Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ninth Floor

Few people knew that there was a ninth floor in the Alberton building. The lifts only went up to eight, and you had to enter a security pin even to access that option. But if you had (or persuaded someone that you had) legitimate business on the eighth floor; and if you murmured the correct sequence of words to the impeccable and inscrutable receptionist who met you at the lift door, then sometimes sometimes you would be granted access to the ninth floor.

The ninth floor was accessed only via one stairwell, which was guarded by an old fashioned deadbolt on the inside. No fancy locks to be picked, or electronic devices to be fooled. Just a mysterious little personage with a singular dislike of attention of any kind. A small sign in the shadows proclaimed in an uneven hand: any gratuities will be donated to the SPCA.

However, this particular young man had succeeded in getting the attention of the inscrutable receptionist, by the simple expedient of leaving a trail of his own blood from the lift to her desk. One hand clutched to the mess that had been a smart shirt-front, he had gasped “ninth floor” before passing out, face (and bloody wound) forwards into her out-tray.

“Ninth floor” bore no resemblance to the sequence of words appropriate for this particular day; they had something to do with the platinum trade in China. But the receptionist, who had been hired for her intelligence as well as her black-belt in Karate, had buzzed through to the ninth floor anyway. She had then hauled him over onto his back and begun rudimentary first aid.

By the time the wall-like man arrived to take the unexpected guest upstairs, he was more or less in a fit shape to be hoisted over the bodyguard's shoulder. After all, it wasn't for a very long journey. The receptionist watched him go with some curiosity. But she'd seen more remarkable arrivals, and by the time she'd removed the bloodstains from her desk she had already dismissed him from her mind.

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