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C Kay Brooks

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The Murder Channel
By C Kay Brooks
Monday, September 19, 2011

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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Was it really a murder Kayla witnessed on her new big screen television? How can she trust a detective that looks at her like a wolf looks prey?

The sudden silence captured Kayla’s attention as nothing else could. All body movement stopped the ketchup bottle held in mid air while she scanned the screen. At first, she saw a static view of a room eerily resembling her apartment. The ketchup bottle hit the table with a jolt before her hands picked up the hamburger for a first bite. Leaning her elbows, munching, her eyes darted between her fireplace and built-in bookshelves to the other room on the silent screen. The rooms were similar but with subtle differences. A guttural moan erupted from the left speaker jerking her focus to the left side of the large screen. The lighting could have been better, but there were definitely two people in the shadows. The low-lighting obscured details but Kayla recognized the form of a woman closest to the camera. Light blond hair streamed down the woman’s bare back, almost reaching the waistband of her jeans. Kneeling with her bare feet pointing to the camera, she faced a shirtless man standing infront of her. Kayla’s eyes squinted to better see him, because she was sure it had been the man’s voice moaning. A rumbling male voice seemed to be giving instructions, speaking in a low, coaxing voice. Unable to hear his words, Kayla stopped chewing to listen and reached for the remote to turn up the volume. Masculine hands moved to the woman’s head as he shifted his stance. Kayla’s eyes opened wide with expectation mixed with dread. Reacting to his movement, the woman leaned to one side allowing Kayla to clearly see his jeans open and pushed past his hips. His arms blocked a view of the action, but it took no imagination to know the deed was sexual. The hamburger hit with a thud as Kayla’s greasy hands did a juggling act with the remote. Flying arms narrowly missing her coke glass, her breath caught until she safely held the remote and pointed it at the screen. With a shaking hand, her thumb stretched to hit the search button. Never had she considered herself a prude, but she didn’t want to watch this ‘man-woman thing’ alone. The room filled with applause, the camera frame panning the cheery faces of an audience before it cut to the brightly lit work station and smiling host. Hoping to get the sexual images out of her mind, she allowed herself to be mesmerized by the slicing and dicing sandwiched between ‘oos’ and ‘aaaahs’, but all the veggies brought back Eric’s hassling her about her bad eating habits. Gathering her trash when harsh music and applause signalled the end of the segment, she dumped the rest of the burger and frys in the garbage. ‘Maybe I should sign up for net flicks for something to watch when I get home from work,’ she mused as she cleaned her kitchen. Ready for bed, she found a book to read. Reading in bed usually made her sleepy, and with this late shift, she needed help finding slumberland. * * * “Tommy, I don’t have the right driver’s license to drive your truck.” “Sure ya do, darlin, your license works as a learner’s permit as long as I’m in the truck with you. It’ll be fine. I’ll tell ya what ya need to know while I’m drivin through the mountains. You can take over in Fernley. You’ll love it! It’s a straight shot, no traffic lights and hardly any other traffic. You just aim and fly!” Kayla blinked. How was she going to remember Tommy’s instructions? How had she let him talk her into helping him anyway? This was crazy, but the big Freightliner was rolling now, too late to turn back. “Are you sure we’ll be back from Salt Lake City in time for me to go to work?” “Sure thing, darlin. Once I hand over the wheel, I’ll grab some shut eye. You can sleep on the way back.” Tommy systematically gave her instructions, made her repeat them back to him and reviewed the steps she needed to know – all over again. When they cleared the highway snaking through the mountains east of Reno, he pulled the big rig to the side of the road. Several big trucks were parked, allowing their drivers to sleep in the wide turn-out. The rigs themselves sat like hulking creatures, their big diesel engines growling together creating a burly hum in the high desert air. Their parking lights seemed to blink menacingly, making their presence known --reminding Kayla of the way a rattlesnake shakes his tail. Within moments, Tommy eased her into the driver’s seat, guiding her hand, moulding it under his, fitting it around the big shifter column jutting up from the floor. Tommy growled sensually with his mouth close to her ear encouraging her to “Relax, Sugar. Feel