For Hire

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"Miss Bailey! Miss Bailey, can you give us a statement?"

"Miss Bailey, you've been missing for six weeks. Can you go into detail as to why you had to go into hiding?"

"Were you really targeted by Falconi? Do you have any idea what his motives could have been?"

"Was your father in on this?"

"Was this just a stunt for an upcoming story?"

"Have you been undercover?"

It had taken exactly two days for word to spread around New York about the missing journalist who had "come back from the dead." Alex knew her story would eventually get out and braced for impact, but she underestimated the level of frenzy that would take her world by storm. In the eyes of her peers, she was the hottest, juiciest story this side of the East River, and being on the receiving end of the media mod was a jarring and humbling experience.

"Give the lady some room!" a voice boomed over the demanding chatter. A moment later, Alex felt a strong set of fingers catch her elbow and fought hard not to flinch. "I told you to step back!" Georgia thundered when the masses ignore her warning, throwing out an arm to sweep a path clear.

Finally making it to Georgia's beat-up blue Chevy, Alex scrambled into the passenger seat and slammed the door, hitting mute on the frenzy. Her jaw ached from clenching, and she could feel her fashionable blazer sticking to the sweat on the small of her back.

"Goddamn, they really are like sharks." Georgia swung into the vehicle with nimble grace, slamming her own door with a loud thump. "First sign of blood and they swarm. You okay?"

Alex managed a curt nod, eyes fixed ahead. Six weeks ago, crowds like this wouldn't have phased her. She would have walked among her peers with cool grace, fully in her element. Now, she couldn't swallow her heart from where it had lodged in her throat like a chicken bone.

Georgia must have taken her silence for an answer and put the car into drive, all but mowing over more than a few reporters stupid enough to jump in front of the car for one final picture. Then they turned into traffic, and the mob fell behind.

"Hell of a way to start your morning," Georgia said conversationally, easing back into her seat as the typical gridlock swallowed them.

"Yep," was all Alex managed, her back muscles burning from how rigid she was sitting. Staring out the window, she couldn't shake a disjointed sensation. This was her city. She grew up here, but it felt foreign now. That, or she was the foreigner. Hard to tell.

"You get a hold of your father?"

Alex nodded again, neglecting to go into detail about their conversation, or lack thereof. Christopher Bailey wasn't a man of sentiment despite his emotional display for the media. As far as Alex was concerned, it was all for posterity's sake. Assurance his investments hadn't been wasted.

"Good. Then my end of the deal has been sealed." Georgia thumped a fast tattoo on the steering wheel with her thumbs while they waited at a red light. "I know this is probably the farthest thing from interesting to you, but that money's going into helping me get the hell out of dodge and fund my PI business. Really get myself off the ground, and maybe fix up this old hand-me-down." She patted the steering wheel with an expression of fond affection.

"Why leave New York?" Alex asked, still staring out the window.

"I don't think I need to tell you how many Private Investigators exist in this city. I'm a small fish in an ocean of sharks. I need to go where the pickings are easier. Maybe DC or Florida. Maybe just say fuck-it and head to St. Louis or Chicago. Anything's better than New York at the moment."

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