"Lewis." Hathaway looked up as Innocent entered their office, then glanced quickly over to Lewis, who had a politely enquiring expression. "Do you know anybody named Ned Henry?"
Lewis frowned and shook his head. "Why do you ask?"
"DI Grainger is questioning him about his whereabouts at the time of a murder, and all he's said in an hour is that he's got an alibi, but he can only tell it to Robbie Lewis or Endeavour Morse. Grainger is becoming rather noticeably frustrated."
Hathaway was watching Lewis as Innocent spoke; he saw Lewis jerk back slightly from Morse's given name, as if from a slap. Lewis glanced toward Hathaway, his expression already shifting to something Hathaway couldn't quite read: suspicion or calculation, quickly suppressed. By the time Lewis looked back to Innocent he appeared merely resigned.
"Suppose I'd best go ask him about his alibi, then, hadn't I, ma'am?"
"Please," Innocent sighed, and turned away.
Hathaway kept his eyes on Lewis. He leaned over, opened a desk drawer, and rummaged through it for a moment, withdrawing a slender notebook Hathaway had never seen before. It was held shut with an elastic, and a note was tucked between the band and the front cover, but Hathaway couldn't read it from where he sat.
Lewis frowned at the notebook for a few seconds, and then looked up at Hathaway again.
"Sergeant, how are you at believing impossible things before breakfast?"
"Average, I think, sir," Hathaway said slowly, unable to believe for a second that Lewis was taking the piss, unable to imagine what else this could--possibly or impossibly--be. "And given it's nearly tea-time now I expect I could manage several if called upon."
"Come on, then," Lewis said, standing up with the notebook in hand. "Might as well give them another name to ask for next time."
Hathaway blinked but stood, following Lewis. "Did you know, sir, Lewis Carroll wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as a critique of the modern mathematics of the 19th Century? Imaginary numbers and so on. He felt mathematics no longer had any basis in reality."
"This is worse than maths, Sergeant," Lewis said darkly. "This is history."
They reached the interview room just as Grainger threw the door open and stormed out. He stopped short at the sight of them, and Hathaway glanced from him to Lewis and back. He could almost hear Grainger's teeth grinding.
Lewis looked resigned, without the frustrated edge Hathaway had seen a moment ago. "Let me just ask this nutter where he was and get it over with, right?"
Grainger gave a short, sharp nod and stalked away down the hall, and Lewis scrubbed a hand over his face and then walked into the room. Hathaway followed closely, staying on Lewis's heels--close enough to catch him if necessary, though he didn't think it was going to be nearly that simple--all the way to the table where the young man sat.
Ned Henry had messy blond hair and slightly ridiculous sideburns. Despite the warmth of the interview room he was wearing a denim jacket buttoned all the way up to his throat, as though he didn't want anyone to see what he was--or wasn't--wearing beneath it. He had his hands folded rather primly on the tabletop, and gave them a hopeful expression as they stepped inside.
Lewis leaned forward over the table, slapping down the notebook and flattening one hand on top of it. Henry flinched, but didn't make a sound.
"Tell me, Mr. Henry," Lewis said, as Hathaway took up a position just to one side of him, "do you know Miss Kindle personally, or is it your group's official policy to ask for those particular names if you get into trouble?"
Henry brightened as soon as Lewis said the name Kindle, looking back and forth excitedly from Lewis to Hathaway. "Are you Morse? And Lewis? Verity did tell me. It's not official. Officially we're not supposed to get into trouble."
"Officially," Lewis repeated, and then seemed at a loss for words.
Into the silence, doggedly ignoring the implications, Hathaway said, "This is DI Lewis, Mr. Henry. I'm DS Hathaway. We were told you wished to explain your alibi?"
Henry looked suddenly wary again, but Lewis waved a dismissive hand and sat, finally sliding his hand off the cover of the notebook.
The note on top, which Hathaway read as he took the seat beside Lewis, said To be donated to the Bodleian--E. Morse Papers.
Hathaway looked over in time to see Henry quite obviously reading it upside down, and then Lewis yanked off the elastic and flipped the notebook over, opening the back cover. On the back of the last page, there was a short entry in elegant handwriting; Hathaway read the words Verity Kindle before the page was eclipsed by Lewis's hand holding a pen.
"Now tell me," Lewis said, "who can vouch for your whereabouts between the hours of...."
Grainger hadn't said, Hathaway realized. No one had said.
