In a flash of light, Victor was taken back to his desired time in the past. There, he could spend 24 hours as promised by Sabastian. During his 24th century sojourn, Victor knew exactly what period of time to which he wanted to return when he was offered the rare wish. His promise of secrecy in return for one chance to go back to his past – this pact meant everything to Victor.
It was 4:00 p.m. on February 21st, 1995. The body of a frail and dying 92 year old was transformed instantaneously to an active, strong young man that he once was. He found himself sitting in the witness box beside the judge at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, there as a witness to prosecute the notorious gang leader Emilio Martinez for a murder and drug trafficking case.
Six months prior to the trial, Victor was working as an undercover officer for the Gangs and Narcotics Unit. At the time he had obtained valuable information from one of the gang members. According to the member, Emilio Martinez was planning to make a major drug deal with one of the prominent Mexican cartels and would be there to ensure it would be handled properly. Victor conveyed this crucial information immediately to the supervisor of the Narcotics Unit.
In those days, Emilio Martinez was an infamous gang leader in Los Angeles and was feared by many because of his cruelty and violence. To maintain this reputation, he routinely killed as many competitors as he could and move as much dope as possible to impress the cartel leaders. If the LAPD were to stop this operation, it would be the largest drug bust on record.
Emilio’s operation took place one Friday night, in a large warehouse located in one of the piers in Los Angeles. Drug dealers from both Mexico and Los Angeles gathered in the deserted warehouse. For a while, everyone acted calmly, though their guard was up. Words were exchanged and some pushing began when Emilio started to question the quality of the goods. With uncontrollable anger, Emilio took out his gun and began to shoot the Mexicans. It led to a chaotic rampage and a hail of gunfire. Both sides started shooting at each other. Eventually, Emilio’s gang wound up killing three opposing gang members. In retaliation, the Mexicans returned fire. One of those shot was LAPD undercover officer, Nick, who had been Victor’s partner for a couple of years. Nick was shot in his chest and Victor tried to move him to a safe place though he himself had been shot in the leg. Despite Victor’s desperate efforts to save him, Nick died before an ambulance arrived.
During this operation, a police detail was posted outside the warehouse. They had instructions to move in right after the completion of the exchange of goods and money. But once they heard multiple gun shots, dozens of policemen rushed into the warehouse and arrested every gang member who had survived. There, they found not only cocaine but also automatic weapons and even some jewelry along with a large amount of cash.
Six months later, Victor was attending Emilio’s trial as a witness. He was the only police officer who had personally seen what had happened and could prove Emilio Martinez’ involvement. In the court room, Victor disclosed everything he had witnessed in the warehouse -- the argument, brawl, shootings, and arrests of the gang members. Shortly after his testimony, the trial ended and Martinez was found guilty. At the sentencing, Emilio Martinez was given life in prison for murder and drug trafficking. The verdict enraged Emilio and he began to yell and swear at the judge and Victor. Victor attended the sentencing and was about to leave the courtroom when he heard Emilio yelling at him from the top of his lungs.
“I’ll never forget this! I will kill you and your f**king family! I’ll make sure you will regret this for the rest of your f**king life.”
After Victor left the court, he rushed to go home. That was not the decision he had made the first time he lived this scenario. What he did the first time was return to his office and spent a couple of hours there before going home. After all, it was not the first time he had been threatened by a criminal. Until that day, those words were empty threats to him. He never feared the threat of retribution from the criminals he had dealt with before.
But this time, he knew that Emilio meant what he said in the courtroom. He would suffer the consequences if he did not change the course of his actions on that day.
Victor parked his car a few blocks away from home instead of driving right into his garage. Then he looked around the neighborhood. After he made sure that no one was following him, he snuck into his home through the back door.
In the kitchen, Victor found James sitting beside his sister, Christina. The children were chatting happily about their school to their mother while she finished preparing dinner.
“Rose, James, Christine, come with me! We’ve got to get out of this place right now!” Victor said in a loud, stern voice.
“Victor, I didn’t expect you home this early. Dinner is almost ready. Let’s eat first before we leave.” Rose said sweetly.
Victor ignored what his wife was saying and grabbed his children by the hands. The children were hungry and reluctant to move away from the kitchen table. They did not comprehend what was going on. Both children looked towards their mother hoping that she would stop their father’s irrational action.
“What’s the matter with you, honey? What’s wrong?” Rose looked at her husband, sensing something was wrong.
“We just have to get out of here immediately!” Victor shouted, his voice showing his agitation.
Once Rose realized the seriousness of the situation, she quickly turned off the stove and told the children to follow their father’s order.
Victor continued to move toward the back door while pulling the unwilling children by their hands.
“Dad, you are hurting me.” Christine protested, while her eyes were begging her mother to stop her dad from pulling her.
As he was walking away from the kitchen, Victor pleaded to Rose, “We don’t have time. Just trust me. This is serious. I know what I am doing.”
