The sound of the telephone ringing woke him up. There was no extension in the bedroom, so he waited for it to click on to an answerphone. The big clock showed it was almost four, and it was still bright outside. But it didn’t stop ringing. When he could stand the sound no longer, he went through to the living area to answer it.
“Hi honey. Wow! I’ve just seen the time. Are you only just out of bed? Hungover from last night, or started early this morning?” The voice was obviously female, and seemed to be adopting an American accent that wasn’t good enough to disguise an obvious London base. He paused for a moment before speaking. “Sorry, who’s this?” Her tone portrayed her displeasure well. “Who’s this? Who the hell do you think it is? It’s me, Helen, your agent. Did you think someone was impersonating me or something? Now listen Marty, I have heard from the Katz Brothers. The film premiere has been agreed for New York City, in two week’s time. They think it will chime well there. You know, Wall Street, money men, traders, all that crap. They want you over for the press preview, and they’re not taking no for an answer. I know you always say you won’t travel, but come on, those guys have invested a small fortune already, and they want options on the series up to book ten”.
Martin wondered if she was ever going to stop talking. He had never met her, as far as he knew, and he didn’t like her already. And nobody ever called him ‘Marty’. Never going to happen. He smiled as he spoke, so that his voice would sound friendly and sincere.
“Sorry, Helen. No, it’s not a hangover, just a really bad headache. I woke up with a fuzzy head, and can’t think straight. Of course I will make the premiere, and tell those Katz boys thanks from me, for taking the options. Leave it at that for now, and I will ring you tomorrow. OK?” She purred in reply, calmer now. “OK sweet cheeks, get well soon. Talk tomorrow. Oh, one last thing. The publishers need the latest manuscript in by Monday. Don’t forget now”. At last, she hung up. Martin shook his head, mumbling. “Christ almighty. Sweet cheeks”.
He pulled the Remington closer, and inserted a fresh piece of paper. When he woke up tomorrow, he would have a different agent, the publishers would be delighted with the new book, and the press preview would have been a success. With no need for him to have attended.
After a nice bath, he dressed in some of the wonderful casual clothes he found in the wardrobes and drawers. On the cabinet next to the bed was a wallet, and he checked inside. Almost three hundred in cash, four credit cards, and two bank cards. All in his name, and all in date. As he checked those expiry dates, he realised that they hadn’t changed from his old card. He switched on his mobile phone, and grinned as he saw the date and time. It was the same day. The day after he had typed the first page on the typewriter and woken up to an upside-down world. So he had been in the dingy flat after all, and had bought the Remington. Every time he changed his life, he went back to the day of that first event. He got a fresh start every time.
But that still didn’t explain why there had been nobody in the old shop for over twenty years.
Oh well, he was hungry, and fancied a drink too. On a metal coat stand in the hallway, he found a bunch of keys, guessing they were for his apartment. Next to them was a car key and alarm fob, with the distinctive logo of BMW on it. So he had a car somewhere? He would have to investigate that later. Out on the street, it was busy. He could see the food stalls that had sent the mouth-watering smells in through the window, and along alleyways leading to converted warehouses, trendy people were milling around in abundance. He recognised the area, though it was some way from the old flat. Part of the urban regeneration that had provided lots of business opportunities some years back, and managed to price out the local people until they had to flee to Lego-homes on the periphery.
He spotted a sign for a Tapas Bar, claiming to be ‘Open from 11-11’. That would do nicely. As he wandered in, he was greeted by a slender young man with natural good looks, and a dazzling smile. “Hey, Mister Martin. Ola! Your usual table?” Martin eyed the man up and down. What was it about Mediterranean men? They looked so good when they were young. Ate shitloads of pasta and rice, and never put on an ounce. They only had to smile at a girl, and she was reaching for the zip on her dress. Then they hit fifty, and it all went to rat shit. The man looked concerned. “It’s me, Mister Martin. Pablo. Same old Pablo”. Snapping out of it, Martin smiled, and pointed to his head. “Sorry, Pablo. Just woke up. Fuzzy head, yeah?” The waiter, who looked like he should have been draped over the seat of a Vespa, grinned expansively. “Of course, sit down sir. I will bring all your favourites”.
A while later, Martin sat staring at the terracotta bowls in front of him, as he sipped a glass of Rioja. Gambas Pil-Pil, Spicy Meatballs, Tortilla, and Garlic Squid. All of his personal choices, in another life. He swallowed the rest of the wine, and topped it up from the bottle on the table. Faustino Gran Reserva, another old favourite. He gazed at a poster on the wall. It was a graphic image from the Spanish Civil War. Soldiers at a barricade, with the words ‘No Pasaran!’ at the top. After finishing the food, he took his time over the last glass from the bottle.
Today had been a fresh start. One of those new fresh starts provided by the mysterious Remington. Yet he was known by name by the waiter. He had a ‘regular’ table in a restaurant he could never have been in before. And they served him the food and wine he would have chosen for himself, without him even looking at a menu. He needed to explore this time, not change things quite so drastically. He paid the bill in cash, and left young Pablo a big tip. Back at the apartment, he had another early night.
The next morning, his agent would be the respected Phillip Green and Associates, and he would be anticipating the London premiere of the Sam Logan film next month.