Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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Blowback (Revisited)

by Richard Tornello


Time Line: August 13, 2025 CE, Chantilly VA

He just couldn't sleep and he loved his sleep. Detective Irwin Bradley lay in his bed staring at the ceiling, wide eyed, awake. The latest case he'd been assigned had been dismissed, quashed, swept under the rug, when all the evidence said that not just the law as it normally applied, but the rules for operations above (or below) the law, had been violated.

Extra-legal eliminations were part of his past. He understood their nature and could accept their use. But this case, closed and sealed by orders that came from someplace way above his pay grade, involved first degree, premeditated murder. He didn't care if it was part of a Black Operation. He was sure the killing had been outside the assignment, and therefore prosecutable.

Bleary eyed, he went to his computer and started searching databases for the addresses of his past associates. He especially wanted the one, who, as he found through channels, ordered the case against Mr. Arthur Titillo dropped. He found all the unlisted numbers. He had the tools to get them. He was a cop.

That morning, the first thing he did when he got to the office, after he had his coffee and said his usual hellos, was sequester himself. He retrieved the one number he wanted. He punched the buttons.

"Frankie, its Irwin Bradley. You have a few minutes? Yeah I know, it's been a while. But I need a favor." After a slight hesitation, he added, "I think you owe me one."

####

Time Line: August 16, 2025 CE, an undisclosed location, Chantilly Sterling area, VA

The building looked like all the others on Route 28. The only indication that there might be something going on was the web of high voltage electrical lines entering, and a connected building housing a massive transformer. There was no company or government name on the building, just a few flags in front and a couple of vehicles parked in the parking lot. He had driven past it many times wondering what went on there. It always looked the same. As curious as he normally was, Detective Bradley had never bothered to find out.

In the reception area, sitting just opposite Bradley was a past military and Black Ops buddy, Dr. Francis Malloy. Dr Malloy had never been one to stand on ceremony. He was known as Frankie to his friends and associates.

Irwin pointed at a set of heavy steel doors and said, "Frankie, let me get this straight. Whatever I hear, see, or do once I get past those doors, I can never, ever repeat, speak about, or bring charges about it, or..." He trailed off, still pissed at what little he knew and guessed, thinking Or I'll end up like Arthur Titillo's victim, and nobody will be allowed to investigate my death, either.

He began again, trying to be polite. It didn't work. "What gives you that right? And what gave you the right -- and the clout -- to shut down the Titillo investigation?"

Frankie was good at controlling his expression, but Bradley knew him well, and he knew that the slight narrowing of Frankie's eyes meant that he had scored.

"Yeah, I got that much, but nothing else," Bradley said. "It really fucking pissed me off. It was wrong!"

Dr. Malloy, was wearing his Chief Scientist hat, but just as Bradley knew him, he knew Bradley and the kind of work he had done in the past, the kind where the files had more words redacted than legible. He looked at Detective Irwin Bradley with respect, as someone who understood how the world really worked.

Dr. Malloy said, "Yes, the order to shut you down came through me. But it was a directive from the highest parts of our government and military. It's as simple, or as complex, as that."

He leaned closer, although he knew, and Bradley suspected, that talking softly in this place wouldn't prevent the surveillance A.I. from catching and parsing every nuance of every word.

"All activities that are related to this operation are outside the normal jurisdiction of any court anywhere on this planet," Malloy continued. "It's a different type of war. We have the upper hand. That's all I can say right now." He paused, considering. "I'm doing you a favor letting you in at all... Then again, maybe I'm not."

Malloy pulled a compact datapad from his pocket and unfolded it. A form appeared on the screen, with a dense block of text laced with links to even more dense blocks of text and a space at the bottom for a signature and thumbprint.

"Please sign here, or leave now," Dr. Malloy said. "Any mention of this will cause your immediate elimination." In response to Bradley's look of disbelief, he said, "Irwin, I am deadly serious. By signing this, you agree to the terms you alluded to earlier. But you also authorize us to implant a microchip in your skin. We will be able to track you anywhere, at any time. The process is painless, quick, and you will never know it's even there." He didn't mention the other, more final function of the chip.

Detective Irwin Bradley had never seen his friend like this, even in the most pitched battles they conducted together. "You're serious," he said. It was not a question.

"Sign it, then we can talk. Or leave now," commanded his friend.

Detective Bradley signed and pressed his thumb to the backlit screen. "Okay here it is, wet signed. Now what?"

"Now you come with me," Frankie said. He extended his hand for a handshake, and patted Bradley on the shoulder.

