"Um, hi, I'm Nick Kirby. I'm here to... you know..."
"Oh, you're Mr. Kirby's... nephew wasn't it? I'm Nurse Cahill. We spoke on the phone. I'm so sorry for your loss."
Nick nodded, looking solemn. Truth be told, he'd rarely seen his uncle Tom since the old man had moved into the home and the news of his death had been a surprise, but not completely unexpected. Just another part of getting older, really. "Thank you. You said on the phone about Uncle Tom having some possessions he wanted me to have?"
"Yes. There's not much, but it we don't really have the space to store it and your uncle was adamant that you take it should he pass on." Nurse Cahill gestured for him to follow her. "Come with me and we'll sort out the paperwork."
Back at home, Nick set the large carton on the dining room table as his wife looked on, nose wrinkling doubtfully.
"It better not be a bunch of useless crap," she said, crossing her arms over her chest. "We don't have the space."
"If it is, Katrina, I'll get rid of it," Nick promised as he unfolded the lid flaps. "Uncle Tom wanted me to have this, so I should at least take a look at it."
It was, for the most part, junk. A worn collection of old paperbacks, mostly Zane Grey Westerns. An ashtray of some kind of dull metal (Nick didn't smoke) and a ratty dressing gown that smelt of cigars and old man. And at the bottom, an old-fashioned transistor radio.
Katrina sniffed disapprovingly and gave the collection a meaningful look. Nick sighed and repacked the box to take it out to the garbage chute. When Katrina turned around, however, he slipped the radio into his pocket. It seemed such a waste not to keep something.
Nick took the radio to his work and kept it there, out of range of Katrina's disapproval. He worked as a computer programmer and his basement office meant that he could make as much noise as he liked. At first he wasn't sure the radio would work underground, but when he turned it on, a crackling swirl of static gave way to the faint measured tones of a news broadcast.
"...and commuters are warned to be careful on the bridge today as a three-car pile up has blocked several lanes and created a bottleneck for several blocks..."
Nick grinned and started his day's work.
"So, I told Cynthia that I didn't care for peach, we ought to use the buff paper for the invitations instead..." Katrina was talking about her day over dinner. Nick nodded and made supportive noises in the right places, but he really couldn't care less about the travails of a special event printing service. He kept one eye on the television news as they ate, more to save his brain cells than anything. The picture was showing scenes of devastation, a plane crash somewhere.
"Cynthia totally disagreed with me, but I told her, you came to us for a reason. We're not going to be yes-men and agree with you just for the contract, we're going to tell you what works best for your event..."
"Wait a minute." Nick held up his hand and reached for the remote, turning up the volume on the news. Katrina opened her mouth to protest, but he shot her a look.
"...locals are stunned by the accident, in which 32 people died. The Northwest plane was en route to Chicago when it lost altitude without warning and plunged into farmland outside of Buffalo. Relatives are still being notified..."
Nick sat back, his face slack with shock. Katrina looked at him, puzzled and concerned. "Nick? What's wrong? You didn't know anyone on that plane, did you?"
"What?" He blinked and dragged his hand over his face. "No, I didn't know anyone. I just... It's a tragedy, that's all." He pushed his plate away. "I'm sorry, honey, I don't feel so well. I'm going to go lie down for a while."
"Do you want anything? Aspirin?"
"No, I'll be fine. I just need a nap."
Nick stumbled out of the dining room and once he was sure Katrina wasn't following him, sagged back against the wall. That plane crash... he had known about it already. The date and time, the location, the number of casualties, he'd already had the news in full detail. Yesterday, on his uncle's transistor radio.
After the initial shock, Nick began paying more attention to his inherited appliance. It wouldn't tune to anything but the one news station and would fade in and out without warning. But consistently, every broadcast was tomorrow's news. And once Nick realised that, he realised there were all sorts of implications.
Nick became a regular on the sports betting sites. He never got caught in a traffic jam. He never got caught in the rain or had the wrong clothes for the weather. Little things, as if he was trying to avoid attracting attention from whatever was responsible for the whole thing. But then he started wondering if he could do more.
The deaths of a family of four were averted by a phone call to the fire brigade moments after their house caught fire. A burglar was apprehended on his way out of a local jewellery store after an anonymous tip to the police. What might have been an appalling road accident in the making became the arrest of a drunken teenager when police received a complaint about erratic driving from a car full of kids. It wasn't world-scale, but it was something, and Nick pondered the wider possibilities from the advanced knowledge he had. After all, he had access to international news as well. There had to be something he could do with it.
Then one day, as he was listening to the morning news broadcast and taking notes for the day, something caught his ear:
"...Local police are investigating the death of a local woman, Ms. Katrina Kirby. Ms. Kirby, aged 32, was found dead in her home by a friend. Preliminary reports are she died of a head injury and it is believed she had been dead since the previous evening. Her husband, Mr. Nicholas Kirby, has not been located and is being sought by police as a 'person of interest'..."
Nick sat back, face white as the blood drained from his cheeks. Katrina, murdered? Himself a suspect? What the hell?
