TIME SPIKE – snippet 18:



Chapter 15



            “Okay, Rod.” Andy slipped Hulbert’s camera phone into his pocket. He would have Edelman take a look at the pictures and then maybe they’d know what they were up against. “We’ll deal with Jurassic Park later. For now, let’s see if we can figure out what happened to our mystery man. His injuries weren’t caused by dinosaurs. Give it to me from the beginning. Don’t leave anything out.”

            “We weren’t out more than six hours and had taken down two large animals.” Rod looked at Jenny and smiled. “Marie got both of them. One buffalo or some sort, and something that’s probably a giant sloth. Marie’s amazing. The cooks are going to cuss her trying to figure out how to cook the stuff, but she’s the best I’ve ever been out with. She has a real gift. That woman…” He shook his head, never losing his grin.

            Andy smiled absently. “Good. Then what happened?”

            “We were on our way back and ran across evidence of a battle, or an animal attack. We went to check it out. While we were gone, Marie found him.” He motioned to the wounded man. “He was curled up inside a cave, moaning. Anyway, there he was, too weak to even stand. We got back just in time to stop an attack from some animal related to the cat family. I didn’t get any pictures of it before we boned it out. We probably shouldn’t have taken the hour a job like that takes, but I couldn’t let any of the meat go to waste. Too many of our people could wind up going hungry if we don’t have the right priorities.

            “Anyway, after we took care of the cat, we scoured the area looking for others, but didn’t find anyone. We backtracked about a mile, following what we believe was this guy’s trail. There were plenty of footprints—not his—but definitely human. After wasting what was left of daylight, we bedded down for the night, and then started home first thing this morning. With all the meat we were packing, and with him in such bad shape, the trip back took all day and part of the night.

            “You get a short distance from the prison and the world changes, Andy. It is nothing like home. And the plants and animals are nothing like home, although you do occasionally spot something familiar. We’ve got problems. And I don’t mean the routine problems of finding enough to eat and ways to keep warm. That world out there is our biggest problem, and we had better get to know it pretty damn fast. We’ll either know it, or it’ll bite us in the ass. It’ll kill us all.”

            “Can you find the spot you found him in?” Andy asked.

            Hulbert nodded. “I can also show you where those creatures in the pictures were.”

            “Is there anything else you can tell me?”

            Hulbert shrugged. “I don’t know. There’s probably too much for now. Once you get away from the prison, the forest floor in a lot of places is as clear and clean as a mall floor. When there is ground cover, it’s usually ferns of one kind or another. There are animals out there with infants the size of an elephant. There are insects the size of toy airplanes. And man, don’t even go near the water. I’ve seen some birds, a lot of reptiles, and a fair number of mammals. But the plants and animals don’t seem to mesh. It’s like everything has been tossed into a pot together, and the heat’s been turned up. It’s just sitting there. Simmering. Waiting.”

            “Thanks.” Andy Blacklock picked up the two-way sitting on the nurse’s desk. It was about two in the morning, but this couldn’t wait. Jeff Edelman had to be wakened and Lieutenant Joe Schuler needed to be relieved from duty so he could attend the meeting that was going to take place within the next hour. Andy silently cursed their bad luck. Brian Carmichael had been sent to the kitchen as soon as they arrived at the prison. He had shown up with three exotic animals and without a gag order. That meant the rumor mill would be in full swing by sunup. If they wanted to prevent a panic they needed to know what they were facing. They needed to know what Spielberg’s Monsters were, and they needed to know what and who their houseguest was. As for the other department heads, they would be told about another meeting, one that would take place about nine, right after breakfast.

            Andy stood next to the cot and watched the man struggling to get loose from the straps that held him to the table. Things were completely screwed up now. He had a prison full of felons he was trying to protect from themselves and from what ever it was outside the walls. He had around two hundred, over-worked, exhausted C.O.’s looking to him for answers. And now he had what? A war going on outside?

            Jenny was afraid the patient would try to pull the I.V. out of his arm so they had tied him down. The man’s eyes were glazed and feverish. His dark skin managed to look pale and flushed even to Andy’s untrained eye. The captain stared at the man’s face. Here was someone who could tell them what was happening outside the walls. And the someone was in bad shape and apparently couldn’t speak one word of English.

            “Is he going to make it?” the Captain asked Jenny.

            “I don’t know.”

