This week’s installment is a bit weird in the realm of time travel. As we found out at the end of last week’s chapter, Joe has gone back in time to 1952, a time before he was born, and has assumed the identity of his own grandfather. He seems determined that he knows what to do to restore his present timeline by fixing the distant past. Will he succeed this week or is this just another dead end?
If you want to catch up on the previous installments of this serial, you can click on these links:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25
Joe/William left the stadium. Joe was amazed at the shape his grandfather was in. Of course, he only knew him in his 70s and 80s. He knew that his grandfather boxed while he was in the Navy during World War II. His arms felt very powerful and he had a very easy gait as he moved from the stadium through the parking lot full of antique metal behemoths that were the vehicles of the day.
Joe’s grandfather was a practical man. He owned an automobile. Joe remembered seeing pictures of it, but he lived near the stadium in the same house he was born in and grew up. Joe remembered it from his childhood but, beyond that, he seemed to have some of his grandfather’s memories and instincts. He walked down Townsend Street and made a right on the 300 block of Laurel. The house, at 305 East Laurel Street, was gone in Joe’s correct timeline. The hospital around the corner had purchased the house in the 1980s and demolished it to make way for an expanded emergency room. This house also was the location of William McLean’s office. It was a two family house, constructed in the late 1800s. The downstairs had been turned into an office in the front of the house with a one bedroom flat in the rear. The upstairs was the McLean family’ residence.
The house had a full basement and attic. Joe had memories of his grandmother canning fruits and vegetables in the basement. The smells would fill the house and make his stomach rumble. The attic, however, was Joe’s favorite place when he was a boy. With the basement, two residential floors, and attic, the house essentially had four floors. The attic was sectioned off. One section was a storage area. It was dark and dingy and held many boxes and bags. Toward the front of the house, however, the attic had a doorway that led to a bright, finished off room. The room was once a laboratory and still had gas lines for lanterns and Bunsen burners. The room had a bookshelf and Joe remembered looking through old encyclopedias. He knew they were old when he asked his grandfather what The Great War was and he said it was what World War I was called before World War II took place. It was called The Great War because people believed it would be the one and only.
As Joe now walked to the house in 1952, 20 years before he was born, he was amazed at how fresh and new the neighborhood looked. Lawns were well kept. Sidewalks were clean. Houses were immaculately maintained. He could feel the pride of the time as an almost environmental force.
As he approached the house, he recognized the familiar porch. From pictures, he remembered the plaque on the front of the house that said ‘William P. McLean, CPA”. It looked new and bright in 1952. If he remembered correctly, his grandfather had only been in business for himself for a few years at this point. He returned from the war, went back to school and became a CPA.
Joe/William climbed the stairs to the front porch, turned the knob on the heavy wooden front door and entered the house. Back in 1952, front doors weren’t locked. As Joe turned toward the door to the lower floor where the office was, he heard a noise from the stairs.
“Daddy, you’re home. Is the game over? Who won?”
Joe looked up the stairs and saw a boy of about seven or eight bounding down toward him. He wore dark pants, a white shirt, and tie. Joe was confused at first and then it hit him. He was watching his father, at age eight, coming down the stairs toward him. He threw himself at Joe/William and hugged him.
“I wish I didn’t have a test in school today so I could have gone to the game with you.”
“School is important, um, Michael. You have to study so you can do well in life,” Joe improvised.
Hugging his father as a boy, when he could no longer hug him as an adult was a very strange feeling.
“Can you help me with my homework, Dad? We’re starting long division and I’m having a hard time with it.”
“Sure, son. I’ll be up in a few minutes. I just need to check something in the office first.”
“Okay, Dad. Thanks. Mom says if I get straight A’s this term, I might be able to get a new bike.”
“She did, did she?” Joe asked trying to sound fatherly.
“She said she talked to you about it.”
“I know, son. I was just joking with you,” Joe said hoping that he had recovered.
Mike McLean the first headed up the stairs. Joe fumbled in his pocket and found keys. As he was trying to figure out the right church key that fit in the lock, his father/son called back to him from the top of the stairs.
“What is it, son?”
