Harry Pt. 01byEgmontGrigor2011©
* Set in New Zealand
Gradually friends and family left the house following the post-funeral function until only Harry's youngest daughter Anita remained.
"Dad I'll stay the night. You can't be in this house alone, not tonight of all nights.
"Off you go love. I won't shoot myself. I'll have a few quiet drinks and think about some of the times I had with your mother."
"Dad you scare me when you say you won't shoot yourself. Give me the gun; I'm taking it with me."
"Nah you'll only end up accidentally putting a bullet through that useless jerk you live with."
"Dad I know your father hated lawyers and you grew up with that prejudice. Arnold is rather nice otherwise I wouldn't be with him."
"Does he fuck you stupid?"
"It's okay, I can talk rough. Your mom's not around."
The attractive blonde burst into tears and Harry hugged her and said yeah, he missed Amy too.
Anita left ten minutes later after more tears and kisses and without the gun. She'd been told if she wished to take it she'd have to fight her father to get it out the door.
She sniffed, "You always were a tough bastard. Why on earth I've always loved you I have no idea. You and your ways would make some of my girlfriends vomit."
Harry grinned, well used to Anita's stretching of the truth.
"Tell you what Anita," he said, patting her ass. "Drop that chiseling lawyer and get yourself a tough-ass man and marry him and live happy ever after. You have a pathetic streak in you and need a guy around you who's rough diamond and will stimulate you."
"God you are an asshole. Well let's say you're right, and I'm not saying you are. How do I make your grand ideal happen?"
"Keep telling the lawyer his breath stinks and he's getting fat and he'll soon leave you, guaranteed. And then you phone Steve Young who has a daughter and ask can you meet him for a drink. Say you wish to talk about moving in with him. You've always wanted a family. You haven't managed to get pregnant so the next best thing is to marry into a family unit that's without a wife/mother."
"Listen baby, just because he was the first guy to get into your pants that's no reason to vilify him. And he's possibly the best fuck you're ever had."
"How could you possibly know that?" she shouted.
"Father's know these things," he said inventively and watched her face turn crimson.
"Just do it baby."
She was crying again. She kissed him, called him an asshole and hugged him tightly, and when they reached her vehicle she sniffed as he opened the door of her SUV. She climbed in and said she'd think about what he'd said.
"You've been a marvelous dad to me and knew how to fill the hole for me emotionally when I learned how mom thought the sun shone out of Lynette's butt."
"You now control your own life Anita. Line up the life you want for yourself, no backing off. Lynette's less than happy in marriage and you must work to avoid making similar bad decisions. Take the chance to mother a girl who needs a mother."
"Bye dad, and thanks. Oh don't be mad if I take no action."
The women had cleaned up for Harry and someone, probably Lynette, had even left him a ham salad with two slices of buttered bread under a tea towel with a big slice of apple and apricot tart for a light evening meal. He thought weren't women great and poured a whisky and thought about his dear deceased Amy.
* * *
It was a long time ago, mid November 1967, a time when small town evening newspapers were flourishing although the threat to their existence from TV was already biting into economic viability through competition for advertising and luring away readership. It was a time of social liberalization of people though improved pay, growing ownership of motor vehicles and an improved national economy as time pushed beyond the recovery years that followed the destructive period of World War 11.
Harold Boone, now calling himself Harry, had just turned eighteen and been promoted from a cadet grade three reporter to a J1 (a first year junior grade) reporter on the Rutherford Times in the small North Island city of Rutherford.
The short, fat and balding managing-editor Mr Bassett stood in the doorway of his office and shouted, "Boone to my office, briskly now."
Not another grading lift already, Harry thought optimistically.
He trotted through the newsroom, ignoring the curious stares and nodded to Mr Bassett as he went past him into the dingy and very untidy office. He stood and looked down at the seated girl and checked if she had breasts. Something appeared to be there.
"This is my niece Amy Wiseman, youngest daughter of Major Wiseman, DSO."
"Good morning Amy."
She nodded without replying.
"You are making wonderful progress in learning the ropes here Boone. I'm attaching Amy to you and want you to teach my youngest niece everything you know to accelerate her progress. My sister, Amy's mother, expects this of me."
