Chapter Four: A Hotel Scare
"Well? Did I do well, Mom?"
Emily perched on the end of her mother's
bed, wrapping a towel into her shower-damp hair as she eyed the
collection of press articles already littering her mother's desk. In
the waste bin was a cluster of magazines of various shapes and sizes
and, as Emily watched, her mother carefully removed the relevant pages
from the last, dropping the rest into the can with the others. It was
the following morning and, after a quick raid on the local newsagents,
the executive had withdrawn to quarters to review the impact of her
daughter's opening performance.
turned now, nodding her head.
"Not bad." She agreed. "You won over the
audience and there are some nice write-ups in these."
"You wouldn't be keeping a scrapbook on me
now, would you?" Emily raised an eyebrow, leaning over to take the
nearest cutting. "I didn't think that was your style."
"Of course not." Phyllis snapped. "But I
can't carry a pile of magazines back to Cali with me, and it helps your
career to have article rave reviews in your file at a moment's notice."
"Uh-huh." Emily pursed her lips, glancing
over the glossy sheet of magazine paper. "Sirena's tour is tinged with
the tragedy of knowing that the last time she was here it was on the
arm of her first true love, with whom romance blossomed in the
California sunshine not long after. Many believe it was Toronto that
first triggered the love match between the enigmatic singer and her
doomed amour Carl Arca, better known as R'n'B singer Blade.'.
Mom, did you sell them that angle?"
"No, you brought it up yourself last
night." Phyllis shook her head. "I figured it would be a good one to
capitalise on, so gave the word to make the most of it. I didn't think
you'd care - you never loved Blade and it's no skin off your nose if
his name gets brought up."
She eyed her daughter quizzically. "Is it?
Was there more to that than I thought?"
"No. I never loved Blade." Emily shook her
head. "But that is Mike's father you're talking about, you know."
"And it doesn't hurt the brat as he gets
older to read
press that says his Mom and Dad had some fantasy love affair." Phyllis
reasoned. "As opposed to the truth - you were bored and having no luck
picking anyone else up so you bedded him instead."
"It wasn't quite like that." Emily
objected. "But I guess I see your point. Okay. I suppose it's better
press than putting out about Dad."
"Exactly." Phyllis nodded her head. "Plus,
I don't know why, but people seem to like a tragic love story. This has
everything - so drop a few hints in your next interview that Toronto
was where you and Blade first fell for one another, or something. Don't
go overboard - I don't want to vomit reading the write ups - but it'll
pacify the Canucks much better if you can give them a piece of Sirena
history to hang onto."
"You might vomit? I think I already will."
Emily groaned. "All right. I'll think it over. But blech. Blade and I
didn't get it on till we were back in the States and then it was a
shortlived thing. Completely sexual - the man was an egotistical moron
who thought he was better than he actually was, and who got me knocked
up in the process. I can't believe you're going to make me go out there
and act all nostalgic, like I miss him. He's old news, after all.
People usually want to know about me and Luca these days."
"So give them that, too." Phyllis was
unperturbed. "People are silly and obsessed with who other people are
sleeping with. Especially if they're not getting any action themselves.
You can't fail."
Emily eyed her mother in some amusement.
"Was that a leaf from your own tactic
book?" She asked playfully. "I've always wondered how it was I came
"Don't push your luck." Phyllis raised an
eyebrow. "Come take a look at some of these and see which you think we
should keep. I want to have some diversity in terms of press comments.
After all, we always have quotes from the US press, but it'd be nice to
branch out. Pick two or three and I'll pass them over to Carrie to deal
with later on. I've a team meeting then."
"All right." Emily nodded. "At least if I
have the power of veto, I can ditch anything that's too mushy or
She stretched, stifling a yawn.
"It was a hard night last night." She
admitted. "Even though I do do those things every week in America. I
guess I half expected something to happen - but nothing did. It all
went off like clockwork."
"I work too hard to let anything random
happen while you're on stage." Phyllis told her acidly. "Now, listen to
me. I'm glad you're up, because you've that radio appearance in an hour
or two and even if they can't see you, I want you presentable. I'm
realising that this is a big deal tour. Before we came, Jemima gave me
all the stats on your popularity north of the border and I thought we'd
have something pretty special up here. But according to Carrie's
figures for last night's show and the response generated by your
performance on the website...I think we've kept out of here altogether
too long. Apparently one of
the online forums even went down because so many people were trying to log on and leave comments. That's pretty powerful stuff - and it's not even my PR."
