Aphelion Issue 229, Volume 22
June 2018
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Timely Misadventure

by Thomas Wm. Hamilton

This story is based on an actual historical event, the murder during a robbery of California State Assembly member John E. Mullally, January 14, 1912, as documented in various San Francisco newspapers. I've based the story on the version in the San Francisco Call of January 15 et seq. All the named downtimers are documented.

New York City, 2070

"Oh, scrunchies, President Miller just appointed a new governor for New York. Our citizenship classes will be filled with this junk." The morning news usually did not distract the teenager from concentrating on breakfast.

"Now Herbert," his mother said, "you're only in tenth grade. You don't have the judgment yet to understand what's important. And I wish you wouldn't use such language. Just eat your breakfast!"

"And" his father added, "I hope you're smart enough to follow the teacher's lead and not open your mouth." He sipped some coffee.

"Yeah, but I like science, especially bio, not that citizenship junk. Let's see, the President loves us, but you can't criticize him or doubt his policies, bad people do that, and they disappear. Almost all foreigners are bad people. See, I already know everything from citizenship class." Herbert took a few bites of breakfast as a reward for his scholarly analysis.

"So much for heredity determining interests. And I hope you're smart enough never to make such comments outside home," Mother said frowning.

"Huh? Heredity?"

"You had a relative more than 150 years ago who was a member of the California state legislature. His name was Mullally, on my side of the family, not your father's Crenshaw side. Unfortunately, he was murdered."

"President's orders?"

"No, he was trying to stop a hold up."

Offices of Timely Adventures, Inc., 2087

"Ah, Mr. Herbert Crenshaw right on time for your appointment. Welcome to Timely Adventures, Incorporated. Have you seen our brochures or website?"

"Yes, but unfortunately I don't speak Latin or some other language whose adventures look intriguing. So, I'm limited to English speaking places and times. I finally narrowed it to New Orleans before it was shut down during the First World War, or San Francisco during the wide-open period of rebuilding following the big 1906 earthquake."

"And have you chosen between those, or could we help advise you?" The salesman gave an unctuous grin as he contemplated the surcharge associated with advisement.

"I flipped a coin, and San Francisco won."

The salesman's expression lost a bit of its grin. "A choice I'm sure you'll be happy with. Have you a particular date in mind for arrival? And how long would you wish to visit there?"

"Let's say arrive on December 29, 1911 so I have enough time to find a good New Year's Eve party. And I can afford to pay for three weeks, which I guess means through January 18, 1912."

"Very good. You know you won't be able to take anything back with you but a suitcase to hold clothing, and cash of the period, all of which we provide, the cost included in your charges. You must have inoculations against what were then endemic diseases, most of which you've probably never heard of, such as polio and typhoid. And anything other than the suitcase, clothing and left over cash that you bring back will be impounded until federal officials have cleared it. You can leave from here, but returns are always from the reception center nearest to the place you have been visiting. That's for the convenience of the government people who check for changes in the timeline."

"No problem, I'm just looking for a good time, not for messing with history or smuggling in art or something."

"What's your occupation?"

"I'm a free lance writer specializing in topics related to oceanography, Writer's License 551-V16-27497 C45, issued by the Federal Writers Authority on June 8, 2081."

The salesman entered this into his computer to verify this. "You know you arenot to tell anyone in your occupation in 1911 any advance information."

"The field was just beginning to become a science then. I don't know of anyone working in it in the San Francisco area back then, but don't worry, I'm looking for fun, not trying to teach people who probably wouldn't believe me."

"Excellent." He tapped his computer. "I see only five residents of the San Francisco area in 1911 named Crenshaw. Two seem never to have had children, and the family name of the others daughtered out within a couple generations. What was your mother's maiden name?"

"Hoefherr." He spelled it.

"Humph, looks like no one in the entire state with that name until the 1930s. Alright, complete these forms, and we'll have you in 1911 before you know it."

Crenshaw looked at the thickness of the packet and gulped. "All this?"

"It includes various waivers, as we are not responsible for what happens to you 176 years ago, only for getting you there and back, and you agree not to make any significant changes in the time line. The packet includes a requirement you reveal any personal connections to the time and place visited."

"What kind of connection could I have to a time 143 years before my birth, in a city I've never seen in any time?"

"You would be surprised at what some people have tried. Anyhow, just fill out the forms, pay, and we'll have you celebrating the New Year of 1912 in the city by the bay before you know it."

Crenshaw spent half an hour reading and signing the various forms, including one indicating he was aware that deliberately or even accidentally making noticeable changes to the timeline was a federal offense punishable by anything up to and including death.

He reported to Timely Adventures' transfer station two days later, filled with injections blocking a host of diseases, most of which, as predicted, he had never heard of. He also was temporarily sterilized, so he could not mess with the timeline by creating children during any sex romps. Crenshaw changed into clothing appropriate for San Francisco in late 1911, and was given a wallet containing $420 in early Twentieth Century American currency, plus a couple dollars in pocket change. "You'll get a refund for any money you return unspent."

"This doesn't seem like much money for carousing for three weeks."

"Prices were very different in 1911. This is roughly equal to thirty thousand dollars today."

"Wow! I'll have to be careful no one cheats me on prices."

"Never a bad idea, in any time or place. Do you have a specific location in San Francisco in mind for the transfer?"

"Not really. Anywhere in the downtown district would be convenient. I assume you won't have me suddenly appear out of nowhere at noon on Market Street. Maybe a dark alley near a hotel?"

San Francisco, 1911

Crenshaw examined his surroundings. He appeared to be in a dark alley behind some sort of fairly large building. He slipped out onto a street with a number of men and women dressed in period clothing walking about. Some horse drawn carriages and ridiculously primitive looking cars completed the archaic scene. Looking back at the building, he saw it was still under construction. A sign proclaimed it the future home of the Olympic Club. The horses seemed to contribute to the city's aroma. He waited for a moment until a reasonably peaceful looking man came by, and stopped him. "Excuse me sir, I'm a stranger here, and I'm looking for Eighth Street. Could you point me in the right direction?"

