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The Radio Murders: The Caller by Chuck Collins

In 37 years as a broadcaster and Addy Award winning writer and producer of commercial radio, I noticed something bubbling just beneath the surface of every successful performer: a desire to push the art to the very limit. When I was able to take some time to follow a passion for writing, I used radio as backdrop for a story that had been growing in my soul for decades. In 2002 The Radio Murders began.

“You are only as good as your last show.”  Bill ‘Crash’ Kradich is a competent talk show host in an industry that is rapidly changing. He knows that the only way he can survive is to take his show national. But the field is crowded and he needs something to stand apart from the rest. As if on cue, a murder in his family puts his show, his Chicago radio station and his future on the national stage. His sister, and only family, is both victim of an apparent abduction and suspect in the murder of her husband. Soon after, a disturbing pattern emerges implicating some of Kradich’s closest associates. Meanwhile the victim, Peter Janich, has crafted a swindle against a secret and dangerous force known only as The Collectors. What happens next is a torrent of bad choices leading to worst consequences.

The nationally syndicated Radio Murders with Bill Kradich is born, but at what price?

EXCERPT

Part One, Chapter 28

Molnar and Flowers found Harris Richards cooperative and genuinely in the dark about Rivillo’s involvement in the Janich murder. He handed them off to the station program director, and Kradich’s direct supervisor, Jerome Bennett, whom Richards called ‘Jerry.’

“By the way, call me Jerome. Harris is the only person on earth who calls me Jerry.” The men exchanged introductions as they walked into a large glass lined conference room in the interior of the studio complex. Flowers looked with amazement at the layers of casual activity visible through shared interior windows that exposed nearly the entire operation.

“You mentioned Dani hadn’t arrived at the station yet?” Molnar sat down at the wide table and began the interview.

“Yes, she is usually here by now. We have a standing appointment at ten to discuss the Crash Kradich show. I was about to call her when you arrived.”

Flowers watched Bennett carefully. “I don’t have to tell you, Jerome, this is a serious matter. We’re not totally convinced Renko was acting alone.”

“I pulled his file,” Bennett clicked a few keys on one of the computers that were scattered on nearly every surface. “He’s from Racine, no next of kin listed, but I know he has a father, whether he’s still alive I can’t tell you.”

“Did you ever get a hint that Rivillo was capable of committing a serious crime? Someone you would consider unstable?” Molnar asked.

“You know, in this business you run into some strange characters.” Bennett reared back in his chair. His thin frame seemed to sink into the soft leather.

“There’s always something bubbling under the surface. Could Renko do something stupid? Absolutely! Could he hurt anyone? That I find hard to believe. He was bordering on OCD and I think he was completely dependent on Crash, Dani and his girlfriend.”

Bennett scratched his black beard with nibbled fingernails as he spoke. “Everybody knows if you want to screw with this guy’s head just move something around in his studio or do anything out of the ordinary.”

“Did you know him to have money problems?”

“Detective, we work in radio, only the top guys are getting rich from this pricey little toy. I’m sure he lived paycheck to paycheck like most of us.”

“Jerome, we have to tell you that there’s evidence that this crime involves more than just Renko.” Flowers explained. “You might want to prepare yourself.”

“What do you mean by that?” Bennett was incensed.

“We mean that we have reason to believe that if Rivillo was involved in this murder he sure as hell didn’t act alone.”

Molnar said. “Now either this guy has some secret life even you don’t know about, or there is a real stink in this place.” Molar leaned forward, trying to disarm the programmer.

“You suspect Kradich had something to do with this?”

“You don’t seem surprised.” Flowers said.

“Nothing that guy does surprises me.” Bennett looked at the shiny surface of the conference table then up, past the detectives. “Have you ever heard of Guerilla Radio, detectives? ”

“C’mon, Jerry.” Molnar quipped. “We aren’t here for a class in radio. Is this guy off the reservation or did your evening show suddenly go psycho?”

Psycho.” Bennett let out a little chuckle. “Some might think it’s the equivalent. It’s the way some do radio. The way some of us were taught.”

Bennett continued. “Had a boss once who told me, we don’t go to work, we go to war. And it’s only gotten worse.”

Bennett rose from the chair and walked to the windows of the conference room. Large, boney hands disappeared into the back pockets of his jeans and he looked at the line of studios. “People listen to the radio ready to pounce, they want to hate you and love you at the same time. I counsel those who want to do this silly job to be ready. You are now a target, I tell the kids. Even the veterans need reminding. Your biggest fan is predisposed to despise you, yell at you while driving on the expressway, and call you every name in the book.”

Bennett turned, his face twitched into an odd smile that melded into his usual sullen expression. “Or worse, not give a shit at all.”

He pointed, without looking up, toward the acoustic tiles and the recessed lights in the ceiling. “We have dozens of satellites shooting hundreds of radio shows down to cities all over the world, and every one of them, every no-talent buffoon with a microphone is falling all over himself trying to out-gross, out-shock or out-disgust the next guy. Whether you’re talking about some guy who practically has sex on the air, having strippers measure his dick with a ruler, to another pair of geniuses who compel people to do profane and dangerous things for a t-shirt, to the guy who slaughters an animal under the pretense of proving a point.”

The programmer leaned his knuckles on the conference table. “There is no point to it, detectives. It’s become de rigueur, a constant circus, ugly and perverse, with all nine rings of hell in every car, every kitchen, on every so-called smart phone, filling every willing ear.”

“That’s quite a speech, Jerry.” Molnar said. “Where do you and your station fall in all this? What ring of the perverse circus, as you put it, does the Crash Kradich show perform?”

Jerome Bennett sat down. A weight seemed to push him down. He took a deep breath. “Do I think a clown like Kradich could be involved in murder? Why not, Detectives? Like I said, this is war. How far a leap would it be to murder?”

He watched the investigators’ eyes. “And don’t call me Jerry.”

Molnar smiled and looked at Flowers. “That could be probable cause. Enough to serve a search on this place and his apartment, Jerome.”

“You know, I was out of this for a while. Had enough to move to Mexico and live on the beach with enough fish, beer and pussy to last a lifetime. I must have been nuts to come back.” Bennett stroked his beard and soaked in the memory.

“Can we see where Rivillo works?” Flowers asked.

“I’ll be happy to show the detectives, Mr. Bennett.” Torsha Lofton, KCI news director, was in the conference room door. It was as though she had been there all along.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CHUCK COLLINS: Broadcaster; Writer; Photographer; People Lover; Story Teller; Gadgetphile; Husband; Father; Recovering Alcoholic; Human.

Why read The Radio Murders: The Collectors and soon The Radio Murders: The Caller? The idea of talk radio going beyond any reasonable limits has never been explored quite like this. While the mystery is captivating, it is the people you will come to know that makes reading worthwhile. The Radio Murders is home to some of the most interesting and vivid characters you will find in a mystery/thriller series. As one critic put it, “the reader is rewarded.”

You can purchase The Radio Murders at My Bookstore, http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/chuck_collins
at Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/The-Radio-Murders-Collectors/dp/0557394937/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1330895536&sr=8-8
Barns and Noble (Nook and Hardcover) http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/the-radio-murders-the-collectors?store=ebook

Chuck Collins
Author, The Radio Murders
Operations Director
Rubber City Radio Group
Program Director 1590WAKR
Akron, Ohio
Twitter: @chuckcollins

 

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