Writer’s Bone’s ongoing fiction series The Newspapermen follows the tireless reporters of a major metropolitan newspaper in the late 1930s. If you need to catch up, order a stiff drink and read Chapter 1: Ink and Drink Club.
Chapter Two: A Connection Home
By Daniel Ford
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Henry asked.
“I’m afraid I am,” Will replied.
“I mean, I’m game for anything Bossman, but this...”
“I know. It’s lower than low.”
“And you agreed to this?”
“Not agreed so much as indignantly walked away. I think he knows from my stern stomping that I was protesting the order.”
“But you’re going to make me write this…fluff piece anyway?”
Will swallowed half of his new bourbon. Instead of a warm glow, it felt like it turned a flamethrower loose down his throat.
Cheap bastards, he thought. Can’t even lube us up with proper booze.
“I told him we weren’t going to run it,” Will said.
“Whew. You had me going there for a little bit.”
“But we’re going to run it.”
“For some reason, this town is in love with the police. The mayor is having a press conference about crime stats they pulled out of thin air.”
“How much of that rotgut have you had tonight?”
“You don’t see where I’m going with this?”
Will knew the kid would get to where he wanted him to go eventually. He didn’t have the instant instinct yet.
I’ll keep beating the reporter skills into him until I don’t have to call him into my office every five minutes, he thought. Maybe every two minutes now that he’s got his eyes on Shirley.
“The mayor is going to field a lot of softball questions. You’re going to be the only one asking about policy. That is until he throws you out. Is that about right?” A female voice asked.
Will hadn’t realized Shirley had been eavesdropping on their conversation. He’d be making his own coffee sooner than he thought.
“Exactly,” Will said, forcing down the rest of the awful liquor. He picked up a flute of champagne and quickly downed it to cleanse his palette. A man can’t possibly be expected to think clearly with bad hooch in his gullet.
“Kid, you’re going to take Shirley with you so she can get pictures of you getting thrown out on your ass. You can take pictures, can't you?”
“Yes,” Henry said weakly.
He didn't look good, like someone just pantsed him at his own birthday party. Will felt bad, but some lessons are best learned the hard way. His father instilled that in him while he was wailing away on his hide.
“What should I be asking?” The young gun asked. There was an edge to his voice now, like he was trying to get his bearings back. He straightened his tie and unrolled his shirtsleeves.
“We can talk more about it in the morning,” Will said. “There’s something fishy coming out of that office. Been quiet for weeks. Now this? What kind of dander are these fur ball stats covering up? We're going to find out. We can strategize in the morning. You two have fun."
"Where are you going?" Shirley asked.
"Home," Will said. "Kiss the wife. Check the kids."
"Say hi for me, Bossman."
"Shut up, Henry. Shirley, go easy on him. You might be dealing with a first-timer."
* * *
Will felt at home when he walked through the door. The empty desks and abandoned typewriters were good company on a night like this.
He pulled the chain on his desk lamp. Nothing happened. He leaned back in his chair and reached for his bottom drawer. He wrapped his fingers around the neck of his emergency bottle of port. He poured some into the paper cup that his morning coffee spent half the day in. His first sip was heavenly.
He picked up his phone.
"Another late night for you,” The telephone operator said. “Remember what your wife looks likes, Mr. Graham?"
"Funny,” he replied. “Can you patch me into the homestead, Marie?"
"You're not waking her up are you?"
"She'll be awake."
"If you say so."
Silence. He wished the line didn’t take forever to connect. He knew his wife's tired voice better than he knew her figure, which was never a good long-term strategy.
"You going to beat the milkman to our doorstep tomorrow?" She asked when the connection went through.
"Are the bets in yet? Can I still make a wager?"
"Will, you're a writer. We don't have any money to gamble away."
"Damn. Always something."
"Don't work too late. Girls missed you tonight. They want to know what happens to the princess after she escaped the dungeon."
"I'll be home in a bit. Something big about to go down. Need to be ready when it does."
"You heard what I said about the girls, right?"
"Never mind. I love you."
She didn't wait for a return "I love you" before hanging up.
Will stuck a cigar in his mouth and lit the end of it. He inserted a fresh piece of paper into the typewriter. Guided by the red glow at the end of his stogie, he started writing.
TO BE CONTINUED...