The email could ruin a campaign, but did it tell the whole story? Divine Fury. Chapter 40
March 12, 2013
A VG Serial: Divine Fury
“HARPER DENIES IT,” said Enzo Lee. “He admits being involved with Carter but says it was five years after they met at the basketball camp. If that’s the case, it’s a non-story. Carter was 20 then, not 15.”
Lee was in the small conference room in a corner of the News’ newsroom. He was sitting with Lorraine Carr and assistant managing editor Ray Pilmann. He wasn’t really sure why Pilmann was there. Pilmann had been the city editor before Carr’s promotion and Lee had locked horns with him often. He could socialize with the guy and talk sports, movies or whatever. But being in the same room with him when the subject was reporting – particularly Lee’s reporting – had put the reporter on edge as soon as he walked through the door.
“What about the email?” asked Pilmann. “And the money Harper gave him? Don’t tell me they explain that away and you actually believe them.”
“They showed me what they say is the complete email chain,” said Lee. “If it’s legit, it makes clear that Harper’s referring to a later time. He’s talking about how busy he was working on securities fraud cases. That’s when Harper was a federal prosecutor.
“And the money is exactly what it cost for one month at this rehab center,” Lee continued. “Plus, the director remembers talking to Harper about a friend wanting to be admitted – presumably that’s Lonnie Carter who did spend three months there.”
“Oh, right!” said Pilmann. “How convenient. This guy just happens to remember that call, huh? How much do you think Harper paid him for that?”
“Ray,” said Lee. “Harper’s a well-known guy in this area. Maybe you wouldn’t have a clue but a lot of people know who he is. The guy was in Congress for two terms and was the DA before that, for God’s sake. It’s not a stretch that someone would recall talking to him – even a couple of years afterward. If the money was for rehab, it’s a lot different than the hush money scenario that Chapman’s people are painting.”
“So, we already have Harper denying this,” said Pilmann. “He certainly is capable of defending himself. Why do you feel we need to do that work for him?”
“Look. It’s just covering the story” said Lee. “Pretty basic really. You know – trying to be in front on a story rather than trailing behind. I assume you’re familiar with the concept.”
“Or, maybe it’s because you’re in bed with them,” said Pilmann. “Are you covering the campaign or just being their apologist? I thought you were on our payroll?”
“Then take me off this goddamn story!” said Lee. “I didn’t ask to cover the campaign! You cover it! You write the story if you can stop drooling into your keyboard long enough!”
Lee glanced over at Carr. She had her hand over her face and was staring down at the notepad on the table in front of her. At first, he thought she was appalled at the tenor of his exchange with Pilmann and wishing she were somewhere else. Then, he noticed her body was shaking. He realized she was convulsed with barely silent laughter and not hiding it well.
“You guys. You guys,” she said finally, standing up and walking along one side of the room. She was wiping tears from her eyes.
“It’s like listening to a couple of six-year-olds,” she said.
Lee looked over at Pilmann since he was technically Carr’s boss. To his surprise, Pilmann was making a visible effort to keep his mouth closed. He had his hands on the table folded in front of him. He did look quite a bit like a six-year-old being properly chastised.
“I’ve asked Enzo to work on the campaign,” said Carr. “He’s already deep into this story. It wouldn’t make sense to switch at this point. He finishes it – takes it wherever it goes – unless he wants out. Okay?”
She looked at Lee. He nodded his agreement. Then, Carr looked at Pilmann. His jaw was resting on his fist and he was looking away from her.
“Ray,” she said it with an sharpness that surprised Lee. Pilmann’s head snapped around,
“Okay,” said Pilmann, sounding subdued. “But Harper doesn’t get a free ride. He’s the hometown boy and the liberal darling. But we aren’t his apologist.”
“Of course not,” said Carr.
A few minutes after the meeting, Lee went into Carr’s office and sat down in the chair in front of her desk. She looked tired. She had on silver button earrings but otherwise hadn’t gone for a particular look today. Just put on nice jeans, and a light-weight, dark red sweater and dragged herself into the newsroom.
“So, what was all that about,” Lee asked. “Why was Pilmann even in there?”
Carr smiled and sighed.
“I wanted to see if the stories are true,” she said. “If you two really did fight like Cain and Abel. I sort of expected it of Ray. I know he’s…uh…not the most diplomatic guy in the world. But you…you just kind of strapped on the sword and went at him. Surprised me a little.”
“It’s just my arrogant prick response,” said Lee. “Let one try and tell me what to do and I guess that’s what you get.”
“Hmmm. I see,” said Carr. “Full of surprises. Oh well. Another experiment down the drain.”
“Oh yeah,” said Lee. “And what’s that mean?”
Carr just shrugged.
“I’ll tell you some time,” she said. “Hey, I got this invitation for an opening at the Legion of Honor on Monday night. It’s some new sculptor. Want to represent the News with me?” She grabbed an envelope lying on her desk and waved it in front of him.
“Uhh…yeah…okay. Sounds like fun,” said Lee. “Let’s do it.”
Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
You can learn more about Divine Fury on Amazon.