The other day I posted the first part of the story, if you haven’t read it yet, you should do so before continuing with this one. It’ll make much more sense that way, I promise. I’ve almost finished with this story, and it will undoubtedly come in at over 20,000 words, so bam..I’m pretty much going to be posting an entire novella here for you guys. Each part could be read independently though, if you were so inclined. As always, thanks for stopping by, and I hope to hear from you. Let me know how you’re liking, or not liking, the stories.
Time Snatch part 2
“Maybe you should give me a crack at him.” I said as Raines closed the interrogation room door. “Give me ten minutes and I’ll get him to talk. What do you got to lose?”
I could see the cogs spinning behind those olive eyes as she turned her gaze to the man sitting on the opposite side of the one way glass. An obscene amount of sweat gathered around his balding forehead giving it the appearance of a freshly waxed bowling ball.
“Ten minutes.” She said raising a finger to emphasize her point. “Not a second more.”
“We’ll have to skip the foreplay, but I think we’ll make due.” I said spinning in my chair to the computer terminal beside me. “Now, if you wouldn’t mind, I’m a shy lover, and a little privacy would go a long way.”
Raines rolled her eyes and held her tongue as she pushed herself away from the desk she had been leaning against. “Don’t make me regret this, Tom. It’s my career on the line.”
“Yeah, and it’s my life.” I said as I pulled up the “Life Time” record for a Mr. James Olhanney before the door had even clicked shut behind Raines. Reading a man’s Life Line is kind of like reading a book. All that man’s choices that eat away at his remaining years are practically laid bare for any man to see. Well, any man to see who has this level of clearance, which they don’t exactly give to men like me. But gals like Raines, yeah, they give that sort of clearance to fine upstanding members of the police force like Raines. It was by pure luck that I happened to guess her password, which was a relief, ‘cause I doubt she’d have given it up willingly had she known what I was planning.
The computer beeped in approval as I rose from the chair. I paused for a moment at the door to the interrogation room watching Mr. Olhanney on the other side of the glass as he suddenly became incredibly interested in his Life Tracker. It would’ve been funny, if not for the fact that the poor bastard thought he only had ten minutes left to live. He tried standing up, but with his hands still cuffed to the table, it wasn’t exactly like he was going anywhere.
“Hey! Is somebody out there! I need to see the Detective!” He said trying to pull himself free from the table.
That’s my cue, I thought as I opened the door.
“Oh, thank God. You have to help me. He’s taking my time, all of it. It’s gone. I only have ten minutes left. Please, you have to help me.”
I paused for dramatic effect as I closed the door behind me with a soft click. “Stop dancing around and hold out your arm.”
Olhanney did his best to remain still, but the anxiety of imminent death caused him to shake and shiver uncontrollably.
“Ahh, well… that’s too bad, but you know the rules. We’re each only given 75 years to live, how you spend them is up to you.” I said lowering myself into the metal chair across from the blustering man. “Do you have any last words, regrets, maybe a confession or two?”
“No, no, you don’t understand. I didn’t spend my years; I had 33 years left when they brought me in here. He stole 33 years from me. He’s trying to get rid of me so I can’t talk. You gotta help me, please!”
“Slow down and let’s get to the bottom of this. First of all, would you care to elaborate on who you think is responsible for siphoning your years?” I said lighting the end of the cigarette in my mouth.
“Ma..ma..malcolm.. Malcolm Netten.” James Olhanney said clasping his hands together in prayer as he sat back down in his chair. Poor guy was doing all he could to contain the tears welling in the corner of his eyes.
“Even if he could take them, what would the infamous Malcolm Netten want with your measly 33 years? He has millions of years stored away in God knows where.” I let out a puff of smoke. “You don’t happen to know where he put those years, do you?”
“No.” James eyes shifted nervously between the number slowly creeping down to zero on his forearm and me. “You don’t understand.”
“Help me understand, James.”
“If I tell you anything, I’m as good as dead.”
