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    Mawgrim
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Hidden Secrets - 6. Eight of Pentacles

Work hard and be practical

I don't know why, but I'd been expecting a phone call from the cinema on Thursday. Perhaps Colin wouldn't turn up for work, or something would go wrong during the day? But it obviously hadn't and my day off remained undisturbed. I wasn't sure if this was good or bad. It's a nice feeling, being indispensable.

Therefore it was Friday lunchtime before I was due back at work, which meant I had sufficient time to pay another visit to the library and check my emails. I did my share of hovering behind the long haired and black clad student who had booked the slot before me. His fingers raced over the keyboard at a pace I could only envy. I took a peek over his shoulder. His whole attention was focussed on the screen so he didn't notice me at all. He was writing a long and complicated email about his rent arrears. I left him to it.

When he eventually finished and I sat down, I expected the keyboard to be red hot from his frantic typing, but of course it wasn't. I checked my own email account first. The usual junk mail was offering me low cost loans, Valium, Viagra, and penis enlargements. I wondered if all four were ultimately being offered by the same company and envisioned the sales pitch.

Here’s a really great way to make us some money. We get the poor sucker to borrow thousands so he can have a penis enlargement, and when it all goes wrong we sell him Viagra and Valium.

I sent them straight to the trash bin and opened the one I'd been waiting for.

Hello Terry

Glad you enjoyed the site. I've forwarded your email to George. I expect he'll get in touch with you soon. I was only able to use a small portion of the historical facts he sent me, and have attached the original file which contains lots more information about the Regal.

Regards

Bill

It wasn't as much as I'd been hoping for, but I opened and printed the ten page document, then spent the rest of my half hour on the cinema haunting page, fruitlessly searching for anything more about the Regal. I made a note to send some of my own cinema ghost stories to the site as soon as I had the time.

When I got to work, the Regal looked much the same as ever. A member of staff stood on a pair of steps, changing the film titles for the coming week. The foyer smelled of freshly heated popcorn. I didn't recognise the woman selling tickets - her badge said she was Jane - but she told me Sylvia was due in at six.

Only the thought I might be able to get some information from Colin made the prospect of seeing him again any less grim. He was sitting in the staffroom with a mug of tea, which I noticed he had made in the most deeply stained of all the mugs. Must be his way of ensuring no-one else used it. He was reading, if that is the right word, The Sun.

'Afternoon,' I said brightly. 'How's it going?’

He shrugged and grunted. Oh well, maybe I wouldn't be getting much information out of him after all. No harm in trying, though.

We talked for a short while about the week's programmes and any outstanding tasks, or rather, I asked and he nodded or gave the most monosyllabic answers that would suffice. I sat down in the non-comfy chair and poured myself a tea. 'I think I may have found the cause of our leak downstairs. Apparently there's an old well down in the stalls.’

'I could have told you that,' he said.

Then why didn't you, I wanted to snap back, but resisted the temptation. For now, anyway. 'Maurice told me they unearthed it during the conversion, but I just wanted to check with you to see if he's got his facts right.' That should butter up the old sod nicely.

'He's right. It were in the front stalls.’

'Sylvia said there was a cat fell down it.’

'Aye. Stupid bugger, that cat. Always poking its nose in where it shouldn’t.'

I couldn't tell if that was intended as a pointed comment to me, but at least he was communicating. 'And I, er... found this.' I rummaged for the crumpled printout telling of the haunting.

He glanced briefly at it, but as there were no scantily clad girls on the page, turned quickly back to his so-called newspaper. 'That's a load of rubbish,' he sniffed.

'How do you mean?’

'That Trevor. He were a bloody liar. Jumped up little so and so, he was. Bet he made it all up just so as he could get his name in the paper.’

'It's a good story, though. Quite convincing.’

'If you believe in all that stuff.' His tone said exactly what he thought of anyone who did.

I decided not to mention the dowsing. 'I bet he didn't stay there long after that.’