"Are you sure females are suitable to become newspaper reporters sir?"
"How dare you question my judgment."
Harry was up to this debate. "No one is perfect sir and judgment can become clouded when dealing with relatives."
The face of the unpopular editor turned purple and he was shaking in anger and his glasses were fogging.
"The boy is right Uncle Toby. "It's mother who wants me to become a journalist and she pressured you. Do you want me here?"
Uncle Toby pulled out a handkerchief, pulled off his glasses and mopped his face.
"How old are you Amy?" Harry asked and she said was going on seventeen.
"Why don't you finish high school?"
"I have completed. I'm what is known as being academically advanced."
Harry nodded and said that equated to being very bright.
"Have you ever cleaned toilets?"
Amy was nonplussed and said, "Of course."
"Been in fights with girls?"
She nodded, not looking at her uncle.
"Been in the homes of very poor people?"
"Yes and I've nursed the sick. Is this you assessing me if it's possible I would stand up to the rigors of being a gatherer of news?"
"Yes she's very bright Mr Bassett and appears capable of standing up for herself. I think we should give her a trial."
"I have already decided to sign her on Boone. Stop attempting to do my job for me. Amy will start in the morning as a first-year cadet and will remain at your side during all your working hours and I want you to pass on your knowledge, holding nothing back."
The editor looked suspiciously at his junior reporter. "So Boone, what has changed to produce this new attitude?"
"In my opinion, after due deliberation in assessment, I believe Amy has the potential to knock the spots of some of the younger reporters you currently employ."
"Oh do you think that, backed by your wide knowledge and great experience. Just watch that you don't get too big for your boots Boone."
"That's better. Now that you have seen and heard from this arrogant young chap Amy, are you prepared to work in tandem with him?"
"Yes Uncle Toby. He has the potential to succeed with me."
The two males stared at seemingly meek Amy.
"I'll get her motor going and then there will be no holding her back Mr Bassett. Then I'd expect a fat bonus to come my way."
"Back to your desk Boone and work hard and the only thing fat around here is your smart alec lip."
"Whatever you say sir. Until tomorrow then Amy. For god sake wear a shorter dress and lipstick."
The shout rattled the flyspecked window that gave a dreary view out to a moss encrusted brick wall of the pressroom.
Boone left the room hastily, taking care not to slam the door.
This relationship between Boone and his editor would have appeared strange to Amy if she'd been aware the relationship socially was very friendly with her uncle calling Boone Harry and Boone calling his editor Toby.
Everyone in the long newsroom looked at Harry, having being distracted by the editor's angry shout.
"Back to your desk and finish that article Boone," called Mr Spencer the chief reporter. "You have been sacked have you?"
"No stir. I was called in to receive my usual commendation and to meet your new reporter."
"A commendation for what and what new reporter?"
"You will be advised in due course sir. As you know I have a growing reputation for being first with the news."
"Boone you tell me now or I'll screw off one of your ears and kick your ass."
"Please be gentle with me sir. I believe Mr Bassett shared this information with me about the new reporter in confidence. You told us in training sessions as reporters we must never breach a confidence."
"Yes you fool but that does apply when I need to know something."
"Well you won't have long to wait sir. She starts in the morning."
"She!" Mr Spencer almost yelped.
A buzz raced around the room. Even Jack Smith the racing editor, who was having a nap having been at the racecourse that morning at 5 a.m. to observe time trials of horses being prepared for races on Saturday, sat up straight to listen to discussion on this startling revelation.
Harry bashed away with two fingers on the black battered Imperial typewriter, finishing his article based on his interview that had began at 8:20 of the new Chief Postmaster on his first day on the job.
Mr Archibald had predicted that within a few years practically all mail would be delivered at centers around the country by airplanes.
Asked if that would make the mail trains obsolete he'd replied, "I don't believe so. The Railways is a Government department and Governments don't declare their unionized employers redundant. The mail trains will be given another name and people who staff them will have their duties redefined. For example perhaps they will be called flower trains because they take flowers to markets or butter trains because that take butter to ports for shipment to markets overseas."
The Chief Postmaster was asked couldn't airplanes also take flowers to markets and he replied, "I daresay that could happen. I hadn't thought of that. Perhaps there will be redundancies."