“And yet if you tell me nothing, you’re still equally dead. Do yourself a favor and tell me what you know about Malcolm’s escape. You were the guard personally responsible for monitoring Netten when he broke out. Now, if I was a more cynical man, I’d say you might’ve played a role in that escape.”
That did it. The tears broke the seal and now there was a 42 year old man bawling like a baby in front of me. I think I’d rather be shot at.
“You don’t know this man; he has power, power you can’t even imagine. There’s no stopping him. He kills everyone that gets in his way, nobodies safe? What was I supposed to do? What would you have done?”
This man didn’t know me, but that was a loaded question. I had some personal experience with that particular threat, and given how things played out for me, I can’t say I exactly blamed poor James here for choosing the path he did.
“You’re gonna run me through everything, from the top, and if I think for even a second that you’re holding out on me, well… I’m just gonna sit here and watch you die.” I blew another cloud of smoke across the table.
“Ok, ok, I swear I’ll tell you everything. Please, just return my years to me. I only have…” James looked down at his forearm before a fresh batch of tears sprung from the side of his face. “6 minutes!”
“We can cover a lot of ground in six minutes. Better start talking.”
“You didn’t break your toy already?” Raines said as I stepped out of the dimly lit interrogation unit.
“Nah, I got everything I needed out of him.”
“With a whole minute to spare.” She said holding her wrist up so I could see her watch. “So, did he sing?”
“Like a bird.” I said dropping my cigarette butt into a glass of water on some young officer’s desk. “Malcolm bribed him, an extra hundred years divided among Olhanney, his wife, and his daughter.”
“Oh? And how was Olhanney planning to explain the sudden influx of a hundred years to his family’s life cycle?’
“Well, that’s part of a problem we’re gonna have to deal with.” I said. “Malcolm was going to cover his tracks with a sneaky extension program that freezes Olhanney and his family’s Life Tracker at the age of 60. The counter would still appear to be working, but the time would no longer be ticking away. By that time, he would be long retired and off our radar. Since his wife and daughter would each have an additional 33 years, people would just assume he had made some savvy investments that paid off huge.” I turned around and opened the door to the Interrogation Unit as, ever the gentlemen I am, I allowed Raines to enter first.
“Hm… something doesn’t seem right. I get the feeling Malcolm never intended to let Olhanney cash in on those years.” She said as I closed the door behind her.
“That would be a fir…”
“What the hell did you do, Tom!” Raines voice jumped an octave sending a bolt of adrenaline pumping through my veins.
“What do you mean?” I said as I side-stepped around her to see what she was staring at in the Interrogation Room.
My stomach twisted as I observed Olhanney’s lifeless body in the center of the room, the upper half of his body hovered above the ground as the handcuffs held his wrists to the top of the table.
“Alaina, I swear to you, I didn’t do that. He was alive and perfectly well when I left this room just a minute ago. I double checked his Life Tracker even to make sure he still had time.”
“How much time did he have left?”
“Almost 34 years.” I said following Raines into the room.
She pulled the man’s sleeve down before looking back up to me with her eyes slightly squinting. “Says he has zero years left, Tom.”
“That can’t be possible. I swear to you, I made sure to put those years back on there.”
“Wait… to put those years back on there? What’re you talking about? Did you take his years away to get him too talk?”
I paused for a moment, weighing the pros and cons of my potential response. “Okay, fine, you got me. I took his years away, putting him down as low as the system will let you go.”
“You put him all the way down to ten minutes? What the hell were you thinking, Tom!” Raines said throwing her arms out to her side as she stood up from the body.
“I was thinking I ain’t got all the time in the world to sit around waiting for answers. I had to do something, and it worked. He talked, told me everything he knows, which puts us light-years ahead of where we were ten minutes ago, so if anything you should be thanking me.”
“Thanking you? Are you out of your goddamn mind? I leave you in here for ten minutes and you kill our only witness? I hope you’re happy, Tom. I hope it was worth it, cause Marin is going to have more than my badge for this, he’s going to throw me in jail.”
