Kelly arrived at the newsroom before everyone but Paul, a usual occurrence. Her job was her life, and she wanted to get the most out of it. The thoughts of the anchor position danced within her mind, tantalizing her the proposition of Swinson being a household name.
“Swinson!” Paul bellowed as she passed his office.
Her stomach dropped. He would want an update to her story, as he viewed it as a waste of time. The senator’s death was enough to make it tantalizing to the public, but Paul wasn’t sure that there was anything substantial to it.
His nonchalant attitude made her nervous. Although she had proved herself on many other stories, she couldn’t help but think that he didn’t think she would be good enough to promote her to anchor. Sure, he thought that she had a pretty face—like most of the female journalists working for Channel 5—but that didn’t mean that he thought that her reporting skills were enough for the promotion.
He must think that Cayce is right for Anchor. Cayce Shaffer—known to the news team as simply Case—had been at the station longer than Kelly. Unlike Kelly, Case had it all: blond hair, blue eyes, and long, slim legs. She was sure that Cacye, among other coworkers, was sleeping with Paul, but she would never mention it to anyone.
She bit at her mouth, pulling her plump bottom lip between her teeth. As she withstood the desire to run a hand through her hair, she crossed her arms over her chest.
“Get in here!” Paul continued to shout.
She hesitantly obeyed. Just because she was willing to endure his stares didn’t mean she liked it or wanted to seek out his attention. He made her skin crawl, and she hated to be alone with him.
However, there wasn’t a whole lot she could do about it. Paul had been at the station for years, and he was the News Director. Complaining would only have hurt her career.
“What do you got on this drug story?” he demanded, looking her over intently, his eyes lingering a little to long on her breasts. He leaned against his desk, crossing his arms over his chest. A gray sports coat covered his slim frame, rubbing against his dark jeans.
As he looked at her, the hackles on the back of her neck rose. She ignored the chill crawling up her spine and focused upon what he wanted: an update on Rapture and the overdoses connected to it.
“Not a whole lot,” she responded meekly as she fiddled with the watch clasped around her wrist. “A lot of people are unwilling to talk, scared of the cartel.”
While the police would not comment on the cartel presence in Laredo, most knew that they were there. The Diablo de la Mue Cartel was the dirty secret that officials kept to themselves, only bringing it up when it was election season.
Then, there would be a flurry of arrests, but little would be done to stem the flow of narcotics crossing the border between Mexico and the United States. Kelly thought that most officials—lawyers, police, and politicians—were in bed with the cartel. That was why most of the offenses would go away shortly after they were brought to trial or the officers would look the other way to the cartel’s dealings.
I hope that the news of the overdoses and Rapture will shine a spotlight on these crimes. No more could people pretend that there wasn’t a problem, and maybe there would be something done about it.
Paul’s flaxen-colored hair glistened in the sunlight streaming through the window, the ivory Stetson adorning his head gleaming, as he waited for her to continue.
She didn’t want to tell him about the text she had gotten before she knew more of it. It could be a wild goose chase. It seemed like the entire story was just that, but she knew that she could figure it out if she were given the time, yet he wasn’t known to give his journalists much. He would say he gave them just enough rope to hang themselves.
From time to time, she overheard him. His bosses would pressure him. They would want a bigger story—a larger headline—to beat their competition. When the ratings were lower than expected, Paul took the heat. In return, he would light a fire beneath his news team: that usually meant screaming coming from his office as he met with certain reporters.
She had not been on the receiving end of his tirades, but she couldn’t blame him for the reaction. When she first developed an interest for journalism, she knew that it was a high-pressure profession.
However, to be under his judgmental gaze was unsettling. She resisted the urge to display her uneasiness. If she did, she was sure that he would prey upon that weakness, using it as a means to exploit her feelings.
Kelly was sure that he wasn’t the type of man that would use her thoughts to sleep with her, and she tried to remind herself that, to take comfort in that thought.
Apparently, running out of patience, he shook his head, the locks of his hair brushing the crook of his tanned neck. “I need a story, Kelly.”
Again, she twisted her watch. Although the air condition was running and blowing strands of her dark hair across the bridge of her nose, she felt hot standing in the office beneath his keen eyes. She was exposed to him, and she nervously bit the inside of her cheek.
“You’ll get a story,” she promised, her voice hiding the apprehension wailing within her. “A big one.”
“Get me one, soon. Three days, Kelly.”
I’m not sure if I can have it done in three days. She thought of the lead that she had received on her cell phone earlier that morning, and she knew that tracking down the information that the lead might potentially give her would take more than the allotted time.
If she wanted to work as a journalist and possibly as an anchor, she couldn’t crack beneath the strain of her job. She would succeed with this story, she promised herself, and she would be promoted before Cayce Shaffer.
“If I don’t have it by Friday, I want you on something else. Got it?”
“Yes, Mister Whitaker.” She bowed her head, the bangs of her hair hiding her dark eyes.
“We’re getting beat by those hacks over at Channel Eight. Channel Eight! Get me a story!” His face was beat red by the time he had finished talking, but his gaze still touched her in a way that made her stomach churn.
