“Detective Miller, Phoenix PD,” the middle-aged man
announced. “Were you home last night?” He said he ar-
rived home about midnight. “See or hear anything unusu-
al?” “No, just someone knocking on my door asking to use
“Good thing you didn’t let ‘em in,” the detective said.
“Your neighbor three doors down did, and now he’s dead.
Looks like a home invasion.”
He spent the next couple hours answering the detec-
tive’s questions, giving descriptions, and going through the
fog of the last 24 hours. Did this really happen?
The next few months were business as usual, good cases and
bad cases, money coming in and money going down the
rabbit hole. The grey box was now on a shelf in his office.
Most of the time he paid no attention to it. But once in
a while, his mind drifted back to that night. Had the box
really sensed something? Or was it a coincidence, perhaps
set off by the vibrations of the killer banging on the door?
It was a very odd box. It was seamless, impossible for him
to open. He didn’t even know if it had an internal power
source. The sides were smooth, nondescript, nothing to see
except for that light dome.
The best donut shop in Phoenix was across the street.
“Hey Roz, why don’t you run over and get a box of do-
nuts?” he shouted.
Roz’s voice came from the front room. “Can’t, gotta get
that response filed today. You go.”
He had a little time, why not? A box of donuts is good
for everyone. He picked up a twenty and headed towards
the door, but just before he left the room he saw the bright
red light on the box in his peripheral vision. He froze, part-
ly from bewilderment and partly because he didn’t know
what he should do. He didn’t move. He didn’t blink. The
only sounds were Roz’s keyboard and the ticking of his wall
clock. Then, a minute later, he heard a thun-
dering boom and screaming. He ran outside.
“Damn drunk ran the light,” someone yelled.
“Hit that lady in the crosswalk.” The crosswalk
ran between his office and the donut shop.
He couldn’t practice for days after that. He
couldn’t eat or sleep. He spent nearly every minute on the Internet. Physics, math, time, cones.
Looking at experts in every conceivable area of
science. He had never spent so much time looking for an expert in one of his cases. He called
several professors at the state universities. Each
one listened and politely declined interest. They must have
thought he was a kook. He probably would have thought
so, too, if a client told him the same story.
But then he spoke with an expert in California, outside
of LA. The man was a professor of theoretical physics, but
he was taken when the professor also described himself as a
tinkerer with quantum particles and a believer in the imaginable. They had a long conversation and hit it off well.
The professor was confident that the box could be reverse
engineered. Whatever was inside, this mad professor would
figure it out. And for a fifty–fifty split, the professor would
keep everything confidential until they sat down together
with the best patent attorney in the country.
He counted down the days until they’d meet at the professor’s lab in California. He’d fly over on Sunday, then on
Monday they would get started. They could both sleep on
cots at the professor’s lab and work around the clock. His
mind raced thinking of the enormous riches he’d soon have.
The flight to LA was fairly empty. He had placed the
grey box in an old bowling ball bag he hadn’t used for
years. The zipper was broken, so the bag stayed open, but
the box fit inside perfectly, and no one would suspect it
held a priceless treasure. Even if someone saw it, it was only
a grey box.
He had a row on the plane all to himself. He hadn’t
slept for days. He placed the bag under the middle seat,
while he stretched out across the row and nodded off to
dreamland. He was wakened by an announcement from
the flight deck, and immediately checked and assured that
the bag was still under the middle seat.
“We’ve reached our cruising altitude of 32,000 feet,”
the first officer droned. “We should have an on-time arrival
in LA, where it’s sunny and 70 degrees. Thanks for flying
with us.” And just as the first officer’s microphone clicked
off, bright red light suddenly burst from inside the bag.
The light illuminated his row of seats and the panic on his
face, as he helplessly looked at the desert floor six miles
Intersection Mark Meltzer
FIC I T O Nw i n n e r Had the box really sensed something? Or was it a coincidence, perhaps set off by the vibrations of the killer banging on the door?