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Authors: Michele Drier

Edited for Death

BOOK: Edited for Death
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Acknowledgements:
First and foremost, to my best and most faithful reader, Darcy, whose criticism is spot on. Dale Bryant, who’s been my closest friend for more years than either of us remember, was there for me. Sylvia Gagne put me on the track and Nora Profit at the Writer’s Loft gave me the road to follow. To the Guppies for support and cyber chocolate when all seemed dark and big thanks to swap partners Cathy Sonnenberg and Gail Baugniet. Readers Susan Williams, Sharon Cronin and Julianne Gurnee kept me going. And to Bethie, who has always believed in me; I hope I can make you proud
.

This is a work of fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

EDITED FOR DEATH

CHAPTER ONE

 

Clarice is a rangy blonde, a few pounds overweight and perennially on a diet.
She lounges against my office doorway, and I ask if she wants to grab lunch.
“Now?” she asks back.
“Sure. I thought it might be nice to get out of the office for a bit. You are planning to eat?”
“Let’s walk. How about the Greek place?

I took a little more care this morning, twisting my brown, shoulder-length hair into a clip and doing blush, eyeliner and mascara. My size eight brown linen slacks, cream-colored silk shirt and blazer are really too warm for a walk today, but the outfit gives me a scooch more confidence to deal with Clarice. I’m not intimidated—exactly—it’s just that she can back me down with her brashness and today I need her.

As soon as we sit, I start talking. My agenda is a discussion of the small mountain towns. Really, just Marshalltown.
I know what I want. I want some in-depth coverage of the Senator’s life to go with the research I’m planning
But I also see a chance to get more features into the paper.

“No,” Clarice says through her mouthful of falafel. “That’s just too far away. There’s plenty of stuff here. We’re already short staffed.”

“Come on, I’m going to ask each reporter to do one more story a month. That’s not going to break anyone,” I say around the straw in my mouth.

“I don’t think I’m gonna like this.” Clarice has a death-grip on a slice of lemon. “We’re having lunch because you want to start with me, right?”

I can’t fault her ability to read between the lines.
“Right. But this you’re going to like. Did you read the obit on Senator Calvert I taped to your screen?”
She sniggers. “It was kinda hard to miss.”
“Well, where’s he from?”
“The Bay Area. He was a state senator from there.”

“You’re right, he was in the state senate from the Bay Area. That’s what gave him the name recognition for his first U.S. Senate run. But he was born in Marshalltown.”

Clarice’s eyes narrow. “Our Marshalltown? The one just up the hill from here?”
“Yep.” I suck up the last of my drink.
“So what?”

“I’m assigning you the first Marshalltown story. A look at the small mountain town that gave the world a nationally known and respected United States Senator.”

I eye Clarice’s face. She’s struggling with a “no way,” but balancing the freedom to spend time researching and writing what could become a great clip.

“You finished the new police chief story?”

The last ice cubes rattle when she shakes her glass. “Yeah...I don’t really have anything hanging. But what about the routine stuff?”

I can almost see the calculations so I sweeten the pot. “Tell you what, you can go up tomorrow and stay overnight at the Marshalltown Hotel. That’s the one Calvert’s family owned and where he was born.”

She takes the hook, just a little tug to set it. “I’ll even ask the intern to cover cops for two days.”

This was too good. As much as she hates to give up her beloved police beat for a couple of days, Clarice can’t pass up this opportunity. But she still has one wriggle.

“Why me? I cover the cops. What? Do you think he was murdered or something?”

“Noooo, I don’t think he was murdered. He died of kidney failure. I’m assigning you because I know you’ll do the research and because you’re turning into the best writer I’ve got,” said with my I-wouldn’t-lie-to-you face.

It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

I came to Monroe for all the wrong reasons. I stayed because I didn’t know where else to go.

When I pulled myself out of bed this morning to walk my dog, shower and head downtown with my coffee, the eastern sky was a yellowish smudge on the horizon. It wasn’t just the sun, it was the pollution trapped in this valley like a bug in a jar. The haze and smog will cook into dangerous-to-breathe soup as the day heats up. I knew the day was going to test my endurance again as I came in the back door of the
Press
.

I need to work. I need the money. I need the feeling of accomplishment to mend my ripped-apart self-confidence. Marrying Brandon and moving here was a leap of faith. It failed. Staying in Monroe alone is hard; I refused to run and refused to be only Brandon’s ex-wife so I took the job at the
Press
as a stopgap to make a little money.

My mother named me Amelia Louise Ivery, the Amelia for Earhart. She was hoping for adventure and challenge but Amelia Louise was too old-fashioned for my teen persona. In high school, I shortened it to Amy, spelled
Aimee,
and used
Ou
i a lot. I finally quit being a teenager and went back to Amy Ivery until Vincent Hobbes showed up. Now and probably forever I’m Amy Hobbes and the challenge is keeping my fears at bay while paying the bills by myself. Adventure? I leave most of that to my college-age daughter, Heather.

“What are you doing out here?”

I always come in the back door of the building where newsprint is stored in fifteen-foot high stacks. Pete jumped at my voice.

“Jeez, Amy, you scared the crap out of me. I’m checking out our paper supply. Only enough for a couple of days.” Pete’s the foreman of the press crew and feels the tightening finances too.

The entire operation has been cut to the bone to save the owners money.

