For a few seconds, Stevie couldn’t understand anything Susan Carol was saying. Between the rush of words and her southern accent, most of what he heard was gibberish. He was picking up perhaps two words a sentence.
Excerpted from Cover-up: Mystery at the Super Bowl (The Sports Beat, 3) by John Feinstein Copyright © 2007 by John Feinstein. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
“Hate them . . . Never, ever . . . The nerve . . . Can’t be trusted . . . Hate them.”
The second time he heard ‘hate them’ he broke in because he guessed she was repeating herself. “Calm down,” he said.
He understood her next sentence quite clearly: “CALM DOWN! DON’T YOU DARE TELL ME TO CALM DOWN, STEVEN RICHMAN THOMAS. I WILL NOT CALM DOWN, NOT FOR ONE SECOND!”
He realized he was smiling. Her anger was one part amusing and about five parts touching. She seemed to be more upset about what had happened than he was. And her tirade was making him feel much better.
“What did you tell them?” he said when she finally paused to take a breath.
“I told them they better find themselves another girl, that there was only one person I would work with and some eye candy guy named Jamie Whitsitt, of all things, was not that person.”
“Who is Jamie Whitsitt?”
He heard her sigh, the kind of sigh he usually heard when she seemed convinced he was too stupid to live.
“Jamie Whitsitt is the lead singer of the ‘Best Boys.’ He is gorgeous but I couldn’t care less. I’m not working with him.”
Remarkably, Stevie had heard of ‘Best Boys,’ if only because he had heard the girls in his class oohing and aahing about them at lunch time. “Aren’t those guys a lot older than us?” he asked.
“He’s eighteen. They don’t care. Shupe said we were a ‘perfect match.’ I told him I didn’t care, that the show was supposed to be about two kid reporters–reporters–not some damn rock star.”
Stevie almost gagged. He had never heard Susan Carol say anything stronger than gosh darn up until now.
“So what did they say to all that?”
“They said they were going to talk to my dad–who’s not home right now. They said they understood why I’d be upset about this and they thought loyalty was a great thing but I’d breach my contract if I didn’t keep doing the show; and that not only would I not get paid but they might take me to court.”
“Whoa! They threatened to sue you? Unbelievable!”
“Remind me to listen to Bobby and Tamara when they say something from now on will you?”
Tamara Mearns was Bobby Kelleher’s wife. He was a sports columnist for the Washington Herald; she for the Washington Post. The two of them had become Stevie and Susan Carol’s journalism mentors. Both had urged them strongly to resist the temptations of money and fame put on the table by USTV. They hadn’t listened.
Stevie took a deep breath. “I want you to listen to me for a minute,” he said.
“I don’t want you to quit.”
“WHAT . . . ?”
“Hang on a minute. First, there is the money issue. They’re probably bluffing about suing you. But I still get paid in this thing and you don’t. Second, you’re good at this and there’s no reason for you to stop doing it on my account. I’ll be fine. It isn’t as if my career’s over–I’m fourteen. Third, when the year is over, you can either walk away from doing this kind of stuff or, if you want, there will be 10 other TV jobs at other places you could have.”
There was a long silence on the other end of the phone.
“Did your dad tell you to say all this?”
Why was it, he thought, that she always knew everything. He considered lying for a second, but decided the heck with it. Lying was for TV guys.
“Yes he did,” he said, finally. “But I thought about it before I actually said it, and I think he’s right. And if you think about it when you calm down a little you’ll probably decide he’s right too.”
“Stop telling me to calm down.”
“Okay. But you’ll think about it?”
She sighed again, this time not the ‘too stupid to live,’ sigh but one of sadness. “I’ll think about it,” she said.
“Good. Call me after you talk to your dad, okay?”
He was about to say goodbye when he heard her say, “Stevie?”
“I really do love you, you know.”
He wasn’t sure how to answer that one. They were fourteen and had kissed once. Still, the answer that came out of his mouth felt right.
“I love you too.”
From the Hardcover edition.