Kelli Mills looked at her reflection in the mirror on the KL5 news van and studied herself critically. Her make up was light and understated, even her lip stick was a neutral shade, her long blonde hair pulled back and done in a simple pony tail.
It gave the effect she wanted, professional, capable, strong. Her clothing fit the same motif, a black tailored skirt that came to just above the knee, a crisp white blouse that was buttoned up until right above her cleavage. Topping it off was her dark red blazer its three silver buttons all fastened.
She stepped back some so she could see more of herself and smiled. She looked good. She looked professional. She looked serious. Exactly how a reporter should. “This is Kelli Mills, reporting from the scene for KL5 Live! News.”
She ran the line a few times, trying different inflections of her voice, finding which tone sounded most appropriate for the story she was about to cover
Kelli had risen to fame at KL5 as a weather girl. Her pretty face and peppy demeanor could take the sting out of even the worst storm. Her girl next door innocent persona was also very popular with men and women, and it didn’t hurt that she had amazing legs and wasn’t afraid to show them.
She had been at channel five for three years now, and though she loved her job, she wanted more. She didn’t put all that time studying journalism in collage just to tell people when it would rain. She wanted to be a serious reporter An investigative reporter.
She had talked to Brad, the station manager, she had made an appointment and sat right in his office. She plead her case but she could tell by the glazed look on his face that he really wasn’t listening. “Listen Kelli, we got a good thing going here’ he said, “Don’t rock the boat Kel, people love you doing the weather.”
“Come on Brad!” she countered, “at least let me do some of the storm remotes. I am tired of being stuck in the studio!”
“We’ll see”, he answered, “Let me get through this midland murderer story and we will see.” he said ending the conversation.
Kelli was fuming after the meeting, she knew her face was red and she could feel the tears threaten to come. “I will not cry” she told herself as she marched down the hallway towards her dressing room. She had her head down and she was mad, mad at Brad for not listening, and mad at herself for not being more forceful.
She rounded the corner and walked right into Ronnie Steward. She gave a little frightened gasp and if Ronnie had not reached out to steady her, taking her arm, she was sure she would have fallen.
She did roll her ankle though when she slipped, her pump had landed funny and her foot bent sideways, she felt a sharp pull in her ankle then a quick flash of pain.
Ronnie still held her as she regained her footing, looking concerned as she winced a bit from the pain as she put weight on her injured ankle, he stepped closer to her, letting her support her weight against him.
“Are you OK?” he asked.
She grunted softly, nodding that she was even though she wasn’t sure of it yet. She looked up at him, saw the worry in his face, and then the tears came.
“Hey.. hey.. it’s alright.” he said, “are you OK?, Do you think its broken?
Kerri just cried harder. All the anger and frustration she felt from the meeting came rushing back and overwhelmed her, drug her under like a strong riptide, and all she could do was cry.
Ronnie looked up and down the hallway for help and saw it was just him. A one man Calvary, he thought to himself, a regular fucking Dudley Do-right.
“OK… OK, Kelli. Shh, its OK. Lets get you to your office, OK, put your arm around my shoulders. Just let me carry the weight.”
Kelli nodded, still sobbing, trying, and failing to get herself under control.
She put her arm around him and they slowly hobbled to her dressing room. He reach for and opened the knob when they got there, maneuvered her across the small place and helped her sit.
He turned and grabbed the box of tissues off of the desk after she was sitting, pulled one out and offered it to her, “Here you go”
Kelli perched on the edge of the couch, her head down and her face in her hands, her injured ankle throbbed dully but wasn’t broken as far as she could tell. She held it out in front of her, rotating her foot slowly, sucking in a quick breath of air.
Ronnie stood, watching, not sure what to do. After waiting fir a few minutes, he politely cleared his throat to get her attention. “You OK then?” he asked, feeling awkward just standing there.
Kelli took a few very deep breaths, holding each on for a second before exhaling it out in a slow steady push. After a moment she got herself back under control, with just a few sobs wracking her body as she came down.
“I.. I’m so sorry Ronnie”
“Aww, hush now. Nothing to be sorry about” he said. “Do you want me to go get someone?”
She looked up at him and smiled weakly, “No, I.. I think I’m OK” She said, sitting up straighter. “I’m really sorry to have dumped cried on you like that, Ron, you must think I’m looney. I was still upset from a meeting with Brad, that’s all, our collision was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
She looked up at him sheepishly through her red, bloodshot, eyes
“Well you should have just said so, a meeting with Brad is enough to make anyone cry!” he said laughing.
