The Killing Climate is a dark view of American society through the eyes of a Special Forces combat veteran turned news anchor who is trying to catch a serial killer.
Thriller Erotic, Horror, Mystery
||St. Louis, Missouri
||4 publishers interested
The Killing Climate Synopsis
The Killing Climate is a titillating urban suspense thriller about a serial killer on the loose and a Special Forces veteran turned news anchor who is trying to save the world.
Peter Downs is a classic hero with many flaws. He was once a varsity quarterback who married his high school sweet heart and then fought in a war in a distant land. He ultimately decides to try to influence the world through his nightly broadcast on a local Saint Louis affiliate.
As usual, Peter and his co-anchors report tragedy after tragedy, but one night a usual murder story turns into something bigger for Peter. We find a serial killer on the loose and his first victim is a friend of Peter’s wife. She tells him that the police will never catch the killer and that he has to do something about it.
After the hen pecking by his wife, Peter says he will do something about it. He then proceeds to go the local watering hole with the go-go dancers and gets obliterated. That night a hacker by the name of Martinez videotapes Peter in a compromising position that would force Peter become the hero he doesn’t want to be.
As the story unfolds we find Peter suffering from PTSD, salving his wounds with alcohol and drugs, which causes him to spin out of control with sex workers and having the police getting involved in his life. Peter then eventually comes crashing down, wanting to end his suffering with a shot to the head on live television. He almost follows through with his plan, but decides to turn his self-hatred outward and blows up on a live news feed, leaving his former life as a mainstream talking head behind. His marriage dissolves and he decides that he now will face the world as an avenging angel by giving his news updates on a Youtube channel called “Making It Crazy,” while chasing down a serial killer known as the “Happy Meal Serial Killer.”
Peter finds, with the aid of Martinez, something we, the audience, already know: his wife has been turning tricks while he has been away.
Peter then finds that, along with the PTSD he suffering from, that he has a terminal illness called Fatal Familial Insomnia.
He eventually joins forces with his gay neighbor, Professor Steven Cross, who will take on the role of a homosexual Watson.
The blackest moment for Peter comes after many weeks of sleeplessness when he arrives at the crime scene of the latest victim of the HMSK to find his new love, a stripper named Aria, dead.
The police had previously taken a DNA sample from Peter one night after one of his benders and have discovered that his genome matches the HMSK. Peter frees himself from police custody and begins to hunt down the HMSK.
With clues from Martinez, Peter confronts the HMSK while the killer is in a hotel room with Peter’s escort wife. Knowing Peter is in a fragile state, Martinez informs Steven to go as backup. After the HMSK knocks out Peter during a struggle, Steven slays the killer.
In the end, we find the HMSK is actually a bastard brother to Peter, hence the reason they shared very similar DNA. The HMSK also turns out to be a world renowned climatologist who is shuttled to speaking engagements about “man-made global warming” in a private jet. He also eats Happy Meal Hamburgers after butchering victims who remind him of a pagan goddess and his mother while living life as a self-proclaimed vegan.
The denouement comes with a meeting between Peter and Martinez where we find Peter in a better state of mind, though still troubled. When asked by Peter why he does what he does, why he turned on Peter, Martinez concludes that anarchy is the only solution to the world’s problems.
There is room for other books to be made with the characters in this one.
The Killing Climate Chapter Outline
Chapter 1 Don Henley, “Dirty Laundry”
Fade in to a ritual homicide scene on the banks of the Mississippi River near Saint Louis, Missouri where we find the Happy Meal Serial Killer chowing down on a Happy Meal hamburger while talking to a corpse whose entrails are lying strewn about the frozen shoreline. Fade out. Fade in to a prostitute who goes by the handle of Azalea Cups who is meeting a John in her husband’s apartment for a monetized fling. Fade out. Fade in to Peter Downs gearing up for his part in the KSHT Channel 5 news at 5 broad cast where we meet his co-anchors and competitors Jean Moore and Rodger “The Dodger” Trip. They go from one tragedy to the next culminating with a live hostage standoff that ends in death. We hear of a killing on the banks of the Mississippi and the victim was Stephanie Green. Fade out. Fade in to Peter going to shoot a series on American history in the video production building next to where the nightly news is shot. On the way he sees a shadowy figure lurking in the parking lot between the buildings. Peter does his American history voice over and when he leaves he sees a figure behind the dumpster whom he suspects is a criminal. Was this the Happy Meal Serial Killer? Peter takes a cab home. Fade out.
Chapter 2 Alice in Chains, “Man in the Box.”
Peter arrives home and meets Steven Cross, his neighbor, on the ride up in the elevator to their respective apartments. They chat and Steven invites Peter to his apartment on Friday night. Peter agrees. Peter arrives home at his apartment to find his wife in histrionics over the death of a family friend, Stephanie Green. Peter eventually remembers the Greens after significant prodding by his wife, Sylvia. She tells him he has to do something about it, being that he is an ex-special forces veteran, assuming the police will never catch the killer of Stephanie. They argue and fight and when Sylvia asks Peter where he is going as he is walking out of the apartment he says, “To do something about it.”
Chapter 3 Psalm 73:3(KJV)
To do something about it requires the utmost in stress relief or so Peter thinks, so he takes a taxi to Fat Eddy’s, a nightclub with go-go dancers who are wearing glow-in-the-dark band aids crisscrossed over their nipples. Peter beings drinking heavily and will eventually make his way to the bath room where a hacker named Martinez is waiting. Peter drinks so much he almost blacks out, something very common with him and his substance abuse issues. He eventually begins being belligerent and elbowing the other clubbers. He will have to be removed by one of the bouncers and has to talk his way out of being arrested by cops waiting for him outside. He is sent home by the police in a cab.
Chapter 4 Exodus 3:2-4(KJV)
Peter arrives at home later that evening and is questioned by a cop who is in the neighborhood. Peter smarts off to the cop and is beaten and taken to jail for being drunk and disorderly.
Chapter 5 Psalm 22:1(KJV)
Peter wakes up in jail to the sound of a rooster crowing though the one in question is a wise ass police officer being a dick to him. Peter is bailed out of jail by his wife, but before he leaves he beats down a few cops who were being dickheads to him.
Chapter 6 Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah”
Peter comes home to be berated by his wife over his arrest. He is drunk and barely makes it to the bedroom to sleep it off.
