by William Sonnek

That thought kept chasing itself around in my head, urged on by the impressive amount of alcohol I had swirling around up there as well. Last one left, last one left, last one.
Suddenly, there was a man sliding into the booth across from me. “Jordan Kirsh?”
I jerked back in surprise—a little too far, slamming my head into the back of the booth and cursing. Being drunk was obviously not going to be helpful at the moment; few people knew my name, and no one would dare seek me out. Especially not now, after what I’d done.
I squinted at the man, trying to make out his features through the alcohol-induced fuzziness before giving up and tesseracting back to my last lock point. Granted, I had to wait an hour for him to show up again, but this time I was ready and nursing a root beer instead of the more potent vodka that I’d been tossing back before. Because I was watching this time, I was able to spot him walking in and casing the place. I locked the moment before he spotted me.
“Jordan Kirsh?”
I cocked an eyebrow at him. “What’s it to you?”
The man pulled out a wallet and flashed it at me. “Agent Phil Morton, private intelligence. We need your assistance.”
I eyed him. “My assistance? What possible assistance could a freelance programmer offer a bunch of spies?”
“The kind that doesn’t have anything to do with your programming skills,” Agent Morton told me, flipping the wallet shut and returning it to his inside jacket pocket, giving me a beautiful glimpse of the handgun resting against his ribcage. “There’s a kidnapping that we know took place three hours ago at the Lunt Hotel. We need your private detective skills and your contacts to rescue the hostage.”
I rubbed my eyes, trying to decide if I wanted my vodka back. “Hostage?”
“Specifically, twenty-year-old daughter of…let’s just say, he’s a very rich man,” Agent Morton told me, dropping a picture down on the table. I eyed it dubiously, not sure if I should really care or not yet. This guy had all the carefully prepped enthusiasm of a politician up for reelection.
“So why me?” I threw another lock down and flagged down a server for a beer. Or tried to, anyway. The waiter either missed me or ignored me. I guess I did look pretty rough by now; possibly, he just didn’t want to get near the suit sitting across from me.
“You were the one who solved the cases of the bank heist and murder spree last month,” the agent pointed out.
“Accidentally.” It wasn’t accidental at all, but the less he knew about that, the better. No one could prove that I knew what I was doing, anyway.
“You obviously have talent for finding people who don’t want to be found.”
The faces of the dead fitted in front of my eyes. I shook my head violently and telekened the server’s foot out from under him as he passed me, snatching the full glass of beer out of the air before his tray hit the floor. I only slopped a little, too. The waiter regained his balance and picked up the tray. “I’m so sorry, sir—I tripped on something—“
I held up the glass. “I’ll just hang onto this, if you don’t mind. Put it on my tab.” I turned back to Agent Morton. “I just got lucky. Case in point.”
“Then I’ll hire your luck. Twenty grand a day.”
I frowned at him. Does he know…? “Desperate much?”
Morton’s jaw clenched. “This person happens to believe you’re psychic…and he believes in psychics. The last two he tried didn’t pan out, so he started looking for someone who might not be ... shall we say, advertizing.” He pointed a finger at me. “And of course, that doesn’t get repeated, understand?”
I took a long drink to mask the cynical grin I was feeling. So that was it—no catch, just a gullible idiot looking for hope. Still, I could at least get some cash out of it. “Perfectly.”
“And,” Agent Morton added, a little smugly, “you don’t get payment until you find her.”
I sighed. Should have really seen that coming. “Whatever. You’re paying my tab now, though.”
Agent Morton rolled his eyes. “Fine. Let’s go downtown to my office.”
“Nope,” I told him firmly. “I work alone. Give me your number and office address, and I’ll call or stop by when I’ve found her.”
He glared at me for a few moments, hand moving reflexively towards his holster. I briefly debated telekening his gun into my hand, but decided against it—it would only give me a brief sense of satisfaction before I’d have to either reveal my little secret or relive this stupid conversation…and I was already going to have to do the latter one more time. “Fine,” he ground out, scribbling on a piece of paper and handing it to me.
I memorized it before sticking it into my pocket—not that it would stay there, but hey, I had to keep up appearances. “See you around, Agent,” I replied with mock cheerfulness, hopping off my chair and heading for the door.
As I’d expected, the agent’s token protest was because he’d already staked two guys on my tail. Fortunately, it didn’t matter. As soon as I stepped outside, I found the lock I’d placed earlier in the day before stopping in at the sushi bar (better than I thought, by the way) and tesseracted back there.
