The Newspapermen

The Newspapermen: Sources

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 Nine: Sources

Henry felt his pocket, checking that his wallet hadn’t been lifted.

The chief told him to pick a reputable place for the meeting, but Henry knew this hole-in-the-wall café under the elevated street near Grand Central Station was a known police hangout. His potential source would feel as comfortable as possible before Henry turned up the heat. However, despite the police presence, the small counter offered plenty of opportunities for lowlifes, pickpockets, and assorted villains to apply their craft.

Henry signaled for a second refill. He finished his scrambled eggs half an hour ago. He was giving Detective William Beach another cup of coffee before doing down to his precinct to raise hell.

“Beach!” The short order cook said.

Henry didn’t have time to turn his head before the hefty gumshoe clapped a hand on his shoulder.

“Where’s Graham, yea marshmallow?” Beach asked.

“My name is Henry Jones. Mr. Graham sent me to talk to you because he’s busy with important City Scribe business.”

Beach grunted in response. He hung up his dark coat and sat down. He surveyed the menu for a moment.

“You paying for this?”

Henry mentally counted the money he had in his pocket and then straightened his tie.

“Yes, I suppose I am.”

“Steak and eggs, Charlie,” Beach said to the cook.

Henry felt his anger stain his cheeks, but remained calm. He needed this.

“What do you know about Hal Fintan?” Henry asked. He attempted to pull his reporter’s notebook out of his back pocket, but Beach grabbed his arm and shook his head.

“I’m off the record or I’m bailing.”

Henry nodded curtly.

“Fintan’s a choirboy,” Beach said. “In the eyes of the law at least.”

"How is that possible?" Henry asked. "He's about as clean as a sewer rat."

"He's a lowlife that paints this city with yellow ink," Beach said. "But he's never been arrested and no one has ever witnessed him in any illicit activity."

"Then he he's either greasing the right wheels or got friends in high places," Henry said. "Probably a few low places too.”

Beach shrugged and dumped more ketchup on his plate. Henry could see the detective's straw-colored hair was thinning and his waistline had grew since the department's charity baseball game Henry covered a couple of years before. His shoulders took up nearly half the counter, but his legs were pencil thin. Henry knew Beach was a clean as they could come around here, but Henry wasn't about to play nice.

"So you said you had names for us. Or did you lie about that to get a free meal?"

Beach devoured the last of his eggs as he slid a folded piece of paper under a napkin toward Henry. The cub reporter waited a moment before discreetly balling the note into his hand using the napkin to wipe his brow.

“You tell Graham that if he wants any more, he needs to show up himself,” Beach said. “How am I supposed to know he won't screw me if he's too scare to show his own face?.”

“Will Graham isn’t scared of anything!”

Henry leapt from his stool and defiantly stood above the hulking copper. Beach set down his mug and rose to his full six-foot, three-inch height.

“Word to the wise, son,” Beach said. “You keep following Graham blindly and you’re going to find out exactly what he’s scared of.”


Shirley finished the afternoon edition of City Scribe, folded it, and placed it in her lap.

The majority of the paper covered what little real news was buzzing around town. The mayor’s office had cancelled all press conferences and announced city business through stilted and hallow news releases. The minds behind them knew nothing about writing and even less about news. People started asking substantial questions and got even more vague and shadowy answers in return. All the newspapers had sold out to some extent, but she knew newspapermen of all stripes were working their informants and back channels to figure out what was really going on.

Shirley brushed her crimson hair from her face. She noticed a mother and young daughter enjoying a crust-less sandwich on a park bench not too far from her own. Shirley was long past the point of envy—her anger, angst, and aggression were reserved for memories of her father—but she couldn't help reflecting briefly on all she had lost. Her wistfulness was broken by Henry, walking toward her with this trench coat flowing behind him like a cape.

That man moves faster than his body can carry him, she thought.

“What did you find out?” Shirley asked.

Henry handed her a slip of paper.

“He didn’t give us anyone we didn’t already know about,” she said.

Henry nodded grimly.

“Were you followed?”


“Excuse me,” a female voice said behind him.

 Henry sighed and Shirley rolled her eyes.

“Are you in need of directions?” Shirley said. She didn’t like this woman one bit. “We recently arrived in the city, so we wouldn’t be much help.”

