Authors: MK Alexander
“Funny… but no, not my birthday. Can’t you do that on the computer?”
“I can, but this way is easier. It’s a logo. I’m just adding a shamrock. Then I’ll scan it in at hi-res. Save it as a PNG file and send it over to Jason for the website.” She made a face. “That way, I don’t have to talk to him.”
“Where’s Melissa and Jo? Do they have their pick ups yet?”
Amy shrugged and went back to her drawing table.
Melissa and Jo, our primary sales force. I mentioned them, right? Which one is hotter? That’s the real question. Jo was skinny, but with nice curves, and she was lithe. It was all about how she moved. I don’t think I’d ever seen her in anything but a short dress and a tight top. She had a dark complexion, olive eyes and jet black hair, straight and silky, reaching half way down her back. To me, Jo was just a friend. She was untouchable, unobtainable, always dating somebody else and always talking about how great they were. Rumor had it she was seeing Chuck Chamblis these days.
Melissa Miller was on the dark side of thirty. She had a five-year old in preschool and a husband I’m not sure I’d ever met, even his name escapes me. Melissa took great care of herself though. She was a brunette, toned, and her hair, nails and makeup were always perfect. If not beautiful then certainly stunning, Melissa had creamy skin, squeezable dimples and a funny little soft chin.
The hard reality is sex sells ads, well, not sex, but flirtatiousness. Jo, Jo-Anne really, but nobody called her that, and Melissa, were experts. Between the two of them, they kept the Sand City
up and running. And Eleanor Woods knew that every minute of every day. Selling advertisements is not an easy job, it seemed to me— definitely not in my skill set.
Every week they’d go out and drum up ads to go into the paper. Jo was a natural, she could wrap anyone around her finger in a matter of minutes. Melissa took a different approach. She just looked gorgeous all the time, as in hair-do, manicure, and designer clothes. Melissa was very attractive, very flirtatious and very persuasive. That’s what kept the whole engine running— certainly not the newsstand price or the subscriptions. So, we were dependent on them, or rather it was a symbiosis; because they were also dependent on us, especially in the summer months. Fifty thousand captive readers, every business hot to advertise… only there had to be something good to read: news, features… content— not just ads.
Oh yeah, there was Herb too: Donald Herbert Pagor. You could call him Herb or Don, he never seemed to care which and responded to both. Eleanor always called him Donald. He was about fifty something, a big guy, somewhat over-weight, with slicked-down hair and a spongy kind of face. He always wore a shiny suit and he never talked, only bellowed. He didn’t have an inside voice. I sometimes suspected he was deaf and spoke so loud just so he could hear himself. And he was way worse over the phone. If on the rare occasion he called in from the road, I knew to hold the hand piece far from my ear. He sold ads just like the girls, and somehow, he was damn good at it. Sex probably had nothing to do with it in his case.
Don had all the regular accounts. Not the new businesses, but the old ones, the funeral parlor, florists, restaurants, the antique stores and markets. Their weekly ad in the
was just a cost of doing business for them. They never changed from week to week. Pick-ups in the jargon. Don Pagor was on the masthead as Advertising Director. Thankfully, he wasn’t in the office much, usually on the road making sales calls. It’s also a big reason why our ad department had a separate office with a door that we could close. Every Wednesday, he’d layout the ads, figure out the percentage and tell Eleanor. Then we’d know how much of the paper we had to fill with news, features and photos.
Pagor led a double life, one with us, and the other as the Voice of Sand City. He had figured out a way to make his most annoying attribute, a prized asset. I’ll admit he did put it to good use. He never needed a microphone or a public address system. He could bellow and boom all on his own, and his voice was clear and smooth, like an opera singer without the singing part. Every word that came across his lips was over pronounced, over enunciated. If there was a public event in town, a civic function, a parade, a fundraiser, or even little league opening day, the Voice of Sand City was at the center of it all. He was the Master of Ceremonies. Some people whispered about Pagor’s shadowy side but I never put much stock in it. He lived with his aged mother in the old family house up in Cedar Bluffs. It was a huge place, generally rundown, but with a functional widows’ walk; that is, it had a high railed terrace with an actual view of the ocean. No one had seen Donald’s mom in years and it was generally supposed she was an invalid. He never talked about her. I sometimes wondered if Pagor could ever remove his giant persona. He wore it all the time, everyday, like one of his shiny suits. Maybe he just hung it up in the closet when he got home, but that didn’t seem very likely to me.
