Extra Innings – Part 33

This week’s installment of extra innings is a bit late. As you may know, I travel extensively for work and was held up this week with bad weather that found me sitting in a plane on the tarmac for 7 1/2 hours before finally reaching Atlanta at 3AM on Friday, catching 4 hours of sleep and returning to Florida yesterday afternoon. I wasn’t coherent enough to write this installment on Friday as I normally due. Sorry for the delay.

Joe’s plan backfired on him and now he has to deal with the fallout. It appears that he is going to be in a lot of trouble with the authorities for crimes that his company committed, apparently with the cooperation of the Joe from this timeline. Enjoy this story as it is reaching it’s climax with Part 33.

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, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32


Joe had to think fast, but he couldn’t act at the present time. He was in a situation that would be hard to explain. He had phoned the FBI to notify them of the illegal weapons deal that was about to happen. Johnny Provenza now knew this and that would put him in an unrecoverable position with his wife’s family and his business partners. The FBI knew it was his phone and they would be questioning why a tip on an illegal deal would be called by a principal in the company that was about to conduct the deal. He might be able to get some kind of immunity deal, but he was afraid, once the FBI dug into RPM’s records, the McLean family would be irreparably damaged. Joe’s life would be in constant danger and he would be financially ruined. For now, however, he had no choice but to comply with the FBI. This started with being transported to their Pittsburgh office.

“Watch your head, Mr. McLean,” an agent said to Joe as he guided him into the backseat of a non-descript government-issue black sedan. He had been handcuffed, a new experience for him, and not a pleasant one. As he was being guided into the car, he glanced over and saw Johnny Provenza going through the same process as he was reluctantly pushed into an identical auto. He shot a deadly glare at Joe just before ducking his head into the backseat. Joe was not surprised.

Joe assumed he and Johnny were being transported separately so that they couldn’t compare stories. Two agents sat in the front seat of the sedan as Joe was belted in the rear seat. The ride to Pittsburgh was completely silent. The agents apparently didn’t want Joe saying anything about his situation until he was in a proper interrogation situation and was recorded. Joe confirmed this by trying to get them to speak.

“So, what happens next?” Joe asked.

“You’ll find out when we get to the office,” the agent in the passenger seat answered curtly.

“What am I being charged with?” Joe tried once more.

“You’ll be given the information you need when we get to the office,” the agent answered.

Joe decided to stop asking questions and give some thought to what would happen once he was being interrogated. He needed a plan. He couldn’t continue in this timeline or it would be disastrous.

The sedan exited interstate 79 after nearly two hours of silence. The lead sedan with Jonny Provenza pulled up to a rear entrance of a nondescript six-story office building. Joe could see Johnny being escorted into the building by the two agents from his car. The driver of Joe’s sedan waited until the first car pulled away from the entrance before pulling up to the same spot.

“Let’s go, Mr. McLean,” the agent from the passenger seat said as he opened Joe’s door.

Joe wriggled out of the car. Having your hands cuffed in front of him made simple movements difficult. He never realized how important the use of arms and hands were in maneuvers like exiting a car.

The agent signed into a log book at a counter manned by security guards that looked like they mixed steroids in their breakfast cereal. Joe was then ushered to an elevator. He and the agent were the only occupants and as the agent pushed the button designated for the fifth floor, Joe began to think of what his next steps might be. He quickly realized, there weren’t many choices and much depended on the approach that the FBI took with him. On the plus side, he might be viewed as a good guy for at least attempting to blow the whistle on the weapons deal. On the bad side, he assumed that his company was up to its ears in illegal activities and this incident may have pried open the floodgates which would result in a quick drowning of Joe and his family.

When the elevator reached the fifth floor, the agent gestured for Joe to get out and walk down the hallway to the left. They stopped at a door that was labeled INT-3, an interrogation room. Joe entered the room followed by the agent.

“Have a seat,” the agent said as he pointed to a metal chair at a metal table with two u-shaped metal loops on its top near the chair. After Joe sat down with his forearms on the table, the agent unlocked the handcuffs from Joes right hand.

“You are right-handed, I assume?” the agent asked.

“I am.”

The agent connected the loose end of the handcuff that was still attached to Joe’s left hand to the corresponding loop on the table. The table was bolted to the floor as was the chair. Apparently, Joe thought, these precautions were taken with violent people that the FBI detained from time to time.

“Is this really necessary?” Joe asked.

“It is,” the agent answered and offered nothing else.

“What happens next?”

“Someone will be in to talk to you soon. Just sit here and wait.”

“Do I have a choice?” Joe asked in an attempt a levity.

The agent was not amused as he silently left the room.

Joe assessed his surroundings. The room had no windows except for a small frosted pane of glass with wire reinforcement in the metal door through which he entered. There was a camera in plain site on the ceiling. Joe assumed that, as well as video, the room had audio surveillance. He had not seen Johnny Provenza in the building but he assumed that he was somewhere in a similar room either waiting or being questioned. Joe had watched enough television to know that they would be questioned separately. The agents would then compare their stories and might even fabricate facts to play Joe and Johnny against each other. Joe really wasn’t sure how to play any of this. He amused himself by considering telling the truth to the agents.

Well, you see, I traveled through time a few times trying to fix my love life and save my parents. This is my fourth attempt and it hasn’t turned out well, so can I just try again?”

That might land him in some deep, dark government psychiatric facility. Joe even considered this as a potential escape route. Obviously, he wasn’t going to overpower the agents and escape from the building. He was an accountant, not James Bond.

Just as he was running through other options, the door opened and Special Agent in Charge McWorter entered. He sat in the chair across from Joe and made a quick glance at the camera as if to alert someone he was about to get started.

“Mr. McLean. Can I get you anything? Coffee, water, a soft drink?”

Joe thought, here it comes. He’s starting out as the good cop.

“No. I’m fine for now. I just want to find out what’s going on here.”

“Well, we have that in common. What is going on here, Mr. McLean?”

“What do you mean?” Joe asked stalling for time to think about his answers.

McWorter chuckled to himself.

“Let’s not play games here. We’ve been watching your company for a while. You guys have been great at covering your tracks. Now, you, an executive for the company, call the FBI, supposedly to report criminal activity, and you chicken out. What’s the story behind that, Mr. McLean?”

Joe carefully considered is answer.

“What’s going to happen to me if I tell you?”

“It depends on what you tell us and where it leads, but I’ve got to tell you, if there are illegal activities going on with your company, you could be in some serious trouble. If you help us by giving us information which cuts down on our investigation time, you might end up with reduced consequences.”

“What about immunity for me and my family?”

“Whoa, Mr. McLean. You’ve watched too many T.V. shows. We’re a long way from any kind of immunity deal. That would take a huge leap of faith from my superiors on what you can provide in this investigation. I’m not sure we can get there. Let’s not be premature. I would need a list of what you bring to the table before I can even consider taking it to my bosses.”

“Okay, I’ll provide you with a list. Let’s get this moving.”

McWorter smiled at McLean.

“I’m not sure what your motivation is, but if you try to stall of send us on a wild goose chase, we have a warrant ready to go for your warehouse and, if necessary, we will pull all of your company records. If you leave anything out, you won’t like the consequences.”

“Just let me get started on that list and then you can decide.”

Now Joe just had to figure out what he would put on the list that would satisfy the FBI. He really didn’t care about immunity. At this point, one clear goal was in mind.

McWorter got up from the table and turned to leave.

“Where are you going?” Joe asked.

“I’m going to get you something to write with so you can start your list.”

Joe now realized why his right hand was not cuffed. He had played into the FBI’s hand, but, at this point, he didn’t care. He needed to get out of this timeline.

Extra Innings – Part 32

This week Joe faces a tough situation. When we left him last week, he was on the phone to the authorities ready to alert them about the illicit arms deal about to happen in his company’s warehouse. The story is coming to a head. I hope you are enjoying it.

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, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31


Joe disconnected the call. He had to think this through. Bringing in the authorities would certainly shut down this operation, but it would also bring him down as being complicit in the crimes being committed. He wasn’t as worried about himself as he was about the rest of his family. Instead of calling in the authorities, he would try to kill this deal himself. Even though he wanted to avoid problems for his family, he didn’t want to supply guns to gang members in Chicago. Joe got out of the SUV and went back into the warehouse. He would have to act quickly, there wasn’t much time until the deal was supposed to go down. He walked quickly across the warehouse floor and climbed the steps back up to the office and through the door where Johnny was hunched over the desk.

“Joe. What is it? Did we forget something?”

“We have to pull out of this deal,” Joe said. “I just got a call from someone I know and our buyer might be under surveillance by the FBI.”

“What? That’s impossible. We’ve been doing business with these guys for a long time.”

“Well, it may not be true, but I don’[t want to take any chances. We need to call the buyers and tell them the deal is off.”

“They’re not going to be happy. Besides, what am I going to tell them?” Johnny asked starting to panic.

“Just tell them there’s a problem with the supply. They’ll think you’re doing them a favor.”

“Oh man. I knew this deal was too good to be true,” Johnny said as he started to punch in a number on his cell phone.

“Hello. Yes, this is Johnny Provenza. Is he in?”

Johnny paced as he waited for the other person on the line.

“Yes. Hello. This is Johnny. I’m sorry about this, but we need to call off the deal today.”

Johnny paused and Joe could hear a loud voice on the other end of the call despite the phone’s proximity to Johnny’s ear.

