24. January 2017 · Comments Off on A New Luna City Story! · Categories: Luna City
Offices of the Karnesville Weekly Beacon

Offices of the Karnesville Weekly Beacon

(From the next Luna City chronicle, which is aimed for release in mid-summer)

In the Offices of the Karnesville Weekly Beacon

“Kate! Get in here and tell me what in the name of Dog has been going on in Luna City!”

Kate Heisel, bright-eyed and ready to plunge into another week of work on the regional newspaper on the morning after the last of the holidays, was in the chief editor’s office almost before Acey McClain finished bellowing, and as a sprinkling of superannuated dust from the ancient light fixtures in the offices of the Karnesville Weekly Beacon ceased sifting down like a gentle benison on the various desks below.

“Yes, Chief – right away, Chief!” she chirped. Acey McClain, grizzled, slightly hung-over and well over twice her age, scowled thunderously.

“Dammit, Kate – do you have to be so cheerful first thing in the morning? I’m not Lou Grant and you are not Mary Tylor Moore. And don’t call me Chief!”

“Sure, Chief,” Kate grinned at him and took out her notebook, perching on the narrow wooden guest chair opposite her boss. “It’s a legitimate form of aggression, being offensively cheerful first thing in the AM. Think of it as a workout for your liver. Get the old blood flowing … the birds are singing in the trees, the sun is shining, God is in his heaven and all’s right with the world…”

Acey McClain gave his pungently expressed opinion on that state of affairs and Kate’s grin widened. She made a show of jotting down several of the more interesting terms of abuse, and when he had finished, remarked, “Wow, Chief – that last isn’t even biologically possible … unless one is maybe triple-jointed and has a taste for … never mind. You were asking about Luna City over this last week.”

“That’s what I like about you, Kate,” Acey McClain sat back in the monumental and heroically battered leather executive chair which had been the badge of office for editors at the Karnesville Weekly Beacon since it had been the Daily Beacon, sometime around 1962. “And why I put up with your flagrantly disrespectful attitude. You’re the most purely un-shockable female that I have ever met. So – back to my original question: what in the name of Dog and all the Angles in heaven has been going on this last week in Luna City? I swear, if it weren’t for them, we’d have nothing to print except the legal notices, the minutes of the last garden club meeting and the police blotter.”

“About the usual, Chief.” Kate licked her pencil-point – an affectation adopted from her close watching of old movies about the news business. Kate was a great believer in professional traditions. “Let’s see … there was a fire at the old hippy hang-out by the river, just before Christmas. Burned the main establishment to the ground, but no one hurt and nothing much lost. The place wasn’t insured, though … but neighbors are weighing in. The new marketing director at Mills Farm has offered them one of their residential trailers for the owners to live in, while they rebuild.”

“What caused the fire?” Acey McClain was always curious about that. The answer to that question in his own hard-bitten crime-beat reporter past had earned him a more-than-average number of  above-the-fold, huge-typeface-headline-stories during a very long career in the big-city print news business.

“They think that a fire in a sweat-lodge wasn’t properly extinguished,” Kate replied. “The investigator for the LCVFD is all but certain about that. No story, Chief. Now, the mass-brawl that happened immediately before the fire …”

“Now you’re getting to the nut, Kate,” Acey McClain sat forward in the leather office chair, all eager attention. “What was that all about? I heard that some *sshole got bitten in the *ss by a rabid llama – true?”

“Not the rabid part. The llama in question did have all his required shots.” Kate flipped over to another page. “I double-checked with the veterinarian … Doc Wyler. Doc Wyler of the Wyler Lazy-W Ranch.”

“Oh, Dog,” Acey McClain shuddered, almost imperceptibly. “This *sshole didn’t pick a fight with him, too? The biggest ranch and the richest guy in Karnes County? And a man who lovingly cherishes his grudges like they were prize breeding stock?”

“Not so far,” Kate replied, still chipper as a squirrel with a winters-worth of stored away acorns. “As a matter of fact and according to eye-witnesses – and I have a list of them,” she flipped through another couple of pages. “Names available on the Talk of the Town blog. The *sshole is one Gunnison Penn of no definite fixed address other than Canada. He struck the llama in question first; I have photographic proof of it. You know, Chief – it’s great how everyone has a cellphone with camera capacity in their pocket, these days. There is a clear case of self-defense to be made: Gunnison Penn clearly hit the llama first.”

“That Canuck treasure-hunter guy?” Acey McClain looked even more alert. “He’s back again? Guess he must have beaten the last injunction – the one filed for harassing the family of that kid that found a pristine 1892 20$ gold piece at Mills Farm?”

“You don’t have to remind me, Chief – I was there, and the kid’s mom is my second-cousin. Yeah, that guy, and he’s gone again, lucky for Luna City. He definitely got the message. He packed up and went, as soon as he got a stitch or two and a shot of antibiotics at the Med center …” Kate snickered. “I cornered him in the parking lot there after he was released, asking him for his reaction. “

“Good girl, Kate!” Acey McClain radiated approval. “Sixty Minutes material, no fooling, kid – you’ll be in the big-time, any time!”

“God no, Chief – I’ve got some standards! Back to the all-hands punch-up on the banks of the San Antonio River. Another party of individuals charged in the brawl – three guys trying to do a stand-up for a YouTube feature about the mysterious Luna Lights…”

“What was it about those lights,” Acey folded his hands together and regarded his most energetic and enterprising young reporter with happy anticipation. “You find out anything about them? Optical illusion, secret Pentagon aircraft, mass hallucination – what?”

