New York, Mexamerica, Tuesday August 12th 2262
16:02:34 hours (local time)
Hillary Jane had nearly finished her Romanée Conti. There had been no call from Tamarah to explain her whereabouts, or to offer an apology. She took a last sip from her glass before placing it next to Tamarah’s gift. Seeing the small, shiny, silver-papered package on the bar just made her want to throw it across the room. She would never show herself up in public though; one could never tell exactly in a place like this who were press scum and who were just innocent clientele. It would only take a scraggy wretch like Hector Humphreys to be prowling around, masquerading as somebody normal, to jeopardise her good reputation with exaggerations and lies.
She hadn’t seen Hector Humphreys since the day the Russians had been at New Downing Street for the peace talks. She recalled spotting him among the throng of journalists that had gathered outside following the press leak. She scoured the bar looking for him, or other likely candidates. He had been known to follow her in expectation of the scoop of his career. She wasn’t going to make the strap lines and be centre of attention because of the likes of Hector Humphreys or Tamarah Stein. No one obvious stood out. She circled the long scarlet fingernail of her index finger in small circles on the top of the gift box. The increasing pressure from her nail started to leave faint round tracks in the silver paper. The elderly English barman wandered over having spotted her empty glass.
“Would you care for a refill madam?”
Hillary Jane glanced at her glass and then at him. His old tired looking face had a warm friendly quality to it.
“Just my Antihol please, I’m going home. My friend has sent a message saying she is not feeling too good,” she lied, tapping the face of her strap.
“Sorry to hear that madam. I will get you your Antihol. Would you place your thumb on my strap please?” The barman offered his wrist over the bar. She placed her thumb briefly on the face of his strap for the second time that evening; paying for her drinks and allowing the barman to work out the measure of Antihol to pour. He sauntered off to get it as though he had all the time in the world.
Just then Hillary Jane noticed a subtle breeze as the doors in the all solar glass frontage slid silently apart.
In walked a man whose looks took her breath away for a few seconds. He wasn’t really dressed as suitably as he could have been for the establishment, but his looks certainly distracted you from his slightly too casual attire.
The doors in front of Simon opened, as they did Andrea Zuvich’s superb song sadly finished; a piece of twenty-second century classical music he had never heard before replaced it. He walked across the floor towards the bar; soaking up the atmosphere as he went.
This place couldn’t be more opposite to Zara’s. He felt slightly uncomfortable that the beige linen trousers and sandals he wore were probably not smart enough for the more refined clientele of Obama’s. Thankfully he had put on a smart short-sleeve navy shirt; he had been close to putting on a puce three-quarter length sleeve T-shirt which would never have been appropriate in a place like this.
On reaching the electric-blue glass-topped bar, Simon looked up and down the length of it to locate a member of staff. There was only one elderly gentleman working, he appeared to be busy getting a drink for another customer. Simon noted how smart the barman looked in a navy suit that matched the colour of his own shirt perfectly. Again he had that sinking feeling that he was underdressed. Still, he hadn’t planned to stay long; just one drink and then he would locate the teleporter and go home. He surveyed the area while he waited to be served. He guessed there were at least seventy-five percent fewer clientele in here compared to Zara’s. This bar had a serene and yet intimate feel to it; any more customers and it would have started to feel overcrowded.
“I will be with you in one moment sir.”
Simon spun around as the barman glided by with a small glass of what could be Antihol.
“Oh, thank you,” Simon answered, when the barman was probably already out of earshot. He watched the old man approach a woman who stood out from everybody else in the bar in every respect. How had he not noticed this stunning vision in red before now?
She was perched on a glass stool. She had remarkably long smooth legs that were visible from her heeled scarlet shoes up to the hem of her knee-length matching dress. This was a woman that looked after herself and obviously liked to stand out in a crowd. Her pencil-thin figure fitted the dress so perfectly that it had to have been tailored to fit her. Her breasts were concealed enough to be considered appropriate, but gave Simon enough of a clue as to what was hidden from view. He was admiring the sheen on her short jet-black bobbed hair when he realised that she had been watching him scrutinising her. He flushed a colour that matched her dress and gave a polite smile and a small nod. He turned away to face the bar as the barman appeared opposite him.
“Good evening sir, what can I get you?”