“Yes, I know. Yes, I thought so too. It’s just that, the supplier apparently damaged several of the units and did have half-baked repair job. We found it during a last-minute inspection.”

The volume of the voice seemed to drop a bit on the other end of the call.

“Yes. We should have caught it earlier, but at least we caught it. I don’t know. We might have to find a new supplier or get a deep discount on the next shipment. Yes, of course we’ll keep you informed. Okay, okay,” Johnny said and then held his phone at arm’s length.

“What happened?” Joe asked.

“He hung up on me,” Johnny said.

“Did he buy the story?”

“I think so, but he was pissed. They were about to leave and now he has to tell his buyer’s the deal is off. He was not happy.”

“Well, if the feds moved in during the deal, nobody, except the feds, would have been happy,” Joe said.

“Who was your source?” Johnny asked.

“Someone I trust who’s on the inside,” Joe lied.

“Well, I hope it’s someone reliable.”

“Oh, it’s someone I’ve known for a long time.”

“So, what now? What am I going to tell my father? He’s not going to be happy at all.”

“I’ll take the heat for this,” Joe said knowing there would be plenty of heat if the senior Provenza had the same temperament in this timeline. “I’ll head over to see your father now. You can come with me if you want, or stay here if you don’t want to get pulled into it.”

“I’ll come with you. I want to hear exactly what he has to say. I’ll follow you over to his house.”

It occurred to Joe that, even though the elder Provenza lived in the same general area as he and Sophia, along the lake, he didn’t know exactly what house was the right one.

“Why don’t I ride with you. My SUV has been acting up. I’m going to have Eric bring a mechanic out here to look at it.”

As they descended the stairs to the warehouse, Joe was a bit disturbed at how quickly and easily lies were popping into his head. They crossed the warehouse floor and exited to the parking lot. Unfortunately, their cars were not the only ones that waited for them. Four black sedans and three Langerton police cruisers waited were in the parking lot with personnel emerging for them with the obvious intent to enter the warehouse.

“Put your hands on your heads and face the wall of the building,” one of the men that emerged from the sedan said to Joe and Johnny.

The man nodded to the Langerton officers who came forward and quickly patted them down. They found Joe’s cell phone in his pocket and a small pistol strapped to Johnny’s leg.

“They’re clean, now” one of the officers said.

“Turn around,” a voice said.

“Hey, that gun is registered and I have the proper permit.”

“That’s fine. We’ll find out if it isn’t.”

The police officer handed the gun and phone to the man in the suit who set them on the hood of his sedan.

“What’s going on here?” Joe asked.

“Are you the owner of this building,” the man from the sedan asked.

“Who’s asking,” Johnny said.

“I’m Special Agent in Charge McWorter,” the man said. “I’ll ask again, is one of you the owner of this building?”

“Can we see some identification?” Joe asked.

McWorter fished his badge from the jacket of his dark suit and showed it to Joe and Johnny.

“One more time,” McWorter said. “Is one of you the owner of this building?”

“Our company owns it,” Joe said. “Is there a problem?” he asked, knowing there was.

“And who are you?”

“I’m Joseph McLean, CFO of RPM, the company that owns this warehouse.”

“And who is your associate?”

“I’m John Provenza, Senior Vice President of Operations for RPM.”

“Wow, a couple of bosses slumming it at a warehouse. That’s interesting.”

“Are we done here,” Johnny asked. “We have the right to be in one of our properties.”

“We received a call to our Pittsburgh office with information that there was criminal activity happening at this location,” McWorter said. “We were able to trace the call using the GPS functionality in the caller’s phone. Do you mind if we look around?”

“There’s nothing going on here,” Joe said. “This is a private warehouse owned by RPM, one of the biggest companies in this area. There is no criminal activity going on. I’m one of the principals in the company.”

“Well, someone from this location called. We’d really like to look around and be sure. If you have nothing to hide, that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Do you have a warrant,” Johnny asked. “Last time I checked, you needed one to search private property. How do we know you won’t plant something once we let you inside?”

“Oh, we can get a warrant with a little leg work. I was hoping you wouldn’t put us through that. Is there anyone here with you who might have put through the call?”

“There is no one else here,” Joe said. “It was probably some kid playing a prank.”

“Maybe so,” McWorter said. “We can all just wait here until the warrant comes through.”

“I’d like to call our attorney,” Johnny said. “You can’t just pull a warrant based on some crank call. You don’t even know who called it in.”

McWorter broke into a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. Johnny Provenza was basically right. He would likely have a very hard time getting a warrant to search a private building belonging to a respected company in the community. Then, another dark suited agent approached McWorter and whispered something to him. This caused the special agent’s smile to spread to his eyes. He took out his cell phone and looked at a text that he received. He then punched a number into his cell phone.

Joe started to feel himself sweat. Then his worst fears were confirmed. His phone, which was on the hood of McWorter’s car, started to ring.

“Now that’s interesting,” McWorter said. “I just dialed the number that phoned in the tip and it seems to be ringing in your pocket, Mr. McLean.”

Johnny looked at Joe with a questioning look. Joe could see the anger and betrayal starting to rise in his face.

“I can explain,” Joe said. As he said this, he was hoping he could. What he really wanted was to be in any timeline but this one at this moment.

Extra Innings – Part 31

This week is pivotal for poor Joe. He is zeroing in on just what kinds of business ventures his organization is involved in. He needs to try to find out more information and determine whether to stop things in this timeline, or venture back to try to prevent them from happening.

I’m honestly not sure what new twists and turns will take place, but I feel like the story is reaching a climax. Please enjoy this installment of Extra Innings.

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, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30


Joe found himself experiencing something surreal when he entered the warehouse. He had never been in this facility before, yet it felt familiar to him. As he migrated from timeline to timeline, this blending of things he had experienced in the other lifetimes with the sense of never having been there was starting to freak him out, especially when he spent time as his grandfather and found himself attracted to his grandmother at some level.

This was no different, he entered the warehouse and new instinctively where the office was. It was in the southwest corner of the building on the second floor. He could see a light on with shadows moving behind the blinds.

Joe crossed the vast warehouse floor passing pallets filled with boxes tightly bound together in stacks with plastic film they were placed neatly across the floor with gaps between the rows and columns of pallets that were large enough for a small forklift to move between them.

Joe reached the metal staircase and mentally prepared himself as he ascended toward the office to interact with his nemesis from the original timeline, Johnny Provenza. Johnny was now apparently a business partner and his brother-in-law.

The office door was made of metal with a frosted glass panel that covered much of the top half. The class had wire crisscrossing its way between the two glass panes which were cleverly stenciled ‘OFFICE’. Joe opened the door and found Johnny Provenza sitting behind a vintage grey metal desk. He looked up at Joe with a look that was brand new in their relationship. Johnny looked nervous and intimidated.

“Joe. What are you doing here? You don’t trust me either, do you?” Johnny said.

Joe had anticipated many reactions, but this was not one of them. He had to think quickly.

“No, Johnny. Relax. I’m just here to help. I thought we could walk through what’s going to happen so we can make sure it goes smoothly. You don’t have to be nervous. Once we walk it through, I’ll leave you to it. I don’t want to get in your way. I just want to make sure you’re successful.”

“Sophia put you up to this, didn’t she? I can do this. I just need a chance.”

“She doesn’t even know I’m here,” Joe answered truthfully. “I need to score some points with her. You need to score some points as well. It’s a win-win for both of us.”

Johnny seemed to visibly relax.

“I’m sorry, Joe. You’re right. It couldn’t hurt to walk it through. I appreciate the help.”

“No problem. That’s what family is for,” Joe said trying not to throw up a bit in his mouth.

Johnny tapped the screen on the tablet that was in front of him.

“Where do you want to start?”

Joe didn’t really know the answer to this, so he improvised.

“Let’s start at the beginning. It couldn’t hurt to review everything from start to finish.”

“Alright. We’ve got a couple of hours. The beginning it is.”

Johnny tapped the screen a bit more.

“Okay, Joe. We’ve got 15,000 units that were delivered two weeks ago. Our guys prepped the units and repacked them. The pallets are out on the floor in sections A1 to G10.”

Joe didn’t know what the ‘units’ were, but he didn’t want to be too curious. He had to think of a creative way to find out more. He thought he’d try some normal sounding questions.

“So, of the 15,000 units we got in, none of them were defective or damaged in shipping?”

Johnny looked up at Joe.

“They were packed pretty good and our supplier is pretty reliable. We had about five units that were slightly damaged, but our guys were able to refurbish them. The buyer will never be able to tell.”

“What was wrong with the five units?” Joe asked, hoping to find out more.

Johnny seemed a bit annoyed at the question.

“Why do you want to know this? It’s way too detailed for someone at your level. It’s grunt work. You know, more at my level.”

Joe found himself empathizing with Johnny. In the original timeline, Joe was the one with the inferiority complex because he wasn’t part of the Provenza family. Now, in this timeline, he was part of the family and he was starting to realize that there was a hierarchy, even among blood relatives.

“Listen, I want you to succeed. If you succeed, I succeed, if you know what I mean.”

“Things that bad with you and Sophia?” Johnny asked.

“They are,” Joe answered and based on the past 24 hours, he believed that to be the truth.

“I told you to be more discreet when you met with that Beth. Even though, like you said, you were just getting together with an old friend, Sophia is like a jungle cat. She will scratch anything that encroaches on her territory.”

