Part 2

Welcome to the Newsroom

Laura lay on her back and watched the first light of Monday break through the slats of the mini blinds in her bedroom. She'd been awake for a couple of hours, unable to sleep and unwilling to get up. A busy week of moving, and settling in had taken its toll and her nerves were shot to hell. Sunday night she finally walked away from the chaos of her new apartment and went to a driving range to hit golf balls until the manager turned off the lights and she was forced to leave.

She looked over at her clock for what seemed like the hundredth time. The digital numbers had not progressed at all since the last time. C'mon Laura, she told herself, quit putting it off...just get up. With a groan she sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed, standing and stretching as she made her way to the bathroom.
At least the shower had decent pressure, she thought after climbing out of the tub and slicking her hair back. She absently grabbed a towel and just blotted some of the water off of her sleek form, letting a goodly amount drip onto the floor on her way back to the bedroom.
What to wear, what to wear, Laura pondered, looking into her closet and thinking that she should have gone to the dry cleaners. Too late now, she thought with a shrug, settling on a pair of black cotton pants, white silk shirt and basic linen jacket. Take the Jeep today, she need to freak them out just yet.
No, Laura amended, wear the boots and take the bike. Let 'em see what they're getting. Besides it'll
She dressed quickly, listening to Morning Edition on the radio, then stamped her feet into black cowboy boots. After locking the door she clattered down the concrete steps to the ground level of her apartment where her bike was covered with a tarp. Taking it off, Laura stowed it in the jeep, then swung her leg over the Triumph Thunderbird. After donning her helmet and zipping a battered leather jacket closed over the linen one, she brought the motorcycle to life, feeling a familiar surge of adrenaline.
If there's a God in heaven, she thought, he's got a bike like this.
It was a good idea to ride this morning, she thought. It helped to strip away all the distractions and focus on the pure mental and physical aspects of getting from one point to another. By the time she got to the station parking lot, she was in total control.
She parked near the base of the stairs leading to the back door of the newsroom. Another good thing about the bike, she mused, there's always a good parking place close to the door. There were already a couple of employees standing outside in the designated smoking area, puffing away and watching her with idle interest. She took off the helmet, shook her hair free and started up the stairs oblivious to the looks she was getting.
The newsroom was just beginning to stir as Laura entered and made her way to the managing editor's desk "Do you have the key?" She asked, jerking her thumb toward her office.
"Yeah, sure." Keith answered, rummaging around in the top drawer, locating it and handing it to her. She motioned for him to follow and unlocked the door, unprepared for the sight that greeted her.
Videotapes and FedEx packages covered every flat surface in the office, only the floor was spared. There were six chairs and a low table in front of the desk and all were completely obscured by the stacks and stacks of packages. "What the hell is this?" The News Director asked.
Keith scratched the back of his neck. "I guess your reputation proceeds you. We put a little blurb about you on the website, one of the trade magazines put it on their site and by Wednesday the packages started coming in...They're from reporters, videographers, anchors, and you even got some resumes from producers."
"Keith, you seem like a bright guy, what does this look like to you?" She turned to look at him.
Chris was right, he thought, they weren't colored contacts. "It looks like..." He paused and answered very carefully, "...Someone thinks you're going to clean house, and a whole buncha people want to work for you."
"Are we short some bodies?"
"No," Keith replied, "We've got a full count right now are planning to...or we have a mass exodus...or something," he trailed off.
"Then get rid of 'em...all of 'em." Laura said firmly, gesturing at the piles of tapes.
"You sure?"
"Yeah, we go with what we've got for the time being." She made her way behind the desk and put down her helmet. "Morning meeting starts at nine, right?"
"Right, and you've got a department head meeting at ten."
"Good, then let's go over the schedules now...I have some questions about the stuff you sent me last week."
Chris walked into the newsroom ten minutes before the morning meeting. It wouldn't do to antagonize the new News Director, and judging from the number of others in the newsroom on time, she knew she wasn't the only one who felt that way. It had been a pretty good morning so far, a trip to the "Y" for an early workout and on to the bagel shop for breakfast. She smoothed down the collar of her forest green blazer, put her briefcase next to her desk and logged on to the Associated Press server, checking the updates.
The usual stuff, she thought, scrolling down and making notes to arm herself for the meeting where the reporters and producers would pitch their story ideas. An early encounter at the gym resulted in a tip...that meant she wouldn't go into the meeting empty-handed. Sometimes it got ugly since everyone had a different opinion as to what was newsworthy, and what stories or features had clear viewer benefit. The reporters would then be assigned their stories and the newscasts would start to take shape.
It always amazed Chris that it ever came together at all. Sometimes a newscast showed every indication of being a train wreck, and those were the ones that went well. Others were smooth sailing from the beginning, and piece by piece, they self destructed on the air.
Oh, the joys of live TV.
Chris checked the clock, picked up her notebook, and entered the News Director's office where four other reporters were already gathered. She took a seat next to the door and started flipping through her notes, sneaking a glance at her new boss. Laura Kasdan was frowning at her computer screen as the news staff filed in. Keith took the chair closest to the desk and Rendally plopped down next to him. Everyone was quietly fidgeting, and Chris fought back the urge to laugh.
"Okay," Laura spoke up, "I've met some of you already. I'm still getting a feel for the station and the newsroom, so bear with me. What do we have today...let's start over here." She gestured to the right side of the room where one of the producers was standing.
It was like planning for battle, the dark haired woman thought. You sent your troops out to gather the information, put together a plan, and lay siege to the airwaves with newscasts at five, six and ten. Sometimes you dominated the competition, beating them soundly on coverage, and sometimes they did the same to you. It was all about winning. If your reporters and producers fought hard, protected their sources, and dug enough so that they were never surprised by what floated to the surface, then they won that battle, that day.
String those battles together during a ratings book and you gave the sales staff numbers to sell... Down the hall and at corporate.
Laura listened carefully as they went around the room, asking questions and getting mostly good answers. When it was Chris' turn, blue eyes fixed on green. Okay, impress me, the News Director thought.
"Last night we covered a drive-by shooting at Northside Mall. One of the security guards was shot in the hand...This morning, um... Mark Norton the Information Officer with the Burkett PD told me that the wound was caused by a weapon less than a foot away from the guard's hand when it was fired." The blonde reporter gave a wry smile, "Which means it didn't happen the way he told the police."
"Did Mark say what he thought happened?" Rendally asked.
"He said he thought the guard was messing with his gun and shot himself. Anyway they're going to charge him with filing a false police report, but probably not 'til this afternoon, so we should be able to break it on the noon cast." Chris finished.
"What about Channel 4? They go on at 11:30." Laura inquired.
"Mark won't tell if they don't ask...They burned him a few months ago, he's not willing to do them any favors."
"Alright, we can short-form it for noon, and make it a package for the five focusing on...the forensic technique that tipped the guard's to speak." Laura gave a half smile to the reporter before continuing around the room.
After hitting the checks and follow-up list, the reporters were given their final assignments and the meeting was over. "Chris, I need to see you for just a minute." The News Director said. The reporter turned to face Laura, eyebrows raised questioningly. "Go ahead and shut the door."
"Is this about the car? If you want to make it condition of my employment that I can't drive station vehicles, I'll understand...but really..."
"No this isn't about the car, though maybe it would be better if you didn't drive them for a while."
"...It doesn't matter because they wreck even if I'm just a passenger." Earnest green eyes looked into amused blue ones.
Odd, Laura thought, people made such a big deal out of blue eyes, but Chris' were the more unusual color. Grass green with flecks of gold, they gave away everything the blonde woman was thinking and feeling. In this business it didn't pay to be that open.
"Your contract is up in June, we'd like to get you taken care of before we go into the May ratings period. We can meet later this week and go over any changes, then you can meet with Art if you've got any concerns."
"Oh." Chris looked startled, "Then I guess you're not gonna fire me right away."
"Well, not right away. Wreck another car and we'll talk." Laura hid a smile. The younger woman was as transparent as glass, so she tried to dig a little on another subject. "When did Mark Norton tell you about the forensics on last night's shooting?"
"We work out at the same gym so I usually see him in the mornings." Chris told her.
"Okay," Laura dismissed her. "Better get to work." She turned her attention back to her computer screen, but couldn't help flicking a glance to the window out to the newsroom, watching the reporter go to her desk and pick up the phone.
Admit it, you were looking forward to seeing her again. You're comfortable around her and that surprises you. She sighed and turned back to the computer, looking through the schedule that Keith had mailed to her when she was interrupted by...
"Well, I always knew that 'I'm God and you're not' attitude was going to get you into trouble but I never thought it'd land you here."
Laura looked up surprised.
"If it isn't Laura-Kasdan-call-me-Kaz right here in MY station running the news department in a god forsaken sixty one market." The intruder slammed the door.
A delighted smile spread across the News Director's face as she leaned back in her chair, "Lisa Tyler, what the hell are you doing here? I thought you were in Houston."
"I was, then I left...God, it's good to see you." Lisa was much shorter than Laura with light brown hair, and eyes the color of whiskey. "I heard about what happened in Dallas, I'm really sorry."
