19. May 2018 · Comments Off on THE STOLEN NECKLACE · Categories: ---

People aren’t always as honest as they seem, even when you’ve known them a long time. After her best friend Grace’s birthday party, 17-year-old Amy Watkins stood at her parents’ front door and kissed Walt Emerson goodnight. He was not a terribly interesting date, but she’d known him for years and he was safe. She staggered up the stairs to her bedroom and sank down in front of her vanity, barely able to keep her eyes open. Shutting them for just a moment, she thought about the party and daydreamed about how much she’d enjoyed Grace’s big brother’s attentions to her. He was a real hunk, which she’d never expected of Grace, and he’d seemed quite interested in her. His name was Hank Patterson, and at 6’2, he stood eight inches taller than she, just the right height for a dance partner.

Her next thought was about Greg Kaczynski, another young man at the party who had shown an interest in her. He was the same height as Hank, but there the resemblance ended. Greg had reddish-blond curly hair and twinkling blue eyes, compared to Hank’s dark brown hair and brooding brown eyes.

Turning to the mirror to gaze at her reflection, she had to agree with her two best friends that she’d looked tremendous earlier. Her own mahogany-hued hair and hazel eyes had been beautifully enhanced by the deep green satin dress her mom had helped her pick out. And the necklace and earrings had been the perfect jewelry to wear with the ensemble.

Smiling to herself, she reached for her hairbrush to begin getting ready for bed. She recalled, with a guilty pleasure, the envious looks she’d gotten from Rita Jackson, her “frenemy,” when the girl had walked into Grace’s living room. Amy reached back to unhook the necklace but her fingers couldn’t find the clasp. Then she realized there was no clasp — and no necklace! Her necklace was gone!

Her necklace was made up of a strand of cultured pearls with a pear-shaped emerald pendant, two and a half carats in weight. It had been left to Amy by her aunt when she died last year. The stone was framed by two rows of glittering diamonds, and her aunt had told her it was worth nearly $6,000. Each of the graceful, sophisticated earrings, worth $5,000, had a pearl from which dropped a half-carat emerald, surrounded by micropavé diamonds. Ever since she’d gotten them, Amy had yearned for a place to wear them.

She cried out and then began to sob until her younger sister, Belinda, rushed in from her room across the hall. “What’s the matter, Amy? Are you hurt?” 14-year-old Belinda exclaimed. She ran over to her sister and threw her arms around her. “What happened, Amy?” she asked.

After weeping brokenly for a few minutes, Amy was able to stammer out, “My necklace!” She clutched at her throat. “It’s gone!”

Her brow furrowed in confusion, Belinda drew back to look at Amy’s neck. It was true, she saw, there was no necklace there. Belinda had watched Amy getting dressed earlier that evening, and knew she’d worn the pearl and emerald necklace. “Did you lose it?” she asked, trying very hard not to sound judgmental.

“No, I didn’t lose it,” Amy said. “I think someone must have stolen it.”

“Who could have done that?” Belinda asked with a frown. “Did you take it off and put it down somewhere? Was the clasp broken? Or did someone hold you up with a gun? You’re still wearing the earrings. So if someone stole the necklace, they didn’t get the earrings, too. Should we call the police?”

“No!” Amy cried. “I don’t know how it got stolen. I was wearing it the last time I looked in a mirror at about 11, when I went into the bathroom to check my hair. So it was taken between 11 and 1 o’clock, when I walked in the front door. I know the clasp was all right so it didn’t fall off, and no one held me up at gunpoint. I never took it off this evening. Ever!” She turned away, put her head down on her fists and began weeping again.

After a moment, Belinda, trying hard to be logical, asked, “So who did you dance with? Could one of your partners have unhooked the necklace while you were dancing with him?”

Amy shrugged and shook her head; she hadn’t thought of that. “But none of my partners would have done that!” she exclaimed. “And I only danced with Greg and Hank. And I’m sure they wouldn’t steal from me.”

“Are you sure those are the only boys you danced with?” Belinda asked. She took a tissue from the box on the vanity and handed it to her big sister. “Did you dance with Grace’s father, maybe? Or what about your date, Walt? Surely you danced with him.”

“Hmm,” Amy pondered. “You’re right. I did dance with Walt, and I danced with Grace’s dad, too. And Mr. Allen cut in on Hank, I remember.”

“Who’s Mr. Allen?” Belinda asked. By now Amy had begun undressing, and had washed her face. The two of them sat on Amy’s bed while Belinda tried to get her big sister to focus and help her to figure out how she might have lost the necklace.

“Mr. Allen was my English teacher last year,” Amy said. “But Mr. Allen wouldn’t have stolen my necklace; he’s a teacher!”

“Well, Amy, let’s sleep on it,” Belinda said. “I’ll figure out who stole your necklace, and Felicity and I will get it back for you.” She waited until her sister was under the covers, and stayed in the room until she saw that Amy had begun to relax.