her heartbeat vibrating against your leg.” Kayla gripped the smooth shaft and felt the truck’s gears shift and hum as if it was an extension of her own body. Tommy leaned close and murmured as a lover would, coaxing her to be gentle. “Don’t grip too tight. Feel the movement, listen to her voice. Good, now ease ‘her up’ another notch.” When she topped out at 75mph, Tommy urged her to go a little faster. “An extra five or six miles doesn’t even show up on Smokey’s radar.” In no time she was flying down the Interstate, across the wide desert rimmed with mountains. The blinding white, salt laced playas spread out before her as Tommy headed back to the sleeper berth -- snoring before his head hit the pillow. The wind tousled her hair,tickled her nose with the scent of sagebrush and salt. Seagulls swooped and screamed encouraging her, baiting her, challenging her to grasp hold of the freedom within her reach. Her eyes widened to take in all there was to see. The view from the cab of Tommy’s truck was amazing. She hadn’t been sure how long she could keep this up, but the mountains, as they zoomed in and out were too fantastic to miss. It was all like a surround sound theatre, all for her personal pleasure. How could she ever return to her dispatch desk after experiencing this exhilaration? Everything dropped out from under her, putting her in free fall, especially her lurching stomach. With her pulse accelerating, her breath caught, the truck surging around her -- melding them as one, flying down an eight percent grade before launching upward to an even higher elevation. Looking straight ahead, the highway seemed to stretch into the clouds. A jet pulled across her vision leaving a vapour trail linking the clouds. The ground levelled off at the top of the summit where a buck wearing a spectacular rack of antlers snorted. Making eye contact, nodding his head toward Kayla, oblivious to his bevy of does crowding in closer—it was as if he was speaking to her. Oh, he was hansom, glorious with his flexing muscles. Why hadn’t she thought to bring a camera? White sand, brown mountains and long flat horizons filled with sage brush flashed by like a movie in fast forward mode. Mountains scattered with trees zoomed in close before they opened onto glaring whiteness as far as she could see. Mirages popped up, keeping her guessing as to what was real. Laughing out loud at love notes flashing by -- written in the sand with dark stones, her mind seemed to slip away from her body, wondering how long the messages had soaked up the sun and hardened to prevail. A tear blurred her vision with sadness. No one had written her name in a heart, ever. The distant view of the great lake brought her back into focus, chased away tears and sadness leaving only giddiness. The glitter of the water and the brightness of the surrounding salt beaches dazzled her as the engine’s high pitched song raced toward twinkling red lights ahead. Was it a mirage? Was it real? There were so many red lights! What was happening? Tail lights and fire engine lights flashed a very real and looming warning. “Tommy! Tommy, wake up. I don’t know how to stop! Tommy, we’re going to crash!” The noise of the engine screamed—the gears ground against each other in a battle to the death. Smoke billowed from the trailer tires. An unearthly shriek filled the air with the sound of metal buckling and straining, adding a tenor voice to the uproar. The loud banging of the Jake brake shot through the thickening air like heavy artillery. Bright lights flashed and sparks flew as metal scraped across the pavement. With eyes squeezed shut, Kayla gasped for air, aware that wetness was beginning to cover her skin and soak into her clothing. A sharp pain in her abdomen took her breath. Sucking in a foul breath of air, she said a prayer – hoping, praying death took her quickly because she didn’t think she could endure the pain. The silence was deafening. Wetness chilled her but there was no more pain. Afraid to open her eyes, terrified of what she might see, a slight breeze brushed across her face with a quiet purr. The sound was puzzling like an electric fan, but Tommy didn’t have a fan in his truck. Slowly, she opened her eyes, but all was dark. Stiffly, she turned her body, searching for something recognizable. A bright digital time read-out glowed a few feet away and in the glow, her shiny book cover winked. The initial darkness lightened as her eyes adjusted. Bolting her body upright, her senses railed against everything, pushing into overdrive. Numbly she sat in her own bed -- in her own room. Her sleep shirt was damp. A drop of sweat tickled her skin like a bug, running down her face. Slapping away the drop of moisture, her hand felt numb and tingly before her whole body began to shake. Scrambling from the bed, she stumbled to the bathroom to be sick. * * * Trembling hands made a mess in the kitchen. Wobbling to a