Bury the Lead

Bury the Lead

by Cassondra Windwalker

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Overview


Weekly newspaper editor Jeff Paine's mind is filled with the detritus of newspaper clippings, presidential tweets, crossword puzzles, and horoscopes. When his artist girlfriend Ada Grigori announces her intention to leave him, he becomes obsessed with finding—or manufacturing—connections between otherwise unrelated events. Driven by professional curiosity and unrelenting cynicism, Paine uses his newspaper to manipulate the people of his hometown of Brisby, Colorado into revealing the ugliness lurking beneath their placid exteriors. A series of dog mutilations and two barely-noticed disappearances set the town on edge, till Paine is able to frame himself for Ada's murder—even though her body has never been found, and there is no evidence of foul play. This book draws readers into the mind of a brilliant but highly unreliable narrator, forcing them to question their own perceptions of objective truth and the existence of a free press in a world where an unsubstantiated tweet can carry more power than an investigative report.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780999742365
Publisher: Black Spot Books
Publication date: 09/04/2018
Edition description: None
Pages: 280
Sales rank: 1,168,005
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author


Cassondra Windwalker earned a BA of Letters at the University of Oklahoma. She parlayed that highly marketable degree into degrees in bookselling and law enforcement before pursuing her writing career full time. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have been published in numerous literary journals. She is the author of Tell It Like It Was. She lives in Homer, Alaska.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

North Korea Fires Five Ballistic Missiles

"Unregarded loneliness."

Ada's voice floated out of the darkness toward me.

"Unregarded loneliness, that was what he said. Those words sunk into me like an arrow, and now I can't rip them out."

My whole body tightened. Deliberately I relaxed my hands, turning on my side toward her. I laid my palm on her stomach, still flushed and damp from sex. I almost told her I would rip those arrows out for her, but I had the feeling that she wanted to keep the wound.

I should have seen this coming. I should have known when she walked in the door and pushed me into the bedroom with a violence and desperation that excited and scared me by turns. The excitement was over; now I was just scared.

Patterson, Kellerman, Robb, King, Young ... Silently I recited the USA Today best-selling authors from this week. Almost the same as last week. Probably the same names next week.

Abruptly she twisted to prop her face on her hand. My hand lost its hold on her flesh, but I adjusted, cupping the curve of her hip instead. I fought not to focus on the sensation of her skin against mine, fought not to allow this memory to sear itself into my narrative. A colossal failure, by the way. To this day I can still feel her flesh, warm and whole, under my hand.

I didn't want to let go. I didn't want to remember holding on.

The subject changed. Or at least, I thought it did.

"Did you hear what happened today in Syria?" Silly question. I might only be the editor of an embarrassingly inconsequential biweekly local rag, but the news was still my business. Idly I wondered if stockbrokers thought in tickers the way I think in headlines and captions and quotations.

"Yeah, I heard."

On March 6, 2017, a family of four was seated in the corner booth of the Hideaway Restaurant in Brisby, Colorado. The oldest child was tucked in against the wall where the spasmodic motions of his hands would not knock plates and glasses onto the hardwood floor when he stimmed, soothing himself against the noises and lights of the restaurant. His parents and younger sister talked around him, moving items from his reach without a second thought. His downward gaze was directed away from them, away from the other diners, and no one remarked on the almost subsonic, incessant humming that emanated from him.

Their waitress, a dark-skinned, light-eyed woman of thirty years named Ada Grigori, was torn between admiration that his family was able to accommodate him in a public setting without any signs of discomfort, and a nagging, unidentifiable sense of unease. Her only other table that night, an old Mexican-American man eating alone, named her unease for her when she set a plate of pie and a cup of coffee in front of him.

"Unregarded loneliness is one of life's greatest cruelties, isn't it?"

But the channel had changed, Ada's eyes had moved on down the page to a new story. White helmets and dead children and shattered hospitals. I could keep up, but I didn't want to.

"Can't you wait 'til morning?" I asked, hating the words, despising the sound of my own voice in the dark.

She was already slipping away, the sheets falling back, the dusky curves of her body the only moon in my night.

"I'm afraid," she whispered, and I knew she whispered so I wouldn't hear the tremble in her voice. "I'm afraid if I don't leave now, I never will. I'll be drowned, swallowed up, buried in this place with nothing but regret for air. I can't live that way."

Of course she couldn't.

