The Alternate History Fiction of Lou Antonelli

Sunday, December 14, 2014

"Hearts Made of Stone"

"Hearts Made of Stone" was originally published in the anthology "Song Stories: Volume I" in March 2013.


I was single then and worked late a lot at the Monroeville Mercury, the local newspaper.  It was early February and it was freezing inside my office.
Art by Shirley Lam
I had pulled the Philco radio right up against my right elbow so I could absorb some heat from the vacuum tubes.  The Perry Como Chesterfield Show had come on the CBS radio network at 7 p.m.  The crooner was bragging on his backup singers, who just topped the Hit Parade with their cover of a country tune.  “I’m so happy Bea, Geri and Marge have hit the big time,” he said “Can you sing your big hit for us?”
Then the door of my office slammed open and Bubba “Big Boy” Brown staggered in.“Big Boy” worked for the city public works department, and had probably been drinking for a good three or four hours already--city workers seldom worked all day, they usually knocked off by 3 p.m.
He was smiling, which was a good thing, I suppose.  On the radio, the Fontane Sisters began to wail.
“Hearts… made… of…”
I reached over and quickly turned the volume knob on the radio all the way down.
“So what’s up, Bubba?”
He lurched across the office towards me and plopped his drunken redneck ass in the old wooden chair in front of my desk.
“Hey, Mister Joe, I can pay you back,” he slurred as he grinned in a crooked self-satisfied way.
The alcohol fumes wafted across the desk to me.  “I wish I had gone home already,” I thought.
Six months earlier some northerners, intent on starting a voter registration drive, had come to Monroeville, and were been beaten, tied up and then tossed onto the next bus to Houston.
I knew that Big Boy had towed away the interlopers’ car with a city public works truck, and shoved it into the bayou.  I saw him tow it away.
“So what’s on your mind?” I asked.
“You know we’re working on fixin’ up the old Jew church, right?”
“Sure,” I said, cringing a bit at his calling the old synagogue a church.
“I found something under the floor.”
I sat up.  “What kind of thing?”
“You come see yourself,” he said.  “You ain’t Jewish, are you?”
 “No, but I know something about synagogues.”  I stood up and put on my hat.  “You want to show it to me?”
He rose rather unsteadily. “Yeah, let’s go there now.”
In its pre-Civil War heyday, there was a small but active Jewish community in Monroeville, but the last of the Jewish residents had moved away or died off by the 1920s, and the synagogue had been boarded up for 30 years.
We walked from the newspaper office to the former synagogue that the city had decided to renovate and turn into a community theater.
We walked up to the rear.  Bubba put his key in the lock.  “So far, I’ve been the only one inside,” he said.  “I’m supposed to clean it up and get it ready for the carpenters.”
We walked inside.  He mashed an old-fashioned push-button light switch.  The lights flickered and came on
“They had electricity in here,” said Bubba.  “I turned it back on at the fuse box.”
He pointed to a small in a door in the rear.  “It’s in there.”  He opened it and peered inside.  I could see there was a single dusty old clear glass light bulb glowing dimly from the ceiling
 “I wonder what they used this room for?” he asked as he walked in.  I followed him and looked inside.
As an Italian kid growing up in the Bronx, I had a few Jewish friends.
I looked around. I could tell from the shelves and cabinets it had probably been the “genizah”, the place you keep worn-out texts and religious materials until they can be properly disposed of by burning.
“It’s an old storeroom,” I said, “and it looks pretty empty to me.”
He was at the far end of the room.  “Come over here,” he said.
I walked over to where he stood.  He crouched down a bit unsteadily and began to pry up a floorboard.
“They hid something under the floor,” he said, as he grappled with the floor. “When I walked across it, it started to give.”
He kept working it.  “It’s some kind of hiding place.”
I realized he was having a problem because of being tipsy, so I crouched down and gave him a hand.  With the two of us prying, we got a wooden panel loose, and set it down to the side.
The weak light didn’t penetrate into the hiding space.  “I don’t see anything,” I said.
“Hold on,” said Bubba as he pulled a large flashlight out of a pocket of his overalls.  “I couldn’t see nuthin’ at first too.”
He clicked on the flashlight and shone it into the darkness.  The beam fell on the gray face of a corpse.  The sight startled me and I fell backwards from my crouch onto my butt, throwing up a small cloud of dust.
“Shit, Bubba, why didn’t you tell me there’s a body down there!”
He reached down and touched the face of the “corpse” with the flashlight.  “It ain’t a body,” he said.  “That’s what I thought, too.  Look.”
He reached down and touched the face with his flashlight.  The rim of the lens made a little “dinging” sound as he poked it into the face.
“It’s a statue,” he said.
I took the flashlight from his hand and shone it up and down the figure.  “It’s life size.  I can see why they left it behind, it would be hard to pack up and ship anywhere.  Wait a minute.”
I looked over the “statue” again. I realized that under the dust, the thing had on a simple plain cotton dress.
“This is a statue of a woman!  That’s even stranger.”
I shone the flashlight on the face again.  “She” had Bettie Page-style bangs.  I used the flashlight to push them aside.
There were two Hebrew letters on her forehead.
I fell backwards and dropped the flashlight; thankfully it didn’t break.
“Holy shit!”  I shouted.  “Mother of God!”
Bubba winced at my noise.  “Ouch, ow-w, take it easy.”  He shook his head.  “You know what it is?”
I shoved back on my heels until I was pressed up against the opposite wall.  “It’s a golem, a real damn golem!”
“What’s a goal-em?” he asked rather thickly.
My hands shook, but I picked up the flashlight again.
“It’s a kind of robot, I guess you could say.  Made of stone.”
I stood up rather unsteadily, and shone the flashlight into the hiding space.  “Tell you what, Bubba,” I said as I began to gather my wits.  “Let’s keep this our own little secret.”
I winked at him.  “I will haul it off myself.  Until I move it, don’t tell anyone it’s here.”
I stuck out my hand.  He stared at it for a second.  “You owe me,” I said, “we’ll be even!”
He grabbed my hand and crunched it. “Deal!”
“Great, let’s get this panel back in place,” I said, shaking my throbbing hand. “And let’s get out of here.”
I remembered there was an old Compton’s Encyclopedia from the Herbert Hoover Era back in the newspaper office, and after we parted ways, I went straight back there.
When I looked up the entry, I saw a line cut from an old 19th century story about the Golem of Prague that showed Rabbi Loew with his creation.
It showed the three Hebrew letters on its forehead that he used to animate it, spelling out “emet”--truth.  I remembered that to wipe out the first letter then spelled “met”--death--and deactivated the creature.
The golem hidden in the floor of the synagogue, of course, only had last two letters on her forehead.  I copied down very carefully that first letter, the “aleph”, with a No. 2 pencil on a sheet of paper I tore out of a Big Chief tablet.
I toyed with the idea of going back to the synagogue immediately, but I had too many questions in my mind.
Why would have someone made a golem in East Texas?
And why a woman?
The next morning I put on a Perry Como-style cardigan and went off to see George Berghold.
