PART 14: DOUBLETAKES, PART II
“Hello? You okay?” came a tentative voice.
Carrie moaned. Everything looked black, but after a second she realized that was because it was still dark outside, and her eyes were having trouble focusing. She blinked them a few times, working at determining where she was, and who was speaking.
Carrie quickly discovered that she was sitting on the ground, propped back up against the trunk of a tree, with her arms tied behind her. While there was a person crouching down next to her. It was… herself. A Carrie double.
“You’re… you’re my… who are you?” Carrie demanded as she realized that up close, her assailant looked a little older, with softer facial features. Plus the blonde was wearing a different outfit, one more appropriate to the 1950s.
The other girl took a fumbling step backwards at Carrie’s tone. “I could ask you the same question. Did you really think I’d let you take over without a fight?”
Carrie stared. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“About your impersonating me in front of Ms. Peabody,” her companion challenged. “How long did you think you could get away with it?”
“Impersonating you was not the plan,” Carrie said in irritation. “In fact, if you want to turn yourself in for the jewellery theft, please be my guest.”
It was Carrie’s captor’s turn to stare. “Jewellery theft?” she said nervously.
Carrie rolled her eyes. “Yes, the one your Ms. Peabody tried to arrest me for an hour or two ago,” she elaborated.
“You stole her jewellery?” the other girl gasped. “How COULD you?”
“No, *I* didn’t do it, I just got into town,” Carrie said in exasperation. “I’m assuming you did it.”
“I would never do such a thing. And what do you mean you just got into town, *I* just got into town! You’ve been impersonating me for the last two months, spoiling my chances at stardom. Tell me, please… did… did I do something to you that made you want to ruin my life?”
“Look, time out,” Carrie asserted. “My name is Carrie Waterson. I don’t know you. I don’t know Ms. Peabody. I haven’t even been in this part of the country for the last two months. If you’re looking for some evil lookalike, it’s not me! Are we perfectly clear on this?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, I really can’t make that any clearer. Suppose you run your story by me? That might help,” Carrie proposed.
The girl sized Carrie up before speaking again. “My name is Beth Parker,” she admitted, warily. “I’m hoping to become a singer. When I started looking for work last year, I met Ms. Peabody. As it turns out, my voice and looks were perfect for a set of commercials her new company wanted to do. Unfortunately, she was a little low on funds, so we pooled our resources together in order to launch the effort.”
Carrie mulled the name ‘Beth Parker’ over in her mind, but she couldn’t think of anyone by that name in her family tree. So their passing resemblance could be a fluke. More to the point, this blonde’s story seemed to have a natural extrapolation.
“So, what, someone else took your place at some point, running off with the proceeds?”
“Exactly,” Beth affirmed. “See, the company inexplicably vanished one day. But I had some money hidden away, enough to track Ms. Peabody’s whereabouts. It took two months, but I caught up with her earlier today – and she said that she’d been dealing with me the whole time! That I’d authorized the dissolution of the company, that we were currently working together on some whole new plan. She asked me to take a little walk, then come back by the hotel at 6pm, at which point we could deal properly with the situation.”
Beth narrowed her eyes as she continued. “I was a little late, and saw someone who resembled me escorting a policeman inside. That was YOU, wasn’t it? I kept watch. And when I never showed, forcing you all to run off in your search party, I tailed you. Admittedly, I lost track of you, but I’d discovered your hairband, and was hoping you’d come back for it. So! What have you done, ‘Carrie’? Stolen Ms. Peabody’s jewellery to make me look like a thief?”
Carrie let her head fall back against the tree behind her with a quiet ‘thunk’. “Oh boy,” she mumbled again.
She had a suspicion as to what was going on here now, namely that Ms. Peabody might not be as legitimate as she claimed to be. But how could she ever prove that? And could she convince Beth of the situation without revealing her identity as a time traveler?
Carrie unexpectedly found herself at a loss for words, with no idea of where to begin. If only she had more time… which was when the idea hit her like a bolt of lightning.
A deck of cards. He should make sure to stick a deck of cards in the backpack, Frank decided. It would be useful during times such as these, providing more entertainment than squinting at a compass needle.
With a sigh, Frank tossed the compass aside, resuming his stargazing. It was about all he could do at this point, particularly with Carrie still having the flashlight out there somewhere. Where was that girl anyway?
Checking his watch, Frank discovered that she’d left well over an hour ago. This was starting to make him uneasy; he’d been writing it off as Carrie’s stubborn resolve to find her hairband, or perhaps to avoid him. But what if she was really in trouble? Could she have been arrested by that police officer?
