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View Full Version : Past Amusements- part 1 - part 3 (sci-fi)



wizardwriter
07-03-2007, 06:03 AM
I was at the door when it popped open. “Mr. O’Donald, welcome to what’ll be the greatest experience of your life. I’m your counselor, Sam Carson. I can guarantee you, there’s nothing like Past Amusements on the planet.” He grabbed hold of my hand, and pumped my arm. “Relax, everyone’s a bit nervous the first time, and quite natural, although totally unnecessary.”

Smiling weakly, I tried to push the real reason I was here to the back of my mind. Sam reminded me of an old-fashioned car salesman with his slicked back hair, fancy suit, and flashy smile. Capped teeth he probably spent a fortune on, and the reason he was always smiling.

“Mr. Carson, my last name is Donalds. My first name is John, my middle initial is O, just ‘O’. But, everyone calls me Jack.”

“Apologize, Jack. Must’ve read the name wrong on the monitor. If you’d just call me, Sam. Come on in, and we can get down to business.”

I went in to find a single desk, two chairs, and pair of small tables. Old-fashioned wood paneling covered the walls; the room carpeted, but gray, not very imaginative, desk real wood, as were the chairs, a sign of wealth. I looked around the room, as I headed for one of the chairs. One wall was full of monitors, opposite had shelves floor to ceiling, crammed with books, other two walls covered with artwork from different eras. What stood out as missing were personal items to show Sam actually had a life somewhere.

“Now try to relax, first time into the past is a bit rough, but you’ll get better the more trips you take. Would you care for some coffee or tea, Jack?”

“Coffee, black is fine. I have a few questions?”

“That’s why I’m here, Jack. First, let me make a few small suggestions. You should start out simple, a few hours, no more than four. You also should pick a time you know well. It’d be best if it was from your own past.” He punched something on his keyboard. “Most people can only travel a generation or two off their time line, meaning your extended family. Some can only travel their personal time line. There are others who have no restrictions, but we can’t find out what category you fall under until you actually try traveling these time lines.”

“What can I possibly see in four hours?” I asked, as a young girl came in with my cup of coffee, nametag had ‘Mindy C.’ on it.

“You’d be surprised.” Sam laughed. “You’ll be put in a suspended state and your sub-conscious will be sent back in time. Everything’s controlled by your own mind, meaning where you go and what you see are entirely up to you. At first, you’ll be able to pick one or two time periods to visit, later you’ll be able to visit more. You’ll then relive these periods of time, but you’re not restricted to time as we know it now. The past will replay as fast as your mind will let it, or to phrase it better, your mind controls the rate that time replays. Think of it as a living dream. Keep this in mind on your first trip.”

Sam looked at the monitor on his desk. “I see you’re interested in crime, what type?”

“Unsolved crimes mostly.” There was supposed to be a lie detector involved in the process, and I had to wonder if the device was already in use.

“I see.” Sam leaned back in his chair, fingertips touching he waggled his hands. “Well, there’s a couple of drawbacks with unsolved crimes. Unless you know some exact details you may not be able to relive these events. If you knew the criminal it’d be easy, but it also wouldn’t be an unsolved crime. There are times you can follow the victim until their demise, although that doesn’t always work.” He held up his hands. “I don’t wish to discourage you from using our facilities, but if you’re trying to solve a crime, I have to tell you, anything found in the past is not admissible in a court of law in the present. Not now anyway, perhaps in the near future the laws might be changed.”

It was my turn to wave him off. “No, nothing like that. It’s… well, it’s a mystery that can’t be solved, or I should say hasn’t been solved yet. I’ve nothing to do with any law enforcement agency or court department.”

“Doesn’t matter to us, I just had to make that clear. Didn’t want to sell you something you don’t want, or will be unhappy with. It’s also my job to make sure you get everything you can out of your experiences here.”

“I appreciate that. Is there any interaction between the past and present?”

“Absolutely not.” He bolted upright. “It can’t be done and if it could, it’d be against the law.” He leaned in closer. “Time Security would take a dim view of anyone altering, or trying to alter the past. Your body is out of sync with the past, just as they are out of sync with our present, which would be their future.”

I finished my coffee. He pointed at the cup, and I waved no. I must look like a nervous fool gulping it so fast, or at least I hoped I did. “There’s absolutely no way those in the past can see me?”

“There’s a slight chance, it’s remote at best.” He smoothed his hair and chuckled, one that did not have a hint of sincerity in it. “If you were to stay in one place for a long period you might show up in the past. But, you have to stay there for what would seem like hours and you’d appear as a ghost to someone of the past. There’s no way of talking to someone in the past, so you’d just be a faded image.”

“What about time synchronizers or phase alternators?”

Sam squirmed in his chair a bit. “Those are just myths and rumors. There’s no way to safely stabilize the past. It’d be better if you didn’t talk about things like that, if you don’t want an untimely visit by Time Security, no pun intended.”

“But, if they do not exist what could be the harm?”

Sam glanced at the ceiling corner behind him, where a camera sat. He leaned in closer, then whispered, “Trust me, just be better.”

“If there’s no interaction, what good is all this hocus-pocus?”

“Before the holographic studios, people watched what they called television. Time travel is like watching an old-fashioned play or television, but better. People will go about their lives as if nothing is going on or unaware anybody might be watching.”

“So, we’ve become a voyeuristic and perverted society, spying on our ancestors.” I hoped this would be enough to throw the lie detector off, if it was being used.

“I wouldn’t say that. I’ll admit there are probably a certain amount of people using the past for such purposes, but I’d bet it’s a small percentage. Most are fascinated with history or what we perceive to be history. You’ll be surprised at what actually went on, that historians forgot to include or omitted altogether. The only thing I can say is try it just once. I’d suggest you skip the crime scene on your first trip, they can be gruesome and won’t do much to heighten your experience.”

I was taken to the room next door, and told to put on a hospital gown.

Attendant came in with a compu-board. “Mister Donalds, I’m Jake and will be needing some vitals. Actually to double check what you’ve written down. If you could get on the scales please?” Jake looked like he spent all his off hours in a gym. “The formula has to be mixed to your size and weight among other things. So, you’ll need to keep this info up to date, but since you’re required to have a physical within the last six months of the procedure it isn’t a problem.”

“Which can be done here, right Jake?”

He looked directly at me, and I jumped a bit. Jake was wearing logo-lens, his right eye sported the Cubs and his left the White Sox. “Absolutely. Alright, five-ten, one sixty-five, not bad. At thirty-two, decent muscle tone, could use some work to beef up. But, couldn’t we all. Brown hair, green eyes–”

“What does eye color have to do with this? Much less muscle tone?”

“Sorry Mister Donalds. I’ve a tendency to double-check myself by talking out loud. We keep eye color and such because people have an inclination to try identity theft with us. Trust me, it never works, those biochips you’re about to ingest automatically define you, as you. Every time you come in we’ll know.”

“Then why all this other stuff?”

“Just to double check our double checking. As for muscle tone, the more fit you are, the longer your journeys are, and easier recoup time. Same goes for diet, stay away from red meats and fatty food. If you’re interested, next door is the gym. It’s quite convenient, a one stop for entertainment so to speak, and they have a great discount package. They can put you on a very good regimen to get the most out of your time here.”

“Hm-m, I might do that. If I decide this is for me.”

He laughed, as he punched buttons on a machine that took up a third of the room. “Trust me, you’ll enjoy it immensely. And the more you use it, the better you get at it, allowing you to enjoy it more.”

The machine started making noise, as he instructed, “It’s heavier than it looks, a bit foul tasting and will leave an iron taste in your mouth. But won’t harm you in any way, and you get used to it after two or three times.”

I was given a glass, half full of a thick greenish liquid with metallic flakes swimming about. I stared at it for a bit, then Jake told me to drink it and lay on the table. He had been right, it felt like I was holding a full liter, not half a cup. I figured I’d down it in two big swallows, but the consistency was too thick. It was near as thick as Jell-O, and tasted worse than a health spa’s wheat grass shake. It not only left an iodine taste in your mouth but a warm sensation in your belly that was rapidly growing. Several electrodes were put on my forehead, chest, and arms.

“There’s nothing to worry about, these are just to monitor your vital signs, and the bio-chips you drank. You should be feeling a bit warm, and getting warmer. A natural reaction and you’ll get used to it quickly. Now, I’m going to strap you down for your own safety. Sometimes, a client will try to get up or jump around. It’ll be easier on you if you just relax.”

He must have seen the look on my face, as he tightened the straps. “You’ll also get used to that taste in your mouth. Once you’ve waken up a sip or two of seltzer water takes care of it. I can’t give you anything now, because it’ll dilute the formula and spoil your trip.”

“All right, but this feels a little strange.” My voice sounded thick and as if off in the distance. Besides the taste and warmness, the room was becoming out of focus and swirling about.

“Close your eyes and the dizziness will pass.” He laughed. “Don’t worry it’s completely safe, we haven’t lost a client yet. If there should be a problem we’ll wake you from this end. Your time is set at three hours, you’ll be awaken from your past memories if you haven’t returned by then. Is that understood? Any questions?”

“I understand. Will I be given a shot to wake up, and do I have a choice on what years I’m going to visit?”

“No, the amount of formula drank determines how long you sleep. Yes, the years are your choice. Everything is automatic on this end to get you into the flux state.” His voice was getting thick, and starting to echo in my head. “Where you go from there is up to you. It should be taking full effect any moment now, just relax and don’t fight it. Start thinking of where you want to go, and it’ll come into view shortly. Happy time-traveling.”

His voice trailed off, as a door slammed shut and out of reflex I opened my eyes. The room was completely out of focus, my stomach on fire, and tips of my fingers and toes tingling, then everything went dark.

I became aware of my surroundings and found myself swimming in a light gray void. My hands and feet were now free and the burning gone, but nasty taste was still there. Took Sam’s advice and I thought about the vacation I took with my parents a year before they died. I was eight and we traveled by car throughout the northwest.

The trip was not near as grand as I remembered it being, fishing was more boring and camping dirtier. But, it was a very pleasant experience, I was happy to see and hear my parents again. The act of watching a younger me, and the memories flashing back to what I was going to do, or thinking about was a little strange.

I don’t know how it was done, but I could smell the campfire and cocoa cooking near the flames. Not to mention the marshmallows I kept burning nightly, getting the stick too close to the flames. Redwoods were not as large as I remembered, still the big trees were impressive and I had never been back since that trip. I wasn’t sure how this really worked, knowing I wasn’t really there I thought they should take on proportions my mind would adjust from my childhood.

None of the facts mattered, I just enjoyed the time I had with my parents that I saved and worked so hard for. I relived the entire three-week vacation before I was brought back to my real time.

The lights were back on quickly, then the room came back into focus. “Just relax, it takes a few minutes before your orientation is back,” a voice different from the first said.

I lay there for a while remembering what I had just seen.

“How was your first trip to the past, Mister Donalds?”

I looked around the room, and saw this attendant was definitely different. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. He chuckled, and put a straw to my lips. “Takes most a few times before their body gets used to the formula. Drink this down, and you’ll get your voice back in no time. You’ll have a bad case of cottonmouth for a time. Best thing for that is water, alcohol just drags it out longer.”

I did as instructed. “It was a unique experience. How long was I there?”

“You were never there.” The attendant laughed. “You’ve been out just a little over three hours. The more you use the process the better you’ll get at it.”

“It was like I’ve been gone at least three weeks, and everything was so real,” I said sitting after freed from my ties.

The attendant grinned. “That’s pretty good Mr. Donalds, most are lucky to get a week out of their first trip. Must’ve been something very familiar, or maybe you’re just a natural time surfer.”

“A time surfer?”

“Yeah, it’s what we call people who are good at this. If you’d change into your clothes, and see Mr. Carson for a few minutes before leaving. Thank you, I hope you enjoyed Past Amusements, by the way my name’s George, and I hope you’ll be back soon.”

“I did and will. Thank you George.” After changing and drinking a large glass of water I went back to Sam’s office. His door was open, and he waved me in as he talked on the phone.

He was off the phone by the time I sat down. “Well, what did you think of your first little time traveling adventure?”

“Interesting, do you have any idea how long I think I was gone?”

“No, sorry. We don’t regulate your actual experiences, most would feel like that was an invasion of their dreams.”

“Yeah, I can see that. So, when can I go on another?”

“I knew it.” Sam laughed. “No nausea, or side effects at all?”

“None that I could tell, there was a moment or two of feeling disoriented but it wasn’t much. I still have a touch of cottonmouth, but the metallic taste is gone. Are there a lot of people who have bad side effects?”

“No, nothing like that. But nearly half will experience a bit of motion sickness their first time. If you’d fill out this questionnaire you’ll get ten percent off your next hundred hours.” He handed me a compu-board then looking at the monitor. “To answer your other question let me see. If you want you could log in two more hours tomorrow, or any time in the next three days.”

Christ, this was the fourth time I had to fill something out. But, I needed every discount I could get. “Only two hours, but I thought I could stay in four hours today?”

“Yes, you could’ve, but it seems you did not need that much time. I must say that’s very impressive. You see Jack, this is how it works. You can spend five hours in the past during the first week and increase that time by ten percent each successive week, till the max of twenty hours. And no more than ten hours at a time.”

“So, there is a limit?”

“Yes, we found out early prolonged exposure to the past makes people not want to come back. But, these people were usually historians or people with deep-seated mental problems that surfaced. I don’t think you fall in either of those categories. We’ve kept the limits so everyone gets a chance to enjoy the past,” Sam answered with a sly smile, like this was a big secret. With as many Past Amusement ads I saw on a daily basis they had to have a bigger advertising budget than a political campaign.

