Cyril Watkin was a young yet intrepid reporter. At only twenty-seven, he had been on the first page of The Banner three times, each framed in his home for his father to admire. His father, Quentin Watkin, had also been a reporter and had taught Cyril everything he knew. But, reporting for Cyril's father ended when his knees were broken by a pair of moonshiners during the prohibition. Quentin Watkins' copy editor had told him never to take his work home with him, a bromide which was more like a challenge to a reporter than a warning. Like all portenting advice, Mr. Quentin Watkins had found himself too deep in a story about a ring of rum runners in Hell's Kitchen, and the story brought his job far too close to his family and he paid the price in fear and cowardice. Mr. Watkin didn't walk without a cane these days thanks to that story, and he then just wrote restaurant and movie reviews afterwards until he retired three years after. Quentin Watkin had made his son promise that he, unlike his father, would never bring a story home with him. Cyril promised on his mother's grave.
Yet Cyril never kept his promise. Cyril Watkin found himself digging his claws into every story like there was a great and terrible evil to expose to the world. And, when no good story existed, he created one. The malevolence of the disgruntled lightbulb factory union workers' hushed threat that they had randomly included dashes of gunpowder in the filament of their bulbs so that they would explode on customers as a negotiating tactic to increase their wages was one of the biggest stories of the year, and also one-hundred-percent Cyril Watkin's imagination. He had received hundreds of letters and threats for that one, and he didn't care. What he cared about was that the name Watkin was on the front page.
When he stepped back onto the flat, compact dirt of Hytten Steel's smelting factory, he surveyed the crews. Men lowered buckets of boiling metal with thick yellow gloves, yelling and screaming at each other in indecipherable bellows behind thick, blackened visors as they pulled and tugged on writhing pulley chains that swung the bowls of molten metal to their destinations. The loud whine of gasping kilns, burning hotter than the flames of Hell itself, melted metal down into little luminescent blobs like honey-colored drops of the sun. The metal poured into molds and screamed as it took shape while enormous clouds of steam furrowed out from the ground. The factory felt like a crucible all its own, a high-temperature pit that makes steel of men itself, casting them to be tougher, more resilient men, as they each handed off the strength to turn the iron into unbreakable steel.
Cyril saw a floor manager on a catwalk overseeing operations. Cyril quickly approached him. "Excuse me, excuse me!" he yelled, jogging up. He waved his yellow legal pad as he moved. "Excuse me, sir, I was wondering if you had a minute!" The floor manager was tapped by another worker who had noticed Cyril first, then the manager stopped, turned and saw him, then waved the worker to continue. He made his way to the floor level and stood in front of Cyril, his face flush red from the steam.
"What are you doing here?" he asked in a loud, rough voice.
"I'm a reporter, sir, I wanted to ask you some questions about-"
"No, who do you report for?" he asked. "If you work for that damn Banner, I swear I'll have you beat here on the spot!"
"No, sir, not at all, not that piece of garbage! I work for the Times, I'm here to set the record straight!"
"The Times!" Cyril yelled as he leaned in close. The man then nodded satisfactorily, and waved Cyril to accompany him to a quieter (and cooler) section of the factory floor. They stood by an open door, overlooking the harbor with the skyscrapers of Manhattan slicing into the sky. "Thank you," Cyril said, exhaling into the brisker atmosphere. He leaned against a rail and tipped his hat back, loosening his collar.
"What did you want?" the floor manager asked.
"I'm here from the Times to ask you your opinion on the recent events."
"You mean the crap the Banner put out about us?"
"Not in so many words," Cyril said with a cordial, feeble smile. "We're not allowed to say something that explicit. Instead, just...recent events."
"Well, like what?" he said. He turned back in to look at his workers, and yelled an instruction while pointing furiously to a large, bubbling cauldron of golden sludge. He turned back to Cyril and raised his eyebrows expectantly.
"Okay, well, how do you feel about the rumors about Mrs. Hytten?"
"Lies. Everyone of 'em. She's a lady like every other respectable woman of high society." Cyril nodded and scribbled the words down.
"And the status of the company's debts?"
