“What do you mean, ‘the Hub’? What’s the Hub?”
“All right, sweet cheeks, I’ll clue you in, but you know that exposition is just going to slow down the narrative, right? First, though, who the hell are you? What’s your name?”
“Anna,” she said, “Anna di Plossis.”
“Ms. Di Plossis—”
“Call me Anna,” she said huskily.
“Anna it is. You got to think like an executive. You work for some shark outfit that snapped up some little company that publishes five or six newspapers. You see that each paper has a copy desk. You sack most of the copy editors and put a handful of survivors in one location, call it a hub, to edit all the papers. Doesn’t matter to the executive that the survivors don’t know subheads from Shinola about the places where they publish, because the dough this saves on wages and benefits goes into the bonus the CEO gets when the whole shebang goes tits up two years later. Got that?”
“I don’t care about executives. Executives don’t mean anything to me. I just want my Herb back.”
“Herbert Bayard Hearst. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me, and now he’s gone.” She began to sniffle, and then the sobs broke through.
Dames. They know how to work you.
“There, there,” I said, reaching for some patch of flesh to pat that wasn’t too inflammatory. Shoulders are good. Knees are tricky.
“I know you can find him,” she said between sobs. “You can find him—I know you can do it. They say night content production managers can do anything.”
“How am I supposed to do that, babe? I know there’s a hub—I hear things—but I don’t know where it is.”
“I went to his apartment. His apartment was empty, cleaned out, but I spotted a scrap of paper under his desk.”
“Anything on it?”
“It was a piece of his scratch paper, a piece of scratch paper that looked like he started to write something but couldn’t finish. I brought it with me.”
“Hand it over, sugar.”
She fished out a torn scrap of paper from her purse. It had one word, or part of a word, on it.
Next: The belly of the beast