Short Stories 366:185 — “The Fourteenth Floor,” by Adam Meyer

coverAh, Crime Travel. This anthology of crime stories with the added theme of time-travel continues to deliver fun and clever little knots of mystery and science fiction, and “The Fourteenth Floor” is no exception. Even better? This one features a character in his sixties, which I always appreciate, in the form of Frank Russo, a security guard in a building who has worked there for decades, and who—if he’s honest with himself—hasn’t done a whole lot else with his life beyond reading books and working his job. He comes off as a bit of a sad sack, but then he catches a glimpse of a young woman on the fourteenth floor who is there-and-gone-again, and definitely looks like she doesn’t belong, and he decides to see what’s going on.

That’s where the time travel kicks in: the elevator doesn’t just drop him off on the fourteenth floor, it drops him off in the past version of the fourteenth floor, and he realizes pretty quickly since he can remember when the building looked like this. His security uniform and his knowledge of who’s-who from the time keeps things from getting out of hand, but then he notices the woman again, and gets the impression she’s in real trouble.

What follows is Frank stepping up in a time and place where he shouldn’t be, which has ripples that follow him when he heads back into the elevator with the woman to try and figure out how to get himself home. Their brief encounter before he finds himself back where he belongs leaves Frank wondering about possibility and chances, and then the past catches up with him in a new way, and the ultimate resolution? Well, the consequences of altering the past are always a gamble, but the payoff of this one had me smiling from ear-to-ear.

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