PART 40: REPARATIONS
“Corry… I want to know what’s really going on.”
Her twin blinked back at her in surprise. “What’s going on with what?”
For a moment, Laurie regretted saying anything. However, after both knocking AND waiting for Corry to invite her in, she decided she would see things through. She closed the door behind herself, to make it harder to want to leave. “What’s going on with Carrie and Julie,” she explained softly.
Corry sat up on his bed. “What has Chartreuse been telling you?”
Laurie tried to remember. She shouldn’t have left this talk for so late into the evening! “Not much. But she said that you both talked, and that she’d decided to tell you a bit about what was going on, and that you didn’t think there was any point her discussing more about the time traveling stuff with me today.”
“Okay,” Corry said, visibly relaxing. “So?”
“So… so I’ve decided I’m going to see Chartreuse’s other friends tomorrow, to learn more about this on my own!”
Corry’s face clouded again. “I see. Why is that?”
“Because I want to,” Laurie stated. She forced herself to breathe, and speak in short sentences. “Because Chartreuse is right a lot more often than you give her credit for. And because I… I need to know what really happened to Carrie and Julie. Even if that means discovering that my own brother is behind it all!!”
Corry’s look became one of confusion, and he swung his legs off the side of the bed. “What?”
Laurie took in another breath. “Look, I know I’m naive, but maybe I’m not actually stupid,” she asserted. “You’ve never been fond of Carrie. Then you led that whole flyer campaign against Julie. The next day, Carrie’s in the hospital, Julie’s vanished, and you barely investigate! So… so what part did you play in their conditions??”
“You… you think I’m somehow responsible for what’s happened to those two?” Corry said. Now he looked shocked – but maybe he was faking it for her benefit.
“No! No, Gods no, Laurie, ruining a reputation is one thing, but have I ever done something that would threaten a person’s life?!”
He seemed legitimately horrified. Oh no. Laurie looked down at her feet. “M-Maybe you’ve come close a couple of times…”
She heard Corry jump off of his bed and approach her. “Laurie… Laurie, look at me,” he insisted, taking her by the shoulders. Slowly, her eyes came back up to lock with his. Okay, it didn’t look like he was upset with her, more – scared?
“Laurie, listen. I know sometimes I can get a little carried away. But you have to believe me, I would never, ever, do something that could outright kill a person,” he said. “Do you understand?”
Laurie searched her brother’s expression for any sign that he was lying. If he was, she couldn’t see it. She nodded, relieved beyond belief. “Okay. So, if you’re not responsible for what’s happened – isn’t it possible that what Chartreuse said is the truth?”
Corry released Laurie’s shoulders, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, but no. Time machines? That’s science fiction. Occam’s razor – meaning the simplest answer is likely correct. Carrie caught some disease after the shooting, and Julie ran away. And while I grant that I may have been indirectly responsible for the latter, it was her decision.”
Laurie shook her head. “No, Corry! The right answer isn’t always the one that makes the most sense – otherwise I’d have higher marks! Besides, remember when Chartreuse found mom’s missing keys last August? Or when she had that premonition before our pop quiz in math class last month? Or when she predicted the revival of the Star Trek franchise despite the lacklustre interest in ‘Enterprise’?”
“Sis, predictions based on Scott Bakula do not imply that a person can leap through space and time.”
“You KNOW what I mean!” Laurie protested, stamping her foot. “And it’s not only Chartreuse this time, apparently it’s Frank and it’s Clarke and so unless they’re all crazy there HAS to be something to this! So why couldn’t we at least TALK more about that?”
Corry took another long, hard look at her before speaking again. “You’re not going to drop this subject no matter what, are you,” he realized.
“No, I’m n-not,” Laurie said, swallowing. She summoned up all of her resolve. “So please Corry, don’t blame Chartreuse for anything that happens now, because I’m doing it myself. I’ve got to know. Anyway, a-are you really convinced by your own simplest answers??”
She finally had him there, and they both knew it. “All right,” Corry relented. “All right, Laurie. If Chartreuse can somehow PROVE to me – to us – that her time travel theory is correct, I’ll go along with it.”
“Oh, thank you! I knew you’d be reasonable!” Laurie said, grabbing her brother in a big hug. “Let’s call her first thing tomorrow!”
“But at the first sign of a setup, we’re both out of there, okay?” Corry added, hugging back.
