Posts Tagged ‘journalist’

Monday, March 19, 9:22 a.m.

I’ve never met Jack O’Lies, award-winning crime reporter from the venerable Washingtonian newspaper, but I know so much about him. I also know about his boss, Washingtonian Deputy Assistant Editor John Whiteclay. I first encountered young Mr. Whiteclay at a Society of Professional Journalists awards ceremony a couple years ago, when I was but a slip of a staff writer and he was an investigative journalist at the Tulalip Tribune on the Indian reservation few miles north of my house.

He and the crusaders from the downtown Seattle social justice newspaper, Real Change, owned that awards ceremony, racking up eight or nine first place statuettes between them. I remember he had the longest hair I’d ever seen on a man or woman: a raven black braid that hung past his belt, tied off with either a thin strip of leather or a garbage bag twist tie. He was all of 27.

I didn’t talk to him at the time. I remember being profoundly embarrassed that I hadn’t realized there was a legitimate newspaper up in casino land.

Last night, I finally read John Whiteclay’s 2008 first place investigative journalism article, Slaughterhouse 98271.

He has accumulated at least eleven more first place statuettes since I last encountered him. He’s also ascended from lowly reporter at a weekly tribal newspaper with a circulation of maybe 2,000 to editor at the Washingtonian, one of the last print dailies in the country. My own journalistic ascension has been far less impressive.

When I called Jack O’Lies to set up an interview (multiple times, all sent to voicemail) and when I emailed him (multiple times, all unanswered), I never thought I’d resort to that lowest of tactics (contacting his boss). But I get pushy when I’m ignored.

After checking my email one last time and finding no response, I decide to place a call to John Whiteclay, one print editor to another. Very collegial, I figure. As I dial, I wonder if he still has the incredibly long braid.

I’m transferred, put on hold, transferred again, then put on hold again. While I’m humming along to the canned version of the theme from Titanic, he picks up.

Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet

“John Whiteclay.”

How much humming did he hear?

“Hi there. This is Katherine Luck from the Journal,” I say.

“The Business Journal?”

“No. The Journal Newspapers.”

Did he hear my unconscious attempt to hit the high trills? Why would they subject people on hold to a Celine Dion song? And what the heck is the lyric after “My heart will go on?” It’s going to bug me all day.

“The King County Journal?”

“No. Yes. No, not the one you’re thinking of. That folded, like, ten years ago.”

I just said “like.” That’s not a good sign. It means he’s rattling me.

“Who are you with?” He sounds annoyed.

“We’re a monthly newspaper. We have two editions—the King County Journal and the Snohomish County Journal. But officially or whatever, we’re the Journal Newspapers.”

I just said “whatever” to an award-winning investigative reporter turned editor. I sound 13. I’m 33.

“I’ve, uh, been trying to get ahold of one of your reporters for a piece I’m working on,” I say.

“Permissions can be obtained by calling extension 102—”

“No, no, I don’t want to reprint anything,” I say. “I want to interview him.”

I hear the chatter of a keyboard through my phone. He’s checking his email as we speak. I know that he isn’t looking for a message I might have sent—no, he’s multitasking, barely listening to me. Not that I know this because I do it.

“Who were you trying to reach?” He sounds distracted.

“Jack O’Lies. He’s a crime reporter, it says.”

“It” is the ten year old byline that Google supplied when I typed in “husbands of serial killer victims.”

On the other end of the phone, John Whiteclay stops typing and sighs.

“Jack O’Lies,” he says. “Why would you want to interview him?”

“Research. Um…that I’m doing. For a book. That I’m working on.”

John Whiteclay sighs again.

“Is this some kind of backgrounding thing?”

“Yes?” I say. I have no idea what he means.

“Okay,” he says. “I’ll see. What’s your number?”

“425-775-2400,” I say. I don’t bother to give him my extension. I only do so when I fear a potential interviewee will mistake me for a mere blogger.