stool, she managed to drink coffee, washing down a cupcake. Still jittery, she considered calling in sick, but how would she explain, and what would she do with herself if she didn’t go into work? Not daring to go back to sleep, she decided it would be better to keep busy and be around people. Pausing while dressing, she held out her hand to assess her nerves, but quickly grabbed her hair brush when her hand couldn’t remain steady for even a moment. With one last look, a last check of her apartment, hoping she wasn’t forgetting something critical -- she opened her apartment door to leave. Blinded by the early afternoon sun, she quickly turned her back to the light to close and lock her door. In her peripheral vision she her saw a dark shape at her side. All conscious breathing stopped, her body turned rigid. Hair follicles tingled with a wave of goose bumps making her shudder. Barely turning her head, afraid of what she might see, recognizing her young neighbor she almost collapsed with exasperation. Heaving a sigh, she tried to relax and slow her pounding heart. “Halla, what are you doing here! You gave me a fright!” Kayla exclaimed, clutching her chest, trying to control her erratic breathing. The child looked as surprised as Kayla felt. “I didn’t know you were home. It’s shady here. Mom isn’t feeling good and said I couldn’t wander,” she haltingly tried to explain while fumbling with a book. Kayla made an effort to breathe normally while slipping her door key in her pocket. Pressing her shaking hand harder to her body, hoping Halla didn’t notice. Trying to keep her voice light, she forced a smile, saying, “You’re welcome to enjoy my bench, you just startled me, that’s all. What are you reading?” The kid flipped the book over for Kayla to see the cover and smiled. Kayla forced a smile at the Harry Potter graphics saying, “OK, La-la girl, watch the fort and I’ll see ya later, al-la-gator.” * * * Entering the Able Trucking parking lot, Kayla nodded to the security guard as he waved her through. Everything seemed quiet and routine when she slid into her desk chair and waited for Eric to finish his phone conversation. “What’s up, girl? You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Did you have a near miss on the freeway or are you coming down with something?” Eric asked as he moved the phone away from his ear. “I think I need to find one of those books that tell you what your dreams mean because I had a doozy,” she spoke quietly, hoping to not be overheard. Eric was her best friend in Reno, really the only one she felt comfortable confiding personal details of her life. “If a dream is responsible for the shape you’re in, let’s hear it.” “Tommy talked me into driving his truck and I crashed it. It was so real! Before I woke up, I thought I was going to die.” “Our Tommy, who treats his truck like his mistress and doesn’t even let the mechanic drive it? That Tommy?” “Yeah, our Tommy. Maybe it’s all the ‘mistress’ teasing he gets, but the whole dream had sexual overtones I didn’t understand. It was like I was becoming one with the truck or something. My heart was going a mile a minute when I realized I had no control and was about to crash and die. It was weird and felt so real! It’s gotta mean something!” “Well, girlfriend, it is pretty funny about it being Tommy’s truck, but I don’t think I need a dream book to explain your dream. It’s your body screaming at you, warning you. You’re flying down the road to disaster if you don’t stop eating all that junk food at bedtime. It’s what you eat and when you eat it that is giving you nightmares.” The phones began to ring and Eric gave her a smirk and a wink, turning to answer the demanding phone. Just talking with him and getting his take on the situation made things less terrifying. When the phone lines began to light up with truckers checking in for assignments, she found her hand reaching for the phone and her mind focusing on work. Before his shift ended, Eric got a book from his locker and handed it to her. “It won’t help with dream interpretation but offers a plan that may get rid of the nightmares,” he teased. “Live Long and Healthy for Dummies, okay, Eric, I’ll try,” she moaned, rolling her eyes at him before he headed home. The rest of her shift was spent alone with little face to face interaction. Relief to be entrenched in the normalcy of work allowed her body to relax and forget. The promise of sleep, blissful sleep, waiting for her at home, crinkled her mouth to smile at the end of shift. Without thinking about her drive home, she found herself if her favourite drive-thru too late to change direction. Scanning the menu-board she ordered an Oriental Chicken salad instead of her usual. It was her best token for eating healthy, but for now, she didn’t know how to change the ‘when’ of her eating routine. A city bus driver, neighbour was pulling out of his parking space when she pulled into their