The first ten chapters of this novel, Eminent Domain, can be found by clicking here or on Fiction Projects in the top menu bar.
The News Room, 2
Wednesday, February 10, 1988
Linda had been halfheartedly typing an article into her word processor, but the article she was writing in her head was much more interesting than the one she was typing. She kept going back to the phantom road project that had been brought up yesterday as she and Clancey were doing the phone interview with Alex Goddard. He hadn’t known any details, only that there had been a plan that hadn’t happened. Shoot, Linda thought, he was probably just a kid twenty-five years ago.
She had been wracking her brain all day, trying to remember details. In 1963 she had been in college at Penn State, in love, and not paying attention to much else. But she did remember her parents telling her about it. “You should investigate this,” her dad had told her. “Something just smells fishy about the whole deal.” In the arrogance of youth, she had laughed it off. “Dad, the university newspaper isn’t interested in a little local road problem.”
Chagrined now, twenty-five years later, she wished she’d listened to her dad. And now both Mom and Dad were gone, and there was no one to ask. She was hoping Clancey would give her the go-ahead to write an article about it now — what a great tie-in with current articles about the road.
Clancey’s loud voice interrupted her thoughts. “Everybody up here. Assignment time.”
She gathered her articles together and headed up to Clancey’s desk. Instead of crowding to the front and volunteering for the first article, she hung back, just listening.
“And someone needs to do a wrap-up on the accident,” Clancey was saying. “That woman from Hattiesville who was taken to the hospital? She died from her injuries. We want to do a larger than normal obit on them. They were lifelong residents of the county.”
“I’ll do that one,” Rob said. “I’ve got a friend on the Hattiesville paper — I’ll call him and see what he knows.”
“Good,” said Clancey. “I don’t want to let up on that road thing. Damn road should have been fixed years ago. Anyone want to wander down to Penn Dot and see if anything’s happening there?”
“Okay if I go?” Pat asked. “I’m going out wandering with my camera anyway, and I can stop in and see Henry. I do it fairly regularly, so it won’t look odd.”
“You’re on,” Clancey said.
“Can I do a piece on the old failed road plan of 1963?” Linda asked.
“You’re on, too,” he said. “If anyone has an idea for a piece on that road, go for it. That damn road should have been fixed years ago.”
“You said that already,” piped up someone in the back.
“Repetition is the key,” Clancey muttered. “Now all of you scram.”
Linda walked back to her desk wondering where she could start with this. She remembered her old journalism professor saying Begin at the Beginning First, so she found the number for the Penn Dot office and dialed.
Phyllis had her hat and coat on and was about to walk out the door when the telephone rang. She sighed and walked back over to her desk. “Good afternoon. Penn Dot District 13, Engineer’s Office. Can I help you?”
“Hello. This is Linda Walker from the Adamsford Chronicle,” Linda said. “I’m working on an article about the 1963 plan for Rte. 592, and I was wondering if you could help me get a copy of the original plan?”
Phyllis sat down in her chair. She had been afraid the press would call at some point today. She’d thought she would make it out the door in time…
“I’m sorry,” Phyllis said. “We have only one large map of the old plan, and it’s currently tacked on an engineer’s wall and can’t be lent out. Harrisburg is supposed to be sending us more copies by Federal Express, but I would suggest that you call the Harrisburg offices if you would like a copy. I can give you their number if you’d like, but they might have gone home for the day.”
“Is Mr. Conrad DeBolt available to speak to?” Linda asked. “I believe he was the Chief Engineer before Alex Goddard?”
“No, he is on sabbatical for health reasons,” Phyllis answered. “And I can’t give out his personal number.”
“Well then, perhaps I will take the Harrisburg department’s telephone number,” Linda said.
“You need to speak to Harriet Albertson in Archives,” Phyllis said, glancing down at her rolodex. It was actually still open to Harriet’s number; they had just spoken about these same plans that afternoon. She gave Linda Walker the phone number she needed and politely said goodbye. Good luck with that, she thought. If Archives didn’t even want to send us copies, I doubt they’ll send you any.
Linda hung up. It wasn’t starting out well — it looked as if she would have to make friends with those beast microfilm machines at the public library.