He had one hour to get home. If he didn’t make it, he might never see his wife and daughter again. He was sitting in his car in the pouring rain in a seedy back alley on Chicago’s Southside waiting for an informant to show when he’d gotten the text.
We have Sara and Jennifer. Answer your home phone in precisely one hour or we’ll start cutting off pieces to leave on your doorstep.
The mysterious called-in tip he’d been chasing all day was a massive bluff. He’d been setup. His last story about racial injustice and police corruption had stepped on somebody’s toes and somebody who was clearly mobbed up. While he’d been out chasing a potential lead, somebody had taken the opportunity to kidnap his wife and child. Sometimes life as a reporter was more dangerous than people knew, but his family shouldn’t be the ones to pay the price for his failings. Rory Callahan would do anything to be the one being held hostage right now, not Sara and their baby.
He’d beat land records getting out of that alley and onto the freeway headed to Lincoln Park. With the rain and the additional traffic for a baseball game, he’d be hard-pressed to get there in time, but he had to give it a try. His heart pounded in his chest as sweat soaked the hair on the back of his neck, despite the sticky chilly day. He’d been forced to stop for a red light. He pounded on his steering wheel.
“Come on, come on,” he said to nobody in particular.
This was when having a sidekick, a protégé, a partner to help him investigate leads and conduct interviews, would’ve been a godsend. His pig-headed stubbornness had kept him from taking on an intern or even working with one of the more-experienced junior reporters at The Sun. No, he wanted the limelight all to himself. Solo by-lines that could pump up his career. What an idiot!
He took an opportunity in stopped traffic to dial Duke Morgan, Editor of The Sun’s Investigative Journalism unit. It was long past the end of a working day and dark was burgeoning around him, but Duke was often one to hang until the early hours of the evening, waiting for a line on a story or a reporter to return from a meet-up. He listened as the phone continued to ring and ring with no answer. Rory released a deep sigh and waited for Duke’s familiar voicemail message to play then left a message of his own.
“Duke, this is Rory. Whoever is behind this story is mighty pissed off, man. I got a text saying they have Sara and Jennifer and I need to go home within an hour, or they’ll start chopping them up.”
His eyes went to the clock on his dashboard. He had ten minutes left.
“It’s 6:47 right now. If you get this message in the next ten minutes, call me back. It’s an emergency. I’m rushing home right now. If you don’t, well, then I guess it’s too late.”
Rory pounded on the disconnect button and cringed at his own stupidity. He was paying for his arrogance by sitting on an over-crowded freeway that was at an absolute standstill. He should’ve done more homework, dug in more thoroughly to find out what toes he might have been stepping on before filing his story. Anytime you dug into corruption within the police department you were walking a thin line. Who could you go to for help? It’s not like he could call the cops right now. How likely would he be to get stuck with a crony of the guy he’d pissed off? It wasn’t like he had time to spare. Everybody knew anything having to do with cops took forever and a day. By the time they interviewed him to find out what was going on, it would be too late for Sara.
He took the next exit ramp at the first opportunity and meandered his way through the busy streets of Chicago. An SUV in front of him was turning left, blocking his view, so he snaked his way to the side despite not being able to see oncoming traffic and barely made it. At the next light he took a left onto Summerdale, a street he knew well from his early years of fascination with crime in all its gory goodness.
Rory couldn’t help but think of the irony that he was in this sticky predicament, dealing with someone who would think nothing of killing the people he loved as he turned onto the street that was home to John Wayne Gacy, one of the most despicable serial killers of all time. In his teens, he’d been fascinated by the man who, at night, had stalked his victims in the city that Rory loved, by day masquerading as a civilized human being. All along, deep inside, was the heart of a monster who thought nothing of killing and maiming innocent young men.
It had been those days in the 70s that had whet Rory’s appetite for news. The footage on an hourly basis of policemen coming out of the house on Summerdale sickened by the sight of the horrors they’d found within had captured his rapt attention. He’d read every syllable of stories that went on for months and years, following every detail of Gacy’s arrest, trial, conviction, sentencing and eventual incarceration. It had made him, in a nutshell, a newshound and started him on the road to what would eventually become his first love and occupation.
His ridiculous attraction to all things “true-crime” was what had put him on this road, today, zigzagging his way through the back streets trying to find the magic path that would get him to his wife and daughter in record time.
As soon as she walked in, she felt the tension. You could cut it with a knife. One of those little things they don’t tell you in the interview but has the power to destroy a career. Now the trick was to find out who was playing what part in this group’s version of corporate melodrama.
Amelia had been through this kind of thing before. The parts were always the same. Only the player’s names were different. When she thought about it, maybe Shakespeare had something going with his “All the world’s a stage” analogy. If so, she always played the same role: HBIC, aka Head Bitch In Charge. Today’s first staff meeting of the Marketing Department at Schwartz’s Schprockets under her authority was where she needed to make her part abundantly clear to everyone concerned. She would take no prisoners and tolerate no crap.
