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Want to read a funny, scary thriller?

Wire has murders, chases, betrayal and a triple twist ending.

 

Drew Morrissey fought her way from stringer at Rolling Stone to reporter for The New York Chronicle.  She wishes she had money for Dean & DeLuca, but dinner’s a Butterfinger Bar. Drew considers her biggest asset is a self-deprecating sense of humor. She lives with two roommates in a small apartment on the border of Harlem. Midnight is announced with a serenade of boom boxes thumping hip-hop. At two a.m., the garbage train rumbles underneath like an earthquake. Drew hopes to move out the day her real life begins. Unfortunately, she’s much too busy scrounging to have a life.

 

She’s in a mess at work. Getting her articles kicked out of the Metro section has become normal. Drew leaps at the chance to redeem herself by chasing a breaking story. Instead, the assignment turns her life inside-out. She becomes the sole witness to politically-motivated homicides. The only thing keeping Drew Morrissey alive is her quick wits. She lives on the run, chased by an assassin code-named Elijah. His connections reach everywhere Drew goes for help, including the FBI. Jake Balducci, head of the FBI’s New York bureau, insists Drew go undercover, working for the people trying to kill her. But whose side is Jake on? Read Wire to find out.

Read the first chapter of Wire —

1

 

Inside The New York Chronicle, the plastic sign on my desk reads “Drew Jennifer Morrissey.” It should say “Stressed Morrissey.” I was buried in problems, shredding a Styrofoam coffee cup in frustration when my boss walked in the newsroom. From my chair, I could only see the back of Saul Morgenthal’s head, where a laurel wreath of tightly cropped hair ringed his bald skull. The wreath was all that remained of a 1960s-style crew cut. Morgenthal once told me if he hadn’t become an editor, he’d have been an astronaut. Time and job pressure hadn’t been kind to Saul’s body. Twenty years ago, he might have been in shape for astronaut training. Today, Morgenthal’s frame wouldn’t fit through the narrow door of the Space Shuttle.

 

Saul’s daily stress was showing itself in a working breakfast, where he ate the sandwich he couldn’t eat during his noon meeting with the Executive Editor. A corned beef on rye was jammed in his talking mouth. Typical of his pressured life, food was inhaled at the same time Morgenthal scanned the newsroom, looking for someone. I hoped it wasn’t me. I shrank in my chair, trying to be invisible. I failed.

Saul Morgenthal

(Storyboard art used in creating Wire appears only on this website, not in the book.)

Morgenthal spotted me and bellowed. “Where’s that piece on the Garment District fire. We got deadlines, Morrissey.”

 

I jammed my hands into tight jeans pockets. “I finished the Garment District piece an hour ago. It’s sitting in your email.”

 

Saul immediately lost interest. “Doesn’t matter.” He mumbled through bites of the deli sandwich. “Got a better story for page one. You’re bumped, Drew.”

 

I wasn’t surprised. Having my articles kicked off the front page of the Metro section had become normal. To say I was in a political mess was an understatement. I was learning a lesson I’d never forget – don’t mix sex with work, even if he sits at the other end of a 39,000 square-foot newsroom. The lesson began when my boyfriend Jamie was fired for stretching the truth in an article. The Chronicle has zero tolerance for made-up interviews.

Drew & Jamie

Now I was under suspicion, due to my intimate relationship with Jamie. People were whispering … perhaps I’d encouraged Jamie to lie … maybe I also made up facts instead of researching them. To survive the rumors flying around, I needed to prove myself, like a rookie. In fact, I was worse off than a rookie. Politically, Saul Morgenthal was safer firing me than keeping me. He just needed an excuse. I was fighting hard not to give him one. I was losing the battle.

 

“Uh, Saul.” I talked quietly, hoping he wouldn’t hear me. I hated dealing with him. But he did hear me. Saul cocked an eye in a question mark. It was his way of saying this had better be good.

 

“Who are you looking for? I mean, you’re standing here, gazing around the newsroom. It’s not like you’re taking a stretch break, is it?” There, that wasn’t so bad, Drew. You can talk to Saul Morgenthal after all. Maybe.

 

“I’m lookin’ for a reporter, Morrissey. You see any? I don’t.”