Simon recalled Spencer’s comment about being thrown out for ordering lager in a ‘stuffy wine bar’, but he wasn’t sure now what was appropriate to order.
“I will have whatever the lady at the end of the bar is having,” Simon announced, indicating her position with a slight tilt of his head. “Maybe she would like another too,” he added.
“The young lady is currently drinking Antihol; she has also mentioned that she is ready to leave.”
Simon flushed again. “Oh, err... what was she drinking before that?”
“She has been drinking Romanée Conti this evening prior to the Antihol.”
“Perfect!” Simon exclaimed, not quite sure what Romanée Conti was. Perhaps the lady would like a last glass?” He added, trying to sound quite matter of fact.
“I will ask her,” the barman replied with a warm smile. He wandered off in her direction.
Simon busied himself with pretending to be studying something on his strap, he didn’t really want to be watching if the lady in the red dress got offended, or laughed hysterically at the idea of a drink from him.
Minutes later, when Simon was just wondering how long he could continue with the strap façade, the barman returned with a full glass. “The lady has gratefully accepted your kind offer of a drink and wondered if you would like to join her.”
“Great, I think I will do just that.”
Simon scanned his thumb on the barman’s strap, picked up his glass and made the short journey over to the end of the bar.
Hillary Jane smiled as Simon approached; perhaps her evening wasn’t going to be a complete calamity after all. She pushed Tamara’s gift out of her way and placed the untouched glass of Antihol towards the back of the bar to make room for her third Romanée Conti. She eyed this handsome stranger up in a matter of seconds; letting her eyes linger over his groin the longest. There certainly seemed to be an ample bulge beneath his linen trousers. He didn’t strike her as a journalist; she could tell who those creeps were within seconds. She twisted around on her stool to face him.
“Good evening,” Simon said with a smile. He took Hillary Jane’s hand and kissed it gently. “I’m Simon.”
Hillary Jane smiled, having enjoyed the feel of his large warm hand on hers. “Good evening Simon, I’m Hillary Jane.” She smiled sweetly. “Thank you so much for the drink; I see you have the same, I do like a man who appreciates the exquisite things in life.”
She tipped her head back and laughed innocently as Simon took to the spare stool next to her.
“There are far too many lager swilling ruffians out there for my liking,” she added, glancing down at Simon’s crotch again, a tiny quiver of excitement tingled her spine.
Simon felt the heat from his burning face as his embarrassment flared up yet again. He was one of those ‘lager swilling ruffians’. He wondered how much these two drinks had just cost him… and had she just been looking at his penis? He got a slight feeling of arousal at the thought.
“What brings you in here this evening?” Hillary Jane asked, she crossed one leg over the other and then folded her hands delicately over one knee.
“I was outside a bar on the edge of Liberty State Park when I heard a favourite tune of mine playing; I traced the music to this place and just had to see what it was like.”
Hillary Jane hadn’t really noticed the music until just now.
“They do play some lovely music,” she agreed. “This is my first time here, I will definitely be coming again though; the atmosphere is just superb.”
Simon took a first sip from his drink; it didn’t quite compare to his usual tipple but it wasn’t bad.
“Hmmm, that’s good,” he said with a smile. “Are you here alone?”
“Yes I’m afraid so. I was supposed to meet a business colleague, but she has sent a message saying she is ill.”
“How extraordinary,” Simon exclaimed. “I was supposed to be meeting a friend at the other bar who also cancelled due to being ill.”
“Most extraordinary.” Hillary Jane agreed, with a polite chuckle.
“I must admit that I was surprised to see such an attractive lady sitting here by herself.” Simon grinned. “Now I know why,” he added.
“Oh, behave.” She laughed, leaning back on her stool in the process, soaking up the compliment. She more than liked this man. He appeared younger than her; but then again he could have been a similar age. It was difficult to tell. Simon was not as young as she liked her men; he certainly had more than a few years on Norman. She thought of Norman momentarily and then pushed him out of her mind.
“So we have both been stood up then this evening,” Hillary Jane declared. “Myself by a business colleague and you no doubt by some beautiful young lady,” she added with a sly grin, prying for information regarding his availability. A glance at her strap had revealed very few details on this handsome man.
Simon chuckled. “Sadly not a young lady, I was due to meet an old male friend from my schooling days. The meeting of ‘young ladies’ would have come after that hopefully.” He gave a cheeky grin.
