* * *
It doesn’t take Elle long to regain her composure. She looks to Paul for guidance.
“What the hell are we supposed to do?”
A smile plays on his lips as a sinister look passes across his face. For a second, she questions everything he has told her. What if he is just spinning a tale in order to save himself? Sure, she had told him she wasn’t going to kill him but he doesn’t know if she’s telling the truth or not. What if everything he told her was a lie?
“Wait right here. I’ll be right back,” he says to her.
She thinks of running back to the alley to return to her time but something stops her. She needs to know everything that Paul knows before she decides what to do.
It only takes a few minutes for Paul to return. The first thing she sees is the syringe in his hand.
“What the hell are you doing with that,” she screams.
“Calm down, Elle! I know you’re going through a lot right now, but I’m on your side. I have a feeling you’re going back to your time soon so I want to give you this. Next time you come over here, inject yourself with this first. It will allow you to control how long you stay over here. You can even sleep and not be sent back to your time. My sister used to use it. It’s safe. I promise.”
Elle stares at the syringe, the trust in Paul rebuilding once again. If Dr. Bruge is really behind the murder plot, she has to trust somebody and Paul is all she has.
She takes the syringe out of his hand and places it carefully in her pocket. Paul stares at her in a way that is foreign to her. He looks sympathetic, as if he cares for her.
He speaks so softly that she strains to hear him. “What are you going to do when you get back?”
“To be honest, I have no idea. I have to try and find out if this other traveler really existed, the one who refused the murder task before and died for it. If the world will truly suffer if you don’t die, if that part is at least true, then we have to figure out a way to fix it. We have to find a way for you to live and the world to be safe. That’s the only outcome I can live with.”
He smiles warmly. “Please be safe. I’ll do my own research here. Hopefully, we’ll know more once you return.”
She gets up to leave, emotions pouring through her. As she walks toward the front door, she turns back to him.
“The cure. It really works? I could be normal?”
“Yes. You’ve done this long enough. It’s time for you to stop, before it’s too late.”
Her smile widens as the possibilities dance through her head. With one last wave, she runs out the door and back toward the alley, ready to face the dangerous path ahead of her.
Back in her present, she feels lost. She doesn’t know where to begin. She knows she has to call Dr. Bruge but she’s terrified he’ll know what she’s up to. As she gets out of bed to call him, a loud knock on her apartment door makes her jump. She races over, stealing a glance through the peephole, only to reel back in horror.
She opens the door to Dr. Bruge, a forced smile on her face.
“Elle!” He beams as he embraces her. She makes herself hug him back, suddenly disgusted to be this close to him.
“What are you doing here, Dr. Bruge?”
“Well, my star sleep traveler is in trouble! Why wouldn’t I come?”
She squirms, noticeably.
“What’s wrong, Elle?”
“I just can’t do it, Dr. Bruge. I can’t kill him. It’s not who I am!”
“Well, I figured as much. I don’t like to involve myself in my traveler’s matters but sometimes I must make an exception!”
Did he just say ‘my’ travelers, she thinks to herself.
“There is a way that I can travel back as well. I’ll go back to Chicago with you and do the deed myself, Elle. It has to be done. I’m sorry.”
Thoughts begin to rush through her head as the plan she’s been desperate to find presents itself to her.
I should win an Oscar for this performance.
“I still don’t like the idea of this, but if it has to be done, I can’t say no to your offer,” she says solemnly. “Thank you so much for stepping in, Dr. Bruge. You really are an amazing leader for all of us.”
Dr. Bruge beams at her. “Well then! We should be off as soon as possible!”
“Just a few minutes. Let me freshen up and then we can go.”
With a smile, she heads to the bathroom and locks the door behind her. She feels the syringe in her pocket.
I can do this. I can do this.
She sticks the needle in her arm, feeling the warmth of the liquid entering her bloodstream. She looks in the mirror, knowing there is no turning back.
She heads out to Dr. Bruge who gives her a brief tutorial on how to take him with her. They both lie down on the bed and close their eyes. Within minutes, they are gone.
Elle comes to in the alley and looks around. Dr. Bruge is standing behind her, smiling a little too hard for a man who is about to commit murder.
This is it. I only get one shot.
“Dr. Bruge, it worked!”
“I know, dear. Now, lead me to the man in black so we can end this once and for all.”
She tries desperately to hide her disgust. “Actually, Dr. Bruge, I have an idea. Since I made contact with him on my last travel, I thought I could go see him and lure him to a place that is more discreet. I think it would be safer. He may be spooked if I just show up with you.”
“Hmm. Great idea, Elle! Why don’t you wait until nightfall and then lead him back here. That way, we can immediately return to our time without the threat of being caught in the streets.”
“Perfect, Dr. Bruge! You wait here. I’ll be back with him in just a few hours!”
Elle takes off down the alley, not believing her success in convincing him to wait. Within ten minutes, she arrives at Paul’s shop and darts inside, locking the door behind her. To her surprise, Paul runs out and hugs her. Even more surprising, she hugs him back. They pull apart from each other and she relays what has happened since she left.
“Paul, I have a plan and I think it will work. No one has to die. I can be cured. Win-win, right? There is just one problem. I have no idea if the world will suffer if I don’t complete this task. If World War III breaks out tomorrow, I’ll never be able to forgive myself for that.”
“Elle, I found something while you were gone. Well, let me rephrase that. The interesting thing is that I found nothing.”
“I don’t follow.”
“You already know that I’ve researched the sleep travelers for years, especially after my sister died. While I didn’t know any of the current travelers, I was able to trace ones from the past and the tasks that they completed. I went through my records from before World War II. There is nothing. I know it’s hard to believe, but I swear to you, if there was a task that could have prevented that war, I’d know about it!”
“So it was just another lie, huh?”
“Exactly. I’m sorry, Elle. I know you care for Dr. Bruge.”
“Cared. That’s over now, Paul.”
For the next hour, she relayed her plan to him, his smile growing larger as each step was laid out before him.
“This will work, Elle. I just know it.”
With the time to meet Dr. Bruge approaching, they gathered their needed materials and set off for the alley. They had one shot for it to work. If they failed, who knew what Dr. Bruge would do to their worlds.
to be continued…