"You know, you're the first one who's told me that and meant it." Laura brightened, "So, what are you doing here?"
"I'm the production manager...don't laugh, and I direct your 6 o'clock newscast, so be nice."
"I wasn't going to laugh, but here?" Laura asked.
"Just another Texan in exile...No, it's really better. The money's not as good but it's cheaper to live here." Lisa picked a chair close to Laura's desk and sat down. "Besides, that major market pressure will grind you down...then one day you just...snap."
"I didn't just snap, I self destructed. You never let me get away with anything." Laura smiled wryly. The two women had been on the golf team together at UT. Lisa was a big hitter off the tee with an erratic short game and no desire to practice it. After graduation, they both went to work for the same station in Austin, Lisa stayed in production and Laura immersed herself in news.
"With your temper, it was bound to happen sooner or later." Lisa regarded the News Director thoughtfully and crossed her legs at the ankles. "Coulda been could have ended up in Yakima or something."
"Nah, you'd have to actually kill an anchor to end up in Yakima." Laura replied. "Are you going to the department head meeting?"
"Yes, oddly enough I qualify as a department head. Freaky isn't it?"
Laura met the other managers and they slogged through the meeting. Her overall impression was that this was a pretty smooth running station; very profitable and with few personnel issues. The one problem was the news department. Jerry Nelson, the previous News Director, had walked out two months earlier leaving the newsroom in chaos.
Not that chaos was unusual in a newsroom.
They wanted it organized, streamlined, and of course, sellable. Lisa explained all of this on their way down the hall. So what else is new, she thought, looking down the table, listening to the drone of the sales manager as he described how April was pacing compared to last year. She looked over to where Lisa was trying her best to look interested and failing miserably.
The sales manager finally finished his spiel and Art dismissed them all except for Laura, and she stayed where she was, leaning back in her chair.
"So, how's it going?"
"Well, it's quite a change." She answered.
"Yeah there are a few problems back there...but that makes for some interesting opportunities." The general manager stroked his beard.
"To tell you the truth Art, I don't really believe it when someone tells me that problems are opportunities...Opportunities are good, problems are bad...any idiot should be able to tell the difference." Laura didn't take her eyes off her boss as she smiled, "When do I get my new live trucks?"
Art stuck out his chin and said firmly, "That's out of my hands, we're on corporate's time table now." He let Laura sit in silence for a minute. "As for the news department...I believe in letting my managers manage their departments. I don't really want to be involved in the day to day operations. I will stay out of your hair as long as your department performs the way it should. I am not a journalist, but I know that compelling news sells. Just give me the numbers and I'll sell it."
"Okay...So lemme go manage." She stood up and walked to the door, pausing with her hand on the knob. "As for compelling news, be careful what you ask for, it has a tendency to bite you on the ass."
Laura closed the door behind her and went on a mission to find some caffeine. Eventually, she found the break room, complete with the necessary vending machines. A glass door opened on to a good-sized brick patio dotted with picnic tables.
She fed quarters to one of the machines and punched her selection, listening to the sound of the canned drink as it tumbled down. Retrieving the Coke, she started back down the hall and ran into Keith. Laura raised her eyebrows in inquiry.
"A bunch of city employees have just been arrested...They're charging them with payroll fraud, The Mayor's gonna have a news conference and we can probably go live at noon."
"Okay, get Rendally over there to do the live shot." And they both went back to the noise and pandemonium of the newsroom.
Chris finished putting on her makeup and fitted the IFB in her ear, clipping the cord to the back of her collar, and letting the plug trail behind her. She really liked anchoring the noon newscast, because it meant that she still had a good part of the day to work on her story. She had a good one today and an exclusive for her 'cast, so she was in a very good mood as she walked down the hall to the studio.
As always, the bright lights made her eyes water until she got used to them. Chris took her seat, sitting on the tail of her jacket to give her shoulders a good line. Turning, she plugged in the IFB, bringing to life the sounds of the control room.
"Hey Chris, just letting you know that Kaz is in here watching." The producer's voice sounded tinny in her ear. "Try not to screw up." Chris just smiled as she shuffled through the scripts knowing that while the producer's comments could only be heard by the crew wearing headsets and IFB's, anything she said could be heard by anyone in the booth.
"Okay folks," The director's deep voice cut in, "Chris, we'll come out to you on camera one, toss to the live tease, then weather on two...we're one minute out."
Chris clicked her pen and checked the clock.
Hurry up and wait. She smiled at the camera and tried not to think about the News Director in the control room. Well, at least the crew wouldn't be cutting up.
"Standby, coming to you in her."
It looked easier than it actually was. Read from the teleprompter and comprehend it, chat coherently, and obey the instructions coming from the IFB. Chris was good at it; She was the one who maintained the flow of the newscast, her cadence and rhythm set the pace and it was up to the director and producer to make the content match her timing.
Laura leaned back against the wall in the control room. Standing next to the audio board she could watch everyone and follow the newscast on the monitors. She wished there was an extra headset so she could hear the producer and made a mental note to check with engineering about providing one.
Laura was more impressed with the blonde reporter every time she saw her on camera. Whatever that quality was that made you like and trust someone immediately, Chris Hanson had it in abundance, she thought, listening to her chat with the weatherman.
The content was good, the 'cast was clean. The News Director waited for the five and six o'clock promos to be shot, then left the control room, striding back to the newsroom and meeting Chris as she came up the stairs from the studio. "Nice job," she told her.
"Thanks," green eyes smiled. "Who's making the lunch run today? I'm starving."
"You're always starving." This from Keith as he walked up. "Pitt Grill want the usual?"
"Sound's good, K Bob." Chris said, unclipping her IFB and rolling it up. "Grilled cheese and tater tots."
"Don't call me that. Anything for you, Kaz?"
"Uh, no." Laura answered. "K Bob? Oh...Keith Roberts." Keith looked uncomfortable and she smiled broadly. "Fine, you won't hear it from me." She headed for her office, went in and shut the door.
Keith was shocked to discover his mouth was dry and all she'd done was smile at him. Chris snapped her fingers under his nose and he blinked looking down at the shorter woman.
"Earth to Keith...stop it, you're practically drooling."
"She's...she's not what I was expecting." He stammered.
"Yeah, but it's early days." She answered. "You coming to Main Street tonight? We're doing happy hour." Chris was referring to the bar and grill up the street.
If anyone else but Chris had asked him, he would've turned them down flat. It was hard enough being a supervisor without socializing with the staff after hours. But this was Chris, and he really liked talking with her, so he shrugged, "Maybe, we'll see." She smiled and he went to call in the lunch order.
Laura closed her office door and went to her desk, pulled out the phone book, opened the yellow pages and looked under golf courses, finding the listing she was looking for. Burkett Falls may be smaller than she was used to, but there was a mighty fine golf course in town. She dialed the number, expelling a breath as she waited.
"Northridge Country Club." A voice answered.
"Yes, I was wondering if you could tell me about your membership requirements." She waited while she was transferred. "Member services, this is Linda"
"Hello, my name is Laura Kasdan and I was wondering about your membership requirements."
"Well Ms. Kasdan, this is a very exclusive club, we would want to set up an interview..."
"I'm a member of a club that's in the Southern Association of Country Clubs, would it be possible to transfer that membership since Northridge is also a member of that organization?"
"Yes, the membership itself could transfer, but you would still have to be interviewed, and still have to pay the initiation fee."
Laura forced down the urge to scream. "I understand that, how soon could I be interviewed?"
"You're in luck, Ms. Kasdan, there is a reception tonight to examine a few other possible are welcome to join them. Cocktails are at seven-thirty." The woman asked a few more questions and finally the phone conversation was over. With that out of the way, she opened up a small black book found a number and punched it in with a smile.
"Oak Hills, this is Charles."
"Charles, it's Kaz. How the hell are you?" she said, picturing the large black man.
"I've been waiting to hear from you. Are you ready yet?" He asked the question almost wistfully.
"Almost Charles. I'm gonna try to qualify for the Open at the sectional in Austin on May 18
th. I need a caddy..."
"I'm there." He answered simply.
"Uh, I'll still be an amateur, Charles...If I qualify, you might do better with someone who'd be in the money, so this doesn't mean you'd have to work the Open for me." She waited.
"If you're in the Open, I'm on your bag, for as long as you want me there. Damn Kaz, when you turn pro, I'll be there too."
"Someday, Charles."
She needed that. "It's in Austin, at Circle Country Club...Fly or drive?"
"Drive." He answered.
"I'll fly in, I'm not in Dallas anymore." Laura told him.
"No shit, I heard. Tell me when you see me."
"I'll be in touch," she told him and hung up. So, she was committed now, she looked down at the confirmation letter from the USGA. Three years ago she had an automatic invitation to the Open, then things went to hell in a handbasket. Not this time, Laura thought, this move to Burkett is just an inconvenience. It'll make it interesting, but it won't make a difference.
She hated giving up her membership in Dallas, but she just couldn't afford two clubs. The initiation fee for Northridge was going to be pricey too. Laura hated the bullshit country club scene anyway, understanding that it was means to an end. If you wanted to play competitive golf, you just put up with it
Three years, Charles. Then I can support myself on Tour. I can kiss news goodbye and the crap that comes with it. She looked out the window that covered most of one wall in her office and out into the newsroom. Never say yes when you want to scream no, especially if you're making a promise. She turned to her desk and sighed. There were purchase orders to sign and schedules to fix, all before the afternoon meeting.

