Written for: Kaneko in the Yuletide 2006 Challenge
Press Gang: Trick or Trick
SCENE ONE: Int. LYNDA's office at the Junior Gazette. Night
[LYNDA is at her desk, typing. The room is dark, apart from a pool of lamplight falling onto her face and shoulders. It is clearly late at night, and she is dressed in pyjamas. In the vague background, muffled voices are heard. LYNDA frowns, but continues typing. The voices become louder, and eventually LYNDA rises, scowling to her feet and pads barefoot towards the door.]
SCENE TWO: Int. Newsroom.
[LYNDA, still in her pyjamas, emerges from her office. A wide-angle shot shows that the newsroom has been decorated for Hallowe'en, with paper bats, spiderwebs, skeletons-obviously-nicked-from-the-school-science-lab, etc. Members of the news team are wandering about with drinks, chatting. Closeup: LYNDA is staring bemusedly at a buffet table piled with snacks. JULIE approaches, champagne flute in hand. She is wearing knee-high platform-heeled boots, about half a roll of electrical tape, and very little else. LYNDA grabs her.]
LYNDA: Alright, Craig. Thirty seconds, and this had better be good: What the hell is going on; why are you wearing the contents of the art supply closet, and why is my newsroom full of skeletons that I didn't put there?
[JULIE looks reproachful]
JULIE: Lynda, it's the Junior Gazette Hallowe'en Party. 'Come As Your Worst Nightmare'. Fundraising for youth initiatives against gangs and street crime. You might have remembered, I got Kenny put it in your diary months ago.
LYNDA: Oh, right - that would be the page where I'd crossed out 'Everyone wastes the entire evening acting stupid while dressed in idiotic outfits' and written in 'Everyone pulls their fingers out and works on the damn newspaper'!
[FRAZZ appears at the left of shot, snagging a handful of green-iced fairy cakes from a plate on the table]
FRAZZ: Yeah, the trouble is, we weren't actually too clear on the difference.
[He is dressed as COLONEL X, but has accidentally dropped his monocle into a fairy cake. He fishes it out and wipes the icing off on the hem of his great-coat.]
FRAZZ: Lynda, relax. Have some food, get a drink - you know, I'm pretty sure nobody's even spat in the punch yet.
[he wanders off to the other side of the room to where BILLY is dressed as an evil supervillan (complete with toy white cat on the arm of his wheelchair), and offers him a coat-fluff-encrusted fairy cake. BILLY politely declines.]
SCENE THREE. Int. The corridor outside the newsroom.
[SPIKE steps out of the newsroom doors holding a glass of punch. He is dressed in a very token costume - he has black American-football paint under his eyes, a splash of fake blood on his face, and 'ZOMBIE' written across his forehead. We see his face change as he puts out a hand to greet the person who is standing on the other side of the outer door glass, which is covered in orange cellophane.]
SPIKE: Well, well - and here I thought Hallowe'en parties just weren't your style, boss. Just couldn't handle the thought of not being the scariest thing in the office for one night of the y-
[he breaks off in horror. The door opens to reveal KENNY in a long, curly brown wig, a padded-shouldered jacket, a miniskirt, and a deeply troubled expression].
SCENE FOUR. Int. Junior Gazette office.
[Music is playing under the dialogue as the party begins to get into full swing. JULIE and LYNDA are watching as COLIN is pouring drinks for SOPHIE and LAURA (a vampire and a toilet-paper mummy, respectively) while wearing a surprisingly well-cut grey suit and a non-garish, non-glittery, non-revolving plain blue silk tie.]
JULIE: He thought about going as Malcolm Bullivant, but then he realized that his own overdraft manager was much scarier, and also less likely to get him beaten up.
LYNDA: Which is unsettling mostly because it actually makes sense. Which is more than I can say for what you're - well, I suppose I've got to use the term 'wearing', but only because this is still technically a children's newspaper.
JULIE [hopefully]: Morbid phobia of office supplies?
LYNDA: Give me another twenty minutes.
SCENE FIVE. Int. Corridor.
