When Shauna J. Bogart's former intern is shot to death in the city park, the grandmother of the suspect, another young man, asks Shauna J. for help. The young man tried to run from the murder scene and was shot and seriously wounded by the police. The youth's grandmother is certain he is innocent and Shauna agrees to look into it. A murder-mystery might be just the thing to distract her from her own problems, which are currently numerous.
Shauna J.'s boss has added a weekly spot for a self-styled psychic into her program, without even telling her. She's been getting puzzling call-ins from someone who claims to be her high school friend. And she's learned that a network station with an almost-promised job for her thinks her image is "too old." Another offer is in the wind, but does she want it enough to move from her beloved Sacramento to Los Angeles? More important, would Pete Kovacs, her significant other, be willing to make the move?
Taking up the case, Shauna J. enlists her willing assistant, Josh, and the pair hunts down every puzzling clue. What they turn up is an evil scheme that touches more and more of the people they encounter and threatens Shauna J., as well as those around her, with sudden death.
In her prize-winning first novel, Murder Off Mike, Joyce Krieg proved that going behind the scenes of talk radio can be fun, fascinating, and sometimes downright scary. She continues to prove it delightfully in this, Shauna J. Bogart's third escapade.
About the Author
Joyce Krieg, like Shauna J., is a veteran broadcaster, both on and off the air. Krieg's many awards and honors include being named Professional of the Year by the Sacramento Public Relations Association and being inducted into the Valley Broadcast Legends for working in local radio for more than twenty years. She lives in Pacific Grove, California.
Read an Excerpt
A Talk Radio Mystery
By Joyce Krieg
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2005 Joyce Krieg
All rights reserved.
The Datsun 240Z swerved off the frontage road and scudded into the parking lot. The pilot's logbook launched off the dashboard, somersaulted past the radio, and made a three-point landing on the passenger seat.
At eight minutes after the hour, you're tuned in to Shauna J. Bogart on Sacramento Talk Radio.
Late. Two minutes and thirty seconds, but still late.
Who could have predicted a police action on Business 80 heading out of downtown, grinding all three eastbound lanes of traffic to a standstill as the freeway crossed the American River? And I, trapped in a tiny sports car in the fast left lane, guardrail and then sheer drop to the river to the left, big rig loaded with gravel on the right, VW bus spewing fumes to the front, and red pickup truck breathing down my neck from the rear. Nowhere to go, nothing to do but wait it out.
Caller, what's your point?
My point? If you're such a big star, when are you going to play a request for the A.V. Club?
I parked the Z-car in an unmarked spot that captured a few square yards of crisp shadow cast by a massive valley oak. It was January, with temperatures peaking in the upper forties, which meant I really didn't need to find a shady parking spot. But after I had survived the searing heat of three Sacramento summers, the reflex to always leave the car in the shade had become permanently imprinted.
You're listening to Shauna J. Bogart on Sacramento Talk Radio. We'll be back right after this.
I shut off the engine, flipped up the hood of my down jacket against the brisk winter wind, trotted across the asphalt, and pushed open a heavy glass door.
The first commercial in the stop-set blared from a speaker mounted in the corner of the lobby. I ignored the receptionist's outstretched handful of phone messages and jammed through the door to the on-air studio. A vinyl banner stretched over the top of the door proclaimed in black and red letters, "Family-owned and independent since 1957."
I'm Shauna J. Bogart, host of the afternoon chat fest on Sacramento Talk Radio, and no, I don't normally make it a habit to bop into the studio at the last minute. But this day was turning out to be anything but normal.
My producer looked up from the broadcast console, where he'd been airing canned, generic bits from previous shows. Caller, what's your point? We'll be right back after this message. At eight minutes past the hour ... Pre-recorded one-liners burned onto a CD for emergency situations just like this.
"You're late," Josh Friedman said.
"Tell me something I don't already know." I ignored his unspoken plea for an explanation.
"Almost ten minutes." Josh tapped his finger against a button to activate the CD with my theme music.
"Three minutes. Four, tops. The network newscast doesn't count." An unwritten rule of radio has it that the host is considered to be on time as long as she's in front of the microphone ready to talk when the top-of-the-hour network newscast ends. At my station, the network signs off at five minutes and thirty seconds past the hour. Ten minutes late? I think not.