"No way," he muttered to himself as he scooped up the radio and tossed it into his laptop bag. It was still only morning, but he couldn't just sit there. "I'm gonna stop this. No fucking way is this happening." He stumbled out of his building, oblivious to the looks and concern of his co-workers. The receptionist called out to him as he walked by, but Nick didn't acknowledge him. Truth be told, he didn't even notice.
He drove straight to Katrina's store. Seeing her inside, he strode up and took her arm, oblivious to the fact she was in the process of serving a customer. Ignoring her protests, he pulled her into the back office.
"Nick! Let go of me!" she fumed, yanking her arm away from him as the door closed behind them. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Look, this is going to sound crazy, but you have to believe me." Nick paced back and forth, running his hands through his hair so it stuck up everywhere. "That stuff I got from Uncle Tom six months ago, I didn't throw all of it away. There was a radio, one of those old transistor pocket radios, that I kept."
"And you're confessing this horrible crime now?" she replied acidly. "I can see why it was important to come to my work and drag me away from a client so you could tell me you kept a crappy old radio."
"Shut up and listen!" he snapped back, frustrated and angry. "The radio, it only plays the news. Tomorrow's news."
Her eyes narrowed at the rise of his voice and her lips thinned. "Tomorrow's news," she repeated flatly. "As in, it tells the future?"
"Exactly!" He approached her, and she took a step back. His hands dropped to his sides. "Look, I know it sounds crazy, but you have to believe me, Kat. The radio tells the future and this morning I heard it say that sometime tonight, someone..."
"No, Nick!" She interrupted his explanation. "I don't have to do anything and I certainly don't have to believe this bullshit story. Go home. You're obviously under some sort of stress and you need to take a break. Go home and I'll see you tonight."
"Get out." Her eyes blazed. "Or so help me, I'll call the cops and have you arrested for assault."
There was no answer to that. Nick closed his mouth, nodded, and left the store.
Katrina usually finished at three. It was much later when her car pulled up into the driveway. Nick winced at the glare of the headlights in his eyes as they swept along the house and realised he'd been sitting in the dark for a while now. Reaching over, he fumbled for a light switch, and cast the kitchen into brilliance.
"Nick?" came Katrina's voice in the hallway. "Are you here?"
"In the kitchen," he called back. His gaze again fell on the small radio sitting on the table in front of him. Such an unremarkable object and yet so not.
A shadow fell across him and he looked up to see Katrina standing in the doorway. In the bright light of the kitchen, he could see the dark shadow of a bruise on her upper arm, the outline of his fingers.
"We should talk," she said, although there was a certain skittishness in her expression.
"We should," he agreed. "I'm sorry, Kat, for today. I should never have come to your work. I was... acting crazy."
"You were," she said flatly, still not moving from her spot in the doorway. "Are you feeling less, whatever, now?"
"I am. Much calmer." He looked down at the radio again. "I'm so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I was scared."
"Scared?" Her eyebrows went up and then down again as she frowned. "The magic fortune-telling radio again?"
"It's not..." He heard his voice rising and he forced himself to take a breath. "I know it sounds impossible, Kat, but I'm telling the truth. The radio plays tomorrow's news. That's how I've been able to win so much on the sports betting and the rest. I know how a game's going to end before it even starts."
"That's impossible." She had that closed look about her expression, the one she wore when her mind was made up. "This whole thing is impossible, Nick. I don't know why you'd make up this crap, but it has to stop."
"Katrina, I swear I'm telling the truth! Look, if you don't believe me, let me show you. Listen to the radio and then we'll check the news online. I swear it'll be different." He was holding onto his calm by a fraying thread.
She considered him for what seemed like a very long time. "All right," she said at last, holding out her hand. "Give me the radio and I'll listen."
He picked it up and placed it in her hand. "It's already tuned," he explained. "You just need to switch it on with that dial on the side..."
But she wasn't turning the dial. Instead, she was raising her hand high and hurling the device onto the tiled floor, where it smashed into a hundred pieces. Plastic and wires and components flew.
"NO!" Nick's cry was anguished and he stared at the mess on the floor, horror-striken. "What did you do?"
"What I had to," she replied calmly. "No radio means no 'prediction'. No more crazy talk."
"But..." He looked from the smashed radio to Katrina. "But I was helping people. Making a difference. I was trying to help you." His fists clenched and he took a step towards her, foot crunching on broken plastic. "That radio was a miracle!"
"That radio was all in your head!" she screamed back at him.
He wasn't sure what happened next. Katrina turned to leave and he grabbed for her arm - he couldn't let her be alone, not when she was still under the threat of death. He could still save her. But she'd yanked her arm back and then she'd stepped on a piece of the radio, her heel turning under her. There was a thump as she fell into the door frame, the edge catching her on the forehead, and she dropped like a stone onto the tiled floor. When he turned her over, a chunk of plastic had lodged deep into her eye.
She was very clearly dead.
He'd turned and ran. No packing, just the clothes he stood up in and his wallet and keys. He'd taken her car and driven as far and as fast as he could without getting pulled over. Just before dawn, he'd pulled over at a rest stop to sleep, but his mind's eye was full of the sight of Katrina smashing the radio and then him rolling her over to see the blood, the blank staring gaze of her remaining eye. Eventually, he'd turned on the car radio with trembling fingers.
"And in local news, local police are investigating the death of a local woman..."