<--Uptime | Park Ethereal | Downtime-->

Park Ethereal - Chapter 8

I hadn't been in the bolthole in quite some time. It was difficult, in fact to figure exactly how long it had been, for various and sundry reasons having to do with my complete loss of any sort of grip on time's passage. The knapsack was, miraculously, still there. It was covered with a fine layer of dusty grit, the same iron and stone aerosol that covered everything in the tunnels. No grime; I deduced that no diesel locomotives had been by recently.

For lack of a better idea I turned it upside down and catalogued its contents, laying those objects on my person out next to them. While rummaging through the pile of slightly ripe clothing, however, coldness drizzled into my chest cavity. I was missing some; and I knew where they were. I could even now see myself, grinning in my cleverness, shoving them into the laundry bin marked '9H.' It seemed no leap of deduction to picture the police pulling them out and examining them; and present police as well, infinitely more dangerous than the forces of 1974. In addition to possibly identifying me (although, as my nerves cooled, I couldn't see how they might) the fact that they were in the laundry facilities might lead them to discover my means of ingress. That, in turn, might lead them to the tunnels, and god forbid, lead them here. Picturing the invasion of my sanctum returned the clutch of fear, and I panicked, sitting right there. I could actually feel my thought processes snarl and my muscles freeze as my heart did its level best to reach decibel levels that could surely be heard across the room.

When, after a minute or so, no uniformed intruders materialized, the grip began to ease and breathing began to return to a more normal pace. I was sweating with the stress of it, thought, and had to gulp air for several minutes before anything resembling rational thought began to manifest.

The first rational thought, as far as I could tell, was that I was immensely hungry, and my brain was telling me that there was no way I was going to get anything useful out of it until I raised its blood sugar somehow.

Without money (I had, after a hasty search of my belongings, seven cents) food appeared fairly beyond my reach. I dropped the pair of ragged jeans I was ransacking to my lap and sat back, tired. Of course, a voice nagged me in my cranium, you could go to the Kellys'. It's not as if you weren't invited. Think about it, a bed, sheets, a shower, food. I was shaking my head firmly no, almost in desperation, however, and the frustration that this internal conflict brought drew tears to my eyes. I threw the jeans; they slapped softly against the far wall and slid to the floor, collecting another several millimeters of grime. I sighed, snuffled, wiped my eyes with a T-shirt that had been inside the knapsack and thus was not terribly filthy, and repacked my things, folding them as neatly as I was able in soft denial.

The jumpsuit was, actually, managing to shed most dirt and grime. It was manufactured of some sort of fascinating industrial polymer, and while feeling acceptably close to fabric it managed to shed dirt roughly as efficiently as flat plastic.

Somewhere, the idea of retrieving my clothes began to percolate around in my head. I'm not sure where it came from, but it was suddenly there, and I couldn't shake it. Paranoia, no doubt; but I couldn't think of anything better to do. Reluctant to leave the false safety of the bolthole, I forced myself to rise and slip out the door. I headed north, following the majority of commuter rail trains that passed during my trip, which meant perhaps two. It must, on the outside, be some ungodly hour.

I felt, as I walked and tried not to upset my ankle too much, that my stride must be by this time permanently affected by the standard distance between the railroad ties that I spent so much time treading. I imagined myself explaining to rapt children, years away, how it came to be that I walked with either a slightly mincing stride or with giant's steps as I wavered between single and double tie paces. It could become a game, really; in fact, probably has been for years in spaces where children can safely walk railroads.

Sixty-second street. Two blocks below the Wall of Destiny, now dormant, the manhole, and Ellyn's resting place. A dark sewer branched off and down, my feet following its path along familiar turns to a grating which still hung loose. There was no sign that it had been disturbed, so I squeezed by it once more and softly moved up towards the laundry room. I limited myself to quick flares of the Maglite, not wanting to advertise my presence, and reached the laundry room grate on my back. The room was dark. I moved the grate aside and rose into the room, damp spectre of the sewer, pale face drawn with fear rather than rigor mortis.

