COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
Part Eight: Black Bag
Black Bag Job: Slang for surreptitious entry into an office or home to obtain files or materials illegally. —Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage
"This better be important, buddy," Seth said. "It's like after midnight."
"This is. I promise."
"Yeah, you only call when you want something anymore. Or death of a parent, that kinda thing."
He was joking, and he wasn't. Truth is, he had a right to be pissed off at me. I hadn't exactly been in touch with him since I'd started at Trion. And he'd been there when Dad died, through the funeral. He'd been a much better friend than I'd been.
We met an hour later at an all-night Dunkin' Donuts near Seth's apartment. The place was almost deserted, except for a few bums. He was wearing his same old Diesel jeans and a Dr. Dre World Tour T-shirt.
He stared at me. "What the hell happened to you?"
I didn't keep any of the grisly details from him—what was the point anymore?
At first he thought I was making it up, but gradually he saw that I was telling the truth, and his expression changed from amused skepticism to horrified fascination to outright sympathy.
"Oh, man," he said when I'd wound up my story, "you are so lost."
I smiled sadly, nodded. "I'm screwed," I said.
"That's not what I mean." He sounded testy. "You fucking went along with this."
"I didn't 'go along with this.' "
"No, asshole. You fucking had a choice."
"A choice?" I said. "Like what choice? Prison?"
"You took the deal they offered, man. They got your balls in a vise, and you caved."
"What other option did I have?"
"That's what lawyers are for, asshole. You could have told me, I could have gotten one of the guys I work for to help out."
"Help out how? I took the money in the first place."
"You could have brought in one of the lawyers at the firm, scare the shit out of them, threaten to go public."
I was silent for a moment. Somehow I doubted it really would have been that simple. "Yeah, well, it's too late for that now. Anyway, they would have denied everything. Even if one of your firm's lawyers agreed to represent me, Wyatt would have set the whole goddamned American Bar Association after me."
"Maybe. Or maybe he would have wanted the whole thing to stay quiet. You might have been able to make it go away."
"I don't think so."
"I see," Seth said, oozing sarcasm. "So instead, you bent over and took it. You went along with their illegal scheme, agreed to become a spy, pretty much guaranteed yourself a prison sentence—"
"What do you mean, 'guaranteed' myself a prison sentence?"
"—And then, just to feed your insane ambition, here you are, fucking over the one guy in corporate America who ever gave you a chance."
"Thanks," I said bitterly, knowing he was right.
"You pretty much deserve what you get."
"I appreciate the help and moral support, friend."
"Put it this way, Adam—I may be a pathetic loser in your eyes, but at least I came by my loserdom honestly. What are you? You're a total fraud. You're fucking Rosie Ruiz."
"She won the Boston Marathon like twenty years ago, set a women's record, remember? Barely broke a sweat. Turned out she'd jumped in half a mile from the finish line. Took the fucking subway to get there. That's you, man. The Rosie Ruiz of corporate America."
I sat there, my face growing redder and hotter, feeling more and more miserable. Finally I said, "Are you done yet?"