apartment complex parking lot. Several days a week he seemed to be leaving for his early route just as she was coming home. For reasons she couldn’t name, the shadows bothered her and she was relieved to park closer to her apartment door. Running a gauntlet of sound from the lurking shadows had her heart racing, her eyes wide, straining to see the cause of every sound. With her deadbolt turned, she hooked the security chain, pausing to breathe and scold herself. Before this morning, she looked for the silly nocturnal animals foraging. Raccoons and opossums were thought to be creatures of secluded woods, but she knew a surprising number lived and thrived right here in the city. Regaining her sense of humour, she pushed away from her door, returning to her habit of turning on her television for noise and companionship. From the kitchen, she heard the familiar infomercial and groaned. One hand reached for the remote and pushed the seek button before she sat on a stool to assemble her salad from the individual packages in the container of lettuce. Forks full of nutritional crispy salad alternated with punching the remote to the next sit-com, movie or infomercial as she searched for something to watch. Hunting for a piece of chicken in the bowl filled with lettuce and crunchy noodles, her eyes darted to the screen when music jarred her speakers and vibrated up her spine. There it was again! That room, so like her apartment was on the screen again. This movie had been overshadowed by her dream about Tommy’s truck, and yet, somehow she felt they were related, but how? Tonight, the woman was different. Her hair looked blond but shorter -- she was wearing only shorts as she lay prone on the floor with a man beneath her. They were quiet and seemed to be resting. Kayla picked up the remote to punch the button for channel information. She didn’t care for this ‘artsy’ soft porn channel and wanted to have Eric delete it from her options when he and his fiancé came over next week. Cocking her head, she stared, trying to understand what she read. The picture was reduced to a small frame on the side of the screen with the readout of channel information and programming dominating the large screen. Channel seven was highlighted, indicating the channel she was watching. The programming was listed as TBA (To Be Announced), but she hadn’t seen a channel seven before and it wasn’t listed on her newspaper guide. What was going on? While a favourite song played, Kayla took a bite of her salad and flipped through the pages of her TV Guide but could find no information or listing for a local channel seven. When the song changed, she left the room humming and dancing with the music, looking for last weekend’s newspaper to see if there was a listing. The music in the other room changed to a soft slower instrumental tune with a muted melody. The sound of speaking voices brought Kayla back to the living room, forsaking her futile search for the newspaper TV section. “Please, don’t hurt me, I did as you asked! Didn’t you like it?” In the small block of picture still showing beside the channel information, the woman was sitting beside and facing the man with jean clad legs. Getting closer to the screen, Kayla thought there was a man’s hand on one side of the woman’s neck. “If I promise to come back tomorrow, will you let me go home now? I really need to check on my kids,” the woman pleaded with a trembling voice that struggled to be hopeful. Kayla’s eyes darted from the man’s hand to look at the picture as a whole. The small picture made it hard to see details but she heard what had been a clear voice, give way to muffled sounds, hard to identify. The woman remained seated, only bringing her hands to cover the hands on her neck. Kayla glanced away from the screen to look for the remote. Tripping over her discarded shoes left in her path, she stumbled and caught herself on the edge of the breakfast bar. With the remote finally secured, she swivelled her body to aim the remote at the screen. Her eyes on the remote, she pushed the button to return to programming before looking up to see the man’s back and bare buttocks as his muscular arms gently manoeuvred the woman to lie on the floor. She didn’t move or fight him. “Sweet, Cherie’, I thought you would be the one. Your breasts are so perfect and you played the game well. Why didn’t you want to stay? We could have been good together.” Kayla was mesmerized by his words as much as his voice. The voice was soothing as a lover’s but filled with sorrow. His torso blocked most of her view of the woman, but his arms moved as if he were stroking her. His words indicated he wasn’t positioning her for sex, so what direction was the story going? Hating to admit it, Kayla’s curiosity was peaked by the changing direction of the B-rated drama and at this moment, her eyes were glued to the screen.

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