The Hindenburg: Inimical (episode twenty-nine)
“I’m not changing a word of the story.”
“Of course you aren’t.”
Stowers sat quietly. Time passed, and Malcolm-Webb wondered if he were about to be sacked. The possibility seemed out of bounds, yet Stowers was famous for that sort of thing.
“Rumors of sabotage,” the editor said darkly. “Well, after all, one might need to slip something into the gossip section. Geoffrey, what do you call a rumor?”
“Well.” Malcolm-Webb felt he must be wary. “A bit of gossip, as you say. Something unsubstantiated.”
“Something made up?”
“I should think so.”
Stowers chortled. “Then anything I put in the paper, and call a rumor is, by definition, a rumor. Do you agree?”
“I’d rather not say.”
This careful answer proved highly amusing to Stowers, to the point that he dabbed at his eyes before continuing, “Of course, Geoffrey, I like your idea best. We will observe the competition closely, and hone our strategy.”
Malcolm-Webb knew better than to suppose he had really taken a stand. Headlines and sub-heads could be larded with every sort of lurid suggestiveness; he had no control over the process. He returned to his desk, and for nearly an hour sat on the telephone with the German embassy. He was eventually allowed to speak to an aide; the aide informed him that Herr von Kneussl had left that day for Berlin.
Fitzgerald sat on a blocky Chesterfield. He found himself staring at the cracked oxblood leather of the armrest. Each time he shifted, one pestiferous loose button snagged at his jacket. He was embarrassed to be here; yet he felt it unlikely anyone he knew would walk through the door. The antechamber, and the office, in which Fitzgerald’s wife was receiving her consultation, belonged to a Dr. Charles Phillips. Phillips called himself a psycho-therapist; he had published two volumes on the “science” of hypnotism. Abigail Fitzgerald’s anxiety, a nightmare of air attacks and bombs, had consumed her reason. Her search for a remedy, for peace of mind, consumed her time (as, he told himself in uncharitable mood, the housekeeping did not); often Fitzgerald’s time as well. He felt ashamed for hoping, as ardently as he did, that she would tell none of their neighbors about the hypnosis treatments.
He had finished scanning the ads on his paper’s front page―he always did this out of habit. His Somerset cottage was nothing grand. It required work he couldn’t afford or manage himself…but one found bargains here and there. Quiet country weekends, for Abigail, were an increasing necessity.
(copyright 2014, 2018 Stephanie Foster)