"Eighth Street, eh? I'm betting you'd be looking for Mullally's saloon on the corner of Minna. Politics or beer?"

"I'll gladly start with the beer; I've little interest in politics, Mullally's or anyone else's."

"Don't let his sister Mary hear yuh say that, or she'll chew your ears off arguing. She's one o' them suffragettes. Yuh know what a suffragette is, don't yuh? A loudmouth woman what makes everyone else suffer." He guffawed.

Crenshaw politely chuckled, followed by thanks after getting the requested directions. As he crossed Seventh Street he saw a house with a sign:

Rooms for Rent

$5 to $7 per Week

No Salesmen, Drunks or Gospel Shouters

White Men Only

"Perfect for me," Crenshaw said to himself, "but I wonder which would create a bigger riot back home, the prices or that last line." He knocked on the door.

"Yeah?" The man answering the door was short, a bit stout, and in need of a shave.

"I'm interested in one of your better rooms for three weeks, and I'm not a salesman, drunk or gospel shouter. In fact, I'm usually pretty soft spoken."

"No $7 rooms available. $6 room has bed, chair, closet. Five bucks don't have the chair. You can use the outhouse in back like everyone else, including me. Pay for a week now."

"Fine with me. I'll only be staying until January 18, and if you like, I'll pay for all three weeks now."

"You leave early, no refund."

"That's okay, I don't expect to leave early."

"You sure you ain't no gospel shouter or one o' them political ajeetaytors? You talk pretty fancy."

"I'm from Back East. I talk pretty normal for there." He handed $18 to the man, who carefully counted it twice, and pocketed the cash without a thank you. He waved for Crenshaw to follow him into the building. The room was shown, a key handed over. After the owner left Crenshaw put down the suitcase he had been carrying, and sat in the room's sole chair, relaxing for a moment. He looked around at the room. A soiled curtain over the window probably had not been cleaned since the Earthquake of 1906. The chair he sat in had little to recommend it, unless one enjoyed risking splinters. The bedding at least was almost clean. "Good thing I'm so loaded with medical protection."

After putting the suitcase unopened in the closet, Crenshaw left the room. He carefully locked the door. A couple blocks back he had spotted a shop carrying one of the two purchases he intended. That was his next destination.

A clerk looked up as he walked in. "Yes, sir, may I help you?"

"I'm looking for an inexpensive but dependable handgun, one that can fire multiple shots before reloading, and is accurate to at least thirty feet"

"We have several models in stock. Would you care to see them?"

"Definitely. A choice improves chances for something I like."

The clerk placed a rather odd-looking gun with an enormous wooden stock on the counter. "This is a Mauser C96, made in Germany, holds ten rounds in that boxy thing in front of the trigger guard, and comes with either 7.65 mm or 9 mm ammunition."

"The stock looks much too clunky for me. Let's try an American make, if you have any."

"Even the Army uses versions of the Colt. These are the 1902 Sporting model and the 1911 model the Army recently adopted. Both are widely used by civilians, and fire well without jamming if you are dependable about cleaning them after each use. They hold seven rounds, and use .45 caliber ammunition. The 1911 has a four and seven-eighth inch long barrel for added accuracy."

"How much?"

"The Sporting model is $14.25, and the 1911 is a bit more. The ammunition comes boxed, 40 to a box, and one box is included in the price."

Crenshaw picked up each of the guns and examined it, flicking open and checking to see how the bullets were loaded in. "I'll take the Sporting model, and one box of ammunition." He took out his wallet, and got out fifteen dollars, which he handed to the clerk. The clerk took the money, counted out his change, and then put the Colt and box of bullets in a bag.

"The city police tend to get interested in people who walk around displaying a gun too openly."

"That's okay, it's not like I'm wanted in all forty-six states plus Canada and Puerto Rico." He laughed. "But thanks for the warning. I'll take this back to my room and leave it there."

"A wise move. It has been a pleasure serving you. Should you need additional arms or more bullets, we'll be here."

"Would you know of any place near here that sells typewriters?"

"Hmm, I think there's a shop on Mission Street near Sixth sells the Williams brand as a sideline to doing printing. But you can just tell the people in the bank to hand over the money, you needn't type it."

"Huh? Oh, very funny. Anyhow, thanks for your help."

Crenshaw headed for the print shop, with the gun and ammo bagged under his arm. The typewriter cost him another $60, and he additionally purchased five cents worth of paper to type on. He carried everything back to his room, then went out to find someplace to eat. "Would saloons have food, or just alcohol? Now's the time to find out."

He headed for Eighth Street. The saloon he was interested in occupied a corner, and ran to nearly half the block. He went in and looked around. There was a long bar in the back of the room, with shelves full of bottles, mugs and glasses above it. Bar stools along the length of the bar, and about a dozen small tables with three or four chairs for each. Seven men were scattered with drinks across three of the tables. The left wall had a mural of some Roman or Greek style god standing in front of a cask, holding a wine glass, surrounded by maidens in decidedly diaphanous gowns. The right wall displayed a map of San Francisco, with part outlined in red, and a large "30" on the top. There was a buffet beneath the map with a sign saying "Free lunch with drinks you already paid for."

Crenshaw walked to the bar. "You Jack? Gimme your best beer."

"My fame reached you? Yep, I'm Jack Tierney. The beer's four bits."

Crenshaw handed him a dollar and said, "Keep the change. By the way, I'm Frank Bates."

"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Bates, keep spending like that and we'll be good friends."

"Assemblyman Mullally around?"

"Not yet. The legislature's home for the holidays, so he ain't in Sacramento, but he ain't come in here yet today. You got some politics you wanna talk with him?"

Crenshaw shuddered theatrically, and took a deep gulp of his beer. "God no. Spare me from all politicians. No, I was hoping to discuss protecting this place from the goons who've been doing all the stick ups near here."

"Yeah, I've been kind of nervous, since it looks like they're moving in this direction. You a gun salesman?"

"Don't you already have a gun behind that bar?"

"Sure, and I can load it in less than a minute."