It was not likely that he would have been successful with any women tonight in the company of Spencer. Many a time on nights out with Spencer and Larry, girls had enjoyed Spencer’s outrageous and extrovert character so much that all thoughts of dating men obviously slipped their mind.
This foxy lady in red seemed very keen to know his relationship status. He checked his strap to see what hers was. All her details were blocked, apart from her first name.
“The night is still young,” he declared, pretending to have been checking the time on his strap, it displayed his home time and the local time.
“Or the afternoon,” Hillary Jane added, with a slight sideways tilt of her head indicating the sunlit afternoon and Liberty State Park. “Depending where you are from, of course?”
“I’ve come from England.” Simon confirmed, taking a long swig from his glass before placing it back on the bar.
“Me too,” Hillary Jane confirmed, pretending to be a little startled at his revelation.
“We were obviously destined to meet up tonight for some reason,” Simon joked with a wink. He added; doing an awful and inaccurate Bogart impression. “Of all the bars in all of the world, you just happened to walk into mine.”
They both laughed, Simon a little too loudly.
“That was awful!” Hillary Jane exclaimed, grimacing and slapping her hand down sharply on his upper thigh. “And technically you walked into mine.”
“I guess I did,” Simon agreed, enjoying the proximity of her hand to his genitals. “You’d better not tell your partner,” he added, giving her the opening to declare her relationship status.
Hillary Jane’s face fell and she withdrew her hand swiftly. Simon noticed her change of mood at once.
“I’m so sorry, that was terribly rude of me.” His forehead furrowed into a frown, emphasising his concern at his apparent verbal faux pas.
“It’s okay; it’s not you really.” She bit her bottom lip and turned to the bar for her drink. After a long careful imbibe she put her now half empty glass back on the bar. Simon took a large mouthful of his own.
Hillary Jane looked into his eyes. “I’m a widow…my husband, Norman, died about twelve months ago.” She lowered her gaze slightly as her words sank in.
“I am so sorry to hear that,” he said, stepping forward and placing a comforting hand on her arm. “I am also sorry for upsetting you like that.” This was not the way he had intended to hear that this beautiful lady was probably single.
She looked back up at him. “It’s okay, you weren’t to know. I just get caught off guard every now and again,” she rubbed her hand over his which was still on her arm, it felt good. “Really, it is okay.”
Simon stepped out of her space looking somewhat forlorn. They both took to their glasses once again.
Hillary Jane glanced at him out of the corner of her eye; suppressing a smile as she silently drank. He did look dismayed at what he thought were his careless words. The grieving widow routine, used many times in the past, had always got her what she wanted.
“Let me buy you another,” Simon offered, trying desperately to rescue the conversation and put things right.
Hillary Jane gave a small sigh and then let a smile form slowly and gradually. “That would be very nice,” she said meekly, grinning inside behind the sad façade her face portrayed. She had him just where she wanted.
Simon caught the attention of the barman, who was at the other end of the bar, and indicated that their near empty glasses needed replenishing by a series of hand gestures, nods and exaggerated facial expressions. The barman nodded just the once while he continued serving a young man in a dark green suit.
“I’m just going to freshen up a little,” Hillary Jane said, as she stood up.
Simon nodded with a small smile.
Hillary Jane crossed the room, drawing the attention of other patrons as she went. Simon checked out her rear aspect - it was just as good as her front. She disappeared through an open doorway he hadn’t noticed before. He thought of following her into the bathroom to check that things really were okay, but decided against it. It would be better to wait here for her with a full glass on her return.
After a full five minutes she returned, he had just started to suspect that she had teleported out of the bar and away from him. He was quite relieved to see her again. He greeted her with a smile and a full glass; he didn’t care how much it cost now. He needed to put things right between them.
They both took to their glass stools again.
“I’m sorry once again for just now,” Simon reiterated.
“Please, don’t mention it again… it really is okay…” Hopefully she’d been in the bathroom just long enough so that he believed she had left. “Tell me a bit about yourself, what do you do?”
She seemed to be over the worst of the upset and appeared to want to change the subject, which was more than fine with him.
“I’m in education, I teach a variety of students from six to one hundred and sixty about our ancestors and our history.” He tried to sound a bit vague so as to make his job sound more glamorous.