“Fine, I work the four to twelve shift Tuesday thru Friday. I want to set up a time for tomorrow morning, and a regular weekly program. Also Jake told me about the gym, and a discount package. Might as well make use of all the facilities.”

“Good, I think we can handle that. Let’s see,” he looked at the monitor, “how about ten-thirty in the morning? I can get you in at the gym at nine for orientation if you want?”

“That would be great.”

“Okay, let’s get down to the business of saving you money. First off, an hour trip costs six hundred dollars, a two-hour trip a thousand dollars, and a three-hour trip is twelve hundred. This is your best deal to–”

“What about longer periods?”

“Due to the cost of formula and need for more personal monitoring the costs begin to rise. At four hours it will be two thousand dollars–”

“Sam, I’m not concerned with finances.”

“That’s good, but I still have to give you my spiel.”

I drank a second bottle of seltzer water as he droned on. I had gone through two receptionists, wandered about in this big-ass sterile building, and answered two hundred questions, when would it end.

“So, what do you think, Jack?”

“Ah, what was the best hourly rate?”

“The introductory training period, thirteen weeks long and total of one hundred-twenty hours, which we sell at a flat hundred hours. Two hundred-eighty dollars an hour, and your gym membership is included.”

“That’s the one for me. I’m not worried about money, but I’m not stupid either.”

“Good choice. Now,” chuckling Sam held up his hands, “I have to tell you Jack, you pay that fee for the first thirteen weeks whether you use them or not. I mean there’s no credit for unused hours after the thirteenth week.”

“Understood, I suppose there’s a contract or something to sign?”

“Of course, I’ll fill it out while you complete the questionnaire. This offer also gives you unlimited access to our library data banks, and an hour a week counselor time. We value your business and wish to keep you as a customer for a long time, Jack.”

We filled out all the necessary screens, and I signed them electronically before leaving his office. A very fit young black woman was waiting for me in the hall. “I’m Cinji, would you care for a tour of the gym, Mr. Donalds?”

I was so glad she wasn’t here to kick my ass, because I’m sure she could’ve done it with ease. “Of course, but I go by Jack.”

The gym was something I could use, but I’m not sure about their diet plan and those drinks. I thought wheat grass, or the formula, was the worse you could conjure up. The names and ingredients on their menu said I was wrong. For the introductory offer I tried the triple berry surprise. I think the only surprise would have been that I actually found a berry.

Still the people were nice, and they had the latest equipment. Once we were through Cinji, introduced me to a young girl named Didi, who set me up for exercises an hour before my lab appointments, mostly cardio workouts, after a good warm-up. Following the sessions Max set me up for cool down periods, all coordinated through the Past Amusement mainframe. What could be more convenient?

Once home I pulled up all the documents and re-read them, memorizing every word for my morning trip.

* * *

Made sure I flirted with every young lady I dealt with, and workout wasn’t bad, but formula was just as nasty. The blackness engulfed me, and when the colors returned I was looking at myself, pacing in front of the large, plain, light gray, plasti-crete building with an address on it in huge red block numbers, but no sign. It matched the advertisement in my hand, and I finally entered.

“Good afternoon, welcome to Past Amusements Incorporated, my name is Janice. Is this your first time, Sir?” A woman of no more than twenty-one requested with a polite smile, for what I needed to do I was standing behind her.

The old me tried to smile, and I had no idea I was such a good actor. “John O. Donalds, yes, it is. Does it show that bad?”

“A little, but there’s nothing to worry about.” She giggled, handing me a compu-board. “I guarantee you’ll want to get a monthly package after your first trip. I need you to fill out this questionnaire, Mr. Donalds.”

While I watched her screen the old me took a seat, and filled out all the information. He left off whom to contact in case of accident and next of kin, because there was nobody. He double checked it, then returned the compu-board to Janice.

She plugged it into the mainframe, and within seconds my entire life was on the monitor. Janice highlighted my lack of family, and punched in thorough check. She scrolled through several screens, dealing with my job and residence, nothing on the law or Time Security. Screen blinked off, then returned to my original questionnaire. “Everything checks out Mr. Donalds. This card will be your key to a new world. If you would go through door ‘B’ and down the corridor to the double doors marked ‘7’. Go through those doors to desk ‘B7-3C’, they’ll help you through your next stage. Thank you for letting us be of service, Mr. Donalds.”

He took the small printout card, the slight hand tremble was a nice touch. “You’re welcome, Janice.”

She smiled. “Mr. Donalds, trust me there’s nothing to worry about. I spend at least six hours a week here in personal time.”

Returning her smile and nodding he walked towards door ‘B’. She wouldn’t be so pleasant if she knew what I was doing, I thought to myself while the old me used the card key and passed through door ‘B’. I stayed to see if anything popped up on Janice’s screen, in case he was going through sensors.

Behind the door was a long corridor with doors on both sides every thirty feet, and I knew where he was headed, the second door on the right marked ‘7,’ which led to another corridor. This one wider with no doors. I recall thinking as expensive as this was they could hire an interior decorator and spruce up the place. Dull off-yellow paint adorned the plasti-crete walls, white linoleum flooring and gray metal desks. Even hospitals had more color to them, and it gave me the impression this building was more sterile than a hospital.

Final destination for the old me were alcoves with desks in them, metal, but fake wood with cushy chairs. Blinking I was behind the third desk on the left when he finally showed, looking lost. The old me handed the attendant my/our card key. ‘Mindy G.’ had been written on her nametag. She looked to be in her mid-forties, all dressed in white, she had reminded me of a nurse. By the looks of her screen, that’s what she was, and there must’ve been sensors somewhere, because my vital signs were on screen.

She glanced at his card key. “Good afternoon, Mr. Donalds, see this is your first time. We have another questionnaire for you to fill out. It is to help our councilors guide you along the journey you will soon be taking. It helps a lot if you are specific about what you wish to get out of Past Amusements.” Her English more precise, and I took it that fact was from a more extensive education. Remember it feeling reassuring this job wasn’t at the bottom rung of career opportunities.

“To be truthful,” he cleared his throat, “I’m not entirely sure what I expect out of this.” Heartbeat picked up a bit, and Mindy made a note of it. Knew there was a lie detector or two, but looked like they had the whole place wired.

She handed him the compu-board. “No need to worry Mr. Donalds, that is also part of the councilor’s job. Just give him some guidelines on where to start. The questions are quite self-explaining, and there is no right or wrong answer.”

He went over to the opposite wall and sat in the nearest chair to fill out the questionnaire. Without even looking at the compu-board Mindy plugged it into the mainframe. Thought it odd yesterday, but compu-board was already connected, and she had monitored my answers on the pysch-test and time delays, if any. “Your councilor is going to be Samuel Carson. He is in room ‘C5’, third door on the right. Thank you for coming to Past Amusements, Mr. Donalds. You may go down there any time you are ready.”

“Thank you, Mindy,” he responded before walking down the hall. I stood there and watched her punch in ‘cleared.’

I was behind the desk, when they went through their introduction. Sam was running through my screens as he talked, and again I had vital signs running across the top of the screen. “I see you’re interested in crime, what type?”

“Unsolved crimes mostly.” I watched the screen intently as they carried on their conversation, and saw no major spikes.

“What about time synchronizers or phase alternators?” Again there was no hint of anything more than curiosity, and after our talk Sam marked everything as ‘cleared.’

Old me headed off to change while I stuck around with Sam. “Mindy, run a thorough financial on Jack, and a law enforcement check.”

“You think he might be undercover?”

“No,” he waved her off, “just want to make sure is all. Check to see if he hit on the girls, or–”

“Tell you right now, no.” Mindy shook her head. “He’s too nervous.”

“Ah, like the police were after him nervous?”

“No, no way. You want me to get Mindy G. on the line?”

“Yeah.” His monitor flickered and Mindy the nurse was on. “Hey Mindy, Jack was just there, what’s your take, criminal-minded?”

“Unh-unh,” she snorted, “he does not have it in his profile, but he’s heard of our early failures, and knows it’s more than we reported. He also knows some are not suited for the formula, so I would attribute those little hic-cups to that.”

“Alright, that’s your department, thanks Mindy.” Sam tapped his lower lip. “Oh Mindy C., have Jake run his DNA, lets play it safe and make sure his record is clear. Hell, we don’t need any blowback like Dietz again.”

“Yes sir.”

Christ, Dietz was a child molester, and nothing was reported on him being involved with Past Amusements, I wasn’t going to be able to do this with them on my ass. He went through my screens again, and I could not see any red flags, then he highlighted my social life, or lack thereof. Wasn’t like I did not like the ladies, but I had to save every penny just to get this far.

I blinked and was with Jake as he finished strapping the old me down. Stuck around til he finished running all his tests, and found out what I knew, my record was spotless. Was back in Sam’s office before the old me returned. We went through this conversation without Sam putting any more markers on my screens.

The old me left and Mindy came in. “You want me to red tag his file for Time Security?”

“No,” Sam scrolled down my financial screen, “lets go with Mindy’s assessment.”

Once I came to I stopped into see Sam. “About this library do I need to sign anything.”

“No, just use your Past Amusement card.” Sam gave me a big smile. “Um-m, I take it any fears of our facility has been quelled?”

“Oh, yes,” I chuckled, “definitely. I’m recommending to Julie, my fiancée to get right down here and sign up for a package.”

“Um-m,” Sam frowned, “your personal file said no significant other.”

“Oh,” I waggled my hand, “which is true, I haven’t formally asked, but we’ve talked about it, and are working on a date for a formal announcement, until then I’m just single.”

“Yes, well congratulations.” Sam took out an old-fashioned business card, handing it to me. “When she’s ready have Julie see me, I’ll set her up with a fine plan.”

“Thanks, for both, I’ll certainly do that.”

* * *

On my third trip I was able to visit three separate places. It was easy, at first I found myself watching the Watergate break-in. I found it extremely boring and shut my eyes thinking the lost minutes on the tapes would be more interesting. I was wrong, and shut my eyes after listening to half of the missing minutes thinking, maybe I could catch Clinton in some of his compromising positions. There was nothing to see, and except for a number of assassinations it was the only time I looked into politics. I was excited about my progress when I woke up in the lab, but a bit disappointed in the whole experience.

During my training period I saw the Alamo fall, treaties signed, Pearl Harbor bombed, and Mount Saint Helens erupt. I also saw the unbearable conditions of Valley Forge during the revolutionary war, the mass confusion of the first battle of Bull Run, and the horrors of bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I was on the grassy knoll, and even sat in on the closed sessions of the Warren commission, but still couldn’t make any sense of the cover up. I witnessed the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Bell inaugurated. I saw the inventions of Franklin, Bell, Tesla, Edison, and Einstein being born.

After the thirteen weeks were over I once again found myself in Sam’s office. I had made every appointment and spent all my lab time in my introductory offer, along with a fair amount of time in the gym and library. Trimmed off ten pounds and took two percentage points off my body fat, making Didi and Max proud of their new fitness disciple. Still, I wasn’t sold on those nasty drinks. As for the library I kept the subjects varied enough to not alert Time Security.

“Well Jack,” Sam pumped my hand, “I have to admit you’re the only person I know of who used all their time and then some.”

“Yeah, was thinking I should buy stock in this place, or get a job here.” I laughed. “Just stopped by to get squared away with another block of time.”

“No problem, any complaints?” He asked punching something in the computer. “Ah, Julie is she still on the fence?”

“Ah, no complaints from me. Julie’s job has her hopping, and is not quite convinced two hours down here is like a two-week vacation. Swear, my little trips have given me a tremendous boost job-wise, and let me keep my sanity.” I winked. “But, I’m working on her, and you’ll be the first to know.”

“Good, that’s great, and you’re so right about saving your job sanity. Now, how about any suggestions to make your trips better?”

“Well,” turning from the camera I half-whispered, “wish there were a way to be a bit more interactive with the past, is there?”

“Perhaps,” Sam smiled, “in time. Well, I see you’ve been busy learning the ins and outs. Good, you haven’t bogged down in one era or a specific type. Here we go, another hundred hours all set up, it’ll just take your signature.”

I signed the screen, then got up to leave. Sam walked me to the door. “Stop by the Pink Elephant on twenty-eighth at seven-thirty sharp. Order a Vinny’s Special Mystery,” he whispered. He added louder, “As always Jack, it’s been a pleasure. I’m glad to see you enjoying our services. I’ll get you personal information about our stock e-mailed to you. You might check out one, or all of our ten web sites if you haven’t already.”

“Thanks Sam, I look forward to everything you have to offer.”

I was at the hole-in-the-wall bar at seven. It reeked of cigarette smoke, a practice that had been outlawed for years, and stale beer. It was overly-dark and floor sticky enough I almost turned and left, afraid of sitting in the place. But reason won out, you couldn’t do shady business in the Ritz.

After my eyes became accustom to the dark I headed for the bar, located on the back wall. Bartender was a fat fellow wearing a stained t-shirt and dangling a lit cigarette from his lips. I ordered the Vinny’s Special Mystery, which was something called a ‘Bruised Elephant.’ As I expected it came with a healthy price tag, fifty dollars to be exact, and I skipped the gratuity. Hefted up the big-ass glass, and I went to a corner booth to sit and wait.

It was supposed to have five different liquors in it, and a secret ingredient, which I think was turpentine. They could have been served in shot glasses instead of buckets, and I don’t think anyone could finish more than one. This wild concoction made the formula taste good, and left an even worse aftertaste. The barmaid came by, and I ordered a beer.

Sam came through the door at a quarter till eight, and went straight to the bar. He left, heading for the bathroom, without ordering a drink. After a few minutes without him coming out I went in.

“Jesus, took you long enough,” he whined when I walked in.

“Sorry, I didn’t know you wanted me to follow.”

