Tim Burke sat before a bank of screens and keyboards in his home office, wincing at the voicemail from his editor. Before deleting, he replayed the message to make sure he well understood Craggs' directions. As ever, Tommy was deliberate in his imperatives, if rather cryptic.
"Hey Tim, thanks again for getting us in touch with your landscaper. He does good work. Say, I'm having Petchesky email you some research materials that could use a second opinion. Would you mind taking a look and drafting a tentative post on the NFL and its relationship with brain trauma experts? Also, check in with Magary: seems he's also got a pest problem."
Burke massaged his temples and sighed. Pest problem? In the hours since Craggs' first call, Tim had grown more and more anxious. McCarthy's sudden death had shaken him, to be sure, but the editor's request for a hatchet man was downright abject. What macabre shit was Craggs stirring up there? A sudden email alert shook him from this reverie, and Burke set back to work.
Ley and Petchesky had been thorough. Their report included an introductory synopsis that laid out the files' contents and compilers' initial reactions. They even constructed a narrative of sorts. Burke silently thanked them as he began reading:
Contained herein are the last three months of Dr. Matthew McCarthy's tenure at Deadspin. This dossier includes: (1) drafts and completed articles for Regressing, (2) email correspondence, (3) transcribed interviews, and (4) a narrative as drawn up by BP and TL. The compilers' initial reactions are as follows: when the 2013 NFL season began, Dr. McCarthy became immersed in CTE research as it relates to sustained brain trauma in the National Football League. McCarthy's researches led him to the acquaintance of a certain 'Deep Threat' (hereon, DT), a valuable source with seemingly unrestricted access to the League's offices and CTE documents. DT eventually provided McCarthy with a list of players and their likelihood of experiencing a psychotic episode (see below, §2.44). It goes without say that this information—and further documents to be provided by DT, but never delivered—would crush the League's posture regarding safety measures, medical support, and overall demeanor pertaining to CTE. The compilers are of the opinion that such sensitive material placed McCarthy in extreme personal danger (see esp. ex. §2.27 & §2.28).
Burke's stomach turned. How did Dr. Matt get in so deep? he muttered. Beyond the office window the Gulf Coast sky was darkening into a menacing purple-gray. Hot wind whipped leaves and Spanish moss off the palms, littering the backyard's sawgrass. Tidal waves played in miniature across the pool. Tim slumped and recalled Glenn Danzig's challenge: Let's test your threshold of pain; let's see how long you last …
Before he began drafting the CTE exposé, Burke put in a call to Drew Magary. He and the freelancer had met only once in person, at the previous February's Super Bowl party in New York. Tim reflected whimsically on that night: Drew slamming Jack and gingers, loudly lamenting a bad back and the havoc it wreaked on his mornings. Magary had cornered him late in the night, whiskey crawling on his breath, and expounded for thirty minutes on how Tim might improve his softball team's playoff chances that coming spring. "Do you know how to steal signs?" Drew had asked, and Burke had mumbled something about having to piss before sprinting back to his hotel room.
Shaking off the memory of that hangover, he dialed Magary's number wondering what pest the lanky columnist had unearthed.
"This is Drew Magary," the writer shouted down the phone.
"Drew, this is Tim Burke. Craggs said to give you a—"
"Hell yeah! How ya doin', Tim?" Drew was seemingly speaking from the middle of a tornado. Wind howled into his speaker.
Not particularly in the mood for catching up, Tim sidestepped the attempt at congeniality and said, "Tommy says you have some information."
"Yeah, this is some fucked up shit," Magary bellowed over what sounded like maniacal dog barking. "Apparently, last Friday, the League office paid a hundred large to a special consultant based in Vancouver. Brought him to New York, wined and dined, the whole shebang."
"Consultant?" Tim asked, confused.
"That's what I'm getting from my guy. Pretty shady character, too. And the weird part is, the guy seems to have no real attachment to American football. Canadian special forces trained, if dude is believed." Magary seemed on the verge of laughter at this.
Burke, annoyed: "What the hell is so funny, Drew?"
Magary, defensive: "Woah, I'm just saying, it seems fucking nuts, you know?"
"You know what's fucking nuts?!" Burke exploded, "Deadspin's head editor purchasing the services of a hired gun this very morning! You know what's also fucking nuts? Suspicious persons with murky backgrounds appearing in New York mere days before Matt McCarthy is done in by professional hands!" Tim was steamed. Pieces were falling into place faster than he could focus on the picture as a whole. He could squint and see vague contours of the event—the murder itself—but his mind was ten steps ahead of that now: the why?
"Alright, Tim, Christ, I'm sorry." Magary backpedaled, sensing Burke's ire.
Tim exhaled. "This guy got a trade name or something?"
Drew composed himself. Whatever climate-related event was transpiring on his end had ceased, much to Burke's relief. "Yeah, my guy just called him Doug."
"How goddamn helpful of him," Tim scowled, hung up the phone, and dropped it on the floor. Doug—whoever he was—seemed to fill a hole in the McCarthy Report, but before he was certain, Burke had some reading to do.