Back in her own bedroom, Belinda sat at her desk and wrote out a list which she headed “Suspects.” She decided she’d better wait until morning to call her best friend, Felicity. The two of them could work on solving the theft when they were both fresh. Amy could tell them a little more after breakfast.

Belinda lay in her own bed and her dreams, though she didn’t really remember them all in the morning, were about digging holes in the backyard, and searching her mother’s and her sister’s drawers, though in the dream she didn’t know just what she was looking for.


After breakfast, while Amy slept in, Belinda called Felicity. “Come on over,” she said, “we have a mystery to solve!”

“A mystery?” Felicity asked. “What are you talking about?”

“Amy’s necklace was stolen last night, and we have to find the thief! Come over right now and we’ll go over my list of suspects.”

When Felicity arrived just ten minutes later, the two girls sat down at Belinda’s desk and talked over how they planned to solve this mystery.

“The first thing we should do,” Felicity suggested, “is interview Grace. She threw the party, and she should know everyone who was there. We can interview all the people at the party.”

“Interview them about what?” Belinda asked. “Amy told me she danced with a guy named Greg Kaczynski and with Grace’s brother, Hank. Do you think we should just come right out and ask them if they took the necklace? And if we don’t ask that, would they tell us if they had?”

The two girls looked at one another, and then Belinda said, “Amy also danced with Grace’s dad, with her date, and with Mr. Allen, her high school English teacher. So we have, what, five suspects?”

“And what was a high school English teacher doing at a teenage girl’s birthday party?” Belinda asked. Felicity shrugged, and agreed they would need to interview each of those people. “But who else could have stolen the necklace?”

“I think Amy said something about a jealous girl named Rita,” Belinda said. “She might have done it. Or she might have seen something. So that’s six people to interview. And if we count Grace,” Felicity said, “that would be seven. Seven witnesses; that’s a lot.”

“Well,” Felicity said, “that’s a good list to start with. I don’t think we should try to interview everyone who was there – that’s about twenty-five people. Who should we talk to first?”


When they got off their bikes and knocked on Grace’s door a half-hour later, she told them, “Oh, yes, I remember her necklace. It’s stunning! I had to compliment Amy on it. I told my boyfriend Aaron I want one just like it. Or at least similar, since I don’t wear pearls, and green doesn’t look good on a blonde. So my necklace will be a sapphire — well, not a real sapphire; I doubt Aaron can afford that. And I don’t have pierced ears so I can’t get a pair like Amy’s. But my necklace will be almost as beautiful as hers. Don’t you think so, Belinda?”

Belinda smiled and nodded, though she doubted anything Grace’s dopey boyfriend might buy would be anywhere near as beautiful as Amy’s necklace. Then she asked if they could talk to Grace’s dad. “Sure; he’s just upstairs,” Grace said, and called him.

When her father came downstairs, Belinda asked if he had noticed Amy’s necklace. He frowned and shook his head. “No, of course not. I’m a man, and we men don’t care about jewelry. She did look very nice, though, and she’s a very good dancer.”

That didn’t help the girls at all so they nodded and then, just as they finished with Grace’s dad, Hank came home. Belinda asked him if he had seen the necklace and he said, “Oh, those green and white beads she wore? Sure, I saw it. It was nice. What about it?”

“Well,” Belinda asked, deciding not to correct him about the necklace’s value, “when did you see it last? After you danced with her?”

“Yeah, I guess when she and Walt left, about 2 o’clock. I noticed it because she got her hair stuck in the clasp when she was putting on her coat, and I had to help Walt unhook it for her. She’s a real nice girl, isn’t she?”

Belinda nodded, and the girls left the house. “Don’t you think that was a little suspicious?” she said. “Hank saying she caught her hair in the clasp? She didn’t say anything about that. Well, we’d better try and find out where Mr. Allen lives.”

“Oh, I know where he lives,” Felicity told her. When they arrived at his house, he answered their knock and grinned as he greeted them. Felicity said, “Mr. Allen, you don’t know me, but my brother was in your English class last year. Could we ask you a few questions about the party last night?”

“Oh, of course; come on in,” he said. “And please call me Nick. Would you like something to drink — a soda, or a glass of water?” When the girls shook their heads, he asked them to sit down and said, “So now, girls, how can I help you?”

Belinda was a little embarrassed to be asking this of a stranger, and a teacher at that. She hemmed and hawed for a moment, then said, “Well, we just wanted to ask if you remember seeing the pearl and emerald necklace my sister Amy was wearing at the party last night.”

“Oh, yes,” Nick said warmly, “I saw it. That was an emerald? You know, the emerald is almost as hard as a diamond. But maybe it was synthetic. You know, they’re making synthetic gemstones, including diamonds, that are almost as good as the real thing. And those pearls could have been synthetic, too. What do you think?”

“No, they’re real,” Belinda said confidently, and immediately was sorry she’d given away the jewelry’s value; what if he’d stolen it? He’d know that he could get a lot of money for it. “But do you recall when you saw the necklace last?”