"Ten and one, Tuesday night," Henry supplied helpfully. "I was with Miss Kindle, of course, she's my girlfriend. We were having drinks with a colleague of ours, Dr. Engle, talking shop until nearly midnight, and then we walked home together and went to bed. Verity and I, not Kivrin Engle. I mean, I guess Engle went to bed too, but--"
"Yes, thank you," Lewis said, already writing in the notebook, Ned Henry, alibi for 3/3/2009: Dr. Engle, Miss Kindle. Lewis checked his watch and wrote down the precise time and date of the interview and his initials. Without looking up, Lewis added, "Morse died nearly ten years ago, Mr. Henry. Tell the next one Hathaway's all right. James Hathaway."
Hathaway was not at all sure he was all right with whatever this was, but he knew better than to argue. Some were born impossible; some had impossibility thrust upon them.
"Yes, Inspector," Henry said. "I'm sorry about Inspector Morse, Verity liked him."
Lewis waved this away with a slightly softened expression of irritation.
Henry fidgeted for a moment, then asked, "Can I go now?"
"That's up to DI Grainger," Lewis said. "Likely depends on how much you've annoyed him and when your girlfriend shows up to demand your release."
"Oh, well then," Henry said, grinning like Lewis had just made a joke, which for all Hathaway could tell he might have.
Lewis shook his head without speaking and stood, and Hathaway automatically stood with him. They'd both just turned toward the door when it opened, revealing Innocent on the other side with two women, both about Henry's age, one tall and ginger, the other petite and blonde.
"Mr. Henry is free to go," Innocent announced sternly. Hathaway got the impression she was trying to convince someone it was true; possibly herself. "These ladies met DI Grainger in the corridor and were so kind as to confirm Mr. Henry's alibi."
The hair stood up on the back of Hathaway's neck, and he had the horrible sense that he got the joke. Henry had had no chance to contact anyone, nor had he or Lewis--except that Lewis had written it all down in a notebook which was to be donated to the Bodleian at some point in the future.
Lewis tapped the notebook against his open hand and nodded toward the ginger-haired woman. "Miss Kindle."
"Inspector Lewis!" Kindle slipped past Innocent, beaming. "You look just the same, it's so good to see you again."
Lewis shook his head wonderingly, looking her up and down without a hint of salacious intent. When he spoke, his voice lacked any of the cheerful polite flattery of Miss Kindle's words. "So do you, Miss. Just the same."
But she was barely twenty-five, if that. She'd have been a teenager at most when she met Morse and Lewis, if....
Hathaway looked back to see Henry coming over to meet them, and Kindle stepped past Lewis to hug her boyfriend. Lewis couldn't seem to take his eyes off the woman. She was beautiful, but Lewis's gobsmacked expression wasn't for that. Not just that.
Hathaway turned back to the door, where Innocent still stood with the blonde woman, who had turned half away, looking at something out in the corridor.
"I think we can handle this, ma'am," Hathaway offered, and Innocent shook her head thoughtfully, but turned away, leaving them to it.
"Dr. Engle, I presume?" Hathaway asked.
Engle turned to look at him, and for a few seconds she was giving him something like the beaming smile--the look of recognition--Kindle had bestowed on Lewis. It was also something like the wondering look Lewis had for Kindle. Then she looked down, and looked up again with merely a friendly expression. "DS Hathaway, I think?"
Hathaway blinked at her--she knew him, and there was an obvious reason she might know him and pretend not to, if....
Hathaway looked away--Lewis was whispering a bit heatedly to Kindle, something about art that had or hadn't been stolen--and then back to Engle. Everything else looked the same, smelled the same, nothing else suggested that the universe had just tipped sideways. Yet here this woman--here these people--stood.
Hathaway cleared his throat. "DI Lewis tells me you're historians?"
Engle grinned. "Yes. I'm a Medievalist, just tagging along with Verity to pull Ned out of the fire. She's Victorian, he's Twentieth Century."
"I see," Hathaway said, and resisted trying to count up impossible things.
"I understand you're a Cambridge man yourself," Engle offered, and Hathaway declined to ask, or even to wonder, who she understood it from. "Theology?"
He nodded. "And a year at the seminary here, before it came to be generally understood that I was not for the priesthood."
"Ah," Engle said, tilting her head and giving him a thoughtful look. "You didn't lose your faith, I hope."
She said it as if she understood what it was to have faith and lose it; Hathaway felt a surge of something like homesickness for the comprehension in her steady gaze. He wanted suddenly not to disappoint her, though he'd met her barely two minutes before. And what did she--her presence, her existence--mean for everything he had ever believed, and everything he had ever doubted?
He had overestimated his capacity for impossibilities. This was altogether too many to handle before tea, and sober into the bargain.
"Right," Lewis said sharply behind him, rescuing Hathaway from answering, though not from Engle's scrutiny, nor from Engle's implications. "We will be escorting the lot of you to your next destination, which is...."
"Your office, of course, DI Lewis," Kindle said cheerfully. "Precisely where you weren't at the time in question, after all."