It had been a pretty slow news day, Chris thought as she ordered a beer from the bar and turned to look at the room. She spotted a table with a couple of the photogs and gave a little wave. The bartender gave her the bottle of Corona and she reached for another slice of lime and shoved it into the bottle. Walking to the table, she noticed that Rendally had joined them. "You're a married man, shouldn't you be at home?" she asked.
"Just one drink and I'm gone." He said waving toward a waitress.
"So, what's the latest gossip?" Chris asked him, propping her chin on her hand.
"Well, day one of the Kasdan regime went smoothly enough...she didn't punch anyone." The waitress brought his beer and he took a sip. "There was a bit of an altercation with Lisa Tyler this morning in her office. Don't know what that was about."
"Nah, that was just for show. They've known each other for a while. Lisa was telling me about it this afternoon. Any other good stuff?"
"No, except that Randy is leaving to go to Cleveland." He said, referring to one of the photographers.
Chris made a face. "Ugh, Cleveland."
"C'mon, it's a nice move for him into a bigger market. You could move too, bigger than Cleveland if you wanted."
The blonde reporter shook her head. "No, I like the south, I like the weather. Besides, I'll probably renew my contract anyway. You don't get the chance to work with someone like Laura Kasdan in a market this size very often. I'm telling you, Rendally, this could be really good for us."
Jason, one of the photographers, spoke up, "I'm with you Chris. She could move us into bigger and better things. When she goes, and she will, she might take some of us with her. I want a network job, man. I'm not slaving away at an affiliate for the rest of my life."
"Oh yeah, she's your ticket to the network all right. Didja know her old man was David Kasdan, the reporter who was killed in Bosnia a few years ago? She could probably be a producer at any of the networks just like that," He snapped his fingers. "So why isn't she?"
Chris shrugged, "Who knows? Not everyone wants to work for a network. I don't." She thought for a minute and remembered seeing the footage of David Kasdan's death played over and over again. Of course there was a disclaimer, telling parents not to let their children see the gruesome scene, and some photographer won an award for outstanding coverage. She felt a wave of sympathy for the News Director and shook her head. "That's gotta be tough, watching your Dad die like that."
"Yeah, well, it certainly explains a lot." Rendally finished his beer. "I'm outta here, see you tomorrow." He threw a dollar on the table for a tip and left as Jody and Keith came in laughing.
"Hey Keith," Jason greeted the stocky man, and cut his eyes at Chris guessing that she had invited the supervisor. She just winked at the photographer and made room for them at the table. More of the newsroom staff came in and it wasn't long before they were the loudest table in the place. Keith thawed a bit, even telling some humorous stories.
Eventually the group at the table began to thin, until it was just Chris and Keith. He looked at Chris and smiled, "Thanks for inviting was fun."
"S'okay you were fun too. You don't have to be a supervisor all the time."
"Are you okay to drive?"
"I only had one," she answered. "How 'bout you?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." He paused, "Listen, I'm not gossiping...really, but what do you think is going on...I'm talking about corporate wise. What is she doing here?"
Ah, so that's what this is, Chris listened closely.
"I mean, they gave the News Director job to her in Dallas when she was twenty eight...I'm twenty nine...this isn't major market, we're sixty one. I guess that sounds shallow," he finished.
"Keith, I think you need to look at this from a business point of view. They couldn't keep her in Dallas, she's probably a shareholder, and News Directors are hard to come by. Plus she could have sued the pants off that anchor...boy, that's a public relations nightmare." Chris took a breath. "Look, she's not here forever and I know it's hard to be patient...but come on, Keith you'll be a News Director." She stood up. "I think you do a good job. We were talking before you came in...most of us think that this is a good opportunity to work for someone who can help our careers. Did you know her dad was David Kasdan?"
"No shit," he said softly.
"Yeah, well, I need to go." She shouldered her briefcase, "You'll get where you want to go. See you tomorrow."
She walked the block back to the station and unlocked the Volvo, tossed in the briefcase and climbed in. It wasn't a long drive to her house, a modest patio home in a quiet subdivision. She took pride in the tiny immaculate yard with its neat flowerbeds and carefully pruned shrubs. Walking in she tossed down her keys on a small table near the door and smiled at her cat stretching in greeting. "Hello, Biggio," she scratched him under the chin. "Were you good today?"
Humming, she went into the kitchen and poured dry cat food into the dish on the floor. Opening the fridge she took out a bottle of water, carried it to the bedroom and changed into soft cotton shorts and a T-shirt. Coming out she grabbed the remote and turned on the TV and smiled happily... Monday night baseball on Fox Sports... What could be better? Pondering the day's events, Chris curled up on the couch with an afghan and her water and settled in for the evening. The newsroom had been busy the week before, digging up information on the enigmatic News Director. Now that they'd seen her in action, it wasn't such a mystery as to why she'd been successful so young.
Still, as the details filtered in, the bigger mystery to the young reporter was why she was so fascinated by the older woman. It wasn't just the professional competence, or the quiet confidence, there was a pull there, a familiarity that reached beyond a brief acquaintance.
Chris yawned and stroked the cat laying on the armrest. There were worse things than to hitch your future to a can't miss opportunity like Laura Kasdan.
Laura barely made it to the club before eight. She stopped to go over some problems with the 6 o'clock 'cast with Kate the producer, so she was late getting home, then had to change for the reception-slash-cocktail party-slash-interview. She chose a simple black sleeveless dress and tossed a dark blue silk blazer over it, twisted her hair into a knot at her neck and dusted on some make up. She grabbed some ridiculously high heels, hoping that she wouldn't twist an ankle, and ran down the stairs to get in the Jeep.
When she pulled into the circular drive, the valet opened the door of her Jeep and stared as she stepped out, towering over him by several inches. Laura took the ticket from his hand in exchange for her keys and walked to the front door of the clubhouse. The chandelier in the foyer cast a golden light and bright reflections on the wooden floor automatically making everything much more formal. She gave her name to an attendant at the door and was ushered into a much more intimate room where several people were gathered into little groups, sipping their drinks.
A petite brunette excused herself from one of the groups and made her way over to where Laura stood. "Hello, I'm Linda Marsh," she introduced herself. "You must be Laura Kasdan. Can I get you something to drink?"
Laura smiled, "White wine would be fine." She left and returned an instant later with a glass and handed it to the taller woman. Laura tasted it appreciatively. "This is nice." The smaller woman tittered something meaningless and then began the introductions.
My social skills on display...Too bad I don't have any, she thought.
She made the rounds, showing a little charm and finally Linda left her with the last group. She named them the Banker, the Lawyer, and the Pretty Boy.
"So, Miz Kasdan, what do you do for a living?" This from the Banker.
"I'm the News Director at Channel 8." She replied.
The Lawyer raised an eyebrow. "We tried to get Art Dement interested in joining a few years ago, but he doesn't play golf or tennis." He paused, letting his eyes drift over her. "What's your game? And is there a Mr. Kasdan?""
"Oh I play golf." Laura gave him a half smile, meeting his eyes and narrowing hers.
"I know you..." The Pretty Boy said "Laura Kasdan the U.S. Amateur Champion...'95, '96, right?"
He shook her hand enthusiastically, "Peter Davis, Club Pro. Your mom was Amateur Champ too...Oh this is cool, are you joining?"
"Trying to," She gave him a warmer smile ignoring the Banker and the Lawyer.
"Well, come on, have you met the club president?" He pulled her away from the two dour men.
""The large gentleman over there? Yeah, we met." Laura had gotten the impression that he wasn't interested in a single woman trying to join his exclusive club.
"Let's reintroduce you, this time let's include your credentials." Peter smiled at her. "This'll be fun."
He was right, it was. The portly gentleman practically fell over himself trying to make up for his earlier slight once Peter filled in the details. Now she was being treated like royalty, except there wasn't a discount on the seven thousand-dollar initiation fee. After she was assured that her membership would be accepted, Laura followed Peter on a tour of the facilities.
It was a warm night, and eventually the two ended up outside near the green on the ninth hole. Laura leaned against a low stone wall and looked down toward the tee and the lake that edged the left side. They talked about some of the courses that they played and found some common ground in their love of the game.
"You wanna play Saturday?" The pro asked.
"Sure," Laura said, "The earlier the better...But I walk; no cart."
"Then it'll have to be
really early. How about six forty five?"
"Can I warm up at six?"
"I'll be here." Peter said. "You want the same time on Sunday?"
"Yes, you might as well make it a regular thing." Laura smiled, "It's been a pleasure, Peter. I'll see you Saturday."
"Likewise, Laura." He took her hand.
