A Murder in Time

I am walking down the hallway on the third floor of a public school that has seen better days. Just as I turn to enter an art room, a pair of men in suits block my path. In an eye blink, the scene changes to a small, dusty room—an unused office perhaps. The taller man orders me to sit on one of the old wooden chairs along the wall as the other suit hauls in a young man in handcuffs and shoves him into a chair.

I know him Or, I did. For the first time I look down at myself. Although I haven’t changed, the young man in front of me can’t be here. But he is and that’s the trouble. I’ve aged but he’s still young. Before I get my brain untangled enough to sort things out, Second Suit identifies himself as FBI and begins to speak but I’m not really hearing anything. My eyes are fixed on the impossibly young man, who happens to be Jared, my first serious boyfriend in the time zone back when time made sense. I’m hearing Tall Suit now. Jared’s being charged with murder and he’s given me as his alibi.

Yes, now I remember. I was with him. We sneaked into his mother’s house and while she dozed in her easy chair, snatched one of her Billie Holiday records and took it into his room to play. Without going into details, he took me home in the wee hours of the morning. But that happened long ago. Even if he’s been in two places at once—-one in this timeline and one in mine–and has really murdered someone, why has the FBI waited until now to arrest him? Wait, what is “now” anyway? The now where I’m 18 or the one where I’m past wanting to admit how old I am?

Agent First Suit is still talking and I’ve missed most of a very long accusatory speech directed at Jared. Now he turns to me and asks me if I can support the alibi. In the only sense I know of, I say yes. Suit doesn’t like this. Somewhere between “I know you’re lying” and “Just because you’re a teacher doesn’t mean I believe you” comes another switch….

To a police station this time, an interrogation room with one of those one-way windows. Inside the room sits First Suit and a burly, red-faced man teenager who’s snarling his innocence. The more he protests, the more assertively the agent demands answers. I feel the presence of someone close behind me and whirl around. A female officer, a fictional character straight out of my novel, is asking me, “How well do you know Phillip Crandle?”

Do I? I am not even sure who I am at the moment. In which time, past or present, should I search my memory for a Crandle? The officer tells me Crandle was picked up with the murder weapon and Jared will be bumped down to an accessory once Crandle admits guilt. Or possibly even let go. Fine, so what do they want with me? I’ve been plucked from my time and although no one’s said so, I feel an implied threat to cooperate. Or what? If these people operate with logic, it escapes my comprehension.

I shudder I peer reluctantly through the glass into the interview room. First Suit has removed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. He’s sipping from a mug, eyeing Crandle, who keeps up a constant stream of denial and abuse and looks very, very capable of homicide. The face comes to me in an instant, as if a card dealer turned up a card I knew he had all along. I recognize the kid now–a student in my first period class. In my present, not the past. But who am I to quibble about these little details? This mash up of time isn’t my responsibility

So I give the officer enough background about Crandle to make any sane person want to lock him up for 500 years. And what does it matter, if he did it or not, because this time—-this universe?—-isn’t real. It can’t be.

Suddenly, I’m in a court room, one more Elizabethan than 21st century. Jared’s mother, dressed in funereal black, is at my side. We’re in the first row along with Jared’s whole family. She clutches at my hand and thanks me for helping to save her son. She whispers her certitude that when the jury sees the two accused men, side by side, they’ll realize Crandle committed the murder himself and Jared has been framed.

But I haven’t saved him. Not yet. He’s in the dock along with Crandle and a man who I can’t seem to see–no matter how hard I stare he looks more like a shadow than an attorney. And the courtroom has filled with angry, sword-wielding people, shouting for blood. Whose? Since when do they put two people on trial at the same time? Since this “when” I guess.

The clerk of the court announces the judge and I pull my hand free and lean to face the bench. At that moment it becomes clear to me I’ve made a big mistake. The judge will give these people the blood they’re demanding. Someone will die after this trial. Jared can’t have committed the crime. But Crandle couldn’t have done it any more than I could have because he wasn’t even born yet the night Jared introduced me to Billie Holiday. Crandle will die anyway, because of me. I jump up to rush the bench.

And then I wake up.

Author’s note: This, apparently, is what I get from watching episodes of NCIS and Star Trek, and reading a fantasy novel on the same day.

Mickey is the author of the mystery novel School of Lies and the soon to be released sequel, Deadly Traffic. Please check out www.mickeyhoffman.com for details.

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~ by mickeyhoffman on December 8, 2011.

2 Responses to “A Murder in Time”

  1. Really good! I’d love to know how this comes out. I think you need to write a short story. =)

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