Laurie nodded. “Don’t worry,” she said happily. “I’m sure Chartreuse’s explanation will make PERFECT sense!”
“This doesn’t make any sense,” Luci muttered to herself. “The circuit is closed, it should be getting power, so why isn’t it working?”
“Problems?” came the tired voice of Frank Dijora from the stairway.
Luci turned. “Frank, you said you’d get at least six hours of rest!” she accused.
Frank yawned. “I’m surprised I managed five,” he admitted. He gestured at the clock. “Besides, it’s almost time for breakfast. My mom’s up and making pancakes. Though I can bring ‘em down here if you don’t think we’ll make the noon deadline.”
“No, no, we’re on track,” Luci sighed. “But it’s frustrating – whenever we replace parts, they’re not as compact as whatever was in there before, and the wiring gets awkward. This would be so much easier using futuristic technology!”
Frank smiled wanly. “Tell me about it. I’m sure you’ve done the best you could with it though.” He moved next to her in order to peer down inside the black box himself. Luci felt her cheeks warming at his proximity, and knew she was not entirely successful in hiding it. “Er, sorry… too close?” Frank said, taking a step back.
“It’s all right,” Luci murmured. “Some silly worries I’ve been having, which when coupled with my feelings… look, assuming we get this fixed, you make sure you’re careful while you’re back in the past, okay?”
Frank seemed surprised. “Of course,” he assured. “And…” His gaze drifted to her left. “Luci, I realize it’s been three weeks now since… since you made your feelings clear to me. So… so I’m sorry that I’m still trying to sort it all out. But there’s been a bunch of other things happening lately and… well…” Frank stopped, obviously at a loss for what to say next.
Luci sighed. “It’s okay, Frank,” she said, reaching out to touch his arm. “I’m a patient girl. It can wait until after we get through this crisis.” She smiled, as a thought struck her. “Besides, with this impromptu sleepover, I got to spend the night with you, in a way. I’ll let that carry me through.” She winked, and watched in amusement as Frank turned away to hide his own reddening cheeks.
“Frank, there’s a Chartreuse on the phone for you!” came the voice of Frank’s mother from the top of the stairs. “She says it’s quite important.”
The two teenagers exchanged a quick glance before heading back up the stairway together.
“This is preposterous,” Corry said dourly. “You expect me to believe that pile of junk is a time machine? I mean, aren’t you supposed to be able to ride in them?”
“You can, you know, believe whatever you like,” Chartreuse declared. “The fact remains, it’s true.”
Corry hmphed, crossing his arms as he leaned back against the wall of Frank’s basement. Frank and Luci seemed to be doing some sort of repair work on the thing, while Tim, who was apparently mixed up in this as well, had been delayed. Which meant the Veniti twins were being brought up to speed by Chartreuse and Clarke, of all people.
Corry glanced sidelong at his sister – she looked skeptical, but it still seemed like she wanted to see things through. Fine. He shifted his gaze to Clarke. “So let me see if I have this straight,” Corry began.
“Carrie found a time machine last September. Julie found out about it, shot Carrie, and then used the thing to time travel back to the year of her birth, where she died. Carrie’s present condition is related to the fact that Julie’s death was not supposed to take place.
“Add to this a mysterious caller from the future, the rediscovery of your time device back here in town, and the fact that you need someone who was in Miami at the same time Julie was born to end up in the correct geographical location, and you get a rescue operation. Is that right?”
“Yeeeeah,” Clarke said. There was a pause. “I grant it doesn’t sound so plausible when you put it together like that.”
“So me, Frank and Clarke would be trying to track down Julie in Illinois?” Laurie said, chewing nervously on her lower lip.
“Right,” Chartreuse confirmed. “And we need you, otherwise they’d end up in the wrong place. Though even so, you’ll probably be, you know, several kilometres off where you have to be, that’s why you’ll bring, like, bicycles and rations and stuff along.”
“Miles, they use miles in the States,” Corry reminded. He glanced around the room, scrutinizing everyone present. “You’re all insane,” he decided. “I mean, it’s a fun little fantasy story, but you have yet to offer us any concrete proof! So please, give us an example of your magical ‘time travel’ abilities.”
“That’s going to be a problem,” Luci piped up. She turned. “Because even though we’re finally done here, I can’t see the machine holding up for more than two, maybe three time trips.”
