Emotions flooded Neely as she took the package. She felt the prick of tears behind her eyes. All those years her grandmother had known and hadn’t told her. What could possibly be in the envelope that would answer all the questions she had? In spite of her home being filled with people who cared for her and wanted to protect her, she’d never felt quite so alone in her whole life.
“WHERE’S THE WOMAN you were talking to?” Sam asked.
“Who is she? And who the hell are you?”
All good questions. Max took his time sitting down at the large oak table in the kitchen. He’d taken a minute to pump Linc for information, so he was aware that all the armchair detectives knew Neely had at least the potential of becoming a psychic time traveler. They’d gotten that much from her grandmother, and they’d deduced that she’d finally discovered and was using her power. The question was how much more could he expect a street-smart cop to buy into?
Sam leaned against the table and crossed his arms, establishing himself as the interrogator and Max as the suspect.
Max knew he was taking a risk telling anyone in 2008 who he really was, and he sure as hell hadn’t run it past Deirdre before she left. But time was running out for Neely, and he needed to use every means he could to protect her. “Neely didn’t tell you who I was?”
“Neely claims you’re some kind of private eye chasing the Ripper. I’m not leaving until I get some straight answers. And don’t give me some crap about her letting you in the back door. She’s led a sheltered life, she’s too trusting, but she’s not stupid.”
“I agree with you one hundred percent on all counts. And you’re right. She didn’t let me in the back door or the front door.”
Max took out his wallet, opened it and pushed it across the table. “The woman I was talking to is Deirdre Mason. She’s my boss at Trans Global Security.”
Sam glanced at the ID, then back at Max. “Never heard of it.”
Max decided to go for broke. “My presence in this house has to do with the fact that Neely has the ability to psychically travel back in time.”
Sam said nothing for a moment, and Max could read neither surprise nor disbelief on his face.
“She told you about that?” Sam finally asked.
Answer a question with a question. It was a standard strategy that security agents, himself included, still used. Some things hadn’t changed much over time.
“You already knew about her ability?”
“Mabel claims Neely can travel through time. Before she passed away, her grandmother told Sally and me about her own abilities, and she made us all promise to look out for Neely if she became aware of hers. Neely’s a bit of an idealist. Cornelia was worried that Neely might consider taking a more active role in the past. How do you know about her ability? Did she tell you?”
“She showed me. Last night when I was sitting on the stoop across the street, she took a trip back to Buck’s Row, London, 1888, and she pulled me with her. Being taken along for the ride like that has never happened to me before. I usually operate under my own steam.”
Sam’s eyes narrowed. “You’re saying that you can travel through time, too.”
“Yes. But, as I said, she pulled me along last night to London and back. That’s how I got into the house. And neither one of us was very pleased by it.”
“You expect me to believe that?”
Max leaned back in his chair. “Actually, I’m going to ask you to believe a whole lot more. But you strike me as a Doubting Thomas. There’s no need for me to go into it if you can’t accept the possibility of Neely having the power to travel through time. Do you?”
Frowning, Sam ran a hand through his hair. “Look. If you’d asked if I could accept the possibility of psychic time travel six months ago, I would have given you a flat no. I didn’t believe it at first when Mabel explained it to me. Cornelia had some artifacts that she’d brought back from her travels, but nothing that she couldn’t have gotten hold of in some other way. But Mabel knew Cornelia Rafferty for a long time, and she believes her friend had that power. Mabel’s not a stupid woman, and as far as I could tell, Cornelia wasn’t a nutcase. Neither is her granddaughter.”
Max considered, then gave him a brief nod. “You at least have an open mind.”
“I guess you could say that.”
“I told you that I have the same ability that Neely does. What I didn’t tell you is that I’m not from this time. The reason you haven’t heard of TGS is that it wasn’t created until the year 2100.”
“You want me to believe you’re from the future?”
“Yes. I’m from the year 2128 to be exact.”
Sam’s eyes went flat. “How about some hard evidence of that?”
“How about an artifact that you can’t get hold of.” Max took out his weapon and set it on the table. It was a narrow silver tube that he could conceal in the palm of his hand. “This is a standard TGS weapon. All security agents carry one.”
Intrigued now, Sam moved to the table, turned a chair around and straddled it. “Never seen anything like it. May I?”
Max nodded and Sam picked it up, turning it this way and that in his hand. “There doesn’t seem to be anything to press. What does it do?”
“It’s programmed with my DNA, so that I’m the only one who can operate it. We don’t use handguns anymore. Most of them were confiscated in the last half of the twenty-first century. Having one in your possession can result in several years of confinement.”
“People still commit murder?”
“Oh, yeah. Human beings haven’t completely outgrown their violent tendencies. Neely asked me a similar question. She wanted to know if the seven deadly sins were still flourishing, and they are.” Max spread his hands. “Hence, my steady employment.”
Sam passed him the silver tube. “A cop from the future, huh?”
“We prefer the term security agent.”
Sam’s reply was a grunt. “In my time, security agents patrol shopping malls. Can you show me something this baby can do?”
“It can deliver a stun, anything from a slight nudge—” he aimed it at the toaster, pressed his thumb to the base of the weapon and sent the appliance skidding to the edge of the counter “—to something that can knock a person off his feet or render him unconscious.” This time, he aimed it at a butcher block that stood at a right angel to the sink and sent it halfway across the kitchen.
“Something like a Taser?”
Max nodded. “I believe those were the original prototypes, but we have more options. For example—” he aimed it at Sam and pressed the side of the tube “—I just put a shield around you.”
Sam found the boundaries with his hands, then discovered that he couldn’t stand.
Max pressed the release button.
“That must come in handy,” was all Sam said.
“Tell me more about how you do it—this time travel stuff.”
Max filled Sam in on everything he knew about time travel.
When he finished, Sam studied him for a moment. Then he said, “If you really are from the future, then 2008 is history to you. You have to know all Jack the Second’s victims in Manhattan. So I’m worried about why you picked the stoop across from Neely’s home to camp out on.”
“You must have been a very good cop. She’s supposed to be his last victim in Manhattan.”
“When?” Sam’s expression turned grim.
“Between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m. tomorrow, May 17.”
“Tomorrow? Does she know?”
Max shook his head. “It hasn’t come up.”
“You have to tell her.”
“Yes. But I don’t intend to let the Ripper get her.”
After a moment, Sam nodded. “What can I do to help?”
“My boss has five suspects from 2128 that I’d like you to look at.” Taking out his palm unit, Max turned it so Sam could study the faces.
THROUGH THE PANES of the French doors, Neely could see Max and Sam, heads together, deep in conversation. If she hadn’t known better, she would have guessed that the two men had known each other all their lives. They seemed to be focused on the small palm unit that Max had held in his hand while he’d been talking to his boss. Evidently there was nothing like a “toy” to bond two men even if they were from different centuries.
The padded envelope Mabel had given her was still gripped in her hands, but she hadn’t been able to open it. She couldn’t identify all of the emotions she’d experienced when she’d realized her grandmother had kept so much from her. But right now she was annoyed. With herself. For some reason, she wanted to be with Max when she opened the envelope.
This was a man she could only have a temporary relationship with, yet her feelings for him were deepening by the second. At that moment, he turned and met her eyes, and she felt the flutter right under her heart.
Then Sam glanced up, and Neely couldn’t help but notice that they both looked as if they’d been caught with their hands in a cookie jar.
She pushed through the doors. “I want to know what you’re plotting.”
Neither man spoke.