PART 43: DESPERATE TIMES
A figure stirred within the quiet, suburban home. Hazel eyes blinked open and a brunette teenager slowly picked herself up off the ground. She looked around, spotting a calendar hanging on the wall. Her mouth quirked up into an odd smile, and she tapped the barrel of her gun on her chin.
“It worked,” she murmured. “It worked, and now I’m… home.” She began to laugh hysterically.
Fingers drummed nervously on the floor. Having decided a short time ago that her situation wasn’t actually funny at all – certainly nothing to laugh about – Julie had moved on to taking stock of her current situation. So, she had traveled back to the year of her birth. The time machine had worked, as described to her by Carrie that time in her former associate’s bedroom.
It was a stroke of luck that Julie had apparently ended up on November 9th. Almost as if the machine had already been set for that day, merely requiring Frank’s coin to provide the year. She looked down at the notes she had grabbed. Should she risk reprogramming the thing, to try and jump a little closer? No… she didn’t have the right tools, or the confidence. Better to destroy the device instead. To prevent pursuit.
Julie proceeded to rip out what seemed to be the most important microchips, tossing them into the backyard. She put the notes into the garbage, and took the black box down into the basement, cramming it into one of the many half empty cardboard storage boxes she found. Her parents rarely decluttered, so there wasn’t much chance of it turning up – though even if it did, without the chips or the notes, it would be practically useless.
So, what was she supposed to do for the next three days? Devise a plan, of course. A plan to kill a baby. Julie felt her stomach lurch, but then again, she was already a murderer, right? She’d killed Carrie, and probably Frank too with her second shot. So what was one more death? Particularly when it would be her own. Merely one more death…
Something didn’t make sense. Her mind detoured.
Why had she shot Carrie? What exactly had brought her to Frank’s place that evening? Julie remembered being at the mansion. Then that man had called, asking to meet her at the park. The thirty-something guy had given her the gun, and told her what she had to do. It had made so much sense at the time! Up until the point of seeing Carrie bleeding on the floor…
‘None of it will have happened once I cease to exist,’ Julie rationalized, blocking the memory. One of SO many memories that she didn’t want any more. Okay, planning time. She had to figure out where the hospital was, that sort of thing. Pausing only long enough to find a bag to slip her gun into, Julie left the house.
Phil was here.
Barely an hour out of her house, and Julie found herself being confronted by impossible setbacks. She squeezed her eyes shut and counted to ten before peering back around the street corner.
Phil was still there.
If he was a hallucination, as he had been in the basement of her house, he’d become a more persistent one. Then again, this Phil could simply be a look-alike. Maybe an ancestor. Except why had Julie been left with the impression he was looking for someone?
Was he looking for her?
She felt her heart getting squeezed. Part of Julie wanted to run out to Phil and tell him everything, about what her parents had done to her, and about what she had done to Carrie. But another part of her urged caution. Could even Phil forgive her for what had happened? Worse, what if this was some kind of trap?
“Excuse me… you wouldn’t happen to have any spare change, would you?” said a nearby voice.
Julie tensed. She turned. This homeless woman was about her height, with hair of approximately the same length and colour. The similarity ended there, but daylight was fading, so with the right clothes…
“I’ll give you twenty dollars if you do something for me,” Julie answered. Almost as an afterthought, she moved closer to the woman and slipped the gun out from it’s concealment. “And if you don’t do it right, I’ll kill you too.”
Jeeves re-entered the sitting room to find Luci pacing, Chartreuse fidgeting with some crystals, and Lee leaning over the couch where the fourth house “guest” remained tied up.
The LaMille butler was starting to regret having let them in. In doing so, he wagered that he had become an accessory to kidnapping, or harbouring a fugitive. He didn’t know which. He didn’t want to know. That way, he wouldn’t have to deny anything later.
The one thing Jeeves DID know was that Julie was in some sort of trouble. Furthermore, ever since he had been hired three years ago to take care of this place, and thus indirectly to care for her, he’d felt a certain obligation towards the young girl. She was obviously very troubled, but she was also smart, strong, and more driven than any other teenager he knew. He couldn’t understand why her parents didn’t spend more time with her.
