Breaking News: Part Seven
It was Monday, at 6 p.m., sharp.
The lights came up and the music played. The studio waited as the show began. The Kacheek producer looked surprisingly calm despite losing an anchor in the first week, and the fact that Mr. Jennings was watching the show live in the studio. If the other anchor went crazy, the Kacheek knew his head would roll. It had to be perfect; it just had to be.
“Good evening, Neopia, and welcome to Channel 9 News. I’m Helen Scott, tonight’s top stories...
“Queen Fyora makes public statement that she isn’t in fact a Peophin, in the face of persisting rumours.
“Maraquan Environmental Campaigners issue fresh calls to stop Tyrannian waste dumping.
“And scientists make breakthrough discovery that may offer a potential cure to the Stuff.”
Mr. Jennings watched from the sidelines, Mr. Black by his side.
“You are sure they were all spotted heading this way?” he whispered.
“Positive, sir,” the Grarrl replied. “They were trying very hard to look as if they weren’t all heading here together.”
Jennings nodded. “Then it ends tonight.”
He thoughtfully tapped his jacket pocket. Inside was the list of names, half of which were crossed out.
Back on the set, a report had just finished.
“Martin Half there, with a report from Faerieland. We all hope that situation is resolved soon, I’m sure. Later in the show we’ll be talking to a Faerie who has been critical of Queen Fyora’s reign, Jhudora,” Helen said. “Now it’s time for a look at the sport, with Roy Castle.”
“Thanks, Helen, and boy what a day it was for Mini Golf enthusiasts today as the final day of the Tyrannian Open came to a close!”
The producer Kacheek made his way over to Jennings.
“Excuse me, sir, there’s some people in reception asking for you,” he said.
Jennings exchanged a brief glance with Mr. Black.
“Tell them to wait there until the show is over,” Jennings instructed.
The Kacheek scuttled off.
“Sir? Are you sure about this? One wrong move and everything...” Black asked.
“How is that different to any other day, Mr. Black?” Jennings smiled. “We must just make sure that no one is allowed to make a wrong move.”
“And that’s the weather for tomorrow,” Hattie the Cybunny was saying on set. “Back to you, Helen.”
“Thanks, Hattie,” Helen picked up. “There’s just enough time for a traffic update with Jeremy Barking. Are you there, Jeremy?”
“Beekadoodles! Beekadoodles! BWWWWAAAAAAAAARRRRK!”
“Some technical issues there again with Jeremy,” Helen said without missing a beat. “We’ll try to have him back on air tomorrow. Up next on Channel 9 is tonight’s feature film, Buck Atom and the Unknown Zone. Good night.”
Jennings gave a faint smile as he felt a sudden pressure on his shoulder. He recognised Judge Hog’s hand.
“On stage,” the Moehog commanded from behind him.
Jennings was marched forwards as Peter and Alfonso burst in from the right of the set.
The Nimmo controlling the Neovision camera moved to turn it off, but Jennings gave him an almost imperceptible signal to keep shooting.
“Stop this!” Alfonso shouted, gaining the attention of everyone, and making sure the camera was pointed towards him. “Stop the show!”
“What is the meaning of this?” Jennings demanded.
“You might well ask!” Alfonso said smugly. “This is where you get your comeuppance! It’s over! I’ve won!”
“I’m sure I have no idea what you are talking about, Mr. Might,” Jennings replied.
“This contraption is controlling the minds of the people of Neopia!” Alfonso shouted.
“Yes, I heard that from Mr. Hopkirk yesterday.” Jennings smiled, slowly shaking himself free of Jude Hog. “However, I regret to inform you that on this particular occasion, he is incorrect. I have consulted with Lazar, the wizard who constructed the technology we are using, and he has confirmed that whilst there may be a whole range of magical side effects from warts to talking shrubberies, mind control is not one of them. Indeed, if Neovision were capable of controlling minds, would the population of Neopia not have been compelled to obey Mr. Hopkirk’s demands to stop watching last night? It would seem not, as preliminary figures show that this is the most watched news bulletin this channel has produced so far.”
Jennings passed a small sheet of paper over his shoulder to the Judge. The Moehog frowned.
“He’s right,” he said at last. “I trust the word of this Lazar as well; he seemed like the reasonable sort... well, for a wizard. You’ve brought me here on false pretences, Mr. Might.”
Alfonso’s face fell.
