Chapter 4: Tradam’s Warning
After Johnnie had hollered through the keyhole for a solid five minutes, the secretary came in.
“Shall I show you the way out of the building?” she asked politely, as she led them all out into the hall. “The nearest exit is right over here,” she added, pulling Rosy – who was walking in the wrong direction – back by her hoodie.
(“Dear me, she’s distressingly anticlimactic,” thought Johnnie dolefully to herself. “I was just starting to feel like a real heroine too!”)
Johnnie had just said this to herself when, turning round a sudden corner of the building they bumped unexpectedly and violently into a cup of coffee (and Mr. Tradam as well).
Sam was excited, and immediately introduced him – Tradam, not the coffee – to Johnnie, Pumpkin, and Rosy.
“How… pleasant, to be sure,” said Tradam, looking at the coffee which had spilt on Sam’s shirt when they bumped into him, and shaking everybody’s hands (except the secretary’s). “Well, Sam, old fellow, good thing I bumped into you all; as a matter of fact I was just on my way to see you. I have a few instructions for you.”
“Yes sir?” replied Sam.
“The press is waiting outside, and I want you to avoid them at all costs,” he replied, shortly. “Do your best to leave discreetly. The pen-pusher here (pointing at the secretary with his thumb, who rolled her eyes and said “pen-pusher forsooth!”) will show you the best way out. But, of course, if you don’t manage to avoid an interview,” and here he coughed just in time to hide an accidental smile – “just remember – Don’t. Tell. Them. Anything. They’ll try to force you to say something, but you must keep refusing,” added Tradam.
Sam nodded coolly. “Of course, we certainly will, sir. Oh, and we have a small request about the case, sir. Could you give us a picture of Mr. Semmes? We would be very much obliged if you could.”
Tradam compressed his lips thoughtfully, and poured out the rest of his coffee absentmindedly on Rosy’s hair, as he replied, “Why, of course. I can’t see it doing any ha- I mean, I don’t know that it will help you, but certainly, of course. I will send a picture of him your way directly.”
It was just being arranged how Tradam would send the picture to Sam, when looking suddenly up at Tradam, Rosy said “Why is my hair sticky?”
“Oh, Rosy, it’s probably from when you last ate marshmallows,” interrupted Johnnie (-who had not been paying attention to the coffee).
“Oh, I’m a flutterbudget,” exclaimed Tradam, at the same time, frantically trying to brush all the coffee off her hair. “I’m sorry, dear, I accidentally poured some of the coffee in my cup – well, all that was left actually – on your head,” he explained, looking remorsefully at his empty coffee cup. “I didn’t see you there.”
“It’s alright,” said Sam, though something funny about the coffee having less microorganisms in it did occur to him. But he didn’t mention it.
(“He was afraid about its being rude,” as Rosy explained to me afterwards.)
At the moment however, Rosy glared at him as much to say “of course YOU think it’s alright, Sam!” and Johnnie almost laughed out loud.
“Alright, well, don’t forget what I said,” reiterated Tradam, preparing to let them go.
“We won’t, sir,” said Sam, shaking his hand.
So, after he had redirected the secretary to guide them to a more private exit, Tradam walked off, and the others’ walked on – Johnnie trying her best to get all the coffee out of Rosy’s hair, but failing as badly as Tradam, and Pumpkin continuing his animated discussion about How Tall the Queen of Hearts Was with the secretary.
As soon as they arrived the secretary opened the exit door, and said cheerfully, “Alright, here we are, y’all! Now be careful, there might be some of the press waiting out there, as soon as you pass the security lines right around that corner. It might take you awhile to get away if you get caught up in a small crowd like that.”
“We sure will, ma’am,” Sam was saying politely, but stopped short in surprise as he watched Pumpkin fist bump the secretary familiarly and say, “Oh hey, let me know about the chocolate pie next time. It sounds delicious. I was seriously like… my mouth is watering. I’ll see you soon, if she says yes. Bye bye!”
They all walked out and the secretary had just barely closed the door and walked away when Sam turned on Pumpkin and exclaimed, “Excuse me, Pumpkin, do you know her from somewhere?”
Pumpkin shrugged. “Not really,” was all he said, and Johnnie started laughing at Sam.
Sam was about to say something in reply, when he suddenly found himself surrounded by cameras.
(“Yeah, it’s called the press,” Johnnie whispered in his ear.)
Sam tried to push his way past, but it was very confusing; all sorts of people were asking questions – including Johnnie, (who had the advantage of being able to take all his answers for granted) and Sam didn’t know what to do until Pumpkin whispered in his ear, “Johnnie says she and I can get away easily, and you just stay here until they all leave. Does it sound good?”
Sam’s eyes leapt out and “bother, I don’t think so!” he said – but Pumpkin wasn’t listening, and before long Sam could see him and Johnnie slowly squeezing their way out of the crowd, comparatively unnoticed.
By this time Sam was getting decidedly cross. “What about Rosy!?” he yelled in desperation after them.
No one answered, until Rosy, who was right next to him said, “I’m right here. It’s okay, Sam. Oh, hi Mr. Man,” she added as one of the news reporters looked at her. “Do you have any cookies? I think Sam needs one. Really, honest to goodness he does. It would help him relax, he’s a little flumbuxed about Johnnie. I’ll take one too,” she added, as if it were entirely an afterthought.
“It’s flummoxed,” corrected Sam absentmindedly, as he tried to peer over the crowd and follow Johnnie and Pumpkin with his eyes.
“Hang fire!” said Rosy suddenly, quite quelling the reporter nearest her with fright. “Sam, where’s your phone? It’s not anywhere in either of your pockets! What are you going to do without your phone?”
“Bother that Johnnie!” exclaimed Sam, in frustration, as he felt for his phone in his pockets. “She took it! I know she did! Bother it all! Oh, don’t worry Rosy, we can manage, I just don’t see why she can’t use her own phone. Look – I can still see them, they’re just disappearing, the villains!”
And so they were.
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