If and When
Disclaimer: Don't own anything, do not know anything about fashion. But this one is for Gin(stan akasarahsmom)
Timeline: We're from the Xenaverse. Timeline? We don't need no stinkin' timeline!
OOC Buildings: I have a magic keyboard and I can create the Elias Clarke building anyway I like.
Why: One of my favourite Xenaverse writers is Gin. Who honoured me by not only letting me backstage to read and beta her DWP works before anyone else saw them, but actually listened and made real changes to her stories on my advice. It was wonderful just reading the roughs of a writer I admired much less shape the stories in a small way. Gin even visited me in our very out-of-the-way home in the English Midlands, before I dropped off the earth. Or at least the online world. So when Stephanie sent my Halloween invitation, (despite not having contributed for years! Thank you, Steph,) I thought I should thank Gin by trying to write a story in her fanverse. It's up to the readers to decide if it's much of a thank you. And, as I ended this post halfway, up to them to decide if I should post the rest of the story or leave them where they are…
All mail is answered at Kamouraskan at yahoo dot com
New York City
7 hours before the first explosion
Andy Sachs huffed her frustration down the telephone line as the muzak continued to whine into her ear. Who in their right mind thought the media were too powerful? Clearly no one who'd watched me spend my whole day waiting on hold for some arsehole of a bureaucrat. I just want a confirmation so I can get back to my story? That's all! Come on! Answer!
Yes, there were less frustrating ways to make her living. Most reporters simply rewrote press releases rather than going out and actually asking hard questions, but Andy still believed in the dream. Andy Sachs, ACE REPORTER… Making A Difference Since… okay, very recently, but still…
Well, maybe Ace Reporter was a little, well okay, completely over the top. Especially since the term had probably been retired from any newsroom since 1942. Of course then, I could have had the fedora, yeah, a dark fedora and a pen behind my ear, talking fast like Rosalind Russell or Katharine Hepburn…
A tone sounded, bringing her back to reality, or at least to the fact that she'd just missed a call from her editor while waiting for this jerk. She'd call back, if and when, she ever finished this call.
At least her editor understood the dream. Greg wasn't Perry White, but he called her Sachs from waaaay across the newsroom, and pushed her, and prodded her. Fortunately, nothing like she'd been pushed, prodded, insulted and ground right into her four inch Laboutins when working for the Devil at Runway, though that was part of the reason she was getting so antsy waiting. She was running out of time, the numbers on her phone were turning. Just maybe, somewhere in a building a few blocks away, there were more clocks ticking. Where was this guy?
For the first six months she'd paid her dues toiling over four inch fillers. But now, she'd already had two by-lines so far this October. That had been noticed. Proof she was someone to watch, and maybe, respect just a little. Or at least someone to listen to. Clearly no one at Homeland had gotten the memo. Otherwise, why was she being held hostage on hold by a person from her own damn government? Who, when they did speak, sounded like a metronome, (or was it metro-gnome?) She was seriously, very seriously considering throwing another phone into a fountain when, at last! the music stopped and the bureaucrat was back on the line.
"I have been revisiting the file, Ms Sachs, and I really do not see how the fact that persons have taken out architectural schematics of the Elias-Clark building from a library is further proof of your assertions."
"But the four men I saw breaking into the rear entrance last night…" Andy inserted.
"Three men, entering a building," the Department of Homeland Security officer countered. "According to your own statement any fourth individual was never visible. You did not see four or anyone breaking in or being let in by a fourth. You saw three men entering. And that is only your statement." He paused as if to let Time judge how unimportant her statement was to him and in consequence, to The World.
He wheezed and continued, "Three swarthy men, with backpacks, entering into a building in the late evening. Isn't it far more likely they were simply cleaners, night staff arriving for their shift? Or does your newspaper regularly racially profile in such a clichéd manner?"
Andy closed her eyes. The fact she knew all the shift changes at Elias Clarke was not something she wanted to bring up at the moment. There were several other points anyways. "You have confirmed that the Vice President will be attending a Halloween party in that building today?"
There was an insulting sighing sound. "Yes. But the presence of the Vice President should be reassuring to you. After all, a full search of the building will be done before he arrives and extra security will be present."
Andy tried another tack. "You know the magazine staff and its publishers have received death threats." She continued before he could cut in, "AND, your own department has declared an orange alert based on chatter on something going on this afternoon in New York, and I… I am simply being a concerned citizen, and I don't see why none of this seems to concern you as well."
"Ms Sachs," somehow sounding her name as though she were five and had asked to stay up until midnight, "We are mildly concerned. Primarily we are concerned as to why a former employee of the main tenant of the Elias Clark Building, one who left under somewhat unpleasant circumstances, has become such an increasingly persistent 'concerned citizen'."
