Split(5)

By: J. B. Salsbury



My momma always said I was meant for big things. I can still hear her voice in my head: “You’re too big for this world, Shyann.” Said I came out of the womb with goals and never stopped reaching for them. My chest cramps at the pride my momma would feel if she were alive today. She always pushed me to chase my dreams. God, I hope she can see me now.

“We’re on in five . . . four . . .”

I straighten my coat and look directly into the camera as Trevor counts down in my ear.

This is for you, Momma.

“You’re on!”

“Terror struck this quaint Flagstaff neighborhood as big-city crime moves north. After several assaults on women in Phoenix, all with identical trademarks, police have now moved their investigation to neighboring cities as another victim surfaces. The name of this most recent victim hasn’t been released, but her age, socioeconomic profile, and details of the crime fit other victims of who Phoenix police are now calling the Shadow. All the assaults were committed in the evening hours, with no witnesses, and the perpetrator is masked and wears gloves, leaving no forensic evidence behind. The call to this house behind me came in shortly after eight p.m. when the woman who lives here was found bloodied and unconscious—”

“There’s movement in the doorway,” Trevor says.

“. . . after a frantic nine-one-one call.”

“No! Let me go!” A young girl, a teenager, is practically carried out of the house by an officer. Leaf swings the camera to her. She’s curled into the chest of an older policeman, her shoulders bouncing as she sobs.

“Shyann!” Trevor’s voice booms through my earpiece, making me jump. “Keep talking. Leaf, get us a visual on the girl.”

“Oh, uh, it seems a . . .” The girl’s face twists in agony and I swallow past the thickness in my throat. “A girl who—”

“Mom, no . . . please, Mom!” Her guttural shriek pierces the air.

Another fissure slices through my chest and old feelings threaten to bubble to the surface.

Emotionless. Stay distant, Shyann.

“Seems to be the victim’s daughter—”

“Let me see her,” the girl pleads with police. “Oh, God, please . . .”

The girl’s anguish reaches through my chest and squeezes my heart. My throat grows tight. The backs of EMTs shuffle out the door as they carry a stretcher.

“Mommy!”

I ignore the girl as best I can and try to trudge on. “It seems . . . um . . . they’re—”

“No!” The girl throws her body onto the stretcher and it’s then I notice the woman on it is covered in a white sheet. Completely covered. Even her face.

Oh, God. She’s dead.

Trevor’s voice growls in my ear. “She’s dead! Get the shot!”

My stomach churns.

“Talk! Shyann!”

I nod. “It seems tragedy has taken a turn . . . um . . . for the . . .”

The young girl launches herself at the body again. The police hold her back while she kicks and screams for her mother.

My breath catches as memories flood my mind. I was just like her. Losing control of my body, kicking and wanting to inflict the kind of pain I was feeling. The heart-pumping panic, sudden coldness that blankets overheated skin causing uncontrollable shivers. And the terror, all of it shoots through me now like it did when I lost my momma.

“Shyann! Talk to her!” The levity in Trevor’s voice ignites my blood, replacing my frigid panic. “This is fucking gold.”

Leaf moves to get a better view and jerks his wide eyes for me to get into the shot. I turn back, studying the girl, remembering the confusion, the heartbreak, the all-consuming unfairness.

“Please don’t die . . .” Her anger turns to sobs of devastation so palpable they shake my foundation.

I take a wobbly step forward.

“Don’t be dead . . .”

“I swear to God, Shyann, if you don’t get in there and grab this story . . . this is our ticket. You hear me, dammit? Get your ass in there!”

I open my mouth to speak, Trevor’s demand in my ear pushing my lips to move, but there are no words.

I can’t.

Everything becomes irrelevant. My stupid fucking clothes, dreams of becoming an anchor for a national broadcast, all of it pales in the light of this girl’s recognizable anguish. Her cries rip through my unaffected façade and reach into my soul. It slices through vital organs and dives into the recesses where I’ve locked away my hate. Anger. Cruelty that a child would have to suffer through the loss of the single person in this world that ever understood her.

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