If and When

 A Devil Wears Prada Story For the Bards Academy Halloween Challenge

By Kamouraskan

Disclaimer: Don’t own anything, do not know anything about fashion. But this one is for Gin

(stan akasarahsmom)

Timeline: We’re from the Xenaverse. Timeline? We dont need no stinkin timeline!

OOC Buildings: I have a magic keyboard and I can create the Elias Clarke building anyway I like.

Why: One of my favourite Xenaverse writers is Gin. Who honoured me by not only letting me backstage to read and beta her DWP works before anyone else saw them, but actually listened and made real changes to her stories on my advice. It was wonderful just reading the roughs of a writer I admired much less shape the stories in a small way. Gin even visited me in our very out-of-the-way home in the English Midlands, before I dropped off the earth. Or at least the online world. So when Stephanie sent my Halloween invitation, (despite not having contributed for years! Thank you, Steph,) I thought I should thank Gin by trying to write a story in her fanverse. It’s up to the readers to decide if it’s much of a thank you. And, as I ended this post halfway, up to them to decide if I should post the rest of the story or leave them where they are…

New York City

7 hours before the first explosion

Andy Sachs huffed her frustration down the telephone line as the muzak continued to whine into her ear. Who in their right mind thought the media were too powerful? Clearly no one who’d watched me spend my whole day waiting on hold for some arsehole of a bureaucrat. I just want a confirmation so I can get back to my story? That’s all! Come on! Answer!

Yes, there were less frustrating ways to make her living. Most reporters simply rewrote press releases rather than going out and actually asking hard questions, but Andy still believed in the dream. Andy Sachs, ACE REPORTER… Making A Difference Since… okay, very recently, but still…

Well, maybe Ace Reporter was a little, well okay, completely over the top. Especially since the term had probably been retired from any newsroom since 1942. Of course then, I could have had the fedora, yeah, a dark fedora and a pen behind my ear, talking fast like Rosalind Russell or Katharine Hepburn…

A tone sounded, bringing her back to reality, or at least to the fact that she’d just missed a call from her editor while waiting for this jerk.  She’d call back, if and when, she ever finished this call.

At least her editor understood the dream. Greg wasn’t Perry White, but he called her Sachs from waaaay across the newsroom, and pushed her, and prodded her. Fortunately, nothing like she’d been pushed, prodded, insulted and ground right into her four inch Laboutins when working for the Devil at Runway, though that was part of the reason she was getting so antsy waiting. She was running out of time, the numbers on her phone were turning. Just maybe, somewhere in a building a few blocks away, there were more clocks ticking. Where was this guy?

For the first six months she’d paid her dues toiling over four inch fillers. But now, she’d already had two by-lines so far this October. That had been noticed. Proof she was someone to watch, and maybe, respect just a little. Or at least someone to listen to. Clearly no one at Homeland had gotten the memo. Otherwise, why was she being held hostage on hold by a person from her own damn government?  Who, when they did speak, sounded like a metronome, (or was it metro-gnome?) She was seriously, very seriously considering throwing another phone into a fountain when, at last! the music stopped and the bureaucrat was back on the line.

“I have been revisiting the file, Ms Sachs, and I really do not see how the fact that persons have taken out architectural schematics of the Elias-Clark building from a library is further proof of your assertions.”

“But the four men I saw breaking into the rear entrance last night…” Andy inserted.

“Three men, entering a building,” the Department of Homeland Security officer countered. “According to your own statement any fourth individual was never visible. You did not see four or anyone breaking in or being let in by a fourth. You saw three men entering. And that is only your statement.” He paused as if to let Time judge how unimportant her statement was to him and in consequence, to The World.

He wheezed and continued, “Three swarthy men, with backpacks, entering into a building in the late evening. Isn’t it far more likely they were simply cleaners, night staff arriving for their shift? Or does your newspaper regularly racially profile in such a clichéd manner?”

Andy closed her eyes. The fact she knew all the shift changes at Elias Clarke was not something she wanted to bring up at the moment. There were several other points anyways. “You have confirmed that the Vice President will be attending a Halloween party in that building today?”

There was an insulting sighing sound. “Yes.  But the presence of the Vice President should be reassuring to you. After all, a full search of the building will be done before he arrives and extra security will be present.”

Andy tried another tack. “You know the magazine staff and its publishers have received death threats.” She continued before he could cut in, “AND, your own department has declared an orange alert based on chatter on something going on this afternoon in New York, and I… I am simply being a concerned citizen, and I don’t see why none of this seems to concern you as well.”

“Ms Sachs,” somehow sounding her name as though she were five and had asked to stay up until midnight, “We are mildly concerned. Primarily we are concerned as to why a former employee of the main tenant of the Elias Clark Building, one who left under somewhat unpleasant circumstances, has become such an increasingly persistent ‘concerned citizen’.”

Andy almost dropped the phone. Maybe she was happier waiting on hold. “Why, I don’t see…”

“And we are mildly concerned as to what you were doing in the area when you supposedly spotted these gentlemen, as you no longer work at Elias Clarke?”

Now admittedly Andy Sachs was not a person who liked to lie, but there are times when even scrupulous people deem some things are necessary. “I was walking home from work?” Oh crap, that wasn’t supposed to be a question.

Perhaps she should think about lying more often. Maybe practice would make her better at it.

“Now, that is concerning, because our records show that your route to your listed address from the Mirror offices is in a different direction.”

Which was another reason not to practice; being caught. “I sometimes revisit the shops?”

Again, not supposed to be a question.

“So the previous answer was a lie?”

Stop being defensive, this is my government; they work for me.  “Why are you asking me these questions?” she countered.

“I would think you’d be pleased that your government has taken the time to verify your earlier and even less well-founded threats seriously.”

“Threats? You sound as if I’m the one making threats.” Her laugh was reedy and sounded even to her to be on edge.

“You are claiming that terrorists, swarthy, Muslim-looking terrorists are about to stage an attack on a fashion magazine that you just coincidentally happened to work for, a position which you abandoned, leaving quite a ‘bloody large shit storm behind’, according to one of your co-workers?”

No prizes for guessing what former co-worker had ratted her out to Homeland. And this despite a payout of free couture from Paris that would have left anyone other than Miranda’s First Assistant breathless with thanks.  Muttering a very sarcastic thank you to Emily under her breath, she pushed on. “A fashion magazine that recently received death threats about its coverage of how to accessorise burkas and hajibs, which has a party with the Vice President this afternoon, at a time when your agency has raised the alert status for the city to orange, only the eighth time it’s been this high. Something is about to happen.”

“And your former workplace just happens to be the target? Please, Ms Sachs. Even the most naïve of reporters must be aware that magazines receive threats from all sides when they venture into the religious realms. As for being of interest to terrorists, we regularly get calls from curators of General Lee’s beard in Tecumseh, certain that they are a major target for international terrorism, especially after having seen ‘swarthy, Muslim types’ in their museum. Finally, blowing up an entire building for the Vice President? The Vice President?” Andy could hear the shake of the head over the phone. “Though any threats against him are still properly recorded and entered into our files, of course.  But what I find even more interesting and possibly concerning is I see that only this morning someone has consulted a demolitions expert as to the best manner to blow up the Elias Clarke building. Do you know who that would be? Because our records show it was a reporter from the Mirror, named Andy Sachs.”

Now Andy really was actually trying to toss her mobile into the nearby pond. It just would not go. It seemed glued to her hand as the voice remorselessly just continued on.

“I’m just very glad to see that you seem to have kept these threats to verbal ones, as your credit cards show no recent purchases of any explosive materials, nor have there been sufficient cash withdrawals from your bank account for such unusual expenditures.”

Could eyes really pop? she wondered. I can feel them popping.

The voice continued to drone on. “Though you do seem to have paid an awful lot for your coffee maker and as for your clothes budget, do you really need to wear Chanel as a political reporter for the Mirror?”

