Chapter 20: Back to the Past


Now that I had completed my mission as Detective Hughes, it was time to complete my next mission, this time as Al Becerra. It was time to locate another missing person – a crotchety old man named Richard, currently disguised as…well, I had no idea. This town was full of freaks and weirdos and, apparently, mimes, and Richard could be any one of them.

Two weeks drag on after I’d located the missing girl who was really Melissa. But there are still no magical transformations of the townspeople I encounter. I do get a number of strange looks, though, as people wonder what I’m still doing hanging around in Raven Creek.

Believe me, I want to tell them. If I could snap my fingers and get out of here, then I would have done it already, with little Melissa by my side. But it doesn’t work that way. Apparently, the mysterious time machine phone booth thingy only shows up when the three of us are together.

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I had been avoiding my roomie, Lloyd, ever since discovering his true nature. Not to be a bigot or anything, but something about vampires make me kind of fear for my life. I prefer to keep my blood inside my own body, you know? But one evening, exhausted after another unsuccessful day of Richard-hunting, I collapse into a chair in the library. Lloyd is already there, absorbed in what looks like a cheesy romance novel, the kind that women buy on impulse for five bucks while picking up bread and milk at the supermarket.

“Good book?” I ask, trying to make polite conversation. Lloyd just grunts and doesn’t bother looking up from the page.

That’s when it happens.

The air around him blurs for a second, shimmering like heat waves on a hot day. Then Lloyd isn’t Lloyd anymore. Richard is seated on the sofa, staring down at the book through his wire-rimmed glasses.

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“Oh my god!” I exclaim. Richard, who is Lloyd again, looks up, startled. “You—you’re…” I stammer.

Richard/Lloyd sighs. “I know, I know. You’ve finally figured out my secret. But listen, if it helps, I have no interest in drinking your blood. It has an odd, garlicky scent to it.” He wrinkles his nose in disgust.

“No. I mean, you’re Richard! It’s me, Al!”

Richard stares back, unblinking. Then his face lights up with recognition. “Well if it isn’t Alonso!” he says, grinning. Then his expression changes to one of horror. “Wait – you mean to tell me I’m a vampire?” He looks down at his freakishly pale skin.

“Yeah,” I say. “That must suck.”

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That same night, we head over to the orphanage and kidnap Philippa again. Only she’s really Melissa, of course. She has this unexplainable feeling that the three of us should go back to the toy store. And good thing we listen to her, because there’s the phone booth, waiting for us.

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“Remember to focus, boys,” Melissa urges us as she climbs into the booth. “Concentrate on home, okay? We’re somewhere in the future, so think of the past, and maybe we can rewind the clock to where we belong.”

We both agree, and Melissa disappears in a flash of purple light. When it’s my turn to step into the booth, I close my eyes and focus on rewinding the clock. As it had each time before, the booth spins and spins, then shudders to a stop. Then everything goes dark.

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When I come to, I can tell right away that it worked. The booth had transported me to the past. Only problem – from what I can tell, I am now very, very far in the past.

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