She closed the door gently and turned sharply on her three-inch heels to stand at the head of the conference table. She dropped her briefcase at her side and unceremoniously plopped her leather portfolio on the table where it landed with a loud thud. Several of her new employees sat up straighter with widened eyes, cheeks reddening as panic took over their souls. Yeah, this was gonna be like stealing candy from a baby.
“Thank you for joining me on such short notice,” Amelia said. She glanced across the faces of each person sitting at the table, making sure she made eye contact with each person, her fingers pressing against the polished mahogany. “What I’d like to know right off the bat is who the bird-brain is who thought it was a good idea to drop branded quarters from the rooftop.”
Amelia had worn her red power-suit for just this occasion. The first firing of her new tenure was a highlight moment, a watershed, that set the stage for the rest of her time as a cleaner. That was how she saw her career. She came in and mopped up the messes left behind by the measly-mouse weaklings that came before. She minced no words and didn’t bother with the touchy-feely corporate nonsense.
Amelia watched closely as eye contact was made across the table, one person after another trying desperately to communicate non-verbally through expressions and eyes alone until finally someone spoke. “Harry,” said one soft-spoken millennial wearing an obscenely ill-fitting cardigan over a frumpy corduroy jumper. “Harry Wilder,” she said, again, apparently to clarify and make specific precisely who she wanted gone. Within seconds several others jumped on her band-wagon to throw Harry Wilder, the true architect of the miserably-planned and majorly illegal marketing ploy, under the proverbial bus. You could almost hear the sound of brakes and broken bones.
Amelia turned her attention to the millennial who had kicked off the Harry-stomping. “And you are?” She asked.
“Kimberly Kefflinger,” said the millennial with a brightness to her tone, almost sing-song-y as if bluebirds were going to break out in a Disney tune any moment. She was apparently the one playing the part of the sweet young thing who will smile to your face while stabbing you in the back. Too bad really. Such an alliterative name. She almost wanted to sing it back to her but Amelia despised Disney. With a passion.
“Well, Miss Kepplinger, was it?”
“Kefflinger,” she corrected.
“So sorry,” Amelia apologized. “Please go back to your desk and clear out your things and be down at the front desk on your way out within the hour. If you fail to do so, a security guard will escort you. Have I made myself clear?”
“But it wasn’t my idea, the quarters!” Kimberly argued. “You can’t fire me!”
“Oh really? It seemed like I just did a moment ago.” Amelia looked at the other people around the table. “You all heard that, right? I didn’t just imagine I fired a needle-nosed goody-two-shoes know-it-all who is overpaid because she has a degree from an Ivy League school her Daddy bought and paid for, did I?”
Several of the new employees had a hard time stifling their smirks and joy at seeing Ms. Kefflinger meet her demise.
“Lesson number one in the Amelia Johnstone’s School of Hard Knocks, Ms. Kefflinger, is don’t ever throw a colleague under the bus for any reason. This is a team so be on the team or off the team. There is no us versus them, and you, dear,” she said, turning to look the millennial in the eyes with the same smile Kimberly had just given her. “Well, you’re just not a team player so goodbye and good luck.”
Kimberly rose from her chair, threw her paperwork across the table and slammed the door on her way out.
The room was filled with a deafening silence again but the original tension still lingered. Amelia stood with her hands on her hips and chewed at her bottom lip for a moment.
“Nobody has anything to say?” She asked.
Gazes darted across the room again until Harry Wilder quietly raised a hand. “Thank you?”
Amelia chuckled and smiled. “And can I presume you’re Harry?”
The forty-something, slightly balding man with rosey cheeks and a devil-may-care smile chuckled with her. “The one and only.”
Amelia finally sat down and unzipped her portfolio with her notes for the meeting. “Well, Harry, it’s nice to meet you but I’m afraid you’re right behind Kimberly. You had to see this coming. Same instructions as to the one hour or I call security.” Amelia sat back in her chair and crossed her legs under the table, demurely setting one well-manicured hand on top of the other. “Lesson two: Don’t be stupid or I’ll fire your ass. Goodbye Harry.”
Harry got up, walked up to her, gave a salute then quietly left the room.
Amelia flipped open her notebook until she found her itinerary for the meeting, looked up at the group of people’s faces who would become her family over the next few months and slapped the table. “Okay. Let’s get to work, people. How about we start with introductions, from right to left, name, number of years with the company and something interesting about yourself.”
It was the start of another brand new day at a brand new company. Amelia would do her thing the way she knew how, give it everything she had until something better came along. It was the only part she knew how to play but maybe she was growing weary of the same ole show on a different day. Only time could tell.
