COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
Part Seven: 68 (Cont'd)
The bedside clock said three thirty-five when I got up. She remained asleep, buzzing softly. I walked across the carpet and noiselessly closed the bedroom door behind me.
I signed on to my e-mail and saw the usual assortment of spam and junk, some work stuff that didn't look urgent, and one on Hushmail from "Arthur" whose subject line said, "re: consumer devices." Meacham sounded royally pissed off:
Boss extremely disappointed by your failure to reply. Wants additional presentation materials by 6 pm tomorrow or deal is endangered.
I hit "reply" and typed, "unable to locate additional materials, sorry" and signed it "Donnie." Then I read through it and deleted my message. Nope. I wasn't going to reply at all. That was simpler. I'd done enough for them.
I noticed that Alana's little square black handbag was still on the granite bar where she'd left it. She hadn't brought her computer or her workbag, since she'd stopped at home to change.
In her handbag were her badge, a lipstick, some breath mints, a key ring, and her Trion Maestro. The keys were probably for her apartment and car and maybe her home mailbox and such. The Maestro likely held phone numbers and addresses, but also specific datebook appointments. That could be very useful to Wyatt and Meacham.
But was I still working for them?
What would happen if I just quit? I'd upheld my side of the bargain, got them just about everything they wanted on AURORA—well, most of it, anyway. Odds were they'd calculate that it wasn't worth hassling me further. It wasn't in their interests to blow my cover, not so long as I could potentially be useful to them. And they weren't going to feed the FBI an anonymous tip, because that would just lead the authorities back to them.
What could they do to me?
Then I realized: I'd already quit working for them. I'd made the decision that afternoon in the study at Jock Goddard's lake house. I wasn't going to keep betraying the guy. Meacham and Wyatt could go screw themselves.
It would have been really easy at that moment for me to slip Alana's handheld into the recharging cradle attached to my desktop computer and hot-link it. Sure, there was a risk of her getting up, since she was in a strange bed, finding me gone, and wandering around the apartment to see where I'd gone. In which case she might see me downloading the contents of her Maestro to my computer. Maybe she wouldn't notice. But she was smart and quick, and she was likely to figure out the truth.
And no matter how fast I thought, no matter how cleverly I handled it, she'd know what I was up to. And I'd be caught, and the relationship would be over, and all of a sudden that mattered to me. I was smitten with Alana, and after only a couple of dates and one night together. I was just beginning to discover her earthy, expansive, sort of wild side. I loved her loopy, unrestrained laugh, her boldness, her dry sense of humor. I didn't want to lose her because of something the loathsome Nick Wyatt was forcing me to do.
Already I'd handed over to Wyatt all kinds of valuable information on the AURORA project. I'd done my job. I was finished with those assholes.
And I couldn't stop seeing Jock Goddard hunched over in that dark corner of his study, his shoulders shaking. That moment of revelation. The trust he'd put in me. And I was going to violate that trust for Nick Fucking Wyatt?
No, I didn't think so. Not anymore.
So I put Alana's Maestro back into her pocketbook. I poured myself a glass of cold water from the drinking-water dispenser on the Sub-Zero door, gulped it down, and climbed back into my warm bed with Alana. She muttered something in her sleep, and I snuggled right up next to her and, for the first time in weeks, actually felt good about myself.