A Special Guest Piece From BJBSJ Freelancer “Mike On Route One”
The rain drummed on the tin carport roof, a steady deluge that hadn’t let up all spring. Wikipedia Brown took a drag off a Chesterfield and ran his fingers over his father’s nickel plated service revolver resting on his thigh. Despite the fact that the local teams won all the time, the weather and apocalyptic traffic were taking a toll on his psyche.
In weaker moments he fantasized about getting in his full dress Webelos uniform and pointing the business end of the weapon in his mouth. But that was merely fantasy. The reality was that Wikipedia needed a case. He hadn’t had one in a while. Not since bringing that racist boy from Pittsburgh to justice, anyway.
As fate would have it, a shadowed face appeared in the gloaming. Charred Meany, the leader of a gang of toughs known as the Globies. Instinctively, Wikipedia’s hand closed around the gun. Charred was a bully but not the kind of bully that socked you in the mouth. He was the kind of bully that put on a face of collegiality and good humor for public consumption. But behind that facade there was a nasty boy, willing to do the bidding of whoever tickled his balls the best.
“What do you want, Charred?” Wikipedia asked exhaling a long puff. Charred stepped into the carport. Wikipedia grimaced at the sight. The name “Charred” was used ironically. Like the gimp everyone called “Speedy” or the fat man known as “Tiny.” Even in the gray late afternoon light, his alabaster visage was almost blinding.
“I need to hire you,” Charred said. Wikipedia relaxed his grip on the pistol. He nodded toward the handwritten sign leaning against the card table in front of him: Twenty-five cents per day, plus expenses. Charred fished in his pocket. He tossed five Pat Dodson 1987 Topps Future Stars on the table. Wikipedia shrugged. That would have to do.
“So. What’s the deal?” Wikipedia asked. “Look, if you need a social media manager, to like the Tweets from baseball writers saying that the orange man is bad, you can hire someone at a Vietnamese click farm to do it a helluva lot cheaper than twenty-five cents a day. This is a detective agency.”
Charred shifted his Converse Weapons on the floor uncomfortably. “That’s why I’m here,” he said. Wikipedia raised an eyebrow. With a toe he pushed the empty folding chair away from the other side of the table. It squeaked on the cement. Charred sat down, keeping his eyes trained on the ground.
Wikipedia waited, years of experience had taught him not to push. Let them talk. Charred cleared his throat. “I’ve been getting scooped lately. Big time,” he said.
“Oh yeah?” Wikipedia asked knowingly. “By who?”
“BJBSJ.” Charred answered, embarrassed.
“Haven’t heard of ‘em.” Wikipedia said.
“Before them, I’d just have all the radio scoops fed to me. I didn’t have to do any work. There was no competition. But now? I’m a laughingstock. I can only block so many people on Twitter. Sullivan is gone. This is my livelihood and I gotta fucking tell you, I’ve got a very expensive habit to support,”
Charred whined. Wikipedia sniffed, indicating an affinity for Reggie Lewis Heart Salve. Charred shook his head, nodded toward the baseball cards on the table. Wikipedia cleared his throat. “Oh, right.” He ashed out his smoke, took two more from the pack, handed one to Charred.
“So where do I come in?” Wikipedia asked.
Charred reached inside his vintage John McNamara manager’s jacket and pulled out a stack of papers. He slid them across the table to Wikipedia who flipped through them, his interest growing. “Tweets?” Wikipedia asked. Charred nodded.
“A burner, most likely,” Charred said. “They signed up in April. Brand new account. Right around the time BJBSJ broke the story of potential changes to afternoon drive. Started going at them pretty hard.”
“That’s a good thing for you, right? Take down the competition.” Wikipedia asked.
“It’s a terrible thing. If they beat me on another scoop, I’m finished.” Charred said, shaking his head. “I need a win to show I’m not a useful idiot. I need to break a real story.”
Wikipedia nods, sees where he’s going. “You think this is an Entercom burner. And what bigger sports media news story would there be than an Entercom employee using a fake Twitter account because of the threats posed by a guerrilla media outlet, right?”
“Thought you’d never heard of them?” Charred asked.
Wikipedia shrugged, not answering.
“There’s no way you can trace these is there? I asked the IT guy at work and he said they finally just closed the Safari Reader Mode paywall loophole so this is way above his paygrade,” Charred said.
