The Pericles Conspiracy – Chapter Six

I am posting The Pericles Conspiracy for all y’all to read here on the blog.  Two chapters per week.  Given there are 63 chapters in the book,  if you don’t want to bother waiting half a year to read the entire book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboSmashwords, or  iTunes.

The Pericles Conspiracy Cover

Chapter 6 – Editorial Demands

Jeremy exhaled in consternation as he stepped through the doors to Star News’ headquarters.  Another dead end.  He spent the last week tracking down Sven Godenburg, one of Pericles’ two fourth-shift pilots, eventually tracking him to the McCallister branch office in Stockholm.  Godenburg had been as much a stone as the others to this point.  Jeremy had never seen a group so unwilling to talk, but that couldn’t last forever.

He figured to try Carlton and Alison Hersch next, in Boston, but he received an unexpected call from Lou Greenfield, his managing editor, telling him to get back to New York pronto.  So Jeremy dropped everything and took the redeye from Stockholm, just landing in Kennedy Airport this morning.

Jeremy hated long flights.  His equilibrium was all off, his internal clock shot to hell.  It was not going to be a fun day.

Lou’s office was in the back corner of the press room, past dozens of cubicles and a hundred or more people who were hard at work, scrambling around in seeming chaos.  Jeremy nearly knocked a young intern over as they both rounded a cubicle, and he jumped out of the way with an apology, earning a shy grin in response.  The girl walked off, and Jeremy paused for a moment, admiring the sway of her hips, and the way her slacks showed off her shapely, firm backside.  Maybe being summoned back to headquarters wasn’t so bad after all.

His reverie was broken by Lou’s gravelly voice.  “Stop ogling the interns and get in here, Reynolds!”

Jeremy gave a start and smiled ruefully, but paused before he turned fully, as the intern looked over her shoulder and gave him a much bigger, warmer smile.  He saw her fingers move, then a block of text appeared in his vision.  Supplied through the database implant, her name, Kelsey, appeared next to her head and below that, her voice, mail, and homepage contact data.  She mouthed “call me”, and then went back about her business.  Jeremy’s smile as he entered Lou’s office was genuinely cheerful.

“Hey Lou, what’s up?”

“Shut the door and have a seat.”

Uh-oh.  Lou hardly ever shut his office door, unless he was getting ready to chew some ass.  Jeremy thought hard as he sat down, but couldn’t come up with anything he’d screwed up lately.  He didn’t have long to remain puzzled, though.  Lou came around his desk and sat on the edge, facing Jeremy.

Just from looking at him, you could tell Lou was an old-time news man.  He had the look down pat: the wrinkled collared shirt with the ugly tie hanging loosely from his neck, the dark pants that were held up by suspenders, a deeply receding hairline, and even a bushy mustache that was more grey than brown.  Plus, piercing green eyes that fed straight into a finely-tuned bullshit detector.  Right now, they glimmered in a manner that made Jeremy want to squirm in his seat.

“You’ve been burning through a lot of travel money the last few weeks.”

Jeremy opened his mouth to speak.  Those expenses had all been approved…

But Lou beat him to it, continuing as he raised a calming hand.

“I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, especially if this thing you’re working on ends up being as good as the Grynmoor corruption piece.”

“Trust me, Lou.  It’s big.  Huge!  I’m talking Pulitzer Prize big.”

“Yeah, yeah.  Great.  What is it?”

Jeremy hesitated.  “I’m still working that out, but there’s a major cover-up going on.  I’d rather not say anything else until I have it more wrapped up.”

“Hmmph.  How many sources do you have?”

“Just one.  Anonymous.”

Lou threw up his hands.  “Then you don’t really have anything, do you?”  Shaking his head, Lou stood and walked back behind his desk.  “Sorry, kid, but I’m pulling you off this…whatever it is you’re working on.  I’ve got something else for you.”

Jeremy ground his teeth.  He hated when Lou called him kid, almost as much as he hated having his toes stepped on.  “Be reasonable, Lou.”

“I’ve been more than reasonable.  You’ve blown through how many thousands of credits chasing this thing, and you’ve got one anonymous source?  There’s nothing there, Jeremy, so drop it.”

“But…”

“No buts about it.  Here’s what I want you working on.”

Lou tapped his desk controls, and the display on the wall lit up with the image of an older man, married from the ring on his finger, with his arm draped over the shoulder of a very young and very buxom blonde.  She distinctly was not wearing a wedding ring.

“You’re pulling me off the biggest story of the year to investigate some schmuck who’s cheating on his wife?”

Lou grunted.  “He’s not just any schmuck.  He’s Vladimir Zuchov, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and she supposedly has strong mob connections.”