“Listen,” I said holding my hands up in front of me to slow her down. “I promise you, on Diana’s grave, I did not kill this man. I returned 33 years to his Life Line before I came out to talk to you. Check the computer records if you don’t believe me, but I swear, I did not do this.”
Raines studied me for a hot minute, scorching holes in me with her stare as she ruminated on my words. I’m a lot of things, but a liar ain’t one of them. Right now, I was just hoping she’d recall that particular fact.
”So how do you propose this happened? Nobody had access to this room; you and I were standing outside the only entrance.”
“Malcolm must have siphoned his years from a remote location.”
“That still would have left Olhanney with ten minutes, Tom. You and I both know the system is safeguarded against anybody taking somebodies entire Life Line. At most, Malcolm could put him in the red zone, but we were outside talking for less than five minutes. This man should still be alive.” She said stretching a finger towards corpse still dangling by the wrists from the table.
“I think we have to assume that Malcolm has figured out how to override the safeguards then. At any point, he could siphon all the time from any person with class 2 clearances or lower.”
It was almost imperceptible, but I had known Raines long enough to recognize the look of panic that had momentarily flashed across her face. “How is something like that even possible?”
“I don’t know, but that brings me to the second thing I learned from Mr. Olhanney before his untimely demise.”
“Malcolm is working with somebody very high up the food chain from the International Time Bank, which would explain how he has hacked their system to override the Final Countdown safeguard.”
“We have to inform the President.” The edge in her voice was jagged, sharp, and brittle. “He could kill billions of people, Tom… instantly.”
“I guess we should probably stop him first, huh?” I said hoping sheer bravado could compensate for pure fear.
Raines was in one of those moods as we hopped in the car. I tried to shed a bit of levity on the situation as the vehicle came to life with a soft hum.
She was having none of it. She gave me a quick sideways glance as the magnets beneath the car propelled us off the third story of the parking garage before banking right and ascending to join the stopped traffic of Highway 32 overhead. It quickly became clear that the ride over to the International Time Bank was going to be a quiet one full of inner reflection. That was all fine and good seeing as how I didn’t really have anything of value to say at that particular moment anyhow.
I could see our reflection in the glass of the skyscrapers as we skimmed through the air towards our destination. It’d been almost seven years since I last sat inside a car. Almost seven years since I turned to the bottle to drown my grief. Almost seven years since I drove my squad car through the 19th floor of an office building and found myself unceremoniously relieved from the force.
When I fell, I fell hard. Determined to get out of this life as quick as possible, I impressively lost over thirty years of my life in the span of seven. Now how ironic is it that on the day I’m scheduled to pass on, I finally find something worth sticking around for.
I watched the numbers on my forearm as they continue their inevitable march downwards.
2 days, 15 hours, 34 minutes, 12 seconds.
In the long run, revenge ain’t much of a reason to hang around for, but for now it’ll have to do.
I was torn from my pity party as the image of a man’s head suddenly appeared above the center console of the car’s holo-screen.
“What is it, Walter?” Raines said keeping her eyes glued to the sky ahead.
“Detective Raines, an agent from Internal Review is here to question you about the death of Olhanney this afternoon.”
“Put him on.” Raines said through tightened lips.
Walter’s face disappeared briefly before that of an elderly gentlemen appeared. “This is Agent Stevens with the Internal Review. Under Article 23, I’m issuing you a direct order to return to the headquarters where you will undergo a full debriefing of the events that transpired this afternoon leading up to the death of the witness James Olhanney.”
I locked eyes with Raines as she processed the man’s order. I was surprised by the long silence that filled the air as Raines took longer than I had expected in delivering her response.
“Detective Raines, I need you to confirm that you understand my directions and are taking steps to return to headquarters…immediately.”
“Agent Stevens,” she said finally breaking her silence. “I am on my way to meet with the President of the International Time Bank. I’m afraid this debriefing will have to wait.”
The wrinkles above the Agent’s forehead became visible, even on the holo-screen as he said, “No, you do not seem to understand the severity of the situation you find yourself in. This is not a debate, and I will allow no concessions. Return to headquarters immediately, or you will be placed under arrest for the obstruction of justice. Am I making myself clear?”
