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Authors: Amy Patrick

Channel 20 Something

BOOK: Channel 20 Something
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Book One of the 20 SOMETHING series




Amy Patrick


Copyright © 2014 by Amy Patrick


All rights are reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any fashion without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this book. All trademarks are the property of their respective companies.


CHANNEL 20 SOMETHING is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, brands, media, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and should not be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only and may not be re-sold or given away to other people. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Cover design by Gabrielle Prendergast at Cover Your Dreams

Formatting by Polgarus Studio


Print ISBN: 978-0-9904807-1-6

Digital ISBN: 978-0-9904807-0-9

Chapter One
One-Woman Band

Fear is a lot like a Mississippi mosquito. It likes to sneak up on you and take a bite when you’re not looking. It starts out small but grows fatter the more you let it eat at you. And, given the opportunity, it’ll drain you dry.


I slapped at the little sucker who’d landed on my arm, satisfied to have gotten him before he got me. I wiped the sheen of sweat from my top lip and focused on the camera.

Okay, let’s try this again.
“Three, two, one… Officials say the amount of pesticide sprayed from the trucks is not harmful to children or pets, but it’s a good idea to keep direct exposure to a minimum, so little ones should not be allowed to follow the trucks during the spraying process tomorrow. In Pineland, I’m Heidi Haynes, WPLM News. Shhhh—ugar! Sugar, sugar, sugar.”

I stomped and spun around, tossing my notepad up in the air. I’d almost gotten through my whole script that time before a gust of wind rocked the camera and shook the lens. The only thing worse than a ninety-nine-degree summer day in Mississippi was a ninety-nine-degree summer day with high winds.

I marched forward and readjusted the camera then stepped back in front of it, making sure my foot was on the curling strip of hickory bark I’d used to mark my spot. The wind had plastered a section of hair to my damp cheek, and I peeled it away before beginning again. “Three, two, one—”

A ringtone blared from my purse, which was sitting near my feet. “Dang it.” I bent over and dug out my phone. Mom. Great. If I didn’t answer, she’d only call back. “Hi Mom. What’s up?”

“Hi baby. Are you okay? You sound flustered.”

“I’m fine. Just… hot.”

“Do they have you working outside again?” Sympathy and disapproval oozed through the phone.

“Well, reporting does require leaving the building every once in a while.”

I didn’t dare tell my mother the real source of my frustration, that I’d been attempting to shoot my on-camera tag-out for tonight’s package on mosquito control for almost a half hour now. She’d be in her car and over here in ten minutes flat if she thought I might be in any sort of jam whatsoever. If the average overprotective mom was a helicopter parent, Melinda Haynes was a Black Hawk chopper. My dad was even worse. And the house I grew up in was
way too close
to the neighborhood where I was working today.

“Well, there’s no need to get sassy with me Heidi,” Mom chided. “I wanted to make sure you’re coming for supper tomorrow. I found the perfect house online for you and Hale.”

“Yes, I’ll be there. And no, we are
anywhere near ready to buy a house.”

“Well, when you get engaged—”

“Mom, I’ve got to go. I’m working. See you tomorrow night, okay?” I hit the end button and took a minute to calm myself. Getting aggravated over Mom’s meddling in my messed-up love life would only make it more difficult to remember the exact words I was supposed to say.

Three kids emerged from a nearby house and ran across the front yard toward me. I sighed. They must’ve spotted me through a window and decided to check out the novelty of a news camera on their sidewalk. I so did not have time for this. I had to shoot something resembling a decent stand-up and get back to the station in time to edit my story for the six o’clock news.

“Are you the TV lady? Can we be on TV?” One of the boys—he looked around ten years old—bit off the top of the Popsicle in his hand and gave me a grapey grin. A smaller girl, maybe his sister, jumped in front of the camera, making faces for the unseeing lens. The other boy inspected the camera closely and then reached for a button with a sticky finger.

I stepped forward, one hand outstretched toward him. “Hey—you can’t touch that, buddy, okay?”

The curious kid stepped back, his eyes wide and his cheeks flushing. His small companions froze in place, watching me.

Shoot. In my haste to protect the station’s thirty-thousand-dollar camera, I’d sounded harsher than I’d intended. “No—it’s okay. It’s just I’ll get in big trouble if anything happens to this camera. Ask me if you want to touch it, and I’ll show you how it works.”

All three kids visibly relaxed. The little girl took a slurp of her orange ice pop. “Are you going to put us on?”

I walked over and leaned down. “It depends. I’m doing a story about mosquito spraying. Are you a mosquito?”

The girl giggled. “No.”

“Well, then, I don’t think I can do it this time. Sorry.”

The smile dropped from her chubby face. “Oh. Okay. At least we can see our street on the news.” She sat on the curb, resting a cheek on her palm, so defeated.

My heart clenched in a short, sharp pang. I felt like such a meanie. “Hey, you know what? We do need a weather shot for tonight’s news. If I film you, do you think y’all could manage to look like you’re hot?”

The kids laughed, and Grape-Popsicle-Boy rolled his eyes toward his sweating brow. “Ye-a-h.” He dragged the word out into three syllables.

“Okay, so we’ve got to make this look good. Let’s think. What do you do to cool off, besides eating Popsicles?”

“We can go on the swings.” The girl sprang up and bounced on her toes. “That makes a breeze.”

“Great idea. You’ll have to ask your mom first.”

They ran toward the house in a blur of bare feet and flailing arms. When they’d secured permission, I picked up my tripod and followed them to the backyard swing set, my heels sinking into the turf. The kids pumped furiously as I set up the shot. They put on a real show, dramatically wiping sweat from their foreheads and fanning themselves.