Andy almost dropped the phone. Maybe she was happier waiting on hold. "Why, I don't see…"
"And we are mildly concerned as to what you were doing in the area when you supposedly spotted these gentlemen, as you no longer work at Elias Clarke?"
Now admittedly Andy Sachs was not a person who liked to lie, but there are times when even scrupulous people deem some things are necessary. "I was walking home from work?" Oh crap, that wasn't supposed to be a question.
Perhaps she should think about lying more often. Maybe practice would make her better at it.
"Now, that is concerning, because our records show that your route to your listed address from the Mirror offices is in a different direction."
Which was another reason not to practice; being caught. "I sometimes revisit the shops?"
Again, not supposed to be a question.
"So the previous answer was a lie?"
Stop being defensive, this is my government; they work for me. "Why are you asking me these questions?" she countered.
"I would think you'd be pleased that your government has taken the time to verify your earlier and even less well-founded threats seriously."
"Threats? You sound as if I'm the one making threats." Her laugh was reedy and sounded even to her to be on edge.
"You are claiming that terrorists, swarthy, Muslim-looking terrorists are about to stage an attack on a fashion magazine that you just coincidentally happened to work for, a position which you abandoned, leaving quite a 'bloody large shit storm behind', according to one of your co-workers?"
No prizes for guessing what former co-worker had ratted her out to Homeland. And this despite a payout of free couture from Paris that would have left anyone other than Miranda's First Assistant breathless with thanks. Muttering a very sarcastic thank you to Emily under her breath, she pushed on. "A fashion magazine that recently received death threats about its coverage of how to accessorise burkas and hajibs, which has a party with the Vice President this afternoon, at a time when your agency has raised the alert status for the city to orange, only the eighth time it's been this high. Something is about to happen."
"And your former workplace just happens to be the target? Please, Ms Sachs. Even the most naïve of reporters must be aware that magazines receive threats from all sides when they venture into the religious realms. As for being of interest to terrorists, we regularly get calls from curators of General Lee's beard in Tecumseh, certain that they are a major target for international terrorism, especially after having seen 'swarthy, Muslim types' in their museum. Finally, blowing up an entire building for the Vice President? The Vice President?" Andy could hear the shake of the head over the phone. "Though any threats against him are still properly recorded and entered into our files, of course. But what I find even more interesting and possibly concerning is I see that only this morning someone has consulted a demolitions expert as to the best manner to blow up the Elias Clarke building. Do you know who that would be? Because our records show it was a reporter from the Mirror, named Andy Sachs."
Now Andy really was actually trying to toss her mobile into the nearby pond. It just would not go. It seemed glued to her hand as the voice remorselessly just continued on.
"I'm just very glad to see that you seem to have kept these threats to verbal ones, as your credit cards show no recent purchases of any explosive materials, nor have there been sufficient cash withdrawals from your bank account for such unusual expenditures."
Could eyes really pop? she wondered. I can feel them popping.
The voice continued to drone on. "Though you do seem to have paid an awful lot for your coffee maker and as for your clothes budget, do you really need to wear Chanel as a political reporter for the Mirror?"
"How… how? Would .. How? That was a charity shop! I don't even have a receipt, how, you shouldn't know that…"
The voice smoothly continued, "As I stated, you should be reassured that your government cares enough to check out even the most bizarre of threats."
This galvanised her into a complete sentence. "I am not the threat!"
"Then please explain how anyone who, let me find the quote, 'abandoned the Queen of Fashion to a bunch of ravening dogs in a foreign country during the busiest week of the year without giving a tinker's cuss about the people who would have to carry the can for her' is now desperately worried about their welfare? And might I wonder, how did this same person receive a full recommendation from that same employer? My real questions should be, what threats did you make towards that employer previously? Are you blackmailing Miranda Priestly or are physical threats also involved?"
"I didn't, I have no idea why she…." she sputtered. Andy considered that any further time on the phone was clearly going to send her to jail, something her mother had often implied when she had been a teenager, but had never seemed quite that real before now.
"And then you admit to loitering about her building and lying about the reasons? If there are any attacks on that building, I can assure you Ms Sachs, the Office of Homeland Security will know exactly where to start our arrests."
Even with the phone disconnected, it felt as though it were still listening to her. When the ringtone sounded another call, she jumped and had to squelch the desire to pull the card and stomp on it. It wasn't anyone arresting her, but considering her most recent call, it might be just as bad. It was her editor calling back.
