She followed him wherever he went; he tirelessly repeated the same thing since he had arrived in the office. But as usual, he refused to listen to her. She still pleaded her cause. He had always admired her stubbornness. Not anymore. He rushed to his office. She quickly shut the door behind her, determined to be heard despite his refusal.
"Maurice, I have to do this article. Do not let Sophia have it. I'm begging you… Do it for me…"
"Doris, you're a very good journalist. I have no doubt."
"So can you tell me what's the problem?"
"You never covered this kind of news. It's too big! And you're not the kind of girl who's going into the field."
She furiously crossed her arms on her chest. The editor in chief of the newspaper heavily sank down in his chair with a sigh. How could he make her understand? He shook his head, looking for the right words.
"I need someone with experience. Someone who knows how to handle this, you know."
The young woman's shoulders slumped in despair.
"I can't believe what you're saying."
"Please… Anyway, I have already given the exclusive…"
"Are you kidding me? Why did you do this to me? You both know that I wanted to cover this story… Why?"
"Sophia insisted so you will not have it. She still hates you for what you did to her. You can't blame her for that."
"I didn't know it was her husband. How many times do I have to tell her?"
"I had no choice, Doris. I had to do to it, but you shouldn't take it so hard. She has more experience than you, don't forget that."
"This is bullshit."
"Do not take it that way, please."
"And how do you want me to take it, tell me? With a big smile?"
He gave a little nervous laugh.
"I want this story and I will have it."
He knew her determination, but he didn't know how far she'll go to convince Sophia to abandon the exclusivity. He asked her not to do anything stupid. She merely smiled at him before leaving the office. She was determined to get the story. She returned to her car and drove off. She should act if she wanted to get what she wanted. Firstly, she had to meet people who may provide information. There was only one place she could ask any question she wanted to have answers.
She spent the rest of the morning at the police station, asking all questions that came into her mind to collect as much information to write her article. A mystery surrounded this story, making her more curious about it. She questioned, but nobody really wanted to talk to her. She had to resign herself to meet someone in particular. The inspector Brown was one of her former boyfriends and represented her last hope. She heavily relied on him for all the answers to her many questions. She had to speak to him at any price.
He was in his office and talked on the phone. He beckoned and closed the door. Then he put the receiver, a wide smile on his lips.
"Doris, my dear. It's been too damn long."
She folded her arms across her chest, a disgust expression on her face.
"Not enough for my, Paul."
"Come on! I risk a lot for you!" he replied, motioning for her to sit down. "You could be a little nicer to me."
He got up and sat on the corner of his desk, facing her. He reminded her that he risked his career for her so she can get the information she wanted so much. All he asked in return was a small compensation. She sighed, closing her eyes. She had to admit he was right on this point. She owned him that, hoping it would be worth it. She asked him what his price was. Paul rubbed his hands together, a smile of satisfaction on his lips.
"Ah! Here we go! You really haven't changed."
"What are you talking about?"
"Always straight to the point. I always love that about you."
"A little romantic dinner…"
"Is that it?"
He raised his eyebrows.
"Can I ask a few things in return?"
She quickly shook her head.
"You'll call me later. Okay?"
"I will not forget, my dear. I'm already excited to be there. So let's get serious. What do you want to know?"
She pressed the button of her little tape recorder to officially begin the interview. She learned many women had disappeared without any trace. The police had no clue. Nobody has reviewed thereafter. But only one point united them all: they all lived in the same neighborhood. Doris shuddered with horror. These women lived in her neighborhood. He handed her a folder containing photos. The reporter recognized two of them. According to her memories, they occupied apartments two blocks from her home. Paul allowed her to take the folder, but she had to take it back over their dinner. She quickly thanked him before leaving his office.
She used the personal information she just learned to visit the family's victims. She wasn't very well received by them. The father of one of them shut the door at her face and the sister of another victim threatened to call the police. Panicked, she fled. She returned to the newspaper to discuss with Maurice. He seemed discouraged to hear what she wanted to do now.
"I've got information from a reliable source. Give me a chance."
"Doris, I already have given the story to Sophia."
"She's covering the story and I'm not coming back on my decision. Forget it."
"Everything she did to get that story, I can do it too. Don't tell me she simply asked you to write it!"
"I'll write an article and you'll judge which one is the best for the newspapers. Okay?"
Maurice gave a deep sigh of exasperation. Seeing the expression on his face, she knew she had won this battle.
"Sophia has already finished hers. So I want yours before the end of the day. You think you can do that?"
