DISCLAIMERS: This is an Uber story, so the characters are
mine, all mine. They just have certain traits that may remind you of characters that
are the property of Renaissance Pictures and MCA/Universal. Some song lyrics
have also been used, but unlike radio, I'm not making any money off of this. And
even though in my business, creativity is defined as the art of concealing your sources, I
didn't intend to step on anybody's toes.
SEX, VIOLENCE AND POTTY MOUTHS: There's a little violence, a little blood, and a few explosions. As for sex, there's some of that too, although nothing really explicit. This is a story about two women who love each other and if you're under 18 or closed minded enough to let it bother you, it's probably time to point and click your way off this page. Still here? One more thing, this story involves people who work in the media and they are a foul-mouthed lot.
ADDITIONAL STUFF: A real sporting event takes place in this story and since the characters are involved, the results have been changed a bit. I didn't mean to take anything away from anyone else's accomplishments, but this is fiction and in my universe, this is how it happened.
About the TV business The country is divided up into about 210 TV markets, New York is number 1, Los Angeles is number 2, Chicago is 3, and so on. This story takes place in a medium market at about 61. That actual market is Richmond, VA, but I just inserted a fictional place because it's my universe. Any similarities to on-air personnel, reporters, or TV station management at any station in any market are purely coincidental.
This is my first attempt to write anything longer than a 2 minute sales
presentation, so comments are welcome.
by M. Ryan
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
I'm gonna lose my job.
I'm probably not going to work in TV ever again.
And I'm gonna be sued.
She sat in her office with the door closed and the lights off. Four TV monitors
were on across the room, lighting her face with their flickering. Her long, dark
hair gleamed with blue highlights from the various network late shows as she stared dully
into space. The monitors were always on; god forbid some other station across town would
cut in and we not know about it, she thought.
Sighing, she thumped her forehead down on the desk. She could still hear some activity going on in the newsroom, though most everyone had left after the 10 o'clock newscast. The overnight crew didn't really get cranking until after midnight. Well, she thought, if I'm going to make a clean getaway, now's the time to do it.
With that, Laura Kasdan gathered up her briefcase and her box of
belongings and left her office. You never brought more into a TV station than you
can carry out in one box, running. Someone had told her that years ago, and after
today she understood the sentiment.
Deep breath, open the door and just walk, she told herself. Laura walked purposefully across the newsroom, turned and looked back, noticing the fresh bloodstain on the carpet. Cleaning that will probably coming out of my successor's budget, she thought. Noses do bleed profusely, don't they?
And with that she walked down the hall and out of the building.
The General Manager of KDAL had two problems. One was his News
Director, and the other was his news anchor, Roger MacNamara. Roger was the number
one on-air personality in Dallas, he spoke with authority and his journalistic integrity
was unimpeachable. He was Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow all rolled into
At least that's what market research told the Suits at Corporate. Dark hair with just a bit of silver on the temples, carefully colored every two weeks, and chiseled features, he oozed sincerity well when you can fake that, you've got it made, the GM thought. Roger was also a prima donna who hit the sauce pretty hard and was a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Laura Kasdan was the best News Director he'd ever worked with and he'd worked with some good ones. She didn't take any crap or any excuses, and she'd gotten them back to number one on all the prime time newscasts. He pinched the bridge of his nose and grimaced. Two years ago when Laura Kasdan was named as the News Director, everyone in the building was shocked. She had the rep though, the GM thought as he drummed his fingers on the open personnel file in front of him. KDAL needed some fresh blood, and boy, did they get it.
There was opposition in the Newsroom, of course. Just how did Corporate justify handing over the news operation of their flagship station in a top five market to a twenty-eight year old wiz kid?
But Kaz had done everything they'd asked of her. She'd trimmed the fat, streamlined the organization, and delivered the numbers. The ratings were everything they'd hoped for and a little bit more. The reporters and photogs, always an unruly bunch even in the best circumstances were brought in line. And they'd finally gotten the right teams of on-air talent together.
Everything was going so smoothly, something was bound to screw up.
Then Roger had to go and grab her ass, the GM fumed. According to witnesses, Laura asked him to remove it
He didn't and all hell broke lose.
Laura spun around and punched him in the nose. Punched is really too mild a word for what she did to his nose, the GM mused. Socked, slugged, splattered, flattened whatever, 'ol Rog is gonna be off the air for a while. Thank God it wasn't sweeps, but it's still a public relations nightmare.
So there it is I want to keep 'em both, but that's not gonna happen, the General Manager
thought, as he picked up the receiver and punched in a phone number. I bet Corporate already knows, he smiled wryly.
It was a forty five-minute commute from the station to Grapevine where she lived, and even though it was March it was warm enough to have the windows open as she drove her Jeep down I-635. Laura had the music up really loud, partly because of the wind noise and partly so she wouldn't have to think about Roger and her job.
She'd been spoiling for a fight after a day of a million and one frustrations. Stories had fallen apart and the reporters couldn't seem to get a firm hold on the stories that were working. The newscasts had seemed incomplete. Not a good news day, she mused running her hand through her hair as it blew in the wind.
There was still a lot of traffic on the interstate, especially for a Thursday night. Laura changed lanes to get ready for her exit. Well, she thought, you can put it out of your mind for only so long. There's going to be hell to pay, on so many levels. Her thoughts rambled on You could go to work for a News Consulting firm. You could teach the part on what not to do when dealing with talent.
