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Authors: Cheryl Honigford

The Darkness Knows

BOOK: The Darkness Knows
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Copyright © 2016 by Cheryl Honigford

Cover and internal design © 2016 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Cover design by Kathleen Lynch

Cover illustrations by Coco Masuda/Lindgren & Smith, © Malchev/Shutterstock

Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious and are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.

P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

(630) 961-3900

Fax: (630) 961-2168

www.sourcebooks.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Honigford, Cheryl.

The darkness knows / Cheryl Honigford.

pages cm

Includes bibliographical references and index.

(pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Radio actors and actresses—Fiction. 2. Radio serials— Fiction. 3. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3608.O4945D37 2016

813'.6—dc23

2015032593

For Barak and Kate

CHAPTER ONE

October 27, 1938

Vivian's scream was a thing of beauty—startling and pitch-perfect, as usual. She caught her breath, waited a beat, and leaned into the microphone. “A gun!” she cried.

She scanned the page, searching for the next line in the script. It belonged to the villain in tonight's episode, and Vivian felt Dave Chapman tense next to her in preparation.

“That's right, sweetheart,” Dave said. “And you're a goner.”

The organ music swelled, rose higher, reached a crescendo. Vivian held her position for a few seconds and then relaxed when she heard the first few bars of the Sultan's Gold cigarette jingle.

You'll be sold on Sultan's Gold.

The cigarette that's truly mellow…

Her eyes caught Graham's over the microphone. He winked at her, and she felt that wink slide slowly down her body to settle in the tips of her toes.

Graham Yarborough had the kind of looks that were thoroughly wasted on the radio, she thought: dark, debonair, and eminently distracting. Working with him had been somewhat of a challenge, because gazing at Graham tended to make her lose focus.

Not that Vivian was anything to sneeze at either: petite with strawberry-blond hair and doe-brown eyes. She caught appreciative glances from the men at the radio station, on the streetcar, everywhere really. She'd had several marriage proposals in her short life, but Vivian had turned every one of them down. None of them had been remotely suitable choices, but even if they had, she'd decided she wanted some excitement before she settled down and had to start worrying about developing dishpan hands.

She was still ruminating on her escape from drudgery when she noticed that silence hung heavy in the studio. Not merely a silence, but an utter vacuum of sound. Vivian's stomach lurched, and she turned to Dave. He jabbed a finger at his script, eyes wide with urgency. They were back from sponsor break, and it was her line.

“I think Mr. Diamond will have something to say about that,” she said, the line bursting from her lips in a nearly incoherent rush of air. She didn't dare look into the control booth. Dead air was anathema in the radio business.

Instead, against her better judgment, she sneaked another peek at Graham, Harvey Diamond himself. At the moment, he appeared every bit the tough, troubled hero of
The Darkness Knows
, his face a mask of scowling intensity as he waited for his next line.

“Mr. Diamond?” Dave said. “Your Mr. Diamond will never make it in time. You'll be dead, and the emeralds will be mine.”

“That's what you thought, Glanville,” Graham interjected, leaning toward the microphone. He paused for a short burst of organ music. “You thought tying me up in a deserted mine shaft was going to keep me away? Now you're going to pay.”

The well-choreographed struggle began on cue. The organ hummed. The soundman punched a fist into his open palm once, twice while he scuffled his feet through the small tray of gravel in the corner. Graham growled, “Take that!” There was the sound of a single gunshot—a blank fired into the air from a real pistol—then a beat of silence.

Vivian glanced into the control room. Joe McGreevey, the director, held a stopwatch. Looking panicked, he started bringing his open palms together in front of his chest. “Hurry up,” he mouthed. The timing was off, and they were behind.

“Harvey!” Vivian shrieked. “Oh, Harvey, are you all right?”

“It's over,” Graham said. “I've disarmed him, and he's out cold. There's a jail cell with this mug's name all over it.”

“Oh, thank goodness. But how did you ever escape from that mine shaft?”

“Well, that's a long story,” Graham ad-libbed. The original script contained three lines of extra dialogue detailing Harvey's harrowing escape. He looked up at Vivian and smiled as he delivered his final line: “How about we talk about it over dinner, doll?”

The theme music crept in from the organ in the far corner of the room, signaling that another episode had reached its dramatic conclusion.