Nick considered for a moment, and then shook his head. “No, hon. I just danced with Amy once, and then Grace’s brother cut in. But you know, now that I think of it, Walt did admire her necklace and I noticed it then. That must have been nearly midnight, and I left the party soon after. I had to get home and feed Harvey, my dog. He gets upset if he doesn’t get his dinner before my mother goes to bed.” He started to stand. “Would you like to meet my mother?”

Belinda shook her head, and indicated to Felicity that they should leave. “It was nice meeting you,” she said, extending her hand to shake his and motioning to Felicity to do the same. “And thank you for answering our questions.”

“You’re welcome, girls; I hope you find the necklace,” Mr. Allen said warmly as he shut the door behind them.

“Well,” Felicity said, getting on her bike, “do you believe him? I guess he knows now that the jewelry is valuable, but if she caught her hair in the clasp when she and Walt were leaving, that should let him off the hook. So I guess he wasn’t much help. What about that guy, Greg Kaczynski? Do you know where he lives?”

Belinda did, but when they spoke to him, Greg was no help at all. His answers to their questions were mostly, “I’m sorry, I don’t remember.” Belinda figured he’d been drinking, so he probably wouldn’t be much help. But, “I do remember one thing. When I danced with Amy, I thought her date, Walt, was gonna jump me. He had a look on his face that, I dunno, I didn’t like. If the necklace is missing, it might be he didn’t like me being so close to it. What do you think?”

The girls both shrugged and nodded with little interest and, as they walked on to Rita Jackson’s, Belinda pointed out, “We can’t really rule any of them out yet, even if Greg was drinking. He might not have had that much to drink.”

Rita lived on the same street as Greg but, when they talked to her, all they learned was what Amy had said, that Rita was envious of how lovely Amy had looked. “You know, kid,” she told Belinda, “even though you’re her little sis, you gotta know how ignorant she is. That necklace wasn’t the real thing – hah! Where’d she get anything valuable like that? So, all in all, kid, I don’t know a thing about her necklace. Okay?”

“So who else is on the list?” Felicity wondered as they stood outside Rita’s door. “Have we talked to everyone? Maybe we’ll need to expand our list of suspects since none of them so far knows much of anything.”

Belinda studied the list. She had crossed off nearly all the names. She said, “Well, there’s only Walt Emerson left. But he was Amy’s date. We’ve both known him for a few years, and I doubt he knows anything. But I guess we should check him out anyway.”

“I know where he lives. Let’s go interview him,” Felicity said.


Walt Emerson lived just a few blocks away from Rita Jackson, so the girls rode their bikes over and knocked on his door. His mother answered as she was leaving, and she invited the girls in. “Walt’s in the family room,” she said. “Go on in. I’m sorry but I have to go.”

When they walked into the family room, they saw Walt stealthily shove something under the sofa cushions. Then he stood up and frowned. “What the hell are you doing here?” he demanded.

“What are you hiding?” Belinda asked suspiciously.

“Nothing,” Walt said brusquely. “None of your business.” He stood up and walked over to a recliner and folded his arms, glaring defiantly at them.

“Well, I’m not sure it’s nothing,” Felicity said. She looked at Belinda and winked, and then she walked over to stand in front of Walt while Belinda came up beside him. While he was focused on Felicity, Belinda reached out and pushed him over into the chair. Then she turned and reached under the sofa cushion, pulling out Amy’s necklace!

“It was you!” she cried. “You stole Amy’s necklace! Why would you do that?”

Walt scoffed. “That necklace isn’t worth anything. Why would I want to steal it? My mom has a lot better costume jewelry than that.”

Belinda raised an eyebrow and studied Walt for a long moment, and then grabbed a poker from the fireplace beside her. Holding it threateningly above her head, she cried, “Felicity, I’ll hold him here; you call 911.”

While they waited for the police to arrive, Walt started to cry. Between sobs, he said, “I need money. Amy’s necklace was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, and I knew it would get me off the hook with Ed Connors.”

“Who’s Ed Connors?” Belinda asked. She lowered the poker a bit and Walt cringed. He doesn’t know me very well, she thought; I’d never use it on a person.

“He’s a bookie my mom uses,” Walt explained brokenly. “I bet on the last game of the pennant race, when Mom was so sure the Mets would win. She wouldn’t give me any money to bet so I took my college fund out of the bank. But the Mets lost! And if Mom knew I’d bet and lost, she’d be furious and send me back to my dad. So I had to do something! You get it, don’t you?”

“I do not get it,” Belinda said. “All I know is you’re a thief and a deceitful fool, and you don’t deserve my sister. We’re taking the necklace back to her, and you’re not going to college, you’re going to jail.”

When the police arrived, both girls were sitting on Walt, who was still weeping helplessly. As soon as he heard the story, the officer clasped handcuffs on the boy and then dragged him off to jail.

When they got back to Belinda’s, Felicity rushed upstairs to be the first to tell Amy they’d gotten her necklace back. Belinda held back; she wasn’t sure how Amy would take the information that it had been her own date, Walt, who’d stolen her necklace. But Amy took it well. She grinned and kissed both girls, and then put the necklace on again and the three danced around the room in excitement.

