5.5 You Shouldn’t Have Come

I’m distinctly aware of the darkness outside, the storm brewing, and the ghosts that seem to haunt this house. Time has been scarred here, and it does not go well with anyone.

That vault could mean the end of everything. I don’t trust William Black. Old Tim did— to his great demise. I will not make that same mistake.

“No. We’re staying out here.”

Black’s eyebrows pinch. “Fine.” He tenses his chin with frustration and whispers,  “Listen from here, then. I’ll meet him in my office. Just don’t get caught.” He pulls the door partially shut. Old Tim returns to the vault, but I listen at the opening.

“Brooke, dear. May we have some privacy?”

At least his wife does not mention us. Her voice echoes in from their bedroom. “Then I’ll be in Noah’s bedroom.”

“Why Noah’s room?”

“It smells like our boy. I still feel his presence around.”

Just as I thought. Ghosts in a world where there are no ghosts.

Black grunts something and the inner door shuts.

She’s gone. I guess Noah’s room upstairs is where Old Tim found her. I empathize with Brooke. There’s nothing like your child’s scent, and I can only imagine —and don’t want to know—what it’s like once they’re gone.

In the silence, Black speaks first. “What took you so long? You said you’d be here at noon.”

“Never mind what I was doing. I’m here now. So the police took you in… and they let you go?”

“Yes, they have nothing on us. They’re grasping for clues.”

“Good for you.”

“Good for us,” Black says. He directs the conversation, I hope to a confession. “Do you have the device?”

Paper rustles, and Black gasps with delight.“Oh, this is perfect. I can’t believe it. This means… oh, my goodness. I can hardly fathom how this happened.”

“How what happened? Why did the detective take it in the first place?”

“He didn’t take it. See. Look here.” Black must have noticed a difference in the two devices. “It’s a second one.”

“Huh? How can there be two of them? What’s going on? Did you make another one?”

“No. It’s hard to explain. But this is the one I gave myself years ago.”

“You gave yourself? You didn’t tell me that.”

“Remember when I came to the bank five years ago? I showed you my drawing and the gizmo. You told me you weren’t interested in fantastical nonsense. You said I was wasting my time—that I shouldn’t have come.”

“Yeah, so? That’s a long time ago. You got your money and it worked.”

“More than worked. We’ve cashed in on this,” Black adds. “I took those famous paintings. I found the Egyptian tomb and Trojan treasure. Everything. We made a fortune.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Then what?” Black asks.

Briggston doesn’t answer immediately. “I’m uncomfortable with you repeating our past—especially a couple hours after you’ve been released from the police station.”

“I’m just reminding you of our accomplishments.”

Briggston inhales loudly. “Are you trying to frame me? Are you wired?”

“Me? Wired? No. What are you saying.” He gasps then yells, “Hey!”

Something happens. But from Black’s words, I realize Briggston checked him for a recording device.

Oh, drat. I forgot to start mine. I pull the phone out of my pocket, but it’s the one Old Tim gave me. I flip through the icons to find the recording application.

Black continues, “See, I’m not wired. I’m reminding you. Just recounting. You only agreed to take this on because you wanted something from it. Something more than money. The reason you made me kill my son.”

“Hold on there, mister.” Briggston is quiet again. I can imagine them staring each other down. For a second I think Black is whispering.

Then Briggston speaks. “I never made you kill your son.”

“Why Noah?”

“I didn’t make you do anything.”

I flip through another screenful of apps.

Black’s voice raises. “You pressured me, saying you were tired of waiting. It needed a human guinea pig, and it would be Noah. You said that!”

“That was your idea, not mine. Besides, you said he was going to kill himself anyway.”

This time, I type in a search for ‘voice recorder’ and an app shows up.

Black’s voice gets louder. “My idea? I said he was suicidal. That didn’t mean I wanted to kill him. You swore you’d put Brooke through the machine if I didn’t start human experimentation.”

“That’s my point. You decided to test your son.”

Briggston hasn’t incriminated himself. Clever man must still think he’s being recorded. He keeps pushing blame back on his partner.

I press the button to start recording.

It makes a loud beep.

Briggston’s pitch increases. “What’s that?”

I cringe and wait. The men are silent in the office. I step back against the wall behind the door, but my movement creaks a floorboard.

