Copyright Mark R Morris Jr
All rights reserved, 2016
“Okay, Mrs. Fogarty, let’s go over this again,” Daniel McCulloch had been in Luanne Fogarty’s brownstone for over an hour already, since she’d called in a theft report to the second precinct of the Metropolitan Police. Although he’d seen nearly everything in his 25 years on the force, Luanne Fogarty always managed to make his day more interesting in ways that made for great stories afterward, but were mostly a big waste of time.
“Right, I got home about eleven from my hot yoga class, it’s called that because they heat up the room, you know and not because it’s sexy, because it’s really not, trust me, forty menopausal women, in a room, in workout gear, sweating! That’s when I noticed it was missing,” Luanne Fogarty was a visual talker, she gestured, she nodded, she “emoted” with facial expressions that had to be seen to be believed and here she screwed her face into something that could only be described as unpleasant.
Patrick Flannel, McCulloch’s new trainee was doing his best to keep up, taking notes furiously. He said he wanted to be a writer, and McCulloch hoped he was paying attention, because you can’t write this stuff.
“Your cat, was missing?” McCulloch asked.
Mrs. Fogarty smiled, patiently, “No, well, yes, but not exactly. It’s shaped like a cat.”
“What is?” officer Flannel asked, pencil poised to record the answer.
“My house stop.” Mrs. Fogarty said, she offered both officers more tea, McCulloch refused, Flannel accepted. She dealt cookies like a blackjack dealer from across the room, landing them neatly on the real china plates that each officer held.
“Your door stop, you mean?” this from McCulloch. He knew that getting Mrs. Fogarty to clarify the details was where the story got interesting.
“No,” she smiled sweetly, as if at a small child who was missing the point, “My house stop. It stops the house.”
Flannel looked puzzled, McCulloch hid his grin with a sip of tea, “From what?”
Luanne Fogarty was the neighborhood eccentric. The department would have stopped responding to her calls in person long ago, if it weren’t for her generous support of the policeman’s auxiliary programs. She had once called in to report that aliens had been peeping in on her through her third floor windows. While the official story was that the old lady must have seen a plastic sack blowing in the wind, where it had caught on a power line. There were reports of other odd things that night and McCulloch was inclined to think she had seen something more, but wasn’t able to explain it.
Luanne Fogarty sighed, she disliked having to get into the details, because it had ended with a 48 hour psych hold on two occasions, although the doctors she’d met on both occasions thought she just might be the most sane person they’d ever met. “Well, that’s hard to say. Last time it drifted,” she said.
Now it was getting interesting. “Right, so, you want us to get your ‘house stop’ back to stop it drifting?” McCulloch said.
“No, not exactly, I more called because I’m concerned for the thieves,” Mrs. Fogarty took a bite from a cookie, “the last time someone took Max, that’s my house stop, they ended up in a transdimensional time loop and missed the entire eighth grade.”
Flannel glanced at his trainer, McCulloch, for his part, pasted a serious expression on his face and kept his eyes glued to Mrs. Fogarty. He could see Flannel coming unwound out of the corner of his eye.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Fogarty, did you just say transdimensional time loop?” Flannel grinned, “you’re joking, right?”
Mrs. Fogarty’s brows lowered, “No, I’d never joke about time loops, I spent early 1981 and a good bit of 1980 caught in one, it’s very tiring. I know Bill Murray made it look like fun to relive the same day over and over, but let me tell you, it’s not.”
“Wait, are you talking about Groundhog Day, the movie?” Flannel asked. He set his cup down and looked at his pencil. McCulloch could see the gears turning, “So, you think that movie was real?”
“No silly, it was obviously a work of fiction,” Mrs. Fogarty smiled.
“So you know Bill Murray didn’t actually experience the same day over and over because that would make you…” Patrick Flannel got a deer in then headlights look. “I mean..”
“Crazy? No dear, I assure you I’m not. It’s a scientifically proven fact. Of course Mr. Murray didn’t experience those events firsthand, it was based on someone else’s life.”
