Disclaimers: See part 1.

Questions or comments? mryan12@hotmail.com



Shell Game

By M. Ryan


Part 5

Practice Makes Perfect

Diane Hillary did not concede Laura’s four-inch putt on the 31st hole, instead, she made her tap it in for the championship, delaying the inevitable for as long as it took the ball to make a few revolutions and fall into the cup. It wasn’t the sporting thing to do but after playing nearly flawless golf and still falling short, she believed she was entitled to a little spitefulness. Laura finished 6 and 5—Six holes up with five to play—and after flipping the ball into the applauding crowd and wincing from Charles’ bone crushing bear hug, she accepted a rather limp handshake from the runner up.

"You were right, I suppose. Nothing like playing on your home turf." Diane’s smile was bitter and insincere.

"You played very well. You’ll be very successful on tour." Laura said the last with absolute certainty.

"Don’t suppose I’ll be able to avenge this anytime soon?"

"There’s the Open next year, but I doubt we’ll go head to head before then."

"Pity. The LPGA needs a good rivalry and we could spend our careers beating up on each other."

Laura smiled as she caught Charles’ grin, "Someday maybe."

The Marshals herded them into the scorers tent and after the paper work formalities it was back out for the trophy presentation. For the third time in her life Laura Kasdan hoisted the silver cup of the Women’s U.S. Amateur Championship over her head and smiled for the cameras, all the while her eyes searched the crowds. She thought she saw Chris but the crush was such that she wasn’t certain.

There would be interviews and a dinner then the USGA bigwigs would disperse, congratulating themselves on a well-run event. A replica of the trophy would go home with Laura to be put on display wherever she deemed fit. Peter can have it for the club trophy case. It’s just hardware and Louis and Charles have the others. Four Amateurs between us. She kissed the trophy for luck like her mother had before her and set in motion the coronation of the new Amateur Champion.


Laura pushed the hotel door open after the electronic key granted access and waved Chris through ahead of her. On the low table she tossed down the key and began emptying her pockets, amazed at the number of business cards she’d collected after the dinner. She felt Chris’ arms sneak around her waist and then the shorter woman laid her cheek against Laura’s shoulder blade. "You okay?"

Laura took stock and nodded before turning. "Pretty good. Did you get enough to eat?"

"Yeah. Are you just beat to shit?"

"That would be accurate. I played really well considering I haven’t been practicing as much as I should’ve been for something this big."

"The time thing again."

Laura rubbed her cheek against Chris’ hair. "The time thing. But really, it should let up. I’m not gonna let the GM job eat me alive anymore. If it works, it works. If I fall a little short, they can fire my ass and I’ll go play golf for a living."

Chris held back a chuckle at the likelihood of that happening. "But what about the five year plan?"

The answer was a shrug. "If they were to fire me, I’d get a severance package I guess. I could make do on the money end for a while, I don’t know if I’m ready to give up on the news end though."

"But you already have for all intents and purposes." Chris made the statement softly against Laura’s collarbone, inhaling the scent of light perspiration and Tide laundry detergent. Laura didn’t answer for a moment, then Chris felt her swallow. "Yeah, I guess I have. Dad would still be disappointed."

Deliberately she moved away from the shorter woman and began to remove her shoes without untying the laces. "That wasn’t exactly the way the deal was supposed to work."

Chris shrugged, "Best laid plans and all that."

"And all that." Laura repeated softly. "Maybe I should just get out."

"Are you ready to?"

Laura sat down on the edge of the bed. "Sometimes."

Chris waited for more but the other woman didn’t elaborate. Turning, she unzipped her small travel bag, pulling out a t-shirt and a pair of cotton gym shorts. "I need a shower, I’m probably pretty rank."

"Nah, you’re fine." The reply was polite but delivered absently and Chris stopped and thought for a moment. Laura didn’t say anything else; she just sat on the bed, her brow furrowed. Chris tilted her head and asked softly, "Bit of a letdown?"

Laura blinked and scratched her chin. "Yeah."


"I wanted to win this one really badly. Now I feel like Robert Redford after he won the Senate race in The Candidate, and asks, ‘What do we do now?’"


