Beren and Luthien—er, Geronimo and Ruby—settled down, spending most of their time outside Los Angeles on a little ranch in the California hills that Geronimo ran like a proper hidalgo. They had two children, Rodolfo—Rudy to his friends—and Charlotte. But everyone called her Charlie.
Temperance spent time in the finest boarding schools, and only got kicked out of one of them. She could shoot like an Olympian, sail like a pirate, and was already interested in learning how to fly a plane. Most of the time she lived with Captain Murphy and his new wife, the former Karen Eliot.
Jimmy had vanished. They followed him as best they could, tracking the withdrawals and deposits of a secret account he had access to. Ruby kept a bulletin board in her office with all the stories of mysterious strangers showing up in the nick of time to save people from dangers that seemed almost supernatural. Many had a picture of a man hunching to get out of the camera shot, or as if he carried the weight of the world on his back, hurrying away from the scene.
The 1942 holiday party that the Greys threw was a somber affair. Many of the guests attended in brand new Army or Navy dress uniforms. It was only five weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but already there was an ominous sense that it might be the last time many of them would see each other.
Ruby was astonished to see Jimmy slip in, accompanied by a couple of M.P.s. She embraced him tightly.
“Stay here,” she said. “I’ll go get the others.”
Jimmy noticed that she limped.
“Good to see you, son,” said Senator Grey, walking up and pumping his hand. “There’s a man from the War Department wants to see you, but get settled first. Everything’s changing now. I get to like FDR publicly now. You’re looking good. I like the scar.”
Millicent walked by and handed Jimmy a double bourbon without a word. Mirabelle chased after her. She grabbed Jimmy’s shoulder as she went by. “Hello, James,” she whispered. “By the way, dad says hi.”
Jimmy drifted over to the edge of the room. Suddenly he stopped and turned around slowly.
“Hello, Janet,” he said.
“Jimmy. How nice of you to wander in from the cold.”
“I read your ‘novel’.”
“They’re thinking of making a movie, if they can get the right director. And special effects.”
“Tentacles?” he said with a grin.
“Turns out it really is difficult to get them to undulate.”
“How have you been?”
“Dad died last year. Guess you couldn’t make the funeral. Tell me, you still have that ring, or did you sell it?”
She didn’t throw her drink in his face before stalking off, but he flinched as if she had.
Someone tapped him on his shoulder from behind. He sighed and turned around. A nondescript man of average height and build, with grey hair, grey eyes, and a grey suit, was standing stiffly in front of him.
“Are you James Wright?” the man said.
“If I said no, will you believe me?”
The man considered this for a moment. “No. You are James Wright. You have knowledge of the Great Race of Yith.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes, I have.”
“Allow me to introduce myself. I am Kakakatak. I understand you had some dealings with a different branch of me at one point. That branch’s activities during the Great Temporal Crisis were noted with approval in the collective.”
“I must ask for a certain object that branch transported backward in time to give to you. Against all regulations, I might add. I’m not usually so loose on rules. That branch clearly fell under the bad influence of someone. The dagger, please.”
Jimmy handed him the ibis-headed Dagger of Thoth.
“Thank you,” said Kakakatak. “I will put it back where it will be. It is a shame that I don’t remember you much. Thus is temporal mechanics. Your tiny human brain would not understand.”
He held out his hand. Jimmy shook it. Kakakatak’s face took on an unusual expression, as if he was shocked to discover something. “Goodbye…old friend.”
He limply let go of Jimmy’s hand.
“See you again,” said Jimmy.
“Oh. I was left a message by myself to place a call for you. You should pick up that phone.” The grey man turned and walked away, quickly vanishing into the crowd.
There was an extension phone on a little table nearby. Jimmy picked up the receiver.
“Hold please,” said the operator. “One moment for Manhattan, Kansas.”
He listened to the static of the long distance lines for a while.
“Auckland residence,” said a woman’s voice suddenly in the receiver. “Who’s calling please?”
“My name is James Wright.”
“And who are you calling for?”
“I’m Elizabeth, yes.”
“Oh,” said Jimmy. He sat down on the floor next to the table. “Have you…have you ever thought of becoming a private investigator?”
“That’s a strange question,” Betty said nonchalantly. “I’m finishing up school now, and I’m in the 4H marksmanship group…I’m hoping to go to the University of Chicago next year, maybe get my degree in languages or…anthropology. I think I’d like to see the world a bit too.”
“Well. You keep up the good work.”
“All right. You sound like a very strange man…but a good one. Now that’s an odd thing for me to say this time.”
“Reminds me. You should look into reading Tropic of Cancer.”
“Sure, I read that. This girl I know at school gave it to me. Sorry, but I have to go mister. It’s time to feed the pigs.”
“Have a good life,” said Jimmy softly, and hung up.
[On the recording there’s some laughter at that line, but let me tell you…this is what I roleplay for. JP did a wonderful job this whole episode of conveying Jimmy’s utter collapse, and then capped it off with this beautifully understated scene.]