Big City Beat #1

“How may I direct your call?” The woman on the other end of the line never identifies herself. Does he have the right number? Only one way to find out.

“This is Drew Stacy with Big City Beat calling for Angela Peters.”

“Hold please.” Elevator music comes over the line. He looks at his watch and starts timing how long they leave him waiting. Around the three minute mark he considers hanging up and calling back. At the five minute mark he tells himself he’ll do so in another minute. At the seven minute mark he tells himself he really means it this time and just before the eight minute mark a woman comes on the line.

“I really don’t have time for this now Drew. Can you call me later? He’s just about to start a press conference.”

“I’ve been trying to figure out when we can do this for weeks. You’re not returning my calls. Is there an issue?”

There’s a long hesitation before Angela says, “Honestly, he’s reconsidering whether this is the right time for your interview. It may be best for him to bring his message directly to the people. The list of questions you sent over didn’t help.”

Draw stands and paces across the room. “Those questions were fair and you know it. They’re what our readers want to know and they’re what he hasn’t addressed about the act. I could have hit him with these as surprises but I didn’t. He has time to prepare. He’s going to have to answer them sometime.”

“He doesn’t necessary agree. Regardless, we think some of the ones you sent are leading. Look, I have to go but I’ll send over a list of the questions on that list we’re okay with. If you can’t deal with that maybe you aren’t the right person for this interview. We were kind of expecting them to send us John or Delta anyway.”

Unsure how to react to this all Drew can say is, ”Okay,” before hanging up. What are they jerking him around for? The White House approached them about this interview. They wanted to get their message out. Now they’re pulling back and making things difficult. Then again, maybe they thought it was obvious they didn’t want someone like him asking the questions. Someone from a group the president has targeted throughout his campaign. If that was the case though they should have asked for a specific reporter.

Big City Beat knew he’d be a controversial choice. Angela’s words sting but in truth they initially planned to give this to John before Drew practically begged his boss for the opportunity. He promised not to be too antagonistic but was promised the chance to ask a few tough questions. Now the White House is trying to deny him that. If they succeed he might as well step aside and give the interview to someone else. If they need someone to kiss ass, John’s their guy.

While waiting for the email to come through he flips his TV on and finds himself staring at the target of his pining. President Richard Hughes is just reaching the stage as a banner on screen shows VMUS Act passes 58-42. There’s still a part of him which can’t believe the man was able to pass this so quickly. Even in the glory days of the vigilante after World War 2 nothing like this ever made it through. He didn’t have much choice with how much he talked about it on the campaign trail but it’s still insane. How can anyone support this? Vigilantes aren’t new, they’ve always been part of the fabric of their lives but they’ve at best existed in a grey area. That was out of necessity, to keep society from collapsing in on itself.

President Hughes has a huge grin on his face as he struts to the center of the stage and raises his arms. “My fellow Americans, today is a historic day in the history of our country. With the passing of the Vigilantes Making Us Safe Act, our people will be able to take back this country. Everyday great American men and women will be able to protect themselves and their communities in a new and historic way. No longer will they be forced to rely on a police force they don’t always feel they can trust. Our great people will be safer and feel a greater sense of pride in our great country. We’ll be rolling out the details of how to register and what the requirements will be in the next couple of days. If you can’t wait and want to get out there now, know that you have our support. The act has passed and what you do will be legal. We’ll make sure of it. God bless America.”

Drew’s glad he chose to work from home today. His studio isn’t the most comfortable place but it has to sound better than the newsroom at the moment. He can almost hear the people running screaming through their offices, sprinting through the halls, desperate to file this story. It writes itself.

The email finally comes through and he can see his list has been shredded. Of the thirty questions he submitted only six have been approved. How do you feel the VMUS Act will help the American people? What inspired the VMUS Act? Can you name a few vigilantes from the past you’ve admired? What role will you take in the VMUS Act? Do you believe the VMUS Act will pass? When do you hope to have the VMUS Act implemented? After that speech the last two aren’t even relevant which he figures is likely why they’re on the list.

All the tough questions are crossed out or at least modified. He’s been told he can ask What negative changes do you foresee the VMUS Act leading to? as long as he removes negative. Other questions like, What would you say to those who are afraid of what the VMUS Act could mean for them and their family? and, Who do you think are the ideal people to become vigilantes under the act? have been completely removed.

Maybe he should walk away. Further down the email they’ve provided a list of possible locations for the interview. He suggested neutral ground but the only places they’re willing to meet are the White House, a private residence of the president, or at a gala celebrating the act.

Drew starts crafting a reply to Angela, one of the top gate keepers between the president and the rest of the world.

I can do the interview at the White House if necessary but I need a little more freedom than you’re giving me. I can ask the softball questions he wants to answer but I need at least two of the following five questions. If he won’t give me that I don’t think we can make this work.