KENNY: - But it should be alright, because she's definitely not coming to this party. You know Lynda and parties. She'd probably rather go to a public execution. In fact, she'd definitely -
SPIKE: So, let me get this straight. You're dressed like this because Frazz found out what your deepest fear was on Junior Scouts camp when you were in the third grade -
KENNY: It's called 'Cub Scouts', thanks.
SPIKE: Whatever, and -
KENNY: And Primary Three. We are actually in England, you know.
SPIKE: Yeah, sorry, the East Village look kinda threw me. Anyway, yeah, so Frazz told Tiddler, because she was in charge of assigning people their costumes and he thought it would be a bit of a laugh and basically, just because that's the kinda thing Frazz does, and then when she found out, she said you'd have to go dressed as Lynda or else she'd -
KENNY [hollowly]: She'd do that.
[TIDDLER appears at the end of the corridor. Her hair is curled, and she too is wearing high heels, a power suit and a very short skirt]
TIDDLER: Thompson, Phillips, get back to work or else I'll staple things that you don't want stapled to places you don't want 'em stapled to. NOW!
[And she pushes, giggling, through the double doors. SPIKE and KENNY exchange deeply worried looks. TIDDLER looks back over one shoulder at them, grins broadly, and hiccups.]
SCENE SIX. Int. Newsroom.
[FRAZZ is still wandering around licking green fairy-cake icing off his fingers. He absent-mindedly wipes some off on COLIN, who isn't pleased.]
COLIN: Hey! Frazz! Great to see you, just great, you're really rocking the 'Dracula' look there, I mean it, but If you could just watch the suit, that would be absolutely favourite. Thanks mate, it means a lot to me.
FRAZZ: Er, sorry. It's just this green stuff, I can't seem to get it off my hands, and -
COLIN: Yeah, um. Just so you know, you might not want to eat any more of those. Now, and this is just a standard precautionary checklist, honestly, but you don't have any family history of asthma, diabetes, smallpox, cognitive-behavioural disorders or leprosy, do you?
FRAZZ: Colin. Where did you get these fairy cakes?
COLIN: Well, I can tell you that it was certainly in a fashion that was completely above board, and didn't in any way relate to experimental food colourings imported from the States where they're currently seeking FDA approval -
FRAZZ: And more to the point, why am I even bothering having this conversation?
COLIN: Which means, Frazz, that they haven't been disapproved by any major medical bodies...yet.... so -
FRAZZ: Julie!!! Why did you put Colin in charge of the catering...?
[FRAZZ marches off, yelling ominously]
SCENE SEVEN: Int. COLIN's office.
[As FRAZZ comes across to dismember her, JULIE opens the door to COLIN's office, and ducks inside. It is dimly lit, crowded with random objects, and vaguely disturbing. A figure is lurking in the shadows.]
JULIE: Paranoid rage. Hmmn. Oh, well, at least he didn't get the uncontrollable sobbing or the hallucinations. It was a pity, really, that was my favourite half of the graphics team...
[She notices that she is not alone. We see long, curly dark hair, padded shoulders, a short skirt]
JULIE: Oh, it's you. So you did get dressed, after all. Look, I'm sorry that you didn't realize about the party, but really, you know, if you paid a bit more attention to what goes on around here, perhaps things wouldn't take you by surprise like this.
JULIE: Hey, it's not going to do any good sulking around by yourself, you know. And you're probably not going to get any work done, especially not in here. You might as well just come out and enjoy yourself. Just don't eat the fairy cakes.
[the figure steps forward into the little available light.]
SARAH [wailing in absolute terror]: She's here. 'Come as your worst nightmare'. I thought it would be cute! She's not supposed to be here! She's going to kill me!
[JULIE looks her up and down, trying to think of something vaguely comforting to say.]
JULIE: Yeah, but on the bright side, your corpse is going to be so well-dressed that probably no-one will be able to identify the body.
SARAH: How can she be here? Lynda never comes to parties!
JULIE: Well, strictly speaking, she's not at this one. Just think of her as - something that happened to the party. Like angry neighbours, or college boys, or, or toxic experimental food chemistry.
SARAH: It's not too late. It'll be alright. I have a plan.
JULIE: You do?
