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Chapter 2 - Eaton News Service

Speaking of Anchorville, it's considered a large city even for the standards of Calvard. It's not quite as big as the capital, but it does check all the boxes of a metropolis: establishments of major companies, the white streets lined up alongside the valley they're facing and of course the market and harbour next to the large river.

After passing the market, Edwin vigorously stepped on the pedals on his bike as he turned on the intersection of Sunset Street. That's where a small, local publisher named Eaton News Service was located.

Nearly half of the reporters stood next to their seats, loudly discussing something. Royce, a veteran reporter who hadn't even noticed Edwin coming in, was feverishly slaving away on his manuscript. Copy editor Chang - better known as the editor-in-chief - nodded with a severe expression on his face.

It appeared that talk of a traffic accident had leaked out and that it would take time to gather information from whatever it had occurred. With a backward glance, Edwin quickly slid unto his seat and put his favourite tattered suitcase on his lap. "You're out of shape and still come in late", chided an easily recognisable voice from within the tumult, followed by a head that has started to go grey. Brandon is a middle-aged father, chief of the Culture section and tasked with Edwin's supervision. Edwin pushes the manuscript under his nose as if he had been waiting for him.

"Today's article is perfect, though. I'm looking forward to the editorial meeting."

"There better not be another typo here."

Just how many times do I have to lecture you, Brandon said. Edwin couldn't help but smile as he assured him his work would be would be fine today, no doubt about it.

That very moment another telephone rang, answered by the female reporter Carly. Eaton News Service has four of these.

"What...?" Carly frowned.

"...This morning at 5 o'clock. ...Okay, yes... Got it..."

Carly firmly raised her hand and waved it firmly from left to right and back again. That gesture was enough to get an office as noisy as a train station silent. Curly put the receiver back on its holder as if handling something fragile and exchanged a glance with Chang. "Sir, it appears Mr. Weberhardt has died."

"Political Section, assemble!", his voice loudly announced as a number of reporters stood up from their desk. Guess the person who died was a local, Edwin mumbled as ten people gathered in front of the copy editor.

"Who's Mr. Weberhardt?" "Don't give me that look, he's a big-shot."

Being a highly cultured person is one thing, but do you even have common sense? As Brandon overheard the political reporters mention a special feature, he pushed the manuscript back in Edwin's hands.

"Consider today's meeting cancelled. I need your help to gather information." "What...!? Why!?" "Why not?"

The chief's will is your command. Edwin jumped to his feet without thinking, but felt as if the floor beneath him started to shake.

...No, it wasn't just him. From outside, they could hear the sounds of metal being smashed and feel the vibrations of sounds brought forth by an enormous mass.

Grinding. Scratching. Ba-bang.

Followed by a 'bam!' so loud that the windows trembled. Outside, a toppled orbal bus caught on fire. A traffic accident. Edwin, who had immediately grabbed his tattered suitcase, already made his way toward the incident running. It wasn't just his reporter's soul that had him running...And although he may have imagined it, he saw Agnes among the screaming crowd.

第2回 イートン通信社にて

アンカーヴィルといえば、カルバード共和国でもそこそこの大都市と言っていい。さすがに首都ほどではないものの、それなりの企業が集まり、また山あいに向かって順序よく立ち並ぶ白い街並みや、大河に面した港や市場たちがこの街を大きく見せている。  その市場の一角を抜けたエドウィンは、自転車のペダルを勢いよく踏み込んでサンセット通りの交差点を折れた。その先に小さなローカル誌を出す『イートン通信社』はある。  半数近い記者が席を立って、何かをやかましく話し合っていた。入ってきたエドウィンに気付かず原稿をバシバシと叩くベテラン記者のロイス。いかにも徹夜明けの顔で通信機を取るのは経済面担当のクレフだ。デスク──つまり編集長──のチャンは気難しい顔で何度も頷いている。……漏れ聞こえる言葉から、どこかであった交通事故の取材に手間取っているようだ。それを尻目に堂々と、かつ素早く自分の席に滑り込んだエドウィンは、愛用のボロカバンを手繰り寄せてにんまりした。                    「調子よさそうじゃねえか、遅刻のくせによ」白髪の目立ち始めた頭が突き出てきて、喧騒の中でも聞き取り易い声で嗜める。ブランドンは文化面のチーフでエドウィンの監督役でもある中年親父だ。待ってましたとばかりにその鼻先に原稿を突き出すエドウィン。 「今日の記事はばっちりですよ。  編集会議、よろしくお願いします!」 「またスペルミスがない事を祈っててやるよ」 お前何度叱られれば気が済むんだよ、とブランドン。それを聞いてエドウィンはまたニヤリと笑った。今日は大丈夫です、絶対に!  その時また別の通信機がけたたましく鳴って、通りがかった女性記者のカーリーが取った。イートン通信社には4台の通信機がある──  「えっ……?」カーリーの眉が大きく歪んだ。 「……今朝の5時ですね。……はい……はい………」立ち上がったカーリーは手を高く挙げた。それを慎重に、けれどもしっかりと左右に振ってみせる。途端に駅のホームみたいに騒がしかった編集部は静かになった。割れ物を扱うのと同じくらいそっと通信機を置いたカーリーは、チャンに視線を投げた。「デスク、ウェーバーハルト氏が死んだそうです」  「……政治班~、集合~っ!」誰かが大きく2つ手を叩いて、うーっすと声を合わせた記者たちがバタバタと立ち上がる。あの人が死んだか、うちは地元だしなぁ。そんな呟き声とともに、デスクの前にはあっという間に10人を超える人だかりができていく。  

「誰ですかね、ウェーバーハルト氏って」 「誰ですかじゃねぇよ、大物じゃないか」 大のつく文化人だぞ、一般常識もねえのかお前。集まった政治班の連中のダミ声に耳を傾け、ありゃ特集記事をだすなと呟いて、ブランドンは手の中の原稿をエドウィンにつっかえした。             「午後の会議は中止だ、エド。  お前取材の手伝いに行ってこい」 「ええっ……!!なんでですかっ!?」 「なんでじゃねえよ」 チーフの命令は絶対なんだよ。そのしかめっ面に、思わず立ち上がったエドウィンは、何だか地面がぐらりと揺れた気がしてよろめいた。  ……いや、みんなよろめいた。窓の外からは何か金属の潰れる音と、巨大な質量が引きずられる音が響いてくる。 ……ガリガリガリガリ、ズドドン。

 そしてドン、と窓ガラスを震わせて、横転した導力バスが火を吹き上げるのが見えた。交通事故だ……。とっさにボロカバンに手を伸ばしたエドウィンは、もう全力で駆け出していた。ただ記者魂が命じたというわけじゃない。……気のせいかもしれないけれど、叫び声を上げる雑踏の中にアニエスの姿が見えた気がした。  

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