A.B., After Brandon, I asked Calvin O’Keefe, the publisher of the
Monroe Press,
about any jobs.

“I didn’t know you were in the business, Amy,” he said. “Have you thought about getting back in it?”

“Sure,” I lied.

“With your experience, I can combine two jobs,” he said. I could see the abacus clacking in his head. When he told me the salary, I did a quick mental bank balance and said yes.

That word always gets me in trouble.

So now my big adventure is assigning stories and working with reporters. I also write an occasional story. Switching hats is making my arms hurt.

Coming into the newsroom, Senator Calvert’s death topped the news this morning.

The newsroom television was muted but the words across the bottom of the CNN screen highlighted 50 years of service. I didn’t pay total attention, busy getting assignments out to the reporters, but the words, “Senator born in Marshalltown,” grabbed my eye.

Marshalltown is in my backyard for coverage. I stood up and moved closer to the set to hear the anchor. Her brown eyes looked like a spaniel’s as she lowered her voice to a funereal tone. “Senator Robert Calvert, who died this morning, was one of the last true American heroes. A member of the Greatest Generation, Calvert was one of the oldest members of the Senate and a Democratic leader. His chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee led the way for the United States to have closer relations to NATO nations at the close of the Cold War and helped the reunification of Germany. Calvert received medals for his actions in Germany during World War II.”

I waved my hand, trying to speed up the voice. This stuff I knew, get on with the rest. Finally the anchor’s voice got perkier as she said, “Senator Calvert was born into a Gold Rush family in the small Northern California town of Marshalltown. Several colleagues credited this pioneer spirit with forming his can-do attitude and belief in American greatness.”

Newspapers get the short stick in a cycle of 24-hour television and internet coverage, but there are things we excel at. One of those is telling the back-story and this just fell in my lap. The Monroe
Press
is the closest daily newspaper to Marshalltown.

Something clicked and gears meshed in my head. There might be a way for this to be my ticket out of here. Maybe I could parley the Senator’s death into a book. There are already a couple of biographies about him but they’re written from his stance of campaigning as a war hero and the effect the Second World War had on his generation. There may be enough information in Marshalltown to draw a picture of an American tradition of hard work and family values giving a young man the courage and drive to make him a success.

I can use spare time for research and have Clarice do interviews and write a couple of stories on the local boy from a small town who made it big. I stuck another note on her computer screen to see me when she got in and started handing out story assignments to the other reporters.

I’ve been back in journalism three years now, and I want to get out of newspapers again. This time, the writing on the wall is headlines and they all say, “DYING BUSINESS...RUN!” I want to jump ship before I get thrown off when it sinks.

Digging into the Senator’s past with the target of writing a book may be the dynamite I need to get me out of here. It’s a long shot, but it may even make enough money to pay Heather’s college tuition. Writing a book will take a lot of background and I plan for Clarice to do some introductory legwork because I can’t get away right now. The legwork and digging will get the
Press
a few good human interest news features, as well.

When I left the “see me” note, I’d already planned to spring this idea at lunch. Me, Clarice,
The Press,
we can all get something out of this.

As the ME of the
Press
, I’m management and not supposed to cover and write stories. In today’s realities I do. I may not write any of the stories about the Senator but researching his background will help Clarice. Right?

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

Heidelberg, Germany. 1945

He was going to die today.

More than 7,000 miles from home and he knew if the Germans didn’t shoot him, his friends might. He could see about two feet, not enough to identify himself as an American to the other GIs.

He couldn’t take a deep breath even with his muffler around his face. The guys who survived the Battle of the Bulge said they’d never felt cold like this.

He was standing watch by the Neckar River. He hunched further over a fire of burning rubble. His unit rolled into Germany from Italy and made it to the old university city by early winter. He was afraid to go to sleep; afraid that if he did, he’d freeze to death before they could court-martial him. He stamped the cold from his feet and thought of home. Home had its share of fog and snow but not with this ear-numbing, breath-misting intensity.

A corporal loomed from the heavy, icy mist.

“I’m gonna relieve you,” the newcomer said. “The sarge don’t want us to watch too long. We’re each taking an hour. Report to that house the Krauts used for their headquarters.”

The GI nodded and turned away from the river, heading toward a ruined castle. The fog eased a little as he reached the crest and soon became wispy, little fingers swirling around his head, hiding and disguising sounds and forms. He heard voices. He didn’t know where they came from or even if they were real. Maybe his brain soaked up some of the fog. Maybe the voices were only in his head.

“You could get killed by friendly fire today,” he thought. “What a crummy way to die. Come all this way and get hit by a pal’s bullet just ’cause he couldn’t tell who you were.”

The voices became clearer as he rounded the corner. They were American voices. “Get down!”
“Watch out!”
“The bastards have grenades!”

The voices were from a three-story house that backed up to a castle. He ducked and ran, weaving his way across the street and hugging the fronts of the buildings he could reach. Keeping low where the fog was thinnest, he reached where the voices were. The building’s huge double doors were open. He inched his way around the doorframe and into the foyer where five GIs were pinned down like rats in a trap behind overturned tables and heavy bookcases. The Germans had piled sandbags on the first landing and mounted a machine gun. This nest gave them a clear view over the stair rail across the foyer and they were trying to pick off the Americans.

BOOK: Edited for Death
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