Raines swallowed hard as she lowered the throttle and the car’s auto-pilot began communicating with the parking garage computers of the International Time Bank, as the building took control of gliding us safely into a parking spot.
“I’ll take your silence as proof of your…”
“Excuse me, just a moment.” I said directing the car’s camera away from Raines’ face and towards mine. “Hi, can you see me?”
“What is this? Put Detective Raines back on, now.”
“Sorry, bucko, I can’t do that.” I said staring into the camera. “Now don’t get all huffy, cause I’m actually doing you a favor, in a way. If I let Raines return to headquarters right now, we’re gonna lose the only lead we have in finding Malcolm Netten. You remember who that is, right?”
The wrinkles around Agent Steven’s brows contorted from ones of anger to creases of confusion. “Yes, I’m fully aware of your investigation, Mr. Mandel. I’m also aware of the personal vendetta you have with Mr. Netten. From what I gather, the need for expediency is due to your need, not ours. Detective Raines is being removed from this case effective immediately. As for you, Mr. Mandel, you were never on the case. You are a civilian, and have no jurisdiction what-so-ever. In fact, depending on how my meeting with Detective Raines goes, you may very well find yourself facing criminal charges.”
“I ain’t got much time left, so it’s gonna have to be a pretty quick trial.”
“Even so, how you spend your remaining days on this Earth is entirely dependent upon your ability to follow an order, and return to headquarters.”
“Did you happen to read the part in the report that says Netten has figured a way around the Final Countdown safeguard?” I said studying Steven’s face for any sign of understanding.
“Yes, I read that part as well. We are still looking into the veracity of that claim. For the time being, it is the Bureau’s position that the safeguard has not been compromised. It is much more likely that the cause of Olhanney’s death was due to other motivating factors.” Steven’s said.
“Ah, that’s fair. It’s much easier to accept that a washed up ex-cop with a grudge and a search for vengeance killed the only witness to Netten’s escape. Easier to accept doesn’t make it true, though, and the longer you fools decide to keep your head in the sand, the more bodies you’re gonna have on your hand.”
“This conversation is over, Mr. Mandel. Detective Raines, I am still waiting for your answer.”
Raines’ head hung low as she shook it side-to-side with her eyes closed.
“Blame it on me, Agent Stevens.” I said making sure to keep the camera pinned on me. “I can’t let her do that. I’ll make sure she gets home nice and safe, but not ‘til the job is done.”
Steven’s face took on the hue of a tomato as I ended the video call. The holo-viewer went silent as the Agent’s face disappeared into the ether of space.
“Let’s go.” Raines said as she opened the car door and stepped out into the parking garage. “We don’t have much time before a team gets here to arrest us.”
“Probably best if we try not to be here when that happens.” I said following her into the building.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but President Jennings is in a board meeting at the moment. I can take a message if you’d like, but I’m afraid he has no openings this afternoon to meet with you.” The woman said looking up at Raines from behind designer glasses that seemed present only for their cosmetic value.
Raines turned to me with hands outstretched. This is where she would usually flash her badge and they’d trip on themselves to accommodate her, but Mr. Jennings was the most powerful man in the world, and only a direct request from the Chief of Police himself would pull the President of the ITB from a meeting. Given the conversation that had taken place moments before in the car, it seemed unlikely we’d be getting any sort of assistance from the higher ups at the Police force on this one.
“If you’d like, President Jennings has an opening next Tuesday at 3:00. It’s a bit unorthodox, but for the Police, I’m sure he’d make an exception.”
What kind of pedestal was this man accustomed to living on that he makes exceptions for the police? Well, not that either Raines or myself were here under any kind of official capacity at the moment, but little miss designer glasses didn’t know that.
“Nah, that doesn’t work me for.” I said moving quickly towards the large double doors of the meeting room before the woman could intercept me. The door handle remained fixed in place as I tried to pull it open.
Damn. Locked. I was afraid of that.
“Sir, you can’t go in there.” The secretary jumped from her seat. “I’m calling security.” She said reaching for the phone on the desk.
