By: J. B. Salsbury

“This is it.” I pop in my earpiece and check the time. “Nine o’clock news starts in ten minutes. We have to be ready.”

Leaf mumbles something I ignore and I start planning my intro.

“Ladies and gentlemen . . .” I clear my throat and lower my voice. “The scene before us . . .” No, more emotion. That’s the key to this job, being completely emotionless, but infusing enough fake emotion so the viewers relate. Only the best broadcasters can do it, and I’m determined to be one of the best. “Big city terror ravages the town of Flagstaff, as what is speculated to be the eighth victim in a serial assault on women—”

“Shyann, you there?”

I adjust my earpiece at the sound of my producer Trevor’s voice, then speak into my mic. “We’re here.”

“Leaf, move left. If they bring out the woman on a stretcher, we’ll get a perfect view.” I shuffle into position. “There, good. We don’t have time to interview neighbors, but we’ll do the live feed and then you two get some faces on video. Tears, fear, all the shit that makes a great story.” He clears his throat. “Shyann, straighten your coat. You look like you just rolled out of bed in it.”

I glare at the camera and at the sound of Trevor’s chuckle, then roll my eyes.

“No smart-ass retort, honey? I’m shocked.”

My body heats with embarrassment and anger, which is kind of nice, seeing as we’re headed into the autumn months and my cheesy coat is doing very little to fight off the evening chill.

Trevor, my semi-boyfriend, loves humiliating me on-screen. He swears it keeps me humble. Says I’m hungrier than most, driven beyond what’s healthy. He also says I’m ruthless and have the emotional capacity of a gnat. Maybe he’s right, but I refuse to see my striving for success as a negative thing.

“Wake up, Shyann!” Trevor’s voice powers through my earpiece.

“I’m awake, asshole.” I press it and dip my chin to listen, not wanting to miss a single word of direction.

“There’s my girl.”

He’s not a bad guy; matter of fact, he’s a lot like me—motivated to do something big in order to make a name for himself. He’s ambitious and detached from petty things that get in the way of success. Now that I think about it, that’s where our similarities end. “How much time until we’re live?”

“We’re opening with your story. Tell us the basics, then stand by. We’ll do the local news but pop in as developments unravel.” He clears his throat and mumbles something to someone in the studio. “Be ready in five.”

I flash five fingers and then roll one to Leaf and he nods. “In five. We’re ready.”

“All right, Leaf’s feed, looks like he’s got a good visual of the police and the front door. If we can get them bringing the body bag out, that’s our money shot.”

“Body bag? The victims in Phoenix all survived the assaults.”

“I guess she could be alive, but if so, why are they taking so long to get her to the hospital? Either way, the shot’ll be epic if we get it.”

A fissure of discomfort slithers through my chest at the casual way we deal with death in the news. Sure, on-screen we’re the caring and empathetic news reporter, but inside we’re rejoicing to get a shot of a dead body? No, I push all that shit back and focus.

“Let’s do this— Whoa!” The heel of my shoe sinks into the ground. I flap my arms for balance and barely recover. The earth is mushier than usual after a couple days of rain, and even though this is one of the more developed neighborhoods in Flag, it’s still a city in the mountains, which means lots of natural ground.

“You better be all right. We’re on in three.”

Thanks for the concern, dick. “I’m good.” I put on a mask of professionalism while my skin practically vibrates with nervous energy.

“Stand by.”

I take my position, smooth my hair, and focus on my words.

If all goes well, I’ll get out of this hole-in-hell town and into a bigger market, which is one step closer to anchor. No one just out of college gets this kind of an opportunity. My professors always encouraged me to go for an anchor job, my half–Native American blood making me look just dark enough to be considered a minority but light enough to be desirable. It’s total bullshit, but I don’t make the rules. Can’t hate a girl for taking advantage, though. I have very specific career goals, and if using my ethnicity helps me to get there, so be it.

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