Chapter 7 Mudvayne, “Fall into Sleep”
Peter has a flash back dream sequence of his combat days during the Iraq war where his best friend, Jimmy Donovan, was killed by friendly fire.
Chapter 8 Taking Back Sunday, “Cute without the ‘E’(Cut from the Team)”
Fade in to the HMSK in action during another ritual murder. Same M.O. as number one. Fade out. Fade in to Azalea Cups sex in a hotel with a man she’s seen on television and one who as an odd energy about him. Fade out. Fade in to Peter waking up hung over and pukes after he sees the morning news cast where a climate scientist by the name of Christian Green is being interviewed about global warming. Peter pulls himself together eventually and makes his way to the elevator where Steven Cross is waiting. They chat and say goodbyes before Peter gets into his chartered limo with his personal driver, Chester James. They chat like men do. Peter arrives at work and goes to the makeup room paranoid and hung over. They have to cake on his makeup because his face was mangled in the fight with the cops last night. Peter has trouble getting through the broadcast and the production manager notices. Peter leaves before speaking to Gene, the production manager, who summoned him to speak to him about his bad broadcast. Peter goes next door for his American history series where he again see a shadowy figure lurking in the parking lot. He tells the secretary, Lacey, the HMSK is in the parking lot. Lacey calls the cops and Peter does his voice over work.
Chapter 9 Switchfoot, “Meant to Live”
Peter remembers a trip to the beach during his days in college and the violence that happened during it. He reemerges from his slumber in the voice over studio to find the cops waiting for him because of his suggestion to Lacey that the HMSK was nearby. The cops think he is full of shit and want to give him a polygraph to verify his story. He says no. They then take a DNA sample from him.
Chapter 10 Anonymous
Fade in to the HMSK on the banks of the big muddy doing his ritualize dismembering of a victim. Fade out. Fade in to Azalea Cups going through her mind as to why she is doing what she is doing considering her life with her husband. Fade out. Fade in to the reader becoming more aware of Peter’s deepening psychological problems and suicidal thoughts. Another body is found.
Chapter 11 1Peter 2:11(KJV)
Peter calls for a cab and goes to the Empire Club, a strip club. There he buys cocaine and a gun from a patron. He snorts some coke and gets a private dance with a stripper by the name of Aria. They have sex and Peter becomes distraught because of what his life has become.
Chapter 12 Jimi Hendrix, “Hey Joe”
Peter goes home in a taxi where he meets Steven in the elevator for the ride up. Steven smells like booze. They agree on a get-together on Friday. Peter passes Larry, the security guard from work, on the way to his apartment. Larry tells Peter he was there to fix Peter’s security alarm for his wife. Peter eventually finds out during sex with his wife that she had already been in the throes of passion before he was there and assumes Larry was the perp.
Chapter 13 Queensryche, “Eyes of a Stranger”
Peter has a dream about meeting the cloaked figure who calls him “family” and takes him to a dumping ground where they see a victim’s corpse. Peter wakes up screaming, “Family.”
Chapter 14 Three Days Grace, “Never too Late”
Fade in to the HMSK doing his ritual killing again. Fade out. Fade in to Azalea Cups mishandling a John by finishing herself off before him and not feeling bad about it. Neither does the John who assumes she is too screwed up to argue with and leaves. Fade out. Fade in to Peter waking up with a notion to kill himself and begins drinking at breakfast where he decides to go out with a royal bang. He will kill himself on live television during his new broadcast tonight. He is resigned to his fate and when he gets into the elevator with Steven and his ride to work with Chester, he apologizes. Neither Steven nor Chester feel like Peter has done anything wrong to them, though he is forlorn and sorry. Peter arrives at work to find the co-anchors having a good laugh on him after a compromising video of his time at Fat Eddy’s where the hacker Martinez had a hidden camera filming Peter. Instead of feeling more depressed, Peter actually becomes angry and decides not to kill himself but that he will go out with a bang nonetheless. When the filming starts Peter unleashes a vulgar display of power with a rant that is for the ages. They cut to commercial and call for Larry to come deal with Peter. Peter then pulls his piece on Gene and Larry and tells them to come out of commercial where he unloads more rantings on live television. Fade out.
Chapter 15 Leviticus 20:13(KJV)
Peter goes to Steven’s apartment where he commiserates with Steven. They watch the nightly news broadcast as Gene and the team give an apology to the viewers for Peter’s rant and a “eulogy” to Peter because of his stricken state.
Chapter 16 Boxcar Racer, “I Feel So”
Peter and Steven are drinking when Peter explains himself and that he will do guerrilla style news reports that he will post on YouTube. Peter leaves to go to his apartment to speak with Sylvia.
Chapter 17 Joan Baez, “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You”
Peter tells Sylvia about his firing and that he will be a YouTube star instead. She hits him and tells him to leave. They fight. He leaves. They will start divorce proceedings.
Chapter 18 Volbeat, “Lola Montez”
He leaves his apartment in his Hellcat and goes to Aria’s house in an impoverished part of the city. They have monkey sex and he tells her he is free. She isn’t impressed and he won’t be staying with her at her place while he goes through his divorce.
Chapter 19 Our Lady Peace, “Clumsy”
Fade in to the HMSK on the banks of the Mississippi doing another killing. Fade out. Fade in to Azalea Cups having sex with Martinez who is very nasty to her. Fade out. Fade in to Peter at Steven’s apartment where he admits to not having slept in weeks. We find that Peter has moved in with Steven. They talk about Steven’s status.
Chapter 20 Slayer, “Bloodline”
Fade in to the HMSK doing his thing again. Fade out. Fade in to Azalea sleeping with the familiar face from television with the odd energy about him. Fade out. Fade in to Peter and Steven hearing a call over a police scanner of a dead body found. Peter wants to go to the scene to film and report it for his YouTube channel. Steven goes along to do the filming while Peter reports. Unfortunately, Peter is recognized by some of the cops as a guy who assaults cops and is taken in for being belligerent.
Chapter 21 Halsey, “Gasoline”
The police make Peter take a polygraph test. He passes. They then inform Peter that the DNA sample he gave the other night matches the HMSK’s DNA.
Chapter 22 Sixx: A.M., “Prayers for the Damned”
Peter blacks out during questioning by the police.
Chapter 23 Halsey, “Control”
Peter reawakens to find himself running for miles to Aria’s house, not really remembering anything other than being arrested.
