(Psst… if you came here only via the Carrie Time Tracker, you missed Parts 11 & 12 which had no Carrie in them at all…)
PART 13: DOUBLE TAKES
“So exactly how much of your jewellery was taken?”
The hotel manager listened with half an ear as the officer questioned Ms. Peabody. Perfect, this was just perfect. A theft, not only in this budding rural community, but at his new hotel. What more could possibly go wrong with his day?
As if in reply, a bright flash off to the side caught his attention. He turned to look across the lobby, whereby he saw two teenagers, a boy and a girl. They were standing somewhere he was sure no one had been moments ago. Moreover, they were dressed rather curiously… for instance, the girl was wearing pants, and a pink shirt that didn’t resemble anything trendy. Not now, not from back in the forties either. He rubbed his eyes in confusion, wondering if he was hallucinating.
“Officer,” the manager heard Ms. Peabody call out. “Look there! That’s the person who robbed me.” The manager watched as his guest pointed over towards the blonde teenager who had just arrived. “Arrest that girl!”
“Oh boy,” responded the girl in question.
“Don’t mind us, just passing through,” Carrie offered up, once she realized that everyone at the hotel check-in counter was staring her way.
“Arrest her. Now!” the woman reiterated.
“We really can’t stay,” Carrie insisted. She grabbed Frank and retreated hastily through the hotel entrance, located rather fortuitously behind them.
“What on earth…?” Frank said, obviously still attempting to get his bearings, even as Carrie pulled him outside.
“Very, very poor choice of time period, Frank,” Carrie explained testily. “Better reactivate the machine and get us out of here, pronto.”
Frank blinked. “But our location is still geographically unknown,” he protested. “One of the purposes behind using a penny from ’55 was to check the spatial…”
“Frank?” Carrie interjected, dragging her companion down the sidewalk, away from the hotel entrance. At least it was growing dark outside, which could help to obscure them. “Someone is inexplicably after my hide here. Time to make a quick exit.”
“Carrie, I haven’t even reset the machine’s month to…”
“Frank,” Carrie repeated, shaking him to emphasize her point. “We… go… NOW.” Down the street, two men emerged from the hotel, one of them the law enforcement officer.
“We go now,” Frank affirmed as he saw them. Carrie released him and he set the time machine down onto the sidewalk, fumbling for one of the present day coins in his pocket. There was a shout from down the street as they were spotted.
“Got it,” Frank said, slipping the coin into the time machine. He grabbed the activation lever. “Pull on three. One…”
“Twothree,” Carrie finished. She and Frank yanked down on the lever. Carrie braced herself for the sensation of the void sucking at her, followed by another time displacement. But nothing happened.
“Uh, again?” Frank said. They let the lever rise back up into position then pulled down on it once more. Still nothing.
Carrie exhaled between pursed lips. “Someone is going to pay dearly for this,” she vowed.
The law enforcement officer cleared his throat from behind them. “I think the two of you had better come back to the hotel to answer a few questions.”
Carrie saw the older woman’s eyes narrow as the police officer and hotel manager escorted her and Frank back into the lobby. “You should never have come back to me, dearie,” the woman said smugly to Carrie. “That wasn’t very smart.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’ve never been here before,” Carrie shot back.
“All right Ms. Peabody, let’s settle down now,” the officer soothed. He turned to the teenagers. “Suppose you start by telling us exactly what you’re doing here.”
Frank exchanged a glance with Carrie. “Yeah, uh, well, our affairs are often in a state of flux…” he began.
“We just got into town,” Carrie interrupted. “My uncle is staying here in the hotel. At least, that’s what we thought, but when you started shouting at us we wondered if maybe we had the wrong set of directions. So we went back out to try and get our bearings. I don’t suppose either of you have heard of the Clayton Hotel?”
“This is the Clayton,” affirmed the officer.
“It IS?” Carrie said, taken aback. She took a moment to look more closely at her surroundings. They were still in town. That was unexpected.
“You’re Mr. Clayton!” Frank realized, turning to the manager.
“Do I know either of you?” the manager wondered.
“Uh, no,” Frank admitted. “It’s just, well…”
“Did my uncle not mention us?” Carrie interrupted again. “I’m Carrie, this is Frank.”
“Never heard of you. Who is your uncle?” Mr. Clayton challenged.
“Euh, his name is… Marty McFly.” Carrie shrugged at Frank, off his look. “He should have checked in here on November fourteenth.”