SARAH: I'm going to hide in here until I turn sixty-two, whereupon I'll be so old and withered that Lynda will no longer recognize me. I will then escape by climbing into a sack of mail, pretending to be letters, and being carried by fourth-generation Junior Gazette staffers outside to freedom.
JULIE: Only one problem with that.
JULIE: By that time, it will be the year 2029, paper mail will be obsolete, and you'll have to turn yourself into electronic data and sneak out through the computer cables.
SARAH: I'm going to die, aren't I?
JULIE [producing one from somewhere indescribable about her person]: Fairy cake?
SCENE EIGHT. Ext. Night. Outside the Junior Gazette building
[KENNY and SPIKE are walking around the building. There is frost in the air. KENNY is shuddering, and SPIKE is strolling along quite happily]
KENNY: I'm going to freeze to death. How does she do this every day?
SPIKE: Lynda is a man of many talents. As are you, Kenny.
KENNY [drily] Thanks.
SPIKE: Never thought I'd say this, but that skirt really does suit you, y'know. [off KENNY's look] What? There aren't many guys who'd have the legs to pull that off, that's all I'm sayin'
KENNY: Oh, my God! It's true!
SPIKE [innocently]: What's true?
KENNY: Lynda always said it, and I never believed her.
SPIKE: You should always believe everything Lynda tells you. It's healthier in the long run, and less painful in the short term. What did she tell you?
KENNY: Lynda always said; anything in a skirt...
SCENE NINE. Int. Newsroom.
[FRAZZ is nose-to-nose, screaming at COLIN]
FRAZZ: Totally irresponsible, trying to poison your colleagues, I cannot believe you, Colin Mathews -
[COLIN glances down at his watch]
COLIN: And paranoid rage... three... two... one...
FRAZZ: You don't care about us... you don't care about any of us... no-one's ever really cared... let you just die of poisonous experimental green fairy-cakes, just like that, no-one gives a...
[FRAZZ collapses into a chair to mutter to himself]
COLIN: Maudlin self-pity, in over 95% of cases followed by existential confusion and minor hallucinations, in over 80% of cases subsequently followed by finger-painting. Excellent!
[he scribbles happily on a clip-board, until he notices that TIDDLER has come up to the snack table and is standing with her back to him]
COLIN: Ah, boss, so you decided to grace us with your presence. I have to say, I'm loving the outfit, it definitely says 'Kicking up your heels after a hard day at the office' while still '100% on the job and kicking' - er - kicking all sorts of things that definitely need to be kicked. Fantastic, yeah!
[TIDDLER turns around]
COLIN: Aaargh! Tiddler!
TIDDLER: So do I win the prize for 'Best Newsteam Costume', then?
COLIN: Er, well, you've got my vote for 'Newsteam Member Most Likely Never to Be Able To Leave The House Again Without A Costume', definitely.
TIDDLER: What do you mean? It's a brilliant idea - I even talked Kenny into joining in, so we can win the boys' prize and the girls' prize together, and - hey! Wait a minute!
COLIN [craning around to look]: What?
TIDDLER: That's completely unfair! Who else stole my costume idea?
COLIN: Where? Who?
TIDDLER: Over there by the photocopier... in the striped pyjamas... Yelling... at... the Graphics... team... [the happy confidence drains out of her voice with each word]
[COLIN and TIDDLER look at each other, wide-eyed, then simultaneously bolt across the room]
SCENE TEN. Int. COLIN's office
[SARAH and JULIE are glumly perched on the edge of the desk]
SARAH: Julie, is fairy-cake icing meant to be this sticky?
JULIE: It's no good, you know, Sarah. Sooner or later you're going to have to go out there, because otherwise she's going to realize that you're not at this party, and then she'll be even angrier because she was forced to come while you managed to wriggle out of it.
SARAH: No, honestly, it tastes a bit funny too, and the colour's really -
[the secret back door of COLIN's office bursts open, and SPIKE and KENNY come tumbling into the small, dimly lit space]
JULIE [sees KENNY]: Aaargh! Lynda!
KENNY [sees SARAH]: Aaargh! Lynda!
