Someone’s Lucky Day by Julie Brandon

The first thing that Alex saw when she opened her eyes was an older woman looking down at her. She had a concerned look on her face and was pressing a damp cloth against Alex’s forehead.

“Oh, good. You’re awake. Just lie still. I’ve called 911. You’ll be okay.”

Alex closed her eyes again. 911? What the hell was 911? She heard sirens in the distance and remembered. Medics who asked too many questions. She wanted no part of them. Alex struggled to sit up.

“It really would be best if you stayed down. You’ve hit your head.”

Alex looked around to see who the new voice belonged to. A young guy around her age wearing a denim jacket over a black t-shirt and blue jeans knelt beside her.

“I’m fine. I don’t need any medical attention.” Alex gently pushed the woman’s hand away and sat up. Her head swam for a moment. She took a deep breath. “I appreciate your help, but I really need to get going.”

“Are you sure, dear? That’s quite a lump you’ve got there.”

The woman patted Alex’s shoulder. “Thank you but I’ll be fine.” Alex smiled at the woman.

The man held out his hand and helped Alex stand up. “How about I walk with you for a while until you feel steadier?” he asked.

My, my.  He’s a persistent one, Alex thought. “I don’t want to be a bother.”

“No bother. I’m just killing time right now.” He reached down for Alex’s backpack. “My name is Jamie, by the way.”

“Alex.” She held out her hand for her pack. “I’ll take that.” Jamie looked surprised at the weight as he gave it to her.

“What do you have in there, bricks?”

Alex hefted the backpack over her left shoulder. “Seems like that, right?” If only he knew the truth. “I’m okay. I don’t want to take any more of your time.” She turned to go but he grabbed her tightly by the right wrist.

“No, really. I insist on at least buying you a cold drink. You still look a little green around the gills.” 

Alarms started to go off in Alex’s head. Who was this guy and what did he know? If she struggled, it would just bring on more unwanted attention. The instructions were very specific.  Don’t make scenes. Slip in and slip out, nice and quiet. This would have to be played out until she could lose him. “That’s very kind of you. Thanks.”

Holding her firmly by her right elbow, Jamie guided Alex to a bistro with outdoor seating. Since it was the middle of the afternoon, all the tables were empty. Truthfully, she was glad to sit down. Something had gone wrong this time. Her head ached and she wasn’t sure where she had ended up. The only server had gone inside. Jamie followed her into the restaurant. “I’ve got to get out of here,” Alex muttered. She didn’t hear Jamie return. 

“Who are you talking to?” he asked.

“Oh, just myself.” Jamie handed her a cup. Alex took a tentative sip. “It’s delicious. What’s it called?”

Jamie gave her a look. “An Orange Julius. I’m surprised you’ve never had it. It’s very popular around here.”

Alex looked around. “Um, I’m not from here.” She paused. “Where exactly is here?”

“Seriously? You must have hit your head harder than we thought. This is Ft. Lauderdale and that’s the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe we’d better get you to the ER.”

Alex quickly ran through the list she had had to memorize. ER? ER? Oh, Emergency Room. I wish these people didn’t abbreviate everything, Alex thought. “No need. Just a little fuzzy. It’ll pass.”

Jamie took a sip of his drink. “Uh huh. Where are you from?”

Alex paused. “No place you’ve ever heard of.” That wasn’t a lie.

Jamie fiddled with the wrapper from his straw. “This may sound strange, but I don’t remember seeing you until you were lying in the middle of the footpath. It’s like you had just appeared out of thin air.” He made a vague gesture with his hand. “Of course, that’s ridiculous.” 

Alex forced herself to laugh. “It’s a busy park and people get distracted.” At least that was a plausible explanation.

Jamie nodded agreement. “It’s amazing what goes on around us that we don’t notice.” He kept eying her backpack. Alex decided that it was time to leave.

“Thank you for the drink, Jamie. It was very nice of you to care for a stranger, but I must get going.” Alex stood up and reached for her backpack. It was gone. How the hell did that happen?

“Looking for this?” Jamie drawled as he held the backpack in one hand, gently swinging it back and forth. Alex sat back down and put out her hand. If only she could get it from him before he damaged the mechanism.

“Yes, thanks. I didn’t even see you take it. May I have it, please?”

“I wonder what’s in here that’s so important. Can’t be books. Too heavy. Maybe I should open it and see.” He reached for the zipper.

“No!” Alex hadn’t meant to shout. “Please give it back. It’s personal.” She settled back in her chair. Stay calm. See what he wants. Don’t overreact.

“What are you worried about, Alex? Is that even your real name?”  Jamie held the backpack tighter. 

“Is your name really Jamie?”

Jamie smiled. “Why, yes, it is. Why would I lie about that? Tell me, Alex, do you know the date?”

The date. Oh, shit. She hadn’t had time to find out the date. Now she was screwed. “Nope. I always lose track of time when I’m on vacation. What day is it? Tuesday?”

