Sunday, February 6, 2011

ch. 4: at the press

A long night turned into an early morning before Brownstreet fell asleep on my couch and I stumbled back to my own bed. In the morning he lit a cigarette of whatever that aromatic stuff was and I called Sophie, hoping to clear the way for a genuine trip to St. Louis with Broadstreet. To do that basically I had to unload the story of the athlete, or at least what I knew about it, and take care of whatever had happened at the high-school football game in my absence, a game which I had a sub for anyway, when I'd gotten my chance to go to Northeast Missouri. Turns out we'd have to go into the office, which we did, after we'd dressed, and got a little breakfast.

At the office Sophie began showing me the trail of the two lawyers, Williams and Wilson, a trail of class-action suits all brought to Madison County and mostly settled before they got to court. There was a pattern, she said; they'd go after the big companies; they'd bring all their suits to Madison County; if the suits came all the way to trial, the big companies would lose big; they'd settle halfway there, and they'd end up with a fair chunk of money. The suit they were involved in now involved Barbie dolls and was brought originally by a woman in California, but she had somehow been assured that Madison County was the ideal venue for this suit, and it was being heard right there in Madison County, which is not East St. Louis by the way, but is the next one over; its county seat is actually Edwardsville.

While she is talking I'm admiring her, as we've always had a kind of unrealized romance; she organizes me; I admire her, yet fear her, and go running off chasing things like this wedding invitation. I come this close to asking her to marry me, yet, she's so organized, so passionate, so overbearing, that sometimes I fear that I'd suffocate. And as I look at her, her long brown hair spilling over sheets of notes, she's never been more beautiful. I'm trying to concentrate on this situation. Barbies?

She's telling me all this stuff, showing me papers from the Barbie case, and I notice that Brownstreet has struck up a conversation with a young office worker named Christie Frank, who edits and writes stories for the weekend edition, is young, single, vulnerable, you get the picture. All of a sudden I notice that their conversation becomes more animated and lively, more so even than ours,though they have much less to talk about. I am suddenly rocked by the impulse to get Brownstreet out of there immediately, but the damage is already done. I quickly make sure the high school football game was covered adequately and would be represented in the paper; people lived for this stuff. The athlete, too; I unload what I know about him, so that Sophie could get some more information and put together what we needed for a story on Thursday or Friday. Then I beg off for the afternoon, saying I need to be in St. Louis for a Cards' press release. This was partly true, as there was one, but I knew that, given the way things were, that one might fall by the wayside.

Sophie gets the sense of what I am doing, I think, and asks me to stay in touch. These guys were trouble, she could see that; you threaten a company's livelihood, and you might run into some dangerous territory. She hadn't come across a name of Ben Salem in her research. She encourages me to drop it, go to the press release. Let go of the car. Get this guy Brownstreet out of here. Go take the afternoon, she says, and hang around with your Cards buddies, who follow the game, and who know it. They'll keep you out of trouble; they'll keep you up on what's going on. Then come back refreshed, and we'll put you on the race, the late-September annual event up at the track over by Springfield. We'll get your mind off this stuff.

Sweet Sophie, always looking out for me. That's what I love about her. She has a nose for getting the facts right; she could do it in a minute, but in the end, she wants what's best for me, and that is to stay away from this stuff.

I grabbed Brownstreet on my way out; he had the car. I told them I'd be back late in the afternoon.

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