It was all moot anyway. I kept solving the small problems, but not the big one. Who cared if I got a new car? If I didn’t find a way to fix the world then sooner or later Isaac would take over and Blood Shadow would cease to exist.
I was completely out of my element. I was a doer, not a thinker. If I knew who to kill or what to shoot then I would get it done. Critical thinking was out of my wheelhouse.
I had to figure out who benefited. That was the key question of any crime. The answer was going to be a super-villain like me. Well, not like me. Not a thug, someone with a scientific bent. There was also the possibility that it was a hero. Some do-gooder who decided the final decision for peace was to remove all the powers, good and bad.
That didn’t really work. Far as I could tell there were still wars raging, they just didn’t have bullet-proof men leading the charge.
Whoever did this would’ve left themselves powered just in case. They would want to have an edge on an opposition. Or it was a hero who wanted to be the only person saving the world. I wouldn’t put it past any of those narcissistic fuckers.
All these thoughts tumbled around my brain like rocks in a tumbler except none of them were getting polished. I had no leads, only vague theories and still no way to back them up. It could be any of them, all of them or none of them. For all I knew this was random. The universe just hiccoughed and reset itself.
The uncertainty gave me a headache. A normal headache, thank Christ. After the earlier ones this was only a minor inconvenience. Normally I would shoot someone to relax, but I wanted to shoot the right someone. Offing more gangbangers would only stress me out more because I’d just be dicking around instead of getting down to business.
I knew it would be useless, but I decided to track down The Damned Tinker. He was my best friend and a genius when it came to designing machines. I couldn’t think of anything else to do.
I drove to his neighborhood where, in my world, his repair shop was. Normally I wouldn’t worry about visiting him. He lived in a rough part of the city filled with gangs, drugs and violence. I walked through it without fear. It had nothing to do with my reputation and everything to do with D.T.’s.
He maintained an identity as Darold Tinsley, honest automotive mechanic. Rumors around the place swirled about who he really was. They all figured him to be an old school gangsta’ with deep ties to every crew. None of them had any inkling about his true nature, about how he could build a device to blow up Paradiso and most of California using only an old Betamax player. They knew I was his best friend so they left me alone.
Here I was just a white guy driving an expensive car into a bad neighborhood. I looked like I was looking for trouble and here trouble would oblige me. I had to be very careful.
Strangely D.T.’s shop was located in the same location as it was in my world, albeit much, much larger. Half a dozen bays instead of the two I was used to. There were men in jumpsuits running around. It looked like a busy ant farm. All the cars were highly polished. Maybe I wouldn’t look out of place now. That was a relief.
I sat in Isaac’s car drumming my fingers on the steering wheel. Normally I wouldn’t hesitate except I’d seen him. I was overcome by guilt, a rare feeling for me. He was a normal guy, no powers. He stood tall, didn’t have his wild unkempt hair and had a confident stride. In this world he had no cane, no limp slowing him down. The limp was a result of a device he built exploding. The villain he built it for accidentally triggered it while investigating it. The resulting explosion turned that nameless villain into a stain and gave D.T. a permanent limp. This D.T. walked over smoothly to an employee and pointed out something the guy missed.
The next thing I saw came straight out of a Hallmark card. It almost seemed scripted to make me feel bad about trying to change the world back.
His wife pulled up in a fancy Cadillac, got out and hugged him. After they had their moment two children crawled out of the car and ran towards him, hugging his leg when they reached him. The girl was unfamiliar to me, but I recognized the boy as a younger version of Terrance. In the real world Terrance was nineteen and had his own daughter who D.T. doted on.
Here, in this place, The Damned Tinkerer, was on top. He had a family that was together. His wife was still with him, he didn’t have any destructive tendencies he was hiding from them. He wasn’t spending his life in a bar surrounded by killers and freaks drinking himself into an early grave.
This guilt I was feeling was alien to me. I vaguely remembered being familiar with it back when I was a church-going youth.
It had been a long, long time since I felt bad about any of the decisions I made.
When I changed things back I’d rip this away from him. He wasn’t exactly unhappy with the life he knew, but would he still choose that if he knew that something could be…better? This was completely different than Dana. I knew that she would be happy going back to the real world. Powerless domesticity was a hell that she would be happy to be free of. I was taking a gamble that when I changed things back he wouldn’t remember any of this, which was a common, but not absolute, outcome. I could keep his happiness my dirty little secret.
He peered over in my direction. A dirty look clouded his face. I couldn’t tell if it was from him recognizing me somehow or if I just looked suspicious. I popped Isaac’s car into drive and sped off. He didn’t know me, I was sure of it. The point was that he couldn’t help me. Another dead end.
I was out of ideas.
Truly and totally.