Bill Purdy, the show's announcer, stepped up to the microphone to end the show. Vivian held her breath until she heard “…and Vivian Witchell was heard as Lorna Lafferty.” She didn't think she'd ever grow tired of hearing those words.

Bill deftly sped up to complete the voice-over before the second hand of the large studio clock swept up to the hour indicating the very dot of 8:30 p.m. Then the chimes rang to signal a change of programming. As soon as the on-air light switched off, they all heaved a collective sigh of relief.

“Good work, everyone,” Joe said over the speaker from behind the thick glass of the control room. “But there's no time to rest on our laurels. We do it all again at ten o'clock for the folks on the West Coast.” He switched off the microphone, paused, and then switched it back on. “And let's all try to remember our cues next time around.”

Vivian quickly dipped her head to avoid meeting anyone's eyes and pretended to study her script.

She'd been doing small parts on shows at WCHI for over a year now, and there was certainly no excuse for missing a cue. Lorna Lafferty and
The Darkness Knows
were by far the biggest and best things to ever happen to her, and she couldn't afford to muck them up—not when she was just starting to get noticed.

In fact, Vivian had just gotten her first mention in the Chicago “Tattler” section of this week's
Radio Guide
magazine. She'd read and reread the blurb so many times she'd committed it to memory: “Former WCHI secretary Vivian Witchell gets raves for her new role as sidekick to popular gumshoe Harvey Diamond. She replaced Edie Waters, who left the show for marriage and the stork. I hear Vivian's a class act and that everyone who knows her thinks the world of her, including her costar Graham Yarborough. The two have been seen out on the town together more than once and may, in fact, be Radioland's newest couple.”

Vivian smiled ruefully at the idea. Sure, she and Graham had been out on the town together—strictly for publicity photos.

“Nice work.”

Vivian looked up at Graham and smiled. He looked especially rakish this evening; no jacket or tie, shirtsleeves rolled up to expose muscled forearms.

“Thanks, but I think you saved the show,” she replied, cocking a thumb at the control room. “And you may have also saved Joe from a massive coronary… The timing's all wrong in the second half.” She flipped absently through the pages of her battered script.

“Well,” Graham said, bending slightly forward. “We'll have to fix that.”

Vivian could feel his warm breath on her cheek. It smelled lightly of menthol cigarettes and coffee.

“Yes,” she said, eyes flicking up to meet his gaze. “We will.”

They regarded each other for a few seconds in silence.

“Viv…” Graham began.

“Yes?”

Someone lurking just outside Vivian's field of vision cleared their throat.

“Speaking of bad timing,” Vivian muttered under her breath.

She turned and saw Peggy Hart's eyes just visible above the tower of cigarette cartons in her arms. The ornate script of the Sultan's Gold logo partially obscured the image of the lounging Turk who regarded Vivian through narrowed eyes, a delicate tendril of smoke curling from the cigarette perched on the end of an impossibly long, thin holder.

“Your weekly cigarette allotment,” Peggy announced, pushing the leaning tower toward Vivian.

“No thank you. I don't—” she replied. The carton on top tumbled off, and Vivian had just enough presence of mind to catch it before it landed on the floor at her feet.

“Oh, and here are some notes on your performance,” Peggy said, thrusting a sheet of paper at Vivian. “Most are Joe's suggestions, but some are mine.” Peggy Hart regularly sat in the control room of various shows, observing and taking notes on the actors' performances and helping with the productions. She also handed out cigarettes, as she was tonight. Since Peggy was the station owner's indulged only child, Vivian assumed it would be a short leap from the all-girls' academy Peggy currently attended to a position as head writer or even featured actress on a high-profile show.

“Thank you, Peggy,” Vivian said. She tucked the notes into the pocket of her skirt.

Graham reached over, plucked a carton from the top of the pile, and flashed a thousand-watt smile in Peggy's direction. Peggy's eyes held Graham's for an instant before she glanced away. “I should go.” She swiveled on her heel and set off in the opposite direction.

Vivian eyed the girl as she walked away. She was only seventeen and deeply entrenched in her awkward phase, all knobby knees and pimples. She seemed not to have inherited any of her glamorous parents' looks or manner. A pity. Vivian liked Peggy, and she was certainly no threat to Vivian. Still, she wasn't keen on the idea of watching yet another woman go sweaty and red-faced in Graham's presence.

“So, Viv, before we were so rudely interrupted…” Graham continued.

“Yes?”

