Contrary to all expectations, including my own, I actually managed to write about 75-80 percent of this post last week. That put me so comfortably far ahead of the game that I almost had time to get my resident artist (my sister, the one who did the original Hunter sketch) to do an illustration for today’s installation. However, I unfortunately dragged my feet getting a description to her, so you’ll have to go without pictures for this week’s installment of…
Chapter 4 – part 2
Vancura shook his head and sat back down, watching as the cop led Kaul away. Lieutenant McKechan let them go, then turned back to the holding cell. The problem was out of his hands, which meant he could turn his thoughts to more interesting matters.
“You. Vancura, is it?”
A sardonic expression met him as the big man’s eyes turned to take him in, but the reply was polite.
“Vančura, Lieutenant. The č is pronounced as ‘ts’. Van-tsura. It’s Czech, I believe.”
“Okay, Vančura. You know that guy? Kaul, I mean.”
Several moments passed before he got an answer. Vančura seemed to be thinking that question over, as though it were a completely foreign idea, or one that he had never before considered important. When it came, the reply sounded like Vančura were more thinking to himself than responding to the question.
“Know him. Yes, I suppose I do. And I did. But will I? That’s an interesting concept. Since he’s here… I suppose I won’t know him, because I do know him. If it were two days ago, it would have been “I will know him”, but things have changed.”
Suddenly, the big man focused on McKechan and his eyes hard narrowed. The lieutenant could see his mind racing, almost as if he were watching a set of gears click out of low-speed and whir away, working towards some hidden goal. Vančura looked so entranced by his line of thought that McKechan found himself leaning forward in anticipation.
“If I know, and knew, him… but I won’t “will know”… something changed. What was it?”
The shrewd eyes searched McKechan’s, as if he were expected to give an answer, but Vančura went on.
“Nobody’s ever gone through with me before. Why should things have changed now? For that matter… why should he have been put on the bus with me that day? It didn’t happen before. Why now? Nothing’s changed, not that I can see. Things don’t change… not that fast. Give it time, yes, then they change, but you brought him in here the same day you brought me in. That means whatever changed happened… before I went back. But that’s not possible. It was already done, but I haven’t changed it, so what could it be.”
Then, a light went on behind his eyes and he leaned back against the cell bars, staring up at the ceiling in blind realization.
“I haven’t changed it. But someone did change it; which means it might be me who will change it.”
McKechan stared at him, trying to sort through the chain-fire sequence of thoughts and make some sense out of it. Finally, Vančura’s eyes drifted down and locked on him again.
“Well, Lieutenant, I’m sure you have a lot of work to do and I have a great deal of sleep to catch up on. The judge will be all through with Mr. Kaul soon, thanks to the more-than-usually speedy ‘fair trial’ for which you people are famous, so he’ll be wanting me next.”
McKechan blinked at him a few times, then spun round and headed for the coffee pot. If any of the other cops had been paying attention, they might have noticed that he wasn’t quite as steady on his feet as usual.
* * *
“Time-travel will be fun, dey said. Yeah, sure. D’same way electroshock therapy is fun.”
From across the bus came Vančura’s dry chuckle.
“Except they didn’t ask you, my friend. That makes you the wiser of us, strange as it seems to say. I volunteered. Well, not volunteered, precisely, but the closest thing to that.”
“You wanted t’get pushed tru d’danged knothole? You’re crazy, man.”
The big man considered that for a moment, then shook his head.
“Crazy? No, I don’t think that’s the right word. A little more adventurous than is healthy is more like it. I wanted to know what would be on the other side.”
“And I’ll admit, the opportunities it presented were quite fascinating.”
“Cept dey didn’t work out f’r you, either, did dey? I tried playin’ ev’rybody I met since dat cop pulled me out of d’drainpipe. Didn’t work: All of ‘em jus’ figured I’m crazy, or psychic. Either way, it jus’ scared ‘em, didn’ do me any good.”
“It’s not as straightforward as you might think, now is it? This is my… fourth? No, my fifth trip through the STAd and only now am I starting to figure out how to pull the all the little strings that get things to change.”
Eddie stared at him in disbelief.
“You mus’ be a bunch slower than I thought. You been tru dat thing five times, an’ you ain’t figured out a way out of dis mess?”
A slow smile rippled across Vančura’s lips.
“How do you know I haven’t? Or more importantly, how do you know I won’t? It’s time-travel, my friend. There’s no reason we can’t be escaping from the Sandglass Project facility as we speak. Or perhaps we already did. It’s very confusing, until you have a chance to get the hang of it. And don’t worry, you will.”
With a mournful sigh, Eddie sagged back into his seat.
“Dat’s what I’m afraid of.”
End Chapter 4 – part 2
Go to Chapter 4 – Part 3
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