I’d forgotten how hungry I had been. Reluctantly passing up the sushi in favor of a quick burger, I folded back to my apartment to retrieve my .45 before folding to the top of the Lunt Hotel.
And realized I really should have gotten better intel from the agent guy…like, when and where this kidnapping was going to occur. I sighed and created a new lock before folding into the security room and scaring the living crap out of everyone in there.
After knocking the three security officers out and locating a few blind spots in the cameras’ coverage, I tesseracted back to my lock and folded down into a blind spot behind a fern. Telekening a chair over to my sanctuary when no one was watching, I settled down to wait.
Given that my first lock had been placed about an hour before the kidnapping, I dozed off. I was rudely awoken by gunshots at 2:27pm and jolted awake to see three masked men carry an unconscious girl past my hiding spot. The receptionist was down, probably unconscious, possibly dead; but by this point, that didn’t really matter. It was more imperative that I was never technically here. I folded back to the roof.
It was the work of a moment to spot the van they were driving. Carefully keeping it in sight, I folded from rooftop to rooftop, following its progress towards the edge of town. I threw out locks every few minutes; if I lost the van, I didn’t want to have to go back to the hotel to pick up its trail again.
The kidnappers switched cars about an hour later, on the far edge of the city. By a lake, naturally, which was how they got rid of their van. I wondered if Agent Morton had figured that one out by the time he’d talked to me. Somehow, I doubted it.
I started getting worried by the time 5 o’clock rolled around. I’d been following the new car for hours, out the deserted stretch of forest near the mountains. Frankly, I was getting tired, and folding every mile into whatever patches of shrubbery I could find was getting really old. Plus, you know, mosquitoes. It was a relief, then, when the car finally pulled off onto a disguised road and wound up at a cabin about a mile down from the turnoff. I hunkered down in a tree and watched carefully as they set up a few quick booby traps around the perimeter, plus a nice alarm system. Once they went inside, I folded over to the corner of the house. I listened carefully for the next hour, to limited avail; I picked up no hint of the captors’ names or reasons for the capture, but I did confirm that their only intent was to hold her hostage for some kind of ransom.
Then, I tesseracted back to my first lock point and went to eat my sushi for the second time that day.
The rest of my day went pretty much the same as it had before, except this time I was asleep at the bar when Agent Morton showed up.
“Jordan Kirsh?”
I rubbed my eyes, sitting up and glaring at the agent across from me. “What’s it to you?”
The conversation went about the same as before. Once leaving, I ducked into an alley and folded back to my apartment to pass out for the night, effectively giving the federal agents the slip.
Let them try to figure that one out. I was tired.
The next morning, I dragged my rear out of bed around nine. A quick shower, shave, and breakfast later, and I was feeling ready to attack the day. Or possibly yesterday, depending on how today went. Retrieving my Glock, I folded out to the cabin—or more precisely, to my observation tree. Everything seemed quiet, so I placed a lock and folded down to the front door.
And rang the doorbell.
What I’d been expecting was a torrent of kidnappers to come boiling out shooting at anything that so much as twitched. What I got was equally, if not more, unnerving: complete silence.
I frowned and kicked the door in, triggering the explosive device behind it.
I found myself back at my last lock in the tree, shaking my head against the remembered concussion and probably death that I’d experience in thirty seconds if I didn’t do anything different. This time, though, I decided to fold down to the inside of the door, just inside the cabin.
It was pretty boring in here, with the exception of the C-4 stuck and wired to the inside of the door. By this point, I was almost ready to tesseract back to my last lock of yesterday (just before bed) and fold back here to find out exactly what happened last night. I decided to wait, though; I’m not a patient person, and I didn’t want to have to stay up all night to wait to rescue the girl this morning. If I jumped the gun, I’d get Agent Morton wondering how I would have know a) where the girl was, and b) how the heck I’d gotten here so fast.
I began my search of the cabin, coming up dry annoyingly fast. Still, the car was here, and I hadn’t seen any signs that another one had come through to pick up anyone. I returned to the door to study the explosives, then regretfully (I’m just kidding, I was stoked about this) concluded that the only way to figure out how big of a bang that would make would be to detonate the device again.
I folded back outside, chose a nice-looking tree, and telekened it out of the ground. Holding it suspended in midair, I backed it down the road a ways, then hurled it base-first into the door.
The resulting explosion leveled the cabin, ruptured both my eardrums, and blew me off my feet. I ignored the pain long enough to conclude the destruction was indeed complete before tesseracting back to my last lock.
