Re: Zephyr


Herr D

Chapter 6: Bonding Over Lies

Young Mike plugged in his hands-free ear wire, stuffed the bud in his left ear and answered the phone. He looked surprised.
“Yes sir? Um. Okay. Yes–she’s here. Hold on.” He put the phone in the cable basket between himself and Jennifer and handed the earbud to Jennifer, still practically juggling.
“For me?” Who even knows I’m here? Jennifer looked at the earbud. At least it looks clean. She put it in. “Hello?”
“Miss Duke?” Big boss alert!
“Yes, Mr. Crowe? You might call me Jennifer–I still don’t always know who Miss Duke is.”
Simon Crowe laughed. “Congratulations.”
What– “Thank you. For what?”
He laughed again. “I liked your entry for the new story best. Please call it ‘Zephyr’ from now on.”
Zephyr?! That wasn’t in the entries! Wh– Jennifer glanced sideways at Young Mike.
“Sh,” Young Mike said quietly.
“I–” she began.
“I numbered them,” said Mr. Crowe, “like your current driver requested. He didn’t fool me though.”
“Fool you?” Jennifer asked innocently. But he DID. Zephyr must have been HIS idea.
“I know you, Jennifer. And I know my nephew. No one had to tell me this is some sort of bet between the two of you. What are the stakes? I need you to tell me. I’ve explicitly told David there is to be no betting of money on the job.”
“We bet food items for the group. Not a whole lunch or anything.”
“Thank you. I should tell you that I know my nephew VERY well. I’ve tried to teach him how to run a business, but I’m afraid he feeds his ego and not his intellect. I have promised him his decisions about Backington Studios will stick. That means you may have to be careful. I know you two don’t get along well.” So, you’re not going to make him keep me. Didn’t think so.
“Thank you.”
“For what?”
“For making that clear. I know from –” She looked around at Shelley. “Before. I know from before that you talked about keeping opposing views nearby to learn from them.” How do I make this sound like it’s about something else? “Where in the list is Chinatown Ghost?”
Mr. Crowe laughed again. “Well done. You are actually good at this sort of intrigue. It is next to last. The worst one was Dixie Pixie. That was Tia’s?”
“Haha–you know it. Po put in ‘yokai’ and ‘sorei,’ where are they?”
“Third and fourth. But people might think we’re making ethnic comments, so I’m glad your entry won.”
“What was second?”
“The Backington Boogeyman. I have another call.”
“Goodbye Mr. Crowe.”
“Goodbye.” The phone clicked off. Jennifer didn’t even hunt for the right button, just wiped the earbud on her shirt and stuck it in Young Mike’s ear. He looked surprised. And slightly pink. Ooh, buddy can BLUSH. Cute!
“Thanks,” he said. And not used to getting any help with anything. Jennifer pondered his suspenders, his unfortunate plaid shirt, his Buddy Holly glasses, and his too-short haircut and stubble. “I’m looking over, a three-leaf clover, that I overlooked be-THREEEE. Bugs Bunny said it best.
–DAH! “What is it, Shelley?”
“What was that about?”
Oops. “Did you put in Backington Boogeyman?”
“It came in second.”
Shelley smiled. “Hey! Wait. What was that bit about opposing views?”
“Oh.” %^&*! She’s a good reporter; I shouldn’t forget that. “He knows it was a bet.”
Shelley’s smile disappeared and she looked worriedly at Jennifer. “Are you in trouble?”
“No more than I was. He likes people coming clean when he catches them.” Jennifer turned to face forward again and frowned at the screen. Zephyr. Not bad.
“What did you enter?”
Jennifer froze. She raised her eyebrows. “Um, if I’m gonna finish this–“
Mike smiled. “Don’t be too modest, Jennifer. She entered ‘Zephyr,’ and ‘Miasma,’ and Zephyr won.”
“What’s a miasma?”
Um?“Yeah, Mike, what’s a miasma?”
Shelley laughed.
“I’m not sure. So what are we doing when we get there? I’m guessing we won’t be flashing press cards.”
“Oh!” said Shelley, “Jennifer’s hanging bags of food from her canes and leading us up. I’m carrying the laptop and two dog pillows. You hide a camera in a box or something. We take ‘her’ stuff to her place and knock on the dog owner’s door, saying I have a dog pillow I don’t need. I’ll probably try to look like I’m fighting back tears and claim my dog died recently. Try to look sympathetic and either irritated or like you want to avoid the subject. Tell him where to park, but not too close. We don’t want people to see the passenger side of the van. Is that an ambulance?”
There was an ambulance parked in front of the building.