They had fooled him. Bascombe and Miller had led him here playing upon his naiveté and had dumped him here Free of him they could go about whatever business they were involved in He would have to find a way back, somehow, A way back from where?
Like all the others in the agency and in the settlements, Basscombe and Eloise knowing he had not been as smart as them, so easy to lie to, to fool, had left him, disposing of him like a useless piece of trash.
“Wouldn’t you like some water, inspector?”
Gehlen looked down at the brown haired girl holding the tray. Who the hell was she anyway? Another one thinking that her could be playing with? With an open palm he sent the tray flying. Pitcher and glass crashed to the floor shattering into fragments of broken crystal.
He looked on as the girl knelt down and began to sweep up the broken glass with her bare hands. “Don’t do that” he told her. “You’ll cut yourself.”
“I’m sorry” she murmured a tone which only made Gehlen angrier.
“Never say you’re sorry to someone who wrongs you. Only a coward does that.” He knew that he should not have been angry with her.
“Is that what I am, inspector, a coward?” she asked not looking up from the glass.
Gehlen sensed that his he would have to back his way out of his own blundering. Half-apologetically he murmured, “No. I just meant that you shouldn’t pick that glass up with your hands. “
Her fingers plucked another sliver of glass. “Do you always try to make people dislike you?” she asked.
A question such as that coming from someone else would have only angered him. Coming from the girl Gehlen forced himself to respond. “Not always.”
She stood. “You’re not a prisoner here. You’re free to go at any time. There is no reason to be angry. You asked them to bring you here. They never said that they would stay.”
Gehlen bent down and placed some of the broken shards on the tray. “What’s your name, girl?”
Daniel pressed the tips of his fingers against his eyes hoping to massage the pain. Seven times he had looked at the tape of Alice Brightman sleeping in her room. Seven times he had watched it to see her asleep in her bed and then gone. He had not wanted the holotape to be taken but Louise had insisted. Against his wishes she had planted a camera in the girl’s bedroom the night before the disappearance.
Colin had come to him, in the morning after her disappearance asking if he had seen Alice. Se had not comedown to breakfast. He thought that she might have gone off for a walk but neither clothes nor shoes were missing. Daniel had tried to reassure him are assurance that must have sounded hollow as Daniel himself. Two days before Alice’s disappearance Colin had proposed to the legislative assembly a bill banning interracial relationships knowing full well that Mei Ling Foley shared Daniel’s bed.
Since being appointed governor of New America Daniel had been puzzled by the conundrum of Colin Brightman. Intelligent, respected by colonists for hrs fervent beliefs in political liberalism and Christianity, Brightman had been a natural choicer as an assemblyman., What Bishop only began to understand over the following months was that Brightman had shared another belief of his time, that of racial purity.
It had begun over Daniel’s breakfast table. Munching on a piece of toast he had looked through the Daily Chronicle, a special eight page issue edition to commemorate the founding of the colony. He glanced through the usual laudatory articles praising the colony’s founders including himself and projecting great prospects for its future. All well meant no doubt and as boring as hell. Then he came across Colin’s article. “A Clergyman’s View.”
It had begun by arguing that the creating of this and the other settlements was part of God’s divine plan. Daniel did not quite agree with this viewpoint but saw no reason to argue with it.
Reverand Brightman began by praising Director Dzingira for his establishing of African settlements from the castoffs of slave columns. Slavery and the Slave Trade the good Reverend denounced as one of the greatest crimes in the sad history of humanity. Among the odious effects of the trade the deaths of millions, and the horrendous effects upon African societies. Indeed it was a crime against both the Negroid and Caucasian races for it had resulted in the racial pollution of the American nation.
“The man’s a racist” Daniel told Mei Ling.
“You sound surprised” Mei Ling replied. “In his time everyone was. He is only expressing what people of his time thought.”
“We’re not living in his time, not any more.”