Swiftly, padding across the floor, I moved to the next room, where, to my horror, I was unable to find the bin labelled '9H' until I searched the corner of the room where some mean tailoring equipment rested. The bin was there, but it was empty. I frantically tore about the room, searching other bins, under tables, everywhere, but my clothing was nowhere to be found. Panting, I moved back to the center of the room and surveyed it as best I was able. I couldn't come up with a logical place for the clothes to have gone other than 'with the police' which wasn't an acceptable answer, so I simply sat there looking.

I swear that I never meant to return to the apartment, I had in fact very deliberately intended not to. Standing there in the basement, however, with the fear that the police would be able to identify my from my clothes, I imagined that perhaps they had been returned to the apartment in whose bin they had been found. The argument went roughly as follows:

-That's silly. Even if clothes dropped off here were delivered to the doors normally, you've only been gone two hours at most; not even enough time to wash them.

-Yes, but if they were washed, that's where they would have gone, unless the police have them.

-Even so, you think that at whatever hour of the morning it is, in less than two hours they would be finished?

-No. But if there is even a possibility they're up there, I have to go try.


And then a resigned sigh. I set off for the stairway.

Down the hall several yards, I came across a door which had been locked on my previous trip. It was now open slightly, a line of darkness visible around its edge. My troglodytic part intrigued, I couldn't resist pushing the door open for a better look. There wasn't much in the room beyond except another door. This looks familiar, my sometime internal commentator noted wryly.

Shut up, I advised him cheerfully (that was a switch. Perhaps it was a manic sort of cheerfulness?) and tried the other door. Behind was a darkened maze of grillwork cages, apparently storage units for the building's tenants. Most held tall lurking piles of furniture and boxes. Several were fairly impressive in size, taking up as much space as a good sized room. The dust on the floor was undisturbed and fairly thick in front of the doorway, implying that this was very cold as cold storage went. I ventured a bit further, glancing curiously into the cages as I passed. Those of us with no possessions to speak of are fascinated with the notion of having enough that real estate must needs be purchased or leased for the sole purpose of storing material goods, above and beyond those which their owners could possibly utilize from day to day.

A piano winked back at the flashlight beam I was casting about, gold scrollwork on its frame bright in the gloom. Atop it, several steamer trunks lay wearily. Across the aisle, a complete wooden dining set waited, chairs pulled up to the table in parody of a room. The next cage was piled completely to the ceiling with wooden boxes; I moved around it to continue on. I examined the rear of the piles, or so I thought; in fact, the boxes were stacked all the way to the grill walls of the cage, an apparently solid block. Perfunctory examination of three boxes at random showed nothing but scribbled shipping information from three decades previously. Very cold storage indeed.

Coming around the third wall of that cage, the last abutting the aisle, I drew even with the door. It was open slightly, and even more compelling, there was a narrow gap in the box stack, about as wide as a human from the side.

Well then.

I opened the gate; slid through. The gap curved abruptly, skirted a stack of boxes, and deposited me in the center of the pile, where there was an unexpected open space, perhaps seven by seven feet. The turn in the entrance meant that the space was completely enclosed, and I swung the beam about,wondering what had drawn me here. There were several knickknacks stacked in the center of the space; perhaps four or five cubic feet. I sifted through them quickly, finding nothing of interest. Stacks of magazines dated before Ellyn died; several desktop items, a flask, an empty photo album bound in leather. I shook the flask curiously; empty. I shoved everything to a corner and dusted myself off, annoyed at my own distraction, and left the cage, walking quickly back out through the undisturbed dust.

The stairs were in the same place they had been. I ascended to nine, and moved into the corridor as quietly as I was able. Moving into view of the door to 9H, I stopped. The police barriers were gone. Confused, I moved towards the door again, looking about me to ensure that no tenants or building staff were about.

When I was perhaps fifteen feet from the door, the knob turned. I froze, ice in snow, and as I watched, a man slid out stealthily, his eyes turned back into the apartment. He was wearing black, and had on a black hat as well, a narrow-brimmed affair that part of my mind emptily catalogued as a pork-pie. He was middle height and of average build, and that's all I had time to remember.