“How fascinating,” she replied, not fascinated at all. Norman would have got on great with someone like him; again she pushed Norman from her thoughts.
“What is it you do?” Simon asked politely, not having the slightest clue as to what her profession could be.
Hillary Jane was relieved; he obviously didn’t recognise her from her recent fleeting appearances in the news relating to the Russians. The less he knew about her the better really. She had to be so careful. The last thing she wanted was a man from her past popping up to destroy her career sometime in the future.
“Nothing nearly as glamorous as yours I’m afraid, I do a bit of secretarial work. I don’t really need to work; I do it part time, mainly for the company… my husband left me fairly comfortable, financially. What I earn now just helps out with the odd luxury here and there.”
Hillary Jane sipped at her glass; Simon seemed to be taking in the lonely widow act completely… time to step things up a gear.
She lowered the glass, placed it on her knee and held the base of the stem between her left thumb and forefinger; with her right hand she slowly slid a finger up and down the length of the stem.
She turned her gaze from her glass to his dazzling blue eyes and smiled. He smiled back.
The next hour saw steadily increasing flirtatious conversation from both of them and another three glasses of Romanée Conti each. Simon had insisted on buying all of them, he felt that tipsy now that the probable high price of them wasn’t really an issue anymore. This sophisticated yet sexy widow was flirting with him; he rarely got to meet any women of this calibre so he wasn’t going to blow his chances now by appearing miserly and letting her buy a drink. She seemed more than little merry too. The two stools on which they were seated had somehow moved themselves closer to each other. She either accidently, or more likely purposely, kept brushing her hand over his thigh while she gesticulated during their conversation. He hadn’t dared touch her; on the off chance that her contact was accidental, despite her obvious slap of his thigh earlier in the evening.
“Oh, Simon,” Hillary Jane sighed. “I am so glad now that my colleague and indeed your friend didn’t show up; I haven’t had so much fun in a long time. I do like a man that can make me laugh.”
“Glad to have been of service,” Simon quipped. “It certainly has been fun, who would have thought that after such a dismal start to the evening that it would end up so well.”
They both drained the remainder of their fifth glass.
“I suppose we should call it a night,” Hillary Jane said with a sigh, having checked the time on her strap.
“Or an afternoon,” Simon said with a wink, pointing with his thumb to the daylit sunny park beyond the solar glass front.
Hillary Jane squealed with laughter throwing her hands up in the process. She bought her left hand down on his upper thigh again and gave it a squeeze this time; her finger tips mere millimetres away from his manhood. “I think you have made my week so far, let alone my evening.”
He glanced down at her hand, it felt good… a bit too good. “I will order our Antihol,” he said swiftly.
The elderly barman was at the back of the bar rearranging glasses on shelves. Simon caught his attention. “Can we have our Antihol when you are ready please?”
The barman nodded and went to pour the measures. Simon had paid per round so all the details were logged on the barman’s strap. A few minutes later he appeared with two small glasses. He placed them down on the bar and removed the earlier one he had left for Hillary Jane which now didn’t contain the correct amount to counteract the extra alcohol.
“I really must visit the bathroom,” Simon announced slipping off his stool and stumbling forward. He just managed to stop himself falling headfirst into Hillary Jane’s bosom.
“Oh, I am sorry,” he said with a grin. “That could have been embarrassing… I think I’ve had one glass too many.” He straightened up looking a little flushed.
The barman looked on in bewilderment. This sort of behaviour was relatively unseen in here. How standards were slipping.
“Just the one?” Hillary Jane replied with a wry smile.
“Well, maybe two then,” he winked. “Back in a bit!” He meandered across the room in the general direction of the bathroom, trying to not look as drunk as he felt.
Hillary Jane watched him stagger across the floor and smiled. She picked up her glass of Antihol and drank the thick clear liquid down in one, shuddering at the bitter taste of it.
She made her way to the same doorway that led to the bathroom, the large tiled area beyond the entrance before the bathroom held the bar’s teleporter and a number of low plush chairs. Artwork and mirrors adorned the walls. She quickly voiced the two sets of eleven digit numbers required into the panel on the teleporter. As the door swung open Simon appeared from the bathroom. He looked a little stunned to see her at the teleporter. “Going without a goodbye?” he asked, trying not to sound disappointed.