She joined him, nodding in agreement, “You know what I was feeling then.” she said, smiling, He’s just not going to give in.
“Giving in on what?”
And with that simple question, she told him everything, told him of her dreams.
She hugged him before he left and thanked him for listening. He gave back a warm smile and an “any time”
He opened the door and stopped, looking back at her. “Don’t let go of your dreams Kelli, you’re something special, you have something people want.”
She flashed him a warm smile and he gave a small wave and was gone.
“He’s a nice guy” Kelli thought to herself as he left.
She didn’t know Ronnie well. He was a cameraman on the stations second team, so he mostly shot the human interest stuff, not the real news. He’d only been working at the station for maybe six months and now that she saw how nice he was, she wished they had talked earlier, under better circumstances.
It was about two months later when she answered the knock on her dressing room door to find Ronnie standing there.
She had seen him around the station in that time. A lot actually. They always seemed to be crossing paths anymore. She always said hi and greeted him with a more real smile than she bothered to give to most.
Still, she was a bit bewildered to find him at her door looking like a kid with master key to the candy shop.
“Hey Kelli, you got a min?” he asked, the excitement clear in his voice.
She really didn’t. She was still getting dressed and going over the report for her next broadcast, but she could tell he was excited, and that intrigued her.
“I got a few minutes, yeah, come on in.”
Ronnie glanced both ways, as if making sure the coast was clear before he walked in, closing the door behind him.
“I have to be on the air in thirty.” she said, “we don’t have much time before Maria will be here to do my make up. So whats up?”
He nodded and glanced at the clock and nodded again.
“OK” he said. “I’ll be fast.”
He looked at her, his eyes bright, his voice low but coming fast.
“I found it Kelli. I found a story… thee story.. your story. The one that’s going to make those snobby news bastards have to sit up and take notice. They will have to take you seriously after this, and I’m going to ride your coat tails all the way to shooting the real news!’
Kelli look at first incredulous, then interested and finally excited as what he was saying sunk in. His cat who ate the canary attitude was infectious. Yes, she thought, you don’t believe I can do serious news. Well, I’m going to show you Mr. Brad Sanders!
“Tell me!” She said in a conspiratorial whisper, “Tell me what the story is!”
As if by cue, there was a knock on her door. The both turned their heads to look at it and she cursed lightly at being interrupted.
“Later,” he said, “After your report. Meet me in the upstairs meeting room, it’ll be empty that time of night, and I’ll fill you in.”
Maria knocked again and called out her name. “Kelli? You in there?”
“Yeah, one sec Mar.”
“You just have to promise me one thing Kelli.” he said in the same low voice. “If I get you an exclusive, you’ll give me what I want too.
Kelli nodded, “Of course Ronnie, this is a big break for both of us, and I wont forget you thought of me”
“I promise” she said very seriously.
He smiled and took her hand and squeezed it. “See you after” he said as he opened the door and held it for Maria before leaving through it.
Kelli was giddy, she was extra perky during her segment, and even flirted back with Terry the sports guy during the crossover to the surprise and delight of the anchors.
After the show, she changed quickly, dying to know what Ronnie was onto. She hurried to the elevator, waving to the people she knew, trying to look casual. The wait for the car was taking for ever. She kept fingering the button as if the elevator could tell she was in a hurry and would speed up to accommodate.
Finally the led display showed her floor and gave its cursory “bing” as the doors opened. She stood back and let the people off, squeezing past the last one in her impatience, and touched the number for the sixth floor.
She had the car to herself, most people were heading down this time of night, not going up as she was. She crossed her arms and her fingers drummed nervously on her upper arm during the short ride.
The doors opened and she stepped out, turning right and heading down the hall, past the empty offices towards the meeting room. The floor seemed deserted and dark, the only sound the soft hum of the computers, she could see the light was on in the meeting room and quickened her pace.
Ronnie saw her coming down the hall and walked to the door, opening it as she got there, and nervously peeking up and down the hall before closing it behind her.
Kelli walked into the room, tossed her bag on the large rectangular table and plopped down in one of the leather chairs, looking up at Ron.
“OK, spill!” She said, finding it hard to hide her curiosity and excitement.
Ronnie smiled and nodded, “I got a scoop Kelli. A good one.”
Kelli looked at him with interest and waited for him to go on, motioning with her hand for him to continue.
“Right, OK.” He said, his eyes shining still with glee.
“You know how the mayor is leaning on the police to close down all of the massage parlors and porn shops in the red light district? His whole “lets clean up this city and make it safe for our children” campaign he’s running. Ronnie imitated the radio announcer’s voice when he did the tag line in the ad Mayor Davis.