She took a deep breath and smiled. She replied he could count on her and would not be disappointed with her work. He reminded her she had a lot of work to do. She returned to her desk to gather her notes and start writing the article. Comfortably installed in front of her computer, her fingers began to dance on the keyboard. She has to do it quickly and well, but the words jostled in her head. She had difficulty formulating proper sentences. She had to choose the best of her ideas for her article to be published. She looked at her watch and her heart began to pound faster in her chest. Her time was almost up. She closed her eyes, inhaling deeply. Concentrate. Do not let Sophia win! You're better than she is and this is why her husband cheated on her with you several times! She smiled a little, remembering their little meetings. Nobody knew the rest of their story… She went back to her work.
She finished on time. Everything was perfect. Sophia could go to hell! Her eyes were hurting horribly and her stomach was screaming with hunger. She proudly put her USB device on Maurice's desk before five o'clock. The editor in chief looked very surprised, but he finally smiled at her. He told her she could go home, promising to read it and give her an answer the next day.
She returned home. She fell on the sofa in her living room, leaving her coat next to her. She took off her shoes. She could finally relax! The phone rang suddenly, startling. She reached out and grabbed the handset. She recognized the cooing voice of Paul. She sighed, not wanting to talk to him.
"What do you want?"
"How about a nice romantic dinner with me?"
She groaned she was not in the mood. He hastened to argue that she should honor her part of the contract. She told him she didn't want to, feeling too tired.
"I can choose where and when."
"I know what I said. But I had a very hard day and I just barely make my article."
"You can't say no."
"And why not? Just because of your beautiful eyes?"
"Because I have new information for you."
She sat up, suddenly feeling less tired. More information? She bit her lower lip, undecided. Was there enough material for a second article? Visibility could be very good if she wrote several articles about those disappearances. A huge boost for her career. He had her curiosity because she wanted to learn more. But a head-to-head with Paul wasn't very appeal to her. It cut her appetite. However, having the exclusivity on this story represented something more interesting and very important. Priorities were already made. She rubbed her eyes and sighed, resigned.
"Where do you want to go?"
* * * * *
A candle burned slowly in the middle of the table. The young woman didn't feel comfortable being in a French restaurant with her ex-boyfriend. Especially when his behavior was too weird. He spoke loudly, arranging to have attention on them. Finally, he asked her if she would kindly give him back the file and photos. She handed to him the photos he had left her, but she kept her hands on it.
"I would like to keep them a little longer, if you allow me."
"It's out of the question."
He told her she could pick them up at his office the next day. She hesitated before accepting. She crossed her fingers under her chin, wishing to go right into their main subject. So far, this dinner was a complete waste of time. She asked him to tell what the new information he knew was. He took a long sip of his wine before telling her the police had found a body. She raised her eyebrows, inviting him to continue. He could even provide her with the name of the victim: she was named Mary Simon. Doris frowned, searching her memory for the victims' list. The name sounded familiar. She asked him to describe Mary.
"A tall red-haired, green eyes. She was a photographer for five years for the magazine Model."
"I vaguely recalled her."
"Look at the picture."
The reporter found the photo. Then she nodded. Now she knew who she was. Paul told her she had been raped before having her chest opened and her heart taken. The body was at the edge of a small isolated road north of the city. But the police had found absolutely nothing particular on the victim to identify her murderer. No trace left by a vehicle or even footsteps… It was hard to believe! Everything was leading to a serial killer, but the police refused to provide more details in the press conference to protect the population. Not to create panic.
But Paul ignored she was recording their entire conversation. He didn't suspect anything. He provided further information to enable her to write a new article. They ate quietly, talking about nothing and everything. He asked intrusive questions, wanting to know if she had someone in her life.
"It doesn't concern you."
She glared at him.
"My private life is not does not concern you."
"Did you sleep with another man?"
"And why do you want to know?"
"Does it happen to you to think of me in the evening, when you find yourself alone in your bed…"
She jumped up her feet.
"I think I've heard enough for tonight. Bye."
"You exactly where you can put all of your questions."
He was about to say something, but she turned and left the restaurant. She was furious. The dinner had been a waste of her time, although she now had new information. She really did well when she dumped him. Paul was very disgusting.
Everyone seemed very concerned when Doris settled at her office the next day. She went directly to see Maurice, asking him what was going on. Once the door opened, she didn't have time to say a word. He didn't raise his eyes to her. He seemed very upset. He took a deep breath beckoning a hand it wasn't the right time.
"If you're here about your article, it's published. You can go."
She approached him, wanting to understand.
"But what happens? Tell me."
He raised his eyes to look at her.
"You never look TV shows in the morning?"
