"Yes, ma'am, believe me, I do understand the severity of the case. Yes. No. No, ma'am."
Daniel Dixon was a 22-year-old man who, in every sense of the word, was unassuming. Just a year out of graduating college and working as an overnight news writer for NewsChannel 9, he was caught in transition in his life. He had just left one part of his life and was still in search of that next landing.
And at the moment he was dealing with one of the perks he loved about his job the most, answering phone calls from the general public at 4 A.M. This one call was coming from quite the overzealous woman who would not stop insisting that "the police had taken her baby away".
"Well, ma'am, I don't know how else to tell you this, but when your baby shoots at the police, turns out that's a huge no-no. They can incarcerate him for that."
Five painstaking minutes of attempted supplication later, the woman had finally left the phone line, and once again he was left with his thoughts….and his coffee. The caffeine was his lifeblood every night he worked. He had to stay awake during hours in which nearly every other being on the planet was sound asleep. Coffee was his savior, and one of the greatest graduation gifts he received was a magical ten-cup thermos that somehow kept the coffee hot even after six hours of storage.
He sighed, shook his head and ran a hand across his face. He took a look around the near-silent newsroom, the one that would be dead quiet were it not for the dozen police scanners stacked to his right, chiming in the activity of police units in all of the nearest counties. There was never a quiet moment with these little black boxes around. Danny heard nearly every bad thing that happened in one night's time. He memorized all the police codes for murder, intoxicated driver, accident with injury and fire as part of his job. The next part of his job was executing his own news judgment to figure out whether or not to wake up the on-call photographer and send him out to capture footage of whatever went down.
Tonight had been pretty quiet, almost too quiet. There hadn't been a single case for him to make a call on all night. Death was the major prerequisite for all send-outs, and so far the night had been quiet as a tomb out there.
Then a call came out over one of the scanners for an unknown, and at the same time the phone rang.
Unknown case? He hadn't heard that being spoken before. He was interested to hear any further details coming up but answering the phone was also part of his job. He reached over and picked the black plastic receiver up.
"Dude! You guys gotta get a camera out here and shoot this! I've never seen anything like it!"
"Calm down, sir. Tell me what you see right now."
"It just flew right past me! It was like a car, but with, like, HUGE rockets on the back of it!"
Oh great. Another drunk.
"Really, sir? What kind of wings did it have?"
"Dude I'm being serious! It crashed on top of the overpass above me! It's on fire and everything! And I think a dude got flung out of it, he's not moving!"
"We'll send someone right out, sir. Thank you for your call."
"Just get someone out here quick!"
Danny hung up. Freak.
The last thing he needed was more drunks and druggies placing phony calls into the station when something legitimate could come up and let him do his job. But, like every other occupation, every part of life had its nuts.
Then the phone rang again. Danny cocked an eyebrow and then picked it up again. Now what could it be?
"Danny? It's Micah."
Micah was another photographer at the station. He wasn't on-call tonight, so Danny had no idea what this was about.
"What's up, Micah? What are you doing up so late?"
"Never mind that. Look, I was driving back and there's a huge vehicle fire atop one of the overpasses. You know who's on-call tonight? Send them out. We gotta get this before 8 and 4 do."
Becoming more and more perplexed by the minute, Danny copied down the address Micah gave him and woke up James the on-call. Was this fire the same thing that the first guy had called about? Were they connected?
"C'mon, Danny," he told himself. "Cars don't have rockets. You need another cup."
He poured another and settled back into the plush spinny chair he sat in all through the night every night he worked. If there was anything worth finding, James would.
Half an hour later, that call came.
"Um, Danny, why exactly did you wake me up and send me out here for nothing?"
"What do you mean? There was a fire! Micah called it in and told me himself.
"Well Micah was on something. There's nothing out here. Not even a burn mark. No debris, not nothing."
This was unheard of. Police clean-up of car accidents usually took 45 minutes at the least. He had made the call not five minutes after Micah reported it. No one could clean up the kind of fire he described in less than an hour.
But there was nothing? How could anyone get to that scene fast enough and leave no trace by the time James got there?
"Um…alright. Thanks, James. Sorry. Get back home."
He hung up the phone slowly, still almost in a daze.