Private detective David Bryant strolled across the vanished bachelor's threadbare ranch house bedroom, a thin smile animating his lips. He picked up the spiral notepad indicated on the dresser, then aimed it around like a loaded weapon. “No Carmen Electra poster, Fisher stereo or high def set in here,” he noted. "Although he does have those funky box springs, and Einstein watching from the wall.” He sniffed at the air, experimentally. “No sign of this being a crack house, either, that I can tell. Just keys in the kitchen for the van out front. How well do you know Nick, did you say?”
"As well as anyone did, I guess," Border Patrol rookie Fletcher replied. “He was pretty quiet, with simple tastes.”
"Was?" Bryant shook his head and wagged a finger. “No, let's not jump to conclusions just yet. Although, considering he's sole heir to a men's magazine empire, none of this makes much sense.” In explanation, Bryant jabbed the notebook in the direction of some haphazardly scattered books. “I mean, here's a guy who could have it all, and what's he do, Fletcher? He takes the civil service exam, rents a ranch house out in the boonies, and after rounding up his quota of illegals, he reads biographies, historical mysteries and Scientific American. Question I have is, why would a strong, healthy guy opt for this while dismissing the option of sharing a jacuzzi with supermodels?”
“You mean, is he a closet gay? You're the new family detective.”
“Am I? Well, I detect a blind alley. 'Cause he's not gay, from what I understand. Not anything. Not even a disappointment. His old man brags about him being part of your team.” Bryant tapped the diary twice against the fist he made with his other hand, then held it up. “Anyone read this yet, Fletcher?”
“Nope. You'll be the first, as requested.”
“Think it's a list of babes he could have asked out, but didn't?”
Fletcher shook his head. "That's not my first guess."
Bryant blew out a breath, wearily. “Well, I hope it explains why he's been livin' like a monk here, at least, when he's got access to a mansion with wall to wall centerfolds.”
"Sounds like you seen that mansion yourself," the younger man said, and not without interest.
Bryant narrowed his attentive gaze for a second, giving a sly smile. "That I have, son. But it was years ago, at a convention for what they called 'private dicks.'" Bryant sighed in memory again, then slumped into a ratty wicker chair, and at last thumbed open the spiral notebook. "And now I've been hired to explain the call his father got from the bank. So lemme see what we got here before either of us does anything rash, like going public. Okay?”
Fletcher said nothing, then witnessed the slow transformation of Bryant's countenance from befuddlement to bewilderment.
6/4-- My name is Nicholas Carter. I am a single man, age 40, never married, and I have worked for the Arizona Border Patrol for 15 years in good standing. My hobbies include reading and classical music. I particularly enjoy history and science. What I can tell you now is that string theory is no theory. I don't claim to understand it, but what I know for sure is that physicists are right when they talk about extra dimensions in space beyond what we perceive, and the possibility of there being parallel universes which are like membranes of a higher reality. Not only is this true, but these membranes can be crossed at rare points and chance intersections. I've done it, you see, and I plan to do it again.
It happened at 7:07 AM, two days ago. The first thing that struck me was the sense that my vision was blurred. Upon opening my closet door, I saw that my hanging wardrobe appeared to be a double image, with a tight or narrow overlap, as though viewed through a calcite crystal. I hesitated reaching in, and then for a moment put my hand to my head, instead. A disorientation, like dizziness, seized me. I shut my eyes hard, then opened them again, blinking, but the peculiar sight remained. I turned to look at the room, at objects in it that appeared normal: the night stand, lamp, my shoes on the floor. Then I turned back, and saw that the double image was a bit wider now. Over an inch out of sync, as if an identical photograph behind the original was being pulled slowly into view.