The gun in his right hand was dark, I presume treated steel. There was sheen to it, though - it winked slightly in the light from the corridor, and his gloved hand clinked it slightly against the door as he turned the knob to close it with minimum noise.

I was backpedaling for the stairs at that point, as fast as I was able to manage silently. I had almost made it to the first corner, still moving backward, when he finished closing the door. He slid the gun into his jacket, carefully maneuvering a tube, attached to the barrel, in first. I assumed it was a suppressor of some sort, and that was my last thought before he turned, saw me, and froze. I somehow managed to keep moving, and had time enough to wish I'd turned, allowing him to think I hadn't seen him, but it was too late and his hand slid back into his jacket at the same time he started for me, and I dove sideways around the corner into a flat run for the stairs.

Carpet slid by beneath me, the hallway moving in crazed bounces, moving the door to the stairs into my vision. I slammed into the crash bar,which made an appalling amount of noise and slapped my palms fiercely. The shock of it was unexpected, and as the door was swinging I looked at the crash bar to see a small round hole near my right hand. I suppose if I'd been dependent on my forebrain, I would have never made it, but my hindbrain was already throwing me sideways out of sight of the door and down the stairs.

I was crying as I ran, tears streaming into my field of view and obstructing my vision. I pelted downward steps, jolts of red slicing my injured ankle, remaining near the outside of the spiral, and made it to the seventh floor before I heard the door crash open above me and feet begin to slap down after me. The world become, briefly, a rhythm of step step jump land turn step step jump land turn, as I abandoned the outside of the stairs to use the banister at the center for tighter turns. There was a blurring; then I was looking at the basement hallway, stumbling on the flat concrete floor.

The laundry room was dark. I levered the grate up off the floor, was halfway in. Footsteps, getting louder- in what really must have been a miracle of clear thought, I reversed course and dove under the counter I'd first hidden underneath.

My pursuer (funny to think of him as 'my' anything) burst through the door, stopping quickly. I couldn't see him from under the countertop, so I presumed he was looking around, gun first. He came into view as he was throwing himself down on the floor in front of the drain. I watched his face light in reflected flashes as he fired once down the pipe, excited gases shedding energy onto his torso. As he was kneeling over further to look down the pipe, and reaching his other hand to fiddle with the gun, I began to quickly move from under the sink; if here were to just turn his head, he'd see me, but he was looking underground, the gun underneath his hand on the floor as he braced his upper body. I completed a full roll out from under the countertop, and as I caught myself, my hand found the hard cylinder in my pocket. Common sense was screaming somewhere in the back of my mind, caution and fear, and as he came up from the pipe I came to my knees. The ripping of velcro from my jumpsuit caught his attention, and he tried to lever himself up too quickly; the gun hissed as it slid across the floor under his hand, and his right arm gave way to stagger him. I watched, very detachedly, as he corrected and began to bring his arm up, but by then I had jumped. Landing on top of him, I was subliminally aware of the gun going off, probably from the weight of my body convulsing his fingers, but then there was no time, and reaching around his neck with my left arm I gripped tightly, my eyes shutting, and with my right I emptied the small canister of Mace into his face.

I missed with some of it, which landed on my shoulder. The fumes alone forced me to cough, but I was thrown clear at that point as my victim went into convulsive struggles. The possessive change was satisfying; I rolled to my feet and in one pure hot moment distilled my entire short memory into one spurt of rage and kicked him in the head. The Metro- North boot did just fine; I felt a sharp jolt, but his head snapped sideways in a spray of blood. I worried for a brief flicker that I'd broken his neck, but he moaned and tried to cover his head. What I could see of his face was already bright red and swelling.

His struggles were getting weaker. I could hear small choking noises, a small fish flopping for water. His hands beat feebly on my legs as I stood over him, staring at his pain. My brain was slowly considering emerging from wherever it had gone, but wasn't quite ready to assume the helm. I stooped, and picked up the gun. It was surprisingly heavy in my hands, and warm; the barrel radiating its half of the kinetic bargain that allowed the bullets flight. It went into a pocket in my jumpsuit, and I knelt. His inside jacket pocket held a wallet; I removed it, praying there wasn't a badge inside. It took several seconds for my addled brain to scream at me that suppressors weren't police issue, and in fact probably weren't legal. I opened the wallet; he gasped beneath me, oblivious to all but what had become a struggle for breath alone. The billfold was bare of any identification, and contained only around ninety dollars in worn bills. I looked expressionlessly down at him, then at the money in my hands. Then back at his face, swollen beyond recognition at this point. I listened to the thready rasp of breathing, paced deliberately to avoid blocking the throat entirely.

