Tuesdays were no better than any other day of the week, and Craggs was beginning to regret mandating Monday Night Football viewing parties for the staff at Professor Thom’s two weeks ago. Last night’s turnout was abysmal, which only made Ley’s exuberance over that goddamn Willis or Gillis or whatever all the worse. Does that kid ever get laid? Craggs mused as he leaned himself back into the black leather of his Mercedes limousine. The memory of the previous night sparked another: Where the hell was Samer last night? The kid had blown off every Monday night game so far. Craggs put these worries aside and asked Barney, his driver, what was taking so long.
“Sorry, sir, traffic report says there’s a mini-bus abandoned up ahead here, so it’ll be a few minutes longer,” replied Barney. “They’re saying it’s Jets-themed, if you can believe it.” Barney chuckled and resumed his search for a country station. He settled on one when Garth Brooks’ croon came across the speakers. Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in boots, and ruined your black tie affair …
Tommy Craggs, Deadspin editor and station chief, entered the office at 9:17AM and immediately knew something was afoot. For starters, Reuben and Kyle were awake, which put them at work nearly three hours early. Further, the place stank of industrial-grade bleach and Simple Green cleaning solution. The malodorous alloy brought a flash of memory, long-since buried, that turned Craggs’ stomach and raised the hair on the back of his neck.
Daulerio. This is the stench of Daulerio’s legacy. All the bleach and all the Simple Green in all the world can’t cleanse the rot of that man’s awful memory; the smell only makes it worse. Fucking Daulerio. Craggs seethed.
The editor scanned the room quickly, trying to take in the chaos of movement across the writers’ pool: Reuben and Kyle in HazMat suits, mopping the floor near—Craggs believed—Dr. Matt’s desk; Ley speaking hurriedly and gesticulating wildly to Barry, who was returning fire in kind. And there, in the midst of the fracas, calmly sat McCarthy himself, leaning back in his chair, mouth slightly open, and wearing the most obnoxious pair of Ray-Ban aviators Craggs had ever seen.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON IN HERE?!” Craggs boomed. The shout froze everyone in their places. Craggs never shouted; in fact, the man hardly spoke to the writers. He seemed to communicate with his eyes and expression, which is why many called him—behind his back of course—“LaconiCraggs.”
Barry reacted first. He strode over to his editor, grabbed him by the arm, and guided him toward his office. “We need to talk,” Petchesky warned, “we’ve got a big fucking problem on our hands.”
Too surprised for protest, Craggs let himself be dragged into his office and sat at his desk. Barry opened the bottom-left drawer of the desk and pulled out Craggs’ personal bottle of J&B and two pewters. He slammed the bottle and snifters hard on the desk.
“You’re gonna want one of these, maybe two, by the time I’m done talking,” Barry said darkly.
“It’s 9:30 in the morning, BP, what the hell is wrong with you?” Craggs spat.
“Who the fuck cares what time it is?” Barry hissed, “with all due respect, sir.” He continued: “Something happened here last night and I need a scotch to help process it.”
“Ok …” Craggs said suspiciously, still entirely confused by the scene outside. He looked beyond Petchesky into the pool and saw Ley pointing at something near McCarthy’s feet. Reuben and Kyle were hunched over the spot—he couldn’t see what they were doing down there—while Dr. Matt sat in stony stillness, seemingly oblivious to the mayhem before him. Is McCarthy asleep? How could he sleep through all that? Craggs wondered, before Barry snapped him back.
“Alright, chief, here it is,” Barry slugged the J&B, winced, and continued: “when I got in this morning, I found McCarthy hunched over his desk. Not the first time the guy’s slept in the office, right? So I shake him and guess what? He’s fucking dead. He’s got a scalpel in his neck. Really dirty work, chief. I mean, the thing is in there good, and the precision—it’s almost admirable. Fish and Wagner are sniffing around for clues.”
Craggs felt like he had been punched in the gut, but he maintained his composure. Expressionless, he regarded Barry, retrieved a pack of Pall Mall Reds from his breast pocket, and bounced out a smoke. “Alright,” he said slowly and fired the cigarette. “Did you call the police?”
“No,” Petchesky said and refilled his pewter. “We were waiting for you.”
“That’s good,” said Craggs. He took a long drag and exhaled across the desk. “What have Reuben and Kyle found?”
