Rotary luncheons are boring, but you do get a free meal. I had hoped Bill would send Shelly for this, but I understood why he was sending me. I knew the Senator fairly well, had interviewed him on several occasions and supported him in an editorial before the last election; Bill figures the senator owes me a favor.
The luncheon had gone pretty much as most events of that type do; little useful information was passed along to the press. Most politicians agree to speak at luncheons because they want publicity, sometimes for an issue they believe in, sometimes they come just for the photo op. If you’re a politician it’s always good to stay in the public eye and make it look like you are still in touch with the people who elected you. I found out nothing new about the corridor proposal during the press conference after the senator spoke, but I did get a promise that I would be the first to know after a decision had been made.
The Department of Transportation had narrowed its list of four proposed highway corridors to two; one of the proposed corridors would bring the new highway just to the east of the city. More traffic to the area would be good for business, make commutes easier, and possibly bring more industry and growth.
Bill will act disappointed, I think he believes its part of his job to act disappointed – that way you think your job is on the line every time you go out. I didn’t care about Bill’s act, and I wasn’t worried about my job, cub reporters worry, veterans do not. News reporters can become egotistical. I suppose seeing their name in print so many times makes them feel like they are above their readers, and I suppose editors and publishers have a full-time job on their hands just trying to keep some of us grounded in reality. Nevertheless, I like to think the thing that drives me is the story, not the reader of the story. It’s a cut-throat business, but if you conduct yourself in a professional manner and tell people what they need to know, you learn to live with the bullshit because you feel you are doing the public a service.
I walked back into the news room with my camera dangling from my shoulder. In small newsrooms a reporter is expected to be a photographer much of the time. We have a full-time photographer, but of course he can’t cover every event. When I started in the business we didn’t have digital cameras we could plug into our computers and transfer photographs in seconds, we had old Nikon cameras and usually used black and white film. Sometimes we had to develop our own pictures in those days, and I always enjoyed doing that. Rolling the film and placing it into the canister, burning the image on the paper and watching it come to life in the liquid bath. Those were the days.
Lilly greeted me, with her usual cheerful smile, and then motioned for me to meet her in the break room before I could reach my desk. Most of the staff was gone when I returned and Bill’s office was dark. Shelly had gone home for a while because she would be covering the evening school board meeting. Doug was supposed to be at a court hearing and Kerry and the sports guys were tapping away on their keyboards.
As we reached the break room, I watched the smile drain from Lilly’s face.
“Jack,” she asked, “do you have any idea the trouble you got me into this morning after the meeting.”
“What do you mean?”
“Why did you involve me in your inquiry about Bill’s visitor?”
I had told Bill that Lilly and I thought the man looked familiar, and by doing that I had involved her in something she was apparently trying to distance herself from.
“I’m sorry Lilly. I was just trying to get to the bottom of something.”
“Well, get at the bottom of this,” she said emphatically, “he’s dead.”
“No, that strange man, his name was Benjamin Rodney.”
“Benjamin Rodney, that’s his name?”
“I don’t know Jack, I just know when Doug got back with the police report and showed it to Bill they left here like they were going to a fire.”
“Did you see the report,” I asked her?
“No, and we didn’t have this conversation either.”