“Okay,” John Whiteclay says. “Jack will get back to you.”

He hangs up. I hang up.

Jack does not get back to me.

NEXT >>

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Thursday, March 22, 9:11 a.m.

On my own, with the aid of the internet, I’ve discovered that Jack O’Lies was a crime reporter at the Washingtonian in the late 1990s. I get that.

In 1998, he was covering the ongoing hunt for the Westgate Serial Killer. I get that.

His wife was killed by the Westgate Serial Killer in 1998. That I don’t get.

His wife’s killer was caught. I get that.

Jack O’Lies covered the trial of the Westgate Serial Killer, his wife’s murderer, for his newspaper. I decidedly don’t get that.

He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the trial. I get that all too well.

He came in second and got nothing more than a two-paragraph write-up in his own newspaper for his trouble. I so do not get that!

He is still a crime reporter at the Washingtonian. I don’t know if I get that or not.

After weeks of shady cyberstalking on my part, the question remains: Why did he cover the trial of his wife’s killer? According to my admittedly superficial research, he was also a witness at the trial. He went to court in the morning, he testified, then he went back to the Washingtonian and filed copy. Day after day.

Was it all a detachment thing for him? A coping mechanism, to keep himself emotionally removed so that he didn’t have to deal with the pain? Or is he a cold-hearted bastard? He has managed to stay employed as the industry bleeds print journalists. I vote cold-hearted bastard. But I want to find out for sure.

Four days after promising that Jack O’Lies would get back to me, his editor calls. I have no idea why. He, John Whiteclay, deputy assistant editor at one of the last print dailies in the U.S., surely has at least twenty-two better things to do at 9:11 a.m. on a Thursday. Could it be professional courtesy? One print editor to another?

“Hi, this is John Whiteclay at the Washingtonian.”

“Hi there,” I say. I try not to sound too eager.

“Sorry, I set up a thing to have Jack O’Lies call you today at ten, but I had to send him to Lake Washington. Breaking news. Can I have him call you to reschedule?”

“Okay…sure,” I say, though I doubt I’ll ever hear from him. Among those who know me, “Jack O’Lies” has become a slang term for a person who doesn’t return phone calls.

“So you’ll handle this between the two of you,” he says. It’s not a question. It’s a managerial brush-off. I’ve never had the chance to do this, since I have no staff. I’ve had it done to me plenty of times, however.

“Yeah,” I say. “Sure.”

“Great. Bye,” he says.

He hangs up. I hang up. I brood for thirty seconds. I know I’ll never hear from Jack O’Lies. Even with his editor involved. Especially with his editor involved. Particularly now that his editor had explicitly un-involved himself.

Breaking news at Lake Washington? Lake Washington is about 45 minutes from my newspaper office in morning rush hour traffic.

I put a Post-it note on my office door stating:

Interview in Seattle. Back noon-ish.

Though given my poor handwriting, it probably reads as:

In stes m Settle. Be bl nons.

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.

 

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Saturday, March 24, 11:42 p.m.

In my haste to flee Jack’s house, I scrawl my cell phone number on one of my business cards, thrust it at his crazy, bleeding daughter, and flee. I never expect to hear from him again, though I still have his driver’s license, keys, and cigarettes.

Jack calls my cell phone late that night. Very late.

“Hello?” I answer.

“Katherine?”

“Yes?”

“Hey. It’s me.”

I do not feel that Jack and I, after one whole interview—albeit a drunken one on his part—are on an “it’s me” basis.

Nevertheless, I know that it’s him the instant I hear his alcohol-addled voice.

“Hi, Jack. Where were you this afternoon?”

“Starbucks. In Ballard.”

“How original.”

“What?”

“Lucy said you were getting coffee.”

“I was. At Starbucks.”

“For an hour and a half,” I accuse wife-ishly, though I’m not his wife.

“Harry Dekins asked me,” he says.

