It was business as usual in Station House Number Four when Llewellyn shuffled in, stuffing the wad of notes he had managed to take for his latest case into his pocket. Constables were walking about with files in hand, and the drunkards and revelers of the previous night were stumbling blearily towards the exit. The Inspector was in his office with a glass of scotch in hand, and Murdoch was staring intently at the blackboard filled with equations in his. All in all, nothing out of the ordinary.
Llewellyn had just filled up a cup of water, running through the latest revelation in his case all the while, when a commotion drew his attention. The source turned out to be at Crabtree’s desk, where he was presently engaged in a heated discussion with a young man.
“- I’m telling you, there’s no way there could be a bridge! I ought to know, I’ve lived in Toronto all my life!”
“Constable, there is a bridge, the Don Valley Parkway. It doesn’t exist now, of course, but in the year 2020, it’ll be there..”
“How do you know-”
The year 2020? That particular piece of conversation piqued his interest, and he wandered over.
“Ah, yes- Detective Watts! Tell him that there is no bridge over the Don River!” George caught sight of his approach and said in a triumphant manner.
“There is indeed no bridge there,” Watts said, propping his hip against Higgin’s empty desk (George: “HA!”), “nor do I know of any plans to build one. Do you plan to bring forth such a project?” He addressed the young man, who wore an expression of mild exasperation. The expression was curiously familiar, though he could not place where he had seen it before.
“I don’t, no, but there’s no need. There will be a bridge there, in the future.”
“And how might you know that?”
The man sighed, looking upon. “I know because I’m from the future, as I’ve been trying to say for the past 20 minutes. I’m from the year 2020.”
To say Llewellyn was taken off guard was a bit of an understatement. This man claimed to be a time traveler? That seemed inconceivable. Any other detective would have immediately dismissed the man as delusional, but he decided to indulge the other a little longer.
“Are you saying that you have traveled through time, Mr…?”
“Murdoch, Will Murdoch,”
That’s where he had seen that expression. It was an expression that Detective Murdoch often wore. Curious how this young man shared both his name and his mannerisms…
“- and yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Don’t look at me like that, I know what I’m saying seems weird, but I’m not crazy. I’m here from the future, and I can prove it, look-”
He pulled two folded sheets of paper from his pocket and laid it on the table.
“The Canadian census, 1901. See? William Murdoch, his wife Julia Ogden. And here-” He tapped the other piece of paper. “1921, George William Murdoch, their son.” He sat back and crossed his arms. “I’m their descendent. From 2020. I went digging in the city archives and found out that this is where Detective William Murdoch worked in 1903, so here I am. Is he here, by the way? Would love to get to know him a bit. He’s a bit of a legend in the family.”
Llewellyn reached across the desk for the papers, ignoring George gaping at Will, and held them close to his face for examination. The census looked real and official enough, and he doubted that one would go to the trouble of creating such detailed documents simply for a laugh. Could it be possible? Time travel technology truly exist in the future?
“George?” It seems that they had summoned Murdoch at last. “What’s going on here?”
Will shot to his feet, a bright and eager gleam in his eyes. “You must be Detective William Murdoch!” He grasped Murdoch’s hand and shook it enthusiastically, eliciting a bemused expression. “I can’t believe I’m actually meeting you here! In 1903! Wow, my brother really does look like you, Daniel owes me 10 bucks. This is so cool, damn…”
Llewellyn almost felt sorry for Murdoch, who now looked utterly lost. Said detective shot George and him a look that conveyed a clear message to explain just what was going on.
George seemed to have finally recovered from his shock, and handed the census papers over to Murdoch. “Well, sir, this man here seems to believe he’s from the future. And he says that he’s apparently a descendent of yours, sir. You and your son...who you named George…”
Murdoch glanced at the papers in his hand and back up at the man. “You...believe yourself to be my descendent? From the future?” He questioned incredulously.
“It’s not a theory unheard of,” Llewelyn cut in, scratching at the side of his face, “many people have speculated whether such a technology is possible. It would not be surprising that someone figured out how to build such a device in the future. The year 2020, as young Will says.”
