Before the man’s eyes even opened, burning coal smoke accosted the back of his throat. His shoulder muscles tensed and blind eyes blinked helplessly as he waited for the tingling and roar in his brain to cease.
Who am I?
His headache pulsed, yet he stood and waited for his memories to catch up to him.
Where have I come from?
The roar subsided and his ears filled with that pressure of descending in an airplane. He pinched his nose and released the tension, then steadying himself for what he’d see, he opened his eyes again. He could see. Slightly.
Fog swirled around him. Tall dirty buildings disappeared into a dark smoke above the empty cobblestone street.
Knowing his name erased a bit of the lostness and desperation.
He drew a breath. But where am I?
Tim Reynolds lowered his hand and drew in another drought of air. For some reason, he’d been holding his breath. Again, smoke burned the back of his throat.
Up the street he could barely make out the front of a single Model T, parked. Cobblestones. Not concrete.
That’s when he noticed the thing in his arms: a rectangular box filled with gears and levers. At his feet was a stuffed white duffel bag. His eyebrows pinched. Something familiar was in this bag. He worked the string tie and peered in.
It all flooded back.
Tim Reynolds, detective, had been solving a crime, a murder. The death of a young couple in a scientist’s mansion. And in the midst of it, he’d been torn out of his place in time. He’d worked with the young Tim Reynolds. And this was his solution.
It had worked.
New York, 1880 was where he was supposed to be.
Simultaneously, it was where he was not supposed to be.
He belonged in the early 21st century. But that was the single place he could not exist. Because there was already a Tim Reynolds there.
Tim dropped the device into the bag with—he glanced in again— the treasures. Oh boy.
This was only part of what he thought would be here. There should have been more in the bag, not to mention the paintings and the crate. Those were gone.
He tied the bag back up and studied his environment.
No one was on the street. It must be two or three in the morning, late enough that the criminals were even in bed, because of course he’d think about the criminals.
He saw no one, but that didn’t mean no one was watching. Someone could be hiding in a doorway, waiting.
With the empty streets and the fog, visions of Jekyll and Hyde or Jack the Ripper flooded to his imagination.
Oh, Lord, let no one find me or find that bag.
The headache was gone, but the broken heart was not. The anger and rage and bitterness was gone, but not the longing for his wife and daughter, from whom he’d be forever severed.
But Young Tim would be cleared. If all went according to his surmising, Young Tim would open the door to the police, Sergeant Boice would take William Black and Ivan Briggston into custody, the recording would …or should…be enough for Tim to be cleared of collusion.
The only thing he didn’t know was what would change about the Antikythera device. Since William Black had never given the second device to himself, he never would have had the time machine. Which might mean the murder never happened.
Tim shook his head. “Ours is not to reason why,” he said. His voice sounded foreign as it echoed over the empty street. If the murder never happened, if William Black had never received the second device, why am I still here? How am I here? He glanced around his feet. The original device was missing, too. And why were some of the gold items still with him? It was almost as if he was half-done, he had half-solved the conundrum.
Two Tims, two devices, two timelines, two futures, and half a solution.
He covered his head with the trenchcloak’s hood, then hoisted the bag over his shoulder.
If he could pass the night somewhere safe, he could make plans in the morning. Plans were a big problem. Where would he go? Where could he go?
He patted his chest pocket. Yes. The HAART was still there. As far as he knew, Young Tim had never seen, or suspected, there was such a device. The HAART ensured he was connected with his real life.
Tim stepped off the cobblestones and started down the wooden sidewalk.
God was the boss of time. All my days were written in your book before one of them came to be. If I’m here, it’s one of those days you wrote, Lord.
Whatever God had for him, he was ready. It had to turn out right. It would turn out right.