Public stories, Private lives
The next few weeks were fairly run of the mill for the Lark City Post. Victoria settled happily in to her new job, although she continued to be pestered by the sexist comments and ongoing insinuations from Jim Fenner. His slap from Karen didn't seem to dampen his spirits for long. If anything, it had made him all the more set on pursuing any woman whom he considered available. Victoria found that she enjoyed working with Nikki and Mike and on the occasions when they used photographers, Denny and Shaz always managed to make her laugh. Following the story on the arson attack on Rachel Hicks, Shell Dockley had been convicted of arson, attempted murder and attempted abduction of Rachel's baby. This had shaken Denny up quite a lot as she had once been very attached to Shell and it took a few night's in the pub with Nikki and Victoria and all the other usual drinkers to really cheer her up. Slightly surprisingly, Karen had rejoined the drinking group. She had slid away from this little circle of friends when she began seeing and then living with Jim Fenner. Nikki thought it took a lot of guts for her to return to accompanying them on their frequent trips to the Printer's Pres, because they had all known what a bastard Fenner was capable of being and Karen had blatantly and blindly ignored everyone who'd tried to tell her. It had only been the taped evidence from Rachel Hicks which had finally convinced her everybody had been right and that she had a lot of spade work to do with them all. A few weeks after the Fenner incident, Karen was still sat at her computer ploughing through various stories that had been submitted to her during the day, yet it was nearly six on a Friday evening. Yvonne, also working somewhat later than normal because of the new developments on her fraudulent vicar was packing up when she realised that she wasn't the only one still in her office. She poked her head round the door to Karen's office on her way out.
"You coming out for a drink with the rest of us later?" Yvonne directed the question at Karen's reflection in her computer screen.
"Not if this lot's anything to go by," Said Karen, gesturing towards the huge pile of proofs on her desk. "All that has to be read and altered in time for Monday's edition."
"So, leave it till Sunday like the rest of us," Yvonne said, determined to get Karen out of her office. Karen turned back to her computer.
"You can't hide in here for ever, you know," Yvonne said gently. Karen shot her a rueful smile.
"Want a bet?" There was so much certainty in those three little words that it made Yvonne wince.
She lit two cigarettes and handed one to Karen.
"You'll get yourself a written warning," Karen said sardonically. Anton Meyer's immense dislike of smoking was well known throughout the office. Yvonne walked over and opened the big window as wide as possible. Karen got up from her chair and joined her. They stood there in silence.
"No one's gonna give you any grief, you know," Yvonne said to try and break the silence. Karen squinted at her through their combined cigarette smoke.
"Why," Karen said bitterly. "Because you were all right, and I was too blind to see what a bastard he is?"
"Look, yes, Fenner's always been the biggest dick in this place and yes, you had your eyes shut on this one. but it doesn't matter. We've all been there."
"What, even you?" Karen sounded surprised at the suggestion that Yvonne Atkins could also lose her dignity and self-respect because of a bloke.
"Oh yeah," Replied Yvonne. "It's common knowledge that my ex, Charlie, was screwing around with that tart Renee Williams from the Mail. I was the only one who couldn't bloody see it." Yvonne stubbed her cigarette out on the wall outside and ditched it. Then she turned back to Karen. "So, will we see you later on?" Karen smiled.
"Yeah, okay." For now, Yvonne had to be satisfied with this.
Later on that evening, Nikki, Victoria, Mike, Yvonne, Cassie, Alex, and a few others were sat around a couple of tables in a corner of the Printer's Press. It was about 8,30, and Mike was just about to buy a round of drinks when Karen appeared through the door. The conversation halted slightly and Cassie made no attempt to hide her look of surprise.
"Karen," Mike said. "Good to see you. What are you drinking?" Karen sat down between him and Yvonne.
"A large Scotch please. It might stop that pile of proofs on my desk from haunting me." Yvonne smiled and handed her a cigarette.
"Someone taking my story in vain?" Nick Jordan, one of the three news reporters appeared at Karen's shoulder. Karen grinned up at him sheepishly.
"I'm only saying that at this rate it won't get read till Sunday." Mike came back with a tray of drinks and handed Karen and Yvonne glasses of Scotch, Victoria a rum and coke and Nikki a large glass of wine. Karen began to feel like she was becoming one of them again. Karen began looking around for someone. Then she glanced at Nikki.