"Call me Kaz." She said easily, disengaging his hold with the ease of long practice.
Walking to the front of the clubhouse, she gave the valet her ticket and waited for her Jeep. Peter held the door open for her and she got in gracefully despite the height of the vehicle. As she drove off she reached up, pulled the pins out and shook her hair free, running her hand through the dark length. It's over, she thought. I have a place to play, and a tee time for Saturday, there's a hot tub and a masseuse on staff. It's pricey, but it's worth it.
She looked at the clock on the metal dashboard of the Jeep, nine forty...She could be in bed by ten. Not too bad for a first day. Laura laughed softly and turned up the radio feeling really good for the first time since she hit that idiot Roger. She rolled down the window, letting the wind blow her hair free and started to sing.
"Yeah, that'll be fine." The engineer handed Laura the headset connected to a jack on the wall behind the audio board. She adjusted the size and put it on. "Test...can you hear me?"
"It's working." Lisa said from her seat at the switcher as she removed her headset. "Your producers are not going to be thrilled about this and neither will the rest of the crew."
The dark haired woman lifted an eyebrow, "Whatever. This way, I'm in the loop, and you won't be such a potty mouth either." Lisa was the only person she knew who could say the word 'shit ' with six syllables.
"It'd take more than you listening in to clean up my language. Besides, you're one to talk...TV people are a foul mouthed lot."
It was Thursday and with an exception of a few incidents, the week was going pretty smoothly. Laura was sure that the honeymoon was about over. She was going to have to sit down with their main male anchor and have a little chat this afternoon and knew that it wasn't going to be pleasant.
"Thanks Richard," She told the engineer who had rigged the setup.
"Oh, this was easy. Now I've got to figure out what's wrong with Live 2. Any word on when we can look for those new trucks?"
An exasperated sigh, "As I was told, so shall I tell you...We're on Corporate's time table now."
"Yeah, great," he said as he left the booth. Laura hung up the headset and walked over to where Lisa was working on graphics for the newscast. The technical director punched up effects on the board with speed and precision, swinging from the effects generator, or ADO, then back to the character generator, to type up font.
All the graphics, font, and over the shoulder boxes had to be built before the newscast. In addition to having to direct the talent as to what camera to look into, the director had to match graphics and font to the stories, direct the camera operators, listen to what the producer was adding and subtracting from the newscast, and roll tape. They used five tape machines for a newscast, and one member of the crew had the sole responsibility of rotating the tapes in and out of the machines and keeping the director informed of what tape was where.
Every newscast was different and had it's own set of problems. But when it was over, it was over. There was no going back to fix things that went wrong. It took a quick-thinking problem solver with a short memory of past mistakes to direct news live, and Lisa excelled at it.
"So you left Houston for this guy..." Laura prodded, sitting at the producer's station.
"No, I'd already decided I didn't want to stay there, then I met Trey. We'd been dating about six months when he was transferred." She turned to write on her clipboard, "Then I called corporate personnel to see about a job in this market...WBFC had an opening, so here I am." She looked into the blue eyes regarding her seriously, "This is a good fit for me...I don't regret leaving Houston at all," she shrugged, "Except I miss the baseball."
"So what's Trey like?"
"Ah...that's a little tricky. He's...well, he's an Aggie."
Laura howled with laugher. "Oh, that's great! Miss Longhorn fanatic-all-Aggies-are-scum. I bet Thanksgiving is a real joy at your house," she said referring to the annual UT - Texas A & M game.
"It's worse than that...he played football for 'em. Stop laughing!" Lisa threw a wad of paper at the other woman who batted it away. "You can meet him if you come to Main Street for happy hour tomorrow night."
"Oh, I wouldn't miss it." Laura checked her watch. "Gotta go...meeting with talent. I'll probably sit in on the six, oh, and try to work up some new swearing combinations. You know I love it when you're inventive."
Laura was on the phone in her office when Chris tapped on the door. "No, you can have the footage if you pay for it...We're not in the business of helping out rival networks." The dark haired woman waved the reporter in while she finished the conversation. "I doubt that I will ever need a favor from you guys...No, thank
you." She slammed the phone down. "Sorry 'bout that. Go on sit down." Laura took a packet out of her desk drawer and handed it to Chris. "This is our contract proposal. I'd like to go over it, you can have your lawyer check it out, then if you want to negotiate any changes, Art and I will get with you and hammer them out. You can bring your lawyer to that meeting if you so desire."
Chris opened up the packet and started reading. For the most part it read like the one she had signed previously, with a few changes. Her eyes widened as she looked up. "Six o'clock?"
Laura smiled slightly.
Here's where we find out about your ego, kid. "We feel like Tracy is not as strong with Tom as you could be on the Six. Tracy also has two children and has asked to work an earlier shift. She would be moved to Noon and you would be teamed with Tom. Ray and Michelle would still do the Five and Ten."
"But what about reporting?"
"You'd come in an hour later, and work your assignment same as always. The only difference is that you probably couldn't do as much live reporting, since it would be tough to get you back in time for the newscast if, say, you were live on the Five." Laura studied Chris, waiting.
The reporter flipped to the back of the contract where compensation was discussed, and swallowed at the number she read there.
"That's a thirty percent increase with a guarantee of a ten percent increase every year for the remaining two years of the contact." Laura said matter of factly.
"Three years? Art doesn't do anything longer than two years." She continued reading, looking for one item in particular. Not finding it, Chris flipped through the contract again. "There's not an out if I get an offer from a top ten market?"
"No, there's not."
"We want you for three years." Laura chose her words carefully. "You could be the franchise anchor in this market and if that's the case, you'll be compensated for it. But we want all of your attention for three shopping around, no rumors about you leaving, and no News Director from a big market looking to take you away."
Like I would have if I'd know you were here. Chris looked doubtful, which to Laura, was a good thing. Anchors were funny; they usually had huge egos wrapped in the thinnest of shells. How something so enormous could bruise so easily was a mystery to her. They exposed themselves to a million viewers and risked possible humiliation with every broadcast, yet sometimes they acted with the reason of a three-year-old. The things that made them good on the air were the same qualities that made them hell to work with.
"Okay, so what's this?" Chris pointed to one paragraph in the contract. "This wasn't here on the last one I signed."
"That's new. William-Simon is including a full disclosure clause in all their talent contracts from now on." This was something that the lawyers were screaming about, and it probably wouldn't hold up in court, but it hadn't been tested yet. Laura went on, "Basically it says that if you do something...if you indulge in any kind of behavior which might damage the credibility of the station, you'd better tell your supervisor before it becomes a problem. You had a morals clause in your last contract, right?" Chris nodded. "It's kind of the same thing."
"This won't hold up in court." The reporter said, earning a half smile from Laura. It's not like we're dealing with idiots here, Laura thought; they look at issues like this everyday.
"All right, Laura..."
Chris ignored her. "...Tell me why, besides thirty percent and the Six O'clock, I should stick around here for three years, when you obviously think I'm good enough to look elsewhere."
Ah, there it was. Laura gave a lopsided grin, "Oh, you're good Chris, but I can make you better."
The smile caught Chris off guard, and so did the comment. It's a good thing she doesn't do that very often, the younger woman thought, it's blinding. Chris swallowed and tried to compose herself by flipping to the back of the contract. She looked up once more and took a pen out of the holder on Laura's desk. She signed her name quickly to the bottom of the page, dated it, and slid it across the desk to the dark haired woman.
"Sure you don't want a lawyer to see that?" Laura asked, a little surprised at the reporter's lack of caution.
"Nah, my sister's a lawyer and she can break anything on paper, so I'm not worried."
"Chris, you will be giving up a significant amount of privacy. The Six is a lot more high profile than Noon. You'll be more of a celebrity than you are now, and small town celebrity has all kinds of problems attached," Laura said seriously, "Maybe you should think about this."
"No," The reporter shook her head, "This is the road I'm on, I'll stick to it."
"Then I guess congratulations are in order. The ratings book starts on April 28
th, you'll start doing the Six on April 26. I'll make the announcement on Monday. If you could keep this to yourself till then, I'd appreciate it." Laura offered her hand to Chris and the younger woman took it, letting out a breath.
"I would've signed it anyway, even without the promotion and the raise."
"Now you tell me." Laura pointed to the newsroom, "Story. Go work on it." Before Chris could leave, Keith knocked once and opened the door.