The room had brightened with warm light when Laura woke up first, as usual, and reached for her watch on the bedside stand. The green of the indiglo face told her it was just past seven. With a sigh she rolled back to look at Chris who was sleeping on her side, one hand curled under her cheek. A lock of pale blonde hair fell across the younger woman’s forehead and Laura swallowed against the rush of emotion. Beautiful. And she wants to be with me. It was scary, exhilarating and comforting all at the same time. Very lightly she touched a soft cheek and smiled when Chris wrinkled her nose and caught her hand. "If I open my eyes and see that it’s not even eight o’clock I’m gonna be some kind of pissed."

"You would be anyway."

Chris grumbled, yawned and threw her arms up over her head, stretching with gusto before settling back to lean on her elbow and look at Laura. "Awake long?"

"No. Just." The kiss was easy and familiar. Laura felt Chris’ fingers along her jaw and a slight vibration from her hum of pleasure. She moved closer and wrapped her arms around the smaller woman. The exquisite feeling of being body to body with the one person she loved above all others was enough to make her shiver despite the warmth of the covers. Chris rubbed her cheek against Laura’s then buried her face in Laura’s neck and murmured, "Why do you always smell so good?"

"I don’t know. Why do you always hum when you kiss me?" Laura hooked a finger in the waistband of Chris’ shorts and began working them down.

"Because kissing you is one of the best things in life?" Her breathing hitched as one of Laura’s hands skimmed across her ribcage.


"Oh yeah." Chris mind fuzzed as Laura’s hands cruised her flesh. Fabulous hands, beautiful hands. "And they do marvelous things to me."


"Well don’t stop now." Chris felt Laura’s low laugh and groaned at the inequity of the situation. How’d I get naked? She’s not naked. Then there wasn’t any time to think, there was only feeling. It wasn’t slow, soft or gentle this time. She was driven wildly to a white hot light and a dizzying loss of control as her body arched and released. Shuddering still, she grabbed to fistfuls of Laura’s shirt and hauled the other woman up over her body, wrapping arms and legs around her. "You sure have taken to this." She gasped.

Laura ducked her head, slightly embarrassed. "Ah, then it’s okay?"

Chris wanted to laugh, but settled for pulling Laura into a deep kiss. "God yes, it’s okay."

"Pleasures of the flesh." Laura muttered.

"Hmm?" Chris questioned with a hum. It seemed appropriate.

"I always sort of wondered about that expression. I had no idea about the skin on skin thing. About the friction between two bodies or the way that sweat can be sexy when everything gets warm and slickery…"

Chris’ breathing became shallow again. My god, she really has no idea what she does to me.

"The smells and the tastes too. And your skin…you have the softest most incredible skin. I love to watch your face and hear the way you suck in a breath when I touch you like this." And Laura proceeded to demonstrate by passing her hand across Chris’ belly to her hipbone.

Oh yes she does.

"Sex on Sundays morning. Nothing else like it." Laura breathed through a lopsided smile.

"Hmm. S’not very Catholic."

"Sweetie, none of this is very Catholic."

Chris was quiet for a minute. "Do we have to go back?"

"’Fraid so."

"Gotta get my car too."

"And we should find someplace to fix that tire. Hate to drive without a spare." The conversation drifted into the mundane and Chris felt regret for the sudden loss of intimacy. "Hey." Laura tightened her hug. "I’m crazy about you, you know."

"Yeah?" Chris swallowed.


Chris tilted her head and looked into blue eyes. "The feeling is mutual, but if you shut me out again I swear I’ll wrap one of those clubs around your neck."

Laura nodded. "Point taken."


The Station was the same as it always was. The same over air-conditioned chill, the same smell of disinfectant, electronics and maybe the lingering odor of microwave food from the break room. Laura didn’t know why she expected it to be different, she just felt disappointed that it wasn’t. Her office was open and the newspapers were on her desk indicating that June was already in, though there was no sign of the secretary. USA Today was on top of The New York Times and The Burkett Falls Chronicle. It sported a color shot of the new U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion in full follow-through glory above the masthead accompanied by the caption, ‘Number 3 for Kaz.’ Laura winced.

She eased down into the leather chair and flipped her computer on before picking up the Burkett Falls paper. She was on the front page, in black and white, but above the fold. Snorting at the idea that she could be the lead story for a competing news organization, she read the article then thumbed over to the sports page to check on the Cowboy’s preseason game.

"The pictures are very nice. These just came for you." Laura looked up at June who was beaming with pleasure behind a huge riot of flowers in a vase.


"There’s a card. Congratulations. Marty and I watched most of the match on Saturday. It was such a thrill, you must be so proud."

