Sweet Anger(7)

By: Sandra Brown

He was the acting district attorney for the city and county of Denver until the special election could be called to replace Silas Barnes. And if he wanted the post permanently, he had to shine, because the taxpayers would be watching him closely. Besides his own ambitions, justice must always be served. Right? Right.

Then why did he feel like hell? Why didn’t he have his usual legal crusader’s zeal to get to the truth? Where was his eagerness to rip the lives of the Wynnes wide open? Why instead did he feel a fierce instinct to protect Kari Stewart Wynne from everyone? Even from himself?

He went to the window of his condo and pulled up the blind. He gazed in the far distance at Denver’s nighttime skyline. What was she doing on this night? Was she still wearing the black dress? Was her hair still confined in that tight bun? Was someone with her tonight? Comforting her, holding her?

He swallowed an emotion as bitter as the beer. It was jealousy.

The hardest day back would be the first one. She knew that, so she might just as well grit her teeth, walk through the doors, and get it over with. If only they wouldn’t look at her with pity. If only they wouldn’t look at her at all. She could stand the video and studio cameras. They were impersonal eyes. It was the human ones she couldn’t stand peering at her.

Bonnie waved at her from her booth and made a thumbs-up sign. Kari walked down the hallways toward the back of the building, letting their familiarity seep into her comfortingly.

Nothing in the newsroom ever changed, except the personnel. The row of monitors mounted close to the ceiling for easy viewing from any point in the room offered a variety of television programming. The three major national networks were tuned in. Currently one showed an emoting couple in a clench on a soap opera, one an emoting winner on a game show, and one an emoting housewife lamenting the stains in her wash. Two private local stations were airing thirty-year-old situation comedies. The stock market report was charted on another monitor, and still another was tuned in to their own studio, empty and dark now.

A pall of cigarette smoke hovered over the rows of desks. There was a paper-ball-tossing contest going on in one corner. The contenders were idle videotape editors who were waiting for the reporters to return from the field with tapes and scripts. The producer of the six o’clock news was foully cursing his ex-wife to a sympathetic listener. Telephones were ringing incessantly. News service wires were clicking off stories from around the world.

Pinkie’s desk was vacant. Kari wended her way to her own cubicle, which was separated from the others by seven-foot-tall portable walls. Her desk was covered with mail. She sorted through it, pulling what she knew was business correspondence and setting aside what she recognized as sympathy cards. An hour later, her right hand was cramped from writing acknowledgments to expressions of sympathy.

She had just finished when Pinkie’s instantly recognizable vocabulary of obscenities punctuated the air. Kari stood and sighted him just as he rounded the corner at his desk, shouting deprecations at Sally Jenkins and the studio director, who were trailing in his wake. His cigarette had burned down to a nub, but he didn’t notice as he rolled it from one side of his lips to the other. His hair was standing on end, fairly bristling.

Then he spotted Kari. His tirade ceased and he shoved the others away in his effort to reach her. “Thank God you’re back. I’m losing my mind.” He hugged her, then turned to the others. “Well, doesn’t anybody have anything to do?” he roared. “Get to work.”

Sally Jenkins laid a consoling hand on Kari’s arm as she undulated past. “Back so soon?”

The red-haired girl was wide-eyed with innocence, which Kari knew to be feigned. A cinematographer had told her more lurid details than she had wanted to hear about his date with Sally. Her bosom had the comical dimensions of a Barbie doll. It had been given her, not by God, but by one of the city’s plastic surgeons. And she had gotten her money’s worth out of that bosom. Kari disliked her because she used her physical assets to get ahead in an industry that demanded hard work.

“You’re so brave,” Sally cooed before she glided out of the newsroom.

“Bubble Brain,” Pinkie muttered as he lit a fresh cigarette. “She screwed up her intro cue last night, and the director went to the tape too early. She couldn’t cover and—”

“I saw it,” Kari interrupted.

“Then you saw what a disaster it was. God, I’m glad you’re back. One more day with her and … She’s got a great set of boobs, I’ll credit her that. But I think that’s where she stores her brains, because she sure doesn’t have any in her head.”

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