The Thousand Words

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Chapter 26

Back in my car, well, actually Jane’s car, I texted Jane letting her know I was on my way back to the office and we needed to talk. The car had barely made it out of the lot before she called me.

“Please tell me you have something resembling good news for me,” I said by way of answering the phone.

“I am having a good hair day. Does that count?” Jane was trying to lighten the mood in her own sarcastic way. She was going to add to my already bad day. Not sure how, but she definitely had more bad news for me.

“Jane, I am not in the mood at all. It’s been a horrible day already and I have a feeling you are going to make it worse. Am I right?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” she said rather solemnly. “It sounds like you need to talk first, though.”

I pulled over to a metered spot on the road near the parking lot I had left and spent the next ten minutes letting her know I had been fired from the paper. Basically for being a person of interest in two murders and, more importantly, not giving up information on the crime scenes where I worked. I left nothing out as this impacted her future as well as mine.

“Those assholes,” she spat out. “I wonder if that’s why Neil wanted to meet me in person, so he could start working on me as well to get any information. For what it’s worth, I am proud of you. There is no way that I could have worked for you if you told me that you were giving out that information to the press just to further your own career. No paycheck is worth the price of your own integrity. Bastards.” She added the last one in for effect.

“I have always been honest with you and will continue to for as long as we know each other. Wouldn’t have it any other way. My firing from the paper and a potential decrease in work from the missing exposure is going to impact my cash flow to some degree. Until this whole thing blows over I also doubt that any work with the police will be forthcoming. My savings and other income should make everything fine for a good six months. If things don’t get better soon after I may have to drastically cut your hours. You wouldn’t hurt my feeling if you wanted to look for a more stable opportunity.”

“Gee, thanks boss,” she scoffed back at me. “Let me be the one to make decisions on my future, will you? You know I do this more for my own entertainment value than for the paycheck. I wouldn’t be working for you if I needed it for bills. My uncle left me a decent amount of money when he passed, so putting the food on the table and a roof over my head is taken care of. Besides, your photography business would crumble in a few days if I ever left. God knows I am more critical to the business than you are.”

Jane had always subscribed to the philosophy that friends often talked nice to your face and then badly about you behind your back. True friends, on the other hand, talked shit directly to you and saved the nicest things to say when you weren’t around to defend yourself. A bizarre way of behaving at times but it worked. Jane talked tough but her actions always showed she cared deeply.

“What about the blog and the images?” Jane asked.

“I still own the blog name and idea. The paper owns the images and the text from anything we have published with them. We knew the possibilities going in which is why we always had separate images for those. We can’t sell any prints from the exact photographs for those columns. It sucks, but it is not the end of the world. We have many similar images and even better ones we chose not to use because of this. They didn’t ruin the business or take possession of all the content. Only a small portion. Hopefully, this will just be a bump in the road.”

“Good idea you didn’t sign the original contract calling for them owning the rights and concept of the blog and images. Approval of a rights and ownership clause would have been disastrous. Regardless of what they said, they are missing out on one hell of a photographer and writer.”

“Thanks,” I said back honestly. “You said you had some news for me?”

“A couple of topics. The first one, I have no idea if it is good news or bad news, but it feels important. I am still working on all of the paperwork that was strewn all over the floor during the break-in. I have about half of it filed back away and quickly went through the other half.” Jane had a habit of overestimating the length of time an activity takes to come in under time. I had expected her to finish earlier than planned but this was still much faster than my best guess.

She continued. “The part of this that seems strange is I can’t find anything missing or a pattern for the search like you asked me to look for. Everything appears to be random and done in a hurry.”

“Basically, what you are telling me is all of the paperwork on the floor seems to be simply making a mess. A diversion if you will.”

“I guess when you put it in those words, yes. A misdirection seems the whole purpose for the break-in. The big question is what for?” Jane was thinking hard.

“Absolutely no idea. What else do you have for me?”

“This one you are not going to like,” she started. “The newspaper called a few hours ago asking me for details on your whereabouts and my feelings on you being the prime suspect in two murders. I simply hung up on them so I didn’t swear at them on the record. The questions surprised me since I believed you worked for them. It all makes perfect sense now. Also, right now there are two news vans parked up the street. It appears they are preparing for a live broadcast shortly. Both of them came into the office and tried asking questions. I kicked them out and locked up making sure all of the blinds were closed. I wanted to call you quickly so you wouldn’t come back here and run into this.”

“You are challenging Bruno for the title of worst news bearer. Is there anything more to put you in the lead?”

“Nothing on my end, but I will let you know if anything comes up. Is there a trophy involved?”

“Please try and stay off of the news if possible,” I said, completely ignoring her question. “I will plan on being at Kelsey’s tonight. Text me if anything comes up. I hate to ask you this but can you continue the work tomorrow? I want to make sure none of the files are missing.”

“I can definately lend you my vehicle, but you owe me for all of the wear and tear on the car. You have to take a picture of my extended family.” I could practically hear her smiling on the other end of the phone. Jane knows how much I hate family portrait work, but I didn’t have much of a choice.

“Deal. Talk to you later.”

We both hung up. I put the car in drive and headed out. It was slightly past rush hour traffic but there was still almost four hours to go before Kelsey got home from her extended shift. She was covering for someone whose parents were in town visiting. Going home was no longer an option and I didn’t want to go to Kelsey’s early and wait. The television would be turned on and I would watch all about being involved in a bunch of murders. Watching the evening news was not going to happen.

I was at a loss for what to do, so I decided to head back to Sarah Jacob’s apartment for no other reason than it was something to keep myself occupied. The drive took longer than normal due to remnants of the day’s traffic. I drove around the area surrounding her apartment complex as well as two loops around the lot searching for the car that was following me yesterday. No luck. It was a long shot anyway but worth the effort.

Parking in another different spot, I sat and watched, not bothering to get out of the car. A variety of people were coming and going throughout the complex. None of the people or vehicles looked familiar to me. The only item of interest was a person carrying a notebook walking door to door in the apartments near Sarah Jacobs’ place. What made me take notice was the person was very methodical, stopping off at every apartment. All of them, except for Sarah’s. They must be a reporter looking for information on the victim. The more sensational the better it was.

I watched the reporter climb the stairs to the older talkative lady that overlooked Sarah’s balcony and knock on her door. After a minute the door opened and they began to talk. I laughed to myself for a moment wondering how long the chatty neighbor would be able to keep the reporter there.

I made the decision to call Neil at the same time watching the two of them chat. I had both his home and cell number. He didn’t answer either one of them, most likely screening my calls. I was still extremely upset at not only the situation but being unable to say what I felt needed to be said. The meeting at the paper was not the right time or place to get an honest answer. Knowing where he lived I decided to pay him a visit at his house before heading over to Kelsey’s. There wasn’t anything worthwhile going on here, so I left in Jane’s car, leaving the reporter to check his watch while the neighbor babbled away.

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