"Ow! What the ...?"

Frankie smiled and said, "See, I told you, painless, you big baby. Compared to a bullet or a flechette in the gut, anyway. First, you want a cup of coffee? Anything to eat? We have a first class food service here. We have everything you could possibly want."

"I want some answers, Frankie," growled the detective. Then he realized, yes, he was hungry. "How about a margherita pizza, a side of meatballs, and a glass of wine?"

Malloy nodded. "You got it, Irwin. The food will be here in about fifteen minutes." Dr. Francis Malloy knew his friend, and knew when he had to eat. Combat made one intimate with your comrades. And Francis could always tell, especially when Irwin bit your head off for no reason. It was either food, or he was getting ready to fight. Today it was food, but maybe a fight, too.

Bradley looked at a point near the ceiling, and said, "Extra sauce on the pizza." He glanced back at Frankie. "Was I facing the right way for the vid and audio pickups?"

Frankie laughed. "Any direction will do in this place, Irwin."

Frankie showed Bradley around the ground floor to kill time until the food could arrive. There wasn't much to see, but the guards showed there was more to it than appeared. The story was best told on a full stomach, in a relaxed and calm environment.

"Irwin, here it is, extra sauce and all. Eat, mangia."

As Irwin was chomping down on the last slice of pizza Frankie said flatly, "We conduct time travel experiments, and a bit more." He waited for Bradley to react.

"Bullshit!" Bradley cried, half-chewed pizza spraying from his mouth.

Frankie sighed, wiping tomato sauce and bits of cheese from his jacket. The stains would probably never come out. After a minute, he caught Bradley's eye, and said, "Yep, that's what I said when I was briefed. Listen, this gets a bit stranger. You ever read H.G. Wells The Time Machine?"

"Yeah, when I was a kid. Plus I saw a few time travel movies, along with all the Back en route for The..."

Frankie raised a hand to cut the recitation short. "The process is real. And Wells was on to something. We found one of his notebooks that had been miscatalogued. One of our researchers was going through the stacks at the Library of Congress and came upon it. He realized that it was a book of formulas, and technical drawings. The name H.G. Wells made him take a closer look. He said he almost had a heart attack while reading it."

"Come on, that's all fantasy," said Irwin, in almost total disbelief.

"Some of it is, and some is hard science. Even physics says there is no law that forbids time travel. From his notes and drawings, we rebuilt his machine as he made it. Then we analyzed every part and remade it with current technology, lasers and particle accelerators instead of prisms and clockwork-driven dynamos. We had some initial problems. We were using the Mallet Conjectures," continued Frankie.

"What are those?" asked Irwin.

Frankie continued, "There is no need to go into details but suffice to say, forward time travel from here is no issue. But travel to the past is, or, was. We discovered in order to go back in time we needed something that was actually manufactured, or created during the target period. Otherwise, the machine would lock into the latest time of the ring-laser's manufacture. That was a modern piece to the machine. There was no way to get around that. We have to have a piece from X time. That's THE key element."

Bradley shook his head. "You know I always sucked at science, Frankie. But this still sounds insane to me."

Frankie ignored him and continued. "Wells stumbled upon that principle and destroyed the keys, and hid the book, to make it harder for anyone else to use the machine. Note, he didn't destroy the book. The invention was his baby, more so than any child he ever sired. But he never mentioned the nature of the keys anywhere. Or if he did, couldn't find it in any documents we could acquire."

Frankie could see Irwin was taking this all in, adjusting to the idea. He also knew that if it were anyone else stating these facts, Irwin would have walked out in disbelieving disgust.

"Okay, so now you know. What do you want to do? Where do you want to go?" asked Frankie.

Irwin knew he could never prosecute Artie. Maybe he could stop him. "New Jersey, this date, at these coordinates. 1972." He had all the data locked in his head as he wrote it out and handed them to Frankie.

Frankie looked at them. He realized a similarity to another traveler, but said nothing except, "What do you have from that time period?"

Irwin pulls out the two spent casings that he carried in his pockets. He would fumble with them like marbles when he was thinking. He handed both of them to Frankie. "I want to stop this," he said.

Dr. Malloy said. "I only need one, and we'll just require a microscopic shaving of the material. I'll be right back." He handed the other one back to Irwin with a wry smile. He could not know that Irwin was now aware of Titillo's travels, but he had a hunch. He wasn't worried. That was about to change.

"Hey Frankie, does the name Artie Titillo mean anything to you?"

