ZDNet Australia is proud to bring you a serialised version of Phil Dobbie's novel The Incumbent. A new chapter will be published here as part of his blog each week on Tuesday. You can also buy the entire book by clicking here.
Trisha Botherington looked magnificent. She stood outside the VastTel building, a gaping hole on the 32nd floor behind her, microphone in hand, reporting live on Channel Eight. She looked straight into the camera, through to the hearts of almost every man with a pulse. The women liked her, too. She was strong, sexy and self-assured, whilst still being very feminine; the very model of modern-day womanhood. She once said that any woman could be like her, but, of course, she knew that wasn't the case. Nature had given her many natural advantages, across the full length of her body. And a brain, too; imagine!
Botherington was the saving grace for Channel Eight. It was a rolling news channel, which, in Australia, where nothing ever happens, is very difficult to sustain. Yet, people would turn on to watch Trisha, even if there was very little going on. A quarter of the news budget was spent on hair and make-up; more than half went on her salary. A considerable proportion of the remainder was allocated for costumes, as Botherington reported from disasters, matinees, church fetes, whatever the event, wearing a designer outfit related to the occasion. For a major explosion, like the one at the VastTel premises, she would wear her yellow emergency services outfit, designed by Carmen Dilligen, which incorporated the same fabric as the conventional jumpsuits, but cut off as hot-pants to show off Botherington's toned thighs, and, like all her costumes, a plunging neckline to demonstrate her most-discussed assets.
She knew the effect she had on men, but wanted to be known, first and foremost, as a credible journalist. If she could use her body to draw the attention to her work, that was fine, she reasoned. She just hoped that people would also recognise the integrity and determination in her reporting. Naively, she assumed that was why she had taken home half the gongs at the annual journalism awards, but, in truth, it was because the organisers, a group of lecherous old hacks, had wanted to see her on stage as often as possible.
If she could use her body to draw the attention to her work, that was fine, she reasoned.
The Channel Eight producers that morning knew they were onto a winner. There was Trisha, doing what she does best, looking as sexy as hell, tormenting the male population, whilst behind her, emergency service crews were running into the building as distraught VastTel employees were hurrying out onto the street. It had all the ingredients for a ratings bonanza. There was a disaster, the odd hero or two — if there wasn't one, they'd make one up — great visuals and, of course, Trisha. They knew everyone would be watching, unaware that at the same time, across town, another drama was unfolding.
Jimi Jones was one of just a handful of people able to watch both events. He was in the control room at Radio 2IQ, looking through the glass into studio two, where Musson was holding a gun to Woodburner's head. It was a tense moment, but not enough to totally distract him from the TV coverage. There's nothing like a terrorist attack on your workplace to get your attention, especially when Trisha Botherington had rushed to the scene. Like most males in their early twenties, he had a serious crush on the woman, and spent an unhealthy amount of time trying to untangle in his mind whether it was simply lust, or whether he had actually fallen in love with her.
Enthralling as the scenes were from the VastTel headquarters, he couldn't ignore what was happening in front of him. He was finding the whole affair shocking, and, at the same time, rather amusing. Jones had never experienced talkback radio before. He was part of that section of the population who studiously avoided it — the no-go demographic for shock jocks known as the under-seventies. It all seemed so theatrical, he wondered whether what he was watching had all been carefully stage managed, although the rising concerns of the production team had led him to think otherwise.
He was part of that section of the population who studiously avoided talkback radio — the no-go demographic known as the under-seventies.
They all sat open-mouthed, peering into the studio through the large, triple-glazed, bulletproof window. Jones knew it was bullet-proof, because there had clearly been several occasions when someone had had a go at whoever had been in the studio at the time, and, curiously, several shots appeared to have been fired from inside the studio, which led him to believe the presenters were armed.
The possibility of another gunshot was looking very likely, as Sydney Musson, now visibly shaking from head to toe, waved a pistol at Woodburner, who sat speechless as they both waited for the commercial break to finish before returning to their altercation.
Jimi Jones decided he needed to act. He wasn't prepared to stand and watch a cold-blooded murder, even if everyone around him seemed to be relishing the prospect. Despite his protestations that somebody should be doing something, the production team were too busy making phone calls to the morning television news programs, offering free audio of the unfolding incident.
'We're journalists,' one of them replied when Jones had suggested that they needed to stop Musson. 'We can't intervene, it's unethical.' A surprising adjective to hear coming from a 2IQ employee.