This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 772 words.
Waving away the moans of Ursula and Tamara and telling them to just deal with all the calls and messages, Mel shut himself in his office and closed the small blind in the glass panel. That was his version of ‘do not disturb’, and everyone who worked for him knew about that. There were one hundred and sixty three missed calls on his mobile, and sixty-six answerphone messages stacked on it too.
He deleted the lot and rang his solicitor, wanting to know where he stood. Tricia De Vries had been married to a South African for a very short time, but she had kept his surname as she thought it looked cool on her notepaper and office door. Certainly much cooler than Hopkinson, her maiden name. She had been Mel’s lawyer since the early days, and specialised in the kind of contracts he needed people to sign in his line of work. Her voice was warm and friendly as she answered.
“I have been expecting your call since I saw the Breakfast News. No doubt you want to know what to say, so you had better give me the details. But not everything, not over a phone. You never know if they have a scanner operating outside your office”.
After Mel outlined the situation, Tricia sounded remarkably upbeat.
“Well, Glen and Anita are responsible for their own insurance, so you are not liable for anything relating to their disappearance. Besides, it takes seven years to be declared dead, and by that time nobody will remember anything about this event. As for any equipment used by Glen, that’s covered on his insurance. Your main concern should be any loss of costs incurred by you, which is covered by your own insurers. The Mayhews signed your standard contract, which means you own sole rights to the footage, and anyone leaking it, including the Irish Garda, could find themselves in court for breach of copyright. I will contact the insurers for you, if you let me have a breakdown of your losses by email”.
Wishing he had a coffee, but not wanting to ask anyone to make him one, Mel lit a cigarette as Tricia continued.
“I will contact the Garda in Ireland and make them aware that the footage is copyright, and you do not give permission for them to release any of it, investigation or not. They could try to get a court order to overturn that, but the contract was signed in London, under British law, and if I threaten them with legal action, I suspect they will back down. The same for anyone who leaks it, including your staff. We will sue the arse off them, and break them financially”.
As he heard that, Mel typed an inter-office memo on the laptop, telling Tamara to let Darius go as she had asked. He was one person who wouldn’t be afraid to lose any money if he was sued, so couldn’t be trusted. Ruben could be dealt with at a later date, there were more pressing issues to deal with.
“So, you readily gave a statement to the police in London, and spoke at length to the Irish police. You have helped the investigation to the best of your knowledge so far. As for Mayhew’s dad in Australia, you share his concern, and applaud his reward. If I were you, I would add five thousand euros to it, to show good faith. You will swallow that up if you get the film out while anyone is still remotely interested. Meanwhile, you deal with the press and TV by just saying you are deelpy concerned about your missing friends. You have cooperated with the Garda, and the police in London, and you are happy to continue to do so”.
Stubbing out the cigarette, Mel was feeling a lot better. He would have a team briefing with the office staff after this call, and make them aware of the penalities for any disclosures. They would include immediate dismissal, followed by legal action. He knew them well enough to know that they couldn’t handle that. Tricia was still talking.
“Go outside, sooner rather than later. Say what I told you, then answer no questions on the grounds of being too upset about the fate of your good friends. Say nothing about the footage, nothing at all. Then thank them for their time, and go back inside your building. I will be in touch soon, so don’t dismiss my call.”
As he was thanking her for her help, Tricia could be heard chuckling.
“Don’t worry, Mel. You will be paying for it, I assure you”.