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A Jig Before Dying

by
Danny Carnahan:

Chapter 1

     "Tell me again why you’re serving hand-ground French roast in china cups to the idiots upstairs while we have to squeeze this umbrella water out of a Coffee Max machine," complained PC Jarvis to the hotel concierge.

     "Don’t ask me," shrugged the pouting, sloe-eyed young Indian woman leaning against the machine. "I wanted nothing to do with this summit deal. You can blame that wanker Weldon as usual. He’s the one who insisted it be held here. Brilliant timing, too, with half the office being renovated and most of the front desk out with the flu. You’re lucky the Coffee Max still works."

     Jarvis felt bored and left out. He’d only been in the grand meeting hall long enough for the last security sweep. Then it was back to his crummy desk in the command center long before the escorted limousines pulled into the marble entryway. The Brighton International Hotel’s plush suites and spidery, arched corridors might well be among England’s most acclaimed architectural wonders, but the staff facilities were positively Dickensian in their unfinished confusion.

     "So what do you suppose they’re up to now?" he asked, not really caring.

     "God only knows," replied the concierge. "Just so they stop scaring away our regular clientèle. Can’t wait to see the back of them."

     Jarvis nodded his head of tousled blond hair and tried to balance four paper coffee cups on his clipboard. The young Brighton Police constable had never drawn security duty at any government meeting before, let alone one as highly touted and publicized as this Commonwealth Economic Summit. But besides a couple of crank IRA bomb threats, it was all just long hours and three nights in a row without seeing his girl. And bad coffee.

     "Well, I guess it’s back to the nerve center," he said sarcastically. "Maybe next time we can get a room with a jacuzzi."

     "Not with Deputy Secretary Weldon running things, you won’t," smiled the concierge. "High-handed old so-and-so. Where do they dig up these old government fossils? What was it the Guardian said about him yesterday? Nothing he attempts is ever well done? Ha. I only hope he doesn’t bore them all to death before the press conference. What is it? A couple hours yet?" She glanced at her watch.

     Jarvis just grinned darkly and maneuvered his luke-warm coffees down the service hall toward the room off the main lobby where the police security post had been set up. As he pushed through the door he was nearly knocked over by another uniformed policeman lunging for his radio.

     "Where’s the fire, Fred?" he cried, slopping coffee halfway across the nearest desk.

     "It’s Doomsday Paddy callin’ again," snarled Detective Sergeant Crook with his hand clamped over the telephone mouthpiece. "Jerrold, do you think you could manage a trace this time?"

     PC Jerrold vaulted cat-like over the back of the desk to begin tapping expertly at the computer terminal.

     "Just keep him talking this time, damn it," snapped the thin young man at the computer under his breath. The room grew suddenly quiet, with all three uniformed officers intent on the Sergeant’s half of the conversation.

     "Yes, I recognize your voice," he drawled comfortably. "I can’t say I appreciate those last two calls much, though... What do you think I told ‘em? I mean, why ring to tell me there’s a bomb in the hotel if it’s just a load of bollocks? Why’d you ring again this morning? Just to yank my bloody chain?..."

     "Almost..."

     "Yeah, yeah, very clever... But what was all that about it all goin’ up at three fifty-six? Maybe your watch needs winding..."

     "Almost. Close by, wherever he is. Just another few seconds."

     "Nothin’ yesterday, nothin’ today... Get your story straight, man. Think we got nothin’ better to do than sweep the same damn conference room every four hours for imaginary bombs just for you?"

     "Got ‘im," hissed the policeman at the computer. "Right in the building. Car park phone box, street level." Jumping out of his seat, he spun around for orders to see that the Sergeant’s face had suddenly gone deathly white.

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