Chapter 24 The Killers, “Can You Read My Mind”
Aria comforts Peter and they try to put together the things going on in Peter’s life.
Chapter 25 Papa Roach, “Forever”
Peter receives an email while at Aria’s house from “Anonymous” that has a video montage attachment of Peter’s interrogation and subsequent jailbreak that lead to where he is at currently.
Chapter 26 Mark 4:19(KJV)
Aria teaches Peter how to make a YouTube channel and Steven joins them.
Chapter 27 Breaking Benjamin, “Dance with the Devil”
Peter, Aria, and Steven watch a video they have put together about the HMSK and will be his first YouTube upload. Peter then looks at the television and see a live news broadcast in front of a hotel and sees Sylvia walking into it arm-and-arm with a strange gentleman while she is scantily dressed.
Chapter 28 Metallica, “Fade to Black”
Peter goes to the doctor because of his increasing insomnia and finds he has the fatal disease called Fatal Familial Insomnia. He is told he has 18 months to live. He loses it and takes Steven and Aria on a suicidal ride in his Hellcat. They come to a halt and Peter assaults Aria and Steven before Steven knocks him out with a tire iron.
Chapter 29 Meshuggah, “Rational Gaze”
Peter has a dream while unconscious about the HMSK.
Chapter 30 Metallica, “The Frayed Ends of Sanity”
Fade in to the HMSK doing his thing on the banks of the Mississippi. Fade out. Fade in to Azalea doing her thing. Fade out. Fade in to Peter waking up buried to his neck in a graveyard by Aria and Steven. They free him after setting his tangled mind straight.
Chapter 31 Snow Patrol, “Run”
Peter, Aria, and Steven ride to Aria’s house. Peter gets another “Anonymous” email this one a montage of security camera video of Azalea Cups in compromising positions.
Chapter 32 The Dead Walk Among Us, “Abortion”
Fade in to the HMSK doing another ritual killing. Fade out. Fade in to Azalea with the man from the television who has the strange energy. Fade out. Fade in to Peter doing a YouTube report where he makes fun of the HMSK. Fade out.
Chapter 33 Puddle of Mudd, “Psycho”
Peter follows Sylvia to different meeting sports. He wants to kill her at some point, but doesn’t.
Chapter 34 Three Days Grace, “Animal I Have Become”
Steven and Peter are at Steven’s apartment when they hear a dead body call over the police scanner. They go and are there before the cops get there. The body is of someone close to Peter.
Chapter 35 Papa Roach, “Last Resort”
Peter freaks out and he and Steven are chased by the police. They elude them.
Chapter 36 Sinead O’Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Peter and Steven go to Aria’s house and create a farewell video for the deceased. They upload it Peter’s YouTube channel.
Chapter 37 George Michael, “Praying for Time”
Peter is watching the loop of his farewell video. Steven calls him to tell that he was attacked by someone. Peter acts like he doesn’t care and he and Steven argue on the phone. Steven tells Peter to move out of Steven’s apartment. Peter then receives another “Anonymous” email to arm himself and go to the Hotel DeVille.
Chapter 38 Lamb of God, “Omerta”
Peter goes to a room at the Hotel DeVille where Sylvia is at with the HMSK inside. He fights with the killer and gets knocked out.
Chapter 39 Nirvana, “All Apologies”
Resolution. Case solved. We find out who Anonymous and the HMSK are and the reasons behind his ritual killing.
The Killing Climate
“I make my living off the evening news
Just give me something
Something I can use
People love it when you lose
They love dirty laundry.”
Dirty Laundry, Don Henley
The river is muddy and deep, flowing swiftly from Lake Itasca in Minnesota all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and a feral beast is on its frozen banks, feeding. He chews a bit, smiles after swallowing and says, “Do you take your hamburger rare or well done?”
He smiles at her face and says, “Are you feeling okay?”
He touches her hand and says, “I understand. You can’t talk much right now,” and looks at his victim’s internal organs lying next to its corpse.
He pats her hand lightly and his ritual finishes after chewing and swallowing the last bite and depositing the hamburger wrapper into the colorful box from whence it came.
“Joy to the world, the Savior reigns,” a belch surges upward and his head whips back slightly.
“Let men their songs employ, while fields and floods,” he places the Happy Meal box to the right hand of the victim while humming. “Rocks, hills and plains, hum, hum, hum….” And his voice picks up in sound and echoes across the river. “…the SOUNDING JOY!” He stands up and begins conducting the orchestra while singing loudly, “REPEAT THE SOUNDING JOY, REPEAT THE SOUNDING JOY!”
He then hiccups and belches. “Oh, and they think I’m a vegan.”
A blushing bride stands behind her apartment door awaiting the arrival of a John. After years of a dubious cat-and-mouse game, a new taint is happening tonight. She has invited the John over to her husband’s apartment. The knock on the door startles her, and she clears her throat and says in a mousey voice, “Who is it?”
The sound of the deadbolt being unlocked heightens her senses. The juices flow and the heavy oak door opens to reveal her to him, him to her. She slides her hand up the side of the doorframe and her heavy white robe opens to show a glance of rouged nipple against healthy tanned skin. The John sees all this in his peripheral as he looks into her big, brown close-set doe eyes. A dimple appears on the cheek of her heart-shaped praying mantis face as she smiles and her eyes are alight with concupiscence.
Her head nods slightly, and she approaches him with ferocity, grabbing his head with her hands, and devouring his tongue with her teeth. She pulls back and nibbles at his lower lip.
John sighs heavily and wipes perspiration from his brow. He straightens his ball cap. “Oh, thank God, I’m in the right place.” He begins to pant.
“You can thank me later. Come in.”
John is a fat, middle aged, Christian with three children and a wife who adores him. He is odd looking, she thinks. He looks like he is wearing a wig underneath a “Make America Great Again,” hat, and dark Risky Business Wayfarer Ray Bans. His mustache also looks crooked and like it’s been pasted on his upper lip. He’s wearing a maroon sweat pants and sweat jacket with a flowering logo on the breast and black tennis shoes. He waddles through the door and she shuts it behind him.
He begins to walk and is grabbed in a bear hug from behind. She whispers in his ear. “The bedroom is to the right after the kitchen.” She licks the side of his face.
He heaves. “Oh dear.” He waddles to the bedroom, where she makes love to her husband quite often.