The guard at the gate waved the Jeep through and Laura continued around the tree-lined street until she got to her house, opened the garage door with the remote and pulled the Jeep inside next to the gleaming chrome of a Triumph motorcycle. She picked up her briefcase, shoved it into the box, and then carried it all inside, dropping the load just inside the door. Laura spared a glance toward her answering machine, noting that there were twenty-eight messages waiting. She unclipped her pager from her waistband and tossed it on the counter by the phone, making her way from the living room to the master bedroom and into the bathroom where she started running the shower.
She stripped efficiently, tossed her clothes in the hamper, and stepped into the shower stall. After wetting her hair, she leaned back against the wall, then slowly slid down until she was sitting with her chin on her knees with the water pounding the top of her head. Oh God, what have I done?
She stayed like that until there was no hot water left. When it ran cold, she figured there was no point in it anymore and she stepped out of the stall and grabbed a towel, dripping water all over the bathroom floor. After slipping on an oversized t-shirt and boxer shorts, she began combing out her hair, looking into the mirror at tired blue eyes, ignoring the phone as it began to ring, figuring the machine would pick it up.
"Laura, this is Don Farmer at Corporate We need to talk. Uh, you've put us in a hell of a position, and uh, we need to talk about how this is gonna shake down. Give me a call in the morning probably not a good idea to go to the station tomorrow "
No shit, Laura thought as she listened to the machine echo eerily through the house.
"Anyway I wanted to let you know that you still have some options We're not ready to cut you loose, so just hang tight call me."
Laura walked back to the kitchen where the answering machine was. There were twenty- nine messages now, and she deleted them all. She'd call Don in the morning, but there wasn't anyone else she wanted to talk to, or explain to.
Options Laura snorted, all her choicest options disappeared when she plowed her fist into Roger's face. She crawled into bed, switched off the light and rolled onto her side, hugging a pillow to her chest. Oh, come on, you have options You can take some time off and play some golf. She yawned, the fifteen-hour day catching up with her. Brood about it in the morning, she told herself.
And Laura Kasdan closed her eyes on the worst day of her thirty-year-old life.
The alarm didn't go off and for a minute, just a minute, Laura thought she'd
overslept. The clock read seven fifteen, and Laura rolled over with a concerted
effort to prolong her sleep. I know that Don's not going to have his butt into his
office until nine Atlanta time, she thought, so go back to sleep.
Except that her mind was off and running, making her stomach churn.
No point, Laura sighed after a few minutes, so she sat up and threw the covers off and
ambled into the kitchen rubbing her neck absently. Staring into the refrigerator is
not going to make food appear, she told herself, you have to buy it once in a while.
She grabbed a Coke and closed the door, popped it open and took a big gulp feeling it burn
all the way down. Ah, the breakfast of champions, Laura thought as the phone rang.
"Kaz, it's Brian," the General Manager, "Pick up the phone, I know
you're there. I called the pro shop and they said you hadn't called for a tee time yet and
I know it's too early for you to get a hold of your lawyer."
Laura picked up, "All right, what's going on."
"Jesus, Kaz, I left about 20 messages on your machine last night, could you have at least given me a sign that you made it home okay?"
"I made it home okay, how's Roger's nose?"
"Roger needs a plastic surgeon, and he's gonna be off the air for a bit. God knows how we'll file the insurance claim. Couldn't you have just kicked him in the nuts?"
"I'm not sure he had any to kick."
"Very funny," Brian said, "Both of you are in a shitload of trouble, I called Don Farmer last night, he already knew everything."
"I know, I had a message to call him this morning," Laura told him.
"Well, forget that my friend, he's on his way here. He called last night when you weren't answering your phone or your beeper "
"I turned it off."
" and said he'd be on the 10am Delta from Atlanta. So get dressed and get to DFW, pick him up, and do what you have to do to save your career."
"Roger grabbed me, and I have to save my career?"
"You know you can't fuck with the talent, Kaz, they're like racehorses, when they're running good they're money in the bank. News Directors pale next to a thirty share."
"I got you that thirty share!"
" I guess it comes down to this: You're young, you can still make it to the network if you want, but if you make waves, if you sue, you commit career suicide. Roger wins anyway. You are three years away from your vested stock plan. Can you swallow your pride and stay in this corporation for three years for half a million dollars?" Brian took a breath, "If you can walk away from that, then walk. But otherwise get to DFW and pick up the head o News Operations at the largest employee owned media conglomerate in the country and do what you have to do to save your career!"
"Brian, you know I'm out already
I'll miss you."
"Yeah, me too. I hope you end up someplace nice. If you never punch anyone ever again, you might even get your own station." He paused, "I'm sorry maybe the deal won't be too bad,"
"You're right, I'd better get going."
"One thing, Kaz be careful what you agree to. Don't let them back you into a corner or hang you out to dry"
"Later, Brian." She hung up and padded back to the bedroom to get dressed.
There wasn't much that frightened Laura Kasdan; she worked in an environment that was hostile at best and outright confrontational at worst. But driving to DFW was right up there with taking your life in your hands and it always made her nervous. Traffic around the airport was miserable on this Friday morning, and she resigned herself to a good long walk from the parking area to the Delta terminal. She stepped out of the Jeep and felt the wind gust around her, blowing her khaki pants against her legs. She shrugged into a jacket over her red polo shirt and started walking, not looking forward to the encounter with Don. As she entered the terminal, she moved her sunglasses to the top of her head and inhaled, smelling that strange airport smell that brought with it the promise of journey's ending and beginning.
