Clisty turned around and looked for Jake, assuming he was still in the courthouse. The hour was late. He had taken personal time off from the police department to be with her during the trial, so he wasn’t on duty. He didn’t have to report in, but she didn’t see him anywhere.
“Have you seen Jake?” she asked Clint as she helped him collect his camera gear.
“No,” he said off handed and then added, “oh, wait. He said he had talked to someone here in the hall and thought he’d better check in at police headquarters. He said he’ll meet you at the TV station after the eleven o’clock news.”
She looked toward the door, half expecting to see him wave on his way out. He was nowhere. He left without saying anything—Jake was gone. Who did he talk to? Why did the conversation cause him to leave?
“Clisty Sinclair,” the man in the suit reached out his hand in greeting. He was impeccably dressed in dark suit, black shirt and tie.
“Yes,” she acknowledged as she continued to look beyond the doors. Turning back to the suit man, she apologized. “I’m sorry. I was looking for Detective Davis just as you came up.” She tilted her head a little, puzzled, and asked, “Is there something I can do for you?”
“I was talking to Davis while you were helping your camera man pack the equipment. The detective was very interested in your career,” the man offered with open arms, then clapped them together—the non-verbal message? All is settled.
“You talked to him?” Clisty wasn’t sure she liked that. A total stranger was discussing her career with Jake. “Who did you say you were? What can I do for you?”
“We are hoping there is something we can do for you, Miss Sinclair.” He pulled a business card from his inner jacket pocket and handed it to her. “I’m Victor Rogers, Vice President of the network … your network.”
Clisty’s mouth dropped open; she covered it with her hand. “Mr. Rogers,” she stammered and shook his hand again. “I am so sorry. I had no idea a representative of the network was in town. Did you see us film the remote?”
“Yes, we are very interested in your work. Bradley Funderbird had spoken to you on the phone, but he wanted me to come to Indiana to talk to you in person. He has an amended offer he wants me to go over with you.”
“Funderbird?” Becca asked as she walked closer. “I’ve heard that name before.”
“Yes you have,” Clisty said. “When he called the first time, I talked to you about him. He’s the president of the network,” she said as she studied Becca’s expression. Maybe her friend would be able to help her find the answers she needed.
“From what I’ve seen, Brad has found another star ... in you, Clisty,” Rogers picked up her hand and shook it, affirming her work. Recognition from New York was pretty heady stuff for an Indiana girl.
“Thank you.” She looked at Becca, hoping to get a clue of what was going on inside her head. She turned back to Rogers, “You said, ‘an amended offer.’ What does that mean?”
“Mr. Funderbird is sensing that you may not want to actually move to New York permanently. So, he is proposing a change in logistics. Your research team will be in New York. They will email all the information to you here in Fort Wayne. Obviously, you will have to go to the mid-western town in which your story takes place and spend a day filming, interviewing, gathering video, regardless of where your base is. You’ll write your interview questions and finished story in an office right here in Fort Wayne and email it all to New York. You’ll electronically send all video to the network office. They’ll edit it and prepare it for viewing during the weekly News Magazine. You can even choose your own film crew and back-up team, local researcher and secretary.” He looked at Becca and Clint. “You can film your segment from the studio right here in Fort Wayne. There may be an occasional reason why you would need to go to New York, but we’ll arrange plenty of time for Broadway plays and shopping while you’re there.”
Clisty looked at Becca who was near the bursting point then back at Rogers “That sounds wonderful. But … there’s another person I want to talk to first.”
“Clisty!” Becca burst out.
Clisty waved her hand in measured beats. “It’s okay, Becca, but I really want to run this all by someone else before I make a major change. I like the feeling that there are other people in my life and I want to respect that.”
“Your agent and attorney?” Rogers guessed. “We’ll be happy to forward all contracts and agreements to them. You should have professionals look over the paperwork. But it’s your decision—it’s all up to you. Miss Sinclair, I’d say you’re the one holding the microphone this time.”
Clisty and Becca hugged and jumped up and down. Stoic Clint smiled broadly and did his own version of jumping, within the limits of his earth-bound feet. “We all get a huge career boost,” Becca squealed.