He turns to her and wipes sweat from his temples. “I want you to know that I love my wife and that this is just to fulfill a need. My wife has ALS.”
She shoves him backwards and he reels into the bed. His hat and shades fly off to the opposite side of it. He looks up at her and she takes off her rob with fire in her eyes and throws it at his eyes. She mounts him and kisses his lips. It’s all real. She sighs into his mouth as she dry humps him. He is having a hard time catching his breath.
She stops for one moment and says, “I don’t usually do this in my husband’s apartment. You’re the first.” She then vaults off of him and pulls his pants and underwear off violently.
“I think you wanted straight sex, right?”
She notices the sweat rings around his armpits. He is trying to catch his breath and he takes the robe from his eyes and nods.
He can’t speak so he points at the floor. She picks up his sweat pants and pulls out a wad of cash.
She goes to the night stand and pulls out a ribbed condom.
After jacketing his meat, she gets on top and constricts him with her legs and hips until his screams echo through the barren hallway.
I’m singing softly as I walk out of makeup and to the stage room.
“I make my living off the evening news
Just give me something
Something I can use
People love it when you lose
They love dirty laundry.”
I enter and take my position stage center left. I’m surrounded by three cameras. The weather man is standing in front of a green screen to the left of me, waiting. We are on at five. It’s now four fifty-five.
I adjust my chair. It is between the Dodger and Jean Moore.
I clear my throat. “Hi, Jean. How are you?” I ask. She is reading off a shock sheet. The makeup artist is powdering her face.
She gives a wan smile which she is apt to do when she isn’t interested. “Fine, Peter. How are you?”
I smile and say, “Fine, thanks.”
Diane, the makeup artist steps away from Jean and speaks into the camera: “How are we?”
I look around at the room and it is a tight set. The three cameras and Teleprompters are the most prominent aspect of it. Behind the cameras is the production room that has two windows that you can’t see into from the stage though you can see a dim reflection of light in them. The stage is brightly lit, while everything around it has very little lighting. The whole of the walls around the stage are blood red. The backdrop to most of the stage is tan in color and there is a huge picture of the Saint Louis skyline with the Gateway to the West Arch.
I feel a body rub against me and turn.
A PA puts in my ear wick and attaches a microphone to my tie. “How’s the tie,” I ask the PA—Daniel, I think is his name. New guy.
“Looks good, Mr. Downs.”
I look over at the Dodger. He looks at me and mouths, “You mine.”
I smile and look down at my shock sheet.
1:03 Christian Green speech on climate change.
:57 Murder by the river
:30 weather current
:30 sports Bilikens
:35 Testicle festival in Avon Park
1:00 Mayor to trash hauling tax
1:00 man with credit cards stolen
:30 weather digital Doppler
1:20 Superintendent found guilty of fraud
:45 Metrolink to increase prices
:45 local astronaut to visit space station
In the ear wick: “Three minutes to roll.”
Diane leaves as does Daniel.
A PA follows: “THREE MINUTES, PEOPLE. THREE MINUTES.”
I look over at Jean. She is reading an article from her laptop and is wearing a red sleeveless dress. Slut. Her long, curly cue blond hair is in a pigtail that she has draped over her left shoulder, the end of which touches her enormous cleavage. Double slut. She glances up at the camera and her blue eyes look dead. She has a sweet average-sized nose and a small chin. Slut, slut, slut. She winces and looks down.
I look over at the Dodger. He shoots a look at me. I open my eyes wide.
“Everything all right, Roger?”
“Yeah,” he says, flinches twice, and looks down. The Dodger is wearing a black suit with a black tie. He also is allowed to wear some bling, which is not industry standard. His gold rope necklace is rather tamed in comparison to some rap artists, but is rather gaudy all the same. And of course who wouldn’t be feelin’ it without a diamond stud in the left earlobe. He looks back at me and I smile as I look at the pencil thin mustache and goatee.
“You missed some,” I say and point.
His brow furrows and he says, “What?” He look into the viewer.
“Looks like you got a little dirt or food on your upper lip and around your chin there, Dodger.”
He lets out a nervous laugh. “Shut the fuck up, Peter.”
“Are you okay, Dodger?”
He looks ahead through his brow and nods.
I look into the cameras, into the teleprompter, into the viewer.
“Two minutes,” the ear wick says.
“TWO MINUTES, PEOPLE. TWO MINUTES.”
The hustle and bustle of gearing up for the show has now begun to grind down. The stage is silent. I can hear Jean turning pages intermixed with a bang and a rattle. The Dodger taps me on the arm. I look at him.
“I got you,” he whispers.
I smile and nod.
Daniel, the PA, hands me another shock sheet.
It reads: Standoff at local hospital. Live.
The ear wick says, “We will be going live to Bel-Air Hospital for a standoff. Kick it to Shaneese.”
“ONE MINUTE, PEOPLE.”
“Bel-Air is in Oakville. The standoff started at 3:00 today and continues. Negotiators are talking with a man with a gun. Shaneese will fill in the rest. Jean, why don’t you open?”
Jean throws her head back and says, “Okay.” Whore.
I say, “Okay.”
“THIRTY SECONDS, PEOPLE. THIRTY SECONDS.”
I look into the prompter. It is scrolling.
“TWENTY SECONDS, PEOPLE.”
I swallow. I look into the camera. I look at the monitor and smile brightly.
I am calm, but edgy.
“TEN. NINE. EIGHT. SEVEN. SIX. FIVE. FOUR. THREE…”
Jean leads, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is news at Five on KSHT Channel 5. I am Jean Moore along with Peter Downs. We have breaking news. A standoff has occurred at the Bel-Air Hospital in Oakville. We are told a man with a gun is holding hostages in the emergency room. We now go to Shaneese Sheets for breaking coverage. Shaneese, what can you tell us? ”
The ear wick says, “Go with Sky View.” The feed is from a helicopter camera over the hospital.
Shaneese says, “That’s right, Jean. A man has been holed up in the Bel-Air Hospital here in Oakville for quite some time. A source on the ground said an enraged man with a gun entered the Emergency Room entrance at around 3 o’clock today and made demands to the staff. We don’t know the name of the man or what his demands are, but SWAT has been called in to negotiate.”
The ear wick says, “Cut to one. Go Peter.” I am medium shot.