“Victor, you’re scaring the children!” Rose said getting scared herself, but trying not to show her fear to her children.
“Just do it! Rose, go to the living room and turn all the lights on, then close the curtains so no one can see inside,” Victor said forcefully.
Victor had never been the kind of man that raised his voice around his family. He was always polite and gentle. He had never ordered his family members to do anything in this manner. Although taken aback by his actions and attitude, Rose complied, sensing the gravity.
Rose went to the living room and turned all the lights on, and then drew the curtains as Victor had asked. Then as soon as she picked up her purse and everyone’s coats, she quickly ran after Victor towards the back door.
Victor opened the back door and looked both ways before stepping outside with the children. Then he told Rose to follow him through the back alley quietly toward his car. A few minutes later, they were safe in his car driving away from home. Victor finally calmed down once he had realized that no one was following them. With a feeling of great relief, he drove his car to a motel in the suburbs.
Once in the motel room, Victor explained to his family about Emilio’s threat at the court.
“This is all just a precaution. I’m sorry I scared all of you,” Victor explained to his family knowing he couldn’t reveal everything he knew.
“Just in case the gangster meant what he said and decides to hurt us. That’s all. It is better to be safe than sorry.” Pausing for moment, he said a bit less severely, “So, who’s hungry? Let’s go for dinner. You can order anything you want.” Victor tried to sound calm and controlled, but he knew he was rambling.
His wife and the children thought that Victor was being too paranoid, but did not say anything to him. They tried to understand that if it was important enough for Victor to take this action, then they should not argue with him. Besides, the children were delighted to go to a restaurant at the motel with their parents. It was a rare occasion to be able to eat with their dad because Victor was always busy at work.
The next day, Victor picked up a newspaper first thing in the morning. He flipped through it while his family readied to leave for breakfast. On the 3rd page of the newspaper, he finally found one small article. It was about a shooting that occurred at his home the night before. The article’s title read,
“Witness’ House Was Shot UP – Act of Revenge?”
According to the article, someone drove by and shot at Victor’s home around 7p.m., less than two hours after Victor rushed his confused family from the house. The police found 17 bullet holes in Victor’s living room, but no bodies were found.
After the family breakfast, Victor showed the newspaper article to his wife. Rose’s body went numb thinking about what unspeakable things might have happened had Victor not insisted strongly enough to make them leave home. Victor saved their lives – she and her children were still alive. Rose looked up and smiled at her husband with a boundless gratitude.
Victor remembered a different article he had read in the previous occurrence. At that time, the same incident was covered on the front page with the headline:
“Innocent Victim – 6 Year Old Boy Murdered in His Own Home!”
It continued to say that James Peterson, at the tender age of 6, was killed by one of the bullets which were fired from a passing car. He was in his living room at the time and had died at 7:10 p.m. It also covered the details of Emilio’s Martinez trial that Victor had attended as a witness earlier that day.
Victor vividly remembered that horrific night the first time it occurred. After attending the court, he went back to his office to report to his supervisor. A couple of hours later, he left the office. When his car came close to home, he noticed that multiple police cars surrounded his house, their lights flashing incessantly. He could not even drive his car into his garage. So he parked his car a block away and ran into his home. In his living room, he found his son James struggling to breathe with a bullet in his chest, blood flowing onto the carpet. Rose was screaming while trying to stop his son from bleeding. Only a few agonizing minutes later, James died in Victor’s arm. The ambulance arrived, but it was too late.
A few days later, the police caught the man who had fired multiple rounds at Victor’s house. After the investigation, they discovered that Emilio had indeed ordered one of his gang members to kill Victor and his family.
This time, though, no one was hurt, no one died, because of Victor’s seeming clairvoyance that vacated his family to safety before the attack. This new outcome gave Victor a profound peace.
As promised by Sabastian, Victor was only allowed to spend 24 hours in that replayed and rewritten moment in time. Victor enjoyed every minute with his family. Though he would never know what would happen after that day until his death, he was satisfied. Knowing his son had survived was good enough for him.
Victor was back at the hospice looking toward the Pacific Ocean.
He sat in a wheel chair while gazing out at the California sunset, a content smile resting on his face.
“How beautiful,” Victor whispered.
From behind, Victor heard a man’s voice.
“Do you want to go inside dad?”
Victor patted the man’s hand that was resting on Victor’s shoulder.
“No, James, I’m alright,” Victor whispered softly.
Victor, with considerable effort, turned his head to have a glimpse of his son. There, a broad shouldered man with a touch of gray hair stood behind him. His face reminded Victor of his wife, Rose. Victor silently wept. ‘James is alive! I did manage to save my son… Sabastian’s people made it possible for me to go back and save James.’
Victor looked up to the sky and silently thanked Sabastian and his people. He was a truly satisfied man. Quietly, he whispered to James, as if he were only talking to himself,
“I love you, son. More than you ever know…”
With that, Victor took his last breath.
-The End -