The reporter broke his story that the accuser had recanted his lies. Divine Fury. Chapter 42

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LEE’S ARTICLE REVEALING that Harper’s accuser had recanted his story mere days after making his accusation in front of the television cameras was a coup but it took a nervous day before all the editors at the News treated it like one.  That was because as soon as Lee had left him, Lonnie Carter disappeared again.

Eventually, an enterprising reporter from the Los Angeles Times found him in a run-down cabin in Guerneville along the Russian River an hour north of San Francisco.  Carter clearly was trying to avoid the limelight.  Fortunately, when he was discovered yet again he confirmed what he had told Lee.

The experience brought back old emotions for Lee – the elation mixed with nerves when he was out in front on a story, but all alone and wondering if events were conspiring to make the whole damn thing blow up in his face.  It reminded him of what had happened in New York, the nightmare that had eventually led him to return to San Francisco and trade the investigative work for the comfortable life of a feature writer.

Ray Pilmann had started circling as the day wore on, replaying his warning not to be Harper’s apologist.  When Lee read the L.A. Times’ story on the paper’s website late in the day backing up his disclosure that Carter had fabricated his allegations against Harper, he exhaled a long sigh of relief.  He leaned back in this chair and thrust his arms aloft with fists clenched in a victory pose.  He felt the pain in his gut ease almost instantly.  Across the newsroom, Lorraine Carr gave him a wink and a fist pump.  Pilmann had disappeared.

Lorraine was doing a Jackie O thing that day with fake pearl earrings, oversized sunglasses and a thin, retro sweater.  She even had a scarf.  Lee figured it warranted putting the top down on his Toyota Spyder for the ride out to the Legion of Honor Museum.  The sun still was warm and bright when they parked near the fountain outside the museum’s entrance.  They walked up the long ramp to the entrance archway flanked by rows of Roman columns.

Carr’s invitation gained them access to the gallery with the new exhibit.  Just inside the doorway stood two thin terracotta torsos.  One sat atop a pair of long legs, upright and striding on a stone base, with arms and head missing.  The other was sliced in half lengthwise and perched on a single thin leg that tilted forward with the arm outstretched as if ready to take flight.

“Hmmm,” said Carr as she stood to the side with arms crossed and studied the sculpture.  “Tall…and thin…impossibly thin. ”

“Huh?” said Lee.

“Oh.  You know,” said Carr.  “It’s just that the idealized female form these days – from fashion to people like this who should know better – is this long, stick-thin look.  Who decided that?  I mean we don’t have to go back to Rubenesque, but can’t we have a little variety here?”

“Well, it’s just an abstraction, right?” said Lee.  “I mean that one doesn’t even have arms or a head.  And, it’s…what…eight feet tall?  I mean if he used a model for it at all, it could have been…well…it could have been you.”

“Oh,” said Carr.  “Right.  Now that you mention it.  It does look just like me.”

“No one is that tall or looks like that,” said Lee.  “You’re obviously not tall.  But proportionally…you’re…you’re perfect.”

Carr laughed.

“I mean it,” said Lee, not quite able to suppress a grin.  “If you want a beautiful human form to idealize, I would say, ‘Look no further.’”  He held both hands out, presentation style, toward her.

“So that’s how you do it,” said Carr.  “With compliments that never cease.  In this case, flattery will get you…hmm…all the way to the champagne.  C’mon.  My treat.”

“No.  No,” said Lee.  “It looks free.  I  insist.”

After another 30 minutes in the gallery, they headed back toward the lobby where they could see a handful of tables in the outside courtyard set up for the event next to an impressive display of wine and cheeses.

With glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and a cheese platter, they found a table catching the last rays of the sun.  The space around them was almost deserted.  Carr had dropped the dark, oversized shades in place.

“I remember coming here when I was about 10,” said Lee, slicing off a corner of brie and mashing it onto a toasted sliver of baguette.  “Of course, the real draw was Golden Gate Park  where they had the aquarium and dinosaurs.  But this was on the school list of field trips, too.  Anything to stuff a little culture into our heads.”

“If you had told me then that one day I’d be out here,” he continued,  “sipping wine and eating soft smelly cheese with Jackie Onassis, I would have run home and told my mom there was a lunatic after me.”

Carr grinned and repositioned her glasses.

“I guess you’ve come up in the world a notch or two,”  she said.

“Or three,” said Lee.  “Say.  It just occurred to me that you were going to tell me what that whole scene was with Pilmann.  What was that all about?  The three of us in the room?”

“Oooh,” said Carr.  “I don’t think I can give that one up so cheaply.  I mean this is kind of my date, right?  I think I need dinner and some nice wine before I can share management secrets.”

“Management secrets!  Christ!” said Lee.  “You make it sound like there’s someone back there other than you and the seven stooges.”

“But since food is my big weakness,” he continued, “closely followed by brunette celebrities, you’re on.  Friday?”

 

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

You can learn more about Divine Fury on Amazon.

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