25 min readJul 14, 2021


Jolting a Killer. Adult. Sci Fi, Detective. Time travel can be complex.

In a future world, police track down criminals, despite new factors including teleportation and time augmenting drugs. Are you ready for a heavy mystery tale?

“Lieutenant Craft.” Andrews, desk sergeant of the 1754th Precinct, stops me as I enter the station. “Captain Transki wants to see you, at your convenience.” He grins, both of us knowing the term means immediately.

“Sure, Andy,” I reply. Not that I don’t have enough on my plate already. The Adamoski killing has his ire up, and I’m spinning my wheels on it, getting nowhere. I sign in at the desk, sigh, and walk across a large foyer. The room is as crowded as a teleportation terminal.

Citizens waiting for their complaints to be heard fill a half-dozen wooden benches on one side of the room. Handcuffed prisoners crowd a metal cage at the other extreme. Most of the latter are waiting their turn in court.

There are two public trans-booths in a corner, one teleporting in and the other out. Booths are guarded and set to reject any explosives or firearms. Police and judges have their own booths behind closed doors, fully able to admit stun-guns and other weapons.

I’m currently in charge of a task force set up to catch an especially elusive killer of politicians. It’s a task that can make or, more likely, break my career.

On the way to my captain’s office, I stop briefly at a restroom and close myself into a booth. Constantly wary of cameras, I unthinkingly study the ceiling, especially at the point where it joins the back wall.

Satisfied, I pull a small flask from a pocket. Feeling safe, I raise it to eager nostrils and snort a bolt of jolt, an illegal drug.

In seconds, my senses are heightened, the day clear and sunny as a feeling of confidence jolts brain activity into high gear. Ready, I leave and strut to the captain’s office, consciously willing myself to slow down to a normal level.

Now, I’m not the only cop to use the stuff — most of us do on occasion — and its use is basically ignored by the brass.

With many of our targets enhanced to ten times normal speed and that much quicker on the trigger, a jolted reflex can mean the difference between life and death. However, the majority of us don’t take the drug unless or until it is necessary. I prefer the feeling, and tell myself I’m ready at all times.

I find Captain Transki in his office, a nice-looking woman sitting across from him. She wears a business suit of a formal green t-shirt with yellow spangles and red shorts, legs crossed.

“You wanted to see me, chief? I’ve got all my people out questioning informants. He wasn’t at that Elm Street address. I’ll have the report by — “

“I know, Jerry. I know. Thompson told me this morning. I want to talk to you about something else. This is Trudi Jennings.”

“Oh. Guess so, chief. What about?”

“Trudi, here, is from our Central Investigation Department.” The woman nods, a serious look on a pretty face. One hand nervously sweeps long red hair out of her eyes. “She’s to stick to you like glue for the next week or so.”

“Why? I’m busy as hell, captain, and don’t have time to act as a guide.”

“Trudi, Captain Jennings, is a trained and experienced police officer, Jerry. She can hold up her end. She came up through the ranks, most of her time undercover with the Romanian mob.”

Surprised, I almost stumbled, one shoulder going to the wall to steady himself. “So she’s taking over the task force? Am I doing that bad a job, or does it call for a captain now?”

“Neither, Jerry. You’re still in charge, though you’re free to consult with Trudi if you like.”

“In that case, may I ask her function?”

“You may not. Whether she tells you or not is up to her. Look at her as a sort of official shadow, one that dogs your footsteps.” He shrugged, preferring to gaze out a window. “Out of my hands. She’s going from one division to another to study procedures and can be of help while doing it. I’d listen to her advice.”

The woman, young enough to be his daughter, stands to shake hands. Her grip is firm. I avoid a sudden impulse, a macho try at attempting to crush her hand.

“You two better get busy. I have work to do.” Captain Transki waves a hand, dismissing us.

The woman is silent as we take a personnel elevator to the third-floor detective section. Neither of us say anything as I unlock the door of my task force room.

The room is 30'x30'. It has a large blackboard on one wall and a cork-board on another. Both are spotted by information on the killer, code-named “Trumpy,” a reflection of his own name. A couple-dozen folding chairs are open and spotted around the room, some in front of a long folding table lined with old-style desktop PCs. The table has a row of three windows behind it. Mine is one of eight metal desks, four on each side of the entrance.

“This desk is mine.” I point. “The others aren’t assigned, first come first served. If you need one, you’ll have to grab it now, before the others get here.”