She checked the monitors on the way down the concourse, noting that the flight was on time, and made her way through security, dumping her keys into the dish that the agent held out for her and reaching for her pager. Then she remembered that she'd left it on the counter, turned off, her one last unbreakable contact with the newsroom that had been her life for the past two years.
She stepped through the metal detector, picked up her keys and continued on to the gate, getting there just as the passengers were arriving through the long plastic hallway connected to the plane. She waited with her arms crossed until she spotted the tall, stocky blond man carrying an oversized briefcase and then she moved toward him.
Don spotted her immediately and smiled, "Laura," he said, "Good to see you, wish it was under better circumstances."
"Likewise, Don." She answered. "Did you check anything?"
"No, I'm just here to see you and then I'm gone. I've gotten us a meeting room, let's see if we can find out where it is." He stepped up to the check in booth, inquired after the location, then they both started back down the concourse.
They followed the signs and turned down a narrow hallway, past a small office where a woman at a desk looked up and smiled at them. "I reserved a conference room, William-Simon Communications, " Don informed the woman.
"Yes, Mr. Farmer," she answered, "Room three, just down the hall, your lunch is ready, as you requested." Laura and Don made their way to the room, Don opened the door and Laura stepped inside and Don followed, closing the door behind him.
"Well, Laura," Don said as he pulled up a chair, "This is a supreme cluster fuck. What the hell were you thinking?"
"Wasn't thinking anything, he grabbed my butt and I slugged him." She reached up and plucked the Ray Bans off the top of her head and tossed them on the table. "I have grounds for a lawsuit, so does he. You want him back on the air, and that's sort of impossible if I'm running the newsroom. So unless you've become the hiring and firing fairy, I can only assume that you've come to cut a deal." She paused and leaned forward, "So what's the deal?"
Icy blue eyes narrowed at him across the table and Don took stock of the woman seated there. Well, you couldn't fault Roger's taste, she was beautiful. That dark hair and those eyes, set in that perfectly proportioned face. She'd never be anchor material; no one would buy the news from looks like those. But in a business where everyone wanted to be on the air, she'd been an exception. Just a little while as a reporter, and then she'd turned into one hell of a producer. Now, regardless of her age, she was the best News Director in the Company and he'd be damned if someone else was going to snatch her up.
"Brief and to the point as always, Kaz," Don answered. "All right, You get to be News Director at another station, your salary and benefits stay the same. Roger is reprimanded and retires in three years, you come back to Dallas and run the show. How's that?"
"Which station?" Laura asked in a low, dangerous voice.
"WBFC in Burkett Falls," Don inwardly winced, waiting for the reaction.
"Burkett! Jesus what is that, a number sixty something market?" She stood up shouting "From top ten to Bum Fuck Egypt, I should have killed Roger, at least I could've stayed in Texas!"
"Look it's just three years, Kaz, and when you get back you run the show in Dallas Not just the News Department, the station. You'll be the GM." Don waited for the implications to sink in.
"What about Brian?" she asked quietly.
"Brian's going to be a Regional Manager in three years, he'll be over 15 stations probably including Dallas." Don waited a moment, "You're on the same track you know, if you don't hit anyone else." She was considering it, and he knew he was close.
Be careful Laura, she told herself and tipped her head back as she weighed her options. It was incredibly tempting to just tell Don, no how, no way, take your medium market pissant station and shove it where the sun don't shine. But no remember the plan Laura, she told herself. Three years was all she needed in the company, even if was in exile from Texas.
"You need an answer today, right?" Don nodded. "One thing I have Cowboy season tickets and I'm not giving them up get me to Dallas for the games and you have a deal." Laura smiled.
"Awww, they're not even a good team anymore." Don said.
Laura actually snarled, "Otherwise I go shopping - I start here in town, and I will make it my god damned mission in life to see that KDAL never sees a thirty share again."
"You don't have to be nasty, we've got airline trade," Don smiled.
"You were pretty sure of yourself there, Don," Laura returned with a lopsided smirk.
"I won't fight if I can't win, Kaz. Learn from that." He pulled a file out of his briefcase, passed it to her and checked his watch. "Did you park in the short term lot?"
"No, long term," She smiled at him and lifted one eyebrow, "I always plan for most situations. Learn from that." Don gave a little snort and tossed two airline tickets out on the table. "We have tickets for the 12:15 flight to Burkett Falls. Art Dement, the GM is expecting us. You'll arrive back around eight, and unless you just can't imagine going through with this, you'll have the weekend to start planning your move."
"What, no golf?" Laura said half joking, then she sobered, "What if Mr. Dement doesn't want me for a News Director?"
"It's not his choice anymore," Don said, standing. "He needs help and I'm gonna drop six feet of blue eyed help on his station and watch what happens." Both of them looked back at the plate of sandwiches in the middle of the table that neither one of them had touched. They looked at each other, shrugged, sat back down and started on the sandwiches. It sure beat airline peanuts.
