Rugby England, Tuesday August 12th 2262
Norman and Terry had been back at Terry’s apartment a couple of minutes and were in the small hallway. Terry closed the door to the teleportation room via the thumb keypad on the wall.
“Wow,” Norman said jovially, “all mod cons in this new place.” He grinned.
“A bit of an inconvenience if you ask me,” Terry grunted. “Why would you want security on the port room door? It’s the only one in the flat that you control with a thumb-pad, other than the front door.”
“It’s just nice to see you living somewhere decent for a change big bro.”
“Nice to be able to afford it little bro,” Terry smirked.
“Yeeees… you never did tell me how you’re making all these V’s lately.”
“You wouldn’t want to know,” Terry said gently patting Norman’s cheek with the palm of his hand. “Now, how about that little drinky?”
Terry wandered off down the hall and into the lounge. “Follow me,” he bellowed as he disappeared.
Norman had to agree with him; he probably didn’t want to know. He recalled Hillary Jane’s concerns the previous week - neither one of them could afford to be involved in anything underhand; her career relied on it. He followed his brother into the lounge.
“Usual bro?” Terry called from the kitchenette; situated just off the lounge.
“Yes please, I feel like a drink or two now.”
“Good,” Terry grinned. “So do I.”
Norman sank into one of the two black leatherette comfy armchairs; they were positioned at a right angle to each other with a low-level smoked glass hover table between them.
The room was small and sparse rather than minimalistic. Terry wasn’t one for knick knacks, trinkets or holophotos; he never had been.
Beyond the chairs a pair of solar glass double doors that led onto a tiny veranda the same width as the doors. The apartment was up high enough in the block to give a good view of Rugby and all it had to offer.
Norman turned his attention to Terry who busied himself getting their drinks in the kitchenette. The lounge was separated from the kitchenette by a matt black counter top. Terry obviously had his meals at this as there were two glass stools pushed under it on the lounge side.
Terry was twelve years older than him and probably twenty years wiser. It had often been said that the two could have been twins. They were of a similar height and build and they both had the same floppy blonde hair, Terry’s was somewhat wilder than his own and cut far less frequently. The three faint scars on Terry’s face emphasised just how different their adult lives had been.
“Here you are little bro,” Terry said, handing over a tumbler of whisky and ice.
Terry plonked himself down in the other chair with a loud exaggerated sigh.
“Here’s to us,” Norman said, raising his tumbler for a toast. Terry sat up and raised his. The glasses clashed together noisily.
“Cheers!” the brothers said in unison before sinking back into their respective chairs.
They sat in silence for a few minutes; they didn’t need to make conversation to enjoy each other’s company. Norman placed his tumbler on the hover table; it sank slightly with the extra weight before adjusting itself to its previous height.
“I want to thank you once again for tonight Terry; I’ve more than enjoyed my evening in Northampton.”
“That’s three times now Normie; I think I’ve got the message.”
Terry smiled, he had enjoyed the evening too. Museums weren’t really his thing but they had seen some interesting stuff tonight. He didn’t spend as much time with Norman as he should; something he planned to put right from now on.
“It’s been good. I feel I’ve learnt something for a change on a night out,” Terry announced before taking a slug of whisky. “Who would have thought that people died of food poisoning, cancer and gangrene as recently as one hundred and fifty odd years ago?”
“Hmmm,” Norman agreed. “Some pretty shocking stuff, some of those re-enactments of hospital life in the late twenty first century were horrific.”
Terry took another slug from his scotch. “I’m glad we hadn’t had the buffet before the gangrenous arm amputation; that smell of rotten flesh would have brought those canapés right back up.”
They reminisced on their evening awhile longer.
“Is there a shortage of whisky bro?” Norman asked, innocently holding up his empty tumbler and waving it about.
“Never in my home,” Terry avowed, downing the remainder of his and springing up out of his chair. “The cheek of you,” he declared with phoney horror. He snatched Norman’s glass and headed into the kitchenette to refill them both.
“What’s Hillary Jane doing tonight?” he asked slopping whisky on the counter as he overshot the first glass. “Bugger,” he muttered under his breath.
“She’s out with a business acquaintance in New York for the night.”
“Sounds fun,” Terry replied, deciding to leave the spilt drink on the work surface until the morning. He made the drinks twice the size this time, it was getting late and they had some catching up to do.
“Not really, she can’t stand the woman,” Norman answered, taking a noticeably fuller glass. He had a wave of guilt wash over him. Here he was having a great time and a wonderful evening and she had to endure Tamarah Stein’s company. He checked the time on his strap and wondered whether she would still be out or back home alone to an empty house.
Terry interrupted his thoughts. “Why is she out with someone she hates?”
Norman put his glass on the hover table, untouched. “Her husband is someone big, someone influential to stay on the right side of by all accounts.”
“Hence the night out with the wife.”
“Exactly,” Norman agreed. He sat motionless, staring out of the solar doors at the night sky, deep in thought about Hillary Jane.
“What’s up bro?” Terry asked, suspecting he knew the answer. “Spit it out.”
Norman sighed. “I just feel a little guilty, here I am having a great night with you and she is, for all intents and purposes, working this evening with a woman she despises.”
“She can handle it Norm, relax a bit will you.”
“Do you think I should call her?” Norman asked.
“No I don’t!” Terry blurted out, a little too sharply. “She’s a strong woman she’ll be fine.” He took a mouthful of whisky. “And besides, I’m sure she won’t be happy with you interrupting her business evening.”
Terry looked at his younger brother; he could see he hadn’t convinced him not to make the call.
“If I just make it a quick call,” Norman insisted. “It will put my mind at rest and then we can enjoy the rest of our night.”
“On your head be it then Norm; don’t say I didn’t warn you when she has a go at you for checking up on her.”
Norman ignored his brother’s advice. “I’ll just pop into the hall and call from there,” he said jumping up from his chair.
Terry raised his eyebrows but said nothing as he took to his glass again, wishing he hadn’t mentioned the damn woman’s name now.
Norman went to the far end of the hall for some privacy. He leant against the front door.
“Call Hillary Jane, audio,” he said nervously into his dat-com strap.
The screen displayed the word calling. Norman waited for her to answer staring at the solitary word on the strap’s screen. She didn’t answer and the call timed out.
Norman felt sick, his heart raced. Why hadn’t she taken his call? He felt a thousand times worse than he had a few minutes ago.
He returned to the lounge. Terry looked up as he entered. “That was a quick ca…” he stopped mid-sentence. Norman’s face said it all.