He was one of the few old-timers who remembered when Monroeville had a Jewish community.  He later helped maintain the cemetery as along as his strength allowed.
I explained that, with the pending renovation of the old synagogue, I wanted to interview him for a “looking back”-type story for the newspaper.
He was a gracious old gentleman, in his mid-90s, and his colored housekeeper poured us some hot lemon tea after we sat down in his parlor.
“My parents came to Texas from Germany,” he said.  “I know that since the last war, and after what the Nazis did, people think all Germans hated Jews, but my parents had many Jewish friends in the old country, and they made many Jewish friends when they moved to Monroeville.”
“By the 1920s, there were few Jews left here,” he continued.  “With young people moving away to seek a better life, the Jewish children left just like everyone else. Rabbi Freudenthal was the last Jew left in the city, and he never left because he was just too old and had no family.  He wanted to be buried next to his wife.”
“Do you remember what they were like?”
“I know his wife died in the flu epidemic during the winter of 1918,” he said. “I think the rabbi died ten years after that.  I think he was the only Jew left in the city during the Roaring ‘20s.  I know he was gone by the time of the Stock Market Crash. I took my retirement then.”
“So Rabbi Freudenthal lived completely alone during his last years?”
Berghold grimaced.  “Ah, not really.  A few months after his wife died a girl showed up, a Jewish girl that became his housekeeper.  He told people she was from Poland and couldn’t speak English.  She took care of chores and shopped for him with notes from the Rabbi,” he continued.
Berghold seemed a bit uncomfortable. “Is there something else?” I asked.
“Well, people thought he was keeping her as a... girlfriend.  It just didn’t look right.”
“So what happened to the girl?”
“She disappeared after he died, she must have gone back home to Poland.”
A phone rang on a nearby table. The housekeeper answered it.  She listened for a minute.
Berghold had his hand out, but she said, “It’s for Mister DeNardo.”
Berghold looked at me. “Must be some problem at the office.”
The housekeeper carried the phone over to me.  I heard a familiar voice.  “Joe, there’s some people at the office who want to see you.
It was Adele, the receptionist at the paper. “They say they’re old friends from college.”
“I’ll get there right away,” I said, as I hung up.
I wasn’t thrilled when I saw my old frat brothers waiting for me in the office. I introduced them to Adele.
“This is Mickey Cardinale, Steve Rabinowitz and Bill Tietjien,” I said.  “We all knew each other in New York.”
I could tell from her look she was going to report some “Yankee troublemakers” to the sheriff--if she hadn’t already.
“Nice of y’all to drop by,” I said, “let go to my office to talk.
 I closed the door behind us.  “What the heck are you doing here, and what are you up to?”
“We want to stay a while and see about starting a voter registration drive for the Negroes here in Tigert County.  We knew you lived here, so I figured you’d put us up, at least temporarily.”
“Shit, Mick, didn’t you hear about those three guys who got beat up last fall. I’ve lived here eight years, and they barely trust me now,” I said. “You want to disappear or something?”
Mickey’s face was turning red.  “Listen, we can’t let these people just flout the law,” he said.
“Yes, you can, and did you tell anyone what you are in town?”
“Yes, we told your receptionist,” said Steve.
“Dammit, the sheriff already knows, then, and also the Klan,” I said.  “I can’t protect you.”
“Listen, we’ve already a symbolic gesture,” said Steve.  “Just by being here.  Let’s stay overnight to visit with Joe, as friends, then catch the bus tomorrow and move on to Houston.”
“That sounds harmless,” said Bill. “You could tell your friends here you talked us out of it.”
“We could always come back later,” said Mickey.
“Okay, listen, I’ll tell them you are my personal guests for the night, but you will catch the noon bus tomorrow for Houston,” I said. “No civil rights crap, not right now. Things are too inflamed.”
 On the way out, I told Adele that I would take the rest of the day off to entertain my friends from out of town. “It will be nice to have a few Yankee pals overnight.”  I said with a forced smile.  “They’re moving on to Houston tomorrow.  They wanted to stay, but I told them what they planned was a bad idea.”
I had a typical bachelor’s refrigerator--cold fried chicken and a case of Falstaff beer.
I told them some true stories about the locals that had them in stitches, and after a while we were all beery and cheerful.  Steve pointed to the television in the corner.
“Hey, does that thing work?”
I laughed.  “Had to put a 20-foot antenna on the roof, we just got a station in Shreveport four months ago.”
I walked over and clicked it on.  “Just bought it a month ago.”
I gestured for them to pull up their chairs.  “You need absorb some local culture,” I said.  “Red Foley is on the air with the Ozark Jubilee.”
Red was singing his signature tune in front of a barnyard set with a half dozen young ladies providing the chorus, and one fellow sitting on a bale of hay playing the electric guitar.
Red swung his arms and snapped his fingers.  “Hearts made of stone…”
Steve knitted his brow, and then spoke up.  “Hey, that’s the same song the Fontane Sisters do!”
“Sure is,” I said, “but Red Foley had it first.   Turn up the beat and the volume, add some pop sensibility and a saxophone, and you almost don’t recognize it, do you?”
Right then, there was a knock at the door.  I lurched over, opened the door, and asked “Yes-s-s?” in my best Franklin Pangborn imitation without even looking first.
It was totally dark outside, and then everything went dark for me.
When I came to, the goose egg on the top of my head had already crusted over.  I rolled over and looked at the clock.  It was 8:30. I had been out for over two hours.  Somebody had hit me good.
The furniture had been shoved around, and the kitchen table knocked over.   “Mickey, Steve, Bill!” I shouted.
I grabbed the heavy black Bakelite phone on the table and dialed the sheriff.  “Sam, someone busted in here, knocked me out cold, and dragged my friends off,” I said.
“I don’t know anything about it, Joe, somebody may have gotten over-zealous,” he said. “I’m glad they didn’t haul you off, too!  We’ve gotten used to you.”
“Over-zealous!  They were going to leave on their own!”
“Oh, some old boys are probably taking them for a ride out to the Big Cypress, to put a good scare in them,” said the Sheriff.  “They’d probably drop them off on your porch in the morning.”
“I hope that’s all they do,” I said, and I hung up
I had less faith in the old boys than the sheriff.  I looked at the clock again.  “I can get to the Big Cypress Bayou in 15 minutes,” I thought, “but what can I do alone?  I’m not Gary Cooper.”
I looked down and saw a “chai” on the floor.  Steve had been wearing it around his neck--it must have been torn off while he grappled with the Klansmen.
Then it hit me.  “There are reasons things happen,” I said to myself, as I patted my pocket where I had stuck the folded paper from the Big Chief tablet.  I ran outside, hopped in my old Hudson, and drove to the synagogue.
When I parked in the back, I went into the trunk and got a tire iron.
I knew where Big Boy had hidden the key under an old stepping-stone, and I unlocked the back door.