'He stayed a good few months. Till him and that girl he was seeing took off together. They were both on the fiddle.’

'She worked here too?’

'Aye. On the kiosk. Course, that's not allowed these days.’

'What?' I asked, puzzled.

'Management and staff going out. It's too easy for them to fiddle stuff together. You can't trust managers.’

It was a common enough view. He reminded me of a projectionist I'd once worked with; the one who'd thought aliens were going to kidnap him. His pet theory had been that as they were from a civilisation far superior to our own, they would pick some poor unfortunate and expect him or her to be able to answer all the questions they wanted to know concerning the human race. And if this lone representative of humanity gave the wrong answers, they would destroy the entire planet. Of course, he fully expected to be the chosen one and to this end had compiled a series of tapes on which he had recorded everything he believed might come in useful in his interrogation.

'But god help us if they take the wrong person,' he’d often said. He had a deep seated hatred of managers. 'If they take a cinema manager, that's it. We're doomed.’

'And that reminds me...' Colin went on. 'You need to tell that manager about my wages. He's got me overtime wrong again.’

'But Colin, they're your wages. Shouldn't you speak to him about it?’

'You're the bloody chief. It's your job to talk to management.’

That was that, as far as he was concerned. I busied myself checking the adverts and trailers, making sure the sound levels were correctly set in all the screens and distributing new time sheets. Having left me the overtime forms, which didn't seem to make any sense at all, he went home.

Later on, I cleaned down the bench, then tidied up the trailers and made sure everything that needed to be sent back was in the film dump. I also wondered how on earth I was going to get the cinema running in a more efficient way if Colin continued his campaign of non-communication. Mind you, it had been less than a week and we'd only met twice so far. Because there were only two of us, we'd never get to see much of each other, at least, not until I was able to take on a third person. I had a feeling getting someone to come and work at the Regal might be difficult. One of the reasons Colin had expected to be automatically made up to chief was because he hadn't thought there would be anyone else mad enough to apply. Nowadays, most experienced projectionists went for the multiplex jobs, as the buildings were new, the equipment up to date and more screens meant more money.

The day passed quickly. It's funny how your perception of time alters depending on how busy you are. Five minutes spent waiting for a kettle to boil, or in a dentist's waiting room, seems like an eternity. The same five minutes rushes past if you are trying to do several different things at once. Time flies the quickest in a cinema when there is a breakdown in one of the screens and you are being harassed from all directions as to what's the cause and when it will be fixed. Fortunately, I didn't have to deal with the latter, at least, not today. In my experience, breakdowns follow a law of their own, which states the busier a film is, the more likely it is to run into problems. The likelihood increases if you are alone and trying to put on films in several different screens. The law also states that whatever screen the problem occurs in, it will always be the one furthest from the necessary tools and spares required to fix it.

The early evening show, at around six o'clock, was pleasingly busy. I expected the later show would do even better. As the hum of voices rose from the foyer, it seemed to make the building come alive. Cinemas are meant to be full of people; an empty cinema just doesn't feel right. When an auditorium starts to fill up, an atmosphere is created. It's this atmosphere that makes cinema the best place to watch a film. Comedies, in particular, are never quite so funny when you watch them again at home. And when a horror film is showing in an auditorium it seems to absorb something of the tension and fear exuded by the audience. It is always during the run of a horror film that the staff decide one of the exit ways is 'just too creepy', or when something mysterious is glimpsed during the late night checking of the building.

It was dark outside by the time I managed to get down to the office to try and explain what was wrong with the overtime that Colin had complained about.

'So, how are you getting on with Colin?' Dan asked. The office was snug, so he’d removed his jacket. Today he was wearing a slim fitting blue shirt emphasising his broad shoulders and small waist. Very nice.

'It's difficult to say, really. He doesn't talk much. And on the two man rota, we don't see each other very often.’

'No, of course. So, how are you settling in?’

'Pretty well, I think.' This was my chance to tell him of my discovery.

