"In the next fifteen seconds, approximately a hundred rounds were fired, according to the official police estimate," the author read, in a gravelly baritone. "One slug grazed Joseph's thigh. Another ricocheted off a metal post and tore a ragged hole through the impressive rump of a stripper named Jezebelle."

The library was locking doors and shutting off lights by the time the assembled had their books signed. Outside, the sun had fallen out of view, but Empire Street was lit by powerful spotlights. A few hours earlier, Governor Chafee had announced that video game company 38 Studios, which had benefitted from a controversial $75 million loan guarantee from Rhode Island taxpayers, had laid off all of its employees.

An armada of TV news trucks circled 38 Studios' offices, their satellite dishes ready to beam the latest details. One reporter tapped away at a blinking console of dials and screens inside the truck. Another stood sentry at the entrance of the building's parking garage, stopping the driver of a silver sedan — jobless now — to ask a question about his mortgage.

DeSilva said it's not the kind of scene he would have snooped around in his reporting days. One of the happiest moments of his 40-year career in journalism came in the Canadian wilderness while investigating pollution by a local power company. "I was in a canoe with two Cree Indians in Hudson Bay and I knew there was not another journalist for hundreds of miles," he said.

But Mulligan might have found the scent of scandal too strong to resist. "He always suspects somebody is on the take," DeSilva said. "It's kind of his job to think that way." It would be a tough assignment for Mulligan, though, who draped a Schilling jersey over his father's grave after the 2004 World Series.

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