“That’s wonderful … but it sure puts increased tension on my decision,” Clisty frowned.
Becca looked at her in disbelief. “You mean, with all that the network is offering, it still doesn’t guarantee a ‘yes’ from you?” Her voice sounded irritated.
“I love everything I hear from the network,” Clisty turned back to Rogers. “I really do. I just want to talk to Jake first.” She resisted the urge to answer without honoring the growing relationship she had with Jake. She wanted to say “yes, of course,” but would her disregard of Jake’s feelings and opinion harm their relationship? “That doesn’t mean I’ll let Jake answer for me.” She turned back to Becca. “You know me better than that.” She raised both hands in a gesture of finality. “I just don’t want him to hear about the job after I have already decided.”
“Fantastic,” Rogers looked up to the ceiling in relief. “I trust you Clisty Sinclair. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t offer you a contract … and here it is.” He handed her a portfolio. “Take it to your attorney and either mail it back as quickly as you can, or hand-carry it to New York. The News Magazine team would love to meet you.”
“I like the last idea,” Clisty said as she smiled. Thoughts of New York in the spring fluttered through her head like butterflies around pastel colored flowers in a Central Park garden. The City could be magical.
“Just one more thing,” Rogers began.
“Oh no, here it comes,” Becca jibed.
“No changes from the offer.” Rogers threw up both hands in surrender and laughed.
“Then what?” Clisty asked.
“Mr. Funderbird would like you to use the new signoff tonight on your news program as you wind up Faith Sterling’s story.”
Clisty stopped for a moment. “I will, if it’s okay with my station boss, the General Manager. I haven’t even told him about this promotion.” She thumped her finger tips to her forehead. “Good grief. I’ll have to give notice.”
“Mr. Funderbird will take care of that. He’ll make sure the stories you cover in the first two months of the News Magazine are as near to the Fort Wayne area as possible. That way you can still do the local news, at least the late edition. The station will have two months to find your replacement and you’ll be able to transition slowly and smoothly.”
“You’ll be busy, Clisty,” Becca acknowledged, and encouraged her, “but you can do it ... if you really want to.”
“It sounds doable,” Clisty clapped her hands together, a small attempt to cheer herself on.
“Here is the sign-off for tonight’s news,” Rogers said as he handed her a piece of paper. He pointed to the portfolio. “And, your contract, have it read by professionals.” He patted her arm and smiled. “I’ll leave you now. I have just enough time to make my flight.” He took her hand again. “We will connect from New York for your eleven o’clock news using the online link from your station’s website. We all hope to hear the new sign-off. Then we’ll know we will see you in New York soon.” He turned and walked quickly toward the door, turned and waved.
“Yes, yes!” Clisty sang out with excitement.
“Clisty, I cannot believe it! I’m so excited I could bust!” Becca waved her arms around in the air, celebrating. Then she grabbed hold of Clisty’s sleeve and pulled. “Why are you hesitating? Jake has no say in your job.”
“I know that,” she stated firmly. “He has no right to tell me what to do and I’m not going to let him. I just want him to be part of the excitement, not a bystander to a parade he wasn’t invited to join.”
“Well, okay,” Becca agreed as she checked the large clock on the wall. “Hey, we’d better move, too. Clint and I will drop you off at your place so you can rest before the eleven o’clock news. I’ll pick you up later and take you to the station for the broadcast since your car is there already. Dan can handle the early evening edition solo.”
Clisty threw her head back and laughed. “He’ll be happy about that. He seems to be feeling left out lately.” Clisty’s smile grew as she walked toward the door, aware she was walking into a great adventure.
“I wonder how Dan will take the news of your promotion,” Clint added.
“I don’t even want to think about that now,” Clisty shuddered, “except to say, I don’t want anyone to brag or talk to him in a superior tone. It was Faith Sterling’s resurrection from the dead, not anything we did, that gave us this opportunity. We just followed the story and brought her home.”
• • • • •
“I’m glad you got here before air time,” Clisty said breathlessly as Jake came into the station. “I got ready for the broadcast and have been watching for you.”
