mike did not express any great surprise when eddie showed up at his door, although they had not seen each other for twenty-two years.
“remember me?” eddie asked.
mike nodded. “eddie. how you been?”
it was just starting to get dark. the street behind eddie was deserted. mike’s house was a run down one story. it looked like it might never have been painted at all. the little patch of land in front of it was all dirt, no grass.
mike’s ten year old chevy pickup was parked in a driveway. it had a new coat of green paint.
the other houses on the street looked abandoned. there were no vehicles parked in front or beside any of them.
mike looked up and down the street. either eddie had walked, or whoever drove him had taken off.
“can i come in?” eddie asked.
“oh, yeah, sure.” mike backed up and waved eddie in.
a hall led into a kitchen, the only room with a light on.
eddie looked around. the kitchen was not too dirty. there were some clean dishes stacked neatly beside the sink.
a girl was sitting in a chair beside the kitchen table. she looked about fifteen. she was naked, and bound firmly to the chair with elaborately knotted ropes. she had something in her mouth - a rag or a ball, with a gag tying it in.
eddie looked at her. “i hope i’m not interrupting anything.”
“no, she can wait. she’s not going anywhere.”
“same old mike.”
mike shrugged. “some things never get old. “ he sat down across from the girl, in the only other chair. “so what can i do for you, my friend? you want something to drink? all i got is beer.”
“i’ll take a beer.”
“help yourself.” mike nodded at a small refrigerator behind eddie.
eddie took a can of schlitz out of the refrigerator and popped it.
mike relaxed in his chair. “i repeat, what can i do for you?”
“you heard from phil lately? phil winters?”
“phil winters? are you kidding? he’s been dead for eighteen years. i ought to know, i killed him.”
“maybe you did, but he’s alive again.”
“you don’t say so?”
“yeah, this new technology, you know.”
mike nodded. “i heard about it. i didn’t know anybody was using it on a bum like phil winters.”
eddie took a sip of the schlitz. “maybe he wasn’t such a bum as we thought.”
“no?’ you mean he was connected? to who? i don’t remember anybody giving a shit when i killed him.”
“it looks like he was rich. his folks had money.”
mike slammed the table. “i knew it! i always suspected it. there was just something about him. damn! we should have kidnapped his faggot ass and held him for ransom.”
eddie nodded. “well, that was then and this is now.”
“so what does he want now? is he looking for me?”
“i don’t know what he’s looking for, but some people are looking for him.”
“where do you come in?” mike asked.
“they asked me to look for him. they’d make it worth my while, all that.”
“yeah, right. damn, this is a lot to take in.” mike closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. “all this new stuff, it’s just too much for me sometimes.”
with a glance at the girl, eddie slipped something out of his back pocket.
what mike did not suspect was that “eddie” was not really eddie at all. he was mal-dor, an agent of the tricanean trans-time empire, and that the girl in the chair was the princess aleaaa of the house of nor, whom he had been commissioned to rescue.
eddie pressed the little gray disc he had in his hand, and a bolt of blue flame dissolved mike’s guts into a quickly cooling pink puddle of fuzz…
turning the gray disc over, mal-dor used it to quickly cut away the princess’s bonds and gag.
“whew! i thought you would never get here.”
“everything was under control.”
“that’s easy for you to say. did you have to spend so much time jabbering with him?”
“i was probing his brain - seeing if he knew anything.”
“and did he?”
“do you care? “
“not really. why don’t you get me one of those beers? i’m thirsty.”
“are you crippled? get it yourself. and let’s get out of here.”
“my arms and legs are all numb from being tied up.”
mal-dor took a can of schlitz out of the refrigerator and gave it to the princess. “now let’s go.”
“have you got a ship?”
“no, i walked from clavon-7. of course, i have a ship, it’s right around the corner. can you walk, or do i have to carry you?”
“i can walk, big boy. just wait until i find my clothes.”
forty-eight hours later. dusk was falling again.
dolan and jefferson looked down at mike’s body.
“look at that hole, will you?” jefferson shook his head. “ i know it’s nice and clean in its way, but it gives me the creeps. give me a good old-fashioned bullet wound with pus and guts and maggots.”
“it’s time’s like this,” jefferson continued, “i wish i was back in the andes, chasing pancho garcia.”
dolan rolled his eyes. he had heard it all a thousand times before. “let’s look for some kind of bullet.”
“you know there’s not going to be no bullet.”
“there’s a hole in front of him and a hole in back, ain’t there? regulation says we look for a projectile, which we will either find or not. so let’s do it, soldier boy, and get it over with.”
“all right, all right. i just hope we get back in time for the game.” jefferson looked around. “is there a tv in this place?”