Joe thought of what Sophia said about parts of Beth being all over Western Pennsylvania and he thought that sounded like a bit more than scratching.

“You’re right, Johnny. I should have been more careful. Anyway, back to the units that were damaged, what was wrong with them?”

“Mostly some scratches, but a couple of them had sights that were a little off and one or two had damaged mechanisms.”

Sights and mechanisms. Joe started to get a bad feeling about these ‘units’.

“Will they work okay, now that they’ve been refurbished?”

Johnny laughed a bit.

“Where these things are going, they don’t know how to use them, anyway. If they’re a little off, it won’t be noticed, as long as they make a big noise and shoot a bullet.”

Now Joe’s feeling of sickness increased. The sights and mechanisms comment told him that these might be guns, but now it was confirmed. He needed to find out more to be sure of how to handle this.

“Okay, Johnny. It looks like you’ve got the inventory under control and the units are ready to go. Tell me about the customer.”

“C’mon Joe. You know them. These guys are part of a pretty scary organization. They’re supplying these guns to get their enemy out of office. They’re good for the cash, if that’s what you mean.”

“What enemy do they want out of office?”

“Don’t you remember? Their latest axe to grind is against that super-liberal Chicago mayor. They want his anti-gun policy to fail. That’s why, as he rounds up and destroys guns, they’re replacing them at a three to one rate. Three guns supplied for every gun seized by the Chicago PD and destroyed.”

Joe saw what was going on now. It appeared that some NRA backed group or some faction of the right wing was supplying guns in Chicago so that the violence that was running rampant in the city would not go away. It sickened him. This wasn’t the early 20th century when gangsters ruled that city, but it wasn’t much different.

“Which side are they supplying guns to?” Joe asked.

“That’s the thing. They’re supplying them to whoever has the cash. The agenda against the mayor is not only moving forward, but these guys are making a profit on top of it. Their getting about $1.50 for every $.50 cents they spend. Isn’t America great?”

Joe didn’t like the question and he didn’t like the fact that his business was involved in this. He had to keep his cool, however, until the timing was right. Then he had to decide if the action he was going to take was worth the fallout.

“So, what’s in this for us?” Joe asked.

“Well, Mr. McLean, you ran the numbers on this. For the 15,000 units, we take in a cool $3 million dollars. We do this four times a year and we pocket $12 million, tax free. Are you testing me, or something?”

Joe had to try to sound upbeat.

“Yes, and you passed with flying colors. What about our supplier? Are they reliable and do they have the resources to keep meeting the demand?”

“This old Soviet junk that they’re selling us is in mint condition. From what they tell us, we can keep this going for another five years. There are warehouses full of this hardware in the former Soviet Union. All we have to do is keep greasing the right palms so they can get it shipped here and we all make a boatload of money.”

Joe once again squelched his sickening stomach. He had the information he needed. It was time to act.

“Well, Johnny. It looks like you’ve got everything covered. You’ve got about 90 minutes before the deal is set to happen. Are you okay?”

“Yeah. A couple of the boys will be here about half an hour before. I should be fine. Are you taking off?”

“If you don’t mind. I think I’ve seen enough to know that you’ve got it under control.”

Again, Johnny looked relieved.

“Great. Thanks.”

Joe turned to leave the office and, when he was halfway through the door, Johnny called after him.

“Hey Joe. I really mean it. Thanks. I was second guessing myself, but you made me feel better. I’ll be sure and put in a good word with Sophia. She needs to lighten up on you. I know you weren’t sleeping with that Beth. I need to set her straight.”

For a moment, Joe felt some guilt, but, when he thought of the impending deal, that feeling quickly dissipated.

“Thanks, Johnny. I think that will help,” he said sincerely, though, if things proceeded according to plan, Johnny might not get the chance to follow through.

Joe descended the stairs and left the warehouse. He made a mental note of the section of the warehouse floor where the guns were packed in wooden crates that were stacked on pallets.

He climbed back into the Navigator, did a quick search on his phone, and dialed a number that he found.

“FBI, Pittsburgh office. How may I direct your call?”

“Yes. I’d like to report some criminal activity. It’s urgent in nature. May I speak to the agent in charge?”

“What is the nature of this activity,” the gatekeeper asked.

Joe told her.

“Let me put you through to agent Fontino immediately.”

Joe listened to the phone ring and wondered if this was the right thing to do. It appeared he was implicated in this as well since he at least ran the numbers.

“Fontino,” a voice on the phone said. “How can I help you?”

Joe held onto the phone silently for a minute and then he made a decision.

Extra Innings – Part 30

This week Joe is trying to sort out the timeline he has found himself in. He is apparently in business with the people he loathed from his original timeline. His quest to avoid this while he took the place of his grandfather failed miserably. He still is confused about how to deal with fixing his life.

Please enjoy this chapter of Extra Innings.

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, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29


Joe and his new timeline family made it back to the house. He pulled the car into the driveway and Eric was waiting to stow the car for the night. Joe opened the front door and his wife and kids walked into the house. He followed his wife upstairs so that he could change. He planned on spending some time in his office and would go to sleep on the sofa. The discomfort in his marriage worked to his advantage to avoid the awkwardness of sleeping with a woman who he had just met despite a sixteen-year marriage.

Joe kissed his children good night, something that felt strangely natural. He then went into the master suite. His wife was already there. The room had his and hers walk-in closets. Joe went to his and found some shorts and a t-shirt. He closed the door and began changing. As he stripped off his clothes and underwear, the door opened. It was his wife. She was in a very revealing bra and panties set and Joe’s biological instincts caused an unwanted reaction. His wife glanced down at the saluting appendage.

“Well, if this deal with my brother goes well, you might get to use that.”

Joe hastily pulled on his shorts and looked away.

“What’s the matter? Has it been a while since you’ve seen a real woman?”

“Do we have to get into this right now?” Joe asked.

“No, but we do need to get into it. After this shipment is done, we need to sit down and talk about this. You’re going to have a choice to make.”

Joe thought he probably knew what the choice was, but he didn’t want to deal with that right now. At the present time, he wanted to get on the computer and game plan how he would handle the shipment the next day.

“That’s fine. I agree. After the shipment, we’ll get this settled.”

At the time, Joe didn’t know what that meant. Would he stay in this timeline? That was in doubt at the moment. Would he try to fix the situation by going back in time? He wasn’t sure which point in time to go back to. This might take some time to resolve.

Sophia retreated to her closet to change and Joe turned back to his rack of clothes and grabbed clothes and shoes for the next day. He would be up early checking out what the RPM empire looked like in order to help him form a decision on how to handle this timeline.

He padded down the stairs toward his office. Eric was just coming in the front entrance.

“What time will you be needed the care in the morning, Mr. McLean?” He asked Joe.

Joe was at first unsure how to handle having someone to take care of his cars.

“Um, how about 6:30? Is that too early?”

Eric seemed confused by the question.

“Whatever time you need the car, that’s fine. Would you prefer the Jaguar or the SUV?”

Joe didn’t know there was an SUV option. It might be less conspicuous.

“The SUV is fine. Thank you.”

“No problem sir.”

Eric headed down the hall. It appeared that he had quarters in the house. Joe found this interesting.

Joe went into his office and sat at the computer. He wanted to compile a list of addresses and map out where he wanted to go the next morning. First, he looked at a list of properties owned by RPM. There were several apartment buildings around Langerton as well as a couple of strip malls. Beyond that, most of their income seemed to come from the import/export business. Because mainland Canada was across Lake Erie from Langerton, RPM had apparently worked with local government to establish a free trade zone that was quite sizable on the shore of the lake. The warehouses and some offices owned by RPM were inside the free trade zone. This allowed the importing and assembly of goods within RPM’s facilities which minimized taxes and import fees.

Joe collected the addresses and mapped out his plan for the morning. He plotted out a circle that ended at the warehouse where the deal would take place. He searched for two hours for any shred of evidence that would give him a clue into the nature of the deal. He found nothing. That wasn’t a good sign. There was nothing in the invoicing or ordering systems for the company. It appeared this deal might be off the books.

Joe realized it was almost midnight. If he was going to be on the road by 6:30 A.M., he thought it would be smart to get to sleep. He went into the full bathroom that was connected to his office and brushed his teeth. He decided to take a shower so that he wouldn’t have to in the morning. He towed off and put his shorts and t-shirt back on. He walked across the office and arranged the pillow and blanket on the sofa. The sofa was a long, dark brown leather, overstuffed model that proved to be quite comfortable and it had apparently seen quite a bit of use lately. He set the alarm for 6:15 on his cell phone.

It took him just a bit to put the events of the day out of his mind as he tried to fall asleep. Eventually, the fatigue that was rampant in his body won out and he drifted off. When he did, however, he slept very soundly. Hopping timelines was starting to take a toll on his body. More than he realized, unfortunately.

His alarm brought him out of his dreamless slumber at 6:15. He slowly woke up, shook the cobwebs from his mind, and put on the clothes that he had brought down. He went with jeans, a button down striped shirt, and casual shoes. He went into the bathroom, relieved himself, brushed his teeth again, and made sure he didn’t have bed head. He grabbed an iPad that was on his desk in case he needed to look anything up during his journey. By 6:30, he was headed out the front door and it appeared Eric had been very efficient in bringing up the SUV. When Joe saw hit, he realized it might not be as inconspicuous as he thought. It was a 2016 black Lincoln Navigator L, a land yacht, which started out close to $70,000. Apparently, the Joe McLean in this timeline didn’t believe in subtlety.

