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Authors: M.L. Banner

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BOOK: Time Slip
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The truck, like the reception desk, had been intended for staff that he never hired because of his desire to keep his project secret. The truck was to have been driven by a security guard to patrol the fence line and make sure that no one attempted to bother the accelerator tube. But this had turned out to be unneeded as a raised, rounded berm was the only indication of a particle accelerator, protected by an electric fence. And no one seemed too interested in his project aside from his benefactor, a large oil company’s investment firm with seemingly endless funds that largely left him alone to develop his clean energy project. No doubt their investment was part of the crazy scheme of earning carbon tax credits for clean-energy investments to counter the global warming tax assessed by the EPA. “Hey, it paid for my project,” he would tell Betsy after hearing of a colleague who remarked scornfully that on principle, he would never accept oil money grants.

The missing truck was still curious, as he was the only one who drove it, often using it rather than one of his two personal vehicles. But again, who knew how much time had passed since he had left?
Bicycle
, he thought, remembering that his neighbor along this university warehouse row was an incubator for small businesses and had a garage of bicycles for its enviro-conscious employees. He ducked back into the building and commandeered a few things he thought might be needed, including bolt cutters from the amply outfitted tool and supply closet. Adjusting a new ball cap with SRL embroidered on its front, he trudged the mile or so to go see if he could borrow a bicycle.

Chapter 11

Aug 10 (00:20)

 

Monty slipped quietly through the back door of his home and then into his office, attempting not to wake his wife. Faraday, their cat, rubbed against his leg and purred loudly, signaling contentment at its master’s presence. He plugged in the portable hard drive he had grabbed from Dr. Ron’s lab and waited for it to be recognized before he could examine the data. His mind speculated over what had occurred in just the last twenty-four hours, culminating in watching his old friend Dr. Ron travel into time.

“Holy shit!” he whispered loudly. Faraday responded by hopping into his lap, twirling twice and then coming to rest: a little ball of peaceful satisfaction. Monty’s fingers tapped away at the keyboard, only stopping every so often to guide his mouse and click here and there. He loaded some of the data into spreadsheets he used for crunching numbers, their formulas calculating and generating answers instantly in their allotted fields. And then he considered the implications.

What had happened was the most incredible thing he had ever witnessed. Dr. Ron actually invented a God-damned time machine and sent himself into the future, and Monty couldn’t tell anyone about it. Now the police were after them and somehow, he would have to get back to the lab and send one or two more probes into his future in hopes that Ron would send back data that he received from a medical researcher that Betsy’s doctor could use to cure her cancer.
Are we mad?
He scolded himself for having agreed to this. No matter how persuasive Ron’s ploys were, it had been Monty’s decision to agree to the plan. But everything had been going so fast and his damned friend knew he would be immediately drawn in once he saw the data.

It didn’t matter now. He was committed and he had to see this through. He had to find a way back to the lab, get the power turned back on, send in at least one probe and hope that Ron was right.

A movement outside drew his attention away from the computer and out his home-office window. A car pulled up into his driveway and parked beside his Porsche. Monty quickly turned his monitor off, hopeful the driver didn’t see him, and watched.

Chapter 12

Aug 10 (00:30)

 

The man smoothly guided the Escalade, with its headlights off, up onto the drive beside the homeowner’s car. The house was completely dark and looked asleep, no doubt just like its occupants. This was going to be one of his easier jobs. He drew a cigarette out of the hard red and silver box, set it between his thin lips, and flicked open the top of his black-lacquered and gold S.T. Dupont lighter. Glimpsing into the pack he saw only two left. He would have to make them last. For now, he would enjoy this one; in the time it would take to smoke it, he’d be able to make sure no one was stirring.

