The political campaign was a national story. Now it’s his. Divine Fury. Chapter 16

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Chapter 16

LEE WATCHED LORRAINE Carr from across the newsroom.  The city editor was talking with a reporter seated at a desk just outside her office.  She was facing away, arms crossed with her head tilted toward the reporter while she conversed.

Her chin-length hair was swept over to the left side of her head and somehow made to hold its shape without simply falling to the side.  She looked great.  Her neck was exposed and Lee knew that close up he would be able to see every graceful muscle.  He suddenly pictured himself running his fingers lightly along her skin there.  What would that elicit?  A smile?  Goose bumps? He felt a surge of…what?  Probably equal parts adrenaline and testosterone.

The next morning at work after she’d walked out of Slim’s he looked for something from her.  Flirtation.  A recognition of attraction.  More intimacy at some level, even if just better pals.  Nothing.  She acted as if the evening had never happened.  So, Lee planned to put the event away in his “that was interesting” mental file but after the weekend it was still stuck in his “What the …..?” folder.

Lee had first met Carr five years earlier when, fresh from earning a master’s degree in electrical engineering, she was hired by the News to cover the businesses and technology of Silicon Valley.  He knew her father was a successful New York lawyer and that she’d attended a very exclusive private school on Long Island.  He guessed that most of her classmates got jobs out of college at Manhattan art galleries or in the publishing houses.  He’d dated a few with that background during his New York years but always figured he was filling in until a lawyer or, better yet, an investment banker came along.

He still had Carr classified as a fun, smart, hyperactive “college kid” who seemed to fit right into the avant-garde social scene of the city when suddenly she’d been catapulted to city editor.  Lee had expected a short, disastrous tenure.  But Carr had somehow managed to coolly tame the crustiest newsroom hacks and survive mutilation while swimming among the power-hungry managers at the newspaper.  He had clearly underestimated her, maybe in more ways than one.

When he got her email late Monday morning asking him to come to her office, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

“Hiya,” he said, sitting down in the chair opposite her desk.  She was gathering up some papers into a pile which she moved to the corner away from him.  Carr had several framed posters advertising ballets around the walls between the windows that looked out over the newsroom.  She said they were remnants of a time in her life before she realized short ballerinas never leave the chorus.

“Hellooo,” she said, in a singsong way, smiling.  They were silent for a few seconds.

“So, what do you think about covering politics?” she finally asked.

Lee was a little taken aback.

“What?” he said.

“Well, not politics per se,” said Carr.  “I was thinking more of just the color.  The feature side.  Impressions of what’s going on.  Profiles of people behind the scenes.  That sort of thing.”

“So, you’re talking about the Harper campaign then,” said Lee.

“Oh, right.  Sorry.  I should have mentioned that first,” said Carr.  “Of course, his campaign will be a national story.  The first openly gay candidate with a legitimate shot at a governor’s slot.  Much less California.  And, for us, it’s a local story, too.  He’s one of ours.  His support will be mainly based here.”

“Sure,” said Lee.  “He’ll be a cause celebre in the Castro and in a lot of the city, actually.  And then, there’s the Harvey Milk thing.  The Second Coming.”

“Exactly,” said Carr.

Having grown up in San Francisco, Lee was well aware of the Milk legacy and how it still reverberated in the city and its politics.  Milk had been an instant national figure when elected as the first openly gay San Francisco city supervisor in the late 70s.  His tragic shooting death, along with mayor George Moscone’s, soon afterward by a former supervisor had sealed Milk’s status as both a martyr and an icon.

Lee had been 13 at the time and already fascinated with the news and politics.  Milk and Moscone had been all over the local newspapers and television.  He saw them in parades, and they appeared in Chinatown from time to time for an important wedding or funeral, or for the opening of a new park or restaurant.  The deaths had affected him deeply.  At the time, it was almost as if his two famous uncles had suddenly been murdered.

“Listen, it’s a great idea,” said Lee.  “There are bound to be a lot of stories coming out of the election.  Interesting ones.  Enough to put more people on it.  I just don’t know if I should be one of them.  I really prefer doing what I’m doing.  You know. The daily features.  In and out.  Stories that will amuse the readers without making them think too much.”

“Oh, c’mon, Enzo,” said Carr.  “I know you’ll be great at this.  There will be some amazing stories.  Fun ones, too.  Tell you what.  Why don’t you give it try?  You can pick and choose the stories, the events, whatever.”

“God,” said Lee, shaking his head.  “I don’t know.”

“Oh, c’mon,” she said.  Carr flashed her biggest smile and tilted her head.

“For me?” she added, giving him a slow wink that sent his adrenaline-testosterone level to a new high.

As he walked slowly back to his desk, having caved in to her request, it occurred to Lee that perhaps he was way out of his league.

Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

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