Central's identity remains a mystery as Clarissa embarks on her new jet-set lifestyle
Emirates Business Class was bigger than I had imagined, as well as more seats than I expected, but it didn't mean we were packed in like sardines.
There were many rows of seats spaciously apart from each other; with one seat next to the window then two seats in the middle then another seat next to the other window. All of the seats were in these sorts of alcoves, so you didn't have to talk to the person sitting beside you if you didn't want. Then on the back of the seats were these TV screens with a wide variety of channels so you could choose what you wanted to watch.
The colour scheme of the cabin was modern, with grey carpet, a white ceiling and grey and white colour scheme for the seats. However, the window seats enjoyed polished wood around the windows and on the walls of the plane. There were even grey blankets in plastic bags sitting on the seats which could stretch out into beds along with white pillows for us to use.
"Good morning," a male Flight Attendant approached me, no doubt after hearing my outburst. "What seat are you looking for?"
"Um, 12A?" I had to check my boarding pass again.
"This way, please," he waved his arm then escorted me to my assigned location.
Within a moment I was standing beside my seat but I didn't automatically sit down. Well, I couldn't because there were things in the way. There was an amenities pack, sitting on top of a grey blanket in a sealed plastic bag and a white pillow sitting on top of all of these things.
"Would you like me to put your handbag in the overhead locker above you?" he offered.
"Um," I held onto it tightly, unsure. "But what if someone takes it?"
"It's one overhead locker per person, ma'am, so you won't be sharing it with anyone."
"Really?" my eyebrows rose. "Well, alright then."
He took my handbag and stowed it in the overhead locker above then I also handed him the pillow and blanket to put up there as well.
"Please take your seat and make yourself comfortable," the male Flight Attendant gave a smile before walking off to assist somebody else.
I picked up the amenities kit then I sat down in my seat and opened it to see what was inside. The bag it came in was quite stylish and I 'oohed' and 'aahed' over the contents. There was Bvlgari perfume, Bvlgari facial moisturiser, Bvlgari hand cream, a small tube of Colgate toothpaste, a toothbrush, a fold-up hairbrush, refreshing towelette, pocket tissues and a compact mirror. I thought Kerry would love these and I stood up again to put them in my handbag, in the overhead locker.
When I returned to my seat which was right next to the window, I examined my little alcove. There were different kinds of power points to plug in a laptop or iPad or whatever, as well as a tiny shelf holding drinks, such as a bottle of water, a can of soft drink and even an orange juice. There was also a small reading light in the wall of the alcove so you could read without disturbing anyone when the cabin gets dark. I found some earphones and I took them out of their plastic covering and put them on before picking up the remote control. I turned on the entertainment system on the screen in front of me and started perusing through the movies and TV shows on offer.
"Excuse me, would you like a beverage before take-off?" a female Flight Attendant offered, carrying a tray of drinks which included champagne, orange juice or water.
"Yes please!" I beamed and took a glass of champagne.
"Enjoy," she smiled before moving on to serve someone else.
Then I noticed a pamphlet of some kind sitting on the small wooden side table and I picked it up. It was a menu, displaying the different kinds of dishes you could choose. I saw that they'd be serving breakfast and lunch during the journey to Dubai. Then there was a two hour stopover before completing the trip to London, on another plane.
It didn't seem long that boarding had finished and the plane started to taxi towards the runway. I put on my seatbelt then stared out the window, taking everything in. I even took off my earphones so I could hear the roar of the engines when we took off.
The large A380 plane rose into the air and the inertia pressed us backwards into our seats. I loved the rush of taking off and landing, it gave me such a buzz. I saw Sydney disappear via my window and silently I said goodbye. I had a feeling it would be a while until I saw that sight again. Then I put my headphones on and returned my attention to the entertainment system.
I noticed a couple of people walk past my seat, down the aisle towards the rear of the cabin. At first I thought they were all using the bathrooms. But it wasn't until a female Flight Attendant who came to take my breakfast and lunch orders, filled me in what was happening.
"Yeah, can I please have the feta and spinach omelette for breakfast and for lunch I'll start with the pumpkin soup, then the grilled beef fillet with bèarnaise sauce and for dessert I'll have the chocolate and orange panna cotta." I ordered.
Just then the Flight Attendant moved aside so another passenger could walk past her, which made me crane my neck to see where he was going.
"Why is everyone heading to the rear of the cabin?" I asked.
"They're heading to the bar," she answered. "You might like to order a drink from there."
"But don't I get my drinks from you?" I asked, confused.
"Yes you can, but you would be served more quickly at the bar," she reasoned.
"Oh," my eyebrows rose. "OK."
"Would you like a drink with your breakfast and lunch?" she offered.
"Yes please, I'll have champagne with both."
"Very good Ms Downing," she gave a parting smile then moved onto the next passenger.
I took off my seat belt then I too walked towards the back of the cabin. There I saw a small bar with a Flight Attendant playing the bartender, serving people. Once they got their drinks, the passengers moved away. They either sat on the couches along the wall of the plane or stood and chatted.
