The next few days were rough on John. He hardly spoke or ate and when he did, it was in small quantities. Diane had to take care of all the funeral arrangements since John was still in shock about his son. She was just nervous about when they would have to say goodbye to their son for the last time at his funeral.
“How am I supposed to do this?” John lay in bed the morning of his only child’s burial. “Five,” he said. “Five.” Diane came out from the bathroom.
“Five,” John repeated. He was sitting on the edge of his bed now with his head in his hands. “He was only five. It’s just…It’s not fair that he doesn’t get to have a full, normal life.” Diane walked over to him and kneeled down in front of him.
“It’s not your fault, she said as she grabbed his chin. “You did not do anything wrong. If anything, you made his life better. You two had so much fun together. I mean, most kids who find out they have a brain tumor just wait and take tests and live in hospitals and never really have a life. But you gave him so much more. You gave him life and got him to do things most kids in that situation would never be in.”
“I know that it wasn’t my fault, but I do feel I could have done something more. It pains me to know that murderers and sickos in the world get to live and Ben doesn’t get to see six.” He hugged his wife expressing how much she meant to him. “It just doesn’t make sense sometimes.” She stayed there as long as he wanted to hold her and rubbed his back.
“I know it doesn’t.”
July 14, 2011
The funeral finally came and John had to give his eulogy. He didn’t know what to say except how much he loved Ben and how they spent so much time together. But while he was give his speech, in Johns’ head he knew something had to be done. There had to be some way he could change everything. He could see Marie in the crowd crying and holding on to Mark as they stared at Ben. John knew she was upset but still thinking that this happened for a reason. He couldn’t bear to hear her little rant again about how it was “meant to happen.”
After the funeral, John talked with some close friends and received condolences and sympathies. He knew they were just being nice but he didn’t want any of it. He just wanted his son. He returned back to work just a day after the burial since he felt he had no reason to stay at home. His wife wanted him to take time off and go away for awhile but he felt if he went somewhere to relax, he would only feel worse as though he were trying to forget what had happened, and his son. But as it turns out, he would have to leave anyway since he had a conference meeting down in Washington, D.C. John didn’t mind being back at work but he didn’t plan on going away for a weekend so soon.
“Dave.” John walked into his boss door without even caring what he was doing. Dave kept looking down at his desk and signaled to John with his finger that he’d be right with him. John was looking down now as well but because he wanted to get out of that room already. He kept himself up with one hand against the door arch and the other on his hip still waiting for Dave to get off the phone. He finally looked up after he heard the phone click against the receiver.
“Sorry about that John. Herm feels like he needs to tell me a million times when we need to be there on Friday as if we’ve never done this before. I swear I don’t know how he’s in a higher position then us. Anyway, what did you need?” He kept filling up the papers on his desk with ink as he awaited Johns’ question.
“Actually,” John started, “That’s what I need to talk to you about. This weekend.” He waited for Dave to say something or stop doing his paperwork but he just seemed to be waiting for what John needed. So he just continued to talk and told him. “I don’t think I'm going to be able to go this weekend.” Now he had Dave’s attention. John could tell because he finally saw his eyes since for the first time that he stepped into the room today. Dave just looked from side to side and shook his head.
“What are you talking about,” he said confused.
“It’s just that with everything this week I'm not exactly focused to go away for a weekend. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind being here because it is better then being home and thinking about it, but I just cant go away. My wife wanted me to stay home and go somewhere with her and I told her I couldn’t.” John stood there with one hand in his pocket and the other just coming to rest at his side. Dave just scratched the back of his head and shrugged.
“I’m sorry John but there’s nothing I can do. You know I care about you and would help you anyway I could but the fact is, is that since you are back after taking “off” you’re technically able to work and if your able to work then you HAVE to go to the conference. I know it’s gonna be rough but I especially need you there.”
“What if I did work from home and just sent it to you and present it for me. Anything that’s left out or wrong just say it was me and I’ll take the blame…really.” John knew he was right but he couldn’t be mad at him. He was actually madder at himself because the conference had completely slipped his mind and had he remembered it was this weekend he would have never came back to work.
“The best thing I can tell you is get everything ready and have it done before we go. If after the first day you still don’t think you can do anything on Saturday, I’ll tell them you got sick from eating something bad the day before.” John closed his eyes and pinched the top of his nose. He knew he wasn’t gonna get out of it so he just shook his head yes and said “sure.”
“I really am sorry,” Dave said as John started to leave. If it was up to me I’d pay for you to go somewhere else. I can’t imagine how you even feel right now.”
“No I know. I appreciate it. Thanks again.” And with that he left his boss’ office and went back to his. When he got home he had to now explain to his wife that he had to leave. Just a few hours ago he was saying how he didn’t want to leave; now he would be leaving in less then a day. To his surprise, she took it well.