Jamie laughed. “Just as I thought. Not only don’t you know where, you also don’t know when it is.” Jamie paused. “This is shaping up to be my lucky day.”

Alex held out her hand again. “Look, I don’t know what you think is going on, but I want you to hand me my backpack now. Then, I’m going to get up and leave. Don’t follow me.”

Jamie laughed again. It wasn’t a pleasant sound. “What are you going to do if I don’t? Call the police? Somehow, I don’t think they’d understand why a woman with no ID is carrying around what looks to be a bomb in a black backpack.”

Alex took a deep breath. “A bomb? That’s absurd. I do not have a bomb.” Damn it. She was caught. The team would never come and retrieve her. They made that perfectly clear. She was on her own. “What do you want?”

“Why, the mechanism, of course. I would have thought that was obvious.”

“Are you an inspector?” Alex blurted out. “If so, why not just take me back and cut the crap?”

Jamie snorted. “An inspector? God, no. They’re just tools of the corrupt government. I’m a traveler like you.”

Alex just stared at him. “Well, then why all the bullshit? I don’t understand.”

Jamie leaned forward. “I bet they didn’t tell you that sometimes someone gets left behind. I came with a partner, but he ditched me when things got complicated. I’ve been waiting for another traveler to arrive. You just fell into my lap. Perfect.”

Alex just shook her head. “I don’t believe it. It would be too dangerous to stay here.  Eventually you’d be missed by the time trackers back home. If you were left, how have you survived?”

Jamie sighed. “It hasn’t been easy. There’s a whole segment of society that flies under the radar.  I weaseled my way into a few people’s good graces which meant doing things I never thought I would.”

Left behind. Alex couldn’t even imagine how that would feel. “What about the tracker?” She glanced at the small glowing implant in her right wrist. Jamie held out his right wrist. Alex could see the implant, but there was no familiar glow.

“After a while, it loses power. Yours will, too.”

Alex stood up. “Oh, no. I’m not getting stuck here. I must get back. They’re already watching me. My supervisor thinks that I’m at lunch. Hand over the pack.”

“Do you really think I’m going to let this opportunity pass?” Jamie pulled out a pistol from his jacket pocket and pointed it at her.

“Okay, let’s just calm down. No need for violence, right?” She sat back down.

Jamie chuckled. “In fact, this is the perfect time for violence. Don’t worry. I’ll leave you the weapon. You’re going to need it.”

Alex slowly raised her hands. “I’m not staying here. Why don’t I adjust the mechanism and we’ll both go back? That seems simple.”

Jamie still hadn’t let go of the backpack. “Do you know how to change the settings from one person to two? They’re very sensitive. We could both be killed if it isn’t done just right.”

“As a matter of fact, I do. I wanted to understand it fully before traveling.”

“Why should I trust you?” Jamie asked.

Alex shrugged. “Because I’m your only hope. What year is it? How long have you been here?”

Jamie hung his head. “Too long. I really want to go home. This place is barbaric. It’s 1988. The music is awful.”  Jamie grimaced. “‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’. And you should see the food they eat. Something disgusting called fast food. Animal flesh fried in grease.” He shuddered.

Alex held out her hand again. “Then let me make the necessary adjustments and we can both go. I would never leave you here. I promise.” Jamie stared at her for a moment. He handed her the backpack and put the gun down on the table.

Alex unzipped the bag and began adjusting the settings. “Okay, that should do it. Ready?”

Jamie looked around. “Shouldn’t we go somewhere less conspicuous?”

Alex scanned the street. It was quiet, and people rarely notice what’s going on around them. “I think we’ll be fine. Give me your right hand.” When he did, Alex pushed the final button that would fully power the mechanism. As she held onto Jamie’s wrist, his implant began to glow.

He tried to pull his hand away. “Wait. What are you doing? You’re not a traveler. Let go of me.” He looked around wildly. “Where’s my gun?”

“That ancient thing? I neutralized it. You really did go native, didn’t you? I came here to find you and you just fell into my lap. I’ll get a commendation for this, maybe even a promotion.”

Jamie struggled to break free. “An inspector. You’re a goddamned inspector. Stupid bitch. I trusted you.”

Alex shook her head. “Tut tut. Such language. Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to trust strangers? It’ll be good to get you back home. You really shouldn’t have run. We’ll always find you.” Alex gave Jamie a big smile. “I do believe that it’s my lucky day.”

The server looked around. She thought that she’d heard a scream, but no one was there. She shrugged and went back to her book.


About the Author

Julie Brandon is a poet, playwright, lyricist and writer of all things. Her work has been published in Corner Bar Magazine, Awakenings Review, Bewildering Stories, Poetica Magazine, Shemom, Mini Plays Review, Love’s Last Chance, Detangled Brains, The Jewish Writing Project, Am Yisrael Chai, vol. 1 & 2. and the poetry collection, “To Write of Love During War”. Several plays have been produced and published. Julie lives in a Chicago suburb.


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