“Hold on, not another word,” he ordered pulling out a small device. He punched in something, then fiddled with a few dials. “Alright, it should be cool to talk now.”

I pointed at the palm-sized gadget. “What is that?”

“I’m not sure. It supposedly scrambles the electromagnetic field, or something like that, to distort the time frame.”

“It keeps somebody from spying on us from the future doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, something like that. Here are some directions, follow them to the letter. If you slip up don’t bother coming to see me, because I don’t know anything else. No more questions, you got it?”

“Thanks Sam.” I went back, finished my beer leaving the near full pink and purple ‘Bruised Elephant’ with a dollar on the table. I followed the directions, which led to another set of directions, which in turn to more directions. Finally, after two hours of winding around the city I met a man outside a seedy looking strip club.

“You the man on the treasure hunt?”

“Yes,” I nodded, “I am.”

“Across the street 212, upstairs second door on the left. Knock three times, and tell him Maury sent you. That’ll be a ten-spot.” He smiled with hand out.

I gave him ten dollars, then headed across the street to a building that was definitely not the Ritz. With only a handful of flickering lights in the four-story building I had to wonder if it had been condemned, and they were prepping it for demolition. Had enough boarded up windows the place might be halfway through the demo end of the process.

Being as there was no desk clerk, or he was laying dead behind the counter, and sign denoting ‘elevator out,’ I used the trash strewn stairs, hoping 212 was on the second floor. Found the numbers on the sixth door to my left, down the darkened hallway. It was a steel door, while the others had been wood, an ominous beginning for my hopeful transaction.

I knocked three times, and someone with a deep voice boomed, ‘Who is it?’

“Jack Donalds, Maury sent me.”

The door swung open, and I walked into the dimly lit room. It was a big room, and not any hotel room either, maybe three or four of them a long time ago. Fifteen feet in front of me sat a number of people at a table, all shrouded in blackness. One was smoking a cigarette, another a cigar, and there was at least one between them.

“Have a seat Jack,” a voice out of the shadows said, as the door shut with a loud bang. He was to the right of the cigarette smoker, making it at least four at that table. Sounded like an Italian accent, and my mind automatically conjured up organized crime.

I turned around to see two very large men now blocking the door from my view. One would have been more than enough to take me. I sat down in the only chair I could find in the room. It was directly under the sole light.

“We’ll need a retina scan and fingerprints, if you don’t mind?” Someone else said from the shadows. This one had a Russian accent, or so I thought, which definitely led me to thinking organized crime. I resisted the urge to wipe away the sweat starting to bead on my upper lip.

“Of course not. I mean, I don’t mind,” I replied, as a man came out of the shadows and scanned my eye then my hand. He came from the right corner of the room, nowhere near the table. This was starting to feel like a bad idea, possibly one that might end with a permanent solution, to their problem, not mine.

“What can we do for you?” The voice asked.

“I wish to buy a time stabilizer.”

“Why?”

I sat there thinking a bit. “I wish to participate more in a few of the unsolved crimes of the past.”

“We know you weren’t followed and aren’t wired. You’re the manager of a large warehouse with no apparent affiliations with any police or court system. Single, with no immediate family. You’ve shown no other apparent interest in the subjects you took in school, or the majority of subjects you read in the library at Past Amusements. You spend all your time in the gym and on the table.”

I causally looked around the room, but still couldn’t make out anything but rough shapes in the shadows. “It seems to me you’re well informed. But, I believe what I do with the time stabilizer is my business.”

“You’re wrong there. Everything you do with the time device will affect us one way or another. This last question you’ll answer truthfully, or we’re through. Do you plan on using this time stabilizer for sport or profit?”

I shook my head. “I don’t understand.”

“There are only two things to do when you’re back in the past. If you change the time line, Time Security will be on you immediately. The other is committing a perfect crime, of passion or just murder, and getting away with it. Unless you plan on a few robberies, but I don’t think you’ve thought that out.”

“Oh really,” I snorted, “do you mean the inability to bring an object back to the present? Or the fact, if you hid something in the past it would be there in the present? Assuming, no one found it before you that is.”

“Very commendable, Jack. So, you’re not just another wacko pervert who wants to get their kicks out of a little rape or murder without getting caught.” The man who took my retina scan came back into view. He whispered something I couldn’t hear to the man I think had been doing all the talking.

“Well Jack, seems you check out, that’s good for you. So, what is it you want exactly?”

“What do you mean? I’m not sure I understand.”

“Do you want a time stabilizer, or time alternator?”

“What’s the difference?”

“Well, the stabilizer will keep you in that time line for as long as you’re in the lab. The alternator will let you slip in and out of said time line. I’d suggest the alternator, you won’t be stuck anywhere for a long period of time, and if need be you can get out of trouble fast.”

“That sounds fine. I’ll take the time alternator. How much is it?”

“That’s the beauty of it,” the voice chuckled, “it’ll cost nothing at all. Give him the papers.”

A man brought me over a large envelope containing at least a handful of papers.

“Those papers describe it all. There’s a job I want you to perform for me the next trip you take. It’s all detailed out in the envelope in your hands. Once you open it you got an hour to study them before they disappear, and they can’t be copied, in fact you should put them in the sink so there’s no accident.” This got some chuckles from the shadows. “We don’t need evidence floating around, any type of evidence. I must stress this point, if my merchandise isn’t where it’s supposed to be, when you leave the building after your next trip I guarantee you won’t make it home. Understand?”

“Perfectly, but why doesn’t one of your men do the job?”

“My men can’t get into the building without being watched the entire time. So, there’s no way we can get even a toothpick smuggled in, much less a stabilizer. All you have to do is follow those directions and don’t bother with the paper money. It’s useless in this time frame.”

“I’ll do what you have asked, but I won’t kill anyone.”

“That’s good Jack.” The man laughed. “We don’t want to disturb the time line, now do we? We got no more desire to see those prick time cops than you. I suppose we could go dig the goods up now if you’ve done what you say you’re going to do, but that’s some sort of paradox. Don’t you find it humorous the gems won’t be there until Friday morning, but after Friday they’ll have always been there. So, you have until Saturday, Jack.”

“Is this the only thing I have to do for you?”

“Not hardly,” the man laughed again, “you’ve three wishes to grant me. Just think of me as some kind of reverse genie. After you’ve granted me my wishes, your dreams will come true.”

“And when are these other two specific favors due?”

“Let’s get through the first with no problems, even minor ones, before you find out about the others. Give him the device.”

A man came out of the shadows and handed me a small box.

“It’s quite simple, click and the time force, or whatever, stabilizes, click it a second time and it reverts to the original setting. It takes five seconds the first time you use it on each trip, then doubles each successive time you use it. So, don’t get yourself in a bind that you can’t get out of. You make a minor mistake you might get away with it, you make a major mistake and Time Security will be all over you. Remember, if they get even the slightest of trails, they can track you with no problem. If you lead them back here you’ll have never got past Maury today, alive anyway. Get my drift?”

“Yeah, don’t worry about my end. I’ll take care of it.”

“Good, then we should get along fine. Oh, by the way, in case you do decide to use this for unnatural acts on women or people, make sure you’ve done your research. If I were you I’d stick with wars and major catastrophes. If you should bring Time Security in on your little activities the same deal with Maury applies. Got that?” The voice’s body raised one of his hands, and I heard the door open behind me.

At the door I turned back. “Fine, how will I know when you want me to do another job?”

“You’ll receive a card from your uncle Vinny, follow the directions. Well Jack, it has been a pleasure doing business with you, but I’d suggest you don’t tell your friends.” He and at least five others were laughing as I walked out.

It took a moment or two for my eyes to adjust to the light in the hall. Why all the bulbs were lit now I have no idea, and didn’t stop to investigate. I put the box in my pocket, and went straight home.

I took a quick peek in the box as soon as I got in my house. The device was flesh colored, about two inches in diameter, a quarter inch thick, and had a single push button on top of it.

The papers gave the floor plan of a large jewelry store in San Francisco, circa 1906, the year of the great earthquake. The information gave me addresses, as well as exact times the first of the major quakes would hit.

I studied the plans, jotting down the key points to review several times during the week. An hour later the writing vanished, and the papers were in the sink when they burst into flame. Besides my regular trips to the past I studied the key points, until I felt confident I had it down pat, forward and backward. Well, as confident as can be expected, knowing who I was dealing with. I’d never even started this if I knew it was going to put me between Time Security and the mob. Screw this up and one way or another it would be the last thing I’d ever have to worry about.

* * *

On my trip down to Past Amusements I turned off my auto-guide, and took an extra turn or two here and there, watching for a tail. Call it paranoid, but I was going to play it safe and smart. Pulled into the parking lot, bypassing a handful of empty spaces and parked quite a bit farther away then need be.

Switching the little gizmo from hand to hand there I stood outside the large, plain, light gray, plasti-crete building, which had an address on it in huge red block numbers, but no sign. There was a ring on the device where I could slip it over a finger, and with the sticky back it’d stick to my palm, if I could get it to quit sweating.

Kept on wiping off my right hand, then thought what if I had to shake someone’s hand. Christ, I needed to piss, and I had no idea I’d need industrial strength deodorant for the job. Had canceled my gym session, so I just had to go straight in, and Jake would be waiting.

Tried to slip the ring on the index finger of my left hand, but it wasn’t fitting right. So, I gave my ring finger a try, which fit better, except I couldn’t easily trigger it with my left thumb. I worked my right thumb a bit, and there was no way I could trigger it easily in my right either. Flipped it around, and the device was far easier to trigger, but also much easier to spot.

My hands were going to be strapped down, so two-handed was out of the question, and I was trying to remember if I made a fist when Jake strapped my arms down. A handful of people had passed, none giving me a second glance, but I had to make a decision.

Finally I turned the gizmo around, reasoning I wouldn’t need to activate it in a hurry. Took off the plastic backing stuck it on my hand, giving it a decent shake before checking on it. I was ready, or at least I hoped I was.

-to be continued-

*

freedom
07-03-2007, 06:16 AM
You keep putting out great stories...wish I could write that fast...thanks

wizardwriter
07-03-2007, 06:48 AM
Most of them I wrote a while back, but I let them sit then re-write, adding this and that, or worse having to cut stuff- I have about 20 more stories in various stages, but they come and go as they please- if it's not there I just go to the next-
I've been trying to market them, (not real hard, but I'm going to get serious soon) have had good feedback, just not connected with the right editor yet-
My goal is to write 3-5,000 words a night, being as I only need 4-5 hours sleep I usually make it-

thanks for the compliment- and I keep working at getting better

wizardwriter
07-04-2007, 05:14 PM
Janice was on the phone at her counter, and I pointed at my wrist mouthing ‘late.’ Shaking her head she mouthed ‘got five,’ and gave me a wave.

It was almost too easy to smuggle the time alternator in the palm of my left hand. Palm down on the table Jake put the strap on without touching my arm

After being prepped and going under I went straight to the address of the jewelry store in San Francisco. I checked out the layout before the first tremor hit, and was ready by the time the earthquake began. Everyone ran out of the building as the ceiling came down in several places. I pushed the button as the first tremor subsided.

The report said I had no more than two minutes before the building collapsed. I ran into my first problem when I realized I appeared quite naked in this time. You might think this fact would have been noted in the report, or at least I did.

Despite my minor problem I was able to fill two chair doilies with gems, cash, and some pieces of gold from the vault. Which opened with the combination provided in the report. I grabbed a coat before leaving through the back door, as one of the interior walls collapsed.

Unfortunately, the coat was several sizes too small. Fortunately, everyone was too busy trying to save their own life to care how I was dressed, or undressed. I only had to go a block down the street to a park, bury it under an oak tree, and I was done.

My next problem, park was near full of people trying to get away from the falling buildings. I stashed everything in the nearest alley, and pushed the button. Ten seconds later I blinked into nowhere as the coat fell to the ground.

I stood under a tree on a small knoll, well out of danger and witnessed the violent tremors shake the town before the fires started. I watched in horror as buildings on both sides of the alley, where the gems now were, collapse in a blazing inferno. Knew I only had the one chance at this, and couldn’t go back to relive this moment, according to the report.

Took me a full day before I could even get close to the area where the alley had been. There were hundreds of people searching, trying to find survivors in the decimated city. At least now the park was almost empty.

This time the first thing I did was find some clothes. It took me four hours before I unearthed the gems in the rubble, and made it back to the park. I began to panic, not knowing how much time I had left before they would bring me back. Wasn’t sure if I was in real time while in phase or not, and had no one to ask. Did know if they brought me back while I was in phase the time cops would be all over me. I had to get myself under control, too much fluctuation in my vitals and they could pull me early, which also meant, the time cops would be all over me.

The ground was so hard under the tree I had to find something to dig with. After an hour of searching I found a piece of steel and quickly dug a hole two feet deep. I placed the coins and cash on the bottom, then put six inches of dirt on top. I buried the gems and covered the hole with some leaves. I walked behind a statue a few hundred feet away before phasing out. I watched the hole for a while, but no one came near it, then I woke up in the lab.

George, my attendant, asked, “How was it? You had a spike or two.”

I could feel the sweat beading up on my forehead. “Was great, as always.” I sounded a lot more confident than I felt. “Guess there was a moment or two a tad intense.” George just smiled, and did nothing out of the ordinary, or further questions.

As I walked past the front desk Janice waved. “Hey ya Jack, same time as usual?”

“Not this time,” I shook my head, “I’m afraid I have to go on a short business trip.”

“Oh really, where to?”

“A week in San Francisco.”

“Sounds like a fun vacation.”

“Would be,” I grumbled, “if it wasn’t for two long seminars a day.” I smiled. “Is that a new color of eye shadow, or do you have someone new bringing out that lovely sparkle in your eyes?”