Nine across: six letters, a lack of concern

CHAPTER 2

City Council Weighing Broadband Costs

I unlocked the newspaper office, dropped my messenger bag on my desk, and stumbled to the coffeepot. Weekly Herald Editor Jefferson Paine Spotted Looking Harried After Apparent Run-In With Angry Washing Machine. I'd forgotten to move the load of clothes from the washer to the dryer, so my one pair of semi-presentable blue jeans was still damp and stiff. The good news was that the cold spring air had nearly dried them during my three-block walk to work. The bad news was that my thighs had lost nearly all feeling. My button-down flannel shirt was rumpled but dry, at least. I had a pretty good suspicion that my hair, unruly at the best of times, was sticking up in every direction this morning. I have a tendency to yank on it when I'm stressed. The burning sensation in my eyeballs warned me that I probably looked like I'd spent the night smoking weed. At least that would have been a legal indulgence here. Still frowned upon by a lot of folks, though.

But of course I wasn't high. Not even buzzed. After Ada had packed up her few belongings and declared her intention to head for the bus stop — alone — I'd simply sat in our bed, staring at the dark.

The Oxford English Dictionary has released its latest new entries from last quarter ... fulgurate (verb, used without object) to flash or dart like lightning; (verb, used with object) to destroy by electricity ... gobsmacked (adjective) utterly astonished or astounded ... My mind had been spinning, trying to follow Ada's connections to wherever they'd taken her. She was a howler, no question. She'd spent more nights than I could count wound up in a fury, raging against whatever injustice, whatever cruelty had caught her eye that day. That was how we met, actually — she blew into the newspaper office with a three-page letter to the editor clutched in her fist, protesting the Parks and Wildlife decision to cull black bears and mountain lions in a supposed bid to increase the mule deer population.

Vainly I'd tried to explain The Herald's two-hundred-word count policy on letters to the editor. In the end, I printed almost half of her original text as a sidebar to a front-page straight news story on the issue. I'd even parlayed the story into an excuse to get her photo — human interest, I'd told her — and run it alongside her byline.

The next week, she'd been back, gleefully pointing out the record number of comments the story had garnered in its online incarnation. I'd asked her out to lunch. After lunch, I asked her out for dinner.

We went to the one fancy restaurant in town, Pinocchio's Gnocchi. Well, fancy might be an exaggeration. It was, however, the one place in town where you could get real kitchen prepared food and alcohol in the same setting.

The editor ordered a gin martini, a customary nod to his idol, Ernest Hemingway. The artist drank whiskey straight, ate all the garlic bread, and completely captured the editor.

It turned out that Ada was waitressing over at the Hideaway, saving up money for art school somewhere, anywhere. When she finally took me over to her studio apartment, many days later, I was astounded [gobsmacked] by the outpourings of color and passion on the canvasses that were most of her furnishings. Everything in life that I compartmentalized, framed in words, set in inches, defined, Ada set free.

Now Ada is free, and I am fulgurated.

I ran my hand through my hair again, pouring my first cup of coffee with grim gratitude for its existence. There was no telling if I would see anyone in the office today. Most of the time my reporters emailed their stories, but sometimes they liked to drop by for a chat. Dayla came in twice a week to handle advertising content, and customers frequently wandered in on other days with a want-ad or an obituary. Dayla would be here Wednesday — tomorrow — to sort out all the orders I took in the meantime.

Lost: pet chicken near First and Adams. $25 reward if returned alive.

Thank God election season was over. Or maybe not. I remember wondering if that election would be our last.

A lie told often enough becomes the truth. — Lenin

I dumped enough cream into the coffee so that I could gulp the whole concoction down at once, then refilled the cup to the brim with stiff black brew before returning to my desk. I could do the basics of the layout with the content I had and make adjustments as Sami, Jack, and Delores got their stories in. I just needed to make boxes and fill them in. Push last night out. It was only one night, after all. Not the end of the world. Not the end of my world.

Three little syndicated cartoons, the crossword puzzle, a couple of recipes from the aspiring chef-cum-preschool teacher who'd jumped at the chance for a midweek column. The Thursday edition was more of what the big-city papers would call a lifestyle section: fluff and features and the high school sports schedule. The reason why these little town papers still chugged along as the major newspapers died out one by one was simple: names and dates.

In a small-town paper, nearly every citizen could open the pages and see the name or photo of someone he knew. The first buck of the season, the re-opening of the grocery store, the latest high-flung arguments at the homeowners' association meetings — the news might be small, but it was relevant. It was relatable. Reliable — you knew it was true, because you could see it for yourself. And it made celebrities out of everyone. Who could resist that? Big papers talked about places their readers had never been, people they would never meet, and ignored the everyday dramas and tragedies of their readers' lives.

Meanwhile, I told myself wearily, I make mountains out of molehills and call them monuments.

Baseball schedule. I needed to get the most-wanted from the sheriff's website.