“It’s November twelfth,” Mr. Clayton pointed out.
Carrie rolled her eyes – this time faking surprise, as she’d seen the readout of the time machine and been well aware of that fact. “Really?” She slugged Frank in the arm. “You got those dates wrong AGAIN. Why do I even bother traveling anywhere with you?”
Frank grimaced. “Maybe because without me, you’d have no idea how to get where you wanted to go?”
“Hold it,” the officer interrupted in a no-nonsense tone of voice. He turned to Carrie. “Regardless of the situation with your uncle, can you confirm your whereabouts as of about 4pm today?”
“Yes, I was on a train, heading into town,” Carrie stated.
Ms. Peabody sniffed, shooting a glare at Carrie. “Oh, ignore this girl’s babbling. She obviously came back here to gloat after hiding my jewellery somewhere. Don’t let the little wench get away with it.”
Carrie’s eyes snapped back to the woman. “I’m sorry, WHAT did you just call me?” Ms. Peabody took a step back in surprise.
“Ms. Peabody, please,” the officer said sharply. “Right now all we have is your word against hers. Carrie… McFly, was it? Can you give me the name of someone able to verify your story?”
“Sure, call my father,” Carrie asserted. “You can trust him. He’s a doctor. Phone 911-1999.”
The officer turned to the manager. “I’d prefer to clear this situation up now, if I can. May I use your phone?” Mr. Clayton nodded and the officer proceeded back to the front desk.
“Okay, one down and the others are off their guard,” Carrie whispered to Frank. “Get ready to run.”
“What?” Frank hissed back. “We can’t just…”
“Hey, wait!” Carrie gasped, pointing behind everyone. “Guys, what the hell’s that?” As the others turned, she grabbed Frank’s arm and bolted back for the door.
Some time later, Carrie found herself blowing errant strands of hair back off her face. “Great, I lost my hairband during that mad dash,” she sighed.
“Your hairband? You’re worried about your hairband?” Frank gaped. “Carrie… we’re fugitives. You’ve turned us into fugitives from the law!”
“Please, Frank. Don’t get all melodramatic,” Carrie retorted.
She peered around the trunk of the nearest tree, verifying that their pursuers had either given up once they’d cut into the woods, or managed to go in the wrong direction. The darkness and shrubbery had definitely been helpful for concealment.
“We’re not fugitives,” Carrie continued, turning back. “We didn’t do anything wrong. Obviously I’m not the person they’re looking for. It’s 1955. I haven’t even been born yet.”
“That’s not the point,” Frank accused. “Besides, for all we know, some future you time traveled back to earlier today and ripped off that missing jewellery. Meaning you ARE the person they’re looking for.”
“Oh please,” Carrie scoffed. “What possible motive could I have? Anyway, even then it’s not me they’re looking for. It’s some future me.”
Frank pressed a hand to his forehead. “For some reason I don’t remember you being this spirited the last time the two of us time traveled together.”
Carrie shrugged. “Two years ago for you, last week for me. I must say, I’m finding this easier to deal with, now that I have a better sense of what’s going on,” she admitted. “For that matter, I remember you being a lot better at improvisation.”
“I work better within a framework,” Frank grumbled. “Plus I never really got involved in theatre because I decided to research time travel instead.”
“Ah. That’s fair.” Carrie held up the black box. “Speaking of… what’s up with the time machine? Why didn’t it activate?”
“I’ve no clue why it didn’t work,” Frank admitted, taking the device back from Carrie and giving it a look. “It was one of my two 1955 pennies we used to get here, maybe the machine has some trouble with… no, because the penny I used the other day worked all right.”
“Hold on, other day? How many time trips have you taken without me?” Carrie interjected.
Frank sighed and put the time machine down. “I made a few trips earlier this week in order to gather more data. You couldn’t have come, you were constantly busy after school.”
“I was not,” Carrie countered. She frowned. “Well, not really. I mean, I had cheerleading and track practices. Also that dinner with Bill. But you DO know there’s this thing called a ‘social life’, yeah?”
“At any rate,” Frank continued, apparently deciding to ignore her question, “I managed to stay in town for each test. Which is part of the reason I called you over on Saturday. To see if the spatial relocation issue was only a factor if there were two travellers.”