“I wish it was a fellow.” She gave me a backhanded wave. “But just eye shadow, when the light’s right it’s got a hint of purple in it. Like it?”

“Oh most definitely, gives your eyes a violet tint. You know,” I wagged a finger at her, “if I were ten years younger, or you went for older gents I could solve that little problem for you.”

“Should I schedule your regular times the following week, Jack?” She gave me a wink. “Where would you take me?”

“Yes ma’am. I’ll have to think of something special, for my trip. You know, take a little vacation to recuperate from my vacation.” I smiled. “Um-m, on the other matter, I’m thinking the Sky Room, a pleasant late dinner out on the patio. It’s a tad more causal, and this time of year the weather is perfect, plus the city lights spectacular.” I waggled my hand. “Course, it’s crass to flash money, so maybe a nice picnic by the lake, or should I save that for a possible second date?”

“Alright,” Janice held up three fingers, “when you get back, lets try three dates. Anytime is fine, Sky Room first, picnic, then surprise me, okay?”

“You got it, I’ll make the reservations on the way to the airport.” I wiggled my eyebrows. “Would it be out of line if I were to take a pretty lady shopping for something special to wear?”

“Please,” she fanned herself, “do I look like I’d say no to being spoiled?”

“No,” I winked, “you look like a little cutie who needs spoiled. I’ll call you with the night, and set up our pre-date. I’m thinking thin strap, slinky flower number to show off those lovely legs you hide behind the counter, but got to run, or I’ll miss my flight.”

Waving she giggled as I left. Had been behind that counter, and she indeed had great looking legs, which matched her cute butt I saw once while she was working out in the gym. I couldn’t believe how lucky I had become, and was hoping the run would hold a bit longer.

Set up a reservation in the Sky Room, as I drove straight to the airport. Damn, now I really needed money, cost me two hundred dollars for the reservation. Bought my ticket with cash and boarded a plane to San Francisco. I didn’t want to know if someone was waiting for me to walk through my front door, although they probably would have just hit me coming out of the building. I felt the need to pee every quarter hour, and really wanted a beer or two. But I refrained, reasoning this would only compound my first problem.

Wasn’t sure what I was going to say, or do, if the time cops questioned, or caught me, much less Vinny’s goons. Although, I was fairly certain I wouldn’t get much chance to talk with Vinny’s goons, or it’d change the outcome. By a stroke of luck there happened to be a ********* seminar that week. After checking into the hotel and renting a car I signed up for a handful of the seminars, then actually went to one that afternoon.

I went down to the park following the rather boring and overly-long senseless seminar. The park was near empty by dusk, and I couldn’t see anybody paying too much attention to the tree that held the treasure.

After three full hours I was getting nervous and impatient, thinking about taking a chance and collecting my coins. I could only hope Vinny’s boys wouldn’t show until Saturday like he told me. There was no sign of Time Security, but for all I knew they might be watching me out of phase. Didn’t help me suspiciously eyeballing everyone walking past. I thought to myself, ‘Man, is my paranoia working overtime or what.’ I decided it would be better to go deeper into the trees, and wait there, except now I looked like a pervert. Should’ve brought an old-fashioned book, or at least a comp-screen.

After another hour I was just about to come out from behind my cover when three men walked slowly past the tree. One looked at a piece of paper, which probably had written on it, ‘oak tree by large red rock.’ I bet it even had a red ‘x’ on it denoting the end of the treasure map.

They looked around, then one of them slipped behind the tree while the other two stood watch. My guess would have to be Vinny’s boys. They were gone within five minutes, without even bothering to turn and look back. I could only hope they hadn’t dug too deep.

I waited a full ten minutes, then scurried behind the tree, and the freshly dug earth came up easily. After hitting bottom I took out a penknife and dug down until hitting something metallic.

The cloth I wrapped the coins and cash in had disintegrated, years ago. I found the six coins, but the cash had turned to some kind of slimy slop. I pocketed the coins, filled the hole, then left. I looked around every fifteen or twenty seconds, as I walked back to my car. Took a roundabout way back to the hotel, turning every so often and backtracking twice. Knew I was more than a little paranoid, but couldn’t help shake the feeling I was being followed.

I quickly searched my hotel room after locking the door, and was relieved to find nobody there and nothing out of place. Pulled the coins out and I went in the bathroom to clean them up. Even though I had just seen the coins a few hours ago I had no idea what they looked like, or even were. Was surprised to find four of them were gold.

After putting them away I tried to get some sleep, but found it impossible. I’m not sure if it was the thrill of pulling off the robbery, or fear of being caught. Turned the holo-screen on and I found absolutely nothing of interest on the six hundred channels. I finally got a few hours sleep before my wake up call.

I thumbed through the yellow pages, and discovered a handful of promising coin dealers then jotted them down. Found what I was looking for at the second dealer. With a little haggling I got a hundred thousand cash for the largest gold coin, which he called a double eagle. I’m sure it was easily worth five times as much. Of course, I could’ve got more if I wanted to leave my name, or put the coin on consignment. I took the hundred thousand without having to sign a thing, then sat in on another seminar.

Monday I caught a shuttle to Tahoe, and sold the two silver dollars for seventy thousand in cash. Again sold them cheap, but there were no signatures or questions. Spent the rest of my day in the ******s laundering my money, and even winning a few thousand dollars. I had to fill out a federal report for my winnings in three of the ******s. To finish off my day, I deposited fifty thousand dollars in my bank account, which was now down to nothing. I also auto-paid three credit cards, which were all at the maximum limit.

I still had half of the coins, and enough money to keep my regular weekly sessions at Past Amusements for at least a few years. If my crime wasn’t enough, now I was carrying around over a hundred thousand dollars in cash. I bought a money belt, then returned to San Francisco Tuesday afternoon. I was able to catch most of the last seminar, but have no idea why I bothered, it was just as boring as the rest. However, after everything I had just been through most things would’ve been considered boring.

Being as time cops would’ve been on me long ago I felt confident I had fooled them all. Hell, they would’ve busted me going into Past Amusements, before any of this could even had taken place. And with the new time statues it would’ve been a crime as if I had committed it in 1906. I wondered if they had a looting law, and if I could be shot or hanged.

Was no point trying to watch anything on the holo-screen, I wasn’t about to concentrate on anything. I lay there staring up at the ceiling trying to get to sleep.

Awoke and I immediately checked to see if my money was in the belt. Knew I’d go crazy from worrying about my money and couldn’t take any more of these seminars, so I left for the airport. It cost an extra two hundred dollars to exchange my ticket.

My first stop was my bank and safe deposit box. I put the three coins, and all the cash in the box, then realized I had no idea how much money was actually there. I did a quick count, and took everything over a hundred thousand.

It was good to be home after my little adventure. I breathed a sigh of relief after checking my e-mail. There were no messages from Time Security or any strangers, but there were three from Uncle Vinny over the last three days. Each message gave me a different time and place to meet. It sounded like each successive message was a little harsher and abrupt.

Only had an hour to get downtown to meet Maury, so I left my bags in the hall and headed back out. I was five minutes late, and it hadn’t been my imagination, Maury wasn’t very pleased. I started to explain, but he cut me off, “Shuddup, and follow me.”

We went out back and down an alley before ducking through a door. We walked past a pair of men, then up three flights of stairs. He opened a door, and I found myself walking into another dimly lit room.

“Before you sit, retina scan and fingerprints, Jack. If you don’t mind?” A voice out of the shadows stated. I recognized the voice as the one who did most of the talking at our last meeting.

Nothing was said until the man who had taken my scan and prints reported in. “I guess congratulations is in order for a job, well done, hey Jack?”

I nodded.

“Could you give a brief explanation where you’ve been these last few days?” A second more harsh voice asked. I had heard him as well at the earlier meeting.

“A convention on *********, through my work. I was supposed to be back Friday, but it was too damn boring.”

“Where was this convention?” The first voice asked.

“San Francisco,” I answered honestly, knowing it could be easily checked out.

“Are you sure it wasn’t in Tahoe?” The second man asked rather loudly.

“No, the convention was in San Francisco. But, as I stated, it was boring, and I spent a day or two in Tahoe.” I could only guess they had my bank records.

“And it seems you did well in Tahoe,” the first man chuckled, “or San Francisco at some time. Alright, your next little task is here in Chicago. Of course, it was a few years ago.” Someone handed me a file, then the voice said, “Look it over, and see if you have any questions.”

I quickly scanned it. My next robbery was going to be during the great Chicago fire. Seemed simple enough, a man inherited a stamp collection worth fifteen thousand dollars, but was lost in the fire. I closed the file. “Seems the times are quite sketchy at best.”

“Yes, isn’t much known about the fire, and records weren’t kept too well in 1871. Henley lived next door to the infamous Mrs. O’Leary, and they were out of town when the fire started. So, I’d think you should have plenty of time to locate, gather and take the collection three blocks to that address. I must remind you there was damage to the destination building, but the basement was, and is still intact.”

“And if I can’t get in the building?”

“At the time the building was just under construction. You’ll have no problem gaining access. I trust you’re intelligent enough to know of the restrictions.”

“What if it isn’t there after all these years. I mean, over a hundred and forty years will pass, the place must’ve been remodeled a handful of times.”

“Have no fear, Jack. If you do as you’re told and place them where we’ve specified, they’ll be there. If they had been discovered we’d already know about it,” the voice countered.

“I just hope it doesn’t turn out like Capone’s vault,” I mumbled.

The voice chuckled. “On the contrary Jack, I hope it does.” He laughed, as I sat there scratching my head trying to figure all this out. “There was nearly a million-two and his records in that vault. If that ridiculous little reporter hadn’t made such a big deal about it, we would’ve never taken it. Now, if you’ve no further questions on the matter at hand we’ll be in touch.”

“I don’t have another appointment until Monday morning,” I admitted.

“Tuesday will be fine,” the voice replied.

I shrugged, then got up and left quietly. I couldn’t understand how something could have disappeared in the past before the future. But knew I wouldn’t understand the explanation, if one was given. I did know traveling between past and present created all sorts of problems and dilemmas.

Might not have an appointment on the table, but went down Friday for a session in the gym, but really to see Janice. She wrinkled her nose. “Thought you were on vacation.”

“Yeah, I wish.” I chuckled. “I’m serious, couldn’t take another one of those seminars, they were driving me batty, and touring the city by yourself is no fun, so I came back. Went to Tahoe and won a little, but was smart enough to not stick around and lose it all. Do you want to go shopping for your outfit tomorrow?”

“Sure, what time?”

“Well,” I shrugged, “if we start a little early we could get some lunch, if you want.”

Janice punched something out on her keyboard. “Ten would be fine, I ‘e’d’ you my address.”

“Ten, it is.”

* * *

Was knocking on Janice’s apartment door at five to ten, and she was ready, dressed in a red skirt and white blouse. “Very nice.”

“Thanks,” she lifted up a foot to show me her red flats, “not sure if I should wear these or my white heels. Actually, this outfit should be nice enough to wear, if you want to skip–”

“Ah, I’m not skipping out on anything.” I wagged a finger no. “As for shoes it doesn’t matter, because we will need to buy something matching your new outfit.”

“Um-m,” she grinned, “you really do spoil your ladies.”

“I try.” I offered her my arm, then opened the car door for her.

We chatted about nothing important, and she did not even notice where we were until I was opening her door. “Jack, this is a designer shop, you can’t do this, I thought we were going to a mall or something.”

“Really?” I shrugged. “I never heard any specifics mentioned, and this is what I had in mind.”

She was giggling, as I escorted her into the store. She fell in love with a silk chiffon cocktail dress, with matching shawl, until she saw the price, and her eyes bugged out. I insisted she try it on, and grudgingly she relented. It had spaghetti straps and the salesgirl suggested a new bra might be in order, and I gave her another nod.

They tried this or that, then Janice hissed, “Jack come here, check this out.”

I was sitting just outside of the dressing area, and went in to see what she was talking about. Janice opened the door. “What do you think?”

“Damn.” I almost swallowed my tongue. Janice was standing in her new barely-there peach bra and thong panty set. “Damn, that’s nice, very sexy, if that’s not too forward.”

“Yeah,” Janice giggled, “that’s what I thought, but wanted to double-check. Do you like it?” She looked at my crotch. “Um-m, you do, and that’s how I feel too.” She did a slow turn for me. “Way I figure it, if you’re buying them you should see if you like them, right?”

“Right, I like, no doubt.” I swallowed hard. “Would you like another set?”

“Jack,” she playfully swatted at me, “I’m not going to take advantage of you. One is more than enough, and no one ever bought me something so nice.”

“Fine,” I held up both hands, “for now.” I wiggled my eyebrows. “Course, we will be back here before the third date, maybe every third date.”

With a finger she motioned me to come closer. When I was near enough she wrapped her hands around my neck, and pulled me into her. She kissed me, and with our lips barely touching lingered a little. “Jack, thank you for being such a gentlemen,” Janice kissed me a bit more passionately, “I’ve never experienced this, and I like it.”

“Um-m,” I murmured, “me too.”

She put the dress on, and she definitely looked hot, salesgirl showed her shoes, which she tried on so the three of us could vote for their choice. The light blue heels won, and with matching clutch it was on to the jewelry counter. Silver looked better than gold, and Janice liked the turquoise stones, so I bought her a matching set, including a bracelet, anklet, and ring.

In her full outfit, Janice gave me a little twirl. “Jack, it’s beautiful, I can’t wait to go out.”

“Yes,” I smiled, “you are, and neither can I.” Tapping my lower lip I picked up a white cotton peasant dress. “Hm-m, I’m thinking lunch at a Mexican restaurant I know of on the lake, this should do nicely, you think?”