“I- “ Murdoch frowned even more.
“Didn’t you come across a similar situation in the past, sir?” George perked up. “When that fellow Professor Harms had his time travel machine? You said you had travelled to the future in there.”
“George, that man was a sham and the entire machine was just a hoax. It is scientifically impossible.”
“For now.” Will muttered under his breath.
Just then, a shout of “Murdoch! Crabtree! In here, now!” came from the Inspector’s office.
“Yes, if you’ll excuse me…” With that, Murdoch was gone, looking as if delighted to find an excuse to get away.
“Well, I think that it’s fascinating, Mr. Murdoch. Time travel is such a speculated topic of discussion in the writing circles, and to think that it could be something that’s real in another century or so?” Crabtree shook his head slowly in disbelief, then he too was gone.
Will sighed, and dropped back into his seat. He looked up at Llewellyn. “I suppose you think that I’m lying too?”
“On the contrary, I believe you. Scientific advances are being discovered and invented every day; there is no reason to believe that something like time travel is out of the question.” He paused. “I suppose there are a set of arbitrary laws surrounding something like this, aren’t there? Like you can’t divulge what the future is like or some such things?”
The other man shrugged. “None that I’ve come across so far.” He leaned back in the chair. “You know we call this time period the Edwardian era? Always love the fashion of this time. Toronto’s changed a lot since then, well, since now I guess. The world’s changed a lot too. Quality of life’s gone up, the economy has gotten worlds better, and social values and norms have definitely changed. I definitely prefer to live in the 21st century, that’s for sure.”
“I wouldn’t doubt it.” said Llewelyn. “Though I suspect that most people believe that the time period they currently reside in is preferable to earlier ones, since they do not know yet know what the future will hold.”
“That’s true! Hey, you’re cool, dude.” Will grinned. A small frown passed over his face. “Oh. It’s 1903. Being gay is still against the law, right? That’s terrible that you have to hide like that.”
“You know, homosexuality.”
Icy cold fear, by now familiar, washed over him, and he just managed to not give in to the urge to look around to see if anyone overheard. How did the man know? Had he been obvious, was it something he had said or done? Will had said ‘you’, did he mean that in the general or in the particular?
“Hey, you okay? Oh God, I didn’t mean to freak you out, man.” Will’s brows were furrowed in concern. “It’s fine, no one’s paying attention to us, you know.” All the same, he leaned in closer and spoke in a quieter tone. “Am I wrong though? We gays tend to recognize each other, but it’s not the first time I’ve gotten it wrong.”
Llewellyn swallowed past the sudden fear in his throat. “We?” he managed to get out. He was sure he looked a sight, wondering if he was as pale and scared as he felt.
“Yeah, we. It’s normal, you know, in my time. Being homosexual, I mean. There are still the assholes and bigots out there, as there always is I’m sure, but it’s a generally accepted thing to love someone of your own gender. Same-sex marriage is in Canada; I married Jamie last year.”
His mind was reeling from the information. Could it be possible that such a thing was possible in the future? That love of all kinds could finally be accepted?
“I just want you to know that it gets better, man.” Will looked him in the eyes, tone serious and soft. “It gets better. Maybe not now, not in your time, and I’m sorry for that. But one day it will. One day, there will be two men in love, walking down Queen Street holding hands for everyone to see, and it will be perfectly fine. The future is bright for people like us.”
Silence fell between them. Tears were prickling at the corners of Llewellyn’s eyes, but he knew it would be a mistake to let them fall in front of everyone in the Station House. This young man from the future, Murdoch’s own descendent, no less, lit a spark of hope in his heart with his words. He dared to let himself imagine what it would be like to walk hand in hand with Jack in broad daylight, to kiss him under a warm summer sun rather in dark alleyways. What a wonderful dream that seemed! And to think that in another century, that will become reality.
“Thank you.” he said finally, finding his words.
Station House Number Four, and the rest of Toronto, continued around them, just the same as it had always been. The only difference now was that for once, Llewellyn finally found the one thing he hadn’t even known he had been searching for.
“Hope.” He answered simply.