One For Sorrow

In One for Sorrow, an assassin discovers that time is against her when it comes to changing her plans… A short story by Steve Hart.

In One for Sorrow, an assassin discovers that time is against her when it comes to changing her plans…

Suicide was the only possible answer. She was lying on the bed of a hotel room with a pistol in her left hand and dressed as though she was going to a party. Detective Rimmer turned away to look at her clothes scattered on the floor.

He had a 20-something daughter and so had an idea what the kids of today wore – and what he was looking at didn’t fit. The fabrics didn’t seem right, the colours certainly weren’t in fashion, and even the girl’s shoes didn’t look like any he’d seen his daughter wear.

Still, it was open and shut as far as he was concerned. All he needed was her name so he could break the news to her family, and he’d be able to get that on the way out from the hotel receptionist. It was some hotel too. Easily the most expensive in the city, and this was an executive suite.

Back at his desk, Rimmer ran her name through the missing persons’ database and drew a blank. She didn’t have a criminal record – another dead end. That left the phone book.

The one in the bottom draw of his desk was 10 years old, but would likely include her parents’ contact details. Having checked the pages very carefully, he figured the family must be unlisted, put the directory back and turned to his computer. Even the online directory didn’t have the name listed.

“Fleming! What can you tell me about this dead girl?” His new detective shrugged his shoulders and pulled a face. 

“No fingerprints, no DNA, and she may not even be local – or a citizen,” said Fleming. “There was no passport, the hotel room had dozens of people’s DNA all over it, and her purse had no ID cards, bank cards, or receipts.”

So much for ‘open and shut’, thought Rimmer as he turned back to his cluttered desk.

He picked up his phone to call forensics, hopefully the autopsy will find something apart from the obvious bullet entry and exit wounds.

“Hi, Rimmer here…That hotel fatal, the girl, from this morning, any signs of a struggle? What can you tell me?”

Rimmer listened with a yawn until he heard all the clothes the girl had didn’t have any labels.

“So all we know for sure is we have a young woman, with a single gunshot wound to the head. She may or may not be a local, a citizen, a runaway… For all we know she appeared out of thin air, booked herself into a top hotel – without a credit card – and killed herself.

“Okay, where’d the gun come from if she came from abroad – she wouldn’t have got it through security. I assume the gun’s made of metal?”

Tomorrow he’d have to get some poor sap to check hours of airport security video for the girl.

“Fleming, where’s our Jane Doe’s phone?”

“Haven’t seen it guv, not sure it’s listed in evidence.”

The day before yesterday

At three in the morning the latest member of the hotel reception team was manning the desk. All the newbies got this shift – all part of paying their dues.

You’d think there’d be little to do, but there was paperwork to sort out (left over from the previous evening’s shift), making sure all was in order for the early departures, and the handling any of the odd requests from the hotel’s notoriously high-flying demanding guests.

Arrivals were few and far-between at this time of day, but alerted by the sound of stilettos cracking on the polished marble floor, the young man looked up to see a tall, slim, woman heading straight for him.

She looked like a woman you’d not want to let down, her steely demeanour cut through the plush surroundings and sophisticated ambience like a jagged blade between the shoulders.

“You have a room for me, Fernanda Kloss.”

The woman’s manicured fingernails tapped impatiently as the boy behind the desk scrolled up and down his screen; almost frightened to give her the bad news.

“I phoned a few hours ago, spoke to a charming woman…She took my credit card details. Kloss!”

That didn’t help, but if she rang maybe he had missed the paperwork. He quickly booked her into a suite and gave her the door entry card for room 709 with a calm efficient smile.

As the lift door closed the boy started looking for the woman’s paperwork. Booking someone in without seeing their credit card was a strict ‘no-no’. Then he realised he hadn’t asked to see her passport. No worries, the day shift will sort it out.