This was his ritual. Just before a kill, he focused on what he knew about his subject, what scenarios might play out, considered even the worst case. Mostly, he relished the moment, enjoying the adrenalin surge that accompanied each kill and knowing that he had power over all things living. It was his one joy in life, and it was something he was good at. This is why he garnered so much for each contract. He had several satisfied clients: the vestiges of the New York mob, although they had mostly dried up; a couple of drug cartels, but he hated working for them; a few politicians, but they were too full of themselves; a few governments, because despite budget cuts, there was always money to take out an enemy; and of course businesses who literally killed their competition. The businesses also paid the best, but they always wanted more than just the kill. They wanted secrets, usually in the form of data his employer desired stolen. This was his specialty, and what made him unique in his field. He took care of the hit and the data collection.

His most recent client had kept him busy with contract after contract, all with tight deadlines, but in return for more and more money. Each time, they never hesitated to pay his price in full to his account in Monaco. It wasn’t that he needed the money; he had more than enough saved up for a few lifetimes of blissful retirement at his residence in the south of France, near Cannes. But, what would he do then? Killing people was what he did; it was who he was. If he wasn’t doing this, he didn’t know what he would do.

It was time. Satisfied he had waited as long as he needed to, and his cigarette almost down to the filter, he flicked it out on the driveway, unconcerned about leaving an evidentiary trail—his DNA would not be found in any database, and rolled up his window.

He stepped out and silently closed the door—the dome light remained off. He had pulled the fuse that controlled the interior lights so that his movement in and out of the vehicle was masked by the darkness. A twist of the suppressor on his FNP-45 Tactical, and he walked to the back of the home.

Chapter 13

Aug 10 (00:40)

 

Monty opened the door quickly, before the man knocked again, still trying to make sure his wife lay undisturbed—he didn’t want her to see what came next. He had watched the man approach the house and although he wasn’t sure who he was, he had his suspicions and figured it was time to pay for his part in this mess. The man on the other side thrust something metallic into Monty’s face; its shiny surface glistened in the moonlight.

“Detective Johnson with the Dallas Police Department,” the voice behind the badge said before he withdrew it. He flipped it back into its case and then continued, “I’m sorry to bother you, sir, at this late hour. Are you Dr. Montgomery Meriweather?”

“Ye-yes, I am,” Monty answered. He pulled the door closed behind him so that it would quiet their voices, in case his wife was not awake. His hands were sweaty and unstable. He held onto the door knob for support.

“We are looking for a Dr. Ronald Stoneridge. Have you seen him?”

“Ah… Not since yesterday. Why, is it his wife?” Monty’s voice was abnormally high-pitched, his throat dry. He licked his lips and shuddered slightly.

“You were seen driving away from the”—Johnson pulled out his notepad, found what he was looking for, and continued—“Stoneridge Research Laboratory earlier this evening. Is Dr. Stoneridge with you?”

“You’re welcome to come in and look.” Monty stepped away from the entrance but kept the door closed, his hand still on the knob, his heart steadying slightly. He might get out of this yet. “I was there this evening. Dr. Ron… I mean, Dr. Stoneridge had called me and asked me to look over his research project at the lab. I was there most of the day with him. I left him there and drove home. I’m just doing some work in my study.” He looked at Johnson’s eyes and hoped he hid the white lie well enough.

“And what time did you leave Dr. Stoneridge?”

“Ahhh, eight or so. Is he not at his lab? I would imagine he practically lives there.”

“He’s not there. I’m headed to his home next, but you were on the way.”

“That actually makes sense. I’m sure he’ll be there, then. His wife Betsy is home sick with the flu or something. I know he wanted to get back home and be with her.”

“If he calls you, would you let him know that I have questions for him?”

“I sure will. Have a good evening, detective.” After Monty took Johnson’s card, he slipped to the other side of the door.

“Good night, Dr. Montgomery,” Johnson said, then spun and walked away to his un-marked car parked in the driveway.

Chapter 14

Aug 10 (00:50)

 

The man easily unlocked the sliding glass door of Dr. Stoneridge’s residence and slid in without making a sound, like a poisonous vapor. He slithered over the tile, the weapon’s suppressor leading his search, sweeping back and forth, looking to take any life it could find, like the devil himself collecting his next soul. Although there were none on this first floor.

