Roberta Fernandez

Preview: A Knock on the Door

Walking to work, Lori dialed Rita’s number on the burner phone. She couldn’t conceive where this decision would lead her, but she was certain of one thing. She wanted justice for Jack’s death. He would have done it for her, with no doubt and no questions asked. She let it ring once, then hung up. There was no turning back. She drew in a deep breath of ice cold air, but even the cold weather couldn’t put out the fire she felt inside of her body.

Over the past fifteen years, the Town Herald had become her second home. Her co-workers had been very supportive after Jack’s death. Even Joe Delacourt, the usually crotchety editor, had shown his softer side. Lori thought that if she immersed herself into her research work, perhaps she could escape this new reality in her life. At least for a little while.

By the time Lori opened the office door, Joe was already barking out orders to his department heads. When he said jump, everyone asked how high. It wasn’t unusual for Joe to start getting frantic close to deadline, which was tomorrow, but this was a bit over the top even for Joe. Something must be going on. Her suspicions deepened when she rounded the corner to her cubicle and Nathan Schilling was sitting on her desk.

“Hey, Lori. My printer’s down again. I emailed an article to you for tomorrow’s edition so I’d have it when I got here this morning. Can you log in and print it for me real quick?”

“No problem, Nathan.” Lori set her coat and purse on her chair as he hopped off her desk and moved out of her way. She thought it was ironic for a homicide reporter to be nearly always happy. Nathan’s personality never jived with the gruesome subject of the articles he wrote.

I wonder how you’d write about Jack’s murder?

Lori trembled slightly and tried to focus her attention back on Nathan, who was still busy talking.

“…and so I’m glad you weren’t late. Joe’s been on a rampage already this morning. Shilling! Where is it?” Nathan mockingly imitated their editor’s face and body language. “He’s had to ask that like a hundred times already. And I’ve only been here twenty minutes!” Nathan grabbed his head like it was in a vice, faking a groan and laughing uncontrollably. “He’s got to proof it in his hands, not on the screen you know, or he’s not happy. Joe must own stock in some company that sells paper and red ink.”

Nathan laughed out loud again as he stood behind her. Lori opened the document in the email and hit the print button. The old machine started sputtering loudly. Lori knew it was on its last legs and she considered asking Joe to spring for a new one. She watched as the paper slowly inched out into the tray as the document printed.

The headline Nathan had written peeked out first. “Woman Found Dead in Apartment” Lori dropped the pen she was holding when she saw the face printing out below it.

Nathan’s voice seemed to fade as he continued babbling behind her. She struggled to regain her composure while the rest of the article printed. She vaguely felt Nathan at her feet, retrieving her pen. As the printer groaned to a halt, she braced herself and turned around with the best smile she could muster. It felt plastered on her face. “Here, Nathan. Go put Joe out of his misery.”

Nathan handed her the pen. “You ok, Lori?”

“Uh, uh… yeah… I’m just cold and tired. Didn’t sleep too well last night,” Lori honestly added. “You look like you could use some sleep, too.” Rumpled clothes, bloodshot eyes, and a scruffy chin were obvious clues that he hadn’t slept.

“Yeah, I was getting ready for bed around midnight when I heard the call on the scanner. I’m on empty after working this story all night. I hope Joe won’t have too many rewrites.” 

Lori raised her eyebrows in mock disbelief and Nathan laughed at his own comment. Joe always had lots of rewrites. “Thanks, Lori!” Nathan waved the papers over his head as Lori watched him hurry down the hallway of cubicles to appease his waiting editor.

Lori collapsed into her chair. Her blood felt like ice in her veins as her body shivered in dread. She glanced down both directions of the hall. Satisfied that no one was near, her fingers quivered as she anxiously opened Nathan’s email to read the entire story.

The police reported that the woman must have surprised a burglar when she arrived home after a late dinner. Neighbors called the police after hearing a gunshot, but no one saw anything. There was no trace of the burglar by the time the police arrived.

Normally, this would have been just another murder, but Lori couldn’t take her eyes off the picture.