“I don’t know, Jack. What are you trying to accomplish?” Rachel Lynn asked.
“I’m doing what you said,” I announced. I stepped in close to her, “I need to move on from being the Six-Minute Man, and then I can go home.”
“You want to go home now?”
She sounded surprised; I expected as much.
“Yeah, well, this place isn’t shaping up to be all sunshine and daffodils. Frankly, there’s a lot of weird stuff that I’d be willing to put up with. A fortune telling waitress, for example, may have been useful had someone taken the time to convince me she was real. But the stuffed emu really freaks me out, and sleeping on a loveseat is taking its toll on my knees.”
“Well...” Rachel Lynn searched for a response. “It’s not like it’s that easy. This whole thing must be jarring. Maybe you should take it slow, wait a week or so to decide?”
“That’s not how I do things, Rachel Lynn,” I said with confidence. “I prefer to jump in blindly, dealing with the details only once I’m in over my head. It’s the Klugman way; learn to swim by trying to drown yourself.”
Rachel Lynn stared off into the distance, a slightly perplexed frown on her face.
“That’s… the worst advice I’ve ever heard… the absolute worst.”
“Worst? ...Or best?”
It was disappointing to hear, and I was suddenly fed up with Rachel Lynn’s confusion. She acted like she wanted me to stay, but didn’t seem to like me at all. I needed to remove myself from the time machine house entirely; I’d go back once I knew I could go home. Maybe Rachel Lynn would like me by then, and we could live in 2016 together.
“Rachel Lynn, I’ve heard that women can be difficult at times. I didn’t want to believe it, it seemed an insensitive thing to say; however, this is one of those times. I will just grab my things and leave.”
“You didn’t have anything when you got here.”
“You know what? It took a lot of hard work to be the best cat burglar the Lower Wacker area has ever seen! And it’s that kind of work ethic that’s going to make me a great private dick!”
I stormed out of there to let her know I meant business. I had no idea what my first move was going to be, but I needed to come up with something fast; I was already a couple blocks away with no destination in mind. There was a park close by, I figured I could come up with a plan there, kill some time, feed the birds… you know, all the standard homeless person activities.
When I got to the park I collapsed on the first empty bench I could find. That was when I realized I had not slept for two days. My eyes immediately felt heavy, and I was moments away from nodding off when I heard a familiar voice.
“Is that Jack Klugman, aspiring actor?”
Hearing my name jolted my eyes wide open to find my old friends James and Linda. They had stopped in the park for a picnic. Wealthy types like them could do that on a weekday; they had probably forgotten what it was like to put in as much work as I did the night before trying to rob them.
“Hey, you two,” I said with a cheesy tone and a smile. “How are you doing on this beautiful day?”
“We’re just fine,” James replied, returning my smile.
“Say, where’s Rachel Lynn?” asked Linda. “Aren’t you staying with her?”
I didn’t want to divulge too much information so I sidestepped her barrage of questions.
“I don’t really know, I haven’t seen her yet today. I have to get my new business up and running!”
“That’s great, Jack!” James said, giving me a shot in the arm.
Frankly, it was a lucky shot. If this were a real street fight, I would have capoeira’d him to the ground.
“What kind of business?” Linda chimed in again with her incessant questions.
“Well, there are several names and categories for what I’ll be doing; agent, for example, or spy, analyst, informer, nark, snoop, dick.” I could have gone on, but was interrupted.
“You hear that, Linda? Ole’ Jack here is gonna be a private detective.”
“Oh, that’s perfect!” She said, ecstatically, “We can be your first clients.”
“You’ve got a case for me?”
“We think we’ve had an attempted break-in.”
I tried to act casual. Surely they weren't talking about me, I thought. There was no way they could have known what I was planning.
“We keep our house locked up tight,” she continued, “and when our butler made the rounds last evening, he found a window unlocked that could not have been left open.”
I could feel myself beginning to sweat; she was definitely talking about me. I thought by asking some follow up questions she might lead herself down the wrong path.
“How do you think it was unlocked then?”
“He thinks I’m reading too much into this,” she said, pointing her thumb at James as he rolled his eyes, “but I think someone snuck into our house and left it that way, so they could come back in the middle of the night and rob us.”
Damn. She was dead on; I considered asking her to partner up in my detective business, she seemed to have a knack for it. James interjected.
“Why don’t you come over and take a look, put her mind at ease and we can move on from the mysterious case of the unlocked window,” he said, sarcastically.
Never one to turn down both a chance to cover my tracks and collect a paycheck, I shot up and agreed to the case.
“We can discuss my fee on the walk over.”
They showed me into their house and left me to do some crack detective work, which consisted mostly of me testing out the chairs. Besides, there was nothing, really, for me to do. I had solved the case, my cover up on the case, anyway. I was going to tell them it must have been that kid with the stick loitering outside the gate.
James walked in to find me getting comfy in one of those thick, upholstered chairs with the big wings that protrude out around the sides of your head.
“Listen, Jack, don’t worry about finding anything. Linda is just a little paranoid, is all.”
I leaned forward, propping my elbows on my knees, “That doesn’t mean they’re not after her.”
“Heh - You’re a jokester. Follow me, I want to show you something.”
We went through a hall and down a winding stairway.
“You’ve got a secret lair?” I asked.
We arrived at the bottom where there was a large doorway. It was arched at the top with double doors that rolled open when James flipped a switch. He was smiling.
“I’ve got a laboratory.”
It was amazing. A huge room filled with flasks and burners, there were electrodes with wires dangling off them; he had workbenches and tools everywhere. He even had a pair of those rods that have electricity sparking between them.
“James, I did not have you pegged as a mad scientist.” I said, my jaw practically on the ground.
“I’m more of an inventor, really.”
“So, this is how you paid for the mansion?” as I pointed up at the ceiling.
“Yeah, well, I patented a new kind of self lubricating catheter; made a fortune, as you can see.”
“This place is incredible.”
“That’s not all I wanted to show you.” He said as he rolled back a canvas tarp that had been covering… something on one of the workbenches. “This is my real passion. This is going to change the world.”
I could see him wrestling with a couple of straps; I maneuvered around a tesla coil to get a better look. Just then, he spun around for the reveal.
“Is that a jet pack?”