“I’m here. This sounds serious, Clisty,” his face grew sober as he planted both feet firmly on the tile floor.
“It is,” she ran her fingers down the front of his jacket. “It’s good news for me.”
“Then, is it good news for me, too?”
“Jake, I can’t be one of those women who give up their identity to be absorbed by the man in her life.” She looked up and met his eyes. “I cannot walk behind you, and I have no desire to walk ahead of you. If we can’t walk together, side-by-side … we can’t walk at all.”
“Now wait a minute, Clisty.” His face did not change to anger or defensiveness. But, his point was clear and loving. “I can’t be one of those guys who are so insecure that they have to force the woman in their life to give up who she is to be with him. I want you to walk beside me, Clisty. I depend on you and you depend on me, out of love, not out of coercion. We are perfectly capable of depending on ourselves.” He smiled and put his arms around her, picking her up completely off the floor. “It is just so much more fun being with you, than always being the lone wolf of Fort Wayne. I have you and you have me.”
“You definitely have me,” Clisty assured him. “She pulled close and their kiss was warm and tender. Then she added, “I just happen to also have a great job too, that I’m really going to enjoy.”
“Oh no,” Becca moaned. “Don’t mess up your make-up.”
“I’m fine, Becca,” Clisty said as she nuzzled her head in Jake’s chest and laughed.
“So, by all the display of affection, I assume she told you about our promotions,” she bubbled.
“Becca,” Clisty scolded as she stood back. “You’re rushing things.”
“No,” Jake replied. “I just know, I want what Clisty wants.”
“Oh great,” Becca teased, “then having Fort Wayne as her base, choosing Clint and me as her local and network team, hiring a researcher and secretary, and going to New York every once in a while, mostly to play, are just unimportant details of the job?”
“Oh, thank goodness,” Jake sighed loudly, threw both arms in the air and seemed to go weak-kneed. “Praise the Lord!”
“Yeah, right, you just wanted what Clisty wanted all along.” Becca rolled her eyes and laughed.
“I understand, Jake,” Clisty agreed as she pretended to prop him up. “I have been feeling the same way! It had to work out for both of us or it couldn’t work at all.”
“Come on, Clisty,” Becca urged. “No time for all of that.” She took her by the arm and coaxed her away from Jake. “You’d better get used to rushing about, at least for the next few months,” she directed Clisty toward the studio. ““It’s almost time for the news.”
Clisty, Becca and Clint went into the studio and Jake watched from the studio window. It would be the local wrap-up of Faith’s story. They took their places and Dan Drummond slid onto the first anchor seat.
“You’ve had quite a day … actually, quite a week,” Dan acknowledged. His friendly tone was a relief to Clisty. The lights went on and they began.
The newscast that night had progressed through the local high school sports scores and the weather for area. Dan Drummond reported on a three car pile-up on I-469 near exit 25, with the help of a film crew that provided video from the site.
Clisty gave her report of the trial of Ezra Stratton, including the video filmed after the verdict came in. There was a minute left in the broadcast. Clisty had read the announcement the network had given her many times, so she was prepared.
“The rest of Faith Sterling Stratton’s story is being edited and will comprise a segment for the Network News Magazine I’ve been asked to participate in.” She smiled with excitement into the camera. “In future segments we may follow another thread in Faith’s story, her experience in Illinois. Will our neighboring state bring additional charges against Ezra Stratton?”
Becca crossed her fingers behind the camera. Would Clisty make it official? Would she say the words Funderbird had written—the words that would promote them all? On the other side of the glass, Jake smiled a knowing smile.
“That is the News at Eleven. We thank you all for watching. Your interest in the lives of those in northeast Indiana is what makes our newscast a success. Some laughingly call the Midwest, fly-over country, implying that the only news of value happens on the two coasts. We know that isn’t true and our network has affirmed it. The Heartland, everything in the middle of America, is just that, the very heart of our great country. Beginning tonight, the President of the network has asked me to give special reports on each of the Network Weekly News Magazine programs. I’m signing off tonight with the closing for each of my contributions to that program.” She took a breath and relaxed. “This is Clisty Sinclair, with Stories from the Heartland.”