Return Engagements: Book Three (Part Five)

After some small talk, Renn repeated that he wanted to exit our world as quickly as possible. We discussed how best to do that – it required the death of his physical body, after all – and I brought up the problem that he was seen by a number of people at the hotel, and that his death could make trouble for me. He shook his head “no.”

I’ll change my appearance. I’ve already begun, and in an hour or two I’ll look quite different.”

I hardly knew what to say, aside from an instinctive, “What?”

I can change my body at will,” he said. “It’s a lot easier on my world, but I can do it here too.”

I was slightly in shock.

You’re capable of it too,” he said. “You haven’t yet figured it out and it would take far longer for you, but you have the basic capacity.”

Renn went on to explain that what he was doing in this case was especially easy, not terribly different from what old people do when they see the last person they needed to say goodbye to, then give up and die in a day or two.

But while I followed his explanation, my thinking remained tethered to “you haven’t figured it out yet.” My mind reeled: How would human life change if we could change our bodies at will? How much anguish would vanish? How many of our assumptions would be torn to pieces?

I had to put the thoughts aside; it was overwhelming me, especially because I could see that it was truly possible. So what if it took five or ten years to complete such a change? That we could actually do it, purposely, was mind-blowing.

Somehow I stumbled through the rest of the conversation (suggesting that Renn go to a police station and expire there) while somehow keeping my mind together. Then he suggested that we head back to the rooms. I paid the bill and followed him, still half in a haze.

But once back, he made a point of telling me that he had to go to the bathroom. The conception of such a mundane thing, especially for a being like him, helped me refocus.

I went to the window and looked over the city of Las Vegas as it then was: not so pretty as much of it is today. I particularly watched a few poor working families, doing what poor families have been doing for untold generations: getting the kids to behave, hanging up the wash, talking to the neighbors, and so on. It was rustic to the point of being primitive, but it grounded me. Regardless of the brilliant horizons that had just opened to me, I was still part of a rustic world.

I turned away from the window as I heard Renn coming back. He pointed to it and said, “That was a good idea; if I were in your position, I’d seek opportunities for things like it.”

I nodded and he motioned for me to sit at the little table in my room. He went into his room and returned with his briefcase, which he handed me. There was a great deal of cash in it. I later counted it and found that I had, overall, almost a hundred thousand dollars. That was a fortune in 1947.

We both went silent for a minute or two, just evening out. Then we discussed our plans for the end of June, when he’d be back and we’d go out to recover one of the probes. “We may as well be bold,” was his suggestion.

And so I made some notes and we agreed on dates. He said he’d have no trouble locating me when the time came, but could I please have a reasonable set of clothes waiting for him.

We also discussed the risks associated with trying to beat the US Army out of a treasure, but he was quite confident about that. I mentioned the kinds of tricks that Robert and James did on my visit to 1963, and he said that he could do them too. And so I decided to simply have faith and to be bold. I went through several scenarios (I do have some experience with such things) and couldn’t find any reason why the mission couldn’t work.

* * * * *

My entry had raised no concerns with the people who were then monitoring Robert and James’ equipment. (You can see Book #1 of this series for background.) However it works, they were able to recognize me as an individual. But when Renn appeared an hour or two later, they began following more closely.

This wasn’t necessarily a problem: these people, so far as I could tell, were trusting of one another, sight unseen. Anyone who had attained the ability to enter a virtual/temporary world, to them, was someone they trusted… as if retrograde beings would never have progressed that far.

Or at least that was my sense of them.

* * * * *

That night, March 16th, 1947, Renn walked through the dark (and the majority of Las Vegas was quite dark in those days) to a police station. According to the newspaper, he was found dead behind the building the next morning, then buried in a pauper’s grave. I know that body was unimportant to Renn, but it still bothered me. It reminded me of Bible passages that call death corruption, and it led me to feel that Renn’s body shouldn’t have seen the indignity of corruption.

Nonetheless, I knew as soon as he left that it was already happening. He looked an easy ten years older by the time he walked out. (He looked forty or so to begin with.) But I was still in a haze. I ordered something from room service and turned on the radio, as there were no TVs in hotel rooms back then. Still, the radio shows were excellent, and they kept me from falling into loops of thought.

Soon enough I was in bed, then quickly asleep. I woke up at two in the morning to turn off the radio, then crawled back into bed and slept more.

* * * * *

It’s hard to describe how out of sorts I felt the next day. I woke up after sleeping ten hours, cleaned up, then walked through the casino. It wasn’t as loud as today’s casinos, but still the patchworks of noises suited my less than cohesive frame of mind. I ate a decent breakfast then walked the streets for an hour or so. I made my way back to the room, took a nap, then got up again for a late lunch. I was healthy enough, but I simply wasn’t myself.

The morning after that, March 17th, I felt a burning need to get out of Las Vegas. If I had a driver’s license I would have bought a car and driven cross country. But I didn’t have one, and I couldn’t risk scrubbing our mission over something as trivial as driving without a license.

Finally I decided to hop a plane to Los Angeles. LA had never been one of “my places,” but I had spent time there in 1974, only 27 years after this time, and it felt comfortable enough; beside, it was a big city, and close. I talked to the concierge, who set it all up, and helped get me a weekly rate when I returned. The Flamingo was a nice enough place to spend a few months, and it saved me the trouble of finding a house or apartment.

I checked out of the hotel the next morning (it was a Monday, which made me feel like a working man) and cabbed it out McCarren Field. A few hours later I was in another cab (which were large, bulbous affairs at that time) and headed to the Beverly Wilshire hotel. I checked my brief case with the manager (who put it into his safe in my presence) and walked into LA, again feeling like a working man, which was comfortable for me.

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Paul Rosenberg