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Lieutenant Jones Douses the Fire.

The Lieutenant was never quite sure where he was from. Sure, there were clues--The Lieutenant spoke English fluently and seemed to know a smattering of words in French and German.  No Spanish, oddly.

It may actually be better to be in the dark about one’s origins, especially if one is constantly journeying to other times and places to investigate mysteries of every stripe.  Usually there was no warning, no sense or sensation of travelling, either temporally or spatially.

The one time he got a jolt from his journey through the time stream, he found himself in Berlin, Germany. It was February, 1933.  The old newspaper flapping around his heels said so, anyway. Deutsch Zietung Februar 28, 1933. He’d landed with a thud not far from Potsdamerplotz and quickly scanned his surroundings. The usual mental game of ‘twenty questions’ flew through his head upon arrival: Who am I? Where am I? Why was I brought here, to this place? What am I to do? But no one answered his questions.  No one ever did. Lieutenant Jones was alone. Thus ever he was, thus ever he shall be.

Once he’d gotten his bearings, he noticed that it was pretty warm for ‘Februar,’ if indeed it was Februar.  And no wonder! A big building right behind where the Lieutenant had landed was a charred, smoking ruin, still smoldering and still warming the area. Maybe there was a clue in the paper that was still winding itself around his legs like a cat requesting dinner. Somehow he could understand the written German, even though he’d never, as best he could remember, spoken it or taken a course or even knew anyone who knew it.  But the screaming headlines and the slightly less hysterical text beneath spoke of communist agitators who had soaked blankets in petrol and set the oaken paneling ablaze.

The Lieutenant rushed over to the scene. A cordon of officers prevented anyone from going in; the apparent head of operations rushed over and said, ‘Positiv Keine Zulassung durch Befehl des Fuhrers!’  (Positively no admittance by order of the Fuhrer). Somehow Lt. Jones understood this but before he could reply, the commandant said, ‘Oh , du bist es, Lieutenant. Sie nach rechts in.’ (Oh, it’s you, Lt. Go right in.)

Once inside, there was little room to maneuver. The fire had really done its job! Smoking rubble in piles, gutted walls, and a sickening, smoky stench in the air. The charred remains of the building were still red hot. Word on the street had it that a Dutch communist had been arrested and charged with the crime.  Lt. Jones accosted one of the soldiers charged with guarding the ruins, bribed him with a few coins, and asked, ‘Were there any casualties? Was anyone trapped inside?’  The young man replied, ‘Es kann sein , wir uberprufen noch.’  (There may be, we’re still checking.)

There were times that the Lieutenant thought that he had another sense along with the ability to understand languages he’d never spoken and hardly heard, and the apparent secret to time travel. If that wasn’t enough!  But now he felt very strongly a kind of chemical reaction indicating another presence. He continued to prowl through the remains of the building, finding nothing except more debris. Suddenly he heard a scratching noise off to his left. Instantly on the alert, he crouched into an action position, ready for anything.  For long moments he heard and saw nothing.  He peered down the dark corridor that led to the main offices and meeting rooms.  Nothing.  All at once the scratching noise was back, louder this time!  He whirled, not knowing what to expect. He cried out, ‘Who’s there?’ although he didn’t know why, and he certainly didn’t expect an answer.  But that is exactly what he got. Incredibly, crawling from underneath a mostly unscorched desk was Brand, who straightened up, brushed himself off and, holding out a lit cigarette, said, ‘Boy, I gotta quit these things.  Set off the curtains and almost burned myself up!’  With that he pitched the butt back into the bowels of the burned out building and walked away, leaving the Lieutenant standing amongst the detritus, alone with his thoughts.

Time travel and stories set in past times are very popular in mystery fiction; try these:


The classic time travel story in which author Finney brilliantly evokes the New York of the 1880s.


One of King's best recent works, now adapted for television. What would you do if you discovered a time travel portal?


It's 1969, and JFK, while still president, has survived numerous assassination attempts. The state of Michigan is set aside for those who can't assimilate in this topnotch alternate history thriller.

1938 Munich was a city on the edge. Maisie Dobbs is on assignment to impersonate a relative of a man imprisoned in Dachau. Can she  pull it off?


Questions/Comments/Real dinosaurs?


Written by Ian Kern — May 02, 2016

Specializing in Mystery Fiction and all its subgenres, including Detective, Crime, Hardboiled, Thrillers, Espionage, and Suspense.

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