"Well, I'm a good singer." Emily looked
unconcerned. She sent her mother a wry smile. "I take after my Mom."
"Damn right you do." Phyllis laughed.
"Though when I was singing, there weren't any internet chat sites or
fan forums to flood."
"You miss it?"
"Of course." Phyllis nodded. "Office work
doesn't rate compared to living it up on stage."
She cast her companion a sidelong glance.
"But you don't need me to tell you that.
You've never expressed even the slightest interest in your
Grandfather's business enterprises."
"I'm not a businesswoman, I'm a singer."
Emily shook her head. "I told you. I take after my Mom. Not my Dad. The
whole suit and tie thing doesn't do much for me."
"Maybe you do take after me." Phyllis
looked amused. "But it catches up with you in the end. Being a Gabor, I
"Well, I'm only a Gabor by deed poll. For my son's sake." Emily dimpled. "So maybe I'll make new rules to go along with that."
Before Phyllis could respond, a high
pitched wail went up from the hotel room alarm system and the singer
let out an exclamation, running to the window. People were milling
outside already, clearly bemused and startled by the suddenness of the
alarm and Phyllis muttered a curse, pushing the clippings to one side.
"Fire drill." She said darkly. "What a
damn time, too. I'm busy."
"So are we going to ignore it?" Emily
raised an eyebrow. Phyllis shook her head.
"I never ignore fire drills." She said
grimly. "Not after Zipper sent my company up in smoke and almost killed
my business partner. No, leave the stuff here. We'll go and see what's
going on - but if I find it's a false alarm, there'll be hell to pay
when I know who rang the bell."
"All right." Emily pulled on her sandals,
grabbing her jacket and her hotel room keys off the unit and leading
the way out into the hallway. Swathes of people were bent on the same
errand and the executive and her daughter found themselves both swept
up in the general swell, as other guests pushed and shoved to be first
to the stairwell. Phyllis was quick to react, and, as Emily stumbled
against the heel of a businessman attempting to push between them, the
former Misfit's elbow came out, ramming him back against the wall.
"Wait your turn!" She exclaimed, grabbing
her daughter by her arm and pulling her along through the big double
doors and down the first flight of stairs. As they reached the bottom,
a chime from her pocket alerted her to her cellphone and she fumbled in
her jacket, pulling the phone out and hitting the receive button.
"Phyllis Gabor." She said curtly. "Carrie?
What the hell is up? We've got the goddamn death wail on us at the
moment - fire drill or something and everyone's acting like a stampede.
Can you call me back?"
"I'm calling to make sure you and Sirena
are all right." The executive assistant's voice came back down the
line. "We just got a call from security that there'd been a bomb alert
at the hotel and that the Toronto police were sending in the heavy
squad to deal with it."
"Bomb threat?" Phyllis echoed, and Emily
stared at her.
"This is a bomb?" She demanded, her tones
clear enough to be heard by many of the other milling people around
them. As the sense of rising hysteria in the stairwell grew, Phyllis
nodded her head grimly, terminating her call and tightening her grasp
on her daughter's arm. Then, with a curt "Outta my way!" She navigated
them through the rest of the maze of people, pushing open the rear fire
door and leading the way across the concrete to where those already
evacuated had assembled a safe distance away.
Emily turned back to glance at the hotel,
noting the throng of individuals still pushing and shoving their way
"Think it's a hoax, or the real deal?" She
asked. Phyllis shook her head.
"No idea." She admitted. "But I guess
we'll know soon enough."
She raised her hand to indicate the arrival of several reinforced police vehicles, sirens blaring above the cacophany of the fire alarm and the panicked cries of the people still leaving the building. Armed men in bomb disposal suits near tumbled out of their cars, streaming into the hotel via a side door, the leader shouting unintelligible orders as they disappeared inside.
Emily managed a smile.
"Life's never dull, is it?" She observed.
Phyllis rolled her eyes.
"I'm going to speak to the manager." She
said briefly. "See what exactly is going on. Keep an eye on yourself,
Em. I've already seen one or two flashbulbs going. There are press here
and we'll likely be right up there on tomorrow's news...whether this is
a hoax or whether it's really a bomb."
