The Television Handed Ghostess by Adam Marks continued...
Phillip was a restless man, always feeling the need to engage and disengage, focus and zoom out, pan and cut, keep moving from scene to scene. His mother once told him:
"You have your Father's mind, you do."
He didn't appreciate or understand what she said. She said it out of anger after all. Poor Father was an undiagnosed manic-depressive. No one knew what to do or how to help back then. When Phillip was a boy it was easy to overlook Dad's depressive episodes and the occasional trips to the hospital. His Father was an actor, a successful one. He could always find more work, that's what he said though Phillip now knew it was a hollow consolation. The upturns were glorious however, especially when they coincided with a job. Occasionally Dad would bring his son on set and Phillip would watch him. In those moments Young Phillip was so proud. It's why he went into the film industry, well, TV. Older Phillip was a bit more sceptical. About a year after Father died his Mum delivered her verdict in the course of an argument:
"Yes" she said with satisfaction, folding her arms, "you have your Father's mind..."
He tried to think better of his Mum. She was still grieving. Watching and helping and saving her Husband had taken up most of her adult life. Now she had failed what was she going to do? She had no idea and clearly didn't want one. All she had was bitterness and judgement. Phillip dismissed her warning and slowly cut her out of his life. How could she have known? How could she? What had happened to him... to him...? Why...? No. It was senseless to question... and it was in the past, safely, gone, many, many miles away.
Now Phillip was driving off the set. He liked to drive. It engaged him and it calmed him. It was only a few miles from the shoot to the hotel where he was staying. He needed to sleep though. He was a tired man but even his dreams were exhausting, no respite, just a slippery, tumbling montage of images, reeling around, sometimes engulfing him. He would wake to find the images evaporating, leaving the emotional residue that nothing except work could wipe away, nothing except work and driving. He liked to drive. The world would fall away behind the screen. He would keep going, watching things flow, putting them behind him and never getting involved. It engaged him and then it calmed him. He would slowly detach from the world, from his work and from his cares. He was alone, driving on a dark A-road in the middle of Middle England, a black, cloudy night. He was just coming to the end of a shoot, a couple more days; another noir, a crime thriller. They were his speciality, what he was known for. People marvelled at his films, how he managed to pull them off, finding humanity not only in the victim or the investigator but also the killer, the feminine perspective as well, they liked that, he was good at that, making the killer or the cop a woman, an interesting twist. They marvelled, people did, and sometimes even he wondered how he did it, but then he remembered... No... This was why he was driving, to get away from... to engage and then calm... Don't let your thoughts overwhelm you. A voice in his head told him:
"Just keep driving." Someone had told him that before. Lord… He'd been through that. He... wait... Was that a voice or a...? His heart fluttered. What was that? "Keep on driving..." A bright voice.
"What...?" Phillip glanced around. The car swerved sickeningly before he straightened it out. The road was deserted. It was night, no one to see. He checked the radio. It was a voice, but where...?
"Faster" the voice hissed. It was adamant. "Keep on driving." Phillip let out a dry, strangled yelp. "Faster." His right foot slowly sank and the car took off. "Keep on driving." What was going on? Phillip looked around. He was alone but... not. The car accelerated. His heart was racing. "Faster... Keep on driving." All alone, Phillip was all alone on the road. His eyes were turgid. His heart was racing. His foot was hard to the floor. "Don't stop..."
Up ahead, about a mile away on the dark road, all alone, Phillip could suddenly see lights, flashing lights: police, ambulance, fire brigade? He'd been through this before. "Faster... don't stop... keep on driving..." "But..." Phillip finally croaked. Half a mile - he'd been through this before
"Don't stop..." said the Voice, "keep on driving." Phillip could see now it was a roadblock, cars and vans and lights, bright lights, and people in the middle of the road, standing, a quarter of a mile.
Two hundred yards - brighter.
One hundred - brighter still.
"Driving..." He'd been through this before.
Producer 1: Shit! [Immediately stands up]
Producer 2: What the fuck? Security! [Starts jabbing at a button on the console in front of them]
Producer 1: There's no time, come on!
Both men sprint in a disorganised manner toward the door. Meanwhile on screen the Sign Language Woman is standing directly behind a newscaster, smiling silently. The Newscaster delivers the story without hesitation or recognition of the presence behind her.
Newscaster: ... Body discovered yesterday in a stretch of the Regent's Canal was identified by police as that of Sarah Lawley, aged twenty-five, who went missing almost thirty years ago.
The Men dash through the building to the studio where the news broadcast is being filmed. When they get there the Sign Language Woman is gone.
Lord Cardwell was a man, a man who could face facts, be honest (at least with himself) and, above all get things done. He had a lifetime of getting things done, things that had to be done. Now he was old they were as good as done. Almost over, he was an old man now, soon to go. How would he be remembered? He had to be sure. In his life of getting things done he'd faced problems and irritations, he'd faced seat-warmers and bureaucrats, he'd faced do-gooders and trouble-makers, he'd even faced James Ravell, pervert, liability and all-round menace to society, now chemically lobotomised and secretly ensconced in an institution. He had faced many things and he had come out unscathed and on top, Lord Cardwell of White City, media giant, millionaire and cross-bench peer.
