Driving along a lone highway, parallel to the Pacific Ocean, Morrigan McBride sings along to the radio in between bites of a cheeseburger.
Morrigan McBride: "... Caribbean Queen, now we're sharing the same dream, and our hearts they'll beat as one, no more love on the run"
Suddenly, the white, late model Mustang she's driving blows the left back tire, causing the U-Haul trailer behind it to fishtail.
Morrigan: (Swerving into a ditch on the side of the road) No God, not again!
After a few moments, the young woman finds that she is unharmed, collects herself, and gets out to check the damage.
Morrigan: (Kicking the car door) This is payback for me singing 80's songs, isn't it?
Morrigan brushes the remainder of the burger off of her shirt as she first reaches into her purse to pull out a cell phone and then into the glove compartment to pull out a gun.
Morrigan: (On the phone) Hi Nancy, sorry to wake you, can you please put Dad on the line?... Hello, Dad... no, I'm fine, everything's okay... well, maybe not... I ran off the road... Dad, DAD, PLEASE CALM DOWN, I'M FINE, REALLY... no, it's not that serious, just a little annoying
The still somewhat shaken woman walks around the car a few times.
Morrigan: As far as I can tell, I have a few problems... one: the tire... two: the ditch... three: I think the axle is shot on the trailer - oh, and I... uh... I kind of took the scenic route
Morrigan holds the phone away from her ear for a second.
Morrigan: Dad, PLEASE... I don't need this from you now - I've been driving for five hours since I left your place - it's after two in the morning and I'm only about 45 minutes away from Santa Conchita... no, I can't call the Auto Club, I've used up all of my times this year
Again, she holds the phone away from her, rolls her eyes and sighs.
Morrigan: (Getting back into the car) Listen, Dad, this is what I'm going to do... I'm locking myself in the car with the cell phone and Grandma's Smith & Wesson - after I get a quick nap, I'll fix the tire, unhitch the U-Haul and then get out of here, I promise - everything will be fine... I'm not a little girl anymore, I can handle this... Dad, GOODNIGHT DAD
Morrigan: (Looking off) It's during times like these that I really miss you, Mom
She now pulls out her laptop and opens a file titled "Daily Journal."
A wave of shivers rolls over the woman as she looks towards the sea.
Morrigan: (Talking to herself) Hmm, that's odd... the fog is thickening so fast, I can barely see around me... so, why does it feel like I'm being watched?
Her laptop suddenly loses power.
Morrigan: (Banging on it) C'MON, I know I have another 45 minutes of charge!
She checks her cell phone to find that it, too, has lost all power.
Morrigan: What is up with this?
As she tries starting her car to no avail, the tiny hairs on the back of her arms and neck prick up.
Morrigan: (Trying not to panic) Okay... I'm not scuffing my socks on a shag carpet... I'm not rubbing a balloon up and down my arm... I'm not cold... WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
The young woman locks the doors and slumps down in her seat, gripping the gun more tightly.
Morrigan: (Peering out the window) This is the part where space aliens come and abduct me, I know it!
All is quiet around her.
Morrigan: That's funny, I'm... I'm not really afraid... in fact, I feel oddly calm
Morrigan sighs and rubs her forehead.
Morrigan: Heh, maybe if I tell myself that enough times, I'll believe it
The fog starts to lift slightly.
Morrigan: (Sitting up again) STOP IT, STOP IT - this is probably some kind of weird fog/weather anomaly type thing, that's all - I'm just psyching myself out like I used to do with that stupid "Bloody Mary" game we played at Julie's slumber parties
Yawning and realizing she is absolutely exhausted, the young woman reclines her seat back.
Morrigan: (Still gripping the gun) The only thing left to do now is to go to sleep and leave it to The Fates
Morrigan closes her eyes.
Morrigan: PLEASE NO AXE MURDERERS, PLEASE NO AXE MURDERERS, PLEASE NO AXE MURDERERS, AMEN
As dawn breaks, it is still somewhat foggy outside. Morrigan opens her eyes to see a large, bald man holding a tire iron staring back at her through the window.
