The players across from me placed their bets on the table, which had a five dollar minimum. Some of them bet only five dollars, others bet more. I then dealt out the cards one by one. My top card was a six, and all of the players smiled. One of them who had a pair of twos split them, and I gace him two cards. this woman had a ten, and she doubled down.

After they were all done, I revealed the down card which was a nine. I could see the grin on their faces. I drew the next card from the dealing shoe.

The players' excitement turned to disappointment as the next card was revealed. It was a six of spades. No one else had a count of twenty-one, so I collected all the bets.

A thin Negro man came up to the table; he was here to relieve my shift. "Well, I guess I've got to go to work," he said, smiling.

"Sure," I said. "See you later."

I left the blackjack table and went to a small snack shop where I ordered a slice of mushroom pizza and a Coke. I looked around at the patrons of the snack shop and the gamblers at the gaming tables and slot machines. Every once in a while, I would hear one of the slot machines drop down a lot of coins.

I had been here for two weeks now. After my arrival on this version of Earth, I went to the library to see if I could find out where Quinn is. I noticed the Internet does not exist, and despite looking through all the phone books, I could not find a Quinn Mallory. So I got a job at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Long Beach, California. I actually became an adept blackjack dealer. The fellow who trained me noticed my talent. I told him I've been around a lot, so I learn new things rather easily. When I was not working, I did some research in recent local history. From what I read, the United States government collapsed following a Great War in Europe which ended in 1919. California became its own independent republic, with its own president and legislature and military. Gambling was legalized in 1939 under President Earl Warren. One of my observations is that Japanese businessmen set up shop in the state. About a quarter of the guests of Circus Circus were Japanese, and Japanese firms such as Toyota and Sony had manufacturing facilities scattered across Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

I finished my Coke, and then I decided to go to the Race and Sports book bar. It took only a minute of navigating thourhg the slot machines before I reached the place. I sat at the bar and ordered the drink from the blond-haired bartender whose name was Angela.

"Hi, Colin," she said. "Off work now?"

"Yes," I replied. I ordered a Coors original.

I had known Angela for these past two weeks. She was such a sweet person. She was a newcomer too; she had started working here about three months ago. She was a native of Long Beach, though, at least that was what she told me. As I would later find out, it was not the whole truth.

There are many Sony color televisions mounted on the wall. They showed baseball and basketball games, as well as horse races from Santa Anita and Los Alamitos and Del Mar. There was a Press-Telegram newspaper left on the counter from a previous customer. I read an article about California President Charlton Heston.

I looked at my watch which indicated the amount of time I had left on a world before I would slide to the next one. I do not have much time to form long-term relationships with anyone. I can still remember having a fling with that princess back in January.

"Well, I'll be leaving in a few days," I said to Angela as I sipped my beer.

"Do you really have to go?" she asked. "Being a blackjack dealer pays good money, enough to rent an apartment."

"I have to continue my journey."

"is there any reason why you have to quit?"

"Well, it's kind of complicated..and strange. You would not believe me if I told you."

"I'm a pretty open minded person," she replied. "Considering what I've been through these past three months."

"Well, I hope you're open-minded enough to have a cup of coffee with me."

"I get off work at 10. There's a coffeeshop on the corner of Pine and First. Meet me there at 10:15."

"Okay."

After finishing my beer, I decided to gamble some of my day's earnings. The casino hired a lot of people under the table, and Angela told me the turnover was on average eight months. She told me that she may have to quit within the next two weeks, something to do with important business.

Suddenly I bumped into someone. "Excuse me," I said. The person I bumped into was apparently female, and I only had a glance at her face, so she picked something up and walked quickly. She did look familiar though; I might have seen her here in the casino, or one of her duplicates in another world. She seemed to be heading in the directions of the Race and Sports Book.

