Jeep’s eyes widened, and even Blaine looked a little taken aback, and Jeep leaned forward and said in a loud whisper, “Oh my gosh, did you help build The Traveler?!”
Now it was the older woman’s turn to widen her eyes, but she quickly narrowed them back to normal, looked both ways and over her shoulder, and said in a low voice, “Your mother should never have told you about that.”
“Well,” Blaine said drolly, because everything Blaine said came out droll, “the thing is sitting under a tarp in Jeep’s garage, so it’s not like some big classified secret.”
“It’s in your garage? Under a tarp? I was told top people were still working on it at an undisclosed location,” Ms. Jacobus said, and then let out a little laugh. “Well, Bev is ‘top people’ if anyone is.”
“But she hasn’t touched it in years,” Jeep said.
“No,” the woman said, and seemed to be looking at something 1,000 miles away, “she wouldn’t, not after losing Tom like that.”
“Like what? I think she was going to tell me when she had the stroke,” the younger woman said urgently. “What happened to my father?”
“This isn’t the time to talk about it,” Ms. Jacobus said, looking all around again. “Let’s meet after the luncheon. You are having a luncheon, aren’t you? It’s my favorite part of funerals.”
“Meet? Meet where?”
“How about in your garage? It would be so much easier to explain with the machine right there in front of us.”
“I guess that makes as much sense as anything,” Jeep said.
“Wait a minute,” Blaine said. “How do we know you are who you say you are?”
Diane Jacobus looked down her nose through the eyeglasses as if she couldn’t decide whether to be offended or amused.
“And you are —?”
“Blaine who wants to know if we can trust that you really used to work with Jeep’s mother on the you-know-what.”
“Blaine, behave,” Jeep said reproachfully.
“I’m sorry, but something doesn’t smell right about this,” Blaine said, which gave Jeep pause. Being a vampire, Blaine’s sense of smell was more attuned than regular people’s.
“No, Blaine is absolutely right. The work was very important and very secret,” Ms. Jacobus said, dropping her voice to a whisper with that last word. “Have you ever looked inside The Traveler, sat behind the steering wheel?”
Jeep looked at Blaine and back to Ms. Jacobus and back to Blaine and down at the floor. “Well, yeah. Yes, maybe I have, once or twice.”
“Good,” and she lowered her voice. “It’s not round like a steering wheel, more like two butterfly wings attached to a round column, and there are three gauges in the dashboard marked ‘Spatial,’ ‘Temporal’ and ‘Portal.’ That’s something you’d only know if you were familiar with the vehicle.”
“You could have broken into her garage and looked,” Blaine said.
“Yes, I could have,” Ms. Jacobus said. “But I didn’t. I didn’t even know it was there. I know what I know because I sat in the co-pilot seat and watched her mother fly the thing.”
“What do they mean? The gauges,” Jeep asked.
“Let’s meet after the luncheon,” The older woman repeated as people started to take seats in the gathering room and the funeral director solemnly approached them. “I’ll share what I know then.”
The service was very similar to almost every other funeral service, although Jeep had not been to enough funerals to know that for sure, but it was like her grandparents’ funerals with the pastor and the readings and the people getting up to talk about what a special person Mom was and how she’ll be missed. Truth be told, later on Jeep remembered laughing at all the right times and holding back tears most of the rest of the time, but she couldn’t recall any of the specific things people said.
And the luncheon of chicken and stuffing and potatoes and vegetables and buttered rolls went by as these things do. Ms. Jacobus did seem to have a very good time, sitting at the same table at the pastor and laughing a great deal and having extra helpings of chicken and stuffing.
The number of times Jeep said “Thanks for coming” rose into the triple digits, and although it was comforting to know so many people came to her mother’s funeral, her thoughts kept coming back to what Diane Jacobus might be able to tell her about the strange vehicle in the garage.
And what she had already said.
“We worked together on some very heady research … Bev is ‘top people,’ after all … not after losing Tom like that.”
Not after losing Tom like that.
She knew how The Traveler worked. She had helped to build and operate it. She knew what happened to her father.
She knew what happened to her father.
“This isn’t the time to talk about it.”
But the time to talk about it was coming soon.