Morrigan: (Grabbing her gun and screaming) BACK OFF OR I'LL SHOOT
A California Highway Patrol officer appears from the other side of the car with his gun drawn.
CHP: PUT THE GUN DOWN, MA'AM, PUT IT DOWN
Morrigan: WHAT IS GOING ON?
Gracie Takanachi runs over.
Gracie Takanachi: CHILL, CHILL, EVERYBODY JUST CHILL
With the officer watching, Morrigan carefully places her gun on the passenger seat and slowly gets out of the car.
Gracie: (All smiles) Hi there, I'm Gracie Takanachi from KCON, your supreme field producer and camerawoman, this charming man to your left is Lloyd the tow truck driver, and the man pointing a gun at your head is Officer Baten - how are you doing this morning?
Morrigan: (Bewildered) I... uh... I'm so sorry... I just saw Lloyd's face... and... I was half asleep... how... how did you know where to find me?
CHP: (Putting his gun away) Your father called us, Ms. McBride, he was very concerned about his little girl
Gracie: And when I heard the report on the scanner, I knew who you were and followed
Morrigan: Thanks for calling the tow truck
Gracie and the officer look at each other.
Gracie: Neither one of us called
Lloyd: (Starting to work on the tire) It was some lady who called me, said she'd take care of the bill as well
Morrigan: Did she leave a name?
Gracie: Don't worry, you'll find out soon enough - people in this town don't do favors for someone without a price
Morrigan: The tire should be easy to fix but I think the axle is broken on my trailer and there's something freaky going on with my electrical system
The tall, bald man checks under the hood.
Lloyd: No kidding, your battery is drained
Morrigan: How is that possible? - I just bought it last month
Lloyd: It also looks like some of your circuitry is fried
Morrigan shakes her head in disbelief.
Lloyd: (Shrugging his shoulders and closing the hood) Towing your car out of here won't be a problem but I'll have to come back for the trailer, it's pretty screwed
Lloyd: I can call for another truck
Gracie: (Looking at Morrigan) Forget that - this is already going to cost you a week's worth of salary
CHP: Traffic is going to pick up here shortly, these vehicles need to be moved
Gracie: I know, KJ lives right down the road from here - we can drag it to his yard on the way
Gracie: (Writing on a slip of paper) Lloyd, please take the car to this mechanic - Officer Baten, if that's all...
CHP: Actually, I'll need to keep Ms. McBride's weapon until she gets herself settled - you can claim it later
Morrigan: Of course, officer, I understand, thank you
CHP: (Taking off with the gun) You can thank your Dad, he's a well-respected lawman in this state
Morrigan: Yes, I know
Lloyd hitches up the damaged U-Haul in back of Gracie's big, brown news van. As the tow truck driver takes off with Morrigan's car, both women climb inside the van and buckle up.
Morrigan: (Trying not to stare at Gracie's right hand) Thanks for all of your help
Gracie: (Noticing) You're welcome... now, I'm giving you five seconds to get over the fact that I'm missing two fingers - five... four... three... WHOOPS, can't count to two and one!
Morrigan: Please forgive me, I didn't mean to offend you
Gracie: (Starting the engine) There's nothing to forgive and as far as offending me goes, it takes plenty more than that
Morrigan: I know this sounds rude - call it journalist's curiosity - but what happened?
Gracie: (Driving) You're right, it is rude but I can't blame you for being curious - you wouldn't have won all of those journalism awards if you weren't
Morrigan: You do your research
Gracie: I wouldn't be in this business if I didn't
Gracie stops the car and pretends to get all emotional.
Gracie: It... it was... a family vacation at Busch Gardens gone horribly horribly wrong!
Gracie: No... piranhas
Gracie: Okay - when I was six, my brother accidentally caught my fingers in the car door - snapped the last two right off
Gracie: But I always get great birthday presents from my brother
Morrigan: Couldn't you save them?
Gracie: I wanted to but they wouldn't let me - dipped in gold leaf, they'd make unique earrings, don't you think?
