Penny was almost in a trance as the music washed over her. Reading about or listening to a recording of this performance could not reproduce or explain the emotional and physiological reaction she and the rest of the audience were having. It was fortunate that the stream had carried her here.
The ‘here’ was the Fillmore East, ten PM, December thirty-first nineteen-sixty nine. Penny was one of the privileged few that could ride the stream back and forth creating, for a short time, what the experts called a ‘time-space anomaly;’ but she and her fellow travelers called it a ‘time slip.’ These lucky few could slip into another time and spend a few hours or days there. The universe did not allow this without a price first: if you stayed an hour in the past, you came back an hour after you left. There also seemed to be a limit of a hundred years, and no traveling into the future.
On this night Penny had traveled to one of the storied points in Rock n Roll history: the one and only concert by Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsies.
Hendrix had an undefined ability to cause his audience to achieve a higher mental state only seen in a few Zen masters. This effect was so powerful that a few of his recordings could almost produce it as well. The Fillmore East recording of “Machine Gun” was one. You could also feel this power on the “Are You Experienced” track off his first album.
Penny was sent by her employer, Global Media International, to see if she could discern how he did it and if it could be reproduced by one of Global’s prepackaged pop bands. She was also discreetly recording the concert in 3D and surround for later release to the small-but-growing virtual history market.
Penny was already a rising star in GMI, and the public at large. She was being paid in the range of seven figures for this job; she would have come for free. The performance was all that it was said to have been.
The inexpensive entertainment that the modern media companies produced was starting to lose its hold on the general public and GMI’s market share was slipping.
A way was needed to stem the flow of internet independent bands now appearing, actually playing their own instruments, singing their own songs without digitally enhanced playback at live events in small venues, and selling their songs at a dollar a download.
Global and the other multimedia giants wanted to be in on this shift by the public, unlike the time back in the late nineties people stopped buying compact disks and started downloading just the one or two songs they wanted. It had taken almost a decade to reestablish control of the music scene. It still was a point of contention that Jobs and his company had to be brought in as a middleman for the industry.
As the session ended, Penny walked out wondering what it would have been like to live in these freer times. Once back on Second Avenue, she started to think of home and 2019. This should bring her back to where she’d started a few hours ago to her, fifty years into the future for the people around her. Before she had a chance to come home, a dart with a neural toxin stuck in her neck.
She started to move as if high or drunk. She stumbled into an alley off of East Sixth Street. Penny Goldman died in a dirty alley in the Village early January First 1970 NYC.
Thomas O’Rourke stood in the alley off East Sixth; it was still dirty with debris that could have been here fifty years ago. He was a Detective Sergeant in the NYPD’s time crimes squad. Early on the first day of 1970 Penny Goldman died, the death was ruled a drug overdose, which was common in those times in the Village. Back then, the NYPD could not have detected the neural toxin or the biodegradable dart used to deliver it.
Both the toxin and the dart fired from an air pistol were products of the end of the Cold War. They were developed by both sides, so tracing it was near impossible as officially manufacture of such weapons was banned by the UN. If it was not for a tissue sample saved by the coroners office (because Goldman had a cancer unknown at that time) the murder would have been written off as a slip rider dieing by misadventure.
O’Rourke had to solve the fifty year old murder of a time traveler. Was this not what he foresaw when he joined the force? His family had been New York cops since before the Civil War. A fair share becoming detectives or police captains or both, so it was expected that Thomas Benjamin O’Rourke, ‘Ben’ to family and friends, would go far. He was on a trajectory to rise to the top when he experienced his first time slip.
He was working plain clothes going, for a bookie in Harlem. While moving toward the door to the bookie joint, something happened and O’Rourke found himself standing on the same spot but in a different time; at the door of a speakeasy in the 1920’s. The slip only lasted a few minutes and he returned in time to complete the raid.
Time slips had been making the news at the time so O’Rourke knew what had happened when he went to report the incident to his Lieutenant. That was his first mistake.
Their were three classes of people who experienced slips: 1) people who had one for unknown reasons and may never have another. 2) People that had multiple slips but had no control. O’Rourke was in this category. People like Goldman; this last group (3) was able to control where and when their slips happened, so long was there was a large enough event to leave a echo in the flow of time for them to feel and lock onto.
Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies’ New Year’s eve concert was just such an event. And the Goldman file that O’Rourke was reading in the alley oshowed that she was a registered time slip researcher. Her specialty was the New York music scene from the mid sixties to the early eighties. Her employer was GMI one of the super-sized media companies to come out of the economic crash of the last decade.
Well, O’Rourke thought, time to take a ride uptown.
GMI’s research and new talent offices were high up in the Empire State Building, made once again chic because of the newfound fascination with the past.
It was believed that time slips started to happen in verifiable numbers due to the stresses of the crash, war on terror and the general feeling that the future was not all it was cracked up to be. More and more people wished they could escape to the past. The human mind, being what it was, made it happen. Going all the back to classical times, there had always been stories of people going into the past or future. American media business, being what *it* is, jumped on the chance to exploit this new phenomenon.
The reception area was done in a neo-art deco style that made one feel like they where in an old-time diner. There was a pretty girl of unknowable age behind the faux counter.
O’Rourke flashed his badge at the receptionist, who made a quick call, not wanting a cop hanging around. A few minutes later O’Rourke encountered Surge.
“Oh officer I am Ms Roberts man, Friday Surge,” said a light-skinned man of medium height, holding out his hand has if he expected O’Rourke to kiss it. O’Rourke repeated the whole badge flashing routine to cover his surprise, and said, “Detective Sergeant O’Rourke. I believe I have an appointment.”
Legally this was a fifty year old cold case and there was not a lot of pressure one can bring to bear. Thus it was appointments and not surprise interviews, even though two days ago Penny Goldman was alive and breathing in this very office. With the death happening in 1970, legally it was a cold case. The State Capital kept saying they were going to update the laws to reflect time travel, but politicians have always had their own schedules about such things.
O’Rourke was shown through a maze of cubicles to a corner office with a spectacular view of the river and harbor. A big Chinese container ship was just coming in, churning up the greenish water. The room looked more like a sitting room than a corporate office.
Ms Roberts was a tall redhead with too-fair skin that looked was if it has never seen the sun. She thrust her hand at O’Rourke in a manly gesture. The proper way to greet a woman had become so complicated by 2019 with the norms seeming to change every week that most men just let the women be the primary in the encounter. In the war of the sexes, most men had finally and gladly surrendered and let the women be dominating. It was just not worth the energy anymore.
“Sergeant, I am Mary Roberts, please sit down.” O’Rourke was given a power handshake. Even though she looked like an elf she had strength.
“Thank you, madam. I just have a few questions. You were the person that reported Ms Goldman missing?” With that O’Rourke started the interview with the prime suspect. At no time did he let Roberts know what he thought, but with each question he made her draw a picture of two people who eachwanted to be the top dog.
Roberts had come up the corporate ladder the old fashioned way: with talent, ruthless maneuvering and sex. Penny Goldman, on the other hand, became a corporate and media star mostly because she could slip through time. She showed that not only did she want to be the talent she also wanted to be in on the corporate side of the business.
“Yes, I would do the search for a target performance and Penny would go there with the recorders so the event could be recreated.”
“Recorders?” asked O’Rourke.
“Yes most of Penny’s clothing and jewelry had 3D audio and visual sensors with a 200 terabit flash drive.”
“Do you know where these recorders are now?”
“No I would think the police would have them.”
O’Rourke made himself sit still and finish. If the property room still had her effects she just might have recorded her killer! The NYPD was famous for keeping evidence of cold cases for decades and just as famous for losing said evidence.
Standing, O’Rourke said, “I will be in touch and thank you.” He started to call his office the moment he was out of her office.
On O’Rourke’s desk at One Police Plaza, in his closet sized office, was a box with fifty year old clothing. Property Division, after a search, found the evidence in a Brooklyn police warehouse. Everything was there that GMI sent Goldman to 1969 with, except the flash drive. The only conclusion that could be made was that the killer had removed it.
The clothes looked authentic, but on close examination, if one knew what to look for, you could discern that they were of modern manufacture. For one, they were totally synthetic, the animal rights people had finally won. The more telling detail was the nano circuits throughout that made them a wearable computer unit more powerful than any main frame in 1970.
