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Chapter 7 – Hear Who? Come Again?

May 8, 2012

Chapter Seven – “Hear Who? Come Again?”

Now – Yellow cab, New York, New York

“Yeah. He’s a loon.”

The reporter called as soon as she got in the cab. She didn’t notice the white van parked across the street. She also missed the black helicopter overhead that was hovering between the Sun and Schneider’s building, making it difficult to spot from that angle anyway.

She was distracted by the police cars and the fire truck as well as two rescue trucks around the corner. Most of the personnel were just standing around, so whatever it was, it must not be important or pressing.

She listened to her contact on the other end. He always used a scrambler and voice distortion. She had no idea who he was, nor did she care. He could be the devil himself. He had helped get her off of the social desk and onto the national one. She was just about to hang it all up, tired of fighting for her scrap of territory in what was—still, after all these years—a man’s world in journalism.

But things had happened to change all that. First, the senior and star reporter for the national desk had accepted a job at FOX. That alone helped a little. The other men on the desk and a few in business scrambled for his position.

She had also thrown in for it and was disappointed but not surprised when a simple shift occurred, moving a few upwards closer to that desk while one other transferred over.

Two weeks later, one of the guy lower in the pecking order was paralyzed in a car accident. He had been in a car interviewing a New Jersey politician who was considering running for president when the car had hit a truck that pulled into its lane on the Turnpike.

Tired of going through the interview and approval process, the editor had simply said, “Take it,” when she showed up in his office to inquire about Bill’s health. It was dog-eat-dog and you had to be willing to stick your hands into the gore, the toilet, or wherever else they needed to go, without flinching.

More retirements, accidents, jobs taken elsewhere, and other events that appeared to be pure luck had gotten her ever closer to that top chair. Her source’s ability to provide good story leads had assured her job security and helped to quiet any doubts about her ability to do the job.

Additionally, she found that her access to the movers and shakers was nearly unlimited. She needed an appointment with someone her source suggested she talk to and they would find the time.

Who was this mysterious person on the other end of the phone? That was the one question she really didn’t give a damn about knowing the answer to. Gift horse, and all that.

“What did he do exactly?”

Despite the distortion, she could tell he was a cool customer. His voice was dispassionate, which implied former spook or similar. Or, maybe, she smiled, it wasn’t a person at all but a computer, an AI.

That was pure instinct running on autopilot. She had her own private Deepthroat and she had no intention of f***ing it up by inquiring as to his past and identity.

She described in detail how the interview had begun easily enough. Schneider had seemed somehow guarded and open at the same time. Friendly and yet there was something in the eyes that said, “Make a wrong move, and I’ll eat you,” while the mouth was friendly and asking if she wanted anything to drink.

Then, about ten minutes in, it had gotten weird. His calm demeanor was cracking. He was staring into space as if imagining something terrible. He had looked at her distractedly, as if wondering if she could see the horrors inside his mind.

He had murmured a name. She had it written down, too: Maya.

He had cut the interview short at that point. She asked if she could reschedule and he said to talk to his personal secretary in the lobby. When she got down there, a security guard told her that Schneider himself had sent the secretary home, in fact sent everyone home except for security, earlier that morning.

People were expecting an arrest at any time, so Schneider may have been attempting to have as few witnesses as possible to that event. He had to protect the stock as much as possible, and there was alteady so much news out there about him that the company was taking financialn blows daily. NASDAQ announced they were considering dropping SCI from the roll, and that had prompted yet another sell off.

“What was the last question you asked before he began acting strangely?”

She couldn’t recall. She checked her notes. She had scrawled “video” last.

“Ah! I asked him about the Roarke shooting. He said it was fake.”

She wrote down his reply before she forgot it. He had acted so odd that she stopped writing in an attempt to watch and figure out what was troubling him.

“Good work.”

He hung up.

She looked at the phone quizzically, “That’s it?”

The cab pulled up outside her office. She got out, paid and went upstairs to write about the billionaire who was losing—or had already lost—his mind.


©2011 Christopher C. Knall

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