"Where's Tash tonight? I thought you two were inseparable." Nikki grinned.
"She says she's got a story to finish." Dominic, the other health reporter and who'd not long arrived said,
"Are you sure? There wasn't anything left over from today."
"That's what she said," Replied Nikki with a rueful look at Yvonne. "Guess I'll just have to trust her." Yvonne didn't reply to this as she'd seen Tash looking far too long and hard at Kirstie Collins, the personnel manager. Yvonne thought there might be trouble there, which would probably hurt Nikki immensely. If Nikki loved anyone, she did with her entire soul.
Tash was sat in the living-room of the house she shared with Nikki. They'd lived together for two years now. Tash knew that things were beginning to cool off with Nikki and there was no doubt that it was her fault. Kirstie Collins, who Tash had been at college with, had become head of personnel at the Lark City Post about three months ago. It had been a complete shock to Tash, Kirstie turning up like that. She'd thought she was settled. She was in a job she loved doing and was living with a beautiful and loving woman. But Kirstie had induced a spark in Tash that not even Nikki could ever come close to. Tash loved Nikki, she knew that, but Kirstie was something different. She made Tash feel special every moment she was with her. Tash had been struggling with the beginnings of a new story, which didn't really need to be done till next week, when she threw her pen across the room in frustration. She hadn't wanted to go to the pub with the rest of them because all she could think about these days was Kirstie and the last thing she wanted to do now was to sit amongst a load of people who thought Nikki was the one she wanted to be with. Tash picked up the phone and dialed Kirstie's NUMBER.
"Hello," Kirstie's soft sultry voice answered.
"Hi, it's me. Just thought I'd see if you'd gone to the pub with the rest of them." Tash knew it was the feeblest excuse she'd ever come up with but it was all she could think of saying.
"Well, as you can see," Kirstie said slightly mockingly. "I didn't." Tash took a deep breath.
"Kirstie, we need to talk."
"I know. I thought I should leave it to you. After all, you've got far more to lose than I have."
"I don't want to hurt Nikki."
"Tash, if we're heading where I think we're heading, you won't be able to avoid hurting Nikki."
"Kirstie, I couldn't believe it when you turned up here. You doing that has completely altered the way I feel about a lot of things, and especially Nikki."
"Tash, will you be honest with me. You didn't really get over our going our separate ways after leaving college, did you?"
"No, I didn't."
"And where did Nikki come in to all this?" Asked Kirstie.
"Nikki was funny, sensitive, wonderful. Nikki's everything I could ever want in a woman. But there's something in you that makes me feel like I'm constantly on top of the world."
"Maybe it's just seeing me again, being reminded of what we had at college."
"Yes," Tash said. "Seeing you again has brought all those wonderful memories back but the feelings I had for you then are still there. They're still as strong as they used to be. Kirstie, I want to make a go of this."
"Good," Kirstie said flirtatiously. "I like a bit of excitement in my life and yes, seeing you again had the same effect on me. Why do you think I applied for the job here?" Tash laughed and her husky tones rippled down the phone to Kirstie's waiting ear.
"But Kirstie, we have to take things very slowly, at least until I sort things out with Nikki. I can't guarantee how long that'll take."
"I know," Kirstie said softly. "But I'll be here whenever you're ready. As we've both got to work with Nikki, we should try to hurt her as little as possible. So yes, let's take this one day at a time." Tash ended the call feeling happy with life. Yes, she still had to get around the fact that Nikki loved her and thought that Tash would be faithful to her. Nikki would be very hurt by this, but Tash just had to find some way of minimizing that pain.
On Sunday morning, Karen took up Yvonne's suggestion and went in to the office to finish what she hadn't completed on Friday. The sun was blazing down but the office building was nice and cool. As she let herself in and reset the burglar alarm, something they all did if they came in at the weekend, she reflected that this might give her the ideal opportunity to do something she'd been wanting to do for a long time. Karen had thought for some weeks that Jim Fenner was working for a rival paper as well as the Lark City Post. She'd begun to suspect something was amiss when Jim started working late at the office, and when he immediately closed whatever file he was working on if she appeared. He'd suddenly become very aloof about what he was up to, which she reflected was nothing new. But something he'd started doing near to the end of their relationship had been. Jim had developed a liking for taking pictures of her. He could have been a photographer if he'd wanted to be. Karen was a little surprised by this new suggestion of his but she knew her body looked good so it didn't particularly bother her. But now she might be able to find out what was going on.