Dr. Francis Malloy stopped. He thought for a minute. He turned around and said carefully, "Yes, he used to work for us. He's retired. Why do you ask?" He thought to himself, Mr. Titillo is a dead man.

"He's someone that I had been investigating." Reading Frankie's mind he quickly added with emphasis, "And no, he never mentioned you or anything about this organization or time travel. I worked that out after being told to drop the case. That's why I came to you. I want to go to the same place, the same day Artie did, only fifteen minutes later."

Dr. Francis Malloy, PhD., gave it some thought. "Okay, but whatever happens in time travel, stays in time travel. This can't ever leave this place, nor can you ever bring anything you discover to a court of law. Is that understood?"

"Of course, I do understand, now."

"Irwin, I'm not kidding. You will be cashiered."

Irwin Bradley knew his friend was not kidding. But he had to go and, and what? He wasn't really sure. Would he stop the event from happening? Then he realized what the war his friend was talking about actually was. He said, "No, my friend, you do not ever have to worry about my saying anything. And please, Mr. Titillo never ever mentioned you, or this place, or time travel, at all. In fact he was frustratingly and surprisingly quiet about the whole investigation. He was so unlike I thought he would be."

Francis took him at his word. "Good," was all he said. "Let's get moving."

A short time later Detective Irwin Bradley was in the projection booth. Frankie was at the controls, and gave him a thumbs up. There was a slight humming as the instruments came on line. There was nothing too spectacular. He felt a little queasy and attributed it to nerves. He looked up and saw Frankie with a somewhat questioning look and then one of panic. That was the last thing he saw, right there, and right then.

####

Timeline: May 23, 1972 CE, outside the Black Crow Gentlemen's Club, Chantilly, VA

It was not coincidence that he emerged in roughly the same location that Artie did. The coordinates were stored in the computer. Detective Bradley didn't know exactly what to expect. He thought maybe he would be at the bar. There he was standing in front of the BLACK CROW. He took a deep breath and had to smile. He thought, why don't they just put a sign on the door BUST ME HERE, idiots.

He looked closer observing the whole area. What a run-down structure this place was. Someone only maintained it at a minimum. The wood needed replacing, and it needed paint, lots of it. Right next door, with a small alley way between them, was a dojo in a modern brick building. In front of the closed dojo was a blue 1971 Pinto hatchback. There was hardly any parking.

How does anyone stay in business? he wondered as he went up to the door of the Black Crow and banged in as loud a cop bang as he could.

Time Line: August 18, 2025 CE, 8th Precinct, Detective Division, Chantilly VA

"Detective Bradley, could I see you in my office?"

Bradley looked up and answered his Captain, "Sure, now or later?"

"Now."

I wonder what's up, he thought as he followed the Captain into the office.

The Captain closed the door and said, "Please sit down. Coffee?"

"What's up?" Irwin asked.

The Captain looked down at something in a plastic bag and then at Detective Bradley. He passed the bag over to him and then asked, "You know what these are?"

Irwin Bradley took a look and knew instantly. "They're nine millimeter casings."

"That's right," said the Captain. He continued, "They have your prints all over them. They were found near a shooting, a shooting that occurred about 50 years ago. The case was never closed, so the evidence box was still in the archives. When they processed the evidence for digital storage, the system flagged the prints as on file. Now, I can see that it's possible that you might have handled them for some reason -- but these are modern casings and modern ammunition. What is going on here?"

Detective Bradley said nothing. He couldn't. But now he was sure he knew what happened. He was not a good liar. He did his best. "I have no idea," he said, because he didn't for that spit second. But what he didn't say was They must have fallen out of my coat jacket when I grabbed for my gun. I wondered where they went. Damn.

"I need to see your gun," demanded the Captain.

As Detective Bradley unloaded the service Sig 226 and handed the Captain his gun, he thought back to that day. It was coming back to him. He barely heard the Captain speaking.

"I need this for ballistics testing," stated the Captain.

"Of course," replied Detective Bradley. Snapping out of the memory trip, he asked, "Does that mean I'm..."

"No, not at all, Irwin. This is too weird -- you can't be a suspect in a murder that happened before you were born! It's going no further than this office for now. You know this is policy," stated the Captain. He was looking at Irwin expecting, hoping for some answer. As before, none was forthcoming.

Detective Bradley attempted to lower the level of conflict. "Tell you what, while you're waiting for the results, I'll take a couple of sick days. Once this straightens out, and I know it will, I'll get back to work. Trust me, it will be just like this didn't happen."

