I groaned. I had at least another seven minutes of snooze time then, I reckoned. My new roomie wasn’t giving in, however.
‘You’ve missed breakfast. I thought it would be better to let you sleep in. But Armstrong will fire you in a heartbeat if you keep everyone else waiting. The last runner got the boot just for forgetting to put milk in his coffee.’
I already knew that Armstrong was the new director of Enchantment and the man whose brainchild it was to shake up the usual format and include a survival element.
While I should have been concentrating on doing what I could to get up, given that he was the last person I wanted to annoy, it was the mention of coffee that really helped me out. I struggled up to a sitting position and looked around. There was indeed a small kettle in the corner. Maybe if I was quick…
‘I’m Amy,’ she said. She reached down and hefted my suitcase upwards, landing it on my knees with a painful thump. ‘Come on!’
‘Ivy,’ I murmured, giving her a half-hearted wave in greeting. ‘Can you put the kettle on, please?’
Amy threw me an anxious look. ‘There’s no time! I’ll see you down there. Remember, don’t be late!’ She all but sprinted out of the room, the door banging behind her as she left.
Well, she was energetic. I yawned and tried to pull myself together. ‘Brutus,’ I murmured. ‘Could you put the kettle on? I could really do with a coffee. The stronger the better.’
As far as I could tell, it was still pitch black outside. But then it wasn’t even 5am. I shuddered at the thought and unzipped the case, looking for something to wear.
There was still no answer. I clipped on my bra, hooked a sweater over my head and glanced round. There didn’t seem to be any sign of him. I frowned. Contrary cat. Then the phone on the bedside rang, startling me so much I let out a strangled yelp.
‘Ivy,’ said Winter’s voice on the other end, ‘you need to get up now or this assignment is over before it’s even begun.’
I wrinkled my nose. Winter might make my toes curl up in delight every time I thought of him but did he have to sound quite so chipper this early?
‘How did you know I was still in bed?’ I asked suspiciously. ‘Are you watching me?’
‘I’m not anywhere near you. I’m staying somewhere else. I just know you, that’s all.’
I shook out a pair of jeans and wiggled into them at high speed. ‘Well,’ I tutted, ‘for your information, I’m wide-awake and raring to go. And I even made contact with an extra-special witness last night. I bet you didn’t manage that. His name is Gareth and…’
‘You can tell me later. Ivy, if you’re not on that bus in the next sixty seconds, then you’ll need to run.’ He hung up. Always with the running. I had the sinking sensation that I was going to very tired of that word very, very quickly.
I stood up, pulling the jeans up over my hips just as there was a loud toot from outside. The bus. Grimacing, I ran my hands through my hair, decided there was nothing else I could do about it and dashed out of the door.
The bus’s engine was already running and the seats were jam-packed with people. I received more than a few strange looks. When one of the more helpful passengers pointed down at my crotch, I realised it was because I’d not done up the zip. Grinning like an idiot, I pulled it up then squeezed into an empty seat.
Breathless, I smiled a quick hello at the woman next to me and checked the rest of my attire. My sweater was on inside out. Oops. Shrugging, I pulled it off, doing what I could not to elbow the woman in the process, turned it right the way around and pulled it back over my head. Nobody blinked an eye – but then this was the world of reality television. They were probably used to displays of nudity.
‘I slept in,’ I told my companion unnecessarily, once I’d righted myself.
‘So I see,’ she murmured. She glanced down at my ID, which I’d just managed to grab in time. Apparently clocking that I was no one of consequence, she turned away and looked out of the window instead. I’d have thought she was being rude if it weren’t for the fact that that no one on the bus was talking. It was almost as if we were monks on a vow of silence. Either that, or nobody here was a morning person. Suited me.
The bus trundled its way out of the town and down a single-track road. I shook out my hair and craned my neck round to look at the other passengers, wondering whether there was anyone I could recognise on board. It appeared that Belinda Battenapple, the host of Enchantment, and the other on-screen regulars, including the enigmatic Trevor Bellows, enjoyed other transportation. I hadn’t missed a single episode of Enchantment in my life and I would have blithely walked past any of these people on the bus without recognising them. That was probably a good thing.
Warning myself that acting star-struck probably wouldn’t be a good idea even if I did meet Belinda, I settled back into my seat and closed my eyes. I was just drifting back to sleep again when the bus came to a juddering halt.
‘Briefing in two!’ yelled an overly enthusiastic bloke towards the front. ‘Let’s get moving, people!’
I heaved myself up and followed everyone else off the bus, trying to appear as if I knew exactly what I was doing. It didn’t last long. The second I stepped outside and got a good look around the set, all my attempts at looking nonchalant fell by the wayside.
People were scurrying about everywhere, some carrying equipment, others clipboards. There had to be at least forty of them, and every single one was busy. From almost every angle, I could see the trademarked Enchantment signs emblazoned across lorries and cars and strung up between trees. I stood in the centre of it all, gawking like an idiot with my mouth hanging open.
‘The main quad!’ the man from the bus shouted. ‘Now!’
All at once, everyone seemed to stop what they were doing and head off. There were some grumbles; it appeared I wasn’t the only one who didn’t appreciate early rising. I kept hoping someone would tell me where I could find the industrial-strength coffee; instead we were ushered forward where an elaborate stage was already set up.
A harried-looking woman clambered up with the aid of a few of the others before grabbing hold of a bullhorn and facing all of us. ‘Good morning!’ she bellowed. ‘And welcome to the very first day of filming for Enchantment: Highlander edition!’
If she’d been expecting a raucous response, she was sorely mistaken. There was some ragged applause but no one appeared particularly thrilled by her words. Unlike me: I whooped loudly, ignoring the frowns I received from the people around me. There were a few eye-rolls as well but I smiled happily. This was brilliant. It took a lot to get me to smile before 11am but being on set for Enchantment was definitely enough.
Someone from the side of the stage called up to the woman. She nodded and yelled into the bullhorn again. ‘Now for our esteemed director and man of the hour, Morris Armstrong!’
This time, the applause was slightly more enthusiastic. For some reason, however, I still got the impression that it was because of what was expected rather than out of any real desire to cheer on the supposed captain of the most popular show on television.
I watched with interest as a large man leapt onto the stage. With his back to the crowd, he murmured something to the woman. From behind me, I heard someone else mutter, ‘Apparently he’s in a bad mood. He was down south completing some last-minute budget negotiations and couldn’t get first-class tickets for the train yesterday, so he had to join the rest of the cattle instead.’
There was a choked snigger. A bout of snaking dread assailed me. Uh-oh. Then, when Morris Armstrong turned round to face us, I bit my lip and raised my eyes to the heavens. Of course, the new director was the man who’d sat beside me on the train and who I’d managed to chase away with my supposed bad smell. Not only had I missed the perfect opportunity to find out more about what was going on, I’d made him think I was walking petri dish that should be avoided at all costs.
I slumped my shoulders in a bid to hide from his roving eyes. The chances were that I wouldn’t have to go near him; I was just a lowly runner and completely beneath his attention. The likelihood that he was involved in the murder was slim to none.