"Sorry to interrupt, but we've got a train derailment outside of town...the live truck's on it's way but we need a reporter on the scene. Jason can take Chris over."

"No. Let Jason finish editing the package he's working on, I'll get her over there. Gimme an extra camera and I'll shoot." She said striding out of the office with Chris and Keith in her wake. "Chris, get the directions from Janie...Keith, help me load up."

Laura snagged the keys to the four-wheel drive news unit, and helped Keith stow the camera in the back, adding batteries and tape. When Chris came out and got in on the passenger side Laura cranked it up and they headed out of the parking lot.

She followed Chris' directions until the traffic backed up behind a roadblock. Guessing that this was close to the accident, Laura pulled around and drove on the shoulder until she reached the sawhorses and saw the sheriff's deputy motion for her to stop.

"Your other truck is about a quarter of a mile down this road," He said gesturing at the turn, "Sheriff say's y'all can go in, but be careful."

"Is there a Hazardous Materials crew on the way?" Chris asked leaning over.

"Miz Hanson," the deputy touched his hat, "Tanker's were empty, so no Haz Mats. It's just a hell of a mess."

The tracks ran parallel to the road and after a moment she could see the live truck and the tumbled tanker cars. Pulling up behind a fire truck she cut the engine, and they both jumped out. Laura got the camera and followed the reporter through the maze of vehicles parked on the road until they reached Jody who was standing beside Live 1, a scant fifty yards from the wreckage.

"Are you feeding this?" Laura pointed at the camera.

"Yeah, Keith said he was rolling tape at the station, just in case we want to do a cut in, they'll have some B roll."

Laura nodded. "Chris, you wanna..." she stopped looking at a slight shimmer above the derailed cars.
It's not that hot. She twisted to look down the road, hoping to see heat rising from the asphalt. There wasn't any.

Chris stopped at the look on the News Director's face. "What?"

"Fumes...let's go, now!" Laura grabbed the reporter's arm and pulled, "Jody! Leave it! Come on!" the photographer ran to catch up, reaching to grab the camera that Laura was still carrying. They had almost made it to the other side of the road when the world exploded at their backs.

Laura was thrown forward against Chris, and wrapping her arms around the reporter she twisted, taking the full force of their fall on her right side. Jody was blown off his feet; his photographer's instincts making him roll to protect the camera.

Chris saw the ground rushing up to meet her, but the impact wasn't as forceful as it should have been, and she vaguely registered the protective shield provided by the taller woman. The reporter lay there, blinking in shock and wondering why she didn't feel frightened.

For a moment none of them moved, ears ringing from the blast, then survival instincts kicked in. Laura got them both up and nearly tossed them to the relative safety of the deep muddy ditch on the other side of the road. "Is everyone all right?" she panted, falling down next to Chris. The pain in her back was excruciating and she clenched her jaw.

"Sonofabitch, the live truck!" Jody swore looking back.

Laura rolled her head to look back. Sure enough, Live 1 was a goner. She gave a weak laugh, "Guess we'll be getting that new truck sooner than corporate thought."

"It's not my fault!" Chris protested, struggling to get a look, then collapsing back next to Laura. "Oh shit, it's bad."

"We need to get out of here. C'mon, along the ditch, stay low. Jody, is that camera working?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Just keep it rolling. We'll try to get back to the Blazer." Laura helped Chris up, and still crouching they made their way along the ditch. Jody stood long enough to get some footage of the burning wreckage and then followed. When Laura thought that they had gone far enough the three of them emerged from the ditch into total chaos. "Keep shooting!" She told the cameraman as firemen and police officers swarmed over the scene.

Chris spotted the Blazer and they started towards it, but before they got there, a sheriff's deputy intercepted them. "You can't be here!" he yelled over the din.

"That's my live truck your empty tankers just blew to hell! I'm here until we find out what happened." Laura said, trapping him with angry eyes. "You guys said it was safe." With that she brushed past him to get to the blazer with Chris following behind. Opening the door she grabbed the cell phone and hit the automatic dial for the station. Keith answered immediately.

"Tell me you were rolling on that, because getting the tape out of the camera is out of the question." Laura didn't bother to identify herself.

"Jesus Christ are you okay? Yeah, we got it all, what the hell happened?"

Chris just stood there halfway listening to the one sided conversation. She guessed she should find Jody and do some sort of standup, but she just couldn't find the will. It's just shock, the reasonable part of her brain told herself, it's perfectly normal, she looked back at Laura with wide green eyes.

"Gotta go Keith, I'm leaving this line open...Oh shit!" and Laura barely caught Chris as she slid into a dead faint.

"It's okay, I've got you," She said easing the reporter down and propping her up on the tire. She left Chris to rummage through the front seat of the Blazer coming up with a first aid kit, a rag, and a bottle of water. Laura quickly soaked the rag with water, sat down next to the reporter and pulled Chris into her lap. Gently she placed the cloth on her forehead, wishing for some help.
Oh this is just great...The live truck is gone, and the franchise anchor you just signed to a multi year contract is passed out cold. Don't say it! It can always get worse.
Slowly Chris came to, swallowing and blinking, feeling the heat of the pavement against the back of her legs. Laura's concerned face shifted into focus and she looked up at her boss, mumbling the first thing that came to mind.

"You have the most amazing eyes."

One eyebrow went up and Laura gave a half smile. "I get that a lot," she said dryly, then more gently, "What happened?"

Chris rubbed the towel on her forehead. "Dunno, guess I just checked out to evaluate the situation." She looked around at the running figures, too occupied to pay any attention to the two of them. "Where's Jody?"