"Hytten Steel's got a big contract due in a week, and three due next month, we're not slowing down at all, in fact, we're hiring."
"Because of Mr. Arco's death?" The floor worker stiffened and adjusted his posture, standing firm and straight.
"Now, get this straight here, and print this for everyone to know, what happened to Nino was an accident. His own damn fault. He wasn't paying attention to the beams he was hauling, he didn't secure it, and it fell on him. He was smart enough to make sure no one else was around when he saw it was falling, so in fact, he did a bit of a heroic thing, yelling for everyone to get on out of the way when he saw it was coming free of the pulleys. And we were hiring even before, we need at least a dozen more people, nothing to do with poor Nino. Got that?"
"Sure do," Cyril said with a smile as he jotted down pieces of what the floor manager said. "I'm sorry, I didn't get your name, for the report."
"Chip, Chip Corman. Dayshift floor manager in the smelting section, been here since I was fifteen, and wouldn't leave it for the world. I am proud to be working for Mr. Hytten, and we all are. Hard enough to get a job in the first place, and definitely worse when people think you should be hating the man for allowing you a place to earn the cash to buy your three squares a day." He looked back inside, then rolled his hand to Cyril. "We through here?"
"Thank you, Mr. Corman. One more question, if you don't mind," Cyril said with a pleading grin. Chip nodded frantically as if to hurry him. "What did you think about Mr. Hytten refusing to see Mrs. Arco today for lunch?" Chip cocked his head in question.
"First I heard of that."
"Okay, thank you," Cyril said, closing his pad. "That's all I need." He smiled then started to leave when Chip stopped him.
"Hey, pal, what did you hear about Nino's old woman and Mr. Hytten?"
"You can read all about it tomorrow in the paper, you'll be in there too, Mr. Corman," he said with a parting smile. Chip quickly manuevered in front of Cyril.
"Pal, tell me. We work for Hytten, not you, we have the gals at home waiting on us, matters to them too."
Cyril bit his lip, looking away in trepidation. Of course, he looked away instead to buy time to think. Then, he sighed and nodded. "Fine, I'll tell you, but don't tell anyone else until tomorrow. It's not good for me, as a reporter, to have people buzzing my big story before it's printed, you know."
"I gotcha, just tell me."
"Well, I just was interviewing her, before I came here actually. She's doing good, taking it well, better than I would if my broad got crushed by two tons of steel. Sorry. She had told me that Mr. Hytten's secretary called her Wednesday to schedule a meeting with Mr. Hytten to accept her husband's last paycheck, saying they'd have lunch today, except, well, Mr. Hytten didn't show up. Now, I don't know all the facts, I'm just writing what I'm told, but she said she went to Mr. Hytten's office on the island, and his secretary told her he wasn't in and handed her an envelope with just one day's work in cash. Not even a full week out of respect, the least he coulda done, in her words, and only one day of pay since Nino died on a Tuesday, he didn't finish his day, so she got just Monday's pay."
"That ain't right," Chip said looking out into Wallabout Bay. He looked back to Cyril. "You sure about that?"
"It's what she said, we'll see if it pans out to be true. I wouldn't think too hard on it, though. She could be hysterical, you know, I wouldn't think on it until the dust settles. It's a hard time for everyone involved, especially Mr. Hytten."
"Yeah," Chip said. "Hey, take it easy pal," he said and turned to move back inside. Cyril waved to him and left. As Cyril got into a cab, his head swirled with ideas. He had planted seeds which would yield delightful fodder for his column, with the one exception: he had to go meet Mrs. Arco, just to cover his ass. He instructed the cab driver to her address and prepared for the interview, but his attention was diverted out the window.
He was crossing over the Manhattan Bridge, and he couldn't help but stare at the pillars of fire reaching into the hazy morning fog on each side of the bay. In those billowing spires of industry, he saw the power of man, harnessed into the forging and collective spirit of progress. And, each of those plumes of fire and smoke there was a hundred men feeding its insatiable flame, and each of those men, they were fed not only on the desire of labor and work, and progress but on the knowledge that his struggle was worth it. Whatever he did, it mattered. He was a hero for doing exactly what he should be doing, and he should feel proud. That was what Cyril Watkin truly enjoyed about his job. That he could make heroes out of nobodies, and all he needed to see was them doing absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.