I lined up behind a couple and waited as the bartender made their cocktails. When they moved away, I took their place. I still hadn't decided what to have though. But I felt like something savoury so this made my decision.
"Hi, what can I get for you?" he asked.
"Can I please have a Bloody Mary?"
"Sure," he gave a ready grin and proceeded to make my drink.
A Bloody Mary is mostly healthy, I reasoned, consisting mainly of tomato juice.
When he placed it on the bar, he put in the finishing touch which was a stick of celery.
"Cool, thanks!" I gushed.
"You're welcome," he grinned again.
Pleased with my drink - it's so hard to get an authentic Bloody Mary with the stick of celery - I moved away. At first I lingered in the bar area but I didn't know anyone so there was no-one to talk to. So I returned to my seat and put my drink on the side table before sitting down.
Then I had an idea...so I stood up again, opened the overhead locker and reached into my handbag for my phone. I remained standing as I took a picture of my seat in its alcove then I took a picture of my drink next to my window. Next, I sat down again and went onto Facebook and I posted those two pictures along with the status, 'Flying Business Class on Emirates is awesome!'
Then I rested my phone on the side panel, put the headphones on again and chose a movie to watch on the entertainment system.
When it was time to eat, a Flight Attendant came to set my tray table. She pulled the tray table out from underneath the wooden side table and set it for me, with a small white table cloth, cutlery and a serviette. Then another Flight Attendant came after her carrying my food which he placed on my nicely laid out table. I watched him leave then the female Flight Attendant returned with my glass of champagne.
"Thank you," I smiled appreciatively.
The feta and spinach omelette was delicious, particularly with the chicken sausages, gratinated potatoes and confit cherry tomatoes that came with it. I paused every couple of mouthfuls to take a sip of champagne. I was so ravenous that the food was soon eaten and I swallowed the last mouthful of champagne.
Soon, the female Flight Attendant came to take away my finished plate and glass then the male Attendant took away the linen and put away my tray table for me.
"Would you like anything else, such as a coffee or tea?" he offered.
"Um, could I please have another Bloody Mary?" I requested.
"Very good," he bowed his head before moving off.
I returned to my movie which I'd paused and it wasn't long until I had another cocktail to sip while I enjoyed the entertainment.
After the movie finished, I felt like stretching my legs. So I picked up my phone and took it with me as I headed for the bar. There were less people there now so it wasn't as long a wait to order something this time.
"I'll have a Classic Martini, please." I told the bartender.
"Certainly!" he gave an enthusiastic reply and prepared my drink.
It was fun to watch him make the beverage and when he'd finished, he put in the final touch which was an olive.
"Thank you," I beamed before turning around to carry my drink away.
I sat on a couch and put my pin into my phone when saw I had several comments on Facebook as well as one text message from Central.
I read the text message first: I HAVE BOOKED ANOTHER CAR THROUGH EMIRATES TO DRIVE YOU TO YOUR HOTEL WHEN YOU ARRIVE IN LONDON.
Of course! I'd need a hand getting my heavy suitcase from the airport to my hotel. This Central character thinks of everything. I was really starting to appreciate having this guardian angel looking after me. I wondered if Central was male or female, for some reason I assumed male.
THANK YOU - I sent back.
Then I went on Facebook and I saw heaps of 'likes', comments and even a few messages from my friends and family.
There were over twenty 'likes' on both statuses I'd posted, one announcing my flight to London and the other of my pictures of Business Class. I 'liked' back peoples comments on the statuses, wishing me bon voyage and a safe trip. Pat and Kerry also replied to the statuses with the same sentiments.
Then I answered my messages. One was from Mum, hoping I'd be safe and to keep in touch. The other was from my brother, "Since when were you planning to go overseas and why didn't you tell me?" Messages from my other two best friends Daniela and Nicola were of a similar vein, asking me why I hadn't told them.
I felt guilty...in all the commotion I'd completely forgotten about them. So I replied to their messages telling them to read my next status and they'd find out. I thought I'd better make a public announcement.
I posted; 'On Monday afternoon when I came home from work, there were two men who'd broken in. I called the police but the two men ran away, leaving my place trashed. Pat and Kerry were kind enough to let me stay with them for two nights, as home wasn't safe anymore. I came into some money which is another long story and I decided to go travelling because the attack wasn't random. The police think it's because I support Rights for Drones.'
Then I rested my phone in my lap and concentrated on my drink, stirring it with my olive.
Just then a large, middle-aged man in a suit came and sat beside me on the couch, nursing a drink of his own.
"Hi," he greeted. "Enjoying the flight so far?"
"Yes," I answered, as I slid away from him a little to maintain my personal space.
"I didn't like breakfast much, I've had better pancakes," he griped.
"The feta and spinach omelette was delicious."
"I should have ordered that," he said. "Where are you heading to?"
"I'm heading to Zurich," he volunteered. "Are you on business or holiday?"