The flight was uneventful and Laura wiggled her jaw a little to ease the uncomfortable pressure that had built up in her ears in the pressurized cabin. The closed in space made her a little antsy as they taxied to the gate, and as soon as the flight attendant opened the door, she and Don stepped out into the aisle and moved forward with the rest of the crowd off of the plane.
Coming through the gate, Don spotted who he was looking for and gave a brief wave. Laura followed him over to a middle- aged man with salt and peppered hair and a beard. Don performed the introductions and Laura offered a hand to the General Manager of WBFC.
"I've heard a lot about you, Ms. Kasdan," he said smoothly shaking her hand with a firm, dry grip. Blue eyes looked into his ordinary brown ones. For a minute he was aware of an incredible surge of power and charisma, then it was gone. He blinked, "We didn't think we'd see a candidate for our News Director's job with your kind of qualifications." Laura raised an eyebrow. So that's how it's going to be, she thought.
"I didn't think I'd be applying," she answered sweetly. He laughed a bit nervously.
"C'mon, the car's out front, we'll go to the station and take a look around." The three of them went down an escalator, past the rental car counters and out the automatic sliding glass doors where a gold Lexus waited. How cliché, Laura thought, I'd like to meet a GM who didn't drive a Lexus. She flipped her dark hair back over her shoulder and smirked at Don as she opened up the front passenger door and slid into the seat, pulling her Ray Bans out of her jacket pocket and putting them on.
Art got in and started the car, pulling it smoothly away from the curb. He stole a glance at Laura's profile. He wasn't sure what he expected, but the beautiful woman sitting next to him was not it. This might not be such a bad deal after all. "So you went to UT? Great to win that national championship last year, Huh?"
"Um..I went to Texas, not Tennessee." Laura rolled her eyes, glad of the sunglasses and hearing Don's low laugh coming from the back seat.
"Oh, right. I just saw UT on the stuff that corporate sent last night, and I assumed "
"S'alright," she drawled, "An honest mistake." She shifted in her seat and looked at him. "Tell me about your news operation."
"Right. We do a Noon, Five, Six, and Ten, Monday through Friday and a Morning Show from five thirty to seven during the week and from eight to nine on the weekends. Then a Five or Six on the weekends, depending on network, plus a Ten O'clock newscast." He smiled over at her. "We do more news than anyone else in the market."
"How many people?" Laura asked.
"Sixty in the newsroom, that doesn't include part timers. They're a good bunch but they don't have much direction. The Managing Editor is a young and a little on the explosive side, but he's been running things since our News Director left." He took a breath. "We're not major market, Ms. Kasdan, but we have a clue about how to do news."
"Call me Kaz," Laura said. "What about live?"
"We've got two live trucks in town and one up at the Jacksonville bureau, that's about 50 miles north of Burkett, and part of our DMA. No satellite truck," his eyes met Don's in the rearview mirror, " Yet, but our competitor has one that they went in halfsees with their network for. Two of the trucks are scheduled to be replaced this year. There are 10 news vehicles, none are older than two years, and we just replaced all the newsroom computers with Pentium III processors. We're using Associated Press as our service and we subscribe to CNN. What else do you need?"
"What's your on-air talent situation?"
"All the on-air guys are under contract right now. No one's up for renewal until October, except for the Noon Anchor. I know that makes November Sweeps a little tricky if you were to make any changes, but if you're gonna change, we'll want to wait 'til after May anyway." Art looked at Laura for a minute and continued. "The last few books have been disasters for us. We're losing huge chunks of our audience to the guys across town, and revenue from first quarter has sucked. I need We need a really good May book. Here we are."
They pulled into a small lot in front of a square brick building. The landscaping was tasteful, and a four-color logo looked down from one corner proclaiming: Action News 8 -Where the News Comes First. Laura blew out a short breath. There really are too many cliches in this freaking business, she thought.
The lobby had red clay tile floors that had been waxed and buffed until they gleamed, with the requisite on air talent portraits decorating the walls. The receptionist smiled and buzzed the three of them through a set of double doors that opened up into an area filled with desk cubicles and offices with actual doors. "This is Sales," Art gestured, "and the business offices. My office is at the end of the hall. News and Production are upstairs and they overlook the studio. " He led them to a black metal staircase and started up as Don and Laura followed close behind. The relative quiet was broken as soon as Art pushed open the glass door at the top of the stairs and the full pandemonium of a busy newsroom on a Friday afternoon spilled out.
Danny Rendally had the desk at the very back corner of the newsroom for a reason. He was the most senior reporter and as others had left, he took over desks that slowly moved him back to the prime office position. His desk sat facing the door so he could observe everything in the Newsroom. All the comings and goings plus the added bonus protection of knowing that if some nutcase came through the door with a gun, upset about something they'd reported, he wouldn't be the primary target. It had happened before in other markets. Paranoia had worked very well for Danny and he wasn't about to change.
So he was paying attention when the GM came through the door with a guy he recognized as a corporate suit, and a tall dark haired woman who didn't look like corporate at all. She was casually dressed for one thing, her jacket pushed up past her elbows, wearing khakis and a polo shirt. Plus, she actually looked at the newsroom. When her blue eyes finished their sweep and fastened on him, he swallowed nervously as it all clicked into place.
The Kazmanian Devil.
Well, that's what some of the reporters from Dallas called her after she'd given a seminar at RTNDA, the News Director's convention last year. Laura Kasdan in Burkett Falls, he thought as the threesome went into the News Director's office. What the hell is going on? He turned and reached for his phone.
