Done a short story for flash fiction friday. This weeks theme is newspapers and journalists.
Flash Fiction Friday
“Basingstoke Bugle.” Rob leant over the desk and reached for his coffee.
“I’ve got a story. My shed’s been broken into.”
Rob sighed. Same shit, different day. He went into journalism for excitement. The slim chance he’d unearth something people would be interested in. Thefts from sheds was not what he’d expected.
“Full edition this week. I’ll pop you through to the sub-editor, she’ll take the details.”
He put the woman on hold, rang Carly. “Hi.”
“Shed break in. Your turn, I did the missing cat yesterday.”
She sighed. “Go on.”
Rob looked at his screen. This week’s front page. ‘Mayor’s new hat gives jobs boost.’ Frick sake. How did it come to this? The mayor’s new hat the top story. Carly had come up with the jobs boost angle. He’d be lost without her. She was on her way to better things.
Carly walked over, adding a sheet of paper to his pile.
“Any good?” he asked.
She shook her head. “We could do a feature, all of them together. Run it in a really quiet week.”
“Probably next week the way things are going.”
He stayed late that evening. The job didn’t need it, the paper was ready a day early, but he needed thinking time. The whisky in the bottom drawer helped. Shame it was blended. A good malt was better, but too expensive. Far too expensive for everyday use.
He leaned back. There had to be a story out there. Something worth writing about. Something that would turn heads, get him noticed. He sighed and drained the glass. Fire burned his throat, spreading to his chest and arms. As it surged through his veins, he turned his PC off and made for the door.
He woke early. Headache, dry mouth. Hangovers were the nearest he got to proper Journalism.
The office was buzzing. He wondered if he’d walked into the wrong one.
“What’s going on, Carly?”
“Body found in the park this morning. Murder.”
She had her coat on. Notebook in hand and the office junior trailing her with a camera.”
“I’ll get on it,” said Rob.
“Too late.” She took her coat off, sat down. “Already done.” The junior handed over the camera. She plugged a USB cable in.
“What? Why didn’t you ring me.”
“Sorry.” She smiled. “My mobile battery’s dead.”
He slammed the office door and sat down. Beaten. By her. Shit. That was it, the end. They’d run the story tonight, but she’d approach the nationals. Inside info, reporter on the ground. Her name would get used. This would be her break.
He opened his PC. Rearranged everything a page on and dropped the missing cat story. The front page now bare, waiting for Carly’s story.
The edition was a success. The police had little to go on, every reader likes a good murder and the nationals were all over Carly. Rob tried hard to imagine a worse day but couldn’t. The others had put up a poster behind her desk, blown up from a national. ‘Additional reporting by Carly Braindean.’ She was negotiating with them and not shy of saying how it was going.
Rob grabbed more painkillers and downed them with coffee. He rang the police, CID incident room, and got through to DS Walters.
“Hi Jill, Rob from the bugle. Any news?”
“Investigations are ongoing.”
He knew police speak when he heard it. That meant they hadn’t a clue.
“Anything we can do? Appeal for witnesses? Anything?”
“Not really. We’re giving the local TV news a press conference tonight. Your next paper’s six days away, isn’t it? We’ll have caught him by then.”
“Him?” asked Rob.
“Or her. Ring me in a few days. If we haven’t caught him. Or her.”
Rob put his phone down and turned off his PC. Eleven in the morning. The pubs would be opening. What better place for a journalist?
The landlord at the Ferret and Firkin was sympathetic, as long as Rob kept drinking. The other regulars thought it a rum old do as well.
“Can’t walk the streets in safety anymore,” an old timer said. “Dunno what the world’s coming to.”
Despite his drunken haze, Rob knew one thing. This was last chance saloon. He needed a different angle on this by next week. If not, his best sub would be gone, on the way to the big smoke and he’d spend his days writing about cats and sheds.
The police thought it a mugging gone wrong. It was plausible but not very original. The victim had been hit over the head, blunt trauma wound. Possibly a stone, maybe a hammer. Back at the office, Carly had been digging into the victim’s life, raking for any muck. That was what the tabloids wanted. That’s what journalism was.
As Rob ordered another pint, an idea popped into his head. No, it wouldn’t work. It couldn’t. Could it?
He’d sobered by midnight but tablets weren’t curing the hangover. He went for a stroll in the park. Deserted. The police presence had left the place empty. Usually they’d be dog walkers, even at this hour, but the murder had scared away everyone.
The murder scene taped off, he approached the PC left in charge. He knew him from school. You have to have contacts in this game.
“Hello Rob. How’s the world of news? You’re working late.”
“I’m always working, mate.”
“Know what you mean,” said the PC. “I get the crap jobs. You have to bide your time, promotion’ll come soon.”
“Sounds familiar,” said Rob. “Very familiar. You need anything? I could nip to the garage?”
He pointed to his rucksack. “Fine for snacks. Need the loo though. Could you do us a favour?”
“Just stand here for a few minutes. Don’t let anyone inside the tape.”
“Yeah you go mate, you go.”
Rob looked at the crime scene. Blood still on the ground, drying into the soil. Good job it hadn’t rained. He saw the stone on the floor and put his gloves on. Scratching the stone against the blood he placed it in his pocket and got back in front of the tape.
“Cheers mate,” said the officer.
“No problem,” he said, heading back to the office.
Carly was always shedding hair around the office. It’d become the office joke. It also made the second part easy. Using his scissors, he attached a small part of it to the stone then put it in a bag. His gloves still on, he was sure it was clear of his own DNA.
The final act, placing the bagged stone in her drawer sealed it. He’d go home in an hour or two, get up early and be the first in tomorrow. He’d look in Carly’s drawer for the sugar tin and find the stone. The police would buy it, he was sure. She was virtually the first on the scene. She’d gained financially from the murder. Everyone knew she was ambitious.
Rob smiled. Of course, the nationals would love him too. They hated being made fools of by people in the sticks. They’d be all over him. He was on his way to London. At last.