“SEEKING TITOR, OR, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF CHRONONAUT 23”:#3 “THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN”

 

wizard-of-oz-man-behind-the-curtain

“Oooookaaay…and?”

“Look, if you got a few minutes to spare…maybe it’s best I talk to you face to face…”

“Just tell me, is it good news or bad news?”

Mical stalled on the other end of the phone. I didn’t like the sound of this but he insisted we meet. In ten minutes, Mical’s ’94, blue Buick pulled up across the street from my building. I had waited outside in anticipation. We shook hands and I tried to read his face while keeping a firm grip on his hand.

“Can we sit?”

“Aw shit,” I said, “this is a sit down type of conversation? Just tell me I threw away two grand and let me kill myself…”

Mical sat down first and began to relay the conversation he had with his brother in-law Jude. He said that there were no records of a John Titor or the Titor family anywhere in Florida but he was able to find a man who claimed he was the family lawyer and representative of John Titor.

“Some lawyer named, Larry, something…I can’t remember.”

“I need to know the exact name. Can you call Jude, now?”

“He’s actually on his way back. Should be on a plane as we speak.”

I’d have to wait to see him face to face but in the meantime, I needed Mical to continue. Apparently, calls to this lawyer were not returned…how typical. How did I know any of this was true? Jude could have easily made all of this up.

“Come inside.” I told Mical. I wanted to check online for the name of the lawyer so I typed in Lawyer Larry John Titor, in a google search and came up with the name Larry Haber.

“I guess that much is true.” I said.

Mical was convinced that whatever Jude found out there was the real deal based on how spooked he sounded on the phone. He said that Jude was nervous and anxious and in a big rush to get out of Florida. Whoever this Larry Haber guy was, he knew the truth about Titor.

“On the phone, you said he found him.”

“Right. That’s the fucked up part…”

After poking around a few inner circle, time travel, conspiracy theory groups, Jude found a man who told him that John Titor does exist…just not in the traditional sense that you and I may know.

“So like, what? He lives outside of our timeline? Outside the third dimension? I don’t get it?”

Neither did Mical, because Jude got off the phone with him right after saying that. Something or someone made him hang up in a hurry. Mical also stated that Jude’s connections were the real deal and that this information was not a fairy tale.

I wanted to see him tonight when he got in and asked Mical if we can pick him up from the airport. He liked the idea so we checked which flights from Florida were coming in. We got to the airport around 8:23, and waited by arrivals, for Jude.

Unfortunately, the flight had been delayed and we had to wait another three hours or so. Jude was among the first people to arrive and he was clearly in a state of paranoia by the way he looked around very wide-eyed and moved like he was being followed.

“Jude!” Mical called out and made the man nearly jump out of his skin. By Jude’s reaction, I could see he was not very pleased to see us.

“What the fuck are youz two doin’ here?!”

“Mical told me the news, I wanted to hear it straight from-“

“Christ on a stick…you shouldn’t have come here…” Jude interrupted me.  He asked where we were parked and started to see an upside to us being there. He feared his car was being watched and thought it was best to ride with us.

Before he would say a word to us, Jude told Mical to get out of the airport and on the highway. Jude made sure we were not being “tailed” as he put it. I had never been in such a situation before and to be honest with you…I was shitting in my pants and regretting picking him up.

Jude gave specific directions to one of his girlfriends condos, where he was staying at, out on Nuns Island. The place was for people with a lot dough but at the same time it was shady and isolated. To date, the condo that we took Jude to, had to have been the tallest building I had ever been in and her place was on the 37th floor!

The place was covered in sealed boxes. I figured she had moved in recently but Jude said she had been there for little over a year. First thing he did was rush to the kitchen, open the cupboard and grab a bottle of Johnny Walker Black along with three, red plastic cups.

“You boys take ice or do ya’z drink like men?”