As if on cue, the short photographer appeared, carrying the camera. He took in the sight of the two of them against the tire without comment, and crouched down. "It's almost out...the fire I mean. What do you want to do now?"

"Oh shit," Laura struggled to her feet and stumbled around the Blazer's open door to grab the cell phone. "Keith..."

"Kaz! What the hell is going on!"

"Sorry, listen, is someone else on their way out here?"

"Yeah, Bobby and Terence left here right after it blew. Are you coming in?"

"As soon as we can...I think Chris and Jody are in shock..." she lifted the back of her jacket to press a hand to her left side and stopped when she felt the sticky goo, swallowing she looked down to see her hand covered with blood.

Oh great, she thought, wiping her hand on the corner of her dark jacket out of the sight of Chris and Jody. And it just keeps getting better, was the added thought as she caught sight of the Channel 4 live truck pulling in.

"Keith, Channel 4 is here...cut into programming now...Chris'll do it on this phone. It's the best we can do."

"Okay, I'm transferring you to the control room."

Laura pulled the phone over to where Chris and Jody were sitting while she waited for the connection. "Chris are you good to do a phoner on what happened? We're gonna do a cut in before they can," she pointed at the other stations truck.

"Those sons of bitches! They are not getting MY story," Chris practically snarled.

"Good girl," said Laura, handing her the phone. "Jody, did you shoot the live truck burning?"

"Yeah, I figured we'd need it for the insurance anyway," he shrugged. "Not much left but it's about out now."

"Are you okay to shoot Chris' standup? 'Cause we need one before we can get out of here." She gave him an encouraging smile.

"Sure, what about Chris?"

"I'll hold her up if I have to."

"I heard that," the blond reporter said. "We're about ready for the phoner. Jody, wanna grab the little TV out of the truck? You can careful with the sound."

Jody dug the TV out of the back, and set it down away from the reporter to avoid any audio feedback. Clicking it on he adjusted the rabbit ears until he got a clear picture. It was an inexpensive but efficient way to keep track of what was on the air when the reporters didn't have the live truck.

Laura turned back to Chris who was sitting against the tire with her legs stretched out, her suit ruined, knees bloodied, and hose shredded. But she had a notebook out, scribbling. Laura crouched down next to the reporter, clenching her jaw against the pain in her back. "Just be as clear as you can and tell what the eyewitness thing, and let the pictures carry it. Terence and Bobby will be here in a bit... they can dig out the details, okay?"

Chris smiled at the dark haired woman. "You said you could make me better."

"Yeah, but I wasn't trying to get you blown up." Laura got to her feet, proud that she only staggered a little, and went to the back of the truck, just as the Special Report graphic came on.

"This is Tom Olson with an Action News 8 Special Report...A train has derailed on Highway 28 just south of Burkett Falls. Originally it was thought that the tankers were empty and posed no threat, but we have some rather remarkable video to show you."

Laura and Jody leaned in to look. Except for the tumbled tankers, it was peaceful. The image was recent enough that Laura could remember the details sharply. Without warning, there was a puff of smoke and then a huge fireball erupted right into the camera, blowing the picture into electronic snow.

They ran it again. Laura put her hands in her pockets so she could control their shaking and looked over at Jody. The photographer was breathing in and out rapidly on the verge of hyperventilating. Tom Olson was giving the details, and then Chris was answering questions over the phone.

We were so lucky! How on God's green earth did we survive that?

Without a word Jody turned and went to the other side of the Blazer. Laura glanced back at Chris to check how she was, then followed the cameraman.

Jody was on his knees, his body convulsing with dry heaves. There wasn't anything she could do for him, so she waited until his stomach quit rebelling at what his mind said almost happened.

"Sorry." He mumbled. "Guess we were pretty lucky."

"Yeah," Laura answered, "How's your wrist?"

"How did you..." he winced as she lifted his left arm from the elbow.

"Call it a hunch." She swore softly. "Christ Jody, it's probably broken. How were you shooting with that?"

"Just used it for focusing." He saw her eyes look past him and he turned around. Terence and Bobby were making their way through the clutter toward them.

"Not much longer...c'mon." She helped Jody stand, and get into the back seat of the Blazer. "We're gonna get you to the emergency room." She told him, as the new reporter and his cameraman reached her side. "Glad you could make it."

Laura turned to Terence, "Get Chris' notes, She should be about done with the phoner...Bobby help me get this packed up."

Terence protested, "Get the EMS guys over here..." and stopped abruptly when the blue eyes of the News Director swung over to burn into his.

"We're already part of this story...In a few hours every news organization in the country is going to have video of our live truck burning to the ground. I will not give them..." she jerked her head in the direction of the Channel 4 truck, "...The satisfaction of rolling tape on some EMS guy taking care of one of us." She put the camera in the case and shut the tailgate. "Bobby, get set up to shoot a standup with Chris. Terence, pretend you're a reporter and start asking some questions."

Laura walked to where Chris was sitting and the reporter handed back the cell phone. "I guess it's standup time."

"Yeah, Bobby's gonna shoot it. Let me get you up."

"Oh great, it's one of the Kathys." It was a running joke that Channel 4 had not one, but three reporters named Kathy. This one was a petite brunette with tendencies toward cattiness, and she came over just as Laura pulled Chris to her feet.

"Well, Chrissy, busy day for you, hmm?" Kathy looked at Laura, "New photog? Bit of an amazon isn't she?"

"No, new boss." Chris answered, "Laura Kasdan...Kathy Warner."

The petite reporter turned her 100 watt capped tooth smile on the News Director, hoping to cover her mistake. "So, you're the great Laura Kasdan...It is a pleasure to meet you. I sent a tape to you in Dallas."

"I don't remember, I get so many. You'll have to excuse us...we have a story." She said leading Chris away, ignoring the stare that followed them.

Chris tried to concentrate on what she was going to say instead of how cool it was to get a jab in at Kathy, but she was having difficulty focusing on any one thought. Snickering, she let her boss pull her forward. One thing at a might try to walk without staggering first, she told herself.

"Look, lean on me. I'll walk you over so Bobby can get our dearly departed live truck in his shot."

"Whatever you say." Looking at the News Director, the reporter tried to control the energy moving through her. Rationally she could explain it as just an adrenaline rush in a stressful situation, but there was also the charge she was feeling from being with Laura in the middle of a situation that a storyteller lives for.

Organize, Chris told herself. Break it down into three separate thoughts, then elaborate on each one.
Train derails...Supposed to be empty...Boom. She stumbled a bit, but Laura was there, helping her along. Tell the story, keep it simple. The reporter ran her free hand through her hair and started speaking softly, backing up and going forward, choosing, shifting, and discarding words as she tried to make the last half hour into a coherent report.

Laura just listened as she offered steady support, stopping when they got to the place where Bobby had set up the camera, close enough to see the charred remains of the live truck. Whatever else, they had some kick ass video.

"Can you do this?" Laura looked into green eyes.

"In my sleep." The reporter told her. Laura went to stand behind the camera with a slight smile. It had been rough on the reporter, but she seemed to be holding up pretty well. Bobby handed Chris the stick Mic, went back to roll the tape and the standup was underway.

They did four takes, each saying basically the same thing, with just a few subtle differences. Chris also cut a promo, which could run a few times before the news to help drive viewers to the coverage of the derailment. After all, they had an exclusive, and a crispy live truck should be worth

Laura took the tape from the photographer and labeled it. "Bobby, we'll get this to the station, you and Terence get onto Captain Wallace and find out why they thought there wasn't any danger of the tank cars blowing. We're gone...Jody's got to get to a hospital."

"What's wrong with Jody?" Chris asked.

"I think his wrist is broken. Let's go." Chris was moving a little better and didn't need help walking. "Probably need to get you checked out too."

"No, I'm fine, just a little shaky." She looked at her watch, "God, it's only 2:30...seems like we've been here for hours."

"Well, it was all pretty bang-bang...literally. Get in." Laura opened the blazer door for Chris. "What's the closest hospital?"

"That'd be St. Joseph's...You know, the guys who sponsor our Tower Cam."

"Right. Always good to give a client some business. Hang on." Sitting and holding the steering wheel was definitely better than walking. The pain in Laura's back was becoming unbearable. Twisting to look before reversing the Blazer, she ground her teeth together.
Not much longer.

