Disclaimers: The characters are mine; they reside in my head (good thing there's a lot of vacuous space up there), although I hope by the time you're done reading they'll reside in your heart, as well. They first appeared in The Price of Fame, which is available in print with 23 scenes not found online anywhere. There is a third book in the trilogy that will follow The Cost of Commitment, lest you think I’m going to leave you hanging. You can find all my work at http://www.lynnames.com/.
Sexual Content: Oh, honey, I've been a luuv free zone for WAY too long...err...I mean, I'm living vicariously through my characters...um...what I mean to say is: heck, yeah, there's some sex in here. AND, if that's not bad enough, the sex involves (gasp) two women who are very much in love. The sex is tastefully done (BAD girl, BAAD girl), and is not gratuitous, though in some places it is fairly explicit. If this offends you and/or you are under 18 years of age, this is where you get off...um...I mean don't read any further; this story isn't for you.
Violence: This is a thriller, and yes, there is violence, although none of it is gratuitous or overdone. Also, the scenes where violence takes place are relatively short.
Pesky details: This work of fiction is protected by copyright, meaning ya can't reproduce all, or any part of it, without my express permission. This is not to say you can't tell your friends about it and suggest that they read it, 'cause I sure hope you will.
May you enjoy reading this portion of The Cost of Commitment as much as I enjoyed writing it. Like most authors, I'd love to know what you think (just remember what Miss Manners says: "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all."). Please send your feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Important warning: This selection is only a portion of the story. I hope you don’t mind cliffhangers, because that’s what you’re going to be left with at the end. This book is already in print and readily available (check out my website at http://www.lynnames.com/). I have chosen to share the first third of the novel with you for several reasons: 1.) I owe you all so much, and I am so grateful for your continued support. 2.) Not everyone can afford, or is in a position to buy our fiction. 3.) I hope that when you take these 110 pages or so out for a drive, you’ll be so hooked, that you can’t help yourself, and you run right out and by the book.
In short, I hope you love what you read here. And if you're like me and you just can't resist the feel of a good book in your hands, I hope you'll go out (or surf) and buy it. Thanks for your support, Lynn Ames.
Copyright Ó 2004 By Lynn Ames
Bob, can you get a better fix on what caused the incident at Sing Sing? I’ve got reporters breathing down my neck and pretty soon they’re gonna start making up their own version of events.”
The uniformed correction officer struggled to match the long, graceful strides of the woman walking alongside him. “Sure thing, Kate. We’re working on it; should have an answer to you within the half hour. They’re just interviewing the last inmate now.” He continued down the corridor, Kate peeling off to the left as they reached the door marked Katherine Kyle, Director of Public Information, New York State Department of Correctional Services.
The tall, raven-haired woman turned inside the door to face her beleaguered assistant. “Yeah, Marisa, what is it?”
“The commissioner wants to see you.”
“Great. Tell him I’ll be right there.” She continued moving through the suite and into her office, where the phone was already ringing. The readout on her phone said “incoming call.” That meant the call originated outside the state government system. Although she couldn’t be positive who it was, Kate felt confident. “Hi, beautiful.”
There was a second’s hesitation on the other end of the line, followed by a surprised chuckle. “What if it hadn’t been me, love?”
“Ah, but it was.”
“Well, if it had been someone else, I guess I would’ve had to offer to take her to dinner and make mad, passionate love to her afterward.”
“So, I guess it’s a good thing it was you, eh?”
“One of these days, Kyle...If you keep this up, I’m not gonna share the three rare Captain America comic books I found for you today.”
“Oh, that is so far below the belt, Jamison Parker. You wouldn’t dare—”
“Do you want to find out?”
Kate cleared her throat and sighed. “Um, Jay, honey, sweetheart, love?”
“I’ve missed you so much today. Can I take you out to dinner someplace nice and then make mad, passionate love to you afterward?”
“I’ll think about it and have my people get in touch with your people.”
“Well, Stretch, the offer sounds wonderful. It’s your delivery that needs work.”
“Everybody’s a critic.” Kate smiled. God, it felt so good to be able to tease each other without reservation again. It had taken nearly all of these past three months to reestablish their equilibrium and get beyond the hurts caused both by circumstance and each other.
“Kate, I’m so ashamed of the way I behaved. How could I have believed what I read in the tabloids? To cause you that kind of pain...” Jay’s voice caught; they had been home less than twenty-four hours and she had awakened from a nightmare.
“Shh, love, please don’t beat yourself up anymore.” Kate stroked Jay’s fair head where it rested on her shoulder. “We both made mistakes. Everything happened so quickly, we’d have to be superhuman to come out of that without any scars. The important thing is that we’re here now, together. All that matters to me is that I have you.” Kate tightened her embrace, reliving in her mind the whirlwind that had been their lives for the previous few weeks.
It had all started with the explosion that rocked the state capitol building in Albany. Kate was the only journalist on the scene, and her coverage of the story and subsequent efforts to save those trapped and injured by the blast were broadcast live across the country. That led to a spot on the cover of Time and a reconnection with Jay, who wrote the story for the magazine. They had fallen in love at first sight in college in 1982, but neither of them had acted on their feelings at the time. Five years later, fate had thrown them together again. This time the attraction was undeniable and they seized the moment.
That, Kate thought wryly, was the good part.
Kate’s overnight stardom had attracted the attention of the editor of the National Enquirer, who sent a photographer to dig up dirt. He tracked her to the Caribbean island of St. John, where she had just proposed marriage to Jay. Scumbag, Kate silently intoned. The image he captured of them kissing on the beach appeared on page one, although Jay was unrecognizable in the photo. The public outcry resulted in Kate being fired from WCAP-TV.
“I was right about one thing, Jay: the press isn’t going to stop until they identify you.” She sighed. That’s why she had undertaken a solo cross-country odyssey; Kate had hoped it would forestall the logical follow-up story—the identity of her blonde lover. She meant to save Jay’s career and future, but her decision to distance herself from her lover had nearly destroyed both of them. After close to a week on the road Jay had tracked her to Sedona, Arizona, where they reunited and renewed their commitment to each other.
“How’s your day going?” Jay broke into Kate’s ruminations, effectively returning her focus to the present.
“Not too bad. The usual mix of mayhem. Inmates beating each other over the head, officers breaking the law, reporters making up their own stories. You know. How’s your day?”
“Better than that, I guess. I only have to contend with corporate officers who won’t speak on the record.”
“Ah. Which train are you catching to Albany? Will you be home tonight in time for dinner?”
“Looks like it right now. How about you?”
“I’m hopeful. It would be the first night this week and it’s already Thursday.” Kate suddenly got serious. “I really do miss you, Jay. We live in the same house, and still it feels like I haven’t been able to spend any time with you lately.”
“I know, honey. I miss you, too, but we both knew when you took this job it wasn’t going to be easy. Don’t worry. We’ll make it work.”
“Thank you for being so patient and understanding, love. I promise I’ll be home in time to take you to dinner at 7:30, okay?”
“It’s a date.”
“See you then. Right now the commissioner is waiting to see me. Until tonight, babe. I love you.”
“I love you too, Kate. Bye.”
“Kate, c’mon in.”
“Good morning, sir. Something I can do for you?” She stood expectantly, notebook at the ready.
Oh my, he thought, as he had every time he’d been face to face with her. I know I’m very married, and happily so, at that—and I know she’s a lesbian—but damn, I’d have to be dead not to notice. She’s gorgeous! He spared a moment to observe her: six feet tall, well muscled, and sleek; glossy black hair that flowed halfway down her back; high, chiseled cheekbones and a flawless face. But it was the eyes, those amazing, vibrant, intelligent cerulean blue eyes, that captured him effortlessly. That and the fact that she seemed to be completely unaware of her beauty. “Sit down, Kate. No need to be so formal.”
She took the seat nearest the massive cherry desk, noting once again that, despite his lean physique, her new boss’s presence pervaded the room. Brian Sampson was neither loud nor overbearing; rather, he projected a quiet, calm confidence that indicated his comfort with the seat of power he held. “We’ve certainly been keeping you busy, haven’t we?”
Kate smiled. She liked this man. He was both honest and honorable, rare qualities in a politician. “Yeah, you could say that.”
In fact, Kate’s first ninety days as sole spokesperson for the third-largest prison system in the country had been a blur. With 67 prisons, 47,000 inmates, and 35,000 employees, there was never a dull moment. So far, she’d managed one full night’s sleep in three months without being awakened by either a reporter writing a story or the command center letting her know about an incident.
It had taken her a while to get used to her phone ringing at all hours of the day and night. She had thought being a television news anchor and reporter was an all-consuming job; working for DOCS made the pace of her former career seem downright slow.
“Kate Kyle, this is Officer Banks and Officer Kirby. Gentlemen, this is your new best friend, Kate.”
“Yes, sir.” The uniformed men stood at attention as they answered Executive Deputy Commissioner William Redfield, the number-two man at the agency.
“Nice to meet you both.” Kate had been on the job less than an hour, and already her head was spinning. There was so much to learn; DOCS was clearly a paramilitary organization with a definite hierarchy, and she was very nearly at the top of the food chain. This became evident to her right away when correction officers and assistant commissioners to whom she was introduced practically saluted her.
“Banks and Kirby man the command center during the day; Ritter and Hobbs have the night shift. The command center is the twenty-four-hour communications hub. Anything that happens anywhere in the system is reported immediately to these gentlemen, who will then inform you right away.”
Banks, a sandy-haired man with a crew cut who couldn’t have been a day over twenty-five, addressed Kate. “Ma’am, it’s our job to make certain you can do your job. You just tell us what you need and we’ll take care of it.”
She smiled. “You guys are going to get awfully tired of me, I’m sure. The way I look at it, I’m sort of an internal reporter; I’ll ask you for all the information I’m sure the media will be looking to squeeze out of me. That way, by the time they get wind of a story, I’ll have the answers already. I’ll also know how much information I’m going to share and how I want to play it with them.” Kate didn’t ever want to be blindsided by a reporter who knew something she didn’t. She recognized immediately that her relationship with the officers in this command center would be elemental to her ability to succeed in that endeavor.
The executive deputy commissioner chimed in. “Anything you need to know, any questions you have that need answering, these fellas will bend over backward to make sure you get everything you need. Right, boys?”
“Yes, sir,” they said in unison.
Commissioner Sampson tipped his chair back and laughed. “As I recall, the governor warned you that being the DOCS public information officer would be a challenge.”
“Yes, he did, and he was right.” Kate smiled wistfully. Governor Charles Hyland had taken a huge risk politically when he had called to offer her the PIO job. After all, she had just been fired as WCAP-TV’s lead anchorwoman after the Enquirer outed her as a lesbian. She would always be grateful to him for hiring her despite the media storm had that ensued.
“Ms. Kyle, is there any truth to the rumor that WCAP bought you off for a quarter of a million dollars?”
“Kate, can you confirm that the woman you were pictured kissing on the cover of the National Enquirer is one of the wives of the sultan of Brunei?”
“Ms. Kyle, how does it feel to be a hero one day and a goat the next? Are you bitter about the treatment you’ve received?”
No, Kate thought sarcastically, I’m not the least bit upset that my entire life has been turned upside down, my career derailed, and my privacy shot to hell. Not to mention the fact that I very nearly lost the love of my life in an effort to protect her from you vultures.
It had been two days since Kate had returned from Sedona with Jay, and her emotions were still somewhat raw. Although she didn’t know how, word had leaked out that she had cut her trip short, and reporters were swarming around her like locusts as she attempted to shop for groceries.
Truthfully, she didn’t care that there was no food in the house, but Jay had insisted that they needed something to eat other than Raisin Bran, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and Diet Pepsi. The continued attention had dictated that Jay remain secluded in their house or risk exposure. While Jay professed to not care about being linked to her, Kate wanted to avoid that for her lover if at all possible.
She dredged up a smile from somewhere. “Folks, if you really want a news story, here it is.”
Every reporter’s pen stood poised to record her statement.
“Kate Kyle is actually grocery shopping with the intent to cook something other than breakfast cereal.”
The gathered throng of journalists groaned collectively. “C’mon, Kate, you’ve got to give us something here.”
“Are you shopping for one or for two?”
It was an attempt to push her buttons and get her to react angrily, and it very nearly worked. Her blue eyes narrowed to ice chips as she turned from selecting pasta sauce and faced the group.
“Give you something? My friggin’ grocery list is suddenly a story. If I go to the bathroom, it’s newsworthy, and my fiancée can’t so much as leave the house for fear of having her life ripped apart, too. And you want me to give you something?”
Somehow she managed to restrain herself. “Sorry, I’d love to help you out, but I’m afraid you’re finding out the truth: my life is terribly dull. I hate to disappoint you, and I could make something up, I suppose, but then that wouldn’t be journalism, would it? That would be sensationalism, and I’m sure none of you is interested in that, right?” Her smile didn’t reach her eyes. She finished her shopping without further incident.
When the press release announcing her hiring as the director of public information for DOCS was disseminated a week later, the heat shifted from Kate to Governor Hyland. The headlines ranged from factual to inflammatory: “Former TV Anchorwoman Turns Spin Doctor;” “Hyland Hires Disgraced TV Personality;” “Governor Goes for Gay Girl;” and, in one ultraconservative newspaper, “Pervert to Speak for Prisons.” Subsequent editorials called into question the governor’s judgment, morals, ethics, and commitment to follow the will of his constituents. The spate of negative publicity led Kate to call her new boss.
“Governor, it’s Kate Kyle.”
“Hi, Kate, how are you? Holding up okay?”
“I’m fine, sir. I was going to ask you the same question.”
“I’m just dandy, Kate, lovin’ every minute of it.”
“Sir, if you’d rather I didn’t take the position, I’ll understand.”
“Katherine Kyle, if I ran from a fight every time the press had an opinion, I’d be a pretty poor excuse for a leader. I’m not the least bit concerned about the uproar. This, too, shall pass, as they say. And don’t you let them get to you either. You are more than qualified for this job, and I feel very lucky to have snagged you before someone else made you a better offer.”
“Thank you, sir. You’re very kind. I won’t forget this.”
“Forget the humble attitude, Kate. I liked you better when you were feisty. I’ve always valued your opinions and approach. I’m looking forward to having your advice and counsel close at hand. Let’s get together soon to talk, all right?”
“Any time, sir.”
“I’ll have my secretary set something up.”
She had dined at the governor’s mansion several times since then. The conversation had been lively, the debate spirited. He truly did value her positions and opinions, and they argued policy and politics for hours.
Kate shook her head slightly to clear it and refocused on the commissioner.
“I’m sorry, what’s that, sir?”
“I was saying I’ve been impressed with your work so far. You seem to have little trouble grasping the nuances of this business, and your ability to deflect negative publicity is uncanny. In short, you’ve caught on quickly and stopped our image from hemorrhaging any further. It’s nice to have a spokesperson on board who can get along with the press.” Here he smiled, and Kate could clearly hear the unspoken phrase, unlike your predecessor. “I just wanted you to know that I’ve noticed, and that I am awfully happy to have you here.”
“Thank you, sir. I’m glad you feel that way.” Kate was somewhat at a loss; she was pretty sure her boss hadn’t called her in just to inflate her ego.
After a moment’s hesitation, he went on. “Ah, Kate, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the governor’s been under a lot of pressure lately.” At her raised eyebrow, he explained, “Seems the boys from the DNC aren’t crazy about some of his positions. They see him as their meal ticket to the White House next year and they’re afraid of him alienating middle America.” His tone was derisive.
“What you’re saying is the Democratic National Committee wants him to take no real stand about anything meaningful, accomplish nothing, and just pretend like he’s governing for the duration, right?”
“Charles is right about one thing: you are perceptive and not shy about telling it like it is in the appropriate company.”
“Sir, I’ve never been one to subscribe to the ‘tell them what they want to hear’ theory. I believe people like you and the governor rely on me to offer the unvarnished truth; it’s that kind of advice that has real value. I’m afraid I’ll never be a good yes-person.”
“Thank God, Kate. Thank God.”
“Sir, I’m sure there’s a reason why you’re telling me this now.”
He sighed. “Yes. I want you to know that there’s going to be increased scrutiny of everything we do here. You know what a hot-button issue crime and corrections is for a democrat. We’re going to have to make sure we dot every i and cross every t for the next year. You, in particular, are going to be in the hot seat. Are you all right with that?”
Kate favored her boss with a cockeyed grin. “Respectfully, sir, been there, done that.”
In the luxurious private study at the exclusive Fort Orange Club in Albany, three Democratic power brokers were in a heated discussion. Robert Hawthorne had been selected the year before to take the helm of the Democratic National Committee. He had recently retired from the U.S. Senate, where he had served four terms. Michael Vendetti, press secretary to Governor Charles Hyland of New York, was the most powerful spin doctor in the state. David Breathwaite, “super flak” of all law enforcement agencies, had made himself indispensable over the years by unearthing all manner of damaging information on important figures on both sides of the political aisle.
“God damn it, David, you promised she wouldn’t be able to handle the job.”
The former director of public information for DOCS answered, “Relax, Michael, you know you’re not supposed to get excited. Imagine what that’s doing to your blood pressure.”
The man across the table from him actually growled. Vendetti, who was always impeccably dressed in finely tailored suits, regarded Kate’s predecessor and the current czar of criminal justice PR as the human personification of a weasel, and a short one at that.
At Vendetti’s fierce expression, David continued mildly, “You’re the governor’s press secretary. It’s not my fault he prefers her advice to yours.”
Vendetti rose so quickly that his ornately appointed high-backed chair toppled over backward, landing with a resounding bang on the hardwood floor. “You little—”
“That’s enough. Both of you.” Hawthorne leaned forward in his seat. “It won’t do us any good to fight amongst ourselves. We can’t afford to lose sight of the objective here. We need our boy Charlie in the White House—”
Under his breath David mumbled, “That’s only because you couldn’t get yourself elected dog catcher last time around, Mr. Senator.”
“And that Amazonian dyke is standing in our way.” If Hawthorne had heard the cutting remark directed at him, he chose to ignore it. “She has entirely too much influence over our boy. She goes to dinner with him every few weeks and all of a sudden he’s making dramatic policy announcements that have nothing to do with our agenda. Not only that, but we’ve got a wild card in the form of a commissioner we can’t control. I don’t like it.”
“Bob, it’s too early to be concerned. She’s only been in the position three months. We said we’d get her out at six months.” Breathwaite never looked up as he chewed on his cuticles. “Give her time, she’s bound to screw up. If not, we’ll help her.”
“Yes, well, I’m not leaving anything to chance here, so I’ve asked an old friend of mine to join us.” Hawthorne rose from his position at the head of the table and went to an inner door. “You can come in now, Willie.” To the others in the room, he said, “Gentlemen, I’m sure you know my good friend William Redfield, executive deputy commissioner of DOCS.”
At the unexpected sight of the man he had worked with for more years than he cared to count, David Breathwaite visibly blanched. He hated surprises. “Bill. I didn’t realize you and the senator were on such friendly terms.”
Redfield smirked, recognizing that he’d caught the department’s former spokesman off guard. To his view, Breathwaite had always been a necessary evil, but not someone to be trusted. “There are a lot of things you don’t know, David. Bob and I went to college together. He called me recently and filled me in.”
“Yes, I thought it was important that we have someone on the inside.”
Breathwaite protested, “We have someone on the inside already.” In truth, he wanted to control the flow of information from inside DOCS; with Redfield in the picture, his value had just decreased.
“Yes, David, that’s true, but so far I’ve been less than satisfied with the results we’ve been getting from our source. We need someone with a little more pull, someone who can make things happen, if you will.” Hawthorne smiled thinly. “Please, Willie, have a seat.”
Redfield selected the fourth and last available seat at the table. He had been to the Fort Orange Club only once before, to a retirement dinner for a state assemblyman. The place was too rich for his taste—all those bluebloods who were born to power huddling behind their cigars and pipes in a setting that looked like it belonged in a British movie about the aristocracy. But Redfield was a practical man—he knew that there was no better place to conduct business discreetly than here. His musings were cut short by the sound of the chairman’s voice.
“Michael, how did our boy Charlie take my discussion with him today?”
“As you might expect, he was less than overjoyed at having you come in and dictate political strategy and policy positions to him.”
The veins in his neck bulging, Hawthorne thundered, “For Christ’s sake, he’s running around like he’s actually his own man. He belongs to this party. He belongs to us, and we’re gonna make sure he gets elected president in spite of himself. I don’t give a rat’s ass whether or not he’s happy as long as he sticks to our agenda!” Adjusting his tie, he added more quietly, “Michael, you’d better keep him in line. Will, I’m gonna need your help here. Kyle has got to be out the door in three months, no ifs, ands, or buts. Can you make that happen?”
“You’ve got nothing to worry about, Bob.”
“Good. I knew I could count on you. David, for God’s sake, try to stay the hell out of the newspapers and keep your head down. How are we going to reinstall you in Kyle’s place if you keep creating controversy?”
In truth, Hawthorne hated Breathwaite as much as everybody else at the table, but the man had an uncanny knack for finding weak spots and exploiting them. He had certainly found Hawthorne’s, blackmailing him when he discovered the chairman’s scheme to use Governor Hyland as a puppet to gain control of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He was a valuable asset to have, and a very bad enemy.
Unfortunately, when the idiot had created a swirl of controversy and a host of enemies in the press, he had nearly gotten himself fired as DOCS PIO by the governor. Hawthorne and company had had to scramble to get him out of the line of fire for a time. Why he wanted to go back to DOCS so badly was a mystery, but Hawthorne didn’t care. If that’s what Breathwaite wanted, that’s what he would get. They needed him on the team.
“That’s all for now, gentlemen. Keep the contact and conversation to a bare minimum, and we’ll meet back here in a month or two. I’ll be in touch when it’s time.”
“Kate, sweetheart, are you home?” Before she had time to put her briefcase down, Jay was accosted by seventy-nine pounds of bouncing blonde fur. “Hey, buddy! Hey there, Fred. How was your day?” She bent over and scratched the golden retriever lovingly on the hindquarters as he marched in place in between her legs. “Where’s your mommy, huh, guy? Is she here yet?”