As the lift door opened to the seventh floor Fernanda couldn’t believe her luck at scoring a good room with a view of the city. From the balcony of her suite she looked at the streets below and took in a huge deep breath of air.

After sliding the door closed she drew the curtains, placed a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door, showered, and climbed into bed. It had been a long journey.

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As dawn broke a slither of light seeped into the room between the blackout curtains to land directly on Fernanda’s closed eyelids. She squeezed them tight and turned over, away from the light, but it was too late, the damage was done.

Picking up the phone was enough to alert the girl on the executive desk to answer with a bright “good morning, how can I help you Miss Kloss?”

Fernanda asked for a full cooked and a full continental breakfast and within half an hour there was a knock on her door.

“Shall I remove the do not disturb sign Miss Klos?” Asked the young girl as she pushed a trolley laden with food, tea and coffee, across the threshold.

“No need, you can put the trolley there, near the window, and that’ll be all.”

Sitting alone Fernanda tucked in to whatever took her fancy and watched the world go by for an hour, all the time contemplating her next move.

Looking at the news only confirmed her plight and despite considering all the scenarios she kept returning to the same answer. She didn’t have a next move. No cash, no ID cards, no credit cards, no passport, not even a drivers’ licence – which was just as well as she couldn’t drive.

It was checkmate and it was all her own fault for volunteering.

“No good turn goes unpunished,” she thought to herself. It was something her father was always saying.

A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts and by the time she opened the door all she saw down the corridor were the lift doors closing. At her feet lay a triangle-shaped box that she pushed into her room with her right foot while keeping an eye out for any other people.

With the door closed and locked she picked up the box and placed it on her bed. Inside was a gun with a full clip of ammunition along with a black & white photo of a man’s face. On the back was his name.

The enormity of what she had signed up for was overcoming her once again and looking at the empty coffee pot she knew she’d have to settle for warm tea.

It wasn’t long before the breakfast trolley was replaced with the lunch trolley, and that in-turn was replaced with a tray of food for an evening meal. Day one slipped into day two, then three, and she figured it wouldn’t be long before someone knocked on the door asking for her passport and credit card.

With the international leaders’ conference two days away in the hotel’s main function suite she had to lay low. Watching the news it was clear that, compared to where she came from, everything was the same and at the same time everything was different.

People spoke, but spoke differently to what she was used to. They looked the same, but at the same time looked different. And the clothes…They really did look old fashioned compared to the fabrics her people used. That’s what 30 years can do.

Like it or not, Fernanda was on a suicide mission. She didn’t really expect to do her job and escape with her life. But if she did, there’d be no life to speak of. It was a one-way trip.

The boffins had cracked the technology to send people back but their actions always changed the future – and that meant a return journey was impossible.

Still, she had nothing to live for in her time. A lonely life in a tiny apartment, a military career cut short by injury, invalided out of the service and – until last week – was washing dishes at a local restaurant three block away that didn’t exist yet.

Just for fun she’d looked it up on a street map, it was a school playing field today – but at some point soon the bulldozers would roll in as school sports and outside activities were deemed unnecessary to a child’s education by the corporations that now ran all the schools.

A factory to make robots, said the authorities, would be the best use of the land and the corporations were well placed to train the people they need – not the government.

“If only they knew,” thought Fernanda. “A virus will soon be used to change all of humanity. No more freedom of movement, face masks…And the unemployed snitching on neighbours, family and friends to make a little money.”

As she looked out from her balcony she mused that while neighbours will turn a blind eye to domestic violence they wouldn’t miss a beat in reporting their neighbours for stepping outside during curfew.

But back to the job at hand… Her instructions were clear, put one industry leader out of everyone’s misery before he became too powerful, and good luck.

As the evening of day three rolled in someone decided to ignore the ‘do not disturb’ notice and knocked on Fernanda’s door. She ignored the repeated tapping until a man’s voice called her name.