"Chris, call Keith and tell him to meet us at St. Joe's emergency room...better tell him to let Phyllis know we're gonna have some workman's comp claims." Laura said, referring to the business manager. "Jody, you doing all right back there?"

"Just peachy." He mumbled.

"Keith, it's Chris. We're on our way to the emergency room at St Joseph's...yeah, send someone to pick up the tapes. Tell Phyllis we're going so she can get the workman's comp claims in."

"Almost there." Laura said as they pulled to a stop close to the front. She pushed open the door and practically fell out of the vehicle groaning. It was agony to move now. Using a hand to brace against the truck, she straightened.

"What is that?" Chris asked, pointing at the driver's seat, green eyes wide.

"That would be blood." Laura said between clenched teeth. "A lot of it. So it would be real good if we could get inside before I pass out."

"Shit! Why didn't you say something? Jody, go on in." Chris came around to Laura's side and took hold of her arm, lifting the back of her dark blue jacket. Some of the blood had dried making the cloth stiff and the blonde woman inhaled sharply when she saw the gaping wound on the lower part of her boss's back. "Oh for Christ's sake! Were you and Jody trying to out-tough each other? I've never seen anything so stupid..."

"Your concern is touching," came the dry response. "Could we just get inside? The sooner I get some really strong pain killers, the better."

"Lean on me, it's okay...We could have left right after it happened, we didn't have to stay and shoot."

"Yes we did," Laura swallowed in pain as the automatic doors swished open to admit them "It was our story, and when you establish ownership of the story, you never turn it loose."

One of the benefits of being a local news celebrity was that sometimes you got really good service. Laura watched with some amusement as Chris worked the staff, oozing charm to get her co-workers taken care of as soon as possible. Before she knew it, Laura was in a curtained cubicle laying face down on a bed waiting for a doctor to examine her. She heard the door open, and Chris was pulling up a chair, her eyes level with Laura's as she settled in to wait with her boss.

"Hey, the doctor's going to be here in just a minute."

"The nurse just left. I asked for morphine but she just laughed. How's Jody?"

"They're putting a cast on his wrist, I guess he's going to be edit boy for a while, since he can't really shoot." The reporter crossed her arms, "So why didn't one of you say something? I were hurt and Jody should have been screaming."

Laura gave a wry half smile and plucked at the sheet covering the mattress. "I don't get to go out on stories much anymore. You do." She shifted a little wincing at the pain. "You should know by now that there's an incredible adrenaline kick. That's all it was."

"Oh, I get my fair share of adrenaline."

"Given what usually happens to you on a story, I bet you do."

Just then the nurse bustled in followed by a doctor in scrubs. "So here's the rest of the Channel 8 wrecking crew. Hi, I'm Dr. Reeves," He smiled down at Chris, "It's nice to meet you Miss Hanson, I watch you every day at noon." Laura rolled her eyes. The talent always got the attention.

"I'm really hurting here, Doc. You and Chris can talk later."

He laughed, lifting the cloth that covered her wound and turning to the nurse for the gloves she held out. "You've got a pretty good sized hole here, Miz Kasdan...let's get it cleaned out, then we'll stitch you up." He picked up a needle and a vial. "Now this is probably going to burn a bit going in..."

"You're a liar, it burns A LOT." Laura hissed grabbing hold of the edge of the bed.

"We'll wait a minute for that area to deaden." The doctor dropped the needle into the sharp object container. "Is all this going to be on the news tonight?"

"Boy, I hope so. Otherwise we wasted a perfectly good afternoon." Chris sat down in front of Laura again. "Sorry, I don't have a bullet for you to bite on, but you can squeeze my hand if you promise not to break any bones."

The doctor was cleaning the injury now and Chris could see Laura's eyes darken with the pain. Without waiting for permission she took the one of the older woman's hands in her own, looking down at strong long fingers. "Hey, what's this?"


"Your right hand is tanned and the left is really white."

"Oh. Golf glove."

"Golf? That's right, you won some tournament once. I read it in your bio. I thought maybe softball or something."

"Used to play softball, don't have much time anymore." Laura mumbled squeezing Chris' hand a bit. They were interrupted by the sound of metal hitting a tray.

"You picked up a piece of shrapnel here and you worked it in pretty good. Sorry it took so long to get it out. This is about clean, now we're going to stitch it up. You okay there?" The doctor asked.

Laura could feel herself begin to panic. Shrapnel? "Wha...What kind of damage to my back?"

"Well, I don't think there was any serious damage but you're going to be sore for a while."

"For how long?"

"Probably for a week or so." The doctor started stitching.

"Can I play golf this weekend?"

"That's not a good idea." He could almost hear teeth grinding and he stopped for a moment. "Hey it's just a game."

Doctors, she thought with venom. "Let me rephrase the question...If I play golf this weekend, will I permanently injure myself?"

"Well, no, but..."

"Thank you."

"It could slow your recovery."

"I'm a quick healer." Laura looked up at Chris. "You okay?" she asked, suddenly very tired.


"Good, 'cause you're gonna have to do a debrief at five."

Chris gave a short laugh. "You never stop thinking about it do you? There's a life outside of news, you know."

"I know, and I'd get to it if the news didn't keep interrupting." She put her head down on the mattress, feeling the rough sheet on her forehead, and trying not to think about her back.

"You mentioned you still play?" Chris asked, trying to distract her, "Because we have a media league here, you know, all the TV stations, newspaper, and radio guys get together to play on Sundays. It's co-ed and a lot of ought to come out and at least cheer us on."

"Do you play?"

"Yep, second base." Green eyes crinkled merrily, "Ah, you don't believe me. Let me tell you, I hold my own."

"Let me guess," Laura said dryly, "You wear eye black."

"Sure. They think I'm real cute right up 'til the time I turn two." Chris turned her head as the door opened and Keith walked in followed by Jody, his arm in a cast.

"I've got the tape, what's next?" Keith asked, blinking at the amount of smooth feminine skin exposed on the News Director's back. Laura ignored the flush creeping up the young man's face.

"Get someone else out to the scene...we need to own this. Get Chris back to the station and get...better yet, Chris are you okay to go back there?"


"Then get a change of clothes and do the debrief from there. Don't try to spare the station any embarrassment, make sure you show the live truck blowing to hell." She paused for a moment and looked back at the doctor. "Are you about finished?"

"Just about."

"Good. Keith, when you get back to the station, tell the promotion manager...what's her name? Elly? To get something on the air ASAP that says we pull out all the stops for action news...blah, blah, blah, whatever those promo guys do to make us look good."

"All done." The doctor said, stripping off the gloves. "I'll give you a prescription for a mild painkiller...Just take it easy, okay? Come back in about a week and I'll take the stitches out." He smiled down at Chris, "Nice meeting you Miz Hanson."

The nurse twitched the tail of Laura's shirt down over the bandaged area, and the patient pushed up and sat on the edge of the gurney, straightening the rest of her clothes. "Anything else you can think of?" She asked Keith.

"We might want to load some of the video up on our web site. I know it's a little sensationalistic..."

"But an exclusive is an exclusive." She smiled, "Good thinking. I'll run Chris by her place for a change of clothes. Did Richard figure out what was wrong with Live 2?"

"He's got it up, but he's not sure how long it will last." Keith opened the door and the four of them started down the hall.

Chris listened as Laura and Keith went over the strategy for the Five and Six newscasts. They're a perfect team, she thought. Both know exactly what they want to accomplish, and Laura was right, she
will make all of us better. Not to mention the fact that she was pretty good in an emergency. "How does it feel?" She asked Jody.

"I guess it's the edit booth for a while, if I can't shoot." The photographer said resignedly. "Just when things were starting to get interesting."

"Yeah, I know what you mean." She chuckled. "At least you got some good stuff for your resume tape."

"Shh, I don't want her to know I'm looking."

"She's not an idiot, Jody. She knows everybody's looking...except me."

"You signed? Aww Chris, we're supposed to get out of here together."

Chris couldn't hold back the grin. It felt good to tell someone. The excitement of the afternoon had taken the edge off her feeling of triumph over the new contract and the new position. "Yeah, I's a sweet deal."

