Flash Fiction:  The News Anchor, a Public Official, a Woman & a Text Message by LJ Frank

It was late. Later than usual for him. After his last broadcast the News Anchor sat in his office. He scanned his desk, exhaled and recalled the subtitle of Gandhi’s Autobiography – The Story of My Experiments With Truth. He stood up, surveyed his office and looked at his hands. They were clean. He put on his raincoat.

He exited the skyscraper. A light mist sprayed his face. The sidewalks and street were wet.

A woman walking towards him bumped into his arm. “Sorry,” she said, “There’s a chill in the air…the mist.”

She hurried to the curb to hail a taxi. Getting into the rear seat she looked back. Their eyes met. He then watched the taxi speed down the street.

He decided to walk. The only people at that time of night were party and theater goers, the homeless, taxi drivers, the police and other night people and of course, the woman.

He walked to his hangout  stepping down a short flight of cement stairs. It was a converted cellar and now a jazz bar. He was a dark beer connoisseur. Tonight was an exception.  He ordered a Manhattan. The familiar bartender took note of the change. He detected a weary look in the newsman’s eyes. One could even say, he had an edgy calmness in his demeanor, if there is such a thing. The musicians had just finished playing Miles Davis’ So What.

Much earlier in the evening he had  interviewed a guest public official who said, “I will be honest with you.”  He then deflected the questions. It was political theater. The News Anchor loathed the word honest. It was a contextual and trite adjective. He preferred the word conscientious. There was a difference.

The bartender who was watching the news on a television at the end of the bar interrupted the newsman’s reverie. “ Hey! You watching the Breaking News?

“What?”

“He’s dead!

“Who?”

“Your guest tonight.”

The News Anchor looked up at the television. He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t like watching television late at night. Interferes with my rationalizations.”

“Hah! The woman you were here with last night?”

“Yeah.”

“She reminds me of the woman on the television. That’s his wife.”

“How about that.”

“Her face looks the same though different color hair. Maybe that’s archived footage.”

“Women and men change their hair color and styles all the time? They even wear wigs like a man who wears  toupee to cover his baldness. How do you know the woman on the screen is his real wife or who I was with?”

“Oh?”

“If you’re a public person you retain a certain style and fashion offering an illusion of stability, trust, authenticity and sophistication. How do you really ever know the person you’re looking at is really the person you think they are?”

“Hmm. You’ve gotten cynical.”

“Where’d the police say the body was found?”

“They didn’t. The police said that they just found his body slumped over. Perhaps it was in a car? They didn’t say how he died. Could be a suicide, homicide or natural causes. Sometimes were dead before we physically die.”

“Evidence?” The News Anchor mumbled to himself. “I’ll have another Manhattan.”

“Sure, we don’t close for another couple of hours.”

It was at that juncture the News Anchor heard a phone ring coming from his raincoat. He generally placed it in the breast pocket of his suit coat. He retrieved the phone. It wasn’t his. He must have left his phone in his office.  He looked at the text message from a private number. It simply read, “Call me.”