As Karen let herself in to the big, open plan office of the reporters, she could see Jim's computer looking as innocent as the day it was bought. She walked over and sat down at his desk. When she turned the computer on, it slowly worked it's way in to life and then she was presented with a problem. What the hell was his password. She tried a couple of Jim Fenner associated words, like Screw and Shag but to no avail. Then, on the third try she put in her own name on the off chance. As Windows 98 began to open in front of her, she marveled at what she was doing. She was breaking in to someone else's computer to find out their secrets. But sod it, she thought. This was Jim Fenner, not just any unlucky reporter. He had all the usual icons on his desktop but it was the My documents folder which caught her eye. It seemed to lure her in to the secret life of Jim Fenner.
"Doing some computer hacking, are we?" Karen almost fell off her chair in shock. Standing directly behind her was Yvonne. Karen hadn't heard her approach, she'd been too engrossed in the task in hand.
"Jesus, Yvonne, don't do that!" Karen turned back to the screen because she knew she looked as guilty as sin. Yvonne put a resting hand on her shoulder.
"Hey, calm down, you wouldn't be the first to see what her juniors are up to." Karen relaxed. "I make it a policy to do that to all my reporters when they first arrive," Said Yvonne.
"Well," Replied Karen. "I wouldn't go that far. I think Jim's been working for a rival paper."
"Typical," Muttered Yvonne.
"His password wasn't hard to figure out," Said Karen. Yvonne laughed.
"What was it?" Karen grimaced.
"Karen, of all things. He's obviously not moved on to someone else yet." She clicked on My documents and began looking through the folders. Then Yvonne had a better idea.
"Why not look at his e-mails. If he really is working for a rival paper, that's how he'll have kept in touch with them." Karen looked a little wary. "Go on," encouraged Yvonne. "If there's nothing there, he doesn't even need to know you've been there." Karen clicked on Outlook Express and there was one new e-mail. It was from a Neil Grayling who gave his address as: N.Grayling@the-sun.co.uk.
"Looks like you were right," Said Yvonne as she watched over Karen's shoulder. When the e-mail was opened it read:
thank you for the photographs. They're just what I'm looking for. They should make a pretty good centre page spread. If you have any more, please send them on.
"What bloody photographs?" Said Karen in outrage, but she already knew the answer. While Karen looked on, Yvonne moved to the previous e-mail which had been sent from Jim Fenner to Neil Grayling. It had an attachment of graphic files which were clearly pictures with the single word "enjoy" in the body of the message. Yvonne opened the attachment and they both stared at the unfolding pictures of Karen in various stages of undress and in various poses.
"Jesus!" said Yvonne. Karen hurriedly closed the file, her cheeks already burning with humiliation.
"I'll bloody kill him for this," She said, her voice dripping with pure venom. Karen systematically went through every folder on Fenner's computer and deleted every file that contained pictures of her. Yvonne did the same with the enormous stack of computer disks that Fenner had in his desk.
"He won't be able to question why you did this," Said Yvonne matter-of-factly. "He's already breaking his contract by working for a rival paper."
"I'll break his bloody neck, never mind his contract," Said Karen as she printed copies of various e-mails between Jim Fenner and this Neil Grayling who worked for The sun. When they'd finished clearing out Fenner's stock of pictures, they walked upstairs to their own offices, Karen carrying a thick wad of paper under her arm. She smiled ruefully at Yvonne.
"All I really came in for was to finish reading those proofs," She said. "It just struck me that it might be a good opportunity to see what the bastard was up to."
