Above the Fold
Published by: City Owl Press
Publication date: June 20th 2023
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Romance
In 1980s New York City, a crime reporter with little to lose risks the only thing that matters to uncover the truth….
Trisha Connell’s journalism reflects her punk rock lifestyle: relentless, confrontational, and bitingly honest. It’s a style that scores front-page headlines but has her forever teetering on the verge of victory or disaster. Now one crime will forever change Trisha’s life.
As she charges into the story of a sensational theft at an art museum, she discovers a murdered guard is someone she knew, a former foster kid who was adopted and supposed to be living a good life. To make it worse, the guard is suspected to be one of the thieves.
Determined to uncover the truth, Trisha bulls her way into the story, risking her life and career on what could be the story of the decade, if her editor doesn’t fire her first. She finds an ally in Edmund Grayson, a security expert assigned to the museum, who’s driven by his own guilt in failing to stop the murder.
Chasing the story will take Trisha from the punk clubs to the high society to the inner workings of newspapers of New York in the 1980s. It will take all her street skills to survive.
TRISHA STAGGERED to her motorcycle just as hangover dizziness hit full force. She dropped to one knee on the slimy blacktop of the narrow alley, clutching the soft leather of the bike’s seat for balance. A deep breath brought a whiff of urine and wet rats into her nostrils.
The rising sun peeked over the far corner of the four-story brick monstrosity that held the punk club where she’d spent the night.
Best time to see the sunrise, when I’m ready for bed.
But the beeper in her jacket pocket vibrated. Her fingers fumbled over a wad of tissues, breath mints, quarters, and subway tokens before she finally clutched the beeper.
Her editor’s number stared at her from the display.
Damn. Phone. Now. Back inside.
As she turned, the sunlight caught the tank of her restored Indian
Chief, making the bike’s Indian head logo seem like it was mocking her. Her sunglasses cut the morning glare enough for her to stumble past the dumpster to the back door of the club from which she’d come. She slapped her hand against the bricks for balance, inadvertently placing her palm right in the middle of the “beware” in the “Beware Out-of-Towners”
message spray-painted on the wall.
She pushed past through the creaky, crooked door into the club, where the smell of smoke washed over her. The darkness, such a contrast to the dawn, nearly blinded her. Oh, right. Sunglasses off.
“Dick!’ she called.
“Jesus, Red, you don’t have to shout,” Dick answered from his post behind the bar. “Thought you’d gone. I’m just about to clear out the refuse.”
Trisha’s eyes adjusted to the light, seeing several people passed out on stage. They’d be in for a rude awakening. Dick wasn’t gentle, she knew by experience.
She made the universal gesture for a phone. “Need to make a call. Now.” She held up her beeper.
“Aren’t we important this morning.” But Dick slammed the club’s phone on top of the bar.
“Hell, yeah, I’m important. The paper can’t run without me,” she shot back, sliding onto the stool. She could ask for water, but who knew what was swimming in it. “How about a Coke?”
Dick rolled up his shirtsleeves, dug into the ice, and tossed her the can he’d found. She caught it with one hand. Jolt. Perfect.
“Nice reflexes after all that tequila,” Dick said.
“Thanks.” She searched her back pants pocket and dropped a five on the bar. It stuck to something. Not her problem. Let Dick peel it off.
She cursed as it took forever to dial the old rotary phone.
“Connell,” she announced as someone picked up.
“Trisha, sorry for taking up your day off—”
City Desk Editor Joe Wilson sounded crisp and businesslike and not the
least bit sorry. An alcohol-induced migraine, centered just above her left eye, made it hard to focus on his words.
“—but I need you to get to City Hall in the next hour, to cover a press conference about the new zoning regulations.”
“Zoning regulations?” It sounded worse when she repeated it. “Joe, I’m a crime reporter. Why am I covering zoning regulations? Put a stringer on it.”
“Cardoza wants it covered, which means a stringer won’t do, and Tony’s in court all day. We need someone who can write something catchy, not boring, about this.”
“Hell.” Cardoza, the publisher of the New York Herald. Joe’s boss.
Trisha cradled the phone in her ear and pulled out the little notebook and pencil she kept in the inside pocket of the black leather jacket. “Exact time. Which room at City Hall. Anything else you got.”
Joe rattled off the information, adding the names of the deputy mayor holding the press conference. Behind her, she heard Dick hauling the remnants of his customers to their feet.
“Got it,” she said. “Anything else?”
“Be aware of any undercurrents. Word is that this is just a money grab by developer friend of the deputy mayor. The rest of the reporters will ask polite questions. You won’t.”
A chance to harass a deputy mayor at City Hall? The assignment was looking up. Some water and aspirin, and she’d be able to focus.
“Oh, and be presentable, Trish. Cardoza is watching this story. He’ll hear if you roll up to the press conference looking like a punk.”
“He wants me to wear a dress, he can buy me a damn car. He wants me to get there on time, I need to use the Indian.”
“Look half-businesslike, at least. Don’t show up looking like one of the Ramones.”
“The Slits are the female punk band.” Trisha took inventory of her clothes. The blue jeans, faded T-shirt, leather jacket, and motorcycle boots weren’t even half-businesslike. Not to mention the smell from the whiskey someone had spilled on her.
