This post originally ran in Second Run Reviews, the excellent book blog run by the creative and erudite Terri LeBlanc. Traveler was the very first book she reviewed on her site, and she has been a tireless fan and supporter of my work ever since. Visit her site for great recommendations for your next read.
As a guy whose day job is about jazz music, “Lagniappe” is a word I’ve come across many times. It’s of Creole origin and means “bonus,” or “a little something extra.”
Here’s a little lagniappe from the Traveler-verse.
It’s based on my original concept of the ending of Traveler. However, it was pretty bleak, and eventually I decided I preferred ending with something slightly more upbeat.
But the Traveler saga is about parallel realities, and as I worked on the sequel, it occurred to me that this scene could still fit into the tale.
Or maybe I’m just too lazy to ever let a scene go to waste.
You can enjoy this vignette either as an alternate ending for Traveler or as a scene (non-spoilery) which is referenced, but takes place offstage in Prisoner.
“Sorry about Sam,” Adam said.
I nodded, staring into my coffee cup.
“How did he get get hooked up with Kaaro anyway?”
“I don’t know. Making meth would be elementary for someone of his background, but I never would have believed it of him. Amazing what people will do for money.”
“The fire chief says he doubts they’ll be able to recover much in the way of remains.”
Of course, the explosion and fire in the warehouse meth lab was just a convenient way to cover Sam’s disappearance. Wherever he had gone, he had left no trace behind.
Adam looked at me with concern. “You know, you didn’t have to come out for breakfast today if you didn’t feel like it.”
“No, it’s fine. After staying up most of the night doing paperwork, one of Dinah’s breakfasts is just what I need.”
I used my new ability once again to scan for Sam, but he was nowhere in the dozens of blue-tinged images I could perceive. But then, in that mysterious way I did not understand but was slowly getting used to, my attention was directed to one particular representation of my former friend. As the image swam before my eyes, I knew that without some gentle intervention, this Sam would go down the same destructive path as the one I had lost.
With cold clarity, I realized it was up to me to keep this from happening again.
And again, and again.
Suddenly, the visions of Sam were washed away by a different set of scenes. I smiled as a dozen versions of the next fifteen seconds sprang into my view.
Caffeine and carbs were only part of the reason I needed to be here today.
Like thumbing through a deck of cards, I quickly sorted each branch of probability, happy to be using my talent for something other than to prevent disaster. No…no…
Kim the waitress, who was the real reason this was Adam’s favorite place, threaded her way artfully through the narrow confines of the diner, both arms full of plates piled high with Dinah’s shipwrecks. But as she looked to her right to avoid a customer headed toward the cash register, a man in a postal uniform swung off the barstool to her left, his beefy arm knocking her off balance just as she reached our booth.
“Look out!” I cried, just a second too late.
Three plates full of eggs, hash browns, and sausages landed in Adam’s lap, followed an instant later by Kim herself. Adam reached up just in time to keep her from landing in the gravy.
“Oh, no!” the lovely coed moaned, looking at the mess.
“Are you all right?” Adam asked.
“Yes… Oh, look at this! It’s all over the booth, and all over…” Her voice trailed off as she became aware of Adam’s arms around her. Blushing, she straightened up.
“I am so sorry.” She looked Adam up and down, an appraisal much bolder than she had ever hinted at before. “Let’s take you in the back and get you cleaned up.”
She stretched out her hand. Adam took it. As she pulled him to his feet, their eyes met.
“I’ll, um… be back in a minute to clean up the booth,” she said, suddenly remembering I was there.
“Take your time.”
Adam let himself be led down the narrow aisle, never letting go of Kim’s hand.
With my partner’s future taken care of, I pondered mine.
The array of Sams with their possible futures sprang into my view again, and I contemplated each permutation. Keeping Sam from accidentally destroying the barriers between realities would be a full time job.
And no police force, not even a partner would be able to help me.
Absorbed in the enormity of my task, I was not aware someone else had entered the diner until I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“No,” a soft voice said. “You won’t be alone.”