Samantha Welles had her offices in a midrise off Central Avenue, in the isolated corridor of development that was midtown Phoenix.
I don’t normally use public transit – large crowds made my wolf nervous, and being trapped in an enclosed space with a large crowd was even worse – but there weren’t likely to be many commuters on a Saturday, and I needed to stretch my legs. It had been a stressful week, and the wolf was already starting to get restless. The walk to and from the light rail stations would give me a chance to release some of that pent-up energy.
The unusually long winter had finally given up the ghost earlier in the week, and the temperature had risen into the 80s. Perfect weather for being outdoors. With any luck, it would last a few more months before summer came around with a vengeance.
Friday morning started with another meeting in Kurt’s office. The morning’s paper lay folded-up on his desk, untouched and unopened. We all knew what was in it.
“Normally I’d be disappointed about only having a follow-up to run on a Friday,” he said, pausing momentarily to take a sip of coffee. “But even a hot scoop probably would have been bumped to the second page by yesterday’s news dump.”
Ash shrugged. She’d done something to her glamour charm that had changed her hair color to strawberry blonde, and I was resisting the urge to stare at her in search of other changes. “That’s Fridays for you.”
Kurt nodded. “So it is. I wouldn’t be surprised if you find people suddenly a hell of a lot more talkative today.”
“Where’s Wolf? FBI Spying on Lycanthropes” read the headline of the paper that sat on the table between Rico and I. Somebody in copy editing was probably pretty pleased with themselves, but seeing my name attached to the byline beneath it made me wince.
Rico studied the page as he sipped his coffee. “Man, no wonder you’re always so worried. Turns out somebody was watching you.”
I hadn’t had time that week to meet with Rico for lunch, but now, more than I ever, I needed his advice. So the two of us were meeting for a quick breakfast at the coffee shop on the ground floor of the Wexler Building. Although technically, it was already my second meal of the day.
Who needs Atkins when you have lycanthropy?
I called MacClelland.
“Miss Stone,” he said. “Is it already time for another round of twenty questions?”
Well, that certainly sounded promising. At the very least, he hadn’t hung up yet.
“Would you give me twenty answers?”
“Well that depends on the questions,” he replied. Dropping into a more serious tone, he said, “Same deal as before. Nothing gets attached to my name and I won’t give you anything that needs to stay secret.”
“That’s more than reasonable,” I said. It wasn’t the same deal – MacClelland had shifted from refusing to leak anything secret to refusing to leak anything that should be secret. It was a subtle distinction, and I doubted that he was even consciously aware he had changed his position. It suggested that he might be experiencing some cognitive dissonance of his own – maybe of the kind that arises when ideals and principles contradict?
“American Cargo Ship Sunk Near Singapore” was the top headline of Wednesday’s front page. The five column banner easily overshadowed any and all of the stories below-the-fold, including the one tucked away in the lower right corner, under the headline, “Parahumans Targeted by No Fly List”.
I tried not to feel bitter about being crowded out by a story off the wire. I’d set out with the goal of just breaking the story, and had ended up with a front page headline. A single column, below-the-fold headline, but still a front page headline. That had to count for something.
With Friday’s traffic delay still fresh in my mind, I got up and drove downtown almost an hour early and camped out in the lobby of the Wexler Building so I could ambush Kurt as he came in. I used the time spent waiting to finish compiling my notes.
Kurt saw me before I saw him – I had my head down in my laptop, confident that I’d be able to smell him the moment he stepped in the building. It hadn’t quite occurred to me that what I considered Kurt’s scent was mostly the smell of his coffee.
It was close to lunch time on Monday when Jonathan finally called me back, the unmistakable opening riff of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” signaling his call. I picked up immediately, glad to have the temporary distraction. Kurt had put me on local culture news that day, and I was already sick of reading press releases about the state ostrich festival later in the week.
“Find anything?” I asked eagerly.
“And hello to you too,” he said. “I’m fine, by the way, thanks for asking.”
I sighed. “Jon, don’t be petulant. You aren’t as good at it as I am.”
I woke up to find myself lying on the ground, naked, with blood on my face.
So, pretty much a regular Sunday morning.
It was still dark out, and I briefly considered going back to sleep. The den was cozy, warmed as it was by the body heat of two dozen lycanthropes, and I was exhausted. More than that, I ached. The shift from wolf to human had happened while I was asleep, but that didn’t make it any less painful.
As I stared through half-closed eyes into the predawn gloom, I felt my wolf stirring at the edge of my mind. The inexorable pressure she had exerted the night before was gone, but she was still far from silent. It didn’t take long for her to start nagging and prodding. Couldn’t sleep in, that would be a sign of weakness.
I hated the posturing. Hated having to act like a wolf, even as a human. But I had fought hard for my spot near the top of the pack’s pecking order, and I was loathe to give it up so easily.
Insomnia is extremely common among werewolves.
The reason is incredibly obvious to any lycanthrope, and surprisingly unintuitive to most other people: being a werewolf is extremely stressful. Lupine instincts aren’t well adapted to human society, and participating in civilization is a constant struggle to keep the wolf in check, to present a pleasant face, and to not give in to the urge to snarl at jostlers on the bus. Every moment of every day is a battle to be human.
For most of us, it’s a losing battle, or at best a stalemate. The wolf wants, more than almost anything, to be free, and it will push and prod until it gets its way.
In journalism, an editor isn’t just someone who corrects spelling and grammar. Those people still exist, of course, but they’re referred to as copy editors, to distinguish them from the much more powerful section editors. If the newsroom is an orchestra, then editors are the conductors. They decide what gets reported, who does the reporting, and where and when it goes in the newspaper. Collectively, these decisions are called the budget. To extend the musical metaphor further, the budget is the sheet music.
Understanding this is the key to understanding the complicated relationship between editors and journalists. To a journalist, the editor is both supervisor and supporter. They are the source of assignments, deadlines, and criticism, but they are also an advocate, mentor, and collaborator. Your editor can be your best friend, your worst enemy, or both in equal measure.
Kurt Holmes had been my editor for more than a year now, and I still wasn’t sure where to place him.