Dom Cosentino’s Tuesday began in a bed not his own, which was pretty routine for the lanky sportswriter. This was the third Tuesday in a row he had woken up beside the bartender from Professor Thom’s, having flirted rather than pay any attention to the previous evening’s Monday Night Football, and as he lay there contemplating last night’s vigorous sex, he grinned at the ceiling. Petchesky’s gonna be $50 lighter again this week, Dom mused.

“Nnnnnhh,” the body next to him sighed. Dom turned to the sound and propped himself on an elbow.

“It’s almost ten. I’m gonna have a shower,” said Dom ruefully, “Join me?”

Quinn rolled to his back, cracked a sleepy eyelid, and shook his head slightly. “I’m sleeping in, stupid, remember?” the bartender whispered.

“I forgot.” Dom flashed a toothy smile, and kissed Quinn’s ear. He slipped out of bed and trundled off to the bathroom. Dom was grateful to Craggs for giving him until 11:00 to show up at the office, and he had put his extra morning hours to good use. Besides Quinn, Dom was casually seeing two others, juggling dinners and drinks among them by means of expert scheduling. There was Arun, long, dark, and loud, who worked at the Met; then Hayward, nearly twenty years Cosentino’s senior, whose family money kept him happily and lucratively unemployed; and then there was Quinn, seven years younger than Dom’s thirty-two, but light years ahead of him in the bedroom. Quinn was Dom’s favorite.

Cosentino’s shower ended and he got dressed while Quinn snoozed away. He kissed him goodbye, I’ll call you later this week, and left the small Brooklyn apartment. The trip into Manhattan was quick at this time of day, and Cosentino hummed to himself as he trained his way north.

Dom entered Deadspin’s offices at 10:58 AM and was immediately slapped in the face by a wall of chemical odor. What the hell were those cleaning people using these days? Other than the smell, everything seemed normal enough: Ley and Petchesky at their desks typing away; Scocca shooting office basketball, zoned out to his iPod; Craggs working the phone, cigarette drooping from his mouth; the Jezzies cackling at some raccoon video. He walked to his desk opposite Ley’s and dropped his leather satchel into the chair.

“What’s up, dudes? It smells like a morgue in here,” said Dom.

“Really fucking funny, Cosentino,” Barry drawled. “You need to talk to Craggs. He’s got something for you.”

Dom was more alarmed than surprised. Had he found out about what happened in Pittsburgh? Who could have guessed that Andrew McCutcheon was so heavily into S&M? It wasn’t Dom’s fault the guy had a duct-tape allergy. Andrew had said as much. “What about?” Dom asked nervously.

“Like I fucking know?” Barry snorted. What was Petchesky’s deal today? And Jesus, Ley, the kid looks like he hasn’t seen the sun in years.

“You alright, Tom?” Cosentino quizzed, “You didn’t seem so bad last night. Not like Jaeger-Barry over here.”

Ley looked up from his monitor, blinked, and said flatly, “Get fucked, Cosentino.”

Dom nodded, shrugged, and walked to Craggs’ office. Cigarette in hand, the editor was staring across the desk at Sam Eifling, Dom’s understudy. Oh Shit, Dom slouched, what is Eifling doing here? Eifling had started at Deadspin almost four months ago, having been forced on Craggs and the rest of the writers by John Cook, who owed Sam’s father a murky and—if Marchman was to be believed—unwholesome favor. Eifling hated the job, and everyone hated Eifling, who insisted on wearing the same brown suit and piano-key tie to work every day. The kid was a creative writing major at NYU, and he viewed a journalistic internship as a tragic hamstringing of his divine, artistic talent. An artistic talent that required ten words when six would suffice. In my novel … seemed to begin most of Sam’s verbal communication. Eifling. Christ.

“You wanna see me, sir?” Dom asked, looking away from Sam.

“Yeah, Dom, have a seat. Smoke?” Craggs proffered the red box across the desk, and Dom politely declined. The editor put the pack away and clicked his teeth. “I want you to take Sam here and go see a source. A very important source. This is dark matter, Dom, you got me?, and we need to exercise a lot of caution. Our source calls himself The Mason, and he says he’s got some interesting information regarding the NFL and CTE.”

Dom was puzzled. “Why not send McCarthy? I thought he was the head-trauma guy.”

Craggs dragged the last of his smoke, stabbed out the butt, and exhaled. “McCarthy called in sick today. Tom and Barry are working a story on some dipshit in San Francisco, and Sean and Samer won’t be in until later. The Mason wants to meet now.”

Dom looked from Craggs to Eifling and back to Craggs. “Why take him?” he asked the editor.

“He volunteered,” Craggs chuckled. “Anyway, you’re meeting the Mason in Hell’s Kitchen as soon as you two can get there. I gave him your cell, and he’ll contact you when you get off the train. I suggest you leave immediately.”

Dom and Sam rose to leave. Dom didn’t mind an excursion like this, but toting Eifling along soured his stomach. As they descended in the elevator, Dom turned to Sam, “Why’d you volunteer for this? Assumed you’d be up there glued to the corner of Callie’s desk.”

“Research,” Eifling said matter-of-factly, “for my novel.”

Dom rolled his eyes and shut up at that. Prick. At length, the elevator doors opened, and the writer and his understudy strode out through the lobby and into the beauty of late fall on Elizabeth Street, Manhattan.