"Excuse me for saying this, but that's the damned stupidest thing I've heard so far today. Those goons come in here, they can have you dead in a lot less than a minute, 'cause they sure as hell got their guns already loaded. Keep the damn thing loaded."

A man sitting nearby added, "Yeah Jack, and if Bob here can't hold his liquor, you could bop him with your gun. That's about all an unloaded gun is good for."

Crenshaw turned to face the new speaker, and gave him a thumbs up. A second man, presumably Bob, said, "Hey Gilroy, you're the one can't hold his liquor. I saw how you staggered out o' here last Saturday."

The room dissolved into an open discussion among the patrons as to who was best or least capable of holding his liquor. Crenshaw turned back to the bartender and said in a low voice, "I'm serious, keep the gun loaded, and don't be afraid to use it if they show up here. Those goons are very dangerous." He took another drink, and added, "This beer's not bad." He walked over to the "free lunch." A large ham with a sharp knife, a darker meat that may have been venison, fragments of a chicken, several kinds of cheese, some sausages, tomatoes, apples, grapes, deviled eggs, sourdough bread, a cake, a pie already sliced into. He grabbed a plate and helped himself.

The bartender said, "Mullally's wife made the cake and pie. She does that once or twice a week."

"Good for her. Does May ever make some sort of Portuguese specialties?"

Tierney stared at him. "You seem to know an awful lot for someone who just walked in here. Who the hell are you?"

"I'm a distant relative of Mullally. But we've never met. In fact, I've never been in San Francisco before today. Thought I'd get acquainted while I was in town."

Jack Tierney said, "Yeah, what kind of relative?"

"Sort of a nephew, but a lot more distant. Don't worry, I'm not looking for money or a job, or anything else. Just hoping to meet a relative who seems to be doing pretty well for himself."

The bartender just grunted, and seemed to have lost interest in Crenshaw. To try to re-establish relations, he asked for another beer. Tierney plopped it in front of him without comment, even when he again paid with a dollar. After slowly finishing his meal and second beer, Crenshaw hung around hoping Mullally might show up, but with Tierney getting progressively more hostile, decided to give up for the day. He returned to his room, where he typed for hours despite the awkward placement of the typewriter atop the suitcase mounted on his chair while he sat on the bed.

The next day he again showed up at the saloon around lunchtime. The "free lunch" was pretty much the same, except none of the pie remained, and a fresh chicken had been added. Tierney ignored him except to serve his beer and take his dollar. A few men wandered in and out with nothing remarkable happening until a man rather better dressed than most came in. He went to the back, where Tierney leaned over the bar and whispered to him. The man turned and stared at Crenshaw, then walked over to his table and sat down.

"Jack tells me you claim to be my nephew. You damn sure don't look like Bill, and he's the only nephew in town. What's your game?"

"You're Assemblyman John E. Mullally?"

"Yeah. And you?"

"I'm going by Frank Bates, because if what I'm about to tell you got back and was attributed to me, I'd almost certainly be executed when I go home. I'm not exactly a nephew, but we are distantly related."

"Uh huh, and what's this great secret? Got some blackmail worthy dirt on Assembly Speaker Hewitt? I might even be interested."

"No, it's about the gang that's been pulling all the robberies. They intend to hit this place on January 14."

"Son of a bitch! How do you know this?"

"We can't discuss this in public. You have a private place we can talk?"

"I've got a small office in back." He stood and gestured for Crenshaw to follow him. Once they were seated in a room not much larger than a closet, with the door shut, Mullally began, "Alright, Bates, or whoever you are, what's this all about?"

Crenshaw began with, "This may sound irrelevant, but let me approach this my own way. Have you read much of Mark Twain's writings?"

"I got a good chuckle out of his essay on the German language, and I've read a few of his books. I guess we won't be getting more out of him. Why?"

"Have you read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court?"


"How about H. G. Wells? The Time Machine to be specific?"

"I've seen some of his stuff. He seems to have pretty good politics for a Limey."

"You're not making this any easier to explain. I'm from the year 2087. I came back here supposedly as a tourist, but actually with the deliberate intention of preventing your murder during the hold up of this saloon on January 14, even though uptime such interference is regarded as an extremely serious criminal offense."

v "Just how many beers did Jack serve you?"

"I wasn't allowed to bring anything back that might convince you, just what I could remember. I'm typing it up, so if we can assure you survive January 14, your political career goes a lot further."

"I suspect the priests at St. Joseph's would advise that I quote the Bible, 'Retro me, Satanas.'"

"Pfft. You're a good guy, but you're no Christ figure, and your Latin is flawed."

Mullally laughed. "Damn, but for no good reason I'm starting to believe you. So, will Taft be re-elected next November?"

"No, he'll only come in third."

"Third! So who wins?"

"Woodrow Wilson."

"The Governor of New Jersey? But he's a Democrat."

"So? Democrats do win occasionally."

"Who comes in second?"

"Teddy Roosevelt."

"I seriously liked him as President, but if he decides to run against Taft, I can see how he'd split the vote and let a Democrat win. Damn, I'd much rather support TR than Taft, but not at the price of electing a Democrat! I'm starting to sound like I believe your nonsense."

"Whether you believe me or not, just make sure Tierney has that gun loaded. I'll be here on the Fourteenth to provide added firepower. Too bad effective bulletproof vests haven't been invented yet."

"Am I going to have to listen to you making comments like that? How long do you intend to hang around?"

"I return to my own time period on January 18."

"So I get one chance at living longer, and you won't be here to help after that."

Crenshaw shrugged. "I may have to check history books, or dig in old newspaper files, but I'll find out how well you will have done. That doesn't mean I can come back again to help you. It's damned expensive, plus the government may get suspicious if I spend too much time here."

"Why would the government care what you do in what you claim is your past?"

"Afraid of changing the world, of people setting up something so they are super-rich when they return to the present, of smuggling valuable art, all sorts of possibilities."

"I'm still not convinced you're not either crazy or trying to set up some scam. But I agree Jack should make sure that gun he keeps behind the bar is loaded, if that hold up gang may be headed this way."

