Paranoia (114 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.


There were people in my office.

When I got into work next morning, I saw them from a distance—two men, one young, one older—and I froze. It was seven-thirty in the morning, and for some reason Jocelyn wasn't at her desk. In an instant my mind ran through a menu of possibilities, one worse than the next: Security had somehow found something in my office. Or I'd been fired and they were clearing out my desk. Or I was being arrested.

Approaching my office, I tried to hide my nervousness. I said jovially, as if these were buddies of mine who'd dropped by for a visit, "What's going on?"

The older one was taking notes on a clipboard, and the younger one was now bent over my computer. The older one, gray hair and walrus mustache, rimless glasses, said, "Security, sir. Your secretary, Miss Chang, let us in."

"What's up?"

"We're doing an inspection of all the offices on the seventh floor, sir. I don't know if you got the notice about the security violation in Human Resources."

Was that all this was about? I was relieved. But only for a few seconds. What if they'd found something in my desk? Had I left any of my spycraft equipment locked in any of the desk or file cabinet drawers? I made it a habit never to leave anything there. But what if I'd slipped? I was stretched so thin I could easily have left something there by mistake.

"Great," I said. "I'm glad you're here. You haven't found anything, have you?"

There was a moment of silence. The younger one looked up from my computer and didn't reply. The older one said, "Not yet, sir, no."

"I wasn't thinking I was a target, necessarily," I added. "Gosh, I'm not that important. I mean anything on this floor, in any of the big guys' offices?"

"We're not supposed to discuss that, but no, sir, we haven't found anything. Doesn't mean we won't, though."

"My computer check out okay?" I addressed the young guy.

"No devices or anything like that have turned up so far," he replied. "But we're going to have to run some diagnostics on it. Can you log in for us?"

"Sure." I hadn't sent any incriminating e-mails from this computer, had I?

Well, yes, I had. I'd e-mailed Meacham on my Hushmail account. But even if the message hadn't been encrypted, it wouldn't have told them anything. I was sure I hadn't saved any files on my computer I wasn't supposed to have. That I was sure of. I stepped over behind my desk and typed in my password. Both security guys tactfully looked away until I was logged in.

"Who has access to your office?" the older man asked.

"Just me. And Jocelyn."

"And the cleaning crew," he persisted.

"I guess so, but I never see them."

"You've never seen them?" he repeated skeptically. "But you work late hours, right?"

"They work even later hours."

"What about interoffice mail? Any delivery person ever come in here when you're out, that you know of?"

I shook my head. "All that stuff goes to Jocelyn's desk. They never deliver to me directly."

"Has anyone from IT ever serviced your computer or phone?"

"Not that I know of."

The younger guy asked, "Gotten any strange e-mails?"

"Strange ...?"

"From people you don't know, with attachments or whatever."

"Not that I can recall."

"But you use other e-mail services, right? I mean, other than Trion."


"Ever accessed them from this computer?"

"Yeah, I suppose I have."

"And on any of those e-mail accounts did you ever get any funny-looking e-mail?"

"Well, I get spam all the time, like everyone else. You know, Viagra or 'Add Three Inches' or the ones about farm girls." Neither one of them seemed to have a sense of humor. "But I just delete all those."

"This'll just be five or ten minutes, sir," the younger one said, inserting a disk into my CD-ROM drive. "Maybe you can get a cup of coffee or something."


Actually, I had a meeting, so I left the security guys in my office, not feeling so good about it, and headed over to Plymouth, one of the smaller conference rooms.

I didn't like the fact that they'd asked about outside e-mail accounts. That was bad. In fact, it scared the shit out of me. What if they decided to dig up all my e-mails? I'd seen how easy it was to do. What if they found out I'd ordered copies of Camilletti's e-mail traffic? Would that make me a suspect somehow?

As I passed Goddard's office, I saw that both he and Flo were gone—Jock to the meeting, I knew. Then I passed Jocelyn carrying a mug of coffee. Printed on it was GONE OUT OF MY MIND—BACK IN FIVE MINUTES.

"Are those security goons still at my desk?" she asked.

"They're in my office now," I said and kept going.

She gave me a little wave.

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