Joe set off for his first stop, an apartment complex with 40 units that was on the west side of Langerton. Joe set off in that direction. The west side of Langerton was traditionally industrial. The streets were lined with car dealerships. Joe was surprised, however, at the signs for the dealerships as he passed them. Instead of the names that were familiar to him, Many of them bore the RPM name and logo. Apparently, his company owned auto dealerships as well. This made sense as the free trade zone likely took delivery of automobiles manufactured in Canada. RPM could prep them and then sell them in their own dealerships. So far, a smart business strategy with legitimacy.

Finally, Joe reached the first apartment building. It was an old candle manufacturing plant in his original timeline. In this timeline, it was an upscale renovated space with elegant shops on the first floor and converted luxury condominiums on the floors above the shops. It looked like a very appealing property.

Joe circled back out of the parking lot and went on to the next property. He saw more of the same. This was a converted shoe factory that had been turned into an apartment complex designed to attract young professionals. It was called sole survival. A clever play on words and another beautiful, and legitimate, property. Joe was about to abandon driving to the other three properties, but the deal wasn’t for another three hours and something told him to continue.

As Joe approached the third property, he began to see a gradual decline in the neighborhood. The property looked very rundown. It was a cedar-shingled apartment complex that appeared to be in disrepair. Trash and abandoned toys littered the front parking lot. There were discarded liquor bottles near the entrance. Young men were loitering, even at this hour, appearing to be looking for purchasers of whatever product they were offering. Joe quickly pulled away from the property as the loiterers were eyeing the Navigator greedily.

The next stop was a strip mall. As Joe approached it, his worst fears were realized. The tenants included a pawn shop with barred windows, a check cashing establishment and the Joyful Finish Massage Center. He asked himself how he would allow the company to own properties like these. The last property was no better. It was a similarly occupied strip mall with a liquor store, tattoo parlor and a bail bond store.

Joe looked at his watch and there was about 90 minutes before the deal at the warehouse. He headed toward the warehouse and the neighborhood gradually improved the closer he got to the lake. He wanted to get there early to see what he could find out about the deal, but decided to get some coffee at a Starbucks that he came upon while on his way.

As he sat at a table with his iPad sipping a venti regular coffee, Joe looked up some of the businesses that he had passed. The apartment complex was notorious for crimes and violence. Both strip malls had records of robberies and nefarious businesses. The massage business had been raided multiple times for illegal conduct. Joe just shook his head. Why did RPM own these businesses? As he struggled for answers, he realized it was time to get to the warehouse. He tossed out the cup from his half-empty coffee and climbed into the Navigator.

As he drove toward the warehouse, the feeling of dread grew in his stomach. What if there was some elicit deal happening in the warehouse his company owned. What could he do to stop it? His options were limited. He wondered if there was some way he could diffuse the entire creation of the company. Obviously, his stint as his grandfather had failed to do this. It had quite the opposite effect.

As he pulled into the warehouse, he saw a black Mercedes parked near the office entrance. This would likely be Johnny. He was there early as well. Joe went through his game plan one more time in his mind, took a deep breath and entered the warehouse.

Extra Innings – Part 29

This week Joe finds himself in the lap of luxury, but quickly finds out that money doesn’t solve every problem, especially if the source of that money is murky. This timeline has its positives and negatives, but Joe needs to evaluate how serious the negative aspects are and if there is any way to change them.

Please enjoy this installment of Extra Innings.

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, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28

Frank Rozzani Boxed Set CoverAlso, if you enjoy my writing, I am giving away the boxed set of my first three books in the Frank Rozzani Detective Series this weekend. This is for the Kindle version of the books. You can download them HERE.


“You don’t mean that,” Joe said to his wife from the current timeline.

“Just test me, Sophia McLean responded. “If you’re not happy in this marriage, be a man and divorce me, but you better get out your checkbook.”

“I don’t want out.”

“Of course, you don’t. You’ll lose your money and there’s no telling what my family will do to you. You’re pathetic.”

At this point, Joe decided the best response was no response. He didn’t know the history behind Sophia’s comments and arguing with her would be reckless, maybe even dangerous, based on her remarks.

“I’m just going to do some work. What time is dinner, again?”

“It’s at 7:30, just like every week. Are you drunk?”

“No, I’m not. Just a lot on my mind; work stuff,” Joe quickly added.

“That better be it. I’m going to change and get the kids ready.”

“Okay. I’ll be ready,” Joe said.

Once the hurricane that was apparently his wife left, Joe returned to his computer and started digging beneath the surface. Apparently, RPM owned a lot of property and was invested in many businesses in Langerton. This included a share of Dominick’s, the restaurant they were headed to this evening. RPM had provided a great deal of funding toward the renovation of the business about five years prior. Among the other properties owned were multiple apartment buildings, a couple of strip malls, and some warehouses along Lake Erie. On the surface, the investments were not cause for alarm, but Joe needed to dig more into the types of businesses these buildings housed. He was already concerned at some of the neighborhoods that the apartment buildings were in, but he didn’t want to jump to conclusions until he had time to check them out. Perhaps the neighborhoods had improved in this timeline.

Joe glanced at the Rolex watch on his wrist. It was 6:45 and it would take 30 minutes to get to Dominick’s. He felt like he was a bit overdressed for the place until he saw Sophia, Joey and Maria fill his doorway. They were dressed as if they were going out to a five-star restaurant.

“I’m ready, just let me use the restroom and freshen up,” Joe said.

“I’ll have Eric bring the car around. Are you driving tonight, or should I ask him to drive.”

“I’ll drive,” Joe said.

He stepped into the bathroom that was attached to his office. It appeared that he used it quite a bit. There were toiletries, shaving gear towels and a robe. This made sense when he thought about the pillow and blankets that were on the sofa. Perhaps his marriage was not good at all. He splashed on some cologne. He noted that it was a Christian Dior fragrance that went for about $350 a bottle. Financially, Joe seemed to be doing very well, even if his marriage seemed to be in shambles. As he came out he thought that his family, in this timeline, at least looked very good on the surface. His son was dressed in a suit very similar to his own and looked like a younger, more prosperous version of Joe. His daughter was striking; a strong resemblance to Sophia with dark eye makeup and nails. She was absorbed by her smart phone and oblivious to the humans around her.

“Eric brought up the Mercedes. Let’s get going,” Sophia said.

She was trying to be pleasant, likely for the sake of the children, but Joe could feel the chill subliminally hidden in her voice.

They walked out through the front entry to the waiting car, a new $200,00 black Maybach sedan with Napa leather seats and would trim. Joe was a bit intimidated to drive it, but as he maneuvered out of the driveway and up East Lake Road, he realized the car practically drove itself. On the way, his wife was silent, his daughter was still transfixed by her phone and his son was busy with an iPad. The thirty minutes to the restaurant was an interminable and awkward silence.

Joe noticed that the neighborhood around Dominick’s was a bit more upscale than it had been in his other timelines. Many of the pre-World War II houses had been restored and the roads were smoothly paved and clean. Ironically, it looked as it might have back in the 1950s, in his grandfather’s time. As he approached the restaurant, he was struck by how much larger and fancier the façade of the building was. He pulled into the front entrance and noticed a valet stand. Valet parking at Dominick’s? This was a place that had very good, home-style Italian food for a reasonable price and portions that required you to take a bag home with you. It now looked like a fancy eatery. Joe held his opinion on whether this was a positive change.

Upon entering the restaurant, staff swarmed the McLean’s. Joe followed Sophia’s lead and they walked to the rear of the restaurant to a private room. They were apparently the last to arrive as there were four empty place settings on one side of a table for twelve. Seated at the table enjoying cocktails were Joe’s parents, alive and well, his brother Mike, Johnny Provenza and a companion that was much too young to be his wife, and a couple that he didn’t recognize. Sophia walked around the table with the children offering and receiving hugs to everyone. Joe followed suit, although hugging was not part of his family’s usual style, at least in the other timelines.

His parents looked very healthy and well dressed as did his brother Mike. Johnny Provenza looked well-tanned and coiffed. His companion was all over him and was at list 15 years his junior. The other couple hugged Sophia and the kids, so Joe joined in as to not arouse suspicion. Joe ended up next to his parents and across from Mike who was noticeably alone.

Very soon after Joe was seated, the wait staff entered the room with various Hors d’Oeuvre plates including Clams Casino, Calimari and crab cakes. Dominick himself followed the staff and shook hands and hugged all around the table before standing behind the man Joe didn’t recognize who was seated at the head of the table.

“It’s good to see you all tonight,” Dominick said. Mr. Mike, I know the Mrs. and the kids are doing college visits and couldn’t be here this week.”

“That’s okay, I’ll eat their portions,” Mike said which resulted in the table erupting in laughs.

“Tonight, our chef, Angelo, has put together a special feast for you. I hope you enjoy it.”

Dominick bowed to the room and left his staff to serve, refill drinks and remove used plates and silverware.

The meal progressed through the soup and salad courses. The food was spectacular. After the salad, Joe excused himself to go to the restroom. As he was washing his hands, Johnny Provenza entered the room. They were the only two occupants. Johnny straightened his tie in the mirror at the sink next to Joe.

“So, are we all set with moving the funds tomorrow?” Provenza asked.