“Should I go after her?” Frank mused aloud. Yet what if she was merely lost in the woods, and he was the one who ended up getting caught by going to look for her? Besides, she had demonstrated that she could handle herself.
On the other hand, what if she had been hurt somehow? The way he had been, that time in the past? Frank finally decided that he couldn’t keep sitting here. He stood up with a sigh and hefted the backpack, preparing to head out on a search.
“Carrie, you’d better be in trouble,” Frank declared.
“Well, thanks, Frank,” Carrie retorted. Frank spun to see her approaching him through the trees. “Nice to know you care.”
“Carrie, you’re all right!”
“Sorry to disappoint you.”
“But I didn’t mean… that is…” Frank sighed yet again. What was the use. “Never mind. Find your hairband?” he asked wearily.
Carrie pursed her lips. “In a manner of speaking,” she responded, now looking defensive. Which was when Frank realized that she seemed to have changed her shirt. How was that even possible? “You see Frank… it appears that it was our destiny to come back here to 1955 in order to help a young girl named Beth.”
“What do you mean? As I’ve indicated, it’s not our part to get involved.”
“Yes, well, it’s a bit late for that,” Carrie admitted. A strand of hair found its way into her hands and she started twirling it. “Because in some sense I know that we’ve already done what I’m about to do.”
It took a second for Frank to parse that. “Oh no. No, no, no, Carrie… I’m not liking where this is going.”
Carrie smiled and made a vague hand gesture. “Guess what, Frank! There are now two of me here and there are two of you here. The other me is the one who helps Beth, before going back with you to the present. The other you has gone to join the two of them even as we speak.”
Frank pressed a hand to his head. “Then… you’re a Carrie who’s come back. Back from the future.”
“It was the best solution I could come up with,” Carrie conceded. “I needed proof of some shady dealings that I couldn’t get while in this time period. But look on the bright side! In a way we’re validating your theory of self-consistency.”
“I can see that being a reason for me to tag along,” Frank mumbled. “But all the same, Carrie, I think we’re long overdue for a discussion on the ramifications of temporal paradox.”
“Oh, honestly Frank, you worry too much,” Carrie assured. “Now come on, I’ll give you the highlights of my plan.”
“You’re sure this is going to work?” Frank whispered.
The Carrie with whom he’d originally taken this time trip nodded in reply. “Our future selves gave me the key details. Everything will work out perfectly.”
“Uh huh,” Frank said, dubiously. “And you’re sure Beth won’t clue in that we’re time travellers?”
“Yes, Frank,” said Carrie patiently. “Because when your future self arrived with the necessary documentation, showing Beth that Ms. Peabody had been engaging in illegal activities, your now present self wasn’t anywhere around. When I got Beth to go along with this scheme on account of that, my future self was finding you. Since we waited until Beth left before your future double traded places with you, Beth never saw any doubles together at the same time, so no problem. And our future selves have now gone back to hide in the woods, meaning she’ll never know.”
Frank ran a hand back through his hair. “Riiiight.” He paused. “But what if our future selves simply said what they did to be consistent with what we heard. Meaning things could still go wrong for us, and we’ll end up lying about it when we became our future doubles.”
“Frank!” Carrie hissed, her hands unconsciously forming into fists. “Will you stop already? You’re actually starting to make me nervous.”
“Okay, okay,” Frank said, raising his hands defensively.
Carrie peered at her watch, which read 9:55. “Damn,” she muttered. “Damn, damn. Where is that Beth? That policeman is going to leave the hotel again if she waits any longer.”
Frank cleared his throat uncertainly. “Er, I think that’s her now,” he indicated.
Carrie turned to look back around the corner of the block, watching as Beth walked up to the front of the Clayton hotel. Carrie grinned. “Showtime,” she announced.
“Officer Strickland, all I know is what I was told over the phone,” explained Mr. Clayton, “Someone said that the case of the missing jewellery would be solved if I got you and Ms. Peabody back here, in an empty lobby, at ten minutes to ten.”
“This is pointless,” snapped Ms. Peabody. “It’s obviously a ruse set up by the blonde thief so that she has a chance to escape. If you’ll excuse me, I have other affairs that need tending to.”
“Ms. Peabody, please,” Strickland said. “At this point, we’re a little short on leads and manpower for a search. There’s no harm in following up on this, is there?” He glanced at his watch. “Though I must confess that if nothing happens in the next few minutes, perhaps we should be on our way…”
Beth Parker chose that moment to walk through the front doors of the hotel. Her appearance was greeted with varied degrees of surprise on the faces of the people present.
