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From Time to Time - A Short Story
From Time to Time
It was one of the most talked about crimes of the century. Doctor Jeremiah Walters was halfway through a late term abortion procedure when a stranger entered the room, picked up a scalpel from the tray, and calmly slit Dr. Walters’ throat. The stunned nurse watched the abortionist sink to the floor, his life streaming out from between his frantically clutching fingers. She stared at the killer, wondering if she was next.
He motioned to her. “I will now deliver the child. You will assist.” He had a strange accent she could not place, but his voice was that of someone used to command.
He delivered expertly, and a few minutes later, the wailing infant was wrapped in blankets. The stranger bent over the terrified mother’s face.
“You do not deserve him. He is now mine.” He looked at the nurse. “You will attend to the mother. I am leaving.”
It was the largest manhunt in the city’s history, and it soon spread to the rest of the state. Later, it became a nationwide search after sightings in several other states. The killer had faced a security camera almost insolently, as if he wanted to be identified, and his face was posted everywhere. Several look-alikes were arrested but DNA and fingerprints absolved them all. Days became weeks, but all signs of the killer vanished, until there were no more leads.
The mother became a media sensation for a time, but her reputation soon caught up with her and it was revealed that she was a crack addict and had numerous prior abortions. She had intended to deliver this one, but after the father was murdered, she decided to get rid of it, although it was on the verge of being born. She had never met the killer, and had no idea why he singled her out.
Months became years, and no trace of the killer was ever found. Neither was the kidnapped infant, despite national school DNA registration samplings. Both had simply vanished.
“It’s him. Jerry! That’s him, no doubt about it!”
The two detectives were reviewing the bank surveillance tapes of a recent and bizarre holdup, when one of then excitedly pointed at the screen.
Fred Sheldon, a known felon out on parole, was attempting to rob the First National when a customer stepped out from behind the velvet ropes and leveled a gun at the back of his head. Suddenly, another man shoved something into the back of the armed customer, who collapsed instantly. He was then picked up with surprising ease by the third man, who quickly stepped out of camera range, carrying the obviously unconscious customer, but not before a clear view of his face was caught in the lens of a security camera. He was the same man wanted for the murder of Dr. Jeremiah Walters, three years prior. Two weeks later, he was on the FBI’s most wanted list.
The police showed up less than a minute later, arresting Fred Sheldon. They also cordoned off an area of eight city blocks, but neither the armed customer or the man who killed Doctor Jeremiah Walters were ever found. Once again, he was caught in the lens of a security camera, and positively identified. The armed customer was unknown to the bank, and no one came forward to identify him other than the usual attention seekers. Despite massive publicity, he was never identified.
Doctor Jack Leonard opened his eyes, wondering what had awakened him from a deep sleep. He was a physicist, working on several government projects at the university and a few of his own, so sleep was precious and carefully allotted.
He blinked away sleep and was reaching for a light switch, when the room was suddenly flooded with light. Near the wall, a man he recognized instantly was seated in his chair, a slight smile on his face. Doctor Leonard stretched and yawned, finally bring his hands back and under his pillow. There, his right hand closed on the familiar grip of his model 1911 forty-five autoloader. The man by the wall grinned.
“I took the liberty of emptying your pistol Doctor Leonard, not that you could kill me with it anyway. I just wanted to avoid the noise. You understand.”
He waved his hand absently at Leonard.
“Go ahead and check it if you wish. I don’t mind.”
Jack Leonard slowly brought the gun out and ejected the magazine. It was empty. He worked the slide and the chamber was also empty. All he could possibly do with the gun was throw it at the man sitting across from him, and he was certain that it would be useless to even try.
Jack Leonard’s hobby was gaming, and creating games. One he had been working on for years involved heavy hitter criminals of the past, like Al Capone, and Timothy McVeigh. After their own deaths, it would also involve current criminals, like the man sitting across from him…the man who murdered Doctor Jeremiah Walters.
“Have you come to kill me?”
“Probably not. You seem to be a reasonable man, so I think we can work something out.”
Since he was to someday be part of his game, Jack Leonard knew all there was to know about this man, including his odd accent. In fact, now that he was hearing it, it was not so much an accent as it was an inflection, with an odd cadence.
“What do you want with me?”