“You two work for City Scribe, right?”

“Who wants to know," Henry asked.

“My name is Betty. I’m Hal Fintan’s daughter.”

Henry sat down on the bench leaving a space for Betty between himself and Shirley.

“And what do you want with the City Scribe?” Shirley asked.

“I overheard him talking about Hal in the coffee shop,” Betty said, motioning to Henry.

Henry took out his notebook and asked her to continue.

“My mother told me a few months ago that Hal Fintan is my real father,” Betty said. “He left my mother a few months before I was born. My mother wrote him tortured letters, but he never wanted anything to do with us. He used her and discarded her when he was done. When I found out the truth, and then I started to read his work. Now I'm glad he left us.”

Shirley gave Henry a quick smile. He looked up from his notes and returned it.

“So you came to the city to confront him?” Henry asked.

“I just wanted him to know who I was” Betty said.  "So I caught a bus from Albany only to have a door slammed in my face."

“And how does that place you at the coffee shop?” Shirley asked.

“I told his super I was his daughter and that he wasn't home, asked him where I might find my dear father. You said his name not five minutes after I sat down," Betty said looking at Henry. "I couldn’t help overhearing your the conversation with the flatfoot, so I following you here.”

“What are you looking to gain here, Miss…,” Henry asked.

“Lincoln. Betty Lincoln.”

“Miss Lincoln, what exactly do you want from us?” Shirley asked.

“I know Hal is involved in whatever you’re investigating. I want to help bring him to justice. No one but him knows who I am. I can be valuable. I’ll do anything you need me to do.”

Henry closed his notebook and exchanged a worried grimace with Shirley. Betty picked up Shirley’s discarded paper and started reading.


“Mr. Graham?”

Herman, City Scribe’s copy editor, occupied most of Will’s door frame and two or three feet on either side of the threshold.

“Herm, I’m 100% certain I used ‘arsenal’ correctly,” Will said.

He kept hammering away at the keys of his typewriter; careful not to type too much and have the piece of paper fold over revealing he’d been writing gibberish for 10 minutes.

Sobriety is taking its toll, he thought.

“You have a visitor.”

“I have a secretary for this kind of thing,” he said, instantly remembering he hadn’t had one since promoting Shirley. Will’s heart jumped momentarily at the thought it could be his wife and daughters. Herman’s dour, craggy face dispelled that fantasy in a hurry. “Not now. Have him write out a statement and provide contact information.”

“You’re going to want to meet this guy,” Herman said.

Will yanked the piece of paper out of the typewriter, crumpled it up, and threw it forcefully at his subordinate’s graying flattop.

“Then get your fast ass out of the door and send him in!” Will screamed. “Jesus, go back to screwing up punctuation.”

Will didn’t have time to care about Herman’s wounded expression as a thin, well-manicured man entered his office wearing a suit that cost more than Will's annual salary.

“Right to the point,” the figure said. His airy voice crackled with entitlement and false confidence. “My name is Albert Moruzzi Jr.”

The Albert Moruzzi Jr.?”


“Listen, if this is some kind of shake down or extortion effort, our newspaper has never taken an unsubstantiated shot at your old man…”

Albert Jr. held his hand up.

“I need your help Mr. Graham,” he said. “I think my father is trying to kill me.”



The Newspapermen: Midtown Suds

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 Eight: Midtown Suds

By Sean Tuohy


Post rain shower. Slick pavement. A line of New York City’s high society walk into a fashionable nightclub. Well-groomed women in dresses to kill for. Men suited up.

Hal walks past the club and turns right toward a back alley.


Hal slips into the chaos of the kitchen. Sidesteps rushing waiters and bus boys. A heavyset CHEF barks orders to his overworked crew. Hal taps him on the shoulder.

What the hell are you doin’ here Finton?

No hello?

Hello. What do you want?

Seein’ my girl. Plan on taking her for a dance.

Dance her with into the poor house. Only place your going.

I remember why I come here now. Your charm.

Hal breaks away and moves toward—


A band PLAYS from a stage in the dimly lit club. Booths line the walls. Tables ring around a dance floor. The floor is a sea of moving bodies.

Hal enters from the kitchen. Out of place in this refined establishment. Hal scans the crowd.

Finds SARAH, 20s, too much make up, dress too tight. She is charming an older gent.


