But that was her, she couldn’t expect Crusade to precisely share her tastes. Had she been too cruel, too offhand in mocking his efforts? Her building was populated by Tantrum, Temper, Trauma and other words known colloquially as the Terrible Ts. Had some of this rubbed off on her and left her too eager to dismiss others’ intentions and actions? Was she too much in thrall to her own motives and reasoning?
She couldn’t sleep so she made her way to an all-night café in the T-block where, as expected, there was hardly anybody else and she sat alone at a table nursing her coffee. In the morning, she would contact Crusade and suggest that they go to a film together or share a meal…a conciliatory gesture which would allow them to renew their relationship and make him aware that she had not intended her response to be a final damning verdict.
Perhaps, in time, she would feel more receptive to Crusade’s amorous advances. He deserved another chance and with him, she wanted to think – and share – treasonous thoughts, to break down taboos. She’d seen a rebellious streak in Crusade and if she could harness this to her natural maverick instincts, sparks might fly.
Yes, mid-morning or early afternoon would be the best time to contact Crusade. There was no point in rushing over to C-block first thing in the morning; it would make her seem too eager, desperate even…best to allow him a while to reflect on the previous evening too. He’d probably even concur with some of her assessment. The first thing to do that morning was to call in to the A-block and have a word with Apology.
It had been very early in the morning when Crush heard a door close and footsteps recede along the corridor. At this time of the year, words tended to avail of the seasonal latitude accorded to them and Crush thought it unusual to hear somebody on the move so early. She thought no more of it and went back to sleep. It was only later when the news broke that Crusade was missing that she remembered the early morning sounds and realised that they were probably those of her neighbour.
Crusade had been scheduled to meet some of his colleagues early in the morning and his absence struck the other participants as irregular; Crusade was meticulous about fulfilling appointments. When the usual methods of communication failed to locate him, he was registered as a missing word. A procedure was in place when such events occurred; in each building, one word presided over the welfare of its occupants and in the case of C-block, this was Control.
Despite his austere name, Control was a benign, fair-minded and well-regarded word who, when called upon, would lend a sympathetic ear to any grievances. But, above all, he saw the necessity of adhering to procedures: ‘You lose control if you don’t.’
When a word was declared as missing, a surrogate word would temporarily fill in until the absentee was either located or replaced. As one of the main functions of words in Wordsdrow was to arbitrate on disputed usage, temporary absences were unlikely to cause problems but there had been some exceptions to this. The evolution of political correctness and decorous euphemisms caused words to take flight because of persistent negativity associated with them. When the word “obese” wearied of its image and went into hiding, a wave of euphemisms sprung up because writers were unable to use the term. “Big-boned” and “full-figured” stepped into this breach until such time as Obese was sufficiently comfortable to return.
Control took the lead in the investigation into Crusade’s disappearance. He decided to keep it “in-house”, requested the assistance of some of his colleagues in C-block and was joined by Constable, Checklist and Cracker. Constable and Checklist asked about Crusade’s last known movements while Cracker made discreet enquiries about his state of mind. Correspondent provided details of the party on the 24th floor and other attendees corroborated this while adding that he’d seemed distracted but they were unaware of how he spent the rest of the evening.
Crush, asked about the early morning noises, concluded that the footsteps had sounded like Crusade’s purposeful stride and said she was certain he had been unaccompanied. Next, Control decided to search Crusade’s room and was alarmed to find it in a state of disarray. He asked Campaign and Champion, the two C-block words he deemed to be closest to Crusade to survey the scene and give their opinion. Campaign took in the detritus strewn across the floor.
‘This is serious,’ he concluded and waved an outstretched arm. ‘Look...so many of the things which Crusade held dear. All those button badges and placards – CND, Ban the Bomb, Dig Deep for the Miners, Anti-Apartheid, Stop the City, Free Nelson Mandela, Coal Not Dole, Stop the War, Can’t Pay Won’t Pay, Troops Out – and his loudhailer, his donkey jacket. Not to mention the pamphlets and leaflets – McCarthyism, US Civil Rights, Spare Rib, Glasnost, Gay Rights, Solidarity and so on. It’s a lifetime of campaigning for minority causes. Why has he taken them all out? Why now?’
Control frowned; there was something odd about this, he needed to find out more about Crusade. Campaign and Champion admitted that, despite their shared interests and inter-changeability, there were probably other words who knew Crusade better…perhaps those who’d been to the party, they seemed to be his associates.
Correspondent, Cynic, Conspiracy and Coin were summoned again along with Clever and were updated on the situation by Campaign. They revisited conversations from the previous day’s party but admitted that their memories were impaired: ‘It did go on pretty late and well, you know...’ They dredged up the discussion about Onesie and recalled that Crusade had been agitated by his presence but seemed resigned to being unable to do anything about it. Conspiracy didn’t contribute to the discussion after the mention of Onesie and waited until Control had left before he spoke again.
‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Crusade was really riled at the sight of Onesie – you should’ve seen the glare he gave him – and he seemed to go a bit quiet when we were talking about what we could do to ensure Onesie is rebuffed. He doesn’t normally do that; somebody even remarked on it at the time. And it was mentioned – not entirely seriously, I assume – that we might rough up Onesie a bit. You don’t suppose he’s taken that on board.’
‘Conspiracy, why do you try to find a sinister angle to just about everything?’ sighed Coin. ‘You know Crusade as well as any of us. Sure, he took against Onesie – who wouldn’t? – but Crusade isn’t the type to do anything wilful or stupid. I’ll bet that if you wander around Wordsdrow for a while, you’ll see that Onesie idiot grinning and making thumbs-up gestures at anyone who pays attention to him. No, Crusade’s disappearance has more to it than that. I’m sure of it.’
‘Hmmmm,’ mused Correspondent. ‘Crusade has been acting oddly of late. Well, not quite oddly but I heard that he spends more and more time in the A-block and you know what a hot-bed of activity that is. What Campaign said about the placards and stuff is a bit unsettling, almost as if Crusade was either taking leave of something or mustering his thoughts before embarking on some new venture. The thing with the placards? Sure, he may have felt strongly about various causes, but he did so from a distance…it’s not like he could get involved in something in the “real world”, is it? But this time? I’m getting a bad feeling about this too.’
‘Ok, there are a couple of things we can do,’ said Cynic. ‘I can’t see Crusade doing anything to Onesie but before we dismiss the idea as complete rubbish, let’s track down the idiot and, at least, eliminate that line of inquiry. Then, we can start putting out a few feelers in the A-block about whether anyone saw Crusade last night. He said something about having to be elsewhere before he left and if we can find out where that elsewhere was, maybe we can get some answers. But let’s be careful about this. Correspondent is right – there are some real firebrands in the A-block.’
The group arranged to reconvene that evening or as soon as anybody had any news. Then, they dispersed.
Next episode: Incognito by name, incognito by nature......