Pretty much the opposite of Pagor was Frank Gannon, our sportswriter. He spoke in a monotone and barely above a whisper. I had my doubts about Frank. I don’t think I ever saw him in anything else but a flannel shirt. He covered all the local sporting events, from the middle school to the high school in town. Why he wanted to cover local sports was always a mystery to me, but I have to admit he was pretty good at it. He always got great photographs, team pictures and even the occasional standout action shot. I would have thought he could put all that passion into following the big teams: the Celtics, or the Knicks, or whatever big market teams were nearby, but he showed absolutely no interest. He couldn’t even tell you the score from the big game, from the night before. Frank the sportswriter… I had my doubts about him. He was somewhere near forty and always seemed slightly befuddled. He had a scruffy gray beard and wire-rim glasses. He looked like the most un-sports guy you’d ever meet, except that he did wear a baseball cap, and was always incessantly fiddling with the brim. And it was the Rockies. The Rockies?
Frank, have you ever even been to Colorado?
I heard Eleanor Woods call out to him in her craggy voice. I lingered at the door and peeked inside the office. I knew she was holding her pale blue marking pen.
“Frank, what’s the final score of this game?”
“North Central verses the Ospreys.”
“What did I write?”
“One-o-three to seven.”
“That can’t be right. Let me check my notes.” Frank pulled out a skinny notebook from the back pocket of his jeans. He flipped through the pages. “Hmm, that must be wrong.” He looked at Eleanor blankly. “I’ll have to call the coach.”
Eleanor gave him a small satisfied smile. She liked that Frank was thorough at least. He didn’t seem to have the coach’s number on hand, but was sure it was in his car somewhere. He disappeared. I poked my head into the office and looked at Eleanor. She was wearing her usual dark gray suit and a frilly white blouse. Her hair was pulled back tight and her glasses were exactly where they always were, just at the tip of her nose.
“Does Frank have kids?” I asked.
“Two children, Jamie and Jane. I believe they are both in middle school.”
“That explains a lot.”
Also on the masthead and listed as
were a couple of regular stringers, freelance writers called in to do stories for a set fee, covering zoning meetings, the planning commission, the school board and alike. Evan James was our main man, the man with two first names. He was a competent writer and had a good eye for detail. There was Kevin Marchand too, the old guy from the Historical Society. Never really saw much of him, but if there was ever a question about Sand City’s past, he was the person to call. We talked on the phone a lot. Kevin served a dual purpose. He wrote a column for the
op ed page, and he had a mandate: ensure architecture and paint schemes for every building and structure were in keeping with the character of the Village.
There was also an endless list of other contributing writers who appeared on the masthead on a rotating basis. I could never keep track of them all… people who did guest editorials and nature pieces. I think Tracy Hastings wrote a lot of columns about bird-spotting, at least once a month, but I can’t say I ever read any of them.
Speaking of columns and never reading them, there was also Molly, Molly Gossip. That was really her name, Molly, not Gossip— that’s what she called her weekly column. If you lived in town and had something to hide, Molly was your worst enemy. She never named names though, ever. It was always Mrs Smith and Mrs Jones. Mr Somebody, or Mr That and Mr This. If more characters were needed, she’d draw upon Mr Flint or Mr Rubble, apparently not common surnames in Sand City. I always thought her stuff was insipid and trivial. I never said so, but I avoided her whenever possible. Luckily, she emailed in her piece once a week and I just printed it out for Eleanor to mark up. I will say though, her column did account for at least half our subscriptions. Last week she wrote:
A certain Mrs Somebody held a gala dinner last week, up in the Bluffs. She invited everyone, the Smiths, the Joneses, the Flints, and the Rubbles, just to name a few. Trouble is, she told everyone it was casual dress, everyone but Mrs Jones. Guess who made her grand entrance in a glamourous evening gown? Touché, Mrs Somebody! And you looked stunning, my dear Mrs Jones.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention Joey, Joey Jegal: our cub reporter, imported straight from the midwest, some land-locked place, Ohio or Indiana. Clean cut, eager, always smiling. I think he qualified as the nicest guy I’ve ever met. Reminds me of me from when I first started. He was also on staff, and got to cover Village meetings, the Council, conferences, the Chamber of Commerce— all the fun stuff— and one feature per week. I started at that age too, eight years ago. Wow, eight years… Where the hell did it go? I probably don’t smile as much as Joey does. Probably never did. He claimed to be half-Italian, half-Korean— what a combination.