Well, anyway I went to a slot machine located near the Sand Lounge, where there was a band playing. I noticed a poster for some Texan singer named Selena, scheduled to have a concert here at Circus Circus on Saturday. I actually heard some of her music, and she is quite popular here in California. Anyway, I put my quarters into the slot machine.

I had twenty dollars' worth of quarters and I started stuffing them into the machine. Usually I would lose, but occasionally I would win a few quarters. Slowly, my bankroll was drying up. then I put my last quarters in. I pulled the handle, and then the result was three green bars! The machine paid out two hundred forty quarters, which was sixty dollars worth. I wondered if I should gamble every cent I have before sliding. After all, that is what I usually do when there is a casino nearby.

There was still some time to kill before I had to meet with Angela. I decided to watch the free circus acts. The circus acts were located in this circular dome. I saw trapeze artists jump from trapezes. And of course there was the ground acts where clowns and others did their various things. I decided to read the Press-Telegram. I read an article that interested me. It was short article about a proposed freeway.

Press-Telegram-Construction began on the Santa Monica Freeway Monday where President Charlton Heston dug the first piece of dirt along the proposed route.

Due to increased road traffic between Santa Monica and Los Angeles, CalTrans proposed a freeway between the two cities, from Pacific Coast Highway to the Santa Ana Freeway.

Republic Highway 6 will be the designation of the freeway once it is opened. The freeway will replace the portion of Highway 6 that includes Olympic Boulevard.

Currently, the list of proposed freeways include the Long Beach Freeway (Highway 15) from Long Beach to the Santa Ana Freeway, and the San Bernardino Freeway, which will be the new routing of Highway 6 from Los Angeles to San Bernardino.

I've been to this area a couple of times, and I have seen versions of Los Angeles County with an extensive freeway system. In this version of California, the only freeways in Los Angeles County are the Harbor Freeway from San Pedro to Los Angeles, the Santa Ana Freeway from Los Angeles to Santa Ana, and the Golden State Freeway from Los Angeles to San Fernando. Perhaps fifty years from now, there will be such a network of freeways here. Certainly all of the taxes from gaming revenues are in part financing the construction of the freeways.

It was at 10 PM when I met up with Angela right after she clocked out.

"Shall we go?" she asked. We left thorugh the hotels' main entrance, which opened onto Pine Avenue. We then walked across Ocean Bouelvard. I noticed that the stretch Pine Avenue from Shoreline Drive to Anaheim Street had a lot of casinos on the sides. We stopped at a coffeeshop at the corner called the Hippo.

It was a quiet place, in contrast to the casinos. I saw a map of Long Beach mounted on the wall, and I noticed a dashed line which marked the route of the proposed freeway. There were some magazines on the tables. Angela and I ordered coffee, and I made sure to put creamer and sugar in it.

I read the California Scientific. The cover had the caption "Atomic Energy A great deal of energy is stored in the nucleus of an atom. What are the promises, and the perils?" The article explained how the nucleus of a uranium atom can be split into two fragments of roughly equal mass, and how this can release energy. It explained how one gram of uranium can relase as much energy as twenty barrels of oil. The article also mentioned that it could create a new type of waste, and this issue must be resolved if energy from the atom is to be used.

I decided to show it to Angela. "So, what do you think of atomic energy?" I asked.

She sipped her coffee. "It could be used to make bombs."

"Bombs?" I asked.

Angela read through the article. "Well, it says here that there is a lot of energy in uranium; it could be used in a bomb."

I knew about atomic bombs, from what I read in parallel universes. Atomic bombs have not yet been invented in this world though. Angela does seem to be perceptive. I never noticed she had any interest in science though; I;'ve spoken to her a couple of times and she is more into sports and gambling.

"So, you ever been to that Gran Prix?" I asked. "I heard it's coming up on Saturday."

"Yes," she replied. "I go there with my friends every year since I was a kid. I would watch the races, and we would go to the convention center and view that Life Expo. I was there last year."

