I am not really enjoying this party. Red has been gone for too long, and sooner or later someone is going to ask me where my husband is. I've already had a boring conversation with a woman with teeth and a laugh like a horse about parking restrictions downtown. I got rid of her finally by saying that I can never find enough disabled parking when I'm there. Then there was the woman whose hair was surely a wig who kept spitting when she spoke, who kept hinting she was sleeping with the Mayor and was terribly important. Hah. Well I know that she's not, that's for sure.
Laika has gone somewhere, I think to the bathroom. I think I can understand her sign language, but it's definitely not the sign language I did a brief diplomatic course on a couple of years back. I basically know enough, like with many languages, to be able to suggest I know more than I do, and I'm very good at paying attention to people speaking or signing so that they think I'm understanding. It reduces the opportunities for them to have a private conversation in front of us, and we usually have translators listening in in their private rooms.
Oh. Of course, how silly of me. The street artists must have a patois of their own, and sign language would make perfect sense since they're working with images all the time. Red and she must use it for communication... oh, my. I really am an idiot, aren't I? I've been thinking she's a little on the simple side, and she and Red have been chatting away without me even seeing it.
Right, now I'm blushing and there's no-one near me to have said anything either. This is going from bad to worse. Where's the buffet table gone, maybe I can claim I'm allergic to something. Were there any shrimp maybe, or prawns. Heck, even a crab-stick would do, does anyone here know that they're not made with any crab at all?
Hmm, no crab, no prawn, no shrimp. I'll have a glass of champagne then and claim that it's the bubbles that make me go red.
The champagne is towards one end of the table, and there's currently space there as everyone else seems to be busy guzzling it like it's fizzy water. To my surprise, there's a small box behind the bottle I pick up. I pour half a glass, the bubbles just reaching the rim and popping like tiny exploding stars, and look at the box. It's about the size of the palm of my hand, cardboard, maybe two inches deep, and a plain red colour. Maybe this is from Joel? It seems out of place here, and red would be an obvious clue to us.
I casually put the bottle down, knocking the lid fo the box off as I do. There's a piece of paper in there. I glance around, and no-one seems to be approaching, so I pick it up, opening it and reading it as I do.
There is a bomb in the building. It will go off at 1:18.
I have to read it three times before it sinks in, and then I check my watch. Champagne pours out of my glass and just misses my shoes. It's 12:59. Why is Joel blowing the building up?
Then I see the finger in the box, sitting nestled on pristine white cotton wool, except at the end where the bone is poking out. At that end it's a deep, burgundy red.
My natural reaction is to pick the box up and take it to the nearest security type person; we are trained in this kind of terrorist threat in the diplomatic corps. But that would lead to an organised evacuation and Red is somewhere he shouldn't be in the building still. So instead I scream.
Everyone looks at me, but there's not much reaction until I point at the finger and thrust the note at the nearest man. He reads it, turns white, and sputters "BOMB!" That starts the room moving. I slip quickly, demurely, through the throng as people mill frantically, trying to put their plates and glasses down, looking for handbags, wallets, briefcases. Idiots. Out in the hallway it's still almost clear, and I can see Laika up ahead, which saves me having to try and find her first. As I'm walking swiftly up to her, the lifts open and Red stumbles out ahead of me, trailing red on the floor behind him. He's staring at Laika like she's the most beautiful woman in the world, but he's clearly about to collapse. I stride up, slip an arm under his shoulder and across his chest, lay my other hand on Laika's arm, and say brightly,
"I think it's time we left, darlings."