The van moved past lines of trees in the suburban neighborhood as they drove to their destination.
It was a news van, and they were heading to their next assignment- a murder scene. The call had come in about half an hour ago about a murder that had taken place, and as was the norm with their news station, the team had been rounded up to see what happened.
Zach was the designated driver, he had been working with the news company for the last three years and had found some form of companionship with the rest of the team consisting of Mindy, the cameraman, and a news reporter, who happened to be the recruit, Jay, this time. Jay had been with them for only two months, but she was learning the ropes pretty fast. Zach wasn’t one who settled into new faces easily; it took him some time to become acquainted with people, so, he was far less chatty with Jay as he was with Mindy. Driving at least gave him an excuse to not have to engage her.
As they drove, Mindy chatted on about something called The Crasher and made jokes about it, “I mean, you should hear the stories about this guy, they say he’s very good with a knife, he could draw a pentagon on someone’s torso with it. if I knew his address, I’d send him a letter to visit my idiot ex and knife him in the balls.”
Jay laughed boisterously, of course, she was a willing participant in the discussion, making jokes with Mindy as well….however, Zach found more solace in his thoughts as he zoned out the chatty duo. He would normally join in the discussion and drop a quip or two, but today, he was just satisfied with listening to the women chat. The excitement in their voices alone lifted his spirits and made him feel like he was part of the conversation. The scoop about the crasher was one that had been around for a couple of weeks now and Emily, their boss, finally realized, it was newsworthy. They couldn’t have what looked to be a serial killer wreaking havoc on the streets, without getting ahead of the news.
“Hey, Zach,” Mindy said as his laughter died down.
There was no response from him at first, and Mindy had to call him two more times before his attention was pulled out of his thoughts, “Yeah” Zach replied
Mindy looked a bit worried at first, “Are you alright?” he asked
Zach grinned at her, he was flattered by her concern, but also surprised that after working together for so long, she wouldn’t be able to read him to some extent, “Of course, I am. Why would you ask that?” he asked.
Mindy regarded him briefly, “I don’t know, you just look a little out of it today.”
Zach cocked a brow at her words; he could have sworn he was the epitome of happiness and sunshine, “Now, that is odd. I can assure you, Mindy; there’s no cause for concern, I am perfectly okay.”
“If you say so,” Mindy said with a shrug and almost immediately, she was back to her chatty self with Jay.
Zach sighed inwardly if there was one thing he appreciated most about Mindy; it was that she knew when to stop prodding. She knew when to leave things be, some would find such a trait offensive, but Zach liked it just fine. The last thing he wanted was one of those pushy people who didn’t know when to let things go, in his life.
The van came to a halt a few meters away from the scene of the incident, “We’re here people” Jay announced, all of the crew members got out of the van and went ahead to begin setting up their equipment. They worked seamlessly, having done this with each other repeatedly, in a flash, everything was set up, and Jay took her position in front of the camera.
She wiped the excited look off her face, for a more appropriate sullen expression, as the camera began recording with Mindy behind it. She checked that the transmitter in her ear was fixed and angled the microphone so that it was just a little lower than her chin.
“Rolling” Mindy announced.
“Good evening, this is Jay from ThisIndulge, and we bring you breaking news from the streets of….
Where a murder has only recently taken place. While the identity of the victim remains unknown at this time, law enforcement officers have gained control of the vicinity and are currently compiling evidence. We will be speaking with some law enforcement officers as well as a few witnesses to the incident, to get a clearer view of what transpired on this cold, night….”
As Jay spoke, Zach busied himself with finding possible witnesses to the shooting; he found a store manager and a diner first, who both claimed they had seen something. They were the first two to be taken to Jay.
“We will be speaking to our first witness, store manager, Mr. Gaston Pierce” she turned her attention to him, “Hello, Mr. Pierce.”
The average-height man nodded rather stoically, “Hello” he said.
“Can you share what you saw with us?”
“Well, it was just a little after 4 in the evening, and I came out of the store for a smoke when I saw this guy stumbling past, he looked badly hurt like he needed help. So, I went back into the shop to get my phone and call 911, and that’s when I saw him drop to the ground through the window.”
“Did you see the killer?”
“No, I did see a car suspiciously driving off seconds later, but I didn’t get a good look at it either. I just called 911 and reported the situation.”
Jay nodded, “Well, we thank you very much for granting this interview, Mr. Pierce.”