Morrigan: I MEANT, couldn't the doctors save your fingers?
Gracie: Back then, I lived in a small town outside of Seattle, by the time my family took me to the big city hospital, it was too late to save them... end of story
Morrigan: I like the Busch Gardens version better
Gracie: Yeah, so does everyone else
The two exchange smiles.
Gracie: My Mom is just grateful that is was my RIGHT hand so I can technically still wear a wedding ring
Morrigan: And you can still use your middle finger to flip off people when necessary
Gracie: (Winking) Now, what makes you think I'd ever do that?
The van stops outside of long, gated driveway. Morrigan looks up past the trees and spots a three-story Tudor mansion at the end of it.
Morrigan: Oh my God!
Gracie: (On her cell phone) Hey KJ, it's Gracie - when you wake your ass up, come get the present I left outside - I'll explain later... thanks!
Morrigan: I've seen this house before
Gracie: "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous?"
Gracie: The one with Sophia Loren and that Arab sheik guy?
Gracie: We're pathetic!
Gracie: (Getting out and untying the trailer) Give me a hand - or should I say two more fingers with this, Morgan
Morrigan: (Joining her) Morrigan
Gracie: What exactly is the difference?
Morrigan: "Morgen" is German for "morning" and "Morrigan" is the Celtic Goddess of War
Gracie: Guess what? - I'm now calling you "Morri" it's simpler - hand me that wrench, MORRI
Morrigan: (Doing so) So, who's KJ?
Gracie: Karl John von Meer - one of the few rich people I don't resent - he's a real sweetheart and good-looking, too
Morrigan: Is there a "Mrs. KJ?"
Gracie: Nah, he's too busy playing the field, meadow, glen and just about everything else to settle down
Gracie: Of course the woman that finally nabs him will become a part of the von Meer shipping dynasty - and don't think that fact hasn't escaped every breathing female in the county
Morrigan: That's kinda sad
Gracie: What's really sad is his science geek sister, Erika - she could be a freaking supermodel but she buries herself in beakers and books at Santa Conchita University
Morrigan: Is she a student?
Gracie: HA, she's a Ph.D..
Morrigan: Good for her
Gracie: We'll probably have to interview Rikka or one of the other SCUBA department heads later for the story.
Gracie: (Looking down at her watch) SHIT - we have 37 minutes to air - LET'S GO
Morrigan: WAIT A MINUTE, WAIT A MINUTE, I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO START UNTIL NEXT WEEK
Gracie: More than driftwood washed up on Celoso Beach this morning... the bodies of three men were found a little bit ago
Gracie: Uh... no... not if they're like before - and my sources say they are
Morrigan: (Taking out a notepad) Before?
Gracie: Over the last year, we've had a half dozen bodies turn up around the Duquesa Bay area - this will make it seven, eight, and nine - the Coast Guard and the local police have tried to keep it as hush-hush as possible and the people in the area don't care... in fact, they cheer
Gracie: It looks like vigilante justice - all of the victims were doing something illegal at the time - dumping medical waste, smuggling drugs, etc.
Morrigan: The station manager never mentioned any recent murders when he hired me
Gracie: Surprise! - grab that manila folder in back with the pizza stain on it - inside is all the backstory you'll need to do the piece
Morrigan: (Flipping through) What happened to the regular field reporter?
Gracie: Kylee is off banging the network execs for the weekend and our sports reporter fill-in is in bed with a broken ankle - we knew you were arriving in town today, so you're on, Babe!
Morrigan continues to leaf through the notes as Gracie continues to drive.
Gracie: How about some small talk?
Morrigan: Sure, why not?
Morrigan: I was engaged once
Gracie: What happened?
Morrigan: I didn't get married
Morrigan: Don't be
Morrigan: He's what's in the U-Haul
Gracie: Hey, you do have a sense of humor - so, nothing right now?
Morrigan: Nothing right now
Gracie: Need batteries?
Morrigan: Excuse me?
Morrigan: How about you? - married?
