“I'm here to talk to a reporter at Sunny Chicago.”
The security guard smirks behind his desk. “You have an appointment?”
Mae removes her sunglasses but not her hat. “Tell Lucy Stein it's Mae Brady.” Yes, she'll wait. While the guard phones upstairs, Mae glances around the lobby. The stately skyscraper, with its (faux) marble security desk, used to be the Sunny Chicago building; above the entranceway a sunrise is etched into sandstone. Now it houses a bank, a for-profit college, two hedge funds, and a co-working space for app developers, among other organizations. The paper has been relegated to the eighth floor, but there are remnants of greatness. Mae steps off the elevator into an appropriately bright lobby featuring framed front pages more interesting than her history book: the end of World War Two, Black Tuesday, 9/11. The muzak leans toward classical. The receptionist (an intern) is smartly dressed. When Lucy appears, she carries a silver laptop under one arm. “Mae! What a wonderful surprise.” More self-contained than usual, she wears her professional face. “Would you like the grand tour?”
Though she didn't board an early train for an office tour, Mae nods politely. Grownups, she learns, also work at rows of long desks that resemble classrooms, a disappointing discovery. She meets a managing editor named Charles who went to Columbia University, and Karen, who confides that she does all the work. Everybody already knows Mae—even Stan, who looks too young to work at a newspaper as he watches endless streams of conversations scroll across large screens.
“A pleasure!” Stan shakes her hand vigorously. “As the newest social media coordinator, this is such an honor.”
“Future coordinator,” Lucy corrects. “Stan is still technically an intern.”
“Important in this business.” Stan reddens. They move on.
A bearded man named Frank greets Mae by the water cooler. He smells like coffee and when he looks at Lucy, his entire face softens.
“I think that guy has a crush on you,” Mae says as they enter a conference room.
“Frank?” Lucy cackles. “No way, he is the worst. He loves bothering me all day.”
“Because he has a crush on you?”
Lucy considers this. “Hm.”
They sit at the far end of a comically large conference table. Lucy explains how there are more chairs than employees because the table is left over from the days when Sunny Chicago was one of the biggest daily papers in the city. “So. What did you want to talk about?”
As Mae explains what she has—a recording of her conversation with the Harringtons' lawyer—she doesn't look up. It's very important to be clear about its power. “So I think it should be public,” she concludes, and then she plays it.
And now I have a question for you, Mae. Do you recognize this drawing?
Sure. It was going around. I'm not sure why you're bringing it up now.
And you uploaded it onto the internet?
Internet what? No. And I didn't draw it, either.
We know you engineered the whole thing to make me look bad.
Oh, you make yourself look bad.
“Holy shit,” Lucy breathes, gingerly picking up the phone as if it's gold (because it is). “Incredible...” In a look Mae recognizes instantly, Lucy's eyes dart about as she formulates a plan. “I have a friend from journalism school who works at Channel 6. Shall we phone in a favor before Ethan's interview tomorrow? Give them some good TV, that thing you do so well?”
“I'd like that very much.”