Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry – Mary Higgins Clark

Gina Kane stretched in her window seat. Her latest prayer had been answered. The door of the jumbo jet was closing and the Мight attendants were preparing for takeoА. The middle of the three seats on her side wasempty and would remain that way for the sixteen-hour direct Мight from Hong Kong to JFK in New York City. Her second piece of luck was the passenger on the other side of the empty seat. Immediately after buckling himself in, he had taken two Ambien. His eyes were already closed and would remain that way for the nexteight hours. That was perfect. She wanted time to think, not make small talk. It wasa trip her parents had spent over a year planning, and they were so excited when they called her to say they had sent in the deposit and were “committed to going.” She remembered her mother saying, as they often did, “We want to do this before we get too old.” The notion of either of them getting old had seemed so foreign. Both were outdoors enthusiasts, always hiking, walking, and biking. But at her mother’s annual physical, her doctor had spotted an “abnormality.” It was shocking, an inoperable cancerous tumor.

She went from being the picture of health to gone in four months. It was after the funeral that Dad brought up the trip. “I’m going to cancel. When I see the other couples from the hiking club together, it will be too depressing to do it alone.” Gina had made her decision on the spot. “Dad, you’re going, and you’re not going to be there alone. I’m going with you.” They had spent ten days hiking through small villages in mountainous Nepal. After Мying with her to Hong Kong, he had taken the direct flight to Miami. It had been so easy to see and choose the right thing to do.

Her father had thoroughly enjoyed the trip. She had as well. She had never once second-guessed her decision to go. But where was thatability to decide and plow forward when it came to Ted? He was such a good guy. Both of them were thirty-two. He was absolutely certain that she was the person he wanted to spend his life with. Although disappointed that they would be apart for so long, he had encouraged her to accompany her father. “Family should always come Йrst.” It was a line he had said to her many times as they went to gatherings with his bewildering array of relatives. All that time to think and she was no closer to knowing what to say to Ted.

He had a right to know where they were going. How many times can I say,“I just need a little more time”? As usual, her reМection ended in a stalemate. Longing for any distraction, she opened her iPad and entered the password for her email. The screen immediately Йlled with “new” messages, ninety-four in total. She typed several keystrokes to make the screen display the emails by the name of the sender. There was no response from CRyan. Surprised and disappointed, she hit NEW, typed in CRyan’s address, and began writing: Hi C, I hope you received the email I sent ten daysago. I’m very interested in hearing about your “terrible experience.” Please be in touch at your earliest convenience. Best regards, Gina.

Before pressing SEND, she added her phone number after her name. The only other email she opened was from Ted. She was sure it would say that he had made a plan for them to meet for dinner. And talk. It was with a mixture of relief and disappointment that she read his note. Hi Gina, I’ve been counting the days until I get to see you. I’m sorry to say I’m going to have to keep counting. I leave tonight for a special project the bank put me on. Will be in LA for at leasta week. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am.

I promise to make it up to you when I get back. Call you tomorrow. All my love now, Ted A voice came over the PA announcing they had been cleared for takeoА and ordering that all electronic devices be powered down. She closed her iPad, yawned, and propped her pillow between her head and the side of the cabin. The email from ten days earlier, the one that would put her life in danger, remained on her mind as she slowly dozed off. Part I 1 Gina’sapartment was on 82nd Streetand West End Avenue. Her mother and father had given it to her after they retired and moved to Florida. Spacious, with two bedrooms and a decent-size kitchen, it was the envy of her friends, many of whom were crammed into tiny one-bedroomsand studios. After dropping her bags in her bedroom, she checked her watch. 11:30 p.

m. in New York; 8:30 p.m. in California. She decided it would be a good time to call Ted. He answered on the first ring. “Well hello, stranger.” His tone was deep and loving, giving Gina a rush of warmth. “I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed you.” “I’ve missed you, too.

” “It’s killing me that I’m stuck in LA for a week.” They chatted for a few minutes. He Йnished by saying, “I know you just got in and you’re probably exhausted. I have a bunch of meetings planned. I’ll call you when things calm down.” “It’sa deal,” she said. “Love you.” “Love you, too.” As she hung up the phone, Gina realized that Ted’s unexpected trip to California was a mixed blessing. On the one hand she wanted to see him.