Ah, Harry Dekins, the quotable coroner!

“Nice,” I say. “So, you want your car keys and stuff back?”

“Can we talk? Like the other night?

“Like the other night?”

Jack lets out a long sigh that vibrates my cell phone against my ear.

“Please,” he says. “Just for a couple minutes.”

“Okay,” I say, sitting on the uncomfortable futon in the uncomfortable ground floor of my home. My husband is upstairs, where it’s warm and well furnished. He’s killing trolls or something in World of Warcraft, fancy gamer headphones covering his ears and rendering him deaf.

“What do you want to talk about?” I say.

Jack sighs again, blowing my impatience away.

“I don’t know,” he says.

“Are you drunk right now?” I say.

“I’ve had a little bit.”

“How much?”

“A couple screwdrivers.”

“Really.”

“Mostly vodka. Less screw,” he says.

“Do you mind if I tape this?” I say. “For both of our protection?”

“Why? This is a social call.”

“Not for me,” I say.

“Why not?”

“Jack, we’re not social that way. We don’t know each other. I’m turning on my recorder. Okay? Jack? Okay?”

 

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Tuesday, March 27, 5:38 p.m.

Jack asks me after finishing his cigarette, but before finishing his coffee.

The setting sun dyes his face orange and gold. He doesn’t make eye contact with me.

“Will you help me?”

“With Lucy?” I ask.

He shakes his head.

“I don’t know what I did on Thursday night,” he says. “I think I did something terrible after you left me. But I can’t remember.”

And here’s the guilt trip, pulling up the curb and asking me to go for a ride.

I left him that night. I was stone sober. I was the designated driver. He was drunk as hell. He told me to let him out of the car outside a bar. And I did.

“What can I do?” I say. My voice is a tight braid of apology, anger and defensiveness.

Jack slides his cold eyes to mine. In the dying sunset, they aren’t their usual blue, but the copper of dying embers or pennies on the eyelids of a dead man.

“Will you help me find out?” he says.

“What exactly do you think you did?”

Jack inhales, cigarette-less. He pulls another out of the pack, sticks it between his dry lips, lights it, and sucks in hard.

“I think I left the bar late Thursday night. I think someone approached me. I don’t know what for. I think I hit them. I think I hit them a lot. Maybe they were trying to mug me. Or maybe I was just fucked up in the head because of what you and I did.”

What he and I did was peruse photos of his dead wife on the anniversary of her murder. Jack was lubricated by plenty of alcohol in order to keep him talking. I liquored him up and drank nothing myself so that I could keep control over the situation. Then I abandoned him in the street. I am a total bastard.

Can a woman be a bastard?

“Oh God, Jack…I’m sorry. I should have stayed with you. But…would I have been able to stop you?”

Jack considers. He continues to consider through three drags on his cigarette.

Finally he says, “You’re all I remember clearly from that night. I remember I got out of your car, and you said…”

He closes his eyes. He is still for almost a minute.

“You said, ‘Jack? You’re going home, right? Want me to walk you, make sure you get inside okay? You’re not going into that bar, right?’”

That sounds like me. He has a good memory.

He continues, “And I said…‘God…’”

“‘You have no idea,’” I supply.

“Yeah.”

We sit in silence for ages. The sun sets behind his neighbor’s roof. It grows so cold.

“I know cops,” Jack says at last. “If I went and told them half of what I told you, I’d be booked and charged with about eight unsolved murders. Maybe even the Lake Washington serial killer I’ve been covering. I need you to help me.”

“How?”

“I’ll die in prison.”

“Jack…”

“Who would take care of Lucy?”

Please don’t ask me to take her! I shriek silently.

“How can I help you?” I say. “I don’t know what you’re asking me.”

“You’ve been investigating me for weeks, right?”

“No, I haven’t,” I protest.

“You talked to my boss, you kept calling and emailing me, you followed me to work, you Yahooed me—”

“If you mean Googled, yes, I did that. And the other stuff too, I guess. So what?”

