- Publisher: Grand Central
- Release Date: 1999, 2001, 2014; Silhouette 1985
- ISBN-13: 978-0446603089
- Available Languages: French, Bulgarian, Italian, Belgian, Dutch
- Available Formats: Audio, e-Book, Print
Kari Wynne is desperately searching for the truth surrounding her husband’s death but the man who destroyed his reputation, who she should really hate, is awakening in her a passion that she has never known before.
“WE’VE GOT A TWO-ALARM FIRE WORKING ON CLERMONT just south of Sixth Avenue. It should be at about 42H on your Mapsco. And get there pronto. I want some good video.”
The inch-long ash on the end of Pinkie Lewis’s cigarette fell unnoticed on his battered, cluttered, littered desk. The harried news director paused long enough to say “Hiya, sweetheart” to the young woman who had just moved aside a day-old Moon Pie, a roll of masking tape, and two cups of cold gray coffee in order to perch on the corner of the desk.
“When you’re done with the fire,” Pinkie went on, returning his attention to the two men lounging by his desk, “swing by that elementary school where the third-graders are writing letters to the Russians. If we have any time left on the six o’clock, it’ll make good human interest. Anybody hear from Jack lately? It’s taken him four hours to shoot that bit on the drug bust.”
“Maybe he’s hanging around, hoping they’ll let him sample the goods.” The videotape photographer grinned as he heaved the camera to his shoulder. The reporter, who was pulling on his sport coat, thought his cohort’s suggestion was funny and laughed.
“I’ll have his ass,” Pinkie growled. “So what are you two bozos waiting for?” The grins collapsed. That particular tone in Pinkie’s voice could bring about miraculous changes in a man. “The damn fire will be out before you get there. I want to see flames, smoke, tragedy in the making,” he yelled, waving his arms descriptively. “Now get out of here!”
The reporter and cameraman left, stumbling in their haste. Pinkie glowered after them and ran a hand through his hair. Or he would have if he’d had any hair. Actually, he ran his hand over a rapidly growing bald spot that blended into his beefy forehead. It was his florid complexion and fair hair that had given him his nickname.
“One of these days you’re going to have a heart attack,” the young woman commented. Disgustedly she stubbed out three cigarette butts left in the ashtray. They hadn’t been properly ground out and were curling acrid smoke into the already polluted atmosphere of the television newsroom.
“Naw. I drink too much whiskey. It scares sickness off.” Pinkie picked up a Styrofoam cup and took a swig. He made a face at the stale coffee. “Buy you a cup,” he said, taking the woman’s arm and guiding her into the hall and toward an alcove where numerous vending machines were tucked outside of the flow of continuous foot traffic.
As usual, Pinkie’s pockets produced no change when he began slapping them in search. “Let me buy this time,” Kari Stewart said, smiling. The coffee was too black and bitter, but it was hot. Crossing her ankles, she leaned against the wall and sipped cautiously.
Pinkie smiled at her with paternal affection. “God-amighty, you’re a sight for sore eyes. Helluva day. One of the video cameras is on the blink. It’ll cost a fortune to repair and then I’ll catch hell for going over budget. I’ve got two unexciting but dependable reporters out with flu.” He belched. “I need a drink.”
“You need a hot, balanced meal, far fewer cigarettes, far less whiskey—”
“—and a good woman to take care of you.”
“Oh, yeah?” Pinkie asked belligerently. This was a familiar topic of conversation. “You got someone in mind?”
“That dried-up old prune! She’s too old for me.”
Kari laughed. The switchboard operator who handled all the calls coming into the television station with amazing alacrity and patience had carried a torch for the crusty news director for years. “You’ll never change, Pinkie. You’re biased, stubborn, grouchy, and predictable. That’s why I love you.” She poked him in the spare tire that sagged over his belt.
“How’d the interview go?”