Indeed, it had been after leaving her alone with her parents for the one night that she had disappeared. Perhaps he shouldn’t have reported Julie’s actions at school to her mother and father. Or perhaps he shouldn’t have agreed to take that night off. Yet they often released him that way shortly after coming home, and as a simple butler, had he really had any other choice?
Perhaps not. However, he did have a choice now. Namely whether to offer more information to these children, or whether to put a stop to things before they got out of hand.
“Pardon me,” Jeeves stated archly. “But could one of you please enlighten me as to the current situation regarding Miss LaMille?”
Luci turned towards him. “Situation?” she said tiredly.
“You indicated to me earlier that by allowing you in here, it might ultimately clear her name,” Jeeves reminded them.
“Oh. Yes.” Jeeves noticed that the young girl’s eyes drifted over to the man on the couch, before she resumed her pacing. Perhaps this mystery man had been the actual culprit? “It’s complicated,” she continued. “I’m sorry, but we need more time.”
“The thing is,” Jeeves continued pointedly, “I just got off the phone with Miss LaMille’s father.” That got all of their attention.
“I have been trying to reach her parents all afternoon,” he elaborated. “Ever since I learned that their daughter was being implicated in the recent shooting. I finally succeeded not ten minutes ago, only to be told by Mr. LaMille that he had no daughter. At first I thought that he was trying to disown her, however, it soon became apparent to me that he also had no recollection of even owning this house.”
The butler watched as the three teenagers exchanged a glance. “He doesn’t remember Julie?” Chartreuse said, biting her lower lip. “Uh oh. Um, you don’t think that means she, like, actually succeeded in… in the past, do you?”
Luci yanked a piece of paper from her pocket. “How could she have?” the young asian protested, scanning over it. She slapped at the page with her hand. “We know what happened back then. Look, girl hit by ambulance, three days before Julie was born. That hasn’t changed.”
“Unless…” The man on the couch struggled to stand. “She is more powerful than I realized. We have to stop her, now!”
“Stop Julie?” Chartreuse said, confused. “No, that’s what, like, Frank and them are doing.”
“Whoa, okay, time out,” Lee said, raising his hands in the traditional gesture. “I’m not sure I follow ANY of what’s going on here, so back the bus up… if Julie’s parents don’t remember her now because of some change to the past – how come WE haven’t forgotten her too?”
“The–“ Their captive cut himself off. “Your Carrie Waterson. I told you she had powers! Being in this town, right now, has put us in the eye of her time storm. We are not safe so long as she is around. Can you not see how time itself is beginning to destabilize? We must act fast. Someone help me up.”
Jeeves automatically felt himself take a step closer to assist, only to have the boy named Lee step between them. “Sorry, I’m thinking we keep Shady on the couch for now,” the teenager asserted.
“Yes!” Luci said, and when Jeeves turned to her, he saw that a light had come back into her eyes. She met his gaze. “Okay, Jeeves, thanks for the information but I bet none of this is making any sense to you, and we don’t have time to explain. So, I know it’s a lot to ask, but unless you seriously object, can you leave us alone again? It’ll avoid you getting any more involved than you have to.”
Jeeves raised an eyebrow as Luci voiced his earlier concern – yet he also sensed a hard edge to Luci’s voice. Was helping Miss LaMille really worth potentially putting these other teenagers in jeopardy?
“I will allow you another few minutes to discuss the situation,” Jeeves decided. “Should you need me, I will be in the hall.” He turned and left the room once again, hoping that he was doing the right thing.
Then again, according to his employers, he didn’t seem to work here anyway.
After Jeeves had departed, Luci turned back to Shady. “You don’t KNOW,” she asserted, grinning.
“What don’t I know?”
“You don’t know what Carrie’s capable of,” she concluded. “Not really. Your description of her powers has been vague, you didn’t know if Frank’s admission would save her, and you sure as heck weren’t aware of whatever this ‘time storm’ was until Jeeves pointed it out. So how could you possibly know whether Carrie’s irredeemably insane or not?”
Luci drew in a deep breath. “The answer is, you don’t. Meaning we might still be able to save her.”
Shady shook his head. “Don’t be foolish. I know she’s dangerous.”