Don closed the door, and slipped his hands into his pockets, regarding Laura and Art soberly. "So," he said, "Is this going to work?"
Laura half smiled and said "News is news, I could do worse." She cocked her head at Art and asked, "What do you want from my end?"
"I want a first rate news operation that I don't have to be concerned with." He looked at Don before continuing, "I was always in sales, never had much to do with news except sell with the numbers they gave me. If the numbers are good and you stay within your budget, I'll stay out of your hair. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
Laura wasn't sure if Art was asking her or Don that question. "Alright, I can start in a week," she drawled, "Next Monday good enough?"
"Sure," he answered, "Just one thing, though Why did you hit Roger MacNamara?"
Laura's eyes became ice chips as they narrowed and bored into his. "He grabbed me and I don't like to be touched." She said in a low rumble. Art barely resisted swallowing and stepping back.
Don looked at Laura and concealed a laugh. "Okay then, make the announcement." This is gonna be good, he thought. And opened the door.
"Hey Mitch, it's Danny Rendally at WBFC in Burkett Falls, How're things in Big D?" Danny was doodling on a legal pad because that's what he always did when he was on the phone. He listened to the other reporter's answer and then came right to the point. "Listen Mitch, Don Farmer, the Head of News Operations, just strolled in our Newsroom with Laura Kasdan in tow Tell me something, have you misplaced your News Director?"
He listened to a detailed explanation of the previous day's events with his mouth slightly ajar and he stopped doodling. Holy shit, he thought, no one's going to believe this. It wasn't hard to put two and two together. "That's what I needed to know. Hmm? Yeah, yeah, I'll let you know as soon as I know something."
Rendally practically vaulted over his desk to get to the assignment editor's desk where two reporters were standing. He started laughing, "You're not gonna believe this I think Laura Kasdan is going to be our new News Director "
Just then the door opened on the News Directors Office, cutting him off and he turned to see the Corporate Guy, the GM and the woman who was surely going to make his life a living hell.
The GM cleared his throat and waved at Rendally, "Go round up the news staff, we'll have a little meeting here." The reporter bolted down the hall. Man, oh man, he thought as he poked his head into the edit bays to call everyone to the meeting.
Once everyone was assembled, Art began, speaking over the background noise of police scanners and ringing phones. "I have an announcement to make, We have a News Director," he turned, "This is Laura Kasdan, she's been at KDAL in Dallas for the last two years and " a bit of a pause, "It's great to have her here. Laura anything you'd like to add?"
Laura gave a humorless half smile, letting her eyes sweep around the room. Speculative looks and frank curiosity met her gaze. "You can call me Kaz," she said, giving them permission not to use her first name. "And I'm damn glad to be here." She said through slightly clenched teeth.
One of the men, he looked to be thirtyish stepped forward and offered a hand. "I'm Keith Roberts, the Managing Editor. I've heard some good things about you, hope you like it here." Ah, she thought, so this is Mr.Young and explosive. She shook the offered hand and started to say something when she was interrupted by a woman's insistent voice.
"We've got some bad news, some good news and some weird news of the um, Chris Hanson variety what do you want to hear first Keith?" The woman had been manning the scanners and seemed to have a phone surgically attached to her ear, so Laura assumed that this was the assignment editor. She raised an eyebrow, questioningly. Keith turned and asked, "What happened?"
She answered, her words spilling out in a mad rush. "A truck jack-knifed on I-20 and the traffic is backed up forever, the good news is that we sent Chris to do that story on the construction and the traffic tie ups, so we got some video."
Keith rolled his eyes, "And the weird part?"
"Well Chris was driving because Jody was shooting video of the traffic and the truck was actually in front of them when it skidded, and well, Jody got it on tape." The staff in the newsroom started talking at once, but Laura still heard Keith take a deep breath and ask, "Then what happened?"
The newsroom suddenly got very quiet as the occupants suddenly heard the question. Laura tilted her head, very much aware of the undercurrents in the room. It was like they were holding their collective breath or something.
"Well, the truck clipped the front of the news unit and Chris went into a spin, then into the median and, uh, crashed into those barrels full of water that they put around those big poles on the interstate to keep you from killing yourself if you were to like, hit one."
"Are they alright?" Keith asked. The assignment editor nodded her head so hard that her bangs bobbed up and down. They're fine except that Chris split her lip when she hit the steering wheel. The really neat part is we got it all on tape, The truck skidding, hitting the car, the car spinning then crashing through those barrels and everything." She finished, out of breath. The room was absolutely quiet and then the GM started to laugh, shaking his head.
"That's a hell of a story," Don Farmer said. Art kept laughing and turned to Laura and raised his eyebrows and said, "Welcome to WBFC, you just had an introduction to the main reason our last News Director ran out of here screaming."
"So that's THE Chris Hanson?" Don asked, and Art nodded. "She makes the bullet list at least once a week, " referring to the list that each department had to turn in to corporate weekly, outlining what was going on. "Yeah that's Chris. Well, if we're done here, can I interest you two in an early supper before you have to catch your plane?"
Laura was busy looking at the assignment board, a flow chart of how the day's stories were making their way to their respective newscasts. She checked her watch and turned to the managing editor, who was watching her closely. "You'll go live from that accident at five, won't you?" she asked.