“I was going to ask if you'd like to join me for some coffee before the ten o'clock show. We can talk about the timing in the second half.”

“Sure,” she said.

“I mean some decent coffee,” he said with a smirk. “Not the stuff they peddle in the lounge here.”

“Oh… Oh, sure. Let me get my bag.”

She rushed off before he could change his mind. Graham had never before asked her to do anything outside the studio, not personally. Their dates, of which there had been precisely two, had been arranged by the publicity department. Vivian would receive a note that read
Meet Mr. Yarborough at the College Inn at Hotel Sherman at 9:30 p.m. There will be cameras
. At the College Inn there would be a few drinks, some light banter, and a couple of dances—all within sight of at least one photographer. Vivian was no wide-eyed ingenue; she knew that the hint of a romance between costars would get
The Darkness Knows
—and the station—into the gossip pages. The listening public loved love, even the blatantly manufactured kind, and the publicity department knew that. Gossip spelled ratings, and ratings spelled revenue.

Still, it would be nice if, at the end of the evening, Graham wouldn't just politely see her to a waiting cab without a second glance. But this time was different, she thought. This time he'd asked her himself.

Vivian ran up the flight of stairs to the twelfth-floor lounge, nodding hello to at least a dozen people on the way, and plucked her purse from the back of the chair. Her eyes snagged on the poster tacked to the announcements board.
WCHI Halloween Masquerade! Costume Contest! Prizes! Dancing! Palmer House Empire Room—October 28
. That was tomorrow night. With the whirlwind of starting a starring role on
The Darkness Knows
, the masquerade had slipped from Vivian's mind. She hadn't had time to get a costume. Besides, choosing a costume was a precarious thing. It needed to be a delicate balance of interesting and alluring, and she hadn't yet hit on the perfect combination.

She realized that she was still clutching her unwanted box of cigarettes. After a moment of consideration and a glance at the man eating a sandwich at the table on the far side of the room, she left the carton of Sultan's Gold next to the mountain of unwashed mugs in the lounge sink. She could always claim she'd set it down and forgotten it if someone asked. And if all went well, some lucky smoker would swoop in and take it, no questions asked. She had to remember to ask Graham why her initial refusal had been such a glaring faux pas. There was still so much about this business that she didn't understand.

Her eyes fell on that morning's edition of the
Chicago Daily Tribune
, left under an overflowing ashtray near the sink. The headline squawked “Germans Oust Polish Jews.” The threat of war had loomed heavy since September, and the papers had been filled with nothing but Hitler's threats. Things had seemed to calm down when the British allowed Germany to take part of Czechoslovakia, but that's all Vivian knew. She rarely read the papers except to scan for mentions of herself or
The Darkness Knows
in the entertainment section, and this morning's paper had neither; she'd already checked at breakfast.

Vivian rushed from the room, riffling through her purse for her lipstick and compact, and felt her shoulder brush against someone walking in the opposite direction. Vivian looked up in time to glimpse Marjorie Fox staring intently at a piece of paper, her brow furrowed in concentration.

“Oh, sorry,” Vivian said. She stopped, but Marjorie continued down the hall as if she hadn't heard or, more likely, didn't care. Vivian stared after her, wrinkling her nose at the distinctive waft of cheap whiskey left in the woman's wake.

Marjorie Fox was the star of the station. She'd played Evelyn Garrett on WCHI's popular family drama
The Golden Years
for three years now. The show followed the trials and tribulations of the Garrett family in a small, indeterminate Midwestern town and was the station's crown jewel. Evelyn was the perfect wife to Roger and model mother to Rosemary, Bill, and Susie. Her catchphrase was an exasperated “Good heavens…” because members of the family were always doing things like tracking mud across the freshly waxed kitchen linoleum.

It was a blow to Vivian's ego to know that she had made no impression on someone as important as Marjorie Fox. In her former position as secretary to the head of the station, Mr. Hart, Vivian had greeted Marjorie at least twice a week, and now the woman had the nerve to act like she'd never seen Vivian before. Even when Marjorie
had
deigned to speak to Vivian, she'd never had a kind word to say. Once, she caught Vivian powdering her nose at her desk and had the audacity to announce, “Don't worry, honey. It's not your
nose
he's interested in.” Even now Vivian felt a phantom blush begin to creep up her collar at the years-old affront.

BOOK: The Darkness Knows
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