As if in answer to her query, Kate shouted from a distance, “Hey, love, I’m up here. C’mon up!”
“On my way, as soon as Fred is done practicing his marching band routine.” Jay looked down again, “Let’s go, big guy, I can’t wait to see your mom.”
She bounded up the stairs leading to the second floor of the house Kate had designed prior to their relationship, impressed, as always, with how comfortable and how much at home she felt here. Well, she thought wryly, it is my home now. The notion sent a thrill through her, as it never failed to do.
At the top of the stairs, Jay was enveloped in a strong, but sensual hug. She glanced up to find twinkling eyes gazing lovingly at her, a smile on her partner’s face. Kate ducked her head, capturing the lips she adored in a slow, sweet kiss of welcome.
“Mm, I love coming home to this.”
“And I love you.”
“I love you, too, Kate.”
They stayed like that a few heartbeats more, just savoring the moment, until Fred made his presence known once again. They both smiled indulgently as Kate made eye contact with the spoiled beast. “Yes, doll, we know you’re here. No group hugs for you, though. Right now, this beautiful woman is all mine.”
“Love, we’d better hurry if our reservation is at 7:30. Where are we going? What do I need to wear?”
“Dressy tonight, babe. Something elegant and strapless, I think.”
“Oh, what’s the occasion?”
“Does there have to be one? Now go on, get moving.” Kate swatted Jay on the rear end, pushing her gently down the hall in the direction of what had once been the guest suite but had now become Jay’s personal space. The blonde affectionately referred to it as “the place where my clothes live in a world by themselves.”
Kate retreated to the master bedroom, where she hastily dabbed on some Shalimar, her perfume of choice, and finished dressing. She jumped into a pair of high heels that matched her dress perfectly and hurried down the stairs, calling, “You’ve got about ten minutes, Jay. I’ll meet you downstairs.”
She hustled to the side door, opening it to admit three men in waiter’s uniforms. “Hurry, guys, we only have a few minutes.”
Behind the servers came two women dressed in chef’s outfits. The first one stopped and kissed Kate on the cheek. “Hiya, beautiful. Don’t be so nervous. I promised you everything would be perfect, and so it shall.”
“Barbara,” Kate hissed, “Jay’s gonna walk down the stairs in less than ten minutes expecting me to take her out for an elegant evening. Everything has got to be in place before that happens!”
“Tch, woman, it’s a wonder you don’t have an ulcer already. Have I ever not delivered on a promise to you?”
Sighing in exasperation, Kate answered, “No.”
“Right, and I’m not about to ruin my reputation now. I didn’t get to be a world-renowned doctor by folding under pressure, toots.”
Kate had to laugh at her friend. She was right. Barbara Jones was a well-recognized physician, a master gourmet chef, and a wonderful friend to have. Heaven knew she had seen Kate—then Kate and Jay together—through some rough patches.
Turning to the waiters, Barbara pointed past the kitchen. “Okay, boys, the dining room’s that way. Work your magic.”
At Kate’s upturned eyebrow, Barbara laughed. “Honey, these boys know more about presentation and style than any woman I’ve ever met. What is it about gay men that gives them such a sense of panache? I assure you, you’re in the best hands possible. In less than five minutes, your dining room is going to scream romance.”
“You’re the best, you know that?”
“Yeah, that’s why you keep me around, I presume.”
“That and the fact that I can’t seem to keep myself out of harm’s way.” Kate winked as she made her way to the bottom of the staircase to await Jay’s arrival.
It didn’t take long. Five minutes later she looked up to see a vision that robbed her of breath and speech. Jay paused at the top landing, her short blonde hair shimmering in the light from the chandelier, the emerald green, strapless, knee-length dress accentuating her lithe form and toned muscles to perfection. As she descended, Kate watched Jay’s smile grow wider in answer to her own.
“You are the most magnificent woman I have ever laid eyes on, Jamison Parker.”
“And you, Katherine Ann Kyle, are the sexiest creature on the planet.” Jay took note of the rich navy sheath that hugged her lover’s form, the material reaching over one shoulder, leaving the other, and most of her upper back, bare.
“May I?” Kate reached for her lover’s hand, guiding her down the last steps and toward the dining room.
“Um, love? I may not have a great sense of direction, admittedly, but even I know that the garage is that way.” Jay pointed in the opposite direction.
“It is? Damn, they must have moved it on me again.” But she continued moving in the direction she intended.
“Okay, Kyle, what are you up to? Spill it.”
“Oh, I love it when you get that authoritative tone in your voice.”
“I mean it.”
“Who says I have to be up to anything?”
“I know you’ve got something cooked up here. You’ve got that cat that ate the canary look on your face.”
“Yes, you, Miss Innocent.”
They had reached the entrance to the dining room. Kate moved ahead slightly, wanting to block Jay’s view in case everything wasn’t ready yet. She needn’t have worried; the room had been transformed. Candlelight sent a warm glow throughout the spacious area, highlighting the dark richness of the mahogany table and chairs and painting interesting shadows on the Oriental rug. Fine china and silver glinted in the low lighting, while soft music played in the background. She stepped aside.
“Oh, Kate...” Jay looked up questioningly.
“I hope you like it, sweetheart.”
“But...why? Am I missing something here?” Jay wracked her brains trying to think what occasion she might have missed. It wasn’t either of their birthdays; certainly it wasn’t Valentine’s Day or the anniversary of the consummation of their relationship...
Kate took her lover’s hands in her own and forced eye contact. “Five years ago today I was standing on a tennis court, playing a long and difficult match—the last one of my college career, in fact—when all of a sudden I looked up on the hillside to see the most incredible vision. An angel, standing there watching over me. You, standing there watching over me. I fell instantly and irrevocably in love. Now, every day, I thank whatever power exists in the universe that brought you back into my life. I love you, Jay, more than life itself, and I just wanted to find a special way to commemorate the day I lost my heart and found the other half of my soul.”
Tears flowed down Jay’s face. She buried her face in Kate’s chest. “Oh, sweetheart, that is so beautiful. You are the most incurable romantic; it’s one of the most amazing things about you. And I love you so much.”
Kate bent her head and kissed her heart’s desire reverently on the mouth. “C’mon, love, the food’s getting cold.”
“You’re wondering if I’ve learned to cook overnight. Nope.”
Kate smiled indulgently. “How about if you just sit down and all will be revealed to you.”
Jay grinned sheepishly and accepted the seat her lover offered.
“Gentlemen, I think it’s time.”
The waiters, who had been standing at a discreet distance inside the doorway to the kitchen, moved with efficiency and grace into the room, carrying serving plates. The first server bowed slightly at Jay’s side. “Would you care for some French onion soup?”
She smiled at him. “I’d love some, thank you.” To her partner she said, “Um, should I ask how you pulled this off and who these fine gentlemen are? Or where, exactly, the delicious food is coming from? I mean, it smells like it’s coming from our kitchen, but...”
“Very observant, my dear.”
Jay waited for Kate to finish the thought. When nothing more was forthcoming she said, “That’s it? That’s it? You’re not going to tell me how dinner is getting to our table?”
“What does it matter as long as you like it?”
“Stretch, you know how I am when my curiosity is aroused.”
Kate grinned evilly. “I know how you are when you are aroused.” Her gaze dropped to her lover’s breasts.
Jay blushed. “Don’t change the topic. You know what I meant.”
“Okay, if you must know, I brought in a master chef to cook for us this evening. Are you happy now? Satisfied, Miss Snoop? No wonder you make such a good reporter.”
“Thank you for answering me.” Jay leaned over and kissed Kate, a long, slow, sensuous joining of the lips that lasted for several moments.
“If I had known that would be your response, I would have answered you sooner.”
Kate gazed deeply into Jay’s eyes, which were accentuated by the combination of candlelight and the emerald color of her dress. “I will never tire of looking at you, you know that? You are the most beautiful woman in the world, and I still have to pinch myself to make sure this isn’t all a dream.”
As Jay opened her mouth to respond, Kate’s business phone rang.
Annoyed, Kate snarled, “That, on the other hand, is a nightmare. I’m sorry, love, I have to get that.”
“I know. Go ahead, don’t worry. I’ll wait for you.”
Moving to her office, Kate barked, “Kyle.”
“Um, Kate, this is the command center. Sorry to bother you.”
“That’s okay, John.” She made a conscious effort to take the bite out of her tone. “What’s going on?” After all, Katherine, it isn’t his fault the job can be damned inconvenient at times.
“Two inmates got into a fight in the mess hall at Auburn. One of ’em pulled a shank and stabbed the other. He’s gone to the hospital. Last word was he was in critical condition. They don’t think he’s gonna make it.”
Kate was taking notes. “Okay, I’m going to need names, crimes they’re in for, sentences for each, whether they had any history together before tonight, race, how the officers responded, where the perp is now, and if this was just a one-on-one thing or part of something larger.”
“John, that was, what...the third incident at Auburn in the last week that involved a weapon? What’s going on there? I need to know if there’s any hint of a connection between the events. I’ll tell you right now that the reporter for the paper out there is pretty sharp. It won’t take him long to put two and two together and wonder if he’s got four. Are we going to lock the place down and do a cell-by-cell? If so, word’s going to get out in a hurry.”
“I’ll get right on it and get you answers ASAP, Kate.”
“Thanks, John, I appreciate it.”
Back in the dining room, Kate kissed Jay on the shoulder. “I’m sorry about that, love. Now, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?”
“Yeah, just murderers killing murderers. Another day in paradise.”
“So it’s going to be a long night for you.”
“Only if the reporters find out about it. For now, I’d much rather concentrate on you.”
“Mm, that’s okay with me.”
The rest of dinner was uninterrupted; they managed to eat their way through the salad for two, the petit filet mignon, lobster tails, asparagus tips hollandaise, and twice-baked potatoes without much difficulty. Except, that is, when Jay missed while trying to feed Kate some of the potatoes. To make up for her gaffe, she licked the overflow from Kate’s chin. The transgression was quickly forgotten.
Unable to decide between the fresh apple cobbler and the homemade strawberry cheesecake, Jay opted to sample both, with Kate shaking her head in wonderment at her lover’s endless capacity for food. When Jay had polished off both desserts, she pushed back from the table.
“Sure you’ve had enough?” Twinkling eyes regarded her adoringly.
“Ugh. It’s a wonder you don’t weigh three hundred pounds. I can’t fathom where you put it all.”
“You’re just jealous, that’s all.”
“Yep, you’re right. How did you know?”
“I’ve seen the type before.”
Again, the business phone forestalled further conversation. “I’ll be right back, sweetheart. I’m really sorry about this. I wanted tonight to be perfect.”
“It is perfect, love. Don’t worry about it; it’s not as if it’s something you can control.”
Actually, at the moment Kate was contemplating how long it would take her to fly out to Auburn to finish both inmates off herself. However, recognizing the impracticality of that solution, she opted to answer the phone instead. “Kyle.”
“Hi, Kate, it’s John again, in the command center. I’ve got your answers for you. Unfortunately, the poor slob died a half hour ago. Here are the particulars...”
She listened and asked more questions for the better part of a half hour, taking notes and formulating strategy. Then she hung up and glanced at the clock over her desk. 10:02 p.m. Jay was right; it was likely to be yet another long night. Sighing, she made her way out of her office, stopping in the kitchen long enough to thank Barbara again for her services.
“Oh, you know me, Kate, I’m a sucker for a good romance.”
“And I’m grateful, my friend. Good night.”
“You better get going before she goes to bed without you.” Barbara turned and made her way out into the night, the waiters and sous chef having preceded her.
Kate found Jay in the family room picking out music. Sneaking up behind her, she tilted her head and took a small nibble out of the side of her neck. She felt the shiver even as Jay’s head tipped back to give her better access.
Given the invitation, Kate wrapped long arms around Jay from behind, pulling their bodies into close contact. She continued to taste and lick her way up to her lover’s earlobe, sucking it into her mouth and biting down lightly.
Jay groaned, and Kate could feel compact abdominal muscles contracting beneath her hands. Jay turned in the circle of her arms, placing feather-light kisses on her collarbones and chest.
“Um, sweetheart, before we get too carried away here, I have something for you.”
“Love, you are something for me,” Jay purred as she licked her way across to Kate’s bare shoulder.
Kate pushed away just enough to give herself room to maneuver. Reaching inside her bra, she extracted something shiny.
“Hey, I could’ve done that.”
“Yes, and I hope you will...later.” Again, Kate had to still her lover’s wandering hands.
“Jay, this is for you, because you are the most brilliant gem in my life. I wanted to give you a tangible reminder of how we first met.” She gently grasped her lover’s arm, turning it over so that the palm faced up. She kissed the sensitive skin there before concentrating on the task at hand. Stepping back slightly, she waited as Jay examined her wrist.
“My God, love, you didn’t have to do this. It’s gorgeous!” On her right wrist sparkled a three-carat diamond tennis bracelet.
“I love you, Jamison.”
Jay flew back into her arms. “I love you, too, sweetheart, but you are the only tangible reminder I’ll ever need of how we first met.”
Kate kissed the top of the fair head she cherished so much, then eyelids, nose, cheeks, and, finally, the perfect lips that beckoned her. She felt Jay’s nipples harden through the thin material of her dress as she deepened the kiss, sucking gently on Jay’s tongue before releasing it to explore further.
They continued to kiss as Kate guided them up the stairs to their bedroom, Fred trailing behind, used to this behavior from his humans. She slowly lowered the zipper on Jay’s dress, kissing and caressing every inch of newly exposed flesh, letting the material slide to the floor and helping her lover step out of it. Slip and pantyhose followed close behind, until, finally, the only remaining barriers were a strapless bra and a pair of very sexy lace bikini underwear.
Kate returned to Jay’s mouth momentarily as she released the catches on the bra, freeing creamy white breasts and painfully erect nipples. She kissed and licked along the underside of first the left breast and then the right while sliding her hands up the inside of Jay’s thighs.
“Argh, love, please. I need you so much.” Jay tried to back up to the bed, but Kate held her fast.
“No, babe. I want you to stand.” This she said as she ran her tongue around the rim of one nipple.
“Sweetheart, I’ll fall over.”
“No, you won’t. I’ve got you. Just hang on to me.”
Kate’s hand was following the outline of her lover’s panties as her other hand traced a line up Jay’s body from her abdomen to her breasts.
“God, love, I’m so wet for you. Please, I can’t take it anymore.”
Slowly removing Jay’s panties, Kate knelt, quickly swirling her tongue in the warm wetness that awaited her. She closed her eyes and savored the taste with the same sense of wonder she’d felt every time they’d been together this way. She wasn’t quite ready to linger there, though; there was so much more that she wanted to do. She continued on her journey, her mouth tracing her lover’s bikini line, stopping to nibble on the insides of thighs as her hands explored soft, but firm flesh in place after place. “You are so, so very beautiful, love.”
Jay was barely able to stay upright, her cries of urgency increasing with every stroke of her lover’s tongue. She clutched at Kate’s shoulders, trying to ground herself in the wake of unending sensation, able to articulate only a single word: “Please.”
Hearing the desperation in her cry, Kate relented, returning to Jay’s center, gently stroking her first, exploring her folds, tasting her clitoris, slowly drawing the moisture from her, before increasing the pressure and driving Jay over the top.
Kate held on tight as Jay trembled, aftershocks rolling through her body like waves to the ocean’s shore. When they had passed, Kate guided Jay down onto the bed, removing her own clothes before joining her. She wrapped Jay in her arms and softly stroked her skin.
“My God, woman, I think you just tried to kill me!”
“Nah,” Kate smiled, “If I’d been trying, I’d have succeeded.”
“Hmm. I’m tough to kill, ya know.”
“Oh, yeah, I would suspect as mu—”
Kate’s words were cut off when Jay inserted a leg between her thighs, rolling her over and pinning her to the bed, brushing lips and fingers over ribs, then up her breastbone to her shoulders, and finally back down to aching breasts, all the while rocking against her wet center.
Kate arched up off the bed as Jay ran one hand down into her moist curls, entering her slowly while continuing to exert pressure with her thigh. When Jay bit down lightly on her nipple, Kate came with a sharp cry.
The two women spent long, languorous hours loving each other before pulling up the covers and falling into a blissful slumber.
Kate’s peaceful sleep was shattered at exactly 2:14 a.m., according to the digital clock on her night table, when the somewhat muted but insistent ringing of her bedside business telephone combined with the vibration of her pager, which danced its way across the wooden surface and onto the floor.
“Kyle.” Her voice was rough with sleep, which made perfect sense considering she and Jay had finally drifted off only two hours earlier.
“Hello, Ms. Kyle, this is Danny Wenger from the Auburn Citizen. I’m sorry to wake you...” Kate thought he sounded about as convincing as a three-day-old dead toad, which is to say not very.
“Hang on, will you? I’ve got to change phones.” She put him on hold. Next to her, Jay stirred briefly, mumbling in her sleep before settling back down. Kate regarded her lovingly; she looked so much like an angel. Sighing, she kissed her gently on the forehead, grabbed a robe from the bathroom, and headed downstairs to her office where Jay’s rest wouldn’t be disturbed by conversation.
“Okay Mr. Wenger, what can I do for you?”
“I understand an inmate died tonight at the Auburn Correctional Facility. Is that right?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“According to my sources, his name was Nathaniel Diggs, a guy doing time for murdering his girlfriend after she told him she was pregnant.”
“The next of kin hasn’t been notified yet, so I cannot confirm or release any information about the deceased at this time.”
“C’mon, Ms. Kyle, just tell me if I’m right or not. You know I am, all you have to do is confirm it.”
“When’s your deadline, Danny?”
“It was two hours ago. They’re holding a few inches of space for me for the next half hour.”
“Tell you what; I’ll try everything within my power to get you a yes or no before that time.”
“But if I can’t give you something either way by your deadline, you leave any supposition or unconfirmed rumor out of the piece.”
“How am I supposed to scoop the early TV news if you don’t help me here?” He sounded like a petulant child.
“Danny, ever hear the expression ‘it’s better to be right than first’? I think that applies here, okay?” In fact, Kate already knew the name of the deceased and that of the inmate who killed him. It just so happened that she was trying to save Danny’s ass—Nathaniel Diggs was actually the murderer, not the victim, although she couldn’t tell the reporter that until the dead man’s family had been notified. The only question now was whether or not this eager, young journalist was smart enough to listen between the words. Guess she’d find out later that day when the Auburn Citizen was published; since the victim’s family was in Ghana, West Africa, she seriously doubted she’d be able to give the press anything before the late editions in the afternoon.
She had barely placed the receiver back in the cradle when it rang again.
“Kate? This is Wendy Ashton from the Associated Press. How’ve you been?”
“Great, Wendy, how’s life treating you?”
“Can’t complain. My girlfriend does plenty of that for both of us.”
“Ah, hates that you work the night beat, eh?”
“You’ve got that right.”
“Well, I’m pretty sure you didn’t call me at 2:40 a.m. to commiserate about your love life.”
“Nah. Heard about the dead dude out at Auburn. Sounds like he got sliced up pretty good.”
Ah, now here was a smart reporter. She stated her supposition as fact, expecting Kate simply to acknowledge her statement. Very slick.
“I’m sorry, Wendy, I don’t have anything for you on cause of death or weapon yet. Wish I could help you there. I can tell you that a suspect is in custody.”
“Very cute, Kate. Aren’t they all in custody inside a prison?”
Oh, she was good. “Yes, but this one is in the SHU.”
“He’s in the special housing unit?”
“Was he there before this incident put him there? You know, already in isolation?”
“Well, that narrows it down, now doesn’t it? Why, there must be only 83 or so guys in twenty-three-hour-a-day lockdown, right?”
“Look on the bright side, Wendy: that’s better than the 1,785 that are in the general population.”
“Gee, thanks. I hear from reliable sources that this isn’t the first dustup at Auburn this week. Any chance they’re connected?”
There was no sense denying that there had been other incidents; it was a matter of public record. “It’s a little too early in the investigation to tell, Wendy. They’re still sorting it out.”
“When will you know?”
“Hard to say. I’d tell you to try back early next week. I might have something for you then.”
And so the rest of the short night went. At a little after 3:45 a.m., Kate sneaked back up the stairs to their bedroom. Quietly, she slipped back under the covers, Jay immediately molding herself to her side. Kate savored the feeling of warmth and love that suffused her for the fifteen minutes left before the alarm was set to go off. Reaching over, she shut it off before it buzzed, preferring a more personal method of awakening her partner.
“Mm.” Jay rolled over on top of Kate, who was busy peppering her bare shoulder with gentle kisses. “Now this is the way to wake up in the morning.” She smiled down at Kate, her expression morphing into a frown when she noticed the dark circles under Kate’s normally sharp eyes. “Did you get any sleep at all?”
“Maybe we should skip the workout and run this morning. You could sleep in a little longer.”
“Nah, I’m okay. Besides, today is Friday. I’ll rest over the weekend, I promise.”
“Where have I heard that before, Katherine?”
In one smooth motion, Kate rose from the bed, carrying Jay with her and standing them both upright. “Let’s get a move on, Scoop; I’ve got to be in the office early and you’ve got a 6:30 a.m. train to catch.”
“Killjoy,” Jay groused affectionately.
Within minutes, both women were in the basement, having donned cutoff sleeveless T-shirts and short gym shorts. They selected Nautilus machines at opposite ends of the circuit and began their morning workout routine. For the next hour, they sweated and grunted in relative silence, the only sounds in the room emanating from a television mounted strategically on the wall where it was visible from every angle.
“Do you really think Jaclyn should have married Dennis Cole? I mean, he’s certainly a handsome guy, but look at what a lousy actor he was.”
“Face it, Jamison, you’re just jealous of him.”
They moved over to the side-by-side treadmills Kate had installed to prevent overzealous paparazzi from snapping pictures of her and Jay as they went out on their daily five-mile run. They both hated having to run indoors, but, for the moment, it seemed like the best solution.