I admired the fact that even under such stress, Jude still found the time to muster up a bit of asshole’ism. We sat down on the cold leather sofas with our drinks and ready to hear the craziest shit I’ve heard to date. I tried to sip really slow at first due to the fact that all I had was a bag of chips while at the airport but by the time he was done, I was on my second glass.

He filled us in on everything that Mical had already told me so far and even admitted to having intentions of taking our money and not doing any investigating at all…until he found the lawyer, Larry Haber. Jude was at a bar, enjoying a few drinks on us, when he saw a group of college geeks filming some documentary, He didn’t care about it until he heard one of them say, “…finding Titor…we will go down in history as the guys who found John Titor!”

“What…were…the fucking…chances?!” Jude asked puzzled.

To make his job easy, he followed these guys around half of Florida and piggyback off everything they were uncovering. Only difference is, he was had PI skills and they didn’t. So the clues, the would overlook, he made note of and looked into.

“The only ting doze little pricks beat me to the punch to was that Haber jerk off. I tried making one fricken appointment…notta! These assholes went in there with a fucking camera!”

Jude’s next move was to check out people in the lawyer’s circle which lead him to a man whose identity was a mystery to both Jude and us. He had to meet this man out on a boat and sail out in the middle of a nowhere.

“I should have known what I was walking into…slick fucks!” Jude whipped his glass across the room and shattered it. Mical and I looked at each other like, “WTF!”.

Next, Jude told us that once the boat was far enough from shore, three large men, or as he put it, “tree huge mudda fuckaz!” came out from below deck and stood around him. They asked what someone who was connected out in Canada, was doing over in Miami…

“Miami?” I asked surprise.

He said he had to move around a lot to find the right information…in other words, you were taking a vacation on our dime and seeing some ass! Anyways, Jude told us that he received a harsh warning from the old dude about coming on other people’s territory and asking questions that he shouldn’t be asking.

“Dude was Cuban or some shit! I dunno! Point is, he gave me 23 hours to get the fuck outta Dodge. I called you (Mical) from my hotel the moment I got back. I packed my shit and got the next flight out.” He reached into his pocket and took out a white envelope and tossed it over to me.

“What’s this? Human ear?” I joked.

Inside was about 1000 dollars in cash. It was my money that he was planning on blowing for no work. He told me that the money was his way of apologizing. I asked for what (besides being an asshole and trying to rip us off)? Turns out that some names were thrown around…well…one name in particular.

Jude opened his shirt and showed us a cigarette burn over his heart and said the Cuban wanted to know who sent him. He couldn’t claim it as a “family” thing, so he gave them a name he felt would calm down the situation…

MY NAME!

I almost shat myself when he said that.

“By now, they probably know that you’re a nobody, so you ain’t got nothin’ to worry ’bout.”

Now I understood why he gave me back my money. Kill the money trail that would lead back to the victim…me! Whoever this Cuban was, he must have protected the true identity of the time traveler. I asked Mical to drive me home, asap. Then, the moment I stood up to leave, the power went out in the building.

Jude was the first to react. He ran to the window and shut the blinds before peeking through them.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!”

“Jude…what the fuck is going on?” Mical asked

“This ain’t normal.”

I ran to the door despite him cursing at me to stay still. I looked through the peephole to see if the rest of the floor was out and saw that it was. If someone was coming for us, it would take some time to reach the 37th floor by stairs.

“Look, you two can sit around and wait to see if it’s Hydro Quebec fucking up, or if someone followed us and now plan to kill us…I’m getting the fuck out of here! How many exits are there?”

“One on each side of the floor.” he said reluctantly. Mical followed me out of the apartment. We had to choose what side to go down. I wanted to split up but Mical thought it was best we stuck together. Besides, this could all be for nothing…but until we knew for sure, we were sticking together.

It was a long way down, especially since we were both tip toeing so we could hear anyone coming up. We held on to the rails and walked in black darkness. Only light we got was from the “SORTIE” signs  on each floor. When we finally got the bottom, I carefully opened the door and peeked around the corner to see if anyone was there.