A few days later a press conference was held in front of the police station, and Belinda and Felicity were awarded a special medal by the Mayor of the city. It was in all the newspapers and even on television, but Amy had asked the girls not to say too much about the necklace. She had already put it in their mom’s safety deposit box.

“We don’t want to give other potential thieves any ideas,” she told her sister.

 

 

 

 

20. September 2017 · Comments Off on BLOG, Sept. 20, 2017 · Categories: Blog, Short Stories

I promised I would post the last portion of the little story I wrote, Gorta and the Hole. I revised it and made it a short story, so the last seven pages are gone, but I’m hoping to include it in a collection of stories from prehistoric times, probably within the next few months. If I do publish it, it will be on Amazon.com, and I will make note of it on this website, if it’s still here (see the Home page for an explanation).

Meanwhile, I do have another short story you might enjoy. I hope the little pictures I added show through, but if they don’t, they’re just what I think these characters should look like.  Here it is.

CREATURES OF THE FOREST

By Harriet Darling

A young pixie called Emerald was on his way home after finishing his job helping a sick child. It was a hot day so he decided to cut through a section of the forest that looked nice and shady. “It’ll just take a few minutes,” he assured himself. “Nothing can happen to me in just a few minutes.”

But as he started onto the path through the trees, the sun went behind a cloud and the leaf-laden branches hanging over the path cut off the warmth and light that had been there just a moment before.

Emerald, now shivering a little from the abrupt cold, stopped short and whispered, “Oh, no.” He wondered if he should keep walking, or turn back. “Oh, there’s nothing here that can hurt me,” he told himself sternly. “It’s only trees, and I love trees.”

A dead log lay beside the path just ahead, and Emerald saw an indentation in the log where he might sit if he were tired. “But I’m not tired,” he murmured as if explaining to someone. He kept walking, but just as he passed the indentation, a large brown and green thing suddenly burst out of the seat and flew straight into Emerald’s face, screeching loudly and flapping pea-green translucent wings.

After screaming in terror, Emerald calmed down a bit and assured himself, “It’s only a wood nymph.”  But he was actually terrified; the creature was twice his size, and fluttered far too close to his face, laughing and pointing at him.

He could hear the gravelly voice of the nymph jeering at him: “Little pixie, the woods are no place for you! This is my domain, I’m the one in charge here, and you are not welcome!”

Emerald squeezed his eyes shut and told himself, “That is not true; the wood nymph only belongs in tree trunks and dead logs; she is not in charge of the entire forest! She cannot hurt me, and she has no business threatening me!”

But in spite of this seeming confidence, Emerald knew that at least the nymph could flutter around his face and perhaps cause him to stumble, or fall into a hole or off a cliff. She did have a certain amount of power over a pixie. Even the fairies steered clear of wood nymphs despite their magic, which was usually strong enough to conquer most any other creature.

The only ones who could walk fearlessly through the forest were the elves, who were taller and stronger than any of the other magical creatures of the forest. But Emerald was no elf.

The next thing the little pixie knew, he was out of the shaded trees and running just as fast as he could on the path, which was now sunlit once again. In explanation to no one, Emerald muttered as he ran, “This is why I stay out of forests. Now let’s hurry on home before that creature comes after me.”

And he ran all the rest of the way home.

[AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Well, the pictures didn’t come through, but the story did.]

20. December 2014 · Comments Off on · Categories: ---

 

 

 

20. November 2014 · Comments Off on THE BEACH MYSTERY · Categories: ---

THE BEACH MYSTERY

Sixteen-year-old Jackie Victor stood beside the archway in the only home she’d ever known, and distantly observed as her mother’s friends and co-workers streamed past her.  They said things like, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” and “She’s gone to a better place,” and other inane platitudes she’d heard people say at funerals.  All she knew was that her mother was gone, and she would have to leave Malibu for the utterly uncool town in Ohio where her father now lived with his second family.

She had to leave Malibu.  Leave her beach and her wonderful life, the only life she’d known since her father left them when she was nine.

“I can’t go before I solve the mystery,” she told herself, “and I have to say goodbye to the beach.”

When she asked her father to take her to the beach, he refused.  With no car and no money of her own, she had no idea how to get there.  Ten miles was just too far to walk.  But the mystery was not going to solve itself.  And she simply could not leave without seeing the ocean and the beach just once more.

After all the mourners had left, Jackie’s dad turned to her and said, “Now go and pack your things; we’ll leave in two hours.  And put on a dress and heels; those overalls look terrible.  I was ashamed for all your mother’s friends to see you, a 16-year-old girl dressed like a tomboy.”

“But I can’t!” she exclaimed. “I don’t even have a dress or heels.  And I have to say goodbye to the beach, and solve the mystery.”

“For heaven’s sake, what mystery would you have to solve?” he asked impatiently.

“The mystery of the posters.  It would only take a few minutes . . . please?”