"My lunch ran long," I said to Josh. "Captain Mikey didn't get me back to Executive Airport until almost two-thirty, and then I got caught in this huge traffic tie-up on Biz 80 going over the American River. Thanks for covering." I placed the headphones over my ears, adjusted the mike upward, and gave the chair just vacated by my producer a gentle kick into the corner. I like to stand when I'm on the air. Keeps the energy level high, lets me pace. Some people jog, some folks take spinning classes, some strange souls even engage in hot yoga. I pace.
The theme music faded and I could hear the roar of afternoon traffic on Highway 160 through the bulletproof glass. I took a deep breath and flicked the switch controlling the microphone. "You're back with Shauna J. Bogart on Sacramento Talk Radio. Caller, you were saying?"
"Haven't you been paying attention? You know, playing a request for Mr. Halstead and the guys in the A.V. Club?"
The voice was male, slow and deliberate, as if he were pondering each word choice, slight lilt of sarcasm. Could it be ...?
"Who's this, and where are you calling from?"
"You can call me Reg. Reg on a cell phone."
"Welcome to the show, Reg."
"Next time you're hanging out with your important friends in the news media, think about the guys back in the A.V. Club. Think about your pals in the Reginald Fessenden Royal Riding Gain Academy."
The academy? I don't think I'd heard anyone mention that in at least twenty years. "This better not be a joke," I said.
"Chill out." A chuckle sent another punch of recognition to my gut. "We won't get suspended this time."
I couldn't stand it any longer. "Richie, is that you?"
But the line was dead.
During the next break, Josh handed me the wad of phone messages that he'd rescued from the receptionist.
Doyle Bollinger from RadioLand, wanting to know if I'd take a meeting with him.
The public relations director of the Footprints Institute, hoping to land some airtime for the executive director.
Three messages from Fred Buchanan, program director of one of the major news and talk stations in San Francisco, requesting that I call back ASAP.
"One more thing," Josh said as I scanned the flimsy pink message slips. "O'Brien wants to see you in his office before you go home."
I returned the call from San Francisco the first chance I had, during the local news break at the bottom of the hour. From the in-studio speaker, I could hear Captain Mikey reporting from his eye in the sky. "It continues to be slow and go on Business 80 as both right lanes of the eastbound freeway have been closed by police."
My stomach clenched in anticipation as the receptionist in San Francisco punched me through to Fred Buchanan. I knew they'd narrowed it down to me and one other person to co-host the morning show. I'd been waiting for almost a week now for a decision.
"Sorry to be the bearer of bad news," Buchanan said after I'd identified myself.
"I wanted to give you the gig, I really did," Buchanan continued.
I remained silent, trying to digest what I was hearing. So much for moving back to the city by the bay.
"Hey, I grew up listening to you." Buchanan sounded uncomfortable. "But the consultant said we need a younger sound. You know how it goes."
Did I really want to work for someone who would let a consultant convince him the station needed a "younger sound," whatever that might be? For the chance to go back to a major market — and for the kind of dough they were offering — damn right.
I told Buchanan sure, I know how it goes.
I crumpled all three of Buchanan's message slips, chucked them into the trash can, and willed myself to wipe the just-concluded phone call from my mind as easily as I'd destroyed the tangible evidence. As I opened the microphone, I forced a smile back into my voice and steeled myself to project an image of upbeat confidence with my listeners.
The police action on Business 80 and the resulting traffic jam continued to unfold during my show, dominating the local headlines. I was glad to keep busy juggling the reports from Captain Mikey in the traffic plane, dispatches from our reporter on the ground, and calls from listeners who saw — or thought they saw — the whole thing happen. It kept me from obsessing about the lost opportunity in San Francisco, and the reason behind it. "Younger sound" indeed! You're looking at someone who has at least another decade to go before they start bombarding me with applications to join AARP.
"Sources with the Sacramento Police Department tell us the incident began with a shooting in McKinley Park at around two this afternoon," Gloria Louise Montalvo reported via two-way radio from the field. "One of the suspects fled by car onto Business 80, where he was overtaken by police on the American River Bridge."