If the drive was removed, the killer either was told of its existence, or he (or she) was familiar with the equipment. The drive was a crystal and silver ring Goldman would have worn on her right hand.
Roberts was still high on O’Rourke’s list. This would not be the first time that corporate climbers had knifed each other; it all started in Rome on the Ides of March. Something did not feel right, though, and O’Rourke could not put his finger on it. It gave him a headache.
This case was made more complicated by the fact that the people that worked recording the past were treated like the rock stars they were stealing from. Big media had turned on the hype machine when they started sending people into the past.
One other point: the equipment was like the poison used, a product of the Cold War. Could the supplier of the recorders have access to the poison and dart system? The equipment supplier, and any employees that had access to Goldman’s equipment had to be checked. Too many companies were now selling gear that was once the province of Special Forces and intelligence agencies. The government has privatized almost everything so as to be able to pay the social service bill.
O’Rourke was working this case solo. The Time Crimes Squad was undermanned and funded. Some did not see the need for it and others did not want the police getting too involved with the slip phenomena.
The one thing O’Rourke could be sure of is the killer came from the present. The weapon used, and the fact that the Novikov self-consistency principle prevented the timeline from being changed, showed that. Thus a native of 1970 could not be killed by a slip rider, or vice versa, someone from 2019 could not be killed by a person from 1970 with a 2019 weapon. The universe just would not allow the paradox, or so say the egg heads.
O’Rourke was wishing for a break in the case even though he knew well that one had to be careful what one wised for.
Another day and another murder scene, this one had a fresh body to add color. Looking down, O’Rourke saw a lithe, athletic, attractive woman with mouse brown hair. It seemed wrong to have a corpse in such a historic building. The Dakota, one-time home to Leonard Bernstein, Judy Garland, and John Lennon now had another famous death to add it its history.
“Mary Kawasaki age 26 3D star for Time-Warner-MGM-Universal.” Said Detective Michael (“Mickey“) Washington as O’Rourke stared down at the dead girl. She looked as if she died in agony, a side effect of the neural toxin. It caused all your neurons to fire at once.
“Any recordings found on her?” asked O’Rourke.
“No boss, she turned the equipment in this afternoon.” With a fresh corpse, O’Rourke was now working a real homicide, and Washington was assigned as his partner with O’Rourke as Lead Detective.
“TWMU security called in at 10pm, she managed to hit her panic button.”
“Did they say where she went? And when I can see the recording?” Asked O’Rourke, even though he knew what the answer would be.
“She was recording a concert by the Doors. You know, the one where Jim Morrison was arrested for indecent exposure?”
“And?” O’Rourke made a rolling motion with his hand as he said this.
“They said legal will get back to us tomorrow.”
“Shit! Alright I want every photo, film clip drawing from that concert on my desk yesterday. And Mickey, try to remember this is a multiple homicide case not a recording convention.”
Two hours later O’Rourke was in his office looking at old photos of Jim Morrison and the Doors in Miami on March 1, 1969. He did not know what he was looking for but he knew there was something.
Washington came in with a thumbdrive in his hand. “Boss here is a bunch of crowd shots.”
O’Rourke thanked his partner and loaded the new drive. The concert was standing room only and there where hundreds of people. Flipping through the new shots, O’Rourke was about to call it a day when he thought he saw something. He tapped his finger on the screen and said “Zoom in.” He repeated this three times when he saw it: A late person. Could it be that Surge was in the crowd?
“Washington!” O’Rourke shouted as he left his office in search of his partner. He was found at the coffee machine.
“The GMI personal files - where are they?” Washington looked puzzled, then said “I uploaded them to you an hour ago.
Trying not to show his embarrassment, he pulled his com pad from his belt. His inbox was full, and it took a minute but he found it.
“Sergei (Surge) Stepanov: born in the former Soviet Union in 1995. Father former FSB/KGB; emigrated 2002 expert on 1960’s American music with a degree from NYU in music history.”
“Christ!” Was all that he said as he read the file. He had zeroed in on Mary Roberts when Surge was the one!
“Washington, find Stepanov and bring him here to be questioned. I will be hitting the photo archive again.
