“Oh, it’s time.” I answered over my shoulder.
I zeroed in on Lou’s smug anchor’s grin. My cork was about to pop. I checked my hands – no fists.
“Th-thanks.” Lou leaned forward in his seat as he watched me enter the room. His gaze darted between the news director and me. His grin dimmed just a bit. “Uh, Brock did a heck of a job shooting it too.”
“Yes. Good job, Brock.” Percy Finch fanned a limp-wristed salute my way.
I was torn. Should I play it cool, give Lou a little rope, and watch him dangle before he hung himself, or –
“You sonofabitch!” Choice made.
I dove across the corner of the table. Lou scrambled from his chair, but I managed to grab a handful of his tie before he could hide behind the ASSMAN. Ken nearly tumbled out of his chair trying to dodge us. Two women producers screamed.
Weaver leapt with me. He threw his arm over my shoulder and across my chest, and he pulled hard to keep me off of Lou.
“Tell ’em, you son of a bitch! Tell ’em what you did!”
Lou’s eyes swung nervously from me to Weaver to Ken, and back to me. “What? Uhh, I – ”
“Brock.” Percy Finch stood, smoothed his tie, and buttoned his suit coat. “What is the meaning of this?”
Ken wrestled Lou’s tie from my grip, and Weaver backed me across the table.
“That no-good son of a bitch ripped off my story!”
Lou backed flat against the wall and tried to disappear.
“Tell ’em! Tell ’em how you put your lock-out on the end of the Sonic story! Tell ’em you piece of shit!”
“Brock, calm down.” Percy Finch’s voice remained calm as he ran a hand through his starched hair.
“I’ll calm down as soon as this plagiarizer gets what’s coming to him!” My hands were balling themselves into fists again.
“We’re not going to handle this in the morning meeting.” Percy Finch turned toward the producers and reporters at the table. “If you’ll excuse us. Both of you, in my office. Now.”
Percy Finch leaned way back in his chair and faked his most sincere smile. Until now, I had steered clear of the diminutive Director of News. At five-foot-three, his less than impressive stature mirrored his yes-man managerial abilities. Percy Finch hated conflict. “Gentlemen, can’t we solve this without fisticuffs?”
I couldn’t contain myself. “Lou had absolutely nothing to do with that story last night.” My hands waved wildly around my head as I ranted. “I shot it! I produced it! I edited it! And he goes and slaps his name on it!”
“I think I’ve heard quite enough from you, Brock. I’d like to hear from Lou.” Percy Finch bobbed back and forth in his chair, his stubby fingers intertwined across his tie.
“Well,” Lou started tentatively, avoiding eye contact with me. “We needed a kicker for the late news. Brock had this story.”
Percy Finch smiled.
“Brock’s story didn’t have a KALX lock-out on the end.” Lou looked nervously at my hands. They were folded in my lap.
I waited for what I already knew was coming.
“Brock was gone. So I recorded mine over the last line.”
I gripped the arms of the office chair to keep from flying across the room.
“He’s not even a reporter!” Lou explained, desperation in his voice. “He couldn’t have locked it out even if he was here.”
Percy Finch nodded. “Brock, stay.” He held out his hand. “You see, a logical explanation. Thank you, Lou. You may go.”
“What!” I jumped from my seat. “Is that all? ‘Lou, you may go?’ He took credit for my work! That’s plagiarism!”
Percy Finch leaned across his desk. “Lou, would you close the door on your way out, please?”
When the door closed, Percy Finch stood and shut the blinds all the way around his glass office. That couldn’t be good, but at least no one would see me pummel the runt.
He took his seat behind the desk. First, he studied the doodles that covered his desk calendar. He rummaged around his top drawer for a pen, and doodled another running cowboy stick figure.
I waited, breathing heavy to keep from shouting.
“Brock,” he finally said never looking up from his doodles, “what are we going to do with you?”
“Me? I’m the victim here!”
“You’re not a victim. You are a photojournalist. You shoot stories for reporters.”
I squeezed my lips and gritted my teeth. I wanted to take his head off.
“Lou is an anchor.” He continued. “He tells stories.”
“Well excuse the hell out of me for stepping out of my narrow job description. Isn’t part of being a photojournalist telling stories?”
“Well . . . yes, but you tell them with pictures and sound.” Percy Finch looked me dead in the chin.
“That’s exactly what I did last night! And that son of a bitch took credit for it!”
“Son, everything on tape here is KALX property. It’s not your work.”
“So it’s okay for me to record my name on one of Lou’s stories?”
“It’s the same damn thing Lou did. Only he did it to me.” I pounded my fists on his desk. The blast nearly rolled Percy Finch out of his chair.
“Son,” Percy Finch fought to suppress the startled look on his face, “if you don’t learn to control your emotions, you’re going to have a heart attack before you’re thirty.” He leaned way back in his chair again. “I’m going to help you with that. You’re suspended. Three days, starting now.”
“Suspended! I do the work. Lou plagiarizes it. But I’m suspended!”
“That’s twice you’ve almost punched a co-worker. I can’t have you threatening my staff without penalty.”
“What about Lou?”
“Lou didn’t threaten anyone. He’s fine.” Percy Finch stood and opened the blinds all the way around his glass office.
For once, I was speechless.
“No hard feelings.” Percy Finch winked. “Leave the door open on your way out.”
to be continued