Susan
The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey


Chapter Twenty-nine: Interview

       Winter was little more than an annoyance to the Big Apple. Snow was pushed aside, the subways ran as usual, city services were rescheduled or worked around, some schools were (thankfully, to be sure) closed occasionally, radiators rang with demands for more heat, the bars were fuller and noisier, gridlock worsened, and the general tenor of peoples' complaints changed — as usual — with the season.
       But in the City That Never Sleeps, work went on despite the temporary inconvenience of a major snowstorm. Especially on the forty-fourth floor of the old Daily Planet building, housing what was once a great metropolitan newspaper, now successfully metamorphosed into an international multimedia cable news conglomerate. They had deadlines.
       And Louise Layne had a problem. She always had a problem, and it was always the same: her boss, the star of the show she produced that bore his name — 'Deep Inside with Ken Clark'.
       In a way, she was the victim of her own success. He'd always somehow managed to be the interviewer who landed the Big One — the newsmaker of the moment, the happening celebrity, the head of state or captain of industry, the lucky or unfortunate wretch who commanded the attention of the world for a brief moment of immortality. His insightful probing put a human face on the events the world cared about. His easy familiarity with the powerful and famous bridged social and cultural chasms between the unapproachable and the unwashed.
       Only — it wasn't necessarily Ken Clark who did the considerable dirty work involved in bullying, bribing, cajoling, threatening, pleading, stampeding, blackmailing, groveling or outright lying to get these self-important bozos in line to kiss his feet. He wasn't the one who did the research needed to come up with the 'facts' behind the 'insightful probing' that let his subjects spin their stories just the way they wanted in order to further their own agendas. And his 'easy familiarity' was born of only one thing — a narcissistic proccupation with his own bloated ego that brooked no rival to his overweening self-importance.
       So it was up to Louise to regularly accomplish the impossible, scoop the competition and set him up for another triumph. Which, for the most part, she had been able to do. She was good, after all. Tough and persistent, savvy and smart. Years of effort on her part had made it so that an appearance with her boss defined importance in the perceptions of superstars and Joe Sixpack alike.
       But this… This was maybe too much. Everyone — everyone — was focused on one incredible newsmaker.
       The alien.
       Whoever nailed down the elusive little girl with the 'S' on her chest was going to win the biggest prize possible. Terms like 'interview of the century' were woefully inadequate to describe such an event.
       Louise stared morosely at the swirling storm in the evening gloom outside her nearly frosted-over office window. Try as she might, she couldn't come up with an angle that was any better than anyone else's. The little brat just wasn't part of the interconnected network of associations and acquaintances that encompassed 'normal' movie stars, politicians, thinkers and doers. There were no favors to call in, no dirty laundry that she could discover, no discernable prejudices or worthy causes she could exploit, and the creature didn't even appear to have an agent. It was very frustrating.
       Her boss summoned her into his inner sanctum. She scurried in obediently. His tall, impressive frame was leaning back comfortably in the big chair behind his desk, the trademark curl of jet-black hair dangling across his brow in a calculatedly insouciant manner. He was wearing his prop glasses, which meant he was currently portraying his 'professional newsman' character. Louise knew it was all part of a carefully crafted image that constituted his principal talent, one that had little to do with any kind of legitimate credentials. His whole purpose for being revolved around his looking and sounding authoritative, charming and — well — manly. His persona had nothing to do with being a mild-mannered reporter and everything to do with the perception — at least in his own mind — that he was some kind of journalistic superstud.
       "So, Louise," he greeted her, "Got me a date with the alien chick yet?"
       "Working on it," she mumbled.
       Ken looked impatient. "It's been — what — nearly a month since she was all over the news with that quake stuff in Tokyo…"
       "Singapore," she corrected inaudibly.
       "…and you still haven't even talked to her people yet. What's the holdup?"
       "She doesn't appear to have any 'people'. At least, not the kinds of 'people' I usually deal with."
       "Everybody has 'people'. I have 'people'…"
       That would be me, thought Louise.
       "…so get her 'people' to talk to my 'people'. How hard can it be?"
       "Well, she has friends, and even a lawyer," Louise told him. "But they're not talking to anyone in the media. It's not just me…"
       "I'm surprised at you, Louise. You've never had this kind of difficulty before."
       How would you know? she thought.
       "Show me what you've got so far," he commanded, beckoning her to come behind his desk.
       She dropped a folder in front of him. Pictures spilled out, some taken at the NASA news conference, some grainy and ill-focused screen shots from amateur videos, and a few obvious surveillance-type paparazzi pix.
       "There's quite a cast of characters surrounding her," she said, pointing to several of the photos. "Apparently, she lives with some old guy who evidently found her — and his girlfriend, a semi-notorious 'worthy cause' lawyer who used to work for Bruce Wayans."
       Ken shuddered distastefully at Dinah's picture, an intimidating pose caught while she was snarling at the trespassing cameraman.
       "The kid used to hang out with a bunch of skaters, but they basically have the attention span of trout, with a vocabulary to match. They're no help."
       She went on. "There's a bunch of retired Ru