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XIII. Charged

1.

“You couldn’t do it by yourself,” said Lilah. The two Henrys were sitting side by side on a newly-created couch. The tower room was sealed and cloaked and everything else Lilah thought of, and Annelise put a time space prevent over her time prevent. The two men, looking like different-age twins, were ceased and held and sealed down. They looked glum. “Not the second thing. You could do the first thing. That was bad enough.”

“Me?” asked the older Henry.

“No, you,” said Lilah. “Mister Henry Two. You couldn’t stand that Andre had taken your young fiancée Lucy from you, so you used a spell to reach back in time and murder Andre as a child.”

“I was saving what was mine,” said Henry 2, the younger one. “I admit the means was brutal.”

“But even as I abhor my younger self’s action toward an innocent child,” said Henry 1, “I must point out that there is no law in this area, and he cannot be held accountable to any court, because there is no duly constituted authority, unless you’re the Olvar Constabulary, and you’re not.”

“Listen,” she said in a voice they found calming, “you, young Henry, Mister Two, you murdered a three-year-old. If you want to argue that, then argue it. No?” They both put their heads down. “Up to now, Henry 1 has nothing to do with it. His Lucy was thirty-five, and turned Andre down. But Henry 2 is sitting there by himself in his parents’ attic, after murdering a toddler, and he realizes that even though the history he’s in has no Andre, there’s another history out there in which Andre doesn’t die as a child, because that Andre is a real person whom he has actually met. This is not abstract. That’s what you realized.”

“Yes, yes,” said Henry 2. “Many people know Andre. Goatee, radical trash talk, can’t keep his pants buttoned. I know him. And if I know him, then he came from somewhere, right? That history makes as much sense as this one.”

“And in that history, you lose Lucy to Andre.”

“It is foul,” said Henry 2, “just foul that he should even get a second look from her. It is foul.”

“I suppose it occurred to you that it’s not for you to decide.”

“So how did Henry 1 get involved?” asked Annelise.

“Henry 2, living in his folks’ attic, murderer of a toddler, is just in his last year at the Olvar Institute. That spell George mentioned, the one that lets you kill someone across time, that much he can manage. But he’s not going to be able to crank out the machinery he would need to do the thing he really wants to do. So he starts looking around for someone who can help him, someone he can trust. And he finds his way into the history from which Andre came to seduce young Lucy, the one where the older Lucy turned Andre down.”

“And that’s Henry 1,” said Rob.

“Yes. The perfect accomplice. Henry 1 also has a grudge against Andre: his Lucy didn’t run away, but he was sure she was tempted. True? False?”

Henry 1 looked at her, then grumbled, “True, true, what of it.”

“And the thought of actually eliminating a whole history, of making it never to have happened.” She stopped. “Never to have happened,” she said slowly. “Yeah, that’s right tense. Don’t you think? How convenient that Henry Number One studied temporal alchemy.”

“It was bloody convenient,” said Henry 1. “He used me.”

“What?”

“That grant,” said Rob. “He had a mysterious long-term grant.”

“Keep talking,” said Lilah.

“You need to understand,” Henry 1 broke in. “Lucy told me what had happened, told me she was tempted but would never, ever. Ever. And five years later, I’m working in my lab, and he shows up. No mysterious letters, no weird dreams, just, hello, I’m your younger self, I’ve lost Lucy, can you make that not happen?”

“Thank you,” said Henry 2.

“But he spoke and I came around to his point of view. May the Gods help me.”

“Don’t ask me to put in a good word,” said Lilah.

“Detective Bay,” said Henry 1, “if you wake from a dream, do the people you dreamed of die? We collapsed an entire family of histories. Those people never existed. They didn’t die in pain and despair. They just never existed.”

“That’s not better,” said Lilah. “But never mind, because I’m pretty sure the worms took their time chewing through reality. I was there.”

“Those worms—?” asked Annelise.

“Well, maybe I can explain that,” said Lilah.

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