As he screeched at her, she could feel each of his words reverberating inside of her body. She stared at the small pimple in the middle of his forehead.
She backed out of Paul’s office, going to her desk. Her heart raced as she glanced at him and watched him sit down at his own desk, pick up his cell phone, punch numbers into it, and frown. The corners of his thin mouth pulled downward into a snarl.
She dropped into her chair, taking a moment to look at the anonymous text message again.
I can tell you all about Rapture, it read, intriguing her like many leads hadn’t.
Kelly thought about all that she knew about the synthetic heroin. It was just like the regular drug, except that it was laced with Fentanyl, a drug that was used during anesthesia. The Fentanyl increased the potency of heroin once it had been diluted, making it fifty percent more efficient, but the drug also had a dark side.
After she had navigated to a website that allowed her to look up phone numbers, she tried to find the number—956-555-0111—that was associated with the text.
It’s a throwaway phone. That made tracking the registered users almost impossible. Contrary to her Internet search, she didn’t think that finding the sender of the text message would be that easy, and she felt warier of the person.
For what seemed like hours, she stared at the phone on her desk, trying to work up the nerve to pick up the receiver and dial that unknown number. Her thoughts raced as she tried to make sense of who sent it until her thoughts landed on a type of person that made the most sense.
An inside source? The anonymity of the text screamed it. They didn’t want to leave their name, just the vague message about Rapture and the overdoses.
Inhaling, she tried to stop her thoughts racing through the confines of her mind. This was going to be the break that she needed; she was sure of it, or, at least, that was what she told herself. Still, it was too good to be true.
Nothing ventured, she thought, nothing gained, remembering what her father would always tell her. He raised her to take chances, to reach for the stars.
Kelly knew that she wasn’t going to get a story by staring at the phone as if doing so would prompt the person would call her at the office. While her business card did list her extension, he or she had left a message on her cell phone.
She snatched the receiver and punched in the numbers quickly before she lost her nerve. With each ring, her heart sprinted faster. Concentrating intently on the other end of the phone, she tried to envision the type of person who would answer.
After two rings, someone picked up, but there was just silence. She could hear breathing on the end of the line, but no-one greeted her.
“Hello?” Kelly peeped. She tried to control the quaking that passed through her at the strange silence. “Is someone there?”
This was a mistake. Visions of her death at the hands of the Cartel slammed into her mind. If they killed a senator—like she surmised—they wouldn’t have any qualms about ending the life of a lowly reporter.
At least, she thought, she was in the office. If they came to the office, she was sure that Paul would call the police. They wouldn’t be able to end her life in the News Station.
After a few more moments of silence, a masculine voice answered in a gruff tone, “Who is this?”
“My name is Kelly Swinson. I’m an investigative reporter for WTUW-TV Laredo.”
He went quiet again and was likely judging if she was truly who she said that she was. It was not the first time that an informant was hesitant to talk to her, and she mused that it wouldn’t be the last.
“You texted me last night about Rapture,” she insisted. “I would very much like to speak with you about the things that you mentioned in your text.”
He sighed. “Not over the phone. The parking lot at 1542 Rosemont Avenue. No cameras. Come alone.”
She grabbed a small, square notebook and jotted the address down on the corner of the top page.
Before she could object or even make sure that she had gotten the address right, she heard the click of him hanging up, followed by dial-tone screaming in her ear.
She sighed, hung up the phone and slouched back in her chair, taking a long moment to mull over the short, terse conversation.
It is a stupid idea to even consider doing what he said. If she went to the address he gave her, she might very well be walking into her own murder, but what other choice did she have?
“Dammit, Kelly,” she muttered to herself. “What have you gotten yourself into.”
Of course, I have to go. Without the lead, there was no story. Without the story, there would be no promotion, and Cayce would, most likely, be promoted to anchor. She would probably be out of a job without a story. Without the job, she might as well be dead, at least in her mind.
She ripped the sheet of paper from the notepad, folded it in half, and placed it and her smartphone into her purse.
As she crossed the newsroom, she poked her head into Paul’s office.
He looked up from his laptop, raising his eyebrows questioningly.
“Got a lead,” she said. “Be back later.” She retreated quickly before he could press her for more information, but she could hear him call out something before she left the office.
He bellowed, “I want an update when you get back, Swinson!”
If I get back, she thought, unable to shake the dismal feeling of dread that clawed at her psyche. Others were filing into the newsroom as she was leaving.
“How’s the story coming, Kelly?” the blond—Cayce Shaffer—asked, snidely. Her ivory dress shimmered like her hair in the filtering light from the large windows.
Kelly dismissed Cayce with her hand. She hoped her fear wasn’t written on her face, but it was likely masked by the excitement of finally having a lead.
Once she was back in her black SUV, she sat in silence for awhile. Opening up her large purse, she pulled out the folded scrap of paper and studied the address she had written down.
1542 Rosemont. It wasn’t the best part of the city. In fact, it was a downright terrible part of town that far up Rosemont. The area was a haven for Mexican gangs.
As frightening as that thought was, it did lend credence to the tip. Where there were Mexican gangs, there would be the Cartel, and where there was the Cartel, there were drugs and other illicit activities.
She started the car. It was too late to turn back now.
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