I turn my head slightly and say, “Shaneese, this has been happening for two hours now—any idea when the standoff will end?”
“Cut to Shaneese. Go Shaneese.” Shaneese is standing in front of the Bel-Air Emergency Room entrance with a “5 at Five with KSHT” microphone in her hand.
“No, Peter, we don’t know when it will come to a close, but we do know that SWAT is talking with the man and will continue to do so.”
The ear wick says, “Cut to one. Peter, Jean go.”
I chime, “Thank you, Shaneese, for that breaking news.”
“Thank you, Shaneese. Keep us posted.”
“Cut to Shaneese. Go Shaneese.”
“Thank you, Peter and Jean, back to you.” She smiles in her multicolored dress with a brown fur coat covering it.
“Cut to one. Go Jean.”
My brow and philtrum are damp, I look like Nixon during the debates of ’60.
“We now have a weather report. We go to Dave Keaton. Hello, Dave. How are things looking right now?”
“Cut to three. Go Dave.” Dave stands in front of a screen with the current weather statistics on it. He is wearing a black three piece and has wavy trimmed raven hair. He has very pasty skin and blue eyes. He is a goofball like most weathermen: goofy smile, goofy laugh, goofy asides.
“Well, late winter is setting in, and we can feel it right now. Current temp is mild, wind chill is nippy. A check of Digital Doppler…”
“Cut to Doppler.”
The screen shows arrows pointed towards the Loo.
“…right now we have low Barometric pressure in the area which is caused by a cold front. We would advise watching for ice on bridges.”
“Cut to one. Go Peter.”
“So, Dave, you said ice, does that mean we will have rainfall?”
“Cut to three. Go Dave.”
“That’s right, Peter. We will be expecting drizzle in the next few hours, and our overnight lows will be pushing the mercury down below freezing. I’ll have my full forecast and extended outlook later in the show.”
“Cut to one. Go Peter.”
“Thanks, Dave.” I read from the prompter. “Well, a man had his credit card stolen...”
“Cut to two.”
I blink at the viewer. I am full frontal. Center. Medium shot. My sandy blond hair is parted on the left side and feathered across to the right and looks like a 2015 Ford Mustang front bumper. My eye shapes are Spanish in appearance, slightly sad and sexy. My right eye is steel blue, my left is brown and I’ve been told they freak people out. My chin is slight and cleft, a dimple on my left cheek marks where God smacked me. My royal blue tie is double Windsor knotted, straight, sharp. My blue jacket is clean with a red pocket square.
“…and has been charged a large amount. He said he left his wallet in his truck while parked on a street near Washington in Fairmount City.”
A large, black man is on screen with a chyron below his face reading ‘Reggie Sanders’. He blinks rapidly with wide-eyed amazement and says into the camera, “Yeah, when I parked there I thought I’d be okay, but I guess it wasn’t. It was the first time I parked there, so I guess I gotta learn my lesson about this one.”
“Cut to two.”
“Mr. Sanders says his credit card was charged over ten-thousand dollars in the three days since it had been stolen. Most of the charges were made at QuikTrip and Arby’s.”
Video recording of traffic and a smashed bumper on a truck.
Jean Moore says, “A St. Louis man charged in a fatal hit-and-run has been sentenced.”
A picture of a stone drunk man in a lineup photo appears.
“William Rosner was found guilty last month of a hit-and-run last December.”
“Cut to two.”
Jean is front and center. Medium shot with a picture of a vehicle hitting a shadowed individual with “Hit and Run” across it in the upper left corner.
“He pled not-guilty in the case that made headlines last year. After a fatal hit-and-run accident, Mr. Rosner was apprehended by police and found to have a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit. He was charged with one count DUI, one count vehicular homicide, one count of leaving the scene of an accident, one count of failure to report an accident, and one count of failure to report a death. Today, he was sentenced to the maximum: twenty-five years. He will be up for parole in ten.”
“Cut to one.”
“A sixty-seven year old school superintendent became enraged today when confronted by reporters.”
An older-looking, skinny, white male in a brown suit is standing next to a car trying to enter while surrounded by reporters. “What do you think of the charges against you, Mr. Applewhite?” He knocks a microphone from the hand of one of the reporters and circles around the car. The reporters follow, and he pushes one of them.
“Cut to one.”
“Stuart Applewhite was formally charged today for defrauding a school retirement fund. Prosecutors say he took money from the pension and placed it into his own personal account. Trial is expected to start in two months.”
“Cut to two. Let’s go to the standoff.”
Jean and I are in the shot.
“We now go to the standoff at Bel-Air Hospital. Shaneese Sheets is our correspondent. Shaneese, can you tell us what the situation is at this point?”
“Cut to Shaneese.”
“The standoff has ended, and we have heard that the man with the gun has killed himself inside the emergency room.”
“Cut to two.”
I say, “Has the man been identified, Shaneese?”
“Cut to Shaneese.”
“Not at this time.”
“Cut to two.”
“The standoff has ended in tragedy. We will continue to follow this story in later broadcasts. Thank you, Shaneese,” I say.
“Cut to one.”
Jean says with a bright smile, “Coming up on news at 5, sports and weather.”
“We’re on commercial.”
The makeup artists come out to work us over a bit during the break. “When we come out, we will be going with the river murder and Christian Green.”
I ask, “No Queen Elizabeth?”
The ear wick yells, “WE DON’T HAVE TIME!”
I jump in my chair. Lanna is rubbing my face with an applicator.
I say, “Well at least the recall on the tainted beef.”
“I’M CALLING THE SHOTS HERE, DOWNS!”
“We are coming out of commercial…in ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three…cut to two.”
Jean reads, “A woman’s body was found by the Mississippi river near the Jefferson Barracks Bridge. Police have identified the victim as twenty-two year old Stephanie Green. She was last seen leaving a local bar in downtown St. Louis. Her body was found on the banks of the Mississippi. They have no leads, but Saint Louis Police Department urges you to call Crimestoppers if you have any information regarding this case. Peter.”
“Cut to one.”
“Christian Green was speaking today at the World Health Summit.”
A handsome, dapper man dressed in a white suit appears on a stage with a panel of people with a sign behind them that reads, “World Health Summit.”
“The world renowned climatologist spoke of impending doom to the world.”
