COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
As the meeting broke up, Goddard sidled up to me and put his arm around my shoulder. "I like what you did in here," he said in a low voice.
"What do you mean?"
We walked down the hall to his office. "I'm referring to your restraint in the case of Nora Sommers. I know how you feel about her. I know how she feels about you. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for you to get rid of her. And frankly, I wouldn't have put up much of a struggle."
I felt a little uncomfortable about Goddard's affection, but I smiled, ducked my head. "It seemed like the right thing to do," I said.
" 'They that have power to hurt and will do none,' " Goddard said, " 'They rightly do inherit heaven's graces.' Shakespeare. In modern English: When you have the power to screw people over and you don't—well, that's when you get to show who you really are."
"And who's that older fellow whose job you saved?"
"Just a guy in marketing."
"Buddy of yours?"
"No. I don't think he particularly likes me either. I just think he's a loyal employee."
"Good for you." Goddard squeezed my shoulder, hard. He led me to his office, stopped for a moment before Flo's desk. "Morning, sweetheart," he said. "I want to see the confirmation dress."
Flo beamed, opened the Saks bag, pulled out a small white silk girl's dress, and held it up proudly.
"Marvelous," he said. "Just marvelous."
Then we went into his office and he closed the door.
"I haven't said a word to Paul yet," Goddard said, settling behind his desk, "and I haven't decided whether I will. You haven't told anyone else, right? About the Journal business?"
"Keep it that way. Look, Paul and I have some differences of opinion, and maybe this was his way of lighting a fire under me. Maybe he thought he was helping the company. I just don't know." A long sigh. "If I do raise it with him—well, I don't want word of it getting around. I don't want any unpleasantness. We have far, far more important things going on these days."
He gave me a sidelong glance. "I've never been out to the Auberge, but I hear it's terrific. What'd you think?"
I felt a lurch in my gut. My face grew hot. That had been Camilletti there last night, of all the lousy luck.
"I just—I only had a glass of wine, actually."
"You'll never guess who happened to be having dinner there the same night," Goddard said. His expression was unreadable. "Nicholas Wyatt."
Camilletti had obviously done some asking around. To even try to deny that I was with Wyatt would be suicide. "Oh, that," I said, trying to sound weary. "Ever since I took the job at Trion, Wyatt's been after me for—"
"Oh, is that right?" Goddard interrupted. "So of course you had no choice but to accept his invitation to dinner, hmm?"
"No, sir, it's not like that," I said, swallowing hard.
"Just because you change jobs doesn't mean you give up your old friends, I suppose," he said.
I shook my head, frowned. My face felt like it was getting as red as Nora's. "It's not a matter of friendship, actually—"
"Oh, I know how it goes," Goddard said. "The other guy guilts you into taking a meeting with him, just for old times' sake, and you don't want to be rude to him, and then he lays it on nice and thick...."
"You know I had no intention of—"
"Of course not, of course not," Goddard muttered. "You're not that kind of person. Please. I know people. Like to think that's one of my strengths."