You receive a mysterious email and the subject line reads “Everything you know is a lie.” You open the email and read further: “Act calm as to not alert anyone, but everyone around you is not who they say they are. You need to quietly get out of there and meet me at the spot where you had your first kiss. You know the place. My name is Mark.”–Prompt via Writer’s Digest
I was approaching deadline, and glancing at the clock only made it worse. I had about an hour before my editor would come by this side of the newsroom and ask for the story I had told him I was working on, but after some heavy research and foot traffic the lead went cold.
I called and emailed a few other people on the list I was given by a contact who may have known more about the alleged scandal down at the mayor’s office, but I never heard back from any of them. I sipped the lukewarm coffee sitting on the corner of my desk and began to panic internally.
I had stared at my computer for another three minutes before a Gmail notification popped up on the side of my screen. The sender was an unrecognized name, but at this point I had nothing to go off of for my current story and decided to click on the popup for a better look.
The subject line read, “Everything you know is a lie.” It looked a little like junk mail, but I was praying it wasn’t a virus and that it was something I could use for a story. I grabbed the mouse sitting on the pad and guided the arrow on the screen to the mysterious subject line and clicked it open.
I began reading the first line of the email, “Act calm as to not alert anyone, but everyone around you is not who they say they are,” I paused to look around the newsroom and see if any coworkers were attempting to see my reaction to this silly joke but all I saw were frantic journalists on talking loudly on telephones while simultaneously typing on their Mac desktop computers. I then continued to read. “You need to quietly get out of there and meet me at the spot where you had your first kiss. You know the place. My name is Mark.”
I didn’t know a Mark, and I’m pretty sure my first kiss was on a playground in preschool located hundred miles away. The second kiss wasn’t that far away from the office though, and I didn’t have anything to bring to my editor for the deadline. The only choice for me at that point was to text my editor where I was going, just in case something crazy happened, and follow-up on the only lead I had to go on all day.
I ran over to the elevator after texting the editor and went to the garage level where my car was located. From there it only took about eight minutes to park behind the older movie theater where I had my second kiss in middle school. At this point the sun was begun to set and I glanced around the parking lot before I ran out of daylight. I spotted a man around the corner of the theater with a thick file in his hand.
Before exiting the car I checked to make sure my taser and my digital recorder was in my purse. I hadn’t heard what this anonymous tip had to say, but it was already beginning to look like something from a movie. I quietly giggled at the situational irony and then got out of my car and locked it. I walked slowly to the man with the file and saw a concerned-looking white male wearing am ugly brown corduroy jacket and acid washed jeans. My hand wrapped around the taser in my purse.
“Yes, hello Jamie,” Mark said still looking very concerned. “Thank you for coming out here to meet with me. I didn’t want to talk about this over the phone or via email while you were at the newsroom. Anyone could have seen or overheard our conversation.”
“Okay, so what is this about? I’m on deadline.”
“Yes, I know,” he took a deep breath after and cleared his throat. “I’m actually a friend of a friend of yours who may be in trouble with someone in your office.”
My hand grabbed the recorder in my purse instead and pulled out. “Could you please explain?”
“Everything is in here,” he said as he shoved the file towards me. “I’ll contact you again with more information.”
Mark began to run off in another direction.
I immediately regretted pulling out the recorder. It definitely spooked him. I ended up jogging back to my car so I could look at the massive file. I made sure I locked my doors and I sat in the backseat. Apparently Mark had evidence the scandal at the mayor’s office actually extended into my own. Another friend of Mark and mine, who works at the office and is now missing, accidentally discovered that my paper’s owner, the mayor and a few suspected higher-ups were working this big scam. I didn’t have a clue of what to do.
After closing the file I looked down at my buzzing phone with a text from my editor that read, “I need to talk to you about the story you’re working on. Bring everything you have on it with you.”