Twenty years after that fateful night, in her first days as a novice reporter working for managing editor O'Connor, Irene Kelly covers the groundbreaking ceremony for a shopping center -- which unexpectedly yields the unearthing of a buried car. In the trunk are human remains. Are those of the infant heir among them? If so, who is the young man who has recently changed his name to Max Ducane? Again the trail goes maddeningly, perhaps suspiciously, cold.
Until today. Irene, now married to homicide detective Frank Harriman, is a veteran reporter facing the impending closing of the Las Piernas News Express. With circulation down and young reporters fresh out of journalism school replacing longtime staffers, Irene can't help but wish for the good old days when she worked with O'Connor. So when the baffling kidnap-burial case resurfaces, Irene's tenacious love for her mentor and journalistic integrity far outweigh any fears or trepidation. Determined to make a final splash for her beloved paper and solve the mystery that plagued O'Connor until his death, Irene pursues a story that reunites her with her past and may end her career -- and her life.
About the Author
Date of Birth:August 1, 1953
Place of Birth:Houston, Texas
Read an Excerpt
BloodlinesAn Irene Kelly Novel
By Jan Burke
Simon & SchusterCopyright © 2005 Jan Burke
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy hero is an asshole."
"Irene ..." Lydia said in mild protest.
I said it sadly, not as a declaration of pride. I did not deliberately choose an asshole to be my hero. I discovered he was one in the way most of us make such discoveries: I got to know him.
Lydia, a friend since childhood, knew that I spoke of none other than Connor O'Connor.
At a distance, over years of reading my morning newspaper, I had come to admire O'Connor more than any other journalist, and that included Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein. I was in J-school during the Watergate years, so that's saying a lot.
Both Lydia and I wanted to become reporters long before Watergate, and there was never any doubt in my mind that the newspaper I most wanted to work for was the Las Piernas News Express. The Express was the first newspaper I read - my father read its funny pages to me before I learned to read, then helped me with the big words when I started reading the articles themselves. By the end of grade school, I began looking for stories written by O'Connor, because I knew they would be good ones. I wanted to be like him.
When Lydia and I were in the fourth grade, we cajoled our neighbors into buying subscriptions to a self-produced newspaper thatlasted one issue - Sister Mary Michael, catching us in the act of surreptitiously using the school's ditto machine for edition number two, suspended publication.
We were on the school newspaper together in junior high, high school, and college. She was often an editor. That was fine with me. I just wanted to be a reporter, to write like the man who had inspired this dream, whose words had lured me into my career. O'Connor.
"He's not, really," Lydia said.
I just shook my head.
"Well, I will admit you have a reason to be upset," she said.
Of course I had a reason to be upset. The legendary O'Connor had just stabbed me in the back.
"Would you be happier over in features?" Lydia asked.
I glared at her.
"No," she said. "Stupid thing to ask."
"You should be working in news, and we both know it."
"I don't want to have to deal with what you're putting up with," she said.
She meant the hazing I was experiencing in the newsroom.
My first job after college didn't take me to the Express. The Express only had openings in features, not news. My first question on any job interview was, "Do women cover hard news for this paper?" The answer was seldom an unqualified "Yes." At the Express, the answer was, "Once upon a time we did, but not now. Maybe someday, if we like your work in features, we'll give you a shot at it."
Someday wasn't soon enough, so I went to Bakersfield, where there was an opening in news on the Californian. As an added benefit, I could get away from the embarrassment I felt when I was dumped by a creep I had dated in college - the number-one inductee in my Dating Hall of Shame.
Lydia stayed in Las Piernas and took a job in features. Not so many years earlier, the features section was known as the "women's pages." Lydia wrote about cooking. The editor of the food section left the paper about eighteen months later, and the next thing you know, Lydia was promoted.
I'd been gone from Las Piernas for two years. Now I was back, and thanks in part to Lydia's help, I was able to land a job at the Express, too.
The first day I walked into the newsroom, I discovered with no surprise whatsoever that its occupants were almost all white (the sole exception: Mark Baker, who is black) and almost all old (I counted four who were under forty, and Mark was one of them). H.G., the city editor, was pushing sixty. He was a quiet, cynical man who smoked cheap cigars and whose rugged face seemed to have only two expressions: one indicated his usual state of unflappable, contemplative calm and the other mild, private amusement. He led me to my desk wearing the former and walked away wearing the latter. The cause of the change might have been the shock on the faces of his fellow newsmen. The leading caveman, who I later learned was known as Wildman Billy Winters, came up to me and said, "Honey, you're in the wrong room. Women write for features - down the hall."