"It was…I uh," She opened the card. Peter. "This is from the club."

"It’s a pretty big deal, isn’t it? They can lay claim to the best amateur in the country."

"Best woman amateur I guess." Laura said it slowly.

June placed the flowers on a table in the far corner of the office and fussed over them for a moment. "I don’t know much about sports, but I wonder why you do this."

"Play golf?" Laura was puzzled.

"No, this." June waved her hand at the office. "You work so hard to be a decent GM, to understand a job that you’ll never really like when you could go play a game that you obviously love."

"How do you know I’ll never like this?" Laura’s question was almost desperate.

"Because GM’s like the power, the schmoozing, the numbers and badgering the sales staff. You hate the sales staff and you had all the power you wanted when you were a news director." June crossed her arms and regarded Laura thoughtfully. "I’ve had four GM’s and except for their names and their suits, they’ve all been identical. Then there’s you."

"Maybe I’m a new breed."

June laughed and adroitly changed the subject. "The order came on Wednesday—budget reforecast. Seems our CFO was overly optimistic about the revenue projections. Anyway, Mark already knows and he’s working the numbers."


"Yes, well he’s got his shorts in a knot about your fire sale. The other department heads know and they’ve sent in their revised expenses for the rest of the year. There’s not much to cut."

There wasn’t anything to cut, Laura thought. "And it’s due by the end of this week, right?"

"Of course." June smiled as she left, calling over her shoulder, "Mark’s here to see you."

Laura resisted the urge to grind her teeth as the sandy haired sales manager strutted in. "Time to get back to work Kaz. D’you think you can focus on this budget in the midst of your celebrity?"

"Focus has never been a problem. What do we have?" Resolving not to be irritated at Mark’s attitude, she opened the folder June had left for her and tried to keep her tone light.


Chris wedged the phone between her neck and shoulder as she flipped through a notebook.

"So when will the report be made public?" She made notes quickly, then tapped the pen on the

end of the desk. She had been relieved when she found the story pretty much as she had left it.

Rendally had done the follow-up when protesters demonstrated at City Hall, but mostly the story

hung in a holding pattern to awaiting the results of the investigation. This could get really ugly.

All we need is a little riot here. "Thanks Mark. You’ll let me know? Page me, you’ve got the


She hung up the phone and continued to tap the desk with her pen. So far all she really knew was that a gun had been found confirming what the officers at the scene had claimed all along. Mark was pretty cooperative and as forthcoming as PIO’s usually were, but the usual friendliness wasn’t there, which meant something was going on.

"Mark was less than helpful?" Kevin leaned on the desk, his eyebrows raised.

"Less. No leakage there."

"Know anyone else who might shed some light?"

Chris chewed on her lower lip. "Not anyone up high enough to be in on this." She had an ugly thought. Erica. Wonder if any of the cops have called the boys at Barnes and Poteet for a little legal assistance? Pointless to ask since she’d never say.

"I guess we’ll just sit tight then. Meantime if you’ll take Jody, you can get a VOSOT on that culvert the city’s been promising to cleanup but hasn’t yet."

"I guess corruption’s over rated."

"Yeah, but it’s a good community piece."

Chris was still at her desk when Tori breezed in, Jody in tow. "Chris, Chris, Chris. Back from vacation and goofing off already." The tall anchor flopped down at her desk and pushed her chair over to the edge of Chris’ desk. "So give. Didja have a good time?"

"It was a half and half kind of vacation."

"Your family was okay? What’d you do?"

"Ran some. Watched TV. Ate a lot."

"That’s cool, you needed the break. Any kissing or other violence?"

"Excuse me?" Chris knew that was the closest she would ever come to sounding like Laura.

Tori bobbed her head. "You know, hometown romance anything like that?"

Chris shook her head. "Nope. Nothing like that." She flipped her notebook closed. "The ‘casts go okay?"

Tori gave a laugh that told Chris she was not distracted from the topic at hand. "They were fine. You know I love the extra face time. Do you wanna do dinner or something tonight? I missed hanging out with you last week."

"Ah, actually I can’t tonight. I’ve got to zip home on my dinner hour. Maybe tomorrow…"

"Tomorrow is KBFC night at the Aces. June’s got the tickets. It’s free baseball Chris. I know you won’t pass on that."