“I remember when I first started watching Charlie’s Angels. I always felt like it was a guilty pleasure. You know, so many scantily clad, beautiful women, so little time.”
“Now look at you, Kate, every episode on tape, fast-forwarding through the commercials to get more time with your girls. You’ve turned into a complete letch.”
“I don’t hear you complaining, Parker.”
“Nope. No complaints here.”
Their treadmills chalked up the first mile.
Kate asked, “What’s going on with your story? You don’t seem too enthusiastic about it.”
“I don’t know, love, lately it feels like all I’ve been writing about is corporate sludge. I’m just a bit restless, I think.”
“Okay.” Kate thought about it. “Why don’t you pitch Trish a story that you really want to write?” When Jay looked at her with a raised eyebrow, she continued, “Well, why not? You’ve got the clout now; she’s got you writing a cover story every other week. Maybe it’s time to leverage your value a little.”
Jay pondered the idea. “What would I want to write, if I had my choice?”
“It seems to me you most enjoy the stories that have a human angle. Something with depth.”
“You know, when I was traveling through the Navajo and Hopi reservations near Four Corners...” Kate glanced sideways when she heard the pained sigh. Even all these months later, Jay studiously avoided any mention of their brief separation. Kate reached over, brushing her fingers lightly along Jay’s arm. “I had an opportunity to talk with their healers. Their approaches to medicine are so spiritual, so different from our scientific bent.” It was as if they could feel my emotional pain and wanted to heal it.
“More holistic, you mean.”
“Yeah. It’s like they treat the mind and spirit as well as the body. I think we here in the ‘civilized’ world could learn a lot from our Native American brothers and sisters.”
“I thought they were pretty secretive about their customs, though, aren’t they?”
“Yeah, to an extent, but I’ve seen you in action, love; I have no doubt you could get them to share some of their ways with you for a story. Heck, you could talk a mother hen off her nest.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, sweetheart. I’ll give it some thought. Besides, it’s beautiful country out there.”
“That it is, love, that it is.”
Kate pored over the faxes that had been arriving in a steady stream from the superintendent’s office at Auburn for the past hour. So far, the coverage of the murder had been relatively evenhanded. The young buck at the Citizen had wisely withheld the name of the victim pending notification of next of kin, Wendy from the Associated Press had refrained from any wild speculation linking the murder to other recent incidents at the prison, and the transcripts of the television coverage seemed rather benign.
“Yeah, I think she’s down meeting with the commissioner. No, so far she seems to have it under control. No, I tried to keep her from seeing that, but she got a hold of it by herself. David, I’m doing my best here...”
Curious about the whispered conversation her assistant was having about her, Kate set the papers aside and focused her acute hearing outside her door. It was abundantly clear that Marisa didn’t know she was in her office.
“Christ, David, I don’t want to be too obvious here. She’s bound to figure it out...Hey, it’s not my fault she’s sharp. You’re the one who told me this would be easy and you’d be back here soo—” Her voice trailed off as Kate strode purposely past her desk. “Oh God, I’ve got to go.” She didn’t wait for an answer before hanging up.
Unsure what to do, her face burning red with embarrassment at having been caught, Marisa chased her boss down the corridor.
“Are you quite finished with your report to Mr. Breathwaite?”
“Because if you are, I believe there is plenty of real work sitting on your desk waiting for your attention.”
“No.” Kate rounded on her assistant. “I don’t want to talk about this right now, nor do I think you would want me to. I suggest you go back to the office and think about how important your job is to you and just who it is you work for.”
Without another word, Kate resumed her course, leaving her deflated assistant behind. In truth, she wasn’t sure where she was going, nor was she sure what she wanted to do about what she had just heard.
She sorted through her dealings with Marisa over the past three months. At first she had wondered why her predecessor hadn’t simply taken his assistant with him when he left; after all, that was standard procedure. Although she could have hired someone of her own choosing, Kate had decided to give Marisa a chance, reasoning that it would be wise to retain someone familiar with the workings of the office. Now she faced the ugly possibility that her assistant had stayed behind only to monitor and undermine her. In any event, keeping Marisa seemed an untenable option at this point.
Having made up her mind, Kate directed her steps to the executive deputy commissioner’s office. He was the one charged with handling staff matters, and she knew that she would need his blessing to have the woman reassigned.
Through his closed door, she could hear him screaming at some poor soul on the other end of the phone. “What? You idiot! All right, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it...Never mind. I’ll fix your little mess...this time.”
Kate knocked when she heard him slam the phone back into its cradle.
She poked her head around the door. “Bad time?”
Bill Redfield smiled. “Never for you, Kate. What can I do for you?”
“I hate to bother you with this, but I’m having a problem with my assistant. There are some trust issues and I just don’t think I can continue to work with her. I’d like to have her reassigned to another department.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Kate. Unfortunately, there are no openings right now, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to work through whatever it is. I’m really pressed for time, I apologize.” He looked at his watch as if to emphasize the point. “Don’t sweat it, Kate. I have faith that you’ll find a way to make it work.”
With that she was dismissed. That was odd. Walking deliberately back down the hall to her office, she made a couple of decisions.
“Hey, Technowiz, how the heck are you?” She was on the phone in her office with her door shut, having passed by Marisa’s desk without so much as a glance in the woman’s direction.
“Well, if it isn’t the all-important Ms. Kyle. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Actually, Peter, I was wondering if you had plans for dinner tonight.” Peter Enright was Kate’s closest friend outside of Jay. A security, tactical weapons, and technology expert, he had retired recently from DOCS to start his own consulting firm. At the moment, he was under contract to the feds to try to determine the origin of the bombs that had ripped through the state capitol several months earlier.
“Why do I get the feeling this isn’t just a social invitation?”
“It’s not. There’s something rotten in Denmark and I need to pick your brain. Are you game?”
“Me, turn down an intriguing opportunity like this? Never. Tell me what time and I’ll be there. Not only that, but I believe it’s my turn to bring the Chinese takeout.”
“I knew I could count on you, buddy. See you at 8:00 p.m.”
Kate hung up the phone and redialed.
“Love, you’ve got to work on your phone etiquette. You’re sounding a little gruff there.”
“Hello, sweetheart. I wasn’t expecting you. How are you?”
“I’ve had better days.”
Instantly alert, Jay asked, “What’s going on?”
“I can’t go into it all right now, but I’ve invited Peter to dinner. I hope you don’t mind?”
“No, babe, of course not. If you’ve called in the big guns it must be serious. Are you okay? You sound a little shook up.”
“I’m not sure. I don’t want to sound paranoid.”
“You? Paranoid? You’ve got to be kidding. What happened, Kate?”
“I’ll explain it all later. Right now I’ve got some ass to chew.”
“Okay. Glad it’s not mine.”
“Never yours, love...although taking a nibble out of those cute buns now and then...”
“Okay, okay. I told Peter 8:00 p.m. Will you even be out of the Big Apple by then?”
“You bet. I should be home by 7:15.”
“Good. I could use a good hug and some alone time before he gets there.”
“You’ve got it, sweetheart. See you in a few hours. Don’t take any prisoners.”
“Can you hear me groaning from here, Parker? That was a terrible pun.”
“Well, I never said I was going to quit my day job.”
“It’s a good thing. Later, love.”
Kate took a minute to gather herself and put on her game face before opening the door.
“Marisa, get in here.”
The assistant appeared almost before Kate had finished the sentence.
“Shut the door and sit down.”
“Kate, I’m really sorr—”
“You know, there are very few qualities I value more than trust, honesty, loyalty, and respect. You have managed to violate all of those things.”
“I didn’t know you were in your office,” Marisa said quietly.
“You think that was your transgression? Let me see if I understand you: if I hadn’t been in my office, it would have been all right for you to be reporting to your former boss on my handling of the job? It would have been acceptable for you to withhold vital information from me in, what—an attempt to make me screw up?”
Marisa wisely chose to stay silent and avoid Kate’s eyes, which were flashing dangerously.
“I have to tell you that my first inclination was to toss you out of here so fast your head would spin.”
Marisa’s head shot up and her eyes showed real fear for the first time.
“However,” Kate paused here, content to let her victim sweat, “I have reconsidered my position and I’m willing, God help me, to give you another chance.”
“Thank you, Kate.”
“I’m not finished yet.” She waited until the young woman’s eyes were on her. “You need to know that you only get two strikes with me. If I note so much as a comma out of place, you’re history. Do you understand me? That means no phone contact—in fact, no contact of any kind with David Breathwaite about anything related to this office or its business. It means I had better see everything that is meant for my eyes as soon as it hits your desk.”
“You’ve got a long road ahead of you to try to prove yourself worthy of my trust again, Marisa. I strongly suggest you don’t squander the opportunity I’m giving you. You won’t get another chance, I assure you.”
“Now get out of my sight.”
As it turned out, Jay walked through the door only seconds before Peter’s arrival.
“I’m so sorry, baby. I really tried to get here sooner. Unfortunately, I haven’t learned how to drive the damn train yet.”
“It’s not your fault, love.”
Jay stepped back and took stock of her lover. “Honey, you look like you’ve been through the wringer today. What the heck happened?”
“I’ll tell you when Peter gets here. For now, I just want to hold you.”
Jay moved into Kate’s arms once again, wrapping herself around her and bringing them into contact all along their bodies. She could feel the tension in the strong shoulders and back. Just as she began a light massage, the doorbell rang.
“If it isn’t my two favorite ladies.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere in this crowd.”
“Don’t I know it,” Peter mumbled good-naturedly.
“Hi, Technowiz.” Jay moved forward and hugged him around the waist. At 6’4”, he was a full foot taller than she was.
“Hi, half-pint, it’s good to see you.”
“Just what do I have to do to gain full pint status around here?”
“Grow!” Kate and Peter answered simultaneously.
“Easy for you two to say. Have you ever tried being vertically challenged?”
“Not since before puberty,” Kate threw over her shoulder.
Jay shook her head in mock disgust as she and Peter followed Kate, who had liberated the food and was headed into the kitchen.
Never one to waste time, Peter started right in as soon as they were seated. “Okay, Spinmeister, now that we’ve got the niceties out of the way, let’s have it. You look like crap, and that never happens. What the heck’s going on over there? Place go to hell after I left?”
“Can you try to be a little less subtle next time, buddy? I’m not sure I know how you really feel.” Running her hands through her unruly mane, Kate sighed heavily. “I’m not totally sure what the real story is, but it definitely smells.” She laid out in detail the events with Marisa and Redfield. “Frankly, two things about the whole sequence really stuck out in my mind.”
“Only two? I can think of a bunch.” Jay was clearly outraged.
Kate put a restraining hand on her arm and continued, “The first was Marisa’s remark to Breathwaite about him promising he’d be back, or at least that’s what she started to say before she saw me. The second was the fact that Redfield never even asked me what it was Marisa had done to prompt me to want to fire her. It was as if he already knew.”
Peter was silent throughout his friend’s recitation, but his expression bespoke his deep concern.
Kate went on, “You know, I’ve been over this a hundred times in my mind, and I still can’t come up with an explanation or scenario that makes any sense to me. Why on earth would Breathwaite want to take a demotion to come back? And what the blazes does that have to do with Redfield? Are they connected in some way? Am I just being paranoid here?”
Jay started to jump in, but Peter interrupted quietly, “I don’t think you’re imagining this, my friend. I’m just having trouble putting the pieces together right now. Redfield was never a Breathwaite fan, to be sure. So that’s a tough one to reconcile. I’ll have to think about that and get back to you. As for Marisa, well, she’s not the sharpest crayon in the box, so I can’t say I’m surprised that she would be doing her ex-boss’s bidding. At the time they created the new position for him, Breathwaite had managed to draw too much heat. I think the governor actually was getting set to fire his ass. The ‘promotion’ was a way to keep him out of trouble while allowing him to save face.”
“Do you know whose idea the new job for him was, Peter? Who conceived it and who created it?”
“I don’t know, Jay, but I suspect that if we find the answers to those questions, we might have a better handle on what’s really behind all this. I know the governor had to sign off on the new spot, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t his idea.”
The three friends finished their meal in contemplative silence, each mentally trying out scenarios that might explain the inexplicable without success. At 10:15 p.m., Peter bid Kate and Jay good night with a promise to keep in touch and an admonition for his best friend. “Katherine, you be careful. Redfield and Breathwaite don’t play nice, and they sure as shooting don’t play by the rules. If there is something going on, it looks like you’ll be right in the thick of it. I want you to keep track of everything and anything that looks suspicious. Collect any evidence if there’s any to be had, and make me copies. Don’t overlook anything. The devil may truly be in the details here.”
When he had gone, Jay took Kate in her arms. “Sweetheart, it’s going to be okay. With Peter’s help, we’ll get to the bottom of this. I have to tell you, though, my first reaction is to go down there and bash some heads.”
Kate smiled fondly at her spunky partner. “Have I told you lately just how much I love you?”
“I never tire of hearing it, babe.”
Jay ran her fingers up Kate’s abdomen, brushing gently over firm breasts before resting her hands on broad shoulders. Their kiss was equal parts passion and tenderness.
“Mm, can I interest you in a little ice cream?”
“Nope.” Jay continued to nibble on Kate’s lower lip.
“Um, how about some cheesecake?”
“Jamison Parker turning down dessert? I don’t believe it!”
“Who said anything about turning down dessert?” Green eyes gone black with desire captured blue in a timeless moment of understanding.
I’m only going to say this once: either you do what I say, or I tell your wife about your little girlfriend. The choice is yours, but I suggest you make it quickly. If that editorial doesn’t go to print on Sunday, you might be finding your clothes in your front yard.”
On the other end of the line, the receiver went dead.
“Heh. This is even more fun than I thought it would be.”
His gloating was cut short by the ringing of the phone.
“David, we have to meet. Lunchtime at the club. Be there.”
“Hey, Technowiz. Hungry?”
“When and where?”
“See you in fifteen.”
“What do you think you’re doing, Breathwaite?”
“Bob wanted results, I’m getting him results, Bill. What part of that don’t you understand?”
“You’re being so heavy-handed, it’s starting to raise eyebrows. The commissioner wants to know what the hell’s going on, and so do I. What have you done?”
“Just using a little leverage. Putting a little pressure in the right places.”
William Redfield wanted nothing more at that moment than to wipe the smug expression off the little weasel’s face. “If this backfires and one of your ‘projects’ talks, you’re on your own,” he snapped.
“Bill, has anyone ever told you you worry too much?”
Redfield stormed out of the room.
“Okay, Spinmeister, what’s going on?”
They were settled into a high-backed booth at the back of Lombardo’s, a family-style Italian restaurant at the lower end of downtown Albany.
“Nothing good, my friend.” Kate pulled a blue manila file folder from the briefcase at her feet and placed it in front of Peter. Inside were a series of newspaper clippings.
After reading the first five clips, he looked up, both eyebrows hiked into his hairline. “Huh,” he whistled softly. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d have to say somebody gave these folks a little help with their stories.”
“My thought exactly. But that’s not the worst. Keep reading.” Kate reached over, locating a clipping halfway down in the pile. It was dated September 21, 1987—two days earlier.
Peter uttered a string of expletives as his eyes scanned the top of the page. The editorial headline read, “The Woman Behind the Deceptions at DOCS.”
Just four months into the job, it seems that the State Department of Correctional Services’ lead spokeswoman has settled in quite nicely, thank you. In instance after instance, Katherine Kyle, the governor’s controversial choice as public information officer for the nation’s third largest prison system, has buried the truth, misleading the public and abusing her position. When an inmate was murdered last month at the Auburn Correctional Facility, Ms. Kyle told our Daniel Wenger that the incident was unrelated to a series of violent outbursts earlier that same week. Reliable sources and further investigation prove that Ms. Kyle lied: the victim and the killer belonged to rival gangs that had been involved in several scuffles over the course of a two-week period. It is our considered opinion that Ms. Kyle should either resign or be fired: she can no longer be trusted to tell the truth about anything.
When Peter’s eyes met Kate’s, they held fire. “There aren’t too many ways that ace reporter and his editors could have gotten that little tidbit, now, are there?”
“No. But what bothers me more is that they’re questioning my credibility in ways that are difficult to combat.” Kate’s wounded eyes met Peter’s. “In this business credibility is everything. Without it, I can’t do my job effectively.”
He put his hand over hers in sympathy.
“The sad thing is, I told the truth. That inmate wasn’t killed as a result of anything gang related, he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately, the newspaper has just enough of the basic facts right: there were members of rival gangs planning a turf war, there were several violent incidents during those two weeks, and the perp and the vic were members of opposing gangs. Since nobody ever asked me those questions in that way, the information was never made public. But the way the editorial is worded, why should anyone believe me now?”
Peter’s jaw muscles stood out in bold relief. “None of the line staff would be stupid enough to talk to the newspaper. Hell, none of them would’ve been able to supply all of that information. No, it had to be someone much higher up. My guess would be Breathwaite. But speculation and proof are two different things.”
“Not to mention motive,” Kate added dejectedly. “What the blazes is his game, anyway?”
“I’d say it’s pretty obvious he wants to discredit you and shove you out the door. The question in my mind is the same one it was a month ago: why?”
“I’ve been puzzling over that one myself. Why would he want to take what many would consider a demotion to come back to DOCS? What’s in it for him?”
“If we can figure that out, we may be able to stop the train before it runs over you. Where are the governor and the commissioner on this? I’m assuming you’ve heard from them, right?”
Kate thought back to her meeting earlier that morning with her boss.
“C’mon in, Kate. Have a seat.”
She sat down in one of the visitor’s chairs facing the commissioner’s desk.
“Seems as though you’ve been taking a hell of a beating lately from our friends in the fourth estate.”
“So it would seem, sir.”
“Look, Kate.” Sampson leaned forward, placing his palms flat on the smooth wood surface. “You remember when I had you in here about a month ago? We talked about the increasing scrutiny we were going to face from those assholes at the DNC?”
“Well, now the bastards are all over me to fire you. They’re saying you’ve become a liability.” He couldn’t meet her eyes.
“Sir, you do whatever it is you need to do.” Her tone was calm, her voice clear and unwavering, even as the words tore a hole through her insides. Kate prided herself on being the best at whatever she did. Failure was not an option. And while she knew with certainty that she was being set up to fail, her inability to turn the situation around was eating at her.
“Kate, I appreciate your willingness to take one for the team, but you and I both know that this whole thing is bullshit. Whatever’s going on, it has nothing to do with your competence. You’ve been doing an extraordinary job, and scathing editorials to the contrary, I have no intention whatsoever of either asking for, or accepting, your resignation.”
It was not what he said that surprised her so much as the vehemence with which he said it. Defying the party bigwigs was serious business.
“And I am ever so grateful for your support, sir, but are you sure this is the wisest course?”
“The governor and I agree, Kate. It will take more than a few lousy editorials and some unfortunate news coverage for us to lose faith in you. You have our full support.”
“Huh,” Peter grunted, “I’m assuming you didn’t share your suspicions with him about the root of this whole mess.”
“Right. First of all, I didn’t want to sound as if I was making excuses, and, second, I didn’t want to come off as some paranoid wacko. Not to mention the fact that we don’t really know yet what’s going on.”
“No, we don’t, but we will. I swear to you we will.”
“I know you’re right, Technowiz, I just hope it doesn’t take too long.”
Wanting nothing more than to lift his best friend’s obviously sagging spirits, Peter changed the subject. “What’s going on with you and Jay?” He loved the way Kate’s eyes lit up at the mere mention of her fiancée’s name.
“Everything’s great, except that we don’t seem to have nearly enough time for each other. I never thought I could feel this way about someone. The second she’s out of my sight I miss her.”
“She’s clearly just as crazy about you, you know.”
“Yeah,” Kate sighed dreamily. “I know.”
“Have you guys talked any more about when the wedding is going to be, or where, for that matter?”
“We made a date to talk about it tonight, in fact. I can’t wait.”
Her enthusiasm made Peter smile. “Well, just make sure you give me enough warning so that I can rent a tux.”
“A man-about-town like you doesn’t own a tux? Why, Peter Enright, I’m shocked and appalled!” She slapped him playfully as they made their way out the back door of the restaurant.
“Yeah, yeah, tell it to somebody who believes you, Kyle.” After a pause he added, “Hey, Kate, make sure you keep in close contact with me about this, okay? Don’t second-guess yourself. I want to know everything that looks even remotely suspicious.”
“I promise, you’ll be the second to know.”
“Yeah, try to keep your hands off things that go boom and stay out of trouble in the meantime.”
“Right.” Peter winked as he got in his standard-issue blue Ford sedan.
“My God, Jay, you are the most beautiful woman in the world. How did I ever get so lucky?” Kate stood behind Jay with her arms around her waist. She was admiring her profile in the brilliant shaft of moonlight that shone down on them as they stood outside on the deck overlooking the backyard.
The moon was bright and full, and as they gazed up at the profusion of stars overhead, Jay sighed contentedly. “Sweetheart,” she rotated her head and kissed the corner of Kate’s mouth, “I’m the lucky one.” She turned fully to nuzzle the expanse of neck and shoulder that were within easy reach. “What happened today...” She trailed off as slender, graceful fingers covered her lips.
“I don’t want to talk about work right now, babe. I just want to be here with you, okay?” Kate replaced fingers with lips, punctuating her words with a long, slow kiss.
“Mm. You won’t get any arguments here.” Breathless, Jay pulled back in the circle of Kate’s arms and regarded her. “Shall we talk about the future, love?”
“As long as it involves you, me, and a lifetime of togetherness, I’m easy.”
“Sounds wonderful to me. Well, then, I guess there’s nothing more to say.” Jay made as if to go inside.
“Hey, wait a minute!”
“What?” Jay batted her eyes innocently.
“Get back here, you.”
“Something you want, honey?”
“Mm-hmm. You. I can’t wait to make you mine, love.”
“I am yours, sweetheart.”
“I know, but I really want to formalize it, sooner rather than later.” She looked into Jay’s eyes. “Jay, you mean everything to me, and I want something tangible to reflect how I feel about you. I want to marry you, even though it’s not legally binding.”
