White, frosted flakes conspire to merge and converge, blanketing the city. An inch an hour.
Rachael tried not to think about the snow-choked roads and the long, sluggish ride home from work. She cleared just enough snow from the car’s door to reach inside and grab a brush. Then, she tackled the mound of feather-light crystals that bury her car.
The crisp air and the still, starry night don’t improve her humor. The past hour, the Mayor ranted about her story which will hit the streets early in the morning. She was tempted to hang up on the Mayor, known as “Crazy Eddie,” but she let him sputter on.
Instead, the Mayor hung up on her. Rachael called back no less than five times. Each time, Crazy Eddie or one of his henchmen would hang up when she identified herself.
Furious, Rachael told her metro editor, Mike, what happened. He told her to calm down and not to use any loaded words in her story.
She looked up, while still typing, and inquired, “Are obnoxious, overbearing and megalomaniac loaded words?”
Mike just rolls his eyes.
Another reporter pipes up, “Is fruitcake one word or two?”
They’re out of control now. But that dark newsroom humor has eased the tension, and everyone gets back to work.
The banner headline over the story is in a not-so-discreet 96-point type: “’Crazy Eddie’ caught with his pants down.” Rachael shivered. Not from the cold. But at the mental picture of that type of photo package featuring the 67-year-old scrawny, balding wild man. The headline was figurative, of course. The family newspaper she worked for is not about to sacrifice readers’ appetites at breakfast unless it means more sales at the newsstands.
The story details kickbacks to the Mayor and his cronies from contractors anxious for city business. In other words, it’s business as usual. But, this time, the IRS is involved. Rachael’s sources told her the Mayor will be indicted by the feds in the morning.
Communication between City Hall and the paper broke off months ago, when the paper reported that the Mayor’s bookie was on the city payroll as a financial adviser. The appointment to the $137,500-a-year job strained credulity. His business acumen was limited to mugging people outside their bank’s ATM.
Crazy Eddie, furious when the story broke, retaliated by ordering all of the paper’s news boxes removed from city sidewalks. The paper went to court and the boxes were returned to their usual haunts.
The Mayor kept to the letter of the law, but not always the spirit. A couple of the boxes, near City Hall, were spotted tethered to a light post about 6 feet off the ground. Notices were posted outside his office stating that the paper’s reporters and photographers were not allowed access to any part of City Hall.
Given all this, Rachael was surprised to see a city snowplow creep down the street toward the paper. The publisher paid a private contractor to remove snow from the paper’s parking lots and from the streets around the building.
Rachael waits in the lot for the plow to pass. As it rolls by, it dumps more snow at the edge of the driveway. Then, it backs up.
“Surely, it’s going to return to clear the snow,” she thought.
Instead, the plow continues to back down the one-way street across a four-lane road. Then, it turns right on that road.
She leaps out of her car, kicks the wall of snow and swears a streak of blue that will linger over the city for days. The driver leans out of his cab and laughs. Rachael is apoplectic. She’d know that cackle anywhere. It was “Crazy Eddie.”
“This means war, you power-hungry fraud,” Rachael shouts at the retreating plow as she dials the newsroom on her cell phone.
Mike tries to calm her. “Now, just take a deep breath. I’ll be right down.”
He races down two flights of stairs with several editors and reporters not far behind. They arrive in time to see the rogue plow circle the next block. Rachael uses hand gestures they fear will aggravate her carpal tunnel injury.
After they shovel her car out, the same plow circles the next block for the third time. Rachael jumps in her car. So does Nancy, a photographer. She snaps photos from the passenger’s side as Rachael takes off after the plow – the wrong way on a deserted one-way street.
Rachael loses her nerve when the plow stops … on a side street in the seedier part of the city. She spots the driver checking his rear-view mirrors. When they hit a stretch of vacant buildings and empty lots, Rachael puts her car in reverse, whips into a U-turn and races back to the paper.
After all, tomorrow’s another day.
The IRS still has to plod through a number of different accounts to learn where the Mayor diverted the money. Rachael suspected that laboratory test rats didn’t have to go through such a maze. She almost felt sorry for the feds.
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