The thought burst forth in her mind before she had even shut off the alarm.
She swung one of her arms and, hoping to hit the snooze button, slapped the small, black alarm. As she rolled back over, she brought one of the smooth pillows over her head, covering her ear, and again closed her eyes.
Kelly Swinson was never much of a morning person, which made working nine to five that much more difficult for her. She’d lost count of the times that she was late for not hearing her alarm or standing beneath a lukewarm shower trying to wake up, yet she would be lost without coffee.
Stretching her legs, she let the soft blanket slide along her flesh.
She wanted to stay in bed, to feel the cool, silk sheets caressing her naked skin just a little longer.
If not for the incessant, electric screaming coming from her cell phone that was on the dresser across the darkened room, she could have lain there forever.
Turning to the alarm clock on the nightstand beside the bed, she sighed.
It’s quarter past six, she thought.
As her cell phone screamed at her to wake up before shutting itself off for five minutes, she sat up in bed, the blanket and sheets pooling around her waist, and stretched once more.
Finally, she pulled herself from her silken cocoon. She trudged across her studio apartment, eying the coffee machine the entire way. The silver handle sparkled as the early morning light streamed through the large window, yet the blue light that was normally on remained dark.
The start of a wonderful day, Kelly grumbled to herself. She could tell from a distance that she had forgotten to set it the night before, a common occurrence when she was tired after a long day of working.
Kelly was an investigative reporter for the Channel 5 News—WTUW-TV—in the beautiful city of Laredo, Texas, a position she had only achieved a few months prior. She was ambitious, and Paul, the News Director, liked her. Either that was because of her hard work, or Paul simply had a thing for black-haired women.
While she would never date her boss, she was not above using every asset that God gave her. If he promoted her on her looks, it didn’t matter too much to her. She liked her career, but she would much prefer to be an Anchor.
Growing up in a poor home and not knowing when her next meal would come, she had to admit that she liked the stability that her job gave her.
Not to mention the coffee. She chuckled and set the coffee pot before shambling off to the bathroom. Her footsteps echoed on the wood flooring as she plodded to the doorway, reached inside, and flicked on the light. The naked fluorescent glow illuminated everything: the white tile wall and matching floor, and the walk-in shower.
She winced, catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror as she passed it.
Good thing Paul doesn’t see me like this, she mused, looking at her wild, slept-in hair. Strands of raven hair stuck up and out of every place that it could. Locks brushed her shoulders and the middle of her back.
She turned on the shower, waited for it to get hot, and jumped inside. As the hot water flowed down her body, over her breasts and stomach, down her legs and into the drain, she thought of the story she was working on.
A new drug had come into the city, and, as often happened with unknown drugs, it was causing all sorts of overdoses. It wasn’t only typical drug addicts dying from this new designer high, but there were also more prominent people dying: police officers, city officials, and the like.
It seemed to be affecting people that didn’t usually use, and Kelly wanted to know why. What was it about this strain of heroin that was different from the rest? What would cause a senator to stroll down into the dilapidated slums to buy it when they could afford some of the harder narcotics from higher scale dealers?
A juicy story like this is just what I need to get Anchor. The main female anchor had recently given noticed that she was going to move to another station in Dallas, Texas, and this story would ensure that she would beat out her rivals for the position. Even if he just desired her, Paul wouldn’t be able to deny her investigative prowess. She was sure of it.
The thought of a promotion put her in a good mood, and she smiled at her reflection in the mirror as she went back to the kitchen for her coffee. In her mind, she could see the billboards around town with her face on them, and she could also envision the glowing, proud faces of her parents. She would be in everyone’s living room every evening. It was what she always wanted, and she was close to it now.
She retrieved her cup of coffee, looking at the motivational word written on the outside of the mug.
Believe. It was one word, written in a black, sloping font, but it had begun to represent everything that Kelly thought to herself. Her mother had gifted her the mug when she had graduated Emerson College all those years ago, and, like a ritual, she drank from it every day.