“Great.”  Jeremy stood up, his irritation growing by the second.  “This is bullshit, Lou, and you know it.”

“Sorry you feel that way, but that’s how it is.  Go get to it.”

Jeremy slammed the door behind him as he stormed out of the office.

 *  *  *  *  *

Lou watched the door slam shut and sat back in his chair, frowning.  Jeremy was right: this was bullshit.  But there wasn’t a whole lot he could do about it.  Orders were orders.

Sighing, he turned to his desk controls and tapped in the command to call his boss, Julian Deveraux, the owner and publisher of Star News.  It took a minute to get through Julian’s secretary, but soon enough his image appeared on the small display screen in Lou’s desk.

“Is it done?”

Lou nodded.

Julian sighed and leaned back in his chair, rubbing at his temples with his fingertips.  “How did he take it?”

“How do you think he took it?  He’s pissed off, and I don’t blame him!  What the hell is going on here, Julian?”

“You’re just going to have to trust me on this, Lou.  He’s about to ruffle some feathers, and I need you to hold him back for a little while, until I can work things out.”

What the hell did that mean?  Lou had been in the news business for over forty years, and had worked for Julian for twenty.  He had never seen Julian back down from a story before, not for anything or anyone.  The fact that he was doing so now was unsettling, to say the least.

“Jesus, Julian.  What the hell kind of feathers are we talking about here?”

“Just trust me, will you Lou?”  He both looked and sounded stressed out.  Something was seriously wrong, but Lou could tell he wasn’t going to say anything more.

“Ok, Julian.  I hope you can work it out soon, though.  It’s going to be hard to keep him reined in for long.”

Julian nodded.  “I know.  That’s why we love him.  Do your best.”

The display went blank, and Lou leaned back in his chair.  He clasped his hands behind his head and his thoughts raced.  For the life of him, he couldn’t figure what the hell was going on.

 *  *  *  *  *

Jeremy lay awake long into the night, staring up at the ceiling of his tiny bedroom as his thoughts wandered.  Normally, he would have been asleep by now, especially after the workout Kelsey gave him.  He glanced to his left, where she was already asleep, nuzzled up to him with a contented smile on her face, and couldn’t help but smiling faintly himself.

But the smile didn’t last, as even having a hot, nubile young intern in his bed didn’t ease the consternation Jeremy felt over his re-assignment.

Jeremy muttered, “Fucking Lou,” but must have done so more loudly than he thought, because Kelsey stirred and opened her eyes.  She looked up at him sleepily, and leaned over to kiss him lightly.

“You ok, handsome?” she asked, and he shrugged.

“Yeah, fine.”

Kelsey frowned, and Jeremy knew his annoyance was showing.  Sighing, he spoke again.

“It’s just Lou.  It still pisses me off, that’s all.”

“Well, you’re the best investigator he’s got, right?”

Jeremy nodded.

“So maybe he thinks this is really important, too important for anyone but his best.  I’d be flattered, if I were you.”

She wasn’t serious, was she?  But from the earnest expression on her face, Jeremy could tell she was.  Ah, to be a naive intern again.  He smiled and kissed her on the cheek.  In spite of himself, he felt a little bit better from her trite attempt to encourage him.

“Thanks, Kelsey,” he said.  “That actually makes me feel a bit better.”

She beamed, then gasped softly.  “I just thought of something!  I could help you with the story!”

Jeremy shook his head.  “No.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re an intern.  Interns do paperwork around the office.  They don’t come out on tricky investigations.”

Kelsey’s smile faded, replaced by a scowl.  Without warning, she threw the covers off and got out of bed.  Jeremy, perplexed, wasn’t going to complain about the view as she bent over to snatch up her undergarments.  Moving in the abrupt manner that broadcasts a woman is furious, she donned her panties and jeans.

“You are an asshole, Jeremy Reynolds,” she snarled.  The sway of her breasts as she bent over again to pick up her bra and shirt took some of the sting out of those words, but not much.  What the hell was going on here?  Quickly fastening her bra, Kelsey pulled her shirt over her head and stomped into her boots.  “I let you fuck me!  The least you could do is let me in on your story!”

Jeremy, shocked, watched in silence as she snatched up her coat and stormed out of his bedroom.  A moment later, he heard his front door slam.

He shook his head, then burst out laughing.  That was the most ridiculous thing he had ever seen!  Lou’s antics forgotten, at least for the moment, Jeremy slumped back into his pillow.  He fell asleep to the sound of his own guffaws.

*  *  *  *  *

I hope you enjoyed this chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy.  Stay tuned in a few days for the next chapter, or, if you don’t want to bother waiting half a year to read the entire book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboSmashwords, or  iTunes.