"I will. Don't worry, Mom. They won't get
any quotes out of me that I don't give them myself." Emily said
impatiently. "I'm fine and I'm not scared. Just ticked off. Go talk to
the hotel guy, okay? Find out whatever you can. I'm perfectly safe
here...else we wouldn't all be gathered this far away."
Phyllis shot her a look, but made no
demur, turning on her heel and crossing the tarmac to where the
flustered hotel owner was trying his best to calm his panicked staff.
As she reached him, one of the suited up officers approached, a grave
look on his face.
"Mr Van Hendry?" He asked. The hotelier
"Yes." He agreed. "Can you tell me what's
going on here? I've got people telling me there's a bomb in my hotel!"
"That's what we're trying to ascertain,
sir." The officer told him firmly. "Can I speak with whoever called the
"That'd be Anna Darwin. She's on reception...apparently they had an anonymous tip off that someone had placed a bomb in the wine cellar." Mr Van Hendry waved an agitated hand in the direction of a pale faced young girl, who gazed at he officer with frightened blue eyes. The officer nodded.
"Thank you." He said curtly. "I'll want to
speak to you some more shortly. Meantime, noone is to go back in there
until we've assessed the risk."
With that he disappeared in the direction of the nervy reception girl, and Phyllis took her chance to accost the hotelier.
"Anonymous tip?" She asked quietly. Van
Hendry turned, nodding his head.
"Yes. Ms Gabor, I'm so sorry about this."
He gabbled, taking in the look of displeasure in his client's eyes.
"It's never happened before."
"Well, there's no legislating for nutcases
in this world." Phyllis sighed. "At least my daughter and I are both
out and unscathed - despite the horrible evacuation technique your
staff seem to have in play."
"I can only apologise further." Van Hendry
flustered. "As I said, we're really not used to this kind of event."
Phyllis pursed her lips. Then she shrugged.
"Do you think it's a hoax?"
"I very much hope so." The hotelier
nodded, relief flickering in his eyes at the change of tactic. "Wasting
time is better than risking lives, not to mention the jobs and
belongings of two hundred or more people. Yes, I hope it is a false
alarm...but as you said, you can't legislate for nutcases."
"Or someone decided it would be fun to
generate a news scandal." Phyllis looked thoughtful. "How many of the
local press representatives would you say know we're staying in this
"Miss Gabor?" The man looked startled.
"This is no publicity stunt!"
"Not by you, perhaps." Phyllis turned her
gaze back on the abandoned building. "But it does make you wonder,
* * * *
Across the far side of the hotel grounds,
concealed behind a waste disposal skip, one person watched the antics
with a growing sense of disdain and amusement. As he crouched there,
motionless amid the gloom and the smell, he observed the bomb disposal
people flitting in and out of nearby buildings, calling instructions to
one another and ushering bewildered staff from nearby homes and
businesses as they continued to scour the hotel for any kind of
He glanced at his cell phone, then flipped
it closed, sliding it into his pocket.
"Amazing what kind of panic a few words
can cause." He murmured, letting out a low chuckle. "People running
around like flustered hens in a chicken coop - and there isn't even a
bomb to be scared of. What they'd do if I really decided to blow them
all up I don't know...but that's not why I'm here. I have a much more
important task to carry out."
He picked up the battered bag on the
ground beside him, unzipping it carefully and extracting the polythene
bag that he had taken from the dead youth two nights earlier. Glancing
at it carefully, a slow smile touched his features.
"Misdirection has always been one of my
greater gifts." He mused. "I can't think why I didn't apply it to the
big league sooner. There's so much more fun when you gamble with such
high stakes. And this one is owed. Even if I wasn't getting a hefty
bonus for it - I'd do it regardless. I have a long memory -
unfortunately for some people."
He got slowly to his feet, kicking his bag
idly against the skip for later collection. He had been observing the
disposal squad's actions and his quick brain had already noticed a
couple of gaps in their focused patrolling. Darting across the grounds,
he slipped in through an unguarded rear door that was partially hidden
by the overhang of a nearby climbing vine, wrenching the lock deftly as
he did so and pushing it shut behind him. From inside the dark corridor
he could hear the sound of voices and, after a moment's careful
listening, he worked out that the nearest disposal experts were a floor
above him, somewhere in the vicinity of the wine cellar.
"Which is, I hope, where they'll stay
while I take a little walk north." He muttered, feeling his way
carefully along the dim passageway towards the steps at the far end.
