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Nathan 44

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Emma managed to pull off a few stretches without wincing and falling on the floor, so she decided this was a good thing.  Leg stretches weren’t bad but when she got into arm stretches and twists involving her back, the twinge set her teeth on edge and had her sucking in her breath repeatedly.  Her head was better, it didn’t feel like a football any more, but she still had to be careful not to overdo it by stretching her neck too much.  Ok, she sighed looking into the mirror, another day of relaxation was required.

That didn’t mean she couldn’t talk to Mr. Mark’s acquaintances and others he’d discussed his concerns with regarding the article he’d written.  Showering quickly, and dressing in the most relaxed clothes she owned, she applied a light smattering of makeup and brushed her hair into the flippy pony.

She went in search of Jim, and found him in discussion with the kitchen staff.  “Hi, Jim, can I interrupt for a minute?”

“Surely, Ms. Banks.  How can I help you?”

“I was hoping you had some time available to drive me to a couple of appointments.”

“Surely, I’m at your disposal.  I’ll get the car immediately.” He straightened, smiled and disappeared out the side door.

As soon as she was comfortably ensconced in the vehicle and he was behind the wheel, he asked, “Where to, Ms. Bank?”

“Emma, is fine, Jim.”

“I’m heading to the Chronicle, first, then I have a couple of other appointments, private appointments afterward.”

Jim nodded stiffly. “Are you sure, Emma?”

“Certainly, Jim, why wouldn’t I be?”

“I’m sure Nathan would prefer to attend these meetings with you since they relate to the incident at the apartment building.”

“I have it on good authority that you are worth your weight in gold, so I have no concerns, Jim,” she assured him quickly.

He knew Nathan would blow a gasket over this, but he was caught in the middle on this one.  His instructions were to accompany her at all times.  Since he was her designated driver, he was doing just that. It was splitting hairs, but there you have it.

“I hope this doesn’t put you in an uncomfortable position, Jim.  If so, you could drop me at home, I’ll pick up my own car and travel on from there.”

“No, Emma, that won’t be necessary.  I’ll certainly drive you.” Knowing her obstinacy, he was sure that was exactly what she’d do, and he’d still have to follow, discreetly, but he’d still be in attendance either way.

When they arrived at the Chronicle, Emma alighted as quickly as her still aching body would allow and walked inside after motioning for Jim to remain as he was.

As soon as she was inside, he placed a call to Nathan.  “Nathan, we’re at the Chronicle.”  He listened to Nathan’s angry breathing followed by the instant tirade he’d expected.  Jim immediately explained Emma’s ultimate threat.

“Yes, I’ll accompany her on all her rounds.  Yes, I’ll report as soon as I am able.”

After he hung up, he blew out a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding in.  He knew that was what Nathan’s response was going to be.  He’d actually taken it better than Jim had expected.

Emma stopped at the reception desk and explained to the officious looking young woman that she wished to speak to the Editor.  When asked whether she had an appointment, Emma explained she did not, but that what she needed to discuss concerned one of their colleagues.  The woman seemed startled at first, then went in search of the Editor.

“He has 10 minutes he can give you.  He’s between meetings.”

“Thank you.”  Emma smiled gratefully.

Walking to the Editor’s office, smaller than her bosses, she was hit by a plethora of paperwork and articles laying on top of the desk, and every other corner of the room and couldn’t help but smile.  It was reminiscent of her boss’s desk, although perhaps even a few inches higher and deeper.

Introductions made, Mr. Wannemaker asked if she’d take a seat.  After doing so Emma explained why she had come. “I have a vested interest, Mr. Wannemaker.  It seems that upon carrying out a follow-up when some new information was presented, I was attacked.  At least that’s what the detective’s working the case feel.  I’m only telling you this because I want you to know I’m not taking this situation lightly.”

“I wondered if you or anyone else working with Mr. mark’s had concerns regarding his untimely death and whether you ever suspected it was related to this story.”

“Ms. Banks, before I go further, yes I do indeed have concerns. Let me state that clearly.  When I sent Mr. Marks out on a ‘regular story’ or what should have been a regular story, even though it was a very tragic incident and what I thought was a sad statement about the underbelly of the city, I never once expected he’d die as a result.”

