Archive for the ‘Post 7.5’ Category

Friday, March 30, 10:55 a.m.

At stop lights, illegally, I check my text messages. I’m shaking with a chill that comes from deep within by the time I pull into the 3 Coins parking lot. I dial Jack’s cell phone. No answer.

“Jack. Are you okay? Call me—I’m fine. What happened—where are you? Call me,” I ramble into his voicemail.

I get out of the car. I have to return this less-than-awesome press car to the PR firm by two o’clock. As I lock up, it strikes me, in one of my rare moments of—dare we say brilliance?—that my weekly swapping of press cars might be the very thing that’s kept me off the deadly radar that has zeroed in on routine-loving Jack.

I go inside the 3 Coins, which is just as gloomy at lunchtime as it was the night I met Jack here. Was it really only eight days ago?

I find John Whiteclay at a two-person table close to the entrance. He is menu-less. This is clearly not your typical lunch meeting. He looks nervous. I feel desperate. Between the two of us, we’re a wreck.

I slide into the seat opposite his.

“Thanks for coming,” he says. “I’m very concerned. Very concerned.”

He’s not just menu-less, he’s also preamble-less. This does not bode well.

“Me too,” I say. “Did something happen to Jack? Or did he…do something?”

“I’m not sure. I found this on my desk this morning.”

He hands me a Post-it note.

Call Katherine at the Journal if anything happens. Ask her to get Lucy. Jack

“And then there was this,” he says, handing me a pink phone message slip.


Date: 3/30 Time: 8:52 a.m. To: John Whiteclay From: Jack O’Lies Of: Washingtonian Newspaper  X Called		X Urgent _  Dropped by		_Please call back _ Will call again	__ Returned your call  Message: Call Katherine at the Journal immediately.

“And under both, I found this,” he says. He hands me a manila folder, labeled “Celeb Obits.”

“What is it?” I say.

“We keep prepared obituaries of famous people on file, just in case,” he says. “Open it.”

I place the folder flat across my empty plate and let it fall open. A stack of about sixty single-spaced printouts are stacked inside neatly, unbound. I glance at John Whiteclay, then begin to leaf through them. Britney Spears, Tiger Woods, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Charlie Sheen…then, Jack O’Lies.

I pull out the sheet and stare at it. I glance at his editor, who nods.

“Read it,” he says.

I scan the text. Born, raised, schooled, married, child, employed. Nothing I didn’t already know, either from talking to him or from my friend Wikipedia. The weird thing is, it ends with his wife’s murder. There’s nothing else—not about the trial or his Pulitzer Prize nomination or any of the other milestones he must have reached in the dead-drunk years of his widowerhood.

Is “widowerhood” a word? It ought to be. I consider asking John Whiteclay, editor extraordinaire, but decide against it. I don’t want to look dumb.

“Oh God,” I sigh. “He’s so messed up.”

John Whiteclay impatiently rifles through the pages.

“That’s not all I wanted you to see,” he says.

He grabs a page and thrusts it at me.

It’s my obituary.

I like to think of myself as an articulate person.

“What the hell!” I cry. “Why? What—why is this—what the hell is this shit?”

Articulate in print, at least.

John Whiteclay, age 29, is staring at me steadily and seriously as I attempt to contain my meltdown.

“What is this thing?” I demand.

“You tell me. I don’t know,” he says.

“He told me not to leave my house today. He texted me. Did he plan to come up to my place and kill me or something? Murder-suicide style? Is that what you’re telling me?”

Even as I say (shriek) this, I don’t believe it. But the Psycho plot template begs that I momentarily consider that Jack might be the very killer he has been writing about.

John Whiteclay looks at me with calm, blacker-than-black eyes as I hyperventilate, then normal-ventilate, then deep-calming-breaths-Zentilate. As I rake my wits into something resembling a pile of sanity, I realize that his calm gaze is familiar, and it’s not at all calm. I’ve seen this watchful look before in my previous job. It’s the same poverty gaze I saw in the children living in public housing: cautious, curious solely for the sake of self-protection, and superficially courteous to avoid being slapped by mom/grandma/big sister. I wonder about his early life on a dirt poor reservation polluted by a slaughterhouse. I wonder what he’s really thinking.

“Jack’s been writing a lot lately,” I say.

His editor nods vigorously.

“Yes, and I don’t know why. I mean, I’ve been pushing him for months to file something besides the obits and the police blotter,” he says. “And now, all of a sudden—”

“Now he’s filing articles every day,” I say.

“And they’re good,” he says. “Was he playing some kind of game with me before? Testing me?”

“No,” I say. “He’s investigating. He told me he’s worried that he might have done something.”

I hesitate. I’m not sure I trust Jack’s editor, who looks at me with those falsely calm eyes.

“What are you thinking?” I say.

“You just seem to know him a lot better than I do,” he says. “I’ve been his editor for five months. You met him, what? A week ago? Do you always figure people out this easily?”

“No,” I say. “Did he tell anyone where he was going today?”

John Whiteclay shakes his head.

“Did he tell you?” he asks.

I open my mouth. I close it slowly. I’m pretty sure that I don’t trust this brilliant social justice journalist turned editor. I want to…but I don’t.

“I’ll pick his daughter up from school,” I say. “If Jack calls, tell him.”

“So you know where he is,” he says. It’s not a question.

“I should go,” I say.

I stand. I hoist my oversized purse onto my shoulder. John Whiteclay stands as well.

“Will you call me? When you get a hold of him?” he asks.

“Sure,” I say.

John Whiteclay, “The Chief” to his reporters, takes out a business card and scrawls on it. He hands it to me. He has let the false calm fall from his eyes like scales, leaving them raw and unguarded.

“Any time,” he says. “Three in the morning, I don’t care. Call me and tell me if he’s all right.”

This is why he’s a far, far better editor—and person—than I’ll ever be.

 

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