“How… how? Would .. How? That was a charity shop! I don’t even have a receipt, how, you shouldn’t know that…”

The voice smoothly continued, “As I stated, you should be reassured that your government cares enough to check out even the most bizarre of threats.”

This galvanised her into a complete sentence. “I am not the threat!”

“Then please explain how anyone who, let me find the quote, ‘abandoned the Queen of Fashion to a bunch of ravening dogs in a foreign country during the busiest week of the year without giving a tinker’s cuss about the people who would have to carry the can for her’ is now desperately worried about their welfare? And might I wonder, how did this same person receive a full recommendation from that same employer? My real questions should be, what threats did you make towards that employer previously? Are you blackmailing Miranda Priestly or are physical threats also involved?”

“I didn’t, I have no idea why she….” she sputtered. Andy considered that any further time on the phone was clearly going to send her to jail, something her mother had often implied when she had been a teenager, but had never seemed quite that real before now.

“And then you admit to loitering about her building and lying about the reasons? If there are any attacks on that building, I can assure you Ms Sachs, the Office of Homeland Security will know exactly where to start our arrests.”

Even with the phone disconnected, it felt as though it were still listening to her. When the ringtone sounded another call, she jumped and had to squelch the desire to pull the card and stomp on it. It wasn’t anyone arresting her, but considering her most recent call, it might be just as bad. It was her editor calling back.

“Sachs? I just got a call from Homeland security,” there was a short pause as Andy’s heart stopped, “and after consulting with my magic decoder ring, I think I’ve worked out that they’re really not very happy with you.” There was a longer dramatic pause before Greg chuckled and added, “Well done.” Andy’s editor sounded sincere in his congratulations, but there was more, she knew.

“But…? ” she asked, holding her breath. She wasn’t being taken off this story, even if he pulled her. It might mean lying, which see above, or insubordination, or whatever the newspaper equivalent was, but she was riding this train to the end.

“You still have three pieces sitting on your desk.” He cut off any argument by continuing, “But pissing off Homeland earns you another twelve hours on this. But no more. And I wanna see confirmation that I can print by this evening, eight at the latest.”

“Lemme understand. You’re basically saying I need a big building blowing up or confession from a bomb wielding terrorist for me to get out of an interview with the deputy union secretary?”

“No, I didn’t say that. Since Homeland clearly won’t be giving you any hard facts, get me some pics, at least one other source, maybe a few hundred words with a concise argument. Then you only have to do the other two.”

“Any bombs going off will be before your deadline! How about I come up with an eyewitness account, would that get me out of the puff Symphony thing too? Maybe video of the terrorists? And does the building definitely have to blow up?”

“If it blows up, and I get two thousand words with pics before anyone else… I’ll reassign two of three.” This was getting dark, very dark, but most newspaper humour always was.  And they were joking, right?

Andy snorted. “No way. If I get an exclusive pics of a terrorist or the building blows up, I want four thousand words, front page and at least the weekend off.”

Greg gave a moment to consider the deal. “Okay. Exclusive photos of the terrorists, or the building blows up… Weekend off but you still owe me five hundred on the symphony. Five hundred words, you could do that on the subway going home. If the subway’s running, of course.”

“What if I’m in the building when it goes up?”

“I’d want a Doctor’s note, five thousand words, and maybe you get the week off. But only with a legit doctor’s note. Real trauma and it has to be on the page as well.”

“From my hospital bed, surviving the deaths of thousands?”

“See, it writes itself. I’ll still want the symphony piece.”

“Thanks, Greg.”

“Yeah yeah. And Andy? If this is real…”

“Uh huh?”

“Dead reporters don’t get to write the great stories. Don’t be stupid, okay?”

“Ah, Greg. You care.”

“I care… if you have something and then live to tell the tale, okay?”

He disconnected and Andy stared at her phone. Just another day on the job, then. One more call to make. It wasn’t on her speed dial, but she knew it by heart.


The newly promoted Editor in Chief of Runway magazine was as urbane as always. “Six. I assume you are calling to tell me all is well and that we can party hearty this afternoon. Or am I about to further regret telling you about the threats over last month’s cover?”

Andy hung her head, before answering. “Nige, Sorry.”

There was a muttered curse at the other end, before she was asked, “Not as if I’m not used to getting bad news. Hit me, and yet still be gentle.”

“I talked to a specialist in demolition this morning, and he wanted blue prints for the building, right? Well, on a hunch, while I was copying them, I asked if anybody else had checked them out before me. And guess what? They were printed out last month. Right after the Hajib issue came out. Me and whoever else were the only ones to access them in ten years since they changed over from microfiche. And enlargements were made of the parking garages by the elevators, and three of the upper floors stairwells.”

She could hear Nigel shifting the phone as he moved to a quieter location. “And this is important why?”

“The demolitions expert said that if he were contracted to bring the building down and he didn’t have a big budget, he’d detonate charges in the parking garage and the main supports are in the outer walls in the stairwells and surrounding the elevators.”

“What did your editor say?”

“What he always says, ‘Where’s the meat, Sachs?’”

There was a short chuckle from her friend. “Have you called Homeland again?”

She swallowed. “Um, yes?”

“Oh. That sounds good. And they said…”

“Apparently they have a prime suspect if anything goes boom anywhere around Elias Clarke.”

“That’s not good news?”

“Not when it’s me.”

Nigel began to laugh. “You? Why on earth?”

“I couldn’t tell them why I was hanging around Elias Clarke, and somehow they know I consulted with a demolitions expert, plus I keep bothering them, really.”

“I suppose admitting you have a massive crush on Our Lady wouldn’t help your case?” Ignoring the short choking noises of denial Andy was making, Nigel continued, “Moving on, aside from you possibly being taken to Guantanamo if I go boom this afternoon, is there any other good news to share?”

“I was hoping that you could get me a pass to check out the building.”

“Of course, I get to sneak the mad bomber in. I’m sure Homeland Security would approve and I’d also get the chance to wear orange day in and out. How could I say no?”


“I prefer my conspiracies to be sexual, generally. And principally concern myself. Which makes it even more confusing that I am waiting for you to put on your big Chanel boots and just see Miranda!”

“I am not avoiding her. I saw her at the Gala last week.”

“Oh, my God! You two are impossible. What do you say to her, what words have you exchanged on the three evenings I know about, that you coincidentally ended up in the same rooms?”


“Yes, of course, Miranda, who else would I mean?”

“That’s what I said. Miranda. And then she said Andréa, and we moved on to talk to someone else. Or at least I moved on and stood in front of someone else, pretending to talk to them while she glared at me.”

“Oh, my God!”

“Stop saying that!”

“Why do you think she’s glaring at you?”

“Because she hates me?”

“No one hates you. It’d be like kicking a puppy.”

“Tell that to my former friends.”

“I’m your friend. Everybody loves you. That man you just put away for malfeasance is your friend.”

“I don’t think…”

“He gave you an exclusive after he was sentenced! No one hates you. Do you think she would let you keep in touch with her girls if she hated you? They invited you to their recital, for God’s sake.”

“And she glared at me the whole night!”

“You were sitting three rows away from her.”

“So I wouldn’t burst into flames from the glares! Wait, how did you know I sat three rows away?”

“The girls told me. We’re all getting very frustrated with the two of you.”

“You and the girls? They really like me?

Andréa could almost hear him over the phone shaking his head before he interrupted. “Yes, Ms Field, they really like you. Far be it for me to understand the mind of our goddess, but I think you’re upsetting Miranda because she probably thinks you’re walking away. Again. Why do you think she keeps showing up at these events? She knows you’ll be there. I’ve told you, you were always special to her. And if you keep creeping around her, some might think that maybe Homeland has a point?”

“You know I would never hurt Miranda.”

“I know, but it’s a strange world. Why would anyone, even you, waste explosives on the Vice President?”

“I think it’s because there are several targets all in one place.  It is after all, it is the second finest Art Deco building in New York.”

“Have I taught you nothing? The building is Style Moderne. The accoutrements, decoratives, mouldings are art deco. You should know better.”

