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CHAPTER 02 <
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CHAPTER 11 <
CHAPTER 12 <
CHAPTER 13 <
CHAPTER 14 <
CHAPTER 15 <
CHAPTER 16 <
CHAPTER 17 <
CHAPTER 18 <
CHAPTER 19 <
CHAPTER 20 <
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CHAPTER 22 <
CHAPTER 23 <
CHAPTER 24 <
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CHAPTER 27 <
She remembered the day before, following Briggs into Grimes' room; the bed with the disembodied ropes; the message NO MORE HUNGRY EYES. She'd awakened on a couch back down in the living room, a concerned Briggs holding a glass of water in his hand. She drank it, hands trembling spilling half on her blouse.
"Shouldn't have let you go up there," Briggs said trying to sound irritated, but not succeeding. "Kind of queasy for a reporter, though. I know you've seen worse."
Deidre had to get a grip on herself. She had to get away from Briggs' probing eyes. She had to be alone to sort things out.
"Not in the last two years, though," she answered. "I . . . I just felt so, well, so claustrophobic. The bed took up half the room and I imagined Grimes tied up, trying to scream but unable, and it was a bit too much." She sat up, still woozy, and reached for the phone to call her driver. Briggs stopped her, his huge hand dwarfing hers, not letting her pick up the receiver.
"Let me drive you home."
She shook her head no, willing words to accompany her actions, but she still had a lump in her throat.
"Please, Dee." He sounded so unsure of himself, none of the arrogance or hostility of earlier. "Look, I imagine tomorrow I'll be tied up all day with briefings on the Task Force. To tell the truth I'm worried about the press conference. I can deal with reporters a couple at a time. Hell, I can chew them up and spit them out. Microphones stuck in my face gets my juices going. But a press conference is like a . . . a speech, and well, I was wondering if you could give me some hints." He turned away, as if he had somehow betrayed some deep inner secret.
Deidre stifled a laugh. This was no time to antagonize him. Make him feel the fool, and a wall would forever separate them. Help him and he would owe her, though he'd never admit it. And he was justified. A reporter all her adult life, she'd always been on the other side of the microphone. When she'd accepted the new Mayor's offer of Media Liaison, she didn't know if she could handle being queried by her colleagues.
It was the same with Briggs. He had to come across as competent and firmly in control or he'd lose the press, and more important, the public. So she let him drive her home, temporarily locking the words on the mirror in the attic of her mind.
Her advice was simple. "Say as little as possible when you're introduced. Pick out somebody you've got a good rapport with and address him . . . or her, and ignore the rest. Tell them there'll be periodic briefings with the Mayor's Media Liaison. Take three or four questions -- no more, and keep the answers short. You may want to write out the questions yourself and pass them along to any friends you have in the media. That is if you have any."
He looked at her, saw she was smiling, and laughed. "You sound like a damned politician."
"Well, unfortunately, that comes with my new job."
"Don't like it much, do you?"
"I had a tough couple of years, Briggs, and I was in no shape to be the reporter I'd been. I don't know if I even liked the reporter I'd become. Anyway, the pay's good, there are a lot of perks, and until the Vigilante showed up it's been pretty cushy."
"Don't like it much, though, do you."
She laughed. "Don't miss much, do you, Detective. Yeah, I miss being on the front lines; the rush when you get a tip and can scoop the competition. Basking in the limelight when you hit the motherlode." She sat back, feeling comfortable in his presence. "I'd love to be investigating this case. I'd make your life miserable." She laughed, unable to control herself.
"It's a game to you," he snapped, his anger seeming to get the best of him.
"Look Briggs, reporters and cops are a lot alike. Take a story, any story. We're both out to find out the who, when, why and where. The difference is as a reporter I don't care how I get my information. I've got fewer rules to follow. I'm more interested in the why than the who. As a cop you have less latitude. And as a cop you could care less about the why. You want to know who did the deed and back it up with enough evidence to convict. So, no Briggs, it's not a game. I take my job as seriously as you do yours. Your job tomorrow is to give as little information as possible; to keep us as bay. My job is to make that difficult."
"You're talking like a reporter."
"Yeah, well a zebra doesn't lose his stripes. I meant, if I were a reporter my job would be to make it difficult for you. But, I'm not a reporter. I'm one of the good guys now, as far as you're concerned."
She saw him looking at her, sizing her up, deciding whether he could trust her. Then his eyes were back on the road. She didn't think he'd made a decision yet.
"Anyway, you'll do fine tomorrow," she continued. "The reporters you plant questions with will owe you. They'll impress their assignment editors, so pick them wisely. Cultivate them, but don't neglect the others. You don't want to antagonize anyone, if you don't have to. As head of the Task Force, you'll need to be a politician as much as a cop. You know better than I the pressures you'll face. This case can make your career or break you. Use the press properly, and they can be an important ally. Ignore them or jerk them around too much, and you've got one more enemy."
She paused a moment. "Remember, though, I'll be there to help." Another pause. "Then you'll owe me when I'm back on the street again. Do we understand one another?"
"Sure. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. Look, I'm sorry I snapped at you. You're right, this can make or break my career. I want it, don't get me wrong, but I wonder if we'll ever snare the perp." He looked at her, and they locked eyes for a few seconds.
"I appreciate your help," he confided, "and I'll need a lot more of it before this is over. And I don't forget my friends. You more than anyone should know that."
They drove the rest of the way in silence. Briggs undoubtedly was thinking about the case; Deidre had Hungry Eyes to contend with.
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