Gaston Pierce nodded, “You’re welcome” he walked away from the crew and Jay was left to focus back on the camera.
“Well, we’ve heard from a witness, let’s get the view of another eyewitness to the incident, Miss Urnette Cene” Mindy angled the camera toward a blonde woman who looked to be in minor shock, “Hello, Miss Cene.”
“Hello” she responded, her voice dull and almost inaudible.
“I imagine the events of the evening have been quite traumatic for you.”
She nodded, “I still can’t get it out of my head, the sight of seeing someone dying, watching the life leave his eyes….” She shuddered and tucked her hands into her pockets.
“My goodness,” Jay said, in what was at best, practiced horror, “So, you saw the victim die?”
She nodded, “I was. I was at the diner, just writing a proposal for this job, when I heard a car screeching away, I turned to the area just in time to see the man dying. He had a knife stuck to his back, his hand was outstretched like he was begging for help, like he just needed someone to take it and speak to him, but I…I was in so much shock, I couldn’t even move, I just stared at him and watched him die, I just watched him die”
“I’m sure you know this isn’t your fault, and there was nothing you could have done about it.”
Mindy’s brows knitted at Jay’s words, what did she think she was doing? She had no business trying to be anyone’s therapist; she only had to interview this lady and move on.
The lady had a forlorn look, “I know he was going to die, but maybe I should have moved, I should have gone to him to offer him words of comfort just before he died”
“Thank you for talking to us Miss Cene.”
The woman nodded and walked away.
Jay returned her gaze to the camera and had to adjust her expression once again as she was struck by the woman’s grief. Sometimes, Mindy wondered if she really did have the five years experience she claimed she did, as she was often caught getting emotionally involved. Part of their job description as to see sad people and hear sad stories and while some of those stories could have a person questioning the frailty of life, they weren’t supposed to get attached to the stories, or invest their emotions so much, so they forgot there was a recording. Mindy noticed that Jay often lost herself and she made a note to bring it up again later.
>>>Zach was able to peel a witness away from the police just as the teenager was done giving his statement, and the boy was only too happy to stand in front of the camera to repeat what he had seen.
“I have with me here, Mr. Malik Pierre Jr., a young man who equally witnessed the tragic shooting” Jay turned to the teenager, “Mr. Pierre, would you care to tell us what you saw in the minutes leading to the shooting?”
He glanced at the camera and edged closer to the microphone, “Well, I was walking down the road, right on over there…” he pointed to the area across from the spot where the shooting took place and Mindy angled the camera to his direction, before focusing it back on him, “…when I saw this guy, he’s staggering, the lights make it difficult to really see him, but it looks like he has a gash on his thigh, he’s holding his hand funny too, I didn’t hear him call for help, maybe he tried, but he probably couldn’t, you know? Then he looks my way, and I’m startled, cuz he has this look on his face, this ghostly look. I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know what the hell was going on. Dude takes a step toward me, and then that’s when it hits him. This knife just comes out of nowhere and hits him in the back. I can’t even move; I just stand there staring at him when he hits the ground. Next thing I see is some car screeching away.”
All through his narration, Jay continually nodded just to assure him she was still with him, “And, did you$ manage to see the occupant of the car?”
The boy shook his head, “I couldn’t get a good look of the guy, but I did catch the plate number…..”
The boy was interrupted by a police officer, who came just in time to cut him off, “We aren’t talking about the plate number you saw, young man” the female officer said.
The boy’s expression went from surprise to sadness. He had looked forward to sharing more tales.
“And, might the police have any interesting information they wish to share with the public?” she asked as she led the microphone to the officer’s lips.
“I don’t have the capacity to speak on this matter for now. However, the Chief of the precinct will be holding a press conference on the matter in some minutes, and all the relevant information will be passed on to the public. All I can say is, everyone, needs to stay safe out there, do whatever it is in your power to protect yourself, and loved ones and the police will also perform their duties. Thank you for your time” the officer finished, then walked away with the boy in tow.