“Who is it?” She shouted at the door. The man tapped again and rattled the handle. Placing the security latch across the door she opened it a crack to see the man’s face.

“Remember the summer of 2069?” He said. Releasing the latch she let him in while remembering her gun was in a draw next to her bed.

The man, Addison, explained he’d been dropped last month, taken a dead man’s identity, and was working on a construction site.

“I knew you were coming before you did,” he said. “I put the package outside your door, I would have stayed but was spooked by a cleaner so I slipped out. Are you ready?”

Fernanda said she was nervous and hoped to get across the border afterward.

“I can’t imagine how,” he said. “No money or documents…You’ve done well to stay here as long as you have. But there is a way you can survive all this. After all we both know there’s no going back, and we know what’s coming.

“If we work together we can really look after ourselves. I can’t do it alone, and neither can you.”

Fernanda sat on the edge of her bed and asked to hear more. Addison explained he was living under someone else’s identity and that she could too. Just pick a person living on the streets and take their papers.

“Then it’s just a quick hop, skip and a jump into a job, security, home and a new life while they exploit all they know about the incoming changes,” he said.

“We will invest in face masks, vaccine companies, big pharma, use our military skills when necessary…We can make a mint and within a year be living like royalty.

“And when they send someone after us we turn them too. What a hoot!”

Fernanda wasn’t so sure. She’d seen the future, had come from it. Seen her parents struggle and die under the rule of corporations, and although she could change things for the better she’d not be able to see it for herself.

She reasoned with Addison that the greater good was worth their sacrifice.

“Yes it is a sacrifice,” said Addison. “I derailed a train to stop people getting to a meeting two weeks ago and haven’t seen any change at all!”

“It’s too soon,” replied Fernanda. “You have to look at the bigger picture, there is no moral desert for us.

“We play our part now and things turn out better in the future, you know it – we both do. It has to be true.”

Addison took a step forward, grabbed Fernanda’s throat with both hands and pushed her down on the bed.

“You’re either with me or you’re dead!” he said.

She pushed up her right knee to shuv him over. “No you don’t,” shouted Addison as he grabbed her arm and pushed her face down into a pillow.

Fernanda, fumbled for an open her draw, grabbed for her gun and stretched her arm under her bed. With one eye on Addison’s snarled face, with murder clearly in his eyes she pointed the barrel of her gun up, moved her head to the left, and pulled the trigger with her thumb.

Addison’s lifeless body slumped on top of Fernanda, one ear bleeding from a bullet nicking her flesh.

Thankfully the mattress dulled the crack of the gun, and in the quiet peace that followed Fernanda contemplated the situation.

A dead man with a bullet in his temple lying on her bed.


Detective Rimmer sat back in a chair that seemed to become more uncomfortable as each week passed. Looking up at Fleming he said it had been one of those weeks.

“One of what weeks?,” said his young assistant.

“You know, a long week. I could have sworn today is Thursday but it’s Wednesday – will the week never end…”

Fleming rolled his eyes and handed him a buff coloured folder.

“Ah, the autopsy on that hotel Jon Doe.”

“That’s right,” said Fleming. “And there’s a woman in reception, your 10 o’clock for the office assistant. Fernanda someone…”

Copyright Steve Hart

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Which apps to record with

Steve Hart. Journalist and podcaster based in Melbourne.

In this short-and-sweet episode I suggest two apps to record and edit your podcast. One is completely free and the other has a generous free trial period that will give you plenty of time to experiment and try it out.

OcenAudio is a superb free app and Reaper provides a fully-featured and robust alternative to Audition and ProTools (at a fraction of the price).

Your feedback is always welcome. So do please visit my new website at

All the best, Steve.

Top movies and docos about radio

It goes without saying that I like everything about radio, even movies that feature radio stations.

