Newspapers were not as popular as they used to be and Wyatt Collins knew it. He published the only paper in Gelca, Ontario and he was running out of money.
Wyatt knew he needed a big story, something that would capture national attention and prove there was a place for community media. The biggest problem Wyatt had was Herschell Ostrepeller. He was the only Journalist on his staff and he used that word loosely.
Herschell had graduated from Del Pino College with a two-year diploma in Journalism and Wyatt was amazed. He couldn’t figure out how the shmendrick had graduated out of his mother’s womb. Herschell was not the fastest runner in the race. The good news was he did everything Wyatt told him to do for very little pay. Herschell would say ‘’My Dad always says there’s nothing more valuable than experience, so I want every kind of experience.’’ Wyatt was happy to oblige, Herschell had cleaned windows, swept floors, picked up lunch from Loo Loo’s Cafe, and wrote stories about the local sports teams. The Gela High School Pioneers.
Wyatt knew controversy was good, and he came up with an idea. Herschell would make a great sacrificial lamb so he really didn’t have anything to lose. He would throw him under the bus once the story was done.
The biggest business in Gelca was the H.R. Spaulding Component plant. Spaulding made switchers and other key parts for telecommunication companies that specialized in optic fibre to deliver broadband signals.
Wyatt waited till Herschell was finished painting the bathroom. ‘’Herschell, good job on painting the basement and the bathroom, I have an assignment for you for the newspaper. I have heard there’s something suspicious going on at the factory and I want you to find out what it is and write an expose. Here’s the thing, if you don’t find anything I still want something dramatic. You have one week. Do you understand?’’
Herschell was filled with unmitigated happiness. He had a couple of good friends who worked at the factory and he was sure they could get him in. He really liked Bonnie Leadon, and he’d been friends with Todd Ference forever. It would be great to spend time with them. The only strange part was they had never mentioned any funny business at H.R. Spaulding.
The Human Resources person at Spaulding was Lydia Mateloch. Herschell told her he wanted to write an article about the factory and the contribution they made to Gelca. They hosted a huge community Barbeque every year and they always bought Christmas gifts for the kids in the community. They were good corporate citizens and Herschell wanted to capture that for the Gelca Expositor. Lydia was onboard and gave Herschell a badge with his name on it.She called his friend Todd to her office and asked him to be Herschell’s guide for the week.
The factory day started at six in the morning and ended at three in the afternoon. It was a long day but everybody seemed to enjoy their jobs. On the first day of his assignment, Herschell was given a great tour by Bonnie and Todd of the nooks and crannies of the factory. The only areas they couldn’t get into were the Research and Development area and Mr. Trembley’s office. Mr. Trembley was the Chief Executive Officer. His assistant was Ms. Shutt. According to Lydia and Todd they visited the Factory once a week. The other person who was a mystery was a guy named Mr. Perry.
Lydia confided to Herschell that she couldn’t understand what Mr. Perry did as he wasn’t on the payroll. There was no record of him anywhere.
Mr. Perry according to Bonnie, always showed up at the factory at the end of the month with three other swarthy men. They met with Mr. Trembley in his office with one of the guys posted outside of the office to make sure nobody tried to get in. According to Lydia the man who came with Mr. Perry was Mr. Mustapha. Later that same day a Chinese woman named Mei Ling would come around also accompanied by Mr. Perry. After a couple of hours of meeting with Mr. Trembley and Ms. Shutt they would leave.
Nobody knew what Mr. Trembley was doing with those people, as they were very secretive. Lydia having access to everything said that none of them were on the books.
Herschell’s mind started whirling. He needed to discreetly investigate. There was something funny going on at H.R. Spaulding. He started by doing a deep dive into the components that were being manufactured and what they actually did. He was amazed at what he found out. He then took a look at the places where the components were sold. He did more research and came to a startling conclusion.
Getting an interview with Mr. Trembley was almost impossible. Lydia contacted Ms. Shutt but she kept saying that Mr. Trembley didn’t want the focus to be on him but the company. Finally, after Herschell started calling directly and consistently they granted him ten minutes but Trembley insisted that he wanted to see the questions in advance.