“Funds? Which funds are we talking about?”

“C’mon, Joe. Quit screwing around. The shipment goes out tomorrow. I want to make sure the funds are ready to move as soon as we get them.”

Joe decided to play along and then investigate later.

“I was just messing with you, Johnny. I’ll move the funds. No problem.”

“There better not be, Joe. This is a huge deal.”

“Don’t worry. I’m on it,” Joe lied.

Johnny left the restroom and as Joe prepared to follow, many alarms and thoughts were going through his head. It sounded like something nefarious, but maybe Johnny was nervous about the funds for legitimate business deal. Joe vowed to find out.

The rest of dinner was uneventful as was the drive back to the house. Joey fell asleep in the back seat and Maria was busy texting her friends. Sophia was silent, but Joe decided to break the silence and go fishing for information.

“I’m going to do some work when we get home to get ready for the shipment tomorrow,” he said to Sophia.

“That’s fine. Do what you need to do. Johnny is nervous about it. It’s his first deal that he brought in solo and his first time using that new warehouse out on Maritime Drive for the shipment. It needs to go well.”

Joe now had more information to go on, but not quite enough.

“Why is he so nervous?” Joe asked.

“Joe, you know how he is. If this deal goes south, he’ll take it personally. He feels like he is being tested by the Rosellis; like they are comparing him to Daddy.”

“I’ll make sure it turns out right,” Joe said.

“You better,” Sophia said returning to her dragon lady persona.

Joe had a bit more information to go on, but he didn’t know what time the shipment was or what was being shipped. That information would tell him what he needed to know and what he needed to do.

Extra Innings – Part 28

This week Joe finds himself in a timeline that is the polar opposite of the one he was in before becoming his own grandfather. He starts to find that there is no perfect situation. Will this one work out for him? Read on and find out.

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, Part 26, Part 27


 

Joe navigated the Jaguar along the curves that led to the lake. The car drove intuitively, almost as if it knew the roads and had some type of autopilot. This was fortunate because Joe was lost in thought. Not only had his family not separated itself from the Roselli’s, it appeared that both families had flourished. Joe wanted to believe that this was due to some kind of awesome legitimate business venture, but something told him he should know better. As he navigated through the small, upscale village that bordered the lake and made the turn on East Lake Road, he noticed something else, he had a wedding ring on his left hand. Could it be that he and Beth somehow ended up together in this timeline? That would be the resolution of one area where he had failed in every timeline thus far. Joe looked closely at the house numbers. He had programmed his into the map app on his phone and he was only a quarter mile away. As he pulled into the driveway, he realized that this house made the one in his prior timelines look like a guest bungalow. The massive stucco property with tile roofing and Spanish architecture looked gaudy and out of place in Western Pennsylvania. It also looked very expensive.

Joe parked the Jaguar on the circular driveway and a young man in a black suit immediately emerged from what he assumed was a guest house.

“Mr. McLean, your home early. Would you like me to park the car or are you heading out again?”

Joe was taken aback. Apparently he employed a person to take care of his car.

“Um, you can park it, I think. I don’t think I’ll be going out.”

The man looked a bit confused. Joe assumed he probably should address him by name, t

“Mr. McLean,” a woman’s voice called as he went through the front entrance. “You’re home early. The Mrs. isn’t home yet. She may not be for a while. She took Joey shopping about an hour ago.”

Joey? Did Joe have a child in this timeline?

“That’s okay. I have some work to do in my office,” Joe said as he took a chance that he had an office in this mansion.

“Very well, Mr. M. Shall I call up to you if Mrs. M. comes home?”

“Yes. That would be great. Thanks you,” Joe said as he received the same confused look from the woman who appeared to be a housekeeper or nanny. Again, he probably made things awkward by not addressing her by name, but guessing what her name was would have been much more awkward.

Joe walked through the marble entry hall and climbed the elaborate staircase. All he could think of by the size and décor was a merger between Donald Trump and The Beverly Hillbillies went into creating this house. He wondered if he had a gold-plated cement pond out back.

He wandered around the upstairs, grateful that no one else appeared to be up there. He would really have a hard time explaining why he couldn’t find his way around his own house. He found a young boy’s room, presumably Joey’s, but was also surprised to find what appeared to be a teenage girl’s room. Did he have a daughter as well? He passed the gigantic master suite and then found a closed double door just down the hall on the right. When he opened the door, he realized he had found an office, his office. It was larger than his apartment in the original timeline. It had dark paneling and, as he explored the room he found a computer with two large monitors on top of a massive antique mahogany desk, a fully stocked bar, and a full bathroom.

He crossed back through the room to the desk and keyed in his usual password to his computer. Luckily he was consistent in all timelines with this bit of information. The screens came to life and the logo for a company called Roselli and McLean, Inc. came up. The logo was made of two rings intertwined. Joe couldn’t help but theorize that this was to indicate the union of the families.

As he fired up his browser, he looked around the room and behind him, on a matching credenza under the massive window, there were family pictures. Joe recognized his mother and father and Mike and his wife right away. They looked even healthier and wealthier in this iteration of the timeline. He then saw himself in various decades. First, a wedding picture. He looked closely at the bride. It wasn’t Beth. He had married someone else in this timeline. She was a beautiful woman with dark hair and eyes and distinctly Mediterranean features. In later pictures, he saw himself with two young children. First a girl and later a boy. They both looked like a blend of Joe and this mystery woman.

In order of importance, and to avoid embarrassment in the near-term, Joe thought he should probably find out who he married so when she returned from shopping, he could at least pretend to know her since they had been married for at least 16-20 years by his estimate. He logged into his computer and began a search. He figured he might be well-known in the community so he started with a Google search and typed in Joe McLean marriage. He was surprised to see that at the top of the search results, he had a Wikipedia page.

The page said that Joseph McLean was a Western Pennsylvania business mogul who had been one of the heirs of a fortune amassed by his grandfather William McLean in the 1950s and 1960s. Joe found out that he had attended Cornell and had earned his CPA after receiving his Master’s Degree.   Joe’s grandfather had been the original CFO for Roselli-McLean Limited, an import/export company that cornered the market for importing produce and olive oil in most of Pennsylvania. Since that time, the company had expanded into importing and exporting other goods and even owned several manufacturing facilities across the northeast. The company was renamed Roselli, Provenza and McLean (RPM) in 1980 and was a family business that employed the entire McLean family including Joe’s grandfather, his father, his brother Mike, and Joe himself.

Joe’s grandfather died in 1990 and Joe’s dad retired in 2000 leaving the financial arm of the business to be run by Joe and the technology side in charge of Mike. It appeared that they filled similar roles that they did in the most desirable timeline to date, but in this current timeline, those roles were for a much larger and more prosperous firm. Not only were they still in business with the Roselli family, but they had also added the Provenzas to the fold.

Joe now came to the personal part of his Wikipedia page. He was married in 2001 to Sophia Provenza. It took him just a minute to recover from this revelation. He married into the Provenza family. The irony was not lost on him. Sophia was the eldest daughter of John Provenza Sr., the retired Chief Operating Officer of RPM. They had two children, Maria and Joe Junior, aged 16 and 9. That was about all the personal information that Joe could find. He wasn’t sure if that was enough to get him by with his ‘wife’, but he needed to dig into the business further.

Joe logged on to the company website. Luckily, his familiarity with how his brother administrated the set up user IDs and passwords. He found his way into the company’s financials. What he saw nearly blew his mind. Revenues were in the high nine figures approaching a billion dollars. Net profit was very healthy. It appeared that they had a very solid revenue stream from the leading retail chains. Everything appeared legitimate at first glance. That only made Joe feel marginally better. The next thing was to look at the tax history for the company. Again, it appeared that they were using one of the Big Four accounting firms to audit them and prepare their taxes. It all appeared above board. So much for the public stuff, Joe now needed to dig further. See where the bodies were buried, so to speak. He had only been in this timeline for a short time, but he was starting to feel uncomfortable.

Just as he was about to do a more extensive search of the company files, he heard noise downstairs as someone entered the house. He then heard footsteps coming up the stairs and then a knock on the office door.

He wasn’t sure what to say, but thought he would start with the obvious.

“Yes?”

“Daddy it’s me. Can I come in?”

A child’s voice.

“Sure,” Joe said not sure how to feel.

A young boy with both McLean and Provenza features ran to Joe and put his arms around his neck. Although Joe had never met this boy, he instantly felt parental affection toward him.

“Joey. How are you?”

“I’m good, Dad. Mom bought me some school clothes, but she let me get a new video game.”

“That’s great,” Joe said.

“As long as you don’t play it too long,” said another voice from the doorway.

Joe looked up and saw that it was Sophia, his wife of 16 years, that he had never met.

“You’re home early,” she said. “Slow day at the office?”

“Um, yes,” Joe said. He was nervous at Sophia’s beauty and his lack of familiarity with this woman he had been married to for so long.

“We still have dinner tonight at 7:30. Don’t forget.”

“Dinner?” Joe asked.

Sophia gave him a look of confusion.

“Yes. Dinner, like we do every Friday night. With our parents. At Dominicks. Did you forget what day it was?”

Joe did his best to laugh.

“I guess I did. Sorry about that.”

Sophia just shook her head.

“Come on, Joey. Let your father work. Let’s go get rid of some of your school clothes from last year so we can make room for the new ones.”

