Annie is helping out Paletello again. It's almost as if she could get used to regular hours at something or another. Martin's again at the usual stool, his respite and return both unexplained. Mac finds them all there, inescapably joyful at his discovery of Martin.
He kids Annie about having to hold down two jobs, winking around the place as if revealing some appealing fact. He attempts to introduce Annie and one of the plant drivers and finds it unnecessary from their shared odd looks, which pulls at him in an unknown way.
Explaining Martin's job to Annie, he gets a little carried away; "Hey Martin--when are you going to write something about me."
"When you do something worth writing about."
"Fair enough." That grin.
He's surprised and gratified to learn Martin has a task for him. There is a lecturer from the Middle East on campus tonight. A few of the foreign students, Iranians and Iraqis, are expected to hold sign-bearing protests.
"Nothing to it. I already have a copy of what the guy's going to say. Just go over there, see what's happening, come back and tell me. Somebody might even be told to take his seat again, or asked to leave. Write down some slogans if you think of it."
"Sure--" Mac is privileged, charged with duty. He almost turns down Martin's offer of a few dollars to cover expenses--but seeing as how the gas gauge hasn't moved off the red the last couple of times--
The next day he and Martin stand along the river overlook in front of the parish courthouse. Martin, having been unreachable as the events ensued, answering machine silenced and door-gaps towelled--is astounded more at the national coverage than the event itself.
Mac, coughing as if still smelling that tear gas, is pleased to have provided some of the info that made it into the article. (Gayle earlier, their analysis of how the incident grew so big in an essentially unpolitical locale: "I told you it was significant that they decided to use the damn basketball coliseum." "It was a set-up. How else do you explain having it at a place fitting rock concerts, instead of some back room in the admin building, where all of six people show up." "And how did CBS know to have their van in this area, four hundred miles from any significant metropolitan area?" "And not even let the local affiliate producers know beforehand?" "You got me. Somehow Kelly knew. Or just in the right place at the right time. I haven't been able to reach her either." "My God, you'd think they'd at least mention the Exxon sponsorship, via the local petrochemical studies department.")
"That's really something, Martin, about Kelly going to be on the network tonight."
"Yeah. Terrific, Mac." All along the courthouse yard are the the detained protesters--most going so far as to present themselves to authorities already handcuffed--in a hastily fenced compound with tents and Port-o-lets. The scene befits more some mass encampment along a sudden third-world overnight border shift. A squadron of National Guardsmen brought in on relief are patrolling, rifles upright and clutched to chests.
"What was the whole thing about anyway," Mac asks, still unable to grasp the subtleties.
Martin is terse; the speaker had made favorable comments about the long deposed and deceased Shah some months before in a national magazine. The protesters, college students, arrived at the location from five surrounding states. The local university could claim only a handful as their own.
Chaos, red flares, panicky security forces, even a helicopter or two. Like some sixties campus thing.
"This could be a big break for Kelly, huh. Might be like she could get a job there, nationally I mean. Then we'd have to watch the TV at night just to get to see her anymore."
"Let's not think about that."
"You, your stories could go like to a magazine."
"The wires didn't pick it up. They rewrote everything. It's not really my stuff anymore. They just took what happened." What Mac got for him, is what he doesn't say. "Nope. Kelly's the one."
"People sure do like her. I had this guy coming up asking me the other day after I was talking to her, asking stuff. Said he heard she was the friendly type, and I told him yeah."
"What do you mean, friendly? What else did he say?"
"Nothing. Just he'd heard things about her. Nice things."
"Back seat friendly ever since high school."
"Hey cheer up. Maybe she'll interview you on national TV."
"Thanks Mac. You sure know how to brighten the outlook."
"It's all right. Don't mind helping you out anytime." Mac suggests the Coney Island. He's ready for the reward Martin promised, a deluxe quarter pound hot dog.