The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin
The Episcopalian minister who was an expert on C.S. Lewis was sitting with his back to the door reading when I came back into the bookstore. I shuffled from foot to foot and then walked over.
“Uh, sorry, but do you have a second?” I asked him as I came around his chair.
He pushed his glasses up further on his nose, “Oh, certainly! What can I help you with?”
I scratched my head and sat down across from him.
“I don’t have anywhere to be right now, and I wondered if I could ask you something…”
“Ask away,” He smiled, trying to be friendly.
I slept late on Monday, and woke up feeling out of place and groggy. It took me awhile to remember that I was in a hotel waiting for Tuesday, so I could resume my normal life. But, that meant I had no idea what to do with myself today. I couldn’t go to work, call Calla, or visit my mother. None of that had happened before.
So, how to spend the time? I lazed away the morning finishing the book about Digory Kirke, my namesake from Narnia, and then I had nothing else to do. I showered and got dressed, and decided to go looking for some lunch.
Dahlia Sorley had come back from the future in a fury, to harangue me about my confrontation with Agent Johnson of the CIA. I, on the other hand, was bone-tired from time travel, my day, my date with Calla Wiley, and the general stress of having time-travelling crazy people interrupt my life on a constant basis.
“Here the CIA is helping me, and protecting you, and the stability of the entire space-time continuum, and you go and SHOOT poor Agent Johnson!” Dahlia was still going, full-blast.
I groaned and rubbed my face repeatedly, trying to work up the energy to deal with this.
Calla Wiley and I sat under a canopy of artificial stars, enjoying our picnic, munching quietly on sandwiches made of artisan breads, gourmet organic cheese, and specialty meats. As I ate, I reflected that it didn’t make that big a difference if you had a sandwich specially made, or just stopped off at Subway. It still tasted like a sandwich.
“So, how did you get us in here?” Calla asked, sipping some chilled Avian from the basket.
“I’ve become a patron of the sciences with a big donation,” I shrugged. “Consider yourself the inspiration.”
Calla opened her eyes as we stood in the centre of the room, and she saw the surprise I had planned for her. She gasped and grabbed my arm as she took it in. I couldn’t help but smile at her reaction as I watched her eyes go wide.
As we neared our destination, I turned to Calla. I smiled, taking her hand in mine.
“You need to close your eyes,” I said.
She looked at me with a wry smile and a raised eyebrow. “Why?”
“I want you to be surprised. Okay?”
“I can’t see?” She tried not to giggle.
“Well, that would ruin it.”
“Okay, then.” She slowly closed her eyes, trying not to laugh. I don’t know why she thought it was so funny. Calla wrinkled her nose a bit.
“Everything okay?” I asked.
I buzzed up and Bianca let me into the building. I took the stairs two at a time, and then took a deep breath outside their door, collecting myself. Then I knocked.
“Good evening, good sir,” Bianca said with a wry smile, opening the door. I stepped inside.
“Thanks,” I said. I stood awkwardly just past the threshold.
Bianca was wearing paint-stained hospital pants and a very old tshirt similarly decorated. She had paintbrushes in her hair the same way some people did chopsticks.
“Hot date?” I asked, gesturing towards her outfit.
Bianca laughed. “I’m painting, duh!”
“I get it,” Dahlia said, nodding sagely. “You’re time-looped and Johnson prevented a paradox because of the inversion. You were attempting to interrupt causality, and he’s empowered to prevent that. I’m a little surprised at you for trying.”
“Well, granted, you must hate Zebediah. I sure do! But it’s a basic rule of time travel not to change things. You must know that?”
I trudged back to my hotel, my face and clothes dirty from my tussle in the woods. My clothes were soggy with rain. I was sore all over, weary to the bone, and fed up. Zebediah had escaped me, Johnson had interfered in my life again, and my father was still dead.
Nothing I could do would change that, and it seemed revenge was out of reach. For now, anyway. I locked myself in my room and showered, getting rid of the mud. I let the heat soak into my muscles, and tried to put this setback out of my mind. I might not know how to get Zebediah now, but maybe someday.
It wasn’t that hard to find a pawnshop with pistols. It was even easier to obtain one without identification; all I had to do was line up the right number of dollar bills on the counter. It cost even less than I had expected.