The black liquid swirled inside the cup as she walked to the table. She placed the mug down, retrieved her cell phone from the next room, pulled out the chair, and sat down. Picking up the mug, she took a sip of her amaretto mocha.
There was her fix. She could feel herself awakening. Some weekends, she could just curl up on the couch with a coffee and binge watch television all day. Coffee was her lifeblood. Without it, she didn’t think that she could get through the day.
As she took another drink from the mug, she noticed the bar at the bottom of her phone blink. She checked her messages from the night before, absentmindedly swiping through the texts. None of the first few really stood out to her.
Her friend, Krystal, begged to go out on Saturday, but Kelly knew that wouldn’t work for her. She was planning on working late at the office that night. Although she would be disappointed, Krystal would have to understand.
She swiped right and read the beginning of the next message. Her mouth curled downward, and she shook her head.
Angel-Eyes, how can I-–
It was from her ex, Scott, which she deleted without reading the rest. They had broken up two months prior, and she hadn’t dated anyone since, but she would be damned if she was going to go back to him. He had all the chances he was going to get; she didn’t date cheaters, especially cheaters who tried to sleep with Krystal. She was ready to move on with her life.
Again, she sipped on her coffee and noticed that she had a voice mail.
“Kelly, it’s mom.”
Her stomach dropped as she heard the desperation in her mother’s voice. She loved her mother, but she couldn’t stand talking to the woman. Her mother had no more stories, so she retold the ones Kelly had heard a million times over, and Kelly didn’t have anything to talk about with her. Her mother didn’t understand anything about her career.
“I just wanted to catch up with you. You haven’t called in awhile. Are you too busy to call your mother?”
There was a time that she thought that her mother was a master at making her feel guilty, and, as time stretched between her childhood and adulthood years, she didn’t have a change of heart.
“Are you going to make it up here for your dad’s birthday? You only turn fifty once. Call me, dear. I love you.”
She’d call her before her father’s birthday. That was still a few weeks away, but she didn’t think that she would be able to make it to Dallas in time for the party. Perhaps, she’d send some money and a lovely card. Her father would appreciate that, at least. He would understand that she needed to devote most of her time on this case if she were to going to obtain that promotion. After all, she took after him.
There was also a text from a number that Kelly didn’t recognize. She stared at the area code—956—for a moment, noting that it was within Laredo, Texas: the same area code that her number was registered in.
This that reporter lady that’s been asking questions about Rapture? I got a business card with this number on it.
As she reread the first part of the text, she smiled. Her heart raced in her chest. She took a deep breath, forcing herself to remain calm.
I can tell you all about Rapture, and I can tell you all about the deaths too. They ain’t simple ODs.
She had never really thought that the deaths were overdoses. Sure, there was one or two that could have been, yet there were too many washing up on the banks of the Rio Grande to have all have died from Rapture, but she couldn’t convince Paul of that.
Her boss had told her that she needed proof, so she hit the streets in hopes that she could drum up some leads that would bring her to the truth of the drug and the deaths surrounding it. Could this be the lead that she was looking for?
She stared at the number, memorizing the eight digits, and tried to catch her breath.
Kelly stopped herself from calling right there. She wanted to wait until she was in the office. After all, she didn’t know what type of person had sent the texts.
If, she thought, the deaths were not overdoses, then they were murdered. Perhaps, it wasn’t a good idea to give her cell phone number out, but it was too late for regret, however.
She would feel better using a phone from the office rather than her own, even if the person who sent the text knew her number. She was a little frightened to do it at home, alone.
Kelly finished her coffee, brushed her teeth, threw her clothes on in a hurry and rushed out the door, nearly forgetting her briefcase. She wouldn’t get much done if she’d forgotten her laptop. The excitement of a new lead—any lead—had her moving quickly, and it made her scatterbrained.
Jumping in her car, she was flooded by thoughts of her inevitable promotion. This was going to be the story of her career and WTUW-TV’s. She knew it.
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