"Sachs? I just got a call from Homeland security," there was a short pause as Andy's heart stopped, "and after consulting with my magic decoder ring, I think I've worked out that they're really not very happy with you." There was a longer dramatic pause before Greg chuckled and added, "Well done." Andy's editor sounded sincere in his congratulations, but there was more, she knew.
"But…? " she asked, holding her breath. She wasn't being taken off this story, even if he pulled her. It might mean lying, which see above, or insubordination, or whatever the newspaper equivalent was, but she was riding this train to the end.
"You still have three pieces sitting on your desk." He cut off any argument by continuing, "But pissing off Homeland earns you another twelve hours on this. But no more. And I wanna see confirmation that I can print by this evening, eight at the latest."
"Lemme understand. You're basically saying I need a big building blowing up or confession from a bomb wielding terrorist for me to get out of an interview with the deputy union secretary?"
"No, I didn't say that. Since Homeland clearly won't be giving you any hard facts, get me some pics, at least one other source, maybe a few hundred words with a concise argument. Then you only have to do the other two."
"Any bombs going off will be before your deadline! How about I come up with an eyewitness account, would that get me out of the puff Symphony thing too? Maybe video of the terrorists? And does the building definitely have to blow up?"
"If it blows up, and I get two thousand words with pics before anyone else… I'll reassign two of three." This was getting dark, very dark, but most newspaper humour always was. And they were joking, right?
Andy snorted. "No way. If I get an exclusive pics of a terrorist or the building blows up, I want four thousand words, front page and at least the weekend off."
Greg gave a moment to consider the deal. "Okay. Exclusive photos of the terrorists, or the building blows up… Weekend off but you still owe me five hundred on the symphony. Five hundred words, you could do that on the subway going home. If the subway's running, of course."
"What if I'm in the building when it goes up?"
"I'd want a Doctor's note, five thousand words, and maybe you get the week off. But only with a legit doctor's note. Real trauma and it has to be on the page as well."
"From my hospital bed, surviving the deaths of thousands?"
"See, it writes itself. I'll still want the symphony piece."
"Yeah yeah. And Andy? If this is real…"
"Dead reporters don't get to write the great stories. Don't be stupid, okay?"
"Ah, Greg. You care."
"I care… if you have something and then live to tell the tale, okay?"
He disconnected and Andy stared at her phone. Just another day on the job, then. One more call to make. It wasn't on her speed dial, but she knew it by heart.
The newly promoted Editor in Chief of Runway magazine was as urbane as always. "Six. I assume you are calling to tell me all is well and that we can party hearty this afternoon. Or am I about to further regret telling you about the threats over last month's cover?"
Andy hung her head, before answering. "Nige, Sorry."
There was a muttered curse at the other end, before she was asked, "Not as if I'm not used to getting bad news. Hit me, and yet still be gentle."
"I talked to a specialist in demolition this morning, and he wanted blue prints for the building, right? Well, on a hunch, while I was copying them, I asked if anybody else had checked them out before me. And guess what? They were printed out last month. Right after the Hajib issue came out. Me and whoever else were the only ones to access them in ten years since they changed over from microfiche. And enlargements were made of the parking garages by the elevators, and three of the upper floors stairwells."
She could hear Nigel shifting the phone as he moved to a quieter location. "And this is important why?"
"The demolitions expert said that if he were contracted to bring the building down and he didn't have a big budget, he'd detonate charges in the parking garage and the main supports are in the outer walls in the stairwells and surrounding the elevators."
"What did your editor say?"
"What he always says, 'Where's the meat, Sachs?'"
There was a short chuckle from her friend. "Have you called Homeland again?"
She swallowed. "Um, yes?"
"Oh. That sounds good. And they said…"
"Apparently they have a prime suspect if anything goes boom anywhere around Elias Clarke."
"That's not good news?"
"Not when it's me."
Nigel began to laugh. "You? Why on earth?"
"I couldn't tell them why I was hanging around Elias Clarke, and somehow they know I consulted with a demolitions expert, plus I keep bothering them, really."
"I suppose admitting you have a massive crush on Our Lady wouldn't help your case?" Ignoring the short choking noises of denial Andy was making, Nigel continued, "Moving on, aside from you possibly being taken to Guantanamo if I go boom this afternoon, is there any other good news to share?"
"I was hoping that you could get me a pass to check out the building."
"Of course, I get to sneak the mad bomber in. I'm sure Homeland Security would approve and I'd also get the chance to wear orange day in and out. How could I say no?"
"I prefer my conspiracies to be sexual, generally. And principally concern myself. Which makes it even more confusing that I am waiting for you to put on your big Chanel boots and just see Miranda!"
"I am not avoiding her. I saw her at the Gala last week."
"Oh, my God! You two are impossible. What do you say to her, what words have you exchanged on the three evenings I know about, that you coincidentally ended up in the same rooms?"