I clenched my hand, feeling the money crush on my palm, and thrust it angrily into my pocket. It came up empty, and the emptiness stared accusingly at me, at self-defense gone too far the wrong way into an unfamiliar realm of moral angst. "No." The word was calm, much calmer that I was, and spoken softly. I withdrew the money and stuffed it into his shirt, dropping his wallet on his chest. He clutched feebly at it. I rose, my eyes searching the walls for red. There was none. I left the laundry room, and in the main basement hallway found a fire box. Pulling the switch instantly resulted in a godawful noise and some orange cyclone lights I hadn't seen before, when they had lurked darkly beneath the ductwork.

I made my way back to the laundry room, and rolled the now unconscious man aside to slip into the drain and pull the grate over the hole, wriggling backwards towards damp safety. The tunnels pulled me in gratefully, and I felt the stage directions note my exeunt with a precise period touched to the page immediately after.

The gun dragged down at me, tugging my jumpsuit askew as I walked downtown in the gloom.

The bolthole was as I had left it, with the knapsack sitting in a corner, my clothing folded inside. I pulled the gun from my jumpsuit awkwardly, by the suppressor, and examined it with half-interested care. It was a semiautomatic pistol; I knew that much from its shape. Emblazoned in grooves on the frame were a series of number codes, meaningless to me, and 'Smith & Wesson Model 59 9mm.' Which was clear enough. The gun was of black matte metal; the suppressor was a blued steel cylinder apparently screwed on to the front of the barrel. The slide, I noticed, was offset fairly far back, further than it appeared it should normally rest. I unscrewed the suppressor, and as it came free the slide moved forward to click home with no barrel lip showing. I frowned, confused; and then moved the slide back to reattach the suppressor. It rotated back onto the barrel end easily enough.

The click of the slide as it moved back in my hands made the design clear. The suppressor, besides containing smoke, sound and flash, would also lock the slide in place, preventing it from autoloading. This would limit the gun to a single shot, but the slide would not move until pulled manually, quieting the weapon even further.

When I ejected the clip, brass gleamed within. Nine brass cylinders winked from my palm after emptying it; and removing the bullet from the chamber made ten. I weighed them meditatively, then reloaded them into the clip after wiping them clean with my T-shirt. I wiped the clip clean as well; then reinserted it and worked the slide. It chambered a round, and I placed my finger in front of the hammer before pulling the trigger to release it, uncocking the weapon. The hammer slid gently home under my fingers, and I set the safety, wiping the gun clean as well. Rising, I looked about the bolthole. There were no features to the room at all, except the ladder. I moved to it, examining the sides; both were metal, perhaps seven inches wide. The ladder was quite close to the rear wall, and there was a space of perhaps six inches behind the rear ladder rail which was effectively hidden. Looking around for some sort of line, I settled on removing two of the polymer straps from my knapsack, both with plastic locking buckles. Climbing the ladder to just beneath the grillwork 'ceiling', I strapped the gun behind the ladder rail, where it might easily be grabbed on the way up or down the ladder, locking the straps and cinching them down tight. The black straps were almost entirely invisible in the half-light, shadows thrown from the single bulb below.

I climbed the ladder; ascended. Felt wings of probability lift me gently from the depths. My feet, when I began to move uptown, moved silently and smoothly, a glide along the isotrope of kinetic energy. Experimentally, I jumped; my energy state changed in response, my motion a seductive upward curve, then down - my feet resting once more on floor. I laughed; a strange, flat sound. Tunnel flowed by.

Time tugged at my clothing.