I turned on the lights, and went into the genizah.  Inside, I found Big Boy’s flashlight sitting on a shelf.  I took the tire iron and pried open the floor panel.
I shone the flashlight inside.  She was still there.
I took out the paper, and peered at the letter in the dim light.  I took the flashlight in one hand, the tire iron in the other.  I used the flashlight to push aside her bangs, then pointed the sharp blade at her forehead.
My hand was shaking.
“OK, this is serious,” I thought.  “Calm down.”
I took a deep breath, and began to scratch the “aleph”.
The stone/clay was so hard, I was able to press down pretty firmly, and that steadied my hand.  After a few minutes, I had engraved what I hoped was a good version of the letter.
I shone the flashlight on her face.  “That’s as good as it’s going to get,” I said, and I dropped the tire iron on the floor.
I looked down.  Nothing was happening.
“Come on, come on,” I muttered.  “I need some help here.”
I waggled the beam of the flashlight in the golem’s face.  “There’s a poor Jewish kid out there who needs our help, golem gal.”
Her eyes snapped open.
I fell back, and the flashlight rolled away on the floor.  I looked over to where it stopped, and scrambled to grab it.   From the corner, I shone the beam back towards the hiding space.
She was sitting up, her head and shoulders above the floor.  I was startled to see her eyes were bright blue; they were made of lapis inlaid into ivory.
I stood up, as steadily as I could.  “The rebbe is dead,” I said, using the Hebrew word, “but I have summoned you because there is a Jew here in great danger.”
She placed her hands on the sides of the hiding space, pulled herself upright, and then stepped onto the floor, which creaked loudly.
I stared for a moment.  She was six feet tall.
Old Mister Berghold was six feet tall himself, I guess that’s why he didn’t mention how tall Rabbi Freudenthal’s “housekeeper” had been.
“Follow me,” I said, and walked towards the door.
I heard the “creak, creak, creak” as the golem followed me.  I kept looking behind me.
Outside, I opened the door on the passenger side of the car.  “I hope the leaf springs don’t pop,” I said as I got in myself.
I killed my headlights as I came down the dirt road and neared the bend of the Big Cypress Bayou where the water was the deepest.  I had guessed right, there were a dozen cars there, headlights shining on three young men kneeling in the mud.
None of Klansmen wore masks or hoods, they were all in street clothes.
“Not a good sign,” I thought, “If they’re not trying to cover up.”
We got out of the car, and I snuck up behind an ancient cottonwood tree to where I could hear what was going on.  The golem stood behind me; her old dress was so dusty, and her coloration so gray, she was practically invisible in the dim light.
A man with dark hair and a port wine stain birthmark running up the side of his face was talking to the others.
“So it’s agreed, then?”
He was the local Grand Dragon, and owned the radio shop in Monroeville.  I had bought my television from him.
A red-faced sheriff’s deputy spoke up.  “Yes, we won’t let ‘em go this time,” he said.
Big Boy was in the cluster.  “Yeah, feed them to the gators!” he shouted.
The Grand Dragon shook his fist at Mickey, Steve and Bill.  “Your friends up north need to learn what we do with troublemakers, once and for all,”
The three of them were wide-eyed and shaking.  Some Klansmen walked forward, holding lengths of heavy chains.
“Please, we didn’t mean any harm,” Mickey cried out.
“Untie me and I’ll whip all you rednecks!” yelled Bill.
The Klansmen got to work.  One of them began draping chains on Steve.
I could see his lips moving, but I didn’t understand what he was saying--at first.
It sounded like, “Yist gaddal…”
Clink.“Yist kaddish…”
Rattle.“Oh, shit, the kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead!” I thought.  I turned around. “You’d better…”She was long gone, and already moving into the circle of headlights.The golem moved rather quickly for a creature made of stone, and in a moment stood in front of Steve.  The redneck draping the chains on him looked up at her in shock.  She took a wide swipe at him with a heavy arm that hit him like a swinging log.  He flew back a good 20 feet, crumbling up against the grill of a pickup as the headlamp popped.
Steve looked up at her like she was an angel as she took a length of chain off him.
The red-faced deputy came up and grabbed her shoulder.  “What the hell are you doing?”  He tried but couldn’t turn her around.
When she realized he was tugging at her, she spun around with the chain in her hand.  It wrapped around the deputy’s chest.  She looked at him and then yanked the chain--hard.  His ribs cracked with a loud crunch as she snapped the chain and threw him in the same direction the other Klansman had gone.
She was half turned around now and the Grand Dragon came up, a .44 in hand.  “What kind of demon of hell are you?’ he shouted, as he began firing at her.
He unloaded on her as she slowly turned fully around.  Meanwhile Steve was taking off the rest of his chains.
The rounds pinged off her harmlessly, leaving little pockmarks and tears in her dress.  The Grand Dragon was pop-eyed as he pulled a second gun from the small of his back and took a few more steps forward.
That was a mistake.  The next shot ricocheted off the golem and struck him in the face.   His head snapped back as blood gushed from his eye.  He fell to his knees and flopped over dead.
The rest of the Klansmen were all backing away, except Big Boy, who ran up behind the golem with a crowbar and struck her on the back of her head--with no effect.
She spun around and took a broad swipe with an arm that smashed his head completely off.  Brains, blood and bone sprayed across the clearing in a broad arc.  The Klansmen yelped and ran off in all directions into the dark.  No one tried to get back into his vehicle.
Steve was clear of his chains and helping Mickey out of his.  Bill had helped himself.  They looked at the golem and then at me.
Finally Mickey got his jaw to work.  “Where the hell did you find a golem?”
“I ordered her from the Montgomery Ward catalogue,” I said.  “Don’t ask too many damn questions.”
I pointed to the edge of the cottonwoods.  “Behind there is my car.  The keys are in the ignition.  Take it and get your asses back to New York, NOW!  I will catch up with you later.”
They ran off without another word.  In a minute I heard the engine and saw the headlights going back down the dirt road.
It was now all very quiet.  All the headlights were still on, and I was alone with the golem and four bodies in various states of destruction.  The air was full of the coppery smell of blood.
The golem stood there, impassive.  Her hands and arms were red and damp. She began to plod towards me.  Her right arm rose up and her hand shot out.
She grabbed me by the throat and began to crush my windpipe, meanwhile lifting me off the ground.
Imminent death made me very quick-witted.  “Mar-ran-no,” I croaked.
Her hand stopped closing, and she stopped lifting me.  I was on my tiptoes.
“Marrano,” I gasped, louder.
I raised my voice as loud as I could, which wasn’t very loud.  “My people are Marranos.”
Her hand unclenched and I fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes.  I wheezed violently.  I had probably been a second or two from dying.
She looked down at me--fists clenched.
“The DeNardos are an old Marrano family,” I gasped hoarsely.  “They were forcibly converted during the Inquisition.”
I looked around the clearing.  “We need to get out of here, before anyone arrives,” I said.