All that time going over the hotel plans had been worthwhile, he
realised, now that he was able to put his photographic recollections
into play. Deftly negotiating two flights of stairs, he paused,
listening once again for the officers. Their voices seemed fainter now,
however, and he surmised that they were deeply engrossed in their task.
He took a deep breath, slipping cautiously up the next two flights and
pausing at the top. The lifts had all been shut down by the crisis, and
he knew he had several floors still to negotiate.
"But it will take them quite a while to determine nothing in the cellar is suspicious." He reminded himself. "They'll decide that the hotel is clean and let people back in, but it's a big hotel and they've a lot of ground to cover. I'll be well away by the time they get to where I'm heading. I can take my time. There's no hurry - stealth is more important than speed at this particular stage in my plan."
He crept up another flight of stairs,
running over in his mind the best way to carry out his scheme. It had
occured to him only after his encounter with the woman in the
nightclub, but as he had drunk himself into sleep that evening, he had
fixed upon the perfect answer to his other dilemma.
"Two deaths between me and a rich
retirement." He murmured. "That dealer was a freebie, but he had his
use and pushed his luck too far. I still have more to do, and there's
an irony in this one. After our last encounter, she should really be
more careful about believing what's right in front of her."
At that moment, he reached his destination
and, pushing open the door of the stairwell he made his way slowly
along the hall, negotiating abandoned room service trolleys as he went.
"I'll bet you ten bucks it's another hoax call."
The sound of a man's voice made him freeze, darting beneath one of the trolleys as two of the bomb disposal officers passed him on the stairs.
"Rather that than get your head blown
off." The other officer observed, walking past the trolley without a
second glance. "And we're off shift in an hour. If they ain't outta
here by then, someone will come take over. Come on. Let's go see what's
down one - this floor's clean."
Their voices faded away as they
disappeared into the stairwell, but the man kept to his hiding place
for a moment longer, making absolutely sure that they were gone before
he emerged. At length he decided it was safe and he crawled out of the
back of the trolley, dusting himself down and muttering a curse under
his breath for the closeness of the encounter.
"Two seconds earlier and I'd have been
done before I began." He told himself. "Even if I claimed I was a lost
guest caught up in the whirl, they'd want to know what I was doing with
this much illegal dope in my pocket. And I don't really want to answer
that question to anyone."
He paused to glance along the corridor at
the door numbers, finally finding the one he wanted. A smile touched
"But here we are." He said aloud. "The
golden room. What lies behind that door? Death or glory - or it soon
The door was ajar, propped there by the
security checks, and he found little difficulty in making his entry,
heading straight for the far side of the room and pulling open the
mini-bar. Glancing at the contents of the fridge, he frowned, tilting
his head on one side.
"But the big question is, what kind of a
drinker are you?" He murmured. "That's something I wasn't told. Oh
well. I guess this is a part of the game. The gamble. Long distance
murder is all very well, but it's not as precise a science as I'd like
it to be. Still, we'll give it a shot. And if that doesn't work, I'm
sure I'll think of something else...seems a shame to waste this now
I've gone to all that trouble."
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, he took
one of the bottles from the cooler, setting it down in front of him.
With a gesture that told of many years practice, he extracted a tool
from the lining of his coat, slowly and laboriously beginning to prise
it open. Engrossed in his task, he carefully removed the lid without
leaving a mark on it, then produced the bag of pills from his pocket.
With a wry smile, he gave them a kiss for
luck, then tipped the entire dose into the bottle, refastening the top
firmly in place. The liquid bubbled and fizzed for a moment, and he
shook it firmly, watching as the tablets began to dissolve in the
"They won't take long to dissolve in
that." He decided, casting it one final look and then returning it to
the cooler. "All that remains to be seen now is how potent a force it
really is. I like this part of the game...with any luck we'll soon find
out exactly what happens when you mix a billionaire with a bottle of
Chapter One: Preparations
Chapter Two: Heading North
Chapter Three: First Show
Chapter Four: A Hotel Scare
Chapter Five: Diversion
Chapter Six: Eric's Gambit
Chapter Seven: Under The Radar
Chapter Eight: Flight
The copyright for the original Jem characters featured in this and other stories by me belongs entirely to Hasbro and their interpretations to Christy Marx and the other writers of the Sunbow Jem series. Their future selves are based on concepts that are entirely my own and are not to be repeated elsewhere without due permission.
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