The cover held a soup plate filled with a steamy orange soup. A sprig of green floated in the middle. The briny smell made his stomach rumble. He was hungry. He plopped into the chair and spooned up the soup. The hint of alcohol in it boosted his confidence. The burger he found inside the other cover was dry but tasty. He washed it away with three glasses of champagne. He sat back and looked out the window, at the bright blue May sky. He dabbed the plate with is finger and licked off the last crumbs, before he placed the plates and covers back on the trolley.

Then Jonathan slipped into the new jeans. He still had an hour or so before Victoria and Matt expected him at the party. He sat down at the desk and swiped the trackpad, opened a browser and googled NDA first. The Wiki article confirmed what he had expected; a non-disclosure agreement. A legal term for secrecy, for hiding, for keeping the truth from others. The memory of his downfall rushed up from his stomach like bile. How his ex had written a book about their lives, about the disgrace after his thesis had been marked as plagiarism, how it had aborted his career in journalism. She had sworn secrecy to her publisher, she had chosen to side with everyone who mistrusted him. And she had left him the day the novel saw the light. She had changed his name in her writings, but had shown no scruples exposing him in interviews. Interviews that soared the sales of her book, while kicking him down into the deepest pit. Jonathan finished his glass. For a moment he feared that they too knew. Victoria and Matt. That this bizarre set-up was all part of the plan to bring him down again.

He shook the idea. No more paranoia. No more. These people came from the States. They had no idea. They were nerds, didn’t follow the news, let alone Dutch news. He returned to the screen and googled Victoria’s company name. Mathgrlzzz was a marketing and research firm, exclusively targeting Internet companies, technology and Internet pioneering. Hers was the only name mentioned on the site. No mention of other math girls. He concentrated on Matt Turing. A technical hotshot at Giddyap. The list of hits numbered up to tens of thousands. He stared at the fire red Giddyap logo and remembered a news clipping. This was the company that had vowed to break the supremacy of search engines Google and Yahoo. They hadn’t done a good job. He’d never heard of them again after their boasting.

He dove deeper down into the search results. Like Victoria’s name, Matt’s name popped up on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+. It featured in blog posts with incomprehensible technical blabber and in and a seemingly endless stream of technical documents.

Jonathan forced himself to type in the next name. When he did the search engine came back with considerably less hits. Still a couple of hundred, but still. His stomach knotted with excitement when he opened the LinkedIn profile, almost as if he was about to open a porn site. Dallas Bard.

It wasn’t the text of the status update that caught his attention, or the education at MIT, or the recommendations. What caught his attention was the thumbnail that stopped his breath. No wonder Matt and Victoria thought he was Dallas Bard. It was as if he looked into the eyes of his doppelgänger. He clicked the thumbnail to enlarge it.

And gasped.

“What the fuck,” he cursed at the screen and the picture. “What the fuck is this shit?”

The picture was only slightly larger than the thumbnail, but it was again a photo of him. Not the one that was plastered on to the desktop, where he still looked reasonably sober. In this one he was hammered and about to pass out, his eyes only half open. And at home, sitting on his couch. The walls closed in on him at breakneck speed. He pushed away from the desk. A memory flashed through. The memory of a blond-haired man with an American accent. Not the clipped and staccato accent of Matt Turing but more melodious, more southern. He dug into his memory to nail the face and the hair and the voice. Nothing came up. He leapt up. His knee knocked into the table-leg. Moaning he fell back. His kneecap had shifted an inch, the ligaments and muscles burning.

Jonathan sat back, rubbed the pain from his knee, and waited for his breath to calm down. “Shit,” he muttered. “Shit, shit, shit.” He should stop acting like a fucking retard. No wonder he’d been caught plagiarizing. He lacked every single instinct a journalist needed. He grabbed the bottle of champagne and downed the last drops, before he moved his knee back and forth and tried to stand up. The room started spinning right away. He grabbed hold of the chair. His legs trembled, the muscles no longer able to hold him up. Jonathan stumbled over to the bed and collapsed. Nausea forced him to close his eyes. He drew in deep breaths to stop the room from spinning like a madman.


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