“Not necessary, Craft … can I call you Jerry? You should call me Trudi, and please don’t tell the others my rank. Let them think I’m one of them. I can get more information that way.” She smiles. “Please don’t take offense. I didn’t ask for this assignment and don’t want to get in your way. Treat me like one of the guys. Okay?”

“I guess so … Trudi. I can live with that,” I say, forcing a smile, “since I don’t have any choice.”

“How long we have until the rest get here? You have time to brief me, or should we wait until later?”

I sit, the woman perching on the edge of my desk. Leaning back in the chair I tell her about the case.

“It started two months back, when a state senator was shot in the shoulder while leaving his office. We retrieved the bullet and ran it through forensics. Then, a few days later, the same man was sniped at and killed when he left the hospital through a side door. I have no idea how the killer knew the time and specific door, but he was obviously waiting.

“A week later, a city committeeman had his feet and one leg blown off when stepping around an open manhole.

“At first, we didn’t connect the two. The next day a committeeman was sniped and killed when his limo left a public trans-booth terminal after picking him up. Like with the first, I don’t know how the shooter knew he’d be there at that specific time. The bullets came from the same rifle.

“When an assistant police commissioner’s car blew up, using the same type of anti-personnel bomb from WWIII, we knew we had a serial killer working. Four predominate politicians don’t normally get murdered within two weeks.

“I was ordered to form a task force to stop the perp, Captain Transki giving me ten detectives from various sources to help. So far, the perpetrator has stayed at least one step ahead of us. He seems to know what we’re going to do, even before we do. Yesterday, we had a tip that he would be at an address on Elm Street.” Pausing to pour a cup of coffee from an industrial-size urn, I return to my desk. “When we got there, we found he’d left a few minutes before we arrived. It looks like he lived there for awhile. The landlord and neighbors gave us a description, but that’s all we have.”

“What does forensics say about the place?”

“They took an interactive recording of the apartment and a brain-scan of the landlord. Forensics also used a DNA sniffer on the place. I don’t expect much, but we’ll get a copy of the recording and a scan readout sometime today. The other locations gave us nothing useful.”

Trudi snorts. “I sometimes think technology has become too complex. Those DNA sniffers, for instance. They pick up the codes of everyone that’s been at a location for maybe years, then sort it according to a database of known criminals. After eliminating all police officers on the scene, we’re typically left with hundreds or thousands of individuals to go through. All a person has to do is walk through a room to leave DNA from their breath and stray skin cells. There’s no quantifying. A walk through is the same as living there for years.” She grinned. “Not much dating of traces either, except when one skin chip happens to be lying on top of another.”

“There are fewer suspects when they test items like bedding,” I answer.

“Breath particles can still drift to the bed. It depends on air currents.”

“Still, when the results of more than one test are compared, the machine solves a lot of cases.”

“I still don’t like it.”

“Technology isn’t all that bad. What about the computer chips implanted in convicted criminals? Once those are in place we can trace them, worldwide. If we want to talk to one of those people for any reason, we send a signal and the chip vibrates, telling them they have 24 hours to report to a police station for questioning.”

“Sure,” she says, “and if they don’t report in that time we can blow the chip and kill them. Do you know how many times that option is used? Hardly ever. Are you going to blow up a possible witness to a pawn store heist? Hell no. It’s all or nothing.”

“But the GPS circuits in the chip let us pick them up. We know where to find them.”

“And, with our overworked forces, how often do we do that? Again, unless it’s for murder and they’re the chief suspect, they’re home free — and they know it. Politicians and think tanks come up with that expensive crap, but we on the front lines have to live with it.”

“It comes in handy, at times.”

“And a pain in the ass at other times.”

As we talk, other detectives wonder in. One puts down an armful of donut boxes while the others circulate, some checking the boards for new information.

“At least the teleportation booths have tracing circuits built in. Anyone using them has their DNA scanned while disassembling. If on the prohibited or watch list, we know about it instantly,” Jerry says, as his team arrives, one by one. “And the booths help keep firearms and drugs from being moved from place to place.”

Thank God, I think, that the police booths let both pass without incident. How else could we carry our weapons with us, or bring in drugs and other contraband for evidence? Including, hee-hee-hee, me and my jolt supply.

“On that note,” Trudi asks, “how can you restrict the killer to this case if you don’t have his DNA?”