Christian Green’s dimpled smile shines as he looks into the camera and then out into the audience. “What we know now is that the polar ice caps are already dwindling to the point where there won’t be any in as little as four years. By 2020, neither the South nor North Pole will have any ice or snow on them. Earth will then begin to breathe heavily and convulse while a runaway green house gas effect stabs her in the heart. By 2050, our mother Earth will be like Venus.”
“Cut to one.”
“Mr. Green will be in Saint Louis next week and our own Jean Moore and Shaneese Sheets will interview him.”
“Cut to two.”
“Well, it looks like there is trouble in the weather, isn’t that right, Dave?”
“Cut to Dave.”
“That’s right, Peter. I’ll have a forecast after the break. It looks like cold, dreary weather for the rest of the week.”
“Cut to two.”
“And in sports the Blues are in game three of a five-game home stand and the baseball Cardinals make a roster move. Roger Trip will have sports at the bottom of the hour.”
“And we’re on commercial. Can someone please tone down the lighting?”
I look over at the Dodger.
“Now it’s my turn, baby,” he says with a big grin. I nod my head and turn to the camera. A lighting guy is installing new bulbs on the overhead light bar.
“Go to two.”
Jean and I are in focus, centered.
“After we come out of break, Jean you lead and kick it to Dave. We come back to Peter who gives it to Roger.”
I nod again, look at Jean. She has a lap top and is surfing. I read: “2007: 691,000 American children went hungry sometime in the year. 2006: 430,000. 1998: 716,000 Americans didn’t have enough money for food.” I can’t even remember what I had for dinner last night, but do remember eating starvation rats for weeks during the war.
“Here we go. Coming out people. In ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three…”
Jean smiles big. She has big teeth by the way. “Welcome back. Now weather with Dave.”
“Cut to three.”
I look at the viewer. There’s Dave.
“Thank you, Jean. It looks like we are going to be seeing increasing clouds across the metro area over the next forty-eight hours along with the cold front approaching.”
A CGI screen appears on screen with the current temperature, barometric pressure, and today’s high and low.
Dave continues, “Right now it is 38 degrees and we are reading a low pressure. Today’s high was 45 and the low was 32.”
The screen shifts. Now we are looking at tomorrow’s forecast.
“Looks like a wintery mix of drizzle and light snow is possible. Our high should be in the mid-40s probably 44 and our low will be around 31 degrees.”
The screen shifts again. Now we are looking at the extended forecast.
“The temperature will remain steady over the next couple of days. Look for a warming trend later in the week when a high pressure system will push through. Highs in the upper 40s to low 50s.”
“Cut to three.”
“That’s all for now. Back to you.”
“Cut to one.”
“Thank you, Dave. Now sports with Roger Trip.”
The camera pans to the Dodger. He smiles. “Jean and Peter, the Blues 3rd game in a 5-game home stand continues tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning. A good note is the Blues are getting back Alexander Steen after a two-week layoff from injury. He will center Fabbri and Tarasenko on the first line.”
“Queue video.” The screen fills with a shot of Steen at practice taking a one-timer, spinning around, and skating quickly on a back check drill. The Dodger’s voice says, “Steen hasn’t been playing much center this season, but a change in the lineup means he goes back to the position he was drafted for though he usually plays on the wing.”
Steen’s Yoda head fills the screen and he says, “Playing center means being under it and getting up ice later, coming to the play late.”
The Blues centerman Paul Stastny has his head in view when he says, “Steen is a quiet presence. He doesn’t say all that much most of the time, but when he does, everyone listens.”
The Dodger is in medium shot with a video of Cardinal’s lefty Jaime Garcia in the background throwing pitches. The Dodger says, “Well, yesterday’s head scratching move by the Cardinals now makes sense. Jaime Garcia’s club option was picked up yesterday and today he was traded to Atlanta for three players. Two pitchers and position player Luke Dykstra who some of you know is the son of Lenny Dykstra.”
“Cut to one.”
“At ten, we will have highlights of the Billikens game.” I look at the monitor. The camera pulls back, and we are all in the shot. I am unconsciously tapping my fingers and stop when I see myself.
“Peter and Jane, the preseason poll has the Billikens 25th in the nation, so expect a good season out of them.”
“Ok, sounds good, Roger. We will look forward to that,” I say.
“And hopefully the Blues get a win tonight as well,” Jean chimes.
“Let’s hope so, guys.”
“That’s all for news at five on Channel 5 KSHT. Have a good evening. We will see you at ten.”
“Good night,” Jane says.
A PA announces, “Good job.”
I take off my ear wick and microphone, and I stand.
“Job, Downs,” the Dodger says.
I look at him. He glares at me with charcoal eyes. Eyes black like a shark’s eyes. I nod, smile. “Thanks, you too.” I turn to Jean. She stares at her lap top. “Good job, Jean.” She continues looking at her laptop.
She says, “Thanks.”
I am doing a twenty part series on American history. Some of it has been shot on location, which we have done already. Every night after the five o’clock news I go to Studio B to do the voice over work for the project.
Studio B is a stone’s throw from Studio C where the news is shot. You traipse out of C, down corridors of offices of studio execs, on-air personalities, and behind-the-scene help; you go down to the first floor and can either go out the front door and walk around to the back of the building or walk out the back door. A sign above the back door reads, “You are leaving Studio C.” Posted on the door is a sign reading, “No reentry.” I pop the door and walk out. It is chilly. Breezy. Cold, but not freezing.
You can see B from C. They are back-to-back, facing north and south with a parking lot between. C looks like a bank with a path that curves around to the front of the building. There is a parking lot on either side of the buildings, east and west. I take a deep breath. The chilled air expands inside of me— I feel better. Free.
As I walk towards the west end of the building, there is a man sitting on a cement light post in the middle of the parking lot. He has on a hat and green overcoat. He is slowly rocking side-to-side like an anchored boat teetering in the harbor on a windy eve. His face is shadowed.
I look away. I hear a voice. I look back at him. He is gone. I stop and look around…Nothing. A small, cardboard box with colorful scrawling is sitting on the light post.
I walk in. Hot air hits my face. It’s always too hot in B.
The receptionist: “Hello, Mr. Downs.”
“Hello, Lacey.” Good looking gal.
I walk down walls of glass with “Studio B” in white on them. The lighting: dim and soft. At the end of the hallway, there is a door with “Wing C” on it—this is where the magic takes place. This is where voice-overs are done and where tape is edited. It has computers, monitors, and at the back of the wing is an enclosure.