"But I still have to get back for the Ten." Chris leaned back and rubbed her temple where a headache was just beginning. Suddenly her friendship with Tori had gotten extremely complicated. I’d rather sit with Laura. Geez. And everybody else is gonna be there too.

"Look, it’s okay if you don’t want to…" Tori shrugged, her manner easy but with an edge of hurt.

"No, it’s not that. Um, how do you feel about tomorrow morning? We could do an early run and get some breakfast at The Skillet?"

"Drown our sorrows in biscuits and gravy?"

"Yeah." Chris nodded as Jody came up, twirling the keys to one of the news units on his forefinger. "You ready Crash?" The nickname got him a mock elbow in the gut.


"One last thing Mark." Laura’s meeting with the Sales Manager had gone pretty well even though it had lasted into early afternoon. June brought in sandwiches and they worked through lunch to finish the reforecast, both realizing that the sooner it was finished, the sooner they could be rid of each other’s company. She was making every effort to contain her impatience and Mark was not overly condescending. "I talked to Barry Rogers before I left."

"Barry Rogers, the Nextel guy?"

"Yeah. He gave me one of these." She lay what looked like a Cell phone in front of Mark. "This is a really neat deal. It’s a digital two way radio, cell phone, numeric pager and if you plug this in…" She held up a tiny earpiece, "It can be used as a wireless IFB. Pretty neat."

Mark frowned, "I’m not sure that sales can really use that."

"I wasn’t thinking of sales, I was thinking of the news department. Sales already has cell phones."


Is he really that dense? "Look, with this we can ditch the old two way radios, get better reception and solve the IFB problem. Barry says he’ll trade for the hardware and half the service.

"Barry told me he wasn’t interested in trade," Mark said defensively.

"Well apparently he’s changed his tune."

Mark picked up the device and turned it over in his hands. "I guess it does pay to have a little national notoriety. Is this a straight reciprocal trade?"

Laura nodded. "Yes. Look if I have to buy the hardware, I have to go through corporate for a capital request. You and I both know that capital is frozen, so it would never happen. If I can trade for it, then I can just expense the service the trade doesn’t cover."

"It’ll still be expensive."

"Yep, but it gets us out of the dark ages." And I can hide the expense somewhere else. Rob Peter to pay Paul, eh?

"Okay. Can I get new phones for the sales staff?"

"Don’t go overboard." She conceded.

When he left, Laura leaned back in her chair, closed her eyes and blew out a breath. At least the time had gone by quickly and the workday would be over in a few hours. With a pang of regret she remembered what it was like not to wish a day over with, but actually enjoy the next hurdle. Oh come on, there’s drudgery in every job. The grass is always greener and you know it. Abruptly she decided to walk down the hall to get a Coke, even though the executive refrigerator was already stocked. Glancing up at the clock, she smiled: Three thirty. She could just peek in the newsroom and see what was going on.


"So the guys ditch the car a few blocks from the scene ‘cause the radiator’s blown and high tail it into the woods. Two streets over, Jody’s got his camera set up to get some b roll of this culvert that the city’s been promising to clean up for a month, when suddenly these two guys pop out and start running down the street…"

"Hey Kaz, I was just going to call you." Keith said and nodded toward the door as Janie, the assignment editor spun around. "Two officers in the lobby. We’ve got a hot one."

Laura’s mouth twitched into a smile. "So they popped out of the ditch, then what happened?"

Janie took a breath, "They ran to that strip mall on West Market, our crew followed them and Chris used Jody’s cell phone to call the cops, ‘cause she won’t get her own. The guys get the car started, there’s a big chase, one shot fired, car hits a telephone pole; now they want the tape. It’s ours isn’t it? We don’t have to turn it over?"

"Do they have a subpoena?"

"They’re waiting on one. I’ve already called the lawyers." Keith said in a rush. "Thing is, they’ve got Chris and Jody down at City Hall. They haven’t been charged with anything and Jody won’t give up the tape. Erica’s down there too. And on top of that we’ve got two officers in the lobby who don’t look very friendly."

Erica and Chris. Jesus. "Why?"

"They’re supposed to persuade you to give the order to turn over the tape."

When she reached the door to the lobby Laura could see the two men through the glass. Detectives in suits instead of uniformed officers, they stood stoically waiting as if they were well familiar with that particular task. Both wore badges clipped to their belts and pulled themselves straighter when she opened the door. "Afternoon. What can I do for you gentlemen?" She was almost as tall as they were and smiled as she remembered again that height had its advantages.

