Today's Reading

It was a brand-new, fully accessorized Cadillac Escalade that Alex had seen abandoned by its owners minutes earlier as the two of them had left it—hand in hand—in exchange for the southbound train.

Confident that he'd properly sighted his target, the self-perceived hunter started his truck and left the parking lot. He'd be back, long after dark. Passenger trains in this state were a once-a-day phenomenon, the Escalade's owners had been carrying luggage, wearing city-bound clothes, and the spot they'd left their ride was helpfully labeled long-term parking. Alex had time to work slowly and carefully.

"Reiling," the deep voice rumbled across the room.

Rachel looked up from her desktop computer. All the reporters had intercoms, texting, emails, even cell phones, if it came to that. Not that she faulted the timeworn tried-and-true approach—the newspaper's entire pressroom was the size of a generous four-car garage. And her boss preferred yelling. It reminded him of the old days.

That fit. With no hair except a snow-white fringe around the edges and a grizzled beard, Stan Katz looked as old days to Rachel as her grandfather. That included his wardrobe, which apparently contained an endless and only slightly varying collection of corduroys, vests, and argyle socks.

She knew that was harsh, even at age twenty-four. Katz might have been getting on, but he was no candidate for an old folks' home. In fact, he still seemed capable of running circles around her and her few colleagues.

Rachel crossed the room to Katz's small office, whose desk seemed more tchotchkes museum than work space, festooned with memorabilia, knickknacks, old clippings, postcards, and piles of paperwork. His computer monitor resembled Custer surrounded by hostiles.

Katz propped one foot against the edge of the desk. "You happy here?" he asked as she stood eyeing his guest chair piled high with books and magazines.

"Are you happy with me?" she countered.

He smiled. "Sure."

"Then why the question?"

He shrugged. "People come and go. The Brattleboro Reformer's the state's third-largest newspaper, but it's a way station or a springboard to most people your age. That's neither here nor there to me. I used to care, but I don't anymore. I just live with it. But," he emphasized, dropping his foot and sitting forward, "I won't waste my time or enthusiasm on somebody who's gonna dump me at the altar."

She smiled back, aware that he'd been married for over four decades and had no true idea of the concept he'd just invoked. "That's some metaphor. Where're we going with that?"

He gestured to the chair, impressed as ever by her self-confidence. "Move that crap onto the floor."

She did so and sat as he continued. The pressroom beyond was empty. The Reformer, some 140 years old, had once filled the entire building. Now, perhaps reflecting modern trends, the police department was the majority tenant by a large margin, reducing the paper's footprint to one small section toward the back. There was more than old age encouraging Katz's fatalism.

"You know my history, right?" he asked.

"I know you were the editor here a long time ago," she said, about to add, "When the paper had some clout," but she stopped herself in time, finishing instead with "And that the new owners got you to return somehow."

He digested that before admitting, "Yeah, well...Once an old warhorse...The thing is," he resumed in a stronger tone, "we used to be a pretty big deal. I'd like to get that back, if not in the same way. Times have changed—I know that—along with how people access their news. But I and the people who hired me do want to aim for relevance again." He straightened in his chair, his passion slowly fueling. "I love this town. Always have. And I like that this paper covers tiny house exhibitions and cow parades and whatever the hell else reflects who and what we are. People laugh at Brattleboro as being a left-wing haven for transplanted, tree-hugging trust funders. But that's nonsense. We care about what's important, and for each other, and in general, we think people should do more than just sit around and bitch. You know why I came back and gave up perfectly good money trying to teach corporate idiots how to communicate better, while they were busy staring at their iThingies?" he suddenly asked.

Rachel kept quiet, knowing the question to be rhetorical.

This excerpt ends on page 13 of the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book Golden in Death by J. D. Robb.

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