“He is. Most of the people here are. We are never free of where were we cane from. None of us are.” She pressed her arms against her chest. “After all this time I still hear the horsemen, the screams. Yet I do not hate the Huns. What would be the point of it.” She placed her hands of the sides of Daniel’s face and looked into his eyes. “My love, you are a dear, sweet man but you can never understand what it is like to be one of these people. You grew up in a land rich in peace and learning. They didn’t. “
The next day at a meeting of the legislative assembly Reverend Brightman tabled what he termed a protection act to control the settling of “unsuitable colonists” in the settlement of America. Of the twenty-seven assemblymen, nineteen voted in favour, six opposed it and the others abstained. Before it could become law the act would have to receive the governor’s signature. In front of the assembly Daniel stated that it would be a cold day in hell before he signed it.
Colin replied by meeting with his supporters ad drawing up a petition to Director Dzingira calling upon him to remove Governor Bishop on grounds of “moral turpitude.”
This act caused Alice to raise an objection. “But Papa, he did save our lives.”
Colin nodded. “Yes he did and for that he will always have my respect. Let so many other good men Mister Bishop has lost his way, led astray by the cares of office and wordly ambitions. Believe me my child he would be much happier saving other lost souls, following the career chosen for him by God.”
Alice slept much better that night knowing that Papa meant the best for Mister Bishop. Three days later she disappeared.
Much as Daniel detested Colin’s religious and racial views he could not keep from admitting there was much to like about the man He could not keep from remembering when Brightman tried to comfort him over not being able to save more people from the Empress. How could a nature capable of such empathy hold beliefs so morally repugnant. Neither could he deny the depth of Colin’s love for his daughter.
He should not have come Daniel told himself as he watched the banks of the Hudson slip by. Two days before Colin Brightman had reported his daughter as missing. Men including Daniel himself had scoured the hills and town of Columbia searching for any sign of her. The upcoming visit to Albany to dedicate a new public health clinic he had considered postponing but Mei Ling had prevailed upon him to come. It was only one day’s journey. Constable Anderson would notify him if they heard anything. It would not be fair to disappoint the people of Albany.
Thirteen miles up river from Columbia lay Albany to which he was traveling to dedicate a new public health clinic. From the deck of the Jane Christian Daniel looked at the farms and villages all testimony to the success of his colony. The sight should have pleased him and so it did and yet he could not stop feeling as if somewhere Matthew Foley’s great experiment had gone very wrong. He could not say that it had failed. It had just taken a road that he was not certain of. The concept of respecting technological parameters was all very well for pre-industrial societies but here it meant cultural regression. Daniel did know that the day had not gone as well as he had hoped. Usually he enjoyed these excursions seeing them as a chance to meet with the settlers and to discuss their problems. The clinic boasting the best of circa 1915medical equipment had been a gift to the people of Albany. The visit had begun well. The community’s citizens had gathered to greet him and to view the clinic.
A little girl had presented Mei Ling with flowers. A band of local musicians had blared out a recognizable version of Beethovern’s Ode to Joy. There had been the usual speeches by himself and the community’s leaders, They had then toured the clinic. As he looked at the surgical instruments and stocks of medicines he tried to say good things about it but he knew and everyone else knew that what they were viewing was a pittance of the knowledge and equipment possessed by the elders. Even insulin and penicillin had been ruled to be outside the clinics parameters
A year ago he had met with the other directors of the industrial settlements. Natasha Rankin of Novy Rossiya, Sean Mulcahy of New Eirann, Robin Gibbons of New Australia and himself had gathered at Daniel’s residence and had drawn up a joint petition to Benjamin Dzingira that the rules discouraging non-historical technology be relaxed in the fields of medicine and resource development. .
Benjamin had called the four of them to his office. With Louise looking on he had listened as they had outlined their arguments Sean acting as their spokesmen.
“We cannot freeze people in time. These societies and every other one has to be allowed to develop and be given access to the resources that will allow them to do that.”
Benjamin had listened politely as he always did allowing them to finish without interruption. As he listened he fingered a small beaded bracelet presented to him by a granddaughter separated from him by millennia.
“You speak for four settlements. There are over two hundred that I am responsible for. They range from Old Stone Age hunting cultures to twentieth century industrial states. If you can promise me that your four societies, twentieth century Russia and North America, Nineteenth Century Ireland and Australia will never use the power their knowledge and technology gives them to exploit or control the other settlements then I will agree. Can you make that promise?”
