Author/blogger’s note: This is Chapter 7 of my unpublished little comic crime caper “Grabmore.”

In this chapter our narrator meets with a detective investigating the disappearance of a certain CEO.

He ordered coffee. Black. He growled thanks at the barista with the rings in her nose and lips.

I averted my gaze from all that pierced skin and meekly ordered a grande, skinny, no-whip mocha. Hooper growled a deep growl of displeasure. I know what he was thinking. What the hell is a grande, skinny, no-whip mocha? Who the hell drinks this sissified fancy stuff?

He spit a disapproving juicy wad of tobacco in a trashcan and we walked down a short hallway to a seating area in the back.

I had promised to tell him everything I know. I lied. I couldn’t do that. I’d tell him about the suffocating corporate atmosphere and the mendacious managers and the hypocrisy. I’d tell him about the Orwellian, amoral corporate lingo.

I freely explained the low morale and the self-righteous, phony-baloney, sanctimonious prattling about ethics. I had no trouble telling him that for all the blather about journalistic ethics the key word missing from all that bloviating was the adjective situational.

As in situational ethics. As in the ethics depended on the situation and the person involved. If the person was an editor such as Lowe and had been anointed with a bullet proof corporate shield by an unseen golden scepter of some murky, mystifying power, all was well and almost anything went.

Go on a free fishing junket? That was fine. Have affairs with reporters? That was fine. Lie and dissemble and scheme and backstab and brown nose? That was fine. For weasels such as Lowe.

If the county government reporter accepted a small Coke from a county commissioner’s receptionist, that was worth a suspension without pay and a stern reprimand in the reporter’s file. No freebies. We must remain beyond reproach.

That was the Grabmore way. A double standard of shifting ethics and retroactive rules. Do something yesterday and a rule is announced against it today and you will be punished tomorrow.

That’s the Grabmore Way.

Like I said, I lied to Hooper, who I respected. I didn’t want to do it but I had to. I had too many people to protect, including myself.

I knew what happened to O’Riley. Really.

I promised to help Hooper. And I would. Up to a point.

I couldn’t tell him about the conspiracy of reporters, press operators and sports department colleagues.

I couldn’t tell him about the folks from Portland. Both Portlands. I couldn’t tell him about the janitor from corporate headquarters. Or the sportswriter in St. Paul. Or the veteran pressman in Boise.

Or the sportscaster in Jackson.

So many were in on this.

That was an advantage of working in Florida. Fort Myers and nearby places such as Naples, Sanibel, Useppa and many others were winter vacation destinations.

So they came here on vacation. From all those places. All those people.

Everybody in the Grabmore empire knew about O’Riley’s annual visit. There is nothing suspicious about other folks, the lowly workers visiting here in the winter.

That’s how we got together. That’s how we planned what we planned, how we fooled Hooper and the FBI and the Grabmore security gunsels.

That’s how we did what we did.

First, though, I had to meet with Hooper and we would unofficially re-construct the day of the disappearance.

So, keeping my eyes averted from the pierced barista, I grabbed my grande, skinny, no-whip mocha and we walked to the back, sat down and talked.

First, though, maybe I should mention the day we, ah, borrowed, O’Riley. We don’t like the words kidnapped or abducted or hijacked or shanghaied.

Those words all have such, well, criminal connotations. We don’t consider ourselves criminals. We’re merely desperate people trying to save our newspapers and our souls and journalism and decency and. …

Well, you get it. And we got O’Riley. But would Hooper get us?