“Nigel! Back to point?”

“You mean you mooning about Miranda? Watching you two playing this foolish game is about the only pleasure I’ve had since she dropped me in this job and moved upstairs. And think about it, Six. Listen to the concern in your voice. Why do you think you would be so adamant, why would you want to be anywhere near here if you’re so certain it’s about to blow up?” He waited for, but didn’t expect a reply, so moved on.

“As much as I’d love to see the next installment in your personal soap, the VP’s men had sniffer dogs and a full lock down is in place, so I don’t see what your coming here would help. And considering your recent success in making friends at Homeland, I would bet you’re on the no-fly list for the party.”

“As if I wasn’t already.”

Nigel chuckled. “Any snipers Emily ever hired after Paris have long since been let go.”

“But she hasn’t, let go that is. She was a source for Homeland! She told them that I,” she paused and blurted, “Well, she told Homeland the truth! Seriously, pleeeease, Nigel? I have to check it out, I have this feeling in my gut, and you didn’t see those guys sneaking in. With matching backpacks, Nigel! Three guys, coming from different directions, with someone opening the rear door for them, all with matching backpacks. When have you ever seen three matching backpacks?”

“In our last summer issue?”

Speaking sincerely was her last weapon. “I need to know that she’s, that you’re all safe.”

And it worked.

“Well, I’d like to know that she(cough) we’re.. all safe too, but I still don’t see how you can help. Have you given any thought as to what you will be doing here? Assuming you really aren’t here to blow us all up.”

“Nigel. I know the building, I’ve got the blueprints, and I have a couple of ideas. I know what those guys were wearing, what they look like. I’ll glide in,” she ignored the snort from Nigel, “check a couple of hidey-holes and with any luck, it’ll all be my imagination. But I have to know. Please.”

“And if you do find them? And there is a threat? You know the only person that could order an evacuation of the building and be obeyed is… ”

“I was hoping you could ask…”

“Miranda? Nope.”


“Nope. Nope. Nopenope.”

“But I can’t. Even in costume Emily would recognise me and strangle me before I got ten feet near her.”

“But it’s not…” she could almost see the switching of gears. “Actually, you coming here sounds like a wonderful idea.”


“Of course. Who am I to discourage radical journalism? The rear entrance will have been sealed by the Secret Service, so you can't use the normal terrorist's preferred entry.”

“I know, someone will have to sign me in at the door, and not as Andy Sachs. Then there'd be paper work showing. I’m on the other side of town so the earliest I can get there is before four. Unless you want to check out the stairwells if no one else will”

“Couldn't you just rappel down the building, arriving in a crash and splintering of glass?”

“Real bomb threat, real Andy Sachs. Sorry, Nigel.”

“Let me find someone who’s not coming into work but is on the list, and I’ll text you their name. I can meet you at the desk at four. Afterwards, I’m sure the VP’s men will be happy to chat with me about Guantanamo.”

“Nigel… fine. And don’t think I didn’t catch that hesitation a minute ago. I have no idea what evil scheme has entered your mind, but fine.”

“Can’t wait to see you,” he singsonged.

Chapter 2

Three Hours before the First Explosion

Nigel placed his phone on the charger, and sat back in the chair of the Chief Editor of Runway New York, uncharacteristically pensive. So many things seemed to becoming to a head this day; Andréa returning, the impossible thought that there was a real terrorist attack planned for the building he was in, yet his eyes returned to a news headline outlining the filing of a Chapter 7, title 11, for Holt International. The opening of the office door broke his reverie, to the point of startling him when he realised who it was.

The new CEO of Elias Clarke, Miranda Priestly, gracefully slipped into the chair opposite him. There was a shared smile, an acknowledgment that their positions at that desk were reversed after fifteen years. Miranda glanced at the story.

“I have no idea what she was thinking when she took the job.” After fifteen years, Nigel was not surprised at the lack of irony in the statement. Miranda had, after all, engineered Jacqueline’s heading of the company. “She was an editor, a second tier editor, with some knowledge of fashion.”

Despite the fact that he was now at her former desk, some insecurity lingered. “But what does that make me?”

Miranda’s lips pursed. “Nigel, after fifteen years of working as my right hand, you… are a manager. We work where we do because of our love of fashion, but make no mistake. You could walk into a Wall Street firm,” she noted the distaste on his face and added mockingly, “or a firehouse, and bring it to the highest levels of efficiency and success.”

There was a pause as he considered her words. “Could I have saved Holt International?”

“Had I allowed you to take the job. Honestly? The economy was bad, it wasn’t the time for a launch, but given a few years, yes, you could have. But would they have given you two years? How long did they give Jacqueline?”

“Nine months.”

“While I will never pretend that I did what I did for anyone else other than myself, I was well aware that it was the best decision for more than myself.”

Knowing he’d pushed the fashion maven to the near limits of volubility, he moved to change the subject. “As much as I appreciate this walk through of our past, I assume you had other reasons to drop by?”

“We, and of course I mean I, but you in lower case as the head of the most important publication, have a party to attend. Put away the past and let’s show New York the future.”

Shortly afterwards, with a drink in his hand if not a song in his heart, Nigel had successfully welcomed the early arrivals to the party, schmoozed as needed, corrected as required, and now rested in a niche, quietly adjacent to the gathering masses where he waited once again for Miranda to rejoin him. Soon enough, the murmured conversations nearby stalled, signalling her approach.

Nigel was pleased to note that despite the seriousness of her expression, her traditional black simply oozing wealth and power, she was in a good mood. Not that anyone else could have told by the wintry expression on her face.

“Can you tell me why a certain individual who wouldn’t dare appear in this building on even her most foolhardy of days, is mentioned on this list of banned persons?” she started in. One eyebrow was arched, which he recognised as only DEFCON three. “Has Emily joined the Vice President’s advisers?”

Nigel continued to watch the gathered movers and shakers watching them, and spoke quietly enough for only Miranda to hear. “Our Six has gotten on the wrong side of the Department of Homeland Security.”

Only a slight stilling of a finger around her champagne glass indicated any reaction. Once a minion, always a minion, he recognised it was his cue to provide more details.

“More importantly, she’s found that the blue prints for several of the floors of this building were accessed shortly after our Islamic Beauty issue came out. For the first time in ten years. And her explosives expert thinks that the plans they looked at are all perfect places for the most effective destruction by explosives. ”

“How does this get her banned from our presence? Is she going to inform the Vice President to death?”

Nigel noted with amusement that her usual sardonic wit, was centred on Andy, and not on the imminent destruction of the building they were both standing in.

“She mentioned these concerns to Homeland Security with some ardour, and they told her that as a former employee with a possible grudge, they found the information to be either a prank or a possible threat on her part.”

Miranda huffed. “What nonsense. Of course, they assumed that she must be a threat. Our tax dollars at work. Andréa? Even when she’s tearing down corruption she tries to humanise her villains. Did she learn nothing from me? When she marries her sous chef, woodland creatures will no doubt attend.”

Miranda became aware that once more, her unusual loquacity was creating a poorly hidden grin on her employee’s face.

“Sous chef? I know that you know our dear Six has been unattached for the last year.”

She glared and responded snappily, “She seemed to have someone to squire her to the gala last month. Did she find them on the street outside the hall? If she’s so worried about dangers here, she’s in far more danger from myself or Emily.”

“I believe her very gay friend Doug accompanied her. And how might that danger manifest itself? Are you going to compliment her to death?” Miranda’s eyebrow rose, which he read as meaning, I have no idea what you are referring to.

Glancing about the room, he gave her the courtesy of at least lowering his voice even more. “You should have seen her smile when she read me the email you sent her after her first by-line. It nearly blinded me.”

“You have always tended to exaggerate. On that subject, I noticed this month’s Book seems to quite overblown and garish on a few too many pages.”

Recognising the offence in place of a defence, he ignored the ploy and continued, “Acceptable! You texted our little Six that her story on the refugees in New York was… acceptable. I could only wish any of my forays were heaped with such praise.”