SPIKE [looks sleazy]: Aaaahhh... [looks sleazy] Julie!
SARAH [groans]: Ohhhh! Spike! [off everyone's looks] What? That's the worst costume I've ever seen.
SCENE ELEVEN. Int. Newsroom
[LYNDA is yelling at people over by the photocopier.]
LYNDA: And as far as that goes, WHY do people seem to think that just because the paper happens to be hosting some pointless let's-all-salve-our-consciences-because-we're-raising-money-for-charity event, this gives them an excuse to slack off all week, waste the office stationery making ridiculous paper bats and rats -
A GRAPHICS TEAM MEMBER: They're hamsters.
LYNDA: I'm sorry?
TEAM MEMBER: Evil were-hamsters. At the full moon, they grow fangs and fur, well, more fur, and they -
LYNDA: Yes, thank you. Ridiculous paper animals of various supernatural persuasions, and -
[In the background, TIDDLER and COLIN tiptoe with exaggerated caution through the front door of COLIN's office.]
SCENE TWELVE. Int. COLIN's office, which is now very crowded
SPIKE: Alright, listen up, folks, this is the plan. Those who've already been seen at the party, that's me, Julie and Colin, will change clothes with the people who are, for whatever unfortunate psychological reasons, dressed as Lynda; that's you Kenny, Tiddler and Sarah.
[wide shot of everyone's faces as they look on, wide-eyed, and nod in agreement]
SPIKE: Right, and when you've all said your hellos to Lynda and she knows you're here suffering right along with her, you'll come back in here, we'll change outfits again, and then people can sneak out the back way, go home and get changed, and come back so we can - we can - what can we do, people?
EVERYONE [choruses wearily]: Party like it's 1989.
SPIKE: Right! OK, let's get changed, everyone! Guys, shut your eyes and turn to the left-hand wall, girls, shut your eyes and turn to the right-hand wall, Kenny... try not to smudge your mascara.
KENNY: Oh, shut up.
SCENE THIRTEEN. Int. Corridor
[FRAZZ is pacing up and down, weeping]
FRAZZ: It's all just... so... aaagh! Nobody should be alone and miserable like this on Hallowe'en! I just want to... [sniff] hide away in a quiet place where no-one will ever... [sniff] find me...
[he pokes his head into the toilet]
SCENE FOURTEEN. Int. Toilet.
[SOPHIE and LAURA are repairing LAURA's costume with extra toilet paper]
LAURA: Ssssh. Don't tell Lynda.
SOPHIE: She's doing a mental already on people wasting office supplies for the party.
LAURA: But I can't come unwound, I just can't!
SOPHIE: Well, let that be a lesson to you. Next time you dress up as a mummy, wear underwear!
[FRAZZ backs slowly out, his disposition not especially improved by this encounter]
SCENE FIFTEEN. Int. Corridor
[Blinded by his own tears, FRAZZ wanders down the corridor again. He opens a door marked 'FUSES (DANGER DO NOT ENTER)', and further muffled sobs are heard from inside.]
SCENE SIXTEEN. Int. Newsroom.
[LYNDA is in mid-hector (absent-mindedly nibbling on a fairy cake) as the lights go down.]
GENERAL CONFUSION OF VOICES: What? Oh! The lights! Must be a blackout! Etc.
SCENE SEVENTEEN. Int. COLIN's office
[From the dim semi-darkness of previous scenes, the room is plunged into utter blackness. Only voices can be heard.]
GENERAL CONFUSION OF VOICES: Ow! Get off! That's my foot! Aargh! I'm not dressed! Yeah, but you weren't dressed before! Get out of it! Stop poking me! Ow! I said, OW! I heard you the first time! Stop it!
SPIKE: Guys, shut up! This is it! This is our chance! Everyone dressed as Lynda can sneak out the back, claim they got lost in the blackout, and come back dressed in regular costumes!
COLIN: Great plan. Won't work.
SPIKE: Oh yeah, and why not, Colin?
COLIN: 'Lectric code on the back door. Won't let us out if the power isn't - wait a minute, how did you two get past it to get in in the first place?