Flannel collapsed, “Okay, McCulloch, is this some kind of prank? I’ve heard what you’ve done to your other trainees. I’m a good sport, this is hilarious, but…”
McCulloch turned to officer Flannel and smiled, “It would be a great prank, I grant you, but no, it’s not. Please complete the interview.”
Patrick Flannel sighed again, “Okay,” he referenced his notes, “Could you please describe the ‘house stop’ for me?”
“Certainly, it’s a sort of ‘existential anchor’ if you will. It keeps my dwelling firmly planted in this dimensional reality. Otherwise, it has a tendency to wander,” she said, then wiped her mouth on a napkin.
“Right, having to do with existence in the physical world, Patrick, ‘reality’ if you will,” Daniel McCulloch was thoroughly enjoying himself.
“I know what ‘existential’ means, I have a bachelor’s degree in literature. Pardon me for saying, I’ve never heard of an existential anchor. What I actually meant was, can you describe the object you believe was stolen, in physical terms?” Patrick Flannel set his tea cup and cookie plate aside and set forward, pencil and pad in hand.
Luanne Fogarty smiled, she reached behind her and picked up a small picture frame, “Here is Max, in his current form. In this dimension, he typically takes on the form of a cement cat statue about twice the size of a housecat.”
“In this dimension?” officer Flannel said.
“Yes, before Max anchored this dwelling, he existed in many different forms,” Mrs. Fogarty said.
Officer Patrick Flannel closed his notebook, McCulloch put down his cup, he didn’t want to miss this, it looked like Flannel was ready to play along and he wanted to make sure he got every word correct when he told the story later.
“Mrs. Fogarty, we will keep a lookout for Max, but I’m afraid if he’s been taken out of this dimension that is out of our jurisdiction,” he smiled at Mrs. Fogarty and looked to his trainer for approval.
“Well, not so fast, officer Flannel, as it turns out, we do have jurisdiction,” McCulloch said, “Mrs. Fogarty, can you explain?”
“Certainly, it’s like this, you are currently existing in multiple dimensions in the exact same time and space. You can’t see these other dimensions, but as yours is a geographical jurisdiction, they are still within your purview, “ she said, sipping her tea.
A phone rang from another room and Luanne Fogarty excused herself to answer it. Patrick watched her leave, then shifted to see when she came back.
“Sergeant, with all due respect, this is way outside my comfort zone here. I didn’t learn anything to prepare me for this in the academy,” officer Flannel said, turning to McCulloch, “In my opinion, Mrs. Fogarty should have a psych eval to make sure she’s not a danger to herself, or others.”
“It’s been done. Twice,” McCulloch said, “my experience with Mrs. Fogarty would suggest you keep an open mind. There may be more than one possible explanation here. Have you considered that she’s not crazy, that she is, in fact, telling the truth?”
Patrick grinned, stupidly, “Oh, now you are pranking me! Are you recording this? What the hell is going on here?”
Daniel McCulloch sighed, he’d hoped that Patrick’s more philosophical background would make this easier, but it was looking like he might go rogue. “I’ll make you a deal. Sit with me on this one. Don’t bail out. See it through and lunch is on me, anywhere you want to go.”
“Alright. You’re on. I play your little game here, you buy lunch, right?”
From the next room, Mrs. Fogarty’s voice could be heard, “I’ll let them know. Thanks.” She reentered the room. “That was a friend of mine, the boys who took Max have turned up as I suspected, in another dimension. Now, where were we?”
“Well, Mrs. Fogarty, if that’s all that was missing, it seems our business may be concluded here,” Patrick Flannel stood, hat in hand. He put his notebook and pencil into his breast pocket.
“There is one more thing,” Mrs. Fogarty said. “I didn’t want to mention, because it’s a bit more unusual, but as long as you’re here. My neighbor is a terrorist.”
Patrick Flannel rolled his eyes, he turned to Sergeant McCulloch, pleadingly.
“Patrick will be happy to take your statement, Mrs. Fogarty, and then we’ll be off to lunch.” McCulloch said.