As for Harry and Kimberly? Harry would land on his feet somewhere in a different marketing department doing half the work he should. Kimberly? Well, she’d either become a Republican strategist/politician or take up knitting and start her own Etsy store. It was hard to know which.
I don’t want to be a downer at Christmas-time, but I was dealt a heartbreaking loss this week. I’ve always mentioned living with my “geriatric dog Charlie” in my biography, but Charlie was never going to be with us forever. We had to put him down this week and now I have a Charlie-sized hole in my life.
Charlie lived a very long life for a dog (sixteen years and seven months) and was on pain medication at the end. He had “doggy dementia,” was blind in one eye, and got easily lost, confused and scared. The deciding factor was when his back legs kept giving out on him and he had to pull himself around on his front legs. In short, he wasn’t living a happy life and we made the tough decision to let him go before things got worse. It was very hard, but it was the right thing to do for Charlie.
Charlie was my constant companion and the sweetest dog in the world. (He was also adorable.) They say you get the dog you need and that was true for me with Charlie. He was patient and mild, my protector at all times and he taught me more about unconditional love than any person in my life. He had a quirky personality, sometimes almost seeming human, like my child. My heart aches without him, but I know that life will go on and we will always have fond memories of the many years of joy and entertainment he brought to our life. We loved him almost as much as he loved us.
If you have a dog, give them an extra cuddle in Charlie’s memory. If you have kids instead, give them a hug and whisper his name. And if you have ever thought you’d want a dog, do it. The years I spent in Charlie’s company have been the best sixteen-plus years of my life.
One feisty female chemist. One straight-laced businessman. Combine with stinky bagels, quinoa, and stir to find the unexpected.
Leah is living a new healthy lifestyle and has a deliciously perfect recipe for her family’s failing bakery. There’s just one problem: Grandpa’s head of operations, Ben, is Leah’s ex-heartthrob. When her Grandpa kicks the bucket, he has two final conditions for Leah’s inheritance: Save the bakery and get married within one year. Can she make her family’s business a huge success and get a man, any man, to say ‘I do’ in less than twelve months while keeping it all a secret?
If you like fast-paced, witty banter, follow this delightful Jewish couple through the good, bad, and hilarious to discover love among the bagels. Download your copy today!
Yay! “The Way We Met” is now available for pre-order on Amazon. These are such fun stories, I can’t wait for everyone to read them.
I’ve got a great deal for people who preorder this collection of 10 love stories: one FREE story while you wait for the book to go live! Just email your receipt from Amazon to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The free story will be in your inbox ASAP.
This book will only be $0.99 until Sept 17, so get it for less plus a free gift while you can. The FREE story is available only until Sept 6.
I’ve lived fifty-one years on this earth before it happened: Someone bullied me. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been picked on occasionally, for one stupid thing or another. Is it possible to attend thirteen years of public school in the United States without being picked on? Unlikely. But today someone bully-shamed me on Facebook for something when I was completely innocent of ill intent. I learned a lot from the experience.
Being bullied or publicly humiliated or shamed, whatever name you put on it, makes you take stock of yourself. It puts your self-esteem in a check status. It threw me for a bit, but, thankfully, as a reasonably well-adjusted, mature, responsible adult, I was able to take a step back and regroup. I have a lifetime of experiences to draw on to remind myself that I am not the terrible things that were said about me. I am NOT a B-word. (I’m sure my siblings would heartily disagree in an instant. They have their personal reasons, but eventually, perhaps reluctantly, they would agree that deep-down I am NOT a B-word.) Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to adjust themselves after such an attack.
I was brought back to a pivotal moment in childhood. (If we only realized when they were happening in childhood that our stupid, little choices were critical decisions, we would maybe give them more thought.) A developmentally disabled boy sat in a seat alone on the bus, and some other boys were picking on him, telling him he was “no good,” that “nobody would ever want to sit with him,” and other similar bully phrases. I got mad. The boy was defenseless, nearly mute, so I sat next to him and told the other boys to go sit on their brains. It was a split-second decision that defined who I became as a person. I was never bullied. I was the defender of those who were bullied, and I defied anyone to harass me because of it. Anyone who went to school with me, I hope, would agree that I was NEVER the one to find fault with someone else for ANY reason. I’m sure I made my share of stupid mistakes, as any kid does when they’re developing their sense of priorities and values, but I did NOT pick on people.
When someone accused me today of being the kind of person who WOULD do that, and shared their wonderful opinion with a large group of my peers, it struck like a knife to my core. There is a big difference between having a contrary opinion about something and making a personal attack. I was expressing my opinions, and that was all. In this era when our world is so split by differences of opinion on policies, we all, adults and children, need to take a step back and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes before we lash out in public forums. Yes, you are legally allowed to express yourself here. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Go off on your own and take a few deep breaths. Say a mantra. Do what you’ve got to do to get yourself under control before words come out of your mouth or you type that text or post.
Words can bruise far more than anything else you throw at someone.
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