Don’t you just love it when you accidentally find a crazy time traveller who takes you back in time, and then you get shot at by a time traveling mercenary dude who then decides he actually wants to help you instead?
This is the lovely situation our heroes have found themselves in since last week. And here we are with another part!
Catch up here if you’re new and/or forgetful:
Part 6: Of Questions, Historians and Scarves
Getting Demetrius bandaged up, stopping the bleeding and making sure he was okay was the top priority, obviously. But the lack of time I had to ask this Jonah guy any questions was driving me nuts.
Here was someone who actually sort of knew what was going on and knew why people were after Demetrius and maybe even knew something of who Demetrius was. And he only had time to mutter something about a “historian society” in between digging up ratty old medical supplies from his broken down cabin.
I just shoved down my questions, hoping I could hold them in until after the danger had passed. Then I could let them explode all I wanted.
Thankfully, Chase knew a good bit more about first aid than Jonah did. And while the supplies weren’t the best, we got the bleeding stopped and the wound cleaned. It looked like the bullet hadn’t hit an artery or anything else super important, so that was good, I guess. Chase said it could have been worse.
Demetrius looked a good bit paler now, though. He had already not looked very healthy, and the blood loss didn’t really look like it helped that a lot. His crazy rambles and mutterings were getting … well … crazier. He kept switching what he thought the injury was. One minute he said it was an arrow wound, and the next he’d been speared by a triceratops. And he was getting more spaced out than usual.
Jonah’s cabin had a couple of old cots and some blankets lying around, so we decided it would be best to let Demetrius rest for a bit before moving on. We set him up in one of the cots, lit one of the old kerosene lamps in the corner, and went outside to give him some quiet.
Chase sat down heavily on the ground, leaning his back against one of the log chunks sitting around the fire pit.
I sat down a little more hesitantly on a second log, watching Jonah as he bent down and started poking at the remaining embers lying in the ashes. He put a few more fresh sticks down over the ones that were already there and blew gently on the coals, leaning his head down so the brim of his hat hid his face from me again.
It started to sink into my mind just how weird this was.
How quickly this guy went from trying to kill us to helping us out.
I mean, yeah, he was doing a lot better job of helping than he’d been doing at trying to kill us. But still, what had flipped the switch? What did he know about Demetrius that we didn’t?
The fire caught on the sticks, flames licking up around the little teepee of wood. It gave a lot more light than I had expected. I’d almost forgotten how dark it was getting by now.
Jonah sat back on his heels for a bit, watching the flames, then he gave a single nod and pushed back up. He seated himself on the third little wood stump sitting by the fire pit and blew out a breath, propping one elbow on his knee.
I shot a look over in Chase’s direction.
His shoulders were slumped with tiredness and it looked like he was having a hard time holding his eyes open again. But he was still managing to give Jonah a pretty suspicious look – even if Jonah didn’t notice.
Well. Now seemed as good a time as any.
I shifted in my seat a little and cleared my throat. “Hey, Jonah.”
“Hmm?” Jonah looked up, raising his eyebrows at me.
I raised my eyebrows back, taking a second to narrow down all the millions of questions I had. Which ones he was most likely to know the answers to? And which ones it would be best to start off on?
“I… was just wondering, who exactly sent you to kill us, again? I know you said something about it earlier, but just … if you could tell me more. Like why they wanted us dead. And also why you … didn’t kill us.”
Jonah was silent for a second, then exhaled and leaned back a bit, fiddling with the brim of his hat.
Chase blinked hard a couple of times and straightened up out of his slouch, crossing his arms over his chest before leaning back again. We both watched Jonah.
“So, I mentioned before who sent me. I know it sounds a little crazy, but it really was the Historian Society. Sometimes they just …” he trailed off and looked between the two of us. He squinted for a second. “Okay, I’m no expert. But you two have to be from somewhere around the twentieth century, so you probably don’t know what I’m talking about, do you?”
I slowly shook my head, rubbing my hands against my jeans. “Twenty-first century, actually. I know about a few historians’ societies, I think. But…”
“No, no, no.” Jonah waved a hand and shook his head back at me. “This is the Historian Society. You won’t likely run into it for a while yet. The Society I’m talking about is from the twenty-fourth century, even if they have been running for a good bit.”
“The twenty-fourth century?” I stared.
“Yeah, a ways away from you folks.” He jerked his thumb back over his shoulder to point to the lopsided cabin. “That’s where Morrow right in there is from. That’s where … well, technically where I’m from.” And for some reason that last bit made him wince.
