Witness: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Newspaper, pen and pencil by Connie Cockrell

Newspaper, pen and pencil by Connie Cockrell

“Holy crap, Liz!” Nick ran his hand through his hair. “The Winter Hill Gang?”

Liz lit a cigarette. She’d just been promoted to the City Desk and she was after the story of her life, at least so far. She blew smoke into the air and pulled her notebook from her suit coat inside pocket. “Look.” She flipped the notebook pages. “They’re fixin’ the races all over the Northeast. Howie Winter is in it up to his neck.” She tapped her finger on the page. “Saratoga Springs has been a hotbed all season. They get a cut of every win. They drug the damn horses. They buy off the jockeys. It’s a scam from start to finish.”

“You’re gonna get yourself killed.” Nick was her rival, her best friend and sometime lover. It was complicated. He worked the Financial and Market beat and wicked smart with numbers.

“I need you to follow the money.” She pointed her cigarette at him. “We’ll share the byline.”

Nick rolled his eyes. “Winter is dangerous. He probably has spies here in the office. How else does he know what’s going on before we print it?”

“Don’t care.” Liz rolled a sheet of paper into her Selectric. “I heard that in a few years we’ll be using computers to write stories on.”

“What a load of crap.”

She grinned as she adjusted the top margin. “I give it five years.”

He snorted and pulled his notebook out. “What do you want me to search?”

“The money never lies. Start with Saratoga. Track the bets, the entrance fees, vet salaries, the works. Something will pop.”

A week later, Liz and Nick were in Lou Water’s office, the Managing Editor. He had read their story. He cocked an eyebrow at the two of them. Liz knew the story was good. Nick sat in the chair beside her, fidgeting.

“You have proof?”

“Yep.” Liz leaned forward. “I have him. Nick followed the money. I followed White. Him and his book keeper, Salvatore Sperlinga, have been taking a cut of every race at every racetrack from Maine to Virginia. I have witnesses who are scared to death. I have enough for a ten part series.”

“The cops know?”

Liz shrugged. “They might.”

Lou cocked his eyebrow again. “Let me see your sources,” he held up a hand against Liz’s lurch forward in her chair. “I need to know. The cops are going to want to know where you got this information.”

“Let them.” Liz stood up. “You gonna run it?”

The editor sighed. “Yeah. Tomorrow’s paper, front page.”

She grinned. “Thanks, boss.”

“Don’t thank me. The Chief of Police is going to call me as soon as the afternoon paper hits the street.”

The next afternoon Detective Polanski of the Boston PD, Agent Randolf Bean of the FBI, and Lou Waters were in the conference room when Liz and Nick came in. Lou waved them to a seat at the table and introduced them. “They want to know your sources.”

Liz resisted the urge to light up a cigarette. She eyed Lou. “I know you told them that sources are confidential.”

“I did. They have a task force.”

“That’s nice.” She tapped her fingernails on the table top. “You have a warrant?”

Agent Bean spoke up. “We’re trying to put the Winter Gang out of commission. From the looks of today’s article, you have the information we need.”

“You know you just made yourself a target, right?” Detective Polanski leaned on the table. “Your names are on the article. You think White isn’t gonna come after you?”

She’d seen what happened to people the Irish Mob didn’t like and her stomach rolled. “Maybe. He’s committing crimes across state lines, fraud, racketeering, and any number of things. Pick him up.”

“We need the proof. You have it.” Agent Bean pulled two sheets of paper out of the folder in front of him and slid them across the table to the reporters. “We’re asking that you testify. Hold off on your series, it contaminates the jury pool.”

Liz eyes bugged. “Are you crazy? That story is my career!”

“That information will get this criminal off of the streets and make the country safer.” Bean folded his hands on the table.

Liz looked at Nick who shrugged. Lou gave her a slight nod. She was furious. This was going to make her a star reporter. She thought about her mother, dead now three years and how proud she’d been when Liz landed the job at the paper. She pulled a pen from her pocket and signed the form. “There.” She slid the paper back so hard it flew off of the polished table. “But the story gets published later, right boss?”

Lou nodded. Nick signed.

It took months but eventually Liz testified. White’s troubles precipitated a take-over of the White Hill Gang by “Whitey” Bulger. Liz had to go into witness protection. Her last night in Boston she met Nick for drinks.

“I’ll miss you,” she told him over scotch.

“Me, too.” They clinked glasses and drank the shot down.

Liz waved the bartender over for another round. “Liar. I know you’ve been seeing the librarian over at Boston College.” She sipped the next glass the bartender set in front of her. “Where they sending you?”

Nick shook his head. “Can’t tell you, Liz. You know that.”

She sighed. “Yeah. I know.” Liz thought about where the Witness Protection office was sending her. Arizona. It had to be a hell hole. She couldn’t even be a reporter. They’d set her up with a background as a researcher at some podunk college. All of a sudden she turned to Nick and pulled him in close, kissing him as if her life depended on it. Maybe it did. “Thanks. It’s been fun.” She threw a fifty on the bar and left, shoulders squared and chin high. Never let the bastards see you sweat, she remembered from some old saying. Damn right.



Thank You!

997 Words

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