“I said no!”  He turned away as his cell phone rang.  “Hi, honey.  No, we’re just getting ready to leave.  We should be there in about 18 hours.”

Jackie backed out of the room.  How could she do what had to be done?  Maybe she could run away and hitchhike to the beach.  If she ran away, her dad would have to go without her – he’d just told his new wife he’d be home in 18 hours, so he probably wouldn’t wait until she came back.  And he wouldn’t know where she’d gone.  Then she could stay here, and live in the house alone.

Ignoring her dad’s command to change and pack, Jackie sneaked out the back door and raced to the highway.  It wasn’t long before a car full of teenage girls stopped for her.

“Thanks so much!” she exclaimed, climbing into the back.  “Can you just drive me to the beach?  It’s only ten miles to Park Road, and then left to the shoreline.”

The four girls in the car agreed and passed her a bottle of something, which she refused.  The driver, whom she knew as Pat, said, “Oh, hey!  I remember you.  You’re the nerd who always wears those overalls.  Why doesn’t your mom drive you to the beach?”

“My mom is dead,” Jackie said flatly.

“Oh, kid, I’m sorry,” Pat said; the other girls were silent as they located the road to the beach.

Jackie stopped them before the turn.  “I can walk from here,” she said.  “Thanks a lot.  See ya!”

Waving to them, she cautiously crossed to the short beach road and was at the shoreline in five minutes.  She stood on the beach and gazed off to her left, and then to her right, and found that instead of saying goodbye, she was angry with her father.  She absolutely did not want to move to Ohio, where the closest ocean was five hundred miles away.

The mystery had intrigued her from the first time she’d seen the posters.  Pinned up in many different places at the beach on different days, they said things like Solve the mystery! What’s the mystery? Who knows the answer? and What’s the solution?

As she waded along the shore through softly breaking waves, she came to a new poster.  It was a large one, and it read, See Your Audi Dealer –- Call 1-800-MYSTERY!  So that was it – nothing but an ad for a car.  Disappointing.

“But, mystery solved.”  Jackie shrugged.  As she continued to walk in the sand and think, she soon realized that she simply could not live alone in her mother’s house.  She didn’t have a job and had no idea how to pay the bills her mom used to stress over.  Sighing, she shook her head.  She would have to “bite the bullet,” as her mom often said, and go with her dad.  Maybe it would be okay, she thought.

She stopped and gazed for a long moment toward the horizon and the setting sun, then muttered, “I guess this really is goodbye.”

She turned finally and began walking back toward the highway.  Pretty soon a car carrying an elderly couple stopped for her.

“What are you doing out here alone, child?” the woman asked, concern in her voice.

“I’m just going home to find a dress and heels so I can move to Ohio with my dad.”

 

08. November 2014 · Comments Off on THE ULTIMATE PARADOX · Categories: ---

I signed my name, Laurie Wentworth, for the last time at the bottom of the lab notes page, and the date, November 30, 2021. I was excited to realize that the device was finished, and I would need no more lab notes. All the notes now would be in my personal journal, documenting my first trip into time.

As I left the lab late that evening I felt a sense of loss, something I hadn’t really experienced since David died. My late husband, Professor David Wentworth, M.S., Ph.D., and tenured professor of Physics at U C Berkeley for 23 years, had passed away just a year ago. And I was about to complete the work the brilliant Dr. Wentworth had begun when he started his Ph.D. thesis the year I was born.

Aside from the truly devastating sorrow I’d known when David died, since then I had felt only hope, hope that I could someday finish his life work though many years his junior. And tomorrow, after a year of demanding 60-hour work weeks, would be the culmination of his efforts to invent the first true time travel device.

All I felt then was eagerness to begin the final test. The next morning, Sunday, if all went as planned, the device would definitively prove David’s thesis, that there could be no paradox in time travel. He had died before he could prove it, and I believed his heart had given out from the stress of the mockery and disbelief of his colleagues.

In physics, it was always commonly accepted that time travel was impossible because of the Ultimate Time Paradox, the idea that merely entering the time stream of the past would alter it, thereby making it impossible to return to the traveler’s own present. Tomorrow, if all went well, I would prove that my David had been right all along and his detractors had been wrong: there was no such thing as an Ultimate Time Paradox.

Before his heart problems had confined him to bed, David and I had succeeded in sending several items up to six days into the past, and had observed them returning at the time we had set. During this past year, I myself had succeeded in sending both a kitten and a monkey back more than a week in time, and they had returned none the worse for the trip.

The prototype device itself had been designed to look like a wooden bench, its controls embedded in an armrest. There was a sensor within the controls that would allow the traveler to move in space, and to monitor the area of arrival so as to avoid appearing in the midst of a tree or inside the walls of a building.

My lifelong interest in history had given me the necessary basic information for my trip. During the past week, I had collected the right kind of currency, clothing, hairstyle and everything else I might require if the machine worked as I hoped it would. And now I was just about ready to take the next step.

