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Home > The Sky Is Falling(2)

The Sky Is Falling(2)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

The morning meeting with Matt Baker and Elliot Cromwell was about to begin. When Dana arrived, she was greeted by Abbe Lasmann, Matt's sexy redheaded assistant.

"The fellows are waiting for you," Abbe said.

"Thanks, Abbe." Dana walked into the corner office. "Matt...Elliot..."

"You're late," Matt Baker grumbled.

Baker was a short, gray-haired man in his early fifties, with a gruff, impatient manner fueled by a brilliant, restless mind. He wore rumpled suits that looked as if they had been slept in, and Dana suspected that they had been. He ran WTN, the Washington Tribune Enterprises television operation.

Elliot Cromwell was in his sixties, with a friendly, open manner and a ready smile. He was a billionaire, but there were a dozen different accounts of how he had achieved his vast fortune, some of them not flattering. In the media business, where the object was to disseminate information, Elliot Cromwell was an enigma.

He looked at Dana and said, "Matt tells me we're beating the competition again. Your ratings keep going up."

"I'm glad to hear that, Elliot."

"Dana, I listen to a half-dozen newscasts every night, but yours is different from the others. I'm not exactly sure why, but I like it."

Dana could have told Elliot Cromwell why. Other newscasters were talking at - not to - audiences of millions, announcing the news. Dana had decided to make it personal. In her mind, she would be talking one night to a lonely widow, the next night to a shut-in, lying helpless in bed, and the next to a solitary salesman somewhere far away from his home and family. Her news reports sounded private and intimate, and viewers loved them and responded to them.

"I understand you're going to have an exciting guest to interview tonight," Matt Baker said.

Dana nodded. "Gary Winthrop."

Gary Winthrop was America's Prince Charming. A member of one of the country's most prominent families, he was young, handsome, charismatic.

"He doesn't like personal publicity," Cromwell said. "How did you get him to agree?"

"We have a common hobby," Dana told him.

Cromwell's brows furled. "Really?"

"Yes." Dana smiled. "I like to look at Monets and vanGoghs, and he likes to buy them. Seriously, I've interviewed him before, and we've become friendly. We'll run a tape of his news conference, which we'll cover this afternoon. My interview will be a follow-up."

"Wonderful." Cromwell beamed.

They spent the next hour talking about the new show the network was planning, Crime Line, an investigative hour that Dana was going to produce and anchor. The objective was twofold: to correct injustices that had been done and to spur interest in solving forgotten crimes.

"There are a lot of other reality shows on the air," Matt warned, "so we've got to be better than they are. I want us to start out with a grabber. Something that will capture the audience's attention and - "

The intercom buzzed. Matt Baker flicked down a key. "I told you, no calls. Why - ?"

Abbe's voice came over the intercom. "I'm sorry. It's for Miss Evans. It's Kemal's school calling. It sounds urgent."

Matt Baker looked at Dana. "First line."

Dana picked up the phone, her heart pounding. "Hello...Is Kemal all right?" She listened a moment. "I see...I see...Yes, I'll be right there." She replaced the receiver.

"What's wrong?" Matt asked.

Dana said, "They'd like me to come to the school to pick Kemal up."

Elliot Cromwell frowned. "That's the boy you brought back from Sarajevo."

"Yes."

"That was quite a story."

"Yes," Dana said reluctantly.

"Didn't you find him living in some vacant lot?"

"That's right," Dana said.

"He had some disease or something?"

"No," she said firmly, disliking even to talk about those days. "Kemal lost an arm. It was blown off by a bomb."

"And you adopted him?"

"Not officially yet, Elliot. I'm going to. For now, I'm his guardian."

"Well, go get him. We'll discussCrime Line later."

When Dana arrived at the Theodore Roosevelt Middle School, she went directly to the assistant principal's office. The assistant principal, Vera Kostoff, a harassed-looking, prematurely gray-haired woman in her fifties, was at her desk. Kemal was seated across from her. He was twelve years old, small for his age, thin and sallow, with tousled blond hair and a stubborn chin. Where his right arm should have been was an empty sleeve. His slight body seemed dwarfed by the room.

When Dana walked in, the atmosphere in the office was grim.

"Hello, Mrs. Kostoff," Dana said brightly. "Kemal."

Kemal was staring at his shoes.

"I understand there's a problem?" Dana continued.

"Yes, there certainly is, Miss Evans." She handed Dana a sheet of paper.

Dana stared at it, puzzled. It read:Vodja, pizda, zbosti, fukati, nezakonski otrok, umreti, tepec. She looked up. "I - I don't understand. These are Serbian words, aren't they?"

Mrs. Kostoff said tightly, "Indeed they are. It's Kemal's misfortune that I happen to be Serbian. These are words that Kemal has been using in school." Her face was flushed. "Serbian truck drivers don't talk like that, Miss Evans, and I won't have such language coming from the mouth of this young boy. Kemal called me apizda. "

Dana said, "Api  - ?"

"I realize that Kemal is new to our country, and I've tried to make allowances, but his - his behavior is reprehensible. He's constantly getting into fights, and when I reprimanded him this morning, he - he insulted me. That was too much."

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