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It's About Time
By Bonnie Hochhalter
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Bonnie Hochhalter
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRamon Gonzalez stood with his hands in the pockets of his grey flannel slacks studying the collage of clock workings that hung on his office wall. A brass plaque on the bottom of the polished dark wood frame identified the piece as "The Gears of Time". How Ramon wished he could have put those gears in motion to save his wife, but the company's policy was very strict. There was absolutely no use of equipment or facilities for personal benefit. He'd always believed it was a good policy ... until now.
Ramon sighed ... he'd done a lot of that lately ... and walked slowly across the room. The sorrow in his eyes and the sad stoop of his shoulders added to his 40 years. Suddenly a sharp pain flashed in his chest, settled there for a moment, then was gone. He could imagine Anita scolding that he hadn't been paying enough attention to his health since she'd been gone: not eating right, not exercising, not sleeping well. "It's not time for you to join me yet, my love," he thought he heard her whisper. He made a silent pledge to her that he would do his best to get back on track.
The brown leather chair behind his vintage mahogany desk creaked as he settled himself into it. The rest of the facility was sleek and shiny, all metal and glass and polished new wood, but Ramon felt most comfortable with this desk that had been his fathers before him. A stack of manila file folders his assistant had given him the day before still sat untouched on its corner. He slid the pile over in front of him. Ramon wasn't used to being here on Saturday since the offices were closed on the weekends, but ever since his wife had died in a car accident three months before, it had become more and more uncomfortable for him to stay alone in their empty house, so he'd been spending Saturdays at his desk. He was alone here too, but at least not every piece of furniture and picture on the wall reminded him of Anita.
He opened the top folder on the stack of files. Each folder contained a news clipping and notes on the date, city, and news service it came from. The headline on the clipping in this first file read, "History Arsonist Strikes Again". Why did the media insist on giving these people names? It just fueled the publicity, which was part of what they were after in the first place. There was nothing the company could do until the police discovered who the arsonist was, but this was the third time in three months that a building in historic Savannah, Georgia, had been struck by fire. It was time to put a stop to what was obviously a serial arsonist. Ramon scribbled a note to have a tracker follow this case forward, stuck it in the file, and set the folder aside. He had just opened the second folder when a chime sounded.
Ramon had heard this sound once before ... when he had tested the system himself seven years earlier. That he was hearing it now couldn't be good news. He went to his office door, took a quick look around in case someone else was hiding out at the company offices today too, then locked the door and returned to his desk.
Ramon stuck his hand into the top side drawer and felt around until he found the lever. When he flipped it up, a small hidden drawer dropped down; its only contents a black remote control. Ramon pointed the remote control in the direction of the collage he'd been studying and pushed its silver button. The wall panel in front of him receded and slid to the right until it was totally hidden behind the next panel.
The gap in the wall revealed a small anteroom at the back of which was a pair of what looked like silver elevator doors. The doors were closed, and there was no one in the anteroom. This puzzled Ramon because whoever had come here should be out of the car by now. He walked forward and pushed a green button on the panel to the right of the elevator. The silver metal doors slid open. He was surprised to see no one in the car either. Was this some kind of test ... or even a joke? Then his gaze lowered, and he discovered a small stack of objects in the middle of the car floor: a folded newspaper, an 8"x10" manila envelope, and what looked like a block of crystal.
Ramon picked up the objects, pushed a red button on the panel to close the doors, and returned to his office. He used the remote control to bring the wall panel back into place and then returned it to its hiding place in his desk. The office door stayed locked. After he settled again in his leather chair, Ramon spent a few minutes just contemplating the stack of objects he'd taken from the elevator. He was sure this meant the company was in trouble, but how much and from whom he couldn't begin to guess.
He picked up the top object, the block of crystal, and turned it around in his hands. It was smooth except for what appeared to be a control panel on one side. Ramon decided it was probably a communication device of some kind. He set it down on the desk. Next he opened the manila envelope and looked inside. There were several sheets of paper with writing on them, four plastic cards, and two keys. He closed the envelope and set it on his desk beside the block of crystal.
Now his glance turned to the newspaper. When he unfolded it, Ramon realized it was actually three papers together. The headline on the top one hit him like a blow: "Time Travel Used to Change History!" it shouted.
Chapter TwoIf someone were to visit Jaime Endicott's apartment, they'd see that she was an avid reader, that her taste in music was eclectic, and that she preferred her movies to be romantic comedies, with science fiction as a close second. If they walked around the apartment, they might also notice that she liked the color teal and was especially fond of fresh fruit. What they wouldn't learn was anything about her job. Her real job that is.
