Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And it shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe
And he keeps it … ah … out of sight.
– Bobby Darin (Mack the Knife)
Rick returned to the Wells as soon as he could, and fired up its engine for the trip home. As before, he got past Ceres, turned off the cloak, and headed back to Dawitan for the 1100-plus year journey through time.
He was about to start dictating his report when he thought better of it, as nagging thoughts would not leave his subconscious alone, “Computer,” he commanded, “access downloaded portion of master time file.”
“Earth history, 1950 through 2000, is now available.”
“Computer, access illegitimate births for late 1959, Iowa.”
“There are four records.”
“Details,” he said.
“Amy Caldwell, born December eleventh, 1959, to Margaret Latham and Bruce Caldwell. Lee Roberts, born December fourteenth, 1959, to –”
“Computer, pause. Count nine months from February second and third of 1959, and only provide records of births for that date, plus or minus two weeks.”
“Zero records,” Was the response.
“Okay, hmm, computer, access memoirs, art and literature about Iowa plane crash, February third, 1959.”
“American Pie is a 1971 rock ‘n roll song, written and performed by Don McLean to commemorate the deaths of Charles Hardin “Buddy” Holly; Jiles P. Richardson, known professionally as the Big Bopper; and Ricardo Esteban Valenzuela Reyes, known professionally as Ritchie Valens. The song was also partially covered by pop singer Madonna in 2000. Other covers include –”
“Computer, play the original piece.”
While it played, Rick thought. The girls – they were not adding up, he felt. Once the song ended, he said, “Computer, check master time file for groupies in association with all three subjects, with the Winter Dance Party tour and the Surf Ballroom in 1959. And, uh, and check groupies’ records against a guitarist named Waylon Jennings for that date.”
“No such records.”
“Hmm,” he mused aloud, “Well, it’s not exactly something you’d keep records of. And the master time file isn’t absolutely thorough, anyway,” It couldn’t be. It was impossible to record and keep rapidly available every nuanced bit of minutiae in time – otherwise the master time file would be time itself. It would be impossible to catalog, analyze, record, protect or even see.
“Okay, let’s try this tack. Patsy Cline – correlate to the phrase ‘it’s a pity’. What would be in the context of this singer?” he asked.
“The singer was in a near-fatal automobile collision in 1961. In 1963, the singer died in a plane crash.”
“Anything from before that?” he asked.
“No such records.”
Pay dirt, probably, “I think I got you, Miss Elizabeth Taylor. And maybe also you, Miss Marilyn Monroe,” he said, “Computer, switch to dictation mode,” he began to dictate.
“To: Admiral Carmen Calavicci, in care of the Temporal Integrity Commission
From: Richard M. Daniels, Senior Temporal Agent
The February 3, 1959 mission is completed. The plane crash over Clear Lake, Iowa has gone off as in the original history. Holly, Valens and Richardson are dead and the timeline has been restored.
I suspect that one or more rival operatives were present, possibly to observe my techniques although probably not to thwart my efforts. I interacted with the following individuals, in addition to the three subjects:
• Bob Hale, a local disc jockey
• A backup musician named Waylon Jennings
• An unknown male security guard, approximately forty-five years of age
• An unknown blonde female groupie of approximately twenty-five years, who I will refer to as Marilyn Monroe – this is not, of course, the actual actress and
• An unknown brunette female groupie, similar age to the blonde, who I will refer to as Elizabeth Taylor – again, this is an alias and is not intended to designate the actual actress.”
He paused, “Computer, stop dictation mode for a second and check records on Bob Hale and Waylon Jennings.”
“Bob Hale was an American disc jockey with KRIB-AM, and worked the Winter Dance Party concert in Clear Lake, Iowa on the night of February second and into the morning of the third, 1959. Waylon Jennings was an American singer and songwriter. In 1959, he performed as a part of Buddy Holly’s backup band for the Winter Party Dance tour, playing the bass. After the deaths of Holly, Richardson and Valenzuela, Jennings recorded in Phoenix and then in Nashville. His biggest hit was a duet with Willie Nelson called “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys”, recorded in 1978 –”
“Uh, that’s enough, computer. Add that information to the report. Resume dictation mode,” he took a breath and continued.
“With the named persons accounted for, the matter becomes trickier. The security guard was dispatched via stun. I did not go through the man’s pockets, but the only weaponry he had was a nightstick, appropriate to the time period. I did not pick up any temporal readings or unusual radiation signatures from him. It is my considered opinion that this individual was a part of the original history. The two groupies are another story.
I was unable to get enough privacy to perform scans or get any detailed readings on either of them. I did not see Monroe much at all, in fact. Her accent appeared to be Midwestern.
As for Taylor, a couple of her behaviors did raise my suspicions. For one, she suggested occupying the plane prior to takeoff, perhaps as a ploy to delay its departure. This did not appear to be a threat to my life or a suicidal move on her part, and she abandoned the ploy. Another piece was a fleeting reference to singer Patsy Cline and a ‘pity’, when the time period was prior to two major tragedies in Cline’s life, the second one ending it. This, I believe, was an inadvertent anachronism. The third bit was Taylor requesting the quarter used to decide Waylon Jennings and Ritchie Valens’s collective fates. It is possible that this is not only an operative, but a collector of temporal souvenirs.
I recommend a thorough investigation into as many souvenir-worthy pariotric events as can be dreamt up, cross-referenced to all known black market temporal souvenir collectors and dealers. I recognize this will take a while. I further recommend investigating all candidates, in particular, the female ones. From memory, they are:
• Carol Tilson
• Marisol Castillo
• Teresa Marquez
• Polly Porter – I have seen Porter on the viewer, and neither Taylor nor Monroe fits the description
• Crystal Sherwood – I have met this individual and she is neither Monroe nor Taylor
• Helen Walker – it is my understanding that this individual is deceased
• Sheilagh Bernstein
• Alice Trent
I believe that’s it for the female candidates. It is also possible that Taylor, and possibly also Monroe, were acting under the direction of others.”
He had to smile just a little. It wasn’t for the usual reason that he would check out a woman more thoroughly. A pity. He went back to dictating.
“In conclusion, while I hope this was an isolated incident, I fear it may not be. I stand ready to preserve the timeline, as always, from any incursions or breaches of the Temporal Prime Directive.
Very Truly Yours,
Richard Malcolm Daniels”
Dictation finished, he asked for one last thing, “Computer, play Waylon Jennings singing “Walking after Midnight”.
“There is no such recording.”
“Ha, I bet that was the only performance,” Rick said to himself. He looked out the window and watched time slip by as the Wells circled Dawitan for the umpteenth time. 2763. Almost home.
Ya know when that shark bites, with his teeth, babe
Scarlet billows start to spread
Fancy gloves, though, wears old MacHeath, babe
So there’s never, never a trace of red.
– Bobby Darin (Mack the Knife)