She shook her head, frowning. It wasn't a crime not to watch the news on the morning shows. She repeated the question a second time. He told her the news: Sophia had disappeared since yesterday. Apparently, her husband had seen her for the last time before she went to her fitness center. Doris was stunned. Her biggest rival had disappeared… Should she be pleased? The young woman began to think while leaving the office, her mind running a hundred miles an hour. Was Sophia another victim of the article she had longed to write about? Now she regretted not having watched the news before leaving for the office. She could have had a little more detail.
She sat at her computer, determined to start her second article on the disappearances. She took her small tape recorder with her headphones before transcribing the conversation she had with Paul. But her concentration was leaking a bit. She stood up and returned to see Maurice. He was on the phone. She was about to turn back when she heard Sophia's name. She stood near the fax, pretending to wait for something. She was listening.
"I know what I'm doing… Sophia was… No, you don't understand… I've told you I knew… You really can't help me?"
Doris ran to her office to call Paul. Fortunately, he was in his office. He replied with a honeyed voice, but she asked him to let his little game aside for five minutes. He sighed.
"No need to be nasty. What can I do for you?"
"I think I know who took away all those women."
"Really? And do you have any proof?"
"Is a conversation over the phone count as one?"
She heaved a deep sigh and told him no, she had only heard part of the discussion. Paul retorted it wasn't a proof. But she refused to let go. She went on:
"I heard a colleague mentioned the name of a victim in the past, as if he knew she was dead."
"I need more than that."
"Then I'll search his office and find something."
"Doris, don't risk something you regret later. Anything you find will not be used because you haven't a search warrant."
"You asked for evidence? I'll find it. Trust me."
* * * * *
The clock showed the time: almost six o'clock. The office was finally empty. Doris went quietly into Maurice's office. She opened the top drawer. She found nothing interesting. In the second one, she saw a picture of Sophia. What was he doing with a picture of her in his drawer?
"This is my secret."
She looked up. Maurice stood before her, his hands thrust into the pockets of his pants. She decided to make him talk, asking him what he meant. He shrugged.
"I'm in love with her."
She frowned. Her boss was in love with one of his journalists who happened to be married? She didn't understand anything. She shook her head.
"Love? And that's why you've kidnapped her? She doesn't love you?"
An expression of surprise was painted on the editor's face. It was his turn to not understand. He shook his head, denying everything. Doris told him about the conversation she had heard. Maurice nodded, telling her he was talking with a private investigator. He wanted to find her at any price, unharmed. The young woman crossed her arms over her chest.
"Is that why you gave her the story first?"
He hung his head in shame.
"Her husband is a fool and he doesn't deserve her…"
Suddenly, Maurice's eyes widened before collapsing on the floor.
"Maurice? What happened to you?"
His lips were moving, but no sound came out. Doris held out her hand to him. A darker stain formed on the back of his torn shirt. She suppressed an urge to kneel beside him when she saw a shadow moving towards her. Paul stood before her, a huge knife in his hand. Blood droplets were falling on the ground. The young woman felt her stomach twisted suddenly.
"But what are you doing?"
He began to shake his head.
"You're too curious, my dear Doris."
"A very bad habit, you know. Of course you want to know why this guy is dead! The reason is very simple: he has hired one of the best private detectives in this city."
Doris began to cry. She was now petrified. Paul made a movement toward her before starting to laugh.
"The detective didn't find anything anyway. Sophia is already dead. And I did it with great pleasure! She didn't want me anymore so she just threw me out of her life. Do you realize that? She did the same with all the others!
She put a hand to her lips. Sophia had an affair with Paul? It was very difficult to believe. She looked up to him. He was still smiling. He suddenly leaned towards her to take her by the shoulders.
"You were not on my list, though."
She screamed, struggling with all her strength. He lifted her easily while continuing to laugh, a dastardly grin on his lips. She tried to break free. He said he will not rape her. Should I feel reassured? She managed to free one arm and hastily scratched him. He brought a hand to his cheek, allowing her to escape. She left Maurice's office in a rush. Paul began to pursue her, refusing to let her go. He threw himself on the ground and grabbed her ankle while growling. She lost her balance and fell, hitting her head on the corner of a table. She gashed her forehead and blood began to flow. She collapsed on the floor, totally stunned by the shock. He dragged her towards the huge window. Then he went to look for the knife he had dropped before continuing. He quickly returned to her.
"I'll see you on the other side."
She struggled weakly. He pulled her closer and kissed her. Then he used all the strength he had left to project against the bay window overlooking the fifth floor. The latter broke into pieces, piercing her skin. Doris screamed throughout her descent.