“You don’t have to do this,” I say calmly to the PFY as the wind and rain washes and whistles around us on the roof of the building.
“I do!” the PFY says. “I have to!”
“You don’t – it’s not... necessary” I say.
“It IS!” the PFY counters urgently. “I must!”
“Let's just think about this clearly,” I say, speaking quietly so the PFY has to lean back from the edge of the building to hear me.
“I have,” the PFY whimpers. “I have thought about it carefully. It’s the only way!”
“It’s not the only way,” I proffer. “There’s other ways. It doesn’t have to be the end.”
“It MUST!” the PFY shouts. “I can’t go on like this!”
“You just have to be strong,” I say, trying to reason with him now.
“I’m not strong,” the PFY sighs. “I can’t do it!”
“Of course you can,” I say, reaching out my hand towards him in a gesture of understanding. “Now... hand over the SCO install disks.”
“I CAN’T!” the PFY squeals. “I can’t bear the thought of installing it again. It was bad enough when I didn’t know better, but now it’s just too horrible.”
“Think of the children!” I gasp, as the PFY’s hand again moves over the edge.
“What bloody children?”
“The children on the streets below. What if a child found those CDs? They might take it home, boot their machine off them and think that sort of thing is... normal, good even.”
“No!” the PFY gasps. “Not even a child is that stupid!”
“But you can’t be sure, can you?” I say. “It might happen. Just hand the disks over and it’ll all be ok.”
“How do I know I can trust you?” the PFY whimpers again.
“Because I’m a professional,” I say “Because we’ve worked together for years. Because we have mutual respect. And because there’s a SWAT guy climbing up the ledge behind you.”
“Wha..” the PFY says as I quickly slip the cattleprod onto his neck...
. . . Three days later in a room that doesn’t officially exist . . .
“Well, it’s the real thing,” says a white-coated bloke carrying a CD Caddy with a large lock on it. “The full SCO install media with all the maintenance packs probably has a street value of... next to nothing.”
“So it’s the latest version then?” I say.
“Oh yes. What I can’t understand is how he managed to get his hands on it - I mean in this country we have very strict import legislation which is supposed to cover indecent, objectionable and just plain crap material.”
“Careful – you’ll affect the Spice Girls comeback with talk like that!” I caution. “Has my assistant come round yet?”
“Oh yes, he’s up and about,” labcoat says, pressing a button which turns the wall into a viewing window of the PFY wandering blearily around a white room. “We initially had him under sedation, but once we realised he’d actually booted off the media we thought it prudent to induce an artificial coma for a couple of days.”
“You made him read the Richard Stallman story?”
“Yeah – though he only got as far as the foreword.”
“Really?” I say “I can only remember the dedication.”
“I know - most people do. They say the typesetter was on adrenalin and speed for his own safety. After the first three deaths leastways.”
“So he’s free to go?” I say, pointing at the PFY.
“Sure,” labcoat says, pressing a button to open the back door in the PFY’s room which now exits onto a Soho side street. “He’ll find his own way home but will have no memory of the last few days - he'll think he’s been out on a vendor-bender.”
“And what do I tell his girlfriend?”
“Just tell her you think he caught a 72-hour virus,” labcoat says. “And that he needs to be kept on a diet of meat, veg and Blackadder reruns.”
“And he’ll be ok?”
“Hopefully. Most people make a full recovery though some have relapses – he’s certainly not the worst we’ve seen. We had one guy in here who’d accidentally bought the full OS2 Warp install media on eBay thinking it was a Star Trek movie. Now he was hard work because it was both crap and ancient. We made him read Stallman four times before he was able to be released.”
“Ah, D...” another labcoat says walking in. “Speaking of that Warp install media, you haven’t seen it have you?”
“No, why, when did you last have it?”
“Uh... Not sure. I know I had it in my pocket when we brought that last guy around...”
. . .
I could go on about Tranquiliser guns in Soho but the D-Notices are fairly specific...