The Sky Is Falling
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Dana was in studio A at the anchor desk, going through last-minute changes for the broadcast. The news bulletins that had been coming in all day from wire services and police channels had been studied and selected or rejected.
Seated at the anchor table next to Dana were Jeff Connors and Richard Melton. Anastasia Mann started the countdown and ended 3-2-1 with her extended forefinger. The camera's red light flashed on.
The announcer's voice boomed out, "This is the eleven o'clock news live on WTN with Dana Evans" - Dana smiled into the camera - "and Richard Melton." Melton looked into the camera and nodded. "Jeff Connors with sports and Marvin Greer with the weather. The eleven o'clock news begins right now."
Dana looked into the camera. "Good evening. I'm Dana Evans."
Richard Melton smiled. "And I'm Richard Melton."
Dana read from the TelePrompTer. "We have a breaking story. A police chase ended earlier this evening after a holdup at a downtown liquor store."
"Roll tape one."
The screen flashed to the interior of a helicopter. At the controls of the WTN helicopter was Norman Bronson, a former marine pilot. Next to him sat Alyce Barker. The camera angle changed. On the ground below were three police cars surrounding a sedan that had crashed into a tree.
Alyce Barker said, "The chase began when two men walked into the Haley Liquor Store on Pennsylvania Avenue and tried to hold up the clerk. He resisted and pressed the alarm button to summon police. The robbers fled, but the police pursued them for four miles until the suspects' car crashed into a tree."
The chase was covered by the station's news helicopter. Dana looked at the picture and thought:The best thing Matt ever did was to get Elliot to buy that new helicopter. It makes a big difference to our coverage.
There were three more segments, and the director signaled for a break. "We'll be right back after this," Dana said.
A commercial came on.
Richard Melton turned to Dana. "Have you looked outside? It's a bitch out there."
"I know." Dana laughed. "Our poor weatherman is going to get a lot of hate mail."
The red camera light flashed on. The TelePrompTer was blank for a moment, then began to roll again. Dana started to read, "On NewYear's Eve I'd like - " She stopped, stunned, as she looked at the rest of the words. They read:...us to get married. We'll have a double reason to celebrate every New Year's Eve.
Jeff was standing next to the TelePrompTer, grinning.
Dana looked into the camera and said awkwardly, "We'll - we'll pause for another brief commercial." The red light went off.
Dana stood up. "Jeff!"
They moved toward each other and embraced. "What do you say?" he asked.
She held him tightly and whispered, "I say yes."
The studio echoed with cheers from the crew.
When the broadcast was over and they were alone, Jeff said, "What would you like, honey? Big wedding, small wedding, medium wedding?"
Dana had thought about her wedding from the time she was a little girl. She had visualized herself in a beautiful, lacy white gown with a long, long train. In the movies she had seen, there was the frantic excitement of getting ready for the wedding...the guest list to prepare...the caterer to choose...the bridesmaids...the church...All her friends would be there, and her mother. It was going to be the most wonderful day of her life. And now it was a reality.
Jeff said, "Dana...?" He was waiting for her answer.
If I have a big wedding, Dana thought, I would have to invite Mother and her husband. I can't do that to Kemal.
"Let's elope," Dana said.
Jeff nodded, surprised. "If that's what you want, then it's what I want."
Kemal was thrilled when he heard the news. "You mean Jeff is going to live with us?"
"That's right. We'll all be together. You'll have a real family, darling." Dana sat at Kemal's bedside for the next hour, excitedly discussing their future. The three of them were going to live together, vacation together, and just be together. That magic word.
When Kemal was asleep, Dana went into her bedroom and turned on the computer. Apartments. Apartments. We'll need two bedrooms, two baths, a living room, kitchen, dining area, and maybe an office and a study. That shouldn't be too difficult. Dana thought of Gary Winthrop's town house sitting empty, and her mind began to wander. What had really happened that night? And who had turned off the alarm? If there were no signs of a break-in, then how had the burglars gotten in? Almost involuntarily her fingers typed in "Winthrop" on the keyboard. What the devil is the matter with me? Dana saw the same familiar information she had seen earlier.