Crenshaw gave a sigh. "On the thirteenth I'm going to give you some typed notes that can help you in the future. But, two very important points. You must never let anyone else, your wife, anyone, ever see these notes or even know that they exist. Best if you burn the appropriate page as each thing they discuss is passed. And whatever happens on the fourteenth, don't ever mention to the cops, newspapers, or anyone else that I was involved or even exist."


"Any crime victimizing an elected official is sure to get lots of attention. That's as true in 2087 as it is in 1912."

Mullally continued to press "Bates" for his motives, while trying to decide if he really believed any of this. After an hour of conversation, he decided to end the discussion. "I'll tell Tierney to be polite. Don't press your luck by hanging around here every day, though." He stood, and directed Crenshaw out of his office.

Following his advice, Crenshaw headed back to his room for more typing. He found a couple other venues for meals, and did not return to Mullally's saloon until January 13. He handed Mullally a thick typed manuscript, saying "It would probably be best if you don't start reading this until a few days from now. Tomorrow, and most likely the day after, the police may be keeping you busy investigating whatever happens with the crooks."

"You claimed you leave on the eighteenth. I may want to ask you a few questions about whatever's in that pack."

"Alright, spend some time late on the seventeenth reading, and I'll meet you in the morning before I go back, which should be at noon."

Late next evening Crenshaw placed himself at a table in a dark corner near the mural of the god sampling wine. He nodded approvingly when Mullally checked to see if Tierney's gun was loaded. Several customers sat around drinking and chatting. The door swung open to admit a large, muscular man with a white bandanna over his face and a gun in his hand. The phone on the bar started ringing as the man snarled, "Okay, you bastards, hands up."

Crenshaw, who had his gun resting in his lap, fired two shots. Two men with red bandannas over their faces entered. Mullally grabbed the weapon-wielding arm of the first man as Tierney crouched behind the bar and fired at the second entrant. The third man fired wildly in Crenshaw's general direction, but missed. The second man returned Tierney's fire, smashing a couple bottles of whiskey. Crenshaw fired twice at the third man, who collapsed. The first one was now wrestling with Mullally despite bleeding profusely from his groin and thigh. One of the customers, all of whom had hit the floor, crawled to where the third man lay, and grabbed the gun lying next to him. He and Crenshaw each shot the one exchanging gunfire with Tierney. Crenshaw tried to get another shot at the one wrestling with Mullally, but feared to hit Mullally. The customer, however, stood up, placed the gun right next to the man's head, and yelled "Give it up or I blow your brains out."

This criminal snarled several vile curses while still struggling with Mullally. A moment later his brains were scattered across the saloon.

The sudden silence was shocking. Mullally looked around calmly, and said, "Jack, would you please answer the phone?" But it had gone silent also.

The door again swung open, and three guns swung to meet May Mullally, daughter of Portuguese immigrants, and wife of Assemblyman John E. Mullally, saloon keeper. She screamed at the horrific scene that greeted her. "John, are you alright?" She embraced her husband, who was covered in blood and bits of bone, meat and brain tissue.

Crenshaw stuck his gun in Mullally's waistband and slipped out the door as May explained she had seen the three men looking suspicious outside the saloon, and had tried to phone to warn him.

Tierney phoned the police as Mullally tried to clean himself off with his wife's help. The San Francisco police arrived faster than Tierney's call could allow, as the gunfire had caused many people to contact them.

The police investigation lasted for hours. One of their questions had to do with claims by several of the customers that there had been another customer present who had been the one to fire the first shots, as well as taking out the third bandit. But Assemblyman Mullally and bartender Tierney both denied the presence of another customer, now missing. The Assemblyman explained the initial non-fatal injuries in the man he had fought as coming from a Colt Sporting gun he was able to show them. His word was ultimately accepted, since the only surviving criminal was in no condition to discuss possible disappearing witnesses.

The saloon was closed for clean up on the fifteenth, but as "Bates" had suggested, the day's newspapers were filled with the story. Mullally was profiled as the "Battling Assemblyman" who had heroically defeated the three nearly single-handedly. The crooks were identified as soldiers, one from the Presidio, the others from other military bases around the Bay Area.

A stream of people came by to view the scene and express opinions to Mullally. One of the first to appear was one of the three candidates Mullally had defeated to win his assembly seat. "Mr. Shelton, I certainly never expected to see a Prohibition Party candidate in my saloon."

"Oh, Mr. Mullally, I would hope this experience would inspire you to seek a higher calling than purveyor of demon rum."

"Actually, we get little call for rum. Beer is the most popular, followed by whiskey."

"Yet even after this you still find nothing wrong with selling any of those."

"Apparently neither do the voters of the 30th Assembly District. Didn't I have nearly a hundred votes for every one you received?"

Shelton shook his head and turned to leave, with one last parting shot. "The Prohibition Party continues its work, and someday we shall end this curse on America."

Mullally, who had already glanced at the materials Crenshaw gave him, startled Shelton by saying, "You're absolutely right, you're less than ten years from imposing Prohibition on all of the USA, and a sad day it will be."

Democrat William Doell was Mullally's next defeated opponent to appear. He deplored the rising tide of crime under Republicans. Mullally responded that the Democrats would take over the White House after November so come back in two years and we can compare results. Meanwhile, he said, this Republican knows how to handle crime effectively.

Last to show up was the Socialist candidate, Robert Larkins, who felt crime was evidence of the corruption of capitalism, and could not understand why Mullally, who had begun his political career in 1907 as a delegate to the Union Labor Party convention, did not support socialism as the only feasible economic way to protect the working class. Mullally just laughed at him. When Crenshaw had not appeared by noon on the eighteenth, Mullally finally realized he had no intention of showing up again, and presumably had already returned to his time.

San Francisco Call newspaper, November 3, 1920:
Harding and Mullally Lead Republican Romp

Below is an extract from an article in the same issue devoted to Mullally:

After just a single term as a Congressman, John Mullally succeeded in unseating one term Senator James Phelan. Mullally, with extensive support from women who only gained the vote with passage of the Nineteenth Amendment on August 26, got almost precisely 50% of the vote to Phelan's 39.8%. James Edwards of the Prohibition Party got 6.3%, although his effort seemed unnecessary with passage of the Eighteenth Amendment. The Socialist Party's attempt to capitalize on women now being able to vote by running Elvina Beals, only managed to get 4.0%.