“He was as wretched as he’s reputed to be.” That morning Kari had interviewed an aging television sitcom actor who was now doing “legitimate theater” on the dinner theater circuit. “I can see why his varied series went down the tubes. He was rude, obnoxious, and condescending. But I’ll have the last laugh. I went to last night’s rehearsal. The production is a turkey. And I didn’t think anyone could ruin a perfectly wonderful Neil Simon.”
Pinkie crumpled his empty cup and tossed it in the general direction of the trash can. It didn’t make it, but he didn’t notice. “Goose the old geezer right in his pride. Don’t soft-soap it. I want gutsy stuff on the newscast, even during your entertainment segment.”
Kari saluted. “Right, Chief.”
Pinkie’s beet-red face split into a grin as he lit one of his unfiltered cigarettes. “And that’s what I love about you. You don’t give me any guff.” He sauntered away in the direction of the newsroom. “And you’ve got great legs,” he called over his shoulder.
Kari took the compliment for what it was, a teasing gesture between friends. Pinkie had been her friend and ally ever since she’d signed on with WBTV five years ago. Where others were cowed by the querulous news director, Kari, as a green intern with no more television journalism experience than her college diploma afforded her, had called his bluff one day and forever won his respect. She talked to him as no one else would dare and got away with it because of their mutual affection. She knew he wasn’t nearly as fierce as he pretended.
Pinkie saw in her a dedicated, thorough reporter with initiative. He could count on her not to “screw up,” as he put it. At the same time, he liked her warm personality, her femininity. He had had a hunch that the viewers would be as charmed as he, and he had been proven right.
When Kari had married Thomas Wynne two years earlier, Pinkie had feared he would lose her. But she had assured him that she wanted to continue working. “Thomas agrees. Until we decide to start a family, he wants me to do anything I want. And I want to keep working for you.”
“There might be a conflict of interests here, Kari,” Pinkie had said. “How can you impartially cover the city hall beat when your husband is one of the city councilmen?”
“I’ve already thought of that. Much as I hate giving up that beat, I think it’s the proper thing to do.”
“So where does that leave us?”
“I’ve got an idea for an entertainment segment on the news programs.”
His white eyebrows had jumped up then lowered into a thoughtful frown. “Let’s hash it over.”
Pinkie had trusted her judgment and her ability to implement her idea successfully. Kari Stewart’s critiques were a highlight of every newscast. She was witty and incisive without being scathing or vicious. The viewers adored her.
Now Kari went into the editing room and closed the door behind her. She dropped into the chair and fished a cartridge of videotape from her oversized bag, which served as both purse and carryall. Pushing back a mass of untamed blond hair from her cheek, she inserted the cartridge into the computerized editing console and began watching the interview she had conducted barely an hour before.
She picked up the telephone and dialed an extension. “Sam, hi. Kari. Can you bring that tape you shot last night of the rehearsal to editing room three, please? Thanks.”
A few moments later the door opened behind her and she said, “Just set it down, Sam. Thanks. I’m using that for B-roll. I’ll be ready for it in a minute.”
She was capably punching buttons while scanning the two monitors, one with the unedited tape playing, the other with the edited version she was electronically compiling. She was so engrossed that she didn’t notice that the door didn’t close.
Pinkie’s voice and the unfamiliar tone of it brought her head around. She had seen him in moods ranging from elation when they had scooped all their competitors on a story, to drunken melancholia over a bad ratings report. She had never seen him as he was now: deflated, sagging, abject, and most uncharacteristic of all, pale.
She half rose out of her chair. “Pinkie? What is it?” He laid a hand on her shoulder and eased her gently back into the chair.
“An accident report came in over the police radio a few minutes ago.”
“And?” A cold fist of dread began squeezing her heart. “What kind of accident?”
He ran his hand over his head, then dragged it down his face, distorting the features. “Auto/pedestrian. Just a few blocks from here, right downtown. I sent a cameraman over there. He just called in.”
A Note From Sandra
Originally published under the pseudonymn Erin St. Claire as Silhouette Intimate Moments #93. Audio editions went on sale 2004 & 2007 from Brilliance Audio.