Lewis groaned, but didn't object. Hathaway offered his arm to Engle, and she took it with a smile, permitting him to lead her back to his and Lewis's office. Her hand was solid and tangible on his arm, her skin warm against his, and every time he stole a sideways glance at her he had the impression that he had just missed catching her peeking at him. He thought dizzily that that only made sense; of course she would know when to look away.
There was not, he was only half-relieved to see, a phone box parked in the office when they returned to it. Nothing appeared to have been disturbed at all, in fact.
Lewis shut the door firmly behind them and said, "Right, how long?"
"Not more than ten minutes," Engle said. "Standard for a retrieval team--they'd have held it, but we have another historian due to come in."
"Right," Lewis said, and turned back to Kindle. "Then explain to me why you're here chasing after fourteen different private art collections that you swear aren't about to be stolen. When that Cézanne disappeared...."
"It's safe, don't worry," Kindle said. "Will be safe. But you know I can't tell you what's going to happen with the rest."
Lewis said something softer, in a private tone, and Hathaway turned to look at Engle, who was still smiling, and reached up to touch his cheek. He couldn't speak.
"You don't have to say anything," she assured him. "We'll talk it all out next time. With a vast number of fortifying drinks, I assure you."
Meaning they had talked it all out, last time. Because she had come here from the future, and was about to go back to it. Because she knew things she couldn't tell him.
"I'll look forward to it," Hathaway said, and then turned his head and saw a flickering light on the opposite side of his desk. As he watched, Henry stepped into the light and then stepped into what ought to have been the wall; for an instant Hathaway glimpsed someplace beyond.
Lewis's only response was to hug Kindle.
"I'll look back," Engle said softly, and then put her hand on his shoulder. "Do just one thing for me, Hathaway. Get your flu jab, all right? Always get your inoculations. Always."
Hathaway searched her gaze, and found only the most absolute seriousness. He nodded slightly and said, "They work, then?"
Engle's mouth twisted in a half-smile. "We never know what works. Just--consider it an act of faith."
Hathaway looked over to the glimmering light in time to see Kindle disappear beyond the wall, and said, "I will. I promise."
Engle nodded, squeezed his shoulder, and turned away, walking into the light without a backward glance, vanishing without a trace. A few seconds later the light disappeared.
Lewis sat down heavily at his desk, and tossed the notebook to him; Hathaway caught it against his chest and held it there, like something precious, like the answer to questions he hardly dared ask until Engle was there again to answer him. With a vast number of fortifying drinks.
Lewis nodded toward the notebook. "Hold on to that, would you? Just make sure it's in the Bodleian no later than 2055. They won't need it before then."
"Sir," Hathaway said.
"Yes, Sergeant, time travelers. No, they never explained it to me either. As you may have noticed, they don't reveal much."
"Just that it's about keeping the art safe," Hathaway said, because it was something to say that was not time travelers time travelers time travelers flu jabs did they know about Val why didn't they know about Morse time travelers time travelers flu jabs time travelers.
Lewis rolled his eyes. "Who knows."
Flu jabs. Engle had said she was a Medievalist. Fourteen different private art collections, not about to be stolen. Engle must have studied the plague. Private property could easily go missing in the chaos of a major epidemic.
Hathaway nodded slowly. "And instead of a time machine they've got..." Hathaway waved to the space where the shimmering light had been.
"Instead of a time machine they've got bloody Balliol College," Lewis said.
Hathaway raised his eyebrows. He was going to have to ask Engle what Cambridge had been up to while Oxford was wreaking havoc on the space-time continuum. Next time. He would survive to the next time. Engle knew that he had done.
"You get your flu jab this year, sir?"
"Oh don't you start--" Lewis said, and then stopped short. He gave Hathaway a wide-eyed look.
"Dr. Engle thought it was a good idea," Hathaway said carefully. "Lyn always gets hers, doesn't she?"
"Yeah, nurse, she has to," Lewis said distantly, looking away. "Did she--no, course not. They're not allowed to say."
Hathaway looked down at the notebook in his hands, and then sat down and continued staring at it, even as he heard Lewis shuffling slowly through papers behind him. Hathaway slipped the elastic band off, set the note carefully aside, and opened it to the back cover. There was still half a page available below Morse's and Lewis's entries on the back page.
He picked up a pen and spent a few seconds paralyzed with the fear that he would get it wrong. But Lewis hadn't, and Morse hadn't. Whatever Hathaway wrote, it would be what he had always written, and she would look back and see him here. All he had to do was keep looking forward, and sooner or later he'd find her.
Dr. Engle, he wrote, Call any time. He added his mobile number and then, after a brief hesitation, devotissime--most faithfully, most devoutly--James Hathaway.