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  • I.

    Early morning one Saturday, Chance Black sat comfortably in the driver’s seat of his sun-faded jalopy as he drove from his office to the outdoor presentation area of NuTech Corporation. There, the C.E.O. prepared to speak about the recent financial success of the company. A stir of leaves twirled behind the car when Chance jerked the wheel left to make a turn. Though he drove furiously, Chance was quite pleased with himself. He was getting paid to go to a speech and take a shot at the C.E.O. Easy job, easy money.

    “Cake,” Chance said to himself. The C.E.O. was going to speak outdoors. This gave Chance a huge advantage to take his shot because the weather was beautiful – not a cloud in the sky – and the temperature was moderate. With luck, no one would even notice him getting close enough to the podium to take the C.E.O. Through the crowd he would just brush by and leave the minute he was done. There was no need to stick around for the turnout. That wasn’t part of his assignment.

    At eight in the morning, Chance arrived at NuTech. Showing a special pass his boss had given him, the man at the gates passed him on and showed him where to park. From there, he followed the signs to the back of the headquarters building. Already a crowd of at least two hundred gathered, most of them workers and media correspondents.

    Chance slid between the people in the crowd to avoid being noticed. Onward to the front he went, shifting his weight, moving his arms, and holding his camera above his chest. Just as he was coming to the third row from the front, the C.E.O. took the podium.

    “Good afternoon, employees and guests of NuTech,” the speech began.

    This will have to do, Chance decided, realizing that he would miss his opportunity to get a good snapshot if he fussed too long over position.

    “…I come here today…”

    Chance turned his body center flush. Doing so, his elbow connected with another photographer.

    “Sorry about that,” Chance said without offering any help to the man. The other photographer’s camera had fallen to the ground, quite possibly broken. Chance didn’t care, or rather, didn’t have the time to care. He didn’t want to be at the speech all day.

    Positioning himself in the perfect way, Chance looked through the view of his camera and grinned, realizing he had a great shot. The only things disturbing his picture were a pigeon landing on the C.E.O.’s podium and a man tossing trash into a dumpster along the street behind the stage.

    Who cares? He captured a few shots of the C.E.O. He accomplished his assignment. Now all he had to do was bring the photos into the press-room and wait for his paycheck.

    II

    “Back already?” Brian, the chief editor of the Long Brooke
    Sync city page, asked.

    Raising his brow, Chance smiled and said, “What can I say?”

    “No, no. It’s more like, what can I say? I mean, here you are, already back from the C.E.O.’s speech with your photos saved on our computers and ready for copy. There’s an obvious reason I call you our top photographer.”

    “Too bad I was never the top reporter,” Chance mumbled.

    “Hey, man, that’s okay. You started out as a reporter and quickly switched to photographer. So what? You’re better at this. You’re great!”

    Disappointed for some strange reason, Chance looked at the ruddy floor tiles, not saying a word.

    “No offense,” Brian added.

    Chance smirked and replied, “I guess none taken. Will these pictures work, though?”

    “Of course they will. Impressive, honestly.”

    “Thanks,” Chance muttered.

    “No, Chance, thank you. You make us look great.”

    “Thank you again.” Chance bit his lip in an anxious expression and teetered from side to side.

    Brian knew what he was going to ask. Chance always shook his head like that for the same reason. “You want an advance, don’t you?” Brian asked beside himself.

    “If that’s not too much to ask,” Chance confirmed.

    “No, no problem.” Brian’s tone lost all energy. “All I can get you is the two hundred- some for now, though.”

    “Fine.”

    Brian left the room to get a check made up.

    Alone in the room, Chance observed all the decorations. From ceiling to floor, Brian’s office was covered with awards of his writers, headline clippings, and pictures of family.

    His lost track of through once his phone started to ring. The screen read: Linda. He could’ve guessed.

    “Yes, babe?” he answered.

    “Are you at the office?” Linda asked.

    “Yes, honey. I’m trying to get an advance.” Chance tried to remain cool. Sometimes he just wasn’t in the mood to talk to his wife, even though he could truthfully say he loved her.

    “That’s good. We could use it. Does that mean you’re coming home early tonight? In time for dinner? I’m making meatloaf, corn, potatoes, and a salad. Do I need to save you a plate, or will you be coming home for once?”

    “Jesus,” Chance said, “I’m coming home in time for dinner. I’m not horrible and you know how this job goes. Just thank God I’m not a reporter.”

    “All right, Chance. No reason to be rude. It’s just that me and Tony like to see you every now and again before midnight.”

    Tony, his son.

    “I’ll be home, don’t worry.” Chance rolled his eyes.

    Brian walked into the room, holding Chance’s paycheck.

    Chance rushed the end of the call: “Honey, Brian just walked in. Gotta go. I’ll be home shortly. I love you. Bye.”

    Before his wife could say goodbye, Chance pressed END.

    “Your wife?” Brian asked as he lowered himself down into the seat behind his desk.

    “Yeah,” Chance answered. “Did it work out?”

    “Yeah, gotcha two forty-five. Is that good?”

    “Should be fine. I’ll just pick up the change next week.”

    “Just don’t get me fired for this,” Brian said, lowering his tone.

    “Don’t worry,” Chance assured him as he walked for the door. “Oh, and have a good night, Brian.”

    “Uh-huh. You, too.”

    Out of the office, Chance walked along the hallway, headed for the elevator. The newsroom offices were on the fifth floor of the building, which wasn’t too far up to use the stairs, but with an elevator available, Chance didn’t really see the point.

    In the elevator, he pushed the star button that represented the entrance floor. The minute he reached the floor, his cell phone rang again.

    “Yes, honey?” he answered, his voice tired.

    “Go back up to your desk on the fifth floor. There’s something there for you,” a male voice said.

    Confused, he looked at the screen of his phone. It read: HOME.

    “Who is this?” Chance asked.
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