“No.” I will not bolt it for him. “I’m not doing anything for you.”
His eyebrows furrow, and he lunges in my direction.
“Boice! I’m in here!” In two steps, I’m at the door. I turn the knob.
But the door doesn’t open.
Old Tim’s foot is against the bottom of the doorframe, then his shoulder presses against the entire door.
Someone shakes the doorknob from the outside. I pull to try to open it.
But Old Tim slides one bolt, then with all his strength he shoves me out of the way. I rush again for the bolt, but this time, he punches my jaw.
I’m stunned and fall back two steps. He flips a second lock, then advances toward me.
“Tim. Tim. Just hear me out.”
“No. I’m getting out of here.” I eye the door, and his position, calculating how to incapacitate him.
He pulls out his second gun and aims them both at me.
I focus on the open barrels.
“This time, you will listen to me.” He flicks his gun for me to move toward the middle of the room.
I stand my ground. “I won’t go in that machine. You can’t have my family.” I raise my chin. “With God as my witness, I will not let you succeed. If I have to die in the process, you will not get what you want.”
The old man’s eyes narrow. “You shouldn’t have said that.”
Oh yes, I should have. “I mean it.”
Someone hammers on the door. “Open up! This is the police. Open this door.”
My only hope is they’ll break through before he activates the machine. Surely someone’s gone out for the ram.
Old Tim draws in a deep breath. “You swore to God, but you don’t even know—”
“I don’t want to hear your lies anymore.” I belt out at the door behind him, “Boice! I’m in here! Help!”
He lowers the guns. “Listen. I want what you want. Focus.”
“I’m not falling for your lies any more.”
“You will hear me out. Pay attention!” He aims the guns at me again, then shoots both of them simultaneously.
I flinch. My ears are ringing and I can hear nothing.
I feel no pain.
Looking down, I check my body. No bullet-holes on my person. Only dried blood on my hand. I turn around to discover two holes in the wall on either side of me.
I barely make out Susan’s voice outside. “Tim! Are you okay? Tim!”
“They’re going to open the door,” Old Tim notes. His frustrated grimace puzzles me. “Hear me out. You’ll get what you want, just hear me out.”
The voices and sounds seem to come through a tunnel. I rub my ears, but the ringing is still so loud. My fellow officers outside keep shoving themselves against the door. Then I realize why it’s taking so long. The door frame is metal.
“We did it, Tim. Good cop, bad cop. We got them to confess.”
He waves the gun toward my pocket. “You recorded it, right?”
I scratch my chin and glance at the box of paintings on the transporter circle. What is his end game? I’m not going to be part of it. He’s distracting me for a reason. I will not get on that transporter. I will die before I do.
But if I die, he’ll take my identity. No. I’ll take him with me. How can I say such a thing? But that’s my family. He can’t waltz in and take them. I don’t care if he is, somehow, me.
Could he succeed? Briggston and Black know he’s not me. He told them he’d switch places. Is that the plan? To let them go with that condition? Using this evidence in my pocket as blackmail? All the more reason to keep mum.
“I know you recorded it, Tim. You probably haven’t even turned it off, right?” He flicks his gun again. “Take it out.”
Sarge knows he’s not me. They can’t all three get around that, right? Does Sarge remember what I said about him?
“Why do you have to be so difficult?” In a swift move, he puts a gun into his trench-coat pocket and takes out a Chinese star instead. He looks at the star and back at me. “Why didn’t you read the note?”
The note. In my breast pocket. I don’t reach for it. “I didn’t have time.”
“That’s the problem, Tim. You don’t take time to think. The scarf, the note, the two devices. All the clues I handed you, telling you what I was planning.”
Just then my entire being fills with sorrow and remorse, like I’m facing death, like I’ll never see my family again, like my life and purpose here are over. The guns didn’t even shake that feeling into me.
But it feels familiar.
“There’s only one way to make this happen,” he says to himself.
My muscles tense, waiting, ready for him to attack. Then I remember. I felt this when he first came. These sensations are resonating from him. Is this about the scarf? I’d read the note, but he’s most likely pulling down my defenses.
“You win.” He drops the weapons into his pockets and steps toward me.
I jump out of his reach and sidestep toward the middle of the room.
He grabs the duffel bag next to the vault and drags it toward me. I sidestep, keeping my face toward him. I’m almost at the door, he’s almost at the crate with that bag. What’s he doing?
“Not the door yet. Please. Wait till I’m gone.”
“Gone? Where you going?”
He loads the duffel bag and sets a device on top of it. “You have the evidence you need. You have the men, their confessions, the treasures they stole, answers to everything. But I need you to complete the circuit. You must do it. It may only work if it’s you.”
I eye the joystick-shaped switch on the wall next to the vault. What is he planning to do? Throw me off kilter, then pull me with him? On the floor of the crate is the second device. He’s got something up his sleeve.
“Send me to 1880.”
I move closer to the door, puzzled by what he’s saying.
“You’re going? You’re not stealing my identity? Is this another lie? What’s going to happen to me if I turn that switch?”
“It never was a lie. You were supposed to read the note.”
Old Tim has no weapons. If I unbolt the door, the police will catch him and me and the men in the vault.
But if I let him go — to 1880 or wherever — Sarge will never believe any of it. “You can’t leave. I need you to testify.”
“It’s my turn to say no, Tim.”
“How am I going to prove this murder without your… presence?”
Tim lifts one of the devices into his arms. “I don’t know how this quantum-slash-demon portal works. But I do know cause and effect. And if I’ve figured this right, we will keep William Black from ever receiving the device from himself. So flip the switch and I’ll fix everything.”
The man who looks so much like me, who holds my memories and loves plus some, steps onto the crate that rests on top of the transporter. Why is he taking all that stuff?
“He knows our name, Tim. That tells you all you need to know. Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. A way in the desert and all.”
“Isaiah 43.” Old Tim draws in a deep breath. “I hope this works. It’s been nice seeing you again.” He looks at me and smiles. “Give my love to my girls and keep the faith.”
The ram starts whacking the laboratory door. It won’t be long now. Unless, of course, I unlock the door.
I’m so confused.
In front of me, two bolts need to be slid open to let the police in. They’ll gather everything and everyone here and solve the crime, I hope. To my left is a time machine lever. I can flip that switch and see what happens. Old Tim says it needs to be me who completes the circuit. It might end up with me as a blob on the ground. But Old Tim did put his weapons away, and he does sound reasonable now, as much as a time-traveling alter-ego can speak soundly. He’s trusting me to help fix this rip in time.
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