SPIKE: Colin. Do you really think Lynda would let you have a back door if she didn't know the code for it?
COLIN: Yes, but how did you - ?
KENNY: Concealed inner skirt pocket.
COLIN: Sorry I asked.
JULIE: There is another - well, maybe -
JULIE: Do you think we dare to try and sneak out through the newsroom? As long as we can make it to the front door before the lights come up -
KENNY: Hey, that's so crazy it might just... get us all horribly killed.
SARAH: How so?
KENNY: Come on, Sarah. You've been on this paper as long as I have. The odds of the fuse getting fixed, or the power turning back on, or whatever, and those lights coming right back up again juuuuuust when we're sneaking halfway across the newsroom in the most comedic fashion possible, followed by Lynda exploding in five different directions, insulting and belittling all of us, and getting in a screaming match with Spike? A more certain prospect than the ongoing under-rating of children's television, in my opinion.
SPIKE: But in the absence of a better plan?
KENNY: Julie, you got any more of those fairy cakes?
SCENE EIGHTEEN. Int. Newroom. Still blackout, but slightly more visibility thanks to moonight from windows
[As the rest of the newsteam mill around in confusion, our miscostumed heroes can just be detected sneaking out, their shapes silhouetted briefly against a dark window. The music is tense and exciting, and they're approaching the door. There is a horrible pause as a light flickers across the six faces, but it's only a car passing in the street outside. They reach the newsroom door! Celebration!]
SCENE NINETEEN. Int. Corridor
[The miscreants whisper jubilantly as they pour out into the corridor, which is also dimly-lit from outdoor light. Just as they're about to pass the fusebox (from wherein occasional sniffles still be heard), a torch beam lasers through the darkness, spotlighting the leading shape. It is revealed to be SARAH, dressed in COLIN's smooth grey suit. LYNDA's voice is heard from the source of the torchlight.]
LYNDA: Suits you, you know.
[The spotlight moves, landing on JULIE, dressed in a LYNDA outfit.]
LYNDA: Not bad, actually. Pity about the hair. And the make-up. And the body. And the face. But apart from that, really not too bad.
[SPOTLIGHT. TIDDLER, dressed in SPIKE's zombie outfit.]
LYNDA: Tiddler, that is the worst costume I've ever seen.
SARAH: That's what I said.
[SPOTLIGHT. COLIN, dressed in a LYNDA outfit. He fiddles with his wig, and looks like he's about to cry.]
LYNDA: You stand corrected.
[SPOTLIGHT. KENNY, still in his original LYNDA outfit. He looks sheepish.]
LYNDA: Oh, Kenny, honestly. I thought you'd stopped nicking my clothes after what happened at the first form Talent Night.
KENNY: What? Nothing happened at the - oh. Right. Yes, Lynda. Sorry, Lynda.
[And finally, SPOTLIGHT. SPIKE is wearing JULIE's electrical-tape outfit.]
SPIKE: Ha, ha! Bet you thought I'd be dressed as you, didn't you, boss?
LYNDA: How do you know you're not?
[SPIKE goes very quiet. LYNDA eventually pulls the torchlight off his face, but it's amusing while it lasts]
LYNDA: Right, team. You've all got half an hour to go home, put on some proper clothes and come back here ready to put together a newspaper. Meanwhile I'm going to go into the fuse box and convince Frazz that invisible green pixies named Jeremy really don't want to be his special friends, and that he should reconnect the electricity. I hope we've all learned a valuable lesson from this evening.
SPIKE: And that lesson is?
LYNDA: That the real Lynda Day carries a pocket torch in her pyjamas. Also, that you're all idiots and I don't know why I don't fire the lot of you.
SPIKE: Because Kenny looks so hot in a mini-skirt?
KENNY: STOP! IT!
LYNDA: Half an hour. Have fun walking home like that. Now go!
[SARAH, JULIE, TIDDLER, COLIN and KENNY troop sadly out the front door. As SPIKE is just about to go - ]
LYNDA [one eyebrow raised]: Graphics department's going to need a new order of electrical tape.
SPIKE [eagerly]: I'm all over it, boss.
LYNDA [smugly]: I should hope so.
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