“I actually think it’s good for you. You’ll get to be around friends and away from here for a few days.” She ran her black fingernails through his hair and down to the side of his face until his cheek was covered by it. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek and just hugged her.
July 15, 2011
The next day John got an earlier start then usual since he wanted to make sure all his things were packed away and ready to go. He brought just enough clothes and items to last him the weekend and just little enough that he would be able to carry them onto the plane. Every time he had to go away for one of these meetings, John would remember the time when he was younger and had to let his bag go in the cargo and when he wound up in San Diego, his luggage was somehow enjoying the beautiful skyline of Paris. Ever since then, if there was no need for him to carry on his things aboard, he made sure he didn’t over pack. The flight wasn’t very long so he took a nap along the way making up for the time he lost getting up early. When he got off, he met up with Dave and the others that were from his office so they could all go to the hotel together.
“Ok everyone we’re staying at the Hilton,” Dave shouted over the commotion of the airport. “When you guys get there, sign in, put your crap down, then get your important crap and be in the second floor meeting room by five. We shouldn’t be there too long tonight. Only a few hours then we can go hit the bars and casinos afterward.” After that, there was a sudden outburst of cheers from guys ready to get drunk and most likely lose a lot of money. John hopped into a cab with Dave since he knew that John wasn’t exactly in the talking mood.
“The Hilton,” Dave said which were more then enough for the driver to know where to go. He then turned to John “How ya holdin’ up?”
“Just…whatever. Tired I guess.” He didn’t really know what Dave expected from his answer nor did he care.
“Well tonight really shouldn’t be that long. I know you’ve done a few of these already but it’s gonna be a little different this time. We’re just gonna do the regional areas now, because the big execs won’t be there till tomorrow so we’ll present them with each breakdown of every region.” John just shook his head and did nothing but close his eyes and rest to give the illusion that he was extremely tired so Dave wouldn’t talk business with him anymore. Once at the hotel, he went right up to his room, got his reports, and headed back down to the meeting room. Looking at his watch he noticed he was almost an hour early so he thought he’d go to the bar and get a drink in him. After a few minutes, some talkative guy sat down next to him.
“How’s it goin’ guy?” the seemingly kind, yet pesky stranger questioned. John lifted his eyebrow to the right to match a face with the voice. He was a somewhat tall fellow, like himself, John noticed. Dark brown hair and well dressed. It seemed odd to John that he was in such a good mood to be at a bar so early in the day. At least I have a reason to be here, he thought.
“I’ve certainly felt better,” John answered back. He wanted to give as little detail to the stranger as possible. He didn’t feel like going into his life story and the pain that was introduced into his world recently. He took another sip of his drink still waiting to hear what the man had to say next.
“Yea, I hear ya man,” he said. “I’ve been workin’ my ass off lately. You’d think I was in New York with all these crazy people I gotta track down everyday.” The man ordered a drink but John didn’t know to what extent because he laughed a little, for the first time actually, in over a week.
“Well. I’m from New York,” John confessed, “but the crazies are usually out on the street not hiding away in nice places like you have around here.” The man turned fully to John.
“New York huh? What you doin’ all the way down here? Havin’ an affair?” The stranger seemed to enjoy making himself laugh, which was fine because John laughed as well and it’s what he’s been needing recently.
“No just on a business meeting. Nothing big. Starts at five so I thought I’d just come down here and get a little drink. Not like it’s gonna make it much more interesting anyway.” John, as weird as it was, was acting like himself again. And it wasn’t friends or family that was making him feel better. It was this total stranger who he didn’t want to have anything to do with in the first place.
“Suits man. What a pain in the ass. We do all the work and they make all the money.” The stranger took another sip of his drink which was still unknown to John.
“So you’re clearly not running a business,” John determined. “What is it that you do? Or are you just down here having an affair?” The man smiled.
“I wish,” he joked. “No, I'm a private detective. I follow people around who are suspected of crap and catch them in the act.” He exchanged his now empty cup for a full one.
“Thank for explaining. I wasn’t sure what a private detective was,” he said showing that he wasn’t stupid. Then he turned and asked a half-serious question. “Are you here following me?”
“Hah, no. I don’t tell the people who I follow what I do.,” he stated. “Actually, I just finished catching some guy in the act of conning another couple out of money. He’s been going around telling people he’s an investor, taking money and running off. Those are the guys that are the easiest to catch once you know who you gotta track. They think you’re just gonna give them your money and they completely forget that they’re doing something illegal and wind up giving themselves up. There’s actually some guy that we’ve been trying to catch for awhile now,” he stopped mid-sentence to take a sip of his drink. Probably to freshen up his dry throat from talking so much. “He claims to be a scientist,” he went on.