"Are you Ms. Kasdan?" The taller of the two asked.

"That would be me. And you are?"

"I’m Detective Martin and this is Detective Donnelly. We’re requesting that you direct your videographer, one Joseph Banks, to turn over the video he shot this afternoon of the two suspects in the robbery of Thrifty Liquor over on Patterson."

"Uh huh. This is a slippery slope. You can’t come running to us every time you need some video to nail a suspect. Surely you understand that I’m not about to turn over that video."

"Judge Stokes is signing an order at this moment that would force you to do just that."

"But that order is not here right now, is it? And neither is the tape." Laura pointed out reasonably. "Why do you need it?"

"It will severely damage our investigation if you were to air that footage at this time."

"Why?" Laura asked the question with a shrug. "They didn’t tape the guy robbing the liquor store."

Donnelly answered, "But they did shoot video of the two suspects stealing a car."

Laura crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. "Our lawyer is at City Hall as well, she will tell you first amendment, blah, blah, blah and that the tape is our property. Couldn’t we just settle this by editing our story then giving you a dub of the tape?" Laura heard the door behind her open and Keith was there at her shoulder. Detective Donnelly leaned over to say something to Detective Martin and Keith said in a low voice. "Erica called, she’s said Chris and Jody are free to go but the police are not going to give up. They’re sending someone along with them to keep an eye on the tape."

Laura cleared her throat. "It seems that a deal is in the works. Would you gentlemen like to move to my office to wait?"

This time it was Detective Martin who answered. "No Ma’am. We’ll wait here."


Chris had begun to think of the officer who was shadowing them as simply Blue Boy. He sat in the back of the news unit looking bored with his eyes hidden by police issue sunglasses. Jody was scowling as he drove, his eyes occasionally flicking to the rearview mirror to eye their passengers suspiciously. Erica was in the back too and the hostility crackled between them. They were almost to the station and Chris checked her watch. Great. This has turned into a cluster fuck. "Let’s go in the front, Jody." The photographer grunted in agreement.

She propped her elbow on the armrest and pinched the bridge of her nose. Professionally Chris knew that Erica was a good lawyer to have in your corner when the court orders started flying, but it hadn’t been a pleasant surprise to see her again. Now was not the time to get rattled. They couldn’t get back to the station soon enough and the relative safety of the newsroom, but first there was going to be a detour through the GM’s office. Chris winced with dread.

Somberly the four of them pushed through the glass doors and into the lobby only to be greeted by Laura, Keith and the two Detectives. Chris swallowed as she recognized one of them. Jack Donnelly. Everything always comes full circle. Wonder how Erica will handle this one? Good ol’ boyish or I’m queen bitch of the universe, don’t fuck with me? She didn’t have long to wait. "Kaz, Detective Donnelly…Judge Stokes has given us a certain amount of latitude here and there’ve been some developments…"

Queen bitch of the universe.

"Could we discuss them in your office Kaz?" The tall redhead lifted an eyebrow at the GM and Laura waved them through the door into the hall toward her office. "This is Officer Kane." Erica continued, pointing a long finger at the uniformed officer. "He doesn’t say much but he is mighty interested in Jody’s tape. The good Judge sent him along as a babysitter to make sure the footage doesn’t wander off." Chris had seen the act before and cut her eyes toward Laura who seemed to be allowing Erica to conduct the proceedings. Her face was carefully neutral as she leaned in close to say something to Keith. The News Director nodded and then Laura closed the door and crossed the room to sit behind the desk. Erica stood and gave a slight smile. "One of your suspects has squealed and confessed so the tape is not as important as it was an hour ago."

"We still need it." Detective Martin said sullenly.

"But we can air it," Keith said in a pleased tone.

"We need the original footage, not a dub." Donnelly crossed his arms.

Laura said nothing but nodded at Keith. The stocky News Director passed one finger over his beard and smiled. "Here’s what we can do. Jody cuts the package with the original footage, we make a dub and the police can have it. Officer Kane can watch the whole thing so he can secure the chain of evidence. Heck, he can even push the buttons. The original remains with us until such a time as a subpoena is served that orders us to turn over the original. Highly doubtful since the suspect is squealing. Any problems with that?"

"We can watch as you make the dub?" Martin asked.

"Yes. Any objections Erica?"