Officer Patrick Flannel sighed and returned to his seat on the sofa, “What makes you suspect your neighbor, Mrs. Fogarty?”
“Well, he’s been testing nuclear weapons in his backyard,” she replied.
“Nuclear weapons? Really? What type of nuclear weapons?” officer Flannel asked, with more than a hint of sarcasm.
“Well, the last one was plutonium based, but he’s almost finished with his cold fusion generator and once that’s online, it’s likely to leak over into our present dimension. Someone really should do something about it. I’ve called Homeland Security, but they were not interested,” Luanne Fogarty looked positively fierce, as if she were challenging officer Flannel to contradict her.
Patrick paused, “That sounds serious. Do you have any evidence?”
Mrs. Fogarty crossed the room to a narrow door and opened it, flipping a light switch on the wall, “Yes, it’s in the basement.”
She started down the stairs and after a brief glance at McCulloch, who nodded toward the door, Patrick Flannel headed into the basement, unsure now, if this was a prank, or something much darker.
The basement was surprisingly well lit and stark white. It was tiled from floor to ceiling and drop ceiling panels had been installed throughout, giving the room the look and feel of a laboratory of some sort. A large stainless steel counter ran along the walls and various scientific instruments filled shelves higher up on the walls. At one end was a large monitor, with a computer keyboard. Mrs. Fogarty seated herself there.
“Here are the radiation readouts from Tuesday. That was 24 hours after the testing, the next time I was in his dimension long enough to get a solid reading. Eight times higher than safe, and that’s with my shielding in place,” She showed him a readout.
Patrick Flannel knew nothing about radiation, but the woman was beginning to sound credible, which was troubling to him. He suspected something may have been slipped into his tea. Mrs. Fogarty printed off a copy of the readout for him to take back as part of his report and they headed back upstairs.
“So, tell me something, what happens when your ‘existential anchor’ is missing,” he said.
“The house tends to fall into a dimensional drift,” Mrs. Fogarty answered.
“But, surely this house is at least a hundred years old. Someone would have noticed it missing from time to time,” Patrick said. He seemed determined to catch her in some small detail and prove her wrong.
“Well, as your Sergeant asked me to explain, you can be in more than one dimension at a time. Most of us are only ever aware of one at a time,” Luanne Fogarty was a very patient woman, and Patrick was not her first detractor.
“Describe it to me,” officer Flannel said, preparing to write, “dimensional drift, what’s it like?”
Mrs. Fogarty sighed and returned to her seat, “Well, there was a movie called Jumanji, came out when my daughter was young. The sequel showed it best, ‘Zathura’ I think it was called. When the house floats out into space. It’s like that.”
Patrick Flannel laughed out loud, “So, now your house travels through space as well?” he said, his tone becoming more snide by the word, “Tell me, how do you manage that, with the vacuum of space and all?”
“Don’t be rude, Patrick Flannel, I’m trying to explain this to you. Of course my house doesn’t float out into space, first, it would never survive leaving the earth’s atmosphere, and as you mentioned, I wouldn’t be able to survive if it did. It’s an inner space thing. The house, never leaves it’s current geographical position, it just drops into a different dimensional plane.”
“Patrick, I think you owe Mrs. Fogarty an apology. She’s trying to educate you and your hostility is out of line,” McCulloch said.
Patrick Flannel stood up, “Pardon me, Mrs. Fogarty, I apologize. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to get to back to the station. I think Sergeant McCulloch can handle this better than me.”
He turned and walked to the front door. “Thank you for your hospitality,” he said.
Mrs. Fogarty stood up, “I don’t think you should open that until they’ve returned Max,” she said.
But Patrick Flannel had had enough, he opened the door and stepped out, turning as he went. His scream echoed up into the house and as the door swung back shut, McCulloch caught a glimpse of the pure black void outside the door.
“Oh, dear, we’ve lost another one. I did try to warn him,” Mrs. Fogarty said.
McCulloch sipped his tea, “He’ll be back, they always are.”