After midnight, Professor Quilty stumbled into his office and saw a note lying on the dark orange ottoman. He was on his way to the living room, finishing off an otherwise pathetic evening of missed chances and failed opportunities — grabbed the scotch out of the liquor cabinet, and poured himself two fingers while slumping onto the couch. There was a breeze in his apartment. The autumn air was slow and scented, and he sat wishing himself smarter, and (oddly) remembering his mother. He hadn’t thought about her in ten years. She had passed when he was already a grown man, and they had fallen off in their monthly visits. Yet, here he was remembering her kindness, thoughtfulness, and damn right rudeness. He remembered she once told a neighbor with arthritic knuckles to change his diet.
“Do you eat much chicken?”
“I do. I happen to love chicken.”
“Which is why your hands have fallen into such mishap.”
“Your hands. The knuckles specifically look like the feet of a chicken.”
Quilty looked down and smiled, letting the memory wash over him as a glare flickered over his eye. Broken glass. About ten shards of broken glass lay carefully swept to a portion of the room. Someone had tried to clean up the mess. Quilty heard the sound of a door being closed: the doorknob held, and let go. He leaned back on the couch and twirled his hand — letting the scotch warm the insides of the glass. He stood.
“Have a care, professor.”
“Who is that? What are you doing in my home?”
“I’ll be the one asking the questions.”
“Look, if this is about the television set, you can have it.”
“Hardly, about the television. It’s about your experiments.”
No one knew about Quilty’s experiments except top government officials and the secret service. He had been working on a new technology that could put a communicating wire into a portable object. Like a briefcase, or a handbag. He figured this day would come eventually, but not when he was so far away from actually making the technology work.