The redhead smirked. "I’m just here to protect you as far as you want to be protected. It’s in the station’s best interest to keep the original of course. We can revisit this if and when we are ordered to turn it over.


"Your call, Keith. Seems to give everyone what they want though."

The two Detectives stood for a moment, flummoxed because they couldn’t think of any objections. "All right," Donnelly said, "How long will it take?"

Chris cleared her throat, "Just a few minutes and you’re on your way."

Assignments given, it didn’t take long for Laura’s office to empty. She wanted to talk to Chris but the reporter was already gone, gesturing to Jody how she wanted to tell the story. Laura looked up again but no one was left save for Erica who looked pleased with herself. "So the second in command steps up and you manage to get out of this without antagonizing the police department again. A neat trick."

"Thank you for your help, Erica, sorry you didn’t get more warning."

"Not a problem." The lawyer eased down into the chair and crossed her legs. Laura sighed mentally, figuring she was in for a lengthy visit. "What’s up Erica?"

"Life sure is interesting around here. That’s probably a byproduct of your Six O’clock anchor. Hadn’t seen Jack in a while, glad to see he’s doing so well."

Laura gave a puzzled frown. "Who’s Jack?"

"Detective Donnelly? You don’t know? Better ask Chris." Erica smirked, pleased with confusing the other woman for a moment. "A couple of court dates you need to make note of. No actions against us, it’s mostly things concerning stories we aired. Keith used to take care of that, I’m not sure if his new duties will allow him to continue."

Laura nodded, "Our Executive Producer can step in on that. Henry’s done it before so he should be easy enough to work with. What else?"

Erica smiled. "Rumors, Kaz."

"Rumors?" Laura wanted to slap her. Why can’t she just spit it out?

"Have you heard anything about William Simon’s money troubles?"

Oh. Laura leaned back and rubbed an eyebrow. "Nothing more than the usual. Of course we’re leveraged to the hilt and capital has been frozen, but that pretty much describes every big company with a bunch of stations. How many do we have now, forty? Forty one?"

"They’ve been circulating a prospectus, suggesting that they would be willing to sell three or four of their stations to get some ready cash. New Orleans, Mobile, Birmingham, Orlando and Burkett Falls were mentioned. All are good profitable stations."

"All are in the south." Laura murmured.

"Mm. Have you considered what would happen if KBFC was sold?"

"I would become immediately vested. If they fired me I’d get a chunk of change."

Erica shook her head at Laura’s apparent naivete. "You’ve forgotten. You’re not just a department head with stock anymore: you’re a Vice President, which entitles you to a percentage of the selling price of this station. Are you interested in how much this station is worth?"

Laura didn’t say anything.

"Between sixty and seventy-five million. As the displaced Vice President and General Manager, you could bank between three and four million dollars. It’d take you a good long time to earn that kind of money playing golf, now wouldn’t it?"


Chris didn’t watch Jody edit the package because it annoyed him when she looked over his shoulder. At this point in their relationship the photographer figured that he knew exactly how Chris wanted the story to look, so kibitzing was not helpful at all. Instead she sat at her desk and fumed. Erica and Jack. That sorry assed son of a bitch. Impatiently she decided to go ahead and put on her makeup. Snatching up her bag she pushed out of her chair and strode out of the newsroom.

The makeup room adjoined the ladies room and was furnished with a short sofa on which Chris had stolen a nap too many times to count. Tori stood at one of the wide lighted mirrors putting the finishing touches on her makeup before the Five O’clock. She smiled when Chris threw herself down on the couch. "Tough day?"


"But you got the big story. Sure beats the one I got. Downtown revitalization. Seriously lacking a give-a-shit factor."

"I did, but it was a pain." Chris yawned then stretched out with her feet hanging over the end of the sofa. "Just got messy in a hurry."

"That’s sort of a pattern for you."

"Mm. My reputation precedes me." She watched Tori for a little while, acknowledging that she was a beautiful woman with enough energy to light a stadium for a night game. The Texas accent was there sometimes, usually when she was speaking in a hurry. Different than Laura’s but similar. A couple of years ago she would have had a serious crush, fruitless though it might have been. Tori’s heavy dark hair was shiny and she had a great smile. Chris breathed out a short chuckle.

"What?" Tori paused, brush midair, her eyes meeting Chris’ in the mirror.

"Nothing. Just thinking." She stood up and tossed her bag on the counter. "C’mon give me some room here."