Wikipedia chuckled ruefully. “Well, actually – there’s plenty of ways. The digital methods are pretty ugly. And this is proprietary information, by the way. But we’re not dealing with some of the great thinkers here. They take the bait. Every. Single. Time. Because they’re curious. A bunch of raccoons, always enamored with shiny objects. With stories that are about them.”
“So you can trace this back to who it came from?” Charred asked, expectant.
“I don’t even need to go into digital forensics in this case. I can just go with old fashioned detective work.” He picked up a sheet of paper. He scanned the series of Tweets, processing them in his brain. He closed his eyes, the wheels turned.
Wikipedia opened his eyes. “Homie,” he said.
Charred looked at him, confused. “This Tweet here the person called Ironhead ‘homie.’” Charred didn’t answer, not following. Wikipedia shook his head, staggered by the lack of curiosity and resourcefulness. “Who at Entercom is going to call someone homie? Maybe Merloni would. Maybe. But there’s no way Merloni is setting up a burner the very night it is alleged his show is going away. Not to go directly after the source of the story anyway. He’s dumb but not that kind of dumb. That leaves two people dumb enough to go after the source on the same night and who could possibly use ‘homie.’”
Charred looked at Wikipedia in awe.
“So. Based on their Wonderlic scores and all other available evidence, the likely perpetrators are narrowed down to Fauria and Wiggy.” Wikipedia said matter-of-factly.
Charred slammed his hand down on the card table. Wikipedia didn’t flinch. “Of course!” Charred cried. “How dumb could I be?” Wikipedia turned his head to cough, a cover for an exaggerated eye roll.
“So. Where does that leave us?” Wikipedia said, thinking out loud. He pulled out a phone from his pocket and his fingers tapped on the screen. “No results for homie from Fauria.” A brief pause, then – “But. Wiggins. There’s a lot here from Wiggins. A ton, actually.”
“So that’s it! It’s Wiggy!” Charred exclaimed. Wikipedia shook his head.
“That’s one piece of evidence,” Wikipedia replied, disgusted. “You don’t run with one piece of evidence, Tomase.” He paused, scanning more of the Tweets. He scratched at his cheek. “The biggest tells are often punctuation.”
Wikipedia slid a paper across the table to Charred, then turned his phone’s screen to him. “See here? Look at the double spaces that Fauria uses after punctuation. Very similar to this here.” He pointed to a Tweet on the paper, an incoherent gobbledygook of commas and ampersands.
Charred’s eyes brightened. “So it’s Fauria?” He slid back from his chair, about to get up. Wikipedia grunted. “Jesus fucking Christ,” he muttered. “What if I told you Wiggy did the exact same thing? Then what? Where are we? A couple of rats in a maze.” Wikipedia said.
Charred put his head in his hands. “I’m never going to beat those guys.”
“Hey.” Wikipedia said. Charred looked up at him. “Don’t worry about it.” He pulled out a pencil from his short sleeved dress shirt. He flipped over one of the printed out pages and started scratching on it.
When he finished he flipped it back over and slid it across the table to Charred. Charred looked down at it. “What’s this?” he asked.
“Your answer.” Wikipedia said. Slowly, Charred flipped the paper over. He looked at it, shock growing on his face. He looked across the table at Wikipedia, his head tilted slightly forward, his eyes shadowed by his brow. Very different now. Something behind his eyes. Sinister.
He looked down at the paper again, reading the words.
“BJBSJ had it first. Always will, motherfucker.”
Charred pushed back from the chair, tried to stand up, to run. His Weapons, tangled up in the legs of the chair and he spilled onto the concrete. He rolled over, looked up.
Wikipedia stood over him now, menacing. A smile formed on his lips, then a snarl.
“Who are you talking to right now? Who is it you think you see? Do you know how much my web site is worth? I mean, even if I told you, you wouldn’t believe it. Do you know what would happen if I suddenly decided to stop breaking stories? A business big enough that it could buy out Coach Bedard a hundred times over goes belly up. Disappears! It ceases to exist. No, you clearly don’t know who you’re talking to, so let me clue you in. I am not the story breaker, Charred. I am the story! A guy opens a burner account and you think that’s breaking news? No. I am the one who breaks!”
Charred stayed on his back, pushed his heels into the floor, trying to get away from this. This menace. When he got to the entrance of carport he stood, turned, and ran. He never looked back.