“Why are you calling me son? Are you mad at me? You usually call me Mikey.”
Joe didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know that his grandfather called his son by this name. He did remember his dad calling his older brother by the name Mikey when they were younger. He quickly improvised an answer.
“You just look so mature and handsome in your shirt and tie, I thought you might think you were getting a bit old for the name, Mikey.”
He saw a smile form on the boy’s face.
“It’s okay, Dad. I still like it just fine. You can call me Mikey for a while longer.”
Joe watched as his father disappeared on the landing and he returned his attention to the door. He finally found the right key and entered his grandfather’s office. As he looked around, he realized how much times had changed. There were no computers. He found his grandfather’s desk. It had a typewriter, an adding machine and a black rotary telephone all on a desk that was small by today’s standards. The shelves behind the desk was filled with ledger books which pre-dated electronic spreadsheets and accordion file storage folders.
Joe found that there was four file cabinets in the room opposite the office. This was where he needed to find what he was looking for. He looked at the cabinets and found that the files were organized alphabetically, as expected. He opened the drawer that had the files for ‘P’ through ‘S’. He eventually found a rather thick file with the name Roselli on the tab. He took it to the desk.
As he looked through the files, at first glance, they appeared to be totally legitimate. It held copies of invoices and cancelled checks for what appeared to be an importing business, Roselli Imports, LTD. As he dug further through the file, he began to see what his grandfather discovered and eventually turned over as evidence to the FBI. There were several deposits that were made in multiple banks from an account that was called ‘Sisters of Charity’. This was apparently set up to look like Roselli’s company was donating to charity. The problem was, withdrawals of the same amounts were taking place and then added together and deposited in foreign banks. It was classic money laundering which indicated criminal activity.
Joe pondered what to do next. Had his grandfather already given copies to the authorities? Were these the only copies? He pulled the incriminating pages out of the file and put them in an unmarked manila folder. He would bring them down to the coal furnace in the basement for destruction.
As Joe was getting ready to head down to the basement, he heard a female voice, somewhat familiar, coming from a small box on the side table near the desk.
“Bill, dinner is ready. Are you coming up?”
It was the much younger voice of his grandmother, Joyce Winter McLean. It suddenly dawned on Joe that his grandmother was his wife in this timeline. He also realized that he needed to get this over with and get back to his timeline before things got even more uncomfortable. The thought of sharing a bed with his grandmother, even if it was to fall asleep and return, was disconcerting. For now, he had to keep up appearances. He put the folder into the pencil drawer of the desk. He would return later and finish up after dinner.
As he climbed the stairs, he smelled the mix of roasting beef and potatoes. It was a wonderful smell that reached down into his Irish roots. He remembered that his grandmother prepared them very well. Joe came into the kitchen and saw a young, attractive version of his grandmother in a flower-print dress and heels stirring pots on the stove. She had a white apron covering her dress and her hair and makeup were impeccable. It was a different time.
“You came home from the game early? Did you have some work to catch up on?” She asked without turning to face him.
“Yes, I did.”
She turned and smiled at him. Joe felt uncomfortable. This woman who bathed him as a child, fed him all kinds of treats, and hugged him into her ample bosom was now young and attractive and smiling at him like he was anything but her grandchild.
“You work so hard for us. You set a great example for Mikey. I’m a lucky girl,” she said with a mischievous smile.
Joe remembered his grandparents doing this routine and the response came to him.
“And I’m a lucky guy.”
All at once, she came across the kitchen to him and put her arms around his neck and reached up for a kiss. Joe panicked, but then gave her a quick peck on the lips.
“What was that? You call that a kiss?”
“Sorry,” Joe/William said. “I had a hot dog with onions at the game.”
“You can make up for it later,” she said with a return of the mischievous smile.
Joe felt a queasiness in his stomach, but strangely, there were stirrings below that a well. If he survived this and got back to his timeline, he just might need therapy.
Joe nodded his way through dinner as his grandmother/wife caught him up on the neighborhood gossip and Mikey talked about school and baseball and how excited he was to go to the Chiefs’ game with his dad on Saturday. As they finished dinner, Joe got up to help clear the dishes.
