Authors: Marcy Hatch
Salt Lake City, Utah
Copyright © 2014 by Marcy S. Hatch
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written consent of the publisher.
Cover Design by Steven Novak
Book Design by Marny K. Parkin
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014934705
ack’s first glimpse of Cristobel Island made him wonder what he had gotten himself into. From the air he could see a tiny sliver of a beach, rolling hills of solid jungle, and sheer rocky cliffs that dropped straight down to the ocean. For a moment Jack envisioned being dumped there to rot unless he agreed to pay some astronomical fee in order to get off. Then again, if they’d done their research as he expected they had, they knew the sad state of his finances, which led him to believe this was no scam.
The plane circled in before landing and as soon as it had, Miss Adjani roused herself. “Ah, we’ve arrived,” she said.
“How’d you know? That was some landing,” Jack observed.
“I’m a very light sleeper,” Miss Adjani replied. She unbuckled herself and grabbed her bag from the overhead storage before heading to the rear of the plane. There she grabbed the handle of the door and gave it a great heave. The door slid back and the salty smell of the ocean rushed into the cabin.
Jack pulled his own bag down and went to stand by her side, watching as a small boat drew near. As soon as it was close enough the man at the rudder threw a line to Miss Adjani who quickly caught it and reeled it in until the boat butted up against the plane.
“Go on, Jack, jump in,” she said.
Jack had one last flash of misgiving before he jumped, and Miss Adjani followed him. She gave a wave to the pilot, and Jack watched it motor away, wondering if it was as easy getting off the island as it was to get on. The whine of the boat’s engine prevented him from asking, and he let his gaze wander toward the shore.
As they approached he could make out a long thatched shelter where a second identical boat sat beside an old jeep and a couple of cans of gasoline. Behind the shelter a path disappeared into the green hills.
On the beach Jack followed Miss Adjani to the jeep, throwing his bags in alongside hers and climbing into the front seat. He looked up at the twisting path they were about to take and double-checked the shoulder belt, grabbing the crash bar.
“Don’t worry, Jack,” Miss Adjani said with a smile, “I do this all the time.”
And by the time they reached the top Jack believed her. The path they’d taken was pitted with ruts and steeper than Jack first guessed, but Miss Adjani navigated her way with the same practiced ease in which she had caught the rope. A woman of many talents, he guessed.
The jeep soon rolled past a pair of wrought iron gates, coming to a stop in a massive stone courtyard. Directly ahead stood a two-story structure with wide steps, Corinthian columns lining a long veranda, and tall arched windows. The red-tiled roof was bright against the blue sky.
“Impressive,” Jack said.
“It is, isn’t it,” Miss Adjani said.
“It must have cost a fortune to bring the materials in.”
“It did,” Miss Adjani admitted. “But Mr. Cade is fortunate that such things need not concern him.”
“Ah, the elusive proprietor . . . I hope I’ll get the chance to meet him.”
“You will, but let’s get you settled first.” She took Jack inside and as they walked she explained about Cristobel. “You will find that we have many of the comforts of home: refrigeration, electricity, hot and cold running water, that sort of thing. We have the ability to communicate with the outside world via satellite, an extensive music collection, and a library that could rival your imagination. There are, however, no televisions, no phones or electronic entertainment anywhere.”
“Generators?” Jack asked.
“Three, all powered by solar batteries as well as the solar panels. It’s economical to run, and we are careful with the environment. We have our own waste facility, a gray water system, and we even grow our own vegetables.”
“Wow. You thought of everything.”
“Not me, Jack. Mr. Cade. Ah, here is our living area, or common room if you will. The dining hall is to your right. Larger than we really need, I suppose. You may choose to eat here or in your room.”
Jack caught a glimpse of a sunken hall lined with comfortable sofas and a wide variety of plants and flowers. A stone hearth offered the ambience of a fire, but Jack suspected it seldom got cold enough to need it for any other reason.
“This way, Jack,” Miss Adjani said, leading him up a curving staircase to the second floor. The long hallway overlooked an interior courtyard where an Olympic-sized pool lay surrounded by a patterned brick patio and an assortment of lounge chairs.
Halfway down the corridor Miss Adjani stopped and opened an arched door, ushering Jack inside.