Jay returned to the camera and continued talking about the incident. Meanwhile, Zach found himself loitering around the scene of the crime, just shy of the police band around the area. The victim’s body had already been evacuated, but he could see the pool of blood left behind. He wondered who was responsible for such a murder, wondered about the relationship between the killer and the victim. Zach had always been intrigued by a good murder, no one knew of his interest in it, but he found himself studying murders most of his free time. He binge-watched crime series, read a ton of books on crime, so, one of his preferred assignments in his job description, was anyone involving a murder. He stooped lower as his eyes took in the pattern of the pool of blood. He also noted that there were spots of dried blood, separate from the main area, the victim must have been bleeding before the final stab that ended him.
Zach raised his eyes to a police officer hovering over him.
“Can you kindly step back please?”
Zach rose to his full height and stepped back a little even as his gaze remained on the crime scene.
The police officer seemed surprised by his fixation on the scene as he walked away. He fixed his hands inside his pockets as the wind picked up, sending a chill through his body. It was only the beginning of the fall season, but the wind was really picking up, especially at night.
“Hey Zach” Zach turned around to find Mindy standing a distance away, “We’re done here, we gotta get going.”
Zach nodded, “Of course” he took one last look at the crime scene and walked away, as he did, he wondered if the murderer would watch the news tonight and if he would feel proud of his work, what exactly would go through the mind of a killer having successfully murdered someone?
Later that night, Zach busied himself preparing for a new assignment he had been given by his boss, the television was on as the Chief of Police, Nevad Castra, addressed pressmen and women in a pre-recorded interview, he pled for calm in the city and assured the press as well as all members of the community that the police would get to the root of the matter.
Zach couldn’t help but wonder, not for the first time that night; if the killer was watching the news over a glass of whiskey, he probably felt glum as the entire city had gone up in arms thanks to his action. He marveled at how one person could raise this level of alarm in a city of tens of thousands of people. That sort of power could be intoxicating, heady what he would give to find this man and talk to him, just so he could know how his head worked, just so he would be able to ask him what he felt in the moment, or what he had felt when he sent a knife through a man’s back earlier in the day. To get in the mind of a killer ought to be a thrilling thing….what if the killer was a female? Of course, that occurred to him, it was normal for people to assume killers were male, but women had keen eyes in whatever they did, they had flawless precision as well, and if this person got away with a murder, even though it had occurred more or less, in an open area, then that keen eye and precision women possessed might have been applied here.
He shook thoughts of the murder out of his head, he wasn’t on a mission to find out the identity of such a killer, he was going for some serious business and he needed to have his head on straight for it, allowing thoughts of a killer, no matter how admirable their work was, cloud his head, would only serve as a potentially fatal distraction, one he certainly didn’t need just yet.
The sound of his cell phone ringing loudly jarred him back to the present, he picked up the device and looked down at the name of the caller flashing on the screen, Emily Nunick, his boss. She was probably calling to see if he was at the venue of his assignment. It was almost eleven in the night, and this woman still had time to call him.
He shook his head as he answered the call and placed it to his ear, “Hello.”
“Hey, Zach, you there yet?”
“I’m on my way,” he said as he picked up his remote to turn off the television and made his way out of the house, having grabbed his coat on the way out. There was no way he would allow the chills of tonight get to his bones
“Now, don’t forget, this isn’t just some ragtag group of random thugs, you’re going into the lair an organized crime unit and they won’t be a walk in the park, so, you need to keep your eyes peeled and your ears wide open, because you’ll have to get me an entire article from possibly scarce resources.” She stated.
“I know that, ma’am.”
He particularly liked to go on assignments like this; they allowed him to go straight into the danger; that was where the most fun and excitement was. Protecting himself wasn’t an issue for him; he supposed that was why Emily sent him to these assignments. He was basically the only one who could execute them without ending up dead, he had extensive training in martial arts, and if things got out of hand, he had a licensed gun with him when he had to enter the lion’s den. He made sure he wasn’t the sitting duck at any point, but indeed, these assignments sent a thrill down his spine whenever he had to go for them. This was the kind of investigative journalism he signed up for; an inroad into the thick of the action as it happened; real-time information.
“Well, I trust you have all the information you’ll need, I wish you the best of luck.”
“Thank you ma’am” Zach responded, he ended the call and placed the cell in his pocket, he retrieved his keys, thankfully, he’d be riding alone this time, he wouldn’t have to worry about Mindy and Jay being chatty.
The club was a ten-minute drive from his home, and he was soon parking across from it. He made his way to the club, finding that there was a long line in front, this was quite a popular club in the city, he had read some rave reviews about it, but the club scene wasn’t for him, so he had never bothered to check the place out…until today. By the long queue waiting to enter though, it was clear this was an exclusive kind of place.
