The Fathoming of the Unfathomables

I met my source in a parking garage on the edge of town. I knew I was risking everything, but the story had gone cold on me. I must have been insane---digging this deep for information which could possibly be used against my own newspaper.

Shadowy Sid was there as promised, standing on the stained tarmac of the third level. He looked around nervously as I approached.

"Did you change cabs?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "Now what can you tell me?"

"I've changed my mind," he said mistrustfully, lighting a cigarette. "We're not going to talk about this issue."

I frowned, confused. "But we talked about Beetle Bailey," I said.

"This is different," Shadowy Sid whispered.

I stared at him, agog. "That was a story about a comic strip that should have stopped running about three decades ago. It doesn't get any bigger than that."

"This is different," he said again. "Tell me what you know, and maybe I can confirm." Holy smoke, I thought, I must be on to something huge.

I took a deep breath. "We know that the paper, like every other paper in America, is always squeezed for space. And we know that the Bridge column appeals to virtually no one. But there it is, day after day. Just tell me why."

"You're missing the overall," Sid whispered. "And I can't tell you anything. It's too dangerous."

"Dammit," I hissed, "there's a huge honking Bridge column in every metropolitan newspaper, and I'm the only one who's got the guts to stick his neck out and demand to know why. Are you going to help me or not?"

"Follow the Chess column," Sid told me.

"I've tried that. But it doesn't make any sense either."

"Follow the Chess column," Sid said. "Now about this issue, don't contact me again. What time is it?"

"Noon," I said. "We probably should have done this in the middle of the night or something. Sorry." Cars continued to zip around us, beeping impatiently as they looked for spaces, every third driver rolling his window down to ask if I was about to leave. After giving directions to the nearest Radio Shack to a mother with three kids in a minivan, Sid turned and made his way quickly out of the garage to catch the 12:35 showing of Over the Hedge. I knew better than to follow him.

I won't give up on this story. It's too big. Listen, you're either with me or against me on this one. (Or, if you want to stay somewhere in between, we'll compromise: I'll try not to call you at dinnertime to see if you've uncovered anything new.)

The daily Bridge column. For the love of William Randolph Hearst, why?