“Hold it right there,” the officer advised her, approaching quickly. “Why have you returned? Are you turning yourself in?”
The strangely clothed blonde at the door bit her lip. “What?” Beth inquired softly. She turned. “Ms. Peabody, what’s going on? I took that long walk as you suggested, and am afraid that I got lost. Is it too late to discuss our Lyon Estates company?”
Ms. Peabody met Beth’s gaze evenly, finally shaking her head slightly. “I can’t figure out if you’re even stupider than I thought, or are finally doing something smart by giving yourself up.”
“I’m not sure I understand you,” Beth said. “After everything we went through last year, are you really going to let me get arrested? Is this really how you’re going to conclude our association?”
Officer Strickland frowned. “Ms. Peabody, do you know this girl?”
There was a pause before Ms. Peabody shook her head again. “Aside from the time I saw her steal my jewellery, I have never seen this girl before in my life.”
“Then it’s true,” Beth choked out. “What that boy told me, it’s all true. God, I’ve been so naive!”
The law enforcement officer glanced from Beth to Ms. Peabody and back. “Miss, unless you have a real alibi for about 4pm today, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to come with me,” he concluded, stepping towards Beth.
Mr. Clayton had already moved around to block the doorway. Which meant he was caught quite off guard when it opened behind him.
“All right,” Carrie announced. “I give up! I’m turning myself in,” she declared, striding into the lobby. Her arrival elicited both surprise and confusion.
Mr. Clayton rubbed his eyes. “There’s two of them,” he declared.
“Great Scott,” exclaimed the officer, looking back and forth between them. “Er, Ms. Peabody, these two girls do seem remarkably similar. Can you say for certain which one of them was involved in the theft?”
The woman struggled for a moment to regain her composure as she looked back and forth between Carrie and Beth, ultimately raising a finger to point at the latter. “It’s her! This new girl looks too young.”
“What are you talking about?” Carrie retorted. “I’m the one who confessed to the crime.”
“All right, hold on a second here,” Strickland said. “Let’s keep this orderly… first of all, ladies, let me get your names for the record.”
“My name is Carrie,” said the girl in the blue hairband.
“And I’m Beth,” Carrie asserted.
“That’s a lie,” Ms. Peabody realized. “Officer, they must be working together, they’ve reversed their names.”
“You said you’d never seen me before,” Beth murmured. “So how do you know what my name should be?”
Ms. Peabody opened and closed her mouth. “Because! It was that other girl by the door who identified herself as Carrie McFly earlier today,” she countered.
Carrie spun. “Mr. Clayton,” she challenged. “The girl Ms. Peabody is referring to, the one who was here earlier, what was she wearing?”
“Euh, well, dark pants, pink top, blue hairband… what that girl has on right now I believe,” he answered, indicating Beth.
Carrie nodded and turned back to Ms. Peabody. “In other words, the girl currently claiming to be Carrie is wearing exactly the same thing as the girl who was claiming to be Carrie before. To know that my companion here is, in fact, Beth… well that would imply some former association with her.”
“Childish nonsense,” Ms. Peabody sputtered. “Officer, these two are obviously in league together. I want you to arrest them both!”
“Now hold on a minute here,” Strickland replied slowly. “That is a potentially interesting point they’ve raised.”
“I know more,” Carrie noted with a smile. “Ms. Peabody has been behind several scams running in nearby towns. She was lying low here. Meaning Beth showing up today was a problem. So the woman invented the missing jewellery story to get the poor girl out of the way long enough to finish tying up loose ends before fleeing the country.”
“I don’t have to stay here and listen to this. You have no proof of anything you’re saying!”
“Actually, I do,” Carrie responded smoothly. “First of all, there’s currently an airplane ticket among your possessions. I also have a financial statement, which shows that a lot of money, including Beth’s, has been routed to an account in Switzerland. Plus I have a list of five names, all of whom will probably make good witnesses at trial.”
Carrie pulled the papers from the waistband of her 1950s skirt and handed them over to the officer, inwardly praising the detail of the articles that her future self had produced.
“Interesting,” Strickland acknowledged, scanning over the documents. “As a matter of fact, Ms. Peabody, I have been keeping my eye on you these last few days. We don’t get many rich folks around these parts, and you’ve been making a lot of phone calls. I believe I will look into this. Very carefully.”
“You meddling little tramp,” Ms. Peabody snapped at Carrie, fire in her eyes. “Where did you get all of this information?!”
Carrie pursed her lips. Now came the tricky bit. “I’m receiving it through divine intervention. For you see, I am a guardian angel.”