"C'mon, you two." Laura stood in the doorway. "Jody, are you sure you're alright? Keith can take you home..."

"No way. I'm gonna finish this. I'll edit."

Laura nodded. "Good. I'll meet you back at the station. Go ahead and get Live 2 out there and set up." She and Chris got into the Blazer and followed the other station vehicle out of the parking lot.

"Where to?" Laura asked the reporter. With a minimum of chatter, Chris gave directions to her house, trying to remember what kind of shape it was in. Sometimes she wasn't the tidiest of people, but Chris felt a sense of pride in the little house, and wanted to show it off a bit. Well at least it looks good from the outside, she thought as Laura pulled into the driveway.

"Nice place," Laura said. "Do you rent?"

"No, it's mine...well, mine and the bank's." Chris unlocked the door and stepped into the cool hallway. "It won't take me any time to change, do you want something to drink?"

"Got any Coke?"

"Should be some in the fridge, help yourself." Chris started for her bedroom, untucking her blouse as she went. "Kitchen's that way."

Opening her closet, the reporter pulled out a pair of navy Dockers and tossed them on the bed. Gonna take more than a good dry cleaner to get this suit fixed up, she thought, taking off her skirt. She rummaged in a drawer and found a polo shirt with a Channel 8 Action News logo. That'll work, she told herself, removing the rest of her ruined outfit and trying to get dressed again as quickly as possible.

Laura opened the refrigerator looking for her favorite form of caffeine. So this is what a well- stocked fridge looks like, she thought to herself, the kid eats pretty well. The tall woman pushed aside some fruit juice to get to the red and white canned beverage. Closing the door, she looked around the little kitchen then wandered into the living room. It was just a little cluttered; an afghan was spread over the end of the couch and there were books and pieces of mail spread on the coffee table. The room was done in shades of blue and gray, with oak bookcases lining one wall.

Laura smiled wryly as she gulped at her drink, comparing the room to her tiny apartment that was furnished in college dorm room fashion, with cinderblock shelves, a battered couch and recliner. Even when she'd owned the house in Dallas, it hadn't looked this nice.

"All changed, you ready?" Chris said coming down the hall.

"Yeah, that'll work." Laura said, appraising the younger woman's attire.

"Find the Coke okay?"

"Uh huh, thanks."

Chris locked the door behind them, thinking that getting the dark woman to open up was like pulling teeth. Getting in the Blazer she tried one more time, "I haven't thanked you yet."

"For what?" Laura started the engine.

"For keeping know...You protected me and you didn't..."

"The explosion pushed me into you, that's all." A flush tinted the dark woman's skin.

Chris remembered strong arms wrapped around her and a six-foot cushion so she wouldn't slam into the ground. Earnest green eyes looked into blue, and Laura looked away first, uncomfortable.

She's shy, Chris thought in wonder, realizing that this woman wasn't the queen bitch they'd all been told about, she pushed everyone because she pushed herself. "Yeah, whatever you say." Chris smiled knowingly. "Thanks."

Laura snorted and concentrated on her driving.

After the six o'clock cast the News Director ordered ten giant pizzas for the Newsroom to celebrate the great job that everyone did covering the great train and live truck explosion. The remaining live truck returned and there were high fives all around. Afterwards Laura stood in her office doorway and watched the staff bestow another hash mark on the side of Chris Hanson's desk to denote the complete destruction of yet another station vehicle, bringing the total to eight. Grimacing, she went to answer the ringing phone, knowing that this time it was corporate, having already dealt with the General Manager.

"News 8, this is Kaz."

"Well, well, less than a week in town and the shit's already hit the fan."

"Hello Don, I guess you've already talked to Art."

"Kaz, I sent you to Burkett to clean things up and keep you safe, not to blow the fucking place up."

"Sorry Don, It's just one of those things. So, when are we gonna get those new live trucks?"

"Dammit, I'm trying to tear you a new asshole here..."

Laura held the phone away from her ear as Don continued his tirade, sorting through the papers on her desk.
What did you expect? Someone has to take the blame. When his tone indicated he was winding down, she started listening again and eventually he ran out of expletives.

"Look, one of my photographers broke his wrist, I've got a hole in my back, and I'm missing a live truck and a betacam. The damn truck was insured and was gonna have to be replaced anyway. Art and the business manager have already screamed at me...We got some exclusive video, plus some sampling we wouldn't normally get a month out of May sweeps which is what everyone wants. So unless you're ready to cut me loose,
Get off my fucking back!"

There was silence at the other end for a moment. "How's the camera guy."

Laura sighed, "He'll be editing for a few weeks which is just as well since we're short a camera."

"What about you?"

"I'm fine."

"Well, if you need anything, let me know."

"Now that you mention it, two live trucks would be nice."

"Could you lay off on that?" Silence for a moment. "Two weeks. I signed off on it this afternoon."

"Before or after?" Laura winced a little as she put a hand on her back.

"After. You forced our hand again. It won't always work, Kaz." The phone clicked as he hung up.

"I know." She said to herself, understanding that she had just run out of second chances.

At least Jody and Chris were all right, she thought, turning off the computer and closing the door behind her. Tomorrow was Friday and the first week of her new life was almost over. Great, just one hundred and fifty five more to go.

Chris was determined to wait for her boss to leave to make sure that the older woman was all right, so she waited at the bottom of the stairs enjoying the late spring breeze and the hum of insects. The summer heat would be intolerable in a few months, so she was storing up memories of pleasant weather while she could.

The door opened at the top of the stairs and impatient feet clumped down the steps to where the blond reporter was sitting. Without looking up, she knew who it was, and a briefcase and jacket were laid down on the step next to her.

Laura sat down next to Chris, a little surprised at herself for wanting the company. I'm just tired that's all
, she made the excuse easily. "Big day for you." She said to the younger woman, stretching her long legs out in front and crossing them at the ankles.

"Hmm, yeah. Long day. Good stuff though. How's your back?"

"I'll live. I looked for Jody, guess he went home."

"His wife picked him up a little while ago."

"What about you?"

Chris shrugged, "I'm just winding down a bit, and thinking about how lucky I am."

Laura looked down, "I'm sorry, if I hadn't asked you to keep quiet about your contract for a bit, you'd be out celebrating."

"Probably. But I understand why...Michelle's gonna be pissed that she's not getting the Five, Six, and Ten."

Laura chuckled, "I'm not discussing other the talent's temperament with you. That'd give you an unfair advantage."

"Yeah, but you know I'm right." Chris leaned back laughing. "Um, we all usually meet on Friday nights after the Six at a bar down the street, why don't you join us?"

"Sorry, I'm meeting Lisa Tyler and her boyfriend for drinks."

"Well, I'll probably see you there then. Lisa and Trey always do the Friday night Mainstreet thing."

"The boss showing up at the regular watering hole doesn't bother you?"

"Nah, it'll be a great ice breaker."

Laura was quiet for a minute. "Listen Chris, I'm walking a very thin line here...Lisa is an old friend and socializing with her is not a problem since she is also considered management. But hanging out with the staff would undermine my authority."

Chris turned and narrowed her eyes at the dark haired woman. "Don't you get tired of it?" She asked.

"Tired of what?"

"Building those walls."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"No you wouldn't," Chris sighed. "Look, you came in here with a rep for hard work and driving up the ratings, and if anyone had any doubts, they won't after what happened today. Having a drink with us tomorrow night isn't gonna blow apart your management style."

The reporter thought for a moment that she'd gone to far. Laura Kasdan's temper was also legendary, so she was surprised when the woman gave a short laugh. "Okay maybe I sounded a little preachy there..." Chris started.

"Just a little," Laura replied, "But you're right, one drink won't hurt anything." She stood up and gathered her briefcase and jacket, smiling down at the younger woman. "We had a good day today, those are few and far between in this business."

"You should do that more often."


"Smile." That got Chris a raised eyebrow and another half smirk.

"Whatever would become of my reputation?" Laura drawled.

Green eyes smiled back as Chris held out a hand, silently asking to be pulled to her feet. Laura obliged with a tug and a feeling that she had done this a million times before. It was something she couldn't seem to shake even after she said goodbye to the blond reporter and left for her sterile apartment.

Continued…Part 2a

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