"McKinley Park?" I interrupted Glory Lou's report. "Can you confirm that?"
"I'm stationed at the command post on the jogging path at Alhambra Boulevard at H Street. I'm looking at the police tape strung out between the trees behind the swimming pool."
McKinley Park for certain. Now that was a surprise. McKinley Park, its swimming pool, tennis courts, branch library, rose garden, and duck pond, stood at the entrance of one of the capital city's most desirable neighborhoods, a community of well-tended homes from before the second World War, quiet, tree-lined streets, good public schools. No urban area can claim to be completely crime-free these days, but a shooting on the sedate, manicured lawns of McKinley Park would still be a major local story.
"The suspect appears to have been driving a small foreign car, a Toyota, possibly, or a Honda, orange in color," Captain Mikey reported from the traffic plane. "I can see a small foreign car surrounded by at least five Sacramento police cruisers and two vehicles from the CHP in the far right lane on Business 80. Traffic on the eastbound lanes of the freeway is backed up all the way to Fruitridge Road."
I put Glory Lou back on the air for an extended Q-and-A from the command post. "What can you tell us about the victim?"
"Little is known at this time." Glory Lou's voice crackled through the two-way. "Male, late teens or early twenties. He's been taken to the Med Center. Authorities are releasing no information about his identity or his condition."
Now, this is going to sound cold, but the fact is the real story was unfolding not on the blood-soaked grass of McKinley Park but a few miles away on the freeway, where hundreds of late afternoon commuters were stranded. I wrapped up the interview with Glory Lou and directed my attention back to the airborne traffic reporter.
"Captain Mikey, can you recommend any alternate routes out of the downtown area?"
"There's always Highway 160, but a lot of folks have the same idea and it's backed up almost — wait! The suspect just tossed something over the bridge —" the traffic pilot's voice accelerated its staccato pace — "It looks like — yes!"
I flinched as the control room door opened and a woman strode in. Dorinda Delgado, the station's sales manager. She held a compact disc jewel case in her right hand and began jabbering at me about making a substitution for one of her client's commercials. "They're one of our biggest sponsors, so don't screw up," she added.
"Can't you tell we're in the middle of a breaking news story?" I snatched the CD case and forced my concentration back on the drama unfolding on Business 80. What was it with radio salespeople, barging into a live studio just because one of their precious clients broke a nail? If Dorinda Delgado thought I was going to pause for a commercial break while thousands of our listeners waited to find out what would happen next out there on the American River Bridge, she was even more clueless than I'd suspected.
"He's climbed over the guardrail," Captain Mikey said over the two-way. "The police are starting to advance — he's falling! The suspect's either been shot or he jumped. It's hard to tell from up here —"
My right hand gripped the slider on the broadcast console that controlled the volume, riding gain on the sound coming from the airplane. "We're staying right with you, Captain."
* * *
They finally fished the suspect out of the river at around five-fifteen and rushed him to the Med Center. Whoever he was, he was lucky it had been a relatively dry winter, meaning the Bureau of Reclamation was hoarding water upstream in Nimbus Dam. During periods of heavy rain, the waters of the American River surged swiftly, and the suspect — or what was left of him — would have been halfway to San Francisco by now.
Just after the five o'clock newscast, Glory Lou called in with a bulletin. The still-unnamed victim had been dead on arrival at the Med Center.
* * *
"That caller acted like he knew you," Josh said just after I'd finished the show. "Personally, I mean."
I looked up from the program log, where I'd been scrawling my legal name onto the bottom of the three pages representing the three hours of airtime for which I was responsible. "Who's that?"
"That guy right at the start of the show. Reg on a cell phone."
"Yeah. So you do know him, then."
"You might say that." I gathered up my headphones, file folder of news clippings and show notes, and feigned disinterest.
Richie Snelling from the Audio-Visual Club. The kid who stood up for the only girl in the geekiest club in high school.
"He sounded familiar there for a minute, but I must have been mistaken," I told Josh.
Richie Snelling. My junior prom date.
Last I heard, he was serving eighteen months in the federal pen in Lompoc.CHAPTER 2
"I'm really, really sorry I was late." I strode into the boss's office and seated myself in the centermost of the half-dozen guest chairs arranged in a semicircle around the front of his executive throne. I hoped by starting with an apology I might deflate his upcoming lecture.
