They brought Morrison into the building through the back, up a freight elevator, through a heavily alarmed lock-out room at the top, and into the main security area. Corbeil was waiting.
St. John Corbeil was a hard man; in his early forties, his square-cut face seamed with stress and sun and wind. His blue eyes were small, intelligent, and deeply set beneath his brow ridge; his nose and lips narrow, hawklike. He wore a tight, military haircut, with just a hint of a fifties flattop.
"Mr. Morrison," he said. "I have a tape I want you to listen to."
Morrison was nervous, but not yet frightened. There'd been a couple of threats back at the house, but not of violence. If he didn't come with them, they'd said, he would be dismissed on the spot, and AmMath would sue him for violating company security policies, industrial espionage, and theft of trade secrets. He wouldn't work for a serious company again, they told him.
The threats resonated. If they fired him, and sued him, nobody would hire him again. Trust was all-important, when a company gave a man root in its computer system. When you were that deep in the computers, everything was laid bare. Everything. On the other hand, if he could talk with them, maybe he could deal. He might lose this job, but they wouldn't be suing him. They wouldn't go public.
So he went with them. He and the escort drove in his car-"So we don't have to drag your ass all the way back here," the security guy said-while the second security agent said he'd be following. He hadn't yet shown up.
So Morrison stood, nervously, shoulders slumped, like a peasant dragged before the king, as Corbeil pushed an audiotape into a tape recorder. He recognized the voice: Terrence Lighter. "John, what the hell are you guys doing out there? This geek shows up on my doorstep . . ."
Shit: they had him.
He decided to tough it out. "I came across what I thought was anomalous work-nothing to do with Clipper, but it was obviously top secret and the way it was being handled . . . it shouldn't have been handled that way," Morrison told Corbeil. He was standing like a petitioner, while Corbeil sat in a terminal chair. "When I was working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, I was told that if I ever found an anomaly like that, I should report it at least two levels up, so that it couldn't be hidden and so that security problems could be fixed."
"So you went to Lighter?"
"I didn't think I had a choice. And you should remember that I did talk to Lighter," Morrison said. "Now, I think, we should give the FBI a ring. See what they say."
"You silly cunt." Corbeil slipped a cell phone from a suit pocket, punched a button, waited a few seconds, then asked, "Anything?" Apparently not. He said, "Okay. Drop the disks. We're gonna go ahead on this end."
Corbeil's security agent, who'd been waiting patiently near the door, looked at his watch and said, "If we're gonna do it, we better get it done. Goodie's gonna be starting up here in the next fifteen minutes and I gotta run around the building and get in place."
Corbeil gave Morrison a long look, and Morrison said, "What?"
Corbeil shook his head, got up, stepped over to the security agent, and said, "Let me."
The agent slipped out his .40 Smith and handed it to Corbeil, who turned and pointed it at Morrison.
"You better tell us what you did with the data or you're gonna get your ass hurt real bad," he said quietly.
"Don't point the gun at me; don't point the gun . . ." Morrison said.
Corbeil could feel the blood surging into his heart. He'd always liked this part. He'd shot the Iraqi colonels and a few other ragheads and deer and antelope and elk and javelina and moose and three kinds of bear and groundhogs and prairie dogs and more birds than he could count; and it all felt pretty good.
Reprinted from The Devil's Code by John Sandford by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 John Sandford. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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