The man reached for a can of Pepsi and took a swallow.
“That’s one of the best parts of coming here. I love Pepsi.” He belched suddenly, startling Jack.
“I want you to stop the G-Man project.”
Doctor Jack Leonard was stunned. He had mentioned the G-Man project to no one. In fact, he wasn’t even sure it was feasible.
“Who the hell are you?” Jack swung his legs over the edge of the bed and put his feet in his slippers. “I mean, I know who you are and what you‘ve done, but perhaps more to the point, why? And what do I have to do with it?”
The man laughed, and suddenly Jack had the feeling that whoever he was, he was not such a bad man…as murderers go, anyway.
“I’m a well-trained regulator. We got our name from a brand of clocks introduced by Seth Thomas around 1860.” He took a glowing card out of a shirt pocket Jack had not noticed, and held it up. “We keep straight time, so to speak, or perhaps time straight, as you wish. We are taught to handle just about anything.”
Jack put on his robe, and started for the refrigerator out of habit. He liked his orange juice on rising, but then he remembered the man and stopped.
“Can I get something out of the ‘fridge?”
The man shrugged nonchalantly, and waved him on. He found a glass, and poured some juice. He was about to close the door when he noticed a couple of Pepsi’s. He held one up with a question on his face, and the man nodded and grinned.
“I never turn one down.”
After they were both seated, Jack asked a blunt question.
“Who the hell are you and why should I cancel G-Man?”
“My name is Jonel Quage, and G-Man is causing me all sorts of headaches, because the rules are not being followed. You see, Doctor, you were right, and your theory works…for some people. In fact, moving through time and space is a breeze for certain people like me. For others, it’s almost impossible.”
For the second time in less than an hour, Doctor Jack Leonard was stunned. His G-Man game was based on freely moving through time and space in order to ‘kill’ the genuine bad guys of the past at the exact same time of their natural deaths. It was only a theory, and the game was so far-fetched that he had never gone beyond his own mind. He had just learned that not only did it work, but people were actually playing his game…somewhere in time.
“Not everyone can transpose through time, Doctor, and we don’t know why, so the lucky G-Man players operate at will with few to stop them, and some are actually killing historic criminals before their time. You can imagine the chaos that causes, so people like me, the few who can make the jumps, have to prevent those who would violate the rules from killing early, like that bank robber. Had he died there, he would not have lived to kill another would-be murderer who was going to go on a rampage.”
“So you want me to stop G-Man?”
“Yes. You will be famous for two other great achievements, if you agree.”
He belched again, loudly. “Can’t get Pepsi where I come from.”
“But what about killing the abortion Doctor? Why did you do that?”
“He was to die that day anyway from a heart attack, so no harm done. The mother’s dead boyfriend was a murderer and was on the G-man list. A player killed him early, so the mother decided to abort, and there was no good way to correct, so I just killed the doctor and took the child.”
“So what happened to the baby?”
“Not much yet. He’ll start school soon and in about thirty years, he’ll develop a way to prevent all but a few cancers." He glanced at Jack. "We do have our reasons, Doctor. They were about to abort the man who saved countless lives.”
He smiled at Jack. "If you're wondering about my accent Doctor, it's simply a generational oddity. Each generation develops its own accent. Just go watch some old newsreels and you'll see what I mean."
Doctor Jack Leonard agreed to drop G-Man for all time, but continue work on time-space movement. Jonel Quage shook his hand, and assured him that should he ever need anything, all he had to do was say so and he would return. Then Jonel Quage stood, smiled, and simply vanished.
It was just minutes later that Jack spotted the package on his bed. It contained a small black case, and several sheets of paper with math symbols. The note read: "A small gift for you, Doctor Leonard." He poured a cup of coffee and sat down to study the papers and the object.
It was several hours later before Jack Leonard’s associate and friend, Matt Clinton, got an excited call from the Doctor, and it was several minutes more before he got him calmed down enough to understand him.
“It’s the discovery of a lifetime, Matt! It’s cold fusion and unlimited free energy! I know how it works! The world is about to change forever.”
Somewhere, Jonel Quage opened the Pepsi he had stolen from Jack Leonard’s refrigerator, and took a long swig. He then belched violently and grinned, He was sure Doctor Leonard would not mind