San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

The keeper of the flames

Maggie St. Claire’s computer beeped.  She glanced at the chat icon blinking in anticipation.  She clicked it and saw the username that haunted her: VoxPopuli79.  It had been a year since she first met the elusive Vox.  The first time, he supplied her with evidence of waste being  dumped into sea turtle breeding grounds.  Vox asked her to consider both sides before making any decisions too quickly, but it had been too late.  She had gone to the press and exposed the dumping.

He was right.  Newly-appointed CEO James Castle was in the process of cleaning up the old company policies, such as polluting the ocean. His actions were driven by a rival company led by Bobbie Slater (who Maggie thought to be an evil woman). He never finished because the media seized the story. The bad headlines and negative publicity eventually sank the company, causing more than 300 layoffs and millions of dollars lost—dollars which would have been used to clean up the breeding grounds, but not anymore.  Maggie, a socially active marine biologist, had been distraught for months.  Vox hadn’t sent her a message since then. He had deserted her when she needed him most.

The message said:  “Need to meet.  Some new information you might be interested in. Marina in 1 hour.”

Maggie was irritated at how Vox felt he could come back into her life so easily.

Another message: “Yes I’m in Florida.   Have been for a week.  Also pay your phone bill.  Nearly expired.”

Maggie was stunned.  She glanced at the clock before grabbing her keys.

After grabbing a cup of coffee from a local vendor, she arrived and waited for what felt like three hours.  She was about to leave when she felt a tap on her shoulder.

The vendor wore a thick woolen coat and a Greek sailor’s hat. He carried a pipe and sported a pepper-colored beard.

“Hullo Maggie,” he said.

“Kept me here just to spy on me?  And what about my bill?  Do you go through my trash?” Maggie muttered.

Vox lit his pipe. “No, 8 p.m. is closing time.  And please.  I go through everybody’s trash.”

Annoyed, Maggie asked, “Who are you?”

“No one of importance,” he said.  “I just ask questions.  Every investigation starts with a question.  Sometimes I can tell how they will end depending on the question.  In the case of that whole messy dumping affair, I knew it would happen.  Lost money, lost jobs, all of it.”

“Fine! You’re right! Why bring me here?” Maggie said furiously.

“That, my dear Maggie, is the right question.”  He pulled a manila folder and gave it to her.  “This file contains a year of investigation on one CEO, Bobbie Slater, who has recently resurfaced.  This file links her to one of the biggest insider trading collectives.  If brought to public light, the ramifications are huge.  We’re talking prison time, Maggie.”

“So why give it to a post-grad marine biologist with only a blog and a low paying city job monitoring water waste levels?” Maggie protested.  “Why don’t you do it?  It’s your research,” she said, offering it back to him.

“That’s not all,” he said, pulling another file.  “What if I told you there are two sides to every story?  There’s the one you see, and the one you don’t?  This is that other side.  It documents the costly chemo process her father is going through, as well as her son who had terminal brain cancer.  Just because she’s a CEO doesn’t mean her pockets are that deep.  Imagine yourself in that role.  A report is published documenting the mistakes of a rival company which has tried to drive you out before.  All your advisors are telling you if you sink them, your company’s stock will go up.  At the same time, you’ve been trying to get enough money to pay for treatment.  Short-term risk, long-term benefit.   In addition, this file contains her reasons as well as goodwill toward hiring displaced employees of the former company and giving out bonuses.”

He pointed to the first one.                  “If you choose the first one, you’ll reveal to the masses what they know and crave to know: The rich get richer by any means, illegal or not.  It means personal satisfaction for you, as well as exposing the insider trading.  You’ll make waves, rattle the cages and people won’t forget your name soon.”

“If that’s what the people want, I’ll deliver the first report … ” Maggie asserted.

“ … which will doom Bobbie Slater and her family.  That first report only contains the evidence of wrongdoing, the reasons for which are known by you and me.  She’ll attempt to offer up her justifications, but the media will swallow her whole.  I’ve seen it before,” he added grimly.  “That second folder will vindicate her, and place the blame solely at her financial advisors, who were just doing their jobs.  No mention of insider training or of the evidence, which I will incinerate myself.  So you see Maggie St. Claire,” he said, spreading his arms, “you must choose.”

Maggie was torn by Vox’s revelation.  “Why are you making me choose?”

Vox took a long puff and exhaled.  “For the longest time, I lived my life only for the ruthlessness of pursuit.  I’ve withheld information, fed lies and broken people for the extraction of it.  I did it for what I thought was ‘the greater good.’  Save the most by telling the truth of a few.  I exposed people and their secrets.  And in the aftermath, the wicked fled and the innocent were punished.  It took me 30 years to finally realize that.”

“Realize what?” Maggie questioned.

“I shouldn’t have been trying to save as many as I could,” said Vox. “I should have been trying to save every single one.  I’m trying to teach this to you now.  That’s the reason you’re choosing.  Vengeance or vindication … which will it be?”

Maggie bit her lip and reached forward.

The fire burned bright as Vox added the second folder to the fire.  He, who once fed the fires of truth, was burning down everything.  Now he would be its guardian—the keeper of the flames.

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
The keeper of the flames