Part Dodecacentenary (1200)
Copyright © 2010 Angharad
All Rights Reserved.
‘There is chaos in the centre of Portsmouth after a suspicious package was found inside Marks and Spencer’s store. Police have confirmed that a coded message was phoned through to the local paper which contained enough authenticity for a full scale evacuation to be started, which is playing havoc with the late night shopping on this the first Thursday in December.
The stores are very upset with all the money they’re losing, customers are annoyed which combined with the cold weather and general air of gloom pervading the country, is making the people of Portsmouth and surrounding area very depressed and to cap it all, it’s snowing–Merry Christmas.’
The reporter spoke to someone from the police, the fire service, the bomb disposal service and some shoppers. Their opinions varied significantly. The police and fire service were delighted that no one had been hurt or killed although one or two persons had been taken to hospital suffering from shock or had been trampled in the occasional panic which had happened now and again.
“Right, where are Henry and the girls?”
“Have you tried phoning them?” asked Jim.
“Why haven’t they phoned me?” I asked to no one in particular. Danny looked shifty and avoided eye contact. “You know something don’t you?” He wriggled some more and kept his gaze low, sneaking the occasional glance at my face. “C’mon, spit it out.”
“I promised not to tell you.”
“All of them?”
“Grampa Henry as well?”
“Yes,” he nodded.
“Promised them what, look, Danny, this could be important.”
“Okay–they went to get you a birthday present.”
“Because it’s your birthday tomorrow.”
“I told them not to worry about presents.”
“I’ll bet you don’t say that to Simon,” said Jim.
“No I told him I wanted a Porsche.”
“I hope you told him a Spyder.”
“Would prefer a dormouse, not into arachnids.”
“Cathy, it’s the most expensive Porsche ever built.”
“Nah, I’d be happy with a run of the mill one like yours or the 911.”
“Run of the mill–we’re talking Porsche here, not a Ford Fiesta.”
“I’m only joking, I told him I’d settle for a nice dinner–but if it snows, I’ll be lucky to go anywhere. Maybe I should learn to ski instead or get a bike with snow tyres on it.”
“How often would you get to ride it?”
“About as often as I would a Porsche.”
“Could Gramps buy you a Porsche, Mummy, he is pretty rich?”
“No darling, he was more likely in Marks and Sparks than a car dealership.”
I went out to the kitchen and phoned the girl’s mobiles one after the other, but apparently there was no signal.
“I can’t get a signal for the mobiles,” I sighed.
“God no, after Madrid, where they used mobile phones to set off the bombs, they switch off the masts to stop terrorists doing it while the bomb disposal people are working on it.”
“That would be an adrenalin rush job for you?” I teased Jim.
“No thanks, I helped to clear a field of mines once–that had me changing my underpants about twice a minute. So bombs–no thanks, I prefer a more calculated risk. Mind you they say women make good bomb and mine disposal people, smaller hands, delicate touch, more sensitive to change–ever thought about it, Cathy?”
“Oh yeah, for a millisecond–no way–making bread is about as dangerous as I like things to get.”
A newsflash came up on the screen and we all stood transfixed by the picture we saw. ‘News is coming in of a second package found outside a bank in the town centre...’
“Simon’s office is higher up that building,” I gasped.
“I thought he worked in London?”
“Not since November, he moved the office down here to see more of his wife and children.”
“Now and again.” The television flashed again.
Reports are coming in that a number of people are stuck in the building above the bank and that some sort of incendiary device has been activated on the ground or first floor. We don’t know if the explosive device has been deactivated yet.
“Shit, if that goes off as well, it’ll blow the fire right up through the building and over to adjacent ones.” Jim looked very worried.
‘It is thought there may be some children in this building, though we’re waiting for it to be verified, if there are it makes things even more serious.’
“The way that fire is taking hold, they look pretty serious already,” Jim wasn’t reassuring me.
“I need to get down there.” I felt sick with worry and the lack of information.
“Could the girls be in there?” asked Jim.
“They could be, Henry might have gone to collect Simon.”
“I don’t know anything about that,” Danny said before I could interrogate him. “D’you think they’ll be alright, Mummy?”
“I don’t know, sweetheart,” he put his arm round my waist and squeezed me tightly to him and I put my arm round his shoulder.
A helicopter appeared over the building and the downdraught was attempting to stop the fire climbing up the office block. It was also lowering someone down to the roof.
“Are they going to try and airlift them off the roof?” asked Danny.
“I don’t know if they’d have time to do that, it’s a very time consuming method. I presume they can’t land a chopper on top of the roof?” Jim answered one question and posed another. I just stood and watched with a growing sense of despair filling my solar plexus and slowly spreading all over me.
“There are radio masts on the roof which would stop it, there’s a whole network of cables and masts up there, Simon did tell me what they were for, but I’ve forgotten.” I was too upset to think about trivia now.
“So they can’t. If that bomb goes off...”
“Jim, please, I’m worried sick enough without you speculating on what may or may not happen.”
“It’s not your fault–it’s my bloody birthday, that’s the problem–my fucking parents.” I blushed when I realised I’d sworn in front of a bemused Danny.
“I expect they were,” quipped Jim and Danny sniggered–I blushed nearly as red as the flames on the television.
I didn’t seem able to drag myself or my gaze away from the screen as the cameras watched the drama unfolding. I felt the same sort of horror and helplessness when I saw the newsreel of the attack on the World Trade Centre. I felt physically sick, worrying if my children were in the building or not, and naturally the same about Simon–but Simon was an adult, he’d be able to take care of himself–he’s a resourceful adult–well Trish will look after them, please God.
The flames were spreading up the building. “Simon will be miffed,” I said as a stupid thought assailed me.
“Why?” asked Jim.
“He’s got his best tie on today.”
“Yeah, ‘course,” said Jim shaking his head.
Then we heard a loud bang and the television went blank, switching to show a studio where people were rushing about like headless chickens–I really lost it and rushed off to be sick.
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