The black phone on my desk rang. I picked it up.
“Is this Joe Wakelee-Lynch, editor of LMU Magazine?” a man asked. “I have something for you.” His voice sounded urgent. Maybe too urgent.
An editor gets used to the phone ringing out of the blue. Could be your mother, could be your worst enemy. You can’t tell. One thing was sure: I had never heard this voice before.
Something for me? This guy’s on a mission, I thought. What kind, I didn’t know. But I wanted to know more — within limits. Sure, I’ve read a poem or two by Gerard Manley Hopkins. At 16, dappled things caught my eye. But I’ve studied Philip Marlowe’s lessons like you pore over the potential side effects of a prescription. You bet I was wary.
He said his name was Corey Nathan, from Hawaii. He was in town for a few days only.
“Can I meet you?” Nathan asked. “I’ll be on campus tomorrow.” He said he was dropping off his daughter, Elena, and his son, Noah, at LMU. They’re students, he said. Right, I thought: Late August, college campus, start of semester, new students scurrying around like ants on a glazed donut. How likely that story is, I didn’t have to wonder.
Then I remembered the words of my first newsprint editor: “Between cups of coffee, you get a strange call. Might lead to a black eye, might lead to a Pulitzer. My advice? See the risk; then take it.”
Quickly, I tried to picture a public place — open, airy, well-lit. The coffee shop in the University Hall atrium. But not inside the cafe; no, outside. More room to move. If I meet him in the shop, I’ll be as nervous as a dalmatian in a cargo container.
“Sure, I’ll meet you. The coffee shop, in University Hall — you know it?”
“Perfect. 10 a.m.?”
Next morning, I’m looking down at the coffee shop from the second floor mezzanine. Then I see him, about my size, about my weight. He’s got a copy of LMU Magazine under his right arm. So he’s right-handed, and his hammer hand is occupied. When he moves the mag to his left hand, I’ll know it’s time for action.
I head down the nearby escalator, my eyes locked on his face. He sees me, walks my way, steps up and says, “Joe? I have something for you.” His right hand comes up, and he pushes the magazine at me. He quickly opens it. Then I see there’s something inside.
It’s an autograph. Rod Carew’s autograph. Carew’s one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. For some reason, Carew decides to sign the story I wrote in LMU Magazine about his visit last spring. Why? And where does Corey Nathan fit in this picture?
“Joe, I received this copy of LMU Magazine because my daughter is going to school here,” Nathan says to me. “And I happen to be a friend of Rod Carew. I see him from time to time. We play golf together. When I saw this story in your first edition of the new magazine, I thought it was great. And I thought you might like to have his autograph on it. So, I asked him to sign it. Whaddya’ say?”
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say. Then, it hit me.
“Thanks,” I said.
Editor’s Note: “The Dark Angel: Los Angeles Noir in Fact and Fiction” is a special author series, held this fall in the Von der Ahe Suite of the William H. Hannon Library, to celebrate a literary genre close to the heart of Los Angeles, the birthplace of Noir. Shining their creative light on the dark side of the city, in both and fiction, will be Denise Hamilton ’81, John Buntin, Alain Silver, James Orsini, Judith Freeman and Richard Rayner.
For more dates, times, location and other information, go here.