Skywriting at Night

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Chapter 21

     Winston Churchill Anderton Baumgardner was sitting in his bass fishing boat when he heard the news about Johnny's arrest. He was wearing his lucky fishing vest and lucky fishing hat loaded down with lucky lures while casting a western spin twirler as far as his arm could whip it.

     "Dad, the phone's for you," his daughter called out.

     "I'll be right there, pumpkin," he said, putting down the fishing rod and clambering out of the boat that was perched on a trailer in the driveway leading to the garage of his large tri-level house.

     "Hey, Winnie, Holmby here," the voice on the other end of the phone said. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything,"

     "No, no. I was just finishing up some chores around the house."

     "Catch anything?"

     Winston was silent.

     "Your daughter said you were fishing in the back yard," Holmby continued.

     Winston dropped his lucky fishing hat on the coffee table. "Right, fishing," he said with a chuckle. "You know how kids are."

     "Look Winnie, I'm sorry to bother you at home but I knew you'd want to hear about this as soon as possible."

     "What's up?" Winston asked.

     "It just came over the wire; they arrested some kid in those robberies."

     "What?!"

     Winston was the Senior Editor of the Weekly World Scene. It was he who had pushed so hard to move the story of the robberies from a small article on page 34 to a larger one on page five to a screaming headline on page one. Just this past week he'd argued long and hard for his new idea, one which he was convinced would boost the tabloid's already massive circulation to new heights. And as so often happens, he won out. This week’s issue, which was being distributed at the very moment Winston heard this news, featured a front page which was nothing but 120 point type that screamed:

$1,000,000 Reward
Offered in
Mysterious
Serial Robberies
———
Details Inside!

     "I said they've got a suspect in..."

     "I heard you the first time," Winston said. "Are you positive of this?"

     "I've got the UPI story in my hot little hands."

     "The god damned sons of fucking bitches. This really sucks dead donkey dicks," Winnie spat out. "When did it come over the wire?"

     "Just this minute," Holmby said. "I think you owe me, Winnie."

     "When did you become such a mercenary son-of-a-bitch?"

     "When did we start working together?"

     Winston hung up. It was a good thing Holmby was working tonight. He didn’t work for the Scene—which didn’t subscribe to the wire services since they weren’t nearly creative enough for their lurid needs—he actually wrote for a real newspaper, though that didn't stop him from passing along information or story ideas when the inspiration struck. For a fee, of course.

     Winston tried calling the Managing Editor, who was "unable to come to the phone", a phrase which loosely translated as "it's after eight o'clock you silly ass; he passed out drunk hours ago." He knew the publisher was unavailable, for at that very moment he was somewhere in the middle of the Sahara attempting to be the first man to cross that desert riding a balloon-wheeled sand bicycle.

     "What do you mean recall the papers?" Flash Stanley asked incredulously when Winston got him on the phone. He’d heard some pretty ridiculous requests in his day, but this took the cake.

     "Just what I said. Can you get them back?"

     "Jesus, I don't know."

     "Well if you don't, who would?" Winston asked, "You're the fuckin' circulation manager, right?"

     "Look, they're already out in the system. I don't know if there's any way in hell I can call them back at this point."

     "Try," Winston said. "'Cause if you don’t, that's exactly where we'll both be tomorrow morning."

     Two hours and three Tanqueray and tonics later the phone rang.

     "I did it," Flash said.

     "All of 'em?"

     "Just about."

     "What does that mean?"

     "That means there are gonna be a few we can't get our hands on, but we'll have ninety-nine percent of 'em. Maybe ninety-nine point five."

     "Good work," Winston said, "I owe you one."

     "You know what you owe me?" Flash asked.

     "What?"

     "If you still have it in the morning, you owe me your job."

     Winston hung up and finished his drink in one gulp. Flash was right.

Chapter 22 ]



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  Skywriting at Night - a novel by Mad Dog

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