The Sun Daily Newspaper
Phones are buzzing, computers’ keyboards ticking, paper notes shuffling between desks, reporters moving between the rows of desks in the newsroom talking and discussing news items, sub-editors in their glass rooms arguing with reporters while talking on the phones and watching what is happening outside their glass walls.
The noise is deafening to the outsider, but that is the norm; this time every day at the ticking brain of the Sun Daily newspaper, which they call ‘The Kitchen.'
Rebecca Ashley hated being there during this time of the day. She planned her day to do all her writing early in the morning so she would be out of the newsroom before the start of the ‘crazy hours’; as she calls it.
But today was an unusual day.
Urgent phone calls from news editor made her nervous. Yes, she did not receive the initial two calls because her iPhone wasn’t working. As usual, the iPhone run out of power when she needed it most. And the bloody recharger disappeared. Was in nowhere to be found. She had to go to the nearest electronics store to buy a new one. That was the third time in the last two months for that to happen.
Why these genius brains of the communications age could not invent something that stays usable for longer than a few hours.
The last call from the editor wasn’t polite; it was almost an ultimatum. And ok, yes, she understands his feeling. She is being summoned to the newspaper for a meeting, asked to leave everything and come now, and that worried her because the editor rejected her last two articles. She felt her performance in the previous few months in her role as an investigative reporter was not up to the level expected of her.
And she expected the worst. That meant the editor might send her back to city news desk. And, yes that is a demotion and setback in her career.
Rebecca looked at her face in the large mirrors as she stood in the empty new newspaper females bathroom. The new mirrors spread to cover all walls of the bathroom. She felt small, insignificant, and she disliked the new modern straight-line of the architectural design, yes it may be practical, but it gave her a feeling of being sucked in a vast empty dry hole. She never liked what they have done to the old building, by remodelling and extending it in its new form.
Rebecca looked again at her face.
Oh, no, she did not like the face she saw in the mirror, she could see the dark lines under her weary eyes. She took a small fancy box from her handbag. Looked at it. She calls it ‘The Ketch Box’. It succeeded in revitalising her face before, and yes, it needed it now. But before she could do anything, the door opened.
A Tall blond came in; oh no, not now, not Cindy, she’s the last person I would like to see now.
Cindy looked surprised to see Rebecca.
Said in sour tone
‘The disappearing Becky is hiding here!’
‘Everyone is searching for you. We tried your mobile phone many, many times?!’
‘My mobile was not working.'
‘You should have got a new one; I told you that last week.'
‘I was too busy the last few days.'
‘The editor wants to see you.'
‘Yes. I know.'
‘Better see him now.'
‘I will. I will.’
Rebecca had to ask the question.
‘Do you know why he wants to see me?’
‘Something is going up there. I am not a reporter. I am just his secretary; no one tells me anything!. Better go now, they are in the news conference room.'
To calm herself and gather her thoughts, Rebecca went first to her desk for few minutes before going to the meeting. Her computer screen was flashing with many emails waiting to be read. The urge to scan her email folder confused her more. She took few seconds to control it. So, she looked only at the urgent flashing messages in the top right corner of the screen, and it was as she expected, all from the editor asking her to come to see him, see him now, now and now. That made her more nervous.
Remembering what she has been taught in her last meditation class, she counted…One... Two... three… Four... Five…, and breathed deeply. Repeated the breathing exercise for two minutes. Picked-Up her notebook and walked toward the conference room.
The conference room was at the far-end of the new news floor, the passage to it, is through the editors and sub-editors glassed rooms, as Rebecca walked toward the glassed conference room, she could see Tony Rickard the news editor and his two deputies Chris and Trevor in a heated argument. She did not like that. She did not want to get involved in the well-known politicking between Chris and Trevor, especially after the rumour that Tony Rickard is expected to be promoted to editor-in-chief of the newspaper and the new news editor will be either Chris or Trevor. The difference between the two is like the difference between black and white, yes, it depends on your definition of the black or the white and which is good and which is bad, but there was no grey area between the two in their beliefs and attitudes.
As Rebecca was coming at the end of the long passage, through the glass wall of the conference room. She saw Trevor with his stony face looking at Chris, who was talking passionately to Tony. The whole scene made her more apprehensive. She hesitated for a minute before opening the door.
‘Ah ... at last, you are here!’ said Tony.
Pushing his reading glass down his nose and gazing with pale blue large eyes at Rebecca. Tony was known as one of the best three news editors in the world. He has that unique ability to sense the big news before it happens.
‘Sorry. I had a problem with my mobile phone‘ said Rebecca avoiding Tony’s eyes.
Trevor looked at her sarcastically, said
Rebecca ignored Trevor and continued
‘I was busy working on the water shortage story.'
‘Forget the water story now. Give it to Mark Davis he will follow it', said Tony opening a blue file in front of him
‘But I am almost finished it.'
‘There is something more important than the water story for you to do’, Trevor interrupted her, stressing on the word ‘more important’ while looking at Chris mockingly. Tony stopped him with a reprimanding glance and said to Rebecca
‘The water story can wait for now. Mark can finish it. There is a more urgent story I want you to cover.’
‘Just give me a day, and the water story will be on your desk.‘, pleaded Rebecca.
‘After three weeks!’ Trevor commented sarcastically.
‘It was hard to get access to files after they amended the Freedom of Information Act.’, said Rebecca angrily to Trevor. Looked at Tony. Continued
‘I am there now I got all the facts at last.'
Chris interrupted Rebecca, looking at her fuming brown eyes sympathetically
‘We know you worked hard on the water story but what we will ask you to do, is a bigger story, just listen to Tony first.'
‘But I ...’