 

Ouch. Chill out, Drew. Don’t let it hurt. I dared another question. “You got a story needs covering?”

 

“Another hit on an election headquarters. Third one this year.”

 

“How’d you hear about this?” I was astonished.

 

“The killer phoned our switchboard. They transferred him to me. Now he’s on the air talking to Howard Stern, the shock jock.”

 

“Where’d this killer do the hit?”

 

“Across from MOMA. Five minutes by taxi this time of morning.” He looked at me like I was in kindergarten and didn’t know what MOMA meant. “MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art. You mighta heard of it.”

 

Saul pivoted, scanning the floor for someone he could put on the story. For once I got a break. It was too early in the day for other reporters to be inside the newsroom. Saul had nobody else to assign. He glowered at me. “OK, it’s yours. Don’t mess it up by faking something. This is your last chance. I’m sending Benson to take photos. Wait while I find him.”

 

“Flashbulbs” Benson was the only photojournalist left in the world who still used a film camera instead of digital. The Chronicle put up with film because Benson was only a year from retirement. I rolled my eyes in amazement at Saul’s choice of photographers. It would be a miracle if Benson caught even one picture Saul could print. With a dozen rolls of film in his photo vest, Benson wasted every frame on sickening gore, stuff no editor could show to the public.

“Flashbulbs” Benson

Waiting for Benson meant wire services like Reuters would beat me to the scene. Saul getting his article from the wire services would be the death of my job. Morgenthal would say I was slow and missed his deadline, forcing him to run the same bland stuff printed by every paper in the country, even though the story happened in his backyard. But there was something I could do about it.

 

I could lie. “I’ll wait for Benson downstairs.” I pulled a linen blazer over my Eminem T-shirt. The shirt was a freebie when I was a stringer at Rolling Stone, so I wore it. Free clothes fit my wardrobe budget. I pushed my stool back and stood up. Then I rolled out of there and hit the elevator bank.

 

I jogged through the blue-shirted security guys in the lobby, not giving Benson a second thought. I passed a bust of George R. Jennings, founder of The Chronicle. Mr. Jennings scowled like he’d read my dead column on the Garment District fire. “Don’t worry,” I assured him, “I’m getting you a better article.” I gave him a high five and spun through eggbeater doors.

Times Square, New York City

Outside, the neon of Times Square blasted me with ads louder than the honking taxis. I shut it all out and focused on saving my job. A cab stopped in front of me and I decided to splurge. Get there first, Drew, I told myself. Saul will reimburse the taxi fare when he sees your write-up. I yanked the cab’s door open and flopped on the back seat. “How fast can you get to MOMA?”

 

The driver didn’t say a word. He hit the gas, the door slammed shut and I was thrown backwards in the seat. Damned fast was his answer.

 

 

-- // --

 

 

Muted sunlight leaked through the muggy sky as I got out of the taxi. Nearby, a frankfurter cart hissed with boiling hot dogs. Their steam lingered in the warm summer air. Church-goers leaving the morning service at St. Thomas wove through fat pigeons clogging the church’s steps. Brooks Brothers was ignoring the heat wave and shifting to an autumn wardrobe, dressing window mannequins with corduroy and thick flannel.

 

Across the street, a blue Suburban dressed in red and white crepe paper marked the election headquarters of a small, independent party. Bumper stickers covered the SUV, declaring solutions to all problems, just vote for us.

The only sign of trouble was a police cruiser angled to the curb, indicating a fast stop. Bursts of police radio squawked out its open windows. More cop cars must be in an alley behind the building, I told myself. I assumed it was safe to go inside. It was another lesson to me. Never assume Drew.

I crossed the busy street, approaching a storefront with windows plastered in slogans like the Suburban. Humid air clung to me like shrink-wrap, sticky and cloying. Fifteen seconds in that midtown steam bath and dark stains spread down the armpits of my blouse. I was pumped when I pressed a shiny aluminum doorknob into my fist and twisted. I’d sweet-talk my way past the official yellow tape, get vivid comments from witnesses, write my way to page one and save my job.