I had noticed one of the vehicles shining its headlights into the circle was a large fire engine red Chevy Carryall Suburban.  I walked over and saw the keys were in the ignition.

I went in the back and opened the doors.  I gestured to the golem.
“Come here and climb inside.”
She did as commanded, and I took a tarp I found inside--apparently the vehicle’s owner was a painter--and covered her with it.
“Do not stir until I next command you,” I said as I pulled the tarp over her face.
As much adrenaline was flowing, I drove non-stop, except to get gas, and crossed the George Washington Bridge and the Hudson River 24 hours later.
I pulled up at my parents’ home in Yonkers at 10 p.m. and crashed in my old bedroom.
I slept the entire next day.  The day after that, I took a pile of Monroeville papers my mother had saved and went to the office of the Westchester Star, and got myself hired as the police beat reporter.
I hooked up with Steve, Mickey and Bill a few days later.  I swore them all to secrecy.
“Nobody would believe the story anyway,” opined Bill.
I worked at the Westchester Star for 15 years, then became managing editor of the Darien Daily Defender.  I retired from the paper when I turned 65, in 1989, and we retired to Florida.
I know, I said “we”.  Esther and me.
That’s what I named her.  Seemed appropriate.
With make-up and some nice clothes, she was a looker.
You know, back in 1955, young people living together seemed much more of scandal. But as the years went by nobody ever cared or noticed there was no marriage certificate on the wall.
I know a creature made of stone has no soul, but as time went by I knew that--even if she didn’t have a soul of her own--we shared mine, that some spark of my soul was with her.
Just a few days ago, the lab tests from my most recent checkup showed my heart is finally beginning to fail.  I sat down and explained to her what “congestive heart failure” meant.
I had to explain that, unlike her, my heart is not made of stone, and it would soon stop pumping, and then I would die.
I clasped her and cried.  She held me, gently.
Forgive the wandering thoughts of an old man.  I think back to when Big Boy barged into my office in Monroeville.  I never did finish hearing the Fontane Sisters sing “Hearts Made of Stone” on that old Philco radio.
Then the next day, there was that knock on the door when my friends were kidnapped, and I never saw Red Foley finish his version of “Hearts Made of Stone” on the Ozark Jubilee.  Fact is, I never went back home that night. I left the TV and the lights on.
There’s this web site on the Internet called YouTube, and just a few minutes ago I looked up and watched videos from both shows.  After 45 years, I heard the two versions of the song again.
Red Foley died in 1968.  The Fontane Sisters are dead, too.  I’m not feeling very good myself.  I think I need to wrap this up while I still can.
If you are reading this, I’ve already passed on, and my golem gal has shown up on your doorstep.  I wrote this all out, and instructed her to deliver it to the Israeli consulate in Miami after I died.
I felt that, once I’m gone, she should make aliyah to Israel, where she can be with her people, as it were.
Please be good to her.  Bring Esther to Israel, I’m sure she will be a great morale builder.  Imagine, when people learn the legend of the golem is true!
In fact, give her a gun and a uniform and enlist her in the IDF.  That’ll put the quietus on the terrorists.  If they still want a fight, she can do that, too.  In fact, I’m sure with a little bit of training, she can be the best damn soldier in the Israeli Army. I’ve seen her in action.

-The End-

Art by Shirley Lam:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Witch of Waxahachie

"The Witch of Waxahachie"
was originally published in Jim Baen's Universe, April 2008.

     February is always cold, even in Texas.
     I cupped my hands around my cigar to get a little extra warmth.
     What was it the man said?
     Oh, yeah.  "What this country needs is a good five cent cigar."
     You were right, Vice President Marshall--wherever you are. Dixie Maids cost five cents--but they sure weren't any good.
     Probably tasted like what Sergeant Lucy was dropping beneath the post oak tree.
     But I couldn't afford anything better--back then.
     Sgt. Lucy's badge on her harness glinted in the moonlight.  Deputy Joe was in his pickup having a drink.
     The parking lot of the abandoned SSC campus was empty except for four vehicles.  I looked across the lot towards the darkened Magnet Test Lab.
     I remembered the skit we did at the annual Waxahachie Lions Club musical back in 1990.  Brad Vavra, who was the manager of the Accelerator String Test Lab, had put on a blond wig (he looked uncannily like Judge Pennoyer), a blue dress, and waving a magic wand as the DOE Fairy, warbled:
     "Superconducting Super Collider...
     "Smash up them protons and waddya got?
     "Crank up those protons, stare at those neutrons,
     "Dig a big hole and light it all up!
     I was part of the chorus--a very ugly chorus!  I chuckled at the happy memory.
     I took a last drag from the lousy cigar and flipped the butt towards the post oak.  It bounced off in a shower of sparks. In a few months, Monica Lewinsky would almost—almost--put me off cigars.
     Sgt. Lucy nudged my hand and looked towards the ASST lab, where a lone window was lit.  We scooted back to the building.
     Deputy Joe came up right behind in his rush to get out of the cold and grabbed the door before it slammed behind us.  Sgt. Lucy had to tuck her tail to keep it from getting caught.
     Doc Melancon squinted as he looked at the super-cooled magnet control console.
     Brad Vavra was at the main power controls.  He looked at Doc.
     "Glad y'all made it back.  We're about ready to power this thing up," said Brad.
     I walked over to where the string test tunnel started, and leaned up against the wall nonchalantly.
     "I'm ready.  Let's start your little illegal experiment."
     I winked at Deputy Joe.  He gave a little redneck snicker.  He was quite schnockered.
     Doc gave Brad a look.  Brad nodded and threw a few switches.
     I looked down the tunnel.  The target was 5,000 feet away, so I really didn't expect to see anything--but I did.
     A bright blue glowing wave roiled like the apocalypse at us back up the injection tunnel.
     I just had time to blurt "Oh, sh...!!" before it hit us and everything went black.


