How would the newspaper cover the death threats? Were they serious? Divine Fury.
May 2, 2013
A VG Serial: Divine Fury
“YOU LOOK LIKE shit,” said Ray Pilmann, looking at the bandages visible on Lee’s forearms and chin.
“Thanks, Ray,” said Lee. “So do you.”
“Hey!” said Pilmann. “What the fuck! I’m trying to be a little sympathetic and all you do is…”
“Gentlemen! Please!” said Carr. She shook her head and buried her face in her hands for a moment. “Just grow up. Or, at least shut up…for a few minutes anyway.”
“I agree with Lorraine,” said Leonard Graham. Graham, wearing a beige suit with a blue tie, was the 60-year-old executive editor of the News and it was unusual for him to leave his corner office and grace the newsroom conference room with his presence.
“Let’s cut to the chase,” said Carr. “There are always death threats. From every president to small-time politicians and even sports figures.”
“Right,” said Lee. “Hank Aaron got threats when he was breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record in the 70s.”
“Correct,” said Carr. “And they typically don’t get reported, not even when they beef up security. The exception is when someone is arrested. Then, that gets covered. And, I think the argument is that coverage just encourages more threats. It gets attention which is really what these people want.”
“Okay,” said Lee. “I don’t disagree. But here you’ve got a guy who probably has already killed someone in order to get the bomb materials. And we know the SFPD is actively searching for him. Seems like more than just an idle threat.”
“And, if the police wanted our help…if they asked us to run his photo or make any kind of announcement, we would do it,” said Graham. “But they’re doing the opposite, right? They’re asking us to run nothing for now.”
“Yes,” said Lee. “And, there is the added fear that the publicity might egg this guy on. Maybe he’s had second thoughts. But the attention might push him to do it. Like throwing down the gauntlet.”
“You all may not remember this,” said Graham. “There was a little of that sense a long time ago, back in the 70s, when the Zodiac killer was active. He, or someone, was sending around these cryptic letters. Sort of boasting…solve the riddle kind of thing. And, we ran them. It was an amazing story. And the police never told us, ‘Don’t do it.’ But there was always the question of whether the notoriety egged him on. Did fame raise the bar so he killed more than he might have? Of course, he eventually stopped and no one was ever prosecuted for the murders.”
“The bottom line is that we’re not going against the wishes of the police and Andrew Harper on this,” said Graham. “The worst-case scenario is we run something and it causes this fellow to act when he would not have. Or, it brings out someone else – a copycat – and they take a shot at Harper. No one in this room wants to live with that. I surely do not.”
Everyone was quiet for a moment as what Graham said sunk in. His vote was the one that counted here.
But suddenly, it dawned on Lee that there might be a way out of this – a means to get Walberg’s name and photo out to the public to assist in the manhunt without mentioning Harper or a threat on his life.
“Well,” he said. “There might be another way to go at this.”
“And? What exactly is that?” said Carr.
“So, this guy is wanted in Montana” said Lee. “A murder suspect. Let’s just say that. Run his photo. Say that the police think he’s here. Don’t mention Harper. We get his photo out. People can look for him. We aren’t egging him on. We aren’t encouraging copycats.”
The four in the room were silent for a moment, waiting for someone to find a problem with the plan. No one did.
“That might work,” said Graham finally. “Let’s make sure the police are on board if we go that route. I don’t want any blowback. Tell them we can go big or small. Front page or inside. Their call.”
Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
You can learn more about Divine Fury on Amazon.