I continued past the intersection leading to my private lavatory in the loading dock; past the intersection leading to the tunnels to the manhole. Let slip the bonds of earth, sayeth the poets, but I have no such liberty, being caged from above. The idea of open sky was becoming repellent as I travelled further, a true and confirmed subdweller now. Featureless concrete swam past my vision.

I reached the door with a feeling of shock, really; a flashback to a featureless cinder block wall across another tunnel, one I hadn't really figured out yet, a puzzle undone. I ran my fingers lightly across the door in front of me. It was metal, painted what was once grey but was now a mottling of greasy soot and faded paint showing through. There was no handle on this side. Around the door was a metal wall, patterned in non-slip diamonds, sort of like elevator floors or ramps. I pounded on it experimentally; there was a muffled gong, but little other result. Searching for a keyhole was futile; there was none. There was a door handle, an oblong of once-brass colored alloy that was meant to be pushed down at the end in rotation. I tried it; it moved perhaps a centimeter then stopped, held there by the locking mechanism. Pushing with all my strength had no discernable result. I took out the flashlight, regarded it for a moment, trusty tool, and slammed it down on the door handle. An enormous shock ran up my arm, causing me to drop the light, but the door did not budge. Force, plainly, was out. I picked up the light; tested it. It had survived with little but a scratch on the side. Would that I was as hardy.

The hunger was really getting to me now. I'm not sure when it had started, and when adrenaline had pressed it to the bottom of the priority stack, but it was certainly there now. I dropped to my knees, considering my options. There weren't many. I could return to the Kellys', but I'd already written that out. I could beg, hoping for enough by the next morning (was it night?) to eat. There was nowhere I had access to food, except...the thought would not come. I teased it forth, kneeling there on the dirty ground under the City. Ellyn's apartment. I could get in to Ellyn's apartment. By this time, however, the police should be all over it and my chemical-Maced friend.

Of course, they might not be. It might be a different apartment, after all; a different building, a different City. The food in each was as edible. I had to try. Perhaps it was time to move.

The bolt-hole, once my adored refuge, was becoming less secure. Kelly knew where it was, although I couldn't figure out why that was bad. In addition, the owner of the gun, once recovered, might figure out from the grating that I lived in the tunnels, at least, presuming the police gave him his liberty.

I returned to my rucksack, categorizing the door along with the cinder block wall, a puzzle whose key I did not yet possess. Skip, skip, skip, run. Down the passageway, back to life and light. I ran, then, the walls flitting byand patty-caking my tunelessly singing voice back to me with hands of stone and grime.

Gathering my belongings took as much time as undoing the painstaking job I'd done of concealing the gun, and swinging my rucksack over my shoulder. I stepped out into the expected night of the tunnels, and wondered briefly what time it was and if it mattered. Walking uptown gave me more time to think, which I did as my mind settled from its euphoria (stress-induced, I deduced.) A question posed by my relocation bothered me; would my taking up residence in Ellyn's building (assuming I didn't get discovered and evicted or arrested) anchor it in some fashion? Would the apartment I had access to remain constant, or would it keep varying in unpredictable fashion? A question that, it appeared, would yield only to empirical data.

At about Sixtieth street, I stopped suddenly, keyed by some newly acquired tunnel sense. Another person was ahead of me; I could hear him walking in the dead silence that presently reigned. There were no trains moving, I knew; I could tell. No traffic moved overhead, at least, not above us. I slipped behind a support pillar, my hands on the gun in my jumpsuit. Unthinkingly, it leapt from my waistband to point at the ceiling just to the right of my face. I watched the tunnel that I could see, in classic movie fashion, waiting for the other walker to appear, gun held high. My left hand braced the right.

There was a brief flicker of a fairly bright light; apparently the other had a flashlight. I backed away slightly, keeping the pillar between us, and leveled the gun. There was a thump, and a curse, and the flashlight beam wavered violently. The owner had apparently stumbled on one of the myriad projections and obstacles in the tunnel, and he shot into my field of vision still trying to get his balance. He managed not to fall, catching himself and rubbing a shin. I suppose I made some small noise, for he froze, and slowly turned, his hands away from his body. I trained the gun on his torso and tried to ignore the sound my heart was making. I didn't speak; it was too likely that naught would come out but a croak. As he completed the turn, his flashlight was aimed at the ceiling, lighting the scene dimly. He spoke, at which point my heart fell. "Sure I'm a cop, and we're all real easy here. Gently. Don't have a shooter on, meself...Je-sus Christo and wrap the World Trade, boyo! Is that you?"