Extract from Inaugural Speech of John E. Mullally, January 20, 1941

We must not neglect to thank Franklin Roosevelt for his herculean effort over the past eight years to deal with the economic crisis, and I am sure some of his reforms, such as Social Security and Unemployment Insurance, will be of major help to America's workers in the future. Workman's Compensation would have helped my father after he was disabled on the job, so despite some in Congress hoping I would support repeal, in fact were such a repeal to pass Congress, I will be delighted to veto it. I hope to move forward in working for the betterment of all Americans, while keeping a wary eye on the on-going war in Europe and the Far East. I won't repeat the broken promise Woodrow Wilson made to keep us out of the war, but I will not seek to get involved, either.

The Oval Office, the White House, Washington DC, February 15, 1941

"Dr. Goddard, Dr. Oppenheimer, I am grateful both of you found time to accept my invitation to meet here." President Mullally gestured to a table set with coffee, juices, and various foods.

Robert H. Goddard smiled. "An invitation from the President doesn't come every day. I would never miss the opportunity."

J. Robert Oppenheimer added, "And few politicians seem ever to want to meet and talk to physicists!"

"We have a problem coming up for which you two can be a major part of the solution. To cut it short, the United States will be dragged into this war before Christmas. Dr. Goddard, I want you to work on developing rockets suitable for use in the war, some from shoulder launchers that can destroy tanks and similar armored targets, as well as long range rockets that can deliver bombs. Dr. Oppenheimer, you are to head the effort to develop the uranium or plutonium bomb."

Goddard gulped. "I've been ordered to stop testing in the Worcester area."

"Certainly, and I have to agree it was a dumb place to do tests. Stick with your wife's property in New Mexico."

"I'm flattered," Oppenheimer began, "but surely Einstein is the most qualified."

"He's also way too high profile. Were he to leave Princeton for any reason, Hitler and Tojo would both suspect why. You may slip under their scrutiny, and can get other physicists, such as Dunning from Columbia, to work with you."

"Dunning? Sounds like you've been well advised or done research on your own."

"Secrecy must be preserved. You will need uranium, and there just happens to be over 1300 tons of high grade uranium ore sitting in drums on the Staten Island waterfront. It came straight from the Belgian Congo after the Nazis overran Belgium. I suggest you try centrifuges as easier to handle than gaseous diffusion to separate the U235 isotope. I've already slipped in funding for both of you in the supplemental budget I added to what Roosevelt had submitted."

The Oval Office, the White House, Washington DC, April 27, 1941

President Mullally called in his secretary. "My nephew Bill died yesterday. Prepare a letter of sympathy on White House stationery to his widow for my signature. You can get her particulars in the family file. Start the letter 'Dear Jimmy'".


"It's what the family calls her. Say a few words about the value of his contributions as a soldier in the last war, and as secretary of the San Francisco water commission. At the end say that we are likely to be dragged into the current war before Christmas, so don't be in a rush to sell the house and move Back East to join your family, because the prices of housing stock will zoom once we're at war."

"Oh, Mr. President, I hope you're wrong about the war."

"So do I, but it looks like a certainty. He had a kid, but at two years old I don't think a letter would mean much. Pick up a teddy bear at lunch, and have the mail room ship it."

The Oval Office, the White House, Washington DC, November 18, 1941

"Admiral Kimmel, General MacArthur, I'm very pleased you were able to leave your posts and join me for this conference."

Kimmel murmured some words about being honored by the invitation, while MacArthur scowled and said "As a military officer I always obey orders from my superiors."

"Unfortunately, this conference must deal with a very unpleasant subject. On Sunday, December 7, at about 7:45 am local time, a Japanese fleet will launch hundreds of bombers from the sea northeast of Hawaii, and attack our naval and land facilities. This fleet is commanded by Admiral Yamamoto, and has at least six large aircraft carriers and several battleships. There will be one or two man mini-submarines also attacking the harbor. Nine hours later Japanese ships and aircraft will attack Luzon while landing tens of thousands of troops there."

Both officers were horrified. MacArthur said, "How certain is this intelligence? I know I haven't heard anything hinting at this. Anyway, I doubt the Japs have the equipment or manpower to do all this while they're fighting China and the British." He looked at Kimmel, who shook his head. "It comes from an unimpeachable source that has provided invariably correct intelligence in the past."

MacArthur started to argue, but Mullally cut him off. "Admiral, you will move all your ships out of the harbor under total radio silence starting not earlier than 2 nor later than 4 am on December 7. They are to head northeast, and assault the Japanese fleet from their flank. American aircraft are to fly at a high altitude, and meet the in-coming Japanese bombers at least fifty miles from land. I realize our radars are still primitive, but they should be sufficient to keep our units aware of the locations of the enemy."

Turning to MacArthur, he said "You are to assure all military aircraft in the Philippines are either in the air or hidden where bombing raids won't destroy them. I'm not sure where in Luzon the landings will take place, but have mines laid, artillery in place, and troops ready to shift as quickly as possible to resist. In the limited time left, try to bring the troops into a better state of preparedness to fight." He added, "And that goes double for you, Admiral. I realize you inherited a rather unprepared command. Do your best to improve it."

The two officers left the Oval Office. MacArthur said to Kimmel, "What do you intend to do?"

"Follow orders, of course. I'll need General Short's co-operation for the preparedness, and we'll try to practice at least twice moving all the ships out. I had been keeping them in port as easier to protect from sabotage, but the President doesn't seem to think that's a problem, at least not compared to the attack he described. He seems to have no faith in the talks Secretary of State Willkie has been having with the Japanese."

"I want to check with Hoover about this intelligence before I travel all the way back to Manila."

J. Edgar Hoover was ready to make time for an unscheduled appointment with Douglas MacArthur. "What brings you all the way from the far side of the world, General? Just to see me?"

