A Bad Place Full Of Bad Jerks

The Deadliest Spin: A Noire Serial Fiction (Part 12)

Barry Petchesky cast a disbelieving eye over the day's events and shook his head. Goddamn incredible, he muttered to himself, stirring cold coffee and gazing out the window in Craggs' office. To anyone passing by, Barry was merely catching a break while watching the storm outside. Internally, however, the sportswriter was awash in stifling confusion and rudderless anger.

After emailing the fruits of his and Tom's labors to Burke, Petchesky had taken a call from Craggs, who issued ill-boding instructions. The editor asked that, as the workday came to a close, Barry discreetly hold Callie back on some innocuous request. In this way, Craggs might confront her unobstructed by others in the newsroom. According to the editor, there was no doubt that Callie and Sam had been working in tandem against Deadspin, selling trade secrets and attempting to generate internecine strife. In the former matter, they had been quite successful—if Eifling was to be believed—pocketing upwards of $7,000 over the course of that fall. In the latter, Barry needed only to recall the previous week's row over a deadline dispute with Ley. Apparently Eifling had surreptitiously switched a 9:30 AM publishing time to PM, and as Tom's direct supervisor at the sports desk, Barry had lost it when the morning post failed to appear. The fight had ended with Craggs fielding a formal complaint from Ley, who stated that Petchesky's verbal abuse had crossed into personal insult, and any further confrontation would effectively end Tom's hitherto pristine tenure at the office.

Barry blinked away regret and pondered how to cajole a woman he hardly knew into staying late for a job she didn't particularly like. In the end, a solution presented itself in the form of Callie's umbrella, which Barry purloined while she attended a late-day brainstorming session with Jezebel's deputy editor. The downpour had only intensified outside, and Petchesky was certain that the prospect of a drenching dash to the nearest train would pin Callie down in the Elizabeth Street office for at least thirty minutes. By which time, Craggs would return with a head full of scalding distrust. Barry felt not the least bit sorry for Callie, who had willingly punched her ticket and in so doing, had directly contributed to the death of Matt McCarthy.


5:00 came and went, and Callie gathered her things to leave. Petchesky sat at his desk, seemingly immersed in knuckleball research. Ley was downstairs in the lobby, ready to greet Eifling and his escort, so Barry and Callie were alone.

"Where's my umbrella?" Callie asked herself, frustrated.

Barry glanced up from his book, and casually said, "I'm sorry?"

"My umbrella," Callie sighed, "it was right here."

"Hmmm," Barry feigned vague concern, but his senses were on high alert. He couldn't let on that a trap had been laid, and Callie was stumbling blindly into its maw. "You could borrow McCarthy's," he offered.

Callie shot Barry a suspicious glance at that. He discerned knowing anger and panic all at once, and he knew he had her. "Take a seat, Callie," he said, "it's over." She made a move toward the elevator, but Barry beat her there and planted himself before the call button. "I said sit down."

Callie returned to her desk and slumped in the chair. Barry watched her and stewed. At length, the elevator binged behind him and Eifling was shoved into the newsroom, whimpering and clutching his right hand to his stomach. Barry stepped aside for Craggs and the others, who marched Eifling toward the stairwell descending to Reuben and Kyle's apartment below.


"Bring her too," Craggs ordered, pointing at Callie, "and fast." There was calm urgency in his voice, but violent action glared in his eyes. Barry did as he was told and walked a contrite Callie Beusman down to the basement.

The claustrophobic space reeked of necrosis, and Petchesky felt salt in his eyes. We've got to get McCarthy out of here, he reflected. Craggs, evenly, implored Callie to sit on the bed at Dr. Matt's feet. She seemed altogether unsurprised and unaffected at the gray sight of the dead man, apparently resigned to self-preservation and cooperation. Where's the defiance, Barry asked himself, feeling uneasy and wary of the red-haired bombshell.


Craggs began: "Callie, Sam here tells me that you and him have had a lucrative few months. He also tells me that you two have a meeting with your handlers in one hour. Is this true?" The editor cocked his head to the side and set the .45 on the card table in the middle of the room. I'm dead fucking serious, he intimated. Barry glanced about him, studying the motley participants in turn. Ley sat on the lone wooden chair, leaning forward, elbows on knees; Samer leaned easily against the wall, staring at his shoes; Newell filled the doorway, overpowered by the room's odorous mortality; the man Barry assumed to be Ray forcefully supported Eifling, who had been reduced to a mumbling mess. "Is it true, goddammit?" Craggs repeated; frustration and anger seeped through placid veneer.

"Yes," Callie said simply, "in Central Park." She held Craggs' gaze. Not for nothing, espionage suited her, Barry considered, and she had clearly learned terse stoicism from the best in the business.


"Good," Craggs chirped, "You're going to make the rendezvous, but you're going to make it accompanied by Tom, Barry, and our friend Ray here." Craggs gestured around to each of them. Barry looked from one to the next: Ley was studying his hands, unhearing; Ray, on the other hand, was grinning sarcastically, like a boy scout pricked by the spirit of adventure.

"Well, he can't come," Callie interjected, gesturing at Eifling and scowling, "he looks like shit." Eifling remained silent, wincing at his hand.


"You're right," Craggs conceded, "that create a problem, if he's not there?"

"It shouldn't," Callie mused. "He's begged off before, lazy shithead." Ray chuckled at that and kicked Eifling in the ass, who went tumbling to the bed opposite Callie.


"Very well," Tommy concluded. To Callie he said, "Work out the details with these three. They're coming for surveillance only. We want to know who you're meeting." He fell silent then, and Barry felt the skin prickle on his neck. Here they were—Tom, Ray, Callie, and himself—unwilling allies yoked together for mutual destruction. Quietly, quickly, Craggs retrieved his pistol from the table, shoved it in his waistband, and strode out of the room.

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