     Even in Texas, which has towns with names such as Cut 'n Shoot, Dime Box and North Zulch, Waxahachie is one of the strangest.
     The first settlers asked the Indians what they called the place, and were told—truthfully--'Waxahachie'.
     None of the Indians told them it means "Place where the buffalo poops."
     It was quite accurate.  The stream the settlers named Buffalo Creek runs through one of the last forests before the great western prairie begins.  The shaggy beasts would wonder in from the grassland, drink at the stream, crap, and then snooze under the tall oak trees.
     It's the county seat of Ellis County, just south of Dallas. I started working as editor at the *Ellis County Chronicle* in 1986, just before the feds picked the Texas site for the Superconducting Super Collider project.
     The Department of Energy would build a 54-mile circular underground tunnel to house the world's largest particle beam accelerator.
     Such a massive project meant billions of dollars in construction and thousands of new jobs.  It was six years later--after the DOE had built the magnet lab, dug five miles of the underground accelerator ring, and spent five billion dollars--when the funding was yanked from the budget by Congress.
     When George H.W. Bush was president, the funding was secure, but it went poof in the first budget under President Clinton.
     The Democrat from across the border in Arkansas apparently didn't care if a pet project of his Republican rival from Texas got shit-canned.
     I had a field day on the editorial page.
     "The Congressmen who did this are lower than pond scum," I wrote.  The *New York Times* quoted that.  I was interviewed on NBC Nightly News as an example of "local opinion".
     Senator Gramm stole my line about the project cancellation being "the technological equivalent of Pearl Harbor" in his speech the next day.
     Didn't make a damn bit of difference.  The Super Collider was dead.
     Almost 2,000 scientists lost their jobs; most moved away.
     Three years later Doc Melancon walked into my office.
     He said he wanted to talk to me in private and offered to take me out to lunch.
     A good editor never turns down a free meal.
     I sawed away at my chicken fried steak as he explained what he was up to. He wanted to crank up the string test lab for one last little experiment.  He had devised a special target for the proton particle beam.  He thought he could use it to create a rift in the fourth dimension.
     He wanted to invent time travel.
     It was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard.  I assumed he was a harmless crank.
     Brad Vavra was still around--he'd quit his DOE job in disgust over the project cancellation and was selling real estate--so I gave Doc his number.
     Melancon promised that if anything came of his plans, "I'd be the first to know."
     Yeah, right.
     You can imagine how surprised I was two months later to see Doc stroll into my office.  After shutting the door, he explained that he'd hooked up with Brad and together they'd made a deal with the caretakers of the lab (which involved a considerable amount of money being passed under the table) to turn on the power and get one shot with the proton beam.
     True to his word, he wanted me to be there to record the occasion for posterity.
     He explained to me how it all worked. It had something to do with excited neutrons and high resonance electron shells--I think.  He could have been talking about hominy grits for all I really understood.
    When he came up for air, I pointed out that any unusual activity at the lab site was sure to attract the attention of adjacent ranch owners, who'd call the Sheriff's Department.
     That's how we came up with the idea of getting someone from the Sheriff's Department involved, someone who could block any inquiries with a fake cover story.  That how Deputy Joe Winters got in on the deal.
     The DOE was planning to auction off the cryogenic magnet modules and the sophisticated equipment that summer, before the land reverted back to the county.  Our cover story was that the folks from the auction company were conducting an inventory.
     Deputy Joe happened to be Sgt. Lucy's handler--she was the county's drug dog--and whenever he was on duty she went with him.  Which explains why she was with us that night.
     When the black Lab had started scratching at the door of the string test lab (we'd made a few lab jokes that night, believe me), I suggested to Joe she could come with me as I took a smoke break.  I knew Joe probably wanted to go to his pickup and sneak a drink.  That's how Luce and I had that quiet moment under the post oak before, well, everything changed.


     I saw when I came to and as my vision cleared that we all seemed to be in the same relation to each other as when the beam was turned on--but everything else was gone.
     No building.  No parking lot.  No SSC.  We were all sprawled around in the tall grass.
     Doc put his hands on his knees and stood up.  He started running his fingers through his silver hair.
     Sgt. Lucy whined as she rolled over and stood up.  She looked off across the field.
     I looked in the same direction--and saw the post oak tree.
     "Doc, look!"  I pointed.  "The tree that was in front of the parking lot--it's still there!"
     Brad and Deputy Joe looked too.  The gnarled tree had an unmistakable shape, and you could see them stiffen as they recognized it.
     We all went over.  Doc walked slowly around the tree.
     "The tree sure looks the same," he said almost to himself.  "In fact, most of the landscape looks the same."
     Deputy Joe was quickly sobering up.  "Yeah, well, where did the lab and the cars and the parking lot and the power lines and every-damn-thing-else go then?" he rattled off as quickly as possible for someone with a thick drawl.
     There was a full moon that night, and the top of Doc's hair gleamed as he walked around the tree.
     "I don't know," he said rather softly.
     Sgt. Lucy sniffed the ground.  I looked and noticed there was no sign of either her turd or the cigar butt I had tossed away just minutes earlier.
     Brad pointed in the distance.
     "The road's still there."
     Sure enough, you could clearly see the fence line alongside the road to Waxahachie.  Without another word we all started in that direction.
     We found a simple barbed wire fence at the edge of the field.  Brad leaned over the gate before unlatching it.
     "What happened to the pavement?  The road's dirt."
     We went through the gate and latched it back up.  We started walking towards Waxahachie--the four of us at a brisk walk and Sgt. Lucy at a bouncy trot.
     No one said a word. Back then, cell phones weren't nearly as common as they are today, and no one had one with them, anyway.
     After a mile or so we saw a farmhouse in the moonlight.  We knocked politely at the door.  After a short while a lamp appeared in the window.
     An oil lamp.
     In a moment the door opened.  We saw the lamp was in the hand of a very old man with a long and pointed beard.  He had a rather ferocious shotgun tucked under his arm
     "What y'all want at this ungodly hour?"
     Doc spoke up.  "We broke down.  We hoped you could give us a ride into town."
     "Not at this time of night but you're welcome to bed down in the barn until sunrise," he said as he waved us in with the lamp.  "Then we can ride in."
     The old man set the lamp on a small table by the door and lit a pair of candles on the fireplace mantel.
     He introduced himself as Malcolm Bratcher, adding that he was a widower and lived alone.
    He nodded to us as he left to get some bedrolls.
    The room looked about a hundred years behind the times.  But nothing looked old.
     Just very old-fashioned.
     After a while Doc, Joe and I noticed Brad staring and not moving from in front of a place on the wall.
     "What's that?" Doc asked.
     Brad stepped aside and nodded towards a calendar.
     It had the right date, all right--Feb. 26, 1997.
     The picture showed a handsome middle-aged man with streaks of silver in his dark pompadour.  Underneath it said, "His Excellency President Charles Hardin Holly".
     I clenched my teeth as I stared at the photo.  "What happened to Bill Clinton?"
     That was my first thought. My second thought was, "this guy looks real familiar."
     Brad looked at us, and then--I guess he could see our puzzlement--he took a No. 2 pencil from his shirt pocket and quickly drew heavy horn-rimmed glasses on the "President's" face.
     As soon as he pulled back his hand, we all recognized the man.
     Deputy Joe whistled.  Doc put his hand to his mouth.
     "Buddy Holley died 38 years ago," I said rather uselessly. "I mean, he's President of the U.S. now, instead of Bill Clinton?"
     Brad pointed with the pencil to a longer and smaller line of type underneath the first.  I leaned forward to read it in the dim light.
     "President of the Republic of Texas."
     I finished that "shit!" I had started when the Collider blew up.


     Old Man Bratcher returned with a pair of lamps and led us out to the barn, which was quite sturdy and wind-proof.
     There was a pair of docile horses in their stalls.  Sgt. Lucy quickly curled up in a corner and dozed right off.
     We snapped our bedrolls out in a nice dry warm corner of the barn that smelled of new hay.  We set down our lamps and sat around them.
     Joe was so nervous the ends of his long mustache were twitching.  "What's happened?" he whined.
     "We seem to be someplace that's very non-technological," said Doc.  "Either we somehow changed the past and now are living in a different present, or we've gone sideways into a different world."
     "We need to get into Waxahachie tomorrow as quietly as possible," he continued, "and collect information.  Then we determine what to do next."
     Sgt. Lucy whined.  We looked over and saw her eyes were closed and she was wiggling her paws.  Chasing rabbits in her dreams.
     "Smart dog," I said.  "We need to sleep, too.  There's nothing to we can do for now."