For several heartbeats, they both were lost in bittersweet memory. The moment Kate had first proposed marriage and Jay had accepted had been the happiest of their lives. That was just before all hell had broken loose and the future had seemed lost.
The shadows receded just as quickly as they had come. Jay smiled up at the woman with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life, lightly brushing her fingers over chiseled cheekbones. “Darling, I would marry you right here, tonight, if you wanted.”
“This might surprise you, but I’m a pretty old-fashioned kind of gal. No elopements here.”
Jay laughed. “No kidding.”
“I would prefer a traditional kind of ceremony.” Kate glanced down at Jay. “What do you want, love?”
“When I was a little girl and my father was abusing me,” Jay began, squeezing Kate’s hands reassuringly when she stiffened, “I would escape in my mind into fantasies. In one of them, it was my wedding day, and I was dressed in a beautiful, flowing gown with a long train. I felt like a princess in a fairy tale.”
“I want to give you everything you’ve ever dreamed of, Jay, including a fairy-tale wedding.”
“You don’t have to do that, love.”
“Babe, that’s what I want, too.”
Jay bit her lower lip in thought. “What do you think about going back where it all started? The chaplain at college was a good friend of mine. I think she might agree to perform some kind of ceremony for us.”
“That sounds perfect, sweetheart. I’d love that.”
“I’ll get in touch with her to see whether she’s willing to officiate, and if so, when she and the chapel might be available. Oh, darling, I can’t wait.” She snuggled into Kate’s embrace, the safety and security of those arms the only home her soul would ever need.
It was shortly after 7:00 a.m. on a mid-October morning, and Jay sat in her customary seat on the Amtrak train headed from Albany to Grand Central Station in New York City. Although she held a book open in her lap, she barely glanced at it, her mind wandering as she regarded the passing landscape. The ride along the Hudson River was always scenic, but never more so than at this time of year, when the leaves were changing colors in preparation for their winter shedding. The riots of red, orange, yellow, and green were a sight to behold.
She sighed. Despite the beauty of her surroundings, she was troubled. It was hard to remember the last time Kate had gotten a full night’s sleep. Ruefully, Jay thought, It was probably just before she took this job, which is to say, way too long ago. The hours alone were clearly taking a toll on her partner, but even more disconcerting was the suspicious circumstances and innuendo swirling just beneath the surface at DOCS.
Had it been her integrity or credibility being called into question, Jay would have been far less concerned. But to have the media, and by extension, the general public attack Kate made Jay’s blood boil. It was all so absurdly ridiculous. Anyone who knew Kate knew she was the most upright, fair, scrupulously honest person on the planet, didn’t they? The hardest part, though, was that there wasn’t a thing Jay could do to help except to be supportive, offer an ear and a different perspective, and express her outrage at the situation.
As for her own job, perhaps Kate was right; maybe what Jay needed to do was to try pitching her editor a story of her own. Heaven knew the ones she’d been covering lately had been less than groundbreaking.
By the time the train had pulled into the station, she had made up her mind: she would talk to Trish first thing.
Jay found the editor sitting in her office with the phone to one ear, an assistant talking in the other, papers strewn across the surface of her sizable, modern workspace, and her head resting in the palm of one hand, fingers splayed through already disheveled light brown hair. Trish rolled her eyes and mimed to her ace reporter to sit in one of the visitors’ chairs in front of the desk.
“No, Chad, I don’t care if he has to crawl in here, I’m not gonna accept another lame excuse. I want that story on my desk by noon today, got it? Good.” She slammed the receiver down without waiting for a response.
“Have you ever noticed, Trish, that your New York accent gets more pronounced the louder you yell?”
“Can’t say as I’ve paid that little tidbit any mind, Jamison. But now that you mention it, I’ll be sure to keep an eye on the situation.” Sharing the usual banter with her favorite writer always managed to calm her considerable temper. Jay had that effect on everyone, Trish suspected. “What can I do for you, other than provide your amusement for the day?”
Jay shifted in her chair, suddenly feeling slightly foolish about her desire to ask for better assignments. “Um, you know I’m grateful for the way you’ve supported me these past few months, right?” When Jay had, of her own accord, revealed to Trish that she was the other woman in the National Enquirer picture, the editor had stood by her without hesitation.
“Yeah.” The editor drew the word out. She couldn’t remember ever seeing Jay this uncomfortable, not even when she had outed herself earlier in the year. “It sure sounds like there’s a ‘but’ in there somewhere.”
“Mm-hmm. Out with it, Parker. You can’t even look me in the eye.”
Jay peeked up from where she had been staring at the hands in her lap.
“Ohmigod.” Trish knew a moment of sudden panic. “Please don’t tell me you’re leaving.”
“What? No, of course not. Why on earth would you think that?”
“I don’t know. It’s just that I’ve only ever seen you look this uncomfortable once before, and I can’t imagine what could be bigger than that, except maybe a new job. So please, tell me whatever it is already before I have a heart attack.”
“It’s nothing like that, Trish. It’s just...” Jay paused for a moment to gather her thoughts. “The stories I’ve been doing lately have been less than inspiring. I guess I’m just getting a bit restless. I know it sounds stupid, but—”
“Oh, Jay, I’m sorry.” Relief coursed through the editor. “I didn’t realize you felt that way. Truth is, I’ve been trying to keep you close to home so you and that gorgeous woman of yours could have some time to get used to living together and establish a sense of normalcy.”
“Really?” Jay was touched by her friend’s thoughtfulness.
“Yeah, really. Guess I shoulda talked to you about it first, huh?”
“That’s all right. I didn’t understand. I thought maybe I’d done something to get on your bad side and that’s why I was getting all the lousy assignments.”
Trish laughed, a deep, throaty sound that prompted Jay to join in. “Nah, kiddo, if you’d been on my bad side, believe me, you wouldn’t have had to wonder—you would’ve known it. Here I was trying to do you a favor, and all you can do is bitch about it.”
Jay’s trademark smile was back. “I’m not complaining, Trish, just looking for an upgrade, that’s all.”
“Does Kate know you’re tired of spending every night with her already?” The editor was thankful that the problem wasn’t anything serious and overjoyed to yank her friend’s chain about it.
“Actually, she kicked me out the door this morning—wanted to know when you were going to get me out of her hair.” Jay winked.
“Well, far be it for me to disappoint that woman. After all, I hear she has connections in dark and dreary places.” Trish consulted her ever-present storyboard. “Okay. It’s action you want, eh? I think we can do something about that...”
“Hi, baby. The honeymoon’s over.”
“Um, Jay? Don’t we have to be married before you can say that?”
“Well, normally I’d say yes, but in this case...”
“Have I done something wrong?”
“Quite to the contrary you beautiful, sexy woman.”
“Okay, now I’m really lost.”
“Katherine Kyle, you’re a genius, and if I were there, I’d give you a big, wet kiss.”
“I can live with that, but what does all this have to do with our honeymoon?”
“You were right pushing me to talk to Trish. Seems she’s been intentionally keeping me close to home so you and I would have more time together.”
“I knew I liked that woman.”
“Ahem. But now that she knows I’m itching for good stories...”
Kate sighed. “I’ve shot myself in the foot, haven’t I?”
Jay laughed. “Pretty much.”
“Where’re you headed, Scoop?”
“There’s an upstart AIDS awareness political action group: the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power.”
“That’s a mouthful.”
“Right, smart girl, which is why they go by the name ACT UP. They’re just starting to make some serious waves and Trish wants someone on the inside to chronicle their rise.”
“Cool acronym. You’re going undercover? As an activist? Oh, that could be fun. Jay as a zealot. Very sexy.”
“Very funny, Stretch. Keep it up and I might just have to cut you off.”
“C-cut me off? You wouldn’t. You couldn’t.”
“Do you really want to find out, hot stuff?”
“Jay, sweetheart, honey, doll? This assignment sounds perfect for you.”
“That’s better.” Jay’s laughter faded. “Actually, I’m not going undercover at all, I’m just going to shadow the group and its leaders—learn about their tactics and philosophy—talk to them.”
“That sounds like it should be really interesting, baby.”
“I think so, too. Honey, the downside is that I’m going to have to stay here in New York for a little while.”
Kate tried to hide her disappointment. Jay’s talents had been wasted in the past few months on second-rate stories that didn’t challenge her considerable intellect, leaving her restless and frustrated. The assignment was just what she needed to get her out of her funk. “Well, sweetheart, that’s why you kept your apartment in New York. At least you’ll be comfortable while you’re working and not stuck in some generic hotel room.”
“Thank you for understanding, Kate. I wish you could be here with me.”
“That would be fun, but there are pressing matters here I have to attend to.” Kate thought about the cryptic phone call she’d gotten from Wendy Ashton of the Associated Press half an hour earlier. She was scheduled to meet her in a parking garage downtown after dark, and she hadn’t a clue why. The reporter had refused to say over the phone and sounded downright panicked when Kate tried to push her on the matter. She returned her attention to Jay. “Do you want me to send Fred down to keep you company?”
“No, Kate. He’ll be much happier up there with you. I’ll be fine. Call you tonight?”
“Absolutely. I’ll tuck you in and put you to sleep.”
“Don’t forget the warm milk and cookies, Mom.” Jay’s chuckle echoed down the phone line as she hung up.
“Hello, Wendy.” Kate considered making a joke about reporters having clandestine meetings with sources in dark parking garages when she got a good look at the woman approaching her. She was gaunt, her razor-sharp features made even more pronounced by stress. Her navy slacks and tan blazer were rumpled, and her salt-and-pepper hair was in disarray. While Wendy Ashton wasn’t the sharpest dresser or the neatest person she knew, Kate recognized her disheveled appearance as being out of character.
“Kate. Thanks for meeting me here like this.” The reporter’s eyes darted around the garage.
“What’s going on, Wendy? You look out of sorts.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t usually have assholes threatening to toss me out of the closet.”
“Who?” Kate was instantly alert.
“Your lovely predecessor, that’s who,” she spat out.
“Breathwaite threatened to out you as a lesbian?”
“Yep.” The reporter took a deep breath, apparently satisfied that they were alone. “It was the strangest thing. I get a call at my desk at around 2:30 this afternoon and it’s him. He starts off wanting to know what I think about the job you’re doing at DOCS.”
Kate tried to look surprised for propriety’s sake, but the truth was that Breathwaite blackmailing reporters into writing damaging stories was exactly the scenario she and Peter had surmised. Perhaps now they would get closer to finding out the rest of his game.
The reporter continued, “I thought that was pretty odd, so I pulled out my tape recorder and plugged it into the line. I figured he’s always up to something, and whatever he had up his sleeve this time, I wanted to be prepared.”
Wendy smiled weakly. “Thanks, but there was no way I was ready for this.” She pulled a small microcassette recorder out of her blazer pocket and pressed the “play” button.
“So, ah, here’s the thing.” Breathwaite’s nasal twang filled the air between Kate and Wendy. “What if I told you Kyle wasn’t telling you everything about what happened yesterday with that officer at Coxsackie?”
“What if I told you she regularly leaves out facts, the net result being that you look like a fool, your ass hanging in the breeze.”
“If that were true, why in the world would you tell me? Aren’t you and Kate on the same side of the equation?”
“Perhaps I just want to help you.”
The reporter’s taped laughter echoed loudly in the stillness of the dark concrete structure.
“David, you’ve never cared about anyone but yourself. So why don’t you get to the point and tell me what this is really about and stop wasting both of our time.”
“Listen to me, you two-bit dyke,” he hissed, “I can end your career in less than the time it takes you to turn on your tape recorder.”
“What do you want, you slimebag?”
“I want you to write a story that will be carried wide—every major daily in the state, and radio, too. I want you to discredit Kyle.”
“Or I will out you in spectacular fashion to your bosses, your peers, every news outlet worldwide. I’ll get you so much ink you won’t be able to find a job taking out the trash. Oh, and your lovely girlfriend? I’m sure all of the attention will sit well with her father the ultraconservative congressman.”
“I love it when you talk dirty.”
“What kind of story are you looking for?”
“It has to be something that will end her fledgling career as a PIO.”
“It will take me time to put something like that together.”
“You have seventy-two hours. Good-bye, Wendy. I’ll be in touch.”
“What’s in it for you, Breathwaite?”
“That’s of no concern to you, Ms. Ashton. Just take care of business.”
The dial tone turned to a faint hiss.
“My, isn’t he just the charmer.” Kate forced a smile. “Why are you sharing this with me?”
“Because you’ve always dealt fairly with me. Because I know what you went through, and I would be the last one on Earth to put you through yet another undeserved professional hardship. Because I like you. But most of all because it pisses me off to be blackmailed, especially by a twerp like Breathwaite.”
“Fair enough. What are you going to do?”
“I haven’t figured out a game plan yet. But I’m going to take him down if it’s the last thing I do.”
“I can’t say I’d shed a tear if that happened, but I’m not sure that’s the best course of action for the immediate future.”
“What? Kate, I like what I do. If I don’t take him down, I either have to go along with him, which puts you in jeopardy, or I get outed and lose my job.”
“Wendy, if you take him down now, he’ll out you anyway. While exposing him might make you feel better in the short term, it won’t solve your problem.”
“You’re awfully cool for someone whose neck is on the line.”
Kate laughed humorlessly. “He can’t take away from me the things that really matter. He can ruin my career.” She looked pointedly at the reporter. “Don’t get me wrong, that would pain me greatly. I’ve worked very hard to get where I am in life, and I like to think I do a damn good job. But my professional life pales in comparison to what I have personally, and he can’t touch that.”
“Okay, I can understand that. So what do you suggest?”
“You’ve got another two days to work with, right?”
“Yes. Tick tock.”
“Give me until tomorrow night to come up with something, okay?”
“I guess.” The reporter began to turn away.
“Thanks for coming to me with this. You’re a good person.”
“Don’t tell my mother that. She thinks I’m the demon spawn from hell.”
“By the way, did Breathwaite know you were taping him?”
“Oh.” Kate was disappointed, knowing that such evidence might never be admissible in a court, if it ever came to that.
“I don’t ever pick up the phone until the caller hears my taped voice informing him that the conversation may be taped, and that by staying on the line, he is consenting to being taped.”
“Wendy, I love you!”
The reporter smiled for the first time that evening. “Does your girlfriend know?”
“Very funny. Hey, can I borrow the tape? I promise to give it back to you.”
“You know a good reporter never gives up a tape.”
Kate blew out a breath. “I understand.”
Wendy touched her on the arm to force eye contact.
“But I did make you a copy.” She winked. “I’ll call you at home tomorrow night.”
“Better yet, let’s meet at the Falcon at 10:00.”
“Oh, very wicked, Ms. Kyle. The asshole would never think to look for us in a gay bar.”
Later that night Kate and Peter sat at his kitchen table, Fred at their feet and a speakerphone between them.
“What’s going on, you two? You call me on speakerphone at 11:00 at night? You must be up to no good.”
“Why half-pint, I believe I should be objecting to your insinuation.”
“Oh, big word for you, big guy.”
“Okay, you two, knock it off before I send you both to your rooms without supper.”
“She’s such a killjoy, Jay, isn’t she?”
There was a snort on the other end of the line. “Um, Peter? Do you really want me to answer that?”
The technology expert had the good grace to blush. “I suppose not,” he mumbled.
“Right, then,” Kate said. “I had a very interesting meeting this evening with Wendy Ashton, a reporter for the Associated Press. Seems our friend Mr. Breathwaite tried to blackmail her today.”
“Now there’s a surprise.” Peter couldn’t help himself.
“With what?” Jay chimed in.
“Oh, that’s original.”
“It doesn’t have to be original, Jay, it just has to be effective.”
“I know, honey, it just galls me that living your life honestly makes you vulnerable.”
Kate wondered if her lover would ever get past being angry about the circumstances surrounding Kate’s dismissal from WCAP. “Me too, babe, but it’s a price I, for one, am happy to pay.”
Peter forced their thoughts back to the issue at hand. “Why is she telling you this? Why not just do what the asshole wants and save herself?”
“I asked her the same thing. She’s clearly no fan of his, I’ve always given her a fair shake, and she’d love to nail his slimy butt to the wall.”
“What does he want from her?” Jay asked, the indignation clear in her voice.
“He wants her to write a story for wide distribution that will force the governor and the commissioner to fire me.”
Jay’s growl echoed in Peter’s kitchen, prompting a chuckle from Kate.
“I’d like to wring his scrawny little neck.”
“I know the feeling, sweetheart, but I’m not sure that homicide would solve our problem.”
“What do you mean?”
“She means,” Peter said, “that Breathwaite can’t reinstall himself as PIO, so he must be only part of the equation.”
“Exactly. Which is why we need to carefully consider our next move. If we flush him out now, we’re still going to be on the defensive, wondering who else is out there and reacting to whatever their game is.”
“Kate’s right, Jay. We need to let this play out further until we can identify whoever else is behind all this.”
“So we’re just supposed to sit here and watch him shred her publicly like this?”
“To some extent, yes.”
“Jay, sweetheart, I love your protective side, but Peter’s got a point. And neither one of us is advocating that we let the jerk succeed, just that we let him keep trying.”
“But what about Wendy? If she doesn’t do his bidding, he’ll go after her.”
“Which is why we have to help her write a story that will satisfy Breathwaite, but not be sufficiently damaging to Kate to require her removal.”
“Got any ideas, Jay?”
The line went quiet for several moments as all three contemplated the possibilities.
“We can’t let him continue to attack your credibility, that’s for sure. How about if we let her write something personal?”
“What do you have in mind?”
“Give her the story every tabloid’s been clamoring for.”
“Absolutely not. Out of the question, Jay.”
“Just hear me out.”
“No. I’ve spent how many months protecting your identity, keeping the vultures away? Now you want me to let them have at you intentionally?”
“Well, Breathwaite could hardly argue that Wendy didn’t give him something big, and it wouldn’t weaken your standing on the job, since your sexuality is hardly a secret.”
“Jay could be on to something here, Kate.”
“Unacceptable. I won’t do it.”
“Honey.” Jay’s gentle tone touched Kate’s heart, as it never failed to do. “Trish already knows, and she’s stood by me. He can’t hurt me, and I’d be damn proud to be identified as your lover. Heck, imagine the envy out there. I’d acquire a reputation as a stud overnight!”
“I don’t want to give him the satisfaction.”
“Kate, you know I’m right.”
“You’re correct that giving him something personal, rather than professional, might be the right thing to do. But not that. Tell you what,” Kate sighed, “let’s make the story about my parents’ deaths.”
“How does that satisfy Breathwaite?”
“The drunk who killed them never served time. We could slant the story to sound like my bitterness at the criminal justice system affects my performance in the job.”
“Not really. The focus would be on this orphaned eighteen-year-old with an axe to grind who schemed for years to get back at the system that abandoned her. Like all the other stories that have been written to date, it has elements of truth, but this time she gets extra points for bringing in a personal angle.”
Peter considered. “I like it. It’s different than what’s being written now, which might satisfy Breathwaite temporarily, yet so far-fetched that it won’t even raise the commissioner’s eyebrow.”
Kate added, “And we get the added bonus of controlling the story.”
“Kate, I know that was a painful time for you. Are you going to be all right with this?”
Kate tried to ignore the ache that always accompanied thoughts of her parents’ deaths. This was an area that she held most private; even Jay didn’t know the depth of her feelings or thoughts on the subject. As she had for years, she shut down the emotions that threatened to swallow her.
“Thanks, baby. It was a long time ago, and while I miss my parents every day, I don’t waste a second of my time on the scumbag who ran them into that tree.”
“Do you think Wendy will go along with it?”
“I think there’s a good chance she might if I can convince her that the story will be enough to get Breathwaite off her back and out of her bedroom.”
“What was she planning to do with the tape?”
Kate laughed. “I think it has something to do with proctology.”
“Delicately put, love.”
“When will you talk to her next?”
“We’re meeting at the Falcon tomorrow night.”
“I do love your sense of humor. Don’t be letting any strays follow you home.”
“No worries, my love, you’re the only one with a key.”
“On that disgustingly mushy note,” Peter intoned, “I’m kicking you both out so I can get some shuteye. Good night, Jay.”
“Good night, Peter.”
“Good night, John Boy.”
“Good night, Mary Ellen.”
“Ugh, you didn’t actually watch that drivel, did you?”
“No, the credits were my favorite part.”
“Get out of here. See you soon, Jay.”
The Falcon was crowded for the middle of the week. Bodies pulsed to the music; the clink-clink of glasses and beer bottles mixed with laughter and loud conversation. On the level slightly above the dance floor, a serious game of pool was in progress.
“Whoa, would you get a load of that one.”
More than one set of eyes followed the sleek form of the woman in tight blue jeans and a button-down shirt as she surveyed the room.
“Put your tongue back in your mouth, Tess, I saw her first. She’s mine.”
“You can both forget it; you’re not her type. She’s far too sophisticated for the likes of you.”
“Oh, and you think you’re more her style, Robbie?”
Stepping down from the entranceway, Kate ignored the leering and the chatter and nodded to the bartender, who was serving someone at the other end of the Formica-topped bar.
“What can I get you, gorgeous?”
“Just a Diet Coke with lemon, thanks.”
“Oh, big drinker, eh?”
“Yeah,” Kate laughed. “I’ll try not to guzzle it.”
“Don’t look now, but I think that woman over in the corner is trying to get your attention.”
“Is that so? What’s she drinking?”
“Okay, give me one of those, too.”
“Huh, I wouldn’t have picked her for your type.”
Kate rolled her eyes, threw down a few bills, and picked up the beer bottle and her soda. “She’s not,” she said over her shoulder as she walked away.
“Hello, Ms. Ashton.”
“Ms. Kyle.” The reporter nodded. “Fancy meeting you here.”
Kate made a show of looking around. “Nothing fancy about this place.”
“Let’s just say you class up the joint,” Wendy rejoined. “You do realize that every woman in the bar is staring at you, right?”
“What, is my fly undone?”
“Very funny. How do you deal with that?”
“With the kind of attention and looks you get everywhere you go.”