Kelli nodded. It was hard to miss the ads, they had been running ad nauseam on the radio for the last month as election time drew near.
“Mayor Robert Davis. He cares about this city, and he cares about you!” Kelli said, doing her own imitation of the ad, laughing as she did.
“Yeah, that’s the one” Ronnie said.
“Well, what if I told you squeaky clean Mayor Davis had a dirty little secret?” He said in a lower voice. “And he wasn’t as clean as he lets on.”
Kelli looked at him with her eyes wide, taking in what he said, whispering “Noooo!” in an excited breathless voice. If he really had the goods on the mayor, this wasn’t just big, it was huge!
Ronnie smiled wider and nodded, seeing she was catching on, this was what she had been waiting for. Real news.
“I have a friend who works for some shady characters… don’t ask.” He said with an embarrassed tone, not proud he had such friends it seemed, then continued.
“well, one of the guys he works for, they run this club. An exclusive club. It’s a sex club but like a kinky one, ya know?”
Kelli nodded, giving rapt attention to his every word, leaning forward more as he continued.
“It’s real exclusive, members have to be referred from what I hear. A lot of the city’s power players visit. My friend tells me it’s some soft of bondage club, all the girls dressed in leather and carrying whips from what he says.”
Ronnie saw Kelli’s nose wrinkle at the mention of bondage and whips, nodding like her agreed with her. “Yes, sick huh.” and she nodded in return.
“The best part.. The best part of all of this…”
He paused, meeting Kelli’s wide eyes with his.
“Its in residential neighborhood, not two blocks from the elementary school, and Mayor Davis is a member!”
“No shit!’ Kelli said, sounding as amazed as she felt. “No bullshit? You’re sure?”
Ronnie nodded. “I’m sure. I’ve seen the house. From the outside anyway, but I did see the mayor go in, and my friend has no reason to lie about what goes on inside.”
“Oh my god Ronnie, that’s so huge! Kelli said. “That story would break this town apart!”
“Yeah” Ronnie said. “That’s why I want you to be the reporter that breaks it. It’s what you’ve been waiting for.”
“What do we do?” she asked.
Ronnie went on to explain his plan. They would find out when the mayor would be there, the club was by appointment only, and his friend would know.
Then… “Then we go in rouge reporter style, cameras blazing, mics live, and catch the bastard with his pants down. Simple as that.”
Kelli nodded as he talked. He was right, it was the break shed been looking for, the one that would make her a real reporter, then people would give her the respect she deserved.
She was in. Hook line and sinker in. “Just tell me when.”
Ronnie said he’d been in touch. She left first, he said he would be following behind so no one was suspicious of why they were together.
Kelli felt like a balloon over the next few days, like she was floating and only the thin string that was her job kept her tethered to the ground. She had been practicing in the mirror in her dressing room and her bathroom mirror at home.
She saw Ronnie here and there, and they always waved, but apparently he had no news yet. So frustrating!
It was five days after their meeting that Ronnie slipped her a note as they passed. She hurried back to her dressing room to read it, unfolding the paper, her heart racing.
“Tonight: 8 PM
Meet me at the Kennedy school.
We are going in!”
Kelli read it over and over, feeling her heart race, tonight was the night. And she was ready.
She pulled into the school parking lot at ten till eight, doing a loop around the school looking to see if Ronnie was here yet, before parking in the back of the school to wait. She readjusted her rear view mirror till she could see her lips, and practice her delivery, “This is Kelli Mills reporting live for KL5 Live!.”
Kelli wrinkled her nose, that didn’t sound right she thought, to many lives. She tried again, “This is Kelli Mills, on location for KL5 Live! News.”
She smiled and mentally congratulated herself as she saw the KL5 Live! van drive around the corner of the school. It came around the front of her car and turned sharply, pulling in next to her, and stopping so that the vehicles were drivers side window to window.
Ronnie looked out the window of the van, gave a short wave and motioned her to roll down her window. He looked excited and nervous and she quickly opened her window.
“Hey.” Ronnie started as soon as her window was open, “Grab your stuff and get in the van. Waiting on a call from my friend, then we move.”
Kelli nodded, “OK”, and reversed her window, took the keys out of the ignition and grabbed her bag. She stole one more quick look in the mirror and opened her door, circling around the front of the door and climbing into the passenger side.
“All set?” Ronnie said as she settled in. “Yes, I think so.” She replied. “What’s the plan?”