'Karen told me you've found where that leak in screen three is coming from.’

'Yes, I believe I have. I don't know if anyone's told you about the well that was uncovered during the conversion of the building...' I gave him a brief, factual overview, omitting any mention of bodies. 'I'm almost certain that's where the water is coming from.’

'Excellent,' he said. 'I'll get in touch with our regional engineer on Monday. He'll probably want to send someone along to investigate. Do you think you could show me exactly where it is?’

We went along the tunnel. 'I don't think we could start digging the floor up this side of Christmas,' Dan went on. 'We'll need every seat in the house when “Harry Potter” starts.’

Fortunately, no one was seated in the front stalls this time around, although they would be during the next show. I found the spot easily enough, but moved off it as I didn't like the feeling.

Dan shivered. 'There's a nasty draught here, isn't there?' He too, stepped to one side.

I refrained from comment. It was interesting to see he could feel it too. Not everyone had that degree of sensitivity to presences. I pointed to the spot we had both instinctively avoided. 'Under there,' I said. 'That's where it is.’

'How curious,' he said. 'That's exactly where I felt cold.’

'It's, er, to do with the underground water,' I lied. ‘Temperature differences.’

'Oh, right. Well, we definitely won't be doing any digging here for a little while. Let's just hope it doesn't rain too much over the next month or so.’

I noticed he stepped around the spot as we left, too.

The foyer was empty when we returned. All the customers were in the screens as the main features had started. Dan went back to the office.

Sylvia gave me a wave. ’All right, Terry?’

'Fine. I've got that cutting from the paper with me. Shall I bring it down later?’

'I'm on my break in a minute.’

‘Okay, then.’

The main staff room was just off the foyer. It was a bit cramped, but it boasted two comfy chairs. Besides, I couldn't really invite her up to the projection staff room; that would be asking for malicious gossip. In every cinema I've ever worked in, a male projectionist only asks a female member of staff to 'come upstairs' for one reason. No matter that said projectionist is gay and the cashier old enough to be his mother, everyone will assume they are up to no good.

She pointed herself out in the picture. She certainly had been a looker in her youth. She wasn't unattractive even now; another reason I wouldn't want to risk her reputation by putting her into a potentially compromising situation. I asked her to name all the people in the photo.

'There I am. And holding the cat, that's the bloke who rescued it. Bob, I think he was called…'

'Bob Luard,' I supplied.

'That's it. His dad owned the company. He was a bit of a charmer, but I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him.’

'And who's that, on the other side of you?' It was another young man, with dark hair cut in one of the longer styles of the time and wearing a typically seventies suit, with wide lapels to the jacket and an even wider tie. Even in black and white, the pattern was painful to look at.

'He was an assistant manager,' she said and even before she spoke his name, I knew who he must be. 'Mr Godfrey. Trevor Godfrey.’

'The one who saw the ghosts,' I mused.

'That's right. But how do you know about that?’

'I found it on the Internet. There's a whole site about the history of this place.’

'I wish I could get the hang of it. I can just about use a computer to sell the tickets, but I don't understand all that stuff. My granddaughter though, she's so quick I can't keep up with what she's doing.’

'It's easy once you get going. You should try it at the library. You only pay for the printouts and if you're not sure what to do, they'll help you out.’

She smiled. 'Well, maybe,' then looked again at the photo. 'He was the one who got the papers interested in the story. Thought it would be good publicity. And of course, he'd have to get in the picture.’

'He was a bit of a show off, Colin said.’

'Yes. Very much so. People said he made up all that about the haunting, but I don't reckon he did. I saw him the day after and he looked terrible. Jenny, who he went out with, said he was in a right old state.’

'And later they went off together? I heard they might have been on the fiddle.’

'Colin again?’

I nodded. 'Afraid so.’

'That man wouldn't have a good word for his own mother.’

'I guessed that.’

Sylvia traced the headline with a perfectly manicured finger. 'Colin didn't get on with Mr Godfrey, but I bet he never told you why.’

