Tuesday morning found Sean Newell trundling through Central Park on the week's long run—8 miles today—and cursing every step of the way. Why mandate Monday Night Football viewings? Sean fumed through his headache, And how did Barry talk me into that third Jägerbomb? At first the viewing-party idea sounded fun and amiable, considering none of the writers socialized beyond the confines of the office. But after the first Monday Night party—Steelers at Bengals—the reasons for his colleagues' mutual avoidance grew apparent. Newell was by nature quiet—an introvert according to many—and last night's shenanigans laid bare fundamental incompatibilities with his coworkers: Barry was a drunk; Dom, a flake; Tom, a boor; Samer, a no-show; and Craggs, a brooding mute. No wonder his wife had feigned illness. These thoughts clouded Sean's head as he scampered uphill and back towards home.
Newell was finishing a late breakfast when his mobile thrummed on the kitchen table. He blinked at his bacon and answered.
"Hello?" he asked, sourly.
Craggs, stringently: "Sean, you're gonna have to come in early today; there's been an incident." The editor sounded exhausted.
"Incident?" Sean asked and immediately regretted it.
"Yes, Sean," Craggs sardonically patronized, "Ley drank the last of the coffee and you need to buy some more. Just get your ass in here." Click.
Newell entered Deadspin's offices at 12:37 PM with head lowered. His shift didn't start until 3:00, and the abrupt exit from home had sent his wife into hysterics. At least I'm not shopping for ceiling fixtures, he conceded. Sean walked straight to the editor's office, which reeked of stale cigarette smoke, disinfectant, and was that whiskey?
"Have a seat, Sean," Craggs gestured toward a chair, and Newell sat down stiffly. "I want you to listen to this." The editor set his mobile phone on the desk and touched the screen. Quietly at first, then building into a crescendo, Sean could make out what sounded like Dom's voice:
Dom: … this is Sam … [inaudible] … looking for the Mason … [inaudible] … says you have information for him? [inaudible]
Dom: … hell are you doing Eifling?! Where'd you get a goddamn … [grunts] … Christ … [grunts]
Craggs touched the screen again and leaned back behind his desk. "That came through about forty-five minutes ago from the basement of B-Side in Hell's Kitchen. I sent Dom and Eifling to see a source, and it appears things went south." Sean stared at Craggs without a word. The station chief continued, "Matt McCarthy was killed last night—here in the office—and he was going to see this deep cover source today." Craggs paused, shook out a Pall Mall, sparked the end, and exhaled. "You run this morning?"
Sean nodded slowly, unsure where the conversation was leading.
"Good. So you're warmed up for a sprint over to Hell's Kitchen." The editor threw this last part off nonchalantly, almost amusedly. He leaned forward; all business now, strictly imperative mode. "Go to B-Side. There's a stairwell in the back, beyond the kitchen. Our source—the Mason he's called—has an office there. Find out what happened down there. If you can intercept Eifling, please do that as well."
"Sir," Newell began, "I don't know if I—"
"Oh screw what you do or don't know!" Craggs exploded. His volume knocked Sean backwards. "Get the hell over there and do this! Now goddamnit!"
According to his GPS watch, it took Sean 7:47 to run the 1.2 miles to B-Side from Deadspin's Elizabeth street offices. A personal record he would have to savor at another time. He entered the bar and pushed his way past a glowering hostess, beyond black t-shirts, Berlin fades, and Sartre tattooes towards the darkened rear of the building. He paused at the top of the stairs to catch his breath.
Newell descended the stairs slowly, hesitant at what waited below. The light faded at the bottom, and black hallway loomed beyond. At corridor's end—perhaps 50 feet—a door stood ajar, whence streamed a sliver of yellow light. Faint voices—and a thump—echoed down the pitch. Sean swallowed hard and ignored the damp shirt clinging to his back. At length he tiptoed forward. Breath slower, he commanded himself, his pulse clanging around in his ears.
The door stood open eight inches. Through the slit Sean could see Eifling fumbling through paperwork on the desk. Between lurches at the messy stacks, he redirected vociferous ire back into the room, beyond Sean's line of sight. Where the hell is it?! he barked hurriedly, his voice high-pitched and scared. Anguished groans answered, and Eifling stepped out of view toward the sound. Where is it? calmer now, almost reasonable. Newell adjusted himself for a better angle and stopped dead at the pierce of Dom's scream: wet and hoarse, it struggled from his throat, the vocal chords unwilling participants in this macabre interview. Is he drowning? Sean wondered in horror.
Another voice now, panting: "There's a safe behind the couch. It's in there." Newell didn't recognize the third man's defeated croon.
"Thank you," Eifling tritely answered and shuffled across the room. "What's the code, please?" The cordiality made Sean's skin crawl.
"B, B, A, M," the voice exhaled and coughed up fluid.
Some clicks, and after momentary silence, Eifling's cackle rung out, filling the basement with dread. Steady now, Sean reminded himself, think this through. Eifling was in hysterics. Newell closed his eyes and mulled his options, few though they were.
The guffaws stopped, and without warning two quick bursts—POP, POP!—exploded within. Then two more—POP, POP! They sounded violent, however muffled, and Newell opened his eyes to find Eifling backing towards the door—towards him—arm outstretched, clutching a pistol. Acrid smoke trailed from the snout of its suppressor and the hallway began to stink of cordite.
This is it, Sean decided, hit him low—in the small of the back. A high-school fullback, Newell had easily a 100 lbs. advantage on Eifling's slight 130, whence Sean drew confidence as he crouched into a three-point stance and waited for his target to reach the doorway.