Before she finished the sentence, Tony said without looking at her while shuffling papers in the file in front of him
‘Becky, tell me. Do you know Professor Andrew Keys well?!’
The question stopped Rebecca from continuing her protest against giving the story that she worked on for the last three weeks to another reporter to finish. The question confused her. She said slowly
‘You didn’t answer my question.'
Tony looked at Rebecca and said firmly
‘Becky please answer my question. Do you know Professor Andrew Keys?’
‘How well do you know him?.’
‘Well, enough. From Uni. days. Yes. Andrew is a close friend.'
‘Did you see him recently?.’
Rebecca bewildered, scanned the three faces gazing at her from the other side of the conference table, and said,
‘Why all these questions about Andrew? What happens to him?.’
‘I will tell you in a minute. Answer me first. Did you see Professor Keys recently?.’ Tony asked.
‘When the last time you saw him?.’
‘About ... about two months ago.'
Tony looked at Chris and smiled as to say you are right. Continued
‘That is good Becky. Let me explain.'
He looked back at some of the papers in the file in front of him, then continued
‘You see Becky. Professor Keys disappeared.'
‘Professor Keys disappeared.'
‘In Egypt. ‘
‘I thought he is in Queensland. He told me that.'
‘Told you what?.’
‘He was going to the University there for 12 weeks giving lectures.'
‘Apparently, professor Keys flow suddenly to Egypt two weeks ago, without telling anyone.'
Tony fixed his eyes on Rebecca, watching her body language while saying
‘That is what everyone wants to know!.’
‘What do you mean by everyone?.’
‘I mean from the Vatican to the CIA!.’
Rebecca’s eyes moved from Tony face to Trevor's face to Chris' face trying to confirm that what she heard wasn’t a joke. Vatican and CIA after Andrew. The serious look on their faces made her say,
‘That is strange!. If what you are saying is the truth. Then they know something we don’t know!. '
Chris banged his hand on the conference table and said
‘You got it! There is something big cooking up. The Muslim fundamentalist, the Muslim Brothers, are looking for Professor Keys. The Vatican political core and its fringe organisations are looking for Professor Keys. The CIA operators in Middle-East are searching for Professor Keys. '
‘And yesterday one of Professor Keys main associates in Egypt Dr Steve Wayne kidnapped from the front the American University in Cairo', added Tony.
Waited in silence for a minute, to let all that has been said to sink in, and then said
‘There are few facts we know about Professor Andrew Keys. He is a Professor of Middle Eastern Archaeology. One of the best in his field. Twelve months ago, he was doing some archaeology works on two sites, one in Israel and then in Jordan. Suddenly without completing his work in Jordan, he came back to Australia for four weeks and after obtaining the required permits to do archaeology works in Egypt. He went to Egypt, stayed there for five months. Returned to Australia, and again suddenly, he cancelled all his engagements here and flowed back to Egypt and disappeared. '
He looked at Rebecca ‘Now Becky. Did he mention anything to you about his works in Egypt?.'
‘No. Why he has to do that. ‘ said Rebecca defensively. ‘ We are friends, but we don’t talk about each other work when we meet for coffee or lunch. Yes, we keep in touch, perhaps once a year more or less. ’ She stopped. Looked at Tony
‘Anyhow, why is everyone suddenly interested in Andrew?!.'
‘Yes. Becky. That is a good question!. Isn’t it?!. ' Trevor interrupted sarcastically
‘We don’t know for sure, but there is a rumour going around that he is involved maybe in important archaeology discovery.'
‘But Andrew isn’t Egyptologist. He is Middle Eastern Archaeologist.'
‘Good point. ’ Tony closed the file in front of him ‘, And that means, what?. ’
Rebecca did not answer, looked to Trevor and Chris for help. Chris smiled and said
‘It has to mean that whatever he discovered has to relate to the history of Middle East and to take into consideration the reaction we are getting from the Vatican and the Egyptian Muslim Brothers, and all the others. Somehow I believe it has to relate to religion.'
Trevor interrupted Chris ‘ This is pure speculations!’
Chris stared at Trevor ‘ Wait a minute; you are too sensitive here. I am not attacking any religion. I am just saying, all the indications lead us to the simple conclusion that Professor Andrew Keys found, or discovered something the conservative Christians and the Muslim fundamentalists so interested in that they are doing everything possible to find him first.'
Tony smiled, said ‘Calm down Chris, No one attacking your secular believes here.'
‘I wonder!. ’ said Chris looking at Trevor
Tony stood up, Walked to the small table in the corner. Filled a glass of water for himself and said
‘Anyone wants a drink?. '
There was no answer, so he looked back at them and continued
‘There is a big story there to be told, and I want our newspaper to be the one to say it. You know we are in the front-runner here, Becky knows Professor Keys personally.'
He looked at Rebecca as to stress a point and slowly continued
‘You know who his close friends are. You know his mother. We are there, in front, and this story should be ours.'
He had another sip of water from the glass he was holding with his two hands, put it down in front of him. Picked up the file. Stood. Looked at his watch, and started to move towards the conference room door, and then stopped and said to Rebecca
‘This is the story we want you to cover You will have all the support you need and report to me directly. Chris will organise what you need. I need to have the first part covering all the information you can get about Professor Keys from his parents and friend within the next 24 hours.' And left the conference room. Trevor following him with a wicked smirk on his face, without waiting for an answer from Rebecca.
With the room empty. Chris stood up and continued to look at Rebecca.
The silence was unbearable.
' Ah ...’ was the sound came from Rebecca.
She looked at Chris bewildered.
Chris pulled the chair next to her, sat, smiled and said
' Becky… This is the opportunity of a lifetime’.