The first movie I watched about radio must have been FM (pretty sure I left the cinema disappointed). Then came Good Morning Vietnam… So I thought it a good idea to pull together my top 5 along with some notable mentions…

5) FM

Released in 1978 the film FM is about fictional Los Angeles station Q-Sky and the battle between the station’s DJs and the suits who want more commercials and less music (sound familiar?).

We see a variety of cliché DJs who each have their personal problems and we get an insight into the pressure the station manager – played by Michael Brandon – faces as he has to pick a side; the suits or his DJs (and their loyal listeners).

Tension between the on-air talent and the management comes to a head when the DJs lock themselves in the station. A police raid follows. All up, the climax is a bit like what really happened at New York station WBAI (see below).

The plot of FM is paper thin, the film isn’t based in the reality of any station I know, and it is unbelievable in parts. Most parts.

4) Good Morning Vietnam

And it’s back to 1965 we go as we join DJ Adrian Cronauer (played by Robin Williams) on American Forces Radio during the Vietnam Conflict.

It’s a wild ride as Adrian takes on the army to play rock’n’roll and say what he likes over the air; revealing a bit of classified information to listeners along the way.

His DJ style is worlds away from what the other presenters’ are doing. Listeners love Cronauer; he boosts morale, draws a huge following among the troops, and ends up being too popular for his own good.

Great music, Williams’ ad-lib performance are star quality, and while dark in places, Good Morning Vietnam, released in 1987, is a fine film on many levels.

Interestingly, the real life Cronauer says he was never as funny as actor Robin Williams makes him out to be in the film.

3) Radio Unnameable

Radio host Bob Fass is probably unknown to most people living outside New York. But in the 60s he turned radio on its head – opening up the airways to listeners and musicians like no other radio host before him.

In this compelling documentary we learn that Bob was an actor who convinced WBAI’s management to let him do a show from midnight – when the station would normally shut down for the day.

His show tapped into a community of insomniacs and night workers who had something to say. He got a friend to hook up the studio phone to the broadcast desk and let the conversations and show find its own path every night. Bob Fass became an institution.

The documentary covers the anti-war movement, the emerging hippy culture, how Bob single-handedly changed radio, and much more.

However, it all came tumbling down when new management started changing the station’s schedule. Conflict came to a head when Bob and his supporters locked the management out of the station.

The station was off the air for weeks while issues were resolved. However, Bob paid a high price for taking a stand.

More here

2) Corporate FM

The internet didn’t kill radio, commercial radio is being killed from the inside. When DJs are told to shut up and stick to the playlist, it ends an age-old symbiotic relationship between radio and the community.

Corporate FM uncovers and documents the high finance shell-game that stole control of local radio from communities across America. The film also reveals how radio may become local again.

1) Talk Radio

Released in 1988, Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio was 20 years ahead of its time. The film follows polarizing talk show host Barry Champlain, a shop assistant with a big mouth and an opinion about everything.

He gets his big break when playing second fiddle to a daytime lightweight talk show host and ends up with his own late night phone-in show on a Dallas, Texas, station.

We join Barry as he learns his show is to be broadcast across the US network and as success is within sight, he loses his grip. He calls on his ex-wife to steady him as he prepares to transition from local talk show host to national radio personality.

Very well made, tense, funny, and terrifying.

Honourable mentions

Pump Up The Volume

Featuring Christian Slater, this is a raw and witty celebration of free speech that will make you laugh, cheer, and think. Slater says this is the film he is most proud of.

In Pump up the Volume, we discover Slater’s character (Mark Hunter) has moved to a new town and uses a radio transmitter to broadcast his thoughts on society and the actions of his school teachers at 10pm every night on 92FM – bringing students together and outing a corrupt teacher or two.

While quiet and shy at school, behind the microphone – broadcasting from the basement of his parent’s home – Hunter feels free to open up about loneliness and the sometimes difficult transition from child to adulthood.

Strangely, this movie is not listed on any streaming service I can find, it disappeared ten minutes after it was released in 1990 – but is available on DVD. Treat yourself to a great movie and don’t rely on streaming services to provide all you need.