Ostensibly, Jaime worked in a used and vintage book store in the heart of Old Town. In reality, each morning when she walked through the book store's entrance, she'd continue past the shelves of books to a door in the back and down to the basement where she'd enter her personal code on a numeric keypad. This would cause a concealed door to slide open, and she would have 20 seconds to enter the exposed elevator. There was no need to push a button because, once the door closed, the elevator would begin its descent. When it stopped and the door opened again, she'd have 20 seconds to step out into the brightly lit hallway in front of her. At the end of that hall, an electronic scanner would recognize her palm print and grant her entrance to the offices of T. Isaac Miller Enterprises, known by its employees as TIME.
* * *
Isaac Miller had been going through some boxes he'd kept stored in the attic. They were full of odds and ends, relics from his childhood. In one box, he was surprised to find several items that had belonged to his late brother. His niece would probably want to have them, Isaac decided, so he packaged up the items for shipping.
He was on his way home after mailing the package to his niece in Florida when Isaac decided to stop at the corner Starbucks and relax with a cup of coffee. The day was beautiful, and it seemed most of the city was out. Isaac decided that those who weren't in the park or browsing in the shops today were in this particular Starbucks. He waited patiently in the long line to place his order: a tall drip coffee with a shot of espresso. When the barista handed him the drink, he added his regular two sugars and creamer then looked around the coffee shop, hoping to spot an empty chair. A younger man sitting at a table in the far corner gestured for Isaac to join him.
The man was in his mid-30's. He looked to be just over 6' tall, had short curly brown hair, and wore dark-rimmed glasses. He was casually dressed in jeans, a blue tee-shirt, and sneakers. Although he wasn't familiar, he looked friendly, and Isaac took the opportunity to sit down.
"Hi. I'm Jason Masterson," the man leaned across the table with his hand outstretched, "You looked like you could use a seat."
Isaac shook the proffered hand. "Thanks. I'm Isaac Miller," he responded.
The two men drank their coffee and talked about inconsequential things. Despite the difference in their ages, they learned they had many interests in common, such as baseball, jazz, and the novels of Jules Verne. Jason told Isaac that he was a science professor at the local university, and Isaac responded that he was a retired businessman who had always had an interest in the sciences. This conversation became the first of many to be held between the two over coffee on a weekly basis.
One day about three months after that first meeting, as they were getting up from their usual corner table at Starbucks, Isaac suggested, "Why don't you come over tonight for dinner, Jason? My housekeeper makes the best pork roast you've ever tasted."
"Thanks. That sounds great," Jason said and accepted the invitation.
Isaac wrote his address on a Starbucks napkin and handed it to Jason. "See you at 7," he said as they went out the door. Isaac waved and walked away toward his dark blue Mercedes sedan.
That evening Jason arrived right on time and was amazed as he drove up the long driveway. This wasn't just a house; it was an estate. He'd had no idea that Isaac was rich; not this rich at any rate. Jason was greeted at the door by Mrs. Smith, the housekeeper, who showed him into the sitting room where Isaac was waiting.
"Can I get you something to drink?" Isaac asked in way of a greeting.
"I'll have whatever you're having," Jason replied, as in awe of the inside of the house as he had been of the outside.
Isaac poured a golden liquid into two glasses and handed one to Jason. "Here's to friendship!" he toasted, and Jason echoed the toast.
Jason made a gesture that included the whole room and more. "All this," he said, "I had no idea. It's amazing."
"My business was very successful," Isaac told him with a grin in way of explanation.
After a few minutes, Mrs. Smith appeared in the doorway to announce that dinner was on the table. The meal was everything Isaac had promised: a crisp green salad, a succulent pork roast with potatoes and carrots, homemade applesauce, fresh rolls, and a peach pie with lattice crust. Jason had seconds of everything and complimented Mrs. Smith profusely. She giggled appreciatively and told him he could come back any time.
That night the after-dinner conversation turned to science, a topic they'd visited briefly in their talks several times before. Up to this point, the science they'd discussed had been the sort that anyone would consider to be science. Tonight that would change to what many people would consider science fiction. Until now Jason had skirted the topic of his personal research project, but in the privacy of Isaac's home, he felt comfortable enough to reveal it. He cautiously admitted that he was working on time travel.
"You're kidding!" Isaac exclaimed.
"Don't be so skeptical," Jason admonished, a little disappointed by his friend's response and wondering if he'd made the wrong decision in revealing the truth. "I've been working on it for two years, and I truly feel I'm close to making time travel a reality."