“We can’t. Since he’s doing all his killing here, in this district, we have to assume he’s still around.”

“Jerry!” One of the detectives shouts from across the room. “Telephone.”

I could have it transferred to my desk, but why bother? I rise and hurry across the room.

“Lieutenant Craft.”

It’s one of the forensics team. “We might have a break, but you ain’t gonna like it.”

“Run it by me and we’ll see.”

“We tested the DNA on a cigarette butt found at the bottom of a trash can where it’s not likely to have excess traces. It came out negative, implying the perpetrator has no previous criminal history or military service.”

“Which means we have only umpteen billion suspects.”

“Guess so. Mine not to reason why. Mine but to test and report.”

“Fine. You’re not much help. Thanks, anyway.” I hang up.

Counting heads, I notice only one detective missing. “Johnson. You seen Adams? She’s not here.”

“Piss call, Jerry. She’ll be back in a minute.”

When I have a full quorum I give out daily assignments. Since Adams isn’t here yet, I’ll assign her to the tedious telephone detail. She’ll sit in this room for the rest of the day, fielding and recording contacts from other officers and interested civilians. Maybe next time she’ll use her bathroom at home or come in a little earlier?

When Adams finally shows up and is briefed, I motion to Trudi. “Come on. We have a date at the Jablonski Labs.”

“The same place that designs teleportation booths?”

“Yep. I want to learn all I can about the devices; what they are and aren’t capable of.” Digging through an office address-book, I acquire the coordinates for the lab. “They don’t have a police booth at their end.”

Opening one of my desk drawers, I give her a spare key. “Here. Put your weapons and anything else that would ring the bell in here.” I use another drawer to store my own gun and drug-vial. I’m glad to see her store a fancy brass religious figurine that is probably a jolt bottle of her own.

We use a police trans-booth, where I enter a destination code. When we step through, we exit into a harshly-lighted civilian exit arch painted white. The brightness is glaring after the dreary gray walls of the station-house. A receptionist at a counter across the room makes a phone call and gives us visitor badges.

“Use your badge in a slot in those elevators.” She points to a bank of three against one wall. “They’ll only admit one of you at a time. The badge will tell the elevator which floor you’re allowed to visit, so don’t bother with the buttons. Doctor Mengolie should be waiting for you at the landing.”

Thanking her, we do as told, Trudi first. There is a short chubby white-coated man waiting, white hair sparse above a smiling face. The doctor looks like a stereotypical leprechaun. I thinks of asking about where he left his clay pipe.

“Detectives? I’ve been expecting you. What can I do for you two?”

“We’d like to see your lab, sir. I’m after a killer and think a more comprehensive knowledge of teleporting would be useful.”

“Anything in particular?”

“No. Not really. Have you time to give us a brief tour? Maybe something will catch my attention. I don’t want to keep you but even if the info doesn’t help on this case it might on another.”

We’re shown to a large room where experimental machines are being built by obvious mechanics, along with a few white-coated individuals, some at computer terminals. It’s interesting, in a way, but doesn’t seem different than any factory, except for hands-on work rather than robotic assemblers. Doctor Mengolie keeps up a constant chatter on what we’re seeing.

“What’s going on over in that corner, doctor?” Trudi asks. I see yet another machine, that one different in being sorta ad-hoc, many pieces and assemblies lying on separate tables with wires leading to a normal-looking trans portal rather than on the skeletal machine itself. It also has its own large computer, half-seen in an alcove.

“Well … you are policemen. I … I guess I can tell you. It’s an experimental time transport. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could go to the future and find out who your murderer is? Sorry, though. All we can do so far is send inanimate items to the past. Small ones, at that. We tried a mouse, once. It was sent twenty-minutes into the past and was dead when it arrived.

“Even then, the only way we knew it was a mouse was because we knew we were going to send it. Otherwise, it was only a mouse-sized glob of meat that arrived twenty-minutes before we pulled the switch. I hated to kill the mouse, which was still alive in my hand at the time, but didn’t want to risk a time-paradox by not doing so.” He gives us a sickly grin, tears in the corners of his eyes. “I sent it to its death.”

Glancing at my companion, I see her face lighten as she covers her mouth and swallows. “Ha — Haven’t you heard enough, Jerry?”

“I suppose so. At least now I know more about the security aspects. Doctor Mengolie. Is it possible to keep records for me? Records of certain individuals and their teleports? The department will pay for the time.”

“What sort of record?”