“So keep doing it and tell me what you find out.”

“You’re serious?”

He nods.

“Why don’t you apply your own reporterly talents and investigate yourself, um, yourself?” I say.

No one can be that objective,” he snorts.

“I don’t know. You of all people could probably pull it off,” I say.

“I’m too old,” he says. “I’m done being objective.”

“I’m not an investigative reporter, Jack. I didn’t know what I was doing, to be honest.”

Had I known what I was doing—and what I was getting into—I would have chosen to spend this month working on my unfinished literary fiction novel about a family struggling with their child’s cystic fibrosis. I had the perfect interviewees handed to me…and I promptly handed them off to an intern.

Jack does not praise my innate talent, nor my Lois Lane-ish tenacity, nor my searing intellect. He simply says, “Did you read my old articles?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Some of them.”

“Which ones?”

“A few before your wife was murdered, to get a feel for how you used to work. All the ones I could find in the Washingtonian’s online archives that you wrote about her killer’s trial. And a few after. There weren’t many after.”

Jack takes a last drag off his cigarette, then pitches it into his sodden front yard (trashy!)

“I miss being married,” he says. “I miss her like hell. But I miss the whole wedded bliss racket worse. Being two people, you know? Being…accountable?”

“I know,” I say. “Speaking of accountable, I should probably go. It’s getting late…”

“Will you do it?”

“If you tell me exactly what you want me to do, Jack, maybe. Maybe,” I say.

I’m getting annoyed. I want to go home to my un-murdered husband.

“Keep investigating me and tell me what you find out,” he says. “Don’t go yet.”

“I need to get home.”

I set my coffee cup on the porch and begin to dig through my purse.

“Katherine,” he says.

“It’s cold,” I say.

“You’re the only person who can tell me my future. Please stay?”

He holds out his hand.

The sky has gone navy. The stars will pop out any minute. In this compelling half-light, his eyes are the sky…navy with stars shining in the pupils.

I reach out my hand and drop his car keys and driver’s license into his waiting palm. Our fingers do not touch. I stand and leave.

 

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Friday, March 30, 5:39 p.m.

Jack pulls into my office parking lot precisely 21 minutes after sending his last text. It has started to rain. The evening darkness is gathering in the black puddles, making me glad I don’t have to bus myself home. Nevertheless, I’m confused and annoyed at his insistence on picking me up.

Jack’s car is a beat up yellow Saab: the perfect car for a Ballard dweller.

1989 Saab

I scurry through the chilling drizzle to the passenger door. He leans across the seat and thrusts it open.

“Thanks,” I say, settling on the ripped cloth seat and yanking the door closed. The car smells exactly like the couch on Jack’s front porch: mildew mingled with cigarette smoke.

“Let’s go get a drink,” he says.

His voice is tight. He sounds pissed off. At me?

“So what’s going on, Jack?” I say. “What happened to you today?”

His face is white in the street lights refracting through the rain spattered windshield. His knuckles are white on the steering wheel. His eyes are wide, the whites showing. He pulls out of the parking lot, squealing the tires and jouncing me against the door.

“You scared the hell out of your boss, going AWOL this morning like you did,” I say. “And what’s the deal with those obituaries you left on his desk? Jack?”

To my surprise, Jack explodes.

“Why didn’t you stay home like I told you?” he shouts. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

I shrink against the cold passenger door. His voice is so loud, so angry. I instinctively make myself small, cringing away from him.

“It was so simple—stay home! Lock your door! Why didn’t you listen to me?”

He’s breathing hard. He jerks the steering wheel too hard. He’s speeding, ignoring red lights and the ticket-issuing traffic cameras attached to them. We’re going to get into an accident.

“You never listen,” he says. “You’re the most stubborn woman I know.”