“What do you mean claims?” John questioned, now a bit more intrigued. The man went on
“This guy has been going around getting different mechanical parts and things from all over and telling people he’s trying to fix his time machine.” He noticed that he stopped talking, not to take a breath but because he was beginning to laugh a bit. John figured what the hell and just repeated the last part of his story.
“Time machine?” John wanted to see if he really did hear correctly.
“Yea,” he said through a laugh. “Not MAKE a time machine, FIX his time machine. Which obviously means this guy thinks it worked in the first place. Can you believe that?”
“What do you think he’s really been doing?”
“That’s the problem,” he said more seriously, “We don’t know exactly what he was been doing because technically he hasn’t been doing anything wrong, but some people think we should keep an eye on him just in case he’s building a bomb or something. And around here you can’t take any chances.” John knew he meant the White House. He thought this was all very fascinating but wondered why the man, whose identity he still didn't know, was telling him what seemed like very classified information. So, he asked him.
“Because honestly, I don’t think the guys building a bomb. From what I hear he really was a scientist, and a good one at that, who was very into the theory of time travel. He wanted to focus on making a device capable of, well, traveling through time.” John shook his head sarcastically.
“Of course.” John wasn’t sure if he had picked up on it or just ignored it but he went on. “I have to check in on him from time to time and scope out things at his lab and his house to see if he has anything, like plans or guns or anything harmful to the public that we can hold against him. So far all it seems like he’s doing is putting together something that probably doesn’t work and will only cause I'm to lose all his money and go insane in the end.”
“How did you come across this guy in the first place,” John wondered. “I mean, there has to be a good reason that you’re looking out for this guy in the first place.”
“Supposedly a few years ago the guy’s kid died and he flipped out. He went totally insane and couldn’t accept the fact his son died. He wanted to build a time machine to go back and change the past. His wife left him and after a few months. The place he worked at let him go because he was stealing stuff from their lab and using it at home to build his machine. For awhile nobody had heard form him so they all thought he had moved out and left or died somewhere never to be seen again. Then, one day he starts showing up at a lot of science fairs and exhibits trying to find materials to fix his machine again. It just so happened that the head of organization happened to be at one of these shows. He followed him around and thought he might be a completely wacko and wanted someone to keep an eye out just in case he was really making a bomb. That’s where I came in. So I got assigned to the job to make sure nothing fishy is going on and five months later, I'm sitting at bar telling you the story about how I’ve accomplished nothing as a spying babysitter.” John sat there frozen and unsure of what to say or do next. He couldn’t believe the story he had just heard. Before he thought the man was mad but in a weird way he could almost sympathize with what the crazed scientist was feeling. John wanted to know more about the man but talking to one stranger about another didn’t seem like it was a good way to get information.
“What’s his name,” John inquired. He hoped that it wasn’t classified information.
“Bedlam. Jack Bedlam. Why you ask?” Now the stranger seemed to want to know the information. John didn’t know what to say except tell him about his son and how he felt.
“I recently lost my son this week. He was only five,” John felt the sudden rush of pain and sadness creping over him like it has all week. “I know what it’s like to lose someone you care about a lot. I thought maybe if I talked to him it would get him to calm down. I’m only here because my company forced me. Otherwise I’d be at home with my wife. I wasn’t even able to have kids so it was really hard on me. Ironically enough you’re the only one that I’ve talked to more then two minutes in the last week. I thought maybe it cold help us both.” John seemed embarrassed and ashamed. He rubbed his eyebrow with the back of his hand and put it in his pocket to leave for the drinks.
“Here’s my card,” the man said. “I’m not really supposed to be doing this but I'm pretty good at reading people and if you really were someone that’s dangerous you wouldn’t be here in the first place. You certainly wouldn’t have stayed after finding out I was a detective. I understand what you want to do but be careful. If you need any help or find out anything at all give me a call as soon as you can.”
“I will no problem.” John offered his hand as thanks. “I really appreciate this.”
“No problem,” he accepted. “Just don’t tell anyone.” The detective turned around and left after paying his tab. John didn’t notice him leave though as he was looking over the former strangers card. The detective’s name was Peter Lanza but the name John was more interested in was Jack Bedlam. His mind was still breaking down what the detective had just told him and was wondering how he was going to track this Jack Bedlam down. John couldn’t even believe that he was seriously considering finding this guy to actually talk with him. But before he could conjure up any more crazy thoughts, he noticed the time on the wall and realized he had spent all his free time and had to get to his meeting. With that John quickly put the detective’s card in his pocket and headed out.