Dammit, this was supposed to be her day off.
“Sure. No problem.”
“Every time you say that, there’s a problem. You’re not home, are you?”
A long pause followed, broken by one of Joe’s familiar long-suffering ‘what-the-hell-are-you-doing-with-your-life’ sighs. “Trisha, have you even been to bed?”
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
“You know I’ve got no choice on this.”
That was as close as Joe would get to an apology for putting her in a
tough spot, “I know,” she said. “I’ll be there and get what you need.”
She hung up, fished a couple aspirin out of her inside pocket, brushed off the lint, and washed them down with the Jolt. She pulled out the Celtic cross she wore around her neck and kissed it, wondering how the hell she’d get presentable in an hour. She’d never make it to Midtown, then crosstown to her place in Hell’s Kitchen, and back to City Hall in time for the press conference.
She chugged the rest of the Jolt and dialed another number.
“Hey! Time’s up,” Dick called.
“Just a sec,” she called, putting her back to him. Dick might have
grabbed the phone out of her hand, but the kid stumbling out the front door threw up, drawing his attention.
David, be home, she thought. She was only five blocks from David’s place near the Village.
He answered. Score.
“Hey, I need a favor. I—”
“Hey, Trish, not in position for favors today.”
He shouted in Spanish. A horn sounded. Not his apartment. The call
must have been forwarded to his car phone.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Ah, the damned museum exhibit. It’s been a pain in the ass since day
one. Now there’s some minor deal about the alarm and Grayson’s being fussy about it, so I got dragged out of bed to check it out.”
“You sure everything’s okay?”
Dick slopped a mop at the mess on the floor. She figured she had sixty seconds before he cut off her call.
“It’s fine. Like I said, it’s probably Grayson overreacting.” David shouted again at the other drivers, this time in English. “Look, Trish, what did you want, anyway?”
“I need to get a change of clothes from your place. Is the coast clear?” David’s fiancée wasn’t her biggest fan.
The sound of squealing tires echoed in the background. “Yep, Darlene’s at her mother’s place this week, studying. Take whatever you need,” he said.
“Thanks. Be careful out there, okay?”
“Always am, unlike you,” he said. “Wait, Trish, you’re not in trouble, are you?”
“Not yet. But it’s early.”
“You be careful then, too. Later.”
She hung up, yelled thanks to Dick, received a grumble in response,
and slipped out the back door again.
This could work. If her memory served, David had a blazer she could borrow that would be suitable over one of his T-shirts. Not strictly businesslike but, hey, Miami Vice style jackets with T-shirts were all the rage now. She might even have time for a shower there.
She hadn’t concentrated on what David said because she’d been worried about her own problems. But he’d said his boss rousted him out of bed to answer a possible alarm at the museum. David’s security firm had installed a sophisticated system to protect a high-profile art exhibit at the Museum of Historic Arts. Several anonymous threats had been made against that exhibit, which contained artwork once lost in World War II. (Presumably, the museum had bought the art from Nazis or their heirs.)
An alarm might mean a break-in and that would equal a big story, espe- cially given the Nazi connection. A story that would beat the hell out of some press conference about mind-numbing zoning regulations, even if the developers were paying off the deputy mayor.
Political corruption equaled business as usual.
Nazis and a museum art theft on the other hand? That was a juicy story. An above-the-fold headline story.
Option one: take the sure thing, file the required story, and get in good with Cardoza.
Option Two: Disobey a direct order on a hunch that, if it fizzled, would get her fired.
Her hand hovered over the scars carved into her midsection. Following the rules had never gained her a damn thing. She jerked the gloves out of her jacket and shoved her hands into them, using her boot heel to push the kickstand up.
A bald guy dressed in skinny black jeans and the remains of a T-shirt stumbled into the alley. His eyes widened.
“Well, hey, sweetheart,” he drawled. “You are a damn fine sight this morning.”
Skinhead. Thrash metal dude. The club had been full of them last night, even though the band had been pure three-cord punk. But hardcore fought to replace it. Gah. Another great scene lost.
“Buzz off,” she said.
He stumbled closer, aiming to cut her off. “Aw, c’mon, I saw you in there, redhead, fooling around. Give us a kiss to celebrate the morning.”
With a flick of her wrist, the switchblade appeared in her hand. Another flick, and the blade opened. “Get the fuck out of my way.”
“Shit.” He scrambled backwards. “Jesus, bitch,” he said as he vanished around the corner.
Bitch is right, she thought, as she closed the switchblade and dumped it back into a pocket.
The Indian roared to life, echoing in the alley. Trisha burned rubber as she turned and accelerated onto the street.
Corrina is a writer, mom, geek and occasional superhero. She’s a former newspaper reporter with a degree in journalism from Boston University, she works from home writing romance novels with a geeky twist and as the Content Director of GeekMom.com.
Her novels include The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, a romantic steampunk mystery; the award-winning and USA Today-recognized superhero romance series, the Phoenix Institute, which includes: Phoenix Rising, Luminous, Phoenix Legacy, Ghost Phoenix, Ghosts of Christmas Past, and Phoenix Inheritance; and the erotic Freya’s Gift, a tale of Vikings in North America and a fertility ritual.
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