It left no room for real heroes when everyone thinks they've achieved the world without even shouldering a bit of its weight.
And that's where Cyril Watkin came in, as an arbitrator between the false heroes of this world and the true actions of importance-or, at least, what they needed to feel was important. He was one of the men who determined that, who informed and collected their wants into the fixity of ink, the power of print, and when thinking of print, all Cyril Watkin could think of was what his name would look like on the front page for a fourth time and how happy Quentin Watkin would be when he framed that fourth first-page article in the hall of their home.
It wasn't long before The Banner was buzzing with delight over Mr. Wynand's order to dig up anything and everything on Mr. Arthur Stuary Hytten. It was rare that Mr. Wynand gave a direct order about how to conduct business on The Banner, but when he did, it meant that each reporter got to take time off from the normal run-of-the-mill housewife story and oh-so-horrible new development in Indo-China's native battle against cannibals, and meant they got to do a bit of real reporting. Of course, that reporting would have to reflect The Banner's internal journalistic ethics, and a liberal sprinkling of open-ended conjecture questions or persuasion via bromides was the modus operandi. Each reporter knew that their job was to sell papers with their sensational articles, and each employee at Wynand's Banner ably manifested their work to that level of "quality" with a glee usually reserved for imps in duty of making Hell the special type of getaway it was known to be.
Another special treat was that when Gail Wynand found a crusade, it meant he would come out of his office. When he began work on a story, he would pull a large sheet of paper from the reams in the copy room, staple it to an easel, then attack it with a pen. He'd stand as he wrote, stepping back to admire the words before attacking again. He stood officially before the swath of paper, as if drafting a legal document in Virginia before the Founding Fathers as he wrote in large letters, and when he finished the article, he'd sign with his well-known "G.W." monogram. His explosive writing would always attract attention in the copy room, either for his mere presence or for the infectious ferocity to which he dedicated himself to his work. Often when he wrote, the writing staff would slowly group behind him to silently watch, and when he would notice them, he would tell them all harshly to get back to work. They would scatter, but they'd all come back together again to watch him as soon as he became engulfed in his writing once more, each peering into the vastness of Gail Wynand's presence like afraid little mice at the sound of something having dropped in the kitchen.
Of course, only the few who were happy to be working for Gail Wynand would do that. He had as many happy employees as he did unhappy. Those happy to work for him were culture-wrights as he was, crafting and melding the social fabric with their will and opinion in the sensitive choices they used to convey facts in as volatile a way as possible. Those unhappy had sealed their fate, and subjected their own integrity to that of Gail Wynand's with a contract and a check, and thus, found little joy in the systemastic destruction Wynand would rain upon a man who stood temperately against him. In the victims of his crusades, these unhappy reporters saw themselves. After seeing the way the beast operated, they wish they had fought longer before succumbing. But, they knew the latest victim would succumb too, and thus, did their job to ensure no one stood where they had not.
In the halls of The Banner, it didn't take long before the news came to Ellsworth Toohey's desk. The case of Nino Arco's accidental death when a two-ton steel rail struck him into the ground was a gift for Toohey's natural sense of selfless social blood-letting. In this case, it was the rampant greed of the industrialist Mr. Hytten that had caused Mr. Arco's death, and was now responsible of taking what meager little Mrs. Arco had. He quickly began to formulate ideas about how to tackle the story when he realized that he didn't know anything except what The Banner had printed.
Then, it struck him. That's all he needed to know.
Then he began writing.
When he had finished, he ripped the article from his typewriter, stacked the pages, and then briskly walked to Alvah Scarrett's desk. He entered without announcing himself, and found Alvah stunned at his desk.
"Ellsworth, what's the matter?" he asked, leaning forward immediately. Any visit from Ellsworth Toohey was a moment of unparalleled importance, second only to that of Gail Wynand. The sudden entrance of Toohey into his office alarmed him, and he frantically waited for a response. Ellsworth instead smiled, leaning forward on his toes with the article in hand, then turned and walked the edge of Alvah's office, staring out at the city. "Speak up, Ellsworth," he quickly shot.