Everyone’s gazes shifted over to where she and Frank had been working. “I’m forced to agree,” Frank said with a sigh. He tossed aside his screwdriver. “Besides, we don’t have enough coins from the present year to waste on demonstrations. You’ll simply have to take our word for it.”
“How convenient,” Corry observed, rolling his eyes.
“So you… you can’t prove it?” Laurie asked quietly. Her gaze was pleading, but Frank and Luci shook their heads.
“Well then,” Corry concluded, pushing himself away from the wall. “Either you are making this up, and trying to ridicule me and Laurie with your ludicrous tales, or you are serious, and thus hope to get my sister to participate in a potentially lethal trip, chasing after my bitter rival. Does the phrase lose-lose situation mean anything to you?”
“Look, there is a better way to put this,” Frank insisted. He paused. “I just… don’t know what that is.”
“It doesn’t matter!” Chartreuse shouted. She reached out to seize Laurie’s hands. “You believe everything that we’ve been saying, right? You’ll help save Julie and Carrie no matter what Corry thinks?”
Corry frowned, but held his tongue, wondering what his sister would say. Laurie opened and closed her mouth a few times before actually speaking. “I… I want to,” she said at last. “I really do! But…” Her gaze slipped away from Chartreuse and down to the floor. “This whole thing is getting more crazy and more serious, and I didn’t think it would be exactly like this, and Chartreuse, I… I’m scared.”
“But it won’t be, you know, so bad!” Chartreuse said, desperately. “I mean, Clarke would be along, and you like him, and he can make sure nothing real bad happens.”
Corry moved to put an arm around his sister’s shoulders, at the same time firing an angry glare at Chartreuse. “Sis, don’t let anyone pressure you into doing something you don’t want to,” he soothed.
Laurie lifted her gaze back up to look at her brother, then she turned to regard everyone else in the room. She bit down hard on her lower lip, the conflicting emotions inside of her evident in the changing expressions on her face.
“Come on now, why don’t we go home and put this whole sorry affair behind us,” Corry suggested.
For a moment, there was silence. And when Laurie finally opened her mouth to reply, a new voice broke in.
“G-G-G-Guys!” stammered Tim.
Frank turned as he heard blonde boy nearly fall in his haste to get down the basement stairway. “Tim?”
Tim didn’t seem to hear him. “Is C-C-C-Corry s-still here?” Tim called out desperately. “I’ve g-g-g-got s-something s-s-so important!”
Clarke moved to his friend’s side, at the bottom of the stairs. “Hold on now Tim,” he said calmly. “Everyone’s here, including Corry. Don’t stress yourself out. Take a few deep breaths, then tell us what’s happened.”
Tim blinked up at Clarke, then nodded and did as he suggested before looking out at all of the others in the room. He held up what looked like an old envelope. “It’s this m-message… it was l-left with my father’s l-law firm, sixteen years ago. I’m l-late today because he had been told to g-give it to m-me this morning… and it’s f-f-for you!” Tim concluded, bowing forwards slightly as he held the sealed envelope out towards Corry.
The redheaded boy blinked in surprise. He glanced around the room, Frank noting how everyone else was basically as taken aback by this new development as he was. Snatching the envelope from the smaller boy, Corry turned it around suspiciously in his hands.
It looked to be a perfectly normal envelope, with ‘Corry Veniti’ written on the front. But then Corry’s grip tightened. “This is my handwriting,” he realized.
“Wait, Tim, you got this message through your father’s law firm years ago – when exactly was this left with them?” Frank asked.
“I don’t know,” Tim said. “It actually came with some message from my uncle Hubert, probably to appease my dad, and Corry’s envelope there was inside a larger envelope for me. With a note saying to b-bring it here.” He shook his head. “That’s all I’ve got.”
“So we wrote ourselves a letter, telling us how to deal with the current situation!” Chartreuse said hopefully.
“Hmmm… there is some logic in that,” Luci agreed. “After all, we now have a working machine, which reopens the free will debate. And if the only trip we’ll be taking is to get Julie, using Tim’s family to send a delayed letter would be the best way to communicate with ourselves now. I think I even saw this on a TV show once…”
“But then why address it to Corry?” Clarke objected.