I walk through the door. There is a podium with a mike and headphones and a stool behind it facing a big screen monitor. There is large glass window on the side leading to the sound room. This is where sound mixing is done. There is a guy in the sound room. That is Chuck. Charles Boemke. Boston’s native son is wearing his throw-back Bruin jersey. I see Orr and the number 7 on the back of it.
I take off my jacket and put it on the coat hanger. I put on the headphones.
“’lo, Pee-ta,” I hear in the phones.
“Hello, Chuck,” I say into the mike.
There is a script on the podium. I flip open to page one. “Intros,” it reads.
“Why donne you give meh ah quickie, Pee-ta?”
“Testing one, two, three. This is Peter Downs and I’ll be your host tonight.”
“Vary nice. Sounds gwood. Wheneva ya ready.”
I read: “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I’m Peter Downs, and this is KSHT’s special programming. I will be your guide through twenty half-hour programs on American history. We start from the early Americas, a time when the indigenous people ruled the land, through the Vikings landing in Northern America, through colonial times, the American Revolution, the Civil War, and beyond. We will traverse the landscape of American history—the good, the bad, the ugly. Tonight, we begin with early America—a time when the ancestors of Native Americans crossed the Bering Strait and filtered into North and South America.”
The monitor scrolls paintings of Indians on the hunt, on farms, and in war paint.
“Most scientists believe that about fifty thousand years ago, modern man made his way out of Africa. A line of early humans went toward Asia, another toward Europe. It is thought that early Americans made their way to northern Asia and crossed the Bering Strait when it was iced over some twelve to fifteen thousand years ago. They would have been hunter/gatherers, living a nomadic existence.”
The monitor scrolls more paintings of Indians and Eskimos.
“It would’ve been a cold and hard living. They would’ve followed the game—reindeer mostly. Some scientists believe that there were two or three mass migrations bringing tens of thousands to the New World and as they went further south, they would’ve encountered woolly mammoths that were hunted to extinction.”
More paintings. Woolly mammoths. Primitive men with spears.
“As the Natives finished migrating south, there was settlement. Some current findings have Natives thriving from Alaska to Chile while Europe remained empty for some time later. The idea of nomadic Indians on horseback with guns hunting buffalo on the Plains is contradicted in recent findings. Horses and guns weren’t introduced into the New World until sixteenth century Spaniards invaded the land.”
It’s me on the screen. I have speckled corn in my hands. My lips begin to move:
“Natives became great agriculturalists. Their main crop was maize, which they grew in great abundance. They also grew squash, beans, and avocados. They burned and slashed their fields and forests every year to inspire new growth of vegetation, which created more herbivores and predators on which they dined.”
“You needa break, big guy,” Chuck asks.
“No, Chuck. Let’s finish this.”
I read on.
“Natives carried short bows and were very healthy individuals. They were taller, ruddier than their European counterparts—they were specimens. They were disease free and free of most what afflicts modern man: mental illness, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.”
Natives in headdress, on farms.
“Most Natives were not nomadic. In fact, they lived on farms and in big, opulent cities—empires were built. They lived mostly south of the Rio Grande. But there were many natives in current America. By the time the Spanish arrived, there were nomads in northwest. Farmers in the southwest. The Caddo in the Midwest. The Algonkian Alliance on the East Coast. The Coosa in Georgia, The Haudenosaunee Confederates and Wendat in the Great Lakes Area.”
“Job, Pee-ta. I guess we’ll see ya to-marra.”
I walk the corridor toward the exit and pull out my cell.
I stop. My eyes flicker in the light. A ceiling fan strobes overhead. Glug. Glug. Glug. I slow. Down. Slow. Down.
“Canon Taxi Service?”
The light flickers on and off. On and off. The ceiling fan is slow. I go deeper. Deeper down under.
“Canon Taxi Service? Is there somebody there?”
“S,Sorry….” I say.
“Can I help you?”
“14th and Clark.”
“Give us a few…” It goes dead.
I am alone, interested in few things at this point. Worn from a day’s work, I will go home to my wife.
The drapes are pulled, and there is no one here except the night crew. I saunter out of B and back toward C. A bit of drizzle. Tap. Tap. Tap.
The street light still shone the colorful box sitting on the cement light post.
A cat. “Meow.”
He’s over there. By the dumpster. Thin. Black with golden eyes.
“Meow.” He arcs against the wooden fence surrounding the dumpster.
“Here kitty-kitty-kitty-kitty. Come here, cat.” I squat and put my hand out.
“Meow.” He begins to knead.
I stand. He darts behind the fence.
I walk behind. “Here kitty-kitty…” I see a pair of boots…leather patent boots on the far side of the dumpster. The cat arches its back, says “Meow,” and disappears by the boots.
The rain picks up. A thunder in the distance, the storm is coming closer. “Hello.” Instead of flecks, they are drops. Where they tapped the metal dumpster, now they smack against it, like a thousand little feet pounding a tin roof.
“Hello.” I walk closer. My hair is drenched. My jacket is wet, my feet are wet—the soles of my shoes have tiny holes in them.
“Hello.” The boots disappear with a scraping sound. I stop. I feel depersonalized, surreal, like this is happening to someone else. Then I notice I have no spit and I can’t breathe. I think of nearly 300 murders per year in the city. I think of being in a dumpster, ass up, lifeless.
I pull out my keys and put them between my knuckles. I’m standing in a pool of water. I glance over the top of the dumpster. I look for signs of him, but nothing. I draw myself into a corner, back against the wall.
“I’LL HAVE YOU KNOW THAT I’M ARMED!!”
Rain tatters me. Now thunder. Now lightening. I’m waiting for him. Waiting for battle. A clank. I’m frozen.
“LET’S GET THIS OVER WITH!”
“Is that you?” It’s Billingsly, the janitor. He’s taking out the trash.
“Yes, yes it is.”
He comes around the corner. “You ok?”
“Yes, Billingsly, I am.”
“You better come inside befo’ you catch yo’ death.”
“Yes, Billingsly, good idea.”
I walk into C. I’m drenched. The place is quiet. The florescent lamps hum. I pull out my cell. 555-4857
My wife answers, “Hello?”
“Hey, Babe. It’s me.”
“You just get done fucking your secretary?”
“Why are you out of breath?”
