Martin’s third delivery of the day is in London. The pickup is at a flat in Wembley Central, and he parks around the corner and walks up the steps, running a hand over the faded front of his shirt before buzzing the intercom. “Yes?”
It’s too quiet, and Martin pauses momentarily before saying, “Yes, hello, this is Martin Crieff, from Icarus Removals?”
Another pause, and then “Right, yeah, come up.”
The man who opens the door of 3A is even skinnier than Martin, and a bit shorter as well. His half-smile doubles as he gets a good look at the man on his doorstep, though Martin is having trouble understanding why, and he says, “I’m Jim.”
Jim opens the door a bit wider and nods his head towards the fluorescently bright interior. Martin takes in his well-worn jeans and the tight, black tee that says 11 Cheers for Binary! and steps into the flat. “Martin. Is my name. Er. I’ve said that already, haven’t I?”
"It’s alright,” says Jim, who closes the door. “It’s a nice name.”
Martin turns around and says, “What?”
“I mean,” Jim looks at the ground, smiling shyly, “It works for you.”
Martin realizes that he has not yet managed a sentence that wasn’t a question, and cringes inwardly. But Jim’s laughing, and it’s as soft as the words Martin had heard through the intercom. His stomach can’t decide if it should feel unsettled. “Yeah,” Jim says, and he licks his lips and looks vaguely hopeful and then he sort of flicks his head to the right and it’s gone.
“It’s all going to my office,” Jim says, and Martin notices the huddle of computer towers, monitors, and various other forms of electronic equipment he’s unable to identify in the corner.
“Okay,” Martin nods, “and that is…?”
“St. Bart’s Hospital,” Jim answers, a smooth layer of pride in his voice.
“Oh! You’re not a…I mean, you don’t look…”
“Not a doctor, no. I work in IT.”
“Right. That should’ve been obvious,” Martin says, before letting his eyelids flutter shut in mortification and adding, “I’m sorry, I’m sure you could be a doctor if you wanted…well, you’d have to get a degree and everything and that would take some time, and I’m not sure if you want to do that and you’d have to sit for biology exams, but…oh, bollocks. I just meant that your shirt is…well…it’s the kind of shirt an IT consultant would wear.”
Jim looks down, seemingly having forgotten his choice of apparel, and grins. “Not very stealthy, am I?”
“That’s okay,” says Martin, “neither am I.”
Jim has his thumbs in his belt loops and there’s that strange smile again and Martin realizes that he hasn’t so much come out of the closet as leapt out and fallen flat on his face, but that doesn’t matter because he has a feeling that Jim wasn’t in the closet to begin with.
Martin clears his throat. “Shall we? I mean, shall I? No, that sounds ridiculous. I’ll just…I’ll just start putting your things in the van, if that’s okay.”
"No, it’s fine,” Jim says, “I mean, I’ll help you. There’s kind of a lot, and it’s pretty delicate.”
The smaller man walks to the pile of equipment and bends to lift a slightly bulky monitor. “Actually,” says Martin, and here he tries to push his pride to the back of his throat, “I have experience handling delicate machinery. Well, it’s mostly engines and wing-tips, but it’s my job. Apart from this. My real job, you could say.”
Jim rests against the doorframe, cradling the monitor in his arms. “You’re an engineer?”
“Airline Captain, actually,” Martin says, just managing to keep his voice from cracking with excitement.
“Wow,” says Jim, and he does look impressed. Martin waits for the crack about his youthful appearance, that surely he must be the first officer, but it doesn’t come. Instead, Jim’s face goes oddly blank and says, “I bet you love it.”
“I really, really do,” says Martin, wishing he could’ve held in that extra ‘really’.
“That’s great,” Jim says, and there’s the other look, that shy smile from earlier, and he opens the door and carries the monitor down the stairs. Martin grabs one of the CPUs and follows.
They’ve loaded up the van, Martin being careful to demonstrate exactly how careful he could be, and Jim slides into the passenger seat and fastens his seatbelt. “It’s important to be safe,” Jim says.
Martin stops halfway through releasing the emergency brake. A genuine smile spreads across his pinkish face, and he says, “Safety is paramount.”
He frees the brake and the van rumbles, rolling down the street and towards West Smithfield and St. Bart’s Hospital.