“So, it behooves me to suggest you move with great caution if you’re going to cover this story.  Although we did some digging on our own, we weren’t able to provide conclusive evidence the young woman’s death and Mr. Mark’s death were connected, or whether it was  indeed a result of the information he’d gathered.  It’s stuck in my craw ever since.  Simply because I have a gut feeling it was.”

“Would you be ok with letting me see his notes on the story?   I’d like to know if he had any ‘gut feelings’ himself. He suggested he thought that organized crime was involved.  Did he have any basis for that statement?”

“No, that’s the funny part.  He was a good solid reporter who provided unimpeachable facts. He wasn’t given to hyperbole.  I’ve gone through his notes a dozen times after his death and a few more since.  I can’t find any hard facts corroborating his statement.  He wouldn’t have written his article without that.”

“Could his notes have been lost or given to his fiance, or another staff member during follow-up?”

“No, I have a strict policy, that all notes are personal and private.  Everyone takes their notes and hides them discreetly either in the office, or at home, or a bank, wherever, it’s their choice.”

“Do you know if he had a bank account or somewhere else he might have taken his notes?”

“You’d have to ask his fiancee.  Since I’m certain you intend discussing this with her, I warn you, tread lightly.   She’s still grieving.  You can imagine plummeting from the highs of planning a wedding, very much in love, to the depths of despair and attending his funeral and the toll it’s taken on her.  I spoke with her only last week, and she’s improved, but still dealing with the emotional fallout.”

“Certain, Mr. Wannabaker.  I have no intention of taking my rubber hose with me.”  He smiled at that.  “I simply want to find out what information he had and where I should start.”

They spoke for another half hour while Mr. Wannabaker gave her the background he could substantiate and more information on Mr. Marks and the type of individual and reporter he was.

When Emma shook hands and turned to walk away, she stopped, “Mr. Wannabaker, before I print any of this information, I will run it by you, so you have a heads-up on what’s going on.  He obviously was important to you.”

“Thank you, Ms. Banks, I’d really appreciate that.  Still, I’m of the opinion you should probably give this story a miss.  If it was responsible for getting Mr. Marks killed, then your life could be in equal danger.  It’s a grave price to pay for the public’s right to know.”

“I agree, Mr. Wannabaker, all the more reason to make his demise count.”

Mr. Wannabaker had to admire her determination, and from their conversation, decided she was a good honest reporter.  That didn’t mean he wouldn’t look into the other articles she’d written, but he had a good feeling about her, while concern for her safety rode high on his thought process as well.

Emma was pleased as she returned and headed for the car with what she’d learned.  It would seem that since Mr. Marks was a dedicated reporter and wasn’t to be dissuaded from the facts, paying the ultimate price, he deserved more.  He deserved better.  His fiance deserved answers.

The bright sunshine momentarily blinded her.  When her eyes readjusted she noticed the limo had disappeared.  Instead, Nathan’s Porsche 911 was parked in its spot.  She should have known.  Jim would have called immediately. Sighing, she walked toward the car.

Nathan hopped out and walked to her side.  “How are the bruises doing today, Emma?”

“Better, still have to be careful, but better.”

“I was surprised and frustrated you did this alone, Emma.”

“I’m sure you were and are, Nathan.  I still have a job to do.  That is outside your purvue if you’ll forgive me for saying so, and with or without you, I’m going ahead.”

“I get that, Emma.  I’d appreciate it, for the duration of this assignment, that I accompany you.  Let me know what your intentions are, and I’ll clear my schedule.”

“Why, Nathan, you don’t think Jim can provide adequate protection?”

“Indeed he can.”  Nathan smiled with amusement. “However, I would rather be at your side.  That way, Jim can carry on with his other duties.”

Emma smiled sweetly, “Since you have a busy schedule yourself, I don’t want to take you away from anything important you already have on your plate.”

“Nothing is more important than protecting you, lovely one.” Taking her chin in his hand he continued, “I mean that.”

Emma melted.  It felt so good to be cared for on such a level.  “Thank you, Nathan.”  She stood on tip toe and kissed him quite thoroughly.

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