Broadcast Blues

Almost a sister movie to Corporate FM. In Broadcast Blues documentary-maker Sue Wilson makes the point that in the US the airwaves belong to the people – not the corporations. She is campaigning to take the airwaves back.

The Boat That Rocked

A light-hearted look at off-shore pirate radio in the UK during the 1960s – featuring some studio gear that wasn’t available until the 70s (just saying). Colourful and fun with great music. Discover how the UK’s Labour government voted to change the law to make pirate radio illegal.

American Graffiti

Iconic DJ Wolfman Jack provides the audio backdrop to this coming-of-age movie – one night in the lives of a group of teenagers in 1962 (where were you?).

Three microphone suggestions for podcasters

This week I am looking at three mic suggestions you might find interesting (along with a suggestion on using the mic in your pocket – give it a go).

I look at a tried and trusted mic used by many podcasters, a new Rode and a high end mic that I really like the sound of. And the good thing is, they are all dynamic microphones – which I prefer for home and office use over the more sensitive condenser mics.

Your feedback is always welcome. So do please visit my new website at

All the best, Steve.

Beware of dual mono music on the RodecasterPro 2

I recorded a music show and while it sounded okay, I felt something was a bit off – but couldn’t put my finger on it. The music seemed to be stereo, but it wasn’t. There was something up and I had no idea what it could be. Was it just that I was listening to the output of a different mixer after all these years…? No, it was more than that.

A few days ago, I had time to delve deeper into the settings of the channels I use for music, and as I went through the processing options to turn each one off, right at the end, the final option was the stereo balance – or panning as Rode calls it.

The default setting out of the box is to send the left signal to both left and right channels – and to do the same for the right channel – leading to an output that’s dual mono. The stereo mix is heard on both sides – left and right.

To achieve true stereo is an easy fix.

Click the square button on the channel you want to change, go Advanced Processing > panning option (L-R) > turn the left channel 100% left and the right channel 100% right. I would not use this setting for the microphone, as mics are mono – one mouth, one mic, mono. Music – stereo.

With the music set to stereo, and the mic mono, when you speak over the music you will get a better cut-through – making it easier for listeners to hear what you are saying.

Local, local, local – where radio does it best

Picture shows an Arran Sound volunteer broadcasting from their home studio.

I’ve written a few posts promoting the benefits of local radio and hyper-local radio over the years. I’m a bit like a cracked record in that regard as I really believe that’s what radio should be used for.

I’m returning to the topic as a result of a long journey that took me to the website of Arran Sound, which serves the visitors and (hardy) residents of the Isle of Arran in Scotland. You see, in the 1980s I worked on some radio jingles for a DJ called Marty Ross and during a recent clear out came across a reel of tape featuring his jingles that I have since digitised.

In hunting for Marty a few weeks ago, to send him his old jingles (for old times’ sake), I came across a Marty Ross at Arran Sound. Turns out he is not the Marty I am looking for.

But having found Arran Sound I thought it rude not to listen to the station. Mixed in with the ‘normal’ pop hits is plenty of traditional Scottish music along with songs performed by what I assume are local artists.

However, what really caught my attention was the content between the music, it was as local as one could get. From dates, times and places of local groups, societies, and club meets, to recording local history, and promoting future events such as art exhibitions and poetry readings.

Arran Sound volunteers taking part in a local event.
Arran Sound volunteers taking part in a local event.

Sure, it’s a station that broadcasts over the internet and can be heard anywhere, but it is the perfect example of what hyper-local radio should sound like. It could have a global audience, but focuses on the community it serves – giving them something a commercial station couldn’t hope to provide.

My point is, a local station should serve the local people and garner the support of local advertisers – building a circle of success. One group supports the other.

It’s an example of what radio used to be before the corporations started snapping up every frequency they could, dissolving the fabric of community in the process, and cutting local people out of local radio.