“No, no, it’s okay. I have the key right here.” I said pulling the handgun from the holster around my ankle.
“Whoa, Tom.” Raines said reaching a hand out to stop me. “Don’t do…”
Her words came too late as I aimed the weapon at the door and squeezed the trigger. The pulse of energy from the gun tore through the door as it ripped the slab of wood off its hinges. My nose burned from the smoke of singed wood wafting in the air as I stepped into the room full of alarmed business men and woman sitting around a large oval table. Two guards standing beside the man at the head of the table drew their weapons and directed the pointy end of their guns towards my head.
“Easy, fellas, I don’t intend on hurting anyone, but I tend to get a little twitchy in situations where guns are aimed at me, so how about you put those things down on the table and back away nice and slowly, otherwise I might inadvertently put a hole in President Jennings there.”
The two men never took their eyes off of me as they stood their ground.
“Mr. President, I’m on a bit of a time crunch, so how about we hurry this along and you tell your men to stand down. This is me asking nicely. If I have to ask again, it’s gonna end badly for at least two people in this room. Me, and you.”
Jennings raised his right hand slightly from the table as he lazily gestured for the guards to stand down. Like a pair off automated machines, the two guards complied instantly as they placed their guns on the table before backing away.
“Thank you” I said letting the weight of the gun pull my arm down to the side where I allowed it to hang casually.
“What do you want?” Jennings said practically hissing the words.
“I was just wondering which one of ya’ll helped Malcolm Netten escape from prison.”
The room had been silent, but now with the revelation that Netten was free from prison, there was a certain kind of electricity coursing through the board members as their eyes flittered between one another.
“I’m guessing that’s news to most of you.” I said letting my eyes rest on Jennings. “But you already knew that, didn’t you Mr. President.”
The remainder of the eyes in the room joined mine as they fixed on President Jennings. If the sudden attention bothered the President, it would have been impossible to tell as he methodically shifted his gaze on each person, one-by-one, at the table before returning at last to me.
“That information has not yet been made public, Mr., I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve ever been introduced?”
“You can call me, Tom.”
“Well, Tom,” The ice melted in Jennings voice as a smile parted his lips. “I’m sure we’d all love to hear how you have jumped to the dramatic conclusion,” He said raising a palm to gesture to the dilapidated door at my feet. “That one of us here is responsible for helping the man who has stolen millions of years from our vault? At the moment, he is the only person I can think of who I’d rather see in jail more than you.”
“That’s very kind of you to say, Mr. President. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, but that doesn’t change the fact that Netten has overridden the Final Countdown safeguard. The safeguard that, last I checked, could only be changed by…you.” I said watching the reactions of the board members through my peripheral vision. All eyes were still glued to the President as they awaited his response… everybody with the exception of one.
“I can assure you, that there is no override to the saf…”
“Who’s that?” I said interrupting Jennings as I turned to the youngish looking man fitted in a tailored blue suit sitting at the opposite end of the table from the President.
The man looked up from the spot on the table he had been staring at seconds before with some of the guiltiest eyes I’ve ever seen. “Me? I’m nobody.” The man said trying his best to disappear deeper into his leather chair.
“Even the biggest somebodies start off as a nobody. Now what’s your name?” I lifted my weapon from my side to give the young man some additional motivation. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of movement as one of Jennings guards made a dash for his gun still sitting on the table.
I turned, but he had me by a step as he pulled the weapon up and fired off a shot. The bolt of energy scarred the air around me as I narrowly dove out of the way.
A second shot hummed through the air followed by a man’s scream as a body crumpled to the floor. Lifting my head from my hiding spot behind the table, I saw the smoke still trailing towards the sky of Raines’ gun as she stood in the doorway. With the help of the table I hoisted myself to my feet as I looked at the guards writhing body on the ground.
“Thanks, but I had it covered.” I said grabbing the young man in question by the collar as I yanked him to his feet.”
“Of course you did.” Raines said as she glanced down at an incoming message on her phone. “We gotta go, Tom. I disabled all entrances to this floor, but that’ll only slow the guards for a moment.”