“Jack, you just bought me this.”

“Yes, for the evening,” I shrugged, “can’t go to lunch in it, right Debi?”

The salesgirl nodded. “He’s right, it’s not suitable for a causal lunch. Course, what you wore in could be serviceable, but if it’s on the lake….”

“Exactly,” I waved Janice on, “let’s go, probably need sandals, what about lingerie?”

Debi waggled her hand. “Some go braless, others nothing at all.”

Glanced Janice’s way, and raised an eyebrow. She grabbed my hand. “Well, let’s go see what you like best.”

I didn’t have to be told twice, and didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t this. Janice took her clothes off, then put on the peasant dress. “I love this, you have great taste Jack.” She peeled off her dress, and turned her back to me. “Take off my bra.”

Do so, and she turns to face me. “I’m betting you want me braless, huh?”

“Yes,” I can’t help staring at her titties, and those delightfully hard nipples, “definitely.”

“Okay, take off my panties for me please.”

Know for a certainty I’m using up all my good luck, but I kneel and take Janice’s panties off. I sit there eye-level with her neatly trimmed muff, breathing in the scent of her arousal. She runs her hand through my hair. “I take it you want me to skip the panties?”

“God yes, you’re beautiful, every inch of you.”

“Stop it.” She slipped the dress back on. “I’m not even cute, but I do have some talents.”

“Good to know.” I stood, and gave her a kiss. “You’re definitely cute, and quite sexy in this dress. I still can’t believe you’d even talk to someone like me, much less go out with me.”

“Silly, you’d be a great catch.” She kissed me. “But, I’m hoping you’re off the market.”

“Count on it.” I chuckled. “Think tan slacks was a bad idea.”

“We can put this back, and go get you something.”

“Or, if I’m truly spoiling you, we could do both.”

With her giggling and wearing her new outfit we paid for the clothes, then went next door to a men’s store. She liked tan, but chose slacks with a more baggy look, a light yellow French cut Tee, off-white sports coat, and Italian loafers. I thought we were through until she dragged me to the underwear table. “I’m thinking trunk shorts, but to be sure we better try bikini and thong.”

“Right,” I chuckled, “you’re joking, right?”

“No,” she smiled, “lets go take a look, and now I’m thinking we should see how you like free-balling too. Will be sexy knowing neither of us are wearing underwear.”

“Yes,” I wagged a finger, “but in my case without a bit of support I’m going to be in an embarrassing position every time I see you.”

“Are not.” She waved something. “A string bikini, lets give it a try too.”

String bikini was last, and a bit too much, or not enough. Kneeling Janice nodded. “Trunks it is, but we should just make sure.” She pulls my underwear off, and I bob up, hitting her in the nose. Giggling she rubs her nose against me. “Definitely trunks.”

I can’t believe my luck, and know it’s going to run out soon. We enjoy a nice drive out to the lake, and because of the extra shopping eat a late lunch. It was late enough a rose vendor showed up for the early dinner crowd, and I bought one for my young lady. Finished our pitcher of margaritas, then took a little stroll on the lakeshore.

Janice wanted to sit on a big rock, dangling our bare feet in the water, and after talking a bit I gave her a kiss. “This is the best pre-date I’ve ever had.”

“Um-m,” she kissed me, “this is the best date I’ve ever been on, you’re a sneaky devil.” She smelt her rose. “Clothes, jewelry, lunch, flowers, did you forget candy?”

“No,” I grinned, “on the way home I thought we could share a little treat at this old-fashioned ice cream fountain.”

“Really?” She lay her head on my shoulder. “Jack, am I supposed to believe you’d spoil me like this every day?”

“No,” I kissed her forehead, “but I’d always do at least one thing special for you every day, and always keep you guessing, in a good way.”

“Why are you single, Jack?”

“Ah-h, never found the right girl.” I gave her a shrug. “Actually, I’ve had something I needed to do, and it has taken every spare moment I’ve had.”

“Um-m, mysterious.” She ran a finger across my lips. “Is this quest near complete? And can you start searching for the right girl soon?”

“Very near complete.” I kissed her deeper and more passionate than all previous kisses. “I’m not going to search, pretty sure I already found her.”

“Um-m, romantic.” She took a deep breath. “This has been great, but I need to get home.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. We can leave now, and skip the ice cream, if you–”

“No,” she kissed me, “ice cream is fine.”

Didn’t think I did anything wrong, but wasn’t sure. We enjoyed the ice cream, and I pulled into the visitor’s parking space. “Can I walk you to the door?”

“No silly, I wanted to get home because I’m so hot any minute I’m going to burst into flames. I want you to spend the night with me.”

“Oh,” I absently nodded, “sure, I can do that. Would love to.”

Was so glad I ditched the seminars, and was so damn lucky. She wasn’t kidding my young lady was very talented, and I finally left late Sunday night. Will admit, I half-expected to get busted coming through my door, but didn’t care. Had plenty of dates, even a handful of girlfriends, but nothing like Janice, and I could die a happy man. There was no one here, or even signs someone besides me had been in the place.

Janice kept me up most of the night, and I was dog-tired, just wanted to go to sleep. But I wanted to spend time down at the library looking through everything I could find on the great fire. Seeing as that option was gone I got ******, but Vinny had been right, there was very little known facts on the disaster.

* * *

Monday morning I’m at Past Amusements an hour earlier than my appointment, dropping by to give my lady a bouquet of daisies. “Was going to be roses, but I didn’t want you having to answer embarrassing questions.”

“Jack, love them,” Janice sniffed the flowers, “and there’s nothing for me to be embarrassed of, I‘ve a new man in my life who treats me like a princess. When you’re around I’m not going to wear them, but I’ve my new underwear on, just to remind me of you.”

“Well, looks like I will need to take you out and buy you more than one set of lingerie.” I gave her a wink. “But not tonight, we have a date.”

“Yes, we do.” She licked her lips. “You want to come home, and help me get dressed?”

“You bet.”

“If you wanted to,” Janice raised an eyebrow, “you might bring over some things, so if you decide to spend the night, it’s more convenient.”

“No, if there, my lady,” I kissed her hand, “I’ll be there as long as you let me.”

“Get out of here,” she swatted at me, “or you’re going to be late for your workout.”

I chatted about my vacation, in the gym and the tank, which is what we called the lab. Even had time to sign up for another hundred-hour block, paying in cash and no one batted an eye. Sam came out, and we talked about my luck in Tahoe among other things.

Finally the time came, and I entered the lab room a little nervous. I could feel my palms sweating and would swear everyone knew what I had done. The people as usual were cheerful and helpful. It seemed to take a while longer for the drink to take effect, and I lay on the table fidgeting. At last the room grew dark, and I found myself back in what I took to be old Chicago.

Thought it would be best to check out my final destination, and get my bearings. Was easy to see why this building survived the fire, it didn’t exist yet. Basement was in, and they were just starting on the walls, but they were made of brick. Only problem here was the place was littered with construction equipment and material.

With a blink I was standing in front of my target address, and didn’t phase in until I stood inside. There was a large coat in the entry, so I borrowed it. I walked into the room off of the hall, and fumbled around for a light switch. Half a minute later it dawned on me there was no electricity. I found an oil lamp on the table just inside the doorway. As luck would have it, there were matches in a container built right into the lamp. I lit the wick, and after a bit of experimenting I got a decent light out of the thing. I looked around, and in the dimness saw a desk against the far wall, full length shelves on both side walls, loaded with books and papers I took this to be the library.

The stamp album I was searching for was sitting on the corner. I almost left when I saw three more similar albums on an overhead shelf. Damn ten-foot ceilings, and I didn’t see any ladder, so I crawled up the shelves. Get the three, slide them towards me, and something smaller is on top of them, falling down. Whatever, whacks me on the head, I spazzed and slung the albums off the shelf, start falling backward, grab a shelf, and it collapses.

On the way down I take out two other shelves, scattering books and papers everywhere. I gather up the three new albums, and look at the mess. “No way do I have time to clean this up, screw it.”

Each of these new albums contain stamps, and I’m staring up at the ceiling. “Nice job, Vinny.” Out of the corner of my eye I catch more albums, on the top shelf of the opposite wall. “Oh shit.”

With no other choice I scale these shelves. I’m more careful pulling these down, but shouldn’t have worried, seeing as soon as I get a hold of them the shelf I’m standing on goes. I take out three more shelves before landing on my ass. Now, I got shit everywhere. Nothing I can do, and I look at these albums, they’re coins, not stamps.

Had no idea what stamps I was supposed to retrieve, and could find no names on any of the albums. Knew I was running out of time, so I decided to just take them all. If the place was going to burn, what difference was it really going to make. Using the same logic I took the coins for me.

With the armload of albums I head for the door, already had it opened when I remember the lamp. Go back to turn if off, and grabbed the chimney with my free left hand, only to discover it was extremely hot. I let out a yell dropping the albums, as the lamp teetered as if to fall. Reaching over to steady the lamp I knock it over instead. The floor burst into flames, as the glass lamp shattered.

What was even worse, the time alternator had fallen off my palm. I can’t believe it, I’m not even here, how could this happen, and the paradox of being in two places at once ran through my head.
I immediately panic thinking I’d be stuck in this time forever if I didn’t find it, or if it had rolled into the growing fire. I wondered if Time Security would find me, and what might be my punishment as I frantically searched for the miniature mechanism. By sheer luck, I found it rolled away from the fire.

After snatching it up, I foolishly tried to stomp out the flames only to realize I’m barefoot. By the time I was finished jumping around, the fire is completely out of control, back half of the room in flames. There’s nothing I could do but grab the albums, and haul ass for the door. I left knowing the house was going to burn down anyway, so I hadn’t really altered anything.

I painfully limped as fast as I could the three blocks down the street without seeing anyone. There were no alarms or any movement at all until I reached the new building site, then all hell broke loose. There were explosions, and I could see the flames lighting the distant sky. My next problem was an extremely dark basement filled with tools, and not a light of any kind, I could find. I tried to make it to the corner, but after wracking myself in the shins a third time I gave it up.

My problem was solved shortly, by the light of the encroaching fires. I waited patiently, watching the colorful flames and gray smoke fill the sky. I finally had enough light to maneuver through the basement, making it to the far corner, and found a loose board. I stashed the albums after rolling them up in the coat, then nailed the board back in place.

With the three coin albums I head to the other corner, find a loose board and pried it loose. Smoke is collecting at ceiling level, and I can’t see in the cubbyhole. Feel around and seems solid enough, so I stuff the albums in, and now start coughing. Have to get the board back in place, but can’t see it, and have no idea how much time has passed. Tried to keep from coughing, worrying about my vital signs, but I was making it worse. Think I had the board in place and phased out.

I was coughing and gagging from the smoke, then realized I no longer felt it’s affects even standing in the middle of it. Although, I still could feel the sharp stinging in my hand and foot. My threshold of pain would never be considered high, and these minor burns hurt like hell. I spent the rest of my time watching the entire fire in fascination. After it finally died down and Chicago returned to normal I took a look at the handiwork done in the near dark. It looked as if everything was in place, so I returned to the lab.

The attendant was more than a little surprised when he opened the door. “You still had an hour left, Jack.”

“No shit, could’ve sworn I had been gone better than two months,” I replied.

“Man, you’re one bad ass time surfer. Best I’ve seen, and I ain’t just saying that,” he informed me taking off the wires.

“Thanks, George.”

“Course,” he fanned himself, “I hear tell you have a hot date with Janice, might have something to do with skipping your last hour.”

“Um-m, definitely.” I jumped down from the table, and winced a little on my landing.

“You alright?”

“Sure, just sprained my ankle a bit,” I answered.

“You should take it easy after coming out early, let you get re-adjusted and all,” George suggested before leaving.

It was a little difficult getting dressed, and quite painful to put on my shoes, but I managed. I now had to get out of here without anyone noticing my limp. And we could forget about any cool down time in the gym. I was already past Sam’s office when he came out.

“Jack, I heard the good news, Janice and you.” He twitched a bit. “Sorry, about your fiancée not working out, happens some times.”

“Yeah,” I held up my hands, “some people just can’t get past their work. Julie swore she was going to take it easy, and make it down here, just couldn’t cut the strings.”

“Oh, your decision.”

“No, not really.” I shrugged. “She took a big promotion in Hong Kong, and that’s a long, long-distance relationship. We both knew we weren’t going to see each other more than two or three times a year, so it was a mutual thing.”

“Well, that’s good.” Sam gave a thumb jerk over his shoulder. “Mindy told me, another hundred-hour block, and you still have fifty left on your first one. I swear you’re trying to make me the top counselor all by yourself.” He stuck out his hand.

I bit my tongue and winced a little, but didn’t cry out when he shook my hand quite vigorously. I forced myself to chuckle. “Sure beats the holo-screen. Guess I could always switch to another counselor.”

“Now, there’s no need to get radical. I guess I’ll just have to live with the honor.” He laughed, and patted me on the back before heading to his office.

Janice saw me, and glanced down at her watch. “Whoa, that was quick.”

“George says, I’m a tad anxious about this cutie he hears I’m taking out tonight.” I sighed. “And he’s right, I’m real excited.”

“Ah, I’m not off for another two hours, but I can–”

“It’s okay sweetie, I need to make some business calls, will be right back.”

“Oh,” she offered, “well use this line.”

“That’s alright, I’ll take it in the car.” I gave her a wink. “Have notes out there.”

Phone rang, and she gave me a wave. Thankfully, I made it out of the building without any other confrontation. Got in the car and drove to the nearest supermarket, where I got a handful of different burn medications, and enough pain medications it looked as if I were cooking up a new drug. Out in the car the salve I put on eased the pain in my hand, although did little for my feet. I was pissed, there wasn’t much I could do about my hand, but the injuries to my feet were stupid.

