Revamp: False Start 2
So, beginnings are hard. You only have one chance to make a first impression, and all that. Revamp had two different beginnings before I settled on the current one. This particular excerpt is the second beginning of Revamp. I wanted to start the story with a frightening scene, perhaps related to the blackout. The decision to cut it was based on the fact that it introduced a doomed, inconsequential character. This deleted Revamp excerpt has never been published before. Enjoy!
“Son of a bitch, Lacy, you make news look good.”
Lacy Ryan watched her recorded self on the television screen. That night had been a particularly hard segment. People died. But not just people. Women and children. Angelinos. All burned alive in a multiple-alarm blaze that could be seen across the city like a bonfire of the gods.
Choosing a look for this one had been difficult. She had added four more to her repertoire over the weekend, and though Lacy appreciated the luxury of choice, too much choice could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Choose badly and your world might become shredded with too many pieces to pick up. She moved closer to the screen.
“Look 16,” she said aloud. “Works every time.”
Look 16 was tough to master. It went: face tight, begin piece, pause, blink twice, water eyes (not enough to draw tears but enough to create a sad shimmer), clear throat, continue piece. For this story, she had narrowed it down to Look 16 and Look 10, which went: face tight, begin piece, pause, blink twice, water eyes, clear throat, excuse yourself, continue piece. The latter look needed to be used sparingly. In news, there was a fine line between caring and unprofessional. Look 10 was reserved for those gut-wrenching stories with someone to blame - school shootings, for instance.
Satisfied another perfect segment had been achieved, Lacy pointed the remote at the television and turned it off. Greater Los Angeles’ top-rated anchorwoman two years running would keep her title and her Mercedes, her house in Malibu and her extracurricular supply of blow.
Lacy gathered her things and opened the door to her office. Outside, the newsroom slept. The building was fairly new but creaked worthy of the Hollywood Roosevelt. Mark in Weather said it was the electrics cooling down for the night, but just the same, Lacy liked to leave the main floor fully lit when there alone.
She locked the door and made her way around desks piled high with tomorrow’s headlines and mesh waste baskets teeming with yesterday’s news. Coffee rings, chewed pencils, and full ashtrays sung clichés.
She was halfway across the floor, when the lights went out. Lacy knocked into something.
She rubbed her knee where it hurt and waited for the lights to go back on. Had the cleaning crew come by to turn them off?
“Hello! I’m still in here!”
Lacy reached into her purse for her cell phone. She turned it on and held it up. The light from the screen illuminated the direct space in front of her, no more, no less. She moved slowly forward. As badly as she wanted to get to the elevator and get outside, if she fell and bruised that pretty face of hers, she could be off the anchor desk for a good three days. That may not seem like much time, but in the world of news, miss breaking a big story and you could land right back where you started, photocopying your ass for your married boss.
Lacy took baby steps, expecting the lights to turn back on at any second.
She arrived at the elevator and pressed the call button. She tapped her foot. The button didn’t light up, and she knew that if the power was out, the elevators would not be running, yet she still waited. Lacy was a person used to getting what she wanted, and in her was the refusal to accept exceptions.
A crash came from somewhere in the newsroom. Lacy yelped. It sounded like something had been broken.
“Fudge, fudge, fudge,” Lacy said, aware a co-worker might be in earshot. “Someone there?”
The elevator wasn’t coming, and the realization crept up on Lacy that she would have to cross her darkened workplace once more to get to the stairs. Don’t be silly, she thought. It’s nothing. A reporter had been careless with a coffee pot - left it too close to the counter’s edge. The building had done some selfish settling and the coffee pot was deposited onto the floor. Maybe I should go to the kitchen and have a look? Clean up the mess? No. There were more important things for her to do. Beauty sleep being one. At this rate, she’d have to use a whole cucumber tomorrow morning to quell the over-packing that would be her under-eye baggage.
“Alright, stairs. Here I come. Slow and steady wins the race.”
Lacy muttered tiny encouragements as she started across the black newsroom for a second time. She was on The sun will come out tomorrow when a shadow crossed her path. She stopped.
A trick of the light? Her phone display screen powered off. She pressed the button to turn it back on. She directed the light ahead of her.
“Hello? You’re not funny…I’ll report you if you keep this up.”
Coming from under Marvin’s desk. Marvin from Traffic. Watched her tits as much as he watched cars. Lacy bent down and pointed her makeshift light at Marvin’s desk. Lacy had never seen a rodent in the building, though she was sure they must be there. The building was too big to not have unmentionables infiltrating it.
“Just stay away from me, you nasty little creatures.”
She renewed her pace to the stairwell and had nearly arrived when she heard it again. The scratching. Whatever was doing it had moved.
Ahead of her.
Lacy was being stalked and rodents didn’t stalk. Not people. She glanced around nervously.
“I’m calling the cops!”
Lacy dialed 911. A woman answered immediately at the other end.
“Nine-one-one operator, what is your emergency?”
“I’m a news anchor at WTBH. I’m on the twelfth floor. I think someone’s…after me.” The operator didn’t respond. Lacy could hear her breathing. “Hello?”
“You’re right about that, Ms. Ryan.”
“What? Wait…how do you know who this is? I never told you my name?”
“You’re the top-rated female news anchor in Los Angeles.”
“I never told you my name.”
“That doesn’t matter.”
“What are you talking about?” The scratching was right behind her now. “I want to know what’s going on.”
Lacy turned, slowly. She thought she might choke on her own fright. Behind her, a wall of black stood impenetrable to the naked eye. She moved the phone away from her ear and held it up to light the area. The space was empty.
“Is this a fucking joke?”
Lacy was ready to yell at the woman, when her feet went out from under her. The landing made her lose her phone and her breath. Four small pale hands, each one not yet big enough to grip an adult ankle alone, dragged her into the dark depths of the newsroom. Lacy screamed, a look on her face too horrific for her average viewer.
“Chin up, Ms. Ryan,” the voice said from the abandoned phone. “This’ll only hurt for a second.”
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