In Time: Part 3
Note: This story was originally published in Allegory Magazine
“I was born with the ability to create spheres… pockets in time,” Gallowglass said.
Lester wiped the blood from his lips with the back of his hand and wearily eyed the stranger. He’s seen some crazies in his day, and this Gallowglass had all the marks of one of the “quiet psychos.” Only two facts mitigated Lester’s assessment: the stranger had just kicked the crap out of him, and the handgun was still floating in the air.
“Inside those spheres, the flow if time in subject to my will.” Gallowglass’s voice was a steady drone. Lester had heard it before, though he couldn’t place where. “Right now, we are standing in a sphere in which I am accelerating time. To someone watching from across the street, we are at most a single-frame blur. That is why your weapon appears to float: we are moving, talking, thinking faster than it is falling.”
“You’re out of you mind,” Lester said before he could help himself.
“You are by no means the first to put forth that hypothesis,” Gallowglass replied. Something like the shadow of a smile played across his lips.
Magic tricks,Lester thought. Like David Copperfield.He must’ve done something to my gun.Bending down, Lester picked up the blackjack he’d dropped during the fight. On a whim, he tossed it towards the diner. It too became lodged in midair.
“You see, detective, it does not matter if you think I am crazy. It doesn’t matter if you believe one word I say. All that matters is that I have the power to help you find Clarence Turner. Now, can we get started?”
Lester shook his head, more to clear it than to give any answer. On another night, any other night, the seasoned cop might have kept fighting. On that night however, Lester’s thoughts were so tightly focused on saving the boy that he had nothing left over to be skeptical with. A man in a gunfight rarely takes the time to worry about the incongruity of his own mismatched socks; he has better things to worry about.
“Alright, pal,” he said. “So where is he?”
Gallowglass shrugged, his long coat rising and falling on his shoulders. “If I knew that, detective, I would not be here.”
“So what the hell good are you?” Lester snapped, the pressure and strangeness of the night finally setting off his temper.
“Your worst enemy right now is time, detective, or so I have read. Every hour, every minute the boy remains missing, his chances of survival plummet. You are the detective, you know how these people work.” Gallowglass raised one arm like the Ghost of Christmas future and pointed at Lester’s Crown Vic. “The answer to your question is in that file and in your head. I can give you the time to find it.”
Together, they walked back into the diner. Phil and Janet utterly failed to acknowledge their entrance. It bothered Lester, until he remembered Gallowglass’s “pockets of time.” The tiny, tinny bell above the door froze in mid-ring as it passed out of the invisible sphere of accelerated time. Lester felt as though he were trapped in a department store window. He thought of the movie “Mannequin.”
Lester tried to hide his discomfort but failed.
“It gets easier,” Gallowglass said, noticing. “When I was young, I loved the hours of 10 to midnight. Everyone slept. If felt like I’d been given extra time, like the world was mine alone for a few hours. In some ways, it’s better like this, never being seen… like a ghost.”
“Ten to midnight?” Lester, who’d always lived in the city, asked. “Where’d you grow up that everybody was in bed by ten?”
Now in the diner’s lights, he could see the other man’s face. Though still not certain of his ethnicity, Lester believed the man across the booth from him had the most complete lack of expression he’d ever seen on a living human.
And a couple of the dead ones,Lester thought to himself.
“Not far from here, detective, but a very, very long time ago.”
An awkward silence arose, a silence so utter that Lester’s own breathing seemed to echo in his ears. Gallowglass glanced down at the folder Lester’d brought in from the car.
“I’ve been through that folder a dozen times,” he said tapping it with his finger and half rising from the booth. Lester couldn’t keep the defensiveness out of his voice. He was still wired. He wanted to dosomething, not sit and talk. “The kid went to the movie with his buddies. He left early, sat in the lobby, and then just disappeared. There must have been twenty people in and out of that theater all night, and nobody saw him leave.”
Gallowglass nodded, his blank expression never changing. Lester’d seen that look, just as he’d heard that droning voice. He just couldn’t place it.
“There’s nobody left to interview,” he went on. “The kids all tell the same story. The theater people all tell the same story. We even tracked down some of the patrons by their credit cards. Everybody checks out.”
Gallowglass said nothing. He just nodded. Lester tried to out wait him, but the silence and the blood racing to his brain irked him into speaking.
“Damn it, I don’t know what else to do! They’ve got six exits out of that building, but they’ve got cameras on each of them. I’ve watch the tape myself. I seen every person that walked out of that building, and Clarence Turner wasn’t one of them.” Lester flipped open the file and pulled out one of his reports.
“The kids say he left the movie about 8:30. 8:23 a couple leaves the front door. 8:32 four old men walk out the front door. 8:40 the booth guy slips out the south side door for a smoke. 8:47 the usher takes out the trash. 9:00 two couples and a lone guy walk out the north side door. 9:05 the concessions cashier takes her smoke break.” Lester spun the list around and tossed it on the table for Gallowglass to read.
“And Clarence is not in the building?” he asked, finally breaking his silence.
“No,” Lester snarled. “We were in there with dogs two hours after we got the missing person’s call. The kid’s gone. The city ate him. The city ate him,” he repeated.
You don’t get to have this one,he’d said. Gallowglass was right, though. Time was against them. If it wasn’t a ransom or a hostage deal, getting a kid back alive after the first eight hours was on the scale of a miracle. Lester felt angry tears coming. He ground his teeth together and turned his head from the stranger. On the diner counter, above Phil’s coffee cup, steam froze into a cloud.
“The usher…” he said, and spun back around.
“The usher, the usher, the usher,” he repeated as he sifted through the case file. In moments he had what he was looking for: a still of the old usher pushing a 55 gallon trashcan out of the south side door.
“The usher,” he said, and held up the photo for Gallowglass to see. Lester watched the stranger’s eyes scan the photo, finally locking on the trashcan.
“The usher,” they said together.