In which, after a brief interruption, Silas actually gets a chance to explain…
Jerry glanced at Silas and Captain Nwin. He opened his mouth, but closed it again. Giving the others an apologetic shrug, he backed away and hurried into the kitchen with the cellphone.
He closed the door part way, but he could hear the captain’s voice behind him. “At the train station? The train station?” Then, automatically, he answered the voice on his phone. “Hey, Evie—yeah—yeah, I’m here. What’s up?”
He cringed even before he heard her response. “I know—I’m sorry, but it was after midnight—and we’re three hours later out here, and—”
Part of Jerry’s mind listened and replied to the conversation. Another part heard the footsteps as someone crossed the living room. His front door opened and closed.
“Now what?” Jerry started to wonder as he peered out the window, trying to see who had left. “What in the world is—” Jerry caught himself in time. “No, it’s okay. It’s—ah, it’s sort of a—I've got sort of a business meeting right now, okay? Can we talk this afternoon maybe? Everything’s okay with mom, right?”
“Last I heard,” Evie assured him. “Alright. Bye!”
Jerry told her goodbye, closed his phone, and sighed. He could hear a car engine starting outside.
For a moment, he stood in the kitchen, shaking his head. At last, though, he opened the door and went back to the living room. Silas was still waiting there, his back to Jerry as he stared out the back window at the narrow strip of lawn and Jerry’s scraggly row of arbor vitae.
“Not much of a view?” Jerry said.
Silas turned around, smiling just a little.
“My sister,” Jerry explained. He glanced around awkwardly. “So where’d Captain Nwin go?”
“She said she had to get back to work—since nothing had happened to you, I guess.” Silas shrugged. “Actually, she is a police investigator, and she’s trained to like normal explanations for things.”
“And—?” Jerry paused.
“And I don’t?” Silas guessed. He sat down on the couch, and Jerry sat down on the coffee table, across from him. “No—but that’s because the normal explanations don't always fit.”
“Explanations for what?” Jerry demanded.
“For what people remember—or don’t,” Silas said. “Sometimes it’s normal—people do just forget—but then there are times when something strange happens. I’ve heard a lot, everyone trying to explain why it happens. That they saw something, but can’t remember what it was because—well, it must have been just a bird, or maybe an optical delusion. Isn’t that like what you remember?”
Jerry stared at him incredulously. “Honestly? I don’t remember. And that means that I don’t remember anything like this, just that—” Jerry stopped.
“That a couple police officers showed up asking about this photo—or something like it?” Silas asked. He grinned and opened his notebook for Jerry to see.
Jerry studied the photo pasted onto the notebook page with a string of numbers scrawled below it. It was just the corner of a building, trees, shadows— “The Shadow,” Jerry said. “That’s like one of the photos I took, only—”
“That is one of the photos you took,” the old man replied. “It’s the one you gave to Captain Nwin last week. She loaned me a copy of it.”
“And why don’t—didn’t—I remember it?”
“That’s one of the problems I’ve been trying to solve. It’s a little unnatural, if you ask me.”
“Like ghosts?” Jerry asked. “So you’re saying I was seeing a ghost?”
Silas chuckled, rubbing his palms together. “Ghosts or aliens—that’s what everyone says first. No—people like to think that. It’s sort of mysterious and fantastic—if it could be—but then it’s so unlikely that they don’t have to worry about it.”
“You mean—” Jerry asked slowly, “it’s like they can believe in ghosts or aliens without actually having to believe in them?
Silas flipped a couple pages back and handed the notebook to Jerry. “I used to think it was time travelers, actually. I mean, if someone in the future had figured out how to travel back in time, they wouldn’t want people to see them do it—and so they’d have to figure out a way to keep people from seeing it—or else to forget that they had seen it if they had.”
Jerry was staring at the notebook pages. They were full of small scrawls—a few words here and there, but mostly numbers. Row after row of numbers, jostling together on the narrow page. After a moment, though, they slid into order. Jerry looked up. “You were trying to keep track of where they happened—to find out if there was a pattern?”
“That’s right. Only there were too many of them—I realized it couldn’t be time-travelers, not unless there are a great deal more of them in the future than anyone expects. Though there could be. There certainly could be.”
“So what is it?”
Silas rubbed his hands again, thoughtfully, in silence. “I don’t know. But whatever it actually is—well, it must have figured out time travel and teleporting and every other secret of motion man has tried to discover. The thing is—” he paused and glanced at Jerry sharply. “I’ve never heard of a case less than week after it happened. There almost always seems to be a small burst of activity after the first incident. I’ve wanted to try and find out what goes on, but I’m always just a little too late. This would be the first time—the day after…”
He stopped again, and Jerry shifted uncomfortably.
“You want to come along?” Silas asked.
Jerry shook his head, hard. “No—no—why would I? That’s ridiculous.”
(The story continues in Night Shot 12.)