Kate fetched up a deep sigh from the depths of her news-hungry yet strangely ethical soul. “Fire lanterns, Chief. All that it was. I talked to Sefton Grant and his crew of superannuated hippies. They were celebrating the Solstice, or some such crap. They launched fire lanterns – you know – those paper hot-air balloons, with a candle burning under them, about twenty minutes before that guy with the cellphone recorded three of them drifting over the road. I even checked with the weather service – the prevailing wind at that time would have sent them in a westward direction. Fire lanterns – nothing more.”


“For sure, Kate?” Acey scowled across his desk, and Kate sighed again. She brought out her cellphone. “I drove around, between Falls City and Kenedy. By pure luck and knowing the exact direction in which the wind was blowing at that particular hour, I found where one of them had landed. I gotta pal at KSAT-Weather in San Antonio. The evening turned damp and cold, and this one came down near Hobson. The owner was pretty p’oed. He had a barn full of hay which it landed next to and he let me take one picture. Sorry if it’s blurry – he was yelling at me as if it were my fault. I’m not saying it was aliens, Chief … it was fire lanterns.”

“All right, then, Kate.” Acey McClain sat back in the executive editor’s chair, mildly disappointed. Aliens, or supposed sightings of them were almost as good for producing huge-typeface headlines as criminal arson. “What next? Who else was party to the mass punch-up?”

“A bunch of ghost hunters,” Kate consulted her notebook. “They were actually pretty casual about it all, except when it came to joining in the brawl. I guess tracking 19th century mayhem makes you pretty laid-back regarding the current version.  They were looking for the Agua Dulce ghost riders, or the emanations thereof. Their video looks darned good … subtly creepy, like the Blair Witch Project on an even smaller budget. The thrill is in the suggestion, you see … or rather – what you don’t quite see. But no actual hard data there … actually, I’ve always believed that the legend of the Agua Dulce ghost riders is one of those folk-tales … you know, a story told to scare the ever-loving crap out of kids. Now – the other Mills Treasure-hunters… They didn’t have any more luck than Gunnison Penn, but they’re still holding out, when last I checked.”

Acey McClain steepled his hands, finger-tip-to-fingertip and looked over them, magisterially. “I’ve been hearing about the lost Mills Treasure for years, Kate – last year was about the first time I heard enough to make me think it is any more substantial than the Agua Dulce ghost riders. So what do you really think about the Mills Treasure?”

“I base my opinions on the certainties, Chief,” Kate replied. “No observable certainties – no opinion. But I did have a nice telephone chat last week with the man who is the established expert on the Mills Treasure – Collin Wyler.”

“That Collin Wyler? Jeebus, Kate – he’s more elusive than the Loch Ness monster! I have it on good authority that he doesn’t talk to any media reps less exalted than the top reporters from the Economist or the Wall Street Journal … the New York Times, if he is in a mood to go slumming. How did you manage that scoop?”

“Well,” Kate licked her pencil again, and assumed a becoming expression of modesty. “He was visiting the home place for Christmas, being between wives, I guess. Mom’s second cousin Patricia is the housekeeper there. I’ve always had the private house number – so I took a chance. He’s really a sweet guy, Chief, and he was so helpful …”

“Be careful, Kate – he’s a notorious pussy hound, and if he’s between dates-o’the-moment…”

“Really, Chief – don’t be disgusting. I would never mix personal with professional. Besides – he’s older than my Dad!”

Acey did note that his sharpest reporter was blushing slightly, but decided not to make note of that. Discretion was the better part of valor. “So – what insights into the notorious missing Mills Treasure did he favor you with?” he asked with heavy sarcasm. Kate licked her pencil again.

“He’s been looking for the Mills Treasure since … he was a kid,” she replied, with all seriousness. “He even told me some things about Old Charley that I didn’t even know. I could hardly take notes fast enough. So – his take on it is that, yes, there was a treasure hoard at one point. The old scoundrel kept it in the pit under the old farm latrine, until about 1911. It’s his opinion based on extensive research that Old Charley dipped into it as he needed funds for this and that … and by the time he croaked, he had used it all up. Nothing left – all gone to support his various shady enterprises, through exchanges and enterprises which can never be traced at this late date.” Kate snapped her notebook closed with an air of finality. “It’s his considered judgement that the Mills Treasure is a chimera, an illusion – a mirage. All these searchers looking for it are after the illusion. If that search gives them a purpose … hey, everyone needs a purpose, or at least, a hobby. I consider him a subject-matter expert, Chief – I’d accept his conclusion as provisionally final, until evidence to the contrary is unearthed.”

“So – no treasure,” Acey McClain sighed. “Ah, well – another local illusion shot to hell. Thanks for the low-down, Kate. No one does research as thoroughly as you do. Oh … speaking of Luna City,” he added, as Kate stood up. “There was one more thing – I got a call from some cable TV show producer last week, just before we shut down for the holiday. You ever heard of Ala Carte With Quartermayne? I don’t watch the Food Channel, so I have no idea of who he was talking about … but they’re looking for shooting locations in Texas for next season.”

“Oh, sure,” Kate beamed. “You have too heard of him, Acey – that’s Allen Lee Mayne, used to be quarterback for the Broncos back in the day. He’s doing a restaurant show now; blows into town with a film crew, he and his sidekick hang out with the staff of a little local place, watching them prepare their signature dishes – then they shoot the breeze with the customers. It’s a blast to watch, he’s a funny guy and he loves good food.”

“No kidding … well, that will be a top story, when and if it happens … the producer said something about a big-time chef running a dinky little eatery in Luna City that they were interested in. He was asking about some guy they called Rich Hall, the Bad Boy Chef? You know him?”

It completely escaped Acey McClain’s attention, the very slight hesitation before Kate replied, “No one by that name doing business in Luna City, Chief. That all?”

“For this morning, yes – thanks for the briefing.”



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