Gracie: Don't be
Gracie: ... and a half
Morrigan: A half?
Gracie: The guy I occasionally have sex with but no real emotional attachment to counts as a half
Morrigan: That's nice
Gracie: I can share
Morrigan: I'll keep that in mind
The van pulls into the Celoso Beach parking lot just as county coroner workers wheel the bodies over. The place is filled with police and a few onlookers. Morrigan and Gracie jump out and start to get ready.
Gracie: (Grabbing the camera) Perfect, I'm not too late for the body bag shot!
Zachary Isaacson walks up to the two of them.
Zach Isaacson: Yo, Fingers
Gracie: Yo, Eyes
Zach: (Smiling at Morrigan) Who's the new meat?
Gracie: Down, Boy, we have a story to cover here!
Zach: So do I!
Gracie: Your lousy print piece won't roll until tomorrow's paper - our piece will be on the air within fifteen minutes
Zach: Ooooh, I guess you don't want to borrow some of my quotes then
Morrigan: Let's not get into a print versus broadcast war right now please
Gracie: Sorry - Morrigan McBride, this is Zach Isaacson of the Duquesa Bay Daily Beacon - we call him "Eyes" because he is THE source man
Morrigan: (Shaking his hand) Nice to meet you, Eyes
Zach: Right back at ya!
Morrigan: Do I get a bodypart nickname too?
Zach stares down at her chest
Morrigan: I just set myself right up for that one, didn't I?
Zach: Actually, I was just admiring your Smurfette T-shirt
Morrigan: Thanks, my little sister gave it to me for Christmas
Zach: My ex-girlfriend bought me some ugly plaid boxers for Hanukkah, wanna see?
Zach: Sorry, I will be a professional now
Gracie: (Throwing a yellow slicker at Morrigan) Here's a station rain jacket, put it on!
Morrigan: But, it's not raining
Gracie: I can see why you won an Associated Press award
Zach: You won an AP award?
Gracie: First off, no matter how cute the shirt is, it's not appropriate for broadcast
Zach: It's not like KCON is a major market station
Gracie: SHUT UP, ZACH
Morrigan: It's two sizes too big, I'll look like the Gorton's Fisherman!
Gracie: Secondly, you have ketchup all over your shirt - Smurfette looks like she's on the rag - murder or no murder, people do not want to see a menstruating cartoon character with their morning coffee!
Morrigan: (Sheepishly putting it on) Agreed
Zach: Speaking of cartoon characters, here comes Chip & Dale!
Morrigan: Can you please confirm for us how many bodies were found? - what are their names and ages?
Craig Phelps: At 5:52 this morning, a Coast Guard patrol discovered the bodies of three men - I cannot release their names until the next of kin have been contacted
Morrigan: Are they local residents?
Morrigan: How long will the beach be closed off?
Craig: Celoso Beach will remain closed until further notice
Morrigan: Any ideas as to what they were doing? - did they drown? - did you find a boat in the area?
Craig: We will be giving a press conference with the sheriff tonight at 6:30, until then we have no further comment, thank you
Zach: HEY CRUNCH, who were these guys working for and how were they killed?
Captain Phelps shoots a cold glare at Zach and does not respond.
Zach: Love you, too!
The officers begin to walk away.
Zach: Do they have the same, three-prong entry wounds as the others?
Everyone gasps as the two officers freeze and turn around.
Craig: (Keeping his cool) There will be no further comment, Mr. Isaacson
Zach: (Getting in their faces) Until 6:30 tonight, I know, I know - JUST enough time for you to think up a convincing story - TELL ME ANOTHER STORY, CAPTAIN
With a sharp shove, Lt. Fiore pushes Eyes away from her colleague.
Anita Fiore: FUCK YOU, ZACH
Zach: Can I quote you on that, Lieutenant?
The female officer starts to go after the reporter.
Craig: (Holding her back) DON'T SOIL YOUR UNIFORM WITH THIS SLIME, FIORE, LET'S MOVE
Gracie: (To Morrigan and Eyes) Okay, Kiddies, as entertaining as all that was, Morri you're on the air in less than four minutes!
