Moira swept into the meeting. Swept is the only way to describe how Moira moved. She was built like a runway model, and her loose bohemian clothes trailed behind her as if she were caught in a constant headwind. She was the perfect female , defying demographics of gender and age and race. She had the androgynous beauty of a Greek statue and the warm toast-colored skin of newly baked bread.
"They're laying off people at Channel 5," she said in her perfectly articulated voice.
"Coming soon to a theater near you," Isaiah said.
Here we go again. Every week there was some new anecdote about the demise of broadcast television. Now it's true that awhile back when the sponsors were losing money and pulling their ads, I panicked a little. Our fate was tied with theirs. But you didn't cry disaster in the face of disaster. You put on your game face and dug in harder.
"They're offering early retirement," I said. "Not layoffs."
"Same thing." Moira shrugged one of her shoulders, as if she didn't care enough to exert both. "The experienced people lose their jobs."
"Not nearly the same," I argued. "Early retirement comes with a big, fat paycheck that no one would take if they didn't want to."
"I'd love to get money for nothing," Nelson said, and then he leaned across the table toward me. "What are you huddled over?"
"It's called a press release. Maybe you've heard of them." "A press release of what? A Rorschach test?"
I studied the eerie eyes of Evelyn Carney again. "It's supposed to be a picture of a woman missing from Georgetown."
"It's the picture that's missing," Nelson said with disdain. "That ink stain could be anybody. You, Moira, anybody."
I rubbed the back of my neck. "Yeah," I said, and then to Isaiah, "Get the police to email a color photo, will you?"
When he opened the glass door to go, I asked Isaiah to find Ben. "Ask him to call his cop buddies. See what they think of the case."
He gestured to the digital clock above the bank of televisions, meaning Ben was late, as usual. "I'll try to find him, but you know how it is with the beautiful people," Isaiah said. "No offense, Moira."
She did her one-shoulder shrug.
Later, when the evening news was under way, I left the control room and climbed the stairs to my office, where I turned off the overhead lights. The soft yellow desk lamp threw shadows over shelves holding my mother's antique tea set and my books, waiting like old friends. There were shadows, too, on the awards hung on the walls—some from stories with Ben, some all my own—and on the framed articles I wrote during my early days at the Washington Post.
I kicked off my shoes, and lifting the remotes from my desk, turned on the monitors showing newscasts from each competing station, leaving them on mute. At the end of the hour, the color photograph of the missing woman flashed across the row of monitors simultaneously.
Evelyn Carney was young and pretty, with shoulder-length brown hair, thick and wavy, wilder than my own. Her skin was rosier, too, and her face rounder, and her green eyes tilted up in the corners like a Disney princess.
I'd seen her before, but not in person. She'd been in a video, although I couldn't place the clip. It'd been brief, maybe two seconds long, three at most. Probably a cutaway shot, one of those quick flashes of video used to show a reaction, but I couldn't be certain.
I went to my desk and clicked on the database for archived video on my computer and ran a search for Evelyn Carney. Her name brought up no hits. I was expanding the search when Ben knocked on my door.
He must've come directly from the desk. His face was still covered in makeup, and his dark hair had that perfect gelatinous sheen he'd mess up as soon as he hit the street. He was giving me that look of his, his smile slow and dark eyes direct, as if I were the only woman in the world. I was pretty sure he looked at all women that way.
"I'm in the mood for some Russian lit," he said, and I waved him in. He bent his big body to the bookshelf, pulling out the hardbound copies of Anna Karenina and War and Peace and grabbing the bottle of vodka they hid. He poured a hefty shot into the teacup from my mother's set. His hand eclipsed the cup as he swirled it. "I always wondered what you kept behind your Ulysses."
"Stay away from my Irish," I said. "The alcohol isn't a good idea anyway."