Room For Doubt, First Chapter--Nancy Silverman
“Excuse me, miss? Are you a model?”
I was in the cereal aisle at the grocery store with a box of bran
flakes in my hand when I heard the voice behind me. It had been years
since I’d done any modeling, and I wasn’t feeling particularly
glamorous. My hair was in a ponytail, and I was wearing a pair of
sweatpants and a ratty old KCHC t-shirt with a cartoon of a dead
chicken on my chest. The words Radio Road Kill blasted beneath it.
Not exactly the type of thing one wears to make a good first
“Not in years.” I laughed and turned expecting to find a friendly
face. Grocery stores these days topped bars for places to meet men.
Despite the fact the line was an obvious come on, I was, unfortunately,
once again in the market.
Instead, the voice belonged to a nice-looking, well-built gym-rat
with a neatly cropped beard. He was about half my age, and worse yet,
he wasn’t talking to me. Not at all. He had cornered a young girl
directly behind me; a twenty-something darling dressed in a skin-tight
running outfit that looked like it had been painted onto her body.
I smiled apologetically and turned to read the label on the cereal
box. Not that they noticed. Lately, I felt as though I’d become the
My name is Carol Childs, I’m a single mom, and I work as a
reporter for a talk radio station in Los Angeles. I was one of those
faceless voices on the airwaves people heard every day. Perhaps that,
and the fact I’d recently turned forty, explained why I was beginning to
feel I blended into the background like wallpaper paste. Few of my
listeners could identify me, and in LA, women over forty simply
weren’t on anyone’s radar. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched,
while I listened to their exchange.
Gym-rat, with muscled arms like watermelons bulging from
beneath his t-shirt, pressed a business card into Running-girl’s hand.
“You ever want to get into the club, just call.”
Gym-rat was making a big impression. Running-girl glanced at
the card, hugged it to her chest like she had just won the lottery, then
kissed Gym-rat on the cheek as she tucked the card into her sports bra.
At that point, I tossed the cereal box into my cart and started up
the aisle. I didn’t give it another thought.
Until the next day.
My bedroom was still dark when the phone rang. With my head barely
off the pillow, I squinted at the digital clock next to my bed: 5:55 a.m.
Dammit, Tyler, it’s not even five o’clock. New record. I fumbled for the
bedside phone—a requirement the station demanded of all its
reporters—and knocked it to the floor before grabbing the handle.
Nobody else, not even a phone solicitor, would dare to call before
“Please, Tyler, tell me this isn’t becoming a habit with you.”
“Sorry, Carol. I need you.”
On the other end of the line was my boss, Tyler Hunt, a twentyone-
year-old whiz-kid who referred to me as the world’s oldest cub
“No,” I begged. “Absolutely not. Please, Tyler, not today.”
Tomorrow was my son’s birthday, and Tyler had promised me the
day off to prepare. On Saturday, Charlie, my youngest, would officially
be sixteen, and I had planned a big surprise party to celebrate. My
daughter, Cate, was coming up from San Diego State. My best friend,
Sheri, her son, Clint, and fourteen members of Charlie’s football team
would all be here. Plus, my ex, Robert, planned stop by with the wife
and Charlie’s new step-brother. No way was I about to get caught up in
anything that would distract me.
“I need you to take this, Carol. There’s a body up on the
I sat up in bed and pushed the hair out of my face. He had to be
kidding. The Hollywood Sign? Recently a prankster had climbed to the
top of the sign and with tarps and tape lettered it to read Hollyweed. A
pro-cannabis statement for sure.
“Tyler, if there’s a body on the Hollywood Sign, it’s got to be a
publicity stunt. Something one of the studios is doing for a movie
“It’s not a stunt, Carol. The police are reporting a man’s naked
body hanging from the sign. It’s for real. I need you up there. Now.