The story of Arran Sound is also interesting, born out of a weekly service where volunteers recorded news on cassette tapes that were mailed to those unable to read local newspapers.

And if you know of a Marty Ross who worked at Radio Top Shop…Let him know I’m looking for him.

Top picture shows an Arran Sound volunteer broadcasting from their home studio.

Get to know your microphone

Steve Hart. Journalist and podcaster based in Melbourne.

No matter how much you spend on a microphone the key to getting the best from it is for you to get to know it. To treat it like a friend.

Only rarely can you just plug a mic in expect it to record a great performance. Every microphone has its own personality, it will like some things and not others.

It might pop a plosive at one angle and not another. It might sound great if you speak into in one direction, but not another.

Al mics have their sweet spot for your voice, and your environment also plays a part too.

So to record the best podcast, to get the best quality recording, means you have to understand what your mic likes and what it doesn’t.

In this episode of Podcasting Made Easy I’ll explore some of the way in which you can record your best performance as a podcaster.

Your feedback is always welcome. So do please visit my new website at

All the best, Steve.

Why less is more in station management

With New Year resolutions already a distant memory for most of us, the routine of running your radio station has probably returned.

Many programme controllers and station managers would have reflected on what they broadcast last year and made decisions about what will change this year to shake things up.

Shows that aren’t attracting audiences, or which may not fit the current direction of the station, will be (ever-so-nicely) dropped from the schedule and attention paid to what might replace them. First and foremost, live, local content – ideally hosted by someone in your town – will fill most of the slots.

And then it comes to the day-to-day running of your station. Most of you will think ‘what more can I do?’

However, I pose a different question: what can you stop doing?

What are you doing now that’s part of the routine that may be near pointless and deliver zero meaningful returns for the time and effort?

Only you will know this, but it seems counter intuitive doesn’t it? We always try to dream up and create more work, when in fact you probably already know what is delivering you the best results, and whatever that is – you need to do more of it. But you don’t have the time.

Well, yes you do. You create time by dropping the things that deliver little in return.

For example, do you create LinkedIn posts when you know Twitter delivers by far the biggest boost in your station’s website traffic? Stop doing LinkedIn and do more on Twitter.

Perhaps you have a token news service on your website that really doesn’t benefit anyone. Unless you can add news of real value that can’t be found anywhere else at least once a day, well… It’s pointless. Stop it. Embrace being a ‘news free’ zone. Don’t clutter up your front page with news that’s weeks old. It’s not a good look.

But if you want to do news and can’t do it every day, consider a ‘weekly news wrap’ page where you highlight key events in your town for that week (one or two paragraphs for each story).

What to do next?

Perhaps create a list of everything you and your team do each week or month and start to strike out anything that’s not paying its way with a return on your time and effort. Stop doing it.

Don’t carry on doing things just because you have always done them. Rationalise, cut, trim, delete, focus, and build on what works.

A case in point, and the basis of this post, is that in 2013 I started hosting a syndicated 80s club music show called The Pleasuredome. Despite not hosting the show since 2018, I kept the website – until last week.

Until then I’d spend an hour or two each week ensuring its WordPress plugins were up to date, fend off the occasional hacking attempt, and add content now again – just because I felt I had to. Traffic to the site was near zero.

Then the bill came to renew the domain and hosting and I thought that now’s the time to let it go. It served little purpose and was a time waster. It was obsolete to my current interests and direction.

Now, it doesn’t mean I won’t knock out the occasion 80s show or dance megamix now and again (some are still listed on Mixcloud), but the site is gone and frankly it’s a weight off my mind.

For me, it’s one less thing to do (and I don’t miss it). I have hours of my life back and saved some money. And those hours will be spent here and on my Just Jazz site.

So, take a good hard look at everything you do to run your station (or any other part of your life) and cut out anything that’s not benefiting you with some kind of return (be it listeners, site hits, or income).