"I just came from the White House, where the President informed Admiral Kimmel and me that the Japs are going to attack Pearl Harbor and The Philippines on December 7. Neither Army Intelligence nor Naval Intelligence knows anything about this. Do you?"

"Not a thing, and I do keep an eye on the Japs, the Nazis, and the Russkies. Did he say where this came from?"

"Just that it came from an 'unimpeachable source' that had never been wrong in the past."

"Such infallibility is only claimed for the Pope. What do you intend to do?"

MacArthur snorted. "I asked Kimmel the same question, and I guess I'll have to give you the same answer he gave me: follow orders. If nothing comes of this at least my men will get some needed training."

"I intend to follow up on this, and I'll let you know what I learn."

Hoover was fitted into the President's schedule two days later. "Mr. President, I understand you have unimpeachable intelligence of an impending Japanese attack. May I ask the source?"

"You may ask, but it's so secret that only the President can know the source, and I have to burn the writings after reading."

"I hope it's not a fortune teller or astrologer reading the stars, but some real spy."

Mullally forced a laugh. "No fortune tellers or mystic seers, I assure you. I wish it were, because I could ignore them. This comes from a far more unlikely, but much more trustworthy source."

"So you won't share this source with me?"

"I can't."

Hoover stomped away from the President towards the door. Mullally hesitated, thinking to himself that provoking Hoover was a fool's game, and he should be ashamed of himself for doing so. But as Hoover reached the threshold of the Oval Office, Mullally said, "By the way, you should advise the MI5 liaison that Kim Philby is a Soviet spy. So is Julius Rosenberg." Hoover visibly twitched, but did not stop or say anything.

2087: Crenshaw Returns

Crenshaw looked around, puzzled. He seemed to be in a corridor of an office building. Several doors on each side, but nothing to suggest a Timely Adventures reception area. A woman coming down the hall looked fairly unremarkable. He said, "Excuse me, but I seem to have taken a wrong turn. Would you know where the reception area is for Timely Adventures?"

She stopped, and seemed to think for moment. "Sorry, but I don't know any firm by that name. Are you sure it's in this building?"

"I'm not sure of anything at this point." Never heard of Timely Adventures?! With all the advertising they do!

She pulled out a cell phone and typed something in. "Directory shows nothing by that name. What is it, a travel agency?"

"I thought so. Guess I'll go home and check the advertising brochure I received. Probably misread something; anyhow, thanks for your help."

"No problem." She continued down the hall. He headed for a marked exit. Outside two police, a man and a woman, were waiting.

"Sir, we had a complaint that a suspicious looking man was wandering this building. Would you mind identifying yourself?"

"I'm Herbert Crenshaw. I think I'm lost, because I was supposed to be met by representatives of Timely Adventures, and I can't find them."

"Have you any ID on you?"

"No, they were supposed to have my things--clothing, ID, whatever."

"Please stand still while I frisk you." Crenshaw couldn't decide whether to be outraged or frightened, but concluded he was in no position to resist. At least these cops seemed much more polite than he was accustomed to. The cop found the wallet he had carried in 1912, and opened it.

"This is curious. No ID of any kind, no credit cards, but a couple hundred dollars in extremely obsolete currency. Would you care to explain where you got this, and what the purpose is in carrying it around? You couldn't possibly expect any store to accept it."

"I just returned from 1912. I was there on an excursion set up by Timely Adventures, and I'm looking for their office so I can get a refund on the unspent cash, turn in these clothes, and get my own stuff back."

The cops looked at one another. The female cop said, "You wouldn't be playing games with us, would you?"

"Games? Why would I?"

The other cop nodded. "My handheld lie detector indicates you believe you were truthful although a bit evasive. Helping you is beyond our level, but Lt. Chen back at the precinct specializes in helping people with your sort of problem. Would you like to speak with him? It would be completely voluntary. You're not under arrest or any sort of restraint, but I think the Lieutenant could help. If it would make you feel better, you can ride in the front seat with me, rather in the back seat cage.

Crenshaw breathed a deep sigh of relief, and looked at the woman cop. "Would you mind being stuck in the back?"

"Not at all," she said soothingly. "You ride up front like an innocent civilian. I'll be fine in back."

They all got into the patrol car with Crenshaw holding his suitcase on his lap. As the car started the male cop took a microphone, clicked a couple times, and said "Dispatch, this is Car 94. We have a probable 1074 coming in to see Lt. Chen."

"Acknowledge probable 1074. Lt. Chen will be notified."

At the station house a police sergeant checked the contents of Crenshaw's suitcase, and asked him to leave it at the front desk. "Regulations prohibit civilians from carrying packages into the station. Don't worry, we rarely have burglaries here, so it'll be safe until you're ready to pick it up."

"I'm sure that's a joke about having burglaries here. Actually, I'll be glad to leave the thing here, I'm tired of carrying it around."

The desk officer told them Lt. Chen was waiting in Conference Room 2, and after dropping their civilian off, they should get back to work. Both said they would first make a pit stop. Crenshaw went into Conference Room 2, and was mildly surprised to see Lt. Chen appeared to have African, not Oriental, ancestry.

"Good afternoon, sir. I'm Lt. Chen, but that's so formal. You can call me Paul. What might be your name?"

"Herbert Crenshaw."

"So Herbert, what's the problem that brought you here today?"

"I'm a customer of Timely Adventures. I spent three weeks back in the San Francisco of 1912, and expected when I returned to 2087 to be in their San Francisco reception center. So far no seems to know where that is."

Chen had been watching a panel on his desk not visible to Crenshaw. Chen looked up and said, "That's very interesting. What did you do in 1912?"

"Drink a lot of beer, party and carouse. I hope you don't think I tried to mess with the timeline." "Why wouldn't you want me to think that?"

"I'm sure you're as acquainted as I am with the federal laws that can range all the way up to a death penalty for deliberately messing with the past. Really, I hung out in a couple saloons, went to a show, picked up a couple ladies of what they called easy virtue, although to be honest, they probably hadn't had anything that might be called virtue since they were thirteen."

"Well!" Chen paused for a moment. "You needn't worry about federal laws, California's been a state for over 200 years, and we enforce our own laws, and let the feds do theirs. Tell me, when were you born?"