On the other it was a relief to not have to have a conversation she was not ready for. Stepping out of the shower at Йve-thirty in the morning, Gina was pleasantly surprised at how she felt so good. She had slept for almost eight hours on the plane and another four after arriving home. She wasn’t feeling any of the dreaded jet lag most people experience after a long west to east flight. She was eager to get back to work. After graduating from Boston College with a major in Journalism, she had been thrilled to land a job as a desk assistant at a suburban newspaper on Long Island. Budget cutbacks had forced the paper to let many of their senior writers go. Within a year she was writing feature stories. Her articles on businessand Йnance caught the eye of the editor of Your Money. She happily made the switch to the brash new upstart and had loved every minute of her seven years there.

But the declining interest in print publicationsand slowing advertising revenue had taken their toll. In the three years since Your Money had folded, she had been a freelancer. While part of her enjoyed the freedom to pursue the stories that interested her, another part missed the steady paycheck and health care that came along with being an employee. She was free to choose what she wanted to write about, butat the end of the day somebody had to buy her story. Empire Review had been a lifesaver. While visiting her parents in Florida, friends of theirs told Gina about being horriЙed that their eighteen-year-old grandson had been branded during a hazing ritual at his college fraternity. Using a hot iron, Greek letters had been burned into the back of his upper thigh. Complaints to the university’sadministration were going unanswered. Big donorsamong the alumni had threatened to withhold contributions if there wasa clampdown on the “Greek Life” community. Empire Review had agreed to the story immediately.

They gave her a hefty advance and a generous travel and expense budget. ER’sexposé caused a sensation. It was covered by the national evening news programsand even prompted a segment on 60 Minutes. The success of the fraternity story had given her high visibility as an investigative journalist. She was inundated with “tips” emails from would-be whistle-blowersand people who claimed to have knowledge of major scandals. A few of them had resulted in stories she had pursued and published. The trick was distinguishing between providers of genuine leads versus crackpots, disgruntled former employees, and conspiracy theorists. Gina glanced at her watch. She was scheduled to meet with the magazine’seditor in chief the next day. Charles Maynard typically began the conversation with “So Gina, what do we want to write about next?” She had a little over twenty-four hours to come up with a good answer.

She dressed quickly, choosing jeans and a warm turtleneck sweater. After touching up her makeup, she glanced at her full-length mirror. She looked like the early pictures of her mother, who had been homecoming queen at Michigan State. Wideseteyes, more green than hazel, and classic features. Auburn shoulder-length hair made her look even taller than her five foot, seven inch frame. SatisЙed with her appearance, she put a frozen bagel in the toaster and made a cup of coАee. When it was ready, she brought her plate and cup to the table by the living room window. She had a view of the morning sun that was barely peaking over the horizon. It was the time of day when she keenly felt the death of her mother and experienced the feeling of time rushing by too quickly. Settling at the table, her favorite place to work, she opened her laptop and watched a wave of unread emails unfold on her screen.

Her Йrst glance was at the new emails that had arrived since she had checked while on the plane. Nothing urgent. More importantly, nothing from CRyan. Next she scanned through the ones that had arrived over the last week and a half, when she had been in one of the few remaining places on earth where WiFi service was notavailable. A note from a woman in Atlanta who claimed she had proof that the recycled rubber being used in school playgrounds was making children sick. A request to speak the following month at the ASJA, American Society of Journalists and Authors. An email from a man who claimed he had in his possession the portion of President Kennedy’s skull that had gone missing after the autopsy. Even though she probably could have recited its content, she went back and clicked on the email she had received the day she left on her vacation. Hi Gina, I don’t believe we ever met when we were at Boston College. I Йnished a few years apart from you.

Right after I graduated, I went to work at REL News. I had a terrible experience with one of the higher-ups. (And I wasn’t the only one.) Now they’re afraid I’ll talk about it. I’ve been approached about a settlement oАer. I don’t want to put more in an email. Can we arrange to meet? When she had seen the name CRyan on an email, she had tried to remember why the name was familiar. Had there been a Courtney Ryan at school? Gina reread the email twice, pushing herself to see if there was anything she had missed. REL News was a Wall Street darling among media companies. Its headquarters were at 55th Street and Avenue of the Americas, or Sixth Avenue as most New Yorkers still called it.