"Keith did fine. I told him to play it any way he wanted to, he just had to maintain the integrity of the original footage, which he did." Laura broke off a chunk of crispy French bread and slathered it with butter. "Made me feel a little superfluous though." They were at Laura’s house eating dinner between newscasts.

Chris twirled spaghetti around her fork. "Why?"

Laura smiled wryly. "Y’all don’t need me anymore."

"Don’t be silly."

"No, really. It’s a smooth running newsroom."

"Not like you to feel sorry for yourself." Chris shook her head in amusement. "It runs smoothly because you’re there and because there’d be hell to pay if it didn’t."

"Well, nice of you to say so but most of the time I feel like a traffic cop." Laura laid her napkin down beside her plate. "Speaking of cops, who is Jack Donnelly?"

Chris took her time answering as she pushed one strand of spaghetti across her plate. "He was the cop that beat the shit out of a suspect the BFPD had in custody. Remember? I told you about him. And Erica." Her mouth twisted derisively. "Now he’s a detective."

"I see."

"I don’t know if you do. He was also at the scene when that kid was shot week before last. He’s always around when things are fishy and he seems to be the amazing Teflon cop; nothing sticks to him." She looked up speculatively. "What did Erica say?"

"She told me to ask."

"She was playing you. Hey, don’t get defensive, she’s mighty good at it." Chris tilted her head and frowned. "It bothers you, doesn’t it? The whole ex-girlfriend thing."

Laura tightened her jaw. "We’ve talked about this before. You actually had a life before we started dating. I’m rational enough to know that jealousy is pretty destructive and…" She stood up and gathered the dirty dishes, not meeting Chris’ eyes. "It’s just that…I don’t know."

"What?" Chris asked softly.

"Intimate details. Does she know things about you that I don’t?" Laura drummed nervous fingers on the edge of the sink. "Things that we…do," she winced, slightly embarrassed, "You did with her and sometimes it bothers me. I know it’s stupid. That’s all."

"Ah. I see. Not stupid though." Chris stood next to Laura and stopped the nervous movement of one hand by lacing her fingers with the taller woman’s. "One of the things I like about you is that I’m the only one you’ve ever been with. I never thought it’d make that much difference but it’s so cool that there are so many firsts for you. I like being there for that. As for Erica, well, I’ve gotta say that you’ve spoiled me for anyone else. Looking at her this afternoon, I didn’t feel anything but annoyance. That and I was wondering which personality was gonna rear it’s ugly head. Talk about schizophrenic."

Laura gave a short laugh and Chris squeezed her hand lightly. "I should go. I need to write a VO or two so Henry doesn’t think you’re playing favorites. Leave the light on for me?"


"And don’t worry so much. I never hummed when I kissed Erica." Chris touched her lips lightly to Laura’s and she was gone, leaving almost total quiet behind her except for the thrum of the refrigerator. Sighing, Laura turned on the water and added soap to wash the dishes. How’d she know?


The Burkett Falls Aces were a fairly miserable Double A farm club for the Kansas City Royals. The ballpark was friendly though, and the prices were reasonable. In addition to a ticket to the game each station employee was given a coupon for a hotdog and two drinks. There was a good turnout of families and the pleasant small town feel made for a comfortable summer atmosphere. It took Laura a while to get to the third base side since she seemed to be stopped every few feet by well-wishers and fans wanting autographs and pictures. Uncomfortable with the attention, she still accommodated their requests before finally joining Keith in the stands. "Better get used to it. It’s the big fish thing." He said.

"I’d rather not. Good crowd."

"Yeah." Like Chris, Keith was a rabid baseball fan and he settled in, scorecard in hand. "Art never came to one of these you know."

Laura shrugged, "Why not? You get free food. He didn’t seem like the kind of guy to pass on anything free."

"Too much riff-raff. Hey Tori, glad you could make it." Keith set his soft drink on the ground and moved his program so the dark haired woman could sit down.

"What a great little ballpark. Miz Kasdan, it’s nice to see you again." Tori’s smile was friendly, lacking the kiss up quality that some of the anchors displayed, but Laura still winced. "Just Kaz is fine," she replied.

"Kaz like Taz…"

"I’ve heard ‘em all. Don’t." Laura’s smile was wry.

Tori just laughed again then yelled down at a group starting up the stands. "Chris! Rendally! Here!" She gave a wave and turned to Keith. "You don’t mind do you?"

