Responding to the summons, Martin, conspicuously dressed in a pair of houndstooth double-knit slacks Gayle despised, ambles laxly through the cleanlit lobby of the TV station. From a small green smoky staff room a racket issues. When he enters, the limited space is jammed up, camera jockeys and assorted van drivers around. His sister sits in a spotlight through the smoke like something from Citizen Kane, at her perkiest in a small crowd. Seeing Martin, they all drift off grumpily save for Gayle and Kelly, who dubiously eye the slacks.Martin has consented to a brainstorming session for a Six O' Clock report series to run during sweeps. The station manager, with his astute facility for hot trends, has suggested the subject of local murders. An in-depth sequence: each night of the week a different focus on a particular recent death. The all-of-us in the story of the lifeless body.
Kelly’s ostensible lead-in was the recent mutilation of a transient woman, found in a softball dugout in Forsythe Park. Not much was known of the woman. That segment--identity--would be have to be slim, mainly physical details and muted characteristics of the slashings.
"This one has no arrests, right?" Gayle says."It's a statistic," Martin responds. "No history, no narrative. Investigation won't waste personnel on her. Or anybody like her, either. There's the untold story--the disappearance of the already disappeared."
"Leave it to public TV, in that case," Gayle says.
"Let's get something good," Kelly says. "The Biedenharn woman. Old money."
"She didn't die," Martin says. "Yet. Saw her in Sav-A-Lot yesterday."
"So that was just a threat? She was gone to her sister's in New Orleans, right? No body found because the body’s still walking and talking."
"That's right, so let's be real." Gayle mentions a stabbing called on the scanner two nights before.
"He was a hick," Kelly says.
"His sister did it. He ate the bag of Cheetos she bought, her Cheetos. Blood on the fecal barnyard hay. No mystery there."
Gayle nods. "Well. Drop the first idea and go with the thread of those with tangible arrests."
Kelly is negative. She wants the unknown killer.
Gayle: "Okay. The three girls, about four years ago, along the Old Bastrop road. Commuters, scholarships to the college. All gone within one year. Identical bloody clothes, the whole bit."
"Too long ago. It stopped-- no dead college girls lately. The guy probably left town and nobody remembers the whole thing now anyway."
"I thought that was Love Road."
"No, it was 139. I remember."
Martin volunteers: "The 7-11 clerks. Five of them."
"Uh-uh. Those were holdups. Cashbox money. Decidedly unsexy."
"The fourteen year old only child, white, found behind the cattle pens at the Parish fair, a beating. Massive cerebral hemorrhage." Gayle puts on an impressed face. "No arrests there."
Kelly: "It was a gang of blacks meeting requirements for a Junior High club. Trouble is, they can't arrest all of them, so they don't arrest any of them. Plus, their age. Nothing on that. Boring."
"Go for the grief. Parents whose only child."
Kelly is reticent, finally admitting, "They wouldn't go on camera."
"Okay. The doctor who supposedly killed his wife, only it was his oldest son who did it, and the widely loved physician sacrificed all to cover for him."
"For his son, whom he loved. Loved his wife too, but she's gone and what's done is done. Why ruin three lives when ruining two will do."
"Overdone story. Even networks took on that one. Tired. First probation hearing denied. Not news for another two years."
They get coffee and switch on the monitor for the 10 o'clock show. Martin watches amused as the girls savage the anchor's clothing and new hairstyle. "Girls. In my favorite phrase, studies show, it has been recognized by scientists that such behavior of women attacking one another, even if only verbally, is directly linked to documented chimpanzee groups in which a barren female will crush the skull of a rival female's offspring, given the chance."
"Are you trying to tell me you like her hair?"
"Does--at the zoo, you know the one over in the bad part of town--that happen there? With the chimpanzees there?" Kelly. "That could be a related piece maybe."
Gayle looks at Martin. "Yes, we have the same parents," he admits. They return to the subject at hand.
The policeman shot by a Vietnam vet only he wasn't a real vet. A school principal killed by the father of a girl who'd lied, making up an affair with the man. Numerous wives killed by husbands, matricides--eventually the ghost of the commonplace descends.
Gayle suddenly stands, surprised they'd forgotten. It was perfect. A young divorcee with a daughter, working full time and attending night classes at the college. Lived in a trailer in the rural southwest part of the parish. Suspect was the boyfriend of a girl she'd worked with: the girl had found a depository of her friend's (the divorcee's) underwear at the boyfriend's house. The body was found rudely handled beneath a highway bridge. No arrest made. Something about improper handling of evidence at the lab. Kelly could raise the spectre: The killer still out there. Women at risk. Coming out of Victoria's Secret at the mall, who's that watching you?
"It would tie in with the college crowd, maybe," Martin says.
Kelly sits strangely sullen, a chill of severed communication filling the small room. The vinyl couch creaks under Martin's weight.
"I don't think so."
"Kelly, come on. Are you sick?"
"It's just I knew her, is all, that girl."
They adjourn with no further suggestions.