“We can try” said Natasha.
Benjamin smiled. “Others have tried. Until you can up with a more definitive response my answer has to be no.” He waited for as moment and then he spoke again “However …” What he offered was a compromise” He Louse and the four directors agreed that technological innovations would be introduced based upon the natural passing of time. Hence America was now at a nineteen-fifteen level. As for natural resources substitutes would have to be found for the depleted fossil fuels Knowledge without the means of using it. The decision had reminded Daniel of something his former history professor, Paul Langtree had told him. Revolutions come about, not because of poverty, but because a society raises its peoples hopes, only to break them.
Just before he boarded that steamer that would take him back downriver Daniel paused to say a few last words. A small oval white object sailed out from among the onlookers. It smacked against his right shoulder. Yellow yolk stained his coat.
Daniel had stared down at the spreading yolk. He had then looked out that the silent embarrassed crowd. They really do not like me he thought
Once inside his cabin Daniel began dabbing at the spilt egg. “Damn it. That’s a new coat.”
“Be glad it wasn’t a stone or something worse.”
“Am I that bad a governor.”
“No. It’s not you. “
Mei Ling looked puzzled.
“For ten cents,” he said “I’d give up this damn job.”
“And do what?” she asked. “Pluck dandelions? The trouble with miracles is if you do them once people think that we can do them all the time.”
“Do you blame them? We have shown them what we are capable of. They know that we can do more for them but we won’t do it. They become confused, frustrated and angry.”
“Do you think that my father was wrong?”
“In bringing these people here?”
“In trying to save them, no. But, Perhaps he should have just chosen a better place. This world is just too worn out.”
“We must be careful to protect the nature of these societies. Too rapid an infusion of technology can destroy them.”
“And too slow an infusion? I don’t know about you but I didn’t sign up to protect societies. I signed up to protect people. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I should have stayed back with the dandelions.”
“Do you truly believe that?”
“I’d like to.”
A small group of people huddled close together against the soft afternoon drizzle, waited for the steamer to dock. Daniel fancied that they might be waiting for him as part of as welcoming committee. One look told him that was not so. They were ordinary citizens, mainly Irish German and English, former steerage passengers pulled out of the Titanic and Empress supporters of Reverand Brightman who had come to meet relatives and friends on the steamer. He knew these people, their names, their homes, their families. Farmers, workers, fishermen, they were the reason he had come here, to give them the chance for a second, better life. He had wanted to make their world and his the same but Daniel knew that between the two lay a century of time and thinking that could not be crossed. They would not even look at him. How soon he wondered would indifference ebb into hate. The only ones waiting to greet the governor was his coachman and Constable Anderson
As soon as the steamer docked the constable clambered aboard. In his official tone he informed the governor that he had detained Reverend Brightman for questioning regarding his daughter’s disappearance.
“My god man, you can’t really believe that he had anything to do with his daughter’s disappearance
Anderson, a former purser on the RMS Titanic, scratched his right ear. “Not really, but he is the only suspect I have. He was there when the girl disappeared. There was no one else, at least, not that we know of.”
The onlookers stared at them as they left the boat. There was no demonstration, no flying eggs, just the caged look of prisoners knowing that in the face of greater power than themselves some things were better left unsaid.
Instead of going back to government house Daniel insisted upon traveling straight to the police office. Red brick and iron bars it boasted the best of pre-electric prison technology, tiny windows and narrow cells. Typical he thought, A pre-electric technology in a settlement that possessed the knowledge of 1915. What was the good of the knowledge if they lacked the means of harnessing it? No coal, No Iron. No copper. For the vast bulk of the settlements inhabited by pre-industrial societies it did not matter so much .Here it meant, cultural regression. Building a future here would be like trying to take a soup with a knife. During the past two year since he had assumed the governorship Both he And they could see the future Each generation would be a little poorer than the one before it. They would possess the knowledge to break out, but never the means. Daniel had seen the mounting resentment and frustration on the faces of the colonists. As he stepped into the police office Daniel asked himself not for the first time what Matthew Foley had been thinking.