“Oh, no reason. I was running to get out of the rain.”
“So you were fucking your secretary is what you are telling me.”
I snicker. “You say the damnedest things, honey.”
“What do you want, Peter?”
“I’m on my way home now, is there anything you want me to get on the way?”
“Ok. Well, I will be home shortly.”
“So how was your day?”
I hard swallow and whisper, “I’m thinking the cop uniform.”
“I’m thinking not.”
“I dunno. Why are you thinking of that now after you finished with your secretary?”
I look around and hear the click, click of heels on tile. It’s Jean Moore, and I watch her from profile. She trots by without a look or sound as I wait for her to feel my longing.
“Yeah, yeah. Sorry, babe. I don’t know. It’s been a while though, hasn’t it?”
“You can do your business without me looking like an oversexed punisher, Charley.”
I shrug. “Ok, I’m sorry. I will be glad to see you when I get home, babe.”
She coughs and doesn’t speak.
“Did you see the broadcast?”
“Why would I do that?”
“Well, you used to give me a critique every night, remember?”
She coughs twice and whispers, “I’ll see you when you get here.” It goes dead.
Canon Taxi pulls up and blasts the horn. I exit C and get in.
“Where you headed, Mac?” The man has on a Pork Pie hat; a red down vest; and a flannel shirt. The skin on his face is translucent—his veins are pronounced and blue.
“Where might home be, Mac?”
“Sorry. 5th and Reece.”
He starts the meter. “5th and Reece...for the gent in the three-piece.”
I look out at the dead sky, the lights reflecting off the cab as they strobe by, and the stogie hanging out of his mouth.
“So wadda ya do there, guy?” he asks with the stogie standing erect from his mouth.
“I’m a reporter and journalist.”
“Oh yeah? For Channel 5?”
He looks at me in the rearview mirror. “Oh yeah, at 5, right?”
“Yes. That’s correct.”
“Sorry, Mac, I didn’ reconize ya. I usually work about the time you go on.”
He looks again at me in the rearview. “What was your name again?”
“Downs, Downs. That’s right. You did look familiar.”
“Yep. It’s me.”
“Yeah. Yeah. Say yore doin’ sum’in on history, right?”
I nod. “Yes. That’s correct. I’m doing a series on American history. That’s the journalist part.”
“Right. Right. I see the ads for it on TV when I get off at night.”
“Yes. Do you plan on watching?”
“I dunno. I guess if they are running re-runs or sum’in I might.”
“Good. Well, from what I understand they will be running it at 8 and midnight and then if there is enough buzz there could be re-airing sometime in the future.”
“Yeah, may be. I dunno. I’m not big on American history.”
“Nahh. Everything happnin’ now doesn’t have nothin’ to do with what happened in the past. So’s I say leave it be. Leave the past in the past.”
He takes the stogie from his mouth. “You know whadd I mean, right?”
“Sure. Everyone has their own points of view.”
“Well, shit, whadd I mean is that whadd do I care about the goddamn Pilgrims or Plymouth Rock or the Wild West. Fuck, I don care. Let it be, right?”
“I see your point.”
“You know what I mean, right? I mean who cares? I’m drivin’ a cab for crissakes.”
He slows to a stop. His brakes squeak like a warming boiler. “Welp, here we are. 5th and Reece. Ten-Fifty.”
I handed him a ten and a five. “Keep it.”
“Thanks. Thank you. And have a good night, Mr. Downs.”
I get out and look up at the light on in my apartment. I take a deep breath of cold winter’s night and remember her smile, the way her lips parted just slightly as she was singing karaoke and the way her teeth and grin radiated red line hormones for me. I was always into the fairer of the fairer sex: blonde, blue, skinny, big up top. But on my road to Scandinavian Damascus, I was blinded by a dark, piercing veil of black beauty. I had to have her...And I did.
“Squint your eyes to see clearly. Blur reality to make it real
Let focus go from your deceiving eyes to know what's been concealed"
Rational Gaze, Meshuggah
Lifeless, I await to awaken from my autumnal slumber and as I do I feel a mild vibrato and an intermittent clunk, clunk. I open my eyes and see a pair staring back at me. Not unknown, in fact very fucking familiar. His mouth is taped shut with green duct tape, his green eyes bug from his skull. He tries speaking through the tape, but nothing. Only a buzzing and murmuring. I try speaking back to him and find I’m in similar straits. No voice other than a gargling hiccup trying to escape glue. My arms are tied behind my back and I struggle. Jimmy Donovan struggles as well. I notice we are in a box of some kind and the mild vibrato means we are on the move. I hear tires skidding to a stop on gravel and then there are no hypnotic motion waves to soothe. Keys in a lock, the cluck of van doors opening and then moonlight shines into our box. Jimmy is pulled feet first out of the box, and as he goes, his eyes are resigned to his fate. I’m pulled feet first out onto the muddy banks of the River Styx.
Jimmy is dressed in his battle fatigues and combat boots. He lies face up with the moonlight shining in his eyes and he looks down at me, grinning through the duct tape. Our mutual brother has on his floppy hat, oversized green coat, patent leather fuckers. He lights up a campfire and sets a Happy Meal Box on a slate rock. I can hear his lips smacking, his tongue clicking as he is about to feed. The fire alights quickly and Jimmy turns to his right to look into the eyes of our captor. He looks puzzled and then quickly looks down at me and back to him again. Jimmy begins to try to shout. Muzzled, he squirms to free himself, to speak unspeakable truth. I try to catch the glare of him and as he picks up his instrument of death, straddling Jimmy. Jimmy’s shouts are muffled and echo over the top of the big muddy river. He looks down at me and back again. Down and me and back again with fear.
Our slayer cuts open the front of Jimmy’s fatigues, exposing his bare, white flesh. Without much ritual, he jabs Jimmy in the throat and cuts him from his trachea to his groin, his ribcage splays like an open book. His innards are then picked up and stacked on a scale to be weighed for veracity. $.48 is the sign written in black ink on a white post-it note. He then hits the keys on a cash box and put the receipt in his pocket. He then turns and comes to me, picking me up and carrying me to the other side of the fire. I quickly look at Jimmy and he still has life in his eyes and a grin hiding under the tape.
I too become the next victim of the Happy Meal Serial Killer. I am cut open and have my innards measured. I look up on last time and see my destroyer. He has a face very familiar. Peter Downs.