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Authors: James L. Rubart

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BOOK: The Five Times I Met Myself
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There wasn’t a photo of his dad and him on the wall. There were three. Three framed pictures of them holding king salmon almost too big to lift.

“Morning.” Karissa walked into his den, her dark-brown hair still wet from her shower. “How’d you sleep?”

Brock whirled and pointed at the photos while his eyes stayed locked on Karissa.

“What is this?”

“What is what?”

“Did you do this? And if you did, why? And if you didn’t, who did?”

“Do what?” Karissa strolled over and looked in the direction Brock pointed.

“Put up two more photos. Of my dad and me.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Maybe I’m losing my mind, or maybe it’s my eyesight, but I’m seeing three pictures of Dad and me from that trip we took to Alaska.”

“Yes.” Karissa gave him a funny smile. “One photo for each year you went seems like a pretty good use of wall space to me.”

“What did you say?” Heat seeped into Brock’s face. “Each year?”

Karissa shuffled over to the leather chair next to Brock’s desk and settled into it. “Are you okay?”

“I only went to Alaska with my dad once. In 1986. I didn’t go again.”

“What are you doing?”

“What do you mean—”

“Those trips are three of your most treasured memories. A time where you really connected with your dad.” Karissa’s face grew concerned. “Again, are you okay?”

The dream from last night washed over Brock again. The conversation he’d had with his younger self. Brock gave tiny shakes of his head. Not possible.

“Am I still dreaming?” He rubbed his eyes and blinked.

“I don’t think so.”

“It’s the only answer.”

“To?”

“I went only once. There’s never been more than one picture of Dad and me on that wall.”

“There’ve always been three.” Karissa lightly touched his hand. “What’s going on, Brock?”

“How is this possible? That conversation I had . . .” Brock let his head flop back against his chair. “How could it have worked? It wasn’t real. It was just a dream.”

“What worked? What’s not possible?”

He sat up straight and took Karissa by the shoulders. “A lucid dream. Last night. I talked to myself last night, Karissa. In my dream. I told myself to never miss an Alaskan fishing trip with my dad, no matter how crazy life gets.”

“Are you saying you don’t remember going on those trips? That you only remember going on one?” Karissa pulled away and stood.

“Yes.”

“And you think what you told yourself in a dream changed things?” She looked at him like he was crazy.

“Yes! I mean no.” He fixed his eyes on her. “I don’t know.”

“You’re scaring me.” Karissa’s breathing quickened. “I think you need to drop the lucid dreaming thing. Give the book back to Morgan.”

“I’m not losing it here. I’m fine. But I swear I didn’t go on two more trips.”

She looked at him for ten seconds before responding. “I’m not saying you’re nuts, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to talk to a doctor.”

Brock stared at her as a slow smile rose to his face. “That’s exactly what I’m going to do. Try to talk to the only doctor who won’t think I’m crazy.”

“What doctor?”

Brock picked up the lucid dreaming book that sat next to his coffee. “The one who wrote this.”

Chapter 10

M
AY
18, 2015

D
r. Thomas Shagull’s clinic, may I assist you?”

The woman’s voice sounded bored and slightly exasperated.

“I’m calling for Dr. Shagull, please.”

“He doesn’t work here any longer.”

Brock frowned at the website on his laptop. “Isn’t his name on the shingle?”

“Yes.”

“And he owns the company?”

“Yes.”

“That kind of implies he works there.”

“John Hancock’s name is on the John Hancock Insurance building, but that doesn’t mean Johnny works there.”

“Good point. My mistake.” Brock sighed. “Any idea how I’d be able to reach the doctor?”

“Dr. Shagull is retired. He’s officially the chairman of the board, but that’s about it.”

“I need to speak with him.”

“I’m sorry. Dr. Shagull is a bit of a recluse these days. He’s not real open to hanging out with fans.”

“I’m not a fan.”

“Exactly what all the fans say.”

“I need his help.” Brock decided to go for broke. “I’ve been having lucid dreams where I go into the past, and it’s changing my present.”

The woman on the other end of the line was silent for what seemed like five minutes. “Can you describe to me what you think has changed?”

“I’d rather not.”

“It’s your choice.” The woman sighed. “What’s your name?”

“Brock Matthews.”

For some unexplained reason, Ms. Ice thawed a bit. “While I don’t know if he’ll respond, I can relay a message.”

“Thanks, I appreciate it.”

Brock gave the woman his cell number.

“And Mr. Matthews?”

“Yes?”

“Are you involved in the coffee industry?”

“I am.”

Her voice moved from neutral to warm. “I read an article on you a year or so ago.”

“Is that right?”

“Are you really the person at Black Fedora who develops all the flavors?”

“Guilty.”

“I love your coffee. My favorite is that macadamia-nut-flavored concoction.”

“That’s one of mine as well. Thanks for mentioning that.”

“I sure hope you don’t leave your business like Dr. Shagull did.”

“Believe me, I’m going to be there for a long time.”

Brock’s cell phone rang seventeen minutes later. The caller ID was blocked, but Brock guessed it was Dr. Shagull.

“Hello?”

“Are you the Brock Matthews who grew up in the Seattle area?”

“Yes.”

“We don’t know each other.”

“No.”

“Remarkable.” The caller blew out a sharp breath. “Tell me what happened.”

“Dr. Shagull?”

