The international media maelstrom that sprang up around Leicester High School Principal Newt Gunther's grotesque demise took on a heightened fury for several arguable reasons. First, it was three days after the fact, requiring the main body of media forces to fight through the professional embarrassment of having been scooped by the local weekly.
Even the nearest daily and its TV partner had been caught flat-footed. They'd blown off the reenactment itself because as an annual event it had become the kind of familiar “non-story” shrinking news staffs everywhere were wont to pass up in favor of a quick hit “hard news” event that was unusual, such as disgruntled fast-food laborers picketing their employer's grease pit in a bid for pay that would ease the misery of their poverty, or something with violence and the promise of blood.
After the pride issue came the desperation of an industry rocked on its heels by a generally struggling economy and, in particular, by impotent efforts to lure back its staple of sustenance, the fickle, almighty ad dollar. News prospectors worldwide, starved for the gold of job security in a “fucking goddam real story” frantically programmed their atlases and GPS doohickeys and plotted the fastest course to Leicester County, Virginia, U.S.A.
But an out-of-wedlock scion of both of these impulses provided the groin-gouging insult that really spurred the media's professional hysteria into focus: the monster child known as YouTube.
“It's on YouTube,” said Mary Lloyd, strains of horror, envy, anger, wonderment and various subtler emotions vying for dominance in her voice.
“What is, Mary?” Blow was at home, studying the list of reenactors Mary had given him. He was looking for names he recognized, hoping to find possible witnesses who might help or even hurt Andrew Salzwedel should he become a defendant in either a criminal trial or a lawsuit. Mary's call interrupted his concentration and confused him with what seemed a non sequitur. Then it hit him, before she could answer. He knew what she'd said, and he blurted, “Oh no! Holy shit!”
“Yeah. I just now saw it. Probly hasn't been up long. Only a couple hundred views. I emailed you a link, but I didn't know if you were online. Mel's already called me.”
“Mel? What a putz. He wants you to help him?”
She laughed. “I guess. He thought I put it up. Too gross to put on our online edition. I laughed at him. He hung up on me.”
“Chickenshit. So who do you think put it up?”
“I'm not sure. It's somebody who goes by 'Graffito'.”
“You're not sure. You have an idea?”
“Well, there's this guy who's been trying to sell us freelance videos, but we don't use many on our Web edition. Takes too much bandwidth. I don't remember his name, but I think it's probly around here somewhere. He left a card once.”
“You think this might be him?”
“Whoever put this up has quite a few videos on his site. Or hers. I guess it could be a her.”
“Pretty graphic, huh?”
“Jesus, Blow. Whoever shot it must've had a telephoto lens. You can see the blood gushing out soon as the head comes off. I'm surprised YouTube allows it to stay up.”
“I'm sure they'll take it down as soon as they know about it. Must be thousands of videos going up on there every minute or so. You might consider calling Nancy Gunther. She could sue the pants off them if they don't take it down.”
“Me? You're the lawyer, Blow.” She chuckled.
“Mary, despite what people say about us young attorneys, I do not chase ambulances. I'm surprised you'd even think of such a thing, much less give voice to it. In fact, I'm shocked...shocked. Yeah, I know, we'll always have Paris, won't we. But, second--and don't take this the wrong way—I've already talked with the widow Gunther. Yes, she called me, and, yes, I told her most likely it would be a conflict of interest for me to represent her. I didn't mention Andy, but I've no doubt she could infer that he's my client.”
“My, somebody's touchy today. Paris, huh? We haven't had it yet, Blow. If you're gonna talk the talk...well, you know the rest. So you think I should call her?”
“I'm surprised you haven't already cultivated her as a source.”
“Oh, I tried. I don't think she likes me. Somehow she thinks Gunther and I had an affair. Can you believe it?”
“I don't know. Why would she think that?”
“Oh, shit. You don't believe me, either! Some friend.”
“You haven't denied it, Mary.”
“Dammit, Blow. I'll call her, alright?”
“Hey, I was kidding. I'll call her. I can represent her for that. To get that video off the Internet.”
“Mary? You still there?”
“I'm here. Just thinking.”
“What about? Still mad?”
“Nope. But you know what? We're in for some serious shit, Blow. The tide, as we writers like to say, is coming in. And it's coming from everywhere.”
“You know it. It's put our little county on the map. The big map.”