“Dangerous why?” Luci demanded. She moved in next to him, placing her hand on the couch next to his head. “Tell us, why exactly is Carrie Waterson dead in your future, Shady? Why did you have to come back to this time period to get her? Why, exactly, is SHE the one tied to time?”
Their captor’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t have to answer to you.”
Luci’s smile vanished. “Perhaps not, but it occurs to me now that you were WAY too calm for someone who claimed to have lost an entire future war because of us.”
“Well, I’m not calm any more,” he snapped.
“No, you’re not,” Luci acknowledged. “So what is it about Carrie that has you so riled up? Tell us. ALL of it.”
“Go beat your head against a wall.”
Luci turned and marched over towards the nearest wall, drawing her head back – only to be grabbed from behind by Lee. She blinked, then snapped her gaze back over to the couch.
“That’s dirty pool,” Chartreuse said, horrified.
“You children, you have no idea, NO idea of what you’ve gotten yourself mixed up in,” Shady said, a bitterness to his tone. “Enough of free will. Isn’t it time to leave this situation in the hands of your elders?”
“Okay, that’s it,” Luci decided. “I’ve had it.” She began to push a chair over to the side of the room. “Lee? Chartreuse? You can leave now, if you don’t want to see this.”
“Um, pretty sure I should stick around,” Lee pointed out.
“Why, what are you, like, going to do?” Chartreuse asked.
“Something I might regret later,” Luci admitted. She climbed onto the chair, and reached up to grasp the ornamental rapier hanging on the wall.
“Whoa, uh, hold on short stuff… what are you doing?”
Truth be told, Luci was asking herself that same question. She wasn’t really sure any more. All she knew was that were were still gaps, huge gaps in her knowledge that had to be filled. It had become more than a need, it was a necessity. How else could she solve this puzzle?
“The problem,” she reasoned aloud, hopping back down onto the floor, “is that I’ve been basing all my decisions to this point on the scattered half picture we’ve had available.” She brandished the rapier and pointed it at their captive. “Time to get the rest of the data. By any means necessary.”
“Luci,” Chartreuse gasped, reaching out to take her by the shoulder.
“No,” Luci protested, shrugging off Chartreuse. “It’s not us, it’s HIM, it’s his secrets that have doomed Julie and Frank and the rest of them.” She took a step closer to the couch. “So, you want to talk war? Fine, here’s your war. You will tell us about Carrie’s fate in your timeline, or suffer the consequences.”
The man met Luci’s gaze, sizing her up. “You have more willpower than I thought,” he said at last. “But no. I’ve told you too much already.”
“Don’t test me,” Luci cautioned, waving the blade around – to try and disguise how much her hand was starting to shake.
He smirked. “Please. You talk big, but you won’t use that. Put it away before you hurt yourself.”
Luci stared at him for another few seconds, realizing with growing frustration that he wasn’t going to stop treating this like a bluff on her part. ‘Hurt him!’ a part of her cried out. ‘He’s hurting you, so you can hurt him back!’ Except… there was a big difference between cutting someone down with words, and doing it with a blade.
She grasped the hilt with both hands. Tears started stinging at her eyes. “Talk!”
Talk, Shady. Just talk. This was so easy in the movies. Why not now? Why, oh why couldn’t things be going her way? As Shady smirked, Luci felt Chartreuse’s arm encircle her shoulders. This time she didn’t pull away. Instead she let out a choked sob, finally letting the blade fall from her grip. It bounced on the carpet.
“Okay buddy, now you’ve made a young girl cry,” Lee observed. He cracked his knuckles. “We’ve reached my line in the sand.”
Luci looked back up, barely in time to see Lee backhand the man across the face. “Now say you’re sorry,” he admonished. He looked angrier than Luci had ever seen him.
“What… what the hell are you doing?!” their captive spat back, apparently as surprised as any of them.
“At present? I’m trying to figure out how a supposed adult has the audacity to put the whammy on girls less than half his age,” Lee said. “You also seem to be trying to kill another one of my friends, without telling us the reason, and to cap it all off – you’re making me late for dinner.”
Lee backhanded him again. “I’m ESPECIALLY annoyed about that last one, because I don’t want my sisters to have new reasons to cry either. So let’s get to it, okay ‘Shady’? Apologize to Luci, and then TELL her WHAT SHE WANTS TO KNOW.”