“Joey, how does a half-Italian, half-Korean guy from Ohio end up here in Sand City?”
“Indiana,” he corrected me and grinned. “I don’t know, just lucky I guess. How did you end up here?”
“Me? Well, luck had nothing to do with it. I came up every summer since I was a kid… I guess, I sort of grew up here…” I sometimes wondered if Jegal was an Italian or Korean last name. It didn’t sound like either.
I walked through into the main office. There was always that smell and the sound of that machine. The machine that was supposed to suck up smoke and turn it into fresh air. I still questioned how well it really functioned. The office always seemed to stink of old cigarettes and air freshener. It was planted on Eleanor’s giant antique desk, right between her computer and the photo of her departed daughter. It whirled away with white noise. Eleanor’s massive desk took up most of the floor space right in front of the bay windows that overlooked the main road. Surrounding that were six separate cubicles, four with computers. Talk about disparate furnishings, from ancient mahogany to the modern gray fabric and metal trimmed booths. I slid into mine and started to search through my drawers.
“What are you looking for, Patrick?” Eleanor asked, sensing my frantic unease.
“Tide charts... We live in Sand City. Where the heck are my tide charts?”
Eleanor reached into her desk and tossed over a well-worn pamphlet. “Here, the NOAA schedule. What’s it for? Planning an ocean voyage?”
“Well, what then?”
“I don’t know yet, but I will eventually... something about footprints maybe. I know I’m going to need this. Thanks.”
Eleanor smiled back.
“I see you didn’t mention anything to Miriam yet,” I said quietly.
“I thought that was best for now.” She paused to lower her voice. “What does Richard say?”
“Richard? Oh, you mean Detective Durbin… Another murder,” I whispered. “Maybe a serial killer.”
“I think we need at least three bodies to qualify for that.” Eleanor seemed unfazed.
“Well, it’s exactly the same MO as last time… pretty gruesome. Unnerving.”
“Your first DB?”
I looked at Eleanor, not sure exactly what she meant. “Well yeah, first time I ever had to shoot a corpse.”
“Sorry… just part of the job, Patrick,” she said and lit a cigarette. “Do you think we have an exclusive?”
“Hard to say.”
“It’s only Monday… Durbin won’t talk to Jack Leaning, but—”
“It would be enormously satisfying to scoop the Fairhaven
“Well, the website update will be an exclusive.”
“Somehow that’s less satisfying.” Eleanor gave me
and changed the subject. “What about the Summer Preview issue? We should have a meeting on that.” She was definitely unfazed.
“It’s only two months away now. Mel and Jo are already out selling it.”
“Okay, well… photo montage, erosion update, lighthouse feature. I’m on top of it.”
“What about the Night Life Guide?”
“On it. And, remember that’s mine. Don’t you dare give it to anyone else.”
“Not that I can start on it yet… They’re all boarded up this time of year.”
“And the Treasure Hunt?”
“Oh yeah. You really want to put that online this year?”
“Yes, I do. I think it’s essential.” She peered at me, and not through the glasses at the end of her nose.
“Alright… well, I’ve got to talk to Jason. When’s he in?”
Eleanor shrugged and gave me
again, a cross between frustration and dubiousness. “God only knows.”
Jason Knobblers was our tech guy. He lived in the basement. He kept our systems up and running, bought the right software, and helped to update the website every day. And he always seemed so sullen. On the masthead, his title was Digital Director. Getting him motivated to help me with this year’s Treasure Hunt was not going to be easy.