#271: The Door at the End of the Hall

January 20th, 2014

The hallway walls are gray and white, with a linoleum floor that echoes clack clack clack as you walk down it.

Clack clack clack up four flights of stairs since the elevator’s busted. Clack clack clack past the offices of counselors drug, marriage and guidance in a hall that looks and echoes like a 1950s grade school. Clack clack clack to the end of the corridor where a blank, windowless door sits between two therapists offices.

“Chicago News Service,” said a small nameplate on the otherwise featureless door.

“I have no idea,” said a woman who has worked in the building for years. “I saw someone going in once about a year or two ago, but that’s it.”

It’s a boring building with a boring name on a boring stretch of Lincoln Avenue most noted for boarded shops, defaced ads for real estate agents and a Subway.

But even in this, a mystery. A door at the end of the hall that no one goes in.

All right then.

Google, of course. Best practices. It takes me to a Wikipedia article that says they shoot local news and sell it to the Associated Press and to Chinese state television. Big stories only — Obama’s election, Drew Peterson and the like. When places care about Chicago but not enough to send someone there.

The page misspells “news bureaus.”

It’s an “orphan” by Wikipedia’s terminology. A page no other pages link to. Another door no one goes in.

So is it the same place as my mystery door on Lincoln? What’s there? An editing room? Papers?

I get fancy. Search LinkedIn for past workers. Email one and never hear back. Try to track down the person who posted a video Chicago News Service video about Drew Peterson to the Associated Press YouTube channel. All I discover is the poster likes Star Wars and making Sims do dirty things.

A corporation search at the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office site. Google the name on the paperwork. Whois finds the 13 sites registered to that name, which nets a phone number, which nets a call and my best “Aw shucks, just a harmless curious guy” from my reporter days.

“It’s defunct,” the young man who answers the phone said. “May I ask why you’re calling?”

The young man wasn’t part of Chicago News Service, but knew who they were. I thought that was odd. He asked if I wanted to talk to the Chicago News Service guy. I thought that was odder.

He took my name and said he would pass on my number. I don’t expect a call back.

At the end of a hallway, there’s a mystery door even the people who work there don’t know about. Maybe it’s an editing room or rows of pre-digital videotape. Maybe it’s paperwork, a dead body or just an empty office the landlord never pried the old nameplate off.

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