The young reporter took his article, typed double-spaced on to one side of A5 sized paper, the article being submitted now called 'copy', and dropped it into the wire basket called 'the copy box' on the chief reporter's desk and a carbon copy into another box in case it was deemed good enough to be edited and taken to the Post Office to be telegraphed to the national news agency in Wellington that supplied subscribing newspapers in New Zealand and also subscribing foreign news agencies.
Mr Spencer took the ten pages held together with a paperclip and said quietly, "What's her name Harry?"
"I don't have a girlfriend sir."
"No you fool. This new female reporter."
"It's starts with 'A' sir." Harry whispered and turned away.
"Boone get your butt out of this office and go and find us a front page lead story. Leads don't have to be always written by senior reporters. Earn your wages."
Scowling and playing with his pencil moustache, the chief reporter looked at the story in his hand about the new Chief Postmaster predicting the demise of mail trains. Mr Spencer realized he was holding that day's lead story providing nothing of greater moment turned up.
"How did that insolent young jerk manage to screw something like this out of a senior civil servant like a Chief Postmaster who traditionally are as tight-lipped as the Queen's portrait on a postage stamp," he muttered.
Harry went to the illustrations department and asked for a photographer.
"What's the assignment?" asked the surly illustrations editor Nick Smith, working on a crossword puzzle.
"I've been asked by the chief reporter to go out and find today's lead story."
"You poor sod, that's his method of getting you out of the newsroom because it embarrasses him seeing you sitting on your bum and not knowing what to do."
"I've already written the new Chief Postmaster story."
"Oh you did that? Frank said that was a great interview."
"Thanks Mr Smith."
"You cheeky prick. I wasn't complimenting you. I don't compliment reporters; in fact I don't give reporters the time of day. Now piss off."
"I want a photographer."
"Well you're not getting one, savvy?"
"In that case I'll have to report your refusal to Mr Spencer. I understand Mr Spencer was your sergeant during the Korean War?"
Nick gave Harry a murderous look and yelled, "Jack out here with a camera and go with Boone on roving assignment."
The cadet photographer Jack Reynolds walked off with Harry very excited, saying he'd never been on a roving assignment.
"What do we do?"
"We keep our eyes open for the slightest lead."
"What a woman's dress falling down?"
Harry sighed and said it was unlikely Jack would ever become an ace photographer if he thought flippantly like that.
"Sorry Harry. I wasn't aware you could be serious."
They walked the streets without the slightest sniff of anything unusual and Harry noticed no woman's skirts were falling down.
They were almost back to the office when it happened.
A guy rode along slowly on an old Indian motorcycle and stopped just up from Ben and Jack, pulled a revolver out of the pocket of his ex-Army trench coat and fired four shots into the Penny Arcade across the road. He'd remained standing still astride his idling motorcycle.
One bullet hit a woman in a white dress in the chest and she screamed and fell, blood appearing. She lay still and silent.
People shouted and screamed.
"Oh shit," Jack said.
"Take a shot of the gunman, do it now," Harry ordered.
Jack reacted well and did that.
"No get much closer... take a full frame (35mm) shot.
Jack did that, getting quite close.
The gunman saw Jack and aimed and shot him.
"Jesus," cried Harry, darting forward to the fallen Jack who was groaning.
Two guys aged about forty, were grappling with the guy.
Two women were bent over Jack and Harry thought they had a chance of helping Jack more than he could. He picked up Jack's dropped camera and went in real close and took one exposure as the gunman in the struggle fired two more shots into the air.
He saw Harry who was only a little over six feet away, aimed and pulled the trigger.
Harry froze and heard the gun click and then saw the two men finally pulled the big guy off his motorcycle and leap on him.
Harry turned and rushed back to Jack who'd taken a bullet in the chest.
His eyes were glazed and he said softly, "I'm done for Harry. Please tell mom and dad and Jill I love them and always will."
"Hold on Harry, and ambulance will be come."
"Let me at him son," said Mr Livingston the chemist.
"I'm an ex-Army nurse. Let me help," said a woman who crouched down beside Mr Livingston.
Harry, feeling terrible, took that photo. He then took a photo of the exterior of the Penny Arcade, amazed how clearly he was thinking.
