The following is an unfinished novel I began two years ago, a novel I hope to finish here. I have written 13 chapters and will present one nearly everyday, then begin writing the following chapters and present them every few days until the novel is finished. This novel is copyright protected.
The Calypso Cure
By JR Owens
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, incidents and events are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright ©2012 JR Owens
All rights reserved.
This book is dedicated to the men and women who investigate and report, in a timely fashion, information needed by the people to make informed decisions on policy which helps safeguard the freedoms of democracy.
Jack Flagg took a part time job in high school loading newspapers onto a truck for evening delivery. The job didn’t pay much, just a couple dollars a day in cash, but it would be the beginning of a career. Each day Jack and a couple of friends would leave school and head to a back parking lot of the newspaper office to help load the heavy newspaper bundles. The money Jack made, sometimes less than two dollars, seemed like a lot to a young man of 15-years in the mid-1960s. The money was usually spent on the way home or for school lunches the following day, but it wasn’t about the money for Jack; the experience and what he learned were much more important.
Jack was fascinated by the production of the newspaper. He loved watching the typesetters and asking questions about their work. Before the digital age the creation of the newspaper was labor intensive. Typesetters with ink-stained hands took metal letter blocks, called sorts, from compartments in wooden boxes. Words were created by placing the metal sorts into a composing stick, an instrument used to hold together the words and lines that were later bound in a framed structure called a form. The typesetters worked from left to right placing each letter upside down in the composing stick. When all the type were in place and tightly bound together it created an image of the page that would be mounted into the pressed and inked.
Jack watched this process everyday and this first taste of ink and this first smell of newsprint would become part of the fabric of who Jack would become. Those hard-working and kindly gentlemen that shared their life’s work with a young and curious teenager were laying the groundwork for a journalist.
By the time Jack began his career as a journalist the old ways of creating the daily newspaper were on their way out – giving way to a digital age – but the memory and the romance still lived inside and ink that once stained his hands now fills his veins.
A man with a nervous twitch in his left eye entered through the glass doors of the newsroom. He stopped for a moment to scan the room. It was a large room with cubicles and desks lined along two walls. At the far end of the room sat one lone desk where Lilly Smith sat answering phones and directing callers to the correct departments. At the opposite side of the room, black metal shelves stacked with archived newspapers stood awkwardly against the backdrop of a long line of file cabinets six-drawers tall.
He was a fairly tall man, about six-two in my estimation. He was thin and wore geek-like clothing that included a pair of khaki brown pants that were a little too short and a green plaid shirt. His outfit was topped off, or should I say, bottomed out, with a pair of white canvas tennis shoes.
I watched the man as he made his way to Lilly’s desk. About half-way across the room he paused and looked back over his right shoulder at the door, as if to see if someone had followed him. He was nervous, no doubt about that, he was wringing his hands as he stepped up to the desk. He said something to Lilly, but I couldn’t tell what, and Lilly apparently didn’t hear him either.
“Sorry Sir, what can I do for you,” she asked?
He turned and looked back toward the door a second time before speaking. His heart was pounding so hard I could actually see it pulsating from the arteries in his neck.
“I would like to see the editor,” he said breathlessly.
“The editor is in a meeting right now, may I ask what this concerns?”
“You already have,” he said, as he crossed his arms and bit his bottom lip.
“Sir,” Lilly asked?
“You asked me, if you may ask me what this concerns,” he replied.
Lilly looked a bit confused by his response, but I understood immediately from the tone in his voice that he was agitated and his answer was meant to be sarcastic. I pushed my chair from the desk, but before I could get around to the other side of it, the man had already turned away and headed for the door. I thought about following him out, not because he got sarcastic with Lilly, but because of the peculiar way he acted – he obviously had something on his mind and I wanted to know what it was.
“Jack, do you know who that strange fellow is,” Lilly asked as I returned to my desk?
“Never seen him before, you?”
“Yes, but I can’t put a name to the face, yet I’m sure I’ve seen him before.
“Here,” I asked?
“No, but I never forget a face,” she said.
I never forget a face either, I thought to myself as I settled back in my chair, though names can get lost in the shuffle of time. He didn’t look at all familiar to me, but I was interested, very interested. It had been a while since I broke a big story and I was hungry. In the news business it’s not a matter of “what have you done for me lately,” it’s more like, “what have you done for me today.” I had no reason to think this nervous-acting odd ball of a man had a big story for me, but you learn to follow any and all leads.
The News Herald was small Mid-Western newspaper with a circulation of about 20,000. This newsroom has been a home away from home for nearly 15 years. The pay is low, especially for a veteran reporter, but it’s a job. I started earning a little extra money when I agreed to write a weekly column, Jack Flagg’s Corner, but I labored with each week’s editorial, something I never had to do with a news story.
When I began working for the paper, the editor at the time, Harold Black, was an old-school newsman. Harold was tough and gutsy. He wasn’t afraid to print the truth and he didn’t care whose toes he stepped on to find that truth. It didn’t matter to him if you were a big advertiser or had a big name in town, if you had a skeleton to dig up he sent his reporters after you.
About five years ago, the local ownership of the paper was sold to a corporate chain and Harold, along with the cigar that always accompanied him, was let go. Harold’s replacement, Bill Donavon, understood the news business, but he lacked the passion Harold had for the news itself. Bill’s main interest, along with the publisher, was to keep advertisers happy. Advertising pays our salary, but being a real newsman isn’t about bringing home a check every week, I can do that working at a car wash.
The real news business is supposed to be about keeping the public informed about what government and others are doing. The Fourth Estate, as they call us, has the responsibility of keeping the government honest. You can’t do that to the upmost of your ability when you have to worry about upsetting an advertiser.
Under Bill our front page has a different look. The old banner has been replaced with a new, more colorful one, and feature stories, more often than not, topped the page. Feature stories are fine, a little human interest is always nice to read, but not at the expense of real news that belongs on the front page.
Waterford County has always been known as a hot bed for news, but since Harold left, everyone in the newsroom knows many things have been swept under the rug – it’s a wonder we can still walk on it. Our small town has three main employers: Calypso Pharmaceuticals, headquartered in our county; Briggs Tractor Company and The Herald News. The tractor factory and pharmaceutical research facility are corporate, just like the paper. These companies provide a lot of jobs and pump money into the local economy. Bill believes that gives them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to news.
“You have to see the greater good,” Bill would often say.
Every journalist knows, or should, that the greater good involves keeping the public informed.