Somerset England, Wednesday August 13th 2262
Hillary Jane had slept very little during the night. She had retired to one of the guest bedrooms following a long shower, unwilling to clear up the mess in their bedroom at such a late hour. Lying in a darkened room in a different bed, she had kept going over the events of the evening in her head. How had she let something like this happen? She was furious with herself and felt bad that Norman had been subjected to what he had. A check of the port log showed that Norman had teleported back to Terry’s apartment. What would Terry be thinking? Could he be trusted to keep his mouth shut? She wasn’t sure; the two of them just tolerated each other for Norman’s sake usually. She suspected that he had about as much time for her as she did him. Hopefully he wouldn’t want to embarrass Norman by gossiping about the ghastly events; the consequences were unthinkable if it were to become public knowledge. Someone like Terry Bradleigh always had a price, she was sure of that, he wasn’t the wealthiest of people so it probably wouldn’t cost her too much to buy his silence.
She had decided it best to leave Norman alone for the night and contact him in the morning when he’d calmed down and had a good night’s sleep.
Hillary Jane had been up for twenty minutes and felt weary and drained of energy. This wouldn’t do; she had to keep her wits about her to achieve her main objective this morning - damage limitation. She poured herself a full glass of lemon flavoured Revivify and took to the table in the dining area of the kitchen in her black silk robe. She raised her glass and downed the entire contents; the cool effervescent fluid tasted great and was very refreshing.
The rush she had from the drink was far more powerful than she expected and came a lot quicker too. The recommended dose was half of what she had just taken. She gripped the table in front of her while her head swam and her heart fluttered; relieved she had taken a seat. Her body returned to normal after a couple of minutes and she felt on top form; the weariness due to her lack of sleep had diminished to nothing.
She glanced out into the courtyard through the French doors; it looked like it was going to be another hot and sunny day. The blue skies showed no evidence of any cloud cover once again. She closed her eyes briefly and sighed, raised her wrist slightly and commanded, “Call Norman, audio” into her dat-com strap. She didn’t want to see his face, and feel any unwanted emotions, so an audio call was ideal. After a minute the call timed out and she got his recorded message.
“Hello my darling, I’m so sorry I missed your call; unforgivable of me I know. I hope you realize that I will call you back the second I get your message. Sorry once again my sweet. Love you.”
“End call,” she said abruptly, staring at her strap. She was moved by his voice and surprised that he had set up a private message just for her; she hadn’t heard it before as he normally did the calling. She was also a little irritated that he hadn’t answered; it was past 08:00 hours and he was usually up by this time. She called again with the same result. Was he being off with her? Sulking over the unfortunate events of last night? She didn’t have time for this.
Over the next ten minutes she tried calling him another seven times. He didn’t answer and she didn’t want to leave a message. This was just ridiculous, what was he playing at? They needed to talk; surely he could see that. There was nothing for it, she would have to port over to Terry’s apartment and talk to him face-to-face.
Hillary Jane slipped upstairs, had a swift shower and put on her dark grey business suit. She descended the stairs and walked briskly down the hallway to the port room. She recited her location number and then the destination number, retrieved from her strap, into the panel on the teleporter; hopefully she wouldn’t have to wait too long for a free slot. The panel showed a message on it unauthorised port destination, teleportation denied.
“What!” She barked, annoyed at the hold up. She must have recited the number wrong. She started the procedure again and methodically read the two eleven digit numbers aloud. The same message appeared.
“Damn it!” she exclaimed angrily. Either Norman or Terry had obviously blocked her from teleporting to the apartment.
“How childish!” she screamed angrily at the teleporter, as if it were to blame. Norman was obviously intent on not speaking to her anytime soon. She stomped back into the hall and pulled the port door shut behind her so hard that she made herself flinch a little at the noise. She stormed down the hall and back to the kitchen; she was losing control over the situation, things felt like they were beginning to slip away from her grasp.
She stood at the dining table contemplating her next move. She didn’t have to be in New Downing Street for over an hour yet, for which she was thankful. There was a gentle tap on the solar glass of the French doors. She spun round to see the dishevelled grubby looking head gardener on the other side of the solar glass. He smiled politely. What the hell did he want? She thought, her face portraying exactly that to him. He stood back as she opened the door out into the courtyard.
“What is it? I’m busy right now” she snapped.
“I’m sorry to disturb you Ms Bartlett,” Bill started, “it’s just that your brother has stopped by to see you. He tried porting in but there was some problem or other, I..”
“What are you wittering on about, I don’t have a brother,” Hillary Jane scoffed. “Now get on with what I’m paying you to do will you, as I said I’m frightfully busy this morning.”
Bill looked a little puzzled. “He said he was your brother when I let him in the main gates.”
“I don’t have a brother, so you just go and tell whoever you have foolishly let in to go before I call the GPA.”
“I wouldn’t do that Hillary Jane if I were you,” a male voice advised her. Hector Humphreys stepped into view. He wore a creased brown suit that had seen better days, the shiny elbows and dog-eared dirty collar and cuffs went well with the white shirt that looked like he had slept in it. The clothes draped themselves limply over his emaciated frame.
“You!” Hillary Jane screamed. “Get out of here before I have you taken away for trespass!”
Hector smiled, as he brushed his shoulder length greasy brown hair from his face. “It was very kind of your gardener to let me in like he did.”
Hillary Jane flew out of the French doors at Bill, pushing him so hard that he toppled backwards and fell to the ground. He cried out in pain as he hit the back of his head hard on the red blocked paving.