"It's always a good idea to know what you're staff are doing on the side," Said Yvonne as she went in to her office. "My daughter, Lauren, tort me a good line in computer hacking a long time ago." Yvonne reappeared carrying her own laptop and a stack of proofs. "The garden beckons," She said, referring to the huge stretch of lawn at the back of the office. It was a rule that no hard copies of proofs or stories were allowed to be taken away from the office building which meant that if anyone wanted to sunbathe whilst working, they had to do it at work. This was almost never done in the week, but at weekends, the office felt like home from home to some. Soon Yvonne was stretched out on the grass working through the latest developments on her fraudulent vicar. It was apparent that this morning would be his last service and Yvonne had sent Alex with Ray to see how the congregation would take the news of their vicar leaving, when most of them knew the reason, thanks to Yvonne's diligence with the story.
Mike appeared soon after, obviously intent on decreasing his own pile of stories. He poked his head out of the kitchen door which led to the garden.
"I don't know, some people," He said with a rye grin at Yvonne.
"I'm just making the most of it," Replied Yvonne who was clearly intent on staying exactly where she was. "when you go upstairs," She asked, "will you throw down my cigarettes. They're on my desk."
"Polluting the atmosphere as well as reaping it's benefits," He said with a smile. "Do you want a coffee?" He called as he returned to the kitchen.
"No thanks," Called Yvonne. "any more caffeine and I won't be able to keep still." Mike took his coffee upstairs and obligingly threw down Yvonne's cigarettes for her. He walked in to Karen's office.
"You here as well?"
"Yes," Said Karen, still clearly smarting from the pictures she'd found on Fenner's computer. Then she surprised him by saying, "Why are some men total bastards?" Then she smiled, "Present company excepted of course."
"Some are just made that way," Replied Mike. "Are we talking about anyone in particular?"
"Jim bloody Fenner," Said Karen a look of pure fury on her face.
"What's he been up to now?" Asked Mike.
"He's been selling pictures of me to the sun, and not the type of pictures we feature. I've just raided his computer."
"I see. You know he's breaking his contract by doing that?"
"I don't give a shit about his contract," Said Karen. "Those pictures were personal. I don't want every bloke in the country staring at, well, at what's in them." She blushed slightly.
"Do you want to go official about this?" Said Mike.
"No, not really. I'll deal with him first thing tomorrow. He'll wish he'd never bought that bloody camera never mind used it."
Around two o'clock that afternoon, Karen appeared out of the kitchen door carrying her cigarettes and stretched out on the grass near to where Yvonne had spread out all her stories.
"You're burning," Karen said to Yvonne who appeared to be in a world of her own. "You're legs are going the same colour as your hair." Yvonne took her eyes away from the proof she was reading and glanced at her legs.
"Shit, yeah," She said, moving in to the shade of a nearby tree. "How're you getting on," She asked.
"All done. Thank god," Said Karen settling back to take in the ultra-violet rays.
"Mike still upstairs?" Asked Yvonne. Karen yawned.
"No, he's gone to get us some lunch." Mike appeared in about ten minutes. He was carrying a tray with plates of sandwiches, a huge bag of grapes and a large bottle of very cold freshly squeezed orange juice. He put the tray, also containing three glasses down on the grass and sat down.
"You're a star," Said Karen who, having eaten nothing that day was starving.
"Yeah," Yvonne grinned. "What would we do without you."
"You know that new delis down the road, it even opens on Sundays," Said Mike. Karen took a large bite from a sandwich and said,
"So, do either of you two know a good way of kicking Jim Fenner right where it hurts?" Yvonne and Mike both realising that the other new about the pictures glanced at each other.
"Have you got any pictures of him?" Asked Yvonne. "You could send them to a porn mag."
"Good god, no," Said Karen, but she was grinning. "No-one would take them. Anyway, photography certainly isn't one of my hobbies."
"Is he really that bad looking?" Asked Yvonne with a glint of pure laughter in her eyes.
"He's not bad," Said Karen. "But he'd never make a centre page spread."
"Bloody hell," Said Mike with a mock shudder. "I'm glad it isn't me you're talking about." Yvonne started laughing.
"You could you know, find a picture of him and send it to one of the mags for gay blokes. Then, get Ray to buy a copy and leave it somewhere Fenner will see it."
"Actually, that's not a bad idea," Karen said with a grin. "Don't think I've got any of him though."
"No way," Said Yvonne with a lot of determination. "This just has to be done. You've got to admit, this'll be the biggest laugh you've had in a long time."
"Oh, I know," Agreed Karen. "He's going to get the bollocking of his life first though."
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