“Not if you continue to favour primary and neons on opposing pages.”

Barreling on over the slight, Nigel happily burbled on, “You also commented on the banking scandal story. Moderately informative. That one had her grinning like nothing I could have ever said.”

Accepting that she apparently had to engage in this conversation, she said mildly, “Really, Nigel.  Do the two of you have these conversations regularly?”

“Six and I meet on occasion. It's called being friends. The simple folk put much stock in such things, so I’m told.”

“And of course, you discuss me. After all, what else have you in common?”

“You’d be surprised. Other than your occasional overwhelmingly gushing praise, we find we have many other things to discuss.”

“Such as?”

“You may ask her yourself in a little bit.”

“Of course, you’ve invited the latest security risk here.”

“I’d tell you how she’s getting in, but I know you would prefer deniability. Though, you might want to join me in welcoming her, as she’s under the impression that this will be a costume party.”

“Nigel.” She laughed. An honest laugh, unlike most he was used to and he smiled back. “And you claimed to be friends. I assume you will not humiliate her by bringing her up here before allowing her to change?”

It was curiously enough, both question and command.

“I have Chanel and accessories waiting in my office in size four that will be perfect for her.”


Her perfect exit was destroyed as her phone announced itself. Somehow the girls had managed to change their ring tone on her phone to ‘Kiss The Girl.’ Nigel’s eyebrows rose several inches, so she muttered, “My daughters. Some sort of Disney revival fad.” That she was explaining herself, only kept the eyebrows at their current level, and she hoped her closing glare would keep the burgeoning smile from his face, at least until she was able to move away from him.

It was indeed a text from Cassidy.

U nEd 2 go on a propR D8.”

Eight years of English literature down the drain, was all she could think. The second texts were from Caroline.

I luv U bt U can't kEp hanging round w us & staring @ Ech othR

U knO U wnt 2

There was no point in a reply. Instead she was imagining a perfect world where her girls had never learned to text, or speak, or stare at her as if she was slow witted.

There were some lovely museum glass display cases she'd seen last week. Perhaps she could have the girls both stuffed, mounted, perhaps gripping a branch with their feet. She was certain her friends would be impressed, telling her in awed whispers, "I just love what you've done with your children."

A returning Emily noticed the happy smile gracing Miranda's face, but there was a terrifying edge to it. So she did what she usually did upon seeing that expression, and refused to acknowledge it.

Chapter 3

40 minutes before the first explosion

Andréa crossed the parking lot thinking that the misty cold was almost too appropriate for the 31st. As if someone had opened a box labelled Halloween and taken this weather out. Despite lacking any sort of foliage, the parking lot somehow had found a few dead leaves to join the odd bits of trash to swirl and dance about its corners. The chill that was rising as the sun went down wasn’t what was making the hairs rise on her arms, though. It wasn’t even the bomb threat. It was the thought of entering the building ahead for the first time since what in her mind was capitalised, PARIS.

She should have been proud of what happened there. It was such an oddity, that the events there had become beyond legend, even a catch phrase in the minds of many in the industry. Andréa Sachs had quit, walked away, tossing her phone into a fountain!

And lived.

Not only that, but she had somehow been allowed to stay in the state, even the city of New York, was even employed in New York! The entire event had become a metaphor for strange or even suspiciously unnatural luck.  If a couturier found unknown financing at just the right moment, or a buyer who had invoiced far too much winter stock stumbled into unseasonable weather, they might be said to have pulled an Andy Sachs.

Most assumed that Andy was unaware of her legend, and this somehow added to the preternatural bewilderment. However, she had made assumptions, and knew that they had no idea that not only had she abandoned the great Miranda Priestly at her most critical moment, but had rejected the Devil in Prada’s offer to mentor her career! Yet, she had still received a recommendation for the very job they were stunned she was allowed to have. And there was another final tidbit that might cause several heads to spin and a certain British first assistant to explode.

But, there she was, standing in the Main Lobby, clad in what was possibly an even greater horror. About to re-enter the heart of the world of fashion she had left behind, in the only costume she could afford with a mask, which was in her size, which was available on the afternoon of Halloween.It was hideous, heavy, embarrassing and it was supposed to be a bumblebee. Or some fetishist’s dream of a bumblebee.

Ladies, as you can see, Ms Andréa Sachs is wearing a yellow plushy with wide black stripes, and oversized paw hands and even larger plushy feet. The antennae and a tulle mask accentuate the outfit, while the tiny wings complete the ensemble. And to your right, we see the lovely Miranda Priestly, preparing to personally fire the series of enormous cannons now aimed at Ms Sachs…

After far too long a wait, (how does a giant bee do casual?) the door behind reception wheezed open revealing Nigel, in no sort of costume other than one of his usual bizarre blazers, humming in satisfaction. He waved Andy through without anything but bemusement from security at the desk. This is a lock down? she thought. Note to terrorists; dress like an frigging idiot, and all doors will be open to you.

Once they were alone in the elevator Nigel’s facade cracked into giggles.

Andréa gave him her best glare. “No. Nope, don’t want to hear whatever you have to say about the costume, Nigel.”

“But, Andréa? You look so Beeee utiful. When you were in the costume shop, did you think… to bee or not to bee…”

“Not original. Thought of both and hundreds more on the way here.”

“And yet you still came. That’s commitment. Something that is definitely in your future.”

“Why aren’t you dressed…” She closed her eyes as the light bulb clicked on. “Oh God! That’s why you agreed so suddenly. It’s not a costume party, is it? “ She turned large brown pleading eyes on him. “Please don’t make me come upstairs like this.”

“Worry not, Six. You do puppy eyes better than anyone, but even if I wanted to, Miranda has ordered me to take you directly to my office… to get changed.”

“Oh thank… no, “ she moaned in pain. “No, I can’t. It’s after four o'clock already.   We don’t have time for me to change, there might only be less than an hour to find proof of these guys and evacuate.” She straightened her wings to prepare to get out on the twentieth floor. The Elias Clarke was a classic building, but so were the elevators. They were incredibly slow, and other than the penthouse and Miranda’s elevator, everyone else had to disembark on the twentieth and continue up by the short run elevators to the fortieth floor. Once they crossed over the corridor and slid into the upper series, she continued her conversation. “Until then, I’ll have to try to get away with looking like this. It’s Halloween. There has to be somebody in this building having a costume party and I need to check out some things before I get thrown out. I’ll change later.”

“If you ever need an evacuation, you will have to talk to the woman with the all evacuation pass, eventually,” he sang.

Andy was pulling out something that was not at all beelike, so Nigel had to ask, “Why, have you got a selfie stick?”

“I think it could help me see the terrorists before they see me.”

“You’re planning to get that close to them?”

Andy bit her lip and nodded

Nigel shrugged but couldn’t resist teasing further. “Wow, but still a pity. Selfies with the Vice President of the United States, Miranda Priestly, the Mayor Of New York, the Governor of New York… and a giant bee? Pictures like that are truly few and far on the ground.”

“Yeah, yeah. You party, I'm here to work, and this thing,” she hoisted the stick, “will reduce the chances that I get shot or the rest of us blown up.”

Nigel blanched. “Only reduce?”

“Nigel. I know the bee costume is hard to take seriously, but I really believe this threat is. Even my magic stick can't eliminate that.”

“When you’re done, there’s a dress with your name on it waiting.”

Andréa’s eyes lit up. “Ooh! Another Chanel? I hope I get to see it. I never wanted to be wrong as much as I am this time.”

“You and me both, kid.” They finally reached the fortieth floor and after another agonisingly long wait the doors opened and Andy prepared to dash to the nearest stairwell before being sighted.

Nigel held the door and Andy moved past him, and had just begun to run when a voice beyond them rang out. “Andréa?”

Your lungs could freeze, Andy realised. You could actually die of embarrassment. She’d had nightmares after PARIS, where they would meet, and she was naked, unemployed and Miranda would simply purse her lips and move on without a further glance. This was actually worse. Breaking in because of some crazy plot, dressed as, well she’d have been better naked.

