more carefully, and got INVALID PASSWORD again. This time I was certain I hadn't made a mistake.

Her password had been changed.


When I finally crashed for the night, my mind was racing, running through all the possibilities as to why Nora had changed her password. Maybe the security guard, Luther, had come by one night when Nora happened to be staying a little later than usual, and he was expecting to see me, engage in a conversation about Mustangs or whatever, but he saw Nora instead. He might wonder what she was doing there in that office, might even—it wasn't totally unlikely—confront her. And then he'd give her a description and she'd figure it out; it wouldn't take her long at all.

But if that's what had happened, she wouldn't just change her password, would she? She'd do more than that. She'd want to know why I was in her office, when she hadn't given me permission to be there. Where that could lead, I didn't want to think about....

Or maybe it was all innocent. Maybe she'd just changed her password routinely, the way every Trion employee was supposed to do every sixty days.

Probably that's all it was.

I didn't sleep well at all, and after a couple of hours of tossing and turning I decided to just get up, take a shower and get dressed, and head into work. My Goddard work was done; it was my Wyatt work, my espionage, that was way behind. If I got into work early enough, maybe I could try to find out something about AURORA.

I glanced in the mirror as I walked out. I looked—like shit.

"You up already?" Carlos the concierge said as my Porsche pulled up to the front curb. "Man, you can't keep hours like this, Mr. Cassidy. You get sick."

"Nah," I said. "Keeps me honest."

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