When Slaughter looked at Burke, raised one eyebrow and smiled, he knew there was no question who was going to interview Pittman. He wondered how long it would take her to rip off his balls, shove them down his throat and leave him screaming for his mama. As much as he wanted to witness what was sure to be a masterpiece of emasculation, he stayed to interview the staff.
A quick call to Captain Meade suggested he throw Powell a proverbial “bone” and ask him to be the one who contacted and interviewed Suzanne.
As clerks and reporters started coming into the building, he spoke with them individually. After two hours, he felt as though they were reading from the same script. “He was a nice guy. We don’t know anybody who didn’t like him or at least didn’t like him enough to kill him.”
One of them said “you know, there was always that member of the public who didn’t like an editorial or a story we ran but they usually just called and bitched him out.”
While talking to them, Burke noticed an elderly man, standing just far enough away to hear the conversation but not close enough to take part. After thanking the employees, Burke walked over to the gentleman, introduced himself and asked his name.
“John Foote” he said. He appeared nervous and uncomfortable. Burke asked him if he was okay and he said “if you want to talk, we need to do it privately.”
“Okay. What do you have in mind?” Burke asked.
Foote asked him if he knew where “The Lounge” was. Burke told him that he was familiar with it and Foote said “meet me there at seven o’clock tonight.”
“Do you have some information about Mr. Mulder?”
“I just think you should know a little more about him. He’s not the boy scout everybody wants you to believe he is.”
“Okay. I’ll be there.”
A quick call to Slaughter went unanswered so he left a message. “Apparently, Mr. Mulder had a few skeletons in his closet. I’m meeting a Mr. Foote tonight and I’ll get the skinny. Hit me up when you get time.”
Seven o’clock came and Burke was already at the Lounge when Foote walked in. Still looking nervous and scanning the bar as if he was doing surveillance, he sat down.
Foote quietly asked if what they discussed was going to be confidential.
Burke grinned and said “unless you’re going to confess.”
Foote didn’t even crack a smile as he began. “Here’s what I know. I’ve known Mulder casually for twenty years. Before he came to work here, our interaction was mostly at banquets and ceremonies and seminars about journalism.”
“He was always a secondary player, in the background but it was well known that he wanted to be in the forefront.”
“He was married to this exotically beautiful Egyptian woman for almost forty years. After he got fired and came here, he had to leave her behind but it was only supposed to be a temporary job anyway.”
“I’ve been told that.” Burke said.
“Well, he started seeing some woman here.”
“Yes. I know I’m old fashioned but I believe in the sanctity of marriage and the vows we take. Anyway, he started seeing Suzanne and actually had her move in with him while he was still married. He would go see his wife on the weekends and kept this other woman a secret.”
“His wife eventually found out and immediately filed for divorce. That didn’t sit right with Mulder and he began a smear campaign against her. He told all of their friends that she was trying to ruin him and he did his best to turn their son against her. I heard he was sending her threatening texts and emails and vowed to ‘gut her’ when he said she was trying to take everything he had.”
“Once, the entire newsroom heard him slam the phone down and refer to her as that “life-sucking, soul-destroying terrorist bitch.”
When Pittman hired him…”
“So you know Pittman?” asked Burke.
“I’ve known him for fifty years. He actually gave me my job here. He and Mulder never got along so when he gave him a job it raised a few eyebrows, particularly mine. I remember once when Pittman went on vacation, Mulder said “if Karl Pittman dropped dead in the middle of the newsroom floor, not one person would get out of their fucking chair to check on him and that includes me…but I will lick his ass all day long if it means getting what I want….and what I want is his job.”
“Ultimately, he got what he wanted.”
“I also know that Mulder has ruined a few careers, including a young girl who came to work for him. Everybody knew he had a crush on her but she let him know that she wasn’t interested. Her stories suddenly started missing deadlines and we all knew Mulder was behind it. She was eventually let go for incompetence. I tried to get her to confront him or go to the publisher but she was afraid.”
“He damn near destroyed her reputation. She had to move in with her parents because she couldn’t find another job. He trashed her to everybody who called for a reference and it took her a year and a half to find another job.”
Burke asked if he would tell him her name. Foote told him that he’d rather not. “She’s working for a paper in California now and I hear she’s doing well.”
“Do you think she holds a grudge?”
“No. She was a real sweetheart.”
Burke said “tell me a little more about the relationship between Mulder and Pittman. I was told that they were pretty good friends now.”
“I’m sure Pittman thinks they were. His ego would never allow him to think that somebody wouldn’t actually believe the sun rose and set at his command. I mean, he was the most brilliant editor I have even known but that ego never allowed him to see when he was being played and Mulder knew how to play him.”
Burke suggested that maybe Pittman found out that Mulder wasn’t the friend he thought he was and exacted revenge. Foote chuckled and said “are you kidding? If somebody slit their wrists, wrote it in blood and had video to back it up, Pittman wouldn’t believe it. His self-importance left him deaf, dumb and blind.”
Burke asked Foote to tell him a little more about his personal relationship with Pittman. “Did you get along?”
Foote said “we did. I’m grateful to him for giving me a job, especially at my age. And I knew that all I had to do was let him think that he was God. I let him wear his crown and he pretty much left me alone.”
“So, you play the game, too?” Burke said.
Foote shook his head and said “pretty much have to if you want to survive.”
Foote apologized and said he needed to get back to the paper to insure the deadlines had been met.
Burke said “one last thing. Do you know an editor named Ellison Caldwell?”
“Shoo…boy, do I.”
“Do you know if he and Mulder knew each other?”
“I imagine at some point, they met but I have never heard of any conflict between them.”
Burke said “I’ve heard he’s a piece of work and I understand there was bad blood between him and Pittman.”
Foote stood up, threw down a few dollar bills and said “I guess a piece of work is a nice way to put it but I’m not sure bad blood would be the term I would use. It was more like an intense, white-hot hatred that burned more intensely than the fires of Hell…….but”
“if you think Caldwell’s an asshole, I’ve got a big news flash for you. Compared to Pittman, he’s an Eagle scout.”
To be continued______________________