Herschell sent them a list of the most innocuous questions imaginable, they were on the inane side. Ms. Shutt set up a time at the Factory for them to meet. There was one caveat, no pictures in his office that was his private space.
The day of the interview, Herschell was ready. He met Mr. Trembley on the factory floor where he was glad handing all the employees. ‘’Hi Mr. Trembley, you do a great job.’’ Mr. Trembley looked at him and smiled. ‘’Thank You, I appreciate you doing this interview. We believe in giving back to the community.’’ Herschell paused, all the employees had formed a circle around them and he caught Todd watching intently. ‘’Mr. Trembley I was wondering about your compliance situation.’’ Trembley’s eyes narrowed. ‘’That wasn’t on the list of approved questions.’’ Herschell had been preparing himself for the blow back. ‘’Oh, I intend to get to those other questions in a minute, I’m just wondering who your regulatory person is? I mean I read the documents regarding the manufacture of different components for transmission of broadcasting material over optic fiber and the Canadian Government has banned export of those parts, in association with the United States to Iran, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea and China. I have reason to believe you have been violating the agreement. Who’s Mr. Perry? Who’s Mr. Mustapha? Who’s Mei Ling?’’
If there was a deeper shade of crimson, Herschell had never seen it, but that was the colour of Mr. Trembley’s face. ‘’Don’t you dare write about me ! Don’t you bring up those names again. This is none of anybody's business. What we do with our components is our business. We will not reveal trade secrets.’’ Ms Shutt pushed herself over to Herschell. ‘’That’s the end of this interview. You have violated our agreement!’’ Herschell put his notepad in front of Ms. Shutt. ‘’But I haven’t asked about the Christmas gifts for kids or your famous Barbeque.’’
Trembley and Shutt left the factory floor and walked right out. They got into a car and sped away. Herschell followed and drove to the Gelca Expositor and he wrote his story. His headline was ‘’Malfeasance at the H.R, Spaulding Plant.’’ He wrote about his suspicions that the factory was negotiating and sending sensitive components to countries on a banned list. These components could be used to hack into communications systems and cellphones. They could be used to divert traffic from the internet to different sites to be analyzed without anyone knowing they had been switched to a different country. The component sales played a role in allowing hostile nations to tap into the Defense and Security areas of the governments of the United States and Canada. All the laws of the country were being violated by Marcel Trembley and his associates. The people at the plant had no idea what was going on, but the Research and Development areas were off limits and it was thought that was where much of the tampering was happening.’’
The response to the article was fast. Herschell’s hunch had been right. The perpetrators thought no one would pay attention to a manufacturing plant in the middle of nowhere. The FBI and Canada’s CSIS, conducted raids and discovered a trail of criminality. Trembley and Shutt were arrested trying to leave Canada by Private Jet from Toronto. Off shore bank accounts were located in Malta and the Caymen Islands. Arrests were made, but the factory workers were all cleared of any knowledge of the crimes. Todd Ference was named the Plant Manager.
All the major media descended on Gelca and everyone gave Wyatt Collins props for putting a journalist on the case. The fact he let Herschell work at the factory undercover was lauded. Wyatt’s newspaper received tons of attention on a national and international basis and he was shocked that his crazy plan worked.
Herschell was nominated for a Walter Winchell Award and a Peabody. His article was put in for consideration for a Pulitzer Prize. He received a huge offer from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to join their investigative team and he gladly accepted. On top of everything, Herschell was offered a contract to write a book about exposing H.R. Spaulding and the risks he took to do it.
When Herschell had joined the Gelca Expositor he was happy to get a job in Journalism. It had become a tough gig finding a position with a legit publication. He didn’t mind doing whatever was necessary to be involved with the paper. It was gratifying to be able to do an investigative piece and hit a home run. He would always be grateful to Wyatt Collins for giving him the opportunity. He just hoped that Wyatt could find a replacement for him. Someone who would be as passionate about working at the paper as he was. After all there was still a second bathroom in the office that needed painting.