Morrigan: FOUR MINUTES? I can't throw together a package in four minutes!
Gracie: (Hooking her earpiece up) Save the package for the evening broadcast, this is a straight breaking news bit - let's move over there and get a shot by the squad car, I have enough b-roll of the beach
The two women get set.
Morrigan: At my old station, I had to do all of this myself
Gracie: Well, consider yourself blessed - Benny, are you there?
A male voice crackles through the speaker.
Benny: Fingers, you're all set for 8:00:35, - Steel will toss it to McBride on "... with the very latest, Morrigan"
Gracie: Got it - got that In Cue, Morri?
Morrigan: (Fixing her make-up) Got it
Benny: What's her Out Cue?
Morrigan: What's your Out Cue?
Morrigan: (Looking at her notes) "... until further notice" and then the tag line
Gracie: "... until further notice" and then the tag
Benny: The intro is up - get ready to rock n' roll!
Gracie: (Going behind the camera) Thanks, Ben - Morri, don't forget the anchors are Dan Henshaw and Claudia Steel
Morrigan: (Getting into position with her microphone) And what's the name of the station again?
Zach laughs as Gracie looks aghast.
Morrigan: I'm just kidding, KCON NewsCenter 9
Gracie: NEWSCENTER 8
Morrigan: Sorry, I'm still a little out of it
Gracie: You have less than 30 seconds to get into it!
Morrigan takes a deep breath and shakes out the nerves.
Morrigan: Give me a vocal countdown at 10, and a visual one for the last two seconds
Zach gives them both a thumbs up as the time nears.
Gracie: Ten... nine... what are doing?
Morrigan starts to twirl her mike counterclockwise.
Morrigan: It's a ritual I always do, it'll be fine, don't worry
Gracie: (Clenching her teeth) Four... three
The reporter catches her mike during the last two beats and looks directly into the camera on cue.
Morrigan: Claudia, at approximately six o'clock this morning, the bodies of three local men were discovered on the southern shore of Celoso Beach by a Coast Guard patrol unit -- although it appears that the men drowned, officials have not confirmed the cause of death and declined further comment -- family members of the victims will be notified shortly -- according to area residents, there were no signs of a disturbance during the night or in the early morning hours, however, because of dense fog, no one can say for sure -- since April of last year, six other bodies have been found on area beaches, ranging from Chaparral Heights to Beacon Point -- whether these three are related has yet to be determined -- officials from the Coast Guard, along with the Quartz County Sheriff, will be holding a joint press conference later this evening, you can be certain we'll have more details on this tragedy for you then -- as for Celoso Beach, it will remain closed until further notice... Morrigan McBride, KCON NewsCenter 8
In their earpieces, Morrigan and Gracie hear the male anchor's voice.
Dan Henshaw: A tragedy indeed, Morrigan, but welcome to the KCON news family!
Morrigan: Thank you, Don, back to you two in the studio
Gracie: (Popping her earpiece out) AND WE'RE CLEAR
Zach is cackling with laughter.
Gracie: It's DAN, not Don
Morrigan: (Covering her face and kicking at the ground) OH MY GOD... OH MY GOD... I NEVER BLEW AN ANCHOR'S NAME BEFORE... JESUS, I CALLED HIM DON
Gracie: The people at the station call him "anencephalic" - so, it's a step up
Morrigan: I think I need a hot shower and a long nap
Zach: Need some help?
Both women: (In unison) EYES
Zach: Just trying to being polite
Gracie: Morri, you can crash at my place and I can fill you on the movers and shakers of our lovely quad-city area
Zach: (Taking off) Ladies, pretty fair job today - it's time to go pump my sources - see you two tonight at the BS conference and then drinks are on me at Muldoon's
Gracie: Thanks, Eyes
Morrigan: Nice to meet you, Zach
Zach: Later, Fingers - and Morrigan "Button Nose" McBride... WELCOME TO DUQUESA BAY
Surfaced on July 1, 2000
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