"So was I," I said. "I had plenty of time to spare, so my brother and I and some friends went to Long Beach to watch the races. We had a good time. You know, sometimes we just have to sit back and take a break from life."

"You know, when I was little my parents took me to Disneyland. I..."

"What?" I asked.

"Disneyland is an amusement park. It's not well-known here."

I have heard of Disneyland before; I went there twice on two different versions of Earth. But I never heard of any Disneyland in this version of Earth. Perhaps it was in another country, like Texas or New York.

"Well, there's that amusement park a block from Circus Circus."

"You mean the Pike?"

"Yeah. you ever been there when you were little?"

"No, I haven't."

"That's odd," I remarked. "I mean, you grew up in Long Beach, and your parents never took you to the Pike?"

Angela sipped her coffee. "So, what sports do you like?"

"I like basketball," I said. "It's an interesting game. I even saw a game about two years ago with my brother and friends."

"you must be really close to your brother."

"I haven't seen him in a long time, due to circumstances beyond my control. I have faith that I will see him again." I stared past the dimensional barriers, wondering where Quinn is now. "So what's your favorite team?"

"It's the Lakers," she said.

"Lakers?" I asked. I haven't heard of any Lakers on this Earth.

"When I was little, the Lakers were in L.A. Obviously, they are not there anymore."

"Well, I like the Clippers," I said. "I heard they might make it to the CBA quarterfinals."

"Yeah," she said. "Listen, have you ever wanted to tell someone something true, but you were afraid they wouldn't believe you."

"Yes," I said.

"I might be gone in a few days."

"Why?"

"I have to appear in court soon."

"you have to go to a court hearing? But you can always come back after you finish that business."

"I might not. It's complicated. Maybe we should talk about something else."

But we did not talk. We simply sipped our coffee. I looked around, there were only a few people here, trying to get away from the noise of the casino. This coffeeshop was like an eye in the storm.

I saw one of them get up, a big Negro man. He was wearing a suit. He took something from his suit pocket and looked at it. It looked like a cell phone.

Then I remembered that I never saw anyone with a cell phone, nor read an references about cell phones, in the past two weeks since my arrival. I could tell something was very amiss.

"Angela," I said, "have you ever heard of cell phones?"

"Well, yeah," she said. "Where did you hear about cell phones?"

"Well, one of the customers here had what looked like a cell phone."

"My God," she whispered. "who was it?"

"That big Negro fellow in a suit."

"Colin, we have to get out of here. I have to call Rickman."

"Who?" I asked, though the name did sound familiar. "You have a cell phone, right?"

"No," she said. "I going to have to use the pay phone. Now, you seem to know a lot. did Rickman or Hurley send you?"

"Who are they?" I asked.

Angela got up and left, and I decided to follow. She inserted coins into a GTE pay phone, and then dialed a number.

"Hello, is Mr. Rickman there?" she asked...."I thinkl they followed me here. You've got to relocate me....What do you mean you can't relocate me? What happened?"

I could sense danger. The huge Negro man in the suit walked out. He was the source of danger. My guardian angel was telling me something.

He pulled something out of his suit. It was a shiny silvery obhect. I saw him smile, revealing a gold tooth. I immediately pulled Angela away.

then I had a shot. As I had suspected, the shiny thing was a gun!

We both ran away as fast as he can; we did not know if he had more bullets. We ducked into a casino and heard some more shots.

"I think he fled," I said. I then heard the sirens of police cars coming. Police officers from the Long Beach Police Department were already taking statements.

Angela pulled a cigarette out and lit it. She inhaled and let out a puff of smoke. "We have to go, Colin," she said. "It's not safe for me, and it's not safe for you."

"Are we going back to your house?" I asked.

"They might be waiting for me there," she said. "There's this place we can go to. Ity's in Santa Fe Springs.We'll have to take the Red Car that runs along Highway 35."

So that's what we did. We rode on the bus along Willow Street. We passed through a rural area, and then reached Los