“OK, here’s whats going to happen. Once I get this call, it will mean the mayor is there, then my friend going to take a break from his desk and go have a smoke out back…”
“We will get to the door, shoot a quick open, then head in. He said its gonna look like a normal house, the action is all in the basement, so just cross the kitchen and go through the solid white door. The one with the window leads to the back porch.”
“We will do a shoot at the door, then we go live, open that door, head down the stairs, mayor will be in the room with the heavy black door.”
Kelli nodded, her heart thumping loudly in her chest, she worked to control her breathing. “This is the big leagues Kel, time to step up!” she told herself. Little by little she was able to calm herself down.
Ronnie got up and went to the back of the van. “Gonna do one last check of the equipment. I had to bring the small camera, the big one was being used for a remote. Seems that another girls gone missing. So, don’t want anything going dodgy, we only get one shot at his,” He said as he broke out his equipment.
“I cant just sit here,” she said, “I have to at least stretch my legs some.”
She got out of the van, checking herself in the mirror and practicing her opening. She paced a bit up and down, wanting this to happen, patience was never one of Kelli’s better attributes.
Finally she heard a cell phone ring and could hear Ronnie answer. She held her breath for a moment until she heard him slide the side door of the van open and said, “We’re on! Lets move.”
He handed her a black oversized hoodie jacket. “Just wear it till we are inside. If anyone see’s the famous Kelli Mills walking down the street it might attract to much attention.”
Kelli frowned but took the jacket, pulling it on and putting the hood up gently as to not mess her hair, she hated to ruin her look but knew he was right. Ronnie gave her a microphone which she hid in one of the jackets deep pockets.
The camera had its own case, looking kind of like an oversized briefcase, and Ronnie hefted it up, smiling at her.
“You ready to make news?” he asked her.
“You know it!” she answered returning his smile.
“You’re going to do great, you got something special.”
She smiled as he hefted up the case and they started walking. “Don’t forget our deal when you’re famous” he said grinning. “I got you a scoop.
“Don’t worry.” She said as they walked. I got a good feeling. I think we will both get what we want.”
Ronnie grinned at her again. “You know, I think you’re right, Kelli. We play our cards right, this will be ready for the eleven o’clock”
The walk to the house took maybe five minutes, and they didn’t talk much until they were only a few houses away. “OK, so you know that plan. Once we get on the porch, we do a quick opening shot. Do an intro or what ever, but be quick. The lights on the cam are bright, and we will attract attention.”
She nodded, “Got it, I’m ready.”
“Once we are in, I’m going to just keep shooting, so lets move quick. I don’t want them to have time to realize we are there.”
Kelli grabbed the mic form the jacket pocket, took off the hoodie, laying it in the grass next to the stairs. She ran her fingers through her hair, cleared her throat softly, took a deep cleansing breath and nodded to Ronnie.
“OK, I’m ready.”
Ronnie had the camera out, checked it over quickly and said, “Me too, lets do it.”
Kelli walked up the steps to the open porch, clearing her throat and getting in position in front of the door and giving a thumbs up to Ronnie. He put the camera on his shoulder, checked the view, and looked up at Kelli.
He started the count down.
“Going live in 5-4-3-2-”
At one he hit the lights and started the camera recording, pointing at Kelli. She took a moment to let her eyes adjust to the bright light in her eyes, took one last deep breath, and started her report.
“This is Kelli Mills on location for KL5 Live! News.”
“Tonight, join us as we uncover a dirty little secret the mayor doesn’t want you to know about. The shocking part though, It could be in your neighborhood”
Kelli paused for a moment, then drug her hand across her throat signaling for Ronnie to cut. Looking at him hopefully, she asks “Was that OK?” even though she knew it was. She felt pumped, She had nailed it!
Ronnie killed the lights on the camera. “That was perfect.” He said, “Lets get inside, we gotta keep moving.”
Kelli nodded, reaching and opening the door, letting him go in first with the cam, then following and closing the door softly. Kelli was struck with the seediness of the room, the carpet, a once a green sea foam, now was dark with stains and worn to its threads in places.
It was rather barren beside that, there were two small chairs set around a round dark wood table whose top was littered with burns from cigarettes and masses of rings from cups. There was an ashtray and a cup of coffee sitting on the table and the air smelled of stale smoke. The whole vibe was not what she had expected.
She had left Ronnie back by the door, and when she turned back he was locking it. He grinned at her questioning look. “Don’t want anyone coming in behind us, ready to start?”
“Yes, I’m ready.” She said, forgetting the vibe of the house and slipping back into the story. She cleared her throat and gave him the thumbs up. Ronnie lifted the camera and triggered on the lights. Kelli paused, counted to five in her head and started.