     I woke up to the smell of frying sausage and bacon.  Old Man Bratcher was a good host.  He had built a campfire under a tripod outside the barn, and had a large cast iron frying pan full of sizzling meat.
     He looked more curious now as he got a good look at our clothes in the bright daylight, but he didn't say anything.  Being nosy would be impolite.
     After we ate and wiped our faces with a linen rag, Bratcher went behind the barn and fetched a wagon as we gathered up our bedrolls and brought them back into the house.
     Bratcher's rig looked like it could have come from 100 years ago--except the wagon wheels had hard rubber tires.
     The farm-to-market road that ran from the Collider site into Waxahachie didn't have many homes on it before--and there were fewer now.
     The road was dirt but well packed and well maintained.  There were no telephone poles or lights of any kind.
     There was no Interstate 35 as we approached the city, and the county courthouse loomed especially large as we approached.  We saw no automobiles--just horses and wagons like you would have seen at the turn of the 19th century.
     "Please drop us on the town square," I said as we entered the outskirts.  "We have business there."
     Bratcher nodded but I also thought I saw him smile.
     It was Saturday, and the bright sunlight took the sharp chill out of the air.  Children played on the sidewalks. I noticed one girl in pigtails--she couldn't have been more than 10 or 11--rolling a hoop with a stick.
     I nudged Doc in the back and pointed. "I haven't seen that in a while."
     He turned and smiled.  Suddenly he sat up straight.  I looked at the girl again.  Then it hit me, too.
     She wasn't touching the hoop with the stick.
     We both turned around and stared as the wagon went past her. She just smiled and waved with her free hand as she held the wand with the other.
     We drove onto the town square.  Bratcher pulled in front of the courthouse and tied his hitch right front of the statue of Richard Ellis, the signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence who was the county's namesake.
     We thanked Bratcher and shook his hand.  He said he had business in the courthouse, and walked inside at a brisk trot while we stood outside the looming red sandstone building.
    The courthouse has been built in 1882, and it appeared unchanged.
     "Where to now?" asked Doc.  "You know the city."
     "The county library," I said.  "It's a quiet place to hide and I'm sure has the reference books we need."
     We were just crossing the street down the block from the library when we heard a deep growl.
     Sgt. Lucy had turned and taken off at full speed back towards the courthouse as... well, herself... ran back across the lawn.
     A sheriff's deputy with a broken leash was running down the courthouse steps.
     Our Sgt. Lucy (wearing a harness) crashed into the other Sgt. Lucy (wearing a black collar) on the opposite sidewalk.  A snarling dogfight was on.
     "Crap, I guess that cinches the other world theory," I said. "Let's take advantage of this distraction and get into the library, quick! Lucy's on her own."
     We trotted the rest of the way down the block and into the library, which was in an old historic building.
     It also seemed pretty much unchanged.  I led the way towards the reference reading room after nodding to the librarian.
     I pulled the "US-UZ" volume of the *Encyclopedia Britannica* off the shelf and plunked it down.
     Doc and Brad also pulled some books off the shelves.  Joe looked out the door nervously into the main reading room.
     I read quickly and then pulled the "SC-ST" volume down, quickly followed by the "MA-MN".
     It took me less than 15 minutes--according to my cheap quartz watch--to figure it out.
     I had slammed the last volume shut, and was standing up when Joe came back to me.
     Brad and Doc were in front of some shelves and turned with books still in hand as Judge Pennoyer walked into the room.
     She was now a brunette.
     I faked a smile.  "Hello, Penny."
     "Hello, whoever you are," she said. "I don't believe we've ever met."
     I saw Old Man Bratcher walk up behind her.
     "That's the posse," he said to her.  "I smelled them out."
     "Bratcher here is a Master Grade Wizard," she said, "and he says you're obviously up to no good."
     She took a step forward and wrinkled her nose.  "You don't smell so good to me, either."
     Doc looked at Brad, and they both looked at me.  I gave a little nod.  Joe blurted:
     "You're some kind of witch!?"
     "Quite right," she said, gesturing to some deputies behind them.  "Run them in boys. I will not allow that kind of language to be used in public."


     Being a newspaper editor, I'm a fast reader, so I had plowed through the most in the short time we had in the library.  I told the others what I thought was going on.
     I had some time; we sat in a cell in the courthouse basement jail for a good hour before I was interrogated.
     In this world the Industrial Revolution never happened.
     Instead there had been a systematic uncovering and development of the laws of magic.
     The histories of our two worlds seemed to be the same until about the French Revolution, and then the divergence set in.
     The leading lights of the Revelation--as this world’s equivalent of our scientific Enlightenment was called--were affectionately known in history as "Father Adam and Mother Marie".
     Adam Weishaupt and Marie Lavoiser.
     From what I knew, Adam Weishaupt--in our world--had founded a secret society called the Illuminati over 200 years ago which had been suppressed because it was bent on the proverbial “world domination”.
     Marie Lavoiser was the widow of the great French chemist who lost his head in the French Revolution.
     Early in the 19th century Lavoiser met and married Weishaupt in Bavaria and they jointly discovered and codified the laws of magic.
     Sort of like Marie Curie meets the Sorcerers' Apprentice.
     Brad and Doc agreed with my assessment.  Doc tapped his wrist.
     "The laws of the physical universe have to still be the same, though," he said. "My quartz watch is still running."
     "So's mine," I said.  "I don't see anything to indicate science doesn't work.  It just was never developed.  Electricity is still just a curiosity here, like it was in Ben Franklin's day."
     "The laws can't be completely the same," said Brad.  "Magic doesn't work in our world."
     "Maybe magic just works on as different physics that we've not uncovered," said Doc.
     "Clarke's Law," I muttered.
     Joe had been taking all this in.  He spoke up for the first time.
     "What's that mean?" he asked.
     "Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer."  I nodded to Doc.  "I read science fiction when I was a kid."
     "Any sufficiently advanced technology," Doc quoted from memory, "is indistinguishable from magic."
     "Well, maybe in this case it's a different technology," said Brad.
     Before we had a chance to continue, a deputy came up to the cell and waved a steel-blue wand to release the spell on the cell's lock.
     He opened the door and crooked a finger at me.
     "Miss Pennoyer would like a word with you."
     I didn't recognize the office where he took me.  I was sat down opposite Penny in a plain chair in the middle of the room.
     I adopted a fake air of geniality.  "Well, judge, what can I do for you today?"
     "Why do you call me judge?" She crossed her arms.
     "Because you are the county judge."
     "I'm not.  I'm the Ellis County Chief Forensic Sorceress."
     "You're a saucer-ress?"
     I didn't even pronounce the word correctly.
     "Does that surprise you?"
     "I've never met anyone who actually claimed to be a witch."
     She made a face.
     "Such language.  Good God, where are you from?"
     "Right here, in Waxahachie."
     "That's impossible.  I've never seen you before in my life."
     I decided to play my trump.  "Where I come from, magic is just a fairy tale, and science runs the world."
     She looked down at me.  "You're not a scientist, are you?"
     Suddenly I realized how much "scientist" and Satanist" could sound alike.
     "No, I'm not."
     She suddenly pointed at me.  "Wait, now I remember why you look familiar!  Larry Anglen!"
     "That's right.  I'm the editor of the *Chronicle*."
     She sat down in another chair.  "You were the editor of the *Chronicle*.  You blew into town on the sailroad from Trinity back in 1986--and died of a sinus infection a year later."
     She leaned back comfortably.  "The real Larry Anglen died ten years ago--so who are you?
     I winced as I recalled how sick I had been in 1987.  "I'm another Larry Anglen.  The one from a world with antibiotics."
     "Antibio.."  She trailed off and knitted her brows.
     "Strange, even without a Detect Truth spell I can see you believe what you are saying."
     "Do you want to hear about it?"
     She settled back even more. "Talk to me."