"Yeah, if I can get the truck out there in time." He looked past her and said to one of the photographers sitting over on a desk. "Bobby, get Live 2 over to the I-20 exit at Johnson Road for a live shot at five, and take Rendally with you in case Chris looks too bad to go on the air."
"Good deal," Laura said, "I'll go too."
"What about dinner, and your flight?" Don inquired.
She shrugged, "I'll get a later flight. Thanks for the job. Later, Art." And she followed the cameraman and the reporter out the door.
The Head of News Operations and the General Manager left the newsroom in silence, opening the glass door and starting down the stairs. "Do you honestly think she's going to work out here?" Art asked Don.
"This isn't Dallas."
Don thought for a second and said, "It doesn't really matter. She can help you while she's here, and you know what she'd lose if she took a walk." He smiled, "The ball's in her court now, It should be pretty interesting anyway. Just enjoy the ride"
Like I have a choice, the GM thought.
The Live truck was old and it smelled bad, the tall woman noted as she climbed into the passenger seat. The reporter blinked as he realized he wasn't going to ride shotgun, then opened the sliding door and got in the back. Laura looked around with interest. The beta tape decks in the rack looked pretty new, and the rest of the truck showed only a few signs of abuse. She felt a shudder as the engine came to life and started rolling. They pulled through the gate and out into the street heading north to the Interstate.
"So, how long have you been here?" she asked. That was always a safe place to start since TV people loved to talk about where they'd been and where they wanted to be. Rendally answered first, pretty much as Laura expected. Seven years, came from the ABC affiliate in Columbus, graduated from Ole Miss, and so on. Bobby said he'd only been a photographer for about a year. Laura filed the information away for later.
"I've met Mitch Carstairs he was one of yours at KDAL wasn't he?" Rendally remarked pointedly.
Was. Laura smiled slowly and looked over her shoulder at the reporter. "You didn't waste any time making that phone call Mr. Rendally." She flipped her hair back over her shoulder and settled back into her seat. Here we go, she thought.
"Is any of it true?"
"The part about slugging the anchor?"
An eyebrow arched, "What do you think?"
A pause, "I think I'm probably safer changing the subject."
"Oooh, good choice," Laura drawled. She turned and looked right at the reporter, letting her blue eyes emphasize her point. "For the record You bet I belted him. As for the rest of it " she shrugged, put on her sunglasses and said, "Believe what you want."
Rendally just nodded and Bobby concentrated on his driving. As they approached the exit, Laura could see that the traffic had come to a standstill on the other side of the Interstate. The wrecked eighteen wheeler lay on its side. Bobby steered the live truck over to the left shoulder, passing the rubbernecks staring at the mess. A Ford Taurus with a Channel 8 logo rested drunkenly next to a pole surrounded by the broken remains of plastic safety barrels. There were police cars and fire trucks everywhere and a small crowd was gathered nearby.
"I think we've found them, " The cameraman said as he pulled into the grassy median.
Christine Hanson licked the cut on her lip carefully; tasting blood and wincing a bit as it stung. If I didn't have bad luck, I'd have no luck at all, she thought. The police officers were hovering, one had given her a handkerchief to wipe the blood off of her mouth. Now he was hitting on her. She sighed. That was the problem with being on air, everyone thought they knew you personally.
One of the officers gestured, "Hey, your people are here." Chris looked up to see one of the live trucks pulling into the grassy center section of the Interstate. She looked over to where Jody, her cameraman, was setting up the camera and tripod. He'd seen the truck too, and started walking toward her.
"Calvary's here." He said shortly as he reached her. "Who's that?" he asked as a tall dark haired woman climbed out of the front seat of the live truck, and walked toward them with long, ground eating strides.
"I don't know," Chris answered as she and Jody started making their way over to the truck. "What's Rendally doing here?"
"Hey Chris," Rendally said, as they met, "You look like hell."
"A little makeup, I'll be fine." Her green eyes sparkled in the afternoon sun.
"Brought a surprise for ya Chrissy," he said, using her hated nickname. "Meet our News Director, Laura Kasdan."
The first thought that crossed Chris Hanson's mind was that she had seen eyes like that only once before but she couldn't remember where. Clear blue and piercing. The second thought was that she was looking way up into them. God she's tall, the much smaller woman thought. Dark rich hair framed those startling eyes and her clothes were worn with a casual elegance. Chris realized she was staring and gave herself a mental shake. This is your new boss, she told herself, act like you have a clue.
"Hi, I'm Christine Hanson," She stuck out her hand and felt it enveloped by a somewhat larger hand in a warm, firm, almost familiar grip.
That portrait in the lobby doesn't do her justice, Laura thought. She didn't think a camera could ever quite capture the life in those green eyes. Her blond hair was cut short on the sides and longer and fluffier on the top a good on-air look, Laura thought idly. And there was something else she couldn't quite put her finger on, something comforting? Where the hell did that come from?
"Laura Kasdan," she said, forgetting to add the automatic 'call me Kaz.' She smiled a bit as she broke contact, and turned to the photographer. Jody introduced himself and the two cameramen left to start pulling cables and setting up for the live shot. Rendally, left behind, regarded the two women.
"Do you really want her to do the live shot?" he asked Laura, "She looks a little shaken up."
"You're not doing my story." Chris told him emphatically.