In a way, that's exactly what the Captain wanted to hear. And yet, he knew there was something to it and would have been happy with just a bit more data so he could dismiss this whole thing. "Yes, that sounds good. Take a few days off, sick leave or administrative leave, it's your choice. At this point this is a private affair. It's too weird," he said again, shaking his head. He looked at Irwin again hoping that maybe he would shed some light on this affair.

That was not going to happen.

"Sick, it looks better that way," said Detective Bradley as he left the captain's office. He was thinking about that day. The events were as clear as the view of the office in front of him. He could remember every detail. He was good like that, even years later.

Time Line: August 16, 2025 CE, an undisclosed location, Chantilly Sterling, VA / May 23, 1972, Chantilly, VA

"Irwin, remember, you ONLY have an hour to do what you need. That's it. We yank you out no matter what's happening. No if, ands, or buts," said Frankie just before they began the travel procedures.

Banging on the Black Crow's locked door a few times brought no one. He did notice a pretty young thing looking from behind a door in the back. Detective Bradley was paid to notice things. He was looking for Artie, not her. He had an idea and thought he knew what was happening. So much the better. Let him stay there, he thought.

He had to move fast to do what he wanted to accomplish so he gave up on that one approach he had considered. Now it was on to plan number two.

Knowing that the map and report said the topless bar, The Shamrock, where Anthony DiMartino was killed was down the road, he jogged toward it. He had to get there before Artie did. When he hit Route 516 he made a left. He could see the bar about a quarter mile away, just down from a grammar school. That's way too close, he thought, for any gun play. They would never allow that today.

He slowed down to a brisk walk to calm down and cool off. He felt better when he got to the bar. On the way in he bumped in to a guy about his height, but not as bulked up as he was. But he was a big guy just the same. Bouncer, he thought. "Excuse me, sorry," he said. There was no sense starting anything.

The bouncer just gave him a dirty look and kept talking to a few others at a table. They looked him up and down. It was dark so there wasn't much to see. Bradley assumed they noticed him as he came in. Well, the girls were up and dancing. That was a benefit. He smiled just a bit.

"Coke, please," he said to the bartender.

That will be $5.00.

"Five bucks?" Detective Bradley asked the bartender in disbelief.

"Yep, that's the price when they're dancing." The bartender pointed up to the girls on the platforms.

Detective Bradley laid out a five dollar bill.

The bartender took the bill and then looked at it. He loohed again. "Hey, you trying to be funny? This ain't any US money, Shit it ain't even Canadian. Hey Tony," he hollered. "Check this shit out. This fucker is using funny money to buy a drink." The eyes in the bar all turned toward the bartender

"Shit I forgot, damn it," the detective cursed quietly to himself, while at the same time grabbing the bill back out of the bartenders hand. Then he began moving toward the door. He didn't want to leave any evidence of his time travel. And he wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. Time was almost up. "Damn it, I fucked everything up."

Just as he got to the door, he heard a voice calling to him.

"Hey you, fucker, freeloader. Yeah you, you trying to get away with something?" It had to be the bouncer.

Irwin was at a loss for word. What can I say?, he wondered. 'Hey, I'm from the future, and I forgot to bring money from this period.' Right, like that would work.

"Sorry, I just got back from a trip outside the country. And I forgot to change my bills for US currency." Quick thinking, he said to himself, proud of the answer.

Tony was having none of it. "No, Mr. Big Guy, you bump into me, and then you try to stiff the bartender? You trying to prove something? Not gonna happen. You're going to pay, now," declared Tony DiMartino. He tapped the business end of a baseball bat in the palm of one oversized hand.

"Hey, I said I was sorry when I ran into you. What more do you want?" Maybe reason would work.

"It might have been okay, if you didn't try to rob the joint, asshole. No, you're going to pay my way."

Irwin was backing up. If there was going to be a fight or gun play he wanted to make sure he wasn't facing the school. "Listen Tony, it is Tony DiMartino, right?

"You know my name. What are you, a cop?" asked Tony with a sneer. Tony smelled blood.

"As a matter of fact I am." Irwin pulled out his badge, hoping that the current ones weren't too different. He didn't give his name. Now, they were outside in the full sun. The woods were at Detective Bradley's back. He instinctively moved backwards to give himself more space to maneuver. This is not at all what I had planned.

"A badge, wow, a badge. Big fucking deal," said Tony as he closed in on Detective Bradley. The two others flanked him, staying out of reach while they drove him toward the back of the bar, toward the woods.

