"The computer beeped softly, indicating the arrival of a new e-mail. [He] rose from the bed, sat down behind the desk, and clicked the icon. He didn't recognize the sender's address, but scrolled down and began reading anyway.
Update on Project Delphi … we've got a problem. They're pumping up earnings per share with the phantom income from headquarters … there are insider dealings with the board and the senior execs. If all this gets out, the stock tanks and people lose a ton of jingle-juice. We'd be hauled up in front of Congress … [oh and] the Minneapolis operation is way out of hand. So far the Washington office hasn't gotten dragged into what's going on out there in corporate America … but Delphi could be the one that screws us.
What do you want me to do?
Before he can decide what to do about this misrouted message, Liz asks him to run out and get her some cigarettes. He has been having an affair with her, even though she claims to be engaged to another man; she wears a three-carat ring on her left hand and is able to twist him around her finger. Yet, he doesn't completely trust her … he knows she is manipulative and wonders why she doesn't break it off with her fiancée, since she claims to love him.
When he gets back to his apartment, "the door [is] ajar … hepushed it open, and his pulse spiked. The apartment had been destroyed. His computer was on the floor … hard drive removed." What happened? Who could or would do this to him? Where was Liz … he spots "something on the far side of the bed. Hescrambled onto the mattress, then froze. Liz lay sprawled on her back in the corner of the room near the desk, her neck and chest a spattered mess. As his fingers touched her still warm skin, heheard something over his shoulder and spun around. A man stood in the middle of the room, staring at him" … a gun at the ready.He "lunged for the window and tumbled onto the fire escape … just as gunshots crackled in his ear."
"He" is Conner Ashby, a young, eager and very ambitious man. He works for Gavin Smith, an investment banker who owns Phenix Capitol. "The old man was the nearest thing to a father he's had in a long time. And Gavin was paying him $175,000 a year plus bonus." Thus, when Gavin said, "jump," Conner asked "how high?" Under Gavin's wing, Conner feels that his career is cemented and his personal wealth guaranteed.
Paul Stone also works closely with Gavin. He has a secret agenda that necessitates ruining Conner any way he can. Conner is very aware of Paul's hatred toward him, but it all comes to a head at Gavin's house one night when Conner accuses Paul of breaking into his computer, and Gavin tells him: "Right off the bat there are problems, pal … there are lots [of] mistakes … throughout the presentation. Paul printed out two copies and brought them [to me."] Conner knows that Paul "inputted the typos before he printed it out … to make [him] look bad." He