Friday, May 30, 2008

Hot Off the Presses by Trixie Stilletto

Samantha was turning her car into the parking lot on Michigan Avenue, carefully balancing a steaming cup of cappuccino with her left hand, when a man walked right in front of her, his attention on his newspaper. The cappuccino flew out of her hand as she slammed on the brakes, and though she managed to keep her leg from getting burned she could do nothing about the liquid spreading over her new skirt.

Slamming her car into park, she lowered her window and yelled, "Are you crazy? I could have killed you!"

She looked into a stormy pair of eyes and bit off another angry retort. Those eyes were eerily familiar, and for a second she was in the backseat of a limo doing things with a stranger she'd never done with her most intimate partners. But before she could get past her tingling embarrassment, the man shrugged and continued walking across Michigan Avenue.

She looked down at her skirt, then at the dashboard clock. Five minutes until the meeting that could change her future. She had two choices: she could make the ten-minute trek back home to change, thus being at least forty-five minutes late for the meeting with her new boss, or she could go to back-up plan B.

Parking her car in her designated spot, she rummaged in the athletic bag she kept in the back seat. There they are, she thought triumphantly, pulling out a pair of black stretch pants.

She remembered the edicts from her Aunt Louise. Samantha, a lady can never go wrong with basic black.

"Aunt Weezie, I hope you know what you're talking about," she muttered. Of course, since Weezie hadn't worn anything other than high heels, nylons, and dresses since before World War II, the stretch pants would have been decidedly de trop as a wardrobe alternative. Samantha shrugged. Thank goodness for durable clothes and mix-n-match accessorizing.

Clutching the pants, her bulging briefcase, her own copy of The Planet, and her now empty cup, she hurried across the street to The Planet's five-story brick building. She'd dash into the first floor ladies room, make the quick change, and still have time to get up to the new publisher's office before it was too late.

Lani Thompson was going out as she was coming in.

"Hey boss, I sent you a message. Something big is going on with the Gladiators this morning," Lani said, referring to the city's professional football team. "I'm heading out there now. I snagged Joe for some pictures just in case."

"Good. Any idea what this could be?" Samantha asked.

"Either they're going to announce the deal to renew the stadium lease or they going to restructure the contract on Smith."

Samantha chewed on her bottom lip. "Okay. Give me a call as soon as possible when you find out what it is. I'll want to get graphics working on a chart. If it's the lease option, then they may want this story for page one."

"Okay. Hey boss, I hate to mention it, but did you know you have something on your skirt?"

Samantha sighed. "Yes. Some bozo walked in front of me while I was pulling into the parking lot. I spilled my coffee all over everything."

Lani laughed. "And this on the day when you have your big meeting with the new publisher?"

"Yeah. Just my luck."

"Hey, don't worry, I heard he's a great-looking guy, and single, too. We thought he might stop by the party last night, but I didn't see him. Shelia in features swears she saw him come in late. Since she was two sheets to the wind I don't trust her info."

There was that niggling feeling again. Samantha tried to refocus on business. Lani was a great reporter, one of the best Samantha had ever worked with. Her matronly figure and wide smile invited people from top star athletes to the men and women who made millions behind the scenes in the sports entertainment business to divulge all their secrets. Samantha swore if they lined up Lani's sources they would go around the world. Twice.

"Now, if you told me the reason you disappeared like a ghost in the wind was because some man swept you off your feet, that would make my day."

Samantha laughed. "If only you knew."

Lani waited for a moment, but when Samantha didn't volunteer any more details, she switched topics. "Hey, did you get a chance to meet Henry's cousin?"

Samantha sighed. As good a reporter and writer as she was, Lani was also a hopeless romantic. She read sports pages and romance novels with equal fervor. Underneath the driven, hard-bitten reporter's exterior was a compulsive matchmaker.

"Lani, we've talked about this before. You know this business and marriage don't mix."

"Hah. Tell that to my Henry. We've been together for nearly thirty years." Lani and Henry had met when they were covering a high school basketball game for opposing papers in the days when Buffalo had been a two-newspaper town. Henry had won Lani's heart by offering to give her tips on how to cover the game. It wasn't quite as trite as inviting her to see his etchings, but almost. "Anyway, I'm not talking about mixing business and pleasure. I'm talking about mixing pleasure with more pleasure. Frankly, boss, I'm getting worried about you."

"Don't worry about me. Besides, Henry is one of a kind. And unless you've got a clone somewhere for him, the rest of us will just have to struggle along--alone with our careers."

Lani laughed. "A clone for Henry? You've got to be kidding. Anyway, I'd better run. Don't want the Niagara Falls Sentinel to beat me to the punch."