This posting features Chapter 55 of my ongoing action novel, The Day of the Gun.
Channel 11 was accustomed to reporting the news. Now, Channel 11 was the news.
A somber-looking anchorman, Charles Wise, frowned into the camera with the breaking story. He wore a stunning charcoal gray blazer, a blue tie, and a metallic American flag lapel pin. Every hair was set in place with a slick mousse, giving his golden locks a sheen like newly polished chrome. He may have been reporting on the sad news regarding the fate of two cherished colleagues, but he could certainly look dapper while he did it.
“Authorities confirm that Channel 11 newswoman Dana Dotson and her cameraman Robert Davidson were among those killed in the fiery collision.” As Wise spoke, a banner raced across the screen succinctly summarizing the horrific events in Alabama. It was not enough that the talking heads had seized on the incident; they needed extra headlines screaming across the bottom of the TV screen to get the message out to the news-starved public.
Even when covering a story about two of their own, the news team reveled in using descriptive words such as “horrific,” “cataclysmic,” “conflagration,” “tragic,” and, on one memorable occasion, “apocalyptic.” In the world of TV news, a collision was never simply a collision; a vivid description was required. It was always a fiery collision. Someone must have dug out the thesaurus and advised them to sprinkle their speech with those zesty adjectives.
Behind the well-scrubbed anchorman, a photograph of Dana and Bob flashed on a blue backdrop. They were smiling, holding up red plastic party glasses while they wore silly conical hats. Bob appeared to be biting into a potato chip, a dab of cheese dip dripping off the edge. Apparently, this photograph of the pair at a company party was the only image the station could scrounge up on short notice. The graphic hardly seemed fitting under the circumstances.
“We go now to our man on the scene, Michael Lewis, who has been talking with fire and rescue personnel since he arrived. What have you got for us, Mike?”
“Thank you, Charlie.” The reporter stood in front of what appeared to be a raging forest fire. Firemen with hoses and axes were rushing about, barking orders at each other as they fought to contain the flames.
“As you can see behind me, one of the helicopters went down in a heavily wooded area.”
Polly pointed the remote control and the picture disappeared.
“Hey,” Scott Petty and Vincent Fazio gasped in unison.
“I need to call Martha again and see if I can find her before she sees it on the news.” She hung her head. “Isn’t there someone else we should be calling?”
Fazio coughed. “I’ve talked to the Alabama State Police twice, the FBI, and Georgia law enforcement. They all have their marching orders. Officer Marsh promised to call if any new news developed.”
All three consulted their watches.
Fazio spoke again. “It’s been about half an hour since we learned anything new.”
Petty pointed to his computer screen. “And I have searched for everything I can find on Google and public databases. Nothing new.”
Polly shook her head. “I’ve never felt so terrible in all my life. I dread calling her again, but she doesn’t seem to be at home. If I can’t get her this time, I’m gonna drive over there.”
Petty nodded. “Good idea.”
“I don’t want to drive over there if she’s not home.”
The two policemen nodded. Thank God for Polly. Neither man relished having to tell Chief Hewson’s wife that her husband had died.
“Well, then.” Fazio and Petty stared at each other. Polly slipped out of the room and back to her desk. The button indicating that her telephone line was in use lit up.
“I know what she means,” the chief detective said. “I feel powerless, and it’s not a good feeling. I feel like racing over to the scene.”
“What could you do to help? Besides, it would take hours and hours in this traffic.”
“I know. That’s why I’m still here looking at your ugly mug.”
Petty smiled grimly. He slid over to the computer and logged in. “Perhaps there is something we can do.” He raced through a series of websites until he found what he needed.
Fazio hovered over his shoulder. “I thought you tried all that.”
“I want to take a different tack. We’ve been approaching this problem all wrong.”
Frowning, Fazio rubbed his chin. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, we have been focusing on David Tremblor and WITSEC. But that’s like treating the symptoms, but not the underlying disease.”
“Okay. I follow your analogy, but so what?”
“So,” Scott Petty said as he clicked along on the keys, “let’s focus on Tony Marciano for a while. He’s the main man, I think.”