“Yes?” Mrs Fliss opened the door and frowned at the man on her doorstep. He was holding a key and scowling at it.
“Sorry, darling,” he said. “My key doesn’t seem to work.”
“Why should it? Look, whatever it is you’re selling, I’m not interested.” Mrs Fliss tried to close the door but, laughing the man, pushed his way in. His puckered lips aimed for her cheek but she dodged them just in time.
“I’ve always loved you for your sense of humour,” the man laughed. He dropped his briefcase at the foot of the stairs and, loosening his spotted tie, headed for the living room.
“Excuse me!” Mrs Fliss scuttled after him. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
The man was on the sofa, kicking off his shoes. “What’s it look like I’m doing?”
“It looks like you’re making yourself at home on my sofa; that’s what it looks like.”
“No flies on you, Susan.”
Mrs Fliss bristled. “How did you know my name?”
“Any tea going?” the man sat back. He aimed the remote at the television.
“Get out of my house,” Mrs Fliss growled. “Or I’m calling the police.”
The man turned up the volume. On screen, a green triangle moved along a row of rectangles.
Then, he pressed ‘mute’ and a graphic showing a loudspeaker with a line through it appeared.
“Oh, god. I’m so sorry. It’s happened again, hasn’t it?” He fumbled his shoes back on and hurried from the house. He left the front door open behind him and ran down the path.
By the time Mrs Fliss got to the doorstep, he was gone. She closed the door. It was only then she realised he had left behind his briefcase.
“Oh,” she said. She stood looking at it, chewing her lip, and deciding what to do. Perhaps there would be something in it that said who he was. Perhaps she’d be able to phone him to tell him he’d left it…
The briefcase was stuffed with files. Mrs Fliss looked at the first page of the first folder:
ROBERT FLISS – Slipping between universes, a scientific proposal.
She flicked through the papers and could make neither head nor tail of the diagrams and endlessly complex mathematical calculations. She was still poring over the folders when a key turned in the lock and her husband let himself in.
“Hello, darling,” he said, loosening his spotted tie. “I’m home.”