Somerset England, Wednesday August 13th 2262
Norman arrived home, his heart pounding in his chest, not knowing what to expect or how this was going to pan out. If she was home and in bed she would be livid that he had come home to ‘check up on her’ as Terry had put it. Perhaps just a quiet tip-toe into the bedroom, so as not to wake her, and then a hasty retreat when he was satisfied she was alive and well. She would never know he had been home; unless she checked the teleporter logs - then there would be trouble. But what if she wasn’t here? Where would he start looking? She was going to New York for the evening, but where? He would have to check her teleporters logs to work out exactly where she had gone earlier. He had that same uncomfortable feeling again that something was terribly wrong as he opened up the port room door and stepped gingerly into the main hall. House sensors detected his presence and illuminated the wall and ceiling lights.
Most of the doors off of the hall were closed; as they normally were. The lounge door however was open. This was most unusual, they both liked to keep internal doors closed when they left a room. His stomach did summersaults as he approached the dark doorway. Would he find her collapsed on the floor in a pool of blood; murdered by intruders? Closing his eyes he stepped into the lounge; the lighting came on. After a couple of deep breaths he opened them. The lounge appeared to be as it should at first glance; there wasn’t a bloody corpse to be found anywhere. He noticed that the drinks cabinet was open. Why would she have left that open? Again, most irregular. After closing the doors he returned to the hall, pulling the lounge door shut behind him. The only other room she may still be in downstairs at this hour was the kitchen. He proceeded quietly yet swiftly along the hall and opened the kitchen door; a quick glance didn’t reveal anything suspicious so he closed it again. He considered checking all the remaining rooms downstairs but decided against it. If he didn’t find her in their bedroom he would then conduct a more thorough search of the house. He stood outside the kitchen for a moment, bracing himself for the short trip up the main staircase. There was something peculiar about the front door. What was it? He was within touching distance of it before he realised what it was. The bulky chrome bolts top and bottom were not shot home; the door had been opened this evening. A quick glance at the mortice lock revealed that the door was also unlocked. Norman leant against the back of the door in a panic; feeling giddy and sick. What had happened here this evening? A door that he couldn’t remember either of them using in god knows how long had been opened tonight. Had Hillary Jane been tricked into opening the front door and then been overpowered by a gang of thugs? Perhaps now she was bound and gagged in a bedroom upstairs waiting for him to rescue her. His heart raced while he tried to work out what to do. Was this gang still here ransacking the house? He tried to quieten his breathing and listened for any giveaway noise from upstairs. His thudding heart was all he could hear but then: THUD… CRASH. My god what was that? It sounded like a piece of furniture had been shunted over the floorboards… and then breaking glass - the intruders were still here.
His hands trembled as he picked up an old gnarled blackthorn walking-stick from the hat and coat stand by the door and headed tentatively for the stairs. At the foot of them he noticed the silver-papered gift box that Hillary Jane was supposed to give to Tamarah Stein this evening. She hadn’t even made it out of the house he surmised. He’d had a wonderful evening with Terry and here she was… dead for all he knew.
Norman continued up the staircase wincing as several of the old treads creaked underfoot, he usually considered this quaint; now though they threatened to announce his approach and lose him the element of surprise. One of her favourite red-heeled shoes was lying in the middle of the fifth tread from the top. He held his chest and tried not to bring up his evening’s food and drink. His mind went into overdrive. She must have been coming down the stairs to leave for her evening in New York when she was surprised by a knock at the front door; who wouldn’t be? It wasn’t something that happened on a regular basis. She undoubtedly opened the door and then had been confronted by the intruders. She then ran and took to the staircase, perhaps to hide upstairs somewhere. The intruders followed and a struggle ensued on the stairs which resulted in her losing a shoe and dropping Tamarah’s gift; which had tumbled down to the bottom step. His thoughts were interrupted by a muffled, yet unmistakable, moan of hers. As relieved as he was to hear a sound from her; to know she was still alive, he was horrified by the thought of what they were doing to her. Was she being tortured for information on the whereabouts of her jewellery? Why hadn’t he taken her concerns more seriously? Only last week she had insisted that the old oak near the boundary wall had all its overhanging limbs cut off. She had foreseen something like this happening; he had passed it off as her awkwardness or paranoia. He would never forgive himself for what had happened to her tonight.
Norman fought back his tears and continued up the stairs. She needed him to be strong, not weak and pathetic. He gripped the walking stick hard between his clammy hands and clenched his teeth as he reached the landing, there was her other shoe; lying abandoned on the carpet. He stood and listened for a few seconds to try and work out where she was being held captive. There was a grunt that came from their bedroom. This time it wasn’t from her; it was a man. He crept up to the door, took one of his trembling hands off the walking stick and put it on the door knob. Her whimpering could easily be heard now. Norman took a deep breath, thrust open the door and charged into the bedroom.