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(Time Travel with Annie Book 2)

Chapter 4

May 17, 2007

Steven heard his daughter’s clomp on the stairs and, intending to confront her about quitting school, turned in his chair to face the open door and the foyer where she would shortly appear. Realizing he should put his book aside first, he glanced at his desk for something to act as a book mark, found a pencil, closed the book over it and then caught a flash of clothing just before Annie slammed out the front door. Still holding his book, he rose and walked to the office window in time to watch her car accelerate backwards down the driveway. Going to have to talk to that girl, he thought and then froze at the sight of Charger in the dimming light. Charger was a beautiful white Alaskan Husky belonging to the widowed neighbor, Mrs. Williams, and although he couldn’t see a leash, he was sure there was one and that it was attached to both Charger and Mrs. Williams. Then Mrs. Williams appeared, her right arm extended straight out in front of her, leaving one to wonder who was walking who. Steven inhaled and gritted his teeth just as Annie slammed to a stop. Although he couldn’t see Mrs. Williams’ face, he could tell she turned her head. He envisioned the old woman’s famous glare and then let out his breath and relaxed. For nearly a half minute Annie's car didn’t move. Finally she turned on her lights, carefully backed onto the street and sped away.

Steven turned back to his desk. Just before returning to his book he considered what just took place. Although pleased that she displayed a level of energy he hadn’t seen since Tony’s death, he was concerned as to what Howard could have said in thirty seconds to light her fire, to momentarily make her dangerous. He couldn’t think of anything particularly exciting about the Energy Research Council.

"Humph." He returned to his reading.

Annie was out of Cambridge and halfway across northwest Boston before she stopped shaking from nearly running over Mrs. Williams . . . again. Mrs. Williams walked her dog every morning and every evening, and often—suspiciously often as far as Annie was concerned—crossed Annie’s driveway about the time she was leaving for school, no matter what time she left. Annie took pride in being a careful driver, determined to make it out of her teens without an accident or a ticket. Her only blemish was an embarrassing visit from the police after Mrs. Williams filed a complaint.

This was the closest call, though, and Annie expected she’d see the police at her door again. The police scared her. Can they give her a ticket based on just a complaint? Annie didn’t think so but the thought of the possibility twisted her stomach.

At a red light her thoughts snapped back to Professor Grae and his words. "What if you could have the opportunity to talk to Tony one more time?" Is he saying what I think he’s saying? And then she remembered his email. "You are so much like your mother."

How could he know about what went on twenty years ago? In what context did he know her mother?

The light turned orange in the other direction and she inched forward, watching a U-Haul truck slow toward a stop. The orange changed to red and although hers hadn’t turned green yet, she punched the accelerator just as a dirty black and rust truck appeared from the lane beyond the U-Haul truck, accelerating as though he could beat the already red light. Annie slammed on the brakes and the truck whipped by, the driver giving no more than an irritated glance.

It was seconds before Annie took a breath, plopped her forehead against the steering wheel and willed her heart to slow. Traffic passed around her. The horns that sounded seemed to be coming from off in the distance until she was startled by a knock on her window. She looked and hit the window down button.

"Are you all right?" the man said. He was tall, baby-smooth bald, and bent at the waist to be able to peer in at her.

She nodded her head. "Yes. I’m fine."

"Then you need to move your car. You’re blocking traffic."

Annie looked. Her light was red and she was sitting in the middle of the intersection. Cars were easing around her, the drivers giving her dirty looks. Horns were still honking.

"Oh, damn! Sorry." She eased the car forward, receiving another round of angry looks and honks, until she was clear of the intersection. She pulled to the curb and closed her eyes.

After a minute she looked at her crimson face in the mirror. What is your problem? What’s the big rush? Professor Grae didn’t mean what it sounded like he meant, or you probably heard it wrong. Anyway, what’s another minute or two to get there without killing yourself or someone else?

Annie looked twice and then again before pulling back onto the street, certain that she wasn’t going to be so lucky with a close call the third time. She drove below the speed limit, patiently waited on all lights, and arrived on Professor Grae’s street at 7:32. She found his house, parked at the curb and got out. There were four cars in his driveway including a familiar red LeBaron convertible, which she stopped and stared at. "Why is he here?" With knitted brow and a quickened pace she continued up the drive and onto the sidewalk that led up to a deep porch spanning the width of the house. Annie was up the steps and half way across the porch when Professor Grae’s silhouette appeared behind the screen door. He pushed it open.