“Okay, Mom,” the boy said and then he turned to Joe. “Are you okay, Dad.”

“Sure, Joey. Why do you ask?”

“You just seem…um…different.”

“No. I’m fine. Go help your mom and will have dinner later.”

“You go ahead, Joey. I’ll be right there.”

Joe looked up as Sophia came into the room and closed the door.

“Okay, what’s going on? You leave the office early and come home and then act all strange. Is it her again?”

“Her?” Joe asked truly ignorant of what his new/old wife was referring to.

“Yes, Her. Don’t play dumb with me, Joe. We agreed that we would work this out for the kids, but if I find out you’re seeing her again, I will divorce you and take everything you have and then you’ll have to deal with how my family might resolve the situation.”

“I promise you, my being home has nothing to do with anyone else. I just was out doing some errands and decided to come home instead of going back to the office.”

Sophia turned to leave, but then turned around for a parting shot.

“Okay, Joe, but if I find out you’re lying, you’ll lose every penny you have and they’ll be finding parts of Beth Burton all over Western Pennsylvania.”

At the sound of Beth’s name, Joe felt both elated and deflated. Apparently, she was in his life, but not in the way he had envisioned. This timeline was getting complicated.

Extra Innings – Part 27

Joe returned to 1952 and found himself in his grandfather’s body with his grandfather’s memories and experience. He wanted to stop his grandfather from turning state’s evidence on the small-time gangsters of the day hoping that the rift between the two families would vanish and positively affect his future.

This week’s installment of Extra Innings gives us a glimpse of how this turned out for Joe. Hang on. It’s a fun ride.

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, Part 26


Joe quickly ran the options through his mind. He could lie to these mobsters and end up beaten to a pulp, or worse. A wrong move could end up with his grandfather, grandmother and father dead and no future to go back to. The men squeezed through the office doorway and began to crowd in on Joe. He decided to give the truth a try.

“They were here looking for incriminating information on your boss’s finances. They want to haul him in on tax evasion or some other charge.”

“What did you tell them?”

“I told them I didn’t have anything to give them and that my client information is confidential.”

“That better be the truth. If it’s not, we will be back to chat with you again.”

Joe decided it was now or never. He reached into the desk for the folder with Roselli’s files. Both men instinctively reached inside their jackets.

“Whoa. I’m just grabbing a file,” Joe said.

He took out the folder and handed it to one of the men.

“This is everything from Mr. Roselli’s file that the FBI might find interesting. It’s the only copy. You can take it with you and Mr. Roselli can do with it whatever he wants.”

The man looked at the file pretending to understand what was there.

“And you say this is the only copy,” he said after closing the folder.

“It is. Take it. When you give it to Roselli, tell him he’ll need to find a new accountant. I don’t want to be part of his dealings anymore.”

The man with the folder chuckled.

“That’s not really up to you McLean. You’re done when he says you’re done.”

He glanced at the other mobster bookend and they both turned to leave.

“We’ll be in touch, McLean. You better hope this is the only copy. Any funny business and you and your pretty little family just might wake up dead.”

They turned to leave and as Joe heard the front door close, he wondered if he had done the right thing. He left the office and headed back up the stairs to his grandparents’ flat. It was surreal, but, thankfully, almost over.

“What did those other men want, Bill?”

“They were just some guys who work for one of my clients.”

“Not that awful Mr. Roselli, was it?

“Well, as a matter of fact, they were. It was just routine stuff, though. Nothing to worry about. I gave them what they needed. I also told them I wanted to stop being Mr. Roselli’s accountant.”

A look of worry crossed the face of Joe’s grandmother.

“Do you think he’ll just let you do that?”

“We’ll find out.”

“Well, Mr. McLean. I’m proud of you. Our son is in bed asleep. If you’d like, I can show you how proud I am,” she said with a devilish grin.

Joe wasn’t sure how to answer this one. His grandmother was still young and more than a little attractive, but the resemblance to the woman in her 60s and beyond that he knew was still there. He needed to get himself out of this awkward situation without making her too suspicious or hurting her feelings so that his grandfather would feel her wrath when he ‘returned’.

“I’m just going to watch the news for a little bit and then I might take you up on that offer.”

That seemed to make her feel better.

“Okay Mr. McLean, but don’t you fall asleep in that chair. I don’t want to have to come in here and wake you up, although that might be fun.”

Joe began to realize that his grandmother had a frisky side in her youth.

“I won’t. I promise,” Joe said although he fully intended to fall asleep as soon as possible and return to his timeline. Hopefully, his grandfather would be back in control and can receive his reward. A win-win, Joe hoped.

Joe’s grandmother went off to bed and Joe settled into the familiar easy chair that he remembered from his grandparents’ home as a child. It was much newer in this time period, but no less comfortable. He absently looked around for the television remote and then realized as he looked at the black and white television in its ornate wooden cabinet, that there was no remote. He got up, turned on the television and adjusted the antenna until the news broadcast was visible with minimal snow, shadows and rolling of the picture.

He then settled back into the chair. The local news was actually broadcast from Erie, Pennsylvania, the closest large city. There was the usual docket of stories that you would expect from 1952. More about fires and auto accidents. Less about the weather and murder. No scandals, no celebrity melt-downs, just good old fashioned small-town America.

Luckily, that quality in these stories combined with the comfortable easy chair started to make Joe feel drowsy. He put his head back and began to doze. Suddenly he was awakened by a loud sound that he couldn’t pace in his state of semi-consciousness. He opened his eyes and the space he was in went quickly from pitch black to light like a giant, noisy eyeball ascending.

“What the hell are you doing in here?” a voice said shaking Joe out of the darkness and slumber.

“I’m sorry. I was looking around and got sleepy,” Joe said.

“Mr. McLean. You must have been going through all of that baseball stuff again.”

Joe squinted as he looked toward the voice and the roundish silhouette that blocked part of the sunlight. It was Jaba, a.k.a. Randy. He was being polite and knew who Joe was. Those were positive signs. Joe stood up and realized he was no longer in his jeans and shirt from the previous contemporary timeline. He also smelled a whole lot better. He was wearing a suit and tie that, judging from the tailoring and the material, was not off-the-rack or inexpensive. Another good sign. Joe walked out of the storage unit and Randy stood aside to let him pass.

“I saw your Jag parked out in front of the unit and figured you might be in here. You should take all of that baseball stuff home. It’s probably worth something now, with the name change and all.”

Joe let that comment pass. He didn’t want to make Randy suspicious, but that was the first revelation about this timeline that gave him pause. The name had changed from the Chiefs to something else? He had a Jag?

“Thanks, Randy,” Joe said.

He felt the urge to tip him for some reason. He reached into his right front pants pocket and found a substantial wad of bills. He peeled off a twenty and put it in Randy’s chubby paw.

“Thank you Mr. McLean. I won’t let anybody know you were in here if they ask.”

Randy was being polite to the point of subservience. This also made Joe feel that tickle on the back of his neck like things weren’t quite right. He saw a beautiful black Jaguar XKR-S GT. He knew from browsing the Jaguar website that this model cost upwards of $350,000. He actually owned one. Things must have turned out well in this timeline.

He opened the door, but first stopped to remove his jacket. It felt like high-end silk and he didn’t want to wrinkle it. He noticed that he was wearing a very expensive dress shirt with French cuffs and what looked to be solid gold cufflinks with a letter ‘M’ monogrammed on each. His taste was very extravagant in this timeline. Much more than he would have imagined. Somehow, it felt natural.

The Jaguar had a pushbutton start and Joe must have had the keys with him because it started when he applied the brake and pushed the button. The powerful engine roared to live and Joe felt a low vibration course through his body. He carefully maneuvered the vehicle out of the rows of storage units and then a though hit him. He didn’t know where to go.

He picked up his jacket and felt a wallet in his left breast pocket. He extracted it and found that it was also very high-quality, but a bit garish. It was made out of some type of reptile skin, maybe alligator. There was a clear compartment inside which held his driver’s license. When he looked for the address, he had to glance at it twice. Two timelines ago, he had what he thought was his dream house. If the address on this license was correct, his standing, as far as residences go, had improved significantly. His house was on East Shore Road. This was a very exclusive area just outside of Langerton along a beautiful, and highly regulated, lake. Just the small plots of land that occasionally came for sale started at about a million dollars. The houses that were built on the land were significantly more. Joe couldn’t believe that he lived there. Maybe his concerns about this timeline were unfounded.

He put the car back in drive and maneuvered toward the exit of Langerton Deluxe Storage, only the sign at the entrance bore a different name. Roselli-McLean Deluxe Storage. All of a sudden, Joe felt the urge to vomit all over the inside of his expensive car. He pulled into a parking spot near the entrance and opened the window. As he took deep breaths, he tried to piece together what might have happened. Apparently, his grandfather hadn’t ended his relationship with Roselli. It also appeared that Roselli hadn’t gone to jail. What happened? Joe needed to find out. He decided he would drive to his house and get to a computer before he jumped to conclusions.

Extra Innings – Part 26

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.

“Dad?”

“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.

Extra Innings Part 25

Last week, Joe found himself in very undesirable circumstances. He had apparently hit rock-bottom in this timeline and was shunned by his brother, his biggest supporter in the other timelines. This week, we’ll find out if Joe can come up with a plan to save the day and put things back on course.