“You don’t know me, Jack,” I retort. “We met eight days ago—you don’t know me at all! Screw this, let me out. Stop the car! You let me the hell out!”

I am stubborn.
I don’t listen.
He does know me.

He swerves across traffic, setting off a chorus of horns, and pulls onto the freeway. He cuts across four lanes to the carpool lane, where he can speed with relative impunity. I continue to rail at him.

“You have no right to talk to me like this! You do not ever yell at me, Jack, you hear me? I have no interest in being shouted at by some man I don’t even know. You let me out of this car!”

Jack proves himself to have been a husband for over 10 years and the father of a teenage girl as he masterfully tunes me out.

He pulls off the freeway abruptly, taking the exit that leads to my house. Just off Interstate 5 is the world’s nastiest Irish pub. The one and only time I ate there, I found a hair in my daughter’s French fries. Not the kind of hair that comes from a head.

Ew!

Jack cuts into the parking lot at 45 miles an hour. The Saab bottoms out and the undercarriage scrapes shrilly against the wet cement. He slams on the brakes, sending us careening into a parking space at a wild angle. He kills the engine.

He turns on me, pale, panting and wild eyed. The fire goes out of me, replaced by the cowering coward.

“Calm down,” I say.

“You are so damned stubborn!” he hisses.

For a moment, I’m certain that he wants with all his heart to do something bad.

Grab my shoulders and shake me?
Slap me?
Crush me in his arms, smothering me against his wrinkled Member’s Only jacket?

He’s not seeing me right now. Have I been replaced by his endangered daughter? Or maybe his raped and murdered wife?

“Lucy’s safe,” I say. “I got her. Jack? I got her like you asked me. Jack…say something.”

He blinks. He blinks again, then takes a deep breath. He exhales shakily. His hand comes up to scrub across his mouth. He turns away from me. He stares at the raindrops making snail trails down his window.

I know for certain that it’s his dead wife he sees when he looks at me. Three minutes pass, according to the digital clock in the battered dashboard. The only sound in the car is Jack’s unsteady breathing.

“I need a drink,” he says at last.

“Not here. Trust me,” I say.

Another minute passes, according to the clock.

“You know where I live, don’t you?” I say.

Jack nods, not looking at me.

“How?” I say. “Did you investigate me?”

He nods again.

It took me barely seven minutes to find out The Seattle Crimeologist blogger’s real name and phone number. It probably took Jack all of thirty seconds to discover my home address, social security number and legal name.

“Why?” I say.

Jack doesn’t answer me. He doesn’t look at me.

“Jack?”

I’ve never touched him. Our fingers appeared to meet in that unfortunate photo of us on the moldy couch on his front porch, but we’ve never actually touched.

Hopper Painting

I reach for his shoulder. He flinches away before my hand can make contact. His eyes meet mine instead.

“Can we go to your place?” he says.

“No.”

I’m not about to take Jack home, introduce him to my husband and kid, and complicate things further. There’s no way I’m setting foot inside the pubic pub, either. But I’ll sit out here in his dank, smelly car for as long as it takes.

“Tell me what happened today,” I say.

He deflates. His neck bows until his forehead touches the steering wheel. His hands grip the wheel like a shield.

It must have been very, very bad.

 

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Friday, March 30, 6:41 p.m.

“I left our obituaries with my editor because I had to go up to Everett,” Jack says, as if that explains everything.

Actually, it kind of does.

Everett Washington

Everett is the largest city in the county north of Seattle.
Everett is home to one of the last daily newspapers in the state.
Everett is known for a rape rate that’s twice the national average, as well as frequent car thefts.

“Okay,” I say. “But why did you have to go to Everett, exactly?”

Jack grips the steering wheel and shakes his head. I muse silently.

My own car got stolen from Everett back when my husband and I were dating.
Everett is less than half an hour from John “The Chief” Whiteclay’s Indian reservation stomping grounds.
Everett is a stone’s throw from my house.

 

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