Silenced by the Yams - By Karen Cantwell

Chapter One

I’d only known Guy Mertz for ten minutes and already I was plotting to murder him.

“So, Barb—can I call you Barb?” He didn’t bother to wait for a response. “Tell me about your website . . .” His pointy nose rose into the air as if he’d remember the title by smelling it. “FlixieChick.” He nodded, pleased that his memory had served him well.

Suppressing an eye roll, I waited a beat, then corrected him. “ChickAtTheFlix.”

A minor grimace crossed his thin face. “ChickAtTheFlix. Hmm.” He tugged at his filet mignon with a fork and knife. “FlixieChick has a lighter ring. Shorter. Easier to remember.” He popped a hunk of beef into his mouth and continued to talk around his chewing. “Ever think,” (chew, chew) “of,” (chew) “changing it?” (chew, chew, chew)

I disguised a gag by sipping on my dry Chardonnay and not-so-casually scanning the banquet room of the prestigious American Cinema League’s Tanner Building. The ACL was a national organization—their DC building featured a 200-seat theater and sweeping banquet hall which were often rented by Hollywood studios for local movie preview events. Although excited to be in attendance, I lamented being seated next to this bozo instead of Randolph Rutter. Randolph—the movie reviewer for Channel 3—appeared to be in a serious discussion with up-and-coming action movie director, Kurt Baugh. Rumor had it that Kurt’s next project would be a Steven Spielberg-collaboration. I really wanted to talk to Kurt Baugh and find out for myself, but I was stuck sitting between a no-show empty chair and Guy, the ill-mannered carnivore.

Guy Mertz was a celebrity of sorts in the Metropolitan Washington, DC viewing area. Every evening on Channel 10 News, Guy “entertained” the television audience with melodramatic reports of local true crimes. Some people found the reports deep and meaningful, most people found them humorous, but I just found them nauseating. Guy was the reason I watched Channel 6.

How he made it to television, I’m not sure. Certainly no one had surveyed his headshot before hiring him. His face was unnaturally long and his flabby lips hogged most of the square footage. His beady brown eyes were topped by eyebrows that looked like fuzzy caterpillars on steroids. Let’s put it this way—if he had been Don Knotts’ brother, Don would have been the good looking one.

Guy was babbling on about my website, but I had tuned out and instead, was transfixed on Kurt Baugh who was stealing food from Randolph Rutter’s plate. Kurt appeared to be the kind of man who had been strikingly handsome at one time, but had partied a little too hearty, and now looked more like a down-and-out country western singer recovering from a two-year bender. I found myself staring at his horribly orange skin and wondering if he really believed that ten bottles of spray-on tan could recover his youthful splendor. Unfortunately, I stared just a micro-second too long, and he caught me. It was one of those moments where you don’t realize you’re gawking at someone, but then they “feel” your gaze and turn to meet you eye to eye. Thankfully, he must have been flattered rather than irked because he shot me a wink before taking a sip from his water glass.

I, however, was mortified and jumped back into my conversation with Guy at just the wrong time. “I wanted to cover your story, you know.”

My stomach lurched.

I downed the rest of my wine and wondered if they had something stronger. Arsenic perhaps. “Pardon me?”

“Your bang ’em up, shoot ’em up, FBI’s Most Wanted story out there in Rustic Woods.”

My worst fear was being realized. I had wanted to attend this screening as a respected movie reviewer, not as the famous, flighty, gun-toting suburban mother who found herself in the middle of the yearbook fiasco from Hell.

I was about to ask politely if we could refrain from discussing my newsworthy crime tale, but Guy steamrolled on. He shouted across the table. “Hey, Rutter!” He waved his sharp, silver steak knife around in the air to catch Mr. Rutter’s attention. Unfortunately, he was successful. Randolph Rutter and Kurt Baugh stopped talking and turned their heads in our direction.

How could I silence this buffoon? I considered the possibility of quickly jamming my fork into Guy’s jugular and blaming it on an involuntary muscle spasm attributed to a rare genetic disorder, but of course, I’d have to come up with a name for the genetic disorder and I’m just not that quick on my feet these days. Instead, I