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


It was 4 P.M. Joe exceeded his allotted time on the computer and was reprimanded for it, but he also found out that newspaper articles prior to 1990 were in the library basement stored on microfiche. The librarian told him he could browse through those as long as he wanted. He found the microfiche machine, as the librarian had told him, in the corner on a table in the basement. An old plastic chair was in front of it and the left hand wall had hundreds of file boxes with microfiche images of newspapers and telephone books dating back to 1940. If he had the time, Joe could have spent hours looking through this material.

He found the box for the 1952 articles from the Langerton Post. He also found one for the Langerton Herald, the now defunct evening edition of the paper. With instant news on the Internet, it was amazing that any newspapers had survived at all, let alone two editions per day.

Joe loaded a strip of microfiche from the days leading up to the event he was looking for into the machine. He smelled the burning dust as the bulb heated up. He then grabbed a square sheet of microfiche film with space for 98 image squares under the glass of the machine and slid the tray in.

The sheets were configured so that each day the paper was published had a sheet of microfiche dedicated to it. Some were close to the 98 available spaces and some, the Saturday paper in particular, fell well short. Joe started with the paper for June 17th 1952, a month before the event that he discovered during his search.

The paper was focused on two mine collapses in Belgium on that day. As Joe skimmed through the other images, he was intrigued by the advertising and entertainment of the day. He also noticed the tone of sports reporting, which treated athletes as infallible gods, unlike today where every standout athlete was built up, just so they could be torn down publicly.

Joe took out the sheet for the 17th and did similar searches for the 18th, 19th and 20th. As he grabbed the sheet for the 21st, he noticed that, even though it was a Saturday, nearly all of the 98 squares were filled. He soon found out why.

Late on June 20th, 1952, Federico “Freddy” Roselli was taken into custody for tax evasion and tax fraud. The FBI showed up at his office in downtown Langerton and seized all of his files and assets. He was arrested and, because it was late on Friday, would spend the weekend in jail until his arraignment on the Monday the 23rd. Joe quickly reached for the box containing the microfiche for the evening paper of the 23rd of June. He didn’t have to look very long. On the first microfiche image the headline read Mob Boss Caught Red-Handed. Roselli wasn’t really a mob boss. He was an underling at best, but he was the closest thing Langerton had to gangster royalty.

From the article it looked like the FBI had been after Roselli for quite a while. They made no progress on the case for a while until an unnamed state’s witness came forward and gave them irrefutable evidence. Joe had an inkling about the source, but he wanted to be sure, so he continued to peruse the microfiche in search of articles about the case.

Unlike today’s cases that seem to drag on and take forever to get started, the Roselli case was back in the headlines in less than a month later. The trial date was set for early August. Joe began searching through the boxes for August 1952 and found that the trial began promptly on Monday morning the 4th of August. Judge Kevin Mulvaney presided over the case. The first few days, the reporting was about jury selection. Apparently, many prospective jurors had some trepidation when it came to the trial of a mobster, no matter how low on the totem pole. Finally, by Thursday the 7th, a jury was seated and the trial was set to begin on the following Monday, the 11th of August.

The first few days of the trial were chronicled in both the morning and evening editions. The opening arguments were routine and the reporter struggled to make it sound interesting. It wasn’t until Joe looked at the afternoon edition for August 15th that he found what he was looking for. The bold headline read State Witness Sinks Roselli’s Ship. It was a long edition of the paper that spilled onto a second sheet of microfiche by a few cells making this edition over 100 pages, many of which were dedicated to the trial. Joe read the entire article with interest. On about the third page, his suspicions, originally brought about by the chance Google search, were confirmed.

********

In an unusual move, the federal prosecutor called the star witness to the stand. The man, a slight man with a ruddy face, timidly approached the witness chair and was sworn in by the bailiff. Up until now, his identity had been a mystery. Now, his identity was known. His name was William P. McLean, CPA. Mr. McLean, 35 of East Langerton, is an accountant with the Provenza accounting firm. One of their clients is none other than Freddy Roselli. McLean, through his testimony, indicated that he discovered the anomalies in Mr. Roselli’s files during routine auditing tasks. When he brought the irregularities to his superiors at the Provenza firm, he was told that it would be taken care of. Mr. McLean became aware of the FBI investigation and reached out to the G-Men’s Pittsburgh office to let them know what he had found. They put him into protective custody and then descended on the Provenza firm to seize the files in question. With examination of the materials, the FBI was able to get the dirt on Roselli that they had been searching for. You may recall that this paper reported earlier that the Roselli and Provenza families are connected by marriage on top of their sinister business relationship. This reporter heard from an unnamed source that, in addition to Roselli, future indictments against members of the Provenza firm may be coming from the Feds depending on their level of cooperation.

Judge Mulvaney commended Mr. McLean for coming forward. The witness finished his testimony and was escorted through a back door of the court room by to large G-Men.

********

Joe now knew the connection between the Provenza and McLean families. An old grudge had been forged. He had a number of questions running through his mind. Why did old man Provenza offer him a job in his original timeline? Why didn’t his parents tell him about the trial and the connection between the Provenzas and McLeans? Those questions, however, were secondary. He had discovered why the Provenzas were hell-bent on ruining the lives of his family members. Now, all he had to do was stop it from happening. He wasn’t sure it would work, but he had to try to get back to 1952 and stop his grandfather from becoming a state’s witness.

There were some issues to consider. Joe was not yet born in 1952, if he were to go back to that time period, what form would he take? His own form? An unborn set of cells that didn’t exist? If he did get back there, what would he do? His grandfather wouldn’t know him and he would have a short time to convince him that he shouldn’t turn in the evidence with no credibility. He even thought that going back to a period before he was born could have a catastrophic effect on the present. He already figured out that time travel was not like Back to the Future or The Time Machine. He went back as himself at whatever age he was in the time period and, once he fell asleep, he jumped back to his current time period. The timing would be crucial and the plan would have to be foolproof. He knew one thing for sure. He needed to get back to the storage unit as soon as it became dark.

When Joe went back upstairs in the library, it was getting close to closing time. He couldn’t believe how much time he spent in the basement.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” the librarian asked.

“I did. Thank you so much for suggesting the microfiche.”

“No one ever uses it anymore. You’re the first in a long time.”

“Well, I’m glad it was there and thank you for your help.”

The librarian smiled as if she was not accustomed to being thanked very often.

It was 6 P.M. when Joe exited the library. The sun was still fairly high in the sky and wouldn’t set for another 90 minutes. Joe needed to wait until after 9P.M. before he could go back to the storage unit. It would be closed and Randy would be out of the office.

His stomach growled a bit and he still had enough to stop into a Subway and get a sandwich while he bided his time. He ordered his sandwich and carried it to a table stopping to pick up a weekly newspaper from the rack near the counter. He savored the taste of the sub-standard ham and cheese on the doughy role. It tasted like an expensive steak to him. He tried to ignore the craving for alcohol and nicotine that were just below the surface of his consciousness.

As he browsed through the paper, he watched people enter and exit the restaurant picking up subs to go. Very few people dined in as they trudged home from whatever job they performed during the day. Joe eventually finished his sandwich as he synchronized reading the entire paper with the spacing of the bites that he took. Eventually it was 8:30 P.M. and he was ready to take the slow bus ride across town that would bring him back to the storage facility. He walked two blocks to the bus shelter and waited for the cross-town bus to arrive. It had multiple stops on its route which ensured he would not arrive until after 9.

As Joe settled in to the bus seat, it occurred to them that this might be the first time he had been on a city bus since he was 12 or 13 years old. Somehow, however, it seemed familiar to him as he settled into the marginally comfortable plastic seat with its thin padded cover. He settled in and ticked off each stop as the bus methodically made its way across town.

Joe finally got off the bus about two blocks from the storage facility. The chill of the late evening had set in so he jammed his hands into his pockets to keep them warm. He finally got to the gate and mentally crossed his fingers as he punched in the code. The gate miraculously opened. Joe walked back to storage unit 57 and, in a turn of good luck to bad, found that the lock had been replaced. He couldn’t get in. He trudged back toward the office looking for the dilapidated golf cart that Randy rode through the complex. It was parked behind the office and, luckily, the bold cutters that Randy used to relieve the units of their padlocks was still in the cart next to a flashlight. Joe grabbed them both and headed back to the unit. He strained and finally snipped the lock. He brought up the door and was careful to enter the unit and bring it back down before he switched on the flashlight.

In this timeline, the stadium seats and the boxes of Langerton Chiefs program books were still in the unit. Joe knew that the programs were separated into those that he had collected himself from games he attended and old ones that he had either purchased as collector’s items. He went to the boxes that contained the latter and began searching through them. Finally, he was into the early 1950s and he found a program book from opening day of 1952. That was in April. His grandfather likely turned the evidence over to the FBI in a May or June timeframe. He would have to go back to this date and hope it wasn’t too late.

Joe took the yellowing, stiff program book and went to the seat that had transported him to this undesirable timeline. He sat down, relaxed and felt the same familiar electrical charge pass through his body. He suddenly felt a cool breeze mixed with intense sunshine. He opened his eyes and he was at Maxwell Stadium. As he looked around him, the fans at the game looked like they stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The men were in suits and ties with fedoras from the time period. The few women in the crowd were similarly dressed as if attending a night at the theater instead of a baseball game. Joe realized the he too was dressed similarly to the men. He looked around and did not see his grandfather anywhere. Of course, he was going by his memory of pictures that he had seen when his grandfather was the approximate age he would be in 1952. Joe decided to get up and leave the game. He wouldn’t make any progress here and he needed to act quickly. He made his way down the row and descended into the interior of the stadium beneath the seats. He decided to stop in the restroom and then begin his task even though he wasn’t entirely sure how to begin.