“YOU IDIOT BILL!” she screamed. “YOU HAVE LET THE PRESS INTO THE GROUNDS.”
Bill tried to sit up, but, a little dazed and winded, he wasn’t able. He held his hand on the back of his head which rang out in pain. He felt the wetness and pulled his hand away; it was covered in blood.
“I’m… sorry,” he groaned.
“You will be,” she snarled. “You’re fired.” Get your disgusting old carcass off my grounds now or I will get the GPA to take you away too.”
Bill was shocked. All he could manage was a pitiful “oompf!”His eyes glistened as he tried to deal with the pain of his head wound and his job loss at the same time.
“MOVE!” she yelled. She nudged him sharply with the toe of her black heeled shoe in his ribs. He winced and attempted to get to his feet again. He couldn’t. He managed to get onto his hands and knees and started a long slow crawl across the courtyard. Hillary Jane watched him for a moment, arms folded across her chest, a little disgusted by the sight of the old man, he’d also sullied her red block paving with his blood. She turned to Hector who, having watched the whole scene, was a little alarmed at the way she had treated such an old man. He thought momentarily that he should go to Bill’s aid; but he had more important things to do right now though. A story was a story, and this one was going to be huge, career changing in fact.
“Get off my property or I will have security port in within seconds and have you physically removed and charged. One press of the many panic cells around the house and I will have a house full of officers.”
Hector smiled. “I don’t think you want to do that, I thought we would have a nice little chat about the events of last night.”
Alarm bells went off in Hillary Jane’s head. Her heart sank, but she hid her feelings well. What did this creep know? How did he know? Who had told him what?
“I don’t know what you mean,” she snapped, hoping he was just bluffing.
“Oh I think you do,” Hector sneered. “We both know what this is about… Of course, if you don’t want me to hear your side of things, I can leave. But rest assured this story is going to break. In the next couple of hours my story and name will be on everyone’s strap around the world.”
“Who has told you what then?” Hillary Jane scoffed, trying to make out that she wasn’t bothered; yet clinging to the fading hope this was all still a bluff. “You are not known for you honesty, I think you’re just a liar hoping to trick me into saying something to incriminate myself, you are just fishing for a story that doesn’t exist.”
Hector laughed. “Do you know how good it is to be stood here watching the mighty Hillary Jane Bartlett squirming in her posh suit in her swanky house?”
“Hector go away, you are getting nothing from me.” She glanced over to check what Bill was doing; she didn’t want him hearing anything Hector might have to say. He hadn’t got far and had stopped his crawl for a rest. Drops of blood spattered the blocks behind him here and there. Hillary Jane moved away from the house and took a few steps toward him. She put a hand up to her mouth to amplify her voice. “I SAID LEAVE!”
Startled at the sudden outburst Bill resumed his meandering course to the rusty iron gate that led to the gardens.
Hillary Jane turned back to Hector just in time to see him slip in through the French doors. “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE,” she screamed as she ran to the doors to follow him.
As she crossed the threshold the first thing she saw was the photogram of Norman projected onto the kitchen wall from Hector’s strap. The three dimensional scene was displayed behind the chair she had been sat at a few minutes earlier. Norman was lying on a bed, either asleep or unconscious and looked awful. The bed clothes had been pulled back to reveal him in just his boxer briefs. His body was in a terrible state. His torso was swollen and had started to bruise from where Simon had been punching him. He was covered in cuts and had blood smeared all over him. Hillary Jane’s jaw dropped.
Hector grinned. “I have a lovely one of the back of his head, the cut looks real nasty. Would you like to see it? I have others too.”
“I… I’ve seen enough,” Hillary Jane said coldly. Her poor Norman. How had she let this happen, she asked herself once again. “Where did you get this from?” Surely whoever had passed this on had to be the leak to the press.
“Someone I know at the ENH, a pretty young nurse who will do anything to earn an extra few V’s,” he lied. It wouldn’t do for him to let the truth be known about the real source. He changed the subject swiftly before she could question him further.
“This is going to be good stuff, people love a sex scandal. I’m still working on a strap-line though. How about, Politician’s lover batters fiancé after all night sex romp? Or Bartlett’s battle between her boys.” Hector laughed aloud, revelling in Hillary Jane’s misery. “Knickers off, it’s man two!” He exploded into uncontrollable laughter.
Hillary Jane wasn’t amused, her brain was working overtime.
Hector composed himself. “My favourite has got to be War assembly leader’s war with fiancé and her lover. Sort of covers it all, don’t you think? Though perhaps a bit of a mouthful; if you’ll excuse my pun.”
Hillary Jane wished the floor would open up and swallow her, or better still Hector Humphreys.
“Are you ready to talk now,” Hector sneered.
Hillary Jane needed time to think about how she was going to get out of this mess; she couldn’t see a way right now. “I have things to do before I can deal with this,” she said trying to sound confident.
“I’m not going away,” Hector pointed out. “This will go public today with or without your version of the sordid affair.”
“Give me two hours,” Hillary Jane insisted, “and then I promise you an interview… an exclusive interview.”
“A promise from a politician doesn’t mean much to me.” Hector scoffed, raising his eyebrows. “But then again I can’t lose if you back out; I already have the story.”
“Exactly,” Hillary Jane agreed coldly. “I have nothing to gain by backing out of an interview. I will call you when I am ready in two hours… Now get out of my house.
“See you soon then.” Hector grinned and made for the doors. Hillary Jane followed him. He stepped out onto the court yard and turned to face her again. He blew her a kiss and winked before he turned on his heels and wandered across the sun soaked courtyard whistling.