The Hungry Dreaming - Craig Schaefer Page 0,2
the sides of the podium. “The bottom line is, the Loom is an emergency-management system, so the decision came down to the mayor’s office and NYCEM working in close collaboration. All other branches of the city government will be looped in when and where appropriate.”
Nell faded back into marble-sculpture silence as the press conference dragged on. Most of the questions were softballs, answers unworthy of a stroke from her pen. Others she already knew the answers to.
Then again, there was an underrated art to asking questions when you already knew the answer. She bided her time, waited for a lull, and her pen swiped the air when she was ready to strike.
“Just checking my facts,” she said. “I understand the final bid was approved by the mayor’s office on the first of May. Is that right?”
“That’s correct,” said the man in the bow tie. She made a note.
The heat from Harrelson’s eyes was giving her cheek a suntan. She asked him a question with hers.
“You’ve got something,” he whispered.
“Just checking my facts,” she whispered back.
“Bull. I know you, Bluth. That was a perjury trap. You wanted this guy to lie on the public record.” He paused. “You’ve got someone, don’t you? You’ve got an inside line at the Weaver Group.”
“Nope,” she said.
“Just saying, we could team up on this,” he told her. “I run the story, give you full collaborator credit—”
“And you bring what to the table, exactly?”
“Television. C’mon, Bluth. This could be your way in. You know you want to be on TV.”
Gilbert was giving his closing arguments from the podium. They sounded just like his opening. Journalists were slipping away, gravitating to the table and the free swag. Nell closed her spiral notebook with a flip of her wrist and screwed the aluminum cap onto her pen.
“I don’t want to be on TV.”
“Everybody wants to be on TV,” he said. “You’re too pretty for newspapers.”
She pushed herself up. “I want people to pay attention to my words, not my face.”
Harrelson’s gaze dropped a few inches. “I wasn’t just talking about your face.”
“Still a pig. I respect that. You found what works for you, and you stick with it.”
He followed her halfway to the door.
“Nobody reads anymore, Bluth. You’re reporting to shut-ins and grandmothers. You know who reads newspapers? NPR listeners. Get with the program and get on the air. With me.”
She tossed up a hand, wriggled her fingers in a goodbye wave, and laughed.
“Get thee behind me, Satan.”
The city wore a thousand masks. Masks of marble, and granite, and old red brick, shuffling from hand to invisible hand in an endless masquerade. Yesterday’s Asian fusion restaurant became a dry cleaner became a coffee shop became a French bistro. Next month that bistro would earn a Michelin star and the month after that it would shut down overnight, and then maybe it’d be Asian fusion again.
The offices of the Brooklyn Standard had started as a warehouse back in the 1800s, a two-floor barn of crumbling brick and pebbled glass. At some point in the fifties it became a garment factory. The mint linoleum floors wore the deep groove scars of the rolling racks and divots from the rows of sewing machines where Chinese immigrants bled their fingers for fifty cents an hour. One long wall on the second floor still bore the faded paint of the old company logo, a tangerine circular seal, cursive script too flecked and worn to read.
Now the great brick barn was a newspaper, clinging to life and trying to keep its foothold as the neighborhood shifted all around it. The pay was slightly better.
Nell’s perch sat on the second floor, in the back, what would have been a coveted spot if the windows could open. The builders weren’t keen on the concept of ventilation, and none of the owners since had felt like paying for an upgrade. Every desk in the bullpen had a standing fan, cheap plastic whirring as keyboards rattled and phones rang through the day. There were overheads, too, big paddle fans dangling from the exposed metal rafters, but they didn’t do much besides shove the muggy summer air around and threaten to fall on somebody.
Tyler Graham, slim and dark, held the spot to Nell’s right. He leaned dangerously far back in a swivel chair, taking half a twirl until the coiled tether of his desk phone pulled him the other way. Tyler had roguish ocean-wave curls, unruly on his best day, and a stubble shadow on his cheeks.