“Nigel? You told…?”

“Big girl boots time, Six.”

And then, she was there. Standing appropriately distant from her, looking as always, fabulous. Despite her height, her black nylon legs seemed endless, wrapped in black silk, an Oscar de la Renta if she had to guess.

Her tone, was as always, soft, and bored. “I understand you’re here about our bomb? ”

Andy fought the urge to roll her eyes at the casual, yet frightening words. Gathering her courage she corrected,  “Bombs, plural.”

“Yes, well that has yet to be seen. Though you are quite good at coming up with stories and convincing people to trust you.”

Ooh, a low blow, already. But there was a glint of humour in the woman’s eyes that she let Andy see, and the reporter fought a grin.

The verbal thrashing was not yet over, of course not, as it was one of Miranda’s daily pleasures and Andy could only dream of adding to Miranda’s daily pleasures.

“Andréa, you are aware of what you are wearing? Oh, of course. A party, and your lovely Midwestern mores assumed that we would be in some sort of fantasy garb?”

“It’s Halloween!”

“How clever of you to know the date. And still not quite clever enough to realise that we are not five years old. Or looking to be pollinated.”

I am not five years old, her mind retorted, but she managed, “It was all the shops had left!”

“How odd. I was passing by Macy's this morning and saw several non-bee selections. Though it is in one way appropriate, I don’t believe bees, certainly the worker bees, survive more than six weeks. You did well to last as long as you did, I suppose. Beeeee that as it may, we have other things to discuss.”

The full Priestly glare was now upon her and she was once again that novice assistant, stuttering apologies that were not listened to. “I, well, I know we said that the next time, when we were, together, well not together together…”

“Andréa?” The soft tones were still sharp enough to cut. “I meant the bomb. Nigel, I am sure that now that your joke is done, you have something more appropriate for Andréa to wear?”

Before Nigel could demur, Andy interrupted. “I’ve already thanked Nigel, but I came here to check a hunch or two right away, and anyways, if there are any bombs, I won't have the chance to change before we evacuate the building. So what would be the point of the dress?”

Miranda’s eyes widened slightly. “What would be the point? Of dressing appropriately? You do remember to whom you are speaking, don’t you?”

“Miranda…  I want to be wrong, but if I’m not, I have to know. I’d like nothing better than to argue about fashion, the girls, lots of st…things. If every thing’s actually okay, and you don’t decide to shoot me out the windows with a cannon, I’ll stay, I’ll change. But after I check out a few places.”

“There is security throughout this floor, where were you planning to look?”

“That’s the thing, the security came in today. I’m thinking it makes sense that the main explosives would be in the parking garage, as it wouldn’t have checked because the VP came in through the lobby. But the lower stairwells and elevators would only have been searched this morning, right? So they needed to come in last night and find places to hide near the floors where they were going to be planted, the ones they copied the blue prints for. There’s one place on the upper floors that is inaccessible to the dogs and the male agents.”

Miranda raised a finger. “Ah. The ceilings in the new ladies toilets.” She turned to Nigel. “When they put in the modern lavatories, they lowered the ceilings in the washrooms for all the pipes.” The eyes turned to stare directly into Andy’s. “How would you have noticed?”

Trying not to show how Miranda’s intensity was affecting her, Andy spoke flippantly. “Like many of your staff, I’ve spent hours staring at the ceilings in there, you know, hiding, trying to calm down… for some reason. There are sections that are track tiles that could be lifted for access.”

Miranda’s expression grew cold. “And you’re going in there alone? Have you fallen on your little head again?”

Andy raised the selfie stick. “No, that’s what this is for and only if I see anything that indicates one of the tiles has been lifted.”

Andy could see the wheels turning as Miranda attempted to find alternative solutions, and though the familiar face did not show concern, it was enough to lighten Andy’s heart. Decision made, Miranda spoke. “Andréa, you will not take any unnecessary risks, and I expect to hear from you in 15 minutes, regardless of any discoveries, is that understood?” She glanced about, and instead of the expected, that’s all, very quietly added, “Please.”

Andy responded just as quietly, “Never heard you say please before.”

“Clearly frustration is inspiring my vocabulary.”

“Then I’ll look forward to hearing it again.”

Miranda ignored the sally. “You will call me,” she stated firmly.

Chapter 4

31 minutes before the first explosion

With Andréa gone, Miranda waited for Emily to reply to her summons. Once she had arrived, she brought her up to speed. Regardless of what Emily might feel about any threat that Andréa represented, if Miranda believed it, Emily was prepared to follow. “The CIA chatter Andréa was referring to, claimed that an event would occur in Manhattan at five pm, and it is just after 4:00 now. If the threat is aimed at this building, we have under an hour to respond. Should she return with any, and I mean any, corroborating information, I would like to be ready to act immediately.”

Both minions lifted notebooks but Miranda waved them away. “I believe my instructions will not be so complex that you need to take notes.” She turned to her former art director.

“Nigel, get the list of the fire marshals for each floor and inform them that we are likely to initiate the emergency evacuation procedure, specifically the one avoiding all stairwells. I want them ready to go and familiar with all aspects of the program. I believe that one requires each floor to exit according to a floor schedule using the elevators in sequence?”

Nigel nodded, thanking his God that he had attended each of the fire safety briefings. “Yes, as all of the lifts on the upper section only go down to the twentieth floor, we need to begin from up here first.”

Of course, there was no indication on her face that his information was new or surprising. “Fine. To encourage speed and reduce panic, you may imply that I am using my new position and some negligible threat as an excuse to once again torture my employees for my personal enjoyment, except I am now able to expand my power to include the entire building. Once I give the word, I want this complex clear in twenty minutes. Twenty, not twenty-one. It will be made clear that anyone who stays will be fired. Anyone who leaves ahead of his or her floor designation will be fired. Anyone using the stairs will be fired.”

Turning to her present Art Director, she said, “Emily, I need to ensure that all recent work for each magazine has been uploaded to the alternate servers. Regardless of confirmation, I want emails to that effect sent out now. Before that, I will need the telephone number best suited to have a bomb squad here in under five minutes. Once you have completed those tasks, we shall relax and enjoy the party for a few moments. That’s all.”

She turned and strolled towards to her VIP guests, stopping only to pick up a fresh glass of champagne. Both of her employees closed their mouths in an attempt to stop gaping at her.

Emily recovered first. “Nigel, she didn’t actually tell us to begin a complete shut down of eight major magazines, and then prepare to evacuate more than five thousand people from a forty-four story office building?”

“And prepare for the bomb squad to arrive because this building could be blown up in an hour?”

“But do find a moment to have a casual drink and possibly shmooze for a bit.”

“Before the whole blowing up part, yes. Breathe, Emily.”

“Nigel, she can’t just walk off after giving orders that insane.”

Nigel shrugged. “I’m pretty sure she did but I’m only basing that judgement on the fact that I was standing here when she did.”

Emily muttered as she stomped away, “Even Dr. No didn’t have minions that have to do the things we do.”

Nigel called after her, “Stop thinking about your dream job and get people uploading those magazines.”

26 minutes before the first explosion

Miranda had just managed a sip of her champagne when her phone vibrated. Seeing the caller ID she answered quietly. “Where are you and what have you found?”

Andréa’s voice was also quiet, but to Miranda’s relief she was not whispering. “Washroom. One floor below? Women’s. One of the ceiling tiles wasn’t even in place properly, and it stinks of coffee. I think it was used to mask the smell of explosives to fool the dogs.  Anyway, I took the selfie stick and…”

“Very carefully and quietly?”

“Yes, Miranda. Here’s what it saw. There’s no one up there now, but you can see the gleam of one of the orange backpacks… and the backpack looks empty.”

“So you think that the occupant has moved to wherever the bombs are to be placed.”

“I really, really wish that this was homeless person finding an odd spot to camp overnight, but… This is happening, Miranda. It’s happening here and now. So, I… I’m going to check the stairwells.”