"Oh, I'm not skeptical," Isaac replied. "On the contrary. I've been fascinated by the concept of time travel since I was a little boy."
Jason couldn't believe his ears. He'd finally found someone with whom he could share his lifelong passion. All of his work up to now had been private and apart from his professorship at the university. If his project were to be made public before it was finalized, the university would probably throw him out on his ear. They might do that even after it was finalized. Not many people shared his belief that time travel was feasible. If they did, it seemed most of them thought it shouldn't be attempted at any rate.
From then on, their meetings were sometimes held in Jason's lab, and the conversation often turned to time travel and the great things that could be accomplished with the opportunity. They even talked about forming a company where they could use time travel to help future generations; going forward to prevent serial killers, arsonist and rapists from even getting started or preparing citizens in advance for natural disasters. Occasionally they'd scribble drawings of what their facility might look like. Jason appreciated having someone to share his work with, and Isaac looked upon Jason as the son he never had.
Isaac began offering money to help Jason move his project forward, but Jason refused. After the third refusal, Isaac said, "I can't do the work, Jason, but I want to be really involved somehow. This is a way I can help. Please let me," he pleaded.
"I know you must have a lot of people who want to be your friend just because of your money. I don't want you to feel that I'm one of those; that our friendship is based somehow on your money," Jason explained to him.
"I know that's not the case, my friend. Don't you give it another thought," Isaac reassured him.
From then on Isaac would occasionally be allowed to invest some money in the project, but Jason would usually accept only about half of what he offered each time. Isaac decided to do something for the project that Jason couldn't turn down.
When they were saying their good-byes one day about five years after that first meeting at Starbucks, Isaac told Jason to meet him the following week at the corner of Henson Street and 7th Avenue. He said there was something special there he wanted to show Jason.
"What is it?" Jason prodded.
"I'm afraid you'll have to wait until next week," Isaac said. "I want it to be a surprise. You can bring the coffee." He smiled and waved as he got in his car and took off for home.
Later that week, Jason made the final breakthrough. He knew he'd been close, but even he was surprised when everything suddenly fell together. Time travel worked. He'd made it work just like he knew he could. What he called the time continuum disrupter, or TCD, had been the final piece of the puzzle.
He sent a copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea forward two hours ... and brought it back. Then he sent a white mouse he'd borrowed from the research lab at the university forward two hours ... and brought it back. Finally he sent himself forward two hours ... and came back. They all arrived in the future and returned safely to the past in one piece. The mouse seemed a little irate but was easily mollified with a piece of cheese.
Jason hurried to call Isaac and share the exciting news, but there was no answer. After pacing back and forth in his lab for about 20 minutes, Jason tried Isaac's number again. This time the phone was answered on the third ring by Mrs. Smith.
Jason could hardly understand her. It sounded like she was crying. "What's the matter, Mrs. Smith? Please tell me what's wrong," he urged.
"He's gone, Mr. Masterson," she managed to get out between the sobs.
"What do you mean, gone?" Jason asked. Isaac hadn't mentioned going anywhere. Even if he had gone off for a day or so, Jason couldn't imagine Mrs. Smith being so upset about it.
"He had a heart attack," she explained. "We were in the kitchen just before lunch. I was going to make those oatmeal-cranberry cookies that he likes so much. He just clutched his chest and fell over. I called 911 right away, but it was too late."
"I'll be right there," he said and hung up. He hopped into his car and sped over to Isaac's house.
When Jason pulled up the long driveway, he saw two men from the coroner's office coming down the front stairs. They rolled a gurney holding a large black bag. He knew that bag held Isaac. Mrs. Smith stood in the doorway with a tear-stained handkerchief up to her face.
Jason got out of his car and quickly walked over to the two men. "May I see him before you go?" he asked. "He's my friend." Jason just couldn't put Isaac in the past tense.
They paused and unzipped the bag to give Jason a chance to look at the body. Jason put his hand on the still form and bent toward him. "We did it, my friend," he said softly. "We actually did it."
There was no funeral. Isaac had been very specific about that. He simply wanted to be cremated, and he left his ashes in Jason's care. They now resided in a brass urn on a shelf in Jason's apartment right next to a first edition of The Time Machine given to him by Isaac two years before on his birthday.
About two weeks after Isaac's death, Jason received a telephone call from a man who identified himself as Isaac Miller's attorney. He asked Jason to come to his office that Friday for the official reading of the will. Jason agreed to be there as requested at 11 a.m. Friday morning.
Excerpted from It's About Time by Bonnie Hochhalter Copyright © 2010 by Bonnie Hochhalter. Excerpted by permission.
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