Kelly. Unmistakeable. And now, looking into the look on my face over the shooter in my fist. There was shock on his face, and fear, desperation, and confusion on mine, and the gun was wavering steadily (they're really a lot heavier than you suspect, especially when overbalanced by a suppressor) but trained on him. I watched, unable to speak, as his face fell, the reality of the situation crashing in on him. I was, now, committing a crime; he'd identified himself as a police officer, and I had a gun on him, and worse, it hadn't moved when I recognized him. "K...Kelly?"

"'Tis me, man. Put it down, hey? Just let it down easy, son." He was apparently relaxed, not moving at all. I let the gun fall slowly to my side, and he blew a gusty breath. "Jesus, man, don't do that to a fellow." He moved back a bit, and leaned against another pillar. I squatted near mine, the enormity of the situation still flowing through my head. To wit, I had: threatened a police officer with an illegal weapon, and my friend at that; I'd been seen in possession of a gun there's no way I should have, and - I realized - I had no idea of what this gun might have done before it came into my possession and gained the dubious distinction of my fingerprints. All I knew was that I had no witnesses likely to support my story of how I'd come by it.

I looked up at Kelly, who was wiping his forehead. Adrenaline, no doubt. He looked back, and grinned faintly, but with a worried look.

"Now then, d'ye think I want to know where you got that damned thing?"

"Oh God."

"I thought not." He was serious, suddenly. "Give it here, man."

"Kelly, I can't."

"This isn't subject to your fuckin' script, friend. Give the shooter here." His grin had vanished. I was comforted to note he was apparently still worried, not angry; a good sign. He might not be lost to me yet. "Kelly, wait. Listen for just a minute. PLEASE!" The shout went bantering about the pillars and raced off down the tunnel. Kelly, about to speak, stopped, looked at me, and nodded. I noticed one hand was no longer visible, being behind his back, and I brought the gun up without thinking. "Hands, Kelly, hands. Christ, you know I don't want to hurt you."

"Ye wouldn't have to, if you'd give me the shooter, man. We can sit right here and talk all ye like as long as I have the gun, hey?" His hand didn't move.

"Kelly, I swear to God I've got nothing going right here, and I really need to see your hands."

He nodded, slowly, and brought them out. I was so busy being relieved I didn't see the gun in the right one until it was out, and then I was caught. I was so afraid, suddenly, that I'd have to shoot him, that I froze up and didn't do anything for a second. While I was busily having a minor cardiac infarct, Kelly reversed his pistol and laid it on the floor in front of him, then settled back against his pillar, seated. I had an overpowering urge to vomit from relief; I fought it down, then sat against mine. We regarded each other across the rails, and he casually unscrewed the top of his Maglite. The light of the little halogen blazed up in all directions, and he balanced it on the floor near him. I noticed that the light prevented me from seeing the pistol on the floor, but I could see his hands - he clasped them behind his head. I rested my gun across my knees.

"All right, then, son. Here I am; no waiting. What d'ye need to say?"

I didn't really know where to begin, so I stumbled a bit. "Kelly, I...the gun...I found...oh, shit." I stopped for a moment. "Kelly, this isn't my gun." (although I realized that I had started thinking of it possessively; a disturbing state of affairs.) "I got it from...I don't know who. I just got it from someone."

"This wouldn't be a friend, now would it?"

"No! No, I don't...I don't know who he is. I..." I stumbled, before realizing I'd already told Kelly enough of the story that this might not serve to further any notion that I was insane. "I met this guy coming out of Ellyn's apartment. I don't know when. Honest. He shot at me, and I ran...I got away,and when he came after me, I Maced him with that can you gave me and got the gun. I left him there, and I've been sort of thrashing around ever since."

Kelly was staring at me. No; at the gun. "Is that a Smith and Wesson?" He asked the question quietly. I looked back, surprised.

