Dead Air - By Robin Caroll
“This is Gabby Rogillio. Thank you for tuning in and sharing your love stories. Join me again tonight at ten. Until then, live and love well, Mystique.” She clicked off the on-air button, queued KLUV’s station identification announcement, slipped off the headset and glanced at the clock again.
Where was Howard? The early-morning deejay should’ve reported at six, yet she hadn’t seen hide nor hair of him, and it was eight. She’d called his house several times, to no avail. Was he sick? Lord, I hope not. The fast-approaching-fifty Howard had just gotten over a nasty spring allergy attack. Early March in Mississippi always seemed to trigger everyone’s allergies.
But this morning was important. Robert Ellison, owner of the station, had called a meeting. A mandatory one. In all the years she’d worked for KLUV, he’d never done such a thing. And it had to be important to call the meeting at nine on a Friday morning.
She pushed the buttons to loop the commercials and call numbers, giving her almost fifteen full minutes until she had to queue up again, then grabbed her coffee cup. The morning news reporter would be in soon. Until he came, she’d just have to wing it.
A hum filled the corridor to the break room, and the overhead lights flickered. She’d have to remind the station’s manager, Eric, to have the fluorescent bulbs replaced.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
She turned the corner, the hairs on the nape of her neck standing at attention. The station’s back door batted in the breeze coming off the Gulf.
Startled, Gabby spun around.
Kevin Duffy, the early-morning newsman, loped down the hall. His bright red hair stuck up all over in contrast to the black jeans hanging loosely off his hips. It never ceased to amaze Gabby that he had the smooth voice of gilded gold, but the appearance of a young lion. A tall stranger, decked out in a black suit, stood beside Kevin.
Her heart hiccupped, but this reaction had nothing to do with being surprised.
The man had amazing eyes. Were they hazel or more gold? Who was he? New to town, that much was for certain. He had a totally different demeanor than the men in Mystique. This stranger was more…suave, debonair, cultured. He smiled, a single dimple twinkling under the hall’s humming lights.
She tore her gaze from the man back to Kevin. “You scared the daylights out of me.”
“Sorry.” He hitched a thumb toward the man. “This is Clark McKay.”
Gabby nodded at the handsome man and forced a smile. “Mr. McKay.”
Robert had been making noise about wanting to sell the station and leave town, but she’d thought he’d only been rambling. Then he’d announced he’d found a buyer. Mr. McKay. Was that the reason for the mandatory meeting? Please, God, help me. New management could very well mean she could say goodbye to the hope of her show being syndicated. Scratch that—she could be out of a job. How would she afford the down payment on her house on Bridges Street if she lost her job or had to take a pay cut?
Searching for any distraction, Gabby glanced toward the gaping rear entrance and then looked at Kevin. “You left the back door open.”
“I didn’t come in that way.”
March morning sunbeams peeked around the edges of the opening, teasing Gabby with their bright rays. While she loved being the ten-to-six disc jockey, the harsh morning sun killed her attuned-to-nighttime eyes. “Then who did? It’s open.”
“Dunno.” Kevin gave a shrug, his locks brushing against his shoulder.
Pivoting, she reached for the swinging door, then stopped before she grabbed the knob. Slivers of wood stuck out from the door frame—the knob hung askew. This wasn’t just a door ajar. This was a break-in.
Gabby nudged the door open with her toe.
And sucked in air as her heart caught in her throat.
Howard Alspeed lay on the gravel, a red circle in his chest spreading like a bull’s-eye. Adjacent to him, sprawled out on the stairs lay Robert Ellison. Neither man moved.
Shock froze her to the spot. She gasped for air and blinked several times. This couldn’t be happening.
She dropped to her knees and laid trembling fingers against Howard’s throat.
Nothing. “Noooo!” She placed the pads of her hands just below his sternum and pressed. Once. Twice. A third time.
She tilted back his head and opened his mouth.
Mr. McKay appeared at her side. He checked Howard’s pulse. Gabby bent to place her mouth over Howard’s. Mr. McKay pulled her back. “Let me.”
Her hands trembled as she let him take her