Chapter 2: Avoidance
Edward chuckled quite a bit at that one. He'd had enough experience as a journalist to sniff out the crazies when they contacted, and this was some crazy of the highest order. The ridiculous claim of being "the wealthiest man in the past two decades." The obviously fake name Ginsberg Wednesday. The casual mention of magic as if it totally belonged in the same sentence as science and geopolitics. Everything about the message said that its writer was a deeply delusional human being who desperately clung to absurd conspiracy theories to mask the reality of their own sad life. For a brief moment, Edward even if wondered if this might actually be from Chuck Carvendale.
Chuck was Edward's first, and to this point only, massive mistake as a journalist. Back when Edward first started out with Radar, he'd gotten an anonymous story about a potential connection between organized crime and a local preschool. It sounded outlandish, but there was just enough detail to make him interested. He had contacted Chuck, who proceeded to string him along on an increasingly bizarre investigation. The story just grew more and more intricate. Soon the mayor's office was involved, then the governor. Once Chuck told him to start looking into NASA, Edward was out. He'd wasted three weeks on a wild conspiracy theory with zero evidence. After a thorough tongue lashing from his boss, he'd learned not to chase after desperate fantasies again.
Edward's cursor flickered over the button to delete this latest message, but something stayed his hand. Probably it was just the flattery at the beginning. Maybe it was the thought of how nice it would be to have a million dollars, even if he didn't for a second believe the offer was real. Either way, he left the message sitting in his inbox.
A week later, Edward finally got a job offer. It was a terrible job, churning out redundant articles for a clickbait website. He'd basically just be ripping off stories from other journalists and then rephrasing them. That or looking up cat GIFs. Still, it was full-time work, and it paid well. Surprisingly well.
After a couple months writing the same meaningless drivel, Edward was ready to quit. He didn't care about the money, he couldn't keep doing something so mundane. He even thought about starting up his own blog and investigating stories on his own. Towards the end of the day, as he was mulling over what kind of stories he would cover, he got a message from his boss.
"Got a new assignment
for you. You busy today?"
An assignment? Writers there didn't have "assignments".
Edward typed back, "Nothing out of the ordinary. What's up?"
"Apparently there's been a murder just outside this little town called Geneva upstate. We need someone to get up there right now and cover it. You in?"
Now he was even more confused. A small town murder? That wasn't what the site did at all. And even if they did, why would they hand it to him, the most junior person on the staff?
"You mean drive out there today?"
"Yeah, right now. You can use my car. You should be able to get there by 10 or 11 if you leave right now."
"It's rush hour."
"Ok, midnight. Don't worry about it, just get up there, get a hotel, and get an early start on reporting in the morning. We'll reimburse you for everything, gas, food, lodging, just get out there!
Edward didn't know what else to say. He hastily typed an affirmative reply and gathered his things. Despite his confusion, he practically ran towards his car. It wasn't the kind of story he wanted to report, but at least it was real journalism again. He drove like a madman all the way there and managed to get into Geneva at about 11. He drove up and down the streets of the small town for a while until he finally found a motel.
Unfortunately, the motel was full. So was every other place in the town, the desk worker told him. Despite the fact that it was the middle of December, nowhere near tourist season, there had a been a random surge of bookings. Still, the guy told him there was a place a few miles out of town that might have some room. He scribbled directions on a napkin and sent Edward on his way.
Edward followed the directions, driving down along the shore of Seneca Lake. The directions took him off the main road, onto an old dirt track that looked like it led to nowhere. He followed the track for 2 miles, like the directions said, and nothing. He pulled off to the side of the road, looking around for any signs of a motel. All he could see was an old sycamore tree.
And then, near the base of the tree, a light flashed. Once, twice, three times. It seemed like a signal, only he didn't know for what. And then, it hit him. He looked down at his phone. Midnight. December 20. He almost stepped on the gas to drive away, but the light was getting closer, almost in front of his car. With a sigh, Edward shut off the car and opened the door.
"Ah, Edward, so glad you could make it!"a deep, booming voice
called. Edward started. He didn't know what he expected Ginsberg Wednesday, eccentric billionaire, to sound like, but it wasn't this. As he moved closer, he saw that the man's looks fit the voice. Ginsberg was tall, at least 6 foot 4, and broad shouldered.
"So, Mr. Wednesday. Is it safe to assume you own my company? And apparently every motel in Geneva?"
"Please, call me Ginsberg. And don't be ridiculous. I don't own every motel in town, I just booked all the available rooms for tonight."
"Well I'm sorry to say it was a waste of money. Whatever wild goose chase you've got planned, I'm not buying it." Edward turned to walk away.
"Son, you might want to reconsider." Edward heard a thud, and turned to see a briefcase lying at his feet.
"Don't you remember my message? Two hundred thousand upfront, another eight hundred thousand when we finish. You in?"
Edward opened the briefcase. The money was all there.
"I suppose I work for you already anyway. Can't see how chasing after UFO's is any worse that what I do now, especially if you're really going to give me a million dollars for it. What the hell. I'm in."