As he walked to the urinal, Joe happened to glance in the cloudy mirror above one of the porcelain sinks. He was indeed wearing a fedora, but there was something else more striking. He was wearing a different face. He moved closer to the mirror before he confirmed what he thought when first seeing the reflection. The face looking back at him from the mirror was his grandfather. In this timeline, he didn’t have to find William P. McLean, CPA. He was William P. McLean CPA. His task now became clear.

Extra Innings – Part 24

Joe hits rock bottom this week. His despair is justified as he digs into what happened in this timeline. Because this is a serial, the events go by quickly as I try to tie each week’s entry into an episode. When I turn this serial into a novel, however, there is a lot of juicy detail that can be expanded. I can’t wait.

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


In all timelines and in his entire life, Joe had never felt this uncomfortable around his brother. He considered getting out of the truck at a traffic light and running back to the storage unit to get out of this timeline. Something felt terribly wrong. Physically, he had never felt worse. He had strange cravings for tobacco and alcohol that he had never experienced before.

What happened? How did things get so bad?

Joe didn’t know the answer to these questions and Mike wasn’t talking.

“Where are we going, Mike?”

“We’re going to my apartment. You need to get cleaned up and get some clothes that aren’t falling apart. After that, I don’t know.”

“Apartment? What happened to your house?”

Mike gave Joe a look filled with disgust and hate. Joe didn’t recognize his brother for a second.

“What the hell is wrong with you? You know damn well I lost my house just like you did. Of course, I lost my family too. You didn’t have one to lose.”

Joe felt as if he had been stabbed. The cravings grew in proportion. What the hell had happened?

Eventually, Mike maneuvered the truck into a parking lot and pulled into a space next to a shabby apartment building. Mike followed him past a garbage strewn lawn and up a sheltered concrete staircase that had a permeating smell of urine.

Mike inserted a key into chipped and faded door with the number 5 on it. Joe followed him into a small, one-bedroom apartment. The carpet was threadbare and the paint was in serious need of being refreshed. It appeared that his brother was living quite modestly, but the apartment was neatly organized, as was Mike’s nature.

“You go get in the shower. There’s soap and shampoo in there. I’ll find you some clothes.”

Joe was anxious to divest himself of the odor that surrounded him. He turned the water in the small shower to hot and peeled off his clothes. He didn’t know how long he had been wearing them, but based on the conditions of his socks and underwear, it was much longer than a day.

Joe climbed into the hot shower and let the nearly scalding water pulsate over his body. He scrubbed himself so hard that he felt like he was removing the top layer of skin. He couldn’t get clean enough. While in the shower, he tried to plan what to do next. He had to find out what happened and figure out how to correct it. This timeline was the worst, just from the little bit he had observed.

Joe heard the rustling of a garbage bag in the bathroom. He peered out from behind the shower curtain and saw Mike gathering his filthy clothes with a look of disgust on his face. By the time Joe turned off the shower and began toweling off, he saw a fresh set of clothes waiting for him hanging behind the bathroom door. Mike had also put out a toothbrush, shaving kit, and other toiletries for Joe’s use.

Joe wrapped a towel around his waist. He was disturbed by the amount of slack in the towel, he was thin with no muscle tone, but had a protruding belly that likely denoted poor nutrition. He wiped the fog from the mirror and, as he shaved his face clean, he was disturbed by the image of the man that looked back at him. He looked ten years older even though only two years had passed since he stopped the merger in the old timeline. He wondered again what had happened during that time. He also wondered how he was going to find out. He couldn’t just casually ask Mike without arousing suspicion and his brother didn’t seem to be willing to converse.

Joe finished shaving, put on some deodorant and dressed in the clothes his brother provided. The clothes looked somewhat familiar and were of a pretty good quality. They were a bit large, however, and Joe had to cinch the braided belt that Mike provided to keep the pants from falling down.

“Those used to fit you,” Mike said as he poked his head in the door. “You look like a skeleton, Joe. What the hell has happened to you?”

Joe wished that he knew what had happened to him, and to his brother. He wanted to ask Mike about his mother and father, but he didn’t want to make him think he was losing his mind.

“These are my clothes?”

“Yeah. I hung on to some of your stuff when you disappeared. I’m not sure why, but I guess you’re lucky I did. I’ve got some shoes that you left out in the living room. You can put them on when you leave.”

Joe got the message. His brother didn’t want him around. Honestly, he didn’t want to spend any more time in this timeline than he needed to. He knew he had to go back to the storage unit, but he didn’t want to go until after dark. He just hoped that the code for the keypad was the same in this timeline. Once he had on the shoes, Joe went toward the apartment door. As he was leaving, Mike emerged from the bedroom.

“Hey, go get something to eat.”

Mike pressed a $20 bill into Joe’s hand.

“Don’t buy booze or cigarettes with this. Use it for food.”

“I will, Mike.”

Joe put his hands on his brother’s shoulders and his eyes misted.

“I’m sorry, Mike. I really am.”

“I’ve heard that before, Joe. You need to turn yourself around. I don’t have the strength or the desire to help you, but you need to do it for your own sake.”

Joe left the apartment feeling empty, but a sense of determination grew in him. He saw the suffering that his brother had experienced just by looking into his eyes. He couldn’t let this stand. He needed to investigate this timeline and to do this, he needed access to a computer. Mike’s apartment wasn’t too far from downtown Langerton and there was a public library there with computers.

Joe grabbed some fast food breakfast. He wanted to conserve the $20 that Mike had given him so he could ride the bus from the library to the storage unit. He walked the five blocks to the Langerton central library and again felt nauseous and out of breath. If nothing else, he needed to get out of this timeline for his own health. As he walked into the library, he found that the computers were all in use. There was a sign-up sheet that showed him he would have at least an hour before he could get on one. In the past, libraries had newspaper articles and other records on microfiche, but in these modern times, everything was accessible only by computer.

For whatever reason, Joe decided to do some reading on the history of Langerton. Joe knew his family went back to the early days of the town. He pulled a volume on some of the notable events in the town’s early history without a plan of really looking for anything. He was just wasting time until the computer was available to him and was also trying to squelch the cravings for tobacco and alcohol that were constantly gnawing at him.

Joe skimmed through the volume and then decided to check the index. He looked up the name McLean and found about a dozen entries. He knew his early ancestors were settlers in Langerton and owned a substantial farm and early general store. The depression took most of that away as customers dwindled. He was able to trace things to his grandfather, an accountant by trade, in the 1920’s. He worked for a firm in town and lived downtown near his office.

On a whim, Joe looked for the name, Provenza, in the volume. There was a single entry. It showed a marriage in 1947 of Angelo Roselli to a Carmela Provenza. The Roselli name had several entries as this family was the closest to gangsters that the town of Langerton had. They were underbosses for some mob figures in Buffalo, and funneled gambling and prostitution money from western Pennsylvania to their bosses in western New York. It was interesting that a Provenza was related to this family, but Joe didn’t give it much thought.

As he spent his time buried in the history of the Langerton Chiefs, his hour of waiting time expired and he made his way to the single unoccupied computer. He brought up the Google search engine and then keyed in the name of his firm. A number of newspaper articles from 18 months prior formed a list on the results screen. Eighteen months was about six months after Joe pulled out of the merger and about two years prior to the current time. Joe was shocked by what he saw.

He saw the name of his firm intertwined with the FBI and court cases. He had an hour before the next person had the computer and he needed to slow down and digest what he was seeing. Apparently, someone in his firm was using the personal information of clients to perform various illegal acts including embezzlement, identity theft and tax fraud. To make it worse, they were able to cover their tracks by providing an audit trail to several high-profile members of the firm including Mike and Joe himself. The case dragged on through court for nearly six months and, in the end, the culprit was caught, but not before doing irreparable damage to the firm and the people that worked for it. Even though Joe, Mike and the others, weren’t culpable in the activities, the damage to the firm’s reputation, combined with minimal coverage of the resolution of the case, made customers move away from the firm in droves. Joe now understood what happened. He had failed to stop this from happening and, as a result, had descended into a pattern of self-destruction. He had let his family down.

As he scrolled down through the articles, another piece caught his eye. The headline read, McLean Couple Killed in Horrific Crash. Joe felt nauseous, but couldn’t stop himself from clicking the link. He immediately saw a picture of his parents. As he read the story, his guilt grew exponentially. Apparently, his father had been driving along a rural foggy road with his mother as a passenger. The story said that the couple had been visiting the younger of their two sons who was in a substance abuse rehabilitation program. The article speculated that either poor visibility, a medical condition or both had caused his father to lose control and drive off an embankment into a group of trees. Both died of their injuries. This had happened six months ago.

Joe let out an audible sob which elicited uncomfortable stares from his fellow computer users. He composed himself and looked at the time on the screen. He had about 15 minutes left. He wasn’t sure he wanted to find out anything else. Then, for no good reason, Joe typed in the names Roselli and McLean into the search engine. He didn’t expect to find anything and he did find very little. What he found, however, was perhaps the reason that he could not repair the timelines that he lived in. He may have found the answer. Now the question was, would he be able to go back and fix it?