Investigative Journalism Is Dead

Excerpt from “Investigative Journalism Is Dead” 

Grand Prize winner of La Plume Young Writers Contest 2023

Full short story to be published in December 2023


Good Day, Jack

The new hire could already tell you the names of every single one of these convicts he’ll soon call co-workers. There’s no better way to get to know someone than from their criminal record.

Gordon Mourns has this southern drawl slick with whiskey and oil. Cigarette smoke leaves with every breath. He sits back in his chair examining the man in front of him.

Gordy has a pretty clean record considering his wallet.

The new hire could tell you the hold this man has on every badge of goddamn honor.

Corruption, the new hire calls it. But Jack never considered himself any higher morally. He’s a journalist after all.

“It’s a good day, Jack,” Gordy takes a drag of his cigarette.

“I thought this was a no-smoking office?”

“Of course it is.” Mister Mourns winks.

Jack straightens his jacket, careful not to fix his cuffs. If he seems too nervous it’ll be off-putting. But just enough? It’s a giveaway intimidation factor to give Gordon over here the illusion of control. And it’s a spectacular tactic for interviews to become conversations in confidence.

“So, I start today then?”

Gordon leans on his desk with his elbows. Drawing closer to the new hire. His mouth opens and out pours decayed breath. Jack struggles not to recoil. Mr. Mourns squints his eyes, takes a sip from his mug, surely either empty or carrying the remains of days-old coffee, and squints some more.

He puts the mug back down. Leans further. Cracks every single one of his knuckles without breaking eye contact. Jack’s holding in a laugh or maybe a gag.

Gordon’s mouth breaks into a smile and he claps Jack on the shoulder.

“Welcome to Clockwork,” Mourns shakes him a little. “You’ll love it.”


Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack” sifts through the stuffy office. One stretched-out room—two columns, six desks in each—brimming with hunger and a ground coffee aroma. An oil lamp resides by each journalist to illuminate their laptop screens. Stickers of universities and tv series adorn the tech backs (advertisement, of course). Mourns and Jack pass the old vinyl player on the way to Jack’s mahogany hell, his new desk recently vacated.

“Symbolic,” he mutters under his breath.

“What was that Jacky Jack?”

“Nothing, sir.”

“Oh, call me Gordy, son.” He claps his shoulder again, holding the tight grip.

I’ll call you whatever I want on paper, sir.

They reach the desk but Jack does not sit.

“What is that?”

“Son, have you not seen a typewriter before?” Jack is already on the brink of snapping which is not a good sign. He’s itching to mimic that fake accent but he does not, he promised himself a good first day.

“Are you familiar with the term efficiency?” He never promised not to be an ass, though.

Gordy’s taken aback but he bellows enough to interrupt the office.

“This boy has got a sense of humor!”

And a rapidly decreasing level of patience.

Clockwork is welcoming a new member. Everyone, meet Jack Creed.” Jack didn’t plan on having his full name disclosed because, despite anything his editor might say, he didn’t plan on staying very long.

He takes a seat at his desk; the plate reading Louis Tolls still occupying space. Gordon laughs with a nervous bite. “My apologies,” he snatches the plate. “Must have forgotten that when I cleaned it up for you.”

This man did not clean the desk for me.

“Of course, sir.”

“Gordy, son.”

“Sir.” Jack nods and Gordon walks away back to his office, separated from the rest with opaque glass. Above his door reads the date: November 5.

Jack takes a deep breath, closing his eyes. We all signed the same contract. We’re all here for the same experiment.

“I’m onto you, Creed.”

The voice rings through his head. Angelica Jones. Convicted of identity theft. She initiated the Engram case (corporate monitoring).

“Excuse me?”

When Jack gets a good look at her, he realizes the mugshot didn’t do her justice. Much darker with thicker curls and sharper canines than one should have.

“I’m onto you.”

“Is that supposed to be a threat?”

“It’s the title of my next article. What did you think I was saying, Jack Creed?”

“Well, I’m not sure, miss—?”

“Angelica,” she extends her hand and he extends his. “But you can call me Angel.”


She nods. “It’s my pen name.” Jack likes pen names.

“And what is this article about, Angel?” Jack asks.

Angel shrugs, rising from her desk. She doesn’t stop in front of Jack though. She stops behind him and leans over his shoulder to whisper in his ear. “I’m onto you, Creed.”


Creed looks rather pathetic punching out 3 words per minute on his typewriter compared to his advanced counterparts. If this is his trial by fire, then he’d rather go to Hell.

He’s not even sure what he’s writing. It’s beginning to look a lot like a diary.


“How you doing over there, sweetheart?” Simon Price. Attempted Murder. Dev Janko case.

The young man is three desks up, looking over his shoulder all smug as he gets a laugh out of their coworkers.

Jack is considering attempting murder right about now.

“Just fine, darling.” A sick smile he gives. Absolutely humiliating.

This is why they’re here. A bunch of investigative journalists with bad backgrounds that are ugly enough for blackmail. And no one likes the mailman.

One. Two. Three, oh two more.

The cameras disappear like chameleons yet Jack feels them like the sun beating on his back. He’s never been a fan of documentary series but it’ll make a good story and that’s all that matters in the end.

The diary morphs into a letter to his editor.

Dear John,
Get me out of here.

He rips the paper out, crushes it, and throws it in the trash bin. He’ll get it by tomorrow morning.

Mourns practically falls out of his office, out of breath, and out of shape. He raises a slip of paper with no indication of how they should react. He shakes it in the air like that should mean something. But once the words pass his dried-up lips, the office roars.

“He won.”

Angelica is the first to scream but the room follows soon after. Gordy approaches Jack’s desk (which he is still sitting at because, what the hell is going on?) and lifts his typewriter in the air to watch it die on the ground. Crash and burn. Jack flinches.

Gordon yells a good lot afterward. Jack is wide-eyed. “Sorry?” He yelps.

“He won!”

It begins as a statement and transforms into a chant. A celebration begins.

Jack rips the paper out of Gordy’s sweaty palms. Robert Dixon won the presidential election of 2024 with an electoral vote of 301.

The ground trembles beneath him. This is it.

Gordon parades around each desk lifting his arms up and down as though he wants the crowd to get louder. He claps twice and all eyes turn to him. “We’ve got our case!”

Simon Price asks, “When do we start?”

Mourns claps again as though to wake them up at 5:00 PM. “Now! And somebody get that poor boy a computer.”