"She was there, she does it busted lip and all." Laura answered, a little pleased at the competition between the two. "A little make up, she'll be fine." She repeated the reporter's words, then turned and started walking toward one of the fire trucks parked near the wrecked eighteen- wheeler. Left behind, the reporters watched her leave.
"You are not gonna believe all the shit I've heard about Miz Kasdan." Rendally said in a low voice.
"I don't get it, where'd she come from?"
"Dallas KDAL," Rendally answered, "She was the News Director there."
"A little young for it, what the hell is she doing here?" Chris asked.
"She fucked up," He answered simply. "This is where you'll end up if you ever punch an anchor."
"She hit an anchor? Damn!" Chris started to laugh as Jody walked up and handed over her IFB and makeup kit. "Let's get this set up, we're getting close to news time. Where do you want me, Jody?" she asked the cameraman as she put on the ear piece, opened her makeup, and began the business of making herself presentable to a million viewers.
Laura heard the whispers as soon as they thought she was out of earshot. She knew that news people were about the worst when it came to gossip. After all, they made their living ferreting out information and spreading it around to anyone who would listen. And it was a good story. Really. If she hadn't been so personally involved she'd be talking about it too.
She walked up to the man she guessed was in charge, introduced herself as being with Channel 8, and arranged for him to comment during the live shot. That accomplished, she made her way back to the live truck where Rendally was sitting glumly in the front seat.
"Hey Captain Wallace is gonna give us some time during the live shot, why don't you get him set up." She glanced at her watch. "You've got about fifteen minutes before we go on."
The sandy haired reporter took off and Laura looked into the van where Jody was editing his video. She watched him for a while as Bobby positioned the mast for the best signal back to the station. Chris was pacing next to the truck, going over what she planned to say, gesturing and flipping through her notebook, stopping and starting, and organizing the pace of her tale. Laura smiled. This should be interesting.
The time evaporated, and all the players moved into position. Chris did her mic check, fiddled with the earpiece of her IFB, squared her shoulders and took a deep breath. Sell it, sell it, sell it, she told herself, as she looked into the lens, heard her cue for the tease, and the words began to flow.
"Traffic was already slow because of the construction on I-20, but this accident brought it to a standstill. You'll see exclusive footage of this eighteen wheeler spin out of control, tonight on Action 8 News Live at Five."
"'Bout 30 seconds then you're back on, Chris." The producer's voice said in her ear.
Laura watched the show open roll in the monitor inside the truck anchors were up full on the screen toss to Chris and she was on. The young blonde reporter projected lots of energy, was precise in her telling, and very, very credible. As Chris told the story of the accident and got a quick comment from the Captain, Laura grew more impressed by the second. I've been in major markets that didn't have reporter talent half this good, she thought. Well, bright spots are where you find them. She listened as Chris tossed it back to the Anchor, answered a question, and then waited to be told she was clear. A very professional performance, split lip and all, Laura thought.
Chris blew out the breath she'd been holding and asked the producer if they were coming back to her again during the show. She got a very definite 'maybe' in her ear, then looked up at the woman who'd been watching her carefully during her stand up. "They'll probably come back for a traffic update toward the end of the cast," she answered the raised eyebrow from the dark haired woman. "Do we need to stay for the 6 O'clock show?"
"Yeah," Laura answered, "unless something happens and Keith needs the Live Truck. Good job, by the way considering."
"Oh," the reporter looked startled, and touched her lip gingerly, "I forgot about that." There were a hundred questions she wanted to ask Laura Kasdan and now seemed as good a time as any, but for the first time in her life, she had no idea how to begin. Weird, she thought.
Laura crossed her arms and leaned back against the live truck, watching the cameramen putter with the cables. They're uncomfortable, she thought, Rendally's just pouting. Chris had walked over to one of the officers, probably to ask about traffic control. Laura always forgot how much she hated waiting around a news scene until she had to visit one. Life was more hectic in the newsroom where you had to balance more than one crisis at a time.
It could be worse, the tall woman thought. It could have been market number 199 and somewhere up north. At least Burkett Falls was only about three hundred miles from Dallas. She sighed as Jody gestured to Chris that it was almost time to set up for the wrap and tease the 6 o'clock show.
Watching the reporter come to life in front of the camera again, Laura thought, Yep, it could be a lot worse.
It was after seven by the time they got back to the station. Laura expected Art Dement to be waiting, and she was not disappointed. White carpet and dark cherry furniture decorated the General Manager's office along with the ever-present monitors. Ah, thought Laura sarcastically, another surprise. Just once couldn't the furniture be oak?
"How'd it go?" He asked her as she sat down in a chair in front of his desk.
"Not too bad Chris is pretty good, Jody runs a mean Live Truck, and Rendally is shopping for a larger market"
"They're always shopping for a larger market." The GM answered.
"Yeah, but I've seen his demo tape. He sent it to me in Dallas." She laughed softly at the look on Art's face, leaned back and with eyes half closed said, "Remember that everyone will eventually meet everyone else who works in TV. Mr. Rendally just met me sooner rather than later."
"So is this gonna work?" Art asked.
"Sure it is." It has to, she thought. "You'll get what you want and I'll get what I want. It's a good deal all the way around."
"I don't want a hot-head News Director who makes the newsroom into a combat zone. No using the anchors as punching bags."