“My fiancée says I’m oblivious and obtuse. She’s probably right.”
“In that case, maybe I should be asking her how she deals with it.”
Kate smiled. “I’d venture to say that she’s the one who turns heads, not me.”
“Well, you must make quite a couple.”
“I think so.” Kate shifted minutely in her chair, uncomfortable talking about Jay with a reporter, even one as friendly as Wendy. “Any more word from Breathwaite?”
“No. I’m not supposed to hear from him until Friday afternoon.”
“Good.” Kate leaned forward to be heard over the music without shouting. “I want you to give him his story.”
“I want you to write a story that will satisfy Breathwaite.”
“But that could mean the end of your career.”
“Not if you write the story I have in mind.” Kate’s eyes burned with intensity.
“Talk to me.”
“My parents died when I was eighteen and away at college. They were killed by a drunk driver on the Hutchinson River Parkway in Westchester. The guy was found civilly liable, but never served time.”
“And this is relevant exactly how?”
“What if, all these years, I’ve been carrying this chip on my shoulder? What if I’ve been plotting all this time to put myself in position to get back at the criminal justice system that denied me justice so long ago?”
The reporter considered. “Yeah, like you had yourself outed and fired from WCAP just so the governor would feel sorry for you and hire you as PIO at DOCS. As if you could have planned all that.”
“Perhaps I was just biding my time, getting experience in the media and getting close to the governor in order to ingratiate myself to him until the appropriate opportunity arose.”
“Nobody’s gonna buy that.”
“Probably not, but the story has elements of truth, and it gives you something Breathwaite will love.”
“A personal angle. Imagine how much he’ll enjoy seeing my personal pain splashed across newspapers all around the state.”
“That would appeal to the asshole.”
Kate ticked off the points on her fingers. “He gets his story, you save yourself, I get to keep my job because the story isn’t sufficient to warrant my dismissal. Everybody wins.”
“What if it’s not enough to get him off my back?”
“I’ll give you enough details to make him happy. Wendy, I’m not going to let him take you down, I promise you.”
The reporter still seemed unconvinced.
“Look, there’s a much juicier story to be had here. This is not an isolated incident with Breathwaite. There’s something much bigger going on.”
“I’ve noticed that you’ve been under the gun in a bunch of papers lately. Why?”
“I’m not sure yet. All I know so far is that Breathwaite wants me out, and he wants to come back to DOCS as PIO. What I don’t know is why or who else is involved. But I intend to find out. And when I do, the story is all yours, exclusively. Just work with me on this piece now. Deal?”
The reporter bit her lower lip and contemplated. “Deal. Let’s get writing.”
David Breathwaite hated Friday afternoons. They represented the slowest time in the news making business. He knew that the best way to bury a story in the news cycle was to plant it on a Friday afternoon for release on Saturday. Conventional wisdom and detailed research showed that the general public paid less attention to the news on Saturday than on any other day of the week.
Likewise, the best way to get something out that would normally never be newsworthy was to announce it on a Friday afternoon. Since so few stories were available to cover, reporters were sure to gravitate to the story, which would likely get much wider play than it merited.
In this case, Friday afternoon was going to suit his purposes just perfectly. Breathwaite wanted Wendy Ashton’s story to get attention without being overshadowed by other big stories. He also planned to have her embargo the story for release in the Sunday papers, not Saturday’s. So, he thought smugly, I get the best of both worlds.
He picked up the phone and dialed.
“This is Wendy Ashton of the Associated Press. I’ll be with you in just a few seconds. Please be patient. As always, your call may be recorded. If you don’t mind that, please stay on the line and I’ll be right with you.”
Breathwaite listened with half an ear as he leafed through some papers on his desk.
“Hello, Wendy. Are you enjoying your Friday?”
Breathwaite laughed. “I’ll get right to the point, then. Do you have my story?”
“What’s my assurance that you won’t double-cross me?”
“Wendy, Wendy, Wendy. I am a man of my word. I’m hurt that you wouldn’t trust me.”
“Excuse me if I’m a little skeptical. You know all reporters are born cynics.”
“If you give me what I want, you have my promise that you can keep your dirty little secret—for now.”
“I filed the story a half hour ago, for release in the Sunday editions. It should be on the wire even as we speak.”
“Hold on a second and let me check. You’ll excuse me, after all, if I don’t take your word for it?”
Breathwaite swiveled in his chair and examined the AP wire as it spat out news items. He scanned the stories until he found the byline he was looking for. As he read it quickly, his eyes narrowed. He tapped his pen on his desk blotter as he considered. The story probably wasn’t enough to force Kyle out. On the other hand, it did air her personal laundry publicly. He smiled a wicked smile. For a private person like that dyke bitch, that could be rather painful. Perhaps she would decide she’d had enough and step aside on her own. While the story wasn’t everything he’d hoped for, it might have the intended result, and he could continue to hold the threat of exposure over Ashton’s head. He nodded.
“Okay, Ashton. I had hoped you would come up with something a little more explosive than this.” He could almost feel her squirm in her chair. “But I’m going to let you off the hook—for the moment.”
“Breathwaite, I don’t know what your game is, but I don’t want any part of it. I’m done, do you hear? I’ve done what you asked me to, now lay off.”
His voice exploded, echoing off the walls of his office, “You’re done when I say you are, bitch!” He straightened his tie and collected himself. “Now be a good dyke and run along. Be grateful I’ve accepted your little offering.” He severed the connection.
On her way to a meeting with senior staff, Kate glanced down at her buzzing pager. There was a single number there: one. She breathed a sigh of relief. Wendy was telling her, through their prearranged signal, that Breathwaite had accepted the story.
Jay brushed the hair from her eyes. It had been a long day, but she felt invigorated by the prospect of writing a really important story. ACT UP was going to change the tenor of the debate on AIDS, she felt sure of it. She had spent the better part of three days with Barry Kaplan, one of the masterminds behind the group’s philosophy and strategies.
Although it was still months away, plans were underway to mark the group’s first anniversary. The event, as Barry and his crew of volunteers envisioned it, would take place where it had all started: on Wall Street, the financial capital of the world. It was there on March 24, 1987 that ACT UP had first made its presence known, protesting profiteering by drug manufacturing companies.
“People need these drugs to have any chance at survival, and the pharmaceutical companies know they have us over a barrel,” Barry said as he took Jay on a tour of the ACT UP headquarters in Manhattan. “They can charge outrageous sums and limit availability of things like AZT to control the market. It’s shameless. We have to do something to make our voices heard.”
“Do you think you can make a difference?”
“We have to believe that we can. I’ve lost dozens of friends to this dreadful disease. I, too, will succumb someday in the not-too-distant future. We can’t roll over and apologize for who we are anymore. They throw us a few crumbs and we bow and scrape and thank them for their generosity. Where is our pride? Where is our passion?”
“A lot of people will say you get more with honey than with vinegar. You have to work within the system to get what you want. What do you say to that?”
“I say that you have to have a seat at the table and a voice before you can have meaningful dialogue. What we are doing here is putting them on notice: we have power and we will use it in any way we have to until you treat us with respect and dignity.”
“Until you are offered a seat at the table.”
“Yes.” He hesitated, looking Jay in the eye. “Ms. Parker, we are dying by the tens—no, hundreds of thousands. We have nothing to lose. Those who come after us have everything to gain. Desperate times breed desperate measures. We will do whatever it takes to win this war, and make no mistake about it, it is a war. It’s a war waged on a disease, and a war against ignorance on one side. It’s also a war waged on people who are different. For some, AIDS is an excuse to brazenly engage in homophobic behavior.”
“You see it as a way to justify the marginalization of gays.”
“Absolutely. It’s the old, ‘they’re getting what they deserve; it’s God’s will,’ argument. In fact, Ms. Parker, I think it rather remarkable that Time magazine is interested in us. Far more forward-thinking and progressive than I would have given you all credit for.”
Jay’s eyes twinkled. “I don’t know, Mr. Kaplan, we just might surprise you.”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. I wish I could get home tonight, but there are fewer trains on Saturdays, and I just missed the last one. Besides, I’ve got to get this story written for Monday morning.” Jay pouted. “God, I miss you so much it hurts inside.”
“I know the feeling, baby. Fred and I miss you, too. It’s all right. You’ll probably get more done without us around to bother you, anyway.”
“Sounds like you’re pretty busy yourself, Stretch. What’s all that noise in the background?”
“You just focus on your story, there, Scoop. Don’t worry about what I’m up to. Write fast so you can come home to us.”
“You know you just obfuscated, Stretch, right?”
“Oh, big word, there, Scoop.”
“You’re doing it again, which tells me that you’re up to something.”
“Argh. You’re maddening, but I’m going to let you get away with it—this time.”
“I love you, Jay.”
“I love you, too, Katherine Ann. Bye.”
Jay hung up the phone, but held the receiver against her chin a moment longer. Five days. This was the longest she had been away from Kate since they had returned together from Sedona. She sighed. “You can’t have it both ways, Parker. You’re the one who told Trish you were ready to get back to work in earnest. That means time away. Suck it up and get on with it.”
A knock on the door halted her monologue.
She looked at the clock. 10:35 p.m. “Who in the world?” When the knock came for the second time, she picked up the softball bat she kept near the door and moved to the peephole. How had someone gained access to the building? Putting her eye to the opening, she glanced around.
She fumbled so quickly with the lock and chain that it took her three tries to get the door open. “Get in here!”
Fred barked exuberantly, throwing himself at Jay and weaving through her legs.
“Shh, buddy. The neighbors’ll kill us.” Kate’s last word was swallowed as Jay pulled her inside, crushing their lips together in a passionate kiss.
When they parted several moments later, Jay said, “This is getting to be a habit with you. You have got to stop calling me from downstairs.”
“Well, if you want us to go...” Kate made a move toward the door, but was stopped immediately by a flying Jay.
“Don’t you dare.”
Kate chuckled. “Since you’re the one with the baseball bat, I suppose I ought to do as you say.”
Jay looked down sheepishly. “Oh, that. Hey, you never know what kind of scum might come knocking at your door in the middle of the night.”
“Scum, is it? Fred, did you hear that? First she scolds us, then she calls us names. Are we gonna stand for that?”
The dog continued to dance between Jay’s legs, talking like Chewbacca, the Wookiee from Star Wars.
“Sorry, princess, looks like you’re gonna have to be indignant on your own.”
“Sure buddy, one scratch and you change allegiances. Can’t say as I blame you, though. You do have good taste.” Kate claimed Jay’s lips again, causing Jay to lose her balance as she stumbled over Fred.
They laughed at the same time, and Kate shooed her faithful companion away. “Sorry, buddy. This is my time.” Taking a step forward, she pulled Jay into her arms. “I missed you so much I couldn’t think straight, love. There I was, sitting in the house moping, and I thought, ‘What am I doing here? It’s the weekend, I have a beeper. Let’s go!’ You don’t mind the company, do you?”
“Mind? Are you kidding? My God, Kate, I can’t stand being away from you. In fact, when you knocked I was just giving myself a pep talk to keep me from ditching the story, renting a car, and driving home tonight.”
“Yeah.” Jay’s voice was a husky whisper as she ran her hands up and down Kate’s sides, pausing to grasp the hem of her sweater and pull it over her head. She gasped audibly when she realized that Kate wore nothing underneath. “God, you are so very beautiful.” Cupping perfect, white breasts in her hands, she lowered her mouth to take an erect nipple between her teeth.
Kate shuddered and reached down to grasp Jay’s buttocks, bringing their bodies into contact all along their lengths. “You feel so good, love.”
“Mm. I love the way your skin tastes,” Jay murmured against the breast she was sampling.
Kate managed to insinuate her hands between them and began unzipping Jay’s jeans.
Jay gripped Kate’s wrist to stop her roaming hand. “Before we go any further, can we take this upstairs to the bedroom?”
“Where’s the challenge in that, baby? Besides, you’re the one who started it.” Kate maneuvered them into the living room, where the large plate-glass window overlooked the twinkling lights of the city below. “We should enjoy the view.”
“I am enjoying the view,” Jay said as her eyes feasted on her lover’s bare upper torso.
“And I’m glad you are.” Kate’s voice lowered an octave. She took a step backward until she was just out of Jay’s reach. “Sometimes I look at you, and I can’t believe you’re mine.”
“I feel the same way.”
They stood two steps away from each other, the air around them crackling with the intensity of their emotions.
“Thank you, Jay.”
Kate’s eyes brimmed with tears of gratitude. “For showing me how to live. For bringing me joy and laughter. For teaching me, maybe for the first time in my life, how to give of myself without reservation or fear.”
“Do I do all that?”
“You sure do.”
“Wow, maybe I should put in for a raise, huh?” Jay moved forward, using her thumbs to wipe the moisture from Kate’s eyelashes. “Kate, before I met you I existed, moving in my own little world. I never allowed anyone to touch me. Not really. Now, I can’t imagine living like that. You’ve opened up a whole new universe to me. I’m the one who should be thanking you.”
“I guess we’re both pretty lucky then, huh?”
“I guess we are.” Jay wrapped her arms around Kate’s bare waist, hugging her tightly. After a minute she asked, “Now can we go upstairs?”
Kate laughed and tipped Jay’s chin up so that she could claim her lips. “Mm. Sweetheart, you can take me anywhere you want.”
“In that case, come with me.”
Kate stirred and glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand. 7:22 a.m. Jay was sprawled on top of her, in exactly the same position she had fallen asleep after several rounds of lovemaking. Kate ran her fingers lightly over the soft skin of her lover’s buttocks, delighting in the texture. She buried her nose in silky strands of hair, the smell reminding her of a fresh summer breeze. It was these moments, just before they started their day, that she cherished most.
“What are you thinking about, love? Your heart is fluttering.”
“Just enjoying how wonderful it feels to hold you like this. I love you, Jamison Parker.”
“I love you, too, Katherine Kyle.”
Just as Jay was about to kiss Kate, a stuffed angelfish was unceremoniously shoved between them.
Kate sighed. “Good morning to you, too, Fred. I don’t suppose you could wait another few minutes, could you?”
The canine wagged his tail furiously, his whole body wiggling from the effort.
“Didn’t think so.” To her lover Kate said, “I’m sorry, baby. I’ve got to get him fed and out.”
“That’s all right. I’ve got to get the ACT UP story written anyway.”
“Okay. Well, why don’t I take him for a run around the Village. I need to pick up a newspaper on my way back, too.” Kate kissed Jay on the top of the head and slid out from underneath her. Immediately, Fred began dancing in circles, the stuffed fish clenched tightly between his jaws.
“C’mon, ya goofball.” Kate scratched the dog on the head as she headed downstairs to the kitchen to feed him.
As she and Fred rounded the corner on the way home, Kate stopped at a newsstand. She selected the New York Post, the Daily News, the New York Times, and Newsday. She was about to head up the steps to Jay’s apartment building when she thought better of it. Instead, she crossed the street, Fred following obediently on the leash, and into the park.
“Jay needs to concentrate on her work, buddy. Let’s enjoy the day for a bit, shall we?”
The air was chilly, fall settling over the city like a blanket. The leaves were beginning to change, the maple trees showing hues of red, orange, and yellow. There was a quietness to this section of the city, a rhythm that differed from the hustle and bustle of midtown Manhattan. The sounds were more muted here, the pace of life a bit slower.
Kate settled down on a bench, Fred lying at her feet. She spread the papers out next to her, choosing to start with the Post first, figuring that paper would be likely to have the most inflammatory version of the story, and perhaps even a companion piece by one of its own reporters in addition to Wendy’s piece.
Kate opened the paper to page two. “Prison PIO Has an Axe to Grind,” the headline screamed.
“Now that’s catchy.” Noting the prominent placement of the story, she added, “Must be a slow news weekend. Just my luck.”
State prison spokeswoman Katherine Kyle may have more on her mind than handling the press, according to anonymous sources close to the situation. The Associated Press has confirmed that Kyle, on the job for a little more than three months, has a reason to be bitter at the very criminal justice system she purports to represent. As a freshman in college, Kyle lost both her parents to a drunk driver in a crash on the Hutchinson River Parkway just outside New York City. Although he paid a large amount of damages awarded in civil court, the man never served a day in jail.
“There’s no question Kate thought he should have done time. It made her very angry at the system. I’m not sure she’s ever gotten over that,” the source revealed.
A review of Kyle’s record on the job to date does not turn up any overt examples of sabotage, but several media outlets around the state have questioned her job performance of late.
State Department of Correctional Services Commissioner Brian Sampson, reached by AP while touring several prisons in the western part of the state, said, “I have complete confidence in Ms. Kyle. Her integrity and professionalism are beyond reproach.”
AP’s attempts to contact Kyle were futile.
With a sigh, Kate turned to the editorial page. Sure enough, the lead editorial headline was “Prison PIO Should Resign.” Sitting on her bench in the quiet of a Greenwich Village Sunday morning, the subject of the attack shook her head sadly.
Predictably, the opinion piece questioned her objectivity, motives, and veracity. It demanded a review of any and all instances in which she had spoken on behalf of DOCS, questioning if the information she had provided news outlets could be trusted.
Kate set aside the Post and picked up the other three newspapers. To her great relief, the Daily News and Newsday simply carried Wendy’s story; the New York Times didn’t run the piece at all.
She closed her eyes, trying to stave off the tension headache that had been her constant companion for the past three months. Unbidden, long-dormant memories of her last conversation with her parents crept in. It was December 15, 1978, and her last exam for the semester was over.
She had just told them she didn’t plan to come home for Christmas vacation. She was enjoying her freedom, experiencing life on her own for the first time. She was just about to start a new job with the ski patrol at the college ski area, and her new bosses had asked her to work over the holiday. Kate could have said no, but she didn’t want to.
“I thought you wanted me to take responsibility, to make my own decisions. Now I do, and you’re upset about it.”
“Katherine, we want you to be your own person, but we haven’t seen you since October, and we miss you terribly.”
She wanted to tell them she missed them, too, but she didn’t utter the words. Instead she said, “I’ll see you at the end of winter term. It’s just two months away.”
“Kate,” her father interrupted in his typically authoritarian tone, “you’ve never missed a Christmas with us. Don’t start now.”
“Dad, you can’t tell me what to do anymore.”
“I most certainly can, young lady.” Even from three hundred miles away, his voice boomed, brooking no argument. “As long as I pay the bills, you’ll do as I say.”
Kate’s mother, as was her custom, tried to make peace between father and daughter. “Katherine, please come home. It’s not right for you to be so far from home on the most important holiday of the year.”
Kate hesitated. She hated to disappoint her mother, but she would not be bullied into changing her mind. “I’m staying. I’ll call you Christmas morning.” She hung up the phone.
But she had never had the chance to talk to them, or to tell them she loved them, and never would again. Kate wiped tears from her face.
“I miss you guys. I’m sorry. If I had made a different choice, you might not have gone to that party and been on that parkway that night. Maybe you’d still be here with me. I was so selfish. If I had only known...” She bowed her head; she would never forgive herself for allowing angry words to be the last between them.
Fred, sensing his mother’s distress, sat up and put his chin on Kate’s lap. Smiling through her tears, she reached down and scratched him on the head.
“C’mon, buddy. Enough of the maudlin for one day. Let’s go see what Jay’s up to.”
As she stood up and gathered the newspapers, her beeper went off. Looking at the number displayed on the readout, she frowned.
“Figures, buddy,” she addressed the dog as she led him at a jog across the street to Jay’s apartment building.
When she opened the door, Jay emerged from her office.
“Honey, Commissioner Sampson is looking for you. He called here. I told him to try your beep—what’s the matter, love?” Jay ran her fingers over Kate’s tear-streaked face. “What happened?”
“Nothing, baby. I’m all right. I need to call the boss back.” At her displeased expression, Kate added, “I’m not blowing you off, Jay. We can talk about it later. Right now I don’t want to keep the big man waiting.”
“I’ll accept that—for now—but we are going to address what’s bothering you afterward, right?”
“Absolutely.” Kate kissed Jay on the forehead before heading into the living room to make her phone call.
“Kate? Have you seen the papers yet this morning?”
“Yes, sir, I have.”
“I just want you to know, I am standing behind you 100 percent on this thing. It’s outrageous that some scumbag reporter would use something as personal as the death of your parents to try to disparage you. I’ve half a mind to call up the editors at AP and demand that she be fired.”
“Sir, I don’t think the story was her doing.”
Kate felt her way carefully, trying to decide how much to reveal. “I see a pattern here, and it goes much further than one reporter and one news outlet.”
“What are you saying, Kate?”
“I’m saying there appears to be a concerted effort underway to discredit me.”
The commissioner was quiet for a moment. “There has been an unusual amount of negative publicity directed specifically at you lately, hasn’t there?”
“Yes, sir, there has. And if you want me to step aside in order to make that stop, I will.”
“I’ve told you before, Kate. The governor and I have complete faith in you. I won’t hear of it.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Not at all, Kate. Who do you think is behind this?”
“I’m not really sure yet, sir.” Technically, that was the truth, Kate thought. Breathwaite clearly had associates they’d yet to flush out, possibly even including Sampson’s second in command.
“I intend to find out,” Sampson stated.
“No, sir. This is my fight. I’ll take care of it.”
“Kate, if it affects my staff or my department, it’s my business.”
“Please, sir, I’d like the chance to investigate further without a lot of fanfare. I think it will be easier to operate under the radar that way.”
“All right, Kate. But if you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask. I want you to know my displeasure isn’t with you; it’s with whoever’s pulling the strings on this thing.”
“I understand, sir, and I appreciate that.”
“Keep your chin up, Kate. Don’t let them get the best of you.”
“Thank you, sir. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.”
Kate found Jay in the kitchen, where she was busy cooking them omelets, home fries, and toast for breakfast. “Mm, something smells delicious.” She wrapped her arms around Jay’s waist, nuzzling her neck from behind.
“Keep that up and something’s going to smell burnt.”
Kate raised her hands in mock surrender, backing away several steps. “Far be it for me to spoil a wonderful meal.”