Tomorrow, December 1, 2021, I would jump back eighty years to try and prevent the attack on Pearl Harbor that precipitated the Second World War.  My grandparents had both perished in this war, as had David’s great-uncle.

*****

I didn’t sleep much that night and, early on Sunday I rushed to the lab, already dressed in my 1940s clothing. I set the machine’s controls for 4:00 p.m., Monday, December 1, 1941, and entered the coordinates for a quiet park I knew of in Manhattan. It was not far from the offices of the New York Times, where I intended to hook a journalist’s interest in my quest.

Wearing a forties-fashionable green calf-length skirt and a white cotton blouse with a Peter Pan collar, I checked the mirror one last time. My hairdo was simple; longish and light brown in color, it was naturally curly so I’d need no hairspray or mousse, two items I was normally never without. I rarely wore makeup, but what could have been a problem were my piercings, two in each earlobe and one in my eyebrow, along with a scarlet rose tattoo on my neck. My grandmother’s pearl clip-on earrings covered the holes, and I removed the jade hoop above my eye which left two tiny holes that most likely wouldn’t be noticed. I would need to use stage makeup on my tattoo and keep an eye on it to be sure it didn’t reappear.

I wore low-heeled black pumps and stockings with seams, and carried a small handbag I’d bought in a vintage shop. My SynthaFur mink-style jacket would be warm enough, and looked real enough that it wouldn’t raise questions.

I couldn’t be sure what effect the transition into the past had had on the kitten and monkey, though they were both still alive and seemingly in good health. Hoping it wouldn’t shake me up too much, I pushed the switch to START, pressed the button and braced myself. Very slowly, the lab walls began to shimmer and a low buzzing, gradually increasing to a thrumming hum, seemed to pierce my ears with needles. But before it became unbearable, it stopped and my bench and I were surrounded by grass and trees. Had I succeeded?  Had I actually traveled in time?

I stood up, grabbed my bag and case from the bench and rushed to the edge of the park where there was a newsstand. The newspaper confirmed that it was indeed December 1, 1941.I had made it! I hadn’t expected to feel quite such a thrill. I braced myself against the side of the news shack as I stood taking it all in.

Since it was early December in New York, I had expected cold, possibly even a blizzard, and wondered why I hadn’t bothered to check the weather for this date. But it wasn’t even snowing, though it obviously had been. It was cold, and I was thankful for the fur coat.

Around me was a typical New York winter afternoon: sludgy snow drifts shoved up against the curbs; dark clouds mixed with the dingy white overcast; and there was enough chill in the air to make me wish I’d worn gloves. I could see a few Christmas decorations, but nothing like what I’d come to expect in my time.

Far fewer people streamed down the sidewalks, many of them carrying heavy bags. The streets were much narrower than in my time, and the few cars and trucks that ambled down the thoroughfare were old even for that time; I knew that few new cars had been built during the Depression.

Once I stopped trembling with excitement and could remove my hand from the support of the newsstand, I set off along Fifth toward West Forty-third, gazing in wonder around me. The store windows in this late-Depression year were so much sparser than in my own time, but I saw a number of dresses similar to those in the vintage store where I had bought my costume.

I passed several men and women who made me think of the droves of homeless in my New York, but they weren’t panhandling and none seemed as aggressive as those in my time. One bag lady came near and smiled at me, put a hand on my fur-covered arm and muttered, “I remember…” as she strolled by.

At the first intersection I came to, I was shocked to see a policeman directing traffic instead of a traffic signal. Just like in the movies, he stood in the center of the road, his white-gloved hands pointing in different directions and his whistle trilling inside his friendly smile. I was tempted to ask for directions just to hear his rich, thick Irish brogue; he looked as if he’d just stepped off the boat from County Cork.

I finally reached 229 West Forty-third, and made my way up the stairs to the editorial offices of the New York Times. The trim, well-dressed receptionist glanced up from her phones and raised an eyebrow.

“I’m looking for a Mr. Jack Mathews,” I said. “Is he in?”

“I’m sorry, but he’s away right now. May I have him call you?”

In my own time, I would have given her my cell number. It was obvious I’d have to stay somewhere nearby, so I quickly decided to find a hotel. “No, thanks,” I told her. “I’ll be back.”

I had brought $400 in 1941 bills, which in those days was a fortune. The idea of getting a room at the Carlton gave me a thrill, but the hotel wasn’t nearly as luxurious as it is now. But there was a comfortable bed, windows overlooking the avenue, and working heaters, so it didn’t bother me much.

*****

Early next morning, wearing the same skirt with a pale yellow sweater I’d stuffed in my bag and my cozy fur, I set out to the Times building. The offices weren’t open when I arrived so I ducked into a café next door to enjoy a plate of ham and eggs, which cost me an amazing seventy-five cents. I tipped the waitress a half-dollar, and felt as if I’d cheated her.

I almost literally ran into Mr. Mathews when I returned to the newspaper office. When the receptionist told me who he was, I put my hand out to shake his. He grinned insolently and ran his eyes up and down my body. Reminding myself that almost all men were chauvinists in the forties, I ignored it and shook his hand.