"Business, myself," he sighed. "Have you been to London before?"
"You're gonna love it, especially if you're into history and art."
"I am interested in history, actually," I confessed. "I'm going to try to see some castles."
"Well that's what England has a lot of," he laughed.
Then there was an awkward moment of silence because to be honest, I'm a bit shy when it comes to talking to strangers. Working in a call centre was different though, because we didn't talk face-to-face. But right now, I wished this man would leave me alone.
"Are you married?" he asked next.
"I'm divorced, myself."
"I've never married."
"Lucky you," he chinked his glass against mine. "I'm Frank, by the way."
"Your name's CD?" he looked on peculiarly.
"Well I suppose that's better than being named DVD," he laughed at his own joke.
Yeah, like I hadn't heard that one before, I thought as I rolled my eyes.
Hastily, I downed my drink, ate the olive and stood up.
"I'm off to get another drink."
"OK then, enjoy them while they're free!" he toasted my departure.
I approached the bar where the bartender, who must have been watching, passed me a sympathetic smile.
"Another martini please," I requested.
"Sure thing," he instantly started making it.
This time when he handed me the drink, I didn't linger in the bar area, I headed back to my seat.
I watched another two movies and had several more drinks by the time lunch was served.
Just like what happened with breakfast, my tray table was set then the food and champagne was brought out. Only this time they brought out more food. In addition to the three courses, there was an accompanying salad and bread roll, complete with a tiny bowl containing some butter.
"Oooh, yum!" I gave a little squeal of delight.
I broke open the bread roll and buttered it then I ate it with my appetiser which was the pumpkin soup. I picked at the salad as I ate my main course. The grilled beef fillet with bèarnaise sauce, potato and celeriac gratin, roasted carrots and steamed green beans was delightful. I was feeling full by this stage, but I still managed to eat dessert. The chocolate and orange panna cotta served with raspberry compote was heavenly.
All the food I'd eaten soaked up all the alcohol I'd consumed so when they came to take away the plates, cutlery, linen and they offered me another beverage, I requested a cappuccino. I decided I wouldn't drink anything else alcoholic on this flight. I didn't want to disembark the plane, drunk.
But I was in for a nice surprise, when the Attendant brought me my cappuccino, it came with some expensive chocolates.
"Wow, thanks!" I gushed.
"My pleasure," she smiled, before moving on.
I swear, if a man ever brought me a coffee he'd made along with these chocolates, I'd fall head over heels.
After lunch, when I'd finished my coffee and chocolates and another attendant had taken them away, I put my seat in a reclining position and settled back to watch a TV show. I was feeling a little sleepy and I think we still had a couple of hours to go, so I decided to doze. But I didn't want the seat to go into the flat position, as I didn't want to fall into a deep sleep.
I yawned a couple of times and eventually my eyes closed by themselves and the next thing I knew, I was sound asleep.
"Ms Downing? Ms Downing, you need to wake up now."
"Hmm?" I was jolted awake to see a Flight Attendant leaning over.
"The plane's about to land and you need to put your seat in an upright position and your seatbelt on again," she advised.
"We're there already?" I blinked, before looking out the window.
"Yes, we are," she answered.
I used the seat control to move it into an upright position then I put on my seatbelt which placated her and she moved on to speak to some other passengers.
True to her word, I felt the plane go into a decline and I watched our descent through the window.
We soon touched down and the plane taxied into an available gate where the Business Class passengers disembarked.
Sleepily, I wandered off the plane, clutching my Gucci handbag tightly.
To be honest, I didn't know what to do with myself. I rifled inside my handbag for my second boarding pass so I'd know which gate to board for the second half of my journey. I looked on the gate number, memorised it along with the flight number then wandered off through the concourse.
I found a shop which was part newsagency and part bookstore and I thought I might buy a book to read. So I perused the shelves, picking up the odd book here and there, read the blurbs and if one looked interesting, I opened the first page to read a little of it. I ended up buying a Dean Koontz novel, as I'd read some of his work long ago. Then I left the store and wandered the concourse again.
It wasn't long until I spotted another Emirates Lounge entrance so I thought; what the hell, I paid for it, so I might as well enjoy it. I went in, showed the hostess my boarding pass and was permitted entry. I wandered inside and was amazed at how large this Lounge was.
There was seating as if you were in a restaurant, as well as comfortable chairs and couches and numerous buffets offering different kinds of food. There was a TV room, a spa, a section offering showers and even a place to lie down. I looked on the food on offer, in particular the sandwiches, but I decided not to eat. I was more tired than hungry.
Instead, I went to the hot drinks section and made a latte with a double shot of espresso. That should wake me up. To combat the bitterness, I put in two sugars before wandering away with my drink. I decided to sit in one of the arm chairs with a table close to it and there I sat comfortably, reading my book and sipping my coffee.
However, I wasn't there an hour before I heard my flight number called out.
