Beatrice had selected an isolated booth in the coffee shop. Still, she leaned forward onto her elbows, holding her coffee mug in both hands. She quietly told Alim the truth; she had developed rudimentary time travel.
Alim gasped, Has she literally done it?
Wildly and uncharacteristically, he shouted the first thing that came to mind, “Prove it!”
Other coffee shop patrons turned to see who had shouted. Alim cleared his throat, leaned forward and repeated in a whisper, “Prove it.”
Knowing Alim as she did, Beatrice had come prepared. She smiled confidently and said, “Alright…”
She reached into her handbag and extracted what looked like a newspaper and a woman’s shoe. She handed both over the table to Alim, saying, “Both items are from the past. They are not definitive examples of time travel, by any means, well, not here in this coffee shop, in any case. I mean, you could subject both items to carbon dating, if you wished. As you know, pretty much any organic compound can be dated.”
Alim unfolded the newspaper. He had to admit that it was like new, the paper white and the ink clear. He looked at the date.
Beatrice continued, “The newspaper, as you can see, is from 1942. It was brought back from that year by my dog. Yes, my dog, Legal the Beagle, in a pouch on his back. As I say, the paper might not be the best proof for you; you can get historical newspapers from a variety of sources. But Alim, look at its pristine condition. Even the ink! You cannot get one that new…because there aren’t any! Now, check out the shoe.”
He picked up the shoe – of a simple design with just the hint of a heel – and said, “Sure, the shoe is very much great.” Alim had retained some of his ‘Inglish’; that is, Indian pronunciation of English, “It looks authentic, but you could have purchased it somewhere or even had it made, Bea.”
“Sure, I could have, but I didn’t. What you’re holding is genuine 18th Century woman’s footwear made with all-natural materials. It was worn by Helena on her trip from 1766 to here and now. Most women’s shoes from the period featured heels. But, because Helena is so tall, she prefers no heel. She told me!”
Sam Richter is the diplomatic agent who had volunteered to see young Skypilot safely home to Canada after his ordeal in Africa, when Sky’s parents were murdered. Sam had become a friend of the family.
Now a Canadian Security Intelligence Service operative, Sam was not in Fraserdale just for the wedding of Skypilot and Helena. He had been directed to find out more about the scientist, Beatrice Westover.
CSIS routinely observes the activities of scientific leaders to ensure that national interests are not being subverted. Ms. Westover was a leading scientist at a prominent research agency; an agency that has been on the cutting edge of technological advances in quantum theory and the space-time continuum. That alone placed that agency and its leaders under the scrutiny of CSIS.
The national intelligence service had learned that Ms. Westover continues to be employed, but, curiously, works primarily from her suburban home.
As Richter’s boss in Ottawa had put it during his briefing, “We assume that the nature of the research agency is to maintain a collaborative work environment to forward knowledge in its primary areas of research; not to have leading employees working in isolation over a lengthy duration. She may be, knowingly or not, an information security threat.”
Director Hancock, the steely-eyed boss, leaned forward and slapped a report with the back of his hand, “And, to top it off, the Canadian Space Agency confirms that she is a former astronaut candidate. She turned down an opportunity to fly into space, citing ‘personal reasons’. Something stronger than mere gravity must have kept her on earth.”
He paused, then scratched his chin, “Find out what’s keeping her grounded, Sam.”
Craig retired in 2015 and has been writing ever since. And boy, is his hand tired.