Marisa Shaw would have been on top of the world today, if only her dad had been here to share it with her. She had finally made it to a top twenty market as a TV news reporter, and it happened right here in her hometown of Pittsburgh. She'd spent seven years paying her dues in two smaller markets, working mega hours for the slave wages that small market television pays. But she'd learned her profession and was a good, solid journalist. She also had that special charisma that the camera loves. You wouldn't look at her and say she was gorgeous--attractive maybe--but certainly not extraordinary. That is until you saw her on TV. She had that rare gift of being able to transmit the warmth and enthusiasm for life that she exuded in person, over the air.
That caught the attention of the News Director at WKTX-TV. But Kyle Wheeler didn't find her in the traditional way, slogging through the stacks of resume tapes in his office. He first saw her on his own newscast in an interview at her father's funeral. Byron Shaw had been a longtime, beloved, Pittsburgh cop, killed in the line of duty about four months ago. Marisa was his only family--her mother had died when she was a child.
Kyle was struck by her composure and eloquence when she talked about her Dad, so he had asked around about her. When he found out she was a reporter, he had to have her. It didn't hurt that she'd been born and raised in Pittsburgh. Kyle knew Pittsburghers tended to gravitate to one of their own. It was a city where people were born, grew up, got married, worked and died all within a 20 block radius. Pittsburgh was a big city of little neighborhoods.
Marisa was thrilled when Kyle called her. She couldn't believe it. She had been trying to get a job in Pittsburgh for three years, but it had never worked out. Even people, who weren't born in Pittsburgh, tended to stay and settle down once they got there, so TV reporter openings at the stations were rare. She never expected to end up at WKTX-TV. It was the station she'd grown up watching, and the main anchorwoman was her role model.
She had still had six months on her contract in her current job, but the station had agreed to let her out early, as soon as it found a replacement. That took nearly four months. Kyle was willing to wait, and Marisa needed the time to deal with her Dad's death. It had been just the two of them against the world for nearly twenty years, and his sudden death had left an aching hole in her heart. The first few months after he was killed, she wasn't quite ready to live and work in the city that held their most precious memories.
But today she was starting her new job and feeling very at home again in the Steel City she loved. She had moved into the old row home her father had bought and renovated after she went to college. It was up on Mount Washington and looked down on the Point, where the three rivers which had given the old stadium its name, came together. She also could see the station which was located right downtown. She was so excited to be able to ride the Incline down the hill and then jump on a bus to the station. As a child she had always loved riding up and down Mount Washington on the Incline.
As she walked into the newsroom, the feeling of being home got stronger. These were people she'd watched all her life. And many, like her, were native Pittsburghers. All the stations understood the value of local people on the news in a town where hometown pride is worn like a badge of honor. She had met several of the other reporters when she interviewed for the job, and they welcomed her warmly.
Marisa always thought it was strange when people outside the television news business asked about the cutthroat competition in the newsroom. From the first newsroom she had interned in, she had found an atmosphere of camaraderie and teamwork that was hard to match. Everyone worked hard and put in long hours--that was the only way newscasts got on the air. There just wasn't a lot of time for competition inside a newsroom. The energy spent on competition was focused on rival stations, not co-workers.
Marisa spent her first week riding with other reporters and getting the hang of how things worked at the station. By the end of the week she had her first story on the air and was feeling pretty comfortable. Being the new kid on the block she was scheduled to work nights starting her second week, but she didn't mind. Since there were only two reporters working at night, that meant that she would often have the lead story on the eleven p.m. news.
Because she had virtually grown up in a police station, she was assigned to cover the cops and courts as her beat. She had mixed feelings about that--she knew she had the contacts and knowledge to do the job well, but every time she walked into a cop shop, she felt as if a cold breeze passed through that hole in her heart. Nevertheless, each afternoon on her way to the station, she'd stop at a different precinct house, introducing herself around to those she didn't know and passing out her card to let them know she was the new cop and crime reporter at WKTX. The more time she spent at different station houses, the more she realized what an impact her father had had. So many officers had anecdotes about Big By they wanted to share--it was like turning pages of a scrapbook of his life.
Finally at the beginning of her third week, she knew she couldn't put it off any longer, she had to go down to her Dad's downtown precinct. It would be the place where many of her news stories came from, because besides being the largest precinct, it was also headquarters for the SWAT and River Rescue teams. When she walked in she was assailed by memories--she had been the little girl who was the darling of the squad room, practically the precinct mascot. She hadn't been back in the building since she graduated from college. But the desk sergeant immediately recognized her.
