The rain was just easing off after a wet and precarious drive into work, and Abi carefully slid her car into the allocated space in the car park. She'd worked long and hard to get to this stage, the vehicular equivalent of an executive washroom key, but she felt she deserved it.
Pushing through the door out of the garage, she considered taking the lift up to the 11th floor, as she normally would, but in a half-hearted, doomed-to-failure attempt to get fitter, she turned right, and began walking up the concrete stairs. There had been a time when the pain from this would have made the stairs impossible for her, but physiotherapy and rehabilitation had worked wonders.
At the 4th floor, she stopped, getting her breath back, then turned and pressed the button for the lift. "Fourth floor is a good start," she muttered to herself, between deep breaths. She rubbed the knee on her right leg - the one damaged in that IED explosion in Syria. The pain was always there - sometimes less acute, but always there.
The doors opened and a short, balding man stood, facing out. His black-framed glasses were nondescript; his tie, which she knew to be a street market copy of one from a public school, was fraying at the edges, and was slightly askew.
"Morning, Colin. I didn't expect to see you here this early."
He looked surprised, then a broad smile spread across his face. "Abi. Why are you getting the lift on the fourth floor? What have you been up to? Not two-timing us, are you?"
"No. Just trying to run up the stairs. I knew if I actually got to our floor, I'd be covered in sweat for the next two hours, which isn't a good look." She stepped into the lift, just before the doors closed.
Abi frowned. What was it she'd done this weekend? Was it the same as every weekend? Worked on her as yet unfinished novel, scoured the local and national papers online for interesting and / or scandalous stories they might be able to use, drank too much wine, stayed up too late watching execrable television. "Yeah, pretty good, thanks. How about yours?" The same old weekend, the same old nondescript reply.
Newton shook his head. "Deena came over with the kids. I mean, Joy and I love seeing the grandchildren, but they're such hard work. They never stop. Grandad this, can we do that. But by the time they're finished, you're too tired to do any grown-up stuff like drinking and watching crap films on the telly. Friday and Saturday nights, I was asleep on the sofa by nine o'clock."
Abi smiled. Colin always complained about his children and grandchildren, but she knew he was a dedicated family man, and would do anything for any of his close, and extended, family.
"Anyway, Abi, speaking of kids ..."
"Don't start on me this early on a Monday morning, Colin. I'll have kids when I'm good and ready. And when I've found someone approaching anywhere decent to be a father to them."
"Same answer as usual."
"You ask the same questions, I'll give you the same answers."
They both laughed. Early in her journalism career, Colin Newton had taken her under his wing, and took her from a graduate who thought she knew all there was to know about journalism, to someone prized by their newspaper and retained with increasing salary rises to keep the competition from enticing her away.
There was a muted 'ding', and the doors slid open. Abi followed Newton, and turned into the large, open plan press room. At this time of the morning, the place looked empty, although Abi could see the glow of a screen from a part of the office where she knew Kareem Abdelaziz, the night reporter, worked until he clocked off at 8am. Not for the first time, she wondered what sort of home life Kareem had. He was always punctual, was never off work ill, and never talked of his life outside the office.
"Hi Kareem," she said, leaning over the office divider. "How was the night shift?"
"Hi, Ms. Gillespie." Despite being told innumerable times, Kareem always preferred to use her surname. "Pretty quiet. You saw the story on the shop fire on Canyon Lane?"
"I saw it online. Anything for us?"
"I don't think so. Initial reports from the fire service says faulty heater. No victims. Not suspected arson."
"Yeah, I thought so."
"There was something on the police band a while ago. Called to a domestic disturbance."
Of course, they were not supposed to have a police scanner in the office. Since the introduction of the Tetra police radios, communications were ultra-secure. Had the police known about their scanner, offered to them a year ago by someone from the company that made the 'real' radios, they would have had it confiscated and they would have been fined, maybe even put in prison. But few in the office knew of its existence, and even fewer knew how to use it, or even where it was kept. But it was linked into their office computer network, and anyone who knew the secret address for the equipment, and the password, could listen in.
"So, this disturbance. Why should we be interested?"
Kareem leaned to one side. Abi saw on his screen the website for a local professional footballer.
"I called a friend of mine. Well, a family member, more like. He confirmed it. And it's not the first time, either. He said it's normally a warning, no charges pressed, that sort of thing. Money talks in that world."
"And it's solid, this information?"
"Don't suppose you have any pictures from the scene from any of the officers attending?"
Kareem laughed. "No, Ms. Gillespie. They get erased pretty quickly at the station." He indicated the photo on the screen. "In this man's case, there are contributions to the local force, good works, charity matches, that sort of thing. This disturbance happened, but sadly, there's no photos."
"Thanks, Kareem. Print out that photo for me?"
"Already done." He held up a sheet of A4. "And the link to the website, and a couple of old stories about him copied to your inbox."
"You're a fine man, Kareem. Never leave us, eh?"
"Most definitely not, Ms. Gillespie. I like it here."
Abi walked, with her briefcase in one hand, and the sheet of paper in the other, to Newton's office. He wasn't on the phone, so she walked straight in. They had a good understanding.
"Kareem just picked this up." She waved the paper. "Domestic disturbance in the early hours. Not the first time, apparently. But he's well in with the locals, so nothing's ever done, and the wife never presses charges. Amazing what money can buy, eh?"
"So, what are you thinking?"
"Pixelated photo, 'Premiership footballer', no team, no name, but people will work it out. If they don't, I have an anonymous Twitter account that might help."
"Just be careful, Abi. And send me the article before it goes live will you?"
Abi smiled. "Of course. It'll be with you in half an hour."
Twenty-seven minutes later, Abi received the go-ahead for the short online story under the banner 'When You Can't Beat The Premier League Opposition, You Can Beat Your Wife (and the police look the other way)'. There was an oblique reference to the most recent football result, and the fact the hero in question missed an easy goal. She smiled as she refreshed the newspaper's web page, and saw the headline displayed. The system had already, automatically, sent links out on all social media outlets. One of the staffers could write a more in-depth article for the print version later, but this would do for now. She had nothing against the arrogant idiots that made up much of the astronomically-waged footballing profession, but no one should be allowed to beat up his wife, just because he lost his team the game, and get away with it.
Abi leaned back in her chair, looking up at the suspended ceiling in her office. It wasn't a bad start to the week, and she suddenly remembered she hadn't had coffee yet, so she marched from her office, 'high fived' Kareem as she walked past, heading for the small kitchen and the espresso machine they'd had installed a month ago.
YOU ARE READING
DeceitMystery / Thriller
Abi Gillespie's life is turned upside-down when a bomb destroys a clearly-marked hospital in Syria, killing her brother Adrian and the young patient he was working on. As she is dealing with her grief, a stranger brings evidence that all might not b...