Jay regarded her intently. “What’s going on, sweetheart? Why were you so upset, and what did the commissioner want this early on a Sunday?”
“Have I told you how absolutely breathtaking you are?”
“Stop it, Kate. Changing the topic will not get you anywhere, and I’m not in the mood for your tricks. So give.”
“You win. Wendy’s story hit all the papers today. I was just having a nostalgic moment for my folks. That’s what had me upset.”
“Oh, honey.” Jay closed the distance between them, taking Kate in her arms. “I’m so sorry. I wish you hadn’t given her that kind of ammunition. I hate to see you in pain.”
“I just let my guard down for a second, sweetheart. I’m fine now.”
“What did the commissioner want?”
“He saw the stories and he was spitting mad at Wendy. Wanted to have her fired.”
“Uh-oh. How’d you get around that?”
“I told him just enough of the truth to mollify him.” At Jay’s raised eyebrow, she continued, “I told him there was something fishy going on that was much bigger than her, but I hadn’t figured all the angles yet.”
“Did he accept that?”
“He wanted to bust heads. I told him I wanted to handle it myself. He’s giving me the room to do that, provided I let him know if I need anything.”
“Well, that’s good, right?”
Jay regarded her speculatively. “Honey?”
“I hate what all this is doing to you.” Kate tried to pull away, but Jay held her fast. “Just hear me out. You’re so stressed your jaw barely opens, you’re not sleeping well, you have to think three steps ahead of everything all the time. This is crazy.”
“I can handle it.”
“I’m not arguing whether or not you can handle it, baby. I’m just saying I wonder if this is all worth it.”
“What are you driving at?”
“You don’t need this. We don’t need this. You could walk away and be well out of it.”
Kate stiffened. “No.”
“Don’t you even want to think about it? Look at what this is doing to you.”
“No way. Jay, first of all, I like what I do. Second of all, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let these bastards, whoever they are, win. I won’t do it.”
Jay, sensing that her partner had her mind made up, relented. “Okay then. I’m with you, love. We’ll get through this together.”
“Thank you, Jay. Your support means everything to me.”
“You mean everything to me, Katherine Ann Kyle. We’ll do whatever it takes. Let’s get the bastards.”
“That’s my girl.”
As soon as they were seated around the table in their usual meeting spot, DNC Chairman Hawthorne began. “Okay, gentlemen. Where are we?” He looked meaningfully around the table. “So help you God if the news isn’t good.”
At the same time, the governor’s press secretary and the DOCS executive deputy commissioner glared at Breathwaite.
“Well, David, it seems that all eyes are on you.”
“So it does.” Breathwaite barely glanced up from the notebook in which he was doodling.
“I’m working on it, Bob.”
“We’re running out of time, and I’m running out of patience, you little—”
“Relax, Senator. I don’t see anyone else in this room stepping up to the plate.”
“You said you could handle it.” Vendetti pointed his finger at Breathwaite. “I’ve been busy trying to do damage control to keep Governor Charlie from derailing this train. Every goddamned time our boy has dinner with Kyle he comes out with some bold policy initiative that’s sure to draw fire. At this rate, I’ll never get to the White House.”
“Oh, stop your whining, pretty boy. My strategy is already in play. It’s just a matter of time.”
“Time, you maggot, is a luxury we don’t have.”
Breathwaite’s ears began to turn red, the only visible sign of his anger. Before he could answer, however, Bill Redfield joined the conversation.
“For your information, genius, your ‘strategy’ is only making things worse. The commissioner called me this morning to tell me he’s standing by Kyle, despite the sudden onslaught of negative publicity. He’s figured out that these stories aren’t random, and he’s itching to find out who’s at the root of this smear campaign, as he called it. The only thing that’s saving us is that Kyle apparently convinced him not to intervene.”
“She’s probably ready to resign.” Breathwaite appeared unconcerned about the development.
Redfield shook his head. “She’s not going anywhere of her own volition, and he’s not throwing her out. She told Sampson she wanted to take care of the situation herself.”
“It’s obvious they know there’s something organized going on. I thought the idea here was to be subtle.” Vendetti leaned forward in his chair.
Breathwaite sneered, “I thought the idea here was to get results.”
“Either way, you’ve failed,” Vendetti said.
Breathwaite jumped to his feet. “Listen, you sniveling ingrates. It’s not over yet. You said six months, and it’s only been four. Get off my back!”
“Sit down, David,” Hawthorne ordered.
Reluctantly, he did.
“It appears we now have two problems. We still have to get Kyle out of the way, and, we may have to do something about Sampson before he starts to make noise to Charlie about his suspicions.”
“Great. Just great.”
“Michael, shut up. It’s your job to keep tabs on any interactions between Charlie and Sampson. If it looks as if Sampson’s brought the issue to Charlie’s attention, then we’ve got to move.”
“I’m not sure we can afford to wait for that to happen, Bob. Once the governor is made aware of the situation, it becomes far more complicated. I think it’s time to pull out what we’ve got on Sampson now.”
“We don’t have anything on Sampson. I have it, and I’ll take care of it.”
“The same way you’ve taken care of Kyle, Breathwaite?”
“It seems to me, Willy, that it’s in your best interest to be nice to me. After all, you do want to be the next DOCS commissioner, don’t you?”
“Gentlemen. Cool it. Baiting each other will get us nowhere. We’re all in this together.” Hawthorne stood. “I want Kyle and Sampson gone within the next two weeks, Breathwaite, do I make myself clear?”
“Right. Michael, I want you to clear the way with Charlie for Bill to take over at DOCS. Then, with Kyle gone, we can move David back in as PIO and be back on schedule before any more damage is done.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“The next time I hear from you all, I want to know that everything has gone smoothly. Good day, gentlemen.”
“What’s that delicious smell?” Kate walked in from the garage, placing her briefcase on the floor and hanging her keys on the key rack just in time to stop Fred from running her over. “Hi, handsome. Is Jay home and cooking? Lucky us, huh, buddy?”
Jay stood in the doorway, watching her interact with the dog, glad beyond measure of the smile he always put on her face. “Hi there, beautiful. Do I get a scratch, too?”
“If that’s what you really want. I was thinking, though, that we both might enjoy this”— she kissed Jay sweetly on the lips—“a little more.”
“Mm. Definitely. If I’m really good, can I have another?”
“I don’t know, how good are you?”
Jay purred, “You need to ask that question?”
“Um, never mind, I withdraw the question. What are you doing home so early, sweetheart? I thought you’d be coming in on a late train.”
“I turned in my story early this morning, waited a few hours for Trish to get around to looking at it, cooled my heels for an hour or so waiting for the next assignment, then decided Trish could call me when she was ready. I wanted to be here when my fiancée got home from work.”
“I love the way you think.” Kate wrapped her arm around Jay’s waist as they made their way to the kitchen. “What are we having? Whatever it is, it smells like heaven.”
“I thought I’d get a bit creative tonight. I’m making duck à l’Orange with wild rice, salad and, if you’re really nice to me, chocolate mousse for dessert.”
“Wow. What did I do to deserve all this?”
“You fell in love with the right girl.”
“I sure did.” Kate turned Jay in her arms, running her hands up her back while pulling her in close. “I love you, Jamison. So very, very much.”
“And I love you, Katherine, more than words can ever express.”
After a moment lost in each other’s gazes, they allowed their mouths to meet. It was not a passionate kiss, but one that bespoke a connection that ran deeper than either could put into words.
When they parted, Kate ran her finger along Jay’s jaw, unwilling to sever the physical link so soon. Her eyes lingered on Jay’s face. Eventually, she broke the spell. “Let me just go change my clothes quickly. I’ll be right back.”
“Okay. Dinner will be on the table in five minutes, so no dawdling up there, Kyle.”
“Are you calling me a loafer?”
“Just get moving, you’re wasting time. You’re down to four minutes, twenty-eight seconds. Twenty-seven, twenty-six...”
“I get the idea. I’m going, already, I’m going.”
True to her word, Kate was back in under five minutes. Jay was just putting the food on the table when she walked into the dining room.
“It looks as wonderful as it smells. Always a good sign.”
“Keep it up and Fred will be eating your portion.”
“Hey, that’s a little extreme, don’t you think?”
“I try not to.”
“Very cute, Parker.” Kate took Jay’s hand, kissing the back of it before turning it over and kissing the palm. “Thank you for making a lovely meal, honey.”
“That’s better,” Jay winked. “Nice comeback.”
“Glad to see I haven’t lost my touch.”
They enjoyed a leisurely dinner, feeding each other bits of duck along with forkfuls of rice. When it came time for dessert, by mutual consent they decided to move to the bedroom. Kate carried the bowl of mousse upstairs.
Jay ran one finger down Kate’s fly, pausing before retracing her movements upward. Reaching the button at Kate’s waist, she released it from its clasp, lowering the zipper with exaggerated slowness and easing the jeans down long legs.
Kate stepped out of the pants, her eyes fixed on Jay’s mouth. Without turning her head, she located the dessert bowl and spooned some of the fluffy chocolate onto her index finger. Carefully, she painted Jay’s lips before ducking her head and spending a long time removing the confection.
“Mm. Tasty dessert, love.”
Jay bent down, relieving Kate of her panties. “I’ll have to see for myself, now, won’t I?” She scooped a generous helping of chocolate onto her fingers, sliding them against Kate’s wetness. Pausing to look up at her lover, she smiled wickedly just before dropping to her knees, immersing herself in Kate’s sweet-tasting center.
“How’s—oh God, right there, baby—the mousse?” Kate managed to choke out, seconds before a wave of pleasure swamped her senses.
When she was able, she pulled Jay to her feet, lifting her into her arms and carrying her to the bed. She took care in stripping Jay, applying chocolate to breasts, pelvic bones, navel, and clit. She sucked each chocolate-covered finger into her mouth, smiling when she felt Jay squirm in anticipation of what was to come.
Kate began with Jay’s breasts, her palms caressing the outer curves, her mouth hovering over coated nipples. Gradually she lowered her head, her lips enveloping the sweet-tasting skin.
“Mm, now this is the way to enjoy dessert.”
Trying to think of a witty comeback, Jay murmured, “Sure saves on the dishes.”
“That it does, love.” Kate dipped her tongue into the well of Jay’s belly button.
“Ugh. You’re killing me, baby. Please.”
“Patience, sweetheart. I’m trying to savor the flavor.”
Jay growled in frustration, which only served to make her lover laugh.
Kate feasted on succulent pelvic bones, lingering over each one before succumbing to Jay’s entreaties and pressing her mouth against her throbbing clit.
When the orgasm came, Jay felt more alive than she ever had in her life. As her breathing resumed its normal pattern, she buried her face in her hands.
Immediately, Kate was alongside her, her hands framing Jay’s face. “What is it, love? Are you all right?”
“Never better, my love. It’s just...sometimes it’s hard to fathom how much you mean to me. I am the luckiest woman on the planet.”
“On the contrary, Jamison, I am the one who is profoundly lucky. You are the most beautiful soul I’ve ever known.”
“How about if we settle on the notion that we’re both lucky and leave it at that?”
“Works for me, sweetheart.”
The lovers sealed the agreement with a kiss that was equal parts wonder and reverence.
Breathwaite paced the length of his office, turned around, and stalked the other way. “It’s not working. I need something more. The stubborn bitch isn’t budging.”
The blockish man sitting in the corner continued to clean his teeth with a toothpick. “What do you want me to do, boss?”
“I want you to find me something—anything—that I can use to get Kyle out of that seat. Damn it all to hell, Kirk. If I don’t make this happen, and soon, I’m out of the game.”
“Maybe you haven’t been looking in the right places.”
Breathwaite narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean?”
Kirk looked supremely bored. “You’ve been trying to discredit her professionally, right? Shake her credibility?”
“Of course. If I can plant that seed of doubt—make her seem less trustworthy—I’ll have her.”
Kirk examined his nails. “Seems to me that hasn’t been working too well for you so far.”
Breathwaite rounded on him. “You got any other ideas?”
“Hey,” Kirk held up his hands, “I’m just a stupid PI, remember?”
“Don’t play games with me, you lazy son of a bitch. I pay you good money to dig up dirt, and so far, I have to say, you haven’t proved to me that you’re worth a dime.”
Kirk snarled. “I was smart enough to uncover your con, little man, so you’d best watch your manners.”
Breathwaite clamped his jaw shut with a resounding click. After collecting himself he said, “It’s obvious to me that you’ve been giving this matter some thought. Care to share your ideas?”
Kirk smirked. “That’s better.” He went back to manicuring his nails. “As a matter of fact, I have been giving this considerable thought. What’s the chink in this dyke’s armor? What’s her Achilles’ heel?”
He let Breathwaite think for a moment.
“You’ve been going on the assumption that it’s her pride, her professionalism. But that doesn’t seem to be it, right, boss?”
“So what else is there, I asked myself.”
“You know something.” It was a statement, not a question.
Kirk smiled beatifically. “Could be.”
“Ah ah ah. Patience, little man. It’s going to cost you.”
The grinding of Breathwaite’s teeth was audible in the silence.
Kirk chuckled. “You must be a dentist’s dream. Relax, all I want—in addition to my money, of course—”
“Naturally,” Breathwaite muttered.
“All I want,” Kirk raised his voice slightly, “is a cut of the action when you get to D.C.”
“What, exactly, do you have in mind?”
“I want a position as chief of security for the big man.”
“Can’t be done,” Breathwaite dismissed him out of hand. “Chief of security has to be secret service. You might remember that there are a few black marks in your portfolio. You’d never get through the screening process.”
“Okay then, expunge my record.”
Breathwaite considered. “Done.”
“Right, then.” Kirk reached into the briefcase that had been sitting at his feet. He walked across the room, unceremoniously tossing a manila file folder on the desk.
Breathwaite scooped it up greedily and leafed through the contents. He stared hard at a glossy picture in the middle of the pile before returning to the top page. He began to read aloud. “Jamison Parker, age twenty-four, reporter for Time magazine.” He glanced at the next series of pages—a Time magazine story from the previous May, making special note of the date at the top. Smiling evilly, he shut the folder with a snap.
“Kyle.” Kate rolled over and answered the phone automatically, scowling at the bedside clock. 3:45 a.m.
“Good morning, Ms. Kyle. David Breathwaite here.”
“How can I help you, David?”
“I’d like to meet with you at your earliest convenience.”
I’d rather eat rats for breakfast, Kate thought. What she said was, “Regarding?”
“I’d rather talk about it in person, Ms. Kyle. Let’s just say it would be in your best interest to make it sooner rather than later. Perhaps I could buy you a cup of coffee before work this morning, for instance?”
Kate weighed her options. She could refuse the invitation, but there was no real advantage to doing so. She did, however, want to force Breathwaite to meet her on her own turf. “My office in one hour. I’ll supply the coffee.”
It was clear from the momentary silence on the other end of the phone that Breathwaite didn’t like being dictated to, but he agreed to the terms of the meeting and rang off.
Jay rolled over sleepily and propped her chin on her lover’s naked shoulder. “Who was that, sweetheart? You look like you swallowed a lemon.”
“That, my love, was our good friend Mr. Breathwaite. Seems he wants to meet with me ASAP.”
Jay’s growl reverberated in the quiet of their bedroom, causing Fred to look up from his customary position next to Kate’s side of the bed. “I strongly dislike that man.”
Laughing, Kate hugged Jay. “Really? I couldn’t tell.”
“I take it you’re going?”
“No, actually, he’s coming. I wanted him on my home court.”
“Oh. Good thinking, sweetheart. Put him at a disadvantage.”
“As much as that’s possible without knowing most of what’s going on.”
“Looks like you may be about to find out.”
Kate looked pensive. “Maybe, but somehow I don’t think he’s likely to be very forthcoming.”
Kate walked into her quiet office, glad that, other than the two officers in the command center, there were no employees in the building at this early hour. She looked around at her cramped space, neat stacks of paper covering most of the sturdy, solid oak desk that dominated the room. Like all the furniture in the building, the desk was a Corcraft product. Corcraft, which utilized inmates in all facets of the manufacturing process, was the prison system’s money-making division. Almost all state agencies were required to order their furniture from the Corcraft catalog.
In addition to the desk and its accompanying executive’s chair, there were two straight-backed visitors’ chairs and a printer stand that held the AP Teletype machine. There were no windows and no personal effects anywhere to be seen.
Kate sat down and opened a steaming container of coffee, the aroma making her mouth water. Within seconds she heard footsteps approaching from the outer office. At the knock on the doorframe, she looked up to see Breathwaite. She invited him in with a wave of her hand, beckoning him to sit.
“Good morning.” She shoved the second cup of coffee across the wooden surface of the desk. She intentionally hadn’t asked him how he liked his coffee, ordering it black and hoping like hell that wasn’t the way he took it. Anything that made him more miserable was fine with Kate.
“Hello,” Breathwaite chirped too cheerfully.
“What can I do for you, David?”
“It’s not what you can do for me, Ms. Kyle; it’s what you can do for yourself.”
Kate folded her hands on the desk and waited.
Breathwaite cleared his throat. “I see you’ve been having quite a time of it lately in the media.”
“Nothing I can’t handle, I assure you, David.” Kate noted that Breathwaite had yet to look her in the eye.
“The pressure must be getting pretty intense.”
“Not really.” Kate stared at him levelly.
“No? With so many news outlets questioning your credibility and the tabloids still so interested in the identity of your girlfriend...”
Kate tensed minutely in spite of herself, an action that was not lost on her visitor.
“I would have thought,” Breathwaite continued, “a woman of independent means like you might have opted to give this endeavor up in exchange for a quieter, more private life.”
“That’s never been a consideration.”
“Really? That’s odd; you’ve gone to such extraordinary lengths to protect Ms. Parker to this point.”
At the mention of Jay’s name, Kate’s eyes flashed.
Breathwaite leaned forward in his seat. “Yes, I know who she is, Ms. Kyle. There’s very little I don’t know or can’t find out.”
“Why exactly are you here, David? I’m assuming there’s a purpose to your visit—other than to take up space in my office, I mean?”
Unable to sit still any longer, Breathwaite rose and began to pace, seemingly inspecting the artwork on the walls. “I’ll make this simple, Ms. Kyle. You resign, and your secret remains just that.”
“And if I refuse?”
He turned to face her. “I’m sure the National Enquirer would be thrilled to know the identity of your lover.” He spat the word. “And I’m equally certain that Time magazine would be pleased to know that your partner in perversity in the Enquirer photos is a woman who had just finished writing a glowing front-page article on you for them.”
“What could you possibly gain by forcing me out, Breathwaite? Why is my leaving so damned important to you? What’s your game?”
“What’s your answer, Kyle? Are you willing to destroy your girlfriend’s career?”
Kate took a sip of her coffee in order to allow herself time to think before responding. Her first instinct was to protect Jay from this ugliness at all costs. As soon as the thought crossed her mind, however, she dismissed it. She’d nearly lost Jay the very same way not six months earlier and had vowed then and there never to make decisions on her lover’s behalf again without clear direction from her.
Kate thought about Jay’s willingness to out herself to help her and their more recent discussion in which Jay had explicitly told Kate they would stay and fight, together. She nodded to herself and rose to her full height. Towering over the much shorter Breathwaite, she growled, “Go to hell, you two-bit scum.”
Breathwaite planted his hands on the desk and leaned forward, bringing him to within a foot of Kate’s face. “You have no idea what hell looks like, Kyle, but you’re about to find out.”
After Breathwaite had departed, Kate drummed her fingers on the desk, her mind working furiously. “That’s it.”
She rushed out of her office, downstairs to the first floor, out the door and hopped into her car. Within twenty minutes she was home.
She bolted through the front door. “Jay? Honey?”
Kate followed Jay’s voice, taking the stairs two at a time, practically colliding with her as she rounded the corner from her home office.
“What are you doing home, Kate?”
Kate gathered her in her arms, hugging her close.
Jay pulled back slightly in order to gauge the expression on Kate’s face. “Did you have your meeting with Breathwaite? How’d it go? Are you all right?”
Without answering, Kate took Jay by the hand and led the way downstairs to the living room. She sank down on the couch and pulled Jay into her lap.
“You remember when you said you were willing to expose yourself as my lover for Wendy’s story?”
“Yes.” Jay drew out the word.
“And you remember that I was vehemently opposed to the idea?”
“Let’s just say it’s out of our hands.”
Kate nodded sadly. She gave Jay a rundown of the meeting, after which silence permeated the room.
Finally Jay murmured, “That son of a bitch.”
Kate, easily able to feel her partner’s agitation, rubbed her back gently. Seeing her suffer only strengthened her resolve. “Sweetheart?”
Jay sighed. “Yeah, love?”
“Let’s get him.”
Jay straightened up. “What do you have in mind?”
“I want to steal the story out from under Breathwaite’s nose—beat him to it.”
Jay raised her eyebrows.
“We need to make the announcement ourselves, honey, before he leaks it.” Before Jay could say anything, Kate added, “That’s the only way we can have any control over the story, love.”
Jay thought for a moment. “Okay. That makes sense. Tell me, oh great spinmeister, how do you propose to go about this?”
“Scoop,” regret was etched in every line of Kate’s face, “this could get really ugly. I think it’s entirely possible that he’ll try to attack your journalistic integrity.”
“Katherine Ann, I will not apologize for the story I wrote about you.” Jay was defiant. “I disclosed everything to my editor at the time, and Trish stood by me then. I suspect she’ll stand by me now. In any event, you and I both know that the piece was as objective as it would have been had a stranger written it.”
Kate ran her fingers along the fine jawbone that she loved so much. “I’m so sorry you’re getting dragged into this, sweetheart. I never meant for this to happen.”
“Shh, I know that, Kate. I told you before, I’m proud to be your fiancée, and it will be a relief not to have to hide that anymore. Breathwaite has no idea what he’s in for.”
Kate chuckled. “That’s my tough girl.”
Jay kissed her lover lightly on the lips. “That’s me. I say bring it on!”
“I’m sure that’s exactly what the asshole will do.”
“So, what’s our plan?”
“Let’s start by bringing Peter and Barbara up to speed.”