"Missy, it's about damn time you made your way down here. We've all been watching you on TV! How are you doing? We all sure do miss your Dad around here." He came around the desk and enveloped her in a huge bear hug.
"I'm doing okay Sarg--I gotta say, it's great to be back in the Burgh! Is it okay if I go up into the squad room?"
"Sure honey, just put on your press pass."
She slowly climbed the stairs to the detective squad room where her father's old office was. He had been captain of the precinct, and she knew how much the officers under him respected him. They had all been at the funeral and had spent hours back at the house regaling her with what they called 'Shaw Stories'. She stood outside the squad room for several minutes before she could walk in. Just as she finally drew up the courage to go in, she felt a hand on her shoulder, and then a smack on her butt.
"Hey!" she turned ready to rail at someone.
"I ought to spank your behind for real young lady! Back in the city nearly a month, and the first I find out is when I turn on the TV!"
Marisa threw herself into the arms of the man who was like a second father to her. John Barry and her Dad had gone to the police academy together, walked a beat together and partnered as detectives for years before they each got their own command.
"John, it's so good to see you! I'm sorry I haven't been in touch since I've been back--I've just kind of been taking things slowly--but you're right that's no excuse for not seeing you and Sal! Are you really mad?" she asked with that innocent little girl look he knew so well.
"No brat! Actually, I do understand--I've been wanting to call you, but Sally said just give you time and you'd come around when you were ready. But we better see you for Sunday dinner."
"Count on it! Hey have you heard from Chris lately or is he still under on a case?"
John frowned at the question. Chris was his son. He and Marisa had virtually grown up together--he was just three years older than Marisa. Chris was an FBI agent who specialized in undercover sting operations. He had been under on his current assignment several months now, so John and Sally hadn't heard from him.
"He's still under. I know he's going to be devastated when he hears about Byron--and he'll be especially sorry he wasn't here for you. I'll tell ya Missy, it's a constant worry for his mother and me."
"John, you know how good he is at his job--he's also incredibly careful. I'm sure he's fine. I really did miss his being around when Dad died, but I certainly understood. He'll be sad he missed Dad's funeral. I do miss the talks Chris and I have when he's not undercover. We talk about once a month, when he can call."
"How are you doing, Marisa, really?" He'd lowered his voice, and now it was laced with concern for her.
"It's hard being in this city without him, but I'm really glad I came home. I miss him so much it hurts--but I'm getting along. I love my new job, and the support I've received from everyone on the force has been awesome. How about you--you lost him too?"
"It gets a little better every day. Come on, I'll walk in with you, then I've got to get back to my own station house."
"So, which one of the guys moved up to Captain?"
"None of them--no one wanted to try and walk in Big By's shoes. So the brass promoted a young guy from the Hill District. You might remember him, he was one of By's recruits--rode with him ten, maybe twelve years ago--a guy by the name of Michael Craine. He was one your Dad always thought had a lot of potential--smart, no-nonsense kind of cop. From what I hear, the squad respects him--he's no Byron Shaw, but then nobody is!"
"The name sounds vaguely familiar, but there were so many, and twelve years ago I was pretty focused on being the teenager from hell. Remember all the mischief I managed to get in at sixteen and seventeen? I spent half my time getting into trouble and the other half over Dad's knee paying for it!"
"You did turn his hair gray those couple of years. In fact, as I recall, there were even a couple of times I had to paddle your butt when you stayed with Sally and me!"
Marisa unconsciously rubbed her backside, "Oh, yes, I remember that well!" They both laughed.
"Well, remember this, young lady, I intend to look out for you now, so if you need anything, I better be the first one you call or else you might just find yourself right back across my knee!" Even though he said it with only mock sternness, Marisa still felt a slight tingling sensation at the thought. She hadn't been spanked since the summer after her junior year in college, but she knew her Dad and John both believed firmly in corporal punishment at any age. In fact, she didn't doubt for a minute that John had taken his wife, Sally, over his knee a time or two!