“Dammit, Andréa.” Miranda desperately tried to think of something to stop the girl from putting herself in danger, but all her normally agile mind could produce was, “You’re dressed as a fucking bee!”

Andy froze, having very rarely heard the fashion queen curse. Or blurt. Or show concern for another human being besides her daughters.

“Miranda, I found the backpack. Just me, no witnesses. Any security officials I bring this to, will already suspect I’m behind this somehow. We may not have time to argue and they won’t take measures unless they know what they are facing.”

“And if you startle the mad bomber?”

“They’ll have a set schedule for the explosions, my guy said. If they said five o’clock, he’ll just shoot me and wait the, uhhh, forty-five minutes until five.  I’m in danger, not you. Not any of you.”

“I have no idea why that is not at all comforting. You will not risk your life.”

“Miranda, I really don’t want to do this either. But if I can get a face, a picture of the equipment, they might trace who is involved and find out if there are other attacks planned because of my photo.  Figure out what explosives or devices they have. We don’t know if this is one attack or several, other buildings could be targeted, thousands elsewhere could be in danger as well. Or they could be rank amateurs and no danger at all. It’s important. You have to see that. And no one else can or will do it.”

There was a moment of huffing at the other end and Andy could picture the pursing of the lips. “I’m not happy.”

Andy chuckled. “You think I am? If you want professionals involved, you could send somebody to check out this washroom. They might find some clues there.”

“Perhaps you could wait until they examine…”

“It’s 4:15, we have less than an hour. I’m already at the stairwell doorway anyway. And remember, I have little bee’s feet, I’ll be extremely careful.”

“No attempting to interview him, do you hear me?”

“I promise.”

There was a strange pause, before an almost startling question was asked. “You’ll be alright?”

“I promise.”

The connection severed. Miranda smiled across the floor at an acquaintance, as she delicately pressed her speed dial. Her expression did not change, but her voice was terse. “Nigel, get the evacuation started. Notify the 20th and 45th floors and start down from there.” Nigel muttered an obscenity while she continued. “Inform Emily that the bomb squad should have been here ten minutes ago and that I will need to speak to the head of the Vice-President’s security team when I get back in five minutes. Then bring me a change of clothing for Andréa and myself. I’m not meeting the press in a party gown.”

That brought a very small chuckle. “Of course not, Miranda. What are you going to be doing?”

“Apparently, I have to go and make sure that foolish girl doesn’t get herself killed.”

22 minutes before the first explosion

Andy stared at her phone, checking it was set on automatic focus, and attached it to the selfie stick. Her hands were trembling and so she rested the stick on the ground for a moment. Okay, so heroes get scared. That’s what they all say. It’s just that heroes keep going despite the fear. That’s what they say. But I don’t think Audie Murphy was wetting his panties every time he advanced. Of course, he wasn’t unarmed and wearing a bee costume either. So just open the door, okay? Miranda, everyone in this building and maybe others are depending on you.

She pushed the door bar downwards as slowly as she’d ever pressed any object before. It swung inward without any sound and disengaged its catch silently. As she eased it open, she paused and listened for any sounds. Hearing nothing, she continued to push it further. Her padded feet were silent as she slid through the doorway. There was a startling ripping, scratching sound, which had her heart jump. She immediately identified it as duct tape being unravelled. Her heart’s pounding seemed too loud, and she was having trouble breathing. You have to breathe, Andy, just quietly. You still have to breathe.

The familiar sound of the unwrapping continued. It was very close, just around the downward spiral of the staircase. Her hands still trembling, she willed them to stay still so that the photo would not be blurry. She stretched out her hand, reaching the stick around the corner and began taking pictures of whatever and whoever was around the corner and below her.

Once done, she began to carefully pull back the camera… when it caught on the railing, almost falling out of the stick. To stop it falling she had to shift and the sound of the phone scraping against the railing echoed throughout the stairwell.

She froze, knowing the camera was still in sight if the person below looked up. She began to reel it in slowly as the sound of the taping stopped. There was a shifting of cloth; a step and Andy closed her eyes. Continued to slowly pull backwards towards the doorway.

The door in the floor above them opened with a crashing sound and the silence in its echoes indicated that both Andy and the person below were startled. A well known and imperious voice called out, “Stop right there.”

Apparently, Miranda’s voice was as effective on terrorists as ex-assistants, as they both obeyed. It continued, “You know very well there is no smoking on the stairwell and I believe you still have much to do. Unless you are tired of your job?” Andy broke out of her position and began to trot up the stairs where a visibly upset Miranda stood. “To be taking time to fill your lungs with garbage, while in my employ, is inexcusable.”

Once she was close enough, she spoke loudly, “Yes, Miranda. “

“And I do not want to see you slipping off this way again, do you understand?”

She almost pulled Andy through the doorway, slamming the door with emphasis. In an unspoken assent, both women put distance between themselves and the exit. Once that was accomplished, they focused on the phone still attached to the selfie stick. Andy looked at Miranda once before detaching it and hitting Gallery. There, clearly in each of the frames, was a young lad, barely out of his teens, a short barrelled machine gun lying on the ground beside him, wrapping tape around an object just out of the camera’s eye. No matter how she expanded the frame, the object could not be seen clearly, yet it seemed to pulse with danger.

Miranda nodded. “Well, that’s it, then?”

Andy nodded as well and they began to run back to the ballroom. She scanned the rest of the photos on the way. In one shot the boy was almost facing the camera. He was young. All too young. Miranda noticed Andréa’s expression and that she was slowing down, so she pulled Andy hard by the shoulder, saying, “You cannot save that boy. You cannot ever save everyone.”

A white-faced Emily was standing by the elevator, listening to her phone as another group was loaded on to the elevators. She immediately stood to attention as Miranda approached, but froze as she recognised the giant Bee at her side. Before a word could leave her lips, Miranda glided towards her, nothing in her voice indicating anything was untoward.

“Emily, why am I not looking at the head of the Vice-President’s coterie, or are you now working with the terrorists? And call the police commissioner, attaching this photo. Tell the bomb squad we will also need an anti terrorist squad here as of thirty minutes ago. They should start in the basement, and their dogs should be looking for coffee scent as well as explosives.” Emily did not respond, her face paler than Andy could remember.

“Emily, if I feel that you are panicking, you will no longer work in the Western Hemisphere, do you understand?” This seemed to stiffen her spine and she managed, “Yes, Miranda.”

The head of security spotted Miranda and moved to join them. With his ear piece, and dark glasses on inside, Andy felt he was more appropriate for the Matrix films, but he took them off as she showed him a blow-up of the photo she had already sent to her laptop. His expression did not change, but the furrows around his eyes seemed to tighten.

“When was this taken? And how? Where?”

The reporter answered each question in order. “Two minutes ago, by a selfie stick, on the north facing stairwell below this level.”

The detailed and calm response brought his eyes from the tablet to look the woman in the eye. “You would be the former employee that I have on my list, Andrea Sachs?  And you took this picture? Do you know if he saw you?? Do you have any idea how dangerous that was? Not for you, but for everyone in here?”

Andy had just a few too many cups of coffee and even more cups of bullshit from Homeland to back down from this. “You wouldn’t be listening to me if I hadn’t gotten this picture.”

“Young lady, this,” he pointed to the wires dangling from the hand of the boy, “is a deadman’s switch. You know what that is?”

Andy already knew, not that she had wanted to think about it. “If the person holding it lets go, it detonates?”

“Exactly. And this,” he pointed to the weapon on the ground, “This is an MP5K. The manufacturers, Heckler & Koch, call it the ultimate close-quarters weapon.  It’s light, easily concealed, deadly accurate even in confined spaces, and fires up to thirty rounds in a few seconds. And you claimed there are several more of these men, on different floors?”

Assuming her heart couldn’t actually jump out of her chest, Andy maintained the cool façade. “That’s what the evidence is saying.”

“How the hell did they get in here?”

