MF fantasy I was getting ready to quit for the day when Dan Baldwin phoned and asked me to stop by his office. Dan's the feature editor on the 'Record' and writing feature articles are the kind of job that a cadet reporter loves to get. So, I went to see him. "Hi, Judith. Sit down. Are you still eager find a good story all to yourself?" Dan's a nice old guy, well into his thirties, but I'm sure he moves the chair in his office before I go in there to get the best possible view of my legs. Not that I mind. Firstly because I quite like Dan; secondly, because he sometimes does me favors; and finally, because I became leer-proof after my first week in the newspaper business. "Sure. Have you got something interesting?" He shrugged: "I've got something that I'm about 99 per cent sure is a waste of time. But there's still that one percent of possibility in it. I can't spend money following it up, there's too many more important things to do. But I thought I'd mention it to you and see if you wanted to check it out in your own time." "OK, what's the story?" "It's not really a story, just an odd situation. There's a place up in the mountains called Lake Constitution. I had an e-mail a couple of days ago from a guy called Scott Schneider who runs the local store up there. He says a mansion at the lake has been taken over by some kind of religious studies group. They keep themselves very much to themselves, right down to high security fences and guard dogs in the woods. "In fact the place they have is called 'Hyde's Island' and the mansion is a miniature castle built by a gangster back in the thirties. Jake 'Toe Cutter' Hyde that was, from New Jersey. He was in retirement then but it seemed he wasn't retired enough to suit some people. Anyway, that's ancient history now. What's sparked my interest is the possibility that this religious group at Lake Constitution might be another sect in the making. They certainly seem to have something to hide." I wasn't sure what to say, so I scratched the back of my calf. That was enough to keep Dan quiet and contemplative as I tried hard to think of an intelligent comment and as he tried hard not to let his eyes roam too obviously over the same area as my fingers. "What's Scott's interest in this, Dan? These people aren't bothering him, are they?" He shrugged: "Oh, I guess he's hoping we'll run with the story the way he's giving it to us, playing up the mystery angle and maybe getting a few more tourists visiting the area out of curiosity. But I want some hard facts before I publish anything." "Do we really want to know about a bunch of religious nuts anyway?" I asked. "Judith, sect stories are a journalistic minefield. Most of the time they're as boring as hell and then you suddenly find yourself with a Waco on your hands and everybody wants to know how come the local press completely missed out on what was brewing up in their own back yard. I'd certainly like to know a little more about these people on Hyde's Island but I can't afford the time or the budget to send anybody up there on what information I've got right now." "So?" "So, if you should develop a desire to spend a day or so sightseeing around the lake, and if you should happen to find out something which would develop into a real story, maybe you can get to write it. But right now, the paper won't give you a dollar or a minute of company time to dig any deeper. It's up to you whether you bother to take a look." "OK," I stood up. "Perhaps I can go out there this weekend." I noticed that Dan was fiddling with his marriage ring, as if hoping it would suddenly disappear -- for a weekend, anyway. "If you want to, Judith, that's fine, but this has nothing to do with the paper yet, so don't go getting us involved. No fronting up to the local law waving your press card around, and definitely no contact with this religious studies group on the basis that you're representing the 'Record' in any way. You drift in, you drift in, and coax the information out of the locals the easy way." "And what's the easy way?" "In your case, finding the local bar and then sitting on the highest stool in your shortest skirt. Then just let your legs do the talking while you listen to the local guys and see if you can pump them: or vice versa, if you're in the mood." "Dan, that's a very sexist remark." I leaned far enough over his desk to let him catch a glimpse of my tightly packed bustier. "But since I'm a pretty sexy lady I won't complain." Dan gulped, looked away and flicked his hand at me: "On your way, gal. Go and dangle your lures up at the lake. And listen, make sure you keep your cell phone handy and call me if anything at all happens. Anything, anytime at all." Dan twisted his lips in self depreciation, as though the idea I might ever need him was only a joke. "It's just that I always get nervous whenever any of our people get within any distance at all of these religious types. You never know when they're liable to turn violent." "You mean like Pope Urban's speech which began the First Crusade to the Holy Land?" He smiled and ran his hair through his close cropped hair. He has a nice smile sometimes, our Mr Baldwin, even for smart assed history grads. "Let's just say I'd be happier if you took one of your boyfriends with you." I looked back around the door: "Do you want me to take all of them? I could save you a seat at the back of the bus, if you'd like." He shook his head, grinning again: "I'm not a team player, I guess." "Not even if I wear my cheerleader's outfit?" "One day, Judith, it's a remark like that which is going to get you into serious trouble." I grinned and left Dan stewing nicely. If only I'd known how good a prophet he was I'd have been hiding underneath his desk, screaming.