Driving home from Davis just now, I passed Fairfield, where I worked for two years and two months -- yes, I counted -- at the Daily Republic newspaper.
Newsrooms are a goldmine of crazy shit. At 23, with barely enough knowledge to be able to brush my own teeth, I covered my first, and thankfully only, murder.
I'm eating lunch at some random Italian joint -- McBucci's or whatever -- in what passes for downtown. I'm with two friends from the newsroom, one of whom just broke up with her boyfriend. Today is a Monday and so I have the scanner because that's my day to cover cops. I have more experience having my name called out over the scanner than actually understanding the codes that hiccup through the static -- my colleagues always know I'd gotten yet another speeding ticket when they hear the dispatcher announce: "Comes back clear and current to an Allison Landa of Berkeley."
So we're sitting at McBucci's, waiting for our Milanese Murder Burgers or whatever, when the scanner starts crackling with a new urgency. They're calling for backup, then more backup, then for LifeFlight. I sigh. Looks like lunch may have to be served in a to-go container.
A minute later, they call off LifeFlight. This time my sigh is out of relief. Just then, my newly single friend starts to bawl over our complimentary bread. I turn down the scanner to console her. To do otherwise would be, well, rude.
Our waitress comes over not with plates, but a question: "Which one of you is Allison?" she asks.
"You have a phone call."
On the restaurant's line is Judith, who knows everything that goes on at all times. She's back in the newsroom, wondering if I've been listening to what's going on. "Yeah," I say, straining to see if my food's shown up at the table yet. "They called off the LifeFlight."
"That's because the guy's dead."
I spout curses that quite possibly don't come from the English language. Then I stomp back to the table and toss down a ten, still flaming from the mouth. My friend has stopped crying and is eyeing me as if I might explode in a messy fashion. I might.
I hate covering breaking news. It's so -- out of control.
I whirl to leave and see three of my sources at an adjacent table: one of my favorite lawyers dining with two judges. All three are laughing. Of course they are. They don't have to go check out some stiff.
I book it down West Texas Street. The action's by the Wells Fargo, a cluster of medics bending over a stretcher. I can only see a pair of grayish feet lying askew. He's dead all right, I think, and my heart pounds with adrenaline.