Jose Avila. Wanted for sexual assault on a child. Leon Cummins. Wanted for failure to appear on felony drug charges. Ellen Cummins. Wanted for vandalism and terroristic threats.

"Hey, Jeff."

I looked up as Andy Watson ambled in. Ball cap pulled over his bald head, bleary blue eyes fighting past the maze of wrinkles that made up his grizzled face, Andy could have been a pin-up for an old farming calendar with his overalls and his western drawl. Truth was, Andy was neither a farmer nor as old as the whiskey made him look.

CHAPTER 3

Computer Mogul Drops Out After Wife's Unexpected Death, Buys 50,000 Acres On Colorado's Western Slope

Andy shuffled over to the coffeepot and filled his tumbler, nearly emptying the twelve-cup pot. After shaking out the old filter and grounds, he replaced them with the deftness of long custom. I wasn't sure exactly when or why Andy had begun dropping by the newspaper office for free coffee. God knew he could afford the fancy stuff down at Ginger Joe's. Andy had just sort of appeared one day and kept coming back.

Day after day, the survivors evaluated each other, gauging any new blood in the wounds, each cautiously measuring the other's proximity to the cliffs.

"Holy shit, man," he exclaimed when he finally turned to face me. "You look like hell. Have you had any coffee yet?"

I grimaced and gestured to the mug on my desk. "Just finished my second cup."

Andy sat down across from me with a huff, taking a long swig of his own sugary brew. "Well, I'd say it's none of my business, but we both know I don't give a shit about that. What's the matter?"

"Ada left last night."

The words hung in the air between us, ugly and bare.

Andy raised his bushy brows, sniffed, took another drink of coffee. "How come?"

The million-dollar question.

"Because of Syria. Because of dead children. Because ... because of unregarded loneliness, whatever the fuck that is. Because life sucks? She made no sense."

"Hmph. But not because of you? Because of her?"

I shook my head. "I couldn't tell you, Andy. I mean, don't those sound like excuses to you?"

"I don't know, Jeff. Falling out of love sounds like an excuse to me. Needing space sounds like an excuse to me. Finding myself sounds like an excuse to me. Because the world is cruel might be the best reason I've ever heard. Why do you think I'm here?"

"The National Inquirer and The Washington Post both tried and failed to answer that question," I reminded him drily. "I think they finally landed on grief-induced madness."

"Lucidity in the face of life's horror is always deemed madness."

"This is not the most helpful break-up speech I've ever heard."

Andy shrugged, looking unrepentant. "Most things in life can't be helped. That's why we ought to fight as hard as we can in the few places where we can help. That why you do what you do."

"I'm not exactly running any groundbreaking investigative reports in The Herald. Did you know that last week we did an entire story on what percentage of brick veneer the new housing development would include?"

"I do know. I read that nonsense. But sometimes, our capacity is as important as our consequence."

I snorted. "I think the reports of your tech background are highly exaggerated. I half suspect you're really an English teacher on the run from some Middle Eastern jihadists out to silence some crazy manifesto you've written."

Author Disappears Into The West As Radical Clerics Issue Fatwa

"Anyway, as much fun as it's been listening to your existential crap, you need to go pester someone else now. I actually have work to do, you know."

Andy heaved himself to his feet with a guffaw, trudging over to refill his tumbler one more time. "Right. Plus, it's no good to cry into your coffee with an audience. Take care of yourself, Jeff."

Cold air gusted through the office as he left.

The petition requests that the name of the minor child, Leigh Anne Minarik, be changed to Shay Tanner Minarik, case #18CO5689.

CHAPTER 4

Robots Soon To Outnumber Humans

Somehow, I thought, Ada had seen a connection that I missed. A connection between Syria, an autistic boy lost in himself, the art school she still couldn't afford, the person she was afraid she was forgetting to become, and me. Leaving me.

There had to be more points on that starmap. Points whose lights hadn't yet reached me.

SpaceX Launching Private Moon Flight In 2018

I popped a martini onion into my mouth, savoring the refreshing bitterness of the gin.

A voice intruded.

"Another?"

Lorna's beringed hand swept my glass away. Her frank green gaze met mine without judgment. She's very pretty, I thought, not for the first time. Maybe ten years older than me, her elaborately tattooed flesh seemed more a part of her tank top and jeans uniform than immodest display. A high ponytail and cat-eye glasses lent a librarian feel to her tough-girl appearance. I figured she made at least three times her actual salary in tips.

"Why not?"

"Why not, indeed," she rejoined with a smile. Relief flooded me at the sound of ice in the martini shaker.

I wasn't a cop, after all. Or a doctor. Or a bus driver. I was just a washed-up reporter turned pathetic small-town editor. And if there was one thing borne out by Hemingway and Thompson and Kerouac, it was that a correspondent's work could only be improved with alcohol.