“Your room,” she said, “I hope you’ll be comfortable. If you find you need anything come down to the common room. Someone will be about, if not me then one of the other employees; you’ll know them by their Hawaiian shirts. Otherwise I’ll see you at, say three o’clock. That way I can give you the grand tour before you meet Mr. Cade.”
She closed the door with a wave, and Jack set down his bags. He checked his quarters and found they lacked nothing. There was a comfortable sitting room, a kitchenette with a fully stocked refrigerator, a bar, and a massive bedroom with a view out to the sea. The bathroom was equally luxurious, complete with whirlpool and a tiled shelf filled with perfumed oils and soaps.
Jack pulled out the card in his pocket, the one Miss Adjani had given him when they first met.
with offices in New York, Los Angeles, and London
This was either going be the best or worst vacation he’d ever taken.
That afternoon Miss Adjani took him around the island, via the many footpaths that led from the compound down to the sea where it crashed against the cliffs along the north side of the island and rolled into private coves along the southern tip. It didn’t take Jack long to decide that Cristobel was the closest thing to paradise he’d ever seen. By the time they returned to the compound Jack was tired—but not too tired to recognize Louis Cade.
“I remember you,” Jack said. “You disappeared.”
Louis Cade shrugged and smiled like a kid who had done something clever but didn’t want to take too much credit for it.
“Not really,” he said, “Anyone who had truly wanted to find me could have done so. But come, sit down, have some wine.” Cade motioned to one of the chairs and Jack sat down.
The last of the sun’s light filtered in through the bamboo shades, playing on the tiled floor and casting shadows over the entire gallery. The books that lined the shelves at the far end were bathed in the soft glow of the lamps, and the long room was furnished in a manner that made Jack think of an old English country house. He took a sip of the offered wine.
“So why did you want to disappear?” he asked Louis Cade.
“Because of my work. The people at MIT didn’t really believe in what I was doing, and I knew that when they did I would lose what little control I had. So I took my notes and left. Pretty simple really, and my work has continued, uninterrupted by spying eyes and nosey suits.”
“But all this, how did you do it?”
“I invented a few things,” he said with a shrug, as if it were nothing. “Then I bought this island and built everything you see. But enough of me. I want to know about you, Jack. I’ve read your file, and I suspect you’re searching for something different. Let me ask you something. If you could have your heart’s desire, what would it be? And please, don’t say a never-ending supply of money.”
Jack smiled a little. The thought had occurred to him. But he supposed if he were honest, money wouldn’t make him happy. It would allow him to be comfortable but not necessarily happy.
“Go on, Jack, think. What about when you were a kid, what did you want then?”
Jack didn’t have to think. It only took a second for him to flash back to the day that changed everything. The day he got what he wanted.
He was twelve and sitting on the top of the stairs with his brother Kenny. They’d seen Father Flanagan heading for their apartment, and he only showed up when there was really good news or really bad news. It didn’t take long before he delivered it in his kind quiet voice.
“I’m so very sorry,” he said. Jack hadn’t needed to hear any more. He knew what those words meant. The sudden, pained cry of his mother gave him a guilty twinge, but what he felt most was relief. It washed over him cool as a summer rain.
Thank God, Thank God, Thank God
, was Jack’s next thought. No doubt Father Flanagan would be horrified to hear Jack’s confession and there would be a litany of Hail Mary’s or Our Father’s to recite, but the truth was he didn’t care. He hadn’t believed in God in a long time. Not since his father had turned into the kind of drunken asshole that terrorized his whole family whenever he had a few too many.
Later he went into the room he shared with his brothers, kneeling before the bookshelf he’d cobbled together, looking at his books. His eyes lingered on his favorites: the westerns. Anything that had to do with outlaws, gunslingers, or the Wild West as it was after the Civil War. Those were his favorite escapes.
Jack blinked himself into the present, focusing on Louis Cade. “Oh, I guess I would’ve liked to have gone to some of the places I read about,” he said, remembering one in particular,
How the West Was Won; Being a Fictional Account of the Life and Times of Doc Holliday
“Mmm, yes, you read a great deal as a child. Many of our guests are avid readers, hence our exceptional library.” Louis Cade nodded. “Did you ever imagine going to some of those places you read about. Ever considered, what if you could?”
“I think you’ve lost me,” Jack said.
