Paranoia (122 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.

Part Seven:

Control: Power exerted over an agent or double agent to prevent his defection or redoubling (so-called "tripling").
—The International Dictionary of Intelligence


The next morning I checked my e-mail at home and found a message from "Arthur":

Boss very impressed by your presentation & wants to see more right away.

I stared at it for a minute, and I decided not to reply.


A little while later I showed up, unannounced, at my dad's apartment, with a box of Krispy Kreme donuts. I parked in a space right in front of his triple-decker. I knew Dad spent all his time staring out the window, when he wasn't watching TV. He didn't miss anything that was going on outside.

I'd just come from the car wash, and the Porsche was a gleaming hunk of obsidian, a thing of beauty. I was stoked. Dad hadn't seen it yet. His "loser" son, a loser no more, was arriving in style—in a chariot of 320 horsepower.

My father was stationed in his usual spot in front of the TV, watching some kind of low-rent investigative show about corporate scandals. Antwoine was sitting next to him in the less comfortable chair, reading one of those color supermarket tabloids that all look alike; I think it was the Star.

Dad glanced up, saw the donut carton I was waving at him, and he shook his head. "Nah," he said.

"I'm pretty sure there's a chocolate frosted in here. Your favorite."

"I can't eat that shit anymore. Mandingo here's got a gun to my head. Why don't you offer him one?"

Antwoine shook his head too. "No thanks, I'm trying to lose a few pounds. You're the devil."

"What is this, Jenny Craig headquarters?" I set down the box of donuts on the maple-veneer coffee table next to Antwoine. Dad still hadn't said anything about the car, but I figured he'd probably been too absorbed in his TV show. Plus his vision wasn't all that great.

"Soon as you leave, this guy's going to start crackin' the whip, making me do laps around the room," Dad said.

"He doesn't stop, does he?" I said to Dad.

Dad's face was more amused than angry. "Whatever floats his boat," he said. "Though nothing seems to get him off like keeping me off my smokes."

The tension between the two of them seemed to have ebbed into some kind of a resigned stalemate. "Hey, you look a lot better, Dad," I lied.

"Bullshit," he said, his eyes riveted on the pseudo-investigative TV story. "You still working at that new place?"

"Yeah," I said. I smiled bashfully, figured it was time to tell him the big news. "In fact—"

"Let me tell you something," he said, finally turning his gaze away from the TV and giving me a rheumy stare. He pointed back at the TV without looking at it. "These S.O.B.s—these bastards—they'll cheat you out of every last fucking nickel if you let them."

"Who, the corporations?"

"The corporations, the CEOs, with their stock options and their big fat pensions and their sweetheart deals. They're all out for themselves, every last one of them, and don't you forget it."

I looked down at the carpet. "Well," I said quietly, "not all of them."

"Oh, don't kid yourself."

"Listen to your father," Antwoine said, not looking up from the Star. There almost seemed to be a little affection in his voice. "The man's a fount of wisdom."

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