Author : Asher Wismer
I pushed the fedora up on my head and watched the bloody letters with suspicion, as if they might rearrange themselves during a blink. Brick snapped a picture, then muttered, “Josh Ledder. I knew him.”
“Not in this reality,” I said.
“No, but I know him in ours.” My supervisor held the camera nervously, as if unsure of how many more pictures to take; a visual desecration of the hallowed dead. “He almost came to the Temporal Academy with us, but he couldn’t take the string tests without fainting.”
“Hard times for everyone.”
“More for those who didn’t get in.” He gestured at the letters. “What do you make of those?”
“Well,” I said, leaning a little bit closer, “they appear to be his own initials, drawn in his own blood.”
“JRL. Apparently his middle name starts with an R.”
“No it doesn’t.” Brick waddled over and examined the wall. “Josh’s middle name was Earl. JRL… that could mean….”
He trailed off. I cocked my head at him, puzzled. “What?”
“Nothing, just a flashback. We used to have a game we’d play, before I met you. Replace the middle initial with a word to indicate that something had happened. But there’s no context here.”
“It would be in notes, passed in class. Like, I’d write that I was hungry, and change my middle initial to B, for burger. He’d write back that he hoped the burger was good, and change his to G, for gas… it wasn’t a very good game, come to think of it. Still, I can’t help but think that he’s trying to tell me something.”
“It was probably just a mistake,” I said. “Let’s get these back to the station.”
That night, as we were filing our reports, the door opened and a pair of beefy Inter-Temporal Cops came in. If we were the watchers, these were the guys who watch the watchers. They trooped over to Brick.
“Sir, you’re going to have to come with us.”
“You’ve been officially charged with the Cross-Temporal murder of Joshua Ledder.”
“Charged with-that’s the case I’m working on right now.”
“And a smooth move it is, to try and avert suspicion by investigating your own work. Come with us, please.”
Brick looked at me, panicked. “Rudy, you’ve gotta help me out here. Show them the pictures.”
“These pictures?” I held up a sheaf of 8 by 10 color glossies, each showing either Brick’s deceased friend or the bloody letters on the wall. The letters that spelled out “Brick killed…” and then smudged off into oblivion.
Brick goggled. “That’s not what was there before! He changed his middle initial to R! He was trying to tell me something! Send someone back to observe, that’ll prove it!”
One of the IT cops grabbed Brick, pushed him down over the desk, and cuffed him. “That reality has too much strain on its subspace net as is. Sending anything back to that location would be just begging for a paradox. Besides, everything looks clear as far as the judge is concerned.” The other cop grabbed the glossies and they hauled him off.
I sat back in my chair and thought, then checked my illegal timeline feed. My second, unauthorized jump showed up under routine maintenance. A little tweaking changed the exact time, and then I shunted the whole thing over to another bureau.
I had never liked Brick anyway. He smelled funny. Besides, now his job was open….