Home > Time's Edge (The Chronos Files #2)

Time's Edge (The Chronos Files #2)
Rysa Walker

∞1∞

DALLAS, TEXAS

November 22, 1963, 12:05 p.m.

A pungent whiff of rotting fish hits my nostrils before my eyes open. I guess the stench explains the cats that wandered in and out of my field of vision each time I previewed this jump site over the past few days. Two of them, a scrawny orange tabby and a long-haired white cat with a torn left ear, hiss and watch me warily from the top of the large gray Dempster Dumpster directly behind me. A hand-lettered sign on the front reads “School Book Depository Use Only,” but the fish bones and vegetable scraps around the bin suggest that at least one local restaurant owner either can’t read or doesn’t care.

The awful smell is undoubtedly why CHRONOS made this a stable point in the first place. No sane person would willingly venture within a hundred feet. A historian or two appearing out of nowhere would be noticed only by the cats.

I scan the faces in the photograph one last time and then tuck both the picture and my CHRONOS key under my sweater as I hurry down Houston Street. Turning at Elm, I head toward the R. L. Thornton Freeway Keep Right sign. A crowd is starting to gather along the road. The motorcade is only about ten minutes away, which means this jump is cutting it much too close for comfort, but the minutes leading up to the shooting are the only time I can predict with anything close to certainty where my grandparents will be.

There are no fewer than seven stable points within a five-block radius, a testament to the enduring power of conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s assassination, even in the 2300s. I’ve tried three of those stable points already, and at this precise moment, three other versions of me are walking toward Dealey Plaza—one from Market Street, one from Main Street, and one from Record Street. The Kate on Main Street is even wearing this same sweater and blouse, with the silly Peter Pan collar, but about a minute from now, she’ll get hemmed in by the crowd, and at twelve thirty, when the shots ring out in the plaza, she’ll be a full block away. The other two Kates won’t find Timothy and Evelyn Winslow either.

As I near the plaza, which is really just a small park with a white pergola perched on top of the hill, a young couple and two small boys stop in front of me. The older child, who is maybe four, has a tight grip on the skirt of his mother’s red jumper. The littlest guy is sitting atop his dad’s shoulders, both chubby hands grasping the collar of the man’s plaid shirt. The boy leans his small blond head backward to view the world upside down and looks surprised when he sees me a few feet behind him.

His dad is nodding toward a triangular patch of grass in the median area across Elm Street.

“But . . . maybe we should just stay over on this side, Bill?” The woman appears to be in her early twenties, and her voice is squeaky-high, with a heavy southern drawl. “Over there, we got two streets to worry about them runnin’ into traffic. If we stay here, they can play on the grass while we wait.”

The dad swings the toddler from his shoulders in a smooth, practiced arc and sets him down on the infamous grassy knoll. He catches my eye as he stands up and gives me a shy grin, looking a bit like a shorter-haired version of the young Elvis Presley. A shiver runs down my spine. I’m not sure why, and then I realize these people are the Newmans, the family from the images and videos I’ve been studying online, who will soon have a front-row seat to the assassination. They’ll be swarmed by the media after the shooting, dozens of reporters snapping photos as the parents lie on the grass, their bodies shielding the kids from the chaos.

I’ve apparently stared for a moment too long, because Newman and his wife exchange a confused look. I give them a nervous half smile and then push past, hurrying toward the concrete steps that lead up to the pergola.

A picket fence and some large trees camouflage the much less picturesque view of a packed-dirt parking lot behind the plaza. Most of the trees are still green, even in late November, but a few are beginning to shed their reddish-gold leaves. Three or four people are walking around near the fence. I keep reminding myself to just look for the powder-blue Ford Fairlane. Still, I can’t help but notice a young guy with a thin mustache looking out over the grass embankment and staring intently toward the street, his left leg twitching slightly. He’s leaning against the fence and smoking a cigarette. It’s too warm for the jacket he’s wearing—could that bulge in his pocket be a pistol? And that shaded space between the tree and the fence could definitely hide a rifle . . .

I shake my head, pulling my attention back to the more important issue, and finally locate the car that I glimpsed briefly from the sidewalk on my last jump, just before shots filled the air and ended any chance I had of getting close to the plaza. The Fairlane is parked about twenty-five yards away, behind a dirty red truck with a flat front tire.

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