Also bought water, set a flip-flops, and bouquet of flowers in the store. I was wearing the flip-flops when I brought Janice her flowers. “Oh, you stinker,” Janice giggled, “wondered why you needed to go out to the car to make a phone call. You didn’t even need to call anyone, did you?”

“Guilty.” I shrugged. “But I also had to get out of my shoes, guess my feet aren’t used to the sun, kinda got burnt out at the lake.”

“Silly,” Janice swatted my arm, and I’m so happy she didn’t hit my hand, “you should’ve said something earlier.”

“Ah,” I rolled my eyes, “was too busy having fun to notice, and I wasn’t wearing shoes.”

“Um-m,” Janice giggled, “you weren’t wearing anything at all.”

“Just a smile.”

“Jack–” The phone rang, and she took the call. “You know we don’t have to go out, if it–”

“S-sh, I’m not going to hear that kind of talk.” I made a face. “Not going to let a little sunburn keep me from having a beautiful night with a beautiful lady.” Phone rang again, and I mouthed. ‘Will be in the library.’ She nodded, and waved me away.

Took a chance and got ****** to look up old coins. Back then, was probably just a child’s hobby of every day coins, and I did not see anything like the double-eagle, but all totaled bet it would turn a decent profit. Janice came and got me, then I followed her home. She took a look at my feet, and giggled. “How in the world did you do that?”

“Guess, it was the sun reflecting off the water.”

“Um-m, was going to ask if you wanted to fool around before we–”

“I don’t know the answer to everything,” I pulled her up, and kissed her, “but I know that answer will always be yes.”

We made love before taking a shower, then got ready for our date. I wore my loafers, but no socks, and we had a grand time. On our way to her house she snuggled up to me. “It was great Jack, but for future reference I had just as much fun at the Mexican restaurant, ice cream fountain, and even the lake.” She giggled. “But, we’re going to keep a tube of sun block in the glove box.”

“All considered, would be wise.” I kissed the top of her head. “Does this mean you’re going to give me more than three dates?”

“Um-m, many as you want.” Janice kissed me. “But, I don’t need them being fancy or costing a lot. I’m a fair cook, and just like being with you.”

“Well, I’m not a bad cook either, and would love sharing a kitchen with you.” My face heated up. “Ah, I didn’t mean rushing you into living together, or anything like–”

“I know,” she giggled, “but I wouldn’t mind discussing that possibility, and unless you have a house full of shit-slinging monkeys I’m pretty easy to get a long with. Any secrets I should know?”

“Hm-m, I clip my nails while watching the holo-screen, but I use an auto-clip.”

“Okay, I’m one of those who really like to eat crackers in bed.”

“Well, I’m one of those that’d never kick you out of bed for it.” I tapped my lower lip. “I always dry off in the shower, drove a girlfriend crazy, always put a toilet lid up, then down. Never leave the top off the toothpaste, and squeeze from the back.”

“Those are good ones.” Janice giggled. “I like real candles, and real massages.”

“Um-huh,” I kissed her on the cheek, “I like to learn new things, as in giving massages.”

“Yeah, goodie.” She wiggled around. “Oh, I love my hair washed by someone else.”

“Can do. I love seeing my girl running around the house naked, or close to it.”

“Oh, that’s a definite, love being naked. Don’t like being called nasty names, even during sex, and don’t like it rough. Love sharing ice cream out of the carton.”

We went on and on, even after we got home, then I got my first lesson in giving massages. It was a long night, and I got up early to make Janice breakfast, serving her in bed. Despite it only being cold cereal, toast, and coffee she loved it.

After Janice left for work I headed home, really sweating over the fact someone might be waiting for me. Was no trace of anyone being in the place, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of someone watching me. I had half a mind to ask Sam for that other gizmo, but I didn’t want to alert him on my suspicions. Hell, that alone might get me a visit from Vinny’s boys.

Went to put my shoes on to go down to the store, and my feet weren’t going for it. I called in sick, and wore flip-flops grocery shopping. I bought some of the things Janice had mentioned, then gave her a call. “Hi baby, took a sick day over my feet, want dinner made for you?”

“What a darling,” Janice giggled, “being as I know how you like me to dress I could come over straight after work.”

“You got the address, I’ll have everything taken care of.”

It meant back into the store, but I was thankful I didn’t need to drive anywhere else. I resisted the urge to go see about the stamps and coins, just letting Vinny get his stuff cleared out. Besides, I was thinking odds were long the coins would still be there.

Flowers, candles, extra bathroom necessities, even a new silk half robe I was set for my girl’s visit. Met her at the door and gave her a kiss. “Welcome home, hard day?”

“No, just hectic.” She sniffed the air. “Nice candles, what’s for dinner?”

“Well,” I chuckled, “you have your choice from a dozen different gourmet Four-Star dinners, a snap to cook.”

Janice giggled. “I like Four-Star’s, you have lasagna or beef stroganoff?”

“When I said a dozen, it was just ballpark,” I shrugged, “got at least two of everyone. They’re so easy, and taste so good. Even got their pizzas, how about we share a lasagna and pizza?”

“Sounds great.” She kissed me. “I cook a lot of them too, but I can also really cook.”

“Good to know.” I rolled my eyes. “But, I can cook as well, maybe not those dishes, breakfasts mostly, some lunch dishes.”

“Four-Star is fine with me.” She held me tight and kissed me. “I’m not complicated, and don’t need anything more than a good person to share my life with.”

“For our third date I was thinking maybe spend the weekend on the lake,” I chuckled, “with sunscreen.”

“Third date?” She snickered. “Think we passed that a while back.”

“Well,” I unbuttoned her blouse, “I was referring to third official date.”

“Um-m,” she shrugged out of her blouse, “anything you want is fine. Other good thing about Four-Star, clothing is optional.”

We had a fine meal, and even better night. Janice headed for work, and I made reservations for a cabin on the far side of the lake, and a cruise ship to take us there. Wearing my flip-flops I took a drive to get the coin albums.

Had thought it would be apartments, and I would have a tough time getting into the building, but it was office buildings, and I strolled in big as you please. Even more amazing, the three coin albums were right where I had put them. Taking a quick glance none of them were full, and a lot of the coins were the same in each, so as suspected I figured they were for three children.

Came out carrying the albums, and damn near had a heart attack, seeing a Time Security van in the parking lot. Would have ran, but had nowhere to run, van to my right, two uniformed men to my left, and one raising his hand. I was just going to hold up my hands, when he smiled. “We’ll be out of your way in no time.”

“My way?” I squeaked. “Time?”

“Yes,” he pointed, “the van is blocking the driveway, we’ll be out of your way in no time.”

“Oh, yes sorry.” I half-chuckled. “Mind is in a fog, think I forgot something important with the girlfriend, but she won’t say what. It’s no anniversary I know abo–”

“Hey,” the other laughed, “make it easy on yourself, just get a dozen roses and apologize.” They both start laughing, heading for the van, and I give them a wave.

Get in my car, and with a trembling hand check to see if I pissed myself. I just knew my luck wasn’t going to hold, and couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. Left the car on auto-guide only because my shaking might get me a ticket. Asked for the nearest used coin shop, and with a bit of backtracking drove there.

It was a seedy little hole-in-the-wall store, just what I needed, and I took out five coins. Didn’t need the cash, but wouldn’t be smart to flood the market with them later. Told the owner it was my grandfather’s collection and wanted them appraised, for a hundred dollars he did so. They ranged between three and seven thousand dollars, then I hit him with how much cash I could get, now.

He looked me over, then snorted, “Ten thousand.”

“Please,” I tapped the table, “you just said they’re worth twenty-four, and you’re not even offering me half.”

“Come on, could be hot.” It was my turn to snort. “Fine, I’ll give you twelve.”

“Ah,” I tapped his monitor, “you already ran a check on the coins, and they’re clean, eighteen.”

“Eyes clear, no tracks or jitters, decent clothes, what do you bet?”

“Horses, that fucking number seven in the third, leading by two full lengths and pulled up lame in the final damn stretch. Want to buy that prick and grind him up for hamburger, jockey too.”

“Sixty cents on the dollar,” old boy held up his hands, “good deal for both of us. How many more does your grandfather have in his official collection?”

“Close to a hundred, but nothing is official, no *********, no estate inheritance, they’re just there.” I took a deep breath. “Sixty, that ‘s fifteen, now, right now, green?” He gave me a nod. “Hell, I owe fourteen-five. Alright, fifteen cash, give me back the appraisal fee, and a package of the assorted plastic coin sleeves, and no paperwork.”

“Okay,” he’s nodding, and we both know the book he was using is five years old, “deal.” He slid me the hundred back, and took a pack of plastic sleeves off the back wall. “What about these others?” He asks, while popping open his safe.

“They’re going to cost you seventy cents on the dollar. Still a damn good deal for both of us.”

“Balfour had me appraise some old coins someone was putting up for losses,” he raised an eyebrow, “that you? I don’t need to get caught up between the two of you, and I know that prick ain’t even giving you forty cents.”

“We can leave names out of this.” I tapped the coins. “You get these, when I get fifteen-one, in nice clean bills.”

“Fine,” he pushed the three stacks of hundreds my way, “fifteen thousand. If we got future dealings, who should I expect?”

“Joe, Joe D. will work nicely.” I waggled my hand. “Back in a week to ten days, and want your price sheet updated. Will have the latest, and I’ve no trouble at seventy, but I want accurate numbers.”

“No problem, Joe D., pleasure doing business with you, and have a nice day.”

With this transaction I didn’t need to go to work, but did. I put a transfer in for days, and I get this line of crap it might take six months to accomplish. I didn’t want to cause a stink, but I had three months of vacation, and would take them if need be. My accounts all solvent, and with better than a hundred thousand cash in the bank, and probably thrice that in rare coins I was sitting good.

* * *

-to be continued-

*

freedom
07-04-2007, 05:29 PM
great stuff thanks

wizardwriter
07-04-2007, 05:50 PM
you're welcome, now I just need to finish it

wizardwriter
07-05-2007, 11:09 AM
Alarm went off, and knew immediately what I was going to do. My plans I worked so long on were going to be put on hold, until my feet could heal a little, and it wasn’t going to make a difference, the past was going to be there tomorrow or a year from now.

I gave Janice a call. “Hey babe, cancel this week’s lab sessions, please?”

“Sure, honey, what’s wrong?”

“Oh nothing, got some things I need to do before the weekend,” I chuckled, “plus my feet hu–”

“Jack, do you need to see a doctor?”

“No baby, just taking the week off, and staying off them.” I cleared my throat. “Ah, dinner tonight, my house, promise it won’t be much trouble?”

“Love to, also took half a day off Friday. I’m out of here at eleven, if you want to change your plans, I mean get there earlier, I’m not going to let you back out of our date.”

“Never babe. How about I drop you off at work, then pick you up, and we can go from there.”

“Um-m, you’re sneaky.” Janice giggled. “Does this mean you want me spending the next two nights at your place?”

“Oh at least.”

Phone rang, and she had to go. Called in work to let them know I was taking my vacation, then finished off arranging the coins. There were two hundred eighty-seven, and I was running numbers through my head when my supervisor called. Let the machine get it, and she wasn’t happy, threatening to give me a black mark on my record if I didn’t give two weeks notice on vacation time.

I looked at all the soon-to-be-cash sitting in front of me, and chuckled. “That will be the last thing on my record. Oh, and I really hated the job.”

With twenty of the coins I leave to do a bit of shopping. Found out ****** keep it under five thousand dollars and there’s no federal tax form to fill out. Was easy, put five coins down on the counter, ask what I could get, push one or two out, if they wanted personal information I’d say forget it. They’d knock off ten percent, and I sold the coin or coins. I’m sure there were decent pictures of me in every shop, but since they ran the coins they wouldn’t red flag them.

Instead of swinging into the bank, I dropped by a jewelry store and picked up an engagement wedding ring set. Janice looked so good in blue, I chose a sapphire with small diamonds, set in white gold. Actually, it was three interlocking rings, each main stone half a carat surrounded by half a carat of diamonds. Paid cash, naturally, and signed nothing. Next stop was the bank, where I put two hundred coins, and all the cash in my safe deposit box.

While doing a bit of grocery shopping I was trying to figure out a way to launder my money, and wondered if Time Security monitored IRS records. Besides gambling, only thing I could think of would be real estate, which I better do pretty fast, while I still had a job. I rented, so buying a house or something would be a smart move.

Despite my feet hurting I felt pretty damn good about everything, but a tad worried about what else Uncle Vinny had in store for me. I looked ****** for any rare stamp, but for all I knew it could’ve been some seventeenth century stamp instead of one for that era.

Janice showed up, and we had a wonderful evening. Once she headed to work, so did I, with my first stop getting a new haircut, then slapped on a White Sox ball cap. New computer ID programs would only take seconds to identify me, still I was hoping the salesclerks were not going to recognize me if any came asking.

By Friday I had another fifty thousand cash, along with our weekend suitcases packed. Janice wasn’t a real big planner, just making sure she had the basic necessities and sunscreen, but I made up for it, and had double-checked everything on my list. No big deal, wasn’t like we were going out in the wilderness, and would need to live of the land.

Ten minutes to eleven I walked into the large, plain gray plasti-crete building, and found a grinning Janice, standing beside the counter. She fanned herself. “Been on pins and needles all morning, I can’t wait, this is such a great surprise.”

“Honey,” I chuckled, “this isn’t the surprise, you’ve known about this for at least a week.”

Vicky, her replacement nodded. “He’s right, Jan.”

“Real surprise,” I wiggled my eyebrows, “is after dinner.”

“Way I hear,” Vicky snorted, “that’s not going to be much of a surprise either.”