I was ready to reply when the publisher, Mr. Winston Wrigley II, strode out of his office and said, "She's in the right room, Bill. And she's not the first woman to work here. Ask O'Connor - Helen Swan was one of his mentors. Ms. Kelly was taught by Helen - and Jack, too. That's more than good enough for me."
It took me a moment to recall that Helen Corrigan had been Helen Swan before she married. The journalism program at the college had three or four former staffers from the Express on the faculty. Helen was easily my favorite instructor at Las Piernas College.
Another favorite was Jack Corrigan, who had taught there, too. He had died of a stroke six months before I started working at the Express, while I was still up in Bakersfield. I hadn't learned of his death until after the funeral. Hardly able to talk for crying, I'd called Helen. She told me it was quick, that he had been among those he loved when it happened.
"Every morning after he turned fifty, the first thing Jack would say was, 'What a pleasant surprise,'" she said. "I suppose that was because he believed that anyone who had lived as hard as he did shouldn't take any new day for granted."
Thinking of her that first day in the newsroom of the Express, I vowed to find time to visit her.
My first weeks in the newsroom of the Express weren't especially happy ones. About a third of the men were openly hostile or patronizing. I heard the word "honey" more times than a beekeeper. Some, like Bill Winters, treated me as an occupying force, my desk a beachhead taken by the enemy. Others tried to pretend I was invisible. A few didn't seem to have any problem with it. Like H.G. and the news editor, John Walters, they were content to watch events unfold, and neither helped nor hindered me. That was fine. I figured anyone who didn't hinder me provided all the help I needed.
Then there were those who thought Winston Wrigley II had hired me to "improve the decor," as one of them put it - inveterate oglers, and generally the most repulsive guys in the building.
I wasn't held dear by most of the women staffers, either. I saw them every time I wanted to use the bathroom, because the newsroom of the Express had no women's room nearby. You didn't even need to step out into the hall to find a men's room. There was one right off the newsroom.
There were three women's bathrooms in the entire building: one downstairs, near classified advertising, where the staff taking calls for ads was entirely female; one upstairs, near the executive and business offices of the paper (where the typing pool and payroll clerks were female); a third on the same floor I worked on. Same floor, but reached through a maze of hallways, and at the far end of the large open room that housed the features department. It was as if whoever designed the building wanted to make sure that no one ever brought a tampon anywhere near the newsroom.
So I had to allow time for the hike when nature called, and it was easy to see that I was as much an outsider among the women in the features department as I was among the men in the newsroom. Whenever I entered this domain, there was a noticeable pause in the clatter of IBM Selectric typewriters all across the room. The faster a features reporter went back to typing, the more likely I thought we'd get along once the novelty of my situation wore off. Lydia was there, of course, but in those early days we went out of our way not to spend time together at the paper, so that we wouldn't be accused of being unprofessional or wasting company time. We seldom spoke more than a word or two of greeting to each other until after work. Later I learned that some of these women - most of whom had worked for the paper for several years - had previously tried to move over to the news side. They had been turned down. One more reason I was so popular.
I could have eased some of this, I'm sure, if I had gone drinking after work with the staff, or out to dinner with "the girls." The minute I was finished with work, though, I had to hurry home to my father.
I almost hadn't taken the job in the first place. I half-hoped Mr. Wrigley would tell me that he still didn't have a job opening for a woman in news, so that I could come back home to my dad and say, "I gave it my best shot, and it didn't work out, so I'm going to stay home and take care of you." But I'm not sure twenty-four hours a day of his rebellious daughter would have given my father much peace of mind, and my whole reason for coming back to Las Piernas - leaving behind a job I liked and a man I wanted to get to know better - was to make life easier for my father, to have time with him while I could. It did not seem likely that much time was left in that life.
My problems with O'Connor began on a Thursday, the day before I decided he was an asshole. Before then, he had merely been grim-faced and standoffish, but he was that way with everyone.
That Thursday, I had received permission from my city editor, H.G., to take a couple of hours off to take my dad to a doctor's appointment - a follow-up visit after his first major cancer surgery. Part of Dad's stomach was gone now, and he was weak and thin, but we were relieved: if the cancer had been worse, they would have taken the whole thing. He couldn't eat much, he got sick a lot. He slept most of the day.
He was alive. Recovering. I said this to myself whenever some insistent fear for him pushed its way into my thoughts. I said this to myself a lot.