As he slices through the crowd towards Sarah.


Sarah, smoking on a long cigarette, as she chats up the OLD MAN.

London? Never been myself.

Lovely place. The food is far from—

Hal swoops in quickly. Picks Sarah from the chair.

Thanks, pal, but I got it from here.

A slack-jawed Old Man watches Hall takes Sarah to—


Hal pins Sarah to a wall. Kisses her hard, full passion. Sarah returns it with less enthusiasm.

I was working, Hal, I could’ve gotten something from that guy. See the way he looked at me?

Not the same way I look at you.

I could have gotten some moolah from him. If I go back now maybe I can still win him over.

Sarah pushes past but Hal stops her.

I don’t have a boss anymore.

What are you talking about?

I’m saying I’ve got some lettuce in my pocket.

Yeah right.

I got something going on, something big.

When I see it I’ll believe it. Right now I see an out-of-work newspaper man.

Look at this.

Hal slips out a fresh wad of bills. Sarah goes wide eye.


I got more suds coming for just the two of us.

Sarah takes the bills. Counts them.

Hal, you’ve got over a grand here.

Enough for you and me to leave.


Get out of here, leave this city like we talked about. Starting up somewhere else.

Sarah looks at Hal and the cash.

Scram, huh? How much is a lot?


Hal, where is it coming from?

Off Hal’s raised eyebrows—


SHIRLEY AND HENRY check their coats and move to the dance floor. Shirley searches the crowd for faces. Henry sniffs the air.

You sure we can find him here?

I smell steak.

You should smell the story, not the food.

For your information, Red, they don’t serve the best grub in this joint.

Shirley rolls her eyes.

Use your head right now, not your stomach.

Henry searches the crowd. Stops on HAL.

Hey there. I know that fella.



Across the room, Hal and Sarah rush back in, stuck in a heated argument.


Hal Finton. Crime beat report for the Post. Old school tough guy.

Why do I know that name?

He’s public scumbag number one in this city.

What’s he doing here?

Who’s the looker with him?

A lotta of questions. Why don’t we get some answers?


Standing in the corner.

Are you crazy? Do you know what they will do to you?

Nothing. They got nothing on me.

They can kill you!

Than the pictures goes out to the public. Got them locked up nice and safe. No one can get to them.


Shirley and Henry slide up. All smiles. Fake warmth.

How’s it hanging, Hal? (Off Hal’s Puzzled Look) Henry, from the—

City Scribe, right! I read you piece on the captain out of the 17th Precinct last year. Good stuff. (To Shirley) And’s who this?

(Frosty) Shirley.

Hal is taken with her.

Does the lady have a last name?

Not for you, bub.

Hal smiles. Sarah frowns. Not pleased.

This is my girl Sarah.

(Flat) Hello...

What are you guys doing here?

Sarah works here.

Sort of.

Want to join us for a drink?

Maybe next time. I’ve got to see a man about a horse.

Next time.

Yeah. (To Shirley) Next time maybe I can get a last name. See ya, all.

Shirley gives him an ice cold glare. Hal kisses Sarah and peels away. Sarah walks off.

HENRY watches Hal walk toward the kitchen.


He’s some kind of trouble.

Let’s get back to the chief and find out how much.

Off Henry’s concerned, yet determined look—


To download a PDF of Sean Tuohy's script, click here


The Newspapermen: Sweet Dreams

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 Seven: Sweet Dreams

By Daniel Ford

Will Graham’s key wouldn’t open his door.

He’d been at it for more than five minutes. The bundle of damp newspapers under his arm bled black into the white shirt he hadn’t changed in three days. Water drops fell from the brim of his fedora, blurring his vision and concentration.

Will stopped for a moment. His bones ached from the 18-hour days he’d been enduring. He pulled out his pocket watch and checked the hour.

“I'll be crucified for this,” he mumbled.

He pounded his fist on the door and didn’t stop until he heard locks being unlatched. Will braced himself for a scolding.

“What the hell are you doing at this hour?”

A fat, heavyset Italian man stood where his wife should have been. A pink robe failed to corral the fellow’s hair and flesh.

“Sorry, Mr. Mancinelli,” Will said. “Long day.”

