Paranoia (140 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.


I knew what had happened.

I thought things through as I drove home that night, and the more I did the angrier I got, and the angrier I got the faster and more erratically I drove.

If it weren't for the term sheet I'd gotten from Camilletti's files, Wyatt wouldn't have known about Delphos, the company Trion was about to buy. The more I reminded myself of this, the worse I felt.

Damn it, it was time to let Wyatt know it was over. I wasn't working for them anymore.

I unlocked my apartment door, switched on the lights, and headed right for the computer to send an e-mail.

But no.

Arnold Meacham was sitting at my computer, while a couple of tough-looking crew-cut guys were tearing the place apart. My stuff was everywhere. All my books had been taken off the shelves, my CD and DVD players had been taken apart, even the TV set. It looked like someone had gone on a rampage, throwing everything around, wrecking as much as possible, trying to cause maximum damage.

"What the fuck—?" I said.

Meacham looked up calmly from my computer screen. "Don't you ever fucking ignore me," he said.

I had to get the hell out of there. I spun around, bounded toward the door just as another of the crew-cut thugs slammed the door shut and stood in front of it, watching me warily.

There was no other exit, unless you counted the windows, a twenty-seven-story drop that didn't seem like a very good idea.

"What do you want?" I said to Meacham, looking from him to the door.

"You think you can hide shit from me?" Meacham said. "I don't think so. You don't have a safe-deposit box or a cubbyhole that's safe from us. I see you've been saving all my e-mails. I didn't know you cared."

"Of course I have," I said, indignant. "I keep backups of everything."

"That encryption program you're using for your notes of meetings with Wyatt and Judith and me—you know, that was cracked over a year ago. There's far stronger ones out there."

"Good to know, thanks," I said, heavy on the sarcasm. I tried to sound unfazed. "Now, why don't you and your boys get the hell out of here before I call the police?"

Meacham snorted and made a hand signal that looked as if he was summoning me over.

"No." I shook my head. "I said, you and your buddies—"

There was a sudden movement I could see out of the corner of my eye, lightning-fast, and something slammed into the back of my head. I sagged to my knees, tasting blood. Everything was tinged dark red. I flung my hand out to grab my attacker, but while my hand was flailing in back of me, a foot slammed into my right kidney. A jagged bolt of pain shot up and down my torso, knocking me flat on the Persian rug.

"No," I gasped.

Another kick, this one to the back of my head, incredibly painful. Pinpoints of light sparkled before my eyes.

"Get 'em off me," I moaned. "Make your—buddy—stop. If I get too woozy, I might get talkative."

It was all I could think of. Meacham's accomplices probably didn't know much if anything of what Meacham and I were involved in. They were just muscle. Meacham wouldn't have told them, wouldn't have wanted them to know. Maybe they knew a little, just enough to know what to look for. But Meacham would want to keep them as much out of the loop as possible.

I cringed, braced myself for another kick to the back of my head, everything all white and sparkly, a metallic taste in my mouth. For a moment there was silence; it seemed that Meacham had signaled them to stop.

"What the hell do you want from me?" I asked.

"We're going for a drive," Meacham said.

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