In a span of twenty years it had grown from a small group of cable TV stations to a national powerhouse. Its ratings had surpassed CNN and were growing ever closer to the market leader, Fox. Its unoГcial motto was “REaL News, not the other kind.” The Йrst subject that had come to her mind was sexual harassment. Hold on, she had thought. You don’t even know if “CRyan” is a man or a woman. You’re a reporter. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Get the facts. There had been only one way to find out.

She looked again at the response she had sent. Hi Mr./Ms. Ryan, I’m very interested in talking to you about the “terrible experience” you referred to. I’ll be out of the country without access to email, but I’ll be back on October 13. As you probably know, I live and work in New York City. Where are you? Looking forward to hearing from you. Best, Gina. She had diГculty focusing as she scrolled through other emails. I had really hoped to have more than this, she said to herselfas her mind drifted to tomorrow’s meeting at the magazine.

Maybe she left a message, Gina thought optimistically. Her cell phone had been down to one bar when she boarded her Мight. It was dead by the time she landed in New York. In the email she gave CRyan her number. Gina walked quickly into her bedroom, removed her phone from the charger, and brought it back to the kitchen. She tapped the phone to wake it up. A quick glance revealed several messages, but none from unfamiliar numbers. The Йrst was from her best friend Lisa. “Hi girlfriend. Welcome back.

Looking forward to hearing all about your trip. I hope we’re still on for dinner tonight. We have to go to a dive restaurant in the Village called the Bird’s Nest. I have a great new case. A slip and fall. My client fell on ice cubes dropped by the bartender when he was shaking martinis. Broke her leg in three places. I want to scope out the joint.” Gina chuckled as she listened. Dinner with Lisa wasalways fun.

The other messages were solicitations, which she immediately deleted. 2 Gina took the subway four stops to 14th Street. From there she walked the three blocks to the Fisk Building. The third through seventh floors were rented by the magazine. “Good morning,” the security guard said as she walked through the detection scanner. A spate of recent threats had led to a policy change at the magazine: “All employees and visitors go through the security line. No exceptions.” Gina entered the elevator and pushed 7, the Мoor reserved for the executive and editorial staА. As she stepped out, a friendly voice greeted her. “Hi Gina.

Welcome back.” Jane Patwell, a longtime administrative assistant, held out her hand. Fifty years old, a little stocky, and always lamenting her dress size, Jane said, “Mr. Maynard will see you in his office.” She lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “He has some good-looking guy with him. I don’t know who he is.” Jane was a born matchmaker. It irritated Gina that Jane was always trying to Йnd someone for her. She was tempted to say, “Maybe he’s a serial killer.

” Instead she smiled without replying. She followed Jane to the large corner oГce that was the domain of Charlie Maynard, the magazine’s longtime editor in chief. Charlie was not at his desk. He was seated at his favorite spot, the conference table by the window, a cell phone stuck in his ear. About Йve feet nine, Charlie had a protruding paunch and cherubic face. Graying hair was combed sideways over his skull. Reading glasses were raised on his forehead. In front of Gina a colleague of Charlie’s once asked him what he did for exercise. Quoting George Burns, Charlie responded, “I make ita point to walk to the funerals of my friends who jog.” He waved when he saw Gina and pointed to the chair opposite him.

Next to him was the goodlooking guy Jane had referred to. As she walked to the table, the newcomer stood up and extended his hand. “GeoАrey Whitehurst,” he said with a slight British accent. He wasabout six feet tall, with even features dominated by piercing dark brown eyes and equally dark brown hair. Combined with his face and athletic build his manner suggested an air ofauthority. “Gina Kane,” she said, feeling that he already knew her name. He looks mid to late thirties, she thought, as she sat in the chair he had pulled out for her. Charlie clicked to end the phone conversation. Turning to him, she said, “Charlie, I’m so sorry I missed your birthday while I wasaway.” “Don’t worry, Gina.