Colin sat in a tiny cell perched on the end of a pine cot. He seemed to be looking through the bars through Daniel, through the brick walls, at what? Face unshaven, clothes rumpled and soiled, he took no notice of either Daniel, Mei Ling, or the Constable.
As Daniel looked at him he thought of the man who believed in doctrines he found loathsome, an enemy and yet also a man who had offered Daniel words of sympathy. What words could Daniel offer him? He turned to the constable.
“How long has he been like this?”
“I want him out of here.”
“He is a suspect sir. That is unless you know something I don’t”
Beside Colin’s cot was a small wash basin and a wooden table. A bowl of short bread cookies sat on the table a gift from Colin’s housekeeper a Mrs. Everett. A small round black fly crawled over the cookies., unnoticed and undisturbed by Colin.
Colin only noticed them when Daniel touched his shoulder.
“Why did you take her?” he asked. “She was my angel. She never did you any harm.”
“Why did you take her? I never thought you would do that to attack me?””
“I didn’t. I swear to you.”
“Then who did? They think I …that I could of….” He lowered his head unable to finish. “You should have let me die on the Empress.”
“She would be with God. Who is she with now? Can you tell me who?”
The three sat at Daniel’s black walnut desk. They had come to investigate the disappearance of Alice Brightman. Two, Louise and Joanna, Daniel knew well.
In all the years that he had known her at Home Louse had never changed. Once she had been an elderly woman living in Kingston Ontario Now she did not look a day over fourty. How old was she?. Who was she? What was she? Without her there would have been no portals and no settlements and yet Joanna’s presence troubled him. Physically they had been lovers once but the decades had rolled on. seperating them. Over thirty years stretched between this and the moment when he had last seen her, years of Amanda and his three sons. Yet for Joanna what had passed? Ten years?
She had faded into a bored middle age of failed expectations. She was Jane Christian’s daughter and as such had always lived on the fringe of decision making at Home. She had worked on a few missions and done some good work but she would never be a director. Her relationship with Sean Mulcahey still lingered, a faint ember but most of her time seemed to be spent lolling at beaches or in her house. Jane Christian’s daughter she remained but that was all that she would ever be.
Then there was Richard or as he preferred to call himself Tiamat, son of Baram. Other agents had gone deeper into the past then Richard but no one had so immersed himself in it. Of course with Richard it had been a simple matter of going home. Now, far from that home, he had sat visibly uncomfortable in the padded leather chair. He had said nothing since arriving seemingly content to let the two women do the speaking. He sat in the chair hjs eyes drifting away into another time, another world.
His fingers fiddling with a red wooden pen Daniel listened while Louise and then Joanna had explained why they had come, to find out how and why Alice had disappeared.
Not a qualified policeman among the three. Gehlen would not have approved. But then his replacement Davies,was not Gehlen. A little more amenable perhaps? Louise assured him that they had Director Dzingira’s backing. “He just prefers to keep the matter as quiet as possible for now. To relieve Inspector Davies manpower shortage I’ve offered to investigate the matter of Alice’s disappearance personally”
“I see.” The nib of the pen tapped against his desk as Daniel sat. He remembered Colin on the edge of his cot, and the people on the dock. “And if you do find how and why she disappeared, then what?”
“Perhaps then we’ll know why she and the others are being taken.”
“Is that true?” he asked Louise.
“Perhaps. I know that it would prove that her father is innocent.”
“How do you know that? And suppose you do, then what?”
“We will try to stop it, Govenor.”
“We cannot undo what has been done.”
“So what has been done?” Daniel looked at her quiet, blue eyes. He knew that for Alice there would be no return. He put the pen back down on the desk. Folding his hands he leaned forward. “When I took this job I did it on the understanding that I would be returned to my own time when I so chose. Well now I choose. I’ll leave tomorrow.”
For the only time in all the years that he had known her Louise looked surprised..
Joanna smiled remembering the Daniel that she had once known. “But Daniel, You would go back to being an old man knowing that you must die soon?”