“Just call me Jacky,” he said with a smirk.

I said, “Jacky, my name is Laurie Wentworth. I have to speak to you in private.”

“Well, I guess my desk is out, then. But we could go to your place,” he said, a cocky grin between the attractive dimples in his cheeks.

When I suggested the café where I’d had breakfast, he shrugged his assent. We were soon settled in a booth and, when the waitress came over, Jacky ordered “a cup of joe.”

Some demon made me say, “A half-caff Mocha Latte, please.”

“Huh?” the waitress said, frowning. I shrugged, with an inner grin.

“Never mind. Just coffee, please.” Smiling as persuasively as I knew how, I leaned over and took Jacky’s hands in mine. “I know you’re not going to believe this,” I said, “but please just listen for a moment. I’m from eighty years in your future, the year 2021, and I’m here to avert the event that set off a second World War in my time.”

Jacky grinned and nodded. “Yeah. You’re from the future. Uh-huh.”

Seeing he was humoring me, I told him, “The Japanese are planning to attack the air base on the Hawaiian Islands early next Sunday morning, and this incident will push America into the European war.”

He smirked. “The Japanese aren’t allied with Germany as far as I know.” A snicker told me he wasn’t willing yet to suspend judgment. So I brought out the big guns.

“For the past few years,” I said, leaning toward him and speaking quietly, “a team of women code-breakers, called the Signals Intelligence Service, have been working with the Japanese diplomatic code.”

Jacky suddenly became serious and leaned back, narrowing his eyes and focusing on my face.

“One day last September,” I went on, “one of them found a correlation that no one else had seen. This connection led other code-breakers to some similar links. Shortly after that, the SIS began working with the U.S. Navy to build a ‘Purple’ analog machine, something that could decode Japanese diplomatic messages. Right now some people on the president’s staff know all about this, and have been trying to convince his advisors of Japan’s imminent entry into the war.”

“Who told you that?” he asked, his eyes still narrowed. “I only just learned of the SIS last week, and I didn’t think any other laymen knew about them. Now you’d better tell me who put you up to this, or I’ll call the police. Or are you some kind of fortune-teller?”

“I’m no fortune-teller,” I assured him.

Sitting back on his bench, he barked, “Was it Hank Roberts from the Post?  Or, I know, it was my brother. Mark knows the kind of woman that might influence me; it’s got to be him.”

I shook my head, digging out the copy of an article I’d brought along and handing it to him. As he skimmed it, I pointed out, “You can see that it’s dated 1946. It says a note from Tokyo, instructing the Japanese embassy to destroy their code machines, was intercepted and interpreted to mean that war was to be declared on December 6, 1941.”

“Yeah,” Jacky said, reading. The article also said that warnings had been sent to American military commanders in Hawaii, the Philippines, Panama and San Francisco, but the message to Hawaii had been delayed, not being delivered until after the bombs were dropped on the morning of December 7.

When he finished that article he looked up. “Do you have anything else?” he asked, avoiding my eyes. I couldn’t tell if he still didn’t believe me, but decided to go ahead anyway.

“Well,” I said. “Okay, here.” I pulled out a movie poster I’d brought along from the 2001 film, Pearl Harbor, and slapped it down in front of him, along with some photos I’d cut out of magazines. They were of four U. S. soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima, a dense column of smoke rising over Nagasaki after the second atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, and the USS Arizona burning after an explosion during the attack. I knew they were compelling pictures, but after a brief examination Jacky said, “It’s gotta be Hank. Whoever made up these pictures was very good at faking it. I could even tell you how they did it.”

I sighed, shrugged and shook my head. He was obviously not yet convinced. He got up and left the café without finishing his coffee.

*****

Returning to my room at the Carlton, I sank down on the bed, dejected. I peered at the cars and people three floors below, wondering if I should just give up and go home. As I hunched over the window sill, thinking this whole thing through once again, I realized I knew where to find something that in my time hadn’t been located until after the end of the war. It was an article written in mid-1940, and published in England and Canada.

I took a cab to the New York Library and found it in the Periodicals section. It warned Great Britain, the U. S., and Russia, and their allies, that Japan’s diplomatic postures were faked. I made a quick note as to where I’d found it, located a place to eat lunch, and went back to my hotel. I couldn’t resist doing some window-shopping in the afternoon.

On Wednesday, with time running out, I stopped Jacky outside his office, wishing not for the first time that I had a DVD player, or even a video from the History Channel, to show him. Forcing myself to ignore his ire, I pleaded and begged that he just listen to me. After a while I could see a small grin peeking through his sternness, and he said, “I’ll write the story if you’ll sleep with me.”

I put a teasing note in my voice as I laughed. “I intended that to be my next suggestion.” I took his hands and pulled him close to me, close enough that he could feel the heat of my body. “I’ll even fix your breakfast tomorrow morning,” I murmured, with a sultry smile.

