Paranoia (139 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.


My cell phone was ringing even before I pulled into the Trion garage the next morning. It was Flo.

"Jock wants to see you," she said, sounding urgent. "Right now."


Goddard was in his back room with Camilletti, Colvin, and Stuart Lurie, the senior VP for Corporate Development I'd met at Jock's barbecue.

Camilletti was talking as I entered.

"... No, from what I hear the S.O.B. just flew into Palo Alto yesterday with a term sheet already drawn up. He had lunch with Hillman, the CEO, and by dinner they'd inked the deal. He matched our offer dollar for dollar—I mean, to the penny—but in cash!"

"How the hell could this happen!" Goddard exploded. I'd never seen him so angry. "Delphos signed a no-shop provision, for Christ's sake!"

"The no-shop's dated tomorrow—it hasn't been signed yet. That's why he flew out there so fast, so he could do the deal before we locked it in."

"Who are we talking about?" I asked softly, as I sat down.

"Nicholas Wyatt," Stuart Lurie said. "He just bought Delphos right out from under us for five hundred million in cash."

My stomach sank. I recognized the name Delphos but remembered I wasn't supposed to. Wyatt bought Delphos? I thought, astonished.

I turned to Goddard with a questioning look.

"That's the company we were in the process of acquiring—I told you about them," he said impatiently. "Our lawyers were just about finished drawing up the definitive purchase agreement...." His voice trailed off, then grew louder. "I didn't even think Wyatt had that kind of cash on their balance sheet!"

"They had just under a billion in cash," said Jim Colvin. "Eight hundred million, actually. So five hundred million pretty much empties out the piggy bank, because they've got three billion dollars of debt, and the service on that debt's gotta be two hundred million a year easy."

Goddard smacked his hand down on the round table. "Goddamn it to hell!" he thundered. "What the hell use does Wyatt have for a company like Delphos? He doesn't have AURORA.... For Wyatt to put his own company on the line like that makes no goddamned sense at all unless he's just trying to screw us over."

"Which he just succeeded in doing," Camilletti said.

"For heaven's sake, without AURORA, Delphos is worthless!" Goddard said.

"Without Delphos, AURORA is fucked," said Camilletti.

"Maybe he knows about AURORA," said Colvin.

"Impossible!" said Goddard. "And even if he knows about it, he doesn't have it!"

"What if he does?" suggested Stuart Lurie.

There was a long silence.

Camilletti spoke slowly, intensely. "We're protecting AURORA with the exact same federal security regulations the Defense Department mandates for government contractors dealing in sensitive compartmented information." He stared fiercely at Goddard. "I'm talking firewalls, security clearances, network protection, multilevel secure access—every goddamned safeguard known to man. It's in the goddamned cone of silence. There's just no fucking way."

"Well," Goddard said, "Wyatt somehow found out the details of our negotiations—"

"Unless," Camilletti interrupted, "he had someone inside." An idea seemed to occur to him, and he looked at me. "You used to work for Wyatt, didn't you?"

I could feel the blood rushing to my head, and to mask it, I faked outrage. "I used to work at Wyatt," I snapped at him.

"Are you in touch with him?" he asked, his eyes drilling into me.

"What are you trying to suggest?" I stood up.

"I'm asking you a simple yes-or-no question—are you in touch with Wyatt?" Camilletti shot back. "You had dinner with him at the Auberge not so long ago, correct?"

"Paul, that's enough," said Goddard. "Adam, you sit down this goddamned instant. Adam had no access whatsoever to AURORA. Or to the details of the Delphos negotiation. I believe today's the first time he's even heard the name of the company."

I nodded.

"Let's move on," Goddard said. He seemed to have cooled off a little. "Paul, I want you to talk to our lawyers, see what recourse we have. See if we can stop Wyatt. Now, AURORA's scheduled launch is in four days. As soon as the world knows what we've just done, there'll be a mad scramble to buy up materials and manufacturers up and down the whole damned supply chain. Either we delay the launch, or ... I do not want to be part of that scramble. We're going to have to put our heads together and look around for some other comparable acquisition—"

"—No one has that technology but Delphos!" Camilletti said.

"We're all smart people," Goddard said. "There are always other possibilities." He put his hands on the arms of his chair and got to his feet. "You know, there's a story Ronald Reagan used to tell about the kid who found a huge pile of manure and said, 'There must be a pony around here somewhere.' " He laughed, and the others laughed as well, politely. They seemed to appreciate his feeble attempt to defuse the tension. "Let's all get to work. Find the pony."

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