"Yes, of course, Miranda, who else would I mean?"
"That's what I said. Miranda. And then she said Andréa, and we moved on to talk to someone else. Or at least I moved on and stood in front of someone else, pretending to talk to them while she glared at me."
"Oh, my God!"
"Stop saying that!"
"Why do you think she's glaring at you?"
"Because she hates me?"
"No one hates you. It'd be like kicking a puppy."
"Tell that to my former friends."
"I'm your friend. Everybody loves you. That man you just put away for malfeasance is your friend."
"I don't think…"
"He gave you an exclusive after he was sentenced! No one hates you. Do you think she would let you keep in touch with her girls if she hated you? They invited you to their recital, for God's sake."
"And she glared at me the whole night!"
"You were sitting three rows away from her."
"So I wouldn't burst into flames from the glares! Wait, how did you know I sat three rows away?"
"The girls told me. We're all getting very frustrated with the two of you."
"You and the girls? They really like me?"
Andréa could almost hear him over the phone shaking his head before he interrupted. "Yes, Ms Field, they really like you. Far be it for me to understand the mind of our goddess, but I think you're upsetting Miranda because she probably thinks you're walking away. Again. Why do you think she keeps showing up at these events? She knows you'll be there. I've told you, you were always special to her. And if you keep creeping around her, some might think that maybe Homeland has a point?"
"You know I would never hurt Miranda."
"I know, but it's a strange world. Why would anyone, even you, waste explosives on the Vice President?"
"I think it's because there are several targets all in one place. It is after all, it is the second finest Art Deco building in New York."
"Have I taught you nothing? The building is Style Moderne. The accoutrements, decoratives, mouldings are art deco. You should know better."
"Nigel! Back to point?"
"You mean you mooning about Miranda? Watching you two playing this foolish game is about the only pleasure I've had since she dropped me in this job and moved upstairs. And think about it, Six. Listen to the concern in your voice. Why do you think you would be so adamant, why would you want to be anywhere near here if you're so certain it's about to blow up?" He waited for, but didn't expect a reply, so moved on.
"As much as I'd love to see the next installment in your personal soap, the VP's men had sniffer dogs and a full lock down is in place, so I don't see what your coming here would help. And considering your recent success in making friends at Homeland, I would bet you're on the no-fly list for the party."
"As if I wasn't already."
Nigel chuckled. "Any snipers Emily ever hired after Paris have long since been let go."
"But she hasn't, let go that is. She was a source for Homeland! She told them that I," she paused and blurted, "Well, she told Homeland the truth! Seriously, pleeeease, Nigel? I have to check it out, I have this feeling in my gut, and you didn't see those guys sneaking in. With matching backpacks, Nigel! Three guys, coming from different directions, with someone opening the rear door for them, all with matching backpacks. When have you ever seen three matching backpacks?"
"In our last summer issue?"
Speaking sincerely was her last weapon. "I need to know that she's, that you're all safe."
And it worked.
"Well, I'd like to know that she(cough) we're.. all safe too, but I still don't see how you can help. Have you given any thought as to what you will be doing here? Assuming you really aren't here to blow us all up."
"Nigel. I know the building, I've got the blueprints, and I have a couple of ideas. I know what those guys were wearing, what they look like. I'll glide in," she ignored the snort from Nigel, "check a couple of hidey-holes and with any luck, it'll all be my imagination. But I have to know. Please."
"And if you do find them? And there is a threat? You know the only person that could order an evacuation of the building and be obeyed is… "
"I was hoping you could ask…"
"Nope. Nope. Nopenope."
"But I can't. Even in costume Emily would recognise me and strangle me before I got ten feet near her."
"But it's not…" she could almost see the switching of gears. "Actually, you coming here sounds like a wonderful idea."
"Of course. Who am I to discourage radical journalism? The rear entrance will have been sealed by the Secret Service, so you can't use the normal terrorist's preferred entry."
"I know, someone will have to sign me in at the door, and not as Andy Sachs. Then there'd be paper work showing. I'm on the other side of town so the earliest I can get there is before four. Unless you want to check out the stairwells if no one else will"
"Couldn't you just rappel down the building, arriving in a crash and splintering of glass?"
"Real bomb threat, real Andy Sachs. Sorry, Nigel."
"Let me find someone who's not coming into work but is on the list, and I'll text you their name. I can meet you at the desk at four. Afterwards, I'm sure the VP's men will be happy to chat with me about Guantanamo."
"Nigel… fine. And don't think I didn't catch that hesitation a minute ago. I have no idea what evil scheme has entered your mind, but fine."
"Can't wait to see you," he singsonged.