The coast was clear so we made a tip toe dash for the exit. All the way to the car, we were both scared to death! I made sure to check the back seat and under the car before getting inside. While driving off I saw the lights come back on in the building….how convenient?

It was a long drive back. Mical and barely said a word which gave me enough time to think. First thing that came to mind was, what if that whole thing back at Jude’s friend’s place was staged? If it was, then why give me back money and not Mical? Nothing was making sense.

That’s when it hit me…what if Mical and Jude were working together? Jude had really found John Titor and now Mical was trying to reap the benefits and go at this solo! My money was enough to get the ball rolling and now that he got what he want, they didn’t need me anymore.

I let that one marinate in my brain until we pulled up to the front of my place.

“Well.”

“Well.” I replied.

“I guess it’s over. Obviously, looking into this shit is way over our heads…like…the government or some shady secret organization is trying to keep him hidden…i don’t know, bro.”

Funny how the guy who was super obsessed with finding Titor, has now become content with knowing next to nothing. I mean…that was his money that went down the drain too. Wasn’t it?

“Mical…I am going to order some food…smoke a joint…and go to sleep…when I see you at work tomorrow…let’s act like none of this ever happened…cool?” I held out my fist and he gave me a pound.

I gave him the obligatory smirk and head nod, got out the car and crossed the street to my building.

“I don’t know brother…shit was kinda fun…minus the cash…well, you got yours back, at least.” Mical called out.

“Fun…right. What about your money?”

“No one fucks you over better than family.”

Famous last words.

After we parted ways, things went back to normal.  I began talking to some of my family members again and things were looking up over the next year or so. Mical stopped coming in to work suddenly. Rumor going around was that he and his wife were going through a nasty divorce and he bailed out to avoid alimony.

It was time for that part of me who chased after conspiracies and myths, to die. The reality I was seeking did not exist. My father was dead and I needed to accept it and move on. There was no way to travel back in time to save him or see him one last time…it was over.

1999

With all the Y2K buzz going around, I couldn’t help but to be a bit on the paranoid side and stock up on some necessary survival items. For the last few months I had stocking up on water, batteries, canned foods and a few weapons here and there for safety.

A ghost from the past reappeared a few lines over inside of the local Walmart. It was Jude and once again, he was looking paranoid and shady. I was sure that by the time I got my stuff checked out, he would be long gone and probably for the best.

I pushed my cart out to the parking lot and tried to hail a cab when a familiar voice said from behind, “Gimme all your water and blow me, muthafuckaaaaaa!” Jude broke out laughing even before I could turn around. He asked me what I’d been up to which I told him, the same ole same ole. I didn’t bother asking him because I had an idea what he had been up too.

I asked him if he had been on vacation due to his tan. Jude said he had been back in Florida looking for Mical. He wasn’t too pleased with the situation involving his “baby sister” (she was in her mid thirties) and wanted to have a word with Mical.

Jude suspected I knew something about his whereabouts but I only knew what I heard. He didn’t seem to buy that. Apparently, I was the only person he had ever seen Mical associate with so he figured a) we were both gay or b) I’m the only person he trusts…therefore…I know where is he…

“I see you’ve been really stocking up on those waters, huh? What is that like the 23rd case now?”

He was letting me he had watched me. Holy shit, I thought to myself. Here we go again.

“Tell you what. How’s about, I give ya a lift home. Save your cab money…”

“Aww. Thanks but it’s no problem. I like cab rides.” I have no idea why I said that. He had all the right to believe both A and B at that point.

He lifted the side of his red shirt and brandished a handgun, tucked in the waist of his pants. I thought it was pretty cheesy to do that but at the same time, I wasn’t going to call his bluff. We loaded the trunk with my stuff and got into the passenger side of his jeep.

I remember seeing the highway, which was totally the opposite direction of my apartment and thinking, “Wow…the last time I saw my family and friends was really going to be the last…I hope it’s not painful.”