As we’d planned, their mom walked into the scene offering more Popsicles, and the children jumped off their swings, running to her enthusiastically. I kept rolling for a minute, far longer than our weatherman Brian would need, but it wouldn’t hurt to get some extra video. You could always cut it later, but you could never recreate a moment once it had been recorded.

I rolled the video back and showed the kids their performance on the camera’s small monitor, smiling at their giggles. The whole thing had taken less than ten minutes to shoot but had clearly made their day.

“Okay—which one of you is the oldest?” I asked the boys.

“I am. I’m eleven,” the kid who’d been studying the camera volunteered.

“What’s your name?”


“Trey, I wonder if you could do something for me
you wash your hands.” I smiled at him. “I need to shoot my on-camera part now—it’s called the stand-up—and I don’t have much time to get it done. Think you could hold the camera steady for me? Make sure it doesn’t move?”

His eyes lit up. “I can be a cameraman?”

“Yep. It really would help me out—if you think you can do it.”

“Yes. I can. I can do it.”

If he could, he’d be the best photographer I’d worked with in a long time. The
photographer I’d worked with in a long time. All the reporters at WPLM worked as one-man bands, meaning we were reporters and photographers. Pretty typical for a small market like this one. It kept the staff small and the budget low and filled the newscast, even if the result wasn’t always top-quality.

Every once in a while, for a really big event like election night or tornado-aftermath coverage, the news director would assign a two-person crew. Those were the days you lived for, those rare chances to focus on one job at a time and get a good, creative stand-up to go on your “escape tape.”

And you’d better believe every rookie reporter in the market was compiling that resume reel, hoping it would propel them up the next step on the TV news career ladder. There’s only so long you can exist on ramen noodles and canned tuna.

I’d been working on my own reel for months, trying to make it perfect. It had to be. My one-year contract was almost up, and I needed to get out of here, to move on from my first job. Not just because of the money. In fact, that was the least of my reasons.

Chapter Two
Perfect Candidate

Kenley jumped up from her desk when I dragged into the newsroom juggling the camera, tripod, my overstuffed purse, and my notebook and makeup bag. She caught the bag, saving me from spilling it all over the floor.

“Bless your heart. Don’t you look a mess.” She was a city girl from Atlanta, but Kenley’s drawl rivaled that of any rural Mississippian I knew.

I blew out a long breath and set down the rest of my load. “Thanks for the help
the lovely compliment.”

She flipped her hand, grinning. “Oh, you know what I mean. So how’d your story go? Get anything reel-worthy?”

“If those big market news directors are looking for an aggravated, frizzy-haired reporter dipped in all-day sweat, I’m pretty sure I nailed it.”

“Gotta love a hundred percent humidity, huh?” Kenley pulled at her curling blonde hair. “I straightened this two hours ago.”

“Oh—that reminds me—I got a weather shot for Brian. Would you go back to his office and tell him I’ll be uploading it in about five minutes? It’ll be in the system under the file name ‘Kids Swinging.’ I’ve gotta get jamming if I’m going to make air with my package. I might
make it if I start editing right this second.”

“Sure. Hey, you want to hit the Rock Bottom with Mara and me later? I have some
.” Her last sentence was delivered in a teasing singsong.

I froze. “Oh my God—did you—”

Kenley’s squee interrupted me. “You don’t have time right now, remember? I’ll tell you later—after work, okay?” She practically skipped off toward the weather office.

I made my deadline with five minutes to spare and hung around for a while after the newscast so I could add the story to my reel. I was packing up my stuff to leave when Mara came by my desk and hooked an arm through mine, tugging me toward the news director’s office. She was short like me—with our petite frames and similarly dark hair, people called us the Wonder Twins—but she was the stronger one for sure.

“Um, what are we doing?” I stumbled along with her, trying to find my footing.

“Janet’s looking at sports reels in there. We’re going to get a peek at the candidates for Mara’s New Boy Toy.”

I laughed. “You have too many toys already.”

“That’s not true.” She gave me her fabulous gap-toothed grin. “When I’m done with them, I always donate them to charity—reuse, recycle, repurpose.”

“Recycling boyfriends? How very
of you.”

Our weekend sportscaster had accepted a job in Birmingham when his contract ended, and our boss Janet had put out the call for applicants a week ago. No doubt she’d already had at least fifty people from around the country contact her, desperate for the job.

Janet had an open-door policy. When we stepped inside her glassed-in office, she was sitting with her back to us, facing her large monitor. On the screen was the most appealing guy I’d ever seen—thick, dark blond hair, incredible bone structure, clear, light green eyes.

But more than his looks, it was his smile that captured me. And the voice. Mmmm. Deep and a little raspy, just hearing it through a monitor filled my chest with bubbles and made me squirm. Wow. If a guy could do that to me via video file, how would I react to him in person? I didn’t want to know.

” The thought came out of my mouth without my permission or intention.

Mara jumped right in. “Yeah, we seriously need more man-candy around here. Not that Dan isn’t yummy.”

Janet turned around to grin at us over her shoulder. “You don’t have to flatter me, girls. I know Dan isn’t exactly a new flavor—he’s like… the Charleston Chew of man candy.” She laughed and we joined her.

Janet and Dan Patterson co-anchored the six and ten p.m. newscasts together. The husband-and-wife team had been at the helm of WPLM’s nightly news for the past twenty-five years—I’d watched them as a kid. Local viewers had followed the Pattersons through the birth of their two daughters, her battle with breast cancer, and every major news event to happen in North Mississippi for decades. People referred to them as one entity, Dan-n-Janet. She’d taken on the news director job as well eight years ago.

BOOK: Channel 20 Something
8.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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