"Ah, no." Keith flushed.

Rendally was with his wife and kids. Two dark headed boys who clutched baseball gloves and bounded up the steps ignoring their mother’s plea to be careful. They settled into the row in front of Laura and Keith as Chris moved up to take the seat next to Tori. The blonde anchor had a quick smile for everyone then leaned down to say something to the two boys that started them giggling. She was in her half and half anchor outfit—jeans and sneakers from the waist down, a silk blouse and linen jacket for the parts that the viewer would actually see. "Elly wants to do a live promo cut in from here," she explained. "That’ll hit about 8:30, then I’ll head back to do the Ten and the Sport Boys’ll go live for the ‘cast."

Before Keith or Laura could answer, a woman and her daughter eased up to introduce themselves to the two anchors, engaging them in conversation and asking about the best path to news anchordom. Laura shook her head amazed at Chris and Tori’s patience. It was always the same, she mused. An open smile, an easy laugh, all the trappings of a big outgoing personality. With a hint of professional satisfaction she acknowledged that she couldn’t have made a better choice for her franchise anchor.

The crowd settled in to watch the game and Laura was lulled into quiet observation of the players and the people sitting around her. Then she started picking up snippets of the conversations between Chris and Tori. She smiled when Chris slipped into her "I’m trying to be reasonable" tone as she discussed… what was it? Who Moved My Cheese?

"No, all it made me want to do is write an insipid book on simplistic solutions for workplace woes with a catchy title so that I too can sell a zillion copies at $29.95."

"Wow. That’s some serious alliteration."

"Thank you."

"It had some valid themes." Rendally chimed in.

A few tossed kernels of popcorn accompanied the hue and cry from the two women, then they moved on to something else. The game progressed, and so did the commentary. Between innings the PA system blared out novelty songs and pop hits and the two women belted out a strange and out of key version of "Rock the Boat." A current hit prompted a review, "He sounds like he has a Jolly Rancher lodged in his throat." Chris snickered at Tori’s description a singer they both apparently despised.

"Don’t you hate it when you glue your teeth together with one of those?"

"You two should just date and get it over with."

Rendally’s quip had the effect of bringing the conversation to a screeching halt and Laura felt her heart skid to a stop as well. The remark hung there just waiting for someone to comment, deny or explain. From her periphery, Laura could see one of Keith’s feet twist as he tried to hide his discomfort. If he’d been standing, he would have been rocking. A flush started to creep across Rendally’s face, but Tori disarmed the awkwardness with a delighted laugh. "Oh, Chris isn’t my type! She’s much too…short."

Chris’ eyebrows seemed to be lodged in her hairline and for a moment her world balanced on the edge of a precipice, and then she gave a weak laugh, understanding that Tori had handled the situation exactly right. Close. Very Close. She resisted looking at Laura, and for a moment felt totally alone in a ballpark full of people. She shook her head in mock disgust at Rendally. Tori threw an arm around her shoulders, still laughing and Chris gave a brief shiver in spite of the warm night.

At a little after 8:00, Chris stood up and left to do her promo cut in. Tori turned her attention to Keith and started asking about his family. Laura waited a few minutes then excused herself. She knew Keith was watching as she skipped down the steps so she turned and gave a little wave before heading to the promo shoot.

She found Jason and Chris in the beer garden surrounded by rowdy fans. The area was aptly named and the patrons seemed like they had been indulging for quite some time. Nonetheless, they were accommodating and cheered on cue during the shot. Chris accepted their applause afterwards with a little bow and edged over to where Laura was standing, with a half smile and a shrug. "Not too bad." She leaned in close to say something and Laura dipped her head to listen. "Wanna go to my car and neck until I have to go back to the station?"

"Ah, maybe your girlfriend would object." She jerked a thumb toward Tori.

"Are you kidding? She said I was too short." Chris took a breath. "You mad?"

Laura considered for a moment. "Not mad, just worried. I was scared for you there for a second."

Chris started walking. "Nothing happened. Didn’t want your head to blow off though. Don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone turn that exact shade before…I don’t know who was more startled, you or Rendally."

"You might be Tori’s type. All kidding aside." Laura didn’t squirm, but she wanted to.

"Nah. Got my girl." Chris brushed her fingertips across Laura’s arm for a second of contact that was meant to reassure and then she was gone, up the ramp and out the gate to the live truck and the newscast at ten.





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