Paranoia (167 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'd never seen anything like the penthouse of Trion Building A.

It didn't look at all like the rest of Trion—no choked offices or cluttered cubicles, no industrial-gray wall-to-wall carpeting or fluorescent lights.

Instead, it was a huge open space with floor-to-ceiling windows through which the sunlight sparkled. The floors were black granite, oriental rugs here and there, the walls some kind of gleaming tropical wood. The space was broken up by banks of ivy, clusters of designer-looking chairs and sofas, and right in the center of the room, a giant freestanding waterfall—the water rushed from some unseen fountain over rugged pinkish stones.

The Executive Reception Suite. For receiving important visitors: cabinet secretaries, senators and congressmen, CEOs, heads of state. I'd never seen it before, and I didn't know anyone who had, and no wonder. It didn't look very Trion. Not very democratic. It was dramatic, intimidating, grandiose.

A small round dining table was being set in the area between the indoor waterfall and a fireplace with roaring gas flames on ceramic logs. Two young Latinos, a man and a woman in maroon uniforms, were speaking quietly in Spanish as they put out silver coffee- and teapots, baskets of pastries, pitchers of orange juice. Three place settings.

Baffled, I looked around, but there was no one else. No one waiting for me. All of a sudden there was a bing, and a small set of brushed-steel elevator doors on the other side of the room slid open.

Jock Goddard and Paul Camilletti.

They were laughing loudly, both of them giddy, high as kites. Goddard caught a glimpse of me, stopped mid-laugh, and said, "Well, there he is. You'll excuse us, Paul—you understand."

Camilletti smiled, patted Goddard's shoulder and remained in the elevator as the old man emerged, the doors closing behind him. Goddard strode across the big open space almost at a trot.

"Walk with me to the john, will you?" he said to me. "Gotta wash off this damned makeup."

Silently, I followed him over to a glossy black door that was marked with little silver male-and-female silhouettes. The lights went on as we entered. It was a spacious, sleek rest room, all glass and black marble.

Goddard looked at himself in the mirror. Somehow he seemed a little taller. Maybe it was his posture: he wasn't quite as hunched as usual.

"Christ, I look like fucking Liberace," he said as he worked up soapsuds in his hands and began splashing his face. "You've never been up here, have you?"

I shook my head, watching him in the mirror as he ducked his head down toward the basin and then up again. I felt a strange tangle of emotions—fear, anger, shock—that was so complex that I didn't know what to feel.

"Well, you know the business world," he went on. He seemed almost apologetic. "The importance of theatrics—pageantry, pomp and circumstance, all that crap. I could hardly meet the president of Russia or the crown prince of Saudi Arabia in my shabby little cubbyhole downstairs."

"Congratulations," I said softly. "It's been a big morning."

He toweled off his face. "More theatrics," he said dismissively.

"You knew Wyatt would buy Delphos, no matter what it cost," I said. "Even if it meant going broke."

"He couldn't resist," Goddard said. He tossed the towel, now stained orange-brown, onto the marble counter.

"No," I said. I became aware of my heartbeat starting to accelerate. "Not so long as he believed you were about to announce this big exciting breakthrough on the optical chip. But there never was an optical chip, was there?"

Goddard grinned his little pixie smile. He turned, and I followed him out of the rest room. I kept going: "That's why there were no patents filed, no HR files...."

"The optical chip," he said, almost lunging across the oriental rugs toward the dining table, "exists only in the fevered minds and blotched notebooks of a handful of third-raters at a tiny, doomed company in Palo Alto. Chasing a fantasy, which may or may not happen in your lifetime. Certainly not in mine." He sat at the table, gestured to the place next to his.

I sat, and the two uniformed attendants, who'd been standing against the bank of ivy at a discreet distance, came forward, poured us each coffee. I was more than frightened and angry and confused; I was deeply exhausted.

"They may be third-raters," I said, "but you bought their company more than three years ago."

It was, I admit, an educated guess—the lead investor in Delphos was, according to the filings I'd come across on the Internet, a venture capital fund based in London whose money was channeled through a Cayman Islands investment vehicle. Which indicated that Delphos was actually owned, at a remove of about five shell companies and fronts, by a major player.

"You're a smart fellow," Goddard said, grabbing a sweet roll and tucking into it greedily. "The true ownership chain is pretty damned hard to unwind. Help yourself to a pastry, Adam. These raspberry-and-cream-cheese things are killer."

Now I understood why Paul Camilletti, a man who crossed every T and dotted every I, had conveniently "forgotten" to sign the no-shop clause on the term sheet. Once Wyatt saw that, he knew he had less than twenty-four hours to "steal" the company away from Trion—no time to get board approval, even if his board would have approved it. Which they probably wouldn't have anyway.

I noticed the unoccupied third place setting, and I wondered who the other guest would be. I had no appetite, didn't feel like drinking coffee. "But the only way to make Wyatt swallow the hook," I said, "was to have it come from a spy he thought he'd planted." My voice was trembling, and now I was feeling anger most of all.

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