“Jesus H. Christ, I thought you were my bookie,” Mancinelli said. “Haven’t been home in a while, huh?”

Will grimaced. He shifted the wet newspapers to his opposite arm. He tipped his hat, bid his neighbor good night, and shuffled to the correct apartment.

The numbers bolted to his door appeared alien, from another life. He’d been spending time with an assorted array of derelicts, shady city officials, and chatty drunks. He had plenty of sources, but no leads or useful information. All day and night, he thought about walking through this cheap piece of wood and have his two girls leap into his arms. Instead, another story was consuming him from the inside out, just like the one before it and the one before that. He didn’t know how many stories he had left and felt every past column inch of type weighing him down. Maybe this was the last straw. After this, he could start teaching the next generation how to deal with a broken marriage and cranky ulcer.

Finally he turned his key and walked in. He dropped his cargo as quietly as he could and draped his jacket on the radiator. It was a dumb thing to do considering they hadn’t been able to pay the heat or electric bill for months.

Will knew better than to expect leftovers. He had ordered his wife to keep the girls well fed as if they lived on Fifth Avenue. He was living off donuts and caffeine, but the thought of his healthy daughters kept him full.

He noticed a beam of light under his wife’s bedroom door.

Our bedroom, he thought.

She had a monastery’s worth of candles lit. She was propped up on all their pillows, her nose buried in a well-worn copy of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.

“Hey, handsome,” she said without looking up.

“Evening,” he replied.

Will undid his tie and walked over to his side of the bed, eager to sit down and unlace his shoes. Before he reached his destination, he tripped over a large suitcase, and landed on the floor, wondering how he hadn’t ended up here sooner.

“Subtle, darling,” Will said from the ground.

“I didn’t want to bury the lead,” she replied. “I know you hate that, sweetheart.”

“I won’t be separated from my family,” he said, rising to his feet.

“Don’t call us that,” she said. “You don’t have the right to include yourself in my family. Pack up and leave.”

Will didn’t respond. The facts were as black and white as the print stained into his shirt. He grabbed the two shirts hanging up in the closet and a handful of socks from his top drawer. He collected his razor and aftershave from the bathroom. He buckled the latches on the suitcase and stood at the end of the bed.

“You fight for your reporters, you fight your publisher, you fight the outside world, and you fight for what you think is the truth, even when everyone tells you it’s a lie,” she said, finally putting her book down. “You never once fought for us. You stopped fighting for me the day I married you. You chase down the story, but you don’t know what to do with it once you land it. It makes you a crappy journalist and a piss-poor father.”

“You don’t know me at all,” he said. “You three are all I think about. The job doesn’t matter if I don’t have you and the girls.”

“You can think about us all you want, but that doesn’t translate into action. You don’t act if there isn’t a deadline involved, and you missed this one." 

Will nodded and turned to leave.

“I know what you’re doing, you know,” she said. “I’ve been following your column for weeks. This is a dangerous path you’re headed down and I won't put those two angels at risk.”

“Does that mean I can come home when I’m done?”

“You’ll never be done,” she replied, lifting her novel back up to her face.

“Sweet dreams, beautiful.”

* * *

Will faced another darkened door frame.

He felt shameful that this one was more familiar to him than his own. He could hear typing, which stirred his heart in a way his wife’s touch never could.   

He knocked meekly and the typing stopped.

“Password?” A female voice asked from the inside.

“Oxford comma.”

Shirley opened the door and pulled him in quickly. Will struggled to adjust to the heat and light.

“My god, you look like you’ve been spending time in a Chicago overcoat,” Shirley said. “The missus give you a few licks before making tracks?”

“Where’s Henry?”

Shirley motioned to the kitchen table. Henry’s was face down on his typewriter, his hand wrapped around an empty glass.  

“I’m going to catch some shut eye; you can fill me in on where we are later.”

Will dropped his suitcase and collapsed into the couch. He felt warm, protected, and awful. He felt sleep coming on, but pushed it away to arrange words in his head. He reached out for the notebook he had left on floor the night before. He came back with a wet hand. Will raised a glass filled with ice and clear liquid.

“Drink it down, boss,” Shirley said.

“What the hell is it?”

“The best dog soup this city has to offer,” she replied. “We need you sober for what comes next.”

“Oh yeah, what’s next?”

“The news, boss. The news.”