“If I send you a list of suspects, can you keep track of when and where they use a trans-booth? Also the destinations. I’m certain it would help. If you have the resources, that is?”

“It might be expensive, detective. Maybe you should check with your financial office first? Yes. We can do it, though it will mean reassigning or even hiring personnel.”

“Get it set up, Doctor,” Trudi tells him. “I have the authority to okay it … on a test basis, in any case. Send the bill and particulars to Captain Trudi Jennings at Northside Police Headquarters, room 1264.” She passes him her ID card.

On the way out, I quip, “It must be nice to have all that authority.”

“Yep. It is.”


When we get back to the station, I find the results of a comparison of four crime scenes waiting for me. There are only four people whose DNA was found at more than one of the crime scenes, none in all locations. One had his DNA profiled in the navy at one time and was low priority. The other had no military service or criminal history and the last was still an unknown that might never be found. With the hundreds of traces picked up, it was still unusual in such a large city. In fact, their DNA could have been deposited long before and have nothing to do with the killer.

“I traced the navy guy,” Adams, at the desk, tells me. “The guy’s an electrician. He’s in the phone book and was probably called for minor repairs at both the apartment and the sniper blind. A coincidence. The other duplicate DNAs are useless until we have a suspect.”

So much for that fancy DNA testing.

To try out the new tracing setup, I make a list of local people with a history of sniping, culled from police and FBI records, and ask Trudi to call it in to the trans lab. We might get lucky, I think, and find records of them teleporting to crime scenes at the right times.

Then, feeling myself coming down from the drug, I step into a closet and take another jolt of jolt.

“Adams. I’m going home. When the guys report in you can tell them to do the same, then you’re done for the day. See you tomorrow. On time, I trust?”

"Night, boss."


"Johnson's got the phone today. The rest of you get out there and do your best. You hear?" I tell my crew. "Go get'um, tigers." Turning to Trudi, "I had a call from a guy on the street. He's helped me before. How about we start by seeing what he's got for us?"

We teleport to a police trans-booth at a branch of the public library on Spruce Street, in the heart of one of the worse sections of the city. I do feel safer with weapons there, as do many legal and illegal residents.

"Steve and his family have a small grocery a couple of blocks from here," I say. "I gotta use the restroom first."

"You mean to jolt up, don't you?"

"Well ... yeah. But relieve myself first."

"Look, Jerry. It's your life, and you're in charge here, but I think you use too much of that junk." She points to two men sitting in a corner of the library foyer. Emaciated and pale, they sit shaking, eyes unfocused, looking like a couple of rabbits confronted by a fox; ready to bolt into nothingness. "You don't want to end up like those two. Too much of that crap can screwup your mind."

"Most of the guys use it. Hell, Trudi, I saw your vial."

"Sure. I have some. I think I take a jolt once or twice a year, and only when in imminent danger." She shakes her head, eyes joined with mine. "Not as a crutch."

"Be back in a few minutes."

She shakes her head.


The inside of the room is filthy, really fetid. I have to step over two comatose young men in order to reach a booth. The first two enclosures have men collapsed over the seats. "You spare some jolt, broth…?" The man collapses back into oblivion, his question already forgotten.

In a hurry, I give up on solitude. After using a urinal, I jolt up and go back out. The scene inside does leave an impression on me; that and Trudi's short speech. Since making lieutenant and spending most of my time at the precinct, I've lost contact with the seedier sections of town, including its druggies.

It's not only jolt, I realize, but a composite of a dozen different drugs. It has been many years since the government gave up on drug control. Sort of a no ask, no tell policy. That attitude is enhanced by government officials themselves being on various drugs in order to keep up with their contemporaries. Certainly, many police owe their lives to jolt. If we don't use it and the criminals do, we're at a 10 to 1 disadvantage in strength and speed. Jolt is the most insidious drug ever invented. It's like speed on speed. Your senses are enhanced tenfold.

We leave by walking down a long flight of steps between fake Grecian columns covered by modern impromptu drawings -- mostly gang graffiti interspersed by contributions of the barely literate -- simple cursing and filthy language, even four-letter words often misspelled. High school English classes teach sentences such as “i okay r u ok, dude”, as correct. Even Fuck You has degenerated to FU. It takes a masters degree to get a receptionist job.

The streets are dirty, the people unfriendly. Nobody nods or greets us, most turning heads according to the old jail-house adage that eye contact indicates you wish to fight or copulate.

