Monday, February 16, 2015
It had to happen eventually, Gil thought. When you’re in politics, scat like this hit the fan as a matter of course. That didn’t stop him from seething.
He knew he could strike Louie and the gang at Rattigan’s off the suspect list. Maybe last year one of them might have done it as a joke, but not now. He had a wife and children now. Louie had backed off from the practical jokes the second Chloe announced her pregnancy, and saw to it everyone else did too. Louie had a cleaver. No, it hadn’t been anyone at Rattigan’s.
Somebody had it in for the Mayor of Talbot’s Peak. He’d have to nip this in the bud. But first he had to deal with the press.
“No,” he told the reporter from the Gazette through gritted teeth. “I didn’t and have never made a sex tape.”
“You’ve seen the tape in question?”
“Oh yes.” Gil smiled. Those in the know would have told the reporter that smile meant it was time to beat feet. “My entire staff made sure I knew about it.”
“And you’d swear in court—”
“Why wait for court? I’ll swear right now. I didn’t make that friggin’ tape. It’s two normal squirrels going at it. As far as I can tell, neither one is a shifter, and neither one is me.”
“So your official comment is ‘No comment’?”
Gil ground his teeth. “You look like a bright boy, even for a reporter. You know my background, right?”
“I don’t see what that has to do with—”
“That film was shot in daylight.”
Gil started counting. He was up to fifteen before the kid worked it out. “Oh … yeah.”
“Yeah. No squirreling around without night and a full moon. How did you even get this job?”
“Don’t yell at me. I’m just an intern. I need this to get into college.”
A-hole U., Gil guessed. “Tell you what, sonny. You pack up your pencil and get out of my office, and I won’t tell Nick what a schmuck you are. Come to think of it, maybe I should have a chat with our illustrious editor anyway.”
# # #
“Mr. Mayor.” Nick bared his teeth at the fuming man who had just barged into his office. “Always a pleasure to see you. Even without an appointment or phone call,” he added pointedly. “What can I do for you?”
“You can tell me who the hell uploaded that idiot video to TalTube, how my name got attached to it, and why you thought it rated news coverage.” Gil stopped just short of banging his fist on the desk. He’d heard Nick was really possessive about his antique desk. “You know which video I’m talking about, right?”
“The sex tape or the Elvis tape?”
Gil winced. “The sex tape. I’m betting you know it’s a fake.”
“Of course it’s a fake. It was shot in daylight. It couldn’t have been you. What’s any of this got to do with me?”
“So you didn’t send some moronic intern over to grill me about it?”
“No.” Nick sat up straighter. “We don’t have any interns, moronic or otherwise. And a thirty-second tape of squirrels humping doesn’t count as news in Talbot’s Peak. What did this ‘intern’ look like?”
Gil gave a precise description, right down to the zits on the kid’s right cheek. By the time he was finished, Nick was practically shooting off steam. “We’ve both been played,” he told Gil. He shoved back from his desk and stood up. “Let’s pay a visit to TalTube HQ.”
# # #
“This is TalTube?” Gil said, staring at the Tudor house at the end of the quiet street. “You sure?”
“That’s TalTube,” Nick corrected. He pointed at a basement window. “I’ve had dealings with the CEO before. He’s a gopher. Runs it out of his parents’ basement.” Nick stalked up to the door and rang the bell. After a moment the door opened. Gil recognized the alleged Gazette reporter who’d grilled him this morning.
“Hey, Rodney,” Nick said. “Got a minute?”
The kid tried to slam the door in Nick’s face. As both a wolf and a journalist, Nick knew how to muscle through a slamming door. He barged in, with Gil right behind him.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” the kid protested. “I’m protected by the First Amendment.”
“Not from misrepresenting yourself as a reporter,” Nick said. “Or from slandering the Mayor. Those are crimes. Right, Mr. Mayor?”
“Could be,” Gil said. “We’d better lock him up while I check. That could take, I dunno, days.”
“You can’t put me in jail. I have to go to work tonight.”
“You have to go to work right now,” Nick told him. “You’re pulling that ‘sex tape’ off TalTube, and you’re issuing an apology.”
“And you’re going to tell me who uploaded it,” Gil added.
“It wasn’t me. It was Jimmy.” Apparently the First Amendment included freely throwing people under the bus. “We hadn’t gotten any good videos in a while. Jimmy shot the footage in the park, then we, well, we just added that title to spice things up.” He turned to Gil. “That one of you singing in the bar got like a hundred thousand views.”
“So you were hoping lightning would strike twice,” Nick said. “Except you got greedy. You wanted to see your victim’s face in person, hence the reporter scam.” He grabbed the gopher boy by the shoulder and spun him around. “C’mon, sonny. Show Mr. Mayor where the magic happens.”
# # #
The official TalTube studio was a scuffed-up office desk in the corner of the basement, next to the hot water heater. It had a glowing laptop on it. A bobblehead figure of Gandalf the Wizard sat on the desk. The floor was littered with Snickers wrappers.
Gil and Nick stood by while Rodney called up and deleted the offending file. At Gil’s insistence, the Elvis video was also consigned to the trash.
“This is a violation of my Constitutional rights, y’know,” Rodney carped. “You’re supposed to be a journalist, you should know that. You can’t stop free speech.”
Nick looked at Rodney. He looked at Gil. He looked at the laptop. He picked up the bobblehead Gandalf and smashed it repeatedly into the laptop’s screen. The laptop threw off sparks and went dark.
“Oh,” Rodney said. “Crud.”
“It’s an outdated system anyway. Once Mommy and Daddy buy you a new one, you’ll be up and running again. Just see that you run your crap without the added spice. Otherwise … Mr. Mayor?”
“I know who you are now,” Gil said. “And I know a rat with a cleaver.”
Nick smiled. “And I,” he told Rodney, “love hot gopher stew. No more impersonations, and no more irresponsible postings. Are we clear?”
The kid gulped. Hard. “Yes, sir.”
# # #
“He’s not a bad kid,” Nick said as they walked back to his car. “For a gopher. Once he gets a little seasoning … ”
“He’ll make a good stew?”
“He might make a good reporter. You know how gophers love to dig. I’ll be keeping a close eye on him. Maybe I will offer him an internship. Keep him out of trouble.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Gil paused. “One other thing. I’d appreciate it if you’d delete that Elvis file from your personal computer.”
“What makes you think I—” Gil looked at him. What the hell. Ziva and Lamar had copies. Nick shrugged. “Consider it done.”