Ted Jones was not a society reporter, which was why he was surprised to find a press release on his desk announcing a memorial service hosted by the prominent Van Banks family.
He stood up from his cubicle and located his boss on the other side of the newsroom floor. "Hey, boss?" he called to his brainless leader, the Editor-in-Chief of the San Diego Post.
George Fuller looked up from his jelly doughnut and scowled at the interruption.
Jones held up the press release. "What's this?"
"Ford called in." Rebecca Ford was the society reporter known more for partying late and drinking too much than actual reporting. "She's got walking pneumonia. I need you to cover this."
They both knew that Ford was most likely suffering from a walking hangover, but Jones knew the tone in his boss' voice meant end of discussion. He sat down resignedly and skimmed the release.
I don't need this, he thought. He'd been at the paper for ten years, was hired right out of college. With one year's experience interning at The San Diego Union-Tribune, he was more than qualified to write for this dinky local paper. Yet, he had been forced to start at the bottom in crime reporting and work his way up to education. He had finally been promoted last year to writing features. Covering society was beneath him.
Jones got out a pen and jotted down the facts. The release referenced the grieving Mr. and Mrs. Van Banks and their daughter, Ms. Van Banks. He knew the Van Banks had two daughters. Neither was married and since only one was mentioned in the release, he assumed the other had passed away. The press release was unclear about anything other than the time, location, and the specifics of the dress code - including a rather detailed description of an appropriate sweater.
Jones racked his brain trying to recall what he knew about the family. They were friends with the mayor. They had a skybox at Petco Park. The father was an important figure on the coastal commission and his wife was an important contributor to local commerce. The daughters were Paris and Nicky Hilton clones, chic and blonde. The younger Van Banks was wild, reckless, and always getting into trouble. The other was more bearable by comparison but still a snob. The last thing he had heard about the family was a story in the tabloids about the elder Ms. Van Banks having a hissy fit at a club because someone had stolen her overpriced handbag, or some such. The pampered brat had practically assaulted a police officer who was in the middle of performing his rounds when she discovered the theft. Odd that Jones hadn't heard anything more recent about the death, but then he wasn't much interested in that sort of thing.
The service was reportedly starting at 3 p.m. Jones checked the time. He had only thirty minutes until the service started. He cursed his boss, his hungover co-worker, and the Van Banks family. Why hadn't anyone gotten the press release to him sooner? Ford could have at least had the decency to call in before she went out and got wasted instead of after she woke up from her hangover. Traffic in San Diego was impossible this time of day. Jones quickly gathered up his things. No time for research, he thought.
"Hey, boss. Don't worry. I'm on my way." A quick grunt between bites was his encouraging response.
It was a black day -- funeral black. Ms. Ellie Van Banks stood dumbfounded in front of the empty spot in her walk-in closet where her cashmere sweater used to hang. It had disappeared the same night as her sister. Her sweater had been closer to her than any friend, almost closer than a lover. It had gone everywhere with her, to galleries, restaurants, Las Vegas, and now it was gone. Stolen from a downtown club while she danced with a sailor; parted from her forever in the blink of an eye, lifted off her chair by an unseen thief.