Missy held her head in her hands as the young reporter made her case. She’d had a raging headache since five past ten this morning because someone broke the bloody coffee machine, and this whole pleading for better stories thing wasn’t helping. When she found out who’d deprived her of her morning caffeine, there’d be hell to pay. Could be the girl in front of her. The thought made her cruel, not that she’d ever really needed an excuse before.
“Jasmine, was it, pet?” She interrupted the flow of the girl’s speech.
The young woman bristled in displeasure, Missy could tell, but she hid it quite quickly. “It’s Yasmin.” Of course Missy knew that, but it was good to put people in their place.
She waved her hand. ‘Fine, Yasmin, who are you exactly?’ Case in point.
Yasmin faltered, which was exactly what Missy had been going for. To Missy’s surprise, Yaz jutted her chin out and stepped forward.
“Yasmin Khan, in Entertainment. That’s what I’m trying to say, though. I want stories that aren’t about which actor is shagging which model, or who’s divorcing who. I want real stories! Stories that matter.”
She massaged her temples. Yasmin was exactly what she didn’t need right now. She had so much on her plate, between terrorizing the city and feeding it the information she needed to remain on top. This little nothing of a girl annoyed her.
That’s probably why she did what she did.
“My, you’re brave, aren’t you? I can appreciate that you’ve come all the way up to my office to plead your case. So—” Missy paused for effect “—I’ve had a tip that the Watchmaker will be causing trouble on the South Bank this evening. I was going to send my top reporter on the case, but if you think you can handle it…”
“I can handle it!” Yasmin squeaked, and Missy raised her eyebrow. She knew it had a devastating effect on the people who worked for her.
Yasmin seemed to contain her glee, but Missy could tell she was vibrating, and if she reached her mind out—there, she could feel the excitement simmering under the surface, as well as insecurity and was that fear? How delicious.
‘If you muck this up, being stuck in Entertainment is the least of your troubles. It will be dangerous. The Watchmaker doesn’t often extend clemency.”
“I’ll be fine,” Yasmin brushed her off, and Missy grinned.
“If you say so. I’ll email you the address.”
“Thank you for the opportunity, Marissa. I won’t let you down.
As soon as the door closed behind her, Yaz deflated. All her bottled up emotions—all the adrenaline pumping through her veins and the nerves zapping at the back of her neck—left her. She clutched the articles she'd used to back up her point to her chest and stepped away from Marissa's office. The front walls were made of glass, so she knew her boss could see every action and stray flicker of emotion, and there was no way Marissa could see the nervous wreck she'd reduced Yaz to.
Yaz crossed the room as quickly as her high heels would let her and made her way back to the open-plan office on the other side of the building. Her shoulders sagged as she passed by her desk and found Ryan's. She relaxed and leaned against the wall.
"I did it," Yaz said breathlessly, her heart finally starting to come down from its erratic staccato rhythm.
"Hmm?" Ryan tapped something on his computer and looked up. When he looked at Yaz's face he immediately smiled. "What, really?" Ryan asked.
"Yeah, who would'a thought the Dragon Lady would give me a bone?" Yaz laughed, "she wants me at the South Bank this evening to report on the Watchmaker."
Ryan's face dropped. "The Watchmaker?"
"Isn't he, like, super evil?"
"Yup." Yaz bit her lip.
"Yeesh," Ryan said as he folded his arms across his chest. "Sounds like she's setting you up a bit there, mate."
Yaz shrugged her shoulders. It was obvious Marissa thought she would fail, but Yaz was determined to prove her wrong. She was a good journalist and she'd make a great reporter if only she was given a chance. Dangerous as a story on the Watchmaker might be, it was her chance. Yaz was going to take it, consequences be damned.
Ryan sighed. "Do you want to get a coffee? I'm due for a break."
Yaz nodded and they headed over to the little break room next door. Calling it a break room might have been optimistic—it was made of a small kitchen area, a bulk box of tea and a raggedy yellow couch with suspicious brown stain painted across the middle. Sat on a stool at the back was one of the senior reporters, Jo Smith.
"Morning, gang," Jo waved as they entered.
Yaz nodded and began to make the tea. She hummed as she worked, channeling her leftover nervous energy into bouncing along to the music that leaked out from the radio on the side. Behind her, Ryan and Jo struck up a conversation. Yaz didn't know Jo that well, but Ryan had been friends with her for a few years before they worked together.
Yaz stirred the sugar into Ryan's tea and put the milk back in the fridge. As she turned around, Yaz caught Jo's eyes glance at her and stick like a critic's eye to a particularly good painting, and then she forcefully tore herself away. Yaz rolled her eyes. Couldn’t she just dance without people making a big deal out of it? She handed Ryan his cup of tea and sat down beside them.
"So, what's got you in the partying mood, then?" Jo asked. Her face, rarely without a smile even on a gloomy day, seemed particularly bright.
"The boss lady got me in on a proper story," Yaz said. She didn't bother to hide the pride in her voice.
Ryan raised an eyebrow. "Got her reporting on the Watchmaker, though, so it's a bit of a moot point if it gets her killed.
Yaz swatted at Ryan's arm. "I'm not gonna get killed. Just gotta be careful."
She turned to look at Jo, but paused when she saw her expression. Jo's face was the picture of horror; her lips were parted, her eyes were wide and there was a stiffness to her posture that hadn't been there before.
"You're reporting on the Watchmaker? You’re actually gonna be there when it all goes down?" It was less of a question than an accusation.
"Yes?" Yaz couldn't tell why Jo was so taken aback by the news.
"That's... that's not good, Yaz. The Watchmaker is dangerous, and he doesn't play fair. If you know there's gonna be trouble, you should keep well out of it."
Yaz bristled. This was good news—it was her big chance, her dream, the gateway to everything she wanted out of a career—and there was nothing either of them could say to ruin that. Not even the worried scrunch of Jo's face had any sway over her.
"Well, someone's gotta report on it," said Yaz, "and I'm willing to. Hopefully, it'll impress Marissa and I can finally move on from ranking celebrity weddings."
Jo hummed and they lapsed into silence. Yaz took a sip of her tea.
"Well, good luck," said Jo, "stay safe."