Emma greeted Harold with a nod.  “How are you, Harold?”

“Good.  Take a seat, Emma.”

“So what’s up, Harold?  It’s not like you to be mysterious.  Your forthright, straight forward and you shoot from the hip.”

“First off, I apologize for my tirade.  It was motivated by concern for your welfare which is more important than a story, any day of the week.”

Emma smiled warmly, “Thanks, Harold.  I didn’t really take offense, I understood that was probably behind your rant, but I will say I was hurt you didn’t realize my determination.”

“I did and do.  It’s why I over-reacted.”  He blew out his breath from puffed out cheeks.  “That brings me to the details I have to bestow.  I’ve done some discreet digging.  Some disturbing information has come to light and I thought you should hear it directly from me.”

“Ok, what is it?”  Emma asked curiously.

“Seems that our man Jessop isn’t as squeaky clean as he lets on.  He’s been involved in some pretty shady dealing, under the table stuff, bribes and he’s threatened a few people.”

“That’s information I already have, Harold.” He looked startled at her admission.

“Then there’s the fact he’s been involved with Nathan Armstrong on more than one deal.  I wanted you to know because while he might have your back, he’s also involved with Jessop.”

“I knew that too, Harold.  Nathan and I were discussing it a couple nights back.  He’s been digging into Jessop as well.  He’s obviously concerned regarding their connection and he’s also troubled about how far off track Jessop may have gone, and whether it will rub off on him even by association.” Harold looked relieved.

“I’m not sure whether I’m glad or not that you know.  It puts you in a precarious position either way.  Small minded types will deify Armstrong, consider him guilty by association, so you can expect a little blow back’s coming his way, and could possibly extend to you too.  By that I mean you’re covering a story that he’s connected with even marginally could put your objectivity at question.”

When she would have spoken, he held up a hand and continued, “No no, not by me but by the powers that be, or our readers.”

“Rest assured, Harold, at this point, I have no qualms worries or concerns about Nathan’s involvement.  No matter how much I like the man, if he’s dirty, and I say if, then he’s as guilty as Jessop.  It wouldn’t be easy or pleasant to bring him down or paint him with the same brush, but should that happen, I wouldn’t have a choice.  You know that.”

“Yeah, yeah I do.  You’re reporting has always been consistent, honest and fair.  I have no doubt of that.  I’m concerned about your well-being and you getting hurt by this.  By him.”

“I’m not, Harold.  I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself.”

“Ok, that’s what I needed to talk to you about.  You are officially on holiday.  I’ve taken the liberty of extending them since it’s only a couple days before your due to leave anyway, and you’ve been working most of the time anyway.”

“Thanks, Harold, appreciate that.”

“On a different note, you managed to attend any events yourself?”

“Not really, no.  Family had other ideas.”

“Ok, well, I managed to attend a few events, and I took notes and typed them up along with a couple of photos if your interested and it’s not too late for the entertainment section.”
“Sure, hand them over before you leave, I’ll see if there’s room to include your articles.”

“I’m heading out to my parents in two days.  I’ll be in contact with you throughout if you need me.”

“I heard an unsubstantiated report your home was burgled.”

“Yes, it was.  Nothing useable so far.”

“The cops think it’s connected with the case?”

“We all do.”  Emma filled him in on the events that had transpired.

“Damn it!  I knew it would get ugly.  I had a gut feeling about this.”

“So far, no harm, no foul.  Nathan has bodyguards so I’m safe.  Far safer than if I’d attempted coverage alone.”

“Then I’m pleased.”

“Go, enjoy your holiday.  We’ll talk after the new year if not before.”

Emma drew a present from her cavernous purse.  “A little something for under the tree.  I hope you enjoy.”

Harold was startled.  “I didn’t get you anything.”

“Wasn’t expecting anything, Harold.  But this caught my eye and I couldn’t resist.  It seemed, it seemed so you!”  She walked around the desk and gave him a warm hug.  “Merry Christmas, Harold.  Happy New Year too, since I probably won’t see you beforehand.”

“Same goes, Emma.”  He returned her hug in a fatherly fashion.  Emma grinned.  Harold wasn’t big on emotional display, it’s why it made giving him an unexpected hug all the more fun.

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Nathan 93

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