Time: real-time June, some time after "Open For Business"
Maureen's face was buried in her hands, and her shoulders were shaking. Tami stopped just inside the door, startled, and wondered if she should leave. "Um, Maureen?" she said uncertainly.
Maureen looked up, and Tami was relieved to see that she was laughing, not crying. "Come on in, Tami," Maureen said between giggles, "I was expecting you."
"So, what's the joke?" Tami asked, sitting down in the chair next to Maureen's desk.
"I just heard that there was a little food fight down at the commissary. A Knightie got a Cousin in the face with a lemon meringue pie!" Maureen grinned, "Just one of the many joys of working security on this set! That reminds me... excuse me a second." She picked up the phone and dialled. "Hi, Pete, it's Maureen. Listen, tell the caterers not to provide any more desserts with whipped cream or custard, or anything like that. No sense in providing temptation to people who don't need it anyway! Thanks, Pete."
She hung up the phone, and turned to the other mercenary. "Are you ready to start?"
"Sure! I'm just sorry I couldn't start sooner."
Maureen said, "Oh, I understand, you weren't the only person with prior commitments when I called. I know it was short notice, but when Mr. P. called and told me his regular security firm had unexpectedly quit, and he needed a new crew immediately, I had to pull together a team as quickly as I could. It's worked out, for the most part, although I wish I had more mercenaries in the crew."
"What's it like — besides the food fights?" Tami asked, grinning.
"You know that Chinese curse that says, 'May you live in interesting times'? Well, working here is always interesting! Thank goodness all the list members aren't here to film their parts at the same time." Maureen shudddered, thinking of the... complications... that could arise with certain people in the same room at the same time. "I thought, at first, the worst thing would be the animals; you never know what's going to happen on a set with animals involved. But the tarantula wranglers were very professional. It helps that the little critters were de-venomed. I wish the same could be said for those South American tree frogs! Those red ones were cute, but their poison sacs can't be removed without killing the animals, so they had to be handled very carefully. That was the biggest headache... except maybe for the monkeys... or the trained dogs that weren't nearly well enough trained..."
"So, lots of problems," Tami said, frowning slightly.
"Oh, yeah, but lots of fun, too! Having input on the episode is great — I even wrote myself into a couple of scenes!"
"Why don't I show you around, and get you started..." Maureen began, when she was interrupted by a voice on her headset.
"Security Two calling Mother."
Maureen said, "Excuse me, Tami..." Adjusting her headset, she said, "Mother here, what's up?"
"We have an unscheduled delivery at Gate One. Could you check the invoices for a load of costumes? The invoice the driver has says 'Lederhosen'?"
"What? Why would we need lederhosen?!"
Tami looked up, and tried to get Maureen's attention. "Oh, I forgot to give you something..." she said, digging into her backpack. She pulled out some blue pages in a clear plastic cover, and handing them to the security Chief, said, "As I came through the production offices, someone asked me to give you this. It's a new scene... I read it while I was waiting to be passed through the gate. You might want to read it..."
Puzzled, Maureen took the pages, and started to read:
INT. - LACROIX'S LIVING ROOM
TRACK IN ON:
LaCroix, lounging on a black leather sofa, TV remote control in his hand.
He's nodding off while watching TV.
Television playing scene from "The Sound of Music".
DISSOLVE TO: NIGHTMARE...
"What the...!" Maureen exclaimed, reading further. "Demon children in lederhosen... goat-herds... yodel-a-hee-WHAT?! Who wrote this?" She looked up at Tami. "Mr. P approved this scene?" She shook her head. "This place gets weirder by the day..."
She toggled on her headset, and started to say, "Mother to Security Two..." when she was interrupted by screams coming from the east end of the lot. "Hold on, Security Two... Mother to Security Three! What's going on?"
"Security Three here... I don't know what's going on, I had to take a bathroom break!"
"Well, zip it up and get out there!" she said. "Security Four, where are you?"
"Security Four, on my way, boss! Uh, oh... I see smoke!"
"Smoke!" Maureen said, bolting from the office, followed by Tami. "Mother to all available units, emergency on the set. Report to Area Three immediately!" she said, running toward the east end of the lot, where the big enclosed sound stage was located. Coming closer, she could see smoke pouring from the open loading door of the stage. When she got a whiff of the smoke, she started to cough, and quickly backed up. Stink bombs! she thought, dismayed. She looked at the smoke continuing to pour from the building. Big ones, too!
She looked around at the pandemonium, looking for her security crew. Several members of her team ran up to her.
"What do we do now, Maureen? The firemen aren't going to be able to do anything about this, are they?"
"No," she replied, thinking hard. "What we need are air handlers." She grabbed the arm of one of the security crew, and said, "Start calling around to chemical laboratory suppliers, and rent us two or three of the biggest laboratory air handlers they have. Offer them whatever they want — we're already behind schedule as it is!" She looked at another Security crew member. "Steff, start getting people out of the area, and see if you can find a gas mask to get in there and deactivate that thing." She suddenly focused on one of the crew standing there. "Dianne, who's covering Gate One?"
Dianne looked surprised. "No one — you said there was an emergency! I got here as fast as I could..."
Maureen had a sinking feeling. "The front gate isn't secured?" She looked again at the smoke still coming out of the sound stage, and said "Diversionary tactics! Oh, no...!" and turned and ran for the west gate, hoping that truck was still where it was supposed to be.
Arriving out of breath, with her staff pounding up behind her, she looked around for the truck.
"Where is it?" she asked Dianne.
"Where's what?" Dianne answered, confused.
"The truck. The one with the lederhosen."
"I don't know. It was here just... but what could they have done? I've only been gone a couple of minutes!"
"I guess we'll find out soon enough," Maureen said grimly.
They were to find out very soon, indeed...
Mr. P. sat on the floor of the truck, trying to hear his captors through the thick fabric of the hood that covered his head. All he could hear was whispers, but it sounded like the kidnappers were arguing. Great! he thought. I've been abducted, and now my kidnappers are fighting with each other! He strained to hear what they were saying, but they were quiet now. As the truck sped away from the set, all his stunned mind could think was We're never going to catch up on the production schedule now...
Maureen sat at her desk, gloomily waiting to see if her staff could find any more clues left behind by the kidnappers. She looked again at the items that were in the satchel that apparently fell off the truck as it was speeding away... several books, an advance catalog for the American Library Association's summer conference, pens and pencils galore, and a pencil case that had printed on it, "Librarians DON'T do it Quietly!" She picked up one of the books, The Transitive Vampire — A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed, and looked inside to see if, against all hope, the owner's name was written inside. She tossed down the book again when Steff entered the office, and looked up at her questioningly.
"Nothing, nada, zip!"
Maureen groaned, and closed her eyes.
Steff said, "Well, at least we know one of the kidnappers was a librarian, right?"
"Oh, right, and that just narrows down the field a whole hell of a lot, doesn't it? How many factions have members who are librarians? Not to mention the fact that we found this satchel awfully easy - it may have been planted to lead us in the wrong direction."
"That's true." They gloomed together for a moment, then Maureen said, "Well, I better go let the Assistant Director know that he's in charge. This is going to be fun - Mr. P. was the only one who could keep the list-members in line. That wuss of an A.D. is never going to be able to control the chaos."
"Well, that's why we signed up, right? For all the fun!" Steff said with a wicked grin.
As the two women left the office, Maureen could be heard asking her fellow mercenary "Hey, you want a promotion? I could change your title to "Chief List-member Wrangler..."
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