“Mayor Davis has run his campaign on his reputation, his stand for family values, and his war on pornography in any form.”
“This reporter has discovered that apparently the mayor doesn’t practice what he preaches. Tonight, this KL5 Live! reporter is going to confront the mayor on this shocking development.”
Kelli turned to profile, and gestured with her hand at the room around her.
“To most, this looks like any house in any neighborhood, and it fact it is in a neighborhood. A neighborhood not two blocks away from a children s elementary school.
“In actuality this house is home to club. A very exclusive and unusual club. A club that Mayor Davis is a member of and frequently visits.”
“This club is of an adult nature and deals with the kinky side of human sexuality. Bondage, discipline, whips chains and domination are all on the menu for the clubs members. Come with us now as we take you live into the heart of this residential brothel.”.
Kelli turned on her heels and let her face break into huge grin. She had killed it! Not a flub in the whole speech. Her mind was already at confronting the mayor, seeing the look of panic on his face, she wondered if he would be in a rubber outfit like the guy from Pulp Fiction and had to bite her lip to keep from laughing.
Ronnie followed her with the camera as she moved through the living room and through the kitchen, the lights bouncing madly along the walls as he kept shooting. She paused at the door to the basement turning to the camera. “What we are about to see may be graphic and offensive.” She said before pulling the door open and stepping into the stairway.
There was a smell, more than a smell Kelli thought, a reek. It wasn’t strong but enough to make her grimace when it first hit her nose. She was glad the camera hadn’t been on her face for that moment!
She went down the stairs quickly now, not wanting to give anyone any time to adjust to them being here. The basement, like the upstairs gave no indication that it was anything other than a normal basement. Kelli did see the door though, exactly as described.
The smell was stronger down here, thicker, and cloying. It reminded of going into her fathers shed when she was a girl. In the summer, when it had “been a scorcher” as her dad always called the long hot days, going into the shed was something she dreaded.
The rancid smell of decay and the staleness of the air would about make her choke and the thickness of the air would coat her mouth for hours after, even when she tried to be quick and hold her breath while she was in there.
The basement had the same sort of smell, not as strong as the shed air, but reminiscent.
Kelli reached the bottom and turned to the camera, one hand on the doorknob, “Lets see if Mayor Davis is in, shall we?” She said, opening the door wide and letting the camera’s lights spill into the room.
She started to speak again, and then turned her head and looked into the room. At first she saw what she expected to see. There was a girl on some sort of medical table in the center of the room. The table had been tilted up until the girl was almost in a standing position.
Thick straps of black leather secured her to the table at points along her arms and her legs, with longer straps attached across her midsection and shoulders, effectively pinning her to the table.
The was a red ball gag in the girls mouth, and she was writhing on the table, the first crack in the illusion that Kelli noticed were the girl’s eyes. They weren’t showing pleasure or humor nor did they have that dead glassy look that was the earmark of a strung out girl.
They were wide with terror, and she screamed through her gag, saliva spraying out from the hiss sound of her voice around the ball gag and her body jerking against the bonds with all of her strength.
There was no one else in the room, where the fuck was the mayor, Kelli thought, looking around wildly before looking back at the girl. The girl was screaming in terror into her gag, but her eyes weren’t on Kelli.
No, her eyes were focused behind Kelli, over her shoulder.
Kelli turned, following the girl’s eyes.
Ronnie had set down the camera on a crate and he was standing between it and Kelli blocking the door, the bright light from the camera showed him in a silhouette.
Kelli looked at him confused. “Ronnie, what the fuck is going on. “We have to ge…” Her voice caught in her throat, she saw the knife in Ronnie’s hand as he came closer.
“I gave you what you wanted Kelli.” He said.
“I gave you a scoop, a breaking story, you got the dirt. First hand and up close. You…. you have uncovered the identity of the midland murderer.”
Kelli screamed as he walked closer, raising the knife, “I gave you what you wanted Kelli, and a deals a deal. Now give me what I want! You promised!” he screamed as he brought the knife down into her shoulder near her neck.
“I want to be covered in your blood!”
Blood spewed from where the knife entered Kelli’s neck. Red, warm, thick, fresh blood. Ronnie licked some off of the blade as he held her against the doorway with his other hand.
“Mmm,” he exclaimed as he tasted her blood.
“I always knew you were something special Kelli.”
He brought the blade down again and again in a haze of high pitched screaming and blood.
Lots of blood.
Ronnie got what he wanted.
And with a rasping breath, Kelli Mills signed off for the last time ever.