Jude told me that he gave me back my money out of courtesy and expected the same in return. The people he worked for didn’t like the job he did for us and he got his ass chewed out for it. Now, he felt like we (Mical and I) were screwing him over.

Mical was a gambler. A problem I had no idea about and the main reason for his marriage woes. The reason Jude gave me back money and not Mical was because he had been in for over 7000 already and that money barely covered the intrest owed. On top of that, Mical made Jude give a larger estimate so that I would cover most of the expenses.

I was seeing RED!!!!

Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, I learned that my hunch was right last year! Mical got the contact info from Jude about John Titor. He believed Mical was out in Florida because of that. I assured Jude, that I had no idea about any of this shit and if I knew where he was, I’d go there and kill him myself.

We pulled off the highway exiting into Nuns Island. I figured he was taking me to his old girlfriend’s place. Instead, we just entered the parking lot where another car with headlights on, was waiting.

“I believe you,” Jude said, “you just have to convince someone else.”

I didn’t like the sound of that.

All four doors opened and out came some really big, twisted looking dudes. One of them opened the door for me, not to be polite I supposed. I got out and he held me tightly by my bicep. This felt like some Soprano shit going down. I tried hard to not show fear but they could smell it on me.

Jude went ahead and spoke to an older guy who stayed in the back. He looked as if he was trying to plead my case to him. Next thing I knew, the bastard knee’d me in the leg, causing me to drop to my knees. The old man spoke what sounded like Russian or German and told Jude to do something.

“Fuck no…shit!” I saw the pistol come out of Jude’s pants as he walked towards me. He put on his shades so I could not see the guilt in his eyes, or so I thought.

“I’m gonna ask you once, so that everybody here can hear for themselves…do you know where, Mical is?”

The devil must have itched to fuck with me because right then, my cell phone rang. The bastard who knee’d me took my phone and saw something they didn’t like. He showed it to Jude first, then Jude showed it to me. It said:

“CALL FROM: MICAL DORN “

I had nothing to say at this point. Jude put the phone to my ear and answered.

“H-h-h-hello?” I said.

“He’s a construct. The man behind the curtain is nothing more than a construct!”

The line cut. My mouth was opened wide. I was frozen. Jude put the gun to my head and told me I had three seconds, not even five, to tell him where Mical was. He began counting. I still had nothing to say. This had to be a joke. This was not really happening to me!

Everything around me was a blur. The world around me sounded like the inside of a deprivation tank and for a moment, I thought to myself, “After everything that I’ve been through, lost and learned…death isn’t so bad.”

Then…BOOM!

Everything went black…just how Tony Soprano had always imagined it would be.

EPILOGUE

 When my eyes opened again, I was riding in the back of car, looking out the window at all the green trees and that had a golden hue from the sun. I looked across from me and my mother was dressed in black, with a veil over her face. She was sitting next to my sister and next to me was my brother. We were all dressed in black and riding in a limo.

I felt as if I had the most insane dream, that wasn’t a dream at all. My brother told me I had been out cold since the limo left the house that morning and it was probably because I hadn’t slept in days. How did I get here was the question burning my brain.

I remembered the parking lot. I remembered Jude and I definitely remembered the call from…shit…who called me? No names came back to me. The Y2K was upon us, so for sure it was 1999…but if I wasn’t dreaming and this was happening…then it was 1997, the year my father died. HOW?

The name of the person who called me would stay a mystery until a few months into my new job where I would meet a strange man named Mical. Deja vu hits and I come to know the truth. I change the path of my earlier self and begin investigating things of a preternatural nature.

The fact that I became “awoken”, made me susceptible to things that most people would never see or experience. I’m talking about things outside of our realm, this dimension. The old me is dead. Dwayne Adams died November 23, 1999 in an alternate reality…

I am Chrononaut-23. Alive in this timeline and here with a purpose.

THE END

Previously…

#2: “The Call”

#1

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