"Samso_ _ Groc_ _ y" is narrow at the front, what must be picture windows now covered by metal plates sporting several gang signs.

"Those are the gangs he pays," I inform her, "for protection from themselves."

The inside is a narrow but deep display of cheap groceries extending from the front to a dimly seen rear, lit only by an occasional bare bulb set in a high ceiling.

"Mostly outdated store brands, at least what's not stolen on the docks. You can trust the canned goods, but don't buy anything fresh or frozen," I advise in a whisper. "You didn't notice any stray animals walking around here, did you?"

"Aaaay, Jerry. Long time, man." The call comes from a dark corner.

"Steve, my man. Come on out'a the dark, uh." My hand hovers near my blaster. "We gotta get down, man."

"A min. Gimme a min."

"He's got a bulletproof plastic shield back there, along with an old-fashioned Tommy-gun out'a Elliot Ness days. He likes to scope visitors as they enter. If they look suspicious or belong to a rival gang, he orders them out."

"He must not sell too many groceries that way," Trudi says.

"The food's mostly for show. He sells to locals he recognizes, but his real products are crackit, pot, pubic hair, and jolt.

"Pubic hair? Never heard of it."

"Don't try it. It grabs you by the nuts. Excuse me," I reply. "Male enhancement hell. One pill will drive a man to LaaLaa Land and a date with a Muslim hero's 27 virgins, all 27 at the same time. Each dose brings a .172 percent chance of heart failure. Still, repeat users consider the risk worth it."

"Jeeze! What do their wives think of it?"

"Check ward 207 at Mercy General and they'll tell you. They're exhausted, dehydrated, and with a smile on their faces."

"Seriously, Jerry. You're kidding ... aren't you?"

"Ward 207. Here he is.” I turn to face the grocery aisle. “Steve, buddy. Okay to talk? What'cha got for me, man?"

"If there was such a thing, I would have heard. You're pulling my le--"

"Sheeesh, woman. We're talkin' business here."

A man emerges from the shadows, a shotgun hanging over one arm.

"Eey, Jerry. I'll be quick 'afore someone knows you're here, man. Look, a guy what looks like'a guy you want. He live down'a block, like. I don' like'a talk ta cops, but the holo says you're on at case. I see I can earn some'a those brownie points with ya, see, man. Okay, man?"

"Depends, Stevie, depends. You sure?

"Looks just like'a guy. Sure I'm sure."

"You know the address, and apartment?"

"35624, brown place with'a cracked front door. 212, second floor, man."

"If he's there, man, I owe you Steve."

"Better hurry, man. He usually buys bread an'a milk. Not today, though. Only a little jolt, today."

"Damn. Let's go, Trudi." I nod at Steve, then turn to walk out, her following.

"Aren't we going to call for backup?" she asks.

"No time. In this part of town, you don't get quick response. First, the local precinct will try ignoring the call. Then, if you insist, they'll ask for at least ten volunteers. All that takes time. He might be gone by then. Hell, he might have already left." I scowled, remembering our target’s presumed ability to know what we’re up to, even before we do.


As we approach the building, I tell her to, "Go around back. If you see anyone running, do anything you need to do to stop the guy. Remember. He's a serial killer and probably on jolt."

After giving her a few minutes to get set, I hurry up a metal stairwell inside, my jolted body hitting every third step. As my head clears the second floor landing, a change in air current causes me to swing my gaze to the left, narrowly avoiding a two-by-four swung by a fat brute. The jolt helping, I grab the board as it passes and jerk, pulling fatso over the railing.

Not waiting for the thump of his landing, I leap and roll, my windmilling body knocking the feet from under two younger and smaller adversaries. By the time my body thumps against a wall, I have a blaster out, spreading pulsed laser stun-beams toward a fourth man seen emerging from a doorway with an old-fashioned gunpowder blaster in hand. By the time the other two get to their feet, they stare in wonder, the fight gone out of them.

Using a cellphone, I call Trudi to join me, then the police to start the long process of acquiring transportation for us and the prisoners. Thirdly, I and Trudi barricade ourselves at the landing until help arrives. It's not uncommon in that neighborhood for residents to gang up on and hold police officers for ransom.

As for the killer, again he's eluded capture. As in the other cases, he's known when to flee. How the hell he knew we were coming, I have no idea. Only Trudi, Steve, and himself knew about the attempt, and Trudi and I only a few minutes before hitting the house. I shudder at the thought the guy could be one of my task force. But, then, even they didn't know where we'd be. It must have been Steve.