"I know I let you down, and the entire station," I continued. "But Captain Mikey invited me to come with him to the Airborne Traffic Reporters' quarterly lunch meeting, remember?" I had a momentary vision of riding shotgun in the four-seater Bonanza for the short flight from Sacramento to the Nut Tree Airport, brilliant blue sky washed clean by a storm the previous day, the checkerboard fields and swollen rivers of the Sacramento Valley giving way to the hills of Vacaville, green from the recent rain.
"The meeting ran late, and we didn't get back to Executive Airport until around two-thirty. And then I got caught in that big traffic jam on Business 80. It won't happen again, I promise."
T. R. O'Brien looked up from the stack of paperwork on his desk, where he'd been scratching his name on what looked to me like a backlog of network clearance affidavits. "Now missy, what have I always told you?" He stabbed the index finger of his good right hand in my direction. His left hand consisted of a silver prosthesis, souvenir of a land mine in Korea.
I responded with a puzzled look.
"Never complain, never explain. Shoot, I never even noticed you were late. So stop digging yourself into a hole."
I sagged back in the chair, momentarily relieved to have escaped a scolding but still anxious over the reason for the summons to the executive suite. Had O'Brien gotten wind that I was sending out audition tapes and résumés to larger-market stations? Jeez, everyone in the business does that. It's not that I was unhappy at Sacramento Talk Radio. T. R. O'Brien was a good guy, a scrappy independent holdout among all the corporate clones. He'd rescued me from the creative desert of commercial music radio three years ago and given me free reign to do and say anything I wanted on my show, as long as I brought in the ratings and didn't scare away too many advertisers. But I felt as if I'd earned my chops in medium-market talk radio and felt I was ready to move on to the big time. As that program director in San Francisco had reminded me, my old age was rapidly approaching. I couldn't afford to wait much longer to make my move.
"Does the name Clarissa St. Cyr ring any bells with you?" O'Brien said.
"Possibly." I searched my memory bank. Stripper? Soap star? "Doesn't she write a column for the Sacramento News and Review? Some woo-woo New Age stuff?"
"A psychic, or so she claims. Talks to dead people and all that."
"What about her?"
"That little lady is going to be doing a show for our station. Isn't that jim-dandy?" O'Brien's weather-beaten face creased in a wide grin.
I choked back several replies, none of them polite. Finally I said, "You mean like a special? Something for Valentine's Day maybe?"
"Every night." O'Brien's voice cackled with enthusiasm. "Monday through Friday, nine to midnight."
"Interesting idea," I said slowly, picking my words with great care. "But do you think it's right for our image?"
"Let's go outside."
Excerpted from Riding Gain by Joyce Krieg. Copyright © 2005 Joyce Krieg. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sacramento talk show radio host Shauna J. Bogart is stunned by the first caller of the day, who apparently is Richie Snelling, who spent eighteen months as a guest of Lompoc and was her prom date and ¿sponsor at the highs school AV club. However, that blast from the past is nothing to what long time traffic reporter celebrity Captain Mike broadcasts as he watches the cops chase someone who apparently killed someone else. The dead man is Travis Ikeda-Nyland, a former intern at the station arrested for his murder is Marketus Wilson in what the cops claim is a meth deal that turned ugly.................... Marketus¿ grandma claims her grandson is innocent and Shauna has a difficult time accepting that Travis was involved in a drug deal though she knows he had problems and was a user. Shauna J is unable to sit idly by while Travis' name is dragged through the mud and wanting to help the grandma she begins to investigate not realizing that her case and the return of Richie into her life will merge at the corner of electronic surveillance and security.................... The third talk radio mystery is an intriguing amateur sleuth tale. Readers will appreciate Shauna J. as she struggles with the new psychic at the station, her high school mate seemingly calling in hinting at his identity, and proving the prime suspect is innocent though he ran from the cops. Adding interest is the outsourcing of Captain Mike even though he is a legend. The three subplots come together in a delightful story line that is fun to follow and will send readers looking for Shauna J¿s back list (see SLIP CUE and MURDER OFF MIKE).................... Harriet Klausner