The nostalgic mood continues. Here are the first two episodes of a soap-opera / drama thing I started writing specifically for publication on the Internet in its early days – 1996. The idea was that it would be published online in short sharp episodes using only text in a visual style, though there were always plans to add pictures and possibly videos when the technology got fast enough to make that viable. Maybe it’s time to do that now?
I know it needs editing, think of it as a draft.
Figanwr was a pen name I used occasionally then.
Soap on the WEB (c) Figanwr 1996
An urban street: A row of office buildings. A busy road. Traffic lights nearby. The heavy front door of number 5 opens with a yawn and a creak. Joe, a sleepy-eyed, dark-suited, chubby man straightens his loud tie laconically. A car-horn blares. Joe Small raises his hand in acknowledgement, one finger pointing towards the cool-blue sky. A long arm emerges from the open window of the car as it drifts past, its middle finger similarly extended.
“Sod you too.” Joe jerks his arm more vigorously and laughs.
A dark-haired girl with heavy brooding eyebrows and – despite her efforts to conceal it – her sexuality leaking into the concrete cavern, pushes her way through the doorway. She grunts.
“Morning gorgeous, just in time, get the kettle on.” Joe deliberately restricts her access into the office so that he can feel the warmth of her body as she squeezes in.
Sandy grunts again. “Old pervert!” she thinks.
Inside the office of Small Estates: Joe is at his large mahogany desk, leaning back in the executive leather chair, his paunch proudly peeking through the strained buttons in the shabby checked shirt, the hairs surrounding his belly button probing the smoky atmosphere. Joe is bellowing into the telephone receiver.
“I’ll get my girls on to it straightaway, young man, don’t you worry, your place will be occupied by Friday.”
He tucks the receiver under his chin and picks up an empty coffee cup, waving it at Ruth, his well-rounded middle-aged secretary, who is hovering at the open door of his office clutching an electric kettle and a tray of crockery.
Ruth takes the cup gently from Joe’s beckoning hand and smiles wistfully. The homely mask she wears conceals a deep frustrated longing for her boss and oppressor of ten years. After all, she’s only a couple of years (well maybe 3 or 4) older than him. Ruth was on her way to the ladies’ loo to wash up the day before’s cups anyway. Normally she would have tidied up and got everything ready before she left, but last night Joe had a late meeting with a naive young couple to finish off the details of a lucrative house sale. He’d instructed her to go home on the dot of 5:30.
In the ladies there is a separate area for washing crockery and preparing hot water. Ruth is busy scrubbing the cups, making her usual special effort on Joe’s. Sandy, the pretty young sales negotiator, is inside a locked cubicle.
“How are you this morning, love?” Ruth has a genuine interest in the young woman’s affairs. She is almost matronly towards her.
Sandy is a little embarrassed, but she’s used to Ruth’s attention, and secretly loves the attention she gets. Her own mother is a tragic middle-class alcoholic and has always disappointed her.
“I’m fine, a bit tired, that’s all, had a bit of a late night.”
“Ooh! did you go anywhere nice?” Ruth holds the cup to the light and examines it carefully. Satisfied – she begins to wipe it with a freshly laundered glass-cloth.
“Not really,” Sandy’s voice is muffled by the door of the cubicle, “Tom took me for a curry, then a couple of drinks in the . . .”
A loud screech of rubber tyres is followed quickly by a very loud crash of metal and glass. Both women stop what they are doing. Sandy had finished anyway and was already pressing the flush handle.
“Sounds nasty.” Ruth puts the cup down carefully on the stainless-steel tray.
Sandy presses the handle and emerges from the cubicle, red-faced and flushed.
Joe, Sandy, Ruth and Alec (the junior partner) stand in the doorway of number 5 looking in disbelief at the scene on the road outside. The fifth and last employee of Small estates, one-time South African mercenary, Charles Allinson, is lying dead in a pool of his own blood, sprawled over the edge of the pavement, his shattered legs dangling on the tarmac of the road.
Thirty yards further down the road towards the traffic lights a small green school bus is hugging a lamp-post a little too tightly. The sound of children screaming is the only noise audible, all the traffic has stopped.
Soap on the WEB (c) Figanwr 1996
The building next door to number 5 has the air of an old spinster waiting forever for the right suitor to appear. It has been more or less unoccupied for years but it has been kept very clean and well-maintained. The owner has high aspirations and tries to attract prestigious tenants to take up residence. Tenants do come and go, and some of them are prestigious, on the surface at least – but they don’t last. The owner pitches the rent too high, he’s probably hoping to fill the building with high-rent tenants and then sell it off as a going concern to some speculator. At present only the third floor is occupied.
The vertical blind of the third-floor front-office window of number 7 falls back into the space demanded by gravity. A gloved hand presses the dial on a telephone on one of only two items of furniture in the room – a cheap self assembly desk. An old and uncomfortable black-vinyl swivel chair occupies a space at the window; propped up against it is a long deadly-looking rifle.
The fat assassin speaks in breathless tones into the telephone: “It’s done.”
He wipes the handset with a handkerchief and yanks the cord out of its socket. He dismantles the rifle carefully and puts it into a black sports holdall with the telephone; then he leaves the room, surprisingly light on his feet for such a big man.
The commotion in the street continues all day, the police seal most of Web Street off and that causes traffic chaos all over the small city of Elchurch. Joe Small and his staff are not allowed to leave the office while the police pick over the scene.
Shock dominates the feelings at the office door just after the shooting. Sandy moves first:
“Chaz! Chaz!” She screams the words out. “How? Who?” She descends the steps in a daze and walks towards the body.
Ruth sees the potential trauma that could result from Sandy’s actions and uses the moment to push her own shock and horror into a compartment of her brain labelled ‘later’. She moves after Sandy and gently takes her hand. “Come on love, come inside, I’ll finish making the tea; I think we could all do with a cup, I know I could. You can help.”
Sandy acquiesces, nodding vacantly and Ruth leads her back into the office. The sirens start a few seconds later.
Joe Small can hardly believe his luck. He’s at the centre of a huge drama. One of his employees dies a sudden death, and right outside his office, and he’s a witness, well almost. He intends to make the most of the opportunity. Mentally he’s already on the TV talk show and even as the police are only just beginning to clear the street outside he’s making a series of telephone calls.
“Yes Roger, Charles A L L I N S O N,” he spells the name out carefully, “and it’s Small Estates, don’t forget.”
Joe clicks on the mouse to open up the address record for the Elchurch Gazette and moves his hand towards the telephone again. Ruth comes in with a cup of tea. Joe pauses and takes the cup. “Thanks Ruth, did I ever tell you you’re an angel.”
Ruth shivers with delight, glad that Joe takes the cup from her quivering hands before it spills. The front door of the office is still open, it’s been about twenty minutes since the chaos began. A young uniformed policeman enters the inner office.
“Excuse me sir, madam – may I have a word?”
This is getting better, thinks Joe. “Sit down officer, do you want a cuppa?”
“That’s OK sir, will you answer a few questions?”
Ruth says nervously: “Are the children all right? I mean what’s happening with the school bus?”
“It’s too early to say madam, but it looks like the driver’s in a bad way. Now where was I? Ah yes, would it be possible for all your staff to come together, and I’ll take some preliminary statements.”
Alec and Sandy join the group in Joe’s office. The policeman begins: “Did any of you know the man who got shot?
“Shot! What do you mean shot?” Joe’s excitement is hard to hide, “I thought he got run over by a bus.”
Sandy gasps, then checks herself. Suddenly she is a little more in control. She nods silently to herself, it’s beginning to make sense now.