Kent and Malcolm both wore black dinner jackets that evening. An old habit from an age where just about any occasion warranted their use. From Christmas dinners to late night television quiz panel shows.
Why else would you have one? For that ‘one’ prom night or wedding?
Malcolm thought on the subject as he played with the fine silver cutlery on the table whilst waiting somewhat anxiously for their meal. He hadn’t eaten anything since he left London this morning so it was probably safe to assume he was positively starving. Why on earth Kent chose this fancy restaurant where it took ages for your food to arrive he didn’t really know, although he could probably guess it was because of the American’s love for excess and showing off. But really, when it came to food, it was all the same for the Brit. In fact, if it were up to him they’d be snacking in the burger joint a few blocks from here. The thought made Malcolm grin at his own impoliteness. And also made him realise why he was the one of the two that, evidently, had gained the most weight.
“So, how do you like the Manta Ray Lounge?” Kent asked his friend while casually swirling his glass of expensive claret wine as if it was the most natural thing to do.
“It’s a restaurant.” Malcolm observed with indifference causing the American to chuckle warmly.
“It is the newest most expensive place on the entire island you know...”
Callaghan turned back to look at the jazz band performing live on stage.
“With the best live music available.”
The Brit didn’t exactly know how to respond to that other than with a dismissive ‘golly, that’s great I guess’ so instead he elected to pout with downturned lips and raise his eyebrows.
But before Kent could mansplain to Malcolm why he needed to understand what exactly made this joint the best club in the history of ever, dinner arrived:
Lamb marinated in red wine vinegar with autumnal greens for Kent and filet mignon in sauce béarnaise for Malcolm.
After dinner, Malcolm Wakefield was in a much more agreeable mood, not to mention that the wine certainly helped. Finally, after what had been quite a rush of a day he felt like he could relax for a moment.
As he loosened up his white collar somewhat Kent leaned in to drop the last serving of wine into his glass.
“So, how’s England been?”
“Compared to the rest of Europe. Surprisingly well. The United Kingdom hasn’t really had any problems apart from the universal ones…”
“Gas-prices, energy crises, civil unrest in Northern Ireland… Still. It’s not France.”
“I heard about that, pretty darn stupid.”
“Well they shouldn’t have put so much stock on Iranian oil. No, no. Luckily His Majesties government has kept a horse in every race so to speak-thank you for the wine by the way.”
The American smiled when he realized that was it and placed the empty bottle back on the table.
“Apart from the wars and turmoil… It’s been quiet. I started writing my book… Bought a vacation home in Somerset and, yeah… Been carrying on my work at the university.”
Malcolm finished somewhat nonchalantly. He uncrossed his arms and grasped at his wine glass. But before he put the brim to his lips he reversed the question towards his American friend.
“And the States? What’s been happening in… the land of the free?”
Kent chuckled, because of the slight facetious undertone Wakefield gave at the end of that sentence.
“Nevada’s been very dry…”
That on-the-nose remark almost made wine come out of Malcolm’s own nose.
“Haha, yeah. I can imagine that. What else is new?”
“It’s been interesting; Working at RobCo Industries. Robert House is a very interesting and respectable person, he’s got some affinity for being theatrical though.”
“He’s been on the news in Britain a lot recently. Loves to be the center of attention doesn’t he?”
Kent nodded wholeheartedly, that might even be a bit of an understatement.
“Oh, yeah! He most definitely does!”
“Speaking of Mr. House. You might even meet him in the coming days. He’ll be in New York for a few days to oversee the construction of his newest invention at the RobCo Pavilion.”
“interesting.” Malcolm said with downplayed enthusiasm. The man was for lack of a better word ‘a genius’ and his ideas on robotics are surely admired by people in the field.
Dr. Malcolm Wakefield lectured physics at Cambridge with a bend towards engineering so it certainly interested him.
“Yeah, working at RobCo’s been swell. Me and the other fellers at Engineering are allowed to tinker and play with the latest and greatest.”
“I Bet it’s quite lucrative as well, seeing as you’re able to pay for all of this I mean.”
