Archive for the ‘Post 1.8’ Category

Thursday, March 22, 2:49 p.m.

His editor was right to say “Damn.” Damn is right.

Jack O’Lies’ article on the Lake Washington murder hits the web at 2:46 p.m. I read it. I feel depressed.

I was at the same murder scene four hours earlier. I noted so much less. Could I have written an article even half as comprehensive in less than half an hour?

Could I have done it in half a day? Half a week? Half a month?

Yes, given half a month, I might be able to. I work at a monthly newspaper, so I’m comfortable with such a deadline.

But less than half an hour…damn.

I start to doubt whether I ought to try to interview him tonight—or at all. I am so far beneath him. Compared to him, I’m barely better than a blogger.

Then I start to think. To think cynically. A bad habit of mine.

Had he really gotten all those stellar quotes from the coroner? Or were they manufactured, id est, made up? Had his years—decades—of experience made banging hard core murder reportage effortless? Could I do it, if I had decades of experience as a crime reporter?

Only one way to find out.

At five p.m., I jump in this week’s press car on loan for review, an empowering $83,000 Infinity G convertible that can’t help but expand one’s confidence (arrogance). I drive in rush hour traffic from my newspaper’s suburban headquarters south to Seattle. The trip, twenty-four minutes at most according to the car’s GPS, takes an hour and thirteen minutes.

By the time I locate a parking spot outside the 3 Coins Restaurant, it’s 6:24 p.m. I step into the leathery gloom. I’m sure Jack O’Lies has gone home by now. Nevertheless, I take it upon myself to dodge first into the restaurant, then into bar to check.

According to the bartender in the leather-bound lounge, Jack is still in situ, seated in his usual booth in the back, drinking his usual Scotch on the rocks. I order a Diet Coke and a Scotch on the rocks. I carry them into the seen-better-days murk.

I don’t normally do stuff like this—stalk men to their favorite watering hole, buy them a drinks, refuse to take “no” for an answer.

But I’m working.

Sometimes I’m simultaneously amused and appalled at the lengths to which I will go when it’s for work. For fun, for friendship, for my own edification, there’s no way I’d skip dinner to drive through rush hour hell to Seattle to force a miserable widower to tell me about how he came to this sorry state. Especially after he’d made it clear he didn’t want to do so. I don’t cross the line—any line—in my private life. But for a story…I marvel at what I’ve done.

As I approach, a glass in each hand, I feel like the embodiment of stranger-danger. Want some candy, little boy?

“Jack?” I say. “Hi again! Katherine from the Journal? Mind if I sit?”

Seated within a semi-circular banquette, Jack O’Lies is stationed behind three empty highball glasses. The high walls of the booth are like the cubicle walls at the Washingtonian office, but studded with tarnished brass buttons and reeking of sixty years of cigarette smoke. His head is down, as if he’s studying his keyboard at his desk. He doesn’t look up at me.

I slide in uninvited and sit across from him.

“Wow,” I say. “Cool place. I’ve never been here before. But I’ve heard of it. It’s pretty historical, right?”

Jack still doesn’t look up.

“Traffic was crazy. I swear, it’s worse every time I come down to Seattle. You’re drinking Scotch, right? That’s what the bartender said. Want this? I didn’t feel like breaking the ten,” I say.

I think this sounds very cool. But if he asks me why, exactly, I felt obliged to dispose of a ten dollar bill rather than accept change, I’ll stutter stupidly and expose myself as one of the world’s worst liars. I had formal training in acting during my formative years.  Fat lot of good it’s done me.

“Here,” I say, sliding the highball glass filled to the brim with Scotch and slowly melting ice across the sticky tabletop.

Jack looks up. His pale blue eyes move from the glass to my face, where they lock on my pupils. He has the stare of a basilisk. I can’t move. I sense the poison coming through his eyes into mine, but it’s too late.

“Um,” I say, breaking eye contact nervously. “I read your article.”

He says nothing. He’s still staring at me. I can feel it. I play with the red straw that bobs in my soda.

“It was great. Very thorough. I was there, too. At the murder scene, or whatever. I really like your writing style.”

I just said “whatever” to a veteran crime reporter. His silent stare is rattling me badly. I’m reverting to age 13. I’m 33.
”Here,” I say, shoving the Scotch closer to him. “I was hoping to talk to you for a minute or two. About a piece I’m working on. Totally off the record, obviously.”

Jack O’Lies lets out a sound that would be a laugh if it didn’t sound so painful. I actually flinch at the harsh, throat flaying sound.

“There is no ‘off the record’ in an interview. You’re a blogger, aren’t you? The one that’s been emailing and calling me over and over?”

I bristle.

“I am not a blogger. I work for the Journal. I’m an editor. A print editor.”

BFD,” he mutters, dropping his gaze to the glass. He grabs it and takes a sip. “Never heard of it.”

“We have a circulation of over 93,000. Print circulation,” I retort.

“Never heard of it.”

“We had thirteen editions in two counties before we consolidated about a year ago. The North Seattle Journal, the Ballard Journal—”

He lets out a groan and looks up at me. His eyes, so light and so blue, grow drunkenly merry.

“You mean that thing, that neighborhood rag that used to just show up about once a month in my mailbox ever since I bought my house eighteen years ago?”

“Yes,” I say.

“It said Ballard Journal but there was barely any Ballard news. Just random feel-good features and…oh, good God,” he chuckles.

“Yes,” I snap.

“We used to wonder why the hell we got it every month. We never subscribed. We recycled the thing every month. Why don’t we get it anymore?”

“We stopped mailing to homes that make less that $100,000 a year,” I reply.

Ah, the satisfaction I feel as his smirk morphs into a glare and he lets the highball glass clunk too hard onto the tabletop. I raise my eyebrows innocently. Sometimes I manage to leverage that acting training of mine.

“I’m not interested in being in your paper,” he says.

“This isn’t for my paper,” I say. “This is a side project of my own.”

He lowers his eyes, picks the glass up, and drinks.

“So…how do you like The Chief? He said you’d be calling me.”

“Do you guys really call him that? Like, openly?” I say.

He stares at me. I fumble.

“I mean, isn’t that racist, or whatever?” I say.

“He’s our department’s editor-in-chief. Why do you think we call him ‘The Chief?’”

A year or two ago, I would have answered that and been trapped.

“He’s nice,” I say.

“He’s an ad department tool. A tool. In all five senses of the word,” Jack replies.

“Well, he’s a very good writer.”

“Good writers don’t make good editors,” he says.

So…I can be offended in one of two ways. I take a long sip from the red straw. My hands are shaking.

Jack drains the Scotch.

“Thanks for the drink,” he says. “Now, you’ll have to excuse me.”

He doesn’t make to rise or to grab his jacket, which is hanging on an old fashioned brass hook just outside our private banquette. The big brush off. I get it.

I refuse to play along.

“Oh, sure, sure,” I say agreeably. “I’ll get out of your hair, just let me finish my drink, okay? Why don’t we talk about that piece I’m working on? I just had a couple questions I wanted to ask you. It’ll take five minutes, tops.”

I can be so obnoxious when I refuse to be brushed-off.

Jack O’Lies neither sighs nor rolls his eyes. Instead, he turns that icy blue stare on me.

“I’m planning on doing something. I’d like to be alone,” he says.

“What are you planning to do?” I ask in the sweetest, fakest, most engaging voice ever to have come out of Acting 251. “You can tell me. Really…I’ll keep it a secret.”

Later, much later, I wish I’d kept my mouth shut.

 

NEXT >>

Advertisements