Janice swatted her. “Behave Vick.” She took my arm. “Can’t wait for the surprise, and have a lot of time before dinner.”

“Yes, but that’s not the surprise.”

“Well,” Vicky waved us away, “get out of here already, you can tell me Tuesday,” she grinned, “or better yet call me tomorrow.”

When we parked instead of getting in line for the ferry Janice wrinkled her nose. “We’re not taking a car over there?”

“Nope.” I gave her a kiss. “Rented a bicycle for two.”

“Um-m, romantic.”

“And I didn’t think we’d wander to far away from the cabin.”

“Um-m, sexy romantic. It’s not a room?”

“Nope, cabin on the lake. So not a lot of neighbors to bother with your squeals of delight.”

Whack! She smacked me on the arm. “I don’t squeal.” Janice giggled. “Okay, maybe a little on the good ones, and there’s a lot of good ones.”

Our bicycle was at the dock, along with the property manager, Gloria, who had the key, map to the place, and list of phone numbers where she or her husband could be reached. First stop was the grocery store, I said something about taking it easy cause we only had the basket, and a clerk informed us there was free delivery. Janice loved the place, and we also had a canoe, and small skiff tied at our private dock. “Jesus Jack, it’s beautiful,” she gushed, “but you must’ve spent a lot for all this.”

“Not if you consider how important this weekend is going to be.”

“More mystery,” she hopped around begging, “tell me, tell me more.”

“Can’t,” I shrugged, “you said you wanted it to be a surprise. Now how about we get out of these clothes, and get comfortable.”

“Bedroom,” Janice wiggled her eyebrows, “couch, or table?”

“Bedroom first.”

Halfway through dinner she started pestering me about her surprise, and I put the small box on the table. “Open it.”

Janice opened it, then scrunched up her face. “Is this a… Are you asking–”

“To marry me,” I cut her off, “yes. I love you. Janice, will you marry me?”

She started squealing, and we could forget about dinner. She took the ring out, put it on her finger, jumped on my lap, squealing the whole time. I kissed her, then put a finger on her lips. “Told you, you’d be squealing, is that a yes?”

“God yes, I can’t believe this is happening. For the longest time I didn’t even think you noticed me, and then I find out we have so much in common. I’m so glad you asked me out, because I was trying to figure out how to ask you to ask me.” None of this was making any sense, but she was kissing me and jabbering so much I could not ask her what she meant.

Janice finally calmed down, and I kissed her. “Liked the sapphire better, reminds me of your sparkling eyes, but if you want a conventional se–”

She locked her lips on mine to quiet me. “It’s gorgeous, but I only wear one for now, right?” Janice took off the two, and looked at her finger. “Jack, I’m not complaining, but is this a spur of the moment thing, or maybe Julie’s?”

“No, not really, I mean it’s definitely not Julie’s,” I chuckled, “it’s a tad fast maybe. But without working these past days I’ve a lot of time to think, and I love being with you, miss you terrible when you’re gone, and think about you constantly. We don’t have to set a date, I just wanted to let you know I’m serious about you.” I gave her a kiss. “Plus, I’m not getting any younger.”

“Um-m, but you aged well, like fine wine.” She gave me a long, tongue-filled kiss. “What about your quest, you’re not going to run off on me, are you?”

“Not if I can help it, and my little quest will be over next week, one way or another.” I rubbed her back. “There’s something else I want to do, concerns our future.”

When I didn’t say any more, she asked, “Good or bad?”

“Well, hard to say,” I gave her a shrug, “have a little money and was thinking about getting something like this, a cabin by the lake for us.”

“You mean like a timeshare?”

“No, I mean like ours.” I kissed her, as her mouth fell open. “Could come out every weekend, but a lot of people live year round here.”

“What about our jobs?”

“I’ve got my twenty in, and going to turn in my papers. Thought maybe I could buy a little business, or get a job here. As for you, figured you’d be a busy mom, like you talked about.”

“Really?” She squeaked.

“Sure, I’m thinking boy, girl, boy–”

“No way, girl, boy, girl, we ladies need the majority vote.”

“Alright baby,” I laughed, “girl, boy, girl.”

“Can I decorate the house?”

“Anyway you want it, inside and out.” I kissed her. “Garage is mine, and I’ll take care of your rose garden, along with a vegetable garden.”

“Um-m, a rose garden, that’s romantic.” She snuggled into my shoulder. “Nice dream.”

“No dream, sweetheart.” I nibbled on her ear. “Have a list of properties, and map with a nice bike route planned. Go east tomorrow, west the day after.”

“You wear sun block,” she kissed me, “I don’t want any problems at night.”

“Deal.” I patted her butt. “Now, lets go enjoy a little of this lovely night, before I enjoy you all night.”

* * *

Made my girl breakfast in bed, and let her sleep in a bit. I brought a tray in, and she yawned, then looked at her ring. “Thought it might be a dream. You know, I’m one happy girl, even bet I’m the happiest girl in the world.”

“Good,” I kissed the tip of her nose, “plan on keeping you that way.”

Found the house, not three blocks away, second one we looked at. Three bedroom, two bath log cabin on two acres, with a garage and small boathouse. But we both agreed to look at the others, before making a decision. We looked at everything on the list, comparing everything to the one we wanted, and there was an interesting side note, three were being sold by Simon Parks, the owner.

Sunday after our second ride I called Mr. Parks and set up a meeting for the morning at ten at possibly our new home. It was not the cheapest we looked at, but nowhere near the most expensive. Janice was so excited she couldn’t eat. “You sure we can afford it? I got a little saved, and will work as long as possible, maybe even after–”

“Honey,” I smiled, “don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of it. We’re not going to live like royalty, but we can live well out here. We can get around by bicycle in town, so keep my hybrid, unless you wa–”

“One car’s fine.” She kissed me. “Jack, I don’t need fancy clothes, expensive furniture, salon treatments, jewelry, exotic food, or anything rich–”

“S-sh,” laughing I kissed her, “honey, we’ll be fine. We’re not going to have live like a couple old hippies grazing on grass and getting all furry to keep warm or save on razors.” She giggled, and I shrugged. “Just meant, we wouldn’t be going out to fancy restaurants as much, goes for clubs, gyms, and such.”

“You know we don’t go clubbing, or even drink that much,” she made a sour face, “what about Past Amusements?”

“Well, if you haven’t noticed,” I ran a finger down her cheek, “since I started seeing you, I’ve cut my hours back considerably. Rather be in the present with you, than the past with all those others.”

“Um-m, you say the sweetest things, husband-to-be.” Giggling she kissed me, then sighed. “I’m not going to bother you about finances, but you promise any problems tell me, no spoiling me.”

“Got it, baby.” I tickled her, getting her squealing. “Guess, that means no massages.”

That got me a smack, and her a massage.

* * *

We were ten minutes early, but Mr. Parks was already here. He was mid-sixties, short, baldheaded with a firm grip. “Well, call me Simon. So, Mr. and Mrs. Donalds, you tired of the city, or this vacation rental property?”

“It’s just Jack and Janice, Simon. Actually, we’re just engaged, and we’d like this to be our first house,” I smiled, “but we’d be interested in vacation rentals too.”

“Oh, soon to be newlyweds, this is a great starter house, and enough land to expand if you care, but it can only be one home.” He winked. “As for vacation rentals, it’s like your own gold mine, two weekends a month and you’re turning a profit. Got ten properties left, but the missus wants to travel, and I use to run it all, upkeep on them, and everything.” He sighed, and rolled his eyes. “So, I’m selling them off, and taking the hit with IRS.”

“Could help you with that,” I grinned, “figure you have them all paid off, you could carry the paper on them for me, deferring the tax liability.”

“Um-m, I’m listening.” He stroked his jaw. “How many are we talking?”

“All ten, Simon.”

His eyes bugged out. “Do I get some sort of incentive or ********* they don’t fall back in my lap a complete mess?”

“A hundred-forty thousand cash, and a year’s mortgage payments in advance.” I held up a finger. “Also after the first I’ll give you another hundred-forty thousand cash, in case you’re claiming it on taxes it’ll be deferred over the two year period.”

“Um-m, I’m liking that.” He went back to stroking his jaw. “And you?”

“Well,” I took a deep breath, “would like a fifth off the going rate, and naturally the two hundred-eighty thousand deducted off the selling price, five percent interest, and twenty year notes.”

“A tenth off my asking price, which is below market value, I get six-five on my money-market, so match that, and fifteen year notes on half, twenty on the other half.”

“Alright, I’ve no problem with any of that.” I nodded. “What about the state of the property, what kind of assurances can you give me?”

“Have complete and detailed upkeep records, will pay for either of the local house inspectors to look at the properties, or deduct the amount from one you bring in, and will guarantee no major problem for two years. I’m an honest man, been in the business a long time, and if something were to come up we can discuss it in an adult manner, and will come to terms, not blows.”

“Simon,” I stuck out my hand, “we’ve got a deal.”

“Great,” he shook my hand, “looks like you’re in the vacation rental business.”

“Honey,” I smiled, “if you’d give Simon the package in your purse. It’s fifty thousand dollars, good faith fee, and we can get the ball rolling.”

Janice gasped, and took the package out of her purse. Simon took it, and grinned. “Thank you kindly Janice. Ah, I might have a receipt book in the truck.”

“No need,” I patted my chest, “I’m an honest man myself, our word is fine. I’ll bring over the other ninety thousand before Friday. Once we get all the details worked out I can give you the first year’s mortgage payments.”

“Well hell,” Simon snorted, “I love the way you do business, and I hope the two of you are as happy here as the missus and me were. We’re going to celebrate our fortieth on a world cruise.”

“Congratulations, and thank you Simon.”

“Ah,” Janice squeaked, “can we look at the house a bit more?”

“Janice,” he handed her the keys, “it’s yours, little lady. I have it rented out the weekends all month, but nothing after that. When you’re through drop off the keys on your way into town, address is on the key chain, sure the missus would love to meet you.”

Simon left and Janice started squealing, jumping around. “Did you just buy all this?”

“Yes dear, we did.”

“Oh fuck me!”

“Yeah, does get you excited.”

“No Jack, I mean, oh fuck me, I’m so horny I could scream.”

I took care of my girl, then she calls Vicky to fill her in on the latest. I wiggle the key chains. “Place we stayed, same key chain. The property manager Gloria is Simon’s wife.”

“Whoa, that was a nice cabin too. What kind of money are we talking a month?”

“Um-m, guessing six hundred to two thousand each.” Janice’s eyes bug out, and I waggle my hand. “But, you have upkeep lawn service, so figure half that.”

Janice blew all the air out of her lungs. “Maybe ten thousand dollars a month, yeah, it’s a damn gold mine.”

We were going to get lunch in town before catching the cruise ship, but Gloria and Simon were just sitting down to eat when we dropped off the keys, and we accepted their invitation. Gloria filled us in on the local gossip, including most of the village do’s and don’ts.

On board ship we stood at the rail, and Janice snuggled up to me. “This has been one wild weekend, unbelievable. What do I do now?”

“Um-m,” I gave her a kiss, “give notice at your apartment,” kissed her again, “work too if you want.”

“God,” Janice took a deep breath, “my folks are going to be floored.”

“Oh, ah,” I scratched my eyebrow, “did I do this out of order or something?”

“No, silly.” She patted my cheek. “I talked to my mom about you a while back, and she knows we’re dating. But, they’ll want to meet you soon.”

“Well,” I held up my cell, “how about we set up a dinner date for the Sky Room.”

She was giggling while I made reservations for Wednesday, then called her folks with the time. They were locals, and were happy to go to dinner.

We got to my place, and I looked around the room. “Suppose most of this will be getting chucked?”

“No,” Janice laughed, “but a lot of it will be going in the loft, and you have to remember because of your little negotiation today you have ten houses to furnish.”

“Oh shit,” I winced, “didn’t think of that. Looks like you’re going to have a full time job for a while.”

“Damn,” she rolled her eyes, “all that shopping and decorating, how will I cope.”

“Um-m,” I nibbled her ear, “with my massages and our love sessions.”

* * *

Being as I had an early session I took Janice to work, and Vicky had done a splendid job getting the word out. Barely got my workout done before it was time for me to go to the lab. My task for the day, to watch the old me and the coin dealers. I already knew they hadn’t contacted Time Security or the police, but I needed who to deal with and who not too.

It was time consuming, but none of them cared in the slightest the way we had conducted our business. As suspected they all ran the coins for stolen property, it was the law, but that was it. I had three of the smaller dealers who had skipped the federal declaration form, even though I was over the cash limit, and I checked them out better, in case they informed the police, but none of them even put the coins on their books.

For my last task, I peeked in on Simon. He was on the phone to Gloria before he even got in his truck, and no way was he going to squeal on me to the feds. With my tasks done I came out early, and lay there staring at the ceiling, coming down from the trip.

Things couldn’t be any better, in the next month I could dump another thirty, forty coins here, which should take care of Simon. A trip to Vegas or Atlantic city, would take care of twenty or thirty more coins and I could launder fifty thousand, and we should be set for a year. Unless I wanted to take a major loss, my problem was going to be those two silver coins. Could play my three shady dealers off one another, and get better than a hundred thousand for the two.

“Hey Jack,” George called out, “you alright?”

“Yeah, just basking in the glow so to speak.”

“Um-huh, heard,” he chuckled, “Janice and you, a good couple. Wish you all the best, dude.”

“Thanks George.”

Was going to see Janice, then hang out at the library til time to go home, but Sam caught me. “Jack, Jack, what am I going to do with you.” He shook his head, and stuck his hand out. “Good luck, to you two, and congratulations, a new life and business.” Pumping my hand, he leaned closer whispering, “You watch how you spend that money, be very careful.” He backed off. “Know we’re going to see plenty of you, but you got to come to Janice’s farewell party.”

