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Split(3)

By:J. B. Salsbury



“Wake up, Shyann!” Trevor’s voice powers through my earpiece.

“I’m awake, asshole.” I press it and dip my chin to listen, not wanting to miss a single word of direction.

“There’s my girl.”

He’s not a bad guy; matter of fact, he’s a lot like me—motivated to do something big in order to make a name for himself. He’s ambitious and detached from petty things that get in the way of success. Now that I think about it, that’s where our similarities end. “How much time until we’re live?”

“We’re opening with your story. Tell us the basics, then stand by. We’ll do the local news but pop in as developments unravel.” He clears his throat and mumbles something to someone in the studio. “Be ready in five.”

I flash five fingers and then roll one to Leaf and he nods. “In five. We’re ready.”

“All right, Leaf’s feed, looks like he’s got a good visual of the police and the front door. If we can get them bringing the body bag out, that’s our money shot.”

“Body bag? The victims in Phoenix all survived the assaults.”

“I guess she could be alive, but if so, why are they taking so long to get her to the hospital? Either way, the shot’ll be epic if we get it.”

A fissure of discomfort slithers through my chest at the casual way we deal with death in the news. Sure, on-screen we’re the caring and empathetic news reporter, but inside we’re rejoicing to get a shot of a dead body? No, I push all that shit back and focus.

“Let’s do this— Whoa!” The heel of my shoe sinks into the ground. I flap my arms for balance and barely recover. The earth is mushier than usual after a couple days of rain, and even though this is one of the more developed neighborhoods in Flag, it’s still a city in the mountains, which means lots of natural ground.

“You better be all right. We’re on in three.”

Thanks for the concern, dick. “I’m good.” I put on a mask of professionalism while my skin practically vibrates with nervous energy.

“Stand by.”

I take my position, smooth my hair, and focus on my words.

If all goes well, I’ll get out of this hole-in-hell town and into a bigger market, which is one step closer to anchor. No one just out of college gets this kind of an opportunity. My professors always encouraged me to go for an anchor job, my half–Native American blood making me look just dark enough to be considered a minority but light enough to be desirable. It’s total bullshit, but I don’t make the rules. Can’t hate a girl for taking advantage, though. I have very specific career goals, and if using my ethnicity helps me to get there, so be it.

My momma always said I was meant for big things. I can still hear her voice in my head: “You’re too big for this world, Shyann.” Said I came out of the womb with goals and never stopped reaching for them. My chest cramps at the pride my momma would feel if she were alive today. She always pushed me to chase my dreams. God, I hope she can see me now.

“We’re on in five . . . four . . .”

I straighten my coat and look directly into the camera as Trevor counts down in my ear.

This is for you, Momma.

“You’re on!”

“Terror struck this quaint Flagstaff neighborhood as big-city crime moves north. After several assaults on women in Phoenix, all with identical trademarks, police have now moved their investigation to neighboring cities as another victim surfaces. The name of this most recent victim hasn’t been released, but her age, socioeconomic profile, and details of the crime fit other victims of who Phoenix police are now calling the Shadow. All the assaults were committed in the evening hours, with no witnesses, and the perpetrator is masked and wears gloves, leaving no forensic evidence behind. The call to this house behind me came in shortly after eight p.m. when the woman who lives here was found bloodied and unconscious—”

“There’s movement in the doorway,” Trevor says.

“. . . after a frantic nine-one-one call.”

“No! Let me go!” A young girl, a teenager, is practically carried out of the house by an officer. Leaf swings the camera to her. She’s curled into the chest of an older policeman, her shoulders bouncing as she sobs.

“Shyann!” Trevor’s voice booms through my earpiece, making me jump. “Keep talking. Leaf, get us a visual on the girl.”

“Oh, uh, it seems a . . .” The girl’s face twists in agony and I swallow past the thickness in my throat. “A girl who—”

“Mom, no . . . please, Mom!” Her guttural shriek pierces the air.

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