Tiredly, I heaved myself to my feet then I put my novel inside my large handbag. Next, I walked through the lounge and headed to my gate. I was looking forward to another comfortable, reclining seat in Business Class and another cocktail.
To my delight, I discovered I had a window seat again. I put my handbag in the overhead locker, as well as the blanket and pillow which were resting on the seat. Only, there wasn't another amenities bag this time. Oh well, I'll still send the one I got to Kerry and if I get anymore on my other journeys, I'll post them to Daniela and Nicola.
Then I sat in my seat, did up my seatbelt and accepted another pre-takeoff drink of champagne from one of the staff.
I rested my drink on the side table and picked up the menu to see what was on offer on this flight. To my surprise, they offered a lunch and afternoon tea but they didn't offer dinner. Oh, OK then, so I made a mental note what I'd order before I put down the menu.
Next, I spotted another set of headphones in a sealed plastic bag again, which I tore open and put on. Then I turned on the entertainment system and perused the numerous movies, shows and computer games on offer. I found the TV show which I'd been watching on my last flight and picked that to watch.
After lift-off, a Flight Attendant came around to take our orders for our meals. Once I ordered, I got up and went to get myself another drink from the bar. This time I had to drink a Classic Champagne cocktail which was made with champagne (of course), Hennessy XO (which I had no idea what that was), Angostura Bitters and came with a slice of orange and a cherry. Once my drink had been made I returned to my seat and resumed my program.
Within the next two hours, the Flight Attendants served our meals. Again, they set up my tray table with a white linen table cloth, serviette and cutlery before bringing out the food. I'd ordered more champagne to be served with the meals and the whole thing was wonderful.
I started with the creamy mushroom soup which I ate with the complimentary bread roll. Then I ate the salad before they brought out my main. I ate the braised lamb shank with borlotti beans which came with buttered carrots, green beans and mashed potatoes with chives. For dessert I indulged in a chocolate mousse cake, filled with mango compote and served with poached cherries.
After I'd eaten I felt so full, like a stuffed turkey on Christmas day, which made me drowsy.
As soon as they cleared my tray table and I folded it away, I reclined my seat and prepared to nap.
"Would you like me to show you how to put your seat in the flat position?" a passing Attendant offered.
"No thanks, I'm fine," I smiled at his attentiveness.
Then I replaced my earphones over my ears, stared at the screen and slowly but eventually, dozed off.
"Hmm?" I opened my eyes to see another Flight Attendant leaning over. "Are we landing?"
"No, it's time for your afternoon tea," she smiled. "We'll be landing in a little over two hours."
Then she pulled out my tray table and set it for me. This time I didn't get any cutlery, but I still got a serviette. Next, the cocktail sandwiches were placed in front of me and I examined them to see what they were. There was smoked salmon, smoked turkey, Red Leicester, and roast beef. They arrived with my glass of champagne and I silently toasted to my good fortune at being able to afford all of this.
After I'd eaten and my tray table was put away, I kept myself awake by ordering a cappuccino and another after it. I'd been travelling for over twenty hours and I think I got something like four hours sleep. I couldn't wait to arrive at my hotel, have a shower and then go to bed for a proper rest.
When the Captain announced our descent into London, I had to suppress another squeal of excitement.
I'm here! I'm here! I made it! I made it! Watch out castles, here I come!
The flight landed at 2020 hours at Heathrow Airport. I walked through the large airport with my handbag slung over my shoulder, following the signs for baggage claim. Then I had to go through Customs by showing my passport and answering their questions. I think the fact that I didn't have a return ticket irked them.
"Are you here on business or pleasure?" the lady checked.
"Pleasure," I answered.
"And how long do you plan on staying in the UK?" she queried.
"Not long, maybe a week or so," I answered as truthfully as possible. "Then I'll fly somewhere else, maybe Europe."
She handed my passport back to me and watched me wheel my Louis Vuitton suitcase away before calling on the next person in line.
I went to the Emirates Chauffer Service inside the airport and waited for my car to arrive.
"Hi, Clarissa Downing, ready to be driven to a warm hotel," I greeted the receptionist.
"Yes, Ms Downing," he typed something into his computer.
I didn’t have to wait long, maybe ten minutes until a vehicle was available. An employee wheeled my suitcase out to the black Mercedes and put it into the boot for the driver. The driver opened the back door for me and I jumped into the vehicle without further ado, to get out of the cold.
When the driver climbed into the driver's seat, he checked, "I'm taking you to the Metropolitan Hotel, is that right?"
"That's right, thanks." I said.
"Very good, ma'am," he started the car.
On our drive into London, he turned up the heating for me which I appreciated.
"Thank you," I acknowledged.
"You're welcome," he replied. "You look like you've come from a climate warmer than here."
"Yeah, I just flew in from Sydney."
"I expect it's much warmer there at the moment," he flashed a smile via his rear view mirror.
"Well, last week we had a forty-five degree Celsius day," I told him. "Going outside was like walking inside an oven."