It appeared to be the standard Western home, with granite counters in the kitchen, which opened up to the dining area and media room with a flat-screen TV; a living room; a separate study; and a guest room. The garage, entered off the kitchen, contained the normal accumulation of junk and one car; the clutter stored beside it confirmed this space wasn’t used. With one car in the garage and one parked in the drive, both might be home. A slight smile formed on his spindly lips.

After he cleared the upstairs bedrooms he would return to do a complete search of the computer in the study. If both his target and wife were sleeping, this might turn out to be one of his easiest jobs. He was almost hoping for a little more of a challenge.

He ascended the stairs, careful to step near the wall and railing to avoid the creaking common with most cookie-cutter homes that used nails rather than screws. This one felt a little more solid. Following along the wall past what looked like two guest bedrooms, he stopped before what he assumed to be the master bedroom and listened. An older clock ticked methodically, but he heard no snoring or loud breathing. Either they slept very quietly or they weren’t there.

The door creaked slightly as he pushed it open, revealing a king-sized bed containing two hapless shapes. He fired two nearly silent rounds into each form, the spent cartridges landing softly on the carpet. No movement. Sliding past the bed, keeping his eyes on it just in case, he glided over to the master bathroom, its light on and door opened a crack. He listened again, but heard nothing. Nudging this door open more, no creaks this time, he found the bathroom vacant. The bathroom’s light splashed upon the bed, revealing it to be empty as well, with a few dead pillows lying under abruptly pulled over covers.

After verifying the other rooms upstairs were empty, the man searched the study. Although nothing on the target’s computer looked promising, he made a copy of the computer hard drive on a portable drive he carried with him. The file drawers yielded no further leads. He suspected what he wanted was at his target’s laboratory or at his university office. The university would be his next stop.

Twenty-seven minutes after exiting the vehicle he was pulling out of the drive and headed to the campus.

Chapter 15

Aug 10 (01:05)

 

Peter worried that he had greatly overestimated his sister’s longevity to his brother-in-law. When Betsy called in the middle of the night complaining of more chronic pain, he had decided to admit her at Baylor Oncology and order a new series of tests. He suspected they would reveal her condition was worse than he had thought.

And where was Ron? He should be here with her when she needed him most. She kept insisting after he picked her up, “Peter, don’t worry about Ron. He’s doing what he knows is best for me.”

“But where is he?” he asked, trying not to upset her while he drove.

“That’s a good question.” She paused, holding her head to try and stem the painful drumming. It felt like it might crack open at any moment and she had to hold it together. With the last bit of energy she had left she added, “I can’t tell you exactly where or when he is, but I know he’s doing what he can for me. Please tell him I love him when you see him.” She attempted a feeble smile before passing out, as the shot he’d given her kicked in.

As Pete drove I-75 to Baylor, at a speed faster than he should have, he thought about her words, “I can’t tell you exactly where or when he is…”
How odd. Maybe she’s already hallucinating
. Now he feared she may only have days rather than months left.

He said a little prayer, even though he wasn’t much of a praying man. He asked God for help for his sister: that some answer might be revealed that none of them had yet thought of… For a cure even, no matter how unlikely that might be. His mind then meandered; his thoughts turned to Ron’s words, and he wondered what he was planning. He hoped Ron was safe and not breaking the law.

Chapter 16

In The Future

 

Dr. Ron put the force of his whole body into levering the crowbar wedged between the door frame and the back door, its frame giving, grunting, until
crack
! The door popped open and he sashayed in, no longer concerned about the laws he was breaking or his throbbing hand.

The world he presently occupied was so much worse than the past one, he didn’t have the luxury of worrying about antiquated laws like Title 7, Chapter 30 of the Texas Penal Code. Something horrible had happened here and it motivated him to move faster to find Dr. Mendelson, at all costs. What irony that he had used a time machine to get here, but now had this horrible sense of racing against the clock.

BOOK: Time Slip
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