Drunk on Time
by J. H. Malone
Saul is a 20-something computer expert. He’s somewhat undisciplined and drinks too much, but he is charming and has a soft spot for older people and for his love interest, who is a brilliant but enigmatic researcher. They unlock the secrets of parallel universes with unexpected results for themselves.
Table of Contents, parts:|
1, 2, 3, 4. 5, 6, 7,
8, 9, 10, 11a, 11b
Dr. Liesl Blau, recently arrived from Germany, was on loan to MIT for a semester from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam-Golm. Looking like a teenager, she had already published a series of original papers in quantum cosmology and quantum gravity that rocked the scientific world and elevated the integration of gravitational and quantum physics into new realms. The University was abuzz at her arrival.
I was working on my fourth year as a support engineer in the University’s IS&T Department. We had set up Dr. Blau’s office in Building 6, sandwiched between those of two Nobel-winning physicists.
Dr. Liesl Blau, genius, live, on-campus.
“I am not a genius,” she said to me once. “I have had one good idea.”
“Einstein only had two,” I said, “or so he told someone.”
“Einstein changed the world. I will not.” She paused. “I could, but I will not.”
The scanner bookmark jumped me to the hallway outside her office, thirty seconds before I was due to show up. She opened her office door and stood waiting for me, a cup of coffee in her hand. No sound. She never got around to implementing sound on the scanner. She learned to read lips instead.
She looked younger than the students walking by. Younger, but like someone who knew things. Like a child standing in a bomb crater.
I took a sip and sat back in my chair. Behind her, outside her office window, the day was gray. She was wearing a German wool cardigan with the head of a stag or antelope or reindeer on its right side. I never asked her which. The passing students tried not to stare but failed. She watched the hall in the direction of Building 8. I paused the scan. Thirty seconds. All I allowed myself. I didn’t need to see me. I needed to see her.
At this point I quit sipping and started drinking.
I had a granddaughter to snoop. I used the map feed and keyed in the Garza home coordinates on Pine Hill Drive in Shadow Hills. The scanner jumped to the location with its clock set back to noon, five hours before Valeria Garza showed up at the senior center. The house was a sprawling two-story job with stone siding and a landscaped waterfall and rock swimming pool off to the right. Valeria’s mother-in-law cottage was located on the opposite side of the house.
I scanned forward in time, increasing the scan speed while I watched for motion. A man zipped by, walking his dog. A classic Cutlass muscle car pulled in from the street onto the natural stone pavers in front of the house.
I slowed the scan. A young man climbed out of the car. Tommy Link, I assumed. He hustled up to the front door and gave the silver knocker a good rap. He was a tall, blond, athletic-looking kid. The teenager in Valeria’s photo opened the door. I didn’t bother following Tommy in.
I turned up the scan speed and freshened my drink instead. Presently, Tommy came out with Julieta in tow. She was wearing a backpack and carrying a gym bag. The two of them were laughing.
Valeria Garza appeared at a window in her cottage as the couple walked to the car. This was minutes after four o’clock. Julieta glanced back and saw her grandmother and stopped laughing. Valeria tried to open the window, but the Cutlass pulled out of the driveway while she struggled with it. No seatbelts in sight.
I manipulated the controller and followed the car around the big curve on McBroom to Sheldon, then to Roscoe and the Hollywood Freeway south to Chandler. The Cutlass made its way over to an LA Fitness on Coldwater Canyon, next to Tajunga Wash, two and a half miles from my apartment.
After two hours of racquetball with a break in the middle, the couple showered, got back on the freeway and crawled south in rush-hour traffic to Little Armenia in East Hollywood. It took them more than an hour to get there. They were relaxed, in no hurry.
They had a leisurely dinner at a Lebanese restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard. No alcohol. Tommy kept an eye on his watch. When they were done and back in the car, they drove straight down Normandie to Wilshire in Koreatown. They parked in a church lot, and Julieta waited in the car, smoking, while Tommy entered the church and joined a Gamblers Anonymous meeting in session.
I upped the scan rate. The meeting broke up, and Tommy spent some time talking to a fellow who looked to be in his forties. Tommy’s sponsor?
Night had fallen. With Tommy back in the car, the couple drove to a ritzy Los Feliz neighborhood above Little Armenia. Their destination was a stucco pile probably owned by a movie star back in the 30’s. The structure sat on a hillside behind a high wall on Glendower Avenue, near the slope that runs up to Griffith Observatory.
Tommy parked the Cutlass alongside several sports cars, models too expensive for me to recognize, outside a four-car garage. The couple went into the house hand-in-hand. Julieta’s bag and backpack remained in the car.
I didn’t bother to follow them in. I was tired and drunk. I upped the framing rate and watched various other couples arrive. As the evening in my headset wore on, I waited for Tommy and Julieta to leave. The scanner reached the present moment, ten-thirty, with them still in the house. Early for them, but I was ready for bed.
I backed up five minutes and scanned through the front door into the house. A long hall beyond a wide entryway led past stairs and a dining room, through double doors to a veranda in back. Slate steps descended to a deck and a pool in the shape of an hourglass. Couples were scattered around the pool drinking, smoking, snorting and getting physical.
Tommy and Julieta passed a joint back and forth, lying in a double lounge chair and talking to a couple doing the same next to them. I powered off the scanner, unstrapped my headset, and called Valeria.
“Who is this?” she said after ten rings. “I was asleep. It’s the middle of the night.”
“It’s Saul and it’s not even eleven yet. You told me to call you when I found Julieta.”
“Have you been drinking?”
“Well, never mind. Have you found them? Where are they? What are they doing?”
“When they left your house this afternoon, they drove over to a gym and played racquetball. They had dinner at a restaurant. They went to a party in Los Feliz. They’re there now.”
“Facebook,” Valeria said. “These kids report everything they do.”
After accepting her profuse thanks, I drained my glass and made it to bed without incident.
At Lankershim in the morning, Valeria came in and informed her friends that her daughter had not been misbehaving but did have boyfriend problems. Reaction to this news was mixed. Meanwhile, my reputation as an Internet magician took another step up.
“They seemed good together,” I said.
Valeria handed me a jar of plum preserves. “From one of our trees,” she said. “It’s dropping fruit like crazy. I’m singing your praises this morning. I’m telling everyone.”
I put the preserves aside and drank from my can of Sprite hangover medicine. I had several urgent requests for Internet assistance as the Garza story got around.
I left for the Hesby Senior Center in Sherman Village at noon. I was servicing five facilities, being the principal IT tech for Cedros Senior Activity Centers, Inc., leader of senior enrichment in the Valley. By the time I went out to my Jeep in the lot, my headache was restricted to the floor of my brain and the Sprite wanted company in my stomach.
I stopped at a McDonald’s on my way over to Sherman Village and parked in the shade of an acacia tree. I bought a Big Mac and while I ate it in the Jeep, I thought about Tommy and Julieta. They impressed me as an intelligent, healthy couple of kids in love, which of course led my thoughts back to Liesl.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2020 by J. H. Malone