“Barbara?” Jay asked, a little surprised.
“Yep. She may be ‘just’ a doctor, but she’s also got a brilliant mind and a gift for seeing all the angles.”
“We’ve got to hurry, Jay. We don’t have much time.”
Less than half an hour later, the four met in Barbara’s nearby office. It was not yet 6:45 a.m.
“Now you know what I know,” Kate said. “I wish like hell I could’ve gotten some hint of the scope of this thing, but Breathwaite didn’t bite. So we’re no closer to finding out the rest of the pieces of the puzzle than we were before, and Breathwaite has new ammunition that he’s gleefully willing to use.”
Peter weighed in, “No. You’re wrong. We know that he’s getting more desperate by the minute, which tells us a lot.”
“Peter’s right,” Barbara chipped in. “For one thing, the escalation might indicate that he’s on a timetable—that he has to have you out by a certain date. For another, it seems to me as though the timetable is not his and he’s not the boss here. I know that might have been obvious to you before, but, as with all scientists, I like to see corroborating evidence. Finally, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that whoever it is, it’s someone who wields a significant amount of power if it can make an essentially arrogant, self-important imp feel fear.”
Jay muttered, “You’re right. It is almost as if he’s running scared of something.”
“There’s certainly nothing subtle about his approach, that’s for sure,” Kate added. “Okay, I take it back. We did find out some things of value. Still, there’s too much we don’t know yet. We have to find a way to flush out the other players. We think Redfield might be one, but he’s not powerful enough to scare Breathwaite.”
“How do you suggest we go about finding the others?” Barbara asked.
Jay jumped in before her partner could answer. “Wait. Before you consider that, we need to focus on the here and now. What’s staring us in the face this morning is the immediate threat. We can turn our attention to Breathwaite’s cohorts after we deal with this.”
“Right, Jay.” Kate spared a loving look for her partner. “Within the next three to three and a half hours, Breathwaite will have had a chance to give the story to the tabloids, not to mention the Post and the News.”
“What do you recommend, Kate?”
She considered her options as she had any number of times over the course of the past couple of hours. “First, I want to call Wendy Ashton and give her a half-hour jump on the story. Then I think we should call a press conference, introduce Jay as my partner, explain that we are making the announcement at this time because we are proud of our relationship, tired of being hounded incessantly by the media, and because we wish to get this out of the way so that we can have some peace and move on with our lives without having to endure the type of scrutiny normally reserved for heads of state.”
Heads nodded around the room.
“What about timing?” Barbara asked.
“Talk to Wendy now, asking her to embargo the story until 9:00, then do the media circus at 9:30.”
“Explain the purpose of doing it that way, please? For those of us who don’t do this for a living.”
“Talk to Wendy first because she’s a lesbian, will handle the story with class, and because I owe her. 9:30 a.m. for the press conference because it gives assignment editors, who come in an hour in advance of their reporters, just enough time to get their folks scrambled out the door before any other events take place. Also, we beat the magic 10:00 a.m. hour, which is when most print journalists in this town start their day. Breathwaite will likely wait until then to make his phone calls, since he knows it’s mostly a waste of time trying to reach anyone in their office before then. Assignment editors, on the other hand, won’t wait—they’ll call their guys at home and tell them to get their asses in gear now. Not only that, but having Wendy’s story on the wire will make covering our press conference a must, since every other reporter will already be behind the eight ball.”
“And,” Jay chimed in checking her watch, “the timing still gives us a couple of hours to put everything in place.”
“Why not just put out a statement? Why do you want to face that media circus?” Barbara asked.
All eyes turned once again to Kate.
“Good question. If we put out a statement and don’t give the vultures an opportunity for photos, they’ll just keep hounding us everywhere we go until they get the shot they want. If we let them snap away at the press conference, that should satisfy them. I hope.”
“I’m sure you two have thought of this,” Peter piped up, “but you both have bosses that you ought to fill in before you go any further.”
The lovers looked at each other. Finally, Jay said, “You’re right, Technowiz. I better let Trish know what’s about to come down.” She sounded less than thrilled at the prospect, and Kate moved closer to wrap an arm around her.
“I’m so sorry, love.”
“No,” Jay said fiercely. “Don’t you dare apologize, Katherine. This is not your fault. The blame lies squarely with that two-bit troll.”
“She’s right, Kate,” Barbara added gently.
Looking at his friend, Peter said, “And you, my dear Katherine, have a commissioner to face. Better get him up to speed.”
Jay looked dubiously from her lover to Peter.
Kate explained, “Honey, if the commissioner was involved, I’d already have been fired. Peter and I are as sure as we can be about anything that he’s clean.”
“Okay, I’ll have to take your word on that.”
Peter said, “Kate, why don’t you draft an advisory with the details of the press conference, and Barbara and I can fax it from her machine. Just give us your media contact sheet and we’ll send it out to the news outlets.”
Barbara added, “Then you and Jay will be free to take care of your respective bosses.”
“Thanks guys. That makes good sense.” She looked at her best friends and summoned her cockiest grin. “Well, this ought to be fun. See you in a bit.”
“Trish? It’s Jay. I hate to bother you at home, but I thought I’d better not wait.”
“What’s up? Are you so anxious for your next assignment that you couldn’t wait until I got into the office? You know I love your initiative and drive, but...”
“Very funny. You know I wouldn’t bother you unless it was really important.”
“I know that, kiddo, I was just trying to lighten you up a bit. You sound pretty strung out.”
“Well, it’s not every day that my relationship gets splashed all over the headlines and my professionalism called into question.”
“Slow down, Jamison. You lost me. What are you talking about?”
Jay explained everything that she and Kate had been through since Kate took the job with the prison system, including Breathwaite’s visit that morning.
“I wish you’d told me what was going on, kiddo. No wonder you’ve seemed a little on edge lately.”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t really think it was your problem. Now, though, it seems more than likely that he’ll go after me professionally. He probably figures if he can push Kate’s buttons he can make her quit.”
“Will it work?”
“No,” Jay said quietly, knowing that Trish was thinking about Kate’s innate tendency to protect Jay without consulting her. “Kate told him to go to hell, came right home to tell me everything, and we planned the strategy together.”
“Okay, kiddo. I just don’t want to see you get hurt again.”
“I may well get hurt,” Jay said grimly, “but not by Kate. We’re going to take our relationship public before the jerk has a chance to do it for us.”
Trish whistled. “Wow, kiddo. Gutsy move.” She thought for a minute. “Smart, I think. It prevents him from having a role at the outset.”
“But I think you’re right. It doesn’t sound to me like he’s the kind of guy who’s gonna let that stand for very long.”
“Exactly. If the first day’s story is my identity, you can bet that day two’s headlines will be the timing of the cover story last May.”
“Mm. Makes sense.”
“Trish, I know you stood by me then, and I really appreciate it, but I don’t want to do anything to damage the magazine’s reputation.” The note of dejection was clear in Jay’s voice.
“I know that, Jay. Your integrity is one of the things I admire most about you. Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, you just focus on what you have to do this morning. I’ll have a conversation with the managing editor and we’ll come up with a plan.”
“Chin up, kiddo. I’ll be rooting for you.”
“Thanks, Trish. You’re the best.”
Kate walked into Commissioner Sampson’s office and closed the door.
“You needed to see me, Kate?”
“Yes, sir. Thank you for making the time.”
“Sit down, sit down. How many times have I told you there’s no need to be so formal.”
Kate selected the chair closest to the door. “Sir, do you remember our conversation after the AP story came out?”
“Of course I do.”
“Well, as I told you then, there is a concerted effort going on to discredit me. Today the campaign is going to reach a new low.”
“How do you know?” Sampson made a show of looking at his watch. “It’s barely 7:30 in the morning.”
“I know with a great degree of certainty that the plan is to release Jay’s identity as my partner to the tabloids today, sir.”
Sampson raised his eyebrows. “And you know this how?”
“I’d rather not say yet, sir. I’d rather focus on what I plan to do about it.”
“Kate, I told you once before, I want to know who’s responsible for all this. If you know something, I want you to share it with me.”
“Is that an order, sir? Because if it is, I will answer you, but I’d rather take care of today’s business first, if you don’t mind.”
The commissioner sighed. “Kate, I’m not going to force you to tell me what you clearly don’t want to share, for whatever reason,” he stared at her meaningfully, “but I like to keep control over what goes on in my shop. I’m sure you can understand that?”
“Yes, sir, I do. But I still don’t know enough yet to act on anything except heading off today’s disaster.”
“Okay. Tell me what you have in mind. And, by the way, before you go any further, let me go on the record as saying I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what, sir?” Kate looked puzzled.
“Sorry that Jay is getting dragged into this and that the two of you have to go through such garbage.”
“Thank you, sir. Have I told you lately that you’re an extraordinary man?”
Sampson laughed. “I think I would have remembered if you had, but feel free.”
“Most people wouldn’t be as accepting as you and the governor have been, sir,” Kate’s voice cracked with emotion, “and I can’t begin to tell you how much Jay and I appreciate that.”
“You’re welcome, Kate. Now, tell me what’s going on.”
Kate filled Sampson in on their plans for the morning. As she did so, he sat watching her intently, his fingers steepled under his chin.
When she had finished, he said, “All right. I can understand why you want to get out ahead of the curve. I’ll let the governor know—that will be one less thing you have to worry about.”
“Are you sure, sir? I mean, it’s my responsibility.”
“I’ll take care of it, Kate. You’ve got more than enough to worry about without having to do that also. I can assure you right now, though, that his reaction will be much the same as mine. We’re behind you 100 percent.”
“Thank you, sir.” As she stood and turned to leave, she added, “If you change your mind and we need to reevaluate my position here at DOCS, I’ll understand.”
“I won’t hear of it. Good luck, Kate. You’ve got a lot of guts. I wish you the best.”
“Thank you, sir.”
At 8:00 a.m., Kate and Jay rendezvoused once again at Barbara’s office.
“Everything okay, love?” Kate asked, as she shut the door to Barbara’s meeting room, where Jay was already seated at the table.
“So far, so good. Trish was very understanding, totally supportive, and willing to go to the managing editor for me to run interference.”
“Yeah, but I’m not so sure that Mr. Standislau is going to be quite as accepting and helpful about all this as Trish has been. He’s a pretty conservative, by-the-book kind of guy. If this goes down the way we think it will, the magazine’s reputation could take a hit for allowing a reporter with close ties to a subject to write the story.”
“Maybe. Did he know at the time what had happened?”
“I don’t know if Trish ever shared that with him or not. For her sake, I hope so. If this comes as a surprise to him—well, I sure don’t want to get her in trouble with the big boss on my behalf.”
“I’m sure she knows that, honey. She sounds like a tough, smart woman. I’m betting she knows how to handle Standislau.” Kate noted Jay’s grim expression. “In any event, that’s not something we should be dwelling on right now. First things first.”
“Right,” Jay said with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. “Today we let the wolves have at both of us. Tomorrow they can pick on my carcass. On day three they can take aim at Time for good measure.”
Before Kate could respond, there was a knock at the door. Barbara stuck her head in.
“Ashton is here, ladies. She’s in the waiting room. Want me to entertain her for a bit?”
They both sighed heavily. “No,” Kate said, “I’ll be out in a second.”
As the door clicked shut once again, Kate crossed to where Jay was sitting, pulling her to her feet and into a hug. “I love you, Jamison Parker, and I would do anything to protect you. You know that, right?”
Jay looked up into her lover’s intense eyes. “I know that, honey. It’s just one of many things I love about you.” She stood on tiptoes and kissed Kate softly on the mouth. Pulling back she added, “I haven’t had a chance in all the excitement to say this, but I want you to know how very much I appreciate the fact that you let me be part of the decision-making process this time.”
Kate hung her head. “I may be stubborn, Jay, but I’m not stupid.”
Jay lifted Kate’s chin with two fingers, forcing eye contact. “Hey. That’s not what I was trying to say.”
“I’m only trying to say thank you for overriding your protective reflex so that we could face this monster together. It makes me feel incredibly loved and special.”
“You are incredibly loved and special, sweetheart.” Kate captured Jay’s lips in a reverent kiss. “Stay here. I’ll be right back with Wendy.” At the door, she hesitated, looking back at her lover. “Deep breath, baby. Are you ready?”
Jay straightened up and assumed a no-nonsense pose. “Ready when you are, Coach.”
“Right. Back in a flash.”
Within two minutes, Kate walked back into Barbara’s office, followed by the reporter.
“Wendy Ashton, I’d like you to meet the love of my life, Ms. Jamison Parker. Jay, this is the intrepid reporter for the Associated Press, Ms. Wendy Ashton.”
Jay stepped forward, her smile radiant, thrusting out her hand for Wendy to shake. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Ashton. I’ve heard so much about you.”
“None of it good, I’m sure.”
“On the contrary,” Jay said, “Kate has told me you’re fair and honorable. And believe me,” she added with a chuckle, “she doesn’t say that about every reporter she meets.”
Kate, standing aside and observing, smirked. It was clear to her that Jay had already won the reporter over.
“I bet,” said Wendy, noticeably more relaxed now than she had been when she stepped into the room.
“Why don’t we all sit down?” Kate suggested.
When they were settled, Wendy looked from Kate to Jay and back again. “Okay, let’s start with an off-the-record question.”
Both interviewees raised their eyebrows.
“Why on earth are you willing to step in front of all those reporters today when you’ve been avoiding them for months?”
As Kate started to open her mouth, Wendy held up a hand. “Don’t answer. Not yet, anyway. That was sort of a rhetorical question. You’ll ruin my fun if I don’t get an opportunity to show your fiancée here how smart I am. Here’s my guess: Breathwaite has figured out Jay’s identity and you need to head him off at the pass.”
Jay glanced to Kate before responding. “Oh, I am suitably impressed, Ms. Ashton.”
“Please, if you don’t start calling me Wendy I’m going to think I’ve turned into my mother.” She turned to Kate. “What happened?” When Kate didn’t immediately answer she added, “Off the record—just ally to ally.”
Kate calculated how much she should reveal. She knew that if it hadn’t been for the bond they’d developed as a result of recent events, she would never even have considered sharing that information. She also was well aware that Wendy had shown great faith in her, and she should return the favor.
“Breathwaite came to me this morning with Jay’s identity and leaned on me to resign. I told him to go to hell, and here we are.”
Wendy nodded. “He figured Jay was your weak spot. Huh.” She thought. “Well, nothing else has worked for him, I guess he felt like he needed to try a different approach.”
“Apparently,” Jay said with distaste.
“Obviously,” Wendy said, “he was wrong.”
Kate looked at Jay meaningfully before answering, “Jay is my strength—she and I will face Breathwaite and any other challenges together.” She reached over and took her lover’s hand, squeezing it gently.
Jay smiled up at her, tears springing to her eyes.
Wendy cleared her throat. “If this keeps up, even I’m gonna cry. Okay, let’s get down to business then. What exactly are you announcing this morning and why?”
By mutual agreement, Kate took the lead in answering Wendy’s questions.
“Jay and I decided to speak out this morning in order to restore some sense of peace and normalcy to our lives. We are proud of our relationship and have nothing to hide. Coming forward, we hope, will bring an end to the incessant questions, rumors, and innuendo about my private life that have swirled around in certain media outlets for the past several months.”
“Why haven’t you come forward before now?”
“We believed that our personal lives were just that, and that if we ignored the hubbub, perhaps prurient interest in us would die down. It hasn’t, so here we are.”
“What do you expect the reaction from your bosses will be to your announcement?”
Kate laughed. “I’m fairly confident that my employers are well aware of my preferences, as the matter has been well documented. Fortunately for me, both the governor and the commissioner are fair, open-minded individuals who are more interested in my job performance than they are in my private affairs.”
Kate watched Jay out of the corner of her eye, knowing that she was waiting for the reporter to ask her the same thing. Her relief when Wendy moved on to the next question was palpable.
“How do you think this will change your lives from this point forward?”
“I am confident that going out to dinner together won’t take quite as much planning,” Kate quipped.
“Fair enough. Are you worried about fallout from those who are less, as you put it, open-minded than your employers?”
“We can’t worry about things we can’t control. We can only live our lives as honestly and truthfully as we can. We’ll deal with everything else as it comes along.”
The reporter sat back. “Okay, ladies. There’s a lot more I should ask, as you both know, but I’m not interested in dragging your personal lives through the mud. I’m sure my colleagues will more than make up for my lack of curiosity in just a little while.”
Kate touched Wendy on the sleeve. “Thank you.”
Wendy looked at Kate, then at Jay. “No, thank you. Thank you for having the courage to come out like this, and for cheating that jerk out of his thunder. Thank you for paving the way and making it easier for the rest of us, hopefully, to follow in your footsteps. And thank you for your dignity. You both do all of us proud.”
Jay spoke up for the first time since the formal interview had started. “I can see why Kate has so much respect for you. You earn it.”
“Thanks.” Wendy winked and smiled. “And I can see why Kate has kept you a jealously guarded secret. She’s going to be the envy of every red-blooded lesbian this side of the Mississippi. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got a story to get on the wire, and, if I’m not mistaken, you’ve got a date with the horde.”
She was gone before either lover could respond.
As they prepared to enter Meeting Room 6 underneath the Empire State Plaza where the press conference was to take place, Kate turned to Jay. “Honey, Wendy was very circumspect with her questions. These folks won’t be.”
Jay tried to smile reassuringly. “I know that, Kate. I trust you to navigate us through this.” She grasped Kate’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “Whatever happens, I know you’ll do your best. That’s good enough for me.”
“Have I told you lately how much I love you?”
Before Jay could answer, Kate pulled the door open. The flashes from dozens of still cameras, combined with the brightness of the TV klieg lights, blinded them both for an instant before they were able to get their bearings.
Kate led Jay to the front of the room where a podium was set up. On it were more than twenty microphones and handheld tape recorders. The mics all bore the colorful logos, or “flags,” of their respective news outfits; looking at them, Kate recognized every major radio and television station in the Albany area, plus a few from other nearby media markets and one from New York City. There was one unmarked mic, and Kate pitied the reporter who had forgotten to attach the appropriate flag. News directors and general managers lived to see their logos splashed all over the competition’s newscasts—it was a form of free subliminal advertising. It was the reason why reporters tried to time putting their mics up so carefully: put it up too early and it was bound to get shoved aside by others; arrive too late and run the risk of not having any space left on which to place the mic.
Kate looked out over the throng of people. There were many familiar faces—some who covered prison issues, others who had been colleagues and acquaintances from her days with WCAP.
She smiled, held out her hands in a gesture encompassing them all, and said, “What? Was it a slow news day today?”
Her comment broke the ice, and the room erupted in laughter.
“I’d like to say I’m surprised to see you all here, but given the number of you who’ve taken up residence in my back pocket in the last five or six months, I can’t.”
“Who’s the beautiful blonde, Kate?”
“You never did have any patience, Walt, did you? If you wait a second, I’ll get to that. First, I want to set a few ground rules.” She glared at the tabloid reporters in the front row. “We’ll be happy to entertain appropriate questions after I’ve made a statement. Anything of a purely voyeuristic nature will be ignored. Do we understand each other?”
There were generally grudging murmurs of agreement.
“Okay, then. I’d like you all to meet Ms. Jamison Parker. Jay is my partner, my better half, and, in my humble opinion, one of the brightest, most talented, most beautiful women in the world.”
Jay blushed crimson as she looked on, watching Kate exercise complete command over the room while working without any notes whatsoever.
“Although this may seem a bit odd to you, Ms. Parker and I have decided to come forward with her identity at this time because we value our privacy.” She favored the reporters from some of the more aggressive tabloids with a glacial stare. “For nearly six months we have been subjected to intense media scrutiny, so-called journalists shadowing me at all hours of the day and night, grilling my colleagues and friends, even paying purported ‘informed sources’ for ‘inside scoops.’”
A reporter for the National Enquirer piped up, “If you had just answered my questions, I wouldn’t have had to get so inventive.”
Kate glared daggers at him.
“It is our fervent hope that after standing here together today, answering questions about our personal lives that are so clearly beyond the realm of anything resembling news, you all will find the common decency to let us live our lives in peace.” Kate looked over to her left at Jay, who looked for all the world as if she was listening to an interesting lecture. The bunching of her jaw muscles, however, told Kate a different story.
“We’ll take appropriate questions now.”
“Ms. Parker, you can talk for yourself, can’t you?”
Jay stepped up closer to Kate at the podium and smiled engagingly as a new wave of flashes and whirring camera shutters went off. “I’d like to think so.”
“How did you and Ms. Kyle meet?”
“We met initially in college.”
“Have you been lovers since then?”
“No, as luck would have it, we reconnected earlier this year.”
“Ms. Parker, haven’t I seen your name before somewhere? Are you the same Jamison Parker whose byline I’ve seen in Time magazine?”
Kate muttered under her breath, “Well, that took all of four questions.”
Jay squeezed her lover’s hand behind the podium, out of sight of prying eyes and cameras. “Yes, I am a writer for Time and have been for several years.”
“When you say you met in college, what does that mean? Can you elaborate on that a little?”
Jay, who had been expecting a follow-up question regarding her cover story on Kate, smiled. “Sure. We met for the first time when I was badly injured skiing. Kate was the ski patroller who rescued me.”
“Did she steal your heart then?”
“Let’s just say she made quite an impression on me.”
“How about you, Kate? Were you smitten all the way back then?”
“What’s not to love?” She winked.
There were nods of agreement among the male journalists.
Before anyone could ask any more questions, Kate said, “Thanks, folks, but you all have deadlines, and we have work to do ourselves.”
She led Jay away from the podium and hustled her out the door.
When they were safely away from the microphones and cameras, Jay leaned close. “That was an interesting turn of events. What happened there?”
Kate, knowing she was referring to the abrupt change in lines of questioning, laughed. “Marcia happened, that’s what.”
“And who, exactly, is Marcia?”
“Marcia, love, is an old friend of mine from my WCAP days. She’s the station’s top street reporter.”
“So she did that on purpose—to help us out?”
Jay looked incredulous.