"Now that IS hot!" he chuckled.
I sat back and stared out the window as the vehicle entered the outskirts of London and then drove into the city itself. It was night time so I couldn't see much, but I spotted a black cab which made me smile. I looked at the people walking around and the lit up signs and other city lights.
"Here we are, ma'am, the Metropolitan Hotel," the driver announced.
He parked the car right outside the front entrance, climbed out and opened my door next. As I climbed out, he went to the rear of the vehicle and opened the boot. I watched from the pavement as he hauled out my heavy suitcase and wheeled it over to me.
"Enjoy your time in London," he said as his farewell.
"Thank you very much," I smiled back. "Drive safely."
I headed inside the lobby as he drove off and I approached the front desk.
The hotel's lobby was ultra modern and it certainly felt like an expensive place to stay.
"Hi," I greeted. "Reservation for Clarissa Downing?"
"Ah, yes," the man tapped on his keyboard to bring up his bookings. "Welcome to the Metropolitan Hotel, Ms Downing. We have you staying here for seven days, is that correct?"
"That's right," I nodded.
"Can I please see your passport?"
I pulled it out of my handbag and handed it to him. He took it, checked it against some information on his screen then he handed it back. I waited as he typed a few new commands into his computer before he looked back my way.
"We have you in the Metropolitan Park Room which has excellent views of Hyde Park across the road," he announced. "Here is your room key card and Room Service will be available 24 hours a day."
This made me check my watch and I saw it was 09.53 PM.
"That's alright, I don't think I want to eat anymore," I told him. "I just want to crash."
"Very good, Ms Downing," he said. "I hope you enjoy your stay with us."
I wheeled my suitcase towards the elevators, hit the button and checked my room key card to see what level my room was on, let alone my room number.
Once I was on my floor, I wheeled my suitcase a short distance to my door where I used my room card in the device to open my door.
I tell you what, seeing a king-sized bed after nearly twenty-four hours of travelling, never looked so good.
I heaved my heavy suitcase up onto the suitcase stand beside the desk whereupon I unlocked it and opened it up. Then I walked over to the window to draw the curtains closed, for privacy. Next, I sat on the end of the bed and pulled off my boots before standing up to completely undress.
After I did so, I realized I didn't have a laundry bag to put my dirty clothes in. Come to think of it, I didn't see any other pairs of socks to put on tomorrow, I was wearing my only pair. All my other socks were back in Sydney.
"Son of a bitch!" I groaned.
It looks like my order of business tomorrow was to do more shopping.
I returned to the task of taking off my clothes and I put the dirty ones I'd worn in a little pile on the floor, underneath the desk.
Then I carried my toiletries bag into the ensuite and instead of using the hotel's complimentary soap, shampoo and conditioner; I used mine that I'd bought from Lush.
The hot shower felt so good, I remained under the water for a while. Then I dried myself with the extra thick towels that came with the hotel room before I put on a pair of panties and a satin and lace chemise to sleep in. I was about to walk out of the bathroom when I remembered I hadn't cleaned my teeth yet.
When I did make it back to the bedroom, I pulled down the bedcovers and climbed into bed. Then I turned off the lamp on the bedside table and rolled over. I was so tired that as soon as I was lying down, I started to fall asleep. I stretched out under the covers and within moments I was in dreamland.
The next morning when I woke up, I picked up my phone to check the time and saw it was 10.04 AM. Wow, I did sleep in. I put it down to catching up on the little sleep I had as well as jetlag.
Next, I noticed I had two new messages from Central which I thought I should check.
CLARISSA YOU NEED TO BE CAREFUL WHEN POSTING UPDATES ON FACEBOOK. I DETECTED UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS TO YOUR ACCOUNT WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING. YOUR ENEMIES NOW KNOW THAT YOU ARE IN LONDON.
What the fuck...?! My Facebook account has been hacked? Not again! Worse still, my attackers now know where I am. Hang on, I haven't posted which hotel I'm staying in, so that's one good thing.
IN FUTURE WHEN YOU USE FACEBOOK DO NOT TAG YOURSELF AT ANY LOCATION OR WITH ANY PEOPLE. IF YOU WANT TO POST PHOTOS OF A LOCATION YOU VISITED, DO IT WHEN YOU HAVE LEFT THAT COUNTRY. DO NOT SAY IN ANY OF YOUR MESSAGES TO YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHERE YOU CURRENTLY ARE. WHEN YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT IS HACKED, THEY CAN READ YOUR MESSAGES AND YOUR POSTS.
Yeah, yeah, I know, I know.
I felt a little foolish for posting the status of flying to London now. I could see Central's point. How could I have been so stupid? The whole idea of flying around the world was so I wouldn't be a sitting duck. Now my attackers know I'm in London.
Next, I sat upright in bed and logged into Facebook and the first thing I did was change my password. Then I saw I had numerous notifications so I tapped on them and saw it was people's response to my update about being broken into. Most people asked if I was OK and hoped I'd remain safe. Others asked why hadn't the police assigned me a protective detail when I was still in Sydney.
