Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Hard and Soft (04/23/09)
TITLE: The Hard Beat
By Sharon Laughter
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"Sir, their child is missing," the brunette reporter pleaded. "It was like a bunch of blood hounds yapping all over a little cornered rabbit. I refused to jam a microphone in that poor mother's face and yell ‘how do you FEEL?’" Karla regretted almost instantly the snide tone of her voice.
"THAT’S WHY IT’S CALLED HARD NEWS!" Whitter screamed, now snapping the papers back and forth over his head. "You wanted the beat! Unless you want to go back to counting petals and petunias at weddings, bring me SOMETHING!" Rivers of crimson on the editor's forehead darkened. What few strands of hair he possessed were splayed on top of his head like a flattened tarantul.
"I WILL!” Karla promised, squinting sincerely. She jammed her steno pad deeper into the crook of her arm and sprung from the office.
The hounds gathered later that afternoon on the library's grassy courtyard, once again jostling for bones. Bristol's Chief of Police had summoned a press conference on the disappearance of Wendy Grant. Karla stood off from the pack, scanning the crowd. A few yards away a young girl slumped against a pine while attempting to block a trail of tears with her sleeve. Karla headed toward her and extended a Kleenex in offering.
"You o.k?" she asked gently. The girl accepted the tissue and lowered glistening emerald eyes.
“Wendy’s my friend," the she gulped.
"I’m so sorry," Karla empathized. "You're Sara?" The name decorated the school binder the student clutched to her chest in various renditions of word art.
Sara’s weary head bobbed. "We're all really scared for her… Wull, all ’cept Richard"...she clarified, her neck swaying to sweep long wisps of curls behind her shoulder.
"What do you mean?" Karla probed, arching her eyebrow.
Sara cleared her throat and raised a hooked finger toward a young man several yards away. The man was intently studying the feeding frantic ahead. He stood motionless as long dark bangs whipped across his eyes. Tips of his checkered boxers peeked out from low hanging baggy green pants and his hands crammed their pockets. His mouth was steeled in a tight grimace.
"He’s just mad ‘cause something happened anyway." Sara sniffed. She gazed upward and studied fluffy Q-tips sailing the bright spring sky. "It’s kinda romantic," she dreamed. "He was always sneaking onto campus and putting like flowers and stuff in Wendy’s locker. He wrote her that God made him her guardian angel."
Karla’s brows furrowed. She slipped a business card from her day planner and slid it between Sara's damp fingers. Sara’s eyes widened at the “Bristol News” Logo and smiled hopefully.
"Sara, you could be a big help. If the police ask you questions, tell them all you know. And if you just want to talk, call me," Karla offered. She gave the girl a slight squeeze to her shoulder and strolled away.
When she reached the parking lot across the lawn, the petite reporter hunched behind a blue minivan, punched speed dial 4 on her cell, and held her breath waiting for the brusque voice to answer at the other end.
"Drake?" she blurted excitedly. I may have something for the detective on the Grant disappearance.”
"MARSHALL!" Whitter’s hollering startled Karla, causing her to jam her knee into the desk. Irritated, she flung her chair backwards and tromped toward the sound. "He'll never be satisfied," she groused. “But he’s not going to steal my joy!’
No, even Whitter could not clip the wings of her soaring heart. Police had followed Karla’s tip and questioned Sara. Enough suspicions were raised that warranted Richard’s interrogation. After just two hours, the man had succumbed under pressure and confessed to Wendy’s kidnapping. He had been ordered, he said, to take the high school senior to the woods “for her own protection." Wendy was found bound and gagged, but unharmed. Karla had been offered the privilege of watching the rescue and story exclusive.
“Yes, sir?” she answered, struggling to mask her growing irritation as she appeared at her boss’s doorway. Whitter halted his pacing and began shaking a pile of papers at the fluorescent ceiling lights. His eyes bulged toward Karla, looking like plump black olives.
YOU’RE SOFT!" he barked, causing the office windows to shiver.
Karla paused, her eyes widening in surprise. "Yes, sir", she agreed, whirling from the office and returning his smirk.
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