“Colonel, will you be so kind as to take this envelope to the commander’s car when you leave? It arrived by express courier.” Miss Ealand smiled at Paul Foster who was on his way out of the office. “The car’s unlocked.”
Paul took the envelope and was surprised by the weight. “Uh. Heavy. I thought Ed left headquarters some minutes ago?”
“He wanted to. But then he returned, mumbling something about a blank CD ROM and Lt. Ford’s responsibility and went back down to his office.”
“Okay, I’ll put this in his car. Until tomorrow, Miss Eland.”
Paul left Straker’s secretary. On his way to the parking lot he cast a glance at the address on the envelope. ‘Harlington-Straker film studios. Ed Straker. Personally.’ Curious about the sender he turned the mailer. ‘Jim Courtland’. Courtland? Paul Foster cocked his eyebrows. He remembered a guy with this name who had been dismissed from the studios last year. He had been an excellent scenic designer until he fell into mental illness. Finally studio director Whatts had no other choice than firing him and Courtland had left the studios, launching threats and dealing out blows against Paul and Louis Graham who had accompanied him to the exit.
Paul reached Straker’s bronze vehicle and pressed a button at the gull-wing door. It swung up and he put the envelope in the middle of the passenger seat. Ed would notice it there after returning to his car. The door shut and Paul hurried to his own car, knowing he was again too late for his rendezvous with Charlene. Poor girl! It would cost him more than an exquisite dinner to calm her down tonight. He imagined the later hours with his girlfriend and with a smug smile on his handsome face he accelerated.
Straker opened the door of his car and slid in the driver seat. The digital display of the clock showed how long he had stayed in his office. Five minutes to eleven. And his duty should have ended already at seven. He sighed and started the engine. Putting the gear into reverse his gaze fell on the envelope on the seat next to him. He braked and reached for the unwanted mail. Oh no, another film script. Delivered by express mail. Seemingly urgent if Miss Ealand had brought it to his vehicle. He sighed again, knowing this evening would take much longer than expected.
Ed placed his steaming mug on the coffee table where the envelope with the film script was already waiting for him. After taking a shower and changing into more comfortable clothes he felt fresher, ready for the last task of this day. He reached for the envelope and opened it, still wondering about the unusual weight and stiffness of the material. A small piece of a street sign, a slide rule and a passport slipped on the table, followed by a folded sheet of paper.
Wrinkling his brow he took the slide rule in his hands. His one had gone missing last week and it could not be pure coincidence that this one looked identical. Turning it over his suspicion was confirmed; a small scratch at one of the upper edges showed it was his own model.
He breathed in with a choked noise. Security leak. Someone had been in his office, unauthorised. He took the phone receiver but let it sink back. The street sign. It showed the first letters of a square on the film area: Rupert Square. So the sender must have dealings with the studio. He grabbed at the passport, opened it. The picture of a bearded man in his forties faced him. Jim Courtland, British Citizen, the passport out of date. Ed tried to remember the name. There was a light sense as if he had heard of him, but in which relation? Ed put the passport back and took the sheet of paper instead. He unfolded it and started reading, his eyes running over the typed lines.
‘Straker, do you remember me? Jim, the scenic designer whom you bounced last year? Thank you, Mr. Arsehole-Straker. I know all about you, Straker, all. And this is the moment of my revenge. There’s a bomb deposed somewhere on the area, maybe even in your office. It’s going to detonate exactly at midnight. Enjoy searching! And don’t try to find me, I changed my identity. My passport was the last connection to a bloody past and my future will start with a big bang.’
Damn. A bomb. Straker looked at the watch. A quarter to midnight. He dialled Colonel Freeman’s office number. “Alec, everything okay?”
Alec’s voice sounded surprised. “Yes, of course. Why do you ask?”
“Because I got a warning. There might be a bomb, either in my studio office or on the film area. Call the bomb squad and evacuate the studios. Detonation is announced for midnight.”
Alec Freeman activated the internal alarm and the emergency drill, so often practiced, swung into action. After taking all necessary steps for the evacuation he ordered Colonel Foster back to duty. When he arrived half an hour later, he met Keith Ford at the studio entrance.
Foster winked at Ford. “Nasty matter. A bomb. Suppose they won’t let us down. Has the commander arrived yet?”
Ford nodded with a short smile. “Yes, I met him when I wanted to leave the studio lot. My shift ended minutes before the alarm was set off and Straker ordered me to stay here. What about you? Disturbed by a …more delicate activity?” He pointed to Paul’s ruffled hair and his jacket.
“What? Oh … I see.” Paul grinned and opened the buttons of his jacket, closing them now in the right order. “It needs more passion to hold me back on a night like this.”
Written to Lightcudder's prompt: Write a story with a blank CD rom, a slide rule, an out of date passport and the words ‘it needs more passion’.
Also be found on the SHADO Archive under www.shadoarchive.com.
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