Demetrius was from the future, then. Huh. So all that old language he used … the old coat … that wasn’t anything from his actual time.
Just the fact that he was a time traveller lent to that idea, but it still seemed weird to hear.
I frowned, folding my arms so my hands tucked underneath and kept the warmth from the fire. “Okay. So why did they send you? Why did they want us dead?”
Did? It didn’t seem like that was the right word. Since them wanting us dead was like … three hundred years in the future. So it was yet to happen. But “why will they want us dead” sounded really weird.
I scrunched my nose slightly. Okay, so maybe I was starting to sympathize a little more with Chase’s confusion.
Jonah sighed and scratched at the back of his head. “That … I’m less clear on.” He closed one eye. “See, I’m kinda trying to get out of the whole time-mercenary business, here. Trying to just settle down here and make a life outside all that. And the Society … they ain’t so keen on that idea. But they told me if I finished this one job for them, they’d make sure to leave me alone.”
His shoulders slumped a little inside his ratty brown coat. “And they barely ever ask for kill jobs. So when they do, it’s always ugly. I told ‘em to spare me the details. And they did. Just told me that Demetrius Morrow used to be one of them until he broke the code. And now he was crazy and toting around a couple of people out of their time and they were getting into trouble.” Jonah shrugged. “I got a picture of Demetrius. I skipped over a couple of years from where I was at…” he looked back at his cabin. “The time jump is sorta why my place looks a little worse for the wear. But I waited for you three for a few days, just hanging around outside town, and …” his voice trailed off and he spread his hands.
I leaned forward. “And then why didn’t you kill us? What was it we said?”
My mind swirled with the possibilities. Some sort of key, future-changing detail he knew. Some reason we had to live. A way we were part of a much bigger scheme that he never could have imagined. That Chase and I were a huge part of history and he couldn’t just kill us.
Jonah gave a halfhearted, sheepish smile and then bit his lip as it faded. He looked down, rubbing his hands in his lap. I couldn’t see his face as he responded quietly.
“I … y’know, I had a girl once. A girl I’d do anything for. And just … knowing that a girl was what got Morrow in that deep. That he’d go lose himself in time and space like that. That he’d lose his mind, all to find her again. I couldn’t end him after knowing. Someone who’d sacrifice himself for …” he blew out a shaky breath. “I ain’t killing a man like that.”
I blinked at him.
So this wasn’t anything about logic. This wasn’t some big important historical event he had to save. He just thought Demetrius’s love story was too sweet to end like that. He didn’t want to be the bad guy who ended it wrong.
“But what about me and Chase?”
Jonah looked up at me again, the smile pulling his mouth sideways a little wider this time. “Oh come on, I wasn’t gonna screw up another perfectly good romance. You think I got no heart?”
My heartbeat fluttered just a little bit. Okay, Chase and I were together, yeah. But things weren’t … that serious.
So this guy just spared us because he thought we looked too cute together?
Slightly flattering. But also just plain weird.
It felt like Chase was raising his eyebrows at me. I glanced down over at him to give my own raised-eyebrow look back his way, but his head was nodded forwards against his chest and his eyes were closed.
If I were honest, I was a little glad he didn’t hear that.
I turned back to Jonah, clearing my throat. Time for a change of subject. I had more questions anyway.
“So what exactly does this Historian Society do?” I asked. “And what was the code that Demetrius broke?”
Jonah waited a few seconds before continuing, a ghost of a smile still on his face. “I’m no expert on the subject, of course. But it’s pretty obvious that these guys are a society of historians.”
“Yeah, I mean apart from that.”
“Well, they time travel. Where we’re from, regular history books are a little screwy. Not that accurate anymore. So many people who want to change the history books to line up with what they think have come and gone over the years, it’s hard to figure what’s true and what’s not anymore. So, the Society wants to keep things accurate.” The light from the fire was dimming a little and Jonah picked up a stick from next to his log seat, poking the wood closer together.
I leaned forward, the pieces starting to click together in my mind a little. “And they time travel back so they can actually see things happening and record them?”
Jonah nodded, “Yeah, that’s about it.”
That was … wow. I almost wanted to be part of this society. Talk about a dream job. Time travelling to observe and record events sounded like the perfect use of time travel.
My starry-eyed first impression of this historian society clouded over with more questions as I thought of Demetrius. I swallowed.
“And so then, what’s the code? Why do they want Demetrius dead?”