     I talked for an hour nonstop.  When I finally ground to a halt, I gave her a hard look right in the eyes to show her I meant it.
     In my world, Judge Pennoyer was a blonde. I never could figure out why some brunettes with bright blue eyes go blonde.  The blue eyes are so much more striking under dark bangs.
     She stood up.  "Well, I have a someone who can confirm or deny your story."
     She rapped on the door.  A deputy came through leading Sgt. Lucy--our Sgt. Lucy--into the room.  She had a few bites on her, but seemed not much the worse for wear.
     She was docile and sat down next to Penny, who leaned over and pointed to the gold lettering with her name on her harness.
     "As strange as it is for you to impersonate the dead Larry Anglen, it is even stranger to impersonate a dog.  Yet this dog's badge and harness all indicate she is Sgt. Lucy of the Ellis County Sheriff's Department--and we already have a Sgt. Lucy."
     "Who won the dog fight?" I cracked.
     "It was a draw," she snapped.
     "Of course it was."
     She gave me an exasperated look.  "It's quite illegal to cast a Truth spell on you without your consent, and my opinion is that you're not mentally competent to give consent, anyway.
     "However, our canine brethren don't have the same civil rights," she continued, ruffling Lucy's floppy ears.
     She looked into Lucy's eyes as she rubbed her jowls. "Besides, who's ever heard of a dog that lied?  Right, girl?"
     Lucy kind of half closed her eyes as Penny stared hard into them.
     "Nice girl, good girl.  Let me see what you see."
     The sheriff's deputy stood there with on hand on his belt and the other on his holster.  I didn't move a muscle.  I'd never seen a mind reading before.
     Lucy just looked at her with a normal sweet Lab expression, eyes half closed.
     Penny stared for maybe a minute or two, getting a look like she smelled something bad.
     She finally turned away with a slight shudder.  She rubbed Lucy's ears, and spoke very kindly to her--but it was obvious she didn't like what she saw.
     She nodded to the deputy, who trotted Lucy off, and then sat down opposite me again.
     "I've never seen such strange sights--metal horseless carriages, black asphalt ribbons running across the landscape, pictures that move on glass windows--and the smell of electricity and burnt gasoline everywhere," she said, shaking her head.
     "Moreover, these things do not alarm your Lucy, they seem perfectly normal to her"
     I shrugged.  "Well, what better testimony could you want?"
     "What's a pig up?" asked Penny.
     "I have no idea.  What does she think we humans are saying?"
     "She loves it when Joe says, 'Let's go for a ride in the pig up.'''
     "Oh, heck, a pickup.  A pickup truck.  It's a horseless wagon with an open bed in the back.  Dogs love to stand in the back and hang over the side with their ears flapping in the breeze."
     "Well, I guess not everything in your world is bad."
     "How about trying to get us back there?"
     She rested her chin on her fist.  "You certainly don't belong here.  I wonder if I can find the breach you came through."
     "If anyone can find it, it's probably you, judge."
     "You keep calling me judge. What kind of judge is the Penelope Pennoyer in the other Waxahachie?”
     "She's the county judge.  You were appointed to the job when Jim Blackburn died in 1989."
     "Jim Blackburn is very much alive."
     Jim Blackburn had gone into politics after retiring from an agricultural chemical supply company.  He succumbed to leukemia a year after he was elected county judge.
     He had been a good friend and mentor to me when I first came to town.  The thought that he was alive and out there in this world...
     I began to get misty-eyed.
     Penny spoke up. "I'll let you go now."


     Back in the cell, Doc was reading a copy of the *Chronicle* the jailer deputy had given him.
     He handed me the paper when I sat down.  I looked over the pages and ran my fingers over the paper.  I could feel the slightly raised ink.
    "Looks like a rotary letter press from before the Civil War.  No photos, just line cuts."
     Brad spoke up.  "Speaking of the Civil War..."
     "Yes, I know.  Without the superior resources of the Industrial Age, the Union couldn't subdue the Confederacy and they fought to a standstill," I said.
     Doc cocked his head.
     "Hostilities ceased in 1868 and a Cold War set in for 20 years" said Brad, "until the Confederacy freed the slaves concurrently with Brazil in 1888."
     "I suppose Texas joined the Confederacy in the war," said Doc, "and went back to being independent afterwards."
     "Yep, the U.S. recognized both Texas and Confederate independence in 1888," I said.
     "That explains President Buddy Holly," smiled Brad.
     "Probably went into politics after his career as an entertainer tanked," said Doc.
     I shrugged.  "Hey, it worked for Reagan."
     "Any idea what they plan to do with us?" Doc asked.
     "Pennoyer said she will try to find that hole in the multiverse you punched," I said.  "If she can find it, maybe she can shove us back through."
     "Sounds good to me," said Doc.
     "Why'd she believe your story?" asked Brad.
     "She kinda did a mind meld thing with our Sgt. Lucy, knowing a dog can't lie, and when she saw what Lucy saw and knew it didn't bother her, she was convinced." I said.
     "This magic stuff really works?"  Brad sounded dubious.
     "Look at the door.  Do you see a padlock?"
     Brad stood up and went over to rattle it.  Our jailer across the room sat up but otherwise didn't move.
     Brad withdrew his hand because it had gone numb.
     "Damn!" he muttered as he rubbed it.
     "There's a simple Lock spell on the door," I said.
     "I know you really don't along with our Judge Pennoyer," said Doc.  "You doing any better with the Witch of Waxahachie?"
     "Somewhat.  She's not a crooked lawyer politician like her counterpart.  She's a lot more honest."
     "Heck, even I could tell that, from her hair if nothing else," smiled Doc.
     Just then we heard a female voice echoing off the basement walls.  The sorceress walked into the jail and pointed a wand.  The latch on the cell door popped loose.
     "Let's go, gentlemen."
     Sgt. Lucy was already in the paddy wagon.  We hit the road and headed into the setting sun back towards where the Collider Lab had been.