Laura gave a humorless laugh, "No, the newsroom will run like a well oiled machine. Trust me."
It was Art's turn to lift an eyebrow. "Uh huh Well, you've got a week to get ready. Here," He handed her a binder, a sheaf of papers, and three Nielson rating books. "You'll need these Your budget, paperwork, and the last February, May, and November ratings. Don changed your flight to 8:30 You can still make it home by Midnight."
Laura opened one of the rating books and looked up. "What's the story on Christine Hanson?"
"Chris?" The man actually started to snicker, 'She's well she's a fabulous reporter, it's just that things happen around Chris. She has this huge loyal following did I tell you she anchors the Noon News? Anyway she's wrecked half a dozen cars "
"Seven after today."
"Okay seven but it's always some great story, so what do you do?" He spread his hands in a gesture of futility, "I wish I could tell you that today was the exception rather than the rule," He laughed again, "But I can't."
"If she anchors, she's got a contract, right?"
"Yes, but it's up in June." Art answered.
"Then we need to get her signed, because you don't let someone with that kind of on-air presence and that kind of luck just walk out of here," Laura said standing. "And someone else will get her if we don't." I would have.
"Luck?" The GM asked.
"Yeah, 'cause when the shit hits the fan, at least you know you'll have someone close by. I'll get someone in the newsroom to drop me at the airport." She gave a thin smile, "I'll see you a week from Monday. I'll let you know my schedule as soon as I can."
"I am looking forward to having you here Kaz," Art said standing, "I just wish circumstances were better."
Laura shrugged, "There's a reason for everything, I guess."
"And for wrecking yet another news vehicle, we, the All Powerful Producers of Action 8 News, do hereby put another notch on the desk of our erstwhile reporter, Christine Hanson hoping that next time she'll take out the car with the busted air conditioner." Applause followed the Six O'clock Producer's announcement. Chris hid her face in her hands as Rendally put another hash mark on the side of her desk, bringing the total to seven.
"Could I have picked a worse time to crack up another car?" She said with a slightly hysterical laugh. "Got the Head of News Operations in town, new boss, the whole package." Chris shut down her computer and threw her notebook into an open drawer.
"Yeah, I'd say you've done enough damage for one day, but hey, there's always Monday." Rendally answered as he picked up his jacket and prepared to leave. "So, Chris are they real or fake?"
"What? You're disgusting!"
"I meant her eyes. God, you're easy. Is she wearing contacts?"
Chris pondered the question and shook her head. "No, colored contacts give you dead eyes. Those were definitely not "
"Ah, the ice woman cometh," he interrupted, spotting Laura as she walked through the door.
"I need a ride to the airport, anyone headed that way?" she asked the cluster of people still left in the newsroom.
"Uh, sure I'll give you a lift," Chris volunteered.
"Kiss-up." Rendally whispered and she gave him a little shove.
"Sure you don't mind?" the taller woman asked.
"Not if you don't mind getting in a car with me No really, I'm an excellent driver." Groans came from around the newsroom. "I am stuff just happens. C'mon," The blonde reporter said as she led the way out of the newsroom.
Once they got to the parking lot, Chris made her way over to where a dark red Volvo sedan was parked. Laura lifted an eyebrow and said, "Probably a pretty good choice for you."
"Very funny that's not even original."
Laura smirked as she opened the door and got in. Chris was quiet as she started the car and drove out of the parking lot, but she couldn't stay that way forever. "So, when do you start?" she asked looking over at Laura.
"I'll be back in the office a week from Monday." She gave a sideways glance at the reporter. "Try not to destroy anything while I'm gone."
Chris just laughed. "So it's back to Dallas to pack up and move, hmm? Do you know were you'll be staying yet?"
Chris just went on, "This'll be a big change from Dallas, I bet. What's the smallest market you've been in?"
"I was in Austin for a bit."
"That doesn't count, it's only one market size larger than us a real Texan, huh?" she looked over and smiled.
Laura didn't really mind the chatter from the younger woman, which was a little strange since personal questions usually drove her insane, but Chris was so good natured it didn't bother her, she just listened, answering briefly, if at all. It was kind of nice.
They arrived at the terminal and Laura squashed a slight feeling of disappointment. She could see the Delta counter just inside the glass front where Chris parked the Volvo.
"Thanks for the ride," she said getting out of the car. "I'll see you in about a week." She tucked the binder under her arm, turned and shut the door.
"Have a good flight, Laura." Chris said softly, watching her go inside. The car was oddly quiet without the other woman's presence. Everything she'd heard about Laura Kasdan today had seemed so much larger than life, and Chris wasn't sure how she was going to fit into their little corner of the world. And despite the speculation in the newsroom, Chris was certain that Laura Kasdan knew exactly what she was doing and what she was getting into.
What an interesting puzzle, she thought. Chris was a reporter, and there was nothing she liked better than puzzles.
What a day, Laura thought closing the binder and leaning back in her seat. She checked her watch. Yeah, she'd be home before midnight, but just barely.
You idiot. One minute of uncontrolled anger and your whole life is turned upside down. She blew out a breath and closed her eyes tiredly. God, there were a million things to do, and she had no idea where to start.
Stop it. Sell the house, make the move, that's all there is to it. Ruthlessly she squashed any self-pity she might have been feeling. Three years, that's all, remember the plan. With that thought firmly in mind, she slept for the rest of the flight.
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