"Yeah. Model 59, with a suppressor. Nine millimeter."

He nodded his head. "And I suppose you got it from a gentleman in a building, oh, say, uptown of here somewhere? In a basement? Laundry room, specifically?"

I was staring, now. "How'd you know?"

He peered at me, leaning forward slightly. "I just read meself a file on a gentleman who was picked up after breaking into Seven Five Seven Park. He was found during a fire alarm, suffering from Mace effects, in the laundry room. He told a story of being a security consultant assaulted while checking out the building, but his ID was swiftly established as being a somewhat well known member of the New York unsavory crowd; under repeated questioning, especially concerning the clip of nine millimeter bullets found in his sock and the bullet of identical calibre fired through a fire door on the ninth floor, he admitted having owned a gun of that make, which he claimed was taken from him by persons unknown after giving him a load of Mace in the puss. Not too bright; our friend; no-one could pin anything on him other than trespassing, but the Mace appeared to have unsettled him. The boy was actually only charged with the break-in, and released, since he claimed the gun had gone off by accident on Nine and that he'd been assaulted without provocation. Since no one could say differently, his story was not pressed in court."

I watched Kelly recite this with little accent and abnormal calm. "So what's the catch? Here I am, here's the gun. He shot at me first, no provocation, on Nine; I got the gun and here I am." A thought dawned. "Wait a minute. Questioned, investigated, released, all by now? What time is it?"

Kelly looked back, and answered with measured tones. "This happened in midsummer 1974. According to the files." He was looking at me with a strange electricity in his eyes. I didn't know what to make of it. I was busy being stunned; I suppose somewhere I'd been perfectly willing to accept my personal timeshifting as incipient insanity. Having it confirmed by outside source was a bit much.

We didn't move for a bit. I realized, inanely, that it must be quite late; we weren't in my private New York, since I could hear traffic passing overhead now, infrequently; but no trains had passed. Kelly was still looking at me. I just sat there, exhausted, my ankle throbbing, and tried to think, but as I didn't even know what to think about it didn't help much. Finally, he shook his head and picked up his light. The top was in his pocket; he didn't replace it. He stood; looked at me across the track, and picked up his pistol, returning it to whatever hiding place from whence it had appeared. I stood too, after a fashion, sliding myself up the pillar until I was roughly upright. We looked at each other.

"I still need the gun, boy." Softly. "If I don't get it, ye can leave, but it changes everything. Until I get it, and you come in and answer some questions-" here a ghost of a grin, imagining perhaps what those questions would look like, "-I'll be after you. And so will the others. All of us."

"Why, Kelly? Because I have a gun? So do half the fucking people in New York, and you don't go after them unless they misuse it or you pick them up for something else, for Christ's sake."

His face was grim. "Because it's a possible murder weapon. Because I asked you for it and you wouldn't surrender it. Because you're trespassing in here and that's why I can ask you for it. Because you pointed it at me."

I was stunned, momentarily, at the weight of the policeman in Kelly. It had never really been pointed at me before, and it made him entirely hard and unforgiving. I stepped back a couple of steps. "I can't give it to you, Kelly. Especially if it's killed someone. Not yet. Then I've killed someone, as far as anyone knows."

"Have you?" The question lay there, flat and cold.

"NO, for God's- no. No, I haven't."

"Then there's no reason not to give it to me."

"Yes there is. You just said that you don't care for it."

That stopped him momentarily, and I watched him replay our interchange in his head. "The damned script."


He shook his head. "Not good enough, buck. Not now. Not when it's in the way of the job."

The gun was pointing at him, then, somehow. I swear, I don't know how, and I wish it hadn't. "Then I guess I'll have to ask you to leave. Or wait there while I leave."

His features were partially hidden in the glaring half-light from the Maglite, but I could see the conflict and the disappointment. "I'll not follow ye, then. But I'll not pass a blind eye if I come across ye later, either."

The brogue saddened me; I felt the intimacy that his flat English had displayed stripped away. He turned away from me, stood there.

I waited for a moment, indecisive, then turned and ran downtown into the metallic dark.

<--Uptime | Park Ethereal | Downtime-->

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