I shook my head.

'He went out with Jenny first. I knew they weren't suited as a couple. She was such an outgoing girl and Colin... well, he wasn't much less miserable than he is now. A bit better looking though and there was a certain glamour to going out with a projectionist. She used to sell ice creams in the interval and he'd put the spotlight on her. Nice pink glow, to make her look pretty.’

'Love over the vanilla tubs,' I quipped.

'Sort of. It's hard to describe how it was in those days. When they split up he put a green filter on the spot. She looked like something from the Hammer House of Horror. He got in real trouble over it. Mr Godfrey was the one who gave him a formal warning.’

'That explains it, then.’

She went on. 'Then after the burglary, Colin was the one spreading all the rumours about it being an inside job.’

'What burglary?’

'It was that same year. After one of the concerts here. Status Quo. Someone broke in and tried to get in the safe. They had one of those welding torches. The police reckoned they must have been in that office for hours. But all that happened is the safe got red hot and the wall was scorched. They never got inside but the money got burnt to a crisp. Even the coins melted into lumps.’

'Not a very successful burglary, then.’

'No. But the police came and questioned us all, Mr Godfrey included. He lived here, you see and they wanted to know why he'd not heard anything.’

'That flat's a long way from the office.’

'Exactly. He wouldn't have known a thing, not even if the foyer had burned down. There were no alarms in those days. And after what happened to him - seeing all those folk in the auditorium - once he locked the door of his flat at night, he stayed put. I can't blame him for that.’

My mind was racing. 'So Colin didn't like Trevor Godfrey, hmm?' Had Colin done the foul deed? I could almost visualise him dumping the body of the assistant down into the gaping mouth of the well. Colin had also said 'him and that girl took off together'. Maybe he had lied. Maybe both Trevor and his girlfriend were down in the well?

'Colin never liked any managers. But he had a real hatred for poor Mr Godfrey. He ripped up one of the postcards they sent, right here in the foyer.’

‘Postcards?'

'Oh yes. Jenny and him went off around the world, you see. But they didn't forget us. Every few months we'd get a postcard from some exotic place. Pictures too.’

Okay, so they weren't down the well. Pity really; it would have made a nice tidy solution. 'I wonder where they are now?' I mused. 'Do you know at all?’

'Last I heard they got married and settled in Australia. Good luck to them, I say.’

I pondered over this further snippet as I went about getting the next show under way. The projector in screen two was making an odd noise and it bothered me. I wasn't sure if it was a squeaky drive belt, or something serious happening to a bearing and I didn't know enough about the particular make of projector - a Victoria IV - to really tell. If I was lucky there might be a manual for it somewhere on the premises.

The logical place to look was in the chief's office, at the other side of the projection box from the staff room. It was full of ancient box files and an enormous desk that wouldn't look out of place in a bank manager's office. How on earth had they managed to get it up those stairs, I wondered, sitting in the scuffed leather swivel chair that accompanied it. Once these must have had pride of place in the main cinema office, until they had become a bit tired and scruffy. Doubtless the journey upstairs had contributed to a few of the dents and scratches and I'm sure the drawers had never been intended to carry projector spares. Oil had soaked into the wood, staining it badly. I imagined a long ago chief whiling away the afternoon by reading his paper in here while his minions dealt with the day to day running of the box. In the old days - and we are talking much further back than the nineteen-seventies here - it would take a man at least twenty years of moving slowly up the hierarchy before he earned the right to sit behind this desk. A large cinema such as this would have probably had a projection crew of seven or eight, from the lowly rewind boy who was only allowed to sweep floors and make tea for his elders and betters, all the way through the ranks of third and second projectionists up to the exalted chief. Running a show in those days was labour intensive and required utmost precision. Wages could be docked for mistakes that appeared on screen and breakdowns were avoided at all costs. Even if film was piling up on the floor under the projector, you kept rolling. The poor rewind boy would probably be made to gather up the coils of unwinding footage. The show must go on and the audience would never know that anything wasn't right.

