Sweet Anger

By: Sandra Brown

Chapter One

“WE’VE GOT A TWO-ALARM FIRE WORKING ON CLERMONT just south of Sixth Avenue. It should be at about 42H on your Mapsco. And get there pronto. I want some good video.”

The inch-long ash on the end of Pinkie Lewis’s cigarette fell unnoticed on his battered, cluttered, littered desk. The harried news director paused long enough to say “Hiya, sweetheart” to the young woman who had just moved aside a day-old Moon Pie, a roll of masking tape, and two cups of cold gray coffee in order to perch on the corner of the desk.

“When you’re done with the fire,” Pinkie went on, returning his attention to the two men lounging by his desk, “swing by that elementary school where the third-graders are writing letters to the Russians. If we have any time left on the six o’clock, it’ll make good human interest. Anybody hear from Jack lately? It’s taken him four hours to shoot that bit on the drug bust.”

“Maybe he’s hanging around, hoping they’ll let him sample the goods.” The videotape photographer grinned as he heaved the camera to his shoulder. The reporter, who was pulling on his sport coat, thought his cohort’s suggestion was funny and laughed.

“I’ll have his ass,” Pinkie growled. “So what are you two bozos waiting for?” The grins collapsed. That particular tone in Pinkie’s voice could bring about miraculous changes in a man. “The damn fire will be out before you get there. I want to see flames, smoke, tragedy in the making,” he yelled, waving his arms descriptively. “Now get out of here!”

The reporter and cameraman left, stumbling in their haste. Pinkie glowered after them and ran a hand through his hair. Or he would have if he’d had any hair. Actually, he ran his hand over a rapidly growing bald spot that blended into his beefy forehead. It was his florid complexion and fair hair that had given him his nickname.

“One of these days you’re going to have a heart attack,” the young woman commented. Disgustedly she stubbed out three cigarette butts left in the ashtray. They hadn’t been properly ground out and were curling acrid smoke into the already polluted atmosphere of the television newsroom.

“Naw. I drink too much whiskey. It scares sickness off.” Pinkie picked up a Styrofoam cup and took a swig. He made a face at the stale coffee. “Buy you a cup,” he said, taking the woman’s arm and guiding her into the hall and toward an alcove where numerous vending machines were tucked outside of the flow of continuous foot traffic.

As usual, Pinkie’s pockets produced no change when he began slapping them in search. “Let me buy this time,” Kari Stewart said, smiling. The coffee was too black and bitter, but it was hot. Crossing her ankles, she leaned against the wall and sipped cautiously.

Pinkie smiled at her with paternal affection. “God-amighty, you’re a sight for sore eyes. Helluva day. One of the video cameras is on the blink. It’ll cost a fortune to repair and then I’ll catch hell for going over budget. I’ve got two unexciting but dependable reporters out with flu.” He belched. “I need a drink.”

“You need a hot, balanced meal, far fewer cigarettes, far less whiskey—”

“Yes, Mother—”

“—and a good woman to take care of you.”

“Oh, yeah?” Pinkie asked belligerently. This was a familiar topic of conversation. “You got someone in mind?”


“That dried-up old prune! She’s too old for me.”

Kari laughed. The switchboard operator who handled all the calls coming into the television station with amazing alacrity and patience had carried a torch for the crusty news director for years. “You’ll never change, Pinkie. You’re biased, stubborn, grouchy, and predictable. That’s why I love you.” She poked him in the spare tire that sagged over his belt.

“How’d the interview go?”

“He was as wretched as he’s reputed to be.” That morning Kari had interviewed an aging television sitcom actor who was now doing “legitimate theater” on the dinner theater circuit. “I can see why his varied series went down the tubes. He was rude, obnoxious, and condescending. But I’ll have the last laugh. I went to last night’s rehearsal. The production is a turkey. And I didn’t think anyone could ruin a perfectly wonderful Neil Simon.”

Pinkie crumpled his empty cup and tossed it in the general direction of the trash can. It didn’t make it, but he didn’t notice. “Goose the old geezer right in his pride. Don’t soft-soap it. I want gutsy stuff on the newscast, even during your entertainment segment.”

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