Chapter no 44

Quantum Radio

Maria was scared. The cops who had picked her up at the homeless shelter had barely said a word to her. They had put her in the back of a car, and then on a flight that landed in Washington, DC, and finally into a windowless van where they played weird static so that she couldn’t hear anything going on outside the vehicle.

It had been a bizarre, disorienting experience.

They had also taken her bag and with it the notebook that held Worlds & Time.

She wanted it back.

She didn’t have much in this life, but she had that, and she was proud of it, and she couldn’t afford to lose it. Maria thought she could probably recreate the last few pages, but not the whole thing. If she lost it forever, it would be like losing a piece of herself. Because there was a piece of her in those songs. Her pain. Her hopes. Her struggles. Her beliefs. Those songs were a reflection of her. And she wanted to share them with the world. She wanted others to see themselves in that music, to know that they weren’t alone. To her, that was part of the magic of art.

But whatever was happening wasn’t about her music. At least, she didn’t think so. That guy outside the shelter. It was somehow connected to him. She shouldn’t have hit him. He was probably a cop. Undercover. Or some kind of confidential informant. She was in deep now, by the looks of this place—and the fact that they had put her on a private FBI plane. She wasn’t in a county lockup, that was for sure.

Her rage. That’s what had landed her in this mess.

That fire inside of her had fueled the success of her music career. But it was also a curse. She wished she could turn it off like a flame in a gas fire. Another part of her wondered who she would be without that fire. If she

could still create incredible work without all the hurt and hate deep inside of her.

Whatever she had done, it had landed her in this conference room, inside what she assumed was a prison. She was confined here. But she also had a roof over her head. And she had been fed. Maria was thankful for those two things, and the thought laid bare just how far she had fallen—to be thankful for a warm place to stay, even if she couldn’t leave when she wanted to. The realization that being a prisoner was an improvement in her circumstances was a gut punch in and of itself.

The door opened, and a tall man with a toned face strode in. His eyes were locked on her, emotionless, studying her like a hunter might size up its prey. Under his unmoving gaze, that was exactly what Maria felt like.

He spoke first.

“Good evening, Miss Santos. My name is Gerhard Richter.” “Look, I didn’t hit that guy.”

“To whom are you referring?”

“That creep outside the shelter. He said something lewd—”

The man held up a hand, making her fall silent. For a moment, he was still as a statue. Somehow that made her nervous.

“This isn’t about that… creep.” “It’s not?”

“It’s about something vastly more important.” “You a cop?”

“I am not. Not in the sense you’re asking. Though my role here is law enforcement, of a sort.”

“What laws?”

“The kind that rule us all. The laws of worlds and time.” “You read my notebook.”


“I want it back.”

“I don’t think that will be possible.”

“Please. It’s all I’ve got. What can it hurt?”

“If I’m right, Miss Santos, at the end of this, you won’t need that notebook. But your work of art will be complete.”

“What are you talking about? Are you high? Where am I? I want a lawyer.”

“Do you know what time does to a tree, Miss Santos?”

She stared at him.

“Time makes a tree grow branches. The tree watches the sun rise and fall, a continuous loop with no beginning or ending. Sometimes the tree stands in the light. Sometimes in darkness.” Richter paused. “At this moment, you are in the dark. But there is light, Miss Santos. The sun always rises. The question of a life is whether we possess the courage to wait long enough for the dawn.”

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