Kate said, “Did you get a look at who her photographer was?”
“No, I couldn’t see anything with all those flashes going off.”
“Do you remember Gene, my cameraman?”
“Of course, I got to spend an entire afternoon with him looking at old footage of you when I was working on the story. How could I forget?”
“He was the photog today. He remembers you, too.”
Realization dawned on Jay. “Ah. As soon as he saw that it was me, he knew where the questions were going to go.”
“Sure did. And he tipped his reporter off.”
“Yeah,” Kate sighed wistfully, thinking about the way she had been forced to leave her television family behind. “I miss him. Gene is a good man, and a loyal friend.”
Jay rubbed shoulders with her. “Maybe we could have him over to the house sometime?”
“Maybe,” Kate said vaguely.
“You don’t think he’ll be all right with us?”
“I don’t know, love. My sexuality is not something we ever discussed. Plus, he had a pretty big crush on you when he met you.”
“No way.” Jay gaped at Kate.
“Way. He wanted to ask you out.”
“You never told me that.”
“I didn’t think it was relevant at the time. And I was a little focused on my own attempts to win your heart.”
“Aw, you’re so sweet.”
“Anyway,” Kate went on, “I’m not sure how accepting he’d be.”
“If he’s important to you, Kate, maybe it’s worth the risk to find out.”
“Perhaps. Oh, and for the record?”
“Marcia is gay.”
“Marcia. The reporter who changed the subject for us.”
“Oh.” Jay was quiet for a beat, recalling the attractive redhead in the third row. “She is?”
“Yep. I’m sure glad she doesn’t hold a grudge.”
“What do you mean?”
Kate took her lover by the hand. “I can’t count the number of times I turned her down for dates.”
Jay chuckled. “Poor girl.”
“Nah, she’s better off without me.”
“Lucky for me.”
“There’s no contest, sweetheart.” Kate looked at Jay lovingly. “By the way, I was very impressed with the way you handled yourself in there.”
“Nice change of subject. I’ll let you get away with it this time, Stretch.”
“I appreciate your generosity.”
“How long do you think it will take before the cover piece becomes the story?”
“Two news cycles.”
“Well, that gives us at least until this afternoon, anyway.”
“Nah, I mean two newspaper cycles.”
Jay looked at Kate inquiringly.
“Think about it, Jay—this story isn’t really geared for radio and television—it would take too much in-depth research and it’s not important enough to their audience.”
“That’s your area of expertise, honey, so I’ll defer to you. Considering the newspapers, then, we’ve got until at least day after tomorrow for the cover article to become the focus. Tomorrow’s editions will be all about my identity and the fact that we came forward.”
Jay stopped walking for a moment and turned to her lover. “If it’s not a radio-and-television kind of story, why were they all there?”
“Curiosity, mostly,” Kate answered. “And because they couldn’t very well ignore the press conference altogether if their print compatriots were covering it.”
“Will they run the story?”
“Oh, sure. But it will be old news by noon for the radio folks. The TV guys will air it at noon and again repackaged at six, and that will be the end of it for them.”
“Even after round two?”
“Yeah, I’m betting that only the print folks’ll latch on to the follow-up story.”
“That’s some consolation, then.”
They had reached Kate’s car, which was parked in the visitors’ lot underneath the complex of government buildings.
Kate said, “We’ll see about that.” She kissed Jay on the mouth, lingering long enough to taste her lips and explore a bit, enjoying the freedom of no longer having to care who saw them.
“Mm,” Jay hummed. “What was that for?”
Kate smiled at the slightly dreamy expression on her face. “Just because I could. And because I love you so very much. You really did great today, Jay.”
“You did all the hard work, love. I just came along for the ride.”
“And what a ride it’s going to be.”
At precisely 10:01 a.m. Breathwaite began making phone calls. After the third attempt netted him an answering machine instead of a reporter, he called the general number for the Legislative Correspondents’ Association room, where all press releases, advisories, and notices of press conferences got dropped off for reporters to collect. The LCA room was normally located on the third floor of the capitol. However, while construction workers continued putting the pieces of the capitol back together following its destruction by the bombing the preceding spring, the LCA room was being housed temporarily on the ground floor of the Legislative Office Building.
“LCA room,” a bored-sounding voice intoned.
“Hazel? David Breathwaite here.” Hazel had been running the LCA room for more than twenty-five years, and Breathwaite knew her from his days as a newspaperman covering the capital beat. She always sounded uninterested, but he knew that she had her finger on everything that went on with the journalists who worked within the bustle of her domain.
“Yeah, what can I do for you on this fine morning?”
“I’ve tried a few of the guys and I can’t seem to get anybody. Where is everyone? Sleeping in this morning?”
“Nope. Out on the job hustling already, as a matter of fact.”
“You’re kidding. This early? Something big come in?”
“If you like the gossipy side of news, then yeah.”
Breathwaite, who was only half paying attention, said dismissively, “I could give a rat’s you-know-what, Hazel, but some people like that sort of thing, I suppose.”
“This was a big one, smart guy.”
“Okay, I can see you’re dying to tell, so let’s have it.”
“Press conference got called all of a sudden-like for 9:30 this morning. Probably still going on. Friend of yours, I think.”
Breathwaite stopped reading the document he had in his hand and gave the conversation his full attention. “Really?”
“Yeah. Katherine Kyle. I figure you two run in the same circles, no?”
There was a roaring in his ears that was so loud he thought it might consume him. “Sure. What was the topic of the press conference, Hazel?”
“Got the advisory right here. Want me to fax you a copy?”
“Okay, it’ll be there in a little bit. Hey, what’s a seven letter word for ‘one who changes allegiances’?”
It was all he could do not to go through the phone line. “Traitor,” he ground out. “Hazel? Could you send my fax, then finish your crossword puzzle? I’m kind of in a hurry.”
“Aren’t we all these days, David? See you around sometime. Don’t be a stranger.” She hung the phone up in his ear.
By the time the fax arrived twenty minutes later, Breathwaite had already summoned Kirk.
“The bitch went out ahead of us. What the hell?” He rounded on his investigator. “I thought you said you tapped her office phone last night. How could we not have known she was up to this?”
“Probably because there were no outgoing or incoming calls to her line at DOCS before 9:35 a.m., and that was some yahoo reporter up in Malone, New York looking for some information on a new inmate.”
“How did she set it up, then?”
“I suspect she left the building shortly after you did, but I don’t know for sure, since you didn’t tell me to tail her.”
“Do I have to tell you everything? Damn it all to hell!”
Kirk, as usual, seemed completely unfazed by the tirade.
“Okay. All right.” Breathwaite paced as he tried to calm himself down. “We monitor all the news outlets to see how the story is playing, then we go ahead with part two of the plan.”
“Outing her girlfriend isn’t enough. I want Kyle to suffer. We’re going to ruin Parker’s career and make sure she never gets a job with another magazine as long as she lives.”
“How is that going to further your objective of pushing Kyle out of DOCS?”
“We’re just going to keep turning up the heat on all fronts until she folds. Fuck with me, will she? We’ll see about that.”
When she got home, Jay was surprised to find that she had a message on her office answering machine from Barbara.
“Jay, I wasn’t sure you’d pick up the home line at this point, so I thought I’d try reaching you this way. I hope you don’t mind. I was wondering if you’d care to join me for lunch? Nothing terribly fancy, I’m afraid, but I could whip us up a couple of nice salads and perhaps some homemade chicken noodle soup. Let me know if you’re available. My schedule is somewhat flexible this afternoon.”
Jay shook her head. “I’m willing to bet your schedule didn’t start out being all that flexible before all hell broke loose this morning, Dr. Jones.”
At 12:30 p.m. Jay was knocking on the front door of Barbara’s house, a beautiful stone mansion in the heart of one of the city’s ritziest suburbs.
“Jay, I’m so glad you could make it.” Barbara enveloped her in a hug.
“Thanks for the invitation, Doc. I appreciate the effort it must have taken to clear your calendar.”
“Nonsense. No one was dying to see me today. Get in here.”
“Uh-huh.” Since she’d come to Albany to live with Kate, Jay had grown to love and cherish Barbara’s rapier-sharp wit and wicked sense of humor. They had gotten to know each other well.
They settled at the eating island in the middle of Barbara’s gourmet kitchen. The first time she had walked into this room, Jay had felt an acute stab of kitchen envy. All of the appliances were stainless steel and commercial grade, the pots and pans rivaled those of top restaurants, and the work surfaces were large and efficiently laid out.
Jay felt the other woman’s eyes appraising her.
“It’s okay to feel a bit undone after the morning you’ve had, you know.”
“Do I look that bad?”
Barbara laughed. “Jamison Parker, I have never seen you look anything less than perfect. But judging by the bulge in your temporomandibular joint, your jaw must be killing you.”
Jay smiled. “That’s a rather fancy way to say you can see that I’m stressed out.”
“Med school had to be good for something. Want to talk about it?”
“What’s to talk about? I just outed myself in spectacular fashion in front of a pack of hungry tabloid reporters, Breathwaite wants Kate’s head on a platter and figures to get to her through me, and my editor is meeting with the grand poobah at Time to discuss what to do about me. My life is completely under control.”
Barbara put a comforting hand on her arm. “I can’t even begin to imagine what it feels like to be you at the moment. All I can do is listen, offer support, and remind you that tomorrow is another day.”
“Yeah,” Jay said glumly. “Tomorrow, in addition to putting my personal life under a microscope, the vultures will go after me professionally.”
“What makes you so sure they will?”
Jay sighed, looking down at her hands as they methodically shredded a paper napkin. “It’s the next logical story. And the door was opened by a reporter this morning who connected me with Time. The only reason we managed to dodge the bullet this time was that a reporter friend of Kate’s intervened with an unrelated question.”
“It’s nice to have friends. Have you been monitoring the news?”
“Yes. I listened to the three major radio stations’ newscasts at eleven and noon, and I watched the noon newscasts on all three local television stations.”
“What’s the verdict?”
“About what you’d expect. Everyone except for WCAP rehashed Kate’s firing, the Enquirer pictures, et cetera, over footage of the two of us coming into the press conference, me standing there listening to Kate talk, and us leaving. Then they all played the sound bite of Kate talking about our reasons for coming forward today. Finally, they closed with a close-up of me. Ugh.”
“What did CAP do?”
“They conveniently managed to worm their way around mentioning that Kate had ever worked for them.”
“Lovely bunch over there.”
“Yeah. Kate never says anything, but I know how hurt she was at the way she was treated.”
“I’m sure you’re right about that, but your Katherine is a very stoic person.”
“Yes, she is.” Jay grew pensive. “When I look back now at what happened to her last May, I have a far greater appreciation for the way she handled herself. In the middle of the media circus today,” Jay said, almost to herself, “I wanted to run away. Part of that was about wanting to get myself out of the picture so that Breathwaite wouldn’t have me to use as ammunition against Kate.”
“Jamison,” Barbara said sternly, “that is no more the answer for you now than it was for her then.”
Jay looked up, startled at the vehemence in her friend’s voice. “I know that. I’m not going anywhere, Barbara. You didn’t let me finish.”
“I’m sorry, Jay.”
“The other reason I wanted to run was simply because I was scared. I didn’t want to have to undergo that kind of media scrutiny. And I hate that I was feeling that way. Kate didn’t have the luxury of making a conscious choice when she got outed. At least this was something I could try to prepare for.”
“But you weren’t really ready, were you?” Barbara asked quietly.
Jay hung her head. “No, I wasn’t. I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed, I guess.”
“That’s not surprising. Nor is it anything to be ashamed of. Have you talked to Kate about how you feel?”
“She’s been flat out since she got back to the office. I planned to talk to her tonight.”
“Good idea. The best thing you two can do is keep the lines of communication open.” Barbara tapped on the table to get Jay to look at her. “She needs you, Jay. And, just as importantly, you need her.”
“Don’t I know it.” Jay’s eyes glistened with tears. “Why is this happening to us? What have we done to deserve this?”
Barbara moved around the island to hug Jay to her. “Nothing, honey. Neither one of you has done anything to deserve this. That’s one of the things that makes this so incredibly aggravating.”
As Jay sobbed, Barbara rubbing her back in circles. “I know, honey. Let it all out. It’s okay to cry. I’d be crying, too.”
After a few moments, Jay pulled back. “I’m so sorry, Barbara. I didn’t mean to do that.”
“Don’t you ever be sorry for letting your feelings show, Jay. Bottling all that up inside will make you sick. I’m your doctor, I ought to know.” She winked.
“Here you invited me for a nice lunch, and I’ve turned it into a pity party.”
“No you most certainly have not. I’d like to think I’m your friend, too, not just Kate’s.”
“Of course you are.”
“Okay then, supporting each other in the tough times is part of what friends do. It’s in the fine print when you sign the contract.” She put her fingers underneath Jay’s chin to lift it. “Right, friend?”
Jay sniffled and blew her nose in the tissue Barbara supplied. “Right. Thanks, friend.”
Kate arrived home just in time to catch the six o’clock news. She hustled into the living room, where Jay was already planted in front of the television.
“Hi, baby,” she said, as Jay made room for her on the couch. Kate thought she looked exhausted.
“Hi, sweetheart. You’re just in time for the show.”
“Yeah, sorry about that. I wanted to be home earlier, but the phone just kept ringing off of the hook.”
“Don’t worry about it, Kate. I understand.”
Their conversation trailed off as the anchorman intoned, “In an unusual move today, former local television news anchor Katherine Kyle appeared before a packed news conference to announce the identity of the ‘other woman.’”
The picture on screen was an enlargement of the tabloid pictures of Kate and Jay, whose back was turned to the camera.
“Kyle, who was fired from competitor WCAP after these compromising photos of her and an unidentified female companion turned up on the front page of the National Enquirer last May, explained her reason for coming forward at this time...”
The women watched in silence a clip of Kate talking about their desire to preserve their privacy.
The anchorman continued, “Jamison Parker, the other woman in the Enquirer photos who was introduced to the media today, is a writer for Time magazine. Kyle is now the spokesperson for the state prison system.”
As the camera shifted to the co-anchor for the next story, Kate changed the channel to another network, then the third. In all three instances, the story was the same. When it was over, she turned to Jay, taking her hands.
“Are you okay, sweetheart?”
“I’ve had better days.”
“Yeah, I know. Me too.”
For a moment, they just sat there, content to be in each other’s company, Kate’s fingers gliding over the backs of Jay’s hands.
Jay broke the silence. “You were right. The television and radio stories were pretty basic and mostly benign.”
“Jay, the newspapers won’t be as superficial. They aren’t constrained by thirty-second sound bites.”
“Honey, I’m so sorry about all this.”
“Kate, it’s not your fault. You didn’t ask for any of this to happen.”
“Still, I wish we’d had more time to talk through all of the ramifications and your feelings before we acted.”
“There was no time. Breathwaite would have done it for us in less than an hour, Kate.”
“That doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could’ve done something different—found some way to make this less painful for you.”
“Let’s face it, Stretch, this isn’t what either of us had in mind, but we had no choice. I am glad, in some sense, to have it out in the open. Now we won’t have to hide or make an elaborate plan just to go out to dinner together.”
“That is the upside.” Kate kissed Jay’s hand. “The downside is that this isn’t going to be just a one-day story. If the reporters don’t figure it out themselves, I’m sure Breathwaite will help them find ways to get more mileage out of it.”
“Yeah, he pretty much told you that this morning.”
“It seems to be his mission in life at the moment to make me as miserable as possible. If that means going after you, then he certainly won’t hesitate to do so.” The very thought of Breathwaite trying to intentionally hurt Jay made Kate’s blood boil.
“It’s ironic that the very thing I was most afraid of when I ran away last spring is coming true now, long after the story should have been ancient history.”
“Kate,” Jay ran her fingers over her lover’s cheek, “I understand so much better now why you did what you did. I felt a little bit the same way this morning—I wanted to run away to take away Breathwaite’s ammunition.” Kate’s body stiffened perceptibly. “Don’t worry, love. I’m not going anywhere.”
“You’d better not. Sweetheart,” Kate turned so that she faced Jay, “I was wrong to leave you then. We’ve discussed that. I didn’t handle that situation very well, and we both paid a steep emotional price for my actions.”
“No,” Jay interjected, “we both made mistakes.”
“Yes, that’s true, but the mistakes you made would never have happened if I hadn’t run in the first place—if I had stayed and talked to you about how we should have dealt with the situation instead of making unilateral choices.”
“It’s old news, sweetheart.”
“No, Jay, it isn’t. Because I feel like I did something equally bad this morning.”
“What?” Jay asked, caught off guard.
“I forced you to do something you might not have been ready to do for my own selfish reasons.”
“Whoa, wait just a minute here, Stretch. I made the choice to come out this morning. I did. Not you. You gave me options and I made a decision. You didn’t put a gun to my head. I knew what I was doing.”
“Jay, you made a decision in the heat of the moment because you wanted to help me. That doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do for you.”
“I’ll admit that busting out of the closet in that fashion wasn’t the highest thing on my to-do list when I woke up this morning, but I’m not sorry, Katherine.”
“You might be before this is all over.”
“Do you remember months ago when I told you that my career meant nothing to me when compared to you? Kate? Look at me, sweetheart.”
Kate dragged her eyes from her hands to Jay’s face.
“Do you remember that? I told you they could have the job. All I wanted was to be with you.”
“Yes, but it was theoretical then, Jay. This is real.”
“I realize that, honey. And I’m not going to tell you I’m not scared to death, because I am. But I also know that as long as I have you, nothing else really matters.” As if to punctuate the point, Jay pressed her lips to Kate’s.
Kate pulled Jay into her arms, surrounding her with love and kissing her tenderly on the mouth and face. “I love you, Jamison Parker. More than anything in the world.”
“I love you, too, Katherine Kyle. Nothing, and no one, is going to change that or come between us. I won’t allow it to happen.”
“Me either, baby. Me either.”
The New York Times ran a small paragraph on the story buried inside the Metro news section. The Albany Times Union carried Wendy’s AP story on page B2.
The New York Daily News ran a teaser on the top of page one, with the full story on page three. There were several quotes from both Kate and Jay, along with a “no comment” from Kate’s former news director. Commissioner Sampson was quoted as saying, “Ms. Kyle’s personal life is just that. I am very pleased with her performance at DOCS. She is an outstanding spokeswoman and I am lucky to have her.” The governor could not be reached for comment. The managing editor of Time confirmed that Jamison Parker worked for the magazine, but would say nothing further “at this time.”
The New York Post also teased the story in a banner across the top of its front page. The story itself appeared on the inside front cover and took up half the page. The headline read, “Disgraced Former News Anchor Outs Girlfriend; It’s About Time.”
Kate, who was reading the newspapers in her office as she did every morning at 6:15 a.m., groaned. Truthfully, she didn’t want to read any further, given the Post’s conservative bent.
“Better to read it and get it over with, Katherine. No sense putting it off.”
She ran her hand across her face. Neither she nor Jay had slept particularly well the night before; they had held each other for hours, each needing the wordless comfort and reassurance of the other’s presence. They got up at their usual time to work out, run, and shower together. Then Kate had headed for the office and Jay to the nearest convenience store to pick up her own copies of the newspapers.
Kate tried to focus on the page in front of her.
Katherine Kyle, the disgraced television news anchor who appeared on the cover of Time magazine as a hero one day and as a lesbian lothario on the front page of the tabloids the very next day, is at it again. Kyle, the current spokesperson for the state prison system, went public yesterday with the identity of her girlfriend, the woman with whom she was photographed in a compromising position on a Caribbean beach last May.
The woman is none other than Jamison Parker, 24, a writer of some repute for Time magazine. It was Parker’s cover story about her earlier this year that catapulted Kyle to media stardom.
“What makes this so interesting,” according to Tom Daigault, a media and ethics expert at New York University, “is the question of the relationship between Ms. Kyle and Ms. Parker at the moment the story was written. If they were an item at the time, it would raise serious ethical questions about the objectivity of the piece.”
A careful review of the timeline by the Post indicates that the pictures of Kyle and Parker in an intimate pose on the beach were taken prior to the release of the Time cover story.
A request for comment from Vander Standislau, managing editor of Time, went unanswered.
Governor Charles Hyland, who hired Kyle after the photo scandal, told the Post, “Katherine Kyle is one of the finest, bravest, most honest people I know. She deserves every accolade she received at the time of the tragic capitol bombing. I read the Time magazine story when it came out. I thought it was very accurate, fair and balanced.”
The governor added that he had no intention of asking Kyle for her resignation.
Kate slapped her hand down on top of the paper. “Damn it. Damn it all to hell.” She picked up the phone.
“Oh, hey. I don’t suppose you’ve gotten to the Post yet, Kate, have you?”
Jay sighed heavily. “I just got off the phone with Trish. I’m leaving for the city in half an hour. I’ve got a 1:00 meeting with Trish and Mr. Standislau.”
“Oh, Jay,” Kate breathed. “Did Trish give you any indication where things stand?”
“No. She was pretty quiet.”
“It’ll be all right, honey,” Kate said, trying to reassure both of them. “Do you want me to go with you?”
“That’s very tempting, sweetheart, but no. I have to do this on my own.”
“Are you coming right back here?”
“I guess that depends on how the meeting goes.”
“Will you call me afterward?”
“Of course, Kate.”
“I love you. We’ll get through this, together.”
“I know we will. I love you, too, Kate.”
Kate held onto the receiver long after Jay had hung up. She didn’t like the tension and sense of dread in her lover’s voice. Furthermore, she really didn’t like not being able to do anything to make it go away.
Note from the author: Okay, so now you really, really want to find out what happens to our favorite heroines, right? Trust me, this story is just getting started. So I’m going to help you. What would you say to a 5% discount on all of my books? Not bad, eh? So here’s what you do: Click on this link: http://www.lynnames.com/published.html. It will take you to my purchase page. Select the book(s) of your choice, and follow the instructions. Eventually you’ll get to a place where you can enter a discount code before final checkout. In that space, type the following to receive your 5% discount: LAMD1105. Happy shopping and thanks for your support! Lynn Ames
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