“Can’t say for sure,” Jonah pushed his hat back a little bit, running his fingers through the front part of his hair. “It’s a pretty complicated code they got. But I do know that there’s one hard and fast rule that nobody breaks: No changing history. And if I had to chance a guess, I’d say that’s what Morrow did.” He paused for a second. “Either that, or he killed somebody. Because they’re pretty strict on that, too.”
“He didn’t,” I responded automatically, even though I really had no way to be sure of that.
Jonah shrugged and poked at the fire again. “Had to have done something pretty serious to break the code bad enough that they’d call in someone else to do the killing for them.”
I puckered my lips together in a frown, looking back at the sparks shooting off the campfire. It wasn’t a sure thing Demetrius would even remember what he did. But I’d still have to ask him in the morning.
“I honestly don’t see the problem they got with someone like him,” muttered Jonah. “Not like he’s got enough working brain left to be much of a threat.”
And that led into another group of questions.
“Okay, so time sickness.” I glanced back at the cabin, almost like Demetrius could hear me. “How bad has he got it? And you said something earlier about scarves being protection. He’s got plenty of scarves.”
Jonah snorted and shook his head. “How bad? Kid, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen worse. He barely remembers his own name.”
“But he remembers Jane,” I pointed out. “And it’s … not fatal, is it?”
Jonah just grunted.
Not super comforting.
I bit my lip. “And the scarves. If … scarves help somehow, he’s protected a little bit, isn’t he?”
“Not with those kind of scarves he ain’t.” Jonah shook his head again. “The Historian Society has the best kind of everything for time travel. The DNA locked pocketwarpers. The best disguise stash you could ask for. And some real special scarves.” He gestured around his own neck like he was putting on a scarf. “See, it’s this silvery looking cloth. You put that on when you jump times and it’ll shield you. Keep all those extra memories from getting in your head.”
Realization dawned slowly on me. “That’s …”
“Genius, yeah. And pretty helpful to keep the historians’ heads screwed on straight with all the time hopping they do. But when someone breaks the code …” he twisted his mouth sideways. “Getting the watch-thing away from whoever owns it is a little trickier. But taking a scarf pretty much cripples ‘em anyway. More than a few jumps without the shield scarf and…” he spun a finger in a slow circle at the side of his head. “Anybody loses his scarf… if he’s got any sense of self preservation, he’s gonna stay put.”
“But Demetrius …” I trailed off and rested my head in my hands, my heart sinking. “He’s searching all of history for a Jane Doe. And …”
And he’s not giving up any time soon.
Jonah’s eyebrows went up, disappearing in the shadow of his hat brim. “Fool’s errand if I’ve ever heard of one.”
I felt sick just thinking of it. Demetrius was practically doomed already, going on like this. Another question Jonah had asked before niggled at the back of my mind at that thought.
If he’s basically gone already … why send someone to kill him now?
I looked down, scuffing my boots in the dirt and twisting my hair around my fingers. We sat in silence for a few minutes, just watching the fire. I felt very tired out by everything, all of a sudden.
But I had one more idea that could give us some answers.
“Jonah?” I asked, looking over at him again. He looked like he was just starting to doze off and had to blink hard a couple of times before turning towards me. I shifted in my seat. “Is there a way to read where Demetrius’s pocketwatch has been? Like … a sort of log?”
Jonah thought for a second, then nodded. “Going off that it’s from the society, it’s probably got a pretty detailed log.”
“And could you get into it?”
“With a little fiddling, probably, yeah.”
I nodded, looking over to the cabin.
“Not in the dark, though,” Jonah qualified. “And not while Morrow’s asleep.”
I let out a breath. “In the morning, then.”
“Sure.” He moved himself down so he was leaning his back up against the tree stump, tilted his hat down over his eyes and folded his arms across his chest. “Now get some rest.” Jonah tilted his head sideways a little so he could see me again. He smiled. “Pretty sure Chase there would appreciate some extra warmth.”
And then he let his head rest back down against his chest and it seemed like he was asleep before I could work out any good way to respond. I still gave the top of his hat a weird look.
I sat looking into the fire for another minute before I pushed back up into a standing position.
The night actually wasn’t that quiet, once I started listening. Some owls hooting in the distance. The river running. The fire crackling and the wind in the trees. Chase’s soft breathing and Jonah’s snoring.
I looked over at Chase for a few seconds, twisting my mouth sideways. Then I stepped over to drop my coat over his shoulders before heading back in to the cabin.
Finally some answers, huh? And a relatively chill cliffhanger. -nod-
Enjoy until next week. -eyebrow wiggle-
Hope you guys enjoyed!