Mr. Clayton did a double take. “You’re… you’re an angel,” he repeated disbelievingly.
“Oh well, see, that does it, case closed, this girl is insane,” Ms. Peabody retorted.
Carrie brushed some hair back off her shoulder. “On the contrary, I shall now prove it to you – by departing from your plane of existence,” Carrie asserted. She moved to knock on the hotel doors. “Frank!”
‘I can’t believe I’m going along with this,’ Frank thought to himself as he entered the lobby. ‘I really can’t… I’m not even positive that the machine has regained sufficient power… but at this point, what else am I going to do?’
Frank smiled wanly at everyone before setting the device down on the floor next to Carrie, keeping a hand on the lever.
“Now then officer, I trust that I can leave this matter in your very capable hands?” Carrie concluded.
“Er, yes, but… just a moment here,” Officer Strickland objected. “I must insist that you not leave the area yet. You may be required as a character witness. The situation has not yet been fully resolved.”
Carrie smiled. “It will be. You can say you got those records from an accountant by the name of Tiff Bannon.” She crouched down next to the time machine and took in a deep breath. “My work here is done. So… ‘bye now!”
Carrie gave a little wave, reaching back with her free hand to yank down on the lever, along with Frank. There was a bright light, a popping sound and the both of them disappeared.
“What on earth?” gasped Mr. Clayton, running over to the spot where they had been, before rubbing his eyes in a daze. He then proceeded to open the main doors and peer outside. “They’re gone. Oh man, oh man. I’ll never be able to repeat this story to anyone, they’ll think I’m nuts.”
Ms. Peabody hmphed, edging back towards the stairway. “Well, if the show is over, I’ll be on my way.”
“Not so fast,” Officer Strickland challenged, regaining his composure. “As I said, this information will be looked over in detail. And regardless of its, er, source, I’d say your future is looking pretty grim! Mr. Clayton, please restrain Ms. Peabody in your office until I can verify some of this, and contact the requisite authorities.”
Clayton nodded, moving to comply. Strickland turned towards the room’s other occupant. “Meanwhile Miss Beth, you’d better come with me, there are some questions to… Beth?”
Beth was still staring in awe at where Carrie and Frank had disappeared. “She really was an angel,” the blonde choked out. “Both of them were. I mean, she said it before, but I never really believed it. My God, I actually had angels looking out for me! It’s… it’s almost enough to restore one’s faith in humanity. Isn’t it?”
The blonde slipped off the hairband she’d been wearing and looked down at it. “If only I’d had some way to thank them.”
Somewhere back in the woods, Carrie peered at her watch while Frank absently shuffled his deck of cards. By his calculations, they still had an hour or so left until the time machine regained enough power for their trip back.
“You know Carrie,” Frank said, “There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”
“Oh, what NOW, Frank?” Carrie moaned, looking up. “I mean, despite the fact that some evidence was deemed questionable, Ms. Peabody will still be convicted, sentenced to a jail term of 25 years. Mr. Clayton will take Beth on as a worker in his new hotel, allowing her to raise enough money to launch herself on a little singing career. Despite our theatrics, our own research showed that we’re not even a footnote in the time period. And if your question is going to get us into another quasi-religious debate, I’d rather not go there again.”
“It’s not any of that,” Frank retorted.
Carrie folded her arms. “What then?”
“It’s this. Based on what we learned, it was Beth Parker’s own fault that she was taken advantage of, owing to her being too trusting of the wrong person. Meaning I wouldn’t have expected you to have much sympathy for her. Yet you still helped out, all the while knowing that Beth couldn’t give you anything in return. Why?”
Carrie frowned at that. “She had me tied up. I needed a way to get her off my back,” she replied. “Besides, I got to put on quite a performance.”
Frank peered closer, as if trying to see Carrie’s expression better in the darkness. “That’s the only reason…?”
“Frank, if you don’t shut up, I’m going to make you walk funny for a week,” Carrie grumbled.
Still, much as she hated to admit it, Frank had a point. It wasn’t exactly like her to shell out such time and effort without expectation of a personal payoff. However, by putting something right that might have otherwise gone wrong… it did give Carrie the strange feeling of a job well done. So why resist owning up to it? She had even sacrificed her preferred hairband, all in the name of confusing that arrogant Ms. Peabody.
Of course, a hairband didn’t matter, not in the grand scheme of things. Right?
Carrie was still reflecting on what had motivated her actions an hour later, when she and Frank reactivated the time machine – and failed to reach their present day.
(The Commentary for this episode reveals all the “Back to the Future” and “Quantum Leap” shout-outs for Parts 13 & 14 — how many did you spot?)