I sat in the chief's chair, in the chief's office and felt as if I really belonged to the proud line of this cinema's custodians. They had all cared for the place, in their own way. They had all tried to keep up the standards and keep out the rain.

Logic would suggest that the ideal place to keep equipment manuals, would be in a file marked 'Manuals'. However, the box files in this office had not been maintained in any kind of logical system, even if it had originally been created that way. I had long since discovered all projectionists are, to some extent, hoarders. I'm one myself. I never like to throw things away, because I have found numerous times that whenever you have a really good clear out, you will always find a need for one of the objects you've thrown away around a week later. However, compared to some, I am minimalist in the extreme. I remember one cinema projection room strewn with an assortment of broken televisions and audio equipment the chief was either in the process of repairing, or cannibalising for parts. Each time I went there, the piles of junk had become larger, until he retired and his successor dumped it all in a skip. I can recall another box where there was a neatly labelled jar of 'old fuses'. Broken fuses, that is. Ones which have fulfilled a fuse's purpose in life by blowing. 'Why do you keep those?' I asked the owner.

'Emergency spares,' he said, quite seriously.

'But they’re no good.’

'Yes,' he said, unable to deny this. 'But if you've run out of new ones and it's an emergency, they're better than nothing.’

You can't argue with that kind of logic.

The file labelled 'Manuals' contained reference books for pieces of equipment long since  replaced. There was a colour booklet for the original three electrode BTH xenon lamp, dated June 1958. I read the first page.

The introduction of the xenon lamp for projection purposes is a milestone in cinema history. Starting is via pushbutton and the brilliant light on the screen requires no projection room attention to keep it steady. Thus it makes an important advance towards 'automation' in the cinema.

And that, according to some, was the beginning of the end. Less maintenance, no need for someone to keep an eye on the arc, no need for replacement of carbons. To the cinema companies, this also meant no need to employ so many people in the box. Automation itself was another step down the slippery slope to the situation we had today, where only one projectionist ran several screens alone.

It would be too easy to spend all afternoon looking through these fascinating pieces of history. I had to force myself to flick through the rest and keep in mind exactly what I was meant to be looking for. Everything else was equally as old and irrelevant. They belonged in a museum, or with collectors, but for now, they were resting safely enough in their dusty box file. I carefully shut it and put it back on the shelf.

The next file was marked 'Theatre Information and Box Logs'. Inside were several slim books with plain buff covers, covered with doodles. I couldn't resist looking inside just one.

Each page was ruled and headed, Chief Operator's Log. This log to be completed daily and presented to the Regional Engineer on each visit for checking.

The first page gave screen sizes and dates of new screen installations, about every three years or so all through the nineteen-seventies. They'd have needed such frequent replacement in those days, when smoking was still permitted in the auditorium. Nicotine turned screens yellow in an amazingly short time and it was nigh on impossible to clean a screen without leaving smears or irregular patches.

The entries, starting on the next page, were in faded blue ink, printed in neat, but obviously hurried capitals,

WEDNESDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER 1972

DAILY DUTIES COMPLETED AS PER ROSTER. NEW SWITCH FITTED FOR HOUSE AND FOOT LIGHTS - HAD TO BE REWIRED BACK TO CONTROL UNIT TO SUIT NEW SWITCH CONNECTIONS. POLISH PUT ON BOX PASSAGE AND STAFF ROOM FLOORS. TIME COMPLETED 11.45 AM.

Another hand took over for the next day's entry, pressed into the paper so hard as to make an imprint all the way through to the next page.

Thursday 28th September 1972

Dozy chief fell asleep, fell off seat. Will he claim overtime for being disturbed? See next week for the next episode.

It was crossed out in three precise slashes that nearly cut through the page. Interesting. A bit of conflict there. Who had the chief been? The drunken Jack, maybe, falling asleep after one too many pints in the pub at lunchtime? And the other writer, who was he?

