Tommy Craggs was having a horrific Tuesday. The sting of the morning's traffic jam and subsequent tardiness had festered into a necrotic mess of homicide and betrayal. What was Eifling's angle? Craggs stewed; he had a nasty feeling that Sam's venality wasn't unique within the newsroom, but who else could have been bought? Eifling. That mendicant ass. Gazing out his office window, the editor contemplated the McCarthy shit-storm as black clouds rolled in from the west.
"Sir?" Petchesky was asking. Craggs had called Barry and Tom into counsel as soon as Newell had checked in. The scene Sean described in the basement had wracked Craggs into a fit of action, and before the editor left for Hell's Kitchen, he needed Petchesky and Ley to do some research.
Craggs spun around and stabbed out his cigarette in the ashtray. He blew a cloud at the ceiling and addressed his writers: "I want you to go through the previous month of McCarthy's drafts and email correspondence. Cull anything related to CTE and compile a flow chart: league sources on one branch, medical-affiliated on another, all others on a third. Establish an hour-by-hour timeline." Barry and Tom glanced at each other inquisitively. "I wish I could tell you more, but I'm as confused as you probably are. Get going; I'm heading over to help Sean clean up at B-Side. We might have a better picture of all this when I get back." The editor dismissed them and called for Samer.
"You should get to the airport," Craggs said before Samer had a chance to sit. "Take my car," he directed and hunted through the desk for paper and pen. He scrawled something down and handed it to Kalaf. "Display this at baggage claim; our man will find you."
Samer studied the name and read it aloud, "Ray Sizzomb?"
Craggs shrugged sympathetically. "That's what he wants to go by; like I said, he'll find you. Call me for instructions when you leave LaGuardia." Samer nodded and left the editor's office.
Tommy Craggs rose to leave. He pondered bringing the gun but thought better of it. Strolling around Manhattan—much less entering a crowded bar—with a loaded firearm could spell unwanted trouble. Daulerio had been far more reckless, Craggs reflected, and his luck had unsurprisingly run out; in truth, it was amazing A.J. lasted as long as he did. Will I live to see the end of the day? Craggs mused as the elevator descended.
It was pissing rain outside, so the editor hailed a cab to B-Side. He calmly entered and ignored the bony hostess. He stopped at the bar, bought a J&B shot, and continued to the rear stairwell. He tried to imagine Newell's ordeal not one hour earlier and shivered as he reached the hallway. It looked exactly as Sean had described, and as he approached the dank office he called out, "It's just me, Sean, I'm alone."
Newell poked his head out of the doorway, "Hey, chief, hope you haven't eaten anything today. Pretty fucked up in here."
Craggs blinked and entered the cramped space. Silently he surveyed the scene: the low ceiling and walls were yellowed from years of cigarette smoke; cracked and faded Knicks posters hung on whatever wall space wasn't occupied by file cabinets and book shelves; paperwork cluttered the desk and floor; in one corner Eifling lay slumped, bleeding from his temple. Newell kicked at the pockmarked carpet.
"You did what you could, Sean," the editor said, "thank you."
Newell nodded, "I couldn't save them, sir. Like I said, it all happened so fast."
Craggs touched his shoulder. "It's alright, really." He considered Sean for a moment and then directed his attention to the center of the room. He squatted for closer inspection, jaw clenched. Dom and the Mason had been bound back-to-back on the floor. Cosentino's left hand was missing two fingers, and both men had been shot twice square in the face. The backs of their skulls had exploded into one another, and bloody gray matter puddled around them. "Jesus," the editor groaned and rose. "Where's the package?"
Newell fished a letter-sized manila envelope from his jacket. "I didn't open it; it says 'for McCarthy's eyes only'."
The editor took the envelope and ripped it open. He skimmed the hand-written note and let out a long, low whistle. The brief contents read:
Matt, here are four names and their likelihood of experiencing a psychotic episode due to sustained brain trauma: R. Lewis, 71%; D. Woodhead, 68%; J. Finley, 66%; P. Harvin, 62%. As I said, these numbers come directly from the league office. I can supply more two weeks from today.
Craggs lifted his eyes to Newell, who stood awkwardly, trying to ignore the bodies in the room. The editor took out his lighter, put flame to a corner of the note and dropped it in the wastebasket.
"What's it say?" Newell, hesitantly.
Craggs, flatly: "Football is a dangerous sport." At that,
the editor's phone vibrated in his breast pocket. He looked at the screen and
felt comforted: the man from Tampa had landed in New York.