“Yes, yes. We took a trip two days back, to Thursday, we learned we were in the ravine out back of my house, and then we tried the much larger leap here to 1955,” Carrie said.
She folded her arms and leaned back against the tree trunk behind her. “Weird how we’re still in town here. Or in what will BE the town anyway. If we orient according to the Clayton building, I saw parallels between what’s here and what will end up being here. Once they mow down the forest and turn this village into a proper town.”
“Yes,” Frank agreed slowly. He frowned. “Now, if only I could figure out why we didn’t stay here for the trip two years ago…” His voice trailed off as he got lost in thought.
“Frank? The broken machine?” Carrie prompted.
“Oh, right,” Frank realized. He frowned. “Well, there was no reason for it not to have worked. I’ll take a look inside.”
Carrie rolled her eyes. “You know, at the risk of sounding trite, you have had that device in your possession for almost a week now. I thought you’d have been further along. I didn’t authorize a trip to ’55 only to be stuck here for all eternity. That is… be stuck in ’55 until ’56… you know what I mean.”
“Authorize?” Frank protested. “What authorize? I thought this was a partnership. And I told you there would be some risk involved in this trip.”
“I thought maybe you knew more than you were letting on,” Carrie admitted. “I mean, you have two years worth of research behind you. For all I know, you’re stalling. Maybe you’re hoping that, the longer you play dumb, the better the chances are of me changing my mind about saving my mom!”
Frank let out a quick breath. “Yes, yes, that’s exactly it,” he said. “Except, oh wait, this device includes circuits and chips I’ve never seen before. It’s a quantum leap forward in technology! Even with two years to think about it, a week hasn’t been enough to identify much beyond what I did that very first time I saw it. Empirical experiments are the only way for me to learn more. Or they would be if you didn’t consistently turn them into a disaster.”
“Hey, don’t blame me for that mistaken identity thing,” Carrie retorted.
“I’m not, I’m blaming you for running from the police!” Frank swept his hand out in a final gesture, knocking it hard against a limb of the tree. “Ow!” He bit back a curse, cradling his palm.
Carrie grimaced. “Look, what’s done is done. I’m just trying to keep you motivated here, because I don’t like long term commitments.” She supposed she could be more helpful though; her emotions were continuing to get the best of her. “Uh, your hand okay?”
Carrie moved towards Frank. He pulled away, simultaneously shrugging off the backpack he’d had with him since their arrival.
“I’m fine,” Frank mumbled, flexing his fingers. “At least we have provisions this time, including tools and a flashlight. If you hold it, I’ll see if I can find the problem.”
Several minutes passed by in silence as Frank poked around inside the time machine.
“Well, the air certainly seems a lot more natural and clean in comparison with our year,” Carrie offered up. “Except in the hotel. Guess they haven’t banned smoking yet.”
“Uh huh,” Frank responded, not looking up from his work.
There was another extended silence. Carrie couldn’t take it. “I wonder,” she began again. “My double here… or, well, the person who took that Ms. Peabody’s jewellery… could they have been an ancestor of mine?”
“I don’t know. Did your ancestors live in this area in ’55?”
Carrie furrowed her brow in thought. “My parents hadn’t even been born yet,” she reflected. “Maybe my grandparents… though none of them have ever told stories about being a thief.”
Frank shrugged. “Can’t think it’s the sort of thing one tells grandkids, really. Hold the light steady?”
“Mmmmm.” A thought struck her. She didn’t like it. “Do you think whoever it was might be in even more trouble now, given how I ran away?” Carrie asked. “I can’t help reacting instinctively… you don’t think I’ve changed history, do you? Wait, strike that, of course not, you think the past and the future are already mapped out. However, if changing the past IS possible, I might have changed something, right?”
“Anything’s possible,” Frank said, eyes still on the device. “As you said, not much we can do about that now.”
“Unless we change things back,” Carrie pointed out.
“Potentially making the situation worse,” Frank objected. “Carrie, we don’t know anything about what’s going on in this time period.”
“I know that,” Carrie agreed, trying to suppress her irritation. “But what if that Ms. Peabody punishes someone else for my actions?”
“You should have thought of that earlier.” Frank moved to close the time machine back up. “Anyway, that’s that.”
“Oh, figure out the problem?” Carrie turned off the flashlight.
Frank nodded. “It looks like the machine is, for lack of a better word, recharging. Everything is operational, some parts simply aren’t receiving power. I can only conclude that they will once the assembly cools down, meaning business as usual if we wait it out a few hours. I took the opportunity to reset the thing for the present.”