“Who’s in there?”

Briggston rushes in, looks around, but freezes, attention distracted by the crate of paintings in the center of the room. I slip out the open door and into the office before he sees me.

Black hurries to the opposite side of the crate—I guess to distract Briggston from looking behind him. His shirt is pulled out in disarray and opened at the chest. But it could all be a ruse.

“What the devil you doing, Black? Are you taking my things?” For a second, it sounds like he’s really angry. I’m not sure they’re playing me.

“I’m moving the evidence out. To a storage rental. That detective was asking about the vault, probably even getting a search warrant for it.”

“When were you going to tell me about this? You cutting in on my share? You know very well it all is mine until you bring me my granddaughter.”

His granddaughter?

My memory flits to the young girl in the picture next to the piano. Lisa. New information might mean this is impromptu.

“I told you we can’t bring people. It’s impossible.”

Besides the fact that Lisa was dead. Things went horrible when Old Tim tried to bring Mercy forward.

“No, you said you’d try. You guaranteed it would be the ultimate accomplishment of this project.” His voice gets slightly louder. Is he looking around the room? “That’s the only reason I invested in you. I risked everything for this.”

“But the device won’t bring other people.”

“Yes, that’s what you thought. At first. But with the proper motivation, you guaranteed Nick would find a cure.”

“Proper motivation?” Black huffs in indignation. “Threat, more like.”

This information is perfect. Any jury will find it persuasive.

“Three days ago, you said he found a formula that worked.”

“It worked on some animals. Look at poor Jamie. She ended up just like that boy I tried to bring back.”

I hold my breath. What boy? Who died and where was his body?

“Do you remember him? That blob? It can’t be done. It shouldn’t be done. The portal doesn’t let multiple people through.”

“How can a portal know if a body is a person or an animal? It can’t. It’s probably a size thing. Keep working at it. We’ll figure it out.”

“Not we. Not anymore, Briggston.”

Their words are persuasive enough to believe, and this evidence is all we’ve been missing. True, as crazy as it sounds, reasonable, incriminating if you believe in time machines. How I’ll prove that is secondary. Primary is proving that they did it. I get closer, holding the phone to the crack in the door.

“You know how it works. There had to be one first experimental human.”

“But my son?” Black’s voice breaks.

“Don’t start blubbering. Once you fix this, you can bring him forward from the past before he was killed. You can stop it from happening in the first place.”

“That won’t work. All these masterpieces we stole out of the past — nobody recognized them anymore. None of this is of value but the gold, melted down. Museums don’t have the money to pay what they’re really worth, and without the evidence of in situ discovery, nobody cares. As soon as each was taken from its own place in time, it lost its value and its past was erased. Even if we get her, or Noah—what will happen to them and to us? We can’t know.”

“You shouldn’t have promised what you couldn’t deliver.”

I understand the murder, but haven’t caught enough of it on recording. Looking down at my phone, I stop breathing. It hasn’t recorded any of this yet.  This is par for the course. I haven’t been myself since yesterday! And I’m sure it’s because of Old Tim.

I turn the phone on mute this time, then push record and make sure it starts. In court, it’ll my word against theirs. Unless now they explain how Jamie was killed. And Briggston hasn’t confessed his part in Noah’s death. I hope Black will get him to say it. It will guarantee his wife’s safety and he refuses to take the fall alone. Once I get what I need, I’ll hightail it to the station to present my discovery. If these men say enough, it will clear me of everything.

“Briggston, look. Your granddaughter might change or warp in another way. She’ll be missing years from her life. We can’t know. You might not even appreciate your granddaughter if we bring her here.”

Briggston hisses. “Then you have to fix that part, too.”

“How can I? You have to let go of that dream.”

“You gave your word.” Briggston growls each word. “I told you what would happen.”

“Stop! Briggston. No.”

A thump and a crash reverberate out of the lab.

“Wait. I’ve got to say one more thing!” Black shouts, obviously afraid.

What is that one thing? Is Black turning on me? I tense and glance from this door to the exit behind me. If he tells Briggston I’m here, he’ll likely deny what I’ve heard, and I’ll have no case. If he tells Briggston I’m here, can I get out in time?

Nobody is talking inside. Has Briggston attacked him? Should I rush in to help Black, or wait to hear and record the rest of their confessions? 

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