"August 24, 2054 in New York."

"Do you still live in New York?"

"Forty First Avenue in Flushing." On a sudden impulse he added, "That's the 108 Precinct."

"Excuse me for a moment." Chen worked a keyboard on his desk, then picked up a phone. Crenshaw could only hear Chen's end of the conversation. "This is Lt. Paul Chen of the San Francisco Police," followed by a long and complex code he could not follow. "I have Herbert Crenshaw, a probable 1074, here who claims to have lived on 41st Avenue in your precinct." He looked at Crenshaw, and said "Exact address?"

He gave an address, and added "Apartment 9B."

Chen repeated this and asked for verification. A pause, and then "Thank you." A few more remarks, and he hung up.

"So, Herbert, I hate to disappoint you, but I can't help you any further. City and state law limit how much the police can do before turning problems such as yours over to licensed professionals. I do hope you are willing to see one. I have a civilian colleague who may be able to help. If you're willing, I can set up an appointment right now."

"If it will settle this nonsense, fine, do it."

Chen worked his keyboard. It spat out a sheet of paper. "We're in luck, Dr. Wollney can see you in a couple hours. I'll arrange a ride for you."

"What did the precinct say?"

"The address you gave me has been a supermarket for at least twenty years, and the precinct has no records of you."

"Oh, God, I've totally screwed the timeline! They'll hang me for sure!"

"So, you feel a few beers and some time with ladies of the evening are so sinful you deserve to die? Should I tell Dr. Wollney how guilt ridden and depressed you feel?"

Crenshaw suddenly realized his best course was to shut up. Curiosity drove him to say, "Did you ever hear of John Mullally?"

"You mean President Mullally? His presidential library and museum is only a few blocks from here on Eighth Street."

"That's where his saloon was."

"And still is. The saloon survived Prohibition as a speakeasy, and got incorporated into the museum. Here's Patrolman Ghirardelli. He'll drive you to Dr. Wollney's office." He stood, and as Crenshaw rose with him, shook Crenshaw's hand. "Good luck. I respect Dr. Wollney's abilities, and hope she can help you."

As he passed the desk the sergeant handed Crenshaw his suitcase. He was about to say it contained nothing he wanted to keep, but decided the less said the better.

The drive turned out to be only a few blocks he could easily have walked, but Ghirardelli accompanied him into another office building, to a door labelled "Dr. F. Wollney, M.D., D.Psych., Fellow A.P.A., Diplomate AIPaC".

A receptionist signed a form Ghirardelli handed her. On retrieving it he nodded to Crenshaw, said "Good luck", and left.

The receptionist said to Crenshaw, "You were scheduled at the last moment, so you're at the end of the day. Would you want to sit here waiting for nearly three hours, or have you anything you might want to do for a couple hours?"

Crenshaw thought for a moment. "If it would be alright with you for me to leave this suitcase here, I think I'd like to visit the Mullally Museum."

She sighed. "Just put it over in the corner under the window."

He dropped the suitcase as instructed, said "I'll be back soon" and headed for the museum.

Standing outside Crenshaw had a choice. Enter the saloon, or the main building of the museum and library. No choice at all. He had last been in the saloon three days ago of his time, 175 years for the saloon. It had surprisingly few changes. The back still had a bar, with shelves of liquor bottles, mugs and glasses above it. Broken glass and blood from the gun fight had been cleaned up. To one side was the mural of a god, still holding out a wine glass, still surrounded by maidens, although their gowns seemed less transparent than he had last seen them. The largest change was in the "free lunch" display. Cases were modern, a sneeze guard added. Mounted above, behind a clear covering, was what appeared to be his 1902 Colt. Looking closely on the opposite wall, he saw the bullet hole created when the third robber had fired at him was still there.

A woman wearing a sort of uniform with the word "Docent" on her left shoulder, said "Welcome to Mullally's saloon. Have you ever visited here before?"

Crenshaw smothered a laugh. "Yes, quite a few years ago. I was interested in how well you've preserved the place. I even see at least one of the bullet holes from the gun fight. I guess Mullally himself had all the broken glass and blood cleaned up."

"I fear broken glass would be dangerous for our visitors. You have sharp eyes to spot that bullet hole. It's not one we normally point out."

He raised an eyebrow. "Aren't all bullet holes created equal?"

"This one is hard to explain. The robbers were mostly firing at the bartender. So far as we know, nobody was in this corner."

"Didn't anyone ever say there was a customer sitting here who started the shooting?"

"Oh, you must be referring to the rumor of a sixth customer present who opened fire first. President Mullally always denied the sixth customer claim, and his bartender backed him up. There was never any evidence of a sixth customer."

"Good for Jack Tierney, always agree with the boss."

"My goodness, you certainly seem to have studied this well, to know the name of the bartender."

He gave her his most charming grin. "I learned long ago how important it is to make friends with bartenders. Speaking of which, are the bottles back there just for display, or do you ever serve drinks?"

"The saloon functions as the lunch room of the museum and library. So, none of the bottles on display really contain alcohol. Most of our activity involves visiting school groups, and alcohol would be inappropriate. We do offer school children invented drinks that sound like something an old-time saloon might serve, but it's just regular milk or other age appropriate drinks. There's an historical re-enacting group that comes here in the evening on the anniversary of the gun fight, and on that one occasion we do serve alcoholic beverages. Actually, we don't, the re-enactor portraying Jack Tierney does the serving."

"So no free lunch these days."

She smiled at him. "I fear that practice is long gone."

"Still, a shot of 175 year old whiskey might be interesting enough to attract an adult crowd."

"It probably would, but we would need a state liquor license, plus city law has restrictions we couldn't meet."

A man entered the saloon. He was expensively dressed, late fifties, tall, balding. The docent said, "Mr. Dressler, I've been waiting for you, and having a very interesting conversation with this gentleman, who seems exceptionally knowledgeable about President Mullally. Excuse me," turning to Crenshaw, "but I never got your name."

"Herbert Crenshaw."

"Knowledgeable, eh? I'm planning a show on Mullally. Tell me something I don't know."