He scanned the area as he thought of the best way he could get inside, standing on a line so long was way out of place, he didn’t even have the patience for that sort of thing, and he could bet he was running on time. He knew enough of crime bosses to know they had a schedule and he was probably late with the meetup of the owner of the establishment, he grunted to himself and begrudgingly found a place on the line, damn, he needed to be paid extra to go through these lengths. He wasn’t even a club-goer. He found no joy in going to choked up places with loud music and smoke, to buy overpriced drinks.
The line moved rather slowly, but almost an hour later, Zach found himself in front, after successfully charming his way to the position of course….only, being in front still meant he had to wait as the bouncer took his jolly good time, talking to whichever random person he wished to converse with.
Zach had done everything but stomp his feet and yell at the bouncer to get him even to notice him, but the man had a strong un-look game if nothing else, he had to give that to him. He watched the bouncer laugh at something the guy standing beside him said and Zach realized he was tired of being ignored.
“Hey, how much longer until you let me in?”
The bouncer looked exasperated at the question as he turned to regard Zach, “Look, man, we just opened. We don’t have space for everyone.”
If that wasn’t a ludicrous thing to say, Zach wasn’t sure what was. Did he seriously just say that to him? He wanted to throw something edgy at him, but there was no need causing a scene, especially as this man had the power to deny him entry, so, rather than say something smart, he simply huffed and leaned back against the wall.
A moment later, a gorgeous couple walked past him and straight to the bouncer, the woman giggling and leaning against the man as he handed his phone over to the bouncer who looked like he had a ghost of a smile on his face, he did a quick scan of their phones and then smiled at them as he returned the device. Zach watched, flabbergasted, as the bouncer stepped aside and waved the couple in.
He had to pick his jaw off the ground once they were inside. What in the name of all things just had just happened here? To think he and tens of people had been standing on this line for hours and these people had just skipped past everyone else and gotten immediate entry?
“What was that about?” he asked the bouncer
The man looked him over as if debating the wisdom in answering the question, before he finally responded, “They are NoHalt members, sir.”
If that was supposed to ease his curiosity, it barely did a thing, leading him to ask further, “And what does one have to do to become a member?”
The bouncer snickered at his question, “If you have to ask, you aren’t meant to know….” He looked ahead, effectively dismissing Zach, but he seemed to think better of ti, and added, “….but you can download the app to find out.”
Download the app? Zach was convinced this was just a night club, but it looked more like some cult at this point, and he wasn’t sure if he was down for all of these procedures just to get a scoop. To hell with all of this, he wasn’t just some random member of the public looking to have a good time, he was here on an official assignment, and it was time he reaped the benefits of that status, “ Okay buddy, I didn’t want to have to pull this card, but I’m a member of the press” he stated as he reached into the pocket of the jacket he had on and pulled out his badge.
The bouncer glanced at the means of identification, and his face grew hard, causing Zach to question the wisdom in using his press card, to begin with, “Please leave now” he spoke firmly
His face was etched with all the surprise he felt at those words, “But I’m supposed to be covering the club” he protested
“No journalists allowed.”
Zach raised a brow; now he was just miffed by this bouncer. He had been on this line way too long to be dismissed in this manner, “Are you sure that’s the case? Why don’t you check with the owner?”
The bouncer eyed him warily, “I’ll check with the boss now” he looked away from Zach as his finger moved to an earpiece and he muttered a few words, probably speaking to the boss. Zach only had to wait a few seconds to get his response, “Boss says no.”
That was a downer. Damn! Emily hadn’t told him he’d have to come up with plans B and C to get into this place; he thought she had at least checked with the owner of the establishment before sending him on this wild goose chase. Time to pull out the publicity card, “But it’s free publicity” that line worked ninety percent of the time.
The bouncer smirked, “Does it look like we need publicity?” he asked.
Zach’s eyes took in the extensive line that reached all the way down the block. They were doing impressively well as far as patronage was concerned, and while that was an arrogant shot, it was truthful. This club needed no publicity, it was growing into the most popular club in the city, and while their establishment could provide publicity, it was mostly for those who needed the exposure.