Detective Bradley opened his coat; he heard a clink or two but didn't have time to look. He hoped that by showing the black, double stacked Sig 226, they'd back down. That would give him time to get out of there.

Tony looked down quickly and all but ignored the gun.

Too late, Bradley realized that the Sig might look like a toy to them.

Tony lifted the bat to take a swing.

Irwin backed up quickly; the bat just missed his head. This was serious. He pulled the gun. Before Tony could take another swing, Detective Bradley double tapped with two in the head. The casings fell to the ground. Tony's two associates stopped. They understood fire power. Irwin picked up the 9mm shell casings, always facing the other two, gun at the ready and slowly walked away. He holstered the gun. He heard sirens. Just as he got to the road he was pulled back to the present time.

Frankie looked at him and asked in all seriousness, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, why? What's the problem?" Irwin asked. Then he recalled Frankie's worried face just before he jumped back.

"The scrapings we took from the casing were modern! But they also had a tag from 1972. The machine was going nuts attempting to calibrate. We were worried. We knew from the implant you were somewhere. We assumed you where you wanted to be. But because of the casings we were never sure. What gives with these 9mm casings?" This was Dr. Malloy talking, not his friend Frankie.

"The casings are from both times," replied Irwin Bradley.

"What are you talking about?" demanded Dr. Malloy.

Detective Bradley told him the whole story.

####

August 18, 2025 CE, 8th Precinct, Detective Division, Chantilly, VA

These memories shot through Detective Bradley's mind as he was looking at his Captain. I can't say shit, he thought. This is what Artie must have been thinking when I was questioning him. He couldn't say squat. Son of a bitch!

"Irwin, you feeling all right? You look funny," asked the Captain, very concerned. "Sit down. Ill get you some water."

"No, Captain, I'm okay, really. I was just thinking about an old case that didn't go so well. Sorry. I probably need something to eat."

"Detective Low Blood Sugar," the Captain said, attempting to lighten up a situation, none of which he understood. His best detective had fingerprints on shell casings discovered near a shooting in New Jersey that had occurred 50 years ago, understandable if for some reason he had been a little sloppy going through the cold-case evidence room, except that the casings were from ammunition first manufactured in 2017.

"Yeah, go get something to eat," the Captain said to Irwin as he sat down in his chair. The phone was ringing. It was a land line. It was important. "Shut the door on the way out," he said to Detective Bradley as he pointed to the land line phone.

Irwin thought he heard the Captain answer, "Doctor Mallory? Doctor Who? I'm sorry I didn't catch..." as he shut the door.

Detective Bradley smiled as he holstered his back up gun a Sig 238, and headed toward his car. Home or food? La Fornio in Reston, I haven't been there in a while. Yep, a good plate of Italian food is what I need. I'll say hello to Doug, sit at his table and say hello to Chef.

As he was walking toward the door of the restaurant, which was below the condos that Artie Titillo lived in, who should be coming out the door of the condo, but Artie Titillo with a tall blondish woman on his arm. She looked vaguely familiar.

Detective Bradley stopped, a big smile drew across his face and he said, "Mr. Titillo, how are you today? I haven't seen you in a while."

Artie Titillo, much shorter than Detective Bradley, was taken back at this big man invading his personal space with hand outstretched. Artie looked at him in shock and replied, "Sir, who are you? I never met you before in my life." Artie looked back at the slack jawed detective, and increased his withdrawal pace, ever so slightly. As he walked away he heard Artie state, "Nancy, that was weird. I never met the guy."

Nancy looked back and thought Detective Bradley looked familiar. It was from somewhere in her past. It was a past she'd rather forget.

Irwin began to say, "Time... ma..." Then he remembered the locator chip, which probably had a sound pickup and enough brains to scream if it heard the wrong keywords. He lowered his voice and stopped. He had to get to Frankie as soon as possible.

THE END


© 2012 Richard Tornello

Bio: Richard Tornello is a business owner/consultant/technical recruiter with 28+ years experience, married and kept by one very neurotic cat, Stella. He has a degree from Rutgers University in Asian Studies. Richard's poetry and fiction has appeared a number of times in Aphelion (with one or more poems almost every month!); his most recent fiction contribution was The Diary: Confessions of God's Shrink in the April 2012 edition. Richard has also won the Forum Flash Challenge twice in the past few months...As noted in "Small Print", above, "Confessions" combines elements from a number of Richard's stories, including both Flash Challenge entries and regular short stories.

E-mail: Richard Tornello

Website: Non-Official Rhymes

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