After two hours, O’Rourke found what he was looking for Surge in a photo of the New Year’s Fillmore concert. There in the crowd sitting at a table, alone, was Surge.
Surge could slip and he is unregistered! Registration is voluntary, but no company will work with an unregistered person, they would lose its bonding and insurance.
Washington came in at this point. “Boss, no sign of Surge, and we just got a request for a secure slip.” Sometimes if the slip is by a big name or to a very special event, the media companies would ask for the area to be roped off.
“What’s the slip?”
“The Rolling Stones November ‘69 concert at Madison Square Garden.”
“Crap! The other two were ‘69, too. OK, put an All Points on Surge as a person of interest in a homicide. Warn the units at the Garden. I am going there now. follow when you are done.”
O’Rourke opened his lower desk drawer and withdrew a standard issue needle gun.
Madison Square Garden: the center of the entertainment universe. Perform here, and you know you have made it to the top. America’s Roman Coliseum where people sing, play and fight for the gratification of the masses.
It was dark and wet when O’Rourke made it to the venue. A patrol unit working the perimeter gave him the heads up on where the media people went. O’Rourke had them look at a photo of Surge, and they confirmed he went in a few minutes after the main group. ‘Once again screwed by the NYPD’s all points system,’ thought the detective.
O’Rourke entered the building through the same side entrance that Surge used. The building was eerie with its lights on but no people about. This was a normal dark night as the entertainment people called it, a day used for maintenance and to give the building a thorough cleaning.
The door had lead into the back stage area and O’Rourke was giving the place a slow once over trying to see if anything as amiss.
As he slowly walked toward the stage that was setup for a concert tomorrow by a retro band, he saw the world waver. As his foot came down he was suddenly in a chaotic space, with people moving about on unknown errands. O’Rourke had literally stepped into 1969, and as proof he almost walked right into Mick Jagger. Like the first time he had slipped into the past, he had no notion how he had done it.
A security man came running over and O’Rourke flashed him his badge. Thankfully the NYPD has used the same badges for almost a hundred years.
Now that it seemed that the universe had placed him into the correct time and place all he had to do was find Surge. This was going to be almost impossible with the number of roadies running around. One had to assume that Surge had taken steps to blend in like the media star O’Rourke just stopped. She had a press pass and was talking to a man in a suit. She was going for the back stage look, an always popular recording style for big name acts that did the same sets in every city of a tour.
If she was here, then Surge must not be far behind. Walking around and checking doors made it look like O’Rourke was checking the security for the Stones.
There, pushing a dolly loaded with equipment, was Surge comeing right toward his target. O’Rourke cut an angle to intercept that a football Free Safety would have admired. Surge, for his part, saw O’Rourke and stopped, then started to run back the way he had come.
Down a tunnel to the loading dock area, Surge pushed his way through the people readying the Garden for this historic concert, until he made it to a clear area and poured on the speed. O’Rourke was feeling those extra donuts he had eaten over the years when he tackled the guy.
Surge, younger and in better shape, was able to pull away from the detective and come up holding a small gun-like shape in his hands.
On his knees, O’Rourke drew his needle gun, creating a stand off. The two men where in an empty area, and so had no one to interfere with there encounter.
“Drop it, Surge, we know everything.”
“No! Those bitches needed to be stopped! They are fouling the memory of these great events! This is the time of Giants; they walked the earth and took us to the Moon. This is the height of American and Western power, before the posers and moochers destroyed this country, like they destroyed Russia after the communists fell.”
O’Rourke took a chance, shifted his hand and fired from his hip. The needle gun released its cloud of sedative-filled nano hypodermics.
Surge took the full burst and dropped to the ground back into 2019. O’Rourke blinked and saw that Surge was foaming at the mouth.
Surge was dead. He was of the small percentage of the population that had an adverse reaction to the needle gun’s sedative; it was a deadly potion to him. An irony that O’Rourke did not appreciate. Two innocent women were dead and with Surge gone, no real answers were forthcoming.
When they searched Surge’s apartment they found that it was a shrine to 1969 America. He had posters and authentic vinyl records of the Rolling Stones, Doors, Hendrix and others that must have been worth a small fortune.
Copyright 2011, Richard Anderson