“Not ‘til I find out who this fella is.” I said tapping the barrel of my gun against the man’s forehead.
“That is Vice-President Hamilton’s son, Derek.” Jennings said from the other end of the table. “I would advise you to think twice before doing anything to harm him.”
“You aren’t the slightest bit interested in why young Derek here helped Netten create a kill switch for every class two citizen in the world?” I said.
“I didn’t do anything.” Derek Hamilton said mustering all the bravado he could manage.
A sudden explosion from the waiting area rocked the entire floor of the building. I grabbed the table for support as the ground swayed underfoot.
“Time’s up.” I said above the ringing in my ears as I grabbed Raines by the arm and pulled her to the window running from floor to ceiling on the other side of the room. I didn’t bother aiming as I fired a round from the hip, sending shards of glass raining down the side of the building. I felt glass crunching under foot as we pulled up just shy of the precipice.
“Tom, what’re you doing?” Raines’ words reverberated through my body as she shouted them in my ear. I gave one final look back at the conference room. Guards in full tactical gear were flooding into the waiting area as I felt a bolt of energy electrify the air around me as it sailed overhead and through the broken window into the clear daytime sky.
I locked eyes with the President as I pulled Raines close and pushed away from the building. The soft fluorescent lights of the office building suddenly gave way to the unbridled power of the sun as Raines and I tumbled through the sky, gaining speed as we rocketed towards the ground from ninety stories up.
I lost my focal point on the building as we spun in circles. The dizziness induced a stomach wrenching nausea that if I had not currently been hurdling towards the ground at a most fatal velocity, I would have certainly found myself relieving the contents of my stomach via my mouth. As my heart rose higher in my throat, I thought for a moment, that I might have made a terrible mistake.
And then, everything slowed down as if we had dove into a pool of honey. The artificial gravity of the building slowed our descent as it began sucking us back in towards its glassy sides. Our downward momentum suddenly shifted into horizontal movement as we entered the gravitational pull of the International Time Banks parking garage.
The pull of the parking garages artificial gravity beam was designed for cars weighing a bit more than a couple humans hugging each other for dear life. The effect was one of us being shot into the parking garage like a couple stones from a slingshot straight towards a car parked at the far end of the lot. Twisting in the air, I shielded Raines with one arm as I fired a shot into the ground just to the side of us. The blast from the bolt of energy exploding into the floor knocked us sideways and free from the gravitational traction beam.
Everything spun around me as we skidded across cement parking garage floor. I almost blacked out from the pain as my elbows and knees smashed against the unforgiving ground as I careened into the side of a BMW 7000M. The metallic casing of the vehicle’s door gave way under the force of my body crashing into it. My head whiplashed into the side of the car, and my body came to a bone jarring stop.
I tried to blink away the disorientation as I ran a hand against the back of my head. Blood dampened my hair as it leaked from a gash sustained during my reintegration with gravity. Using the car for support, I grunted to my feet as I searched for Raines.
She was still lying on her side, wedged beneath the back bumper of cargo van as I knelt down beside her. “Anything broken?” I said grabbing her by the arm as I helped remove her from beneath the vehicle.
“Just my faith in humanity.” She said propping herself up against the van as she regained her bearings.
“Oh come on, it wasn’t that bad.”
“I think I would’ve rather been shot.” She said clutching her left arm to her side. “How in the world did you know we were directly above the parking garage grav-beam?”
“Just a hunch.” I said ripping the sleeve from her shirt to tie around the source of the river of blood streaming down her arm. “I don’t know how fast those guards can get down ninety floors of stairs, but just to be safe, we should probably get going.”
“What?” I said looking up from the makeshift bandage.
Raines eyes were wide, though not with fear, but surprise.
As I turned around I saw the source of her surprise.
We were staring down the barrels of a dozen automatic rifles as a squadron of police officers stood in a semi-circle around Raines and me.
“We surrender.” I said slowly placing my gun on the ground next to me.
© 2012 Anthony Vicino