“Now, please leave, or I’ll have you forcibly removed”
Zach wanted to say something else, but he had run out of what to say and threw his hands up in surrender as he left the line. He had come here to get news, not be the news. He supposed he’d have to come back another day with a more foolproof plan, at least now he knew what he was heading into.
He ignored the curious looks from the other patrons and walked as fast as he could to his car. This was a waste of time.
What exactly had he expected?
He had returned home last night and couldn’t think of anything to say to Emily in the report; he knew how important the article about the club Ovyed was to the publication, Emily had harped on about how they needed to be the first media outfit to write an exclusive on the club. It would be an honor, she said, it would force them into reckoning as one of the top media houses in the city.
Without that article though, it left them nowhere, and it left him in an even worse position.
The summon wasn’t unexpected, he had come into the office this morning expecting it, he had spent the first few hours he had to himself, mulling over the best way to break the unfortunate news to her, the best way to tell her she wasn’t getting the exclusive she had been waiting for all these months, and up until he got the dreaded call from her P.A, he got nothing.
He walked into Emily’s office with a sullen look. It was a spacious area, befitting of its owner’s position in the company, the décor was tame, each piece was meant to achieve a goal, and it all blended together to create an open space for creativity. Emily thought this was where the magic happened; she was certain that this room helped with a person’s creative juices, something about the aura….or was it Zen she called it? He wasn’t familiar with all that mumbo jumbo, and he honestly didn’t believe in it one bit, but Emily did.
She raised her gaze to him only briefly, before lowering it back to whatever she was doing on the computer, “Where’s my article Wylan?” she asked, “I needed that piece like yesterday, every day that club is open, we run the risk of losing the jump.”
Emily Nunick was a woman who didn’t climb the ladder of success by being pliant and diplomatic. She was a hard-hitter, she said what she wanted to say, and how she wanted to say it, without minding whose ox is gored. She was something of folklore in the media industry. Not one to be crossed at all, so, being on her bad side was very low on the list of things anyone wanted for themselves, Zach included.
Zach sighed, “I couldn’t get it” there was no need beating around the bush, it would only serve to annoy her more than she was bound o0t were when she learned the truth
She paused and raised her gaze back to him, this time, she reached up and took off her glasses, “Say that again, please.”
“I went to the club, and they wouldn’t let me in, so, I couldn’t get it” he responded.
Emily closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, “It’s a club, Wylan, not the Vatican. I don’t pay you to give me excuses; I pay you for results, so, get in and get it done.”
“It’s not that easy” Zach insisted if he could only get her to see things from his perspective, or offer him a helping hand at least.
“I don’t care” she fired at him, “If you want to be a journalist, be a journalist and stop whining while you still have a job because that could change at any second” she finished as she stared straight at him,
Zach knew that wasn’t just an empty threat, Emily had fired people for lesser crimes, how much more, him, who failed to get an important piece. The last thing he needed was being jobless, this job was the only thing that kept him sane and level-headed, he found no solace in returning to his empty house and encountering things that reminded him of her….no, losing his job wasn’t an option, but getting that article though…. “Listen, Emily, if you’d just let me do more than hundred word write-ups on clubs, I could show you how valuable I am” he implored on his behalf.
“And how am I supposed to trust you with a major piece if you can’t do something as basic as getting into a club?”
Zach was quiet for some time, seeing sense in her question. Still, having worked in this place for over two years, he did deserve the benefit of the doubt if nothing else. He had worked his ass off and had delivered one every single piece he was assigned to, save for this one time. There was no need to act like he was suddenly an incompetent worker. Feeling a strong need to defend himself, he started, “I…”
“No excuses Wylan, I want that piece on my desk tomorrow, or you can assume you no longer have a job and don’t bother yourself coming in,” she said with finality as she gave him a death stare.
Zach stared at her for some time, hoping she would change her mind or renege on those words. There was no way he would be able to get that piece tonight, especially without a high-level clearance, she was sending him into the fire to roast, and he didn’t even have the least bit of protection. He wanted to say something to her, to plead his case, ask for more time if need be, but he found himself lost for words.
“I suggest you go find a way to get me that piece, rather than stand here and be useless” she fired.
He turned around and walked out of the office. As he did, he tried to come up with ways through which he could get that piece; perhaps he would have to bribe the bouncer? Even at that, once he was i, how would he get to the boss? And with their no press rule, what was the likelihood he would even get an exclusive if he found the boss?
He hoped he would get some reprieve before the end of the day