Digging a finger in my ear against the remembered pain, I set about looking for alternate exits to the cabin. There were obviously no footprints out front, but a check of the back door yielded similar results. Further study of the house revealed C-4 devices at every possible point of entry, including—bizarrely—the chimney. Guess they were expecting Santa to come to the rescue. All I want for Christmas…Frustrated, I plopped down on the floor in the main entrance and glared at the explosive.
I really hope they’re not like me. If that was the case, I reflected, I was going to have to start completely over…but then I rejected that thought. I’d accounted for everyone already. Much to my regret.
Like a slap upside the head, it hit me. I got up and began walking around the house again, reaching out with my folding abilities to find any suspicious gaps. This time, it only took a few minutes to find the trapdoor. It was locked, of course, but it didn’t stop me folding through onto the ladder underneath.
Definitely dealing with professionals here. The cabin sat on a concrete bunker, with the explosion up top to give warning that they might have to fend off intruders. I climbed down the pitch-dark shaft, folding through the second trapdoor at the bottom and landing in a crouch in a dimly-lit, empty room.
The light was filtering in through underneath the door. I spared a moment to try to put a lock down, but I’d unfortunately used up all my locks by this point. I pulled in the one from upstairs and put it down underneath the ladder.
Easing the door open, I slipped into the hallway outside. There were a series of doors on both sides, leading over to a dead end about a hundred yards away. I figured that, if they had any sense, they wouldn’t put their prisoner on my end near the exit, so I folded over to the last door in the hallway and cautiously tried the knob. Locked. I telekened it open and slipped inside.
And barely managed to telekene the incoming chair to a dead stop in front of me. I’d snapped my hands up, so it looked like I’d caught it. Getting a grip on it, I nudged the door shut behind me before lowering the improvised projectile. “Relax, girl. I’m trying to rescue you.”
The girl stood frozen, holding a pillow held over her head. I tossed the chair down and gestured at it. “Your first weapon choice was better. Ready to go?”
“We can’t,” the girl told me, her voice quavering. “An alarm goes off when this door is opened. They’re going to be waiting outside for us.”
I cursed under my breath, examining the doors. Sure enough, there was a sophisticated alarm wired into the hinges. I didn’t think cutting the wires would cut it, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to disarm it, even if I tesseracted back to my previous lock. I sighed and pulled in my lock from the tree outside, placing it on the floor. “Well then, I’ll just have to take them out. Come on.”
I opened the door and promptly got murdered.
I sighed. “Well then, I’ll just have to take them out. Turn around and get over against this wall—you don’t want to see this.”
I yanked the door open and folded over to the first door, appearing behind the man in the doorway and telekening him into the hail of bullets streaming down the hall. Pulling out my gun, I shot the man across the hall from me before my room blew up.
I sighed. “Well then, I’ll just have to take them out. Turn around and get over against this wall—you don’t want to see this.”
I yanked the door opened and folded over to the last door in line, appearing behind the man in there. Throwing my arm around him in a choke hold, I pulled him back into the room and throttled him unconscious. The room promptly blew up.
I sighed. “Seriously? This place is a freaking deathtrap.” Something was starting to seem off to me, but I couldn’t place it. I was also starting to get tired. Snap-tessaracing away from death was even more exhausting than normal tesseracting, and even though my body returned to its previous state, my mind didn’t. If this went on much longer, I was going to have the mother of all migraines. Plus, I wouldn’t be able to do anything, which was technically worse. I was out of options.
“How badly do you want to get out of here?” I asked the girl.
Her chin stiffened. “Not badly enough to die!”
“Good,” I shot back. “Then, in exchange for getting you out of here, you’re going to have to take a secret with you to your grave. Think you can do that?”
She swallowed. “Depends on the secret.”
“It doesn’t affect anyone else. Just me,” I assured her, before stopping to think about that one. “Okay, it’s going to affect these guys an awful lot, but other than that, no one. I’m a Timelock.”
She frowned. “What?”
“A Timelock,” I repeated, before clarifying. “I’ve got several abilities that most humans don’t have. First off, I can teleport, although I call it “folding” for a large set of scientific reasons. I have telekinetic abilities, and I can also time travel. The time travel is only backwards in time, and only to points that I’ve had the foresight to place time locks on—basically, points I can jump back to.”
“Yeah, right,” the girl snapped sarcastically, folding her arms. “If you could do that, why couldn’t you already know how to get out of here already?”
I sighed. “I’ve already died three times. Well, four, if you count the time I blew up the cabin. This is an impressive deathtrap.”
She frowned. “How could you have died?”
