Dining With The Famous and Other Unknown Dangers

My parents and I are at a restaurant, which is part of a large hotel in an un-named city. The restaurant overlooks a central quad, which is prettily landscaped with leafy plants and the occasional fountain. Sunlight rarely strikes the ground, as twenty stories of hotel surround the quad, so full-spectrum lights shine down, carefully hidden here and there, to give the illusion of broad sunlight for most of the day. It makes for a pretty - if artificial - backdrop for dining.

Our meal is going well when the maitre d' asks us if we wouldn't mind sharing our table. The restaurant is very busy, and apparently there are two guests who want to eat their dinner quickly. Full of the sharing spirit, we agree. The table we are sitting at is quite large and there is plenty of room.

The two diners who join us are The Artist (You know, the short fellow who used to be called Prince) and a woman who is supposed to be his wife. She is petite, peroxide blond and she's quite the chatterbox. The Artist seems perfectly happy to let her gabble away, while he silently picks at his food - my father is trying to make polite conversation whilst hiding his surprise. The service, of course, becomes surprisingly quick and, within a few minutes, we are all done with our meal. Our guests smile - The Artist's smile is rather perfunctory - and we take our leave of each other.

My mother has gone elsewhere and my father and I start winding our way through the extensive lobby to the street. As we are navigating the crowds of guests - it's a very busy day - a concierge of the hotel approaches us. He is very neatly turned out, in his gold-trimmed black uniform and not a hair out of place, but something about him is just a little too slick. The concierge asks me if I know David Mitchelhill - one of my bosses at vivid studios - and I, being a truthful soul, say yes. The concierge says that David has an urgent message for me, could I please go up to the penthouse and meet him there. "I'll show you the way." the concierge offers, not quite taking my arm.

This man is definately too slick for my comfort and I shy away from him slightly, taking advantage of the waxing and waning crowds of people moving past us. Just then, I notice another man standing near my father and myself. He's a middle-aged man, dressed in ordinary street clothes. His thinning, wispy hair is covered by a red baseball cap, and he is watching our conversation, while trying to give the impression of not observing us.

"I don't trust this guy." I say to my father, referring to the concierge.
"I wouldn't, if I were you." the man in the baseball cap mutters quietly, also taking advantage of our momentary seperation from the hotel employee. "They're setting you up. Get out onto the street.".
For some reason, I feel far more inclined to trust this man, and I take his advice. As my father and I walk down the steps that lead from the hotel's entrance to a bustling city sidewalk, we both have an overwhelming sense that we have just escaped something very dangerous...

Engineering, Movies and Burglary

I'm at work, and we're having an 'offsite day' - sort of like a working field-trip. However, today is a blend of work and play, taking place at a museum/auditorium complex. Most of the engineers that I work with are there, and a few other, besides.

We are sitting in a theater and, after a lecture about 'whither e-commerce' or somesuch, KJ - one of my managers - asks us to watch a trailer for a film that a friend of his is producing, and needs more money to complete. Apparently it's an indie movie being shot in Texas and the director/producer has very high hopes for it becoming the next Blair Witch Project. Being in a jovial mood, we are more than willing to watch a short excerpt.

The film rolls and it rapidly becomes apparent that it stinks. The plot involves a young woman who was murdered and returns from the dead to wreak terrible revenge - it's The Crow all over again, we cry. But it gets worse. The movie is set and shot in the suburbs of Texas, something that clashes terribly with the horror theme; the effects are extremely amateurish; the acting is stiff and the whole thing is underexposed. The crowd immediately starts jeering and making catcalls. I'm appalled that someone, given the money and time to make a film, is producing a piece of crap like this.

Once the lights come back on, KJ looks a little embarrassed and explains that he had no idea the film was that bad. We all laugh it off and disperse to go wandering through the museum and generally goof off. David Mitchelhill - one of my managers - catches up with me and asks me to run an errand with him. Nonplussed, I agree.

We leave the museum and go driving off in a Jeep, pulling up in an unusual parking lot. The area is open and has a very neglected air about it. Perhaps thirty years ago, this was a bustling town, but now it is dusty and run down. At one end of this lot, there is a general store, with a display of yellowing goods in the window. At the other end is the top storey of another building, which is just finishing construction. It's as if this area is actually a steep hill, and the parking lot we are on is the roof of a multi level garage built into the hillside. It's a little odd, but I pay it no mind.

David declares that he needs a part for the jeep, and we go into the run-down general store. The store carries a little bit of everything - I even find a case of dusty role-playing books, but they don't interest me. The stock is unorganized and the teenaged help is apathetic, so it takes a while to find the thing that David needs, but he finally gets it and we leave.

Now, we walk across the parking lot towards the other building - a multi storey structure of which I can see only the roof. I notice that I'm wearing a security guard's uniform - although I'm not sure when I changed into it - and David is telling me that we're going to be breaking into this building, which is a high-security hospital. Because construction is still going on at the top floor, it will be easier to get in, there. I am to accompany him - disguised as one of the onsite guards - and give him an air of legitimacy.

We walk through the front doors - to us - of this building (this is not intended to be the main entrance to the hospital, but an alternate access) and enter a scene of frantic, apparently disorganized, construction. Workmen are moving back and forth, very busy with their tasks, and the air is thick with dust and noise. I accompany Dave into a completed office on that floor, where he gets busy opening a locked cabinet that apparently contains what he wants. Within moments, he has acheived his goal, and we turn to leave.

Just then, the security chief walks up to me and demands to know who David is and why he's on site. It seems our ruse has worked, and the chief believes I am one of his underlings (apparently turnover rate on this site is so high, he can rarely remember the faces of his employees). I stammer out our contrived story that David had presented me with proper credentials and how was I supposed to know otherwise? The security chief gives me a look heaped with contempt and tells me I'm fired. Believing that David has only just come onto the property - he is reluctant to believe that security could fail, and that works for us - he just tells David to scram, rather than taking him into custody.

Meanwhile, I'm giving a marvellous performance of a hurt and bewildered ex-employee and I half-run to the exit muttering "I'm fired? I can't believe it!" and barely holding back tears as I go. David saunters behind me and tries to catch up once we're in the parking lot. However, I sense that the chief is watching us leave, so I make a point of trying to avoid David - while still heading towards our parked car - and loudly saying "I lost my job because of you!". More quietly I mutter "He's watching us.". David immediately gets the point and plays along.

Finally, we are able to get back to the jeep and make our escape, laughing all the while. I was extremely surprised by the nature of this errand that needed to be done, but I had a thrilling time and was very proud of my success. The fact that we had broken the law meant nothing to me as we drove away.

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