 

I had it all planned out, but the doorknob wouldn’t cooperate. The blasted knob didn’t turn, so I pressed on the door. It didn’t budge. I found a TV camera peering down and waved. “Buzz me in, will you?” What was taking the cops so long? Were they going to keep me outside until the rest of the press arrived?

 

My stomach began to churn. I’d missed breakfast, such as that ever was. Lunch was really my only meal. My stomach was telling me to find a Mickey D’s somewhere and appease my hunger with a cholesterol bomb of a hamburger. Salt and grease, my kind of health food.

 

I bent toward the shiny windows, trying to peer through reflections of the street. Seeing inside was impossible. Finding no intercom, I rapped on the glass and waited. My feet shifted and I felt a shoe drag on the pavement. Something sticky was oozing under the door. I shivered when I looked at the fluid on the sidewalk. It was blood. Saul hadn’t been kidding. This part of the story I could do without. People getting hurt wasn’t necessary. But there were shattered lives here to report and I’d do the job.

 

There was a sliver of alley between the office building and its tall neighbor. I told myself it didn’t make any sense to go through that alley. I’d just get my new blazer dirty and have to send it to the dry cleaner. I’d spotted a Donna Karan jacket at 80% off when I researched the Garment District piece. But a moment later, I found myself carefully moving down the alley, trying to avoid its soot-coated walls. I waited at the end, standing in dark shadow, quietly brushing gray soot off a coat sleeve.

 

Why was I so worried? The police must be here. But where were the other squad cars? I saw only a UPS truck idling near a green dumpster. I glanced at the truck and saw a driver inside, chatting on a cell phone. There was no way I could know the UPS driver was Richie Shaw and five minutes ago he’d been talking with Saul Morgenthal, claiming he’d done a bunch of killings. Now Richie was bragging to Howard Stern, but I couldn’t hear the details of Shaw’s conversation from where I stood.

 

I peered at the back door of the election headquarters. Everything looked safe, didn’t it? I walked toward the door, feeling myself breathing a little too fast. Calm down, Drew. You have to get that story. You can’t go back empty-handed. Saul will fire you.

 

I took a deep breath and faded into the dark hallway. The loud clatter of midtown Manhattan was muted to a dull surf of traffic along the boulevard. The only loud noise was a chattering jackhammer, ripping up sidewalk for another of the ceaseless repairs needed to keep a giant city running.

 

Halfway down the corridor, a short man in UPS uniform backed out of a room. We collided with a mutual grunt. When he turned, the gleeful look on his face twisted my guts. His cold eyes seemed wired straight to an icy mind. A gun came up and pointed right at my face.

There was a slight click, followed by another. His eyes showed irritation. A clip fell out of the gun, clattered against the floor and a new clip of bullets appeared in his hand. The gun barrel seemed huge to my eyes, made even larger by the silencer at the end, looking like the thick foam windscreen used on microphones to interview people in bad weather.

 

It slowly dawned on my scattered brain that I’d walked right in the middle of things. The taxi hadn’t hit a single red light. I’d gotten to the election headquarters so fast the killers were still there. I stumbled, trying to back out of the hallway. I looked for a place to hide and saw none. On one side, the corridor opened into a stockroom. Metal industrial shelves held bathroom tissue, bottled water, coffee in foil pouches and campaign banners. I turned around. The gunman’s face was contorted and his gun was coming up again.

 

I threw myself at a door and it mercifully flew open. When I slammed the door closed, it was pitch black inside the room. The killer’s footsteps came to the door and stopped. I groped for the lock and found it before he did. I felt his violent twisting, fighting against me as I locked the knob.

 

He whined sadistically through the door. “It won’t do you any goo-ood.”

 

The gun, I thought. He’s going to shoot off the lock. Oh God, he’ll go right through that door and get me. I twisted around and tripped over a mop. I was about to kick the mop away when I realized the handle could be jammed against the door. It worked. The broomstick acted like a brace you bought for your front door, preventing someone from breaking into your apartment, even if they tore out the lock. Just like cramming for a test in college. I was always best under pressure. A crazy thought when someone was trying to kill you, but that’s the way my mind works.