Regional > U. S. States > Washington D. C. > Government > Politics > Federal Research Agency
*Winthrop, Taylor - served as Ambassador to Russia and negotiated an important trade agreement with Italy...
*Winthrop, Taylor - self-made billionaire Taylor Winthrop devoted himself to serving his country...
*Winthrop, Taylor - Winthrop family set up philanthropic trusts to help schools, libraries, and inner-city programs...
There were fifty-four Web sites for the Winthrop family. Dana was about to change the search toApartments when a random entry caught her eye.
*Winthrop, Taylor - Lawsuit. Joan Sinisi, former secretary to Taylor Winthrop, filed a lawsuit and later dropped it.
Dana read the item again. What kind of lawsuit? Dana wondered.
She switched to several more Winthrop Web sites, but there was no further mention of any lawsuit. Dana typed in the nameJoan Sinisi. Nothing came up.
"Is this a secure line?"
"I want a report on the Web sites the subject is checking."
"We will take care of it immediately."
The following morning, when Dana arrived at her office after dropping Kemal off at school, she looked through the Washington telephone directory. No Joan Sinisi. She tried the Maryland directory...Virginia...No luck. She's probably moved away, Dana decided.
Tom Hawkins, the show's producer, walked into Dana's office. "We beat the competition again last night."
"Great." Dana was thoughtful for a moment. "Tom, do you know anyone at the telephone company?"
"Sure. You need a telephone?"
"No. I want to see if someone has an unlisted number. Do you think you could check it out?"
"What's the name?"
"Sinisi. Joan Sinisi."
He frowned. "Why is that name familiar?"
"She was involved in a lawsuit with Taylor Winthrop."
"Ah, yes. I remember now. That was about a year ago. You were in Yugoslavia. I thought there was going to be a juicy story there, but it got hushed up pretty quickly. She's probably living somewhere in Europe, but I'll try to find out."
Fifteen minutes later Olivia Watkins said, "Tom is on the line for you."
"Joan Sinisi is still living in Washington. I have her unlisted number for you, if you want it."
"Wonderful," Dana said. She picked up a pen. "Go ahead."
"Forget the thanks. Make it a lunch."
"You've got it."
The office door opened and Dean Ulrich, Robert Fenwick, and Maria Toboso, three writers who worked on the television news, came in.
Robert Fenwick said, "It's going to be a bloody newscast tonight. We have two train wrecks, a plane crash, and a major landslide."
The four of them began to read through the incoming news bulletins. Two hours later, when the meeting was over, Dana picked up the piece of paper with Joan Sinisi's number on it and called it.
A woman answered. "Miss Sinisi's residence."
"Could I talk to Miss Sinisi, please? This is Dana Evans."
The woman said, "I'll see if she's available. Just a moment, please."
Dana waited. Another woman's voice came on the phone, soft and hesitant. "Hello..."
"This is Dana Evans. I wondered if - "
"Er - yes."
"Oh! I watch your broadcast every night. I'm a tremendous fan of yours."
"Thank you," Dana said. "That's very flattering. I wonder if you could spare a few minutes of your time, Miss Sinisi. I'd like to talk to you."
"You would?" There was a happily surprised note in her voice.
"Yes. Could we meet somewhere?"
"Well, certainly. Would you like to come here?"
"That would be fine. When would be convenient for you?"
There was a brief hesitation. "Any time. I'm here all day."
"What about tomorrow afternoon, say around two o'clock?"
"All right." She gave Dana the address.
"I'll see you tomorrow," Dana said. She replaced the receiver. Why am I going on with this? Well, this will be the end of it.
At two o'clock the following afternoon, Dana drove up in front of Joan Sinisi's high-rise apartment building on Prince Street. A uniformed doorman stood in front of the building. Dana looked at the imposing structure and thought, How can a secretary afford to live here? She parked the car and went inside to the lobby. There was a receptionist at the desk.
"May I help you?"
"I have an appointment to see Miss Sinisi. Dana Evans."