“I was never ashamed of being old.”
Richard frowned. He had come because Joanna had insisted and because he had nothing else to do.
“Honour,” he said.
Daniel nodded. He had met Richard, had spoken a few words, greetings but nothing more.
“You could call it that.
“Is there a better word?”
Louise interrupted. “What do you want Daniel?”
“If you should find her, reunite Alice with her father.”
“Impossible” said Louise. “We cannot undo the past.”
Joanna smiled. “That’s not quite what you said, was it Daniel”
“No. No it wasn’t. As governor I have the right to refuse authorization, unless that’s changed. Has it?”
Louiise smiled. She has always known when to accept defeat. “What do you want?”
“To begin with, I think you should increase the size of your team.”
The most surprising thing about the video Daniel thought was that it was so lacking in drama. The infrared lens showed Alice sleeping. Then she was gone. No noise. No fuss. No sign of an intruder. Alice was there sleeping. Then she was not.
“A portal?” he asked.
Louise nodded. “So it would seem.”
For the first time he saw her look troubled.
“I don’t know,” she said.
He sensed the lie.
“Are you certain?”
Louise smiled. “I’m not quite as omnipotent as you think I am Daniel.”
“Someone is reaching out across time perhaps even across timelines taking young intelligent people . Why these people and why here?”
“I honestly don’t know but I do know that there is a place where you may find the answers. However I…I can never go there again.”
Joanna frowned. For the first time in all the years that she had known him she had heard Louise hesitate. She had disliked the idea of working with her and had doubted the usefulness of their forming a team to investigate what should have been considered a police matter. Only her father’s urging had persuaded her to come. “But you would send us there,”
“I assure you Joanna, I would never do anything to place any of you in danger.”
Joanna shook her head. “Why don’t you tell that to the people you’ve refused medicine to.” Then Joanna gave voice to what had common knowledge for the past decade. Why she said it she did not know but she did know that it had to be said. For years she had watched this creature, imperturbable, inhuman, rule over the settlements. “Do you know that you’re the most hated person in the settlements?”
Satisfaction seeped through Joanna. She had done the right thing.
Louise did not move. She did not even bat an eyelid but something in her eyes spoke of hurt and of immense age. “Yes. I know. Matthew was a brilliant man, but he never really understood that once you begin to interfere, you can never stop. And for all your effort you can’t even expect a thank you As I was saying there is a place where you may find buried in the records of time a possible explanation for what happened to Alice and to the others. I will give you the co-ordinates.”
Long elegant well-manicured fingers picked up Daniel’s pen and scribbled numbers unto a sheet of paper. “That will take you to where you have to go. You will also be pleased to know that I am leaving. A good guest knows when she had overstayed her welcome. Goodbye.”
“Where will you go” asked Richard.
“To where I came from.”
She moved to press the small silver band on her left wrist. As she did so Richard spoke.
“You have shown me great kindness Miss Louise. Strangers sometimes say the wrong things. That does not mean that you are wrong. You gave me a life. For that you may take my thanks.” He placed in her hand a pendant, a piece of meteorite held in a leather strap.
She looked down at it. Then she raised her head and looked as if she wanted to say something, Instead she pressed her silver band. Then she was gone.
The three looked at the empty chair for a moment.
“Odd” said Daniel. “I didn’t think she’d go so easily. Where do you suppose she went?”
“Same place as Gehlen I hope,” said Joanna. “At least we’re rid of her.”
“You dislike her that much,” Richard asked.
Joanna nodded. “Yes. I think I do.”
“Why? I could understand your not liking Inspector Gehlen, but why her?””
Joanna was tempted to tell him that some day he would understand these things. She knew that she could not. Richard was now older than she. She now felt free of Louise as she had felt free of the agency when she had crossed over from Pitcairn when she had left Jane alone to…only to find Louise and the elders imposing their own controls based upon their priorities not those of the colonists. Is that what freedom was, exchanging one set of controls for another? “I only told her what she already knew. Was that wrong?”
Richard turned away not wanting to look at her.