Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 31
Sam unhitched the trailer from the quad and, as politely as he could in his present state of mind, moved Doc Brenner out of the way. He wanted to throw the old man to the ground, but seeing what was on the road was more pressing. It was all he could do at this point to control his anger, but at least knowing what had killed his friend had appeased a part of his brain; now he just had to control his need for vengeance.
Sam sped out of the woods past the paramedics and up to the road. The three officers were running up the small incline to the smoking remains of what must’ve been a car. Sam recognized the front end of the Celica instantly. The color was the same as Myra’s car. He slowed as he neared the car. Scrape marks showed where the sliding started and he wasn’t surprised to see that they started at the line of Doc Brenner’s circle.
He made one circuit around the car remains. Just as with Casper’s body and Andrew’s arm, the car had been severed cleanly. It had been cut before the firewall, so Myra could have survived. The only question was where had the rest of her car gone? Had she continued to slide into whatever was in place of the trailer park when it’d gone into the past? Was that even possible? Sam had to guess it was.
He got off the quad and looked over the car carefully. He got an eerie feeling looking at the clean marks that separated this part of the car from the rest. He wondered what Myra was thinking at that moment. If she could think. For all Sam knew she was dead already.
“What should we do with it?” One officer asked.
Sam shrugged. “I guess we just get it off the road. I don’t have a chain, so we’ll have to push it.”
They did just that, and having the front tires still attached made it easy enough to move it to the side of the road. Sam would have to call a wrecking truck in the morning to haul it away.
Sam remounted his quad and rode back down to where the rest waited. The paramedics had already bundled up Detective Schneider and were loading him into the ambulance. Sam passed them and went into the woods. Girlfriend, Lin, Tiger Lily and Doc Brenner were all gone. All the equipment was still there, but the rest of them had gone. Sam scanned the woods and saw their shadows walking through the woods toward Doc’s trailer. At least he had to assume that’s where they were going. Sam headed in their direction.
Something in his head told him to remain calm, but another side said he should run the Doc down for what he’d done. Never had Sam felt so angry about what another person had done. He had never hurt anyone, but then nothing like this had ever happened in his life. Doc Brenner had killed a friend, possibly a police officer, Myra Tolie, and maybe even his own son. How could someone be so negligent in allowing events like this to transpire; to put so many people at risk? Not only had he risked the lives of those already lost, but he’d risked everyone at the trailer park. They had never asked to be put into harm’s way, and didn’t deserve to remain ignorant.
Sam swallowed his anger and held his tongue as he rode up to the others. He found it terribly difficult to remain silent as Doc, minus his cane, walked with his arm around Girlfriend and Tiger Lily for support. He thought his blood might boil seeing the man helped along like that, but he didn’t want to explode again. He didn’t like it when he did, and he was sure that Girlfriend didn’t like it either.
They all finally did end up at Doc Brenner’s trailer. Sam parked his quad and followed them all inside. Turning back, he could see that the ambulance had gone, but the two police cars remained. They would likely be around asking questions later. He was pretty sure they knew where Doc lived, but he didn’t feel the need to bring them in just yet.
Doc coughed as he went to the bar and poured a drink. “Can I get anyone else something? No? Very well. Please, please. Sit down. I feel we need to discuss a few things.”
Sam couldn’t contain himself. “Yeah, like how do you plan to get the officer and Myra back?”
“We found the front end of her car at the drive to the park. How do you plan to get her and the officer back here?”
“I’m afraid that’s difficult to answer.”
“Difficult? Come on, you’re the one with the time machine. You seem pretty calm with people’s lives in danger.”
Doc nodded. “I’m sure it may appear that way, but it’s because I know there is nothing we can do tonight. You see, it takes a lot of power to start the machine up and once it’s down, it needs a long time to cool before I fire it up again. If I were to start it up again right now, it’s possible we could blow a circuit and we’d lose them forever.”
“It’s possible? Why don’t we try? If something happens, you can fix it.”
“Ah, but there’s the crux of the problem. My son is the only one who could fix it if something were to happen. I’m afraid we’ll have to wait until it’s cooled down.”
“And how long is that?”
“Six, maybe seven hours.”
Girlfriend, who’d sat next to Doc, said, “There’s nothing we can do? Is there something we should do to get ready or anything we should prepare?”
“Are you saying you’re willing to go there and save your friend?”
Sam interrupted. “Myra isn’t a friend, but she’s a person in danger because of you. She didn’t ask for this and neither did that officer. I suggest you think about that.”
“But if you’re willing to go, you could then look for my son. I could keep the gate open long enough for you to get there and…”
“Doc, I’m not going looking for your son. I’m not even saying that I want to go. What I’m saying is there are two people you put at risk and we need to get in there and save them. Your son put himself at risk and by your own admission he put his life at risk. As far as I’m concerned, enough people have paid for this. Once we save Myra and the officer, I’m going to see to it that your machine is destroyed. I don’t care if I have to blow it up myself.”
Doc Brenner’s jaw dropped. “It’s my life’s work. How could you speak so lightly of it?”
“I’m not speaking lightly! Listen to what I’m saying here, Doc. You’re putting people’s lives at risk. You can’t do that.”
