About the Author
Date of Birth:October 27, 1944
Place of Birth:Watertown, South Dakota
Education:B. A., University of Arizona, 1966; M. Ed. in Library Science, University of Arizona, 1970
Read an Excerpt
Edge of Evil
By J. Jance
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 J. Jance
All right reserved.
When Alison Reynolds left the studio after the eleven o'clock news, she was amazed to find Cliff Baker, the news director, waiting out in the hall. He was usually gone for the day by then, or else he was out in the parking lot toking up.
"Talk to you a minute, Ali?" he said in that clipped almost rude tone of his, one that made his smallest requests come across as issued orders.
Ali was whipped. She had started that morning as the featured speaker for a YWCA fund-raising breakfast. At noon she had MC-ed an American Cancer Society-sponsored charity event. In the process she had driven from one end of LA to the other. She had also co-anchored two evening live news broadcasts-one at six and the other at eleven. She was ready to go home, kick off her high heels, and put her feet up. Looking at Cliff's uncompromising face, she knew he wouldn't take no for an answer.
She summoned a tired but necessary smile. "Sure, Cliff. What's up?"
That's when she noticed Eduardo Duarte, a uniformed security guard, standing off to one side and hovering awkwardly in the background. Ali knew Eddie and his wife Rosa. They had met in a hospital room on a juvenile cancer ward where she had gone to cheer them up while the Duarte's three-year-old son, Alonso, had been undergoing treatment-successful treatment it turned out-for leukemia. Ali Reynolds was, after all, the station's unofficial but very committed one-woman cancer research and treatment spokesperson.
This status had been a natural aftermath of her first husband's death from an inoperable brain tumor at age twenty-four, twenty-two years earlier. His death had left Ali a widow at age twenty-three-widowed and seven months pregnant. Christopher had been born two full months after his father's death. Since then, Ali had been a tireless crusader for cancer research. She walked in Relays for Life, participated in Races for the Cure, and did countless cancer-related public appearances whenever possible. And private appearances as well.
For most of the on-air folks at the station, Eduardo Duarte was just another nameless, faceless security guard who checked IDs as employees came and went through the front lobby. For Ali, Eddie was far more than that. She had been with the Duartes in the hospital waiting room and had held their hands during the dark time when no one had known for sure whether or not their child would survive.
"Hey, Eddie," she said. "How's my man, 'Lonso?"
"He's okay, I guess, Ms. Reynolds," Eddie answered, but he kept his eyes averted. That's when Ali tumbled to the fact that Cliff Baker's hallway ambush meant trouble.
"What's going on, Cliff?" she asked.
Six months earlier Clifford Baker had been brought on board to "fix" things. At least that was the way the story was told to the news team at the staff meeting when Cliff was introduced. But what had been bad then was still bad now. It was hard to win the ratings game when there were too many people out in the parking lot smoking joints before and after their shifts; when there were too many people hiding out in their offices with too many lines of coke going up their noses. And Ali Reynolds long suspected that one of those problem noses belonged to Cliff Baker.
"The ratings still suck," he said.
Ali didn't say anything. She was over forty in a world in which thirty-five meant on-air womenfolk were nearing the end of their sell-by date. Standing there in the hallway, breathing the sweet perfume of marijuana smoke wafting off Cliff's rumpled sports jacket, Ali knew exactly what was coming. There was a certain inevitability to the whole process, and Ali wasn't about to say something that would make Cliff's job any easier. If he was there to fire her, he would have to come right out and say so.
"We've decided to take the news team in a different direction," he said at last.
Presumably without me, Ali thought, but she kept her mouth shut.
"I know this is going to be difficult for you," Cliff continued.
Ali had known from the moment she met the man that he was a cold-blooded bastard. The supposed reluctance he was exhibiting now was all an act-a classic study in self-serving, cover-your-ass camouflage.
"And I'm sure this is going to seem hard-hearted," he went on, shaking his head reluctantly, "but we have to let you go. We'll pay you until the end of your contract, of course, and then I'm sure there'll be some severance pay, but after that . . ." He shrugged.
With the news broadcast ended, there were other people coming and going in the hallway. Ali noticed that they all gave the three people standing outside the newsroom door a wide berth. Ali wondered, How many of you knew this was coming?
She had noticed a few sidelong glances of late-quiet conversations that would die away as soon as she came into the room and resume once she left-but in the cutthroat world of television, she hadn't thought them anything out of the ordinary. Now she knew better, but she couldn't afford to think about her spineless co-workers just then. Instead, she remained focused on Cliff.
"Why?" Ali asked. "Why do you have to let me go?"
This was a good journalistic gambit. Go for the Ws-who, what, why, where, when, and sometimes how. She was never quite sure how the word how had been added to the mix of Ws, or why it was considered to be one, but when taking journalism classes from stodgy professors whose grading meant everything, it's a good idea to avoid questioning the conventional wisdom.
"For the good of the team," Cliff answered at once.
Ali Reynolds came from good Scandinavian stock. She was a natural blonde who could, on occasion, summon a suitably dumb-blonde persona. It was a gambit that had suckered more than one unsuspecting male interviewee into saying more than he intended. Cliff, dyed-in-the-wool male chauvinist that he was, took the bait.
Excerpted from Edge of Evil by J. Jance Copyright © 2005 by J. Jance. Excerpted by permission.
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