"The wheels are turning around here yet again, Alvah," he said with a smile.
"What in God's name are you talking about, Ellsworth?"
"Nothing, nothing Alvah. Merely speculating, as men whose job it is to dictate the course of public opinion are want to do. Tell me, this Nino Arco affair, has anyone suggested that Mrs. Arco be interviewed?"
"Yes, actually, we sent Cyril Watkin to do it after he went to the steel yard."
"If you couldn't be too troubled, my dear Alvah, could you have him sent my way when he gets back? I'd like to see his notes. I have a feeling there's going to be a bit of a social pariah when we're done with this all."
"A social pariah? Christ, you're always going on about your metaphysical this-and-that, Ellsworth. Be clean with me, why are you here?"
"Immediately so, to drop this off," he said, putting the article on Alvah's desk. Alvah placed it on the top of his stack. "Second of all, to request something of you-besides the whole Cyril Watkin-Mrs. Arco business. I'd like to think we're as much friends as we are professional colleagues, so I was wondering if you could get me a moment with Mr. Wynand at some point in the future." Alvah sat back and shook his head.
"Ellsworth...why must you ask me? You work for the man just as I do."
"Of course, Alvah, but few have known him like you do. You go back with him, all I ask is for your good word to help me gain an audience with him. He is a terrbily difficult man to get a hold of, even when he stands five feet away from you."
"I know, Ellsworth, I know," Alvah moaned. "What did you want to talk to him about?"
"Nothing in particular, just about this whole Arthur Stuary Hytten business and what's so important that we set our sights on him."
"I can answer it for you as well as he can." Ellsworth perked his eyebrows. "Because Gail said so."
"Alvah!" Ellsworth laughed. "You damned-right blind fool! I should have expected an answer of such servility from you!" he chortled. Alvah smiled because he wasn't sure what emotion to be feeling. "Yes, yes," Ellwsworth said as he calmed down, "I suspect that is a good enough reason. But, as a professional ally of mine, is it possible you could do this favor for me, in lieu of a more justified reason?"
"Ellsworth, I don't know if I could."
"Just give it your best, Alvah." With that, Ellsworth smiled, bowed slightly, then spritely left. He wondered what Alvah would think about the article, but not about whether he would like it. He wondered, instead, if Alvah would realize what he was trying to do.
An excerpt of Ellsworth Toohey's column "One Small Voice" from the Sunday Edition of the New York Banner reads as follows:
"Mr. Nino Arco, a hard-working and grateful married father of two, suffered the undignified act that no man should ever face in this great country of ours: an inconsequential death. Working only as he should, for the betterment of his city through the production of sky-piercing steel and working for the communal benefit of his fellow man, did he perish under the negligence of a greedy business led by Mr. Arthur Stuart Hytten? Was Mr. Hytten responsible directly for that girder impaling him to the dirt? Of course not. But, was Mr. Hytten's greed responsible? I'll leave that to the philosophers and instead offer this: were Mr. Arco not forced to produce and work at such an intensity that made the necessary safety measures difficult to execute, would he be alive? It's debatable, and I know that I alone cannot make that judgment. Nor can we as a people. We may not presume to occupy a presence of judgment that only God can offer, but what we can do, with a united strength, is to help."
"The widowed Mrs. Abrielle Arco now is pennyless, without an income for her two children. As a people, we surely can do something to ease the pain of this egregious accident. Further, we can remind her of the sacrifice we have all made for the sake of our own livelihoods. It's not the matter of the selfish individual man who works for the betterment of himself to care for the unfairly harmed Mrs. Arco, but it is the duty of us all as men of equal dignity and humanity, we who works for his fellow man so that we may all rise up and lift the needy unto our breast, as we would hope our fellow man would do for us in our time of great and dire need."
"And while we as a whole may not be able to make up for the loss of Abrielle's dear and loved Nino, we certainly have her in our prayers. We only ask this: does Mr. Arthur Stuart Hytten?"