‘Ladies and gentlemen, you are here today to pay tribute to a great man.’ Roscoe lifted the flask to his lips, taking a long draught of whatever moonshine he was polluting his system with these days. ‘Not a good man, he’d be the first to tell you. He lied, he cheated, he was a juggernaut of industry. A true titan, a academic from the old school of journalism. Unafraid to sniff out a story, even when surrounded by more bullshit than a dairy farm. He earned his nickname, didn’t he?’ The silver flask lifted again to his lips, his eyes bloodshot and beginning to flood.
‘He was my boss. Worked his way up from the post room to the editor’s office, all twenty six floors. Took the time to work in every department, even the celebrity columns. We all know how he felt about the gossip columns, don’t we? Eh, Sandra?’ He gestured with a sweeping arm towards a blonde, sitting in tears about six rows back. ‘We all got our one shot, didn’t we?’ The sea of people in the church nodded, a sea of sniffing and held back tears.
‘He was my mentor. Took me under his wing when nobody else would, not another editor on this planet was willing to give me a moment. I couldn’t get an interview, let alone a job. But he took me in. I remember the first time I sat in his office, that damn portrait of JP Morgan on the wall. “A titan amongst men, that man.” That’s what he said to me. “Make yourself a titan and find me some goddamn news. Now get out.” And that was it. That was my interview.’ He looked across the crowd, tears flowing freely now from those bloodshot blue eyes. The flask hung limp in his hand, silver flashing in the candlelight.
‘He was my friend.’ Roscoe fell silent and the whole church held his breath. ‘My best friend, who has helped me crawl out of many of the pitfalls and perils in my life. Of course, he helped me in his way. Grabbed me by the belt, dragged me where nobody could see and “slapped some bloody sense into you, you dozy…”‘ He paused. ‘I probably… Probably shouldn’t finish that quote. There’s some sensitive ears among us.’ Everyone smiled, a sad smile that passed from face to face with the memory of the foul language that flowed from that office. ‘Oh yes, if the air could turn blue the offices of The Herald would look like the bloody ocean. But he loved that paper. He loved each and every one of the people there.’
The priest coughed discreetly behind him. ‘Well, this godbotherer behind me is warning me about time, so I guess I should wrap it up. So please raise the glasses that we hid under the pews and join me in a toast. To Daniel Merriweather, a great man, a great editor… A friend.’
‘A friend.’ Everybody raised their glass in unison.
The crowd streamed from through the wooden doors, chatter rising as people reminisced on Daniel’s life. Roscoe was surrounded by the girls from HR and the gossip columns, comforting him as he blew his nose on a blue handkerchief.
‘Mr Roscoe! Mr Roscoe!’ A young man was pushing through the crowd, elbows out with a stack of paper raised high. ‘Mr Roscoe!’
The girls from HR swarmed in his defence. ‘Can’t you see he’s grieving?’ ‘Bloodhound!’
Roscoe pushed them out of the way. ‘Come on girls, he’s just chasing a story. What’s your name, kid?’
‘Johnson. Alfie Johnson, Sir, reporter for the Times. Sir, I’ve got a couple of questions. If you could just take a look at these notes, Sir, they’re covering interviews with top scientists and leading engineers. It’s all there, Sir.’ His words came fast and furious, tumbling over themselves in their rush to be the first out.
‘Slow down, boy. I see you’ve done your research, but what do you want from me?’
‘Okay, Sir, you see, you did an interview with Dr Howell Lee in 2006 on the Arlington Protocols. If you look, he died back in 2011 in a car accident. Dr Lucy Harker, skydiving. Harrigan Moyles, journalist for the Post, Sir, died choking on his food. Miriam Washington, Councillor Ian Rhodes. Siobhan Woodley. Catherine Walker. Dead, dead, dead. All of them in a five year period. All of them…’
A crack echoed around the courtyard of the church. The War correspondence team didn’t even hesitate, diving straight for cover. This led to a cascade of bodies hitting the floor, one after the other until there was nobody left upright. Hundreds of people, all lying on the floor in the courtyard, screaming and shouting.
Roscoe got up first. ‘Is everybody okay?’ He bellowed, getting to his feet. Slowly, the whole crowd got to their feet.
All of them except one.
Alfie Johnson, reporter for the times lay on the flagstones in an expanding pool of blood. His breath came in ragged gasps as he choked around words, clutching his notes like a lifeline. ‘Jesus Christ, call an ambulance Sandra! Now!’
‘Sir, Mr Roscoe, Sir.’ He choked and gurgled around the words, blood flecks flying from his mouth and into Roscoe’s face. ‘It’s all about Arlington. It begins and ends with Arlington. Mr Roscoe… My Dad…’
A final cough. Then Alfie Johnson, reporter for the Times, died.
Bam! Plot twist! Hope everybody enjoyed today’s piece. Comments, queries and mistakes that you spot, let me know.
The Idiot in Tin Foil