Hillary Jane laughed. “Of course not. I would never be that rude after such a lovely evening. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t have to wait too long for a port home, I didn’t expect it to be free so quickly.”
“Well it’s been a pleasure getting to know you,” Simon said. He took her hand and kissed it, holding it afterwards a little too long.
“Indeed it has,” she replied. “We must do this again.” She pulled away from him and stepped into the teleporter.
“I have your details,” she said pointing to her strap. “I will be in touch.”
The door started to swing closed. Simon stood and watched her. He had hoped a ‘coffee’ would be on offer. He should have known though that a woman like this wouldn’t have a man back for coffee after just one evening.
“Goodbye,” he said, trying to sound cheerful. He held up his hand close to his chest and waved his fingers.
“Goodbye Simon.” She waved back as the door latched into place.
Simon stood there and waited until the whole teleportation process was complete before he headed back into the bar area. As he approached where they had been sitting he noticed the little silver-papered package on the bar. He hadn’t got round to asking her what it was; he’d had other things on his mind. He picked it up and turned it over in his hands, it didn’t weigh much. His picking it up triggered the hidden message that had been invisible on the top until now. The words gradually formed in what was the most beautiful dark grey imitation handwriting.
To Tamarah, just a little something for you.
Hillary Jane had forgotten to pick up this parcel when she left. It was obviously meant for the colleague that hadn’t shown up. He looked over at the doorway that led to the teleporter; she was long gone now. What should he do? He passed the package from one hand to the other while he thought. A notion started to grow in his mind. Had she left the parcel on the bar on purpose? Was he meant to find it and therefore try and contact her? Would he now be having ‘coffee’ after all? He grinned at the thought. Of course a sophisticated woman like this would never be seen leaving a bar with a man she had just met. How stupid was he? She had been too flirtatious all evening, she wanted him just as much as he wanted her. For the umpteenth time that evening he felt an awakening in his underwear.
He looked up and down the bar; the old boy that had served them all evening was at the other end of it chatting to the chap in the dark green suit.
“Search Hillary Jane B England,” Simon commanded of his strap. He waited patiently while it searched the planet’s databases. Twenty-two results came up. These lists were normally compiled in order of probable accuracy; his proximity to her all evening should make her top of the list. The first on the list was Hillary Jane Bartlett, Somerset. This had to be the right one, rarely in his experience had the first contact on the list been the wrong one. Now he had seen her full name it sounded familiar to him. Where had he heard it before? He couldn’t think right now and it probably wasn’t important.
“Call Hillary Jane Bartlett, Somerset, audio only,” he half whispered into his strap.
Access denied. Request call authorisation from Hillary Jane Bartlett?
was displayed across the front of his strap. Who was this woman? Not many everyday regular people had this security level before a call.
Without a thought he said. “Request authorisation.”
Simon stared at his strap. Within thirty seconds the strap displayed
Authorisation granted. Call Hillary Jane Bartlett?
“Wow, that was quick,” Simon muttered under his breath, “Call.”
“Simon,” Hillary Jane chuckled as she took his call. “I didn’t expect to be hearing from you quite this soon.”
He chuckled back. “You left something behind?”
“Did I?” she said trying to sound surprised. “What have I left there?”
“You left a little silver-papered package on the bar.”
“Oh my! she exclaimed. “What am I like?”
“Would you like me to put it in the teleporter for you and send it on…. or I could bring it in person if you prefer?” Simon’s heart raced as he waited for her reply.
“Well, I’m afraid you will have to bring it in person; if you don’t mind. My home teleporter isn’t working properly at the moment,” she lied. “I have to use the one just down the lane from the house… I don’t feel like walking back to it again just now; I’ve only just got in.”
“It will be my pleasure,” Simon said with glee.
“Do a search on Wrenbury Lane Somerset, you will find the teleporter easily enough. Just walk up the hill to the house right at the top, mine is the only one, so you can’t miss it.”
“Okay, I will be with you shortly.”
The call ended. Simon hadn’t felt this excited about meeting a woman in a long time. A quick search found the details for the teleporter on Wrenbury Lane. He raced across the bar toward the teleporter, stumbling noisily over a stool on the way. He clutched the silver package in one hand, only one thought on his mind.
His glass of Antihol remained untouched on the end of the bar where the barman had left it.