"Ms Caschetta. Thank you for coming."

Annie stopped and looked at him. "I’m not promising anything."

He held up his hand. "I know. We just ask that you delay your decision until you’ve heard us out."

"Decision about what?"

"About whether to come on board or not. I’m sure you will, otherwise we would not have approached you."

Annie tilted her head and gave Professor Grae a suspicious look.

"Please come in. No need discussing this on my porch."

He stepped aside and she walked in. In the foyer her eyes and ears were drawn to the left into a study. Seated were a professor she recognized but with whom she had not had dealings, Charles Walshe, the fat dweeb from Professor Grae’s class and with whom she certainly did not expect nor want dealings, and her grandfather, the owner of the red convertible parked outside. She opened her mouth to say something and then closed it.

Professor Grae stepped around her. "Please come in; have a seat. You know Mister Walshe, and of course your grandfather. I don’t know if you’ve ever met Professor Bradshaw."

Bradshaw stood and offered his hand. "We formally met nineteen and a half years ago, but I doubt you remember, Annie."

Annie shook his hand. She had seen him around campus, and as she thought about it, sometimes talking with her father. She released his hand and sent a questioning glare at her grandfather.

"Bradshaw was there the night you arrived in the time machine, screaming your lungs out."

She turned back to Bradshaw. "Then you were there when my mother arrived forty-eight hours later."

Bradshaw nodded. "Jerry Blaylock and I performed CPR. We were devastated when we couldn’t save her. I’m sorry."

"That was twenty years ago." She again looked at her grandfather, suspiciously at Walshe and then at Professor Grae. "Were you there, too?"

Grae nodded his head.

"What the hell is going on? If you and professor Bradshaw were part of it, I understand, but what the hell is he," she pointed her finger at Walshe, "doing here? And how come I didn’t know about you two, and who the hell else was there who is also lurking around the campus?" She sent another glare at her grandfather who sat as though no more than an interested bystander, a stupid grin plastered to his face.

Grae raised his arms, his palms turned down as though he was a preacher motioning to his congregation. "Everyone please sit down. Annie, why don’t you have a seat there and we’ll fill in all your blanks."

Annie ignored the invitation to sit on the leather sofa next to her grandfather and chose instead a rocking chair on the opposite side of the room. Everyone turned to face her as if she were about to give a speech.

"Would you like something to drink? I have tea, coffee, no soda I’m afraid though I believe there is a little Cranapple juice, and beer."

"To serve me beer, Professor Grae, would be worth a $2000.00 fine or six months in jail. I don’t need something to drink. I need an explanation." She eyed the beer in Walshe’s hand as though ready to dial 911 and turn everyone in.

Charles Walshe raised his beer to her. "I turn twenty-three the same day you turn twenty."

"You have my birthday?" Annie made a face, rolled her eyes and turned her glare onto Grae.

"Yes," said Grae. "An explanation is what you are about to get. Until recently I was not aware that you knew all the details as to your birth and your mother’s death. I have to admit that when I found out about your sudden demonstration of detective skills at the age of fourteen . . ."


"I’m sorry?"

"I figured out that there was something seriously amiss when I was thirteen. It was on my fourteenth birthday when I got into my father’s face about it and, shortly thereafter, learned all the gory details."

Professor Grae smiled. "Thirteen . . . fourteen . . . semantics. You were a child when you started playing Sherlock Holmes. It was decided by your father, your grandfather and your godparents to enlighten you with all the ‘gory details’ as you like to call them, but leave out who the team members were, at least the ones who you would probably be coming into contact with in your academic career. They are Thomas Bradshaw and myself, as well as two others who are not important here and thus of whom I am not at liberty to divulge."

Annie’s head bobbed with the rocking of her chair, her mind racing through the faces of every professor she knew on the MIT campus. "Who is Jerry Blaylock, and why not?"

"Jerry is one of the others. You haven’t a need to know them and they are not important to what we are doing here. Besides, they do not live in this part of the country."

"It was my life and my mother’s life, so I think I have a right to know. Other than that, you’re still not telling me anything I don’t already know, like why Charles," the dweeb, she wanted to add, "who was three years old at the time, is here now, why this group is being formed, and what you are planning on doing."