"Yes, Miss Evans. She's expecting you. Just take the elevator to the penthouse. It's apartment A."
When Dana arrived at the top floor, she got out of the elevator and rang the doorbell of apartment A. The door was opened by a uniformed maid.
"Come in, please."
Joan Sinisi lived in a twelve-room apartment with a huge terrace overlooking the city. The maid led Dana through a long hallway into a large drawing room done in white and beautifully decorated. A small, slender woman was seated on the couch. She rose as Dana entered.
Joan Sinisi was a surprise. Dana had not known what to anticipate, but the woman who got up to greet her was the last thing she would have expected. Joan Sinisi was small and plain looking, with dull brown eyes hidden behind thick glasses. Her voice was shy and almost inaudible.
"It's a real pleasure to meet you in person, Miss Evans."
"Thank you for seeing me," Dana said. She joined Joan Sinisi on a large white couch near the terrace.
"I was just about to have some tea. Would you care for some?"
Joan Sinisi turned to the maid and said almost diffidently, "Greta, would you mind bringing us some tea?"
"Thank you, Greta."
There was a feeling of unreality about this. Dana thought, Joan Sinisi and the penthouse don't fit together at all. How could she afford to live here? What kind of settlement had Taylor Winthrop made? And what had the lawsuit been about?
"...and I never miss your broadcasts," Joan Sinisi was saying softly. "I think you're wonderful."
"I remember when you were broadcasting from Sarajevo with all those terrible bombs and guns going off. I was always afraid something was going to happen to you."
"To be honest, so was I."
"It must have been a horrible experience."
"Yes, in one way it was."
Greta came in with a tray of tea and cakes. She set it on the table in front of the two women.
"I'll pour," Joan Sinisi said.
Dana watched as she poured the tea.
"Would you like a cake?"
Joan Sinisi handed Dana a cup of tea, then poured a cup for herself. "As I said, I'm really delighted to meet you, but I - I can't imagine what you want to talk to me about."
"I wanted to talk to you about Taylor Winthrop."
Joan Sinisi gave a start and some of the tea spilled on her lap. Her face had gone white.
"Are you all right?"
"Yes, I'm - I'm fine." She dabbed at her skirt with a napkin. "I - I didn't know that you wanted..." Her voice trailed off.
The atmosphere had suddenly changed. Dana said, "You were Taylor Winthrop's secretary, weren't you?"
Joan Sinisi said carefully, "Yes. But I left Mr. Winthrop's employ a year ago. I'm afraid I can't help you." The woman was almost trembling.
Dana said soothingly, "I've heard such good things about Taylor Winthrop. I just wondered if you could add to them?"
Joan Sinisi looked relieved. "Oh, yes, of course I can. Mr. Winthrop was a great man."
"How long did you work for him?"
"Almost three years."
Dana smiled. "It must have been a wonderful experience."
"Yes, yes, it was, Miss Evans." She sounded much more relaxed.
"But you brought a lawsuit against him."
The fear was back in Joan Sinisi's eyes. "No - I mean yes. But it was a mistake, you see. I made a mistake."
"What kind of mistake?"
Joan Sinisi swallowed. "I - I misunderstood something Mr. Winthrop said to someone. I behaved very foolishly. I'm ashamed of myself."
"You sued, but you didn't take him to court?"
"No. He - we settled the lawsuit. It was nothing."
Dana glanced around the penthouse. "I see. Can you tell me what the settlement was?"
"No, I'm afraid I can't," Joan Sinisi said. "It's all very confidential."
Dana wondered what it could have been that made this timid woman bring a lawsuit against a titan like Taylor Winthrop and why she was terrified to talk about it. What was she afraid of?
There was a long silence. Joan Sinisi was watching Dana, and Dana had the feeling that she wanted to say something.
"Miss Sinisi - "
Joan Sinisi rose. "I'm sorry I can't be more - if there's nothing else, Miss Evans..."
"I understand," Dana said.
I wish I did.
He put the tape into the machine and pressed the start button.