“Sam,” Girlfriend said. “This is his son. Doc Brenner is sorry. Why don’t you see that? I’m sure that it won’t be that difficult as long as we’re there.”
“No. Why is this so difficult for everyone? If he hadn’t done all this without anyone knowing, maybe I’d understand, but people have died because of him. It’s got to stop somewhere. I say it stops here.”
Girlfriend snapped. “You’re so unreasonable.”
“Am I? Am I really? Lin, what do you think? How do you feel knowing that the man has put your life at risk, and how many times, who knows?”
“Seventy-eight times over the past four months that I know if.”
“What?” Sam asked. Her number was so specific.
“That’s what the logs on my computers show. The ones in my basement, but I assume that Doc knows all about those.”
“Indeed,” Doc acknowledged.
Lin looked at Tiger Lily, then at Sam. She sounded nervous as she spoke. “Tiger Lily came here to help me figure out what’s been happening. I noticed multiple power drops and didn’t know what was going on. On my video logs, I saw that the woods had changed and started looking deeper. The past couple of days we saw someone accessing the system. Tonight, Doc Brenner pretty much sent up a flare saying ‘Here I am’, and here we are. We wanted to know what was going on, too.”
Sam had to mull that over for a minute. “So, he’s been hacking your computer? What for?”
“That’s what I was about to ask him, but you’re not giving anyone else much of a chance to talk.”
Sam looked at them each, one by one. It became painfully obvious that he was monopolizing the conversation, but also he was the only one who felt so strongly against helping Doc Brenner. He could just leave, but that wouldn’t solve anything. He’d had his say, he’d just have to wait to see what the others were going to say.
Lin’s cold stare finally softened and moved back to Doc. “What were you doing on my server?”
“Oh, that’s quite simple. I needed the power boost for the satellite signal. I assure you I didn’t access any of your files and removed all trace of my being there.”
“That much we did know,” Tiger Lily said, her arms crossed over her chest in stern disapproval. Sam was happy to see at least one other person on his side.
“I assure you that nothing I did was with malicious intent. I only needed to see if I could gain access to my son’s tracker.”
Sam stood back up. “Tracker?”
“Oh, yes. I wouldn’t dream of letting him go without it. Too dangerous. It also keeps track of all his vital statistics. From the satellite feed I was able to determine that he’s still alive, but he’s on the move. I’m not sure why or what he’s doing, but he’s healthy, he’s just moving farther and father away from the camp. That causes me great concern because he left me no note as to where he was going or when he’d be back.”
Girlfriend leaned forward. “How does this machine of yours work? You keep talking as though it’s a time travel device, but you’re also talking as though the time is moving the same for you and your son. I don’t understand how that would work.”
“Well, once we had figured out what was happening, it was then that we tried toying with the settings, you know, to visit other time periods and see what might be going on there. We didn’t have much success with that. It took many trials and failures before we figured out that time travel is tied directly with the position of the Earth.”
“Huh?” Sam said.
“You see, the Earth is in constant movement. Just because it’s going around the sun in what appears to be a stable rotation, it’s never in the same place twice. There’s rotation to consider and precession and the elliptical orbit, the position of the moon, the gravitational pull of the other planets. It’s all terribly complex to calculate, but if we wanted to go back a day, that’d be impossible. The Earth wouldn’t be in the same location and you’d end up miles up in the sky or even in space or, Heaven forbid, in the middle of the planet. We tried going back exactly one year, but even a year causes enough of a shift that we had trouble.”
“So how is it that you have this one connection?” Lin asked.
“Well, I guess it’s just a miracle. That’s the only way I can explain it. The position of the Earth at the time we go back is synchronized as it is in the present day. The Earth there doesn’t wobble as much as it does today so we’re constantly performing corrections to the calculations, but it’s not nearly as difficult as finding a new time period that we can visit.”
“Wait a minute,” Sam said. “Are you telling me that the only reason your son, Clive, can stay in the past is because that’s the only time you can travel to safely?”
“And you’re smart enough to figure out how to get there, but not somewhere else?”
“And you’re asking us to trust you with send us back to save your son?”
“I can see your concern, but Clive and I do have a proven track record with going there and back.”
“No, I can still get us there. I just can’t find my son. I know his whereabouts, but I don’t know why he’s going away. That’s why I need help and thought now was the right time to ask.”
“So why did you pretend like you didn’t know anything when I asked you yesterday?” Sam could feel his anger rising again.
“Please, I was taken by surprise and didn’t know what to say.” Doc Brenner took a sip of his drink. “I assure you that I never mislead you. I guess that’s what led me to bring you all together. Now that everything is out in the open, I hope you’ll consider helping me and in turn helping your friends.”
“Let’s start with helping our friends first. After that, we’ll give consideration to helping you find your son.” Sam had no intention of going to look for Doc’s son. None at all.
“That’s fair enough. I accept your terms.”
Sam had an aching suspicion that he shouldn’t trust Doc Brenner. Something about the way he accepted too easily. Perhaps the old man was just eager for help, or perhaps he had something else in mind. No matter what, Sam would keep on eye on Doc. Two, when he could spare them.