by BK Davis
Meg Trumaine finds herself involved in a murder case
| She knew the time arrived -- the moment she detested the most, his time to go. It was late, and she knew if he didn't go soon, there'd be hell to pay when he got home. |
On the dresser, his pager buzzed and hummed in place, a clear indication of the time at hand.
He looked at his watch and toward her. "You should have awakened me."
"I did. You didn't want to listen," she replied as he sat up, throwing his legs over the side of the bed.
He sat there momentarily, looking back at her naked body. His eyes lingered warmly, but his words were as cold and sharp as a knife. "You should have tried harder."
With that, he rose and went out into the hallway. She could hear him enter the bathroom with the flick of the light switch. Then came the flow of water from the sink.
"Will I see you later? At the meeting tonight?"
She called back affirmatively.
Rising from the bed herself, Janie collected her lover's clothes. They consisted of a pair of dress slacks, a shirt, tie and a pair of paisley boxers.
She also reached for the pager, and a pair of granny-type reading glasses. At least, they weren't the pink ones he once had, she thought. Often the joke among their inner circle, the glasses repeatedly sparked a feud between them.
"I don't understand your problem with these glasses," he'd say. "They're only reading glasses."
"But they make you look silly, Graeme. People are talking about you!"
"So, let them, Janie! It's not like no one knows I'm colored blind.
"Thanks, babe," he said as he took the clothes from her and closed the bathroom door.
Within minutes, he would be out of the bathroom. Fully dressed, he would find her sitting on the edge of the couch with a robe on. He would give her a quick kiss and then leave for home.
In a matter of hours, they would see each other again. But instead of being in the comfort of one other's arms, they would be sitting on opposite sides of the room. He would be behind the dais, conducting a public meeting. She, on the other hand, would be in the audience, scribbling details for later use in a news article.
The pair lived this charade for six and a half years, until the headlines screamed: Area reporter found murdered; lover, local politician, suspected. That morning, everything changed. The public opened its eyes to their secrets unveiling.
The day the story broke cast a somber note in newsrooms across the country. No one really spoke of State Senator Graeme Baker and his mistress, reporter Jane Whitmore, even though it splashed the front pages of every newspaper nationwide and filled the airwaves with up-to-date reports. Instead, we all merely walked through our daily routines like zombies.
Stories of lawmakers and their sordid affairs was nothing new. During the 1990's, then President Bill Clinton dripped with scandal for his affair with former intern Monica Lewinsky. Soon after, the country heard about Sen. Gary Condit's aide, Chandra Levy. Her disappearance and murder did cost Condit his re-election bid that following November, even though it was never proven he had anything to do with either.
Then, this tragedy came along.
Sen. Baker was a senior state senator from West Chester, Chester County, Pa. Janie, as friends knew her, was a respected and seasoned reporter with the Daily Tribune. Often a guest moderator for televised debates and other news programs, Janie aways presented herself with such sophistication and knowledge. As such, many were devastated with the news of her affair.
The devastation escalated when the senator finally admitted to it. For weeks, he remained steadfast about his involvement with her, and her murder.
"I had nothing to do with the murder of that woman," he recited at a press conference. Surrounded by his wife and four small children, the senator also noted his deep remorse for hurting his family with his infidelity. "Nothing I'll ever do will make up for what I did. All I ask is my family's forgiveness, and some privacy from the media."
He further sent his deepest of sympathy to Janie's family, and called upon law enforcement to find the people responsible for his mistress's death.
"I would love to be a fly on the wall in that home."
I turned around and saw Peter Noone sitting at his desk, which was across from my own. He wore a smug look, an expression that reminded me of someone constipated. But this wasn't the time to be playing games. A woman's life was lost, and my heart wept for her.
My own life mirrored hers in a variety of ways, from being a political reporter down to the affair I was having with a married politician. But I differed from Janie in one major way. I never openly admitted to having the affair. Whether or not anyone surmised a relationship between the councilman and me, they never asked me outright.
Nonetheless, the news about Janie's death struck a nerve within me.
"What's the matter, Meghan? Hitting too close to home for you?"
But before I had a chance to reply, the phone in front of me rang. Picking the receiver up, I provided a "Hello," and the name of our paper.
"What's the matter, little one?"
I knew immediately it was him. He was the only one to call me "little one," "hey, good looking," or some other variation of affection, in person or on the phone.
"We have one of the news channels on," I replied. "They're showing the Baker press conference.
"What are they saying?" I quickly summarized what had been said, and, when I finished, Jace replied what we all suspected already: Baker might be guilty, but proving it might be a different story. He was a powerful senator with enough clout to bribe his way out of any prison time. But the local authorities in West Chester were confident. They believed they had enough to warrant a grand jury investigation.
Broadcasts of infidelities made the public weary of politicians not owning up to their actions. They wanted change, and, as such, Baker's attorneys feared he'd become the poster boy for every politician who came before him, and after.
I kept most of my own fear to myself. I knew by judging Baker I was actually judging myself. How could I be involved with a politician? Next to journalists and lawyers, they were the scum of the earth.
