The Nefarious Mr. X

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Chapter 32


7:59 p.m.

One minute before SHOWTIME.

Annabelle was ready. Her make-up was perfect and her hair was sculpted like fine marble. Her outfit was properly pressed to clear out any folds or wrinkles for maximum presentation.

Everything was falling into place effortlessly.

She knew the director was putting her up on a pedestal for the audience, raised high above and before her disciples to fall into their love seats, their beds or to the floor, whatever the case may be, with their ever hopeful eyes locked on the television, waiting ever so patiently for her to begin.

Her coffee cup was placed carefully to the left of her hand, inked with a sponsor’s logo and turned to face the camera, its handle hidden behind her desk microphone, an archaic square-shaped block of antique machinery, on a wooden stand, fastened to the desk with large visible iron bolts and webbed into the speaking portion on grey wires within an iron ring.

It was only a prop as her real microphone was clipped into the inside collar of her blouse, no smaller than a dime, invisible to the naked eye. She thought the thing looked gaudy, but the GTNN historical director felt it invited the older audiences by allowing them to see that technology of their era was still used and wanted.

News was a matter of psychology.

Her energy was high and her blood was rushing through her body like a cocaine addict after a big pull off the pocket mirror in a bathroom stall before the big concert, except hers was natural.

She was pumped, but most importantly, she held it all in check, tight as a drum, by the reins of her professionalism.

Letting out a giggle or a snicker at the start of a show, unless specifically rehearsed, did not deem one a good anchor. Moreover, it labeled you a fool. Fools entertained children, not news hungry consumers.

Behind her desk, she nodded to the floor director, who quickly turned to the production room above.

Inside the room, behind tinted glass was the News Director, Mike Stewart, in his element and hard at work. Standing at six two, elegantly bald, skin as black as sackcloth and wearing a pair of gold-rimmed glasses which seemed like he should be reading a book before a fire, rested gently on his nose. His eyes were emerald green with a chiseled chin and a firm smile.

Stewart looked down and with a simple tip of his head, indicated the show could begin.

All the frantic people milling about, technicians, lighting crews, sound-check, and make-up personnel came to a complete halt.

The show was starting.

Silence and controlled pandemonium was paramount when on the air.

All three cameras were in position.

The first, the main ENG camera, an Electronic News Gathering device with a wide angle shot of the entire stage which included the main news desk and two couches; a single and a loveseat.

The media room superimposed the background ‘green-screen’ with images, small or large; whatever fit the theme of the show.

Tonight it would be a skyline of Toronto with the CN Tower lit up under a moonlit horizon.

The second camera, a smaller one with interchangeable lenses to offset lighting changes and mood setting gel covers, was locked on Annabelle. The unit’s job, and sole responsibility, was to stay on her in every circumstance, no matter what.

Finally, the third was a remote camera, which pivoted from right to left on a stationary base, but could also be pulled free from its mount quickly for chasing escaping guests or getting the angle other cameras could not. It allowed for split screens in the production room for viewers to see arriving guests and the elated face of the host, smiling and joyful, happy to have them on the show.

The floor director clapped his hands together, clipboard under his arm, signaling for lighting to be ready. He clapped again, followed by him pointing his index finger, SHOWTIME.

Eight o’clock on the dot.

The entire studio went black as all the lights shuttered out, blanketing the entire stage into darkness, turning the once illuminated area into a midnight shroud which was almost palpable, so much so, one could almost choke on its solidity. The only visible thing was three red dots, flickering in and out, above each camera, denoting they were running.

Stewart liked to bring the lights up slowly, like a rising sun on the horizon, as the audience was tuning in. This was done parallel with the introduction of the main stories, the presentation of the show outline, including special guests, thanking of sponsors on a running digital bar along the bottom, as the world was to become enlightened by the hostess, Annabelle Veracity.

Perceptions and presentation were also psychology.

Loud music filled the studio, resonating off perfectly and acoustically designed walls. Some suggested it be played into the audio jacks for the home audience only, as the internal staff didn’t need to hear it every Sunday night, but the news director disagreed.

He wanted everyone in the studio to feel the music, syncing staff and viewers by osmosis, living the world as they see it when tuned in. He felt you couldn’t do that when you see or hear only half the presentation.

It was all or nothing for Stewart.

The introduction began. A deep voice resonating with authority and trust began. “Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen. The Global Television News Network wants to begin by thanking you for welcoming us into your home tonight.” He continued on for a full minute with all the details for the show, concluding with, “And without further ado, our very own, Annabelle Veracity.”

The music started to fade and the lights began to rise.

Once the lights were fully lit, the second camera zoomed in on Annabelle.

Her wide smile beamed across thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of televisions throughout Ontario, giving welcome and greetings.

She faced the front camera, paused to show the audience she could be serious when needed and in a moment’s notice. She smiled once more and began. “Good evening fellow Canadians and welcome to GTNN Sunday Night News….”

She stopped mid-sentence and turned startled as she spotted her cameraman had a quizzical look on his face. She had never half finished her introduction before, or ever in the history of GTNN news, but she was totally caught off-guard.

The floor director had his mouth open so wide, flies could enter.

Annabelle was genuinely taken aback, but regaining her composure.

Seated beside her when the lights came up, wearing a black dress jacket, matching slacks and turtleneck, hands clasped together, was Jonathon Weathers.

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