He had one last problem, a tough one. Lord Cardwell knew he had dementia. It had taken a long time to accept but he was a man who could face facts. He was still quite mobile. Not so long ago though he started having trouble finding his way around the sheltered home he was living in. His mind turned cloudy. There were frequent time slips. It was hard to tell day from night anymore without looking out the window. New memories came with great effort and, from what he could tell old memories tended to superimpose themselves on the new ones, and that was the problem. There were things he did to keep the Corporation going. There were memories he held. Long submerged secrets, instants of corruption, perversion and chaos that threatened to break out before and now may do so again.
How to keep the secrets down? How to stop them overwhelming the Corporation that he loved, that he gave his life to? There was the small matter of his legacy too. It was not all altruism. How would he be remembered? The fates were entwined. Lord Cardwell strained and strained against the problem. He had certain personal files embargoed, fixed assets transferred to family members. He bought into an expensive, imported treatment programme to delay the onset, to keep it together, long enough, just long enough. He sat and he realised he'd been retired for nearly twenty years but he'd never stopped working. He once worked for the Corporation, now he was working for death.
Lord Cardwell sat in the sun house, solitary, brooding, thinking these things over. It was night. He could tell. It was dark outside and quiet inside, no one around. It was a good time to think. He thought it all over and, yes, he realised he'd spent twenty years almost working for death. How sad that it had come to this. Looking out over the garden, scanning, he let out a sigh. He'd been working for death and now here it was.
A figure stood on the edge of light. It had soft residual glow. The figure stepped forward across the garden into the shaft cast from the room where Lord Cardwell sat. He nodded, reigning himself in. He could see it. Death was a woman, well what do you know? Quite a familiar one too, short with pale skin, wavy strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes that even from this distance bore directly into his. Death stepped forward silently, advancing on Lord Cardwell. For a moment he thought he didn't know who Death was, but Lord Cardwell was a man, a man who could face facts. He knew exactly who she was. She opened the door to the sun house and stepped inside. Death stood over Lord Cardwell, who did not move.
"I know you" he said eventually. Lord Cardwell was proud. He felt calm and assured, reigning himself in.
"I know" said Death. She had a quiet, bright voice. "You never forgot me." She was bright. She seemed to be almost glowing. The lights around them seemed to dim a little. "I was alive before the end" she said.
"Indeed you were" said Lord Cardwell, who spoke slowly. He chose he words with care. "But you couldn't have lived. It would have been the end of everything, the end of Corporation."
"Too bad" said Death, the light closing in. There was a moment's silence before Lord Cardwell said:
"You've come for me, haven't you?"
Death shook her head - the last source of illumination.
"No?" "No" she said. "You've already gone." All around them the darkness was folding.
In an office - Producers 1 and 2 are facing a man sitting at the desk. We do not see the man. Producer 1: Thank you for agreeing to see us at such short notice. My, uh, colleague and I [gestures to Producer 2] are working on finding the source of the broadcast intrusion last night. It goes... Man Behind Desk: [Interrupting - calm and assured] You have leads I take it?
P1: We do and we are working with Internal Investigations, who...
MBD: I'd say 'good...' but go on.
Producers 1 and 2 look at each other, unsure how to proceed, then...
Producer 2: We have a transcript of what the interpreter signed while on air.
MBD: I see.
P2: I think it's worth reading in full. [Fetches up piece of paper] Ahem. "I am the Television Handed Ghostess. I worked for the Corporation as a sign language translator. On the night of the 28th of July 1986 I was attacked by Timothy James Ravell, a well-known presenter and disc jockey. He was interrupted. I was left for dead but I was alive. My body was found by three men, Gethin James, Phillip Harman and Reginald Cardwell. Under the direction of the latter the three men attempted to hide my body. They threw me into a canal, whereupon I drowned. I was almost forgotten. Now I have been found vengeance will be mine."
MBD: Is that it?
MBD: May I have it, the transcript?
P2: Uh, yes [hands document to MBD].
MBD: Are there any other copies?
P2: Only with Internal Investigations.
MBD: Electronic copies?
P1 and P2 look at each other again, unsure.
P1; Yes but.
MBD: [Sharply] You will be pleased to know that you are being relieved of this little unauthorised investigation you have started. [Pause] Matters are heading upstairs. Please relinquish all copies, both manual and electronic, of any documents or recordings relating to this case. Have them on my desk, so to speak, within two hours [pause]. It goes without saying that you are forbidden to mention any of this to anyone. Am I understood?
P1 and P2: [Cowed] Yes.
MBD: Don't let me detain you.
Producers 1 and 2 leave. The Man Behind the Desk sits in silence for several minutes. He does not appear to move. He does not talk. Eventually he presses a button, nearby, on his desk. It is an intercom.
Female Voice: [Brightly] Hello?
MBD: I've decided...
MBD: Have Mr Ravell... [Pause - considers his words]. It's time to finish the job.
FV: I understand.