This is the thirteenth part of a fiction serial, in 787 words.
Steve James had a nose for a story. He had worked for one of the serious papers when he started out, but the lure of better money had drawn him to the biggest-selling tabloid less than five years later. He made a name for himself there, always got the byline.
There was no low he wouldn’t stoop to in his lust for a lurid scoop. He would go through rubbish bins, bribe people, blackmail people, scan phone signals and online activity, and had even been known to commit a burglary looking for hidden photographs.
Nobody liked him, and he didn’t care.
He got the job done, sold the papers, and received the fat bonus cheques. He had slept with ugly women twice his age to get the dirt on someone, and on one occasion had even had sex with a man so he could write about the unfortunate guy and his ‘Gay secret life’. He was a hack at best, journalistic pond life at worst.
Four marriages later, and living in a run-down bedsit in Stockwell, he had finally fallen foul of one of the owners of the newsgroup that owned his paper, after revealing that the man’s addict daughter was selling herself to buy crack.
To nail the story, he photographed himself having sex with her for her drug money. Although he didn’t show his face, the editor knew full well it was him, and he got his marching orders. Time to move to the provinces, where he could exchange the bedsit for a decent one-bed garden flat in Norwich, and where the editor of the local paper didn’t know that much about his reputation.
Plus now they were online too, and posted videos. Steve discovered a talent for being in front of the camera.
Trouble was, it was as dull as dishwater. Council meetings, road safety on the A47, and standing doing a talking head about how snow was affecting the traffic while he froze his plums off in the dark, to be live on the website.
Schools closed when the heating broke down, old ladies protesting about changes in the pension laws, with only the occasional stabbing or dead body in the river to liven things up.
One good thing was that he had built contacts. Ther was hardly anyone working in the business that he didn’t know. Okay, they didn’t like him, and didn’t want to have anything to do with him. But without exception, he had some dirt stored away on all of them, no matter how dusty and ancient that skeleton in their closet was. So when the need arose, he could make a call. Coppers, Council officials, the mayor, anyone he came across seemed to either owe him a favour, or be afraid of being exposed.
The real icing on the cake was his new girlfriend. He had met her on a work leaving do, during a night out in the city. She was with a hen party, and they were all pissed as farts. Steve and two others had copped off with the three older women in the group, and to his surprise, Sarah had come back for more. She was a fat girl with a nice face, just his type. Not too full of herself, and short a boyfriend for years. She didn’t care about the ten year age gap, and after six months, she had readily agreed to move in with him.
The best bit about Sarah was that she talked a lot. Where her job was concerned, that was pure gold.
She worked as a 999 call-taker at Police Headquarters in Wymondham. Twelve hour shifts, four days a week. And she loved to tell Steve about the calls she received, or the ongoing investigations that she was asked to do record checks for. If it ever occurred to her that he would make use of that information, she never showed any indication of that. Even when things she told him supposedly in confidence appeared in the newspaper the following day.
If there was one thing Steve really loved to have, it was a stupid girlfriend. Especially one who had three days off to clean the flat, do the shopping, and make sure he was well-served with regular sex. If she was in a mood, he only had to gee her up with his London accent, and she would melt. “Stevie, I loves your accent, I really does”.
Now she had come home with a potentially great story. A missing girl known for putting it about with men and women. Plenty of suspects who had been checked out, money that had been swindled, and the best part of any story, sex.
He was on it like a car bonnet.