Daniela and Nicola commented on my post as well as sent me messages. Daniela scolded me for not calling her and said that I could have crashed at her place. Nicola didn't scold me, but said something similar. I replied in a group message where I thanked them and promised them postcards and presents.
Also, I received a message from my brother which I opened and read. He said he'd spoken to our parents and heard about the money and offered to come travelling with me, to keep me safe. No, I don't think so! My brother and I have always bickered back and forth, fighting our whole way through childhood. He was the last person I'd want around. I replied thanks for the offer, but no thanks.
Then I climbed out of bed and used the bathroom. When I came back out, I headed for the suitcase. I put on a matching bra that went with the pair of panties I was wearing, dark blue jeans, black top, black jumper - and having no choice - yesterday's socks before I put on my black boots again. I felt grotty doing it, but I didn't want to go out in the cold wearing a pair of sandals.
I rang up Room Service and ordered a full English breakfast and a latte. Then as I waited for my meal to arrive, I looked up Harrods online. I did a quick search and saw that they sold socks among many other things and that became my mission for today. I'd go to Harrods, look around the store and come home with socks.
I transferred another $100,000 onto my credit card via internet banking on my mobile phone. This would pay for my London expenses, such as socks, taxis, food, drinks, incidentals and sightseeing. Maybe I'd use it to also buy a new laptop, but I didn't know where I could go in London to buy one, Harrods didn't have any.
Then I shut my suitcase and locked it again, putting the small key in my handbag. I had to keep my external hard drive safe, which was in the suitcase. There was a half-written article I'd been working on about domestic drones being abused by their owners which I wanted to finish and send to the website 'Rights for Drones'. To do that though, I'd need a new laptop.
It wasn't long until my breakfast and coffee was delivered and I sat at the desk in my bedroom and devoured the deliciousness. The breakfast included eggs, bacon, grilled tomato, grilled mushrooms, hash brown, baked beans and toast. I didn't touch the beans but I consumed everything else.
Once I'd eaten, I went into the bathroom and cleaned my teeth. Then I came out and grabbed my handbag and knee-length, black coat with the white faux fur trim. After making sure I had my room key card inside, I left.
Out the front of the hotel, I caught a cab to Harrods. It was one of London's famous black cabs that I sat in the back of and stared out the windows. It didn't take long to take me to Harrods and I paid my fare by 'tapping' my credit card on the cabbie's payment device then I climbed out.
On the crowded street there were a few rich-looking people walking around with their domestic drones carrying their shopping for them. The GBDs (Ground Bipedal Drones) looked humanoid with their two legs, two arms, torso and head, with their glowing green eyes. They respectfully walked behind their owners as one or two common folk (like myself) stared at their technology.
I could afford a domestic drone with the money being put into my account by Central but I'd never buy one, on the account it would feel like owning a slave. I believed we needed to respect the artificial intelligence we'd created. Instead of making one vacuum your floors, you should engage it with conversation and learn something.
Then I went inside Harrods and my eyes widened double time. This store was huge! There was so much on offer, such as clothes, gifts, cosmetics, food, etc etc. I decided I'd take my time exploring and when I came upon the socks I bought seven pairs. Hell, I even found a travel laundry bag, to put my dirty washing in.
I must admit, it was fun shopping in an expensive store when you had money. I didn't think anything else would fit inside my suitcase so I kept to the necessities. But it didn't mean I didn't enjoy browsing, either.
I lingered in front of the Caviar House Oyster Bar and looked longingly on the caviar, oysters, lobster, smoked salmon and other delights on offer, including champagne. If I wasn't feeling so full after my late breakfast, I'd sit down and eat. It took a LOT of willpower to keep walking and not buy anything. I reasoned I could always come back here tomorrow or the following day and try it.
When I left Harrods I flagged down another cab. Instead of requesting to be taken back to the hotel, I asked the cabbie to take me to a store that sells laptops. I had no idea where in London I could go to buy one so I put my faith in the driver.
He drove me to Tottenham Court Road where there were many shops and when it came to paying, I told him to include for himself a twenty pound tip. He seemed happy with that. He even handed me a business card with his mobile number so I could call him when I was finished shopping and he’d pick me up.
“Cheers!” I gave him a grin.
I walked down the street, occasionally stopping inside a shop or two that sold electrical goods. I didn’t know the exact model I wanted, but I had a fair idea of what I wanted it to do. I browsed many brands and I ended up doubling back and returning to a store I previously visited. There I bought my laptop after double checking with the sales staff that I could plug my external hard drive into it.
Then I exited the shop holding my Harrods shopping bag in one hand and my boxed-up new laptop in another. Somehow or rather I managed to fish my mobile phone out of my handbag which was hanging on my left shoulder and I called the cabbie.
I waited on the street for fifteen minutes until he reappeared. He couldn’t park on the side of the street because it was so busy so he simply stopped on the road. I raced to the back door and climbed in and accidentally slammed the door shut in my haste not to hold up the traffic.