He then rushed over to the arcade and photographed people around the dead woman, at least she looked dead and women bystanders were weeping. Jack went inside a little way. People were still screaming and he photographed a woman with a scarf trying to stem blood from a guy's ear. He'd been shot along the side of the head.
Jack entered the cashier's booth that was empty, grabbed the phone and called the chief reporter.
"Bert (Mr Spencer) it's Harry. There's been a big shoot up at the Penny Arcade. I had Jack with me and he's dying. The maniac shot him while Jack was taking his photo. One woman is dead. Get photographers and reporters down here fast. I grabbed Jack's camera and took half a dozen photos so alert Nick (Mr Smith) I'm coming in."
Harry slammed the phone down before the chief reporter had uttered a word and rushed outside where a huge crowd had gathered. With relief he saw Jack was being lifted into one of the two ambulances. Well it was now over to the medics.
Running back to the office around a corner two streets away Jack saw two Times photographers running flat out down the street and two reporters not far behind them. They just waved and he didn't shout out in fear of diverting them.
Harry was still amazed how calm he was and in his mind he saw the first minute of that dreadful shooing flicking over in his mind time and time again.
He raced up the stairs and into the newsroom and shouted, "Jack could be done for... bullet in the chest... very close range."
Nick Smith raced up, hands outstretched. "Give me the camera buddy. You did brilliantly Harry. Guys like you saved our butts during the war."
Bert Spencer came up and held out his coat. "Put this on Harry and keep calm. Shock could hit you any time soon. Terry just phoned to confirm what you said about the shoot-up. Drink this. It's milk with a slug of brandy. Sit down here and just quietly tell me what you saw and I'll write the story, your story. It's best we do it this way."
Harry was almost through when shock hit him. He shook and his voice quavered badly.
"Sorry boss," he said and began sobbing.
"Harry it's fine. You're young and learning. Nothing like this has ever happened to you before. Just sit quietly for a couple of minutes and led my assistant Brenda hug you."
"What about Jack?"
"No news but let's think no news is good news. Police confirm the assailant is in custody. He was dismissed from working at the arcade yesterday after being drunk and sexually assaulting the cashier. Sergeant Rowland said it's thought the guy was a sniper during the war. Thank god he wasn't armed with a rifle."
Harry said, "Continued holding me Brenda. I think you are helping to calm me. Let's continue with my story boss. I can still see the images. God I hope they don't stay with me."
A photographer took a photo of Jack in Brenda's arms and dictating to Bert who had an old-fashion visor shading his eyes from the overhead lights as he typed. It was one of the photos that appeared in that afternoon's 'Home' edition and Final edition of the newspaper. The 'Country' edition missed the big event because its print-roll had finished half an hour before the shooting and the 'paper cars' were already delivering those newspapers to rural towns and individual rural subscribers.
Harry had been a member of the city's camera club for three years so his photos had come out fine. Jack's had too and amazingly Jack had taken a photo of the guy about to shoot him.
The newspaper reported Jack had been badly wounded and was unconscious and his condition was critical.
As soon as Harry and Bert were clear, they took a cab to the hospital. Illustrations editor Nick Smith had gone on ahead of them.
Nick told Bert and Harry that there had been no change in Jack's condition but he'd spoken to Harry's mother and the chief surgeon had told her Jack had survived long enough to suggest he had a fighting chance of pulling through the trauma.
At that Harry remembered one think he'd forgotten when dictating the story.
He moved away from the group and followed the signs to the critical care unit.
A severe looking woman said only immediate family members were allowed beyond her station.
"Could you please ask Jack Reynolds family to come out here so I can talk to them."
The senior nurse took a close look at Harry and held up that afternoon's newspaper and said, "This is you isn't it, Harry Boone?"
"Wendy takeover please."
Another nurse came forward and the senior nurse took Harry to the room where Jack's family and their church clergyman were gathered, drinking tea.
"Omigod, it's Harry Boone," cried Jack's mother who had read the stories on the front page and all of page three about the shooting. "I really don't wish to hear sympathy or about this ghastly shooting," Mrs Reynolds said.
"Jack gave me a message for you before he fell unconscious."