“They slept overnight in the toilet’s ceiling crawl spaces. I found an open ceiling tile in the washrooms, and coffee grounds underneath.”

Nigel arrived at this moment and contributed, “We’re halfway through evacuations, this floor had the most people and is almost done, the bomb and anti terrorist units should be here already.”

“Good.” The agent began to speak into his microphone and strode away from them.

Andy and Nigel jumped into pursuit. “So what are you going to do?” Andy asked. The rest of the agents accompanying the Vice President were now grasping the former senator by the arms and hurrying him towards the elevators. The lead agent moved to join them.

“I’ve just notified Homeland to raise the alert status to Red, and we are getting the VP out of this building.”

“But what are you going to do?” Andy asked, pointing towards the stairwell.

He slid into the elevator with the rest of his men. “My job. Protecting the Vice President.” The elevator doors closed on them.

Andy stared at Nigel. “That could be my least favourite phrase in the England language. My Job.”

They rejoined Miranda who was glaring at Emily, whose colour had not improved. “Notify the bomb squad that the man in our stairwell was armed with a…” Miranda looked to Andy.

“MPK5.” She blushed at Miranda’s slight nod.

“An MPK5 machine gun and the explosives had a deadman’s switch.”

Emily listened for a moment before relaying, “The bomb squad says, thanks for the information, but they are already in the parking garages and found one heavily armed… hostile? But they thank you for the timely warning.” Emily paused to look at Miranda. “I think he’s being sarcastic.”

Chapter 5

14 minutes before the first explosion.

“Below 20 is almost cleared. The penthouse, observation and all of the upper floors are clear as well,” Nigel reported to Miranda.

“Then it is time for us to go. I believe we are required to call out for stragglers on our way. We will meet you outside once this has been sorted.” Her English accent was evidencing itself; something Andy had noticed when Miranda was particularly under stress. “Emily, we must make sure everyone has left. Can you do that?”

Emily had become less responsive as more information had come in. Her facial muscles seemed frozen and her eyes glazed. Only at Miranda’s imperious cough, did she raise her head and smile. “Oh, of course… right.” Then to their horror, the normally cool Brit began giggling and spread her palms apart, then her arms reaching to the sky, and said “Boom!”

Even Miranda looked shocked. Andy and Nigel had their jaws open. Emily repeated. “Boom. Boom.” And continued to giggle.

Miranda closed her eyes and whispered furiously to Andy. “How could I, Damn. She was in London, I should have remembered, why didn’t I remember?”

Andréa blanched. “Was she in the Tube when the bombs went off?”

Miranda grimaced. “No, she was on that bus. I’m not, calming,” she stumbled. “… Please? Could you?”

Emily had begun to pant between giggles so Andréa collared her and held her eyes with her own. “Emily, look at me. You’re going right out the door. Right now. Nigel is taking you out of here now.” Emily began to focus, and tears formed in her azure lids.

“But Miranda…?”

“Miranda’s not angry with you, she just wants you safe. We’ll all meet downstairs in a few minutes and have a long drink. Just go with Nigel, okay? Everything’s going to be okay.”

Miranda nodded her agreement. “Nigel, you will escort Emily out of the building, Andréa and I will do the floor by floor and meet you outside.”

Nigel handed over the garment bags that he’d fetched and took hold of the now sobbing Emily but did not move. “Miranda, I will be the first to admit you are the Captain here, but you don’t need to go down with the ship.”

“Nigel, if you can name anyone else with better knowledge of this building still available, I will be happy to let them go down with this ship.” She paused before continuing. “I thought not. Now as Andréa has a working knowledge of at least all of the washrooms, she can do the lower floors. There are several people, at least three on the fashion floor…”

“Four, actually.” Andy interjected while working furiously at her laptop.

Miranda turned with raised brow. “Four what?”

Andréa continued typing her story. “Deaf people or people in sound proofed areas. That was what you meant, right?”

The brow moved to its reset position. “I miss that.”

Andy looked up with a grin. “My mind reading?”

“I was going to say your professionalism, until you ruined it. Let’s get this done quickly.”

The hall was empty, so Andy sent an update of her story and events to her office. She was by the elevator, scanning the doc before sending it, when Miranda returned.

“The rest of the floors should soon be empty, and hopefully the elevator will be freed for us before the clock creeps any closer to five. I’ll call out on the upper floors, while you check the soundproof areas.”

“I’ll be happy to get out of here before the SWAT teams come through.”

Miranda seemed engrossed in receiving reports on her own cell phone, but commented dryly, “Yes, that could get, upsetting.”

Andy took the time to stare at her, and was, of course, ignored. The wait dragged on, and crossing her fingers, she broke the silence.

“The girls were both very impressive at their concert.”

Miranda did not raise her head. “I wasn’t sure that you could hear them from your position.”

“I thought that discretion was the better part of valour.”

Still looking at her phone, Miranda stated flatly, “Discretion wouldn’t have had you kiss me.”

Andy’s eyes widened. “I was very discrete. I didn’t continue…”

“Assaulting me?”

“Assault! You kissed back!”

“And then stopped. I have been patient for over a week.”

“It’s been six days!”

“But apparently you used up all your courage in your assaults.”

“I did not…You kissed back!”

“I have Nigel and my girls both pressing me and I cannot say anything because you stopped to discuss… THINGS!””

“I just wanted, before, we should clear the air…”

Further words were cut off by the ice blue eyes lasering her. “The air was fine. In fact,” she paused, but continued in a lower tone. “There was far too much of it between us at the concert.”

“I wanted to, but you seemed angry.”

The silence returned.

Andy tried again. “I hope the girls got my gifts.”

“Hmmm, they have mentioned that they… they wanted to thank you for the annotated sheet music. I understand it was helpful. How…?”

“They sent me their program, and I happened to know people…” And spent three days going through obscure bookshops…

“People? Did you possibly use my name?”

Against her will, Andy’s temper began to emerge. “Believe it or not, Ms Priestly, your name does not magically produce lost musical manuscripts. That was all me.”

“Yes, well you have put in quite the effort. Interviewing me.”

“My editor pushed that.”

“Inside the Dragon’s Lair.”

“I don’t write the captions or the headers.”

“Appearing at events I happen to be attending.”

“I was asked. And occasionally threatened. Cassidy has your look down pat.”

“Keeping in touch with Nigel. And with my children.”

Andy turned on the woman, her face now red with fury. “No.  You don’t even get to suggest that. I would never manipulate the girls to get closer to you. Never. And you know that.”

A cold front now blew in. It was very chilly with more than a touch of frost.

“Do I?”

Okay, Fate. Why, as usual, do I have to be the one to step this down?

“Can we take a deep breath? I’m sorry, Miranda.”

“What precisely are you apologising for? There must be a long list with boxes you could tick.”

Fate? I’m going to punch her now, THEN be diplomatic, okay? Fortunately, Miranda’s phone interrupted them, indicating a message. She read it and said, “The last stragglers have left, the lift should be on its way.”

Andy nodded “That will take a few minutes. If you want to talk properly...”

“Of course. NOW, we could talk.” That withering whisper was back. “Of course.”

Andréa, raised her hands to interrupt what was clearly going to be sharp blade of sarcasm, but the CEO was in full form. “Not last week, or any day in between. NOW, we could talk. But then, that is your special gift. Having no concept of proper timing. Assault your former employer, and then stop!”

“Why do you keep saying assault?”

“Yes, assault and then stop. So we can talk. When? Not now, let’s delay this until, I don’t know, perhaps, the next time when we’re in a building that is filled with explosives.”

“And maybe we won’t have another chance!”

“And now the clichés,” Miranda shot back.

They were now face to face, both women breathing heavily. “Make up your mind! Are you mad because we stopped or because I kissed you? Because it’s a rather… important …difference?”

Miranda had stilled at the word kissed, and the last of the words had dribbled out of Andy’s mouth without the passion she might have hoped for.

There was a quiet ping sound as the lift reached their floor. “Please,” she asked, “can we, will we talk about this later?”