“Not much, to be honest. A lot of blood, obviously, the scalpel, and—strange—they’re saying semen is matted in McCarthy’s hair. Ugly stuff, chief.”
Semen in McCarthy’s hair? Craggs was perplexed. Out of habit, he subtly reached under the desk and fondled the Colt .45 taped there. It soothed him to know he had that much firepower so close at hand. Bat-shit crazy as he was, Daulerio’s maxim had always stuck with Craggs: Deadspin’s editor needed a gun. The cold steel electrified his fingers. What the hell would Daulerio do here?
“Listen, chief,” Barry again, “The Jezzies’ll be here within the hour, and we need to figure out what to do with Dr. Matt. Reuben says he can clean him up alright, borrow some make-up or whatever from Emma’s old locker, but we gotta stow him somewhere before we do anything else.”
“Simple,” Craggs countered, “stick him down in Reuben and Kyle’s apartment. Wouldn’t be the first time we’ve done it.”
“They’re not gonna like it, chief.” Barry said.
Craggs stared hard at Barry.
“You’re right, sir,” Petchesky conceded, “screw what they think.”
“Good. Do it.” Craggs swiveled away in his chair, which was Barry’s cue to leave. As he rose, Petchesky remembered a question that was bothering him. “What was McCarthy working on, chief?”
Gazing out the window behind his desk, Craggs said flatly, “brain trauma.”
When Barry had left, Craggs got up, closed the office door, and dialed a number on his mobile. Drew Magary answered on the second ring.
“’Sup, Tommy?” Magary barked through what sounded like his breakfast cereal. Never one for propriety and social niceties, Drew was one of a handful of people who always called Craggs by his first name. That, and he seemed always to be shouting. “Little early for a friendly hello, isn’t it?”
“Hi, Drew. Are you on a secure line?” Craggs asked.
“Of course, Tommy, always.” Magary answered.
“Good. Listen, Matt McCarthy was murdered here last night. Got stuck with a surgeon’s scalpel in the back of the neck.”
“YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?!” Magary wailed.
“Yeah, Drew, but calm down. We’re handling it on our end. I’ve got a nasty feeling about this, though. Can you do some snooping around, find out who he might have pissed off?”
“Pissed off?” chided Drew, “Everyone and their mother with that Jermichael Finley thing. Hell, all of Green Bay is probably burning a McCarthy effigy as we speak. Fucking Packers fans, right?”
“This is serious shit, Magary,” Craggs spewed, “this isn’t some JV fan’s crime of passion. This is calculated and methodical, professional-grade work. There’s no forced entry, no sign of a struggle. Looks a lot like a contract job. Think you can quietly smoke out who’d want to hire a mechanic?”
Drew exhaled into the speaker. “I’ll see what I can do, Tommy.” Magary was calmer now, processing the debacle. That was good. The guy’s an asshole and a loose cannon, sure, but goddamn is he thorough. And he can be discreet when he needs to be.
“Thanks,” Craggs said. “Report back on what you have before midnight. Gonna be a busy day for all of us.”
“Tell me about it,” Drew sighed and hung up without saying goodbye.
Taking the J&B, Craggs left his office and strolled into the writers’ pool, which was empty now but still stunk to high heaven. Good thing they got him out of here. Craggs felt better with McCarthy’s corpse not sitting at his desk. The editor went downstairs to Reuben and Kyle’s apartment—formerly a storage space for backlogged hate mail, office supplies, and Leitch’s mammoth DVD collection—and entered without knocking. What met him would have been comical in other circumstances. Reuben and Kyle had propped Dr. Matt up on Reuben’s bunk, still wearing the aviators. Kyle was attempting to position McCarthy’s head upright with limited success. Barry and Tom looked on, disappointment dripping from their faces. “What’s with the sunglasses?” Craggs asked, slightly amused.
“His eyes are creepy as hell,” Wagner said, shuddering. “And this way, anyone who comes down here will think he’s just passed out. We hope.”
Craggs gave a grandfatherly nod and offered Kyle the J&B. At the sight of the bottle Wagner recoiled protesting, “God no, sir, I’ve thrown up three times already.” Craggs shrugged and took a draw.
The editor swallowed hard. “Alright boys, let’s have it. What do we know so far?”