Professor Grae nodded. "Reasonable questions. I was approached by Professor Bradshaw and Dr. Hair, your grandfather," he pointed, "about two years ago."

"I know who my grandfather is."

"Yes, of course. They asked if I’d join them in forming an exploratory committee to investigate whether enough new knowledge had been developed to restart the program, as before, privately. I was reluctant at first, I must say, but by that fall I was fully on board to proceed forward. Two months ago Charles, while in the process of doing his own time travel research and coming up with information and conclusions very similar to your father’s and grandfather’s many years past, found us out. Although he made no indication of revealing his discovery to the world we decided it would be prudent to bring him in on the program. His knowledge and young mind would be valuable. Besides, three people are not enough. Neither are four. To be fully operational, and safe, it’ll take five, and each of those five must be able to do all the jobs of the other four."

"So this group has been formed to raise, like a phoenix from my mother’s ashes and the ashes of my father’s failed effort, the time travel experiments."

"Your father didn’t fail, Annie," her grandfather said.

"My mother, your daughter, died. That sounds like a failure to me."

Dr. Hair closed his eyes.

"There were mistakes made," Grae said, "but what we learned was as valuable as the discovery of electricity. It was an accident that your mother fell into the wormhole, but it happened and we did bring you and then her back. The circumstances of her death had nothing to do with the experiment itself."

"If she hadn’t of ended up traveling back in time 44 years, she would not have died. If it was such a success, why was it all shut down?"

"First of all, Annie," her grandfather said, "the program was funded and controlled by the board members of Broad Horizons. Their charter called for dismantling as soon as you and your mother were brought back. We, Howard, Thomas, your father and I, and the others, had no say about it, though at the time we were in total agreement. It was an emotional trauma, not only for your father and me, but for everyone involved. We were not cold-hearted scientists. The shutdown was a unanimous decision. I also think the power of time travel, the unknown affect it could have on us, on the past and the future, the thought that we could accidentally eliminate our own existence, scared everyone."

Professor Bradshaw spoke up for the first time. "It wasn’t entirely sent into the scrap yard, Annie; at least not in the permanent sense. We sort of expected that we would pull it out again someday, we just didn’t realize this much time would go by first."

"Maybe we’ve been waiting for you," said Grae.

Annie looked back and forth between the four pairs of eyes and then settled her gaze upon her grandfather. "Why? My mother wasn’t initially involved in the experiment. It was kept a secret from her even long after she accidentally stepped into it. It sent her into labor with me. Can you imagine suddenly finding yourself in a time 44 years in the past with a newborn child to take care of? I’m sure she thought she had gone insane."

"We sent her a letter that same night," Grae said, "but as you know, it fell into the wrong hands. It was months before it got to her. It was pure luck that she got it at all."

"Yeah, I know all about the German spy who turned out to be my great-grandfather. I thought I knew everything and now I discover there were other players I wasn’t told about." She looked down at her shoes. "That’s neither here nor there, I guess. The real question is, why do you think I have anything to contribute, and," she looked up at Professor Grae, "what did you mean by what if I could talk to Tony one more time? Am I hearing what I’m thinking I’m hearing?"

There was nothing but silence from the men. She shook her head. "No! The entire idea is crazy. You were right to shut the thing down because I think you were playing with fire . . . with God’s fire. You were lucky that the only bad thing that happened from it was my mother’s death." She pulled her fingers through her hair. "I can’t believe I just said my mother’s death was lucky.

"If you think that I’m going to jump at the chance to go back in time so that I can talk to Tony again, you all are crazy. It may not look like it but I am trying to get over him. I have to. I don’t want to drag that out any longer and seeing him again, especially when I know he will die, would probably be more than I could bear. And what about Mrs. Grae, Professor? Do you really think your life would be better by being able to talk to her again? I’m sure that’s what you also have in mind." She stood and shook her head. "No. No not only for me, but I think it should be no for all of you. Destroy this thing and put it away for good." With those words she strode out of the room and out of the house.

"I really thought she’d jump onboard," Doctor Hair said. "I underestimated my granddaughter."

"Maybe. Maybe not." Professor Grae turned from the window where he had watched her race out to her car. "Let’s give her a little time. Let her, and us for that matter, get through finals."

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