The next few pages contained proper entries similar to the first I'd read. Then came another sign of trouble in the box. The capital writer had made an entry.

USUAL BOX ROUTINE CARRIED OUT. OUTSIDE LIGHTS CHECKED. ARCS CLEANED OUT.

And beside the last part, the other writer had added, properly. Obviously he considered someone wasn't doing their job correctly and another entry in the margin further down confirmed this.

Staff room not swept out and why not. Those that muck it up should clean it!

I wondered how these pointed comments had been taken, when read later by the intended recipient. There must have been a tense atmosphere in the box on those days. It was of no relevance to me, but it gave me an insight into how the Regal had operated during the early seventies. Judging by this and by two later books which contained the same intermittent sniping, not entirely a happy place in which to work. Whenever there is conflict in a small department, whether a projection box or an office, people find themselves having to take sides with one or the other of the parties.

Putting the books back, I continued my so far fruitless search for a Victoria IV manual. By now, I didn't really hold out any hope of finding one, but I had a bit of time to myself and this kind of stuff was fascinating. My exploration was disturbed by the end sequence's shrill and persistent whine, meaning screen two needed to be laced up and readied for the next show.

It was fairly busy tonight. Walking through the foyer on my way back from the mini screens, the hum of voices and the smell of warmed popcorn added to that perfect cinema ambience. It was good to be back in the business. Once the last performances were running and checked, I went back to the chief’s office to see what else I could unearth.

Box files on one shelf contained service engineers reports dating back to nineteen sixty-nine, battery maintenance records and lamp orders. There was almost a complete set of Cinema Technology magazines, although it took me a long time to find them all as they were scattered in different and unrelated piles, mingled with yellowed newspapers and raggedly torn sheets of lined paper. There were enough rolls of film splicing tape to circle the entire building about six hundred times.

I started reading one of the magazines and was only dragged away from it by the sound of a voice. Someone had come up to projection. ‘Hello. Anyone here?’

I recognised Dan’s voice and felt an immediate stab of panic. Maybe one of the downstairs screens had developed a fault and the alarm hadn’t tripped? I put the magazine down and went out to see him.

‘Is there a problem?’ I asked.

‘Er, no. I’d finished cashing up so I thought I’d come up for a while. I did try calling you, but there was no answer.’

The phone was at the other end of the box. Presumably the noise of the projector running had stopped me from hearing it. I’d left the walkie-talkie in the staff room, too. ‘Sorry. I was just starting to clear out the office up here.’

‘Ah. The junk room.’

‘You could call it that. Some of this stuff’s useful though. We won’t need to order any more splicing tape for at least a couple of years.’ I wondered why he’d come up. Managers seldom ventured into the projection areas. 

‘I just thought I’d give you the good news. We’ve done over a thousand admissions today. That’s almost as many as on Wednesday.’

He sounded happy about that. I was, too. ‘That’s great.’

‘And a few customers have commented on how good the sound and picture was.’

‘Really?’ In my experience, people rarely said anything when you put on a good show, although they were very quick to complain when something was wrong.

‘Yes, so I thought I’d pass that on. I know it’s been less than a week, but you’re definitely making a difference.’

I was pleased to hear that. ‘Well, thanks.’

Dan gave a little smile, then went forward to look out of one of the viewing ports. I’d done that myself several times, glad to see a decent number of seats filled in the auditorium. I sensed he wanted to stay for a while. Maybe he was bored, having finished all of his work and with a good forty minutes before any of the films ended? Or maybe, just maybe, he wanted to spend some time with me?

‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ I offered.

‘That’d be nice, yes.’

We went through to the staff room, where I put the kettle on to boil. I expected Dan to sit in the comfy chair, but he took the other one instead. That was thoughtful. ‘Milk? Sugar?’