 

A burst of silenced gunfire spattered wood chips into my hands. The splinters burned my fingers. Light poked through bullet holes in the door. The pencils of light shot at me like daggers. I knew the bathroom was tiny, but I still tried to run away. I slammed into a metal wall. The blow sent pinpoints of light darting across my eyes. I was stunned for a moment. He opened up with the gun and I tried to get on the floor, slipped and fell hard against cold tile. My temple collided with a toilet, shocking me with a bolt of pain and making me dizzy.

 

I lay on the floor and realized it was quiet. No, there was another sound, one that gave me comfort. Sirens. Police were coming to save me. It was safe now, it had to be safe. Finally, the cops were here and this clown had to leave. I told myself to get up, even thought I was getting up, but cold tile still pressed into me. I managed to lift my face. I heard two men arguing with each other, screaming.

 

The UPS driver’s voice quavered in the hallway. “Gimme the automatic.”

 

“Right,” the gunman drawled in sarcasm.

 

“What do you mean?” The UPS driver sounded like a child simpering at having a favorite toy taken away.

 

“Get back to the truck,” the killer insisted. “I’m doing this hit. You can do the next one.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because you’re too hopped-up, that’s why.”

 

“I can do it,” the UPS driver whimpered. “I shot good in Jersey, at that gun club. You said so.”

 

“You hit targets. People ain’t paper targets, kid. You gotta be calm and make sure there’s no witnesses. So I’m going in there, not you.”

 

“Then I don’t get credit. I want credit for killing them.”

 

“Relax. You get the credit,” the gunman snorted.

 

Then the submachine gun started again, cutting the room like a ghostly chainsaw. Each bullet hit the wall with a soft poof, sending chips of metal divider and tile flailing around my head. I curled in a ball, tight as I could make it. Just when I knew it would go on forever, knew I couldn’t stand any more, the gunfire stopped. Footsteps ran along the hallway and clanged into the UPS truck. But I didn’t move. I just lay on the floor, trembling, grateful to be alive.

 

-- // --

 

In a few minutes, I got off the bathroom floor and stumbled into the reception lobby. At first the area looked normal, just another office with filing cabinets, chairs and desks. But this reception area had a security guard sprawled over a glazed planter. A potted palm lay crushed beneath the guard’s body and spilled dirt buried his hands. There was a gory trail smeared on the wall, left as the guard slumped to the floor. I tried to pretend the guard was an illusion, a bad dream like the dead receptionist toppled over a desk, arms flopped like a rag doll. But this rag doll had a shattered head. My eyes focused on bullet holes in her face and my stomach lurched. Bile etched my throat, burning like acid searing a pattern into glass.

 

I collapsed into a chair and looked at my fingers. They were torn. Clotted blood scabbed the knuckles on both hands. A dandruff of tile chips speckled my blazer and it was smeared with white dust. I exhaled a brief, ironic laugh. In the alley, I’d worried about getting a little soot on my new blazer’s cuff.

 

I stared vacantly through mini-blinds on the front windows. I needed to see reality. Where I was sitting couldn’t be real. It was too insane. I looked at brilliant orange streaks of light, the sun painting the glass cubes of the Museum of Modern Art. The beginning of the lunchtime crush was on the sidewalks, flowing out of doorways. How could I reconcile people walking past me, going to lunch, with bits of flesh scattered across the floor, blood running under the front door? I couldn’t.

 

My dull musings were ended by heavy footsteps tramping along the hallway, chased by their echoes. Everything seemed to be a dream.

 

The dream spoke. “Hey Drew, you OK?”

 

I tried to straighten my posture and couldn’t. I saw the dream’s black orthopedic shoes and talked to them. “OK? Who can be all right in this place?”

 

A shadow moved in front of me. I heard the leather squeak of an equipment belt and realized the shadow belonged to a police officer. I forced myself to look up. The policeman was wearing mirrored sunglasses, the kind peepers use at the beach for staring at string bikinis, thinking they’re being subtle. I saw my distorted reflection in his silver lenses, curved like a funhouse mirror. I looked drowsy from shock.

 

My eyes refocused on his face and I recognized him as a black police sergeant I knew. My lips were so dry I could only mutter. “Hello, Sid. We have to stop meeting like this.”

 

He drawled, “What happened to you, Morrissey? You’re supposed to report crimes, not get in them.”