Louis Cade sighed. “Jack, I’m talking about traveling. Into the past. Into those places you’ve being dying to go.”
Jack stared, disbelief growing as Louis Cade continued to speak.
The guy is nuts
, Jack thought. He had to be! What he was talking about was impossible!
“Listen, Jack, I didn’t invent it, I just figured out how it worked.”
“How what works?” Jack asked stupidly.
“Time travel, Jack. I’m talking about traveling back in time.”
Jack shook his head and rose. This was definitely too much. The guy might be a genius, but he was certifiably insane. “Hey, thanks, but—”
“But you couldn’t possibly believe such nonsense when you know it isn’t true, right? I know. It’s crazy. No one believes at first. But if you want to know more, I’ll be here, even if all you want is to discuss the possibility. I’m always eager to argue my theories,” Louis Cade ended.
Jack gave a slight nod and left. But even as he drifted off that night he remembered everything he’d read about Louis Cade. The man was supposed to be smarter than Einstein and Stephen Hawking put together. What if . . . ? He closed his eyes, pushing the thoughts away. It was time to go, time to get off this crazy island. He’d speak to Miss Adjani tomorrow. She’d said he could leave whenever he wanted.
But somehow, he never did. Instead he went back to talk to Louis Cade, curiosity getting the best of him. Of course, he still didn’t believe; but the guy was interesting, and he sure made it sound possible. Jack didn’t know much about science and theories but Cade made it sound simple.
Finally Louis said, “I think you’d benefit from the experience, Jack, and I need more qualified test subjects, but I’m not going to make you go. I can’t convince you it’s real. You’ll have to either try it or not. Besides, what’s the worst thing that could happen? You’d look like an idiot, right? Think about it, Jack. Would I have gone to this trouble and expense just to make people look like idiots?”
“Why did you go to all this trouble?” Jack asked.
“Well, it wasn’t planned, I can tell you. Cristobel was meant to be my own place, my own escape. Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on how you look at it—my habit of tinkering with things led me to discover the key to traveling into the past. Then I found Miss Adjani. It took us a while to figure out how to test it, how to get the right kind of people, like you,” Louis said. “Anyway, you come down to my workroom if you want to go, Jack. But don’t spend too much more time thinking about it.”
Jack didn’t take long. He was stubborn, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
The next few weeks he spent preparing for the trip, finding the appropriate clothing, devising an identity for himself, and wondering right up until the last moment whether it would turn out to be some hoax or drug-induced trip, or maybe the latest in virtual reality.
Then the light faded and the lab became blurry, as if a veil had fallen over the place. The floor fell away beneath his feet and he went into a free-fall that lasted seconds. There was a funny smell like . . . no. It was the lack of smell, the lack of . . . His feet hit the ground hard, enough to bring him to his knees. Something popped. Like a cork or a can of soda.
Jack opened his eyes, swallowing, sucking in air.
It couldn’t be real, he told himself, taking another long breath. But God, it smelled real! The air was dry, and the place he was in was equally hot as the one he’d left. But it wasn’t the same, and he knew it.
He was in a room. A storeroom. Crates were stacked on top of one another, shelves full of boxes and tools and who knew what. Jack squinted at the light filtering in through a high narrow window. The heat was oppressive, a dry, stuffy heat that made sweat run down his neck. His hair was damp beneath his wide brimmed hat.
Jack took a step closer to the door, listening first, then opening it and peering out. There was the hall, exactly as Miss Adjani had described it, and beyond it a door with glass. Light poured in, bright and yellow, illuminating the wooden floor. Jack stepped out into the hall warily, closing the door to the storeroom behind him. The lock clicked into place with an odd snicker that made him notice the fancy lock. To match his key . . .
He patted his pocket and glanced right, seeing the door that led into Schaumburg’s Cigar Store, the shop that was a front for Louis Cade’s operation. But a very legitimate shop! Miss Adjani had assured Jack. To his left a second door led to the alley, and through the glass Jack could see a clapboard building not fifteen feet away. Faintly he heard a horse snort, the jangle of harnesses, the twang of voices, and the smell of . . . pipe smoke?
Of course. He smiled and stepped toward the door, opening it.
Outside there was no hint of the tropical heat he had recently left, no faint odor of green, or sweet fragrance of jungle flowers. He reached down and picked up a handful of the dirt. It fell away like powder.