They walked into the squad room at that point, and Marisa was immediately surrounded by the men and women who had been the heart of her father's command. Some she'd known for years, others were new to the precinct, but they all accepted her as the daughter of the man they had loved and respected. She was having a hard time holding back the tears as they embraced her and sincerely wanted to know how she was doing. There was also some good natured ribbing about her 'working for the enemy', since cops and reporters are notorious for butting heads. As she stopped to talk to different people, she was slowly working her way back to the corner office--the office that had once been her Dad's. As she got close, she asked one of the guys if he thought it would be okay to go in for just a minute.
"Sure Missy, I don't think the Captain would mind too much--just watch out for him--he hates the media!!"
Marisa tentatively walked into the office she used to know as well as her own bedroom. It definitely looked different--less homey, more efficient somehow. The big wooden desk was still there, and the beat-up old metal filing cabinets. The citations to the squad were still on the walls--but it definitely wasn't the same. All the little things that reflected her father's personality were gone. The tears she had been holding back started to leak out and fall silently down her cheeks. She was about to sit down for a second while she recovered her composure when she was startled by an angry voice.
"What do you think you're doing in here?!?"
Marisa jumped up and spun around, hastily wiping her eyes. "I ... I'm sorry ... I'm..."
"Marisa Shaw." The voice was imposing, and so was the man. It might be a cliché, but if Webster's Dictionary was looking for the definition of tall, dark and handsome, it need look no further than Michael Craine.
"Yes, I didn't mean to intrude ... that is ... you must be Captain Craine ... I'm pleased to..." She was holding out her hand, but he stalked by her and back behind his desk, cutting her off in the process.
"In the future, Miss Shaw, I would appreciate it if you abided by the rules for all media--the squad room and especially this office are OFF LIMITS to reporters!!"
"I'm sorry--I didn't know, the desk sergeant said ... well that doesn't matter. Look we're obviously getting off to a bad start. I..."
"Miss Shaw, as far as I'm concerned there is no good start with a news reporter."
Marisa was regaining her composure real fast as her temper rose. "That's a bit unfair--are you this judgmental with suspects too?" She didn't like the fact that although she was 5'8", she still had to look up to face him eye to eye--he had to be at least 6'2".
"Look, Miss Shaw, you may be willing to let your television station exploit the trust and concern people in this precinct have for you because of your father, but I'm NOT. It's obvious you were assigned to cover crime because of your connections--well don't expect any special treatment here. And if I find out you're doing anything to abuse your father's memory, I'll have you banned from every precinct house in the department so fast it'll make your head spin!"
Marisa was stunned that he would even suggest such a thing, and so angry she could barely speak. She swung her arm up ready to slap him hard across the face, but he caught her wrist in a painful grip.
"Try that again, and you'll wind up in the same position you were in when we first met 12 years ago," he growled in a low menacing voice. "Tell me, is a firm hand across your bare backside still the best way to get your attention?"
Marisa blushed furiously--she now remembered the young Michael Craine. He was a 21-year old rookie right out of the academy. Her father was his senior training officer, and as he often did, Byron Shaw had brought the rookie home after their shift for a late supper. Marisa, 16 and full of piss and vinegar, had come home late again. She breezed in, all apologies, saw the handsome recruit and stopped dead in her tracks. She was struck by his looks, his smile and the gentlemanly way he rose, took her hand and kissed it as she introduced herself. Unfortunately that was as far as the little flirtatious scene played out.
Her father interrupted with a stern lecture about being late for the third time in two weeks, told her to go to her room and get ready for a spanking. He punctuated the threat with two stinging smacks as he sent her down the hallway to her room. She could have died of embarrassment. Michael quickly tried to excuse himself and leave, but her father had simply said to grab a beer and go sit out on the porch--he'd be out shortly. Marisa knew Michael had to have heard everything because it was summer and the windows were open. Her father had spanked her hard that night using the most-hated leather belt, as he always did when she repeatedly disobeyed him. She had cried and carried on just like a child, as she always did when he spanked her.
That whole scene came flooding back to Marisa in one instant, and now it was a contest to see which could make her cheeks redder, anger or embarrassment.
"I see you remember our first encounter. Well, let me tell you what else I remember, Miss Shaw! I remember watching your father worry himself sick over your bratty antics. I also remember his extreme displeasure when you announced out of the blue you were going to be a reporter. Was that just another form of rebellion, or did you really hate him so much for being a cop, that you chose the most anti-police profession you could find, short of being a criminal?"
Marisa wrenched her arm free and actually took a step back, retreating from the heat of his assault. Now she was beyond anger, to true fury and she let him have it.