"Two of those four perps broke, Jerry," Detective Adams tells me the next morning. "We didn't even have to torture them. The killer simply paid those lowlifes to waylay you. Obviously, he knew you were coming.

The punks weren't to kill you, only bang you up a bit. You're lucky. They needed the money to buy jolt. If they'd been paid in jolt, you might not have beaten them."

That afternoon, another politician was killed. "She was starting a borrowed car to drive to work, when someone waiting in the backseat reached over and cut her throat," Davidson, the detective manning phones, told me. He gave the address.

"Let's get over there and see what's going on," I tell Trudi. "It's about time he made a mistake."
As we hurry to a police trans-booth, I remind her. "See? That jolt I used made all the difference."

"We'll see, Jerry. We'll see."

As we walk toward a teleportation booth, she mutters into a cellphone.

“Who you call?”

“Personal business, Jerry. I do have my own department to run.”

After exiting the booth, we walk an additional three blocks to our destination.

"Have you ever been here?" Trudi asks as we pass through a gate at the residence of the deceased congresswoman. The driveway itself is a half-block long.

"Na. Never been here. Jeeze. Are all politicians this wealthy?"

"Seems like it."

"Find anything?" I ask the sergeant in charge of the forensics team, who is carefully tearing down a camera that has taken a 360 degree interactive impression of the death car and surrounding area. Later, a couple of my detectives will view it in a computer, being able to move around and magnify portions as if going through the vehicle in person.

"Won't know until the scene's examined in detail. Also, it takes time for the results of the DNA scan to come in. You'll have your copy in the morning. Nothing obvious. Not yet, anyway."


The next morning, eagerly waiting for the results, my fingers are crossed as I enter the precinct station. As I sign in at the desk, I see detective Adams on her way out the door, a file memory card in hand.

"Where you going, detective?" I ask. "You'll be late to the meeting."

"You haven't heard, lieutenant?" She seems surprised, even embarrassed. "The task force is called off. We ... uh, we caught the killer. I thought you knew."

"Wonderful. What's his name and how?"

"You.... Well, you better ask the captain."

"That's what I wanted to tell you, Jerry. The captain wants to see you ASAP," the desk sergeant tells me.

I'm so anxious I forego a trip to the restroom to jolt up. Like the last time, Trudi and the captain are both in his office, her in full uniform.

"Don't make me wait," I blurt out, unmindful of relative rank. "Tell me who it was and how we got him."

They both stare at me. Then Trudi points an index finger at ME, stopping me in mid-stride.

"Bull. You got something mixed up. It certainly wasn't me."

"Wasn't, but will be," Captain Transki says, shaking a balding head. "You better sit down while Captain Jennings explains."

What can I do? Somehow, stiff legs allow me to sit, face a mask of confusion.

Trudi gets up to sit on the edge of Transki's desk, then begins an explanation. "You asked my function. It was to run a parallel investigation, along with watching you. I already had a suspicion that you were doing those killings.

"What clued me in was that the killer seems to know everything you’re doing, sometimes before you do it. At first, I suspected you were pulling a con on us, doing the murders yourself while pretending to find the killer.

"When I joined you, I was confused because you seemed to be actually trying. I could almost see your thinking processes as you jerked around like a puppet, trying one thing after another. Each failure brought on a true exasperation. It had to be real. I'm a good judge of character and would have spotted any faking. How, I wondered, could it be you?

"Yet, to my thinking, it still came back to you.

"When we visited the Jablonski Labs, the pieces began to fall into place. You gave me that list of possible perps from our files. When I turned it in to Doctor Mengalie, I added your name -- on a hunch.

"Then, with the last killing, I called the forensics experts and asked them to include police officers in the DNA scan. When studied, they found you had visited the scene, even though you told me you hadn't."

"I was there ... with you." I interrupt.

"Yes, but by then the scan had already been completed. Then I checked with Doctor Mengalie. He told me that you used a police trans-booth to that destination the day before, and at a time when we were together somewhere else -- an impossibility. A further check showed you'd done the same at the previous crime scenes, before the killings, and left your DNA at the scenes afterwards, before the crimes. That clinched it.

"Last night, I sat down and put it all together. The time machine was the answer. Although it's not functional now, it might well be in the future. Maybe the jolt does eventually drive you crazy? We'll probably never know for certain.