"I don't know about when he was in the White House, but when he was in the gun fight here he was a strawberry blond. If that's not good enough, a customer named Gilroy picked up the gun dropped by the third crook and used it to blow out the brains of the chief honcho, even though the press the next day made it sound like Mullally did most of the shooting. I don't think Tierney's gunfire accomplished much beyond distracting the crooks." He pointed to the gun on the wall. "If that's the original gun used in 1912, it only fired five times. Have the other two bullets been left in the magazine or were they removed?"

"Not bad, not that I necessarily believe it. Where did you learn all this?"

Crenshaw took a deep breath. "I was there."

The docent looked startled, and then giggled, assuming he was joking.

Dressler said, "You're pretty spry for someone over 200 years old."

"I'm 33. I'm a time traveler."

"And you went back to 1912 just to watch the gun fight that made Mullally famous?"

"No, I went back to save his life, because in the original timeline he was killed by the three robbers."

"Uh huh, and who won his Senate seat?"

"No one important. Franklin Roosevelt won the 1940 Presidential election."

"A third term? Nonsense, Roosevelt announced in April of 1940 he was retiring. He didn't mention it, but he was a cripple."

"In the original timeline he was afraid Dewey would be the Republican candidate, and Dewey was so opposed to much of Roosevelt's program that he decided to run. Dewey wanted to end support for England in the war, end Social Security, all sorts of stuff."

"Well, the war was over when Mullally died and Dewey inherited the Presidency, so he couldn't mess with Lendlease, but I don't remember him trying to end Roosevelt's social programs."

The docent said, "Actually he tried, but Congress blocked him. If I remember, it was one of the policies that helped the Democratic candidate, Eisenhower, defeat him in 1948."

"You know, Herb," Dressler said, "you got a great imagination. Like I said, I'm producing a show about Mullally. Now it seems to me a book describing a world where Mullally died in 1912 just might stir up extra interest in my show. Plus. you could make a few bucks. How about you and me sit down and discuss the possibilities?"

Reprinted from the Book Review section of the New York Times, June 22, 2088
Timely Misadventure, 2088, 314 pages, Dressler Publishing, author Herbert Crenshaw?
Genre: Science Fiction; subgenres Alternate History, Dystopia
Reviewer: Dennis Farquhar-Jones

Alternate history is a long established genre within science fiction. Dystopias have been around even longer. This book offers an alternate history in which the famous Gunfight at Mullally's Saloon ended very differently, with Mullally dead and the robbers walking off with $87. Since this effectively wiped out his twenty years in the Senate and his time as President, we have an alternate history. What this history entails makes this also something of a dystopia.

The first problem is finding out who the real author of this book may be. There is no record of anyone named Herbert Crenshaw more than fifteen months ago. SF writers tend to have a lengthy history of attending conventions, writing short stories, and in other ways leaving footprints. Crenshaw seems in contrast suddenly to have appeared out of nowhere. But the book is grammatical, has good character development, in all formal ways is well written, not at all amateurish or the work of a beginner. Clearly, we are dealing with an accomplished main stream author writing under a pseudonym. Regretfully I must say he was wise to use a pseudonym, as Timely Misadventure offers an absurd, illogical, and generally poorly thought out alternate history. The author should stick to whatever part of main stream publishing he normally writes for, and leave SF to its fans.

Changes induced by Mullally's early demise first show up with Franklin Roosevelt running for and winning a third term. Supposedly he feared Dewey would win and reverse Roosevelt's Lendlease program supporting Britain early in World War II, and repealing Social Security. But despite his support of Britain, in this third term Roosevelt does nothing to beef up defenses in Hawaii or The Philippines. Japan, which walked into an ambush when it attacked Pearl Harbor, in this alternate history destroys America's Pacific fleet in the sneak attack. Why would Roosevelt have ignored the secret intelligence Mullally put to such effective use? And even though The Philippines were attacked nine hours after Hawaii, in this improbable history, General MacArthur has done nothing to prepare. Were he still alive, he should sue "Crenshaw" for portraying him as grossly incompetent.

The author gets too cute by having Roosevelt die in office the same month that Mullally did. Roosevelt is succeeded by an obscure Missouri senator even few historians could describe. He beats Dewey to win his own term in 1948. Actually of course, Dewey succeeded to the Presidency, but lost in 1948 to Democrat Eisenhower. "Crenshaw" has Eisenhower as the victorious Republican candidate in 1952. Again, far too cute.

What makes this something of a dystopia, however, lies in the international picture. Instead of Berlin, and Hitler, being destroyed by an atomic bomb in 1944, with Germany's military subsequently suing for peace, "Crenshaw" has Germany defeated in 1945 by the invading armies of the USA, Britain, and the Soviet Union, with the Soviets occupying half of Germany and all of eastern Europe. Japan is defeated by atomic bombs, but a good nine months after it really happened. The Soviets then begin a "Cold War", which in "Crenshaw's" terminology means constant hostility plus a series of minor wars in which American forces faced Soviet proxies. Tens of thousands of Americans die in these wars, and inflation brings the dollar's value crashing. American politics turn inward to the point where Presidents appoint the Senate and state Governors, and suppress critics. I give the author points for a dark vision, but with the nuclear tipped rockets Goddard and Oppenheimer developed late in the war, even Stalin had enough sense not to challenge American might.

So why is the space program in this benighted world a good fifty years behind us? An arbitrary idea?

In summary, I cannot recommend this book, and cannot understand why in just a month after release it is number two on the Times current best seller list.


2017 Thomas Wm. Hamilton

Bio: Mr. Thomas Wm. Hamilton is a retired astronomer. Educated at Columbia University, he worked for three years on the Apollo Project defining radar accuracy requirements, fuel usage, and other details. He then wrote canned planetarium shows for a planetarium manufacturer, followed by 34 years of college teaching and running planetariums. Since retirement he has authored six books on astronomical topics, a time travel novel, and an anthology of satire, humor, fantasy and SF. Asteroid 4897 was named for him, and he is a Fellow of the International Planetarium Society.

E-mail: Thomas Wm. Hamilton

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