Seventy is the new Йfty. We all had a great time. I see you’ve met GeoАrey. Let me tell you why he’s here.” “Gina, before Charlie begins,” Geoffrey intervened, “I want to say I’m a big fan of your work.” “Thank you,” Gina said, wondering what would come next. What came wasa shock. “After over forty-Йve years in the magazine business, I’ve decided to call it quits. My wife wants us to spend more time on the West Coast with the grandkids and I’ve agreed. GeoА is in the process of taking over for me and he’ll be working with you from now on.

The change will be announced next week and I will appreciate your keeping this confidential until then.” He paused to give Gina time to let his decision sink in, then added, “We were fortunate to snatch Geoffaway from the Time Warner group. Until now he’s spent most of his career in London.” “Congratulations to both of you, Charlie and GeoАrey,” Gina said automatically. She took comfort in the fact that Geoffrey had already said he liked her work. “Please call me Geoff,” he said briskly. Charlie continued. “Gina, your investigations usually run several months to completion. That’s why I invited GeoА here for the initial meeting.” Clearing his throat, he said, “So, Gina, what do we want to write about next?” “I have a couple of ideas,” Gina said as she pulled a small notebook from her purse, “and would like to hear what you think.

” The statement was addressed to both of them. “I’ve exchanged a series of emails with a former aide to a New York State senator. The aide and the senator are currently retired. The aide claims she has evidence of bid rigging and granting contracts in exchange for cash payments and other favors. But there’sa problem with this one. The aide wants twenty-Йve thousand dollars upfront to go on the record and tell her story.” GeoА jumped in Йrst. “My experience is that people who want to be paid to share what they know are not generally reliable. They embellish and sensationalize the story because they want the money and publicity.” Charlie chuckled.

“I think even the most avid fans of Albany corruption are starting to Йnd the subject tiresome. And I agree that paying a source is rarely a good idea.” Gesturing toward Gina’s notebook, Charlie asked, “Whatelse have you got?” “Okay,” Gina said while Мipping the page. “A longtime employee in the Admissions OГce at Yale reached out to me. He claims that the Ivy League schools are sharing with each other the amount of aid they plan to offer individual applicants.” “Why is thata problem?” Geoffasked. “Because it’s right on the edge of price Йxing and collusion. The student is the loser. It’s similar in some ways to when Silicon Valley companies made a gentleman’s agreement to not poach each other’s engineers. The result was that companies proЙted because they did not have to pay more to keep their top talent.

The engineers earned less than they would have if they could have sold their talents to the highest bidder.” “I believe there are eight Ivy League schools, is that right?” Geoffasked. “Yes,” Charlie said, “and they average about six thousand undergrads. So that’s forty-eight thousand of the country’s twenty million college students. I’m not sure many of our readersare going to care about a handful of Ivy Leaguers who might have gotten stiАed on their aid package. If you ask me, I think they’re wasting their money on those overpriced places.” Charlie had grown up in Philadelphia and gone to Penn State. His allegiance to state schools never wavered. What a great way to make an impression on the new boss, Gina thought while Мipping the page. Trying to sound animated, she said, “This next one is literally at square one.

” She told them about receiving the email about the “terrible experience” at REL Newsand the response she had sent. “So it’s been ten days since you answered the email and you haven’t gotten a reply?” Charlie asked. “Yes, eleven counting today.” “This CRyan who sent the email. Have you been able to Йnd out anything about her? Is she credible?” Geoff inquired. “I agree with your assumption that CRyan isa woman, but we can’t be sure of that. Of course the Йrst thing that came to mind when I read this is that it may be a MeToo situation. No, I don’t know anything more about her than she put in the email. My instinct tells me this is worth pursuing.” Geoff looked at Charlie.

“What do you think?” “If I were you, I’d be very interested in Йnding out what CRyan has to say,” Charlie answered. “And it will be much easier to get her to tell her story before she reachesa settlementagreement.” “Okay, Gina, get to work on it,” GeoА aГrmed. “Wherever she is, and I’m also conЙdent we’re dealing with a ‘she,’ go meet with her. I want to hear your personal impressions of her.” As Gina walked down the hallway to the elevator, she whispered to herself, “Please don’t let CRyan turn out to be a psycho!

.

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