“I think you already know it is, so let us not waste one another’s time.” The doctor’s voice was firm, but not unkind. “Tell me.”

So much for introductions.

After Brock described the encounter with his younger self in his dream, and how it seemed to have changed things only he remembered, the doctor stayed silent for at least fifteen seconds.

“Are you there, Dr. Shagull?”

“Only one encounter so far?”

“Yes.”

But the moment the words came out of his mouth, he remembered the odd conversation he’d had with Karissa after he’d dreamed about being at the zoo with her, giving her the ring. He described how Karissa recalled the day differently the
next morning. Again, the doctor went silent. When he finally responded, his words held a tinge of excitement.

“I’d like to get together.”

“You’re in the Seattle area?”

“Are you available day after tomorrow? Say two in the afternoon?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Let’s meet at Robinswood Park.”

“Am I losing my grip on reality? Have you ever heard of this happening before? What should I do before we meet?”

“Try it again.”

“Talking to myself.”

“Yes, what else would I be referring to?”

“Anything else?”

“Don’t be late for our meeting.”

Dr. Shagull hung up without waiting for a response.

Try again? Why not? Brock didn’t believe he’d truly changed things in the present by talking to himself in the past, but there was no way he was going to walk away from what was happening. Deep inside, he knew this experience was part of his dad’s message, and he was determined to unwrap that brown package no matter what was inside.

He had the distinct impression he’d be visiting himself again that night, and when he did he would do a simple experiment to test whether he truly was talking to his younger self. But first, he needed to get into the office. His stomach kept telling him something at Black Fedora was boiling to the surface, and everyone near the pot was about to get scalded.

Chapter 11

W
hen he reached his office, Brock tossed his keys into the kava bowl that he’d brought back from Fiji two years ago and tried to figure out why Ron would sacrifice the worker-funding program.

Brock sighed as he powered up his computer and flipped on a stream of instrumental acoustic guitar. Five minutes later the sound of Michelle arriving at her desk floated through his open door. He gave her a few minutes to settle in, then called out to her.

“Is my schedule today full of the normal amount of insanity or do we have an extra batch tossed in?”

She didn’t answer.

“Michelle? You out there?”

“Yes.” Michelle’s normally chipper voice was quiet and held a somber edge to it.

Brock rose and strolled over to his door and leaned against the frame. “You okay?”

“Extra batch.” She didn’t look up.

“Excuse me?”

“Extra batch of insanity.”

“Oh?”

Michelle pulled her upper teeth across her lower lip, glanced up at him, then turned back to her computer. “On my way in this morning, Ron asked me to block out some time for you and him this afternoon starting at four.”

“About what?”

Ron and he communicated nearly every day, but typically through e-mail, or a spontaneous two or three minutes in the hallway. They only sat down once a quarter. Ron setting up a formal meeting was not the kind of sign from the heavens that the meeting would be positive.

“He thought you’d be finished by six thirty.”

“Two and a half hours?”

“I suppose.”

Brock studied Michelle’s profile. Not like her to avoid looking at him. He repeated his earlier question. “About what, Michelle?”

“Company stuff, you know.” She busied herself with straightening papers that didn’t need to be straightened.

“No, I don’t know.” Brock closed the distance to Michelle’s desk and settled into the maroon chair that sat parallel. Michelle finished with the papers and focused on her computer screen, but Brock doubted she saw anything.

“What’s going on, Michelle?”

She finally turned and looked at him with eyes that pleaded with him not to press for an answer.

“It’s not good, is it?”

She shook her head. A feeling in Brock’s gut said it was worse
than not good, that the cash flow issue Ron had mentioned the other day was more like a total drought.

The rest of the day passed in a daze as the certainty grew that his meeting with Ron would be a game changer.

At three fifty-nine, Brock stared at his brother’s dark-wood office door. The door was rarely closed, if ever. Brock couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen it shut. Not a good sign. He pushed it open and expected to see Ron either sitting at his desk banging away on his laptop—back ramrod straight, eyes in glare mode—or on the phone pacing back and forth in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows like a caged panther.

But all he saw in the dim light of a gray-skied Seattle afternoon was a desk piled with files and papers. Also unusual. Ron’s desk never had more than one file on it at a time. Brock turned to the right and spotted his brother slumped back into one of the two facing chairs in the corner of the office. A legal-size file folder rested on his leg.

“Hey.”

“Hey.” Ron’s head settled onto the back of the chair and rolled to the side. His eyes were vacant, his face pale in the dim light of the lamp to the left of his chair. Brock’s stomach knotted.

“What’s wrong?”

Ron stared at him before answering. “It’s not good, bro.”

“What isn’t?”

“This.” Ron held up the manila file.

“And you’re holding . . .”

“The lawyers sent it over this morning.”

Brock eased forward two steps. “That’s who you’ve been meeting with for the past two weeks.”

Ron nodded and tossed the file onto the floor next to his feet. The knot in Brock’s gut cinched tighter.

“What does it say?”

“I don’t know how to even start.” Ron raised his hands as if in total defeat.

“Start anywhere.” Brock’s hands grew clammy.

Ron motioned to the chair across from him and Brock stood behind it. Ron glanced at Brock, then at the file, then out the window, then back to Brock. He closed his eyes and jammed his lips together as he gave little shakes of his head.

BOOK: The Five Times I Met Myself
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