‘Just a drop of milk and no sugar, thanks.’ He looked around the staffroom. I’d made an effort to tidy the place, although Colin had done his best to undo most of it during his time on duty. At least the mugs were clean now and the spoons silver rather than stained brown from tea and coffee deposits.

Handing him his mug, I sat down, glad to take the weight off my feet. I must have walked a few miles today, up and down those stairs. I was getting used to it, though.

‘I spoke to your old manager on Wednesday, at a preview screening.’

‘Which one?’ There had been two general managers during my time at Fairford Green cinema.

‘Carol Philpott.’

The second one, then. ‘How is she?’

‘Managing a six screen multiplex in Essex now.’

‘Good for her.’ Like Dan, she’d been ambitious. I knew she wouldn’t have stayed at a small, town centre site for long.

He sipped his tea. ‘She said it was a pity you left. You could have had the chief’s job there, if you’d stayed.’

‘I know. Bill was due to retire, although he kept saying he’d hang on as long as he was able.’

‘Is that why you went, then?’

I’d glossed over reasons as much as I could when applying for the job and as they’d been desperate to take someone on, not too many questions had been asked. I knew that there would have been the usual phone calls behind the scenes to check I wasn’t totally incompetent. Cinema is a small industry and even if you swap between companies, it’s not too hard for a potential employer to find out whether you are best avoided. ‘Not exactly. I left the business, as you probably know.’ It had been on my CV, after all.

He nodded. ‘But you decided to come back.’

‘I always enjoyed working in the cinema, but… other people persuaded me I should at least try something else. It didn’t work out. Hence, here I am.’

‘Long way from home, though.’

‘Well, yes, but so are you.’ I could tell from his accent he was a fellow southerner. That gave us one point of commonality. Anything else, I couldn’t be sure about.

‘True. Although we're expected to move around a bit to gain experience. And to show we can turn around sites that are under performing. Hopefully I’ll end up going back down south again after a few years, but it depends on the opportunities.’

‘So, what is it you like about this business?’ Some managers I’d met weren’t really bothered whether they were running a cinema, a bowling alley or a supermarket. Most projectionists, on the other hand, wouldn’t dream of doing anything else. The more technically competent sometimes went on to become sound and projection engineers, but such vacancies were few and far between.

‘I’ve always enjoyed watching films. When I was a kid, I used to write reviews of all of the ones I’d seen. When I went to uni, I saw there were part time jobs going at the local cinema. It appealed a lot more than flipping burgers. Then I found out about career opportunities, so moving into management was a natural step.’

Good. He did actually like cinema, then. Another thing we had in common. ‘I started off much the same, although at an earlier age, helping out in the town fleapit. The projectionist was drunk a lot of the time and even when he was sober his eyesight wasn’t great, so I used to spot the cue dots for him. Then he got me rewinding, lacing up film and so forth. I knew that was what I wanted to do, so as soon as I left school I was full time there.’

‘Like that little kid in “Cinema Paradiso?”’

‘Yes.’ I was surprised he’d seen it. If there was ever a hymn to the love of cinema, that film was it. Most projectionists would cite it as one of their favourites.

‘Didn’t your parents want you to stay on at school, maybe go to university?'

I smiled. ‘My parents are unconventional, to say the least. They didn’t care what I did, so long as I was happy.’

‘Lucky you.’

Something about his expression told me he hadn’t had it so easy. Maybe my first impression had been right and he had a certain amount in common with Cliff, after all. ‘So, don’t they like you being a cinema manager?’

‘It’s not quite what they’d hoped. Lawyer or accountant would have been more to their taste. At least my brother didn’t disappoint there. He’s also happily married with a lovely little daughter, so that’s another box ticked.’

‘There’s time enough for all that,’ I said, aware of us both skirting around, feeling for more information. ‘If it’s what you want from life.’

‘I suppose so.’ He drank some more tea. ‘So, what’s your ambition?’