            “Ka-nun-da-cla-ga. Ka-nun-da-cla-ga,” The man moaned. His voice was raspy and soft. almost inaudible.

            “Man, I wish I knew what he was saying.”

            Jenny nodded. “When I moved into my apartment in town, the landlady made a point of telling me the area receives visitors from all over the world. If he is one of the tourists he could be talking just about any language. Whatever it is, it’s not Spanish. I’m almost fluent in Portuguese and that’s close enough that I’d recognize Spanish if I heard it.”

            Andy shook his head. “No, you’re right. I took four years of Spanish in high school. That’s one I would recognize, even if I didn’t understand the exact words.”

            Jenny shrugged. “Well, what he’s saying doesn’t sound Arabic or Asian, either. That I would know. And I would bet he’s not American.”

            He looked at the man on the cot. “Why are you so sure he isn’t American?”

            The nurse waved a hand at her patient. “He’s somewhere around fifty, maybe older. And he was never given a smallpox vaccine. I checked his hips, arms and legs. Anyone that old, if they had been born in this country, would have been given the vaccination, unless their religion forbade it. Also, he’s had no dental work done. And believe me, he needs it. Those teeth have got to cause a lot of pain now and then. From that and the fact he doesn’t seem to speak English, I’d guess he was a new immigrant. And he had to come from a country that didn’t have a comprehensive health program. He might even be an illegal alien.” She raised a hand to stop Andy’s complaints. “I know; that’s not an accusation you want to make too readily, but look at him. He’s starving. He’s been beaten. But he’s not an addict. The damage to his nose is from the beating; the interior is not drug damaged. He has no track marks. His liver isn’t distended, and neither are his intestines.”

            “How does being beaten and starved make you an illegal alien?”

            “Andy, if someone starved you, beat you within an inch of your life, shot you, then left you for dead, you would go to the hospital. And you would press charges. You wouldn’t be hiding in a hole in the ground. The only people who don’t go to the police are those who can’t. And since most dealers are users, he probably had other reasons to steer clear of the authorities.”

            Andy looked at the man on the cot. “I guess you’re right. I would call the cops. But I don’t think this guy had a chance. And I don’t think it had anything to do with being afraid of the badge. My guess is, this happened after the Quiver.” He handed Hulbert the pan with the spent bullet. “He was shot with a matchlock, you said.”

            Hulbert nodded. “That’s what I figure. I can’t think of any other explanation for a bullet that big and that slow-moving. I’d bet he’s Indian. Probably pretty close to full blood.”

            Andy stared at Hulbert. “You’re talking Native American, not an India Indian.” He was wide-awake now.

            “Yeah, I am. And I’m thinking he’s extremely authentic. And I have a hunch he has enemies just as authentic as he is.”

            The captain stared at Hulbert, then at the man strapped to the examination table. “We can’t jump to any conclusions. That bullet could have come from a replica. Or maybe an antique.”

            Hulbert was shaking his head. “I thought of that. But not too many re-enactors play around with matchlocks. They’re usually interested in later historical periods. Then you have the guy’s clothes and all the things Jenny mentioned.”

            Andy pulled the clothes from the biohazard container, careful not to touch the blood. He turned them over and over in his hands, checking the seams and the buttons. “If these are part of a reenactment costume, they cost the guy a pretty penny. They’re the most authentic looking things I’ve ever seen.”

            “He doesn’t look rich enough to be into that type of fun,” Jenny said. “He looks like one of the homeless I used to care for when I worked on the coast.”

            Marie entered the room, carrying a tray of sandwiches. “And if that’s not a re-enactment costume, and if he wasn’t shot with a replica, where is the guy who did it?” Marie shrugged and then answered her own question. “We don’t know.”

            Now it was Jenny’s turn to look surprised. “Oh.” She looked at the man on the table and then at Andy. “It doesn’t matter if that stuff is real or fake. Does it? We have people out there. Real people. And they’re armed and shooting.”

            Hulbert shrugged. “Like I said, we’ve got problems. And if the animals are mixed up, jumbled up, the people are likely to be too.”

            Marie Keehn moved so she was standing next to Rod Hulbert. Her voice trembled slightly, “More than two thousand prisoners to feed and water, multi-ton dinosaurs to avoid, and to top it off, out of sync people using other out of sync people for punching bags and target practice. And we don’t know why.”

            Jenny hissed softly. The captain and the lieutenant both nodded, their faces grim.