I had an assignment that day, too, to cover a school board meeting. There are not many assignments that are lower level than school board meetings.
Despite delays at the doctor's office, I managed to get my dad back home before I needed to leave for the meeting. But the woman we had hired to care for him while I was at work called in sick. It wasn't the first time, and I wondered if I should just tell her not to bother coming back. The thought of going through the interviewing and hiring process again was so daunting, I put off making any plan of action for seeking a replacement for her.
I called my older sister, Barbara. She wasn't home. I reached her answering service - she has a business as an interior decorator. I left a message.
My father's voice, once so strong, able to command anything, called to me as not much more than a whisper. I hurried to his bedside.
"Barbara won't come here," he said. "It's because of your mother."
"Mom died twelve years ago. That's not much of an excuse for Barbara."
"Your mother died of cancer. Barbara's scared. Don't judge her so harshly."
"You think I'm not scared?"
"Oh, you are," he said softly. "And I'm sorry for that."
"Dad - I didn't mean to say ..."
"Hush. You've got more Kelly in you," he said, taking my hand, "so I know you'll be all right. That's why I called you."
We sat in silence. Probably nothing else in this life had cost my father's pride more than asking me to come back home from Bakersfield. That gave me some idea of how frightened he was himself. I swore a silent oath: I would stop bitching about Barbara to him.
"I'm just going to sleep," he said. "Don't worry about me. You go on to work."
"Dad, it's only a school board meeting -"
"It's your job. Go."
Able to command anything, even at a whisper.
"Call the paper if you need to reach me," I said.
"I will. I promise."
But just before I left, he got sick to his stomach again. He had managed to get out of bed, so the bedding was okay. I helped him change into new pajamas and cleaned up the floor. I didn't want to go, but he insisted that the next time he was sick he wouldn't be such a damned fool, and he'd use the plastic basin on his nightstand instead of trying to get up.
"Go on, now," he said, "do your work. I'll die of guilt if you stay here."
"Don't talk about dying. Not from anything," I said.
So I hurried to the meeting. I will admit that it did not hold my interest. My thoughts wandered to my own worries. I did manage to grasp the main issues under discussion. I rushed back to the paper.
I thought of calling my dad, but if he was asleep, I didn't want to wake him.
I called Barbara. I got the answering service again.
My father and I knew that Barbara would be fairly useless in this sort of crisis. Neither of us had expected her to develop an ability to vanish that would be the envy of a magician.
I wrote the story about the school board as quickly as I could. I got it in just before deadline. I went home.
My father was sick all night long. I dozed off on a chair in his room sometime before dawn. Barbara never returned my calls, but just as I finished dressing, I heard a car pull up in the drive. I looked out the window, expecting to see her Cadillac.
Instead, I saw a cherry red '68 Mustang convertible. The woman who got out of it looked with disdain at the car next to hers in the drive - my Karmann Ghia. Her long gray hair was plaited into a thick braid. She wore blue jeans and an embroidered denim shirt.
My father's aunt, Mary Kelly. I felt myself smile.
I opened the door and said, "What's a night owl like you doing out and about so early?"
"Why haven't you come by to see me? Never mind - I know the answer to that. Are you late to work?"
"Patrick called me last night, told me his helper was sick. I thought he meant you. Glad to hear it was just that other one. I don't think she was good for him, anyway. Why don't I take over for her?"
"Mary, that's generous of you, but -"
"But nothing." She looked me directly in the eye and said, "I want the time with my nephew. Patrick is dear to me."
"I know he is," I said, returning the look. "But you argue with him."
"Of course I do. He needs someone to argue with - he's a Kelly."
"Not now he doesn't."
"Irene. Are you going to stand there and tell me that in the weeks you've been home, you haven't argued with him once?"
She had me there.
She smiled and said, "Thought so. You can trust me not to do him harm, Irene. You know that."
"Yes, I do. Thanks, Mary. If it's okay with Dad, I'd certainly appreciate it. It would be - a great relief."
"Prissy Pants isn't anywhere to be seen, I suppose."
"I do fear that one day you'll slip up and call Barbara that to her face."
There was a certain glint in Mary's eye that made me quickly add, "That was not a dare."
Mary laughed and said, "Go on to work, I'll mind things here."
As on many another occasion, I prematurely felt pleased to finally be out of the woods. The woods are surrounded by quicksand.
Excerpted from Bloodlines by Jan Burke Copyright © 2005 by Jan Burke. Excerpted by permission.
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