1. What did you most want to see included in the Act that wasn’t able to be included?

2. What would you say to those who are still against the Act? How do you plan to turn things around?

3. What recourse will any who are negatively impacted by the Act have?

4. Many vigilantes of the past have been imprisoned or had punitive action taken against them due to their efforts. Will anything be done to address this?

5. Will you consider any further qualifications or requirements to be a vigilante beyond those you have previously discussed?

After the passing of the Act I know your goal is to get the public behind you. This interview can be good for everyone but there’s a lot of people afraid right now and if I’m going to be part of it I need to make sure their concerns are addressed.

Content that he made his point, Drew sends the email and gets a refill on his coffee. Halfway through filling his cup he reconsiders and reaches into the cupboard to grab a to go cup. He needs to get out of this room for awhile. Walk among the people, see how they’re reacting to the passage, breathe fresh air. Public opinion is mixed and he needs to get a feel for what they’re feeling in this moment.

With his coffee ready Drew exits his apartment and looks for a cab. Not many make it down his side street though and he doesn’t feel like waiting all day. Instead he gets on his phone and orders a car. It should be here in three minutes.

A man goes running down the street, almost knocking him over as they plow past. It takes him a minute to realize they’re holding a TV in their arms. A woman rushes after them, her blonde hair flapping behind her. She’s wearing a full length skirt and has it bunched in one hand so it’s not getting in the way as she runs. The man with the TV swerves into an alley and she follows.

He’d really like to stay out of this. The man could be armed and she’s silly enough to chase him down over a television. It’s not even a particularly big TV, no more than 26 inches. It can’t be worth a terribly large amount.

Something about the woman caught his eye though. Maybe it’s the hair. He’s always had a thing for blondes. Maybe it’s the skirt. The way she found a way to work around it in the moment was impressive. Or maybe it’s how hard she fights for something which seemed so small. He decides to go after them.

When he gets to the alleyway he finds a sight he didn’t expect. The TV’s sitting on the ground in a million pieces. Glass is scattered all over the pavement. The man’s laying on his stomach with the woman kneeling on his back as she pummels him in the side of the head. With one arm he’s trying to protect his head while with the other he’s trying to fight forward, straining for a gun sitting five feet in front of him. He’s getting closer and the woman doesn’t seem to care. She’s far too caught up in laying the smack down.

Running to the gun, both of them stop to watch him. The woman tenses and moves to attack but stops when he gets to the gun and kicks it under a garbage can. As it hits the brick wall there’s a loud thud which almost sounds like the gun going off. He covers his head and dives to the ground.

Long seconds pass as he waits for more gunshots. They don’t come. Looking up, he sees the woman standing over him, offering a hand. He runs his hands over his body, searching for any sign of injury. There aren’t any. He takes her hands and pulls himself to his feet. It’s a nice hand, delicate but firm. The other man’s still on the ground cowering next to the broken television. “Was anyone hurt by the gunshot?”

She shakes her head. “No gunshot. The can’s leg was weak and gave out when the gun hit it.” Looking at the can he can see she’s right. It’s sitting lopsidedly. His face burns crimson at his reaction.

“Sorry about that, just didn’t want him reaching the gun and it seemed like he was getting close.”

She nods and looks at the guy. “Appreciate the help. Cops should be here any time. You can go.”

Reaching into his pocket Drew pulls out his phone and starts looking for his recorder app. “Actually, would you mind if I ask a few questions? I’m a reporter and this could be an interesting story.”

Shrugging, she keeps her head pointed at the man on the ground. “That’s fine I guess.”

“Great. What’s your name?”

There’s hesitation before she says, “Call me Golden Streak. That’s what I’m going to go by.”

“Go by?”

Her eyebrow raises and she eyes him up and down. “As a vigilante. Haven’t you been paying attention? The act passed today.”

Really looking the woman up and down, he realizes for the first time she’s wearing a mask. It’s just a little black thing that covers her eyes but it seems to stay on without any straps. She must be using some sort of adhesive. Other than that she’s not wearing a costume. Just a snug green tank top and the long skirt which seemed to get in the way, though obviously not too in the way. “Okay Golden Streak, what was the reason you were chasing after a man with a gun over a TV?”

She shrugs. “I’m planning to sign up under the Act and figured it would be good practice. Besides, I can’t afford to replace it. I barely cover my rent.”

Before he can respond officers start flooding the alley and ask to see their hands. They both raise their arms and Drew turns to Golden Streak. “Why don’t we finish this up and then get some coffee and finish the interview. My treat.” She nods.

Drew’s interview’s a lot quicker than Golden Streak’s and after the thief is in handcuffs he occupies himself by checking his email. Angela got back to him.

Your third and fourth questions are off the table. You can have one of the other three. That’s the best you’re going to get.

Looking at Golden Streak, a bigger story starts to come into focus for him. Deal. Let’s get this on the schedule. Smiling as Golden Streak peels away from the officers and walks toward him, he hopes he can resist ruining her as a source.

 

Part 2

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