"She doesn't want to help us. Just like all the others. Figures," the man said. The others nodded in almost perfect synchronization.
Andrea imagined he was the mouthpiece for the group. Or maybe they were all a group mind, like aliens manipulating borrowed bodies?
"It's not a matter of wanting to help." She swallowed down the urge to add that a little politeness and asking for help, instead of grabbing at people and throwing down accusations, went a long way toward getting help. "It's a matter of being able to. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm on my lunch break."
"Permanent lunch break," the first woman muttered.
"Just what do you think I can do for you? Don't expect me to write a story and publish it, just on your say-so," she added, suddenly recognizing the man who stood on the far right of the little semi-circle that seemed ready to pounce on her. "You can't make accusations and expect the paper to blindly print them, without doing research and validating facts."
"Yeah, that's what you say. It's just another excuse. If you wanted to, you could do it," the main speaker said, almost spitting. Which was incredible, Andrea decided, because there were very few sibilants in what he had just said.
"Really? And just what kind of authority do you think I have? If I had any kind of authority, to assign stories and decide what goes in the paper, would I be answering the phone?"
"You're a liar," the man on the far right growled. And followed it with a stream of invective Andrea only partially understood.She felt as if her feet had been nailed to the pavement. Her ears felt scorched, and for a few heartbeats there was a strange, distanced sensation, as if it all were happening far away, and yet his voice was so loud.