COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
"So you really work for Jock Goddard himself, huh?" Alana said. "God, I hope I didn't ever say anything negative to you about Goddard. Did I?"
We were riding the elevator up to my apartment. She'd stopped at her own place after work to change, and she looked great—black boat-neck top, black leggings, chunky black shoes. She also had on that same delicious floral scent she wore on our last date. Her black hair was long and glossy, and it contrasted nicely with her brilliant blue eyes.
"Yeah, you really trashed him, which I immediately reported."
She smiled, a glint of perfect teeth. "This elevator is about the same size as my apartment."
I knew that wasn't true, but I laughed anyway. "The elevator really is bigger than my last place," I said. When I'd mentioned that I'd just moved into the Harbor Suites she said she'd heard about the condos there and seemed intrigued, so I'd invited her to stop by to check it out. We could have dinner at the hotel restaurant downstairs, where I hadn't had a chance to eat.
"Boy, quite the view," she said as soon as she entered the apartment. An Alanis Morissette CD was playing softly. "This is fantastic." She looked around, saw the plastic wrap still on one of the couches and a chair, said archly, "So when do you move in?"
"As soon as I have a spare hour or two. Can I get you a drink?"
"Hmm. Sure, that would be nice."
"Cosmopolitan? I also do a terrific gin-and-tonic."
"Gin-and-tonic sounds perfect, thanks. So you've just started working for him, right?"
She'd looked me up, of course. I went over to the newly stocked liquor cabinet, in the alcove next to the kitchen, and reached for a bottle of Tanqueray Malacca gin.
"Just this week." She followed me into the kitchen. I grabbed a handful of limes from the almost-empty refrigerator and began cutting them in half.
"But you've been at Trion for like a month." She cocked her head to one side, trying to make sense of my sudden promotion. "Nice kitchen. Do you cook?"
"The appliances are just for show," I said. I began pressing the lime halves into the electric juicer. "Anyway, right, I was hired into new-products marketing, but then Goddard was sort of involved in a project I was working on, and I guess he liked my approach, my ideas, whatever."
"Talk about a lucky break," she said, raising her voice above the electric whine of the juicer.
I shrugged. "We'll see if it's lucky." I filled two French bistro–style tumblers with ice, a shot of gin, a good splash of cold tonic water from the refrigerator, and a healthy helping of lime juice. I handed her her drink.
"So Tom Lundgren must have hired you for Nora Sommers's team. Hey, this is delicious. All that lime makes a difference."
"Thank you. That's right, Tom Lundgren hired me," I said, pretending to be surprised she knew.
"Do you know you were hired to fill my position?"
"What do you mean?"
"The position that opened up when I was moved to AURORA."
"Is that right?" I looked amazed.
She nodded. "Unbelievable."
"Wow, small world. But what's 'AURORA'?"
"Oh, I figured you knew." She glanced at me over the rim of her glass, a look that seemed just a bit too casual.
I shook my head innocently. "No ... ?"
"I figured you probably looked me up too. I got assigned to marketing for the Disruptive Technologies group."
"That's called AURORA?"
"No, AURORA's the specific project I'm assigned to." She hesitated a second. "I guess I thought that working for Goddard you'd sort of have your fingers into everything."
A tactical slip on my part. I wanted her to think we could talk freely about whatever she did. "Theoretically I have access to everything. But I'm still figuring out where the copying machine is."
She nodded. "You like Goddard?"
What was I going to say, no? "He's an impressive guy."
"At his barbecue you two seemed to be pretty close. I saw he called you over to meet his buddies, and you were like carrying things for him and all that."
"Yeah, real close," I said, sarcastic. "I'm his gofer. I'm his muscle. You enjoy the barbecue?"
"It was a little strange, hanging with all the powers, but after a couple of beers it got easier. That was my first time there." Because she'd been assigned to his pet project, AURORA, I thought. But I wanted to be subtle about it, so I let it drop for the time being. "Let me call down to the restaurant and have them get our table ready."