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TITLE: Edge of Despair
By Kristin Slavik

This is the first chapter of a work in progress. Please let me know what you think.
Melanie stood up to cheer as Josh rounded second base. He ran on to third base and narrowly missed being tagged out. “Way to go, Josh!” she yelled. Josh looked up at her in the stands and flashed a grin. He suddenly looked puzzled and lifted his hand to his eyes to shield them from the sun. He scanned the crowd and let his hand drop in disappointment. He turned his attention back to the next batter and wiped at a tear threatening to emerge.

Melanie knew who her son was looking for and her heart broke for him. She fumed at her husband for breaking another promise to Josh, to all of them. How could he not know how much Josh needed him to be there? Didn’t he know that this game was the most important thing in her 10-year-old’s life? How could something always be more important that they were?

Kelly, her 6-year-old daughter, was impatiently waiting next to her. “Is it done yet Mom? Where is Daddy anyway? Do we get pizza again after the game? I think pepperoni would be good. When is the sleepover? Should I bring my kitty pajamas? Can Katie come too?”

Melanie knew that Kelly’s questions were more a way of occupying herself than actual questions waiting for answers. Silently thankful for sunglasses that covered any look of concern that Kelly might have picked up on, she brushed back a loose strand of her long auburn hair.

She smiled as she took a moment to really look at Kelly. She was exactly like Melanie had been at that age. Fun, inquisitive, beautiful and a bit impish, Kelly could have been Melanie’s twin. She glanced down at the baby in the stroller. Jeff, her youngest son slept blissfully unaware of the loud surroundings. He had been such an easy baby, and for that she would be eternally grateful. Had he been a difficult child her already strained marriage would probably have crumbled by now. Jeff seemed instead destined to be the peacemaker, for every time she looked at him the anger inside of her seemed to melt a little.

The next batter hit a fly ball and Josh was able to make it to home base. Melanie jumped to her feet again, trying to make up for his missing father by being twice as loud. Even as she shouted she knew that it was pointless. Josh already knew she was there. She was there and his dad wasn’t. She wondered again what, or who, had kept her husband away this time. Josh, Kelly, Jeff; all of our children are beautiful. She looked towards the heavens. He’s missing it all, God. Help him find a way back to us.

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In a crowded office across town, David Storm barked out orders to two weary staff members. The Sunday edition of the Knoxville Times was not set to print and his staff was already an hour past deadline. Two major stories had broken late in the day making normal deadlines impossible. The first was a fire on the campus of the university. It had taken out a century old building and the flames were still burning. The second was a murder victim found in the suburbs of town. The victim was found in a parking lot in a car that had apparently been at the location for days. He had his two best reporters on the scenes working these stories and his tired staff members were waiting for the final copy to come in so that they could put this issue of the newspaper to bed.

That was the difficulty of this day and age. A newspaper had to have a deadline while television and other media forms had the luxury of time. They could always break in with a new story and dangle the details for later. David had to be right the first time; details had to be perfect, pictures had to be captivating and headlines had to speak volumes. In print you had just one shot to capture the big story and David was a master with dead on aim.

Jason, one of David’s top reporters, called in to say he was electronically transmitting the story on the campus fire and the pictures should arrive shortly. David breathed a sigh of relief, one story done and one to go. He glanced impatiently at his watch: ten to eight. Josh’s game had started at seven. His chest tightened as he realized he had missed it again. Josh was just going to have to get used to the real world. Grown-ups worked. They could not always do what they wanted. Besides, he rationalized, his dad never went to any of his games growing up and he had turned out just fine.

David glanced at the phone. He knew he should call Melanie and explain, but he did not want to get into it with her right now. It had been so difficult lately. He knew their marriage was in trouble but he honestly had no idea how to solve it. He decided to stick with what he was good at. “Becky,” he shouted out to the pressroom, “bring me the layout on that fire now!”

Becky pushed through the door with an exasperated sigh. “Here you go boss. The font size on the headline is still too small. We are trying to move the other stories to make room.” Becky was a robust girl with blond hair that always looked like it needed to be swept off of her face. She was single and dedicated to the office. Several days a week you could find her still at work after hours, making sure everything was perfect.

Several times Becky had let it be known that she was available to David for more than just work. David had not taken advantage of her advances, but lately he had to admit they were more appealing. He wondered if it would just be easier to have an affair and give Melanie reason to leave him. She seemed to be looking for one these days anyway.

Becky set the layout on David’s desk. They looked it over for a few moments in silence. “It isn’t right just yet,” David commented. “The first paragraph does not have enough of the details and the column wrapping will be confusing when the murder story gets here.” He pushed the layout back towards Becky.

“OK, you’re the boss, I’ll try and rework it.” Becky grabbed the paper and went back out to the pressroom with a sigh.

David leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He would get both of these stories right if it took him half the night. Of course the press operators would not be happy. Every extra minute he took was an extra minute that it would take before the copies could be collated and delivered. The chain reaction that these late nights set off tended to put everyone on edge for days.

The phone on his desk suddenly came alive. “David, Michael is calling in on line two,” Becky’s voice echoed through the room. He hated that she never used his last name or title to address him. “Storm here. What have you got for me Michael?”

“The police are still being a little sketchy on the details.” Michael’s voice sounded mechanical on the static ridden cell line. “Someone just leaked a name of the victim though. Apparently, our dead guy was named Brian Watterson. Can you do some checking to find out anything about him?”

David drew a sharp breath. “Did you say Brian Watterson?”

“Yes. Of course that has not been confirmed yet, but I figured we could start checking.”

“I had a friend from college by that same name. It is probably a coincidence. I will start checking. Let me know as soon as you are sure on the name. Looks like it will be a really late one tonight.” David ran his fingers through his hair and sighed.

The two said their good-byes and David sat back in his chair. This could not be the same Brian could it? The truth was that Brian was more than just an acquaintance, he had been David’s roommate for three years and his best friend for as long as he could remember. The two had lost touch after David had kids and job demands. Last he had heard Brian had moved to Washington, DC.

He decided to try and search for his friend’s name on the Internet. Maybe something there would let him know that this could not be the same Brian. As he typed in the name, Becky came back in the room. “We have the pictures and the final copy for the story on the fire. I moved things around like you suggested. Any word on how long before the murder gets here?”

“Michael just called in with a name, but it has not been confirmed yet. We need to wait for the official statement before we can go to bed with this issue. Let me see the final copy on the fire.” David drummed his fingers on his desk impatiently as Becky retrieved the copy he wanted to see. He glanced back at his computer the internet search had come up with thousands of matches to the name ‘Brian Watterson’. This was not going to be as easy to clear up as he had hoped.

“Here it is David.” Becky smiled and leaned in a little to far making sure David got a glimpse of cleavage.

David shook his head and focused his attention on the new copy. “That’s it Becky. It looks great. Now we just have to see what we have time to get in from the murder.” He glanced at the clock again. “I need to make a phone call. See that this copy has been adjusted on the final mock-up.”

Even though he did not want to get into a fight with Melanie, David knew he needed to call home and tell her he would still be a while. He held his breath as he dialed home, silently hoping for the answering machine.

  
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