Kent despite his love for the expensive and lavish didn’t like discussing money or earnings so he quickly derailed the topic.
“Oh well. Does it matter?”
Malcolm shrugged and just finished his glass of wine.
“So, am I allowed to ask about the latest and greatest?”
The American simply grinned in response.
“Up to a point. Sure”
The conversation was cut short however when a representative of the Lounge walked up to their table and excused himself.
“Excuse me, Mister Callaghan?” He looked at both gentlemen until Kent made clear he was whom the waiter was looking for.
“There is a phone call for you, sir.”
The American looked at his British friend with an apologizing look on his face.
“Sorry, pal. It’s most likely ‘world fair’ business. See, we have to remain available 24/7 in case it’s something urgent.”
Kent didn’t need to say anything more, Malcolm nodded that he understood.
“Don’t worry. I won’t be long.”
After that small assurance Kent left with the waiter.
Malcolm simply watched them navigate through the other tables where other diners were seated in evening wear until they disappeared in the back. Most of the diners talked over expensive dinners or watched the live band play. The soft droning of people chatting with the occasional Hi-tone notes from the band reaching above the noise became much more apparent to him now that he was simply an observer with no one to talk to. And as an observer one woman in particular stood out to Malcolm. She was playing with her pearl necklace, clearly not in even slightly interested in the rich bullfrog of a man she was with, hiding her feelings under heaps of make-up.
His gaze went all across the room while he waited for his friend to return.
The jazz band players’ foreheads gleamed in sweat because of the large stage spotlights that were all fixed on them; the poor chaps probably wanted a break.
But then Malcolm noticed two fellows sitting close to the front of the stage but they had their chairs set in such a way that would’ve made it impossible to adequately watch the show.
Why sit so close to the stage if you’re not interested? The good doctor wondered until something else struck him as off about the duo: They weren’t wearing dinner jackets. Malcolm didn’t really have an eye for fashion but it certainly stood out to him in a posh place where almost every man wore one. It was as if they had spontaneously walked in here without any motivation or booking. And both of them were just looking at the menu card still, not even talking to each other. Then one of them lowered the card and lit a cigarette. While the man did that Malcolm noticed only barely that he had a scar across his right cheek.
“I’m back! So sorry for leaving you here.” Kent apologized as he sat down again.
Malcolm snapped out of his gawking mode.
“Erm, It was nothing. You weren’t gone for that long.”
“The Fellers at the lab wanted to ask me something is all.”
“I understand, don’t worry. You don’t need to keep apologizing.” Malcolm laughed, somewhat charmed by the politeness of his otherwise pretty direct and on occasion rude friend.
Although seeing Kent again was nice he couldn’t help but look back at the table with the strange duo, but to his surprise both men were gone. The menu cards placed neatly back as if no one had ever sat there. Malcolm quickly turned his head to look for a logical explanation for this strange disappearing act and saw the two men at the entrance collecting their coats. He could’ve sworn that the man with the scar had just turned back from looking at him but Malcolm was too late in catching him in the act.
“Malcolm? Pal? Something wrong?” Kent asked a bit confused.
The Brit quickly turned back to his friend who looked at him with a quizzitive look on his face.
“I could’ve sworn I was being watched.”
“By a woman?” Callaghan snorted with joking disbelief.
Malcolm however remained serious.
“No, by two men…”
“Alright. Where?” Kent asked, ready to humor Malcolm’s paranoia.
“They... just left.”
“Well, then they’re not watching you ‘any longer’ are they? Come on! Let’s get another bottle of wine, I’ll pay.” The American laughed off, seeing absolutely no cause for alarm.
Malcolm simply shrugged.
At this point the initial instinct of alertness started to wade off and started being replaced with the possible rationale behind the act. Things didn’t add up. Why would he be watched? And by whom? Dr. Wakefield started to doubt if he was being watched at all. Maybe he was really just imagining things. They could’ve just realized they were underdressed for the club or just had to leave… There were a million other possibilities. Eventually, Malcolm decided that he wasn’t going to have his evening dictated by a small niggle of doubt and agreed with Kent on ordering another bottle.
He was paying after all.