Paranoia (100 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 got back to Trion on a high, wired from my lunch with Goddard, and it wasn't the mediocre food. It wasn't even that my ideas flew so well. No, it was the plain fact that I'd had the big guy's undivided attention, maybe even admiration. Okay, maybe that was overstating it a little. He took me seriously. Nick Wyatt's contempt for me seemed bottomless. He made me feel like a squirrel. With Goddard I felt as if his decision to single me out as his executive assistant might actually have been justified, and it made me want to work my ass off for the guy. It was weird.

Camilletti was in his office, door closed, meeting with someone important-looking. I caught a glimpse of him through the window, leaning forward, intent. I wondered whether he'd type up notes on his meeting after his visitor left. Whatever he entered into his computer I'd soon have, passwords and all. Including anything on Project AURORA.

And then I felt my first real twinge of—of what? Of guilt, maybe. The legendary Jock Goddard, a truly decent human being, had just taken me out to his shitty little greasy-spoon diner and actually listened to my ideas (they weren't Wyatt's anymore, not in my mind), and here I was skulking around his executive suites and planting surveillance devices for the benefit of that sleazeball Nick Wyatt.

Something was seriously wrong with this picture.

Jocelyn looked up from whatever she was doing. "Good lunch?" she asked. No doubt the admin gossip network knew I'd just had lunch with the CEO.

I nodded. "Thanks. You?"

"Just a sandwich at my desk. Lots to do."

I was heading into my office when she said, "Oh, some guy stopped by to see you."

"He leave a name?"

"No. He said he was a friend of yours. Actually, he said he was a 'buddy' of yours. Blond hair, cute?"

"I think I know who you're talking about." What could Chad possibly want?

"He said you left something for him on your desk, but I wouldn't let him into your office—you never said anything about that. Hope that's okay. He seemed a little offended."

"That's great, Jocelyn. Thank you." Definitely Chad, but why was he trying to snoop around my office?

I logged into my computer, pulled up my e-mail. One item jumped out at me—a notice from Corporate Security sent to "Trion C-Level and Staff":


Late last week, following a fire in Trion's Department of Human Resources, a routine investigation uncovered the presence of an illegally planted surveillance device.

Such a security breach in a sensitive area is, of course, of great concern to all of us at Trion. Therefore, Security has initiated a prophylactic sweep of all sensitive areas of the corporation, including offices and workstations, for any signs of intrusion or placement of devices. You will be contacted soon. We appreciate your cooperation in this vital security effort.

Sweat immediately broke out on my forehead, under my arms.

They'd found the device I'd stupidly planted during my aborted break-in at HR.

Oh, Christ. Now Security would be searching offices and computers in all the "sensitive" areas of the company, which for sure included the seventh floor.

And how long before they found the thing I'd attached to Camilletti's computer?

In fact—what if there were surveillance cameras in the hallway outside Camilletti's office that had recorded my break-in?

But something didn't seem right. How could Security have found the key logger?

No "routine investigation" would have uncovered the tricked-up cable. Some fact was missing; some link in the chain hadn't been made public.

I stepped out of my office and said to Jocelyn, "Hey, you see that e-mail from Security?"

"Mmm?" She looked up from her computer.

"Are we going to have to start locking everything up? I mean, what's the real story here?"

She shook her head, not very interested.

"I figured you might know someone in Security. No?"

"Honey," she said, "I know someone in just about every department in this company."

"Hmph," I said, shrugged, and went to the rest room.

When I came back, Jocelyn was talking into her telephone headset. She caught my eye, smiled and nodded as if she wanted to tell me something. "I think it's time for Greg to go bye-bye," she said into the phone. "Sweetie, I've got to go. Nice catching up with you."

She looked at me. "Typical Security nonsense," she said with a knowing scowl. "I'm telling you, they'd claim credit for the sun and the rain if they could get away with it. It's like I thought—they're taking credit for a piece of dumb luck. One of the computers down in HR wasn't working right after the fire, so they called in Tech Support, and one of the techs saw something funny attached to the keyboard or something, some kind of extra wiring, I don't know. Believe me, the guys in Security aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer."

"So this 'security breach' is bogus?"

"Well, my girlfriend Caitlin says they really did find some kind of spy thingy, but it's not like those Sherlock Holmeses in Security would've ever found it if they didn't catch a lucky break."

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