Nor was he ever going to see Colleen Monahan again.
Fastening the belt on the robe, he looked from Jan Chen to Pilgrim, and asked them: “Who did shoot me? On that second try?”
Jan looked at Pilgrim, letting him answer. He said: “Whoever it was really did you a favor, you know.”
“Yes, I know. I was wondering whether that was what they had in mind.”
“I would doubt it.”
“It wasn’t you, then, or any of your agents?”
It was not.
“Then I suppose it was Colleen Monahan.”
“In fact it was.”
“And she was really trying to kill me.”
“Oh, undoubtedly. What she had seen, and had heard from you, convinced her that you were involved in a plot to kill the President. You and Booth came bursting into the Presidential box together. She was there in the theater, you see, upon her own initiative—”
“I know about that. I just wish I’d had the chance to try to explain… never mind.” He paused. “What happened to her, historically?”
Pilgrim appeared to be trying to remember. “She created only a negligible ripple in the flow of history. After the assassination, she kept quiet about any suspicions she might have had. Married a Union veteran in eighteen sixty-six. Died of yellow fever, as I recall, in eighteen sixty-seven.”
“Oh.” But Jerry was not, he was not, going to think about that woman now. She had been dead for almost a century before Jerry Flint was born.
Jerry drew a deep breath and changed the subject. Something of his old anger was returning. “On the night I left here, the figure I saw in the next room moved.”
“Yes, of course,” Pilgrim admitted. “The simulacrum. As a sleeper might move, no more than that. Am I correct?”
“Correct,” Jerry admitted.
“The simulacrum had bones and muscles—even nerves, of a sort. No real brain, I assure you. Gray organic boilerplate, lacking the potential for consciousness.”
“I thought it—he—was asleep.” Jerry shook his head, marveling. “I thought I had seen Abe Lincoln sleeping in the room next to mine. I mean—an absolute dead ringer. I thought I was going crazy. Or you were trying to drive me nuts.”
“I hope you will be careful,” said Jan Chen, sounding vaguely horrified. “He doesn’t like to be called Abe. Even by old friends, which you really are not.”
“Mr. Lincoln. The former President. He’s sleeping in the next room now, under mild sedation.”
It took Jerry a moment to grasp what she was saying. “And the simulacrum is… ?”
“Buried,” said Pilgrim, “under twelve tons of concrete and a lot of granite and bronze statues, in Oak Ridge Cemetery.”
Jerry turned away from both of them and went to the window. The curtains were half closed, and he drew them wide. He looked out past nearby Mac bushes in spring bloom, across muddy fields to where a tractor was laboring in the distance, pulling new machinery.
Something, a distorted, smaller-than-adult-human figure, ran across the yard on two legs and disappeared. He thought it had been wearing some kind of helmet.
Then Jerry turned back to face the two people who were in the room with him. “All right,” he said. “You’ve brought me back to the twentieth century. And you’ve brought yourself back. I suppose you’d be able to bring Lincoln too, once he wasn’t—needed there any more. What happens to him now? Why are you doing this? Who are you? And what is that damned thing that just now ran across your yard?”
“That ‘damned thing’, as you describe it,” said Pilgrim cooly, “is one of my shipmates. The name by which you know me is not my original nomen, but neither is it a random choice, believe me. I am a poor wayfaring stranger in this world, and my one wish is to go home.”
“Go home. And where is that?”
“Long ago, as the saying has it, and far away. So remote in time and space from where we are now that even to begin the explanation would involve another story entirely.”
Jerry swiveled his gaze to Jan Chen. “And you?”
“Just a local recruit,” she told him, almost shyly. “Twentieth-century American, like yourself. When I was offered the chance of really meeting Lincoln—well, I would have killed to get this job.” Jerry, somehow, found it easy to believe her.
“As for what we are really going to do with Lincoln, as you put it,” Pilgrim continued, “I am going to present him with a set of choices.”
“Yes. And when he understands the facts, I do not think his lawyer’s mind will conclude that he was kidnapped, or blame us for pulling him out of the bullet’s path.
“One of his choices will be to proceed to the twenty-third century, where some of his countrymen are anxious to meet him. Mr. Helpman—remember?—is their representative. Indeed, it is their opinion that they need your sixteenth President desperately.”
Jan Chen took over the explanation. “In return for our bringing Mr. Lincoln to them,” she added brightly, “they’re providing Dr. Pilgrim with something he needs for his ship. In order to get home. Olivia—you remember the lady you talked with before you left?—is sort of like a social worker, helping him get home. That’s how she explained it to me,” she added quickly, when Pilgrim turned a look on her.
” ‘Social worker’ ” Pilgrim repeated, bemusedly.
“Parole officer?” Jan ventured timidly.
“I remember Olivia,” said Jerry, and closed his eyes and rubbed them. “Where does she come from?”
“You wouldn’t know the place,” Pilgrim muttered. ” ‘Social worker’,” he repeated under his breath, as if he found that description fascinating.
“So,” Jerry asked, “why do these twenty-third century people think that they need Lincoln? Can’t they solve their own problems?” Again he saw that tired, sallow, bearded face, as he had seen it several times at close range. There had been a definite contentment in that countenance despite its weariness; the satisfaction of a man who was finishing a long race and now expected to be able to rest.
“Their reasons,” said Pilgrim, “will be for Mr. Lincoln to hear—when he is ready—and for him to evaluate. I am not free to tell you about them. I will say that I expect the President to find their offer extremely interesting. At any rate, he is here in the twentieth century now and cannot go back to Fords Theater. Will you help us welcome him to his new life? It should give you valuable practice.”
“In teaching nineteenth-century folk about the marvels of the twentieth.”
“And why should I need practice in that?”
“Oh, did I forget to mention it?” Pilgrim’s eyes gleamed wickedly. “We decided to bring out another person, too, before we removed our probes from Ford’s Theater. A young lady whose violent behavior would otherwise have created some problems taking the form of paradox, threatening to undermine our results. Only a couple of years’ future for her anyway in the nineteenth century and no demand at all in the twenty-third. Perhaps you would do me one more favor, my young friend, and help her to find a niche in this one?—but easy, easy, you may see her presently. She needs her sleep right now. But Mr. Lincoln I think is ready to wake up.”
No more than a minute later the three of them, Jerry, Pilgrim, and Jan Chen, were walking into the next bedroom. Unlike the room in which Jerry had awakened, this one had been elaborately refurnished since the night of his departure. Here the furnishings, including even some new panelling on the walls, had been chosen to recreate a reasonably authentic room of the nineteenth century.
Abraham Lincoln was lying in the old brass-framed bed, most of his body under a white coarse sheet and a handmade quilt. He was wearing a white nightshirt, and he appeared to be in the first stages of a gradual awakening.
The sixteenth President raised himself a little, rubbing his dark-graying tousled hair with a powerful hand, and looked in a puzzled way at the three people who had entered the room to stand respectfully at the foot of the bed. He seemed to be waiting for one of them to speak.
It was Jerry, acting on impulse, who opened his mouth first. “Good morning, Mr. President. Last night an attempt was made upon your life. But you are safe now. We are your friends.”