He looked me over once more, his irritation turning to ardor. “All right. I’ll look at your evidence. And you can tell me about that hole in your eyebrow and the rose on your neck.”

I laughed and ignored that, realizing those oddities were adding to my intrigue. “Great. Come with me,” I said. We hurried to the library where I found the article again and showed it to him. It read, in part:

“On the morning of September 3, 1939, Jonathan Creek, a newspaperman and intelligence officer stationed in Toronto, Canada, sent a coded cablegram to the office of Chester Walters, Speaker of the House of Parliament. This message said that Creek had proof positive that the Japanese diplomatic corps had been sending coded messages to their spies inside England, warning them of a likely attack on the islands in the Pacific within two years.”

He finished reading it and turned to me. “Well, I can’t see how you could have faked this article,” he said. “I think I need some time. Okay?”

I nodded and took another long look at him. He was awfully cute, and it had been a year since David died. I let him see me looking him slowly up and down, and he seemed to think I was interesting, too. So I decided to sleep with him while he thought about it.

*****

When we went over all of my evidence again on Thursday morning, Jacky just couldn’t help scoffing at first, even after all I told him about my era and what had happened since his own time. But between my sweet smiles, and a few more promising eye contacts, he finally agreed to write the story. He even convinced his editor to run it on page one, though he warned me that he’d lose his job if it didn’t pan out.

His story omitted the time travel aspect and, as he was sworn to secrecy about the SIS findings, he contented himself with summarizing the article I’d shown him. He did a phone interview with Jonathan Creek, who confirmed the details, and ended with a statement that military bases on the Pacific coast should pay particular attention to communiqués warning of airplane sightings. He also wrote of what “could” happen if the attack came.

He typed -30- on the manuscript, and said the story would run in Friday morning’s paper.

I didn’t see Jacky again until early Saturday evening over drinks in his studio apartment. After he’d gone to sleep on Saturday night, knowing the news wouldn’t reach New York until after 2 a.m., I fixed a snack and turned on the radio to see if my plan had worked. There was nothing but music and news, none of which broke a story about a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. I listened until after 4 a.m., several hours past the time the announcement should have come. When I realized that there had been no interruption to tell of a Japanese air attack on the Navy base, I was positively thrilled.

“It worked!” I yelled, and Jacky sat up in bed, startled awake at my shout.

He processed what I had said and how I looked, sitting across the room at his kitchen table, and smiled crookedly. “Congratulations!”

I didn’t know if he believed me even now, but I was thrilled that my efforts appeared to have succeeded. Bouncing up from the table, I began dancing round the kitchen. When he joined me, wrapped in his sheet, I kissed him soundly and had to quickly dodge out of his embrace or we would have ended up in bed again.

Jacky narrowed his eyes at me and walked over to his desk. “It didn’t happen?”

“Yes!  Aren’t you glad?”

“Sure, I guess. Unless…” He poured himself a cup of coffee and stood, looking very cute in the sheet.

“Unless what?”

“Well, you could have been wrong about the attack.  Or…”

“Or?” I stood, hands on my waist, waiting for what I knew he was going to say.

“Or, you could have been lying all along.”

“But what about the evidence I showed you?”

“Very compelling,” he admitted, turning back to sit on the bed. “But the only real proof would be if the Japanese admitted they’d been planning an attack.”

“Do you think they will?”

“Do you?”

“I don’t know. I just know I wasn’t lying, and I wasn’t wrong. Pearl Harbor wasn’t attacked, and now the Japanese won’t join the war.” He shrugged; how could we know the story had succeeded?

After breakfast and a few more kisses, Jacky walked me back to the Carlton to say a last fond, and slightly regretful, goodbye.

Still thrilled and excited about my success, I forgot to worry about how my own time might have changed. I checked out of the hotel and walked back to the bench I’d left in the park just a week ago. Chasing away a drunk sleeping off his late night, I set the controls to return to my own time. As the white walls of the lab shimmered and took form around me, I couldn’t help shivering with the thought that David’s theory would soon be proven. Maybe they’d award him a posthumous Nobel Prize.

*****

I set out hesitantly to the university administrative offices where the morning paper was always delivered. I read the date, December 7, 2021. I had made it back to my own time and everything looked just the same as when I’d left. My David had been right. There was no Ultimate Time Paradox! The attack had not taken place, but things were just as they had been when I left.

I was excited and pleased; his work had been vindicated! I rushed home to think about which devastating world event I would change next: Warn the people of New Orleans about Katrina? Keep Amelia Earhart from disappearing? I might even witness Jesus’ crucifixion. Maybe I’d visit David before we met, just to see what he was like and to hint about the future of time travel. I shivered with joy. My David’s theory would finally be proven. Oh, the papers I would write!

A few weeks later I walked into the university library to do some research and happened to glance at the headline on a Berkeley newspaper. It was announcing the upcoming eightieth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I frowned as I looked at it. Could this be an old edition, or maybe just a typo?

I sat down in the nearest chair and read the article’s opening paragraph which began: “Christmas Day 1941—A Day That Will Live in Infamy.”