“Meaning we’re stuck here in the past?”
“Yes, but not for long,” Frank assured. “If I had to guess, I’d say the problem was the distance of the jump – we have traveled back something like half a century, after all. For all we know, the machine acted like this when we jumped to the airport too. We’ve never tried activating it again so soon after arrival.”
“I see,” Carrie remarked dryly. She clicked the flashlight back on. “Well then, looks like I have some time to relocate my hairband.”
Frank blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
“Well, what do you suggest, that we spend two hours sitting here staring at the damn device? I’d rather be doing something productive. Anyway, I liked that hairband.”
“Carrie, have you forgotten that there are people out there looking for us?”
“I’ll be careful,” Carrie asserted. “And really, where’s the harm in checking? It’s okay to take the flashlight, yeah?” Without really waiting for an answer, she turned to leave.
Frank opened his mouth to protest, but then closed it and let Carrie go. She might as well leave, versus staying here for a new argument.
Honestly, the girl could be so… so… stubborn and self-absorbed! He wasn’t sure why he’d thought that would change after their first time travel experiences. In fact, her personality was one of the main reasons Frank hadn’t yet said anything to her about that phone call he’d received last week. The one warning him about Julie.
Granted, Frank knew little about Julie aside from the fact that she was a “rich socialite” at school who was also Carrie’s friend. Yet he did think that the latter could indicate a bit of a blind spot for Carrie. Maybe she’d simply want to tell Julie about the device, despite the need for secrecy. No, better to keep the Julie concerns to himself for the moment.
Heck, it was only in the last few days that he’d realized how much Julie might be a legitimate cause for concern. The phone tip had been rather fortuitous, though the number had been untraceable.
Frank sat down at the base of the tree, staring up into the sky. What WAS the deal with that phone call?
Did it signify that some higher powers were observing them? Did that in turn mean that Frank and Carrie’s safety was being looked after? Not something Frank really wanted to count on. He grimaced. Which was, ironically, a good reason for bringing Carrie along when time traveling.
The three or four trips Frank had taken on his own earlier in the week had been poorly executed. Particularly the one when he’d ended up back at the school, right before classes changed. He was not as adept as Carrie at making quick adjustments to new situations.
Carrie, on the other hand? Well, Frank doubted that he’d have been able to fake his way through half of that story she had given about Uncle McFly in the hotel. Certainly not with Carrie’s finesse, movie references notwithstanding. But then again, he might not have had to do it if they hadn’t fingered her as a thief, right?
“Can’t travel with her, can’t travel without her,” Frank concluded with a sigh.
Carrie shone the light into the underbrush, looking for any sign of blue while simultaneously listening for anything around her that was out of the ordinary. Her mind, though, was on other things entirely. Namely the situation they’d been dropped into.
Had she had a brush with a long-lost relative of sorts? Frank’s unproven theories aside, had she affected history? Carrie couldn’t think of anything in her present that felt out of place… but then, based on prior experience, she’d be remembering any changes as the original history already.
It was very tempting to sneak back into town and satisfy her curiosity about the situation. Except Carrie had to admit that the potential danger was too great.
She sighed. This whole time travel business was really starting to affect her life. How might any future actions in the past end up affecting the timeline? Particularly where her mother was concerned?
Such thoughts had driven her to distraction more than once in the past week. Often necessitating an apology to whomever she’d been talking to. Which had caught some of her classmates off guard, as if they’d expected to share the blame for her own inattentiveness.
She didn’t always lash out, did she?
Her brow furrowed. Then there was that date she’d had with Bill the previous night. The guy had turned out to be a lot duller than she’d expected. And he’d had difficulty keeping his eyes on her face. Which, on the one hand, whatever, so long as she got a free meal, but on the other… Carrie was starting to wonder how well she really knew the people around her.
A hint of blue caught the blonde’s eye and she pushed those unsettling thoughts out of her head. That must it, her favourite hairband. She approached the item in question and stooped down to retrieve it. Which was when something hit her from behind, sending her sprawling onto the ground. Dazed but not out, Carrie rolled over in order to see who or what had just attacked her.
The shock of seeing a mirror image of herself, standing there wielding a tree branch, was enough to allow her assailant to get in another swing. The world exploded in a field of stars before fading to black.