Write drunk, edit sober. — The Great Man

Not Churchill — although he certainly had his points, too.

Of course, I hadn't put an honest pen to paper in ... how long? It was disingenuous of me to pretend, even to myself, that I didn't know exactly when, but why start being honest now? Maybe that was the real reason Ada left. Not that I ever lied to her. I have strict rules about that sort of thing. No, I simply stuffed all the truths I could find into drawers and cupboards and fought to keep them closed. While Ada was forever dragging them out into the sunlight, painting them in outrageous colors, and giving them names. Maybe she grew tired of trying to coax this sad little packrat into the light.

"Happiness in a glass." Lorna deposited my second gin martini with a flourish. "Or at least comfort."

"I'll take it." I summoned up a smile. "Thank you."

Or maybe Ada's reason for leaving had been exactly what she'd said it was. Maybe there was a string drawn between all of these events, all of these strangers, that could be tugged.

Uncovered At Tuam — Illegitimate Children Starved, Abused, Experimented On

God knew Ada wasn't the only one playing connect-the-dots. The big media heads were forever forcing connections between events that could only be linked by the most ephemeral of facts or suppositions. Still, when juxtaposed to the public, cause and effect assumptions were inevitable.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Bury the Lead"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Cassondra Windwalker.
Excerpted by permission of Black Spot Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

North Korea Fires Five Ballistic Missiles,
City Council Weighing Broadband Costs,
Computer Mogul Drops Out After Wife's Unexpected Death, Buys 50,000 Acres On Colorado's Western Slope,
Robots Soon To Outnumber Humans,
Wildfires Consume Parched West,
United Nations Reports That The World Must Undertake "Major Transformations" If It Is To Feed Itself In The Coming Decades,
Employers Soon To Have Access To Employees' Genetic Tests,
Secure Whistleblower Sites Spring Up For Major Newspapers,
Grand Junction Organized Travelers' Aid Fund,
Young, Backman, Cameron, Moriarty ...,
Every Colorado Student To Receive Access To Musical Instruments And Instruction,
Internet Neutrality Again Under Threat,
Wiretap Claims Remain Unsubstantiated,
Terror Attack Strikes London On Anniversary Of Brussels Attack,
Israeli-American Teen Behind Threats Against JCC Worldwide,
Country Star Nearly Loses Thumb,
Lawmaker Shot Dead: Ukraine Points Finger At Russia,
St. Patrick's Day DUI Arrests Increased By 152 Over Last Year,
Five-Year-Old Accidentally Packs Frozen Vodka Slushie For School Lunch,
Three Down: ten letters, rambunctious country bars,
MP Becomes First Responder In London Attack,
Congressman Pleads With President For Honesty,
Bomb-Strapped Man Had A Suicide Plot, Prosecutors Say,
Virgin To Join Growing List Of Extinct Airlines,
New Bill Requires Stylists To Get Domestic Violence Training,
National Healthcare Battle Not Over, Congress Vows,
Craigslist lost and found: MISSING!! Double-wheeled wheelbarrow,
White Supremacist Stabbing Suspect Regrets Not Killing "Young Thug" Instead Of Old Man,
"Near-Bird" Dinosaur Reveals Secrets Of Early Flight,
Twenty-six down: four letters, a period of time,
Unusual Reason You Sneeze When You Pluck Your Eyebrows,
Congolese Death Videos Lend Credence To Claims Of Mass Graves,
Unseasonably Warm Weather Hurts Economy,
Porn A Public Health Crisis In Three US States,
Oklahoma Worst State In The Union For Women,
Homeless Writer-Activist Found Frozen To Death After Overdose,
Syrian Government Launches Genocidal Chemical Attack,
Senator Filibusters For Over 15 Hours In Bid To Block Nominee,
Virgo (August 2 – September 22): Your Creativity Bubbles Up From A Very Deep Well Today,
Lindsay Lohan Models Burkhini,
Why Airplane Seats Don't Line Up With The Windows,
UFC Fighter Cleared To Compete In Spite Of Breast Implants,
Two Officers Assaulted, Third Taken Hostage At Tennessee Prison,
Multiple People Down In Elementary School Shooting In San Bernardino,
About the Author,

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Bury the Lead 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
booklover- More than 1 year ago
I really wish I had really good things to say about this book. The story premise sounded interesting ... but I was greatly disappointed. It seemed awfully disjointed. It was hard to follow and much of it didn't make sense to me. The characters seem lackluster. I was hoping for more suspense or mystery ... and it just wasn't there. This one just wasn't for me. Many thanks to the author / Black Spot Books / Netgalley for the advanced digital copy. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.