    Penny didn't lock the paddy wagon, which she drove herself.  She kept the windows open so we could all talk during the drive back into the country.  We had a rather "illuminating" chat along the way.
     In this world, the Illuminati are the society that codified and keeps the laws of enchantment.  Their world's equivalent of the secret evil group that tries to control the world from behind the scenes is the Lunar Society - which in our world was a lodge run by Charles Darwin's grandfather Erasmus Darwin, and which was a think tank for the Enlightenment.
     Rumors of behind-the-scenes machinations by the Lunar Society continue in the magical world to this day.  The contemporary vanguard of this group was called the Lunarians--an evil cabal based in New York City run by a Russian named Asimov who always depicted with a daw perched on his shoulder.
     Other than recognizing the name Asimov, none of this made any sense to me.
     She had earned her scroll in basic, mid-level and advanced sorcery from the Southwest Enchanted Forensics Institute 60 miles away in Trinity--which apparently is what their version of Dallas was called.
     The main connection between Trinity and Waxahachie was the sailroad--much like a railroad, but driven by large sails instead of nasty coal engines.  In addition to an engineer, each train carried a Weather Wiccan who could whip up a little wind if the breeze lagged.
     Fifteen miles out of the city we found the field from where we started our journey the night before.  It was easy to orient ourselves by the trees.  We walked by the gnarled post oak whose counterpart had stood in front of the parking lot.
     The sorceress raised both hands and slowly moved them in circles like she was caressing the wind.
    "It's here," she said softly. "There's a tenderness--almost a wound--in the weave of the world."
     She turned to Doc.  "I think an advanced Protection Spell combined with an Reveal and an Unlock Spell should do it, along with, of course, a little bit of a personal esoteric enchantment."
     He looked at her like she was talking about hominy grits.
     As I later learned, a less skilled sorceress would have to read these spells, but she was able to recite them from memory.
    As she completed the last, she began to walk forward--and we all followed.
     After a few yards, there was a strong glare in my eyes.  I thought it was caused by the setting sun--but then, as the glare faded, I saw the String Test Lab.
     Brad whistled.  Joe let loose a giant sigh of relief.  Lucy whined.  Doc ran forward and hollered; he met the caretaker at the door.
     Penny wobbled a bit as she walked across the hard pavement.  I put my hand on her shoulder.
     "Do you want to check something?"
     She realized what I was getting at and picked up a stick.
     "Let's try a simple Remote Control spell."
     She laid the stick in the palm of her hand, and then blew on it as it levitated.
     She flung her hand and the stick flew away.  Sgt. Lucy saw this and fetched the stick back to her.
     "Good girl."  She ruffled the dog's big floppy ears.
     Doc was at the front door giving his spiel to the caretaker--who had been quite worried when he showed up in the morning to find the cars in the parking lot but no people and the lights on with the doors unlocked.
     Not that the caretaker cared a bit about us--he was scared his little deal would be discovered.
     Doc had already thought of a story.  He came up with some tale about needing a part back in Dallas and then breaking down on Industrial Ave.
     I don't know whether the caretaker really bought it, but he was reassured when he saw "Judge Pennoyer" outside in the parking lot.
     "She's in on the deal," I stage-whispered.
     The caretaker gawked.
     "Yeah, she changed her hair color," I shrugged.
     Doc eventually returned to us.  "I have to stay here and tidy up some loose ends.  Y'all can take off, I guess.  We need to rest.  We'll compare notes tomorrow.  Otherwise, mum's the world," he said, looking especially at Deputy Joe, who shook his head.
     "Nobody would believe this crazy shit, anyways," he muttered as he headed towards his pig up truck.
     "Come on, Luce!"
     He slapped the passenger seat as the dog hopped in.
     Doc looked at Penny.  "I hope you don't have problems getting back."
     "I doubt it," she smiled.
     Doc went back into the lab.
     "If y'all excuse me, I'm going home to get a stiff, tall, cold drink," said Brad, with a wave.
     I turned to Penny.  "It's been quite an excursion. I guess you gotta go."
     She smiled.  "You saw some of my world.  How about showing me some of yours?"
     I gestured towards my pickup.  "If you don't mind riding in an infernal horseless carriage, well... my carriage awaits."
     Ten feet away, I clicked the remote door lock.  The locks popped open as the truck beeped.
     Penny jumped back a foot.
     "Sorry," I said waving my key chain.  "This is my remote control."
    Penny looked around the inside of the truck and at the dashboard like it was a space capsule.
     I leaned over and clicked on her seat belt.  "This thing goes 70 miles per hour, so you need this."
     I put the truck in gear and began to roll out of the parking lot.
     "What do you usually drive, yourself? A broom?"
     She gave me a really cheesy evil smile.  "I don't know where you'll put that large and sharp tongue after I shrink your head."
     Obviously, I wasn't going to drive into Waxahachie, so we headed up the highway into Dallas.  I got off on Colorado Blvd. and took her to the park behind Methodist Central Hospital on the bluffs of the Trinity River that overlook Dallas.
     She gazed across the skyline, with the 72-story Bank of America tower outlined in glowing green argon tubing, the Reunion Tower globe with its flashing lights, and Pegasus in bright red neon flight atop the old Magnolia Oil Building.
     "It's amazing, and so beautiful," she said.  "It also seems strangely foreboding."
     "That's Dallas for you," I wisecracked.
     Despite her obvious fascination, she said he was concerned the breach might be affected by the waning of the full moon, and she wanted to get back to the Collider site as soon as possible.
     Back in the parking lot, she waved her hands again.
     "I was right, this wound may wax and wane with the full moon that it was created with," she said.  "However, I doubt it will ever completely heal."
     She laid her hands by her side.
     "Well, I guess I'll never see you again," I said.
     She reached beneath her shawl and took out a small thick book. She began to pull out some pages.  "Here's the spells for Reveal, Unlock, and Protection.  Come here."
     She drew me close.  "Let me show you how to pronounce them, and what you must add of your own."


     That was eight years ago. I still steer clear of the bad Penny and the crooked courthouse gang.  Judge Pennoyer gets blonder ever year.
    Some day I'll have to give you my two cents worth about the time the two Pennys met.  But that's another story.
     Sgt. Lucy has a silver muzzle now.  She's retired and sleeps just about all day long in Deputy Joe's back yard.  She'll be chasing those rabbits around the stars soon.
     Doc and Brad and Joe--well, we've all been able to keep a secret.  Also used it to our advantage sometimes.  I'm certainly doing well these days.
     I smoke much better cigars now.  No more Dixie Maids.  I'm smoking Macanudos.
     Doesn't matter though, how good they are--my dark-haired pretty Penny won't let me smoke them whenever I visit her.
     Yep, I'm doing a lot better.  I've won the top award from the Texas Press Association for news reporting five years in a row.
    You'd be amazed how helpful just a whiff of a Truth spell is when you interview someone.
[the end]