COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
The day after the funeral I returned to work. What was I going to do, mope around the apartment? I wasn't really depressed, though I felt raw, like a layer of skin had been peeled off. I needed to be around people. And maybe, now that Dad was dead, there'd be some comfort in being around Goddard, who was beginning to look like the closest thing I ever had to a father. Not to put myself on a shrink's couch or anything, but something changed, for me, after he showed up at the funeral. I wasn't conflicted or ambivalent anymore about my so-called real mission at Trion, the "real reason" I was there—because that was no longer the real reason I was there.
At least by my reckoning, I'd done my service, paid my debt, and I deserved a clean slate. I wasn't working for Nick Wyatt any longer. I'd stopped returning Meacham's phone calls or e-mails. Once I even got a message, on my cell phone voice mail, from Judith Bolton. She didn't leave her name, but her voice was instantly recognizable. "Adam," she said, "I know you're going through such a difficult time. We all feel terrible about the death of your father, and please know you have our deepest condolences."
I could just imagine the strategy session with Judith and Meacham and Wyatt, all desperate and angry about their kite who'd slipped his string. Judith would say something about how they should go easy on the guy, he's just lost a parent, and Wyatt would say something foulmouthed and say he didn't give a shit, the clock was ticking, and Meacham would be trying to out-tough-guy his boss about how they were going to hold my feet to the fire and they were going to fuck me over; and then Judith would say no, we have to take a more sensitive approach, let me try to reach out to him....
Her message went on, "But it's extremely important, even in this time of turmoil, for you to remain in constant contact. I want us all to keep everything positive and cordial, Adam, but I need you to make contact today."
I deleted her message as well as Meacham's. They would get the point. In time I'd send Meacham an e-mail officially severing the relationship, but for the time being I thought I'd just keep them dangling while the reality of the situation sank in. I wasn't Nick Wyatt's kite anymore.
I'd given them what they needed. They'd realize that it wasn't worth their while to hang tough.
They might threaten, but they couldn't force me to go on working for them. As long as I kept in mind that there really was nothing they could do, I could just walk away.
I just had to keep that in mind. I could just walk away.