I - I misunderstood something Mr. Winthrop said to someone. I behaved very foolishly. I'm ashamed of myself.
You sued, but you didn't take him to court?
No. He - we settled the lawsuit. It was nothing.
I see. Can you tell me what the settlement was?
No, I'm afraid I can't. It's all very confidential.
Miss Sinisi -
I'm sorry I can't be more - if there's nothing else, Miss Evans...
It had begun.
Dana had made arrangements for a real estate broker to show her apartments, but it was a wasted morning. Dana and the broker covered Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and the Adams-Morgan district. The apartments were too small, or too large, or too expensive. By noon, Dana was ready to give up.
"Don't worry," the real estate agent said reassuringly. "We'll find exactly what you're looking for."
"I hope so," Dana said. And soon.
Dana could not get Joan Sinisi out of her mind. What did she have on Taylor Winthrop that would make him pay her off with a penthouse and God only knew what else? She wanted to tell me something, Dana thought. I'm sure of it. I have to talk to her again.
Dana telephoned Joan Sinisi's apartment. Greta answered: "Good afternoon."
"Greta, this is Dana Evans. I'd like to speak to Miss Sinisi, please."
"I'm sorry. Miss Sinisi is not taking any calls."
"Well, would you tell her that it's Dana Evans, and I need - "
"I'm sorry, Miss Evans. Miss Sinisi is not available." The line went dead.
The following morning Dana dropped Kemal off at school. In a frozen sky, a pale sun was trying to come out. On street corners all over the city, the same faux Santa Clauses were ringing their charity bells.
I must find an apartment for the three of us before New Year's Eve, Dana thought.
When Dana got to the studio, she spent the morning in a conference with the news staff, discussing which stories to go with and the locations they needed to have taped. There was a story of a particularly brutal unsolved murder, and Dana thought of the Winthrops.
She called Joan Sinisi's number again.
"Greta, it's very important that I talk to Miss Sinisi. Tell her that Dana Evans - "
"She won't talk to you, Miss Evans." The line went dead.
What is going on? Dana wondered.
Dana went in to see Matt Baker. Abbe Lasmann greeted her.
"Congratulations! I understand the wedding date is all set."
Dana smiled. "Yes."
Abbe sighed. "What a romantic proposal."
"That's my fella."
"Dana, our Advice to the Lovelorn columnist said that after the wedding, you should go out and buy a couple bags of canned groceries and stash them in the trunk of your car."
"Why on earth...?"
"She says that one day down the road, you might decide to have a little extracurricular fun and get home late. When Jeff asks where you've been, you just show him the bags and say, "Shopping." He'll - "
"Thank you, Abbe dear. Is Matt available?"
"I'll tell him you're here."
Moments later, Dana was in Matt Baker's office.
"Sit down, Dana. Good news. We just got the latest Nielsens. We clobbered the opposition again last night."
"Great. Matt, I talked to an ex-secretary of Taylor Winthrop's and she - "
He grinned. "You Virgos never let go, do you? You told me that you - "
"I know, but listen to this. When she was working for Taylor Winthrop, she filed a lawsuit against him. It never came to trial because he settled with her. She's living in an enormous penthouse she couldn't possibly have afforded on a secretary's salary, so the settlement must have been really heavy. When I mentioned Winthrop's name, this woman was terrified, absolutely terrified. She acted as though she were in fear for her life."
Matt Baker said patiently, "Did she say she was in fear for her life?"
"Did she say she was in fear of Taylor Winthrop?"
"No, but - "
"So for all you know, she might be afraid of a boyfriend who beats her up or burglars under her bed. You have absolutely nothing to go on, do you?"
"Well, I - " Dana saw the expression on his face.
"Right. About the Nielsens..."
Joan Sinisi was watching the evening news on WTN. Dana was saying, "...and in local news, according to the latest report, the crime rate in the United States has gone down twenty-seven percent in the last twelve months. The largest decreases in crime have been in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Detroit..."
Joan Sinisi was studying Dana's face, looking into her eyes, trying to come to a decision. She watched the entire newscast, and by the time it was over, she had made up her mind.