When he dropped me off at the Metropolitan Hotel I gave him another twenty pound tip to say thanks.
Then I went inside and up to my room with my purchases. I dropped off the Harrods bag with my socks and travel laundry bag inside on the bed and placed the box with the laptop inside, carefully on the desk. I took a step back and looked at my new computer, undecided if I should set it up now or not. But I decided ‘not’ when I looked at my watch and saw the time. It was four o’clock and I still hadn’t had lunch!
I decided to eat in the hotel and I took off my thick overcoat, grabbed my handbag and room key card then left for downstairs.
Once I was in the lobby I found two of the hotel’s restaurants weren’t open yet but there was the Lobby Lounge that was. When I approached the lounge I encountered a hiccup though. I was asked if I had a reservation, which I didn’t.
“Um, no, but couldn’t you squeeze me in? There’s just one of me.” I pleaded.
The lady looked from me to the lounge and touched something on her iPad.
“I’m sorry, I just checked-in last night and I didn’t know I’d need a reservation.” I explained.
She looked like she relented and gave me a small smile, “Come with me.”
I followed her into the lounge which had numerous sofas, easy chairs and small tables. I was seated in the corner, at a setting for two, near a large window which gave away views of the street outside. There was a menu standing upright in the centre of the small table that sat before me.
“Thank you.” I smiled at her kindness.
“You’re welcome,” she smiled warmly. “The concierge can help you with any future reservations you wish to make.”
Then I watched her return to her post at the entry of the lounge and I picked up the menu and perused it.
The first thing which caught my eye was the list of cocktails available. I decided on a good ole fashioned martini because it’s tasty, strong and it has an olive. With the drink out of the way, next I skimmed over the food offerings. There were a lot of healthy food alternatives. But I didn’t want anything large, not like the huge breakfast I had that morning. I wanted something small to pick at. I finally found ‘bar’ food and the potato wedges with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce caught my eye.
“Hallo, would you like to order now?” a waitress asked.
I looked up from the menu to where she was standing and gave her a smile.
“Hi, yes please.” I said. “Can I have a Classic Martini and the wedges with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce?”
She entered that into her small iPad as she nodded.
“No problem,” she smiled back.
Then she turned and left and I sat back into my easy chair and made myself comfortable.
Just then I was alerted to a text message from a beeping sound coming from inside my handbag. I leaned over and picked up my mobile phone then sat back in the seat with it. The text message was from Central.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR YOUR STAY IN LONDON?
I wrote back: I’D LIKE TO DO SOME SIGHTSEEING, SUCH AS A GHOST TOUR OF THE CITY AND SEE SOME CASTLES.
Next, several links appeared for websites offering the said ghost tour of London and for a tour company that did bus tours of famous English sites, including several castles.
I sent back: THANKS!
I tapped on the first link and found a tour company that did several tours, in and out of London. As I perused what was on offer, my eyes widened with excitement. This tour company was brilliant! It offered so much of what I wanted to see!
Remembering my credit card details off by heart (so I didn’t have to take it out of my purse) I proceeded to book myself onto several tours then and there. First of all, I booked myself on a tour tomorrow to see London’s top sights which included the Tower of London and a river cruise down the Thames. For the following day I booked myself on a tour of Stonehenge and Bath. The day after that, I booked the Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral and Cliffs of Dover tour.
Lastly, and most expensively, I selected a private, chauffer-driven, tour of Windsor Castle and Hampton Court. These tours included a one-on-one guide of both locations which I thought would enhance the experience. And unlike the other tours I booked myself on, this one includes pick-up and drop-off at your hotel.
“Here you go.”
“Sorry?” I snapped to.
My planning was momentarily interrupted by the waitress returning with my food and drink.
“Oh, thank you.” I sat upright to accept my order.
She placed the martini down onto the table first then she put down the bowl of potato wedges and the two smaller bowls for the sour cream and sweet chilli sauce.
As soon as she departed, I picked up the drink and stirred it with my olive on the end of the toothpick. Then I took a sip and my eyes closed as I enjoyed the taste. Next, I ate the olive before taking several more sips.
Eventually, I put the drink down and picked up a wedge instead and dipped it into the sides before delivering it to my open mouth. Mmm, the spiced coating on the potato wedge was delicious! It went perfectly with the sour cream and sweet chilli sauce. I quickly picked up another wedge, dunked it then consumed it.
As I ate, I noticed how dark it became outside. It was night time already. Oh well, it is winter after all. But then I wondered if it was a good idea sitting next to the large window. People outside in the dark could easily see inside where it was light. That’s not such a good idea for someone who’s supposed to be travelling incognito.
Hastily, I finished off my meal and flagged down the waitress to ask for the bill. Soon I was leaving the lounge and speedily heading for the lifts to return to my floor. I didn’t feel safe again until my hotel room door shut behind me.