“What are you doing,” his grandmother asked.
“Just helping clean up the kitchen.”
“I’m perfectly capable, Mr. McLean. Why don’t you go help Mikey with his homework and then watch the news and smoke a cigar? The kitchen is my territory.”
Joe had to remember where and when he was. Men simply didn’t help in the kitchen in the 1950s. Women took care of the home and the men worked and the two rarely mixed. Joe and his father went into the living room where there were books and papers spread on the coffee table. Joe looked at the math problems assigned to Mikey and had to refresh his own memory on how to do long division. Mikey knew the concepts and was just using the request for help to spend time with his father. Joe could relate as he used the same tactic as a boy. Just as they were about halfway through the problems, the doorbell rang.
“Now who could that be?” his grandmother asked. “It’s too late for a delivery or for your clients, unless you’re expecting someone.”
“No, I’m not expecting anyone. I’ll go check who it is,” Joe said.
“As he descended the stairs, he saw two men in dark suits and matching fedoras standing in the entry. They already had identification out.
“Mr. McLean. Agents Dunham and Bradford. We spoke on the phone last week.”
Joe looked at the FBI credentials and felt his knees begin to buckle.
“Oh, yes. I remember,” Joe lied. “What can I do for you?”
“When you didn’t call us as planned today, we wanted to make sure that nothing was amiss. We thought we would stop over and pick up the information in person.”
Joe didn’t want this to happen. He had to think of an excuse.
“I’m sorry. I forgot. I went to the ball game and then we had dinner and I was helping my son with his homework.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. McLean, but I thought I made myself clear how urgent the timing was for all of this. Do you have the information ready?”
Joe wasn’t sure how to get out of this, so he simply lied.
“I need to pull a few things together. Can I get them to you at noon tomorrow?”
“What’s going on here, Mr. McLean? It was supposed to be today.”
“There was more than I thought. I will have it ready for you tomorrow.”
“You’re trying our patience, Mr. McLean, but I guess it will have to do. If you don’t have it, we will get a warrant and take all of your files.”
“I’ll have them,” Joe lied. He hoped to be back in his own time by morning.
The agents left, and Joe went back upstairs.
“What did they want? They looked very serious.”
“It’s nothing. They’re investigating one of my clients and I’m helping them with some of the bookkeeping.”
“I told you to be careful who you took on as clients.”
“It has nothing to do with me. It’s probably not going to result in anything. I don’t have anything incriminating to give them.”
“Well that’s good.”
“I’m going to go down to the office and clean up some paperwork for tomorrow and then I’ll be back up,” Joe said.
“You work too hard, Bill. Maybe we can have a nightcap when you come up. Be sure and say goodnight to Mikey before you go down.”
Joe went back to the living room and patted Mikey on the head. He was watching T.V. and Joe patted him on the head and said goodnight. Mikey stood up and gave Joe a hug that made ripples of heat go through Joe’s body. This seven year old may be his son in this timeline, but it still felt like he was hugging his father.
Joe went down the stairs and back to the office. Just as he was gathering up the file, he heard footsteps through the front entry and the door to the office area closing. Two men in dark suits that seemed to stress at the shoulders and arms filled the doorway to his office.
“Mr. McLean, I hope we’re not bothering you,” the smaller of the two gigantic men said.
“I’m sorry, but the office is closed until tomorrow.”
“Oh, I think it’s still open. We’re here representing Mr. Roselli and he sent us to ask you a question.”
Joe suddenly felt sick to his stomach. The bulges from the arms of the suit jacket told him that he couldn’t out-muscle these men. The bulges in the left breast of their jackets told him that he couldn’t out-shoot them either.
“What is the question?” Joe/Bill asked.
“Why did those to G-Men visit you today? It didn’t have anything to do with Mr. Roselli, did it?”
Joe wasn’t sure how to answer this one. If he didn’t answer satisfactorily, he might just get his grandfather killed. Since these men probably didn’t want witnesses, his grandmother and father might be targets as well. Joe needed to answer carefully so he didn’t end his own life before it began.