COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
We sat in the waiting area outside his office, silent. My nerves were stretched to the breaking point. I called my office and asked Jocelyn to reschedule a couple of appointments.
Then I sat there for a few minutes, just thinking. "You know," I said, "the worst thing about it is, I gave Wyatt the keys so he could rob us blind. He's already derailed our big acquisition, and now he's going to fuck us over totally—and it's all my fault."
Seth stared at me for a long while. "Who's 'us'?"
He shook his head. "You're not Trion. You keep saying 'we' and 'us' when you talk about Trion."
"Slip of the tongue," I said.
"I don't think so. I want you to take a bar of whatever ten-dollar French-milled soap you use now and write on your bathroom mirror, 'I am not Trion, and Trion is not me.' "
"Enough," I said. "You're sounding like my dad now."
"Ever occur to you maybe your dad wasn't wrong about everything? Like a stopped clock's right twice a day, huh?"
Then the door opened and Howard Shapiro was standing there. "Sit down," he said.
I could tell from his face that things hadn't gone well. "What'd your buddy say?" I asked.
"My buddy got transferred to Main Justice. His replacement is a real prick."
"How bad?" I asked.
"He said, 'You know what, you take a plea and we'll see what happens.' "
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means you take a guilty plea in chambers, and no one will know about it."
"I don't get it."
"If you give him a great case, he's willing to write you a great Five-K. A Five-K is a letter the prosecutor writes to the judge asking him to depart from the sentencing guidelines."
"Does the judge have to do what the prosecutor wants?"
"Of course not. Also, there's no guarantee this prick will really write you a decent Five-K. Be honest, I don't trust him."
"What's his definition of a 'great case'?" asked Seth.
"He wants Adam to make an introduction of an undercover."
"An undercover agent?" I said. "That's insane! Wyatt'll never go for it. He won't meet with anyone but me. He's not an idiot."
"What about wearing a wire?" Seth asked. "Would he agree to that?"
"I won't agree to that," I said. "I get scanned for electronic devices every time I'm in Wyatt's presence. I'd get caught for sure."
"That's all right," said Shapiro. "Our friend in the U.S. Attorney's office won't agree to it anyway. The only way he'll play ball is if you introduce an undercover."
"I won't do it," I said. "He'll never go for it. And what guarantee is there that I won't get jail time even if I do?"
"None," Shapiro admitted. "No federal prosecutor is going to give you a one-hundred-percent promise that a judge'll give you probation. The judge may not go for it. But whatever you decide, he's giving you seventy-two hours to make up your mind."
"Or the chips fall where they may. He'll never give you queen for a day if you don't play by his rules. Look, they don't trust you. They don't think you can do this on your own. And face it, it's their ball."
"I don't need seventy-two hours," I said. "I've already decided. I'm not playing."
Shapiro looked at me strangely. "You're going to keep working for Wyatt?"
"No," I said. "I'm going to handle this my own way."
Now Shapiro smiled. "How so?"
"I want to set my own terms."
"How so?" Shapiro said.
"Let's say I get some really concrete evidence against Wyatt," I said. "Serious, hard-core proof of his criminality. Could we take that directly to the FBI and make a better deal?"
"Good," I said. "I think I want to do this myself. The only one who's going to get me out of this is me."
Seth half-smiled, reached out and put a hand on my shoulder. " 'Me' meaning 'me,' or 'me' meaning 'we'?"
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