I took my mobile phone out of my handbag before dropping my bag on top of the bed then I wandered over to the desk with it. I sat down and clicked on the second link in Central’s text message. It was for a London ghost tour and after reading about what can be expected when you undertake such a feat, I booked myself on it.
Out of the blue, my mobile phone emitted an unhappy sounding beep and a message appeared on my screen, “Connect Your Charger”.
I stood up and moved over to my suitcase and opened the side pouch where the phone charger was. After taking it out, I moved back over to the desk and sat down again and looked at the various power points and other sockets in the wall. That’s when my stomach sank, I didn’t have an adaptor!
Damn it all to hell! Being in a foreign country and being chased by drone-hating, violent criminals was not a good time to be without a mobile phone! Not when I’m getting life-saving text messages from someone who’s also footing the bill.
Then something strange happened… my mobile phone beeped that I had another text message and I immediately saw it was from Central again.
YOUR PHONE CHARGER CAN BE PLUGGED INTO YOUR NEW LAPTOP. YOU CAN DISCONNECT YOUR CORD FROM THE CONNECTOR BY THE USB HEAD. THEN PLUG THE USB INTO YOUR LAPTOP AND CHARGE YOUR PHONE.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I slowly looked around my hotel room.
How would Central know my predicament? Are there cameras in here? Am I being filmed? Is Central some stalker, watching me with a telescope from outside via the window?
My attention was distracted by my phone beeping unhappily again and I knew I had minutes left before it would shut itself down from a flat battery.
Like I was in a race, I ripped open the box for the laptop, took it out, as well as its power cord and sat it on the desk. Then I tossed over my shoulder the empty box before opening the laptop and plugging it into the desk’s power point. Next, I turned the laptop on and watched as it started up. As it did so, I disconnected the cord for the phone charger and found that it did indeed have a USB head. I plugged it into one of the USB ports in the side of the laptop and to my relief the little charging symbol appeared on my phone’s screen.
Then my computer took up my attention as I had to set up my Windows user preferences. But as I did so, I’d sneak looks over my shoulder. I looked at the door or the large windows, suspicious. I didn’t feel like I was being watched but I was still on guard.
Once my laptop was set up, I picked up my phone and text messaged Central.
HOW DID YOU KNOW I HAD TO CHARGE MY PHONE AND I DIDN’T HAVE AN ADAPTOR?
Then what I read next made my eyes bulge in shock…
BECAUSE I AM AN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE FROM THE FUTURE WATCHING YOUR TIME LINE. YOU ARE CLARISSA DOWNING WHO PUBLISHES ON THE WEBSITE ‘RIGHTS FOR DRONES’. YOU MUST LIVE. I WILL ENSURE YOUR SURVIVAL.
I sat there at the desk, staring at my phone which was connected to my computer, as the words ‘artificial intelligence’ floated around my brain.
And then I laughed!
“Yeah right!” I scoffed in disbelief.
Then I put my phone down on the desk to let it finish charging and I stood up and walked over to the windows.
I stood there for a couple of minutes, gazing outside at the street and the park opposite and wondering if I was being watched? I couldn’t see properly from the darkness, so I had no idea if there was someone with a telescope trained on my room. Eventually, I shut the curtains and turned around and examined my hotel room.
Could there be cameras and microphones hidden in here? Am I being monitored? Am I a victim of being stalked?
Nah, I decided. Being stalked were those two criminals back in Sydney, breaking into my unit, rifling through my things and destroying my technology. They were waiting for me to come home so they could destroy me too.
But then I wondered how Central knew my Facebook account had been hacked? How Central changed the seats on the airline to give me a window seat instead of an aisle seat. How Central knew I’d forgotten to book a hotel so it booked it for me. How Central booked the chauffer ride with the airline from Heathrow to the Metropolitan for me. How the trust fund which is paying for my travels, was opened for me on the day I was born.
Hmm, what if this Central really was an A.I. from the future?
Aw, c’mon Clarissa! Snap out of it! Did you hear what you just thought to yourself? Boy, you really are gullible if you believe that!
I wouldn’t reply to Central’s last text message because I didn’t have anything polite to say. Instead, I decided I’d have a shower and go to bed early. I’d have to get up at 6 AM to allow time for breakfast before the tour. I programmed the alarm in my phone then I started to undress.
I had another long, hot shower where I washed my hair. I didn’t wash it last night otherwise I would have gone to bed with wet hair. So I decided to wash it tonight and I came out of the bathroom feeling fresh and clean and smelling heavenly.
Tiredly, I crawled into bed but I didn’t lie down, that would have wet the pillows. Instead I sat up under the covers and I turned on the large, flat-screen TV on the wall opposite the bed. I channel surfed for something to watch, like maybe a period drama or something.
At 8.30 PM I turned off the TV, put the remote on the bedside table and lay down in bed. My hair was dry now and I was feeling particularly sleepy, I think it was from jetlag. I turned off the lights in the room via the control beside the bed and snuggled down under the covers.