Lee’s victim glowered at him for a moment, before uttering a curt, “Sorry,” in Luci’s direction.
“Progress,” Lee said, glaring.
Shady grit his teeth. “If you weren’t somehow immune to me…”
“What’s the problem, not comfortable enough to answer questions?” Lee asked. “Well then, I’ll fluff your pillow here and… oh, I’m sorry, is that your foot? Dear me, I’d get your feet up out of the way but it is hard when they’re tied like this… oh, sorry, was that your stomach? You know, you’d make this a lot easier by talking. Though I guess it is a little difficult with me holding the pillow over your face. There, that better?”
“Are you INSANE?”
“Sounds like you need more time to think. How about this, I’ve heard it can help, having all your blood rush to your head. Over we go… oops, sorry. Oh, hey, mind that rapier down there…”
As Lee continued to contort the man’s body, Luci was reminded of the conversation she’d had with Clarke in the hospital. Sometimes, you had to pass the ball to your teammates. “Remind me never to cross Lee,” she whispered to Chartreuse.
Chartreuse didn’t respond, her eyes wide and her jaw slack.
“All right, I’ll talk,” Shady shrieked, once Lee had twisted his head away from the upholstery. “Bloody hell, I never expected you teenagers to be such a thorn in my side!”
“And our little dog too,” Lee remarked as he straightened back up and adjusted his jacket. He looked back over at the two girls, seeming a bit taken aback by their expressions. “Um, what can I say? I hate being late for dinner.”
“You want the truth about your ‘friend’, Carrie Waterson?” The temporal refugee spat out, even as he struggled to sit back up. “Fine. She is NOT dead in my future. Rather, she is on THEIR side.” He fixed his gaze upon Luci. “She’s a temporal bomb, who can destroy the entire world, because THAT’S what they designed her to do. Which is, if you haven’t figured it out, why we couldn’t very well recruit her to fight on behalf of the humans, could we?”
It was Chartreuse who managed to speak first. “Um, Carrie’s a human. Not some time bomb.”
“Well, she’s sort of both,” Shady countered. “Call her a sleeper agent, if you like, planted in the past. Except now that I’ve changed things? Now that she’s exerting her influence on this town, consciously or unconsciously preserving the memory of Julie? She’s armed. She has to be.”
“So you did come back in time to destroy Carrie,” Luci concluded.
He shook his head. “No, I came back to recruit that– thing, I swear. We had hoped to learn how to control the power, and to unleash it back upon her own people… but regrettably, if Carrie went psychotic, there would be no choice but to eliminate her. Because if she explodes? She will not only take this town, but this entire planet along with her. Make no mistake.”
He paused to let his words sink in. “So,” he concluded, “will you finally release me, and let me destroy that shell of a girl before she does the same to all of humanity? Or shall we sit here chatting for what may well be the last hour of our lives?”
They had to be destroyed. If they got in her way, she would have to destroy them. It seemed harsh, but being a murderer three times over now, Julie had made up her mind.
Three times… Carrie, Frank, and then that homeless woman… it had been so horrible, to see her die. Julie grabbed at her chest, feeling her borrowed clothing.
She should have been the one. The one lying dead in the road. In fact, a strange part of her felt like it HAD BEEN HER. Or would have been her. Before she’d noticed Phil on the street, and switched clothing. Now it wasn’t her. But could it still become her?
Tenses were getting muddled in her brain. No, more than tenses, it was all a muddle. Perhaps a side effect of the time travel. Or, you know, the fact that she was flirting with paradox, trying to prevent her own birth. Maybe something out there didn’t want her to do that.
What had even led to this line of thought? Right, she had to kill Phil, Frank and Corry… if they got in her way. Frank, dead for a second time. That was weird.
Never mind. Julie knew she needed a plan. A plan that she could execute quickly, for if Phil had actually been able to follow her through time, recruiting assistance from Corry of all people, there were sure to be more traps in store. Julie supposed that she should not have destroyed the potential advantage of her own time machine.
Too late to worry about that now. She couldn’t wait another three days for her actual birth. Not any more. It was time for action.
Still clutching the gun, Julie marched off for the hospital. If the others tried to stop her now, well… well, then they would suffer the consequences. The very deadly consequences.