‘As far as work goes, I’d like to make this place the best it can be. As far as life goes…’ I shrugged. ‘Who knows? I’ve learned it’s not always a good thing to assume you’ve got it all planned out. Fate has a way of tripping you up.’

He looked at me curiously. ‘That sounds intriguing…’

We might have got onto other subjects, but just then the phone in the staff room rang. It was a member of staff, looking for Dan.

‘Sorry, I have to go. Someone’s been taken ill in one of the screens.’

‘I hope it’s not serious. Do I need to stop the film or anything?’

‘I’ll let you know. Thanks for the tea, anyway.’ He put the mug into the sink before leaving.

I went back through to the box and looked out again. There seemed to be a few people clustered around the left hand entrance, although it was hard to see exactly what was happening. As I watched, they made their way out to the lounge. Looked like the other customers would get to watch the rest of their film in peace.

As we gathered in the foyer, ready to lock up, I learned that it hadn’t been anything too bad.

‘This lady started feeling dizzy but she were all right,’ the doorman told me. ‘Some new medication doctor had given her, she said.’

Dan came out of the office, I turned out the lights and we left. ‘See you tomorrow,’ he said. ‘Maybe we can carry on with that chat.’

I hoped so. There was definitely some connection between us. I knew that with the same certainty I had about the location of the well.

Copyright © 2022 Mawgrim; All Rights Reserved.
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This story will update every Monday

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

We seem to be eliminating some possibilities, yet the dream of the pursuit and rusty ladder remain...if it weren't for that I'd think the 'haunting' stems from the time before the cinema was built.

A real brain teaser, Mawgrim!

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10 hours ago, ColumbusGuy said:

We seem to be eliminating some possibilities, yet the dream of the pursuit and rusty ladder remain...if it weren't for that I'd think the 'haunting' stems from the time before the cinema was built.

A real brain teaser, Mawgrim!

Glad it's keeping you guessing.

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7 hours ago, centexhairysub said:

 

I am loving this story.  I can see it going in so many directions.  The writing and flow are both just excellent.  Maybe Colin has stayed so long to try and hide what is in the well?  I don't know if I see him as the kind of person to actually do something; seems to bitch more than any actual action.  

Don't get a feeling about Dan yet, just seems to be there, you know?  

Can't see what happens next.

 

Colin is one of those people you find in every job; they bitch about the company, the people they work with and how life has treated them unfairly. As for whether he is capable of taking action, you'll have to wait and see.

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32 minutes ago, Pickalane said:

I just started this today and I’m hooked. Great writing and the story line is 👌🏼👌🏼 Curious to see how it continues to go.

Glad you're enjoying it. There are plenty of twists and turns to come as the story unfolds.

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Dan and Terry seem to have a lot in common. There was a hint in there he's not into women.

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Dan's visit was a bit of a surprise, since he has been absent a lot.  Terry and Dan's dialogue was interesting in the details as they go to know each other better.  They do have a lot in common, including Dan's sensitivity and strong reaction to that spot where the well exists.  Dan's parents seem very unlike Terry's parents, however.  It is a good omen that Dan wants to continue the conversation again with Terry.  More clues to the mystery, and conflicting information will require more research.  I do love a good mystery.

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10 hours ago, raven1 said:

Dan's visit was a bit of a surprise, since he has been absent a lot.  Terry and Dan's dialogue was interesting in the details as they go to know each other better.  They do have a lot in common, including Dan's sensitivity and strong reaction to that spot where the well exists.  Dan's parents seem very unlike Terry's parents, however.  It is a good omen that Dan wants to continue the conversation again with Terry.  More clues to the mystery, and conflicting information will require more research.  I do love a good mystery.

Dan is typical of a newly promoted cinema manager trying to prove his worth to head office. Yet he's still made an effort to talk to Terry about things that aren't strictly business related.

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Such an easy style of writing that flows and moves the story along. I enjoy the way you are developing the characters slowly and allowing us to get to know them. I really like Terry. And Dan seems to be revealing a different side of his personality. A super chapter. 

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