Scene Seventy Three
In which a plan is discussed.
Clare was grateful to be out of her house; and she was very grateful that she had got out of her house without anyone outside it knowing. However she was very put out that when the realtor had sold her her house, he had failed to mention that there were secret passageways leading into it. The knowledge now didn’t really make her feel safe, and she decided that she would be blocking off the tunnels as soon as she got home again, when this all blew over.
She was in Sandra’s apartment, she had slept there last night; something she only seemed to end up doing when she was in serious trouble.
She could hear Sandra’s voice from the kitchen, “Do You Want Orange Juice?” She asked. Clare was on the verge of saying no, she didn’t like imposing on hospitality, especially when the host is likely to remember at a later date, but some part of her was very aware that it hadn’t eaten dinner last night, “Yes” she said.
Sandra walked in with two tall glasses of the fruity tasting stuff that people tended to buy at supermarkets. She gave one to Clare, who had wrapped herself in a blanket in the corner, and then sat in an old leather chair herself. “Frankie Should Be Here Soon” she said, “And He Should Be Bringing Andrew With Him. I Don’t Think That Ants Was Very Keen On Helping Us, But I Threatened To Mess With His Internet Connection, So He Should Be Here In Some Form Or Another. When We’re All Here We Can Start.”
Clare nodded, she was still thinking about the tunnels leading out of her house. “How did Frankie know how to get me?” she asked Sandra
Sandra looked surprised and, Clare thought, a little annoyed that she was still thinking about that, “They Were Just The Old Steam Tunnels” she said, “Frankie Used To Use Them In His Army Days. Besides, Andrew Guessed They Were There As Well, Apparently He Used To Explore Them Around His Old College.”
Clare nodded, it all seemed really anticlimactic in a way, her house was an old one, and its steam pipes had needed a specialised maintenance tunnel, they weren’t really secret, they were just redundant and ignored by everyone who had known that they were there at all. Still, it was a tunnel leading directly into her house, and Clare didn’t like that, it didn’t make her feel safe.
There was a knock at the door and Sandra went to open it.
Frankie filled the doorway like a huge British refrigerator. He walked in, Clare noticed that Sandra careful slid around him, and took her seat again before he had a chance. Andrew bobbed along behind him like a little boat caught in the wake of a much larger, fast moving continent; all the chairs in the small lounge were taken, so he just sort of squatted down on an available area of floor.
Sandra didn’t have a very large apartment, and particularly with Frankie here there wasn’t a lot of room for anyone else. She wondered where Ants was going to sit when he arrived, knowing him she thought, he’ll probably hook his legs over the kitchen counter and hang down from there.
Frankie put something small and expensive looking on the kitchen counter. He flicked it on, and what was clearly a screen flashed to life, There were the sounds of a small war from the other side, someone was yelling orders and the sound of gun fire filled the room.
Clare’s eyes caught up with her brain, she saw Ants lying upside down on a couch somewhere; he had a controller in his hand and he was wearing a headset microphone, like the one that she was used to Sandra wearing. Ants flicked his eyes at them, and thumbed a button on his controller. The sound died down to a reasonable level, but kept going anyway. “Let me know when you need something” he said, his eyes turning back to whatever he had been looking at.
Sandra seemed to take this in her stride, “Well” she said, “Now That We’re All Here” she glanced at the screen here, and gave at a significant look that Clare was sure that Ants couldn’t see. “We Should Go Over Our Plan”
All eyes turned to her, apart from Ants, whose ears picked up a little bit. “You Can’t Stay Here” Sandra said, “Another Day And The Press Will Start Speculating On Your Untimely Death. The Key Here Is That We Have To Make You Boring”
“Boring?” repeated Clare
“Yes, You Have To Avoid Doing Anything Interesting. If You Do That For A Week Or Two Then Everyone Will Get Bored And Leave You Alone.”
Clare thought about the moment when the sheer press of the diving Press had threatened to swallow her alive. Being left alone sounded absolutely great right now. “How do we do that?” she asked.
“The Important Thing For You To Do Is To Keep Your Normal Routine Going, You’re Going To Go Into Work Today And Everyday For The Next Few Weeks At Most.”
Clare thought of crowds of reporters outside the daily soapbox, “Will Rowind like that?” She asked.
Sandra, seemed to defer to Frankie on this one. Frankie looked at Sandra, and then back at Clare before answering. “Rowind believes strongly in the rights of the reporter” he said “But he trained with our editor and he dose appreciate that the newspaper is a business, he’ll probably ask you to do a series of articles on what’s happened since you’ve gotten back”
“Which You Are Going To Do” said Sandra, “But They Are Going To Be Written Like A Puritans Guide To Sex; Dull And Uninvolved.”
Clare felt that she could get behind this plan, “Ok” she said “I’ll play my part” For the first time since yesterday she was starting to feel good about the future.
“Good” Said Sandra, “Now For The Rest Of Us. Ants!” The figure on the screen made a small grunting noise. “I Need You To Get Sockpuppets Going On All The Major Forums, The Key Message Is ‘She’s boring and I wish the news would show something else.’ Got That?” Ants made another grunting noise, at a slightly higher pitch than the last one. “Good” said Sandra.
“Frankie Will Be Your partner for the series of articles” She continued, “He Is A Good Judge Of People, And He’s Big Enough To Discourage Any Rough Business” Frankie looked at Clare and smiled gently.
“I’ll be Coordinating The Whole Thing” Sandra went on, “And Smoothing Everything Over At The Paper.” She looked absolutely gleeful at the thought of the whole thing.
She stopped there and didn’t seem to have anything more to say. Clare noticed the missing player “What about Andrew?” She prompted, “What is he doing here?” Sandra looked rather thoughtful; as though she had never really thought about the answer to that question, she looked at Andrew. Everyone else did as well.
Andrew looked very uncomfortable under all the scrutiny. He drew little circles on the carpet with his finger tip. “Wanted to help” he muttered with his eyes facing down.
Clare knew she should feel some pity, but then she realised that it was one of the most coherent sentences she had ever heard Andrew form. Then the pity came of course, but it had to wait until the shock died down. “Do you remember how to get into that old steam tunnel?” she asked
Andrew looked up and nodded, making something very close to eye contact.
“In my bedroom”, she said, “At the bottom of my wardrobe is a cardboard box with ‘Mom’s Christmas Jumpers’ written on the side. Could you sneak in and get that for me? I think I’m going to be dressing down for a while.”
 Apart from Ants, who was, from the sound of it, saving hostages at that point