The noise was, to Charles’s mind, nauseating. But the jingle, and the set, raised interesting questions about the show’s title. ‘It is called If The Cap Fits then?’ he asked Sydnee, who was standing at his side.

She turned her incurious pale-blue eyes at him. ‘What?’

‘The show is called If The Cap Fits?’

‘Yes. Of course it is.’

‘At Reception they said something about Hats Off!.’

‘Ah, that’s the title of the American version. There was some thought of keeping that for here. . until quite recently.’

‘Not very recently.’

‘What do you mean?’ For the first time there was a glint of mild interest in her eye.

‘Well, it must have taken time to get the set built and the music recorded.’

‘Yes.’ She nodded slowly, recognizing with a degree of surprise that she was talking to someone who knew a little about television. For a second Charles saw in her eyes that there might be a real person somewhere behind her professional exterior.

The moment passed as she raised her voice to address her charges.

‘This is the set where you’ll be performing. Shortly you’ll be meeting the show’s host.

‘Oh, who is it?’ asked the one female in the party.

‘Barrett Doran.’

‘Ooh,’ she intoned with a wide-eyed giggle. ‘My lucky day. I think he’s dead sexy.’

To Charles, who was not a student of television game shows, the name meant nothing.

Sydnee continued her routine. ‘You’ll actually be standing over here when you do your bit, which is incidentally in the First Round. .’ She led the little group across the floor towards a blue-and-silver-striped flat. The black-leather Mohican turned as they passed. His face was white and anxious.

‘This is Sylvian, who’s designed the set.’

‘Ooh, well done, Sylvian,’ said the one female in the party. ‘It’s really lovely.’

The designer gave a twitchy nod in reaction to the compliment and turned back to his red wheel.

Before Sydnee could give more instructions, her attention was caught by the entry of a dumpy woman with blonded hair, on whose contours a khaki flying-suit hung less flatteringly. The new arrival carried not only a clipboard, but also a stopwatch, suggesting that her authority was that of a Producer’s Assistant. She gave an imperious gesture and Sydnee scuttled across towards her.

A whispered conference ensued, and the researcher returned with her professional smile screwed back in place. ‘I’m sorry. I’m afraid Barrett won’t actually be able to come down to the studio for the moment, but the Executive Producer, John Mantle, should be along shortly and. . ’

She stopped on another gesture from the dumpy woman and crossed over for another quick whisper. ‘No, I’m sorry,’ Sydnee apologised as she returned, ‘John Mantle’s still tied up in. . er, an important meeting, but the Producer, Jim Trace-Smith, will be here in a minute and he’ll be able to brief you. Meanwhile, perhaps we ought to sort out the actual hats that you’ll be wearing for the show.’ Pitching her voice up, she called to the studio in general, ‘Is there anyone from Wardrobe around?’

Her plea produced a tired-looking girl in a silver flying-suit and a limp-looking bald man in a pink flying- suit.

‘I wondered if you’d sorted out the hats for the First Round. .?’ asked Sydnee with diplomatic diffidence.

‘More or less,’ the girl replied, and then revealed the reason for the researcher’s tentative approach. ‘But we’re still not happy about it. I mean, Wardrobe is about costumes that people wear. Hats for a game show I’d still have said come under Props.’

‘Yes, I see your point, but the hats are actually going to be worn,’ Sydnee cajoled. ‘These people here are going to wear them.’

The girl’s sniff showed that she remained unconvinced. ‘Well, I’ve talked to Head of Wardrobe and she says we should do it for today — under protest, mind — but if the show goes to a series, alternative arrangements may well have to be made.’

‘Yes, yes,’ the researcher agreed readily. ‘Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. But can we see what you’ve got for us today?’

The bald man in the pink flying-suit was grudgingly despatched, and soon came back with a selection of hat- boxes. ‘But we would like to make it clear that we’re still not happy about it,’ he insisted.

‘Yes, I understand.’ Sydnee reached eagerly towards the boxes.

‘Do you mind?’ said the girl shirtily. ‘You’re not Wardrobe, are you?’

‘No.’

‘Well, handling hats is a Wardrobe job.’

‘Yes, of course.’ Sydnee withdrew, her poise momentarily threatened, while the girl from Wardrobe demanded, ‘Right, who wants what?’

Sydnee stepped forward again. ‘Now you see, each one of them has to wear a hat which symbolises his or her profession. Did you get the list of professions?’

‘No,’ the girl replied stonily.

‘Well, Charles Paris here, for instance, is an actor. .’

‘Oh yes?’ The girl in silver battle-dress reached into a box, pulled out a floppy Tudor bonnet and thrust it at Charles. ‘Try that.’

He put it on. It was too big. ‘I’m not sure that this actually says “actor”. .’ he began.

‘That,’ the girl hissed in a voice that brooked no disagreement, ‘is what actors wear. That is your hat. That is what you will wear. You are now responsible for it. You will look after it. You will see that no one else wears it.’

‘Ah,’ said Charles. ‘Right.’

‘Erm. .’ Sydnee interposed. ‘I’m afraid that won’t quite work. You see, the point of the game is that they don’t wear their right hats.’

The girl from Wardrobe looked at her pityingly.

‘No, you see, they have to wear the wrong hats, and it’s up to the punters — er, the contestants to change them round and get them wearing the right ones. That’s why the game’s called what it’s called. If The Cap Fits,’ Sydnee concluded lamely.

‘Look, you wanted hats to fit four people. Now you tell me you don’t want them to fit those four people — they’ve got to fit four other people. What is going on?’

‘No, they’re not meant to fit four other specific people. The contestants may move them around. They’re meant to fit any of them, all four of them.’

The girl from Wardrobe folded her arms over her silver flying-suit. Her tired mouth took on an even harder line. ‘I am not in Wardrobe to supply hats that don’t fit. I am trained to supply costumes that do fit.’

Sydnee looked fazed. It was not clear how she was going to get out of this one. But, before she could attempt any solution, her eye caught movement at the side of the studio and was once again lit up by sudden panic. ‘Quick, quick!’ she cried. ‘Someone’s bringing the contestants in! Come on — this way!’

And again she did her sheepdog routine, bundling the four ‘professions’ out of Studio A.

Sydnee’s party came through double doors out of Studio A and started up the corridor which led towards the lifts. As they approached, the lift doors opened and their leader saw something which made her reverse promptly, shepherding her flock back the way they had come.

‘What was it?’

‘Just getting out of the lift. Nick Jeffries.’

‘Ooh,’ squealed the one female in the party. ‘You mean Nick Jeffries, the boxer?’

‘Yes. He’s on the panel for the show.’

‘Ooh, you’ve got all the sexy ones on, haven’t you? Did you select them. EH?’

This last was accompanied by a huge nudge to Sydnee, who offered hardly even a pretence of a smile in return. Then she looked behind her and saw, to her horror, a bulky man in a plush sheepskin jacket following them down the corridor. ‘It’s Nick Jeffries,’ she gasped. ‘Quick, in here!’

She thrust open the nearest door, over which a sign read, STUDIO B. AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY.

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