I wake with a start, and know immediately where I am. And when.
It seems like I spent every microsecond of sleep under a constant barrage of dreams dealing with my ordeal, so my only suprise upon my return to the living world is that I'm still in that strange, alien-familiar office, with my hat and coat hovering near the door... that I haven't moved in time to yet another era to which I don't belong.
I get up and stretch, and pop my neck and back. Kind of stiff, which serves me right for sleeping in such a position in the first place. A blinking cursor on the computer terminal on my desk reminds me that I was in the process of doing a little more "research" when fatigue took me over. I call up a user list, just for the hell of it.
Amazingly, I know some of these people! But my attempts to "tell" them anything are futile, as I get messages saying they aren't receiving or just left for a few minutes... or get no response at all.
A knock at the door interrupts my silent thought that I'd like to throw this terminal into the street. "Come in," I say, and just about kick myself. I have *no* idea who that is at the door. But when she strides in, I have no regrets.
It's Mrs. Levitt again. This time, she's wearing a tight black skirt that hints at the delightful shapes it's covering, and a transluscent blouse that pretty much blatantly says "Hey, look at this!"... and nothing underneath. I think I *like* the fashion of the future.
I roll my tongue up and put it where it belongs, and finally find my voice, but she speaks first. "I'm sorry for all that I've put you through so far. It was supposed to be a simple job to pull you out of time and bring you here, but something overloaded..."
"*You're* responsible for my little trip?" I ask incredulously. It *does* make sense. "I'm flattered that you'd pick *me* to do this job. Was it my deductive skills? My ability to reason?"
Then she gives me a look of utter bewilderment, and says simply "No. You were chosen at random." So much for *my* ego. "You finally stabilised when you got here. I was afraid that you would just slide right by and then get stuck somewhere else."
"Okay, I'll buy that. Just *how* did you do it?"
She smiles and says "I'm not allowed to say... that's part of my agreement with the person responsible for the process. But enough of this. Have you learned anything useful about my accusor?"
"If I have, would it even be relevant? I mean, do rumours heard over one-hundred years ago pertain to events that transpire today?"
"It's all relative."
"Whatever. Does the name Pete Wilson mean anything to you?
It's like she wasn't expecting the sudden change of subject, and she's reacting to the name as if I've just slapped her. I've seen that look before, only I *cared* about *that* wench. I don't think I like this one much, except for the view. Like Lee, I press on.
"Apparently, he's the one you're having the affair with?"
"Where did you hear that name?"
"My barber told me. Also, what's the French connection?"
That one got her. "Look, Mr. Smith, I brought you here to help clear my name of the allegations, *not* to perpetuate them further."
"I understand that, but it would have helped if you'd given me *all* the information you could when this fisaco began ninety-some-odd years ago. With names, or addresses, or maybe even their favourite flavours of ice cream, I would have better leads. Instead I get to waste my time dodging horse-drawn carriages and living a re-run of the "Voyagers" than I do actually solving the case."
She calms down a lot, and seems satisfied with merely sitting back and simmering. For a long time, there's silence, and then she finally speaks. "His name is Boucher. Francois Boucher. We were friends and classmates, once, when we were going to college. He was a transfer student from Betagne. Well, after we graduated, we went our separate ways, yet still kept in contact. It seems he had more than a passing interest in myself, and was very disappointed when I let him know that the feeling wasn't mutual. And when I married..." She made a gesture that indicates that all hell broke loose. "He kept threatening to get his revenge on me, or to commit suicide, but after I ignored him for awhile, he just disappeared. This was over five years ago. I guess he found out who I work for, and with, and he's now trying to get me once more."
"Thank you. Now I have something to work with, finally."
She stands up and begins to turn around, and stops at just the right angle... a perfect profile of that torso. Her body might be hot, but her demeanor is nothing but ice. "Remember this, Mr. Smith: you have only 53 hours in which to finish this job." My eyes follow her hip-swing until the door is shut, then I quell yet another hot flash to sit back and finally get some work done.
Ignoring the Wyse, I grab my hat and coat, and walk out of my office, and down the hall to security...