MOON CURSED

The Nightcreature Novels Book #10

   The first recorded sighting of the Loch Ness Monster was by Saint Columba in AD 565.  The most recent occurred just last year.

   “There’ll be a sighting every year,” Kristin Daniels muttered as she peered at her laptop.  “Wouldn’t want to screw with a multi-million dollar tourist industry.”

   Unless, of course, you were the host of the public television show Hoax Hunters.  Kris planned to screw with it a lot. 

In fact she planned to end it.

   Kris scribbled more notes on her already scribbled upon yellow legal pad.  This was going to be her biggest and best project to date.     The debunking of the Loch Ness Monster would not only put Hoax Hunters on the national radar—hell, she’d probably get picked up for syndication—but would make her a star. 

   “Kris?”

   She glanced up.  Her boss, Theo Murdoch, stood in the doorway of her office.  He didn’t look happy.  Theo rarely did. 

Public television was a crapshoot.  Sometimes you won; sometimes you lost.  But you were always, always on the verge of disaster.

   “Hey, Theo,” she said brightly.  “I was just planning our premier show for next year.  You’re gonna love it and so—“

   “Hoax Hunters is done.”

   Kris realized her mouth was still half open, and shut it.  Then she opened it again and began to babble.  She did that when she panicked.  “For the season, sure.  But next year is going to be great.  It’ll be our year, Theo.  You’ll see.”

   “There is no next year, Kris.  You’re cancelled.”

   “Why?”

   “Ratings, kid.  You don’t have ‘em.”

   Fury, with a tinge of dread, made Kris snap:  “It’s not like we were ever going to compete with Friday Night Smackdown.”

   “And we don’t want to.”  Theo’s thin chest barely moved despite the deep breath he drew.  The man was cadaverous, yet he ate like a teenaged truck driver.  Were there teenaged truck drivers?  “Cable’s killing me.” 

   Or maybe it was just his high stress and two packs a day diet.

   In Theo’s youth, back when he still had hair, PBS had been the place for the intelligent, discriminating viewer.  Now those viewers had eight hundred channels to choose from, and some of them even produced a show or two worth watching. 

   In the glory days Planet Earth would have been a PBS hit.  Instead it had played on The Discovery Channel.  Once The Tudors—sans nudity of course--would have been a Masterpiece Theater staple.  Now it was Showtime’s version of MTV history.

   “Who would have thought that public radio would do better than us?” Theo mumbled.

   To everyone’s amazement NPR was rocking, even as PBS sank like a stone.

   “Not me,” Kris agreed.  And too bad too.  Not that she could ever have done Hoax Hunters for the radio even if she had possessed a crystal ball.  The show’s strength lay in the visual revelation that what so many believed the truth was in fact a lie. 

   Hoax Hunters, which Kris had originally called Hoax Haters, had come about after a tipsy night with her best friend and roommate Lola Kablonsky.  Kris had always loathed liars—she had her reasons—and she’d been very good at spotting them.  One could say she had a sixth sense, if a sixth sense weren’t as much of a lie as all the rest.

   Why not make your obsession with truth and lies into a show? Lola asked.

   And full of margaritas and a haunting ambition, Kris had thought:  Why not?

   She’d used her savings to fund a pilot, and she’d gotten that pilot onto the screen through sheer guts and brutal determination.  She wasn’t going to let something as erratic as ratings get her down.

   If she debunked the Loch Ness Monster, every station in America—no, in the world—would want that film. 

   Talk about a dream come true.

* * *

   “Scotland.”  Lola said.  “Does anyone really go to Scotland on purpose?”

   Kris tossed a few more sweaters into her suitcase.  “Just me.”

   September was cold in the Highlands, or so she’d heard.  Not that she wasn’t used to the cold.  She was from Chicago.  Cold moved in about October and hung around until June.  There’d even been a few July days when the breeze off the lake was reminiscent of the chill that drifted out of her freezer when she went searching for double chocolate brownie yogurt in the middle of the night.

   “Are you sure, Kris?”  Worry tightened Lola’s voice.  “You’ll be all alone over there.”

   Alone.  Kris gave a mental eye roll.  Horrors!  Like that would be anything new. 

   Her mother had died of leukemia when Kris was fifteen, insisting to the very end that she was fine.  Her brother had left for college when she was seventeen, swearing he’d visit often.  If “often” was once the following year and then never again, he hadn’t been lying.  Her father hung around until she turned eighteen.  Then he’d taken a job in China—no lie.  He hadn’t been back either.

   So Kris was used to alone, and she could take care of herself.  “I’ll be okay.”  She zipped her suitcase.

   “I’d go with you—“

   Kris snorted.  Lola in Scotland?  That would be like taking Paris Hilton to . . . well, Scotland.  Kris could probably shoot a documentary about it.  The film would no doubt receive better ratings that Hoax Hunters.

   And wasn’t that depressing?

   “Aren’t you getting ready for the season?” Kris asked.

   Lola was a ballet dancer, and she looked like one.  Tall and slim, with graceful arms and never ending legs, her long, black, straight hair would fall to the middle of her well defined back if she ever wore it down.  However Lola believed that style made her already oval face appear too oval.  As if that could happen. 

   Kris didn’t consider herself bland or average, until she stood next to Lola.  She also wasn’t a washed out, freckle nosed, frizzy-headed blond unless compared with Lola’s porcelain complexion and smooth ebony locks.  The only thing they had in common were their brown eyes.  However, Lola’s were pale, with flecks of gold and green, while Kris’s were just brown, the exact shade of mud, or so she’d been told by a man who’d said he was a poet. 

   The two of them were still friends because Lola was as beautiful inside as out, as honest as a politician was not, and she loved Kris nearly as much as Kris loved her.  In all her life, Kris had never trusted anyone the way she trusted Lola Kablonsky.

   Lola set her long fingered, smooth, graceful hand on Kris’s arm.  “If you needed me, I’d go.  Screw the season.”

   Kris blinked back the sudden sting in her eyes.  “Thanks.”

   They had met while living in the same cheap apartment building—Kris, attending Loyola University and Lola attending ballet classes on the way to her present stint with the Joffrey Ballet.  On the basis of a few good conversations, and a shared desire to get out of their crappy abode, the two had found a better one and become roommates.

    Kris hugged Lola; Lola hugged back, but she clung.  Kris felt a little guilty for leaving her—Lola wasn’t used to being alone--but she didn’t have a choice.  She couldn’t start over again with another show.  She believed in Hoax Hunters. 

   She also believed that the Loch Ness Monster was ripe for debunking, and she was just the woman to do it.

   Kris gathered the backpack that contained her laptop, video camera, mini-binoculars and purse.  “I’ll be okay,” she assured her friend for the second time.  “It’s not like I’m going to Iraq or Columbia or even the Congo.  It’s Scotland.  What could happen?”

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