“To what purpose?”

The words were cold, but there was uncertainty that Andy immediately latched onto. “Because it’s important. More important than any of this,” and her hands swept the room.

The elevator door opened and Miranda strode in, not replying until the doors were about to close. She gave Andy a cheerless smile, saying, “I don’t see the point in further… discussion.”

Then the door closed, and Andy felt her stomach drop with Miranda. But she was angry, and upset, not indifferent. So she does care, right? The elevator to the right of her dinged, so Andréa clung to that bit of hope before getting in. She checked her watch once more. Not even 4:30, lots of time.

9 minutes before the first explosion

She’d finished checking the last washroom on the fashion floors for stragglers when her cell vibrated. Expecting it to be Miranda, she was surprised to see an unknown number appear. And an unfamiliar voice began to speak.

“Ms Sachs, this is Ramirez, Bomb Disposal Unit? I was directed to inform you of recent developments. We’ve cleared all of the parking areas.”

“I heard you found something,” she said.

“Oh, yes, yes we did. We found a perp, setting up six large explosive groupings, strapped to the main supports. By complete fluke, he wasn’t holding a detonator when we arrived and he had no communications devices, or we might have lost our men and the rest of the building.”

Being right was not all that it was cracked up to be, she thought, but at the same time some part of her reporter’s brain was still analysing. “That’s a lot to carry in three packsacks. Do you think that’s all they had?”

“No, this guy arrived separately, today as far as we can tell. He broke in through the seals and there was nobody there to check him. Anyway, these are high quality foundation explosives and none of it would take up much space. Just some straps to contain and direct the blast, the explosives and detonators are small blocks, stolen construction materials and the timers you could buy at Radio Shack. You could get at least three, four of the kits we found, could have fit into one of the backpacks you described. We could be talking about twelve or eighteen more devices upstairs.”

Bombs. Great big building blowing up bombs, not devices, she wanted to yell. There was also a large part screaming Mommy, and I want to go home, but ace reporters don’t get to say these things.

“I saw signs that they’d eaten up here, they stayed overnight. Maybe they had water, food … prayer books?”

Her voice must have sounded cool, because the investigator continued as if he was unaware he was speaking to a terrified person. “Nah, most suicide bombers keep it simple. And with the pancake effect, and the basement collapsed, I doubt they’d need more than another dozen devices properly placed.”

“Pancake effect?” Up till now she had liked pancakes, but she was pretty certain this explanation was going to change that.

“Well, you see, when one floor is detonated, the weight of the floors above come crashing into it to cause more damage. But if another series of explosions below that occurs, this drops the weight again with even more impact. And so on with each section. As we all saw with the twin towers.”

Andy stared dumbly at the floors she was standing on, and saw vividly how it would look as it began to crash down, rupturing the floor below it. The crazy man on the other end was still talking. “Anyway. We’re clearing out and moving to a safe distance. We’ll integrate with our opposite numbers and try to help with crowd control.”

Wait, what???

“But what about the other bombers in rest of the building?”

“Ms Sachs. I’ve spoken to the team from the VP’s detail…” presumably from behind as they scurried off into the distance. “It was only luck we got to the basement operative while the deadman’s switch was away from him. Even if I was willing to send men in there, even if we had time to get up to the top floor and disarm that bomber, the lower floors would know when his bomb didn’t go off. There’s no squad alive, even if one was available, that could incapacitate a trio of armed bombers on several different sites without warning the other bombers. Especially not in the next six minutes.”

Though she really didn’t want to know the answer because she felt like it had been obvious, too obvious all along she stuttered, “Wh, why in six minutes?” How dry could anyone’s mouth get in one second?

“The timers on the explosives we neutralised were for, lemme see, five minutes from now. We have to assume others, and specifically the upper floors, would be about the same. I mean, think. If your targets are on the upper floors, early underground blasts wouldn’t collapse the building right off. It would warn them and allow for evacuation. You’d want to guarantee that your principle targets at the party were eliminated first. Everything after that is a bonus. Right?”

Five minutes? Five minutes. Miranda! She increased her speed to the elevators. “Yes, I see.” And she could, in increasingly destructive detail. Why was this guy so calm? “Wouldn’t want the mice to get out of the trap.”

“Exactly. Then the rest of the devices would detonate, each probably about five minutes apart, to allow for the collapse damage, especially with the basement supports ruptured, and that would take the building down. Which even with the removal of the charges down there, I’m afraid could still happen.”

He’s afraid??? She began to press the elevator button frantically. “Did anyone mention that this particular mouse and Miranda Priestly were still in the building?”

This broke through the officer’s calm. “What?”

“We’re still on the upper floors of the building doing a floor-by-floor check for stragglers.”

“Nobody said, Jesus! Get the fuck out of there, Miss Sachs!”

“Yes. That’s a good idea. Wonderful advice. Thank you.”

She hit end with some force and then speed dial. “Miranda, fucking answer your phone!” Oh, this is the sprinkles of rat shit on a perfect vomit ice cream cone of a day.

In her mind she could see headlines. Headlines such as, “Former Assistant Gets Times Wrong; Devil Takes Her to Hell and Complains For All Eternity”.

Seconds later, it felt like minutes before slightly rushed breathing could be heard on her speaker.

DO NOT APOLOGISE.This isn’t your fault. “Miranda, the bombs in the basement were set for five minutes from now, the top floors are probably the same.” Silence. “Apparently, the bombs are more effective with time intervals. I’m sorry.” Damn it! She had promised herself, she wouldn’t apologise.

“And normally I appreciate efficiency.” There was no hesitation following the snark, just a firm, “Then get out of the building. Go.” It was command, and despite ingrained habits, Andy stated, just as firmly, “I have an elevator at your floor now.”

The obstinate women replied, “Then take it and leave.”

There was no time for heroism, or even a deep breath. She simply and defiantly repeated, “I have an elevator at your floor.”

The door opened onto an empty reception desk and there was no sign of Miranda. The phone was the only contact, though all it seemed to contain were more curses. “Damn you, you bloody stupid girl.”

The seconds ticked by and finally there were clicks of heels as well and Miranda was racing towards her. The reporter’s finger found the lowest floor available, 20, and pressed. Miranda leapt in, shouting, “GO!” as if Andy was a horse starting a race or had any control over the electronics, but the doors closed behind her, and there was a long, agonisingly slow pause before the elevator hummed its approval and began its last descent.

Miranda was panting slightly, but asked, “Won’t the lifts be compromised if the supports in the upper levels are destroyed?”

Both their eyes were fixed on the old fashioned number display as it moved too slowly downwards. But Andy gave the answer. “Maybe, but we know we can’t take the stairs and the brakes at each floor should support us even if the suspension above is cut. Anyway. Our only chance now is to get as far away from the first explosions on the upper floors as quickly as is possible and then hopefully make it past the next floors on the schedule.”

“Which floor plans were copied in the blueprints?”

The numbers were moving far too slowly. The number 41 was just disappearing but 40 had not taken its place. “Maybe we should lie down on the floor,” Andréa suggested quietly.

Miranda moved to the floor but still demanded, “Which floors?”

There, the 40 was visible. “42. 38. 32.”

“Bingo.” La Priestly snarked mirthlessly. “Then, we have no chance if they’re right.”

Her eyes were still locked on the dial. Still 40. “No, apparently they will be set off consecutively, so that the building will collapse at five o’clock.”

“So what is your plan?”

“Somehow we get below each of the blasts, and then get out of this elevator before it…”

That they could both agree on. “Out. Yes.”

“With the basement explosives removed, the building might not collapse, and we could simply take the stairs down the rest of the way. With luck, we might be doing that before the rest of the bombs go off.”

“I detest basing a plan on luck. It so seldom is successful.”

She had to say that, didn’t she? But before Andy could complain, their luck ran out.

There was a cracking sound that pierced them and the building, a rumble that trembled everything, then the lights in the cage flickered once and the floor beneath them was gone and they fell in the darkness.