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Deadline

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The scene:

A rainy, cold morning in New York City. A man in a gray jacket dodged past morning commuters into a shabby looking building. Inside, men and women were scrambling, some carrying stacks of paper, others delivering messages to co-workers. The hustle comes to an abrupt halt as the man enters the hallway.
Man (alarmed): What are you stopping for? We have deadlines here at this newspaper.

The staff members muttered apologies and returned to tripping over each others’ feet to finish their jobs.
Man (satisfied): Now that’s more like it.

He walked over to his secretary’s desk and waited for her to look up. She was staring blankly at a piece of newsprint. The name Judy was embossed on a brass name plate.
Judy (flustered): Oh, Mr. Barnes…I uh, didn’t see you there.

She sifted through the mound of papers on her desk.
Judy: Well, the paper is – going fine sir, excellent. We finished the last interview for that Wall Street story earlier this morning.
Barnes: Good, the paper’s at the printer then.
Judy (looks away nervously): Well…um actually, no sir, they’ve just finished the layout now. The designers still have to put in the stories on the editorial page.

Barnes gawks at her.
Barnes (slowly): Are you telling me that the paper which just happens to be due at printer in an hour isn’t finished?
Judy: Sir…yes

Barnes slammed her desk with his fist and stomped over to the reporters’ cubicles and bellowed at the top of his lungs.
Barnes: What am I paying you bunch of slackers for? How can this piece of bloody newsprint not be finished? The Wall Street story should have been completed yesterday – no buts about it!
Pickering: But sir, we couldn’t find the analyst –
Barnes (livid): Did I ask for your excuses Pickering?
Pickering (terrified): No sir.
Barnes: Right! This newspaper will be finished on time even if I have to do the editorial pages myself.

Barnes stomped over to his designers who were rapidly imputing stories onto blank templates. Barnes’s most trusted employee, the chief layout editor, Robert Monk, was speeding through the front pages. Barnes slipped behind Monk and leaned slowly onto the back of his chair.
Barnes: Monk, do you remember what I told you the day I gave you this job?
Monk (timidly): Yes sir, you told me to watch the other designers closely and I should help them whenever possible.
Barnes: Exactly! So why are we almost a day behind?
Monk: Someone must have deleted our spreads. I had finished and personally checked over the editorial pages yesterday.
Barnes: Well, please explain HOW they were deleted.

Monk loaded the design program and quickly pointed out the errors.
Monk: Someone with administrative duties must have logged onto the paper and interfered with the editorial pages.
Barnes (furious): Who? Only you. me, and Dursley have access –

Barnes paused at the name Dursley. Evan Dursley was a suspicious copy editor who had been accused of stealing from the newspaper funds the other day. Barnes never cared for Dursley’s dishonest character.
Monk: Sir?
Barnes: Just finish the pages Monk. I’ll deal with this.

Barnes went to Dursley’s station in front of the printing press. Dursley reclining at his desk, smiled mischievously as Barnes approached.
Barnes (raging): Damn it Dursley! You already attempted to steal cash from the newspaper fund and now you sabotage the designers’ hard work by deleting spreads. What’s going through that vacant mind of yours?

Dursley continues to smirk and props up his feet on the desk.
Barnes (red-faced): Answer me!
Dursley (sly): Honestly Mr. Barnes I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Barnes lost it. He streaked across the floor and seizes the front of Dursley’s shirt pulling him out of his chair.

Barnes: I ought to have you reported for this you little rat! Undermining the paper – you don’t even deserve the chair you were sitting in.

Dursley started to choke and gasp for air as Barnes tightened his grip.
Dursley: All right – all right, I did it, I confess. I wanted to do away with all of tacky layout. It’s totally 1960’s and boring! But I didn’t work alone!

Barnes released his grip enough for Dursley to push him away and be able to breathe again.
Barnes: An accomplice…

Dursley regained his composure and rose to his feet towering over Barnes by a few inches.
Dursley: Don’t you remember, Mr. Barnes. Last week, at the party on Friday night, remember the girls and the beer bottles.

Barnes thought hard. He suddenly remembered – the drinking, the voluptuous ladies table dancing, smoking cigars with Dursley. They were sitting in front of the copy desk and he was chuckling while…deleting spreads. Dursley was laughing with him, throwing Barnes a bottle of sleeping pills as he swallowed four.
Dursley (smiling): Yes Mr. Barnes, you know who else is responsible for this crime.
Barnes (stunned): I sabotaged my own newspaper. But, how could that be?

Dursley sat down in his chair and pulled out a cigar.
Dursley: Sure is sad to know that you won’t remember anything isn’t it Mr. Barnes. Why, you might have saved yourself all of the stress that’s bubbling in your face right now.

Barnes glared at Dursley and rammed his fist into Dursley’s face, causing the devious man to choke on his cigar.
Barnes: Well Dursley, while I condemn your actions against me, at least I’ll only suffer from temporary memory loss whereas you might actually suffocate if I get lucky.





Curtain.





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