“Oh, I will.” I smiled, thinking I forgot about this wild card. I never gave Sam any extra cash, and thought Vinny gave him a cut, but what if he was tailing me. “Was real careful with this new investment, and looks very promising.”

“Good, glad to hear it, Jack.” He patted my shoulder. “Make sure I get an wedding invite.”

“Definitely,” I winked, “and we’ll be having an engagement party out on our lake property too, you’ve got to come.”

“Wouldn’t miss it.”

Damn paranoia was in over-drive. Vicky had come in early to look at the rock, and slugged me. “You know if you worked days, that might’ve been mine.”

“Um-m,” I wiggled my eyebrows, “almost a certainty.”

The girls laughed, and Vicky shrugged. “So, how do you feel on polygamy?”

“No way,” Janice wagged her finger at the both of us, “and we’re not going to have any maid-of-honor shenanigans either.”

“Promise.” Vicky hugged Janice. “I’m so happy for you, Jan, and I think Dan’s going to get off his butt and propose.”

“Tell him if he does,” Janice grinned, and winked, “you can have a lakeside wedding on the property, right Jack?”

“You got it,” I shrugged, “besides, that’s the least we can do for me having a night job.”

Giggling the girls talked until it was quitting time.

* * *

Wednesday night rolls around and I’m nervous as hell, had sold another twenty coins, delivered ninety thousand dollars to Simon, but that paled to meeting Janice’s parents. I was fiddling with my tie, and just about to re-tie it again, when Janice snuggled up to me. “It’s no big deal, honey.”

“Hm-mpf, to you. Only did this once before, and it didn’t go well.”

“Different circumstances.” She kissed me. “My folks are going to love you, and dad loves to fish, he finds out you have lakefront property he’s going to think you’re a god. Doubt Vin, my brother will show, he’s always working.”

“We, baby,” I kiss the tip of her nose, “we have lake front property.”

“Um-m, we,” she closed her eyes, “sounds so romantic.”

Shortly I was introduced to Fred and Wilma Matthews, as predicted her brother Vin couldn’t make it. After shaking my hand Fred asked, “So, you got any Flintstone jokes?”

“No sir, should I?”

“Fred and Wilma, yeah, most do. Remember the Flintstones?”

“Ah, vaguely, sir.”

“We can cut out the sir crap. Didn’t serve as no officer, and I was a working stiff, carpenter. Fred will be fine.” He looked around the patio. “Don’t do places like this much, food good?”

“Yes, but we know a nice little Mexican restaurant on the lake, more fun.” I smiled. “We don’t eat in these places much either.”

“He did it for me dad,” Janice wiggled her dress strap, “can’t wear this at McDonald’s.”

“Good point,” Fred nodded, “and you look beautiful sweetheart.” He took a drink. “Hear you have a nice piece of property, will try not to pester, or impose on you too much about fishing on holidays, or being semi-retired and all.”

“Well, I was thinking,” I took a deep breath, “since you are semi-retired, maybe we could do a little working fishing trips. I’m sure the properties could use an experienced carpenter now and then. So, if you were actually working, how could that be an imposition, and if you needed something, boat would be fastest, so you drop a line now and then.”

Fred laughed. “I really like the way you think, Jack.” He looked over at his wife. “Now, will that be interfering, dear?”

She sighed. “Suppose not.”

“Good.” I smiled. “If you’re interested we’re going out this weekend, not to our house, it’s rented, but to one of the other properties, you’re more than welcome to come, check the place out.”

“Um-m,” Wilma answered first, “sounds like you’re being polite, Jack?”

“I am, but,” I raised a finger, “we wouldn’t mind someone with a bit of experience to look over what we have and need. Could even work up a list of what improvements should be more important.”

Fred looked over at Wilma, who gave him a nod. He raised his glass of beer up. “Deal, think we’re going to get along great Jack. Bet you get along with our son too. He likes to fish, but doesn’t get much time off.” He waggled his hand. “A government department head, but he can’t talk about it, probably with some defense contractor. He wanted to meet you.”

“Well, sorry I couldn’t meet him, maybe he can come out this weekend too.”

Janice grinned. “Told you mom.”

“Yes, you did.” Wilma patted Janice’s hand. “Very charming, and we’re very happy for the both of you.” She winked. “Especially about the grandbabies.”

We had a fine dinner and splendid evening at the restaurant and when we got back home.

* * *

I’m making Janice some breakfast before she heads to work, when my supervisor calls, pissed I haven’t called her back. After Janice leaves I call, and get read the riot act. She tells me I’m not getting vacation pay, and I’m to return to work immediately.

When she finally gets through playing tough I said, “if it’s not vacation pay, it’s sick pay, I have thirty-three days. Coupled with my vacation pay consider this my notice, and I’m putting in for–”

“You can’t collect your retirement at your age.”

“True, but I can still retire.”

She was pissed, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. Had an appointment at Past Amusements, and knew I had to finish my quest today.

The room went dark, and I found myself looking at a gas station situated beside a major thoroughfare. It was late and there was little traffic traveling this cold rainy night. I had to find some clothes and had very little time to do it. I saw a pair of yellow coveralls and faded Levi jacket in the back room. But, the only thing I could see for my feet was a pair of dark green rubber boots.

I phased in, and quickly got dressed. The coveralls were two sizes too small, but jacket and boots made up for it, they were two sizes too big. To compound matters my pant legs would not go over my boots. With no other choice I left my pant legs in my boots. “Hell, doubt I could look any worse,” I muttered to myself, but I wasn’t going barefoot.

As expected I saw my parent’s car at the gas pumps, and knew I had only minutes. I looked around and couldn’t see anyone else. My father and younger self were just coming out of the station. “Excuse me, could you tell me if I have passed route 19 yet?” I asked.

“Don’t know which way you were coming from, but I think it’s about ten miles west of us,” my father answered with a smile.

“Just great, I’m already running late. You wouldn’t know a shorter way to get to Mount Lebanon would you?”

“Well, I’m not from around here, but have a map in the car. You’re welcome to take a look at it, if you want.”

“Why thank you, that’s awful kind of you,” I replied, following him to the vehicle.

He thumbed through the map book, then said pointing, “Here is where we are now. You want to be there.”

“Ah, yes I see where I went wrong.” We were interrupted by the screeching of tires as a car was traveling wildly down the road. I looked up just in time to see the car spin out of control and wrap around a telephone pole before bursting into flames.

“Oh my god,” my father hollered out.

“Jesus, guess I better call the police,” I added, heading for the station office.

The cashier had already call 911. She asked, “Did you see that?”

“Well, sort of,” I mumbled.

Could hear the distant wail of sirens as I backed out of the office. “Hello Jack,” a voice said from out of the shadows. I jumped at the sound of my name. “You know you shouldn’t be here.”

Two men came out of the shadows, one looked vaguely familiar, and I thought I might’ve seen him following me. “Don’t make any sudden moves. You’re in enough trouble without compounding it by running. Besides, it won’t do you any good, we know where your body is right now. Let’s just walk around to the side of the building. Nice and easy like,” a new voice stated, but they both sounded familiar.

I did as instructed. “Won’t run, but I didn’t do anything to that car.”

The first voice said, “That’s real good Jack. We don’t want to disturb the time line, now do we?”

Suddenly I recognized the voices. “Uncle Vinny, Christ almighty, thought you were Time Security.”

“I am, and it’s Lieutenant Vincent. Now, how about we phase out?”

Once again I did as instructed. I was a little surprised I could still see Vinny and his partner. I was confused at what Vinny had said, and didn’t even know what to say next.

“So, this is why you wanted the time alternator?” Vinny asked.

“Those are my parents, twenty-five years ago my parents died because of a drunk driver while we were on vacation. Would’ve never happened if I hadn’t thrown a fit to go to the bathroom.”

“A young boy can’t help the need to relieve himself,” Vinny suggested reassuringly.

“Didn’t have to go,” I confessed, “was just bored from all the driving. I went in and pretended to go, but I was tired of riding.”

“And this has been bothering you for twenty-five years.”

“Yes, but my parents should’ve never died. I’ve righted this wrong. I suppose you’re here to reverse this.”

“Not really, you’ll find the time line is quite flexible.” Vinny pointed, “Watch and learn.”

The police were now through with my parents, and they got back in their car. They were only a few hundred feet past the wrecked vehicle when there was a loud pop. The car slid off the road, and rolled down the embankment, as I screamed, “No, it can’t be.”

“I’m sorry Jack. All you managed to do was get yourself a broken arm to go with your broken leg. Nothing changes.”

“How can that be?”

“As I said,” Vinny shrugged, “time is quite flexible. Call it fate, kismet or whatever. But know this, it wasn’t your fault then or now, it was just meant to be.”

“Then why are you here?”

“To make sure you don’t complicate the matter by trying this again.” He held up a finger. “Your next move would’ve been to go back again, and tell your parents who you are. That would’ve been quite dangerous, and wouldn’t have done any good.”

I looked away not wanting to admit that would’ve been my plan. “So, you’ve known about me from the get go?”

“Yes,” Vinny snorted, “we’ve had operatives on you constantly.”

Wasn’t being paranoid, and knew my luck was never that good. “Janice?”

“She was part of our team?”

“Was?” I snorted. “Conned by a god damn pussy, what a fool. Should’ve known better.”

“Yes Jack, was, and I’m going to let that one slide, don’t do it again. This isn’t what you think.” Vinny chuckled. “She was to go out with you on three dates, and try to find out some details to make it easier to predict your time line interference. Janice refused to give us a report, and she was dismissed from the team. Despite what you’re thinking she is what she is.”

Finally I said, “Then I’m not under arrest, or am I to be an accident at the lab?”

They both chuckled at this statement. “We’re not some kind of vigilante group who take’s the law into their own hands. As I said, we don’t want you to disturb the time line any more than you have, and needed you to do what had to be done.”

“Then you can see the future as well as the past?”

“We can see the near future of a possible time line. It isn’t necessarily the time line we’ll live,” Vinny explained.

“But, why did you give me the time alternator in the first place?” I asked shaking my head in disbelief. “Isn’t that entrapment?”

“Suppose it is,” he replied with a shrug. “But that would only apply if you were being charged with something, you’re not. In the simplest possible terms, you were given the device because it’s what you were supposed to do.”

“I was supposed to rip off the gems?”

“No, that was to finance Time Security. It takes a lot of money and manpower to patrol the time line. The governing factions give us no more than a third of what we need to operate properly, in both men and funds.”

“So, you employ people like me, to do your dirty work, covertly. I suppose if I were caught, your part in this deception would never be brought up.”

“Unfortunately, that’s true. But, you were monitored almost continually to prevent that from happening.” He snorted. “True, we did push this way or that to move things along.”

“Christ,” I rubbed my forehead, “my supervisor, she didn’t give a single damn about my vacation.”

“True again.” He gave a thumb jerk over his shoulder. “You didn’t need the job, fact is you had to quit it to get to this point.”

“So, you know about the coins, and the cash.”

“Sure, quit screwing around and just claim it, then pay your damn taxes.” He made a sucking sound through his teeth. “Hell, you ain’t hurting no one, now or then, so who cares.”

“If it wasn’t the gems, and surely not my parents what was I supposed to do?”

They both laughed. Vinny finally said, “My, my as quick as you’ve been with everything else you haven’t figured it out yet?”

“I have done nothing else except recover those stamps. I-”

“Oh by the way, exceptional work. Who knew Henley was a stamp collector, and would have three albums himself. Great solution to your dilemma, and quite profitable for us. The total of the other three didn’t bring as much as the one we wanted, but they were close. All in all, you gave us nearly thirty million dollars, not counting the coins you took.” He tapped his chest. “My crew gets twelve percent of recovered funds, they’re real happy with you.”

“But, that’s still not my main purpose.”

“No Jack, think it through. Your main purpose should be quite evident.” He pointed at me, “You see, you were the cause of the great Chicago fire of ‘71.”

“Are you kidding all that destruction, all those deaths were my doing?”

“It was meant to be. Now come on Jack, there’s much to do. Consider those two silver coins from Frisco your salary for the next few years. Welcome to the Time Security Auxiliary.”

“What?”

“Come on Jack, I’m not stuttering.” He wagged a finger at me. “You’re good, damn good, and from time to time we need good people for special jobs, and they always accept.”

“Always?”

“Um-m,” Vinny half-curled his lip, then blinked, “yeah, always. See, that’s the good news, bad is, you don’t accept… Well, we have those charges…” He let out a low whistle. “Whew, with you a lot of charges, starting with–”

“Alright, alright,” I held up my hands, “accepted.”

“See, there you go.” Vinny smiled. “You’ll get your instructions shortly, and will come in for more training, physical and law. Oh, more bad news,” he waggled his hand, “keep your fingers out of the damn till, no more free-lancing. We’re starting with a fresh slate, and you shall be compensated.”

“That it?”

“No, one last thing, personal, between you and me.” Vinny jabbed a finger my way. “Don’t fucking screw up again, you already regretted one thing your whole damn life, and what did that get you? Don’t regret another, you make her unhappy I’m coming for your ass.”

Didn’t understand half what he was talking about, and this was no different. “What?”

“Come on, Jack, what the hell have we been talking about?” Vinny tsked me. “Marry my god damn little sister, and you can think of those Chicago coins as Time Security’s wedding present. Welcome to the family, and I’ll see you this weekend.”


The End- (for now)

wizardwriter
10-12-2007, 07:07 PM
bump

D.onelo
11-14-2009, 05:56 AM
I am still stoking on that enormous Bandai tin gold painted 1963 Cadillac I got today... all 18" of it.