Anyway, you must -- in the future -- use that time machine to come back to this era and, for some reason known only to the future you, set out to kill politicians. You'd remember your past tactics to catch yourself and easily avoid any trap."

“I've never liked the bastards, but have no reason to kill them.”

“Not now, but maybe later?”

"I -- I. My God. I don't know. It's so damned confusing. Why? Why would I do such a thing? I'm not a killer."

"That's something else we'll probably never know. What we do know is we've got to stop the future you from going berserk, and right now," Captain Transki says.

"Am I under arrest?"

"For what?" Captain Transki asks. "For something you do in the future? I don't think we can arrest you for that. We could arrest your future self, but how?"

"Sort of a time-loop thingie," Trudi says.

"If I'm not under arrest, how about I go home to relax and we can all have time to think?" I ask. In truth, I am suddenly deflated and tired. First, though, I need a jolt.

"Alright, lieutenant," Captain Transki agrees. "Why don't we all meet at the Jablonski labs, ten o'clock tomorrow morning? Doctor Mengolie might have a solution. He has enough time-experts working with him."


"Science fiction writers have often brought up the subject of time-paradoxes," Dr. Mengalie lectures the three of us in his office. "We have the only time machine, or at least the first in history. So far, we haven't seen any disruption in time by using it.

Like I told two of you earlier, at the same time I held a live mouse in my hand, I was looking at that same mouse turned inside-out by the machine. Having the animal duplicated in the same moment of time didn't affect it or us in the slightest. Unlike in fiction, there was no time paradox."

"But you said you sent the mouse back in time later, knowing it would appear, dead, even before you sent it," Trudi says.

"I suppose I'm a little superstitious and didn't want to take a chance by not sending it to its death," the doctor says. "But others have experimented with inanimate objects by not sending them under the same circumstances. When they consciously made that decision, the reconstituted object simply disappeared, leaving them holding the original. The moment they make up their mind to send it again, the other reappeared, as though the machine could read their minds. In other words, you can't have two copies forever.

“In the lieutenant's case, if he doesn't actually go into the machine in the future, the killer will disappear now -- as though he never existed. I think that will mean there were no killings, and our era would go back to normal."

"You think?" I ask. "You think?"

"I'm a scientist. I don't count a theory as fact until it's proven." He gives us a silly grin. "I plan to test the theory. It should be interesting."

"How can you test it, doctor? If I never use the time machine, you say the killings may never happen. If so, I will never have talked to you and you still won't know the answer."

"I’ve already written the entire story down and put it in my safe. If this entire thing never happens, I hope to find that envelope later and come to a conclusion," Doctor Mengalie answers.

"How do you know that will work?" Trudi asks.

"I don't. If it works, I will know," he answers. "It's just that simple. The scientific method. Experiment."

"Well ... do you have a recommendation to Jerry, here?" Captain Transki asks.

"Yes. I do. I've made a dozen copies of the missive in my safe -- changed a bit, of course. The lieutenant can sign them, adding to them if he feels like it. Then I'll send them to the past, from where I'll mail them to him at an early age -- which I remember already having done without understanding why or what they were -- to his family, hoping he or they will understand and keep him from becoming a police officer in his future."

"Will they?" Jerry asks. “Naturally, I've already made a decision not to kill, but we're all still standing here. I must change my mind later?”

"Likely," the doctor says. "After all, you're still a policeman and the killer is still here."

"Jeeze. Doesn't sound like much of a solution to me. “I'm still confused, Doctor. Do you mind if I use your restroom?" I ask, feeling a strange calm coming over an overactive mind.

"Christ. You don't need a jolt now, do you? It doesn't speed your thinking," Trudi says, shaking her head, “only physical actions.”


"Up one floor and to the left. Here. Use my elevator card and key." He fishes in his desk, handing me a keyring and the card from his lapel.

Calm and decisive, even without a jolt, I go to the elevator, pushing the button marked "roof." Not daring to take time to think, I stride to the edge and lean far, then even farther over. Curious as to what it will feel like at that final moment, I feel myself slipping.


"Jerry, honey. You've got mail. My God, but you've got mail," Jerry's mother calls to her teenage son, him coming home from school. "A dozen envelopes, all with the same logo. It must be important."

The killings don't just stop. They never occur and Jerry ends up as an excellent roofer – not a cop.

The End.