“Maybe we’ll know when he opens it,” Laurie proposed. She looked over to her brother. He grimaced, then ripped open the envelope, pulling out a whole stack of paper. The redhead’s eyes widened as he scanned over the top sheet of handwritten information.
“This is… impossible…!” he muttered. “It has to be trick!” Corry’s gaze snapped back up. “How the hell did you all pull this off?!”
“Pull what off?” Frank asked.
Laurie shifted position slightly so that she could see the pages over Corry’s shoulder. “Well then,” Laurie murmured as she scanned across the page. “Either you are making this up, and trying to ridicule me and Laurie with your ludicrous tales, or you are serious, and thus hope to get my sister to participate…” Laurie stopped and looked back up. “This is a transcript of the conversation we had earlier!” she said in surprise.
“Are still having,” Corry corrected, having flipped to a later page. His face had taken on a slightly paler shade than usual. “It includes what you said, word for word… and what I’m saying right now…?!”
“Oh, neat! So how will our conversation end?” Chartreuse asked.
“I don’t know, it stops at what you said,” Corry answered through clenched teeth. Throwing the sheets aside, he reached out for Tim, grabbing hold of his shirt. “How did you do that?!” Corry demanded angrily. “Have you been listening in, did you learn to forge my handwriting?!”
Tim let out a strangled gasp. “N-No, I-I-I-I-I–!”
Clarke got a firm grip on the redhead’s arm. “Corry, I suggest you let Tim go. Now. Whatever is going on, it’s not his doing.”
“Besides, even if Tim was listening, how could he write out a conversation still in progress?” Luci pointed out.
“How could anyone write anything so precise?” Frank added, thoroughly confused. “I’m not recording down here, and it’s not like we could have time traveled back to plant listening devices… uh oh, do you think the government has found out about us?”
Having released his hold on Tim, Corry now turned to Frank. “You mean you don’t know how that could have been recorded?” he said suspiciously. Frank shook his head.
Corry stared at him for another long moment before reaching into his own pocket. He walked over to the lab bench, slapping down a device. A miniature recorder. For a moment, no one was quite sure what to say.
Laurie spoke first. “So, um, hold on,” she said. “Corry, you mean YOU recorded this whole conversation, in order to use it to convince yourself that everything being said was true, even though you don’t really think the conversation is true and you didn’t think that when you started recording it either?” She frowned. “My head feels funny.”
“Look, I was recording everything because I thought I’d better have an account of what really happened, in case someone here tried to claim otherwise,” Corry stated. “Standard procedure. Why a transcript should appear in a letter that claims to be over sixteen years old, I have no idea!”
“I d-do,” Tim said, having stooped down to retrieve the pages Corry had thrown aside. He held up the final sheet, tapping at it. “Did you l-look at this, Corry?”
Corry snatched the page back from him, scanning it over. His grip tightened, and his face went almost white. Laurie again crept in to read over her brother’s shoulder, Chartreuse joining her friend.
“Now that I have your attention, I have a proposition to make,” Chartreuse read aloud, for the benefit of everyone. “Namely that I, Corry Veniti, take the place of my sister on the trip. Not only to ensure her safety in the present, but also the safety of Frank and Clarke in the past – based on what I know of Julie. Based on how she acted that one January, our first year of high school.” She tilted her head. “Why, what did Julie do then?”
When Corry didn’t respond, Laurie continued to read. “That said,” Laurie murmured, “Feel free to exert free will and disregard this suggestion. All I ask is that I, Corry Veniti, now write it and send it back sixteen years in order to preserve the timeline.”
Corry slowly walked back to the lab bench, placing the page down next to his recording device. He leaned in against the edge of the table, lost in thought. Luci opened her mouth to say something, but Laurie held up a finger, shaking her head as she looked at her brother.
“Frank,” Corry said at last. “Did Julie go back in time with the express INTENTION of killing herself?”
Frank flinched. “How could you know that?”
Corry didn’t immediately respond, staring back down, re-reading the passage over and over. Finally, he turned. “Okay,” he said slowly. “Okay, if this were to hypothetically persuade me that you’re not outright lying, and furthermore convince me that I should, in fact, join you in your efforts… can you guarantee to me that time travel won’t devise anything this CREEPY for me ever again?”
“I wish I could,” Frank sighed. “Believe me, I really, really wish I could.”
Corry raked his fingers back through his hair. “Damn.” He glanced at his sister. “But fine. When do we leave?”