NOT WITH A BANG

This is the way the world ends:

Not with a bang but with a whimper.

----- T.S. Eliot

(Author's Note: This is part of a series that traces Joan and her friends after May, 2005. This particular story is set in January, 2006, and starts with Will for a change, though the next generation will soon get involved.)

(Disclaimer: I have no rights in Joan of Arcadia. My only purpose in writing this story is to have fun and hopefully share it a little.)

Chapter 1 THE BANG

Chief Bruson rushed into Will's office. Bruson was not a friend like Roebuck, nor a friend-wannabe as Lucy had been, but simply a competent professional police chief from elsewhere. Considering previous stormy relationships, Will found that a relief.

Today, however, was no time to think about such comparisons, Bruson was waving a paper. "There's been a bomb threat. At City Hall."

He handed over the paper, which looked like the printout of an Email. The message proper simply:

A bomb will go off in City Hall at 11:00 AM. Get everybody out.

"Who sent this?" demanded Will.

"We don't know. It's a phony reply-address. Maybe we can trace it, LATER. But for now--"

Will looked at the clock. 10:43. Seventeen minutes until-- "Have they evacuated the place?"

"Of course. After 9/11, we can't ignore a threat like this. I've already alerted the traffic cops to divert traffic from the square. But I want a senior policeman on the scene. You."

"Roger." Will got up.

"We phoned the bomb squad in Baltimore. They can't get here in time, of course, but they can advise. I'll give them your cell phone number."

"Thanks. Tell Supplies that I need a bull-horn, IMMEDIATELY. Then I'll rush over."

"Good."

The official center of Arcadia was a little park of flowers and trees, occupying one city block. The police station was on its west side. To its east was City Hall, imposing in its pseudo-Roman architecture with columns and a dome. To visitors who were unfamiliar with Arcadia's history of municipal corruption, it made a pretty picture, particularly in spring time. Nowadays -- but Will didn't have time for aesthetics. He was jogging across the park, thankful for the short distance, while listening to the Baltimore bomb squads' unpleasant warnings on his phone.

"Don't rely too much on the 11:00 time. A particularly ruthless terrorist might give a specific time and then set it off the bomb early, to kill stragglers."

"Understood."

"And warn people not to stay too close. Shrapnel can be a problem. Glass from broken windows, blown out at high velocity--"

"I got it." He could see the crowd: City Hall employees plus bystanders curious to see what was going on, shivering in the January weather. And possibly the bombers themselves? He spotted Acting Mayor Frances Maynard in the crowd, talking into a cell-phone. She was Acting Mayor because the elected Mayor and vice-Mayor (appropriate name) were in jail, having landed there during Will's sweep two years ago. It seemed like forever ago to Will, but Arcadia had not had time for another four-year election.

Will rushed over to the Mayor, forcing his way through the crowd and not caring whose toes he stepped on, literally or figuratively.. "Fanny, do you think everybody's out.?"

She nodded. "I told each department to stick together, and told their bosses to count heads. All accounted for."

He looked around. "Tell them to get further from the building. The bomb squad warned my about flying glass"

She grimaced as she visualized the possibilities. "OK."

" I'll call the hospital and have them send ambulances, just in case of anybody wounded.. Also, have everyone be on the alert for somebody sneaking in or out of the building. It's possible that this whole thing is a hoax to get people out so that somebody can steal city property with inpunity."

She nodded and got back on the phone. Not wanting to badger her during an important message, Will got out the original Email and stared at it again.

A bomb will go off in City Hall at 11:00 AM. Get everybody out.

Suddenly it hit him. This wasn't a threat.

It warned of an explosion, of course, but it wasn't a threat. No ranting and raving. No DOWN WITH THE GOVERNMENT or POWER TO THE PEOPLE. Just a statement of danger.

Somebody knew of a bomb danger and decided to warn the people on the site. Maybe a saboteur with second thoughts. If Will could find out who it was, he might induce the warner to turn in the people really responsible.

Assuming that it wasn't all a hoax, of course. He looked at his watch. "11:01. Maybe --"

BLAM!

All sorts of sensations buffeted Will. The concussion of the blast, the frightening tinkling sound of the glass, shouts from the crowd, heat as parts of the building caught fire. But as he recovered from the original shock, one thought was uppermost:

Somebody has struck a blow against civilization. And it's my duty to find them.

TBC