“Wait!” he said suddenly. “There’s still Seth Vargo!”
“What about him?” the Judge asked.
“I know where he is! Jennings confessed last week! He’s under the tower block Jennings is constructing!” Alfonso said, pointing an accusatory finger at Jennings.
“Is this true, Jennings?” the Judge asked.
“I certainly have no idea what Mr. Might is babbling about,” Jennings said innocently. “Perhaps the strains of business have finally gotten to him. I have absolutely no idea where Mr. Vargo is spending his retirement.”
“No!” Alfonso yelled. “You can’t shrug this off, he’s buried in your concrete!”
Jennings plainly ignored Alfonso and continued to address the Judge.
“Judge Hog, we spoke only a few days ago of Mr. Vargo’s disappearance,” he said plainly. “It is indeed true if my memory serves me correctly that the foundations of my building were laid on the same day Mr. Vargo disappeared. You will recall however, that during that event, we were speaking on a matter of much importance. Stolen gold, you recall.”
The Judge’s eyes flickered momentarily. He was acutely aware that he was being filmed, and that he had at the time been speaking to Jennings about giving a lot of stolen gold back to the Thieves Guild. Getting into detail about it at this time would not be a good idea, not when eyes from the Lost Desert were watching. Princess Amira would be very keen to have someone arrested, and the Judge would be first in the firing line.
“Yes,” he said eventually, “I can account for the whereabouts of Mr. Jennings.”
“However,” Jennings said, wheeling around and fixing Alfonso with a sudden malicious fire in his eyes. “I would not object in the slightest to the Defenders examining the construction site. If indeed Mr. Vargo is found, one must wonder how Mr. Might came to know of his location.”
“What?” Alfonso spat, suddenly backing away as his plan fell to pieces. “Why would I have anything to do with this?”
“It’s no secret you don’t like Mr. Jennings,” Judge Hog considered. “Framing him is plausible. It is also no secret that at the time of his disappearance, Seth Vargo was hated by pretty much everyone, including you. He was a business competitor, at very least.”
Judge Hog had advanced on Alfonso before he could run, and the Moehog grabbed the Yurble firmly by the arm. Alfonso struggled in vain against the Judge’s iron grip.
“You are coming with me down to the Docklands,” the Judge said. “If we find what you said we’d find, there will be trouble.”
He turned to Jennings and added, “Sorry to take up your time, Mr. Jennings. Carry on.”
The Judge led Alfonso away, kicking and screaming. The studio was silent for a moment, until Jennings turned to the camera.
“I thank you all for watching, good people of Neopia,” he said. “You have witnessed tonight the culmination of the best investigative journalism I have seen for some time. Isn’t that right, Peter?”
The Krawk placed his hand on the Bruce’s shoulder.
“You see,” Jennings continued, “For some time now, Mr. Hopkirk has been investigating Alfonso Might. It was after all, the reason he was sacked from the Neopian Times. Mr. Hopkirk launched a daring bargain. These past few days, he has faked a nervous breakdown, and quit the show, all for the purpose of luring Alfonso Might out into the open, and revealing him for what he is – a criminal. Is this not so, Peter?”
Jennings fixed the Bruce with a stare that the camera could not see. It communicated a very clear message to Peter in an impossibly short time.
You saw what I just did to Alfonso Might, and you know I could do the same to you in a heartbeat. I’m offering you a second chance. Take it, or face the consequences.
“...Yes,” Peter agreed.
“Well, I’ve taken more than enough air time as it is, over to you, Mr. Hopkirk,” Jennings smiled as he walked off stage.
Once he was sure he was out of camera shot, the Krawk approached Mr. Black.
“I am not a fan of loose ends, Mr. Black,” he whispered. “Alfonso Might will be placed under arrest, but if I can escape the Defenders of Neopia, so can he. All loose ends must be dealt with.”
The Grarrl nodded.
“I’m sure Mr. Might won’t be a problem for much longer, sir,” he agreed, before turning to leave.
Back on the set, Peter sat down behind the news desk. He glanced to his left. Helen, Hattie and Roy all smiled back at him. He picked up the papers on the desk and shuffled them. They couldn’t end the show now; there was so much news to talk about.
Peter locked the Neovision camera in his gaze, and again the familiar tingling feeling took over. He knew now, it wasn’t magic; it was just the thrill of being on air. Something he was just going to have to get used to.
He straightened his tie and said, “We’ll be right back after these messages.”