 

“Very funny, Sid. I thought you guys were here already. There was a cruiser out front. What was that cop doing? Hitting on some babe?”

 

“He was me, Drew. I was on break in a Starbucks around the corner. I didn’t know you needed me or I would’a run over and played Vin Diesel.”

 

Footsteps rumbled along the hallway again. I turned to see Benson running down the corridor, fumbling with his camera. There was a sudden flash and shocking white light stabbed my eyes.

 

Sid frowned. “Hey, Benson, cut that out. I’ll catch hell if they find you here, before techs go over the scene.”

 

I had a suggestion for Benson. “The Chronicle can’t print photos of bodies, anyway. Why don’t you go outside and take a picture of the building?”

 

Benson sulked away. He knew I was right. I twiddled the wand on the mini-blinds and looked out. I saw chaos.

Ambulances were stopped in the middle of 53rd Street with their dome lights strobing. Paramedics yanked out gurneys. NYPD patrol cars screamed down the street and flung themselves around the ambulances. A half dozen police rushed ahead of medics and pounced up the stairs.

Sid’s radio squawked. I asked him, “Did you get the guys who did this?”

 

“Yeah, Drew, we’ve had all of five minutes. They been tried and convicted. Made the front cover of People magazine. You guys from The Chronicle are behind.”

 

“I wasn’t ragging on you, Sid. One of them was in a UPS truck out back. He was talking on a cellular. Ask the precinct what they know, will you? I’ll make sure you get mentioned in the article. Front page.”

 

Sid rolled his eyes. “Me and the President, real front page stuff. If I call, you and Mr. Flash Bulbs leave, right?” Sid talked into a radio mike on the collar of his NYPD jacket.

 

Police were banging on the door. I opened it. The cops ran past, guns pulled. They checked every room, looking a little sick. It was exactly the way I’d felt coming down the hallway, turning my head into open doors. Each room had a tragedy written on walls, floors, tables.

 

In my mind, I walked down the hallway again. I saw killings that were done in an exact, professional style. The shooter was no Gulf War vet blasting random bullets. The people had been shot in the forehead, twice. Nothing was chewed up except the bathroom where I’d hidden.

 

“Excuse me,” I whispered, pushing past the cops milling in the hallway.

 

One of them stopped me. “Hey Miss, where’re you going?”

 

“To the bathroom. I don’t want to throw up on the floor.” I twisted my face.

 

“Don’t touch anything. We haven’t dusted for prints.”

 

“Don’t worry. Hands off.” I wagged my hands to show I wouldn’t disturb anything. 

 

I went past rooms strewn with bodies, straight to the shattered bathroom door. I had to see it again. It didn’t feel real. But my ordeal definitely happened, only a few minutes ago. A brass chunk of doorknob lay in the sink. On the floor was a mop, the handle cut in pieces, chewed by bullets. Ceramic shrapnel was scattered across the floor. The stall door twisted on just the top hinge. Drops of my blood on the toilet hadn’t yet dried. My temple throbbed from colliding with the porcelain toilet.

 

Sid punched my arm. “I checked with precinct like you wanted.”

 

“And?” I waited.

 

“They got nothing. Not yet, anyhow.”

 

“Great.” I sagged against the bathroom doorframe.

 

“Hey, Drew, don’t mess up the fingerprints,” he complained.

 

I turned to face Sid. “I don’t think you’ll find any prints, Sid. Whoever did this was a pro. Look around. He knew what he was doing.”

 

Sid looked at me like I was crazy, then jiggled his bulk down the hallway.

 

I called after him. “Thanks for checking with the precinct, Sid.” I stared again at the bathroom. There was a large area on the floor with no chips in it, the outline of where I’d been lying. Why would someone hire a pro to hit an election headquarters for a small political party with no clout? My mind didn’t have an answer for that question. The carnage in this election headquarters made no sense to me.

 

I shook my head to clear away cobwebs and walked out the back door into the alley. The UPS truck was gone, replaced by police cruisers. There was no point in hanging around. There were no leads. I had no way of pursuing the story. I decided to go home and clean up. I could at least be well dressed when Saul fired me . . .