Additionally, I was going against every church value I was raised on. So, why was I still here?
"Meg, don't beat yourself up over this. It's not worth it!" I heard from the other side of the phone line. "You're analyzing this whole thing too much!"
Even though he was right, I couldn't help it. Letting go of my worries wasn't that easy for me, and he knew it. One look at my face and posture told him my set of mind. I was that transparent to him.
"You're not that reporter," he continued. "And I know how Graeme is. I've dealt with him in the past. He's a ruthless bastard who doesn't care who he steps on, or how, as long as he gets his way.
"How I see it, this is no different than all of the other times, Meg. The only difference is, this time, he got caught with his pants down."
I hoped that was all it was.
"I've got to run. I was only calling to see how you were. I haven't seen you....I've missed you."
And then the kicker. "What are the odds of me coming over later?"
After I said the odds were favorable, Jace said, "See ya, babe. I'll call you later then."
And he hung up the phone with me dangling still on the other line.
"What's the matter, Meg? Lover left you hanging again?"
Glaring at Peter with a look I hoped would rip right through him, I fired back, "Bite me!" and rose from my desk to get a glass of water from the water cooler.
"Boy, aren't we a feisty one today? What's the matter, Meg? Got out of bed the wrong side this morning?"
"Like you would like to know!" I turned back to the work I had before me. After a few moments, I realized Peter had not done the same; he had continued to stare at me, with that smug, constipated look on his face.
"What?! Don't you have something better to do than bother me all of the time," I asked as I returned to my desk and ruffled through my notes.
Peter just smiled with a look I knew was one of sheer satisfaction. But as he leaned forward, and opened his mouth to jeer, our little tit-for-tat was abruptly altered.
"Noone! Trumaine! My office, now!"
Peter and I quickly exchanged looks, and then went to Jack's office. He was our editor-in-chief. A seasoned reporter who worked his way up from mail clerk to editor, Jack Tresser was one no one in our newsroom wanted to mess with.
"Take a seat," he said as he closed the door behind us. "I have a favor to ask of each of you, and I am not taking 'no' for an answer. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir," we both said.
"All right then," he replied. Taking a seat behind his desk, Jack leaned back and sized both Peter and I up. "I know the two of you don't always get along. But I also know that you both are good at what you do, and that's why I've asked you in here today.
"I'd like you both to put your differences aside and work on this lead that just came in regarding the Baker case." My heart began to pound against my chest as I dreaded the words that came next."Apparently, Baker has some financial ties to South Jersey, and I want both of you to see where it leads.
"Meg, I know you like all of the political hoopla. So, I'm asking you to follow through with that aspect. Get a copy of Baker's disclosure statement and check online his campaign contributions from the last election.
"Also, call Jace Connors. He held a fundraiser for Baker a few years ago when Baker ran for the presidency..."
"And what would you like me to do," Peter asked. I could feel his cold, dark eyes glaring at me as he spoke, taunting me because of Jace. Did he really know what was going on, or was he fishing around to see if I would crack under pressure?
"I want you to talk to the people worked on his campaign down here. Meg probably could probably help you with that, with getting you some names.
"But see what kind of guy this Baker is. If he has a fondness for fraternizing with reporters. That sort of thing.
"And if there's nothing else, let's go to it," Jack concluded.
"I do have one question, chief," I said rising. "What kind of time line are you giving us to do this?"
"Friday should suffice."
"But that only gives us only three days," Peter cried, giving me amble opportunity to return a hard, smug stare his way. I could see him quaking. A wild, worried look gazed over his eyes, then terror the moment Jack asked him what the problem was. "Nothing. Nothing at all. Friday it is," he replied, and plunged for the door before being scrutinized further.
But once outside Jack's office, Peter stopped me. "Can you believe that?"
"Believe what?" I asked, not sure where he was going with his complaint.
"This is a major story, Meg. You might have dilly-dallied your way around the political platform before by schmoozing up to your lover boy..."
"He's not my lover boy, Peter," I argued, but my words fell short. He continued on his tangent, saying, "This is a big deal for me, Meg. It can really launch my career. So, don't screw up on your end of the bargain?"
"Screw it up? How would I screw this assignment up, especially when you've said it yourself, Peter, that I'm the more seasoned reporter..."
We both returned to our respective desks. I began gathering my camera bag, note pad and other things I needed for the road when Peter looked up and said, "Where on earth do you think you're going? Jack wants us to start on this right away!"
"What do you think I'm doing, Peter?"
"We can't do the leg work from behind our desks, Peter. We need to get to the streets, start talking to people, etc.
"Come on, let's get going," I added, hoping to nudge him out of his seat.
"What are we suppose to do," he asked, which only caused me to shake my head. For someone who had as many years experience as I had on the job, Peter had no clue when it came to covering politics. "Here's a list of people I believe you ought to talk to. They work at the GOP headquarters.
"I have on there the address for the headquarters and who you need to speak to first," I said. "The others, down further, are ones you'll probably wind up having to call."