The clouds moved too quickly across the crescent moon. A flash of lighting illuminated the desolate streets of Rarity Mountain. The rain broke free and began to douse the neon casted facade of the radio station.
As Marcus smoked under the bowed portico, he caught sight of the lone streetwalker. The red embers of his cigarette caught her attention as she limped between cascading sheets of rain. Through the glass behind him, Marcus could see into the studio.
The call letters of the station glowed across the top of the oversized window that allowed the on-air disc jockey to look out onto downtown. A downtown of empty storefronts and broken dreams from time immemorial.
As the streetwalker stepped off the sidewalk, Marcus noticed her hair seemed too blonde and her complexion too pale in the glow of the flickering streetlight. For a moment, Marcus thought she was Blaire. He thought the streetwalker was a phantasm summoned up from the depths of the burning anthracite below. An apparition from the gates of hell to pull him down to his judgement.
But she wasn’t. She was nothing more than a drugged-up prostitute. There was nothing sinister about her emergence. She had simply seen the glow of his cigarette and craved one for herself.
Stepping from the pouring rain to the protection of the portico, the streetwalker shivered as she twisted her long hair, squeezing the excess water onto a dry spot on the concrete. The tattoos on the woman’s forearms pierced his mortality.
A train whistle cried out somewhere in the distance, perhaps on a meandering track in a dark recess of a faraway hollow. The rain pelting the roof above the head of a CSX train engineer.
The image unsettled Marcus, for he knew that’s where Blaire was, where she would always be; buried in a hollow, screeching to be heard, wailing to be found.
“Can I get one of those?”
The tenor of her voice surprised Marcus. It was low and raspy. He shook a cigarette from the pack. Her fingers curled and unfolded like a spider. Resisting the urge to pull away, Marcus let her take the cigarette.
Her lips parted as she slid the cigarette between them. “You mind lighting this up?”
Marcus reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue plastic lighter. He pressed down on the spark wheel and fire burst from the nozzle. The wind from the storm made the flame flicker and twirl as Marcus held it up to her face.
“I’m Melody,” she said as her eyes closed, and her chest expanded.
“Where’s your car?” Marcus asked in a quiet monotone.
“I don’t have one.”
“It’s not a good night not to have a car.”
Melody extended a hand past the edge of the portico and let the rain drops ping off her fingertips. “No, it’s not.”
Marcus inhaled; held it and then blew the smoke down onto the sidewalk. “It’s supposed to storm all night.”
“That’s not good.”
“How far away do you live?”
“You look like someone I used to know.”
Melody rolled the cigarette across her lips as if she was savoring a piece of chocolate. “Who would that be?”
“You don’t know her.”
Marcus dropped his cigarette and kicked the butt onto the street. “She was my wife.”
Melody’s eyes met his. “Was?”
“She’s not anymore.”
“So, she’s your ex-wife?”
Marcus shook his head and looked back through the glass into the radio station. “She’s still my wife.”
“No one knows where she is.”
Melody leaned in closer and let her hips brush against his. “Someone always knows.”
“If they do, they aren’t talking.”
“They never talk. They just know.”
Marcus reached for the door. “If you want to get dry, you can come in.”
Marcus opened the door and held it for her. She stepped past him inside the narrow entryway. He led her into the studio.
“I have to go on the air soon.”
“Do you have something important to say?”
“What do you mean?”
Melody looked at the microphone. “On the air. Do you have something important to say?”
“I introduce the songs.”
“But what if you did? What if you had something important to say?” Melody asked as she looked at the ancient desktop computer connected to the mixer board by a frayed wire.
“Then I guess the insomniacs would finally have something to get excited about.”
“Does anyone call in?”
“Sometimes.” Marcus grabbed her waist and gently pulled her away from the equipment. “You need to be careful. That’s old. It barely works.”
“I see that. What about you?”
Marcus let go of her waist and sat down at the mixer board. “What about me?”
“Do you still work, or are you too old?” Melody looked at his crotch.
“I work a little too well,” Marcus muttered as he focused on the clock above the window. His right hand hovered over a toggle switch as the second hand counted down to the top of the hour.
“How old is she?” Melody asked as her hands rested on his shoulders.
“You said you work too well. That means you got someone in trouble.”
The second hand reached the twelve and Marcus flipped the switch. He crowded the microphone and spoke into it. “You’re listening to WLNT 106.1 on your dial. This is Marcus Miller and we’re going to be together into the wee hours. Let’s start things out with something classic to get us in the mood.”
With that, Marcus moved the mouse and clicked a song on the computer screen. Then he turned off the microphone and looked back at Melody. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I think you do,” she said flatly.
Outside, the wind picked up and rain began to blow sideways. Marcus watched it pelt against the window. Without having to turn around again, he spoke to Melody’s reflection in the glass. “Are you related to her, or something? Do you know her? Is that what this is about? Did she send you?”
“You know exactly who I’m talking about. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have brought her up.”
Melody scooted the chair forward and put a hand on his leg. “I’m just good at reading people.”
Marcus pushed aside her hand. “So, you’re saying you don’t know Sarah? Who are you and what do you want?”
“I just want your listeners to know who they’re listening to.”
“They know who they’re listening to.”
“I don’t think so. I want them to really know. I want you to tell them.”
“To tell them what?”
Across the street, lightning materialized from the heavens and struck a tree with an explosion of light. The boom of thunder followed and compelled Marcus to spring from his chair and get a better look at the splintered tree through the window.
The lights in the station flickered but the music continued. The woman disappeared. The chair was now empty. Something seemed to touch his ear and a voice, quieter than a whisper, slithered into his ossicles.There were no words. At least none he could understand. The whisper conveyed only a feeling.
The door to the studio was still closed. Marcus hadn’t heard her leave. She hadn’t left the station. The song ended and Marcus selected a playlist so he could search the station for the streetwalker. As he moved the mouse, the telephone lit up. He lifted the handset.
“This is Marcus.”
“I’d like to request a song,” the staticky voice said.
“What would you like to hear?”
“What did you say?”
“I heard it was your favorite.”
“Tell them where I am.”
Static cleared and the voice became recognizable.
“Blaire? No, it can’t be,” Marcus stuttered.
“Are you not going to play my song?”
“It can’t be. I killed you.”
“Did you? Are you sure?”
The studio went dark except for the glow from the mixer board. A scream squealed through the receiver. Marcus dropped the phone as the plastic shell exploded, lodging shards in his hand.
Red and blue lights permeated the studio as the sound of screeching brakes filled the rainy night. Marcus looked through the window at the police car and then at the mixer board where the microphone channel glowed green.
Kevin Reigle’s short stories have appeared in the Pensworth, TDR Daily, The Yard and The Dillydoun Review. He was on the editorial committee for the Pikeville Literary Review. He is the bowling coach at University of the Cumberlands.