“Bullets, explosions—that sort of thing,” I told her. “The thing is, as I die, my brain kinda does this reflex jerk thing that yanks me back to my latest lock. It’s like it never happened, but I still remember it. It’s happened enough times to get me a headache and tired. Two or three more times, and I’ll probably pass out.”
She remained impressively calm. “So why tell me?”
I looked up at the ceiling. “I’m going to have to fold us both out of here. Once we’re out, I’ll grab the C-4 off the house up there and rig it to go off down here. The chain reaction should take out everyone.”
“Wait,” she yelped. “Why do you have to…”
“Kill them?” I sighed. “I don’t want to, but they’ll draw the interesting conclusions if we both just vanish. Possibly, the correct ones, which is worse. Besides, they’re terrorists anyway.”
She nodded, throat tight. “How are you going to kill them with C-4? I’m guessing the rooms are set so blowing up one doesn’t affect the others.”
My eyes widened. “You’re right. I’d need to use all the C-4 and stick it down the middle of the hallway ceiling to get the explosions to take out all the rooms simultaneously.”
“Right, but you can’t do that,” the girl pointed out. “They’re ready for you.”
I sighed. “I’ll rehash all this with you in a few minutes. See you soon.”
I tesseracted back to the lock point at the base of the ladder, then folded up to the cabin. I quickly disconnected all the C-4 and folded back to the basement. I telekened the explosives into the ceiling down the hallway at regular intervals before porting straight into the girl’s cell.
She had her ear pressed up against the door, listening intently, when I appeared behind her. I clapped a hand over her mouth to prevent her screaming. “Relax. I’m here to rescue you.”
I ran through everything again before folding us both out to the base of my lookout tree. After that, I folded myself back down to the basement and wired the closest chunk of C-4 into a battery and a pressure switch that I’d cannibalized from upstairs. I held the pressure switch shut, telekened the lock to the girl’s former prison open, and stepped inside. I heard doors open down the hallway as I dropped the switch and folded back to the girl.
The thud shook the ground, but nothing caved in. I grinned wearily. “Let’s grab the car and get out of here.”
The private investigator’s office wasn’t hard to find. I escorted the girl inside and was directed to take her up the stairs to Agent Morton’s office. There were a lot of startled looks directed at us—well, me; I looked like crap, I’m sure—as we headed up, me feeling like I was going to drop.
Morton was at his desk on his cell phone. His office had strange wallpaper all over it, which surprised me—he didn’t seem like the tasteless aesthetic type. When he saw us, he snapped the phone shut on a no-doubt-surprised client. “So, you did it,” he pointed out, a bit unnecessarily (I thought).
The girl shut the door behind me. “Yes sir, I did.”
It was a mark of exactly how tired I was that the comment didn’t register at first. “Wait, what?”
There was a click behind me. Agent Morton smiled, but it was the kind of smile a butcher would give a choice cow—cold, heartless, and slightly self-righteous at being at the top of the food chain. “What this means, my dear Timelock, is that your playtime is over.”
I backed into the door and tried the handle. Just as I figured, it was locked. “What?”
The girl straightened. “What was the story you went with, exactly?”
“Some rich guy’s daughter,” Agent Morton said, chuckling. “This idiot didn’t even ask any follow-up questions.”
“Ah. Cocky, like the others,” she said understandingly, nodding. “Well, I’m actually Agent Morton’s daughter.”
“And I’m not really a private investigator,” Agent Morton told me. “At least, not your definition of one. I work—well, let’s just say I work for a different company. One who wants to keep the Timelocks under control.”
“Why?” I demanded.
Morton leaned back in his chair. “You can do whatever you want, with no one to stop you. That’s too much power for any one person to have, much less ten of you.” He smiled coldly again. “At least, it used to be ten of you in this area, right? You’re the last one. You know, I wasn’t entirely positive it was you, so I had to dangle the fake kidnapping out in front of you to see what you’d do. Like the other Timelocks, I figured you wouldn’t be averse to practicing your talents. Melissa played her part perfectly.”
I gritted my teeth. “You dealt with other Timelocks?”
“Just one, after much time spent studying them. Rick, I believe his name was.” Morton placed the tips of his fingers together, watching me.
I blinked. I’d known Rick. He’d been kind of a hotshot up until a week ago, when he’d gone nuts and managed to murder the other Timelocks. The only reason I was still alive was that I’d had a lock placed back even earlier than any of his. Luck of the draw that it hadn’t degraded after a few days, although I had been pushing the 72-hour expiration date on the lock.
I hadn’t been able to save the other Timelocks, but I had been able to avenge them.
Morton was still smiling. “He was standing, right where you were,” he reminisced. “All cocky and arrogant like the rest of you. He was like that right up until I injected him with this.” He reached in a desk drawer and pulled out a syringe. “It’s a little mind-control drug I cooked up. One shot, and he was out doing my bidding—and doing it well, I might add. I thought his mind might have degraded by the time he ran into you and that you might have just been an ordinary bystander getting lucky…but, you know, I had to check.” He tossed the syringe on the desk carelessly. “Brilliant trap, don’t you think? I think I’ll sell it to the other agents around the country…they’re still trying to design something to stump you people.”
I was beyond furious. A cold rage had settled on me. I narrowed my eyes and telekened the smug son of a snake right out his back wall.
At least, that’s what I tried to do. What actually happened was…exactly nothing.
Melissa laughed. “He figured it out,” she told her father.
“Yes, I was wondering when he might,” Morton replied. He stood and walked over to the wall, tearing some of the paper off. Behind it glinted a yellow metal…gold?
“Irradiated gold,” Morton confirmed. “It neutralizes all of your abilities. No time travel, no telekinesis, no teleporting. Just death.” He reached in his drawer again and pulled out a gold knife. “Try not to tense up,” he advised, beginning to walk around the desk. “It’ll be easier that way. Plus, I don’t want to mess up my nice new carpeting.”
I was rigid, eyes locked on the knife and terrified out of my mind. I forced myself to start thinking, and this time, thinking everything completely through. I didn’t have the luxury of erasing my mistakes anymore.
I could try to fight, of course. The problem was, Morton was rested and I was barely staying on my feet. I needed a weapon—
The cobwebs vanished from my mind. That was it. That was it. I could kill Morton and…but I couldn’t. My train of thought ground to a halt. The deathtrap he’d designed had been doomsdayed all to heck, and I couldn’t imagine a man like him neglecting that here. Especially since, if he died, it wouldn’t matter much to him. So I couldn’t kill him.
But I had other options, options that the other Timelocks had neglected, just because they could telekene things around.
I reached behind my back and drew my handgun. Aiming, I pulled the trigger.
The .45 was loud, of course—in the enclosed space, my eardrums popped and probably ruptured. The knife went flying out of Morton’s hand; the man clutched what was left of his wrist and staggered back, bleeding. I turned and opened fire on the locked door, emptying about half my magazine before punching a hole out into the corridor beyond.
I thought I would have to actually get out of the room before I could do anything, but, fortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case. The hole damaged the room’s containment, and I folded away to the street outside before tesseracting back to yesterday’s lunch.
I ate my sushi, went to the bar. I pretended to get drunk. Minutes before I knew Morton would show up, I went to the restroom, locked myself in a stall, and folded out to the cabin. With the practice I’d already gotten, it took me moments to pull out the explosives and head to the basement. I telekened the stuff back onto the ceiling, set up the trigger, dropped the pressure switch, and folded back to the restroom. Exiting, I went back to my booth and sat down, ordering up another beer.
Morton sat down at my table. “Jordan Kirsh?”
I jerked back in surprise—a little too far, slamming my head into the back of the booth and cursing in the slurring manner of the inebriated. “Yeah, wassh it ter you?”
He wrinkled his nose and pulled out his wallet. “Agent Phil Morton, FBI. We need your assistance.”
I waved my hands drunkenly. “My ashishtanshe? I’m a ...” I burped. “Computer thingy. Programmer.”
“I don’t need programming skills,” Agent Morton told me, flipping the wallet shut and returning it to his inside jacket pocket, giving me a beautiful glimpse of the handgun resting against his ribcage. “There’s a kidnapping that we know took place three hours ago at the Lunt Hotel. We need your private detective skills and your contacts to rescue the hostage.”
“You’re nutsh,” I declared, standing up and staggering. “You have gunsh. I don’t want no more gunsh!” I carefully exited the booth, swaying.
“So the answer is no?” Morton called after me.
Heck no!” I slurred back.
I left the bar and staggered back to my apartment. Collapsing in my bed, I winced, the migraine from my exertions making me feel like I actually had drank all that alcohol, and yesterday.
Before I fell asleep, I decided to go to the sushi bar again tomorrow. Good sushi was hard to find.
The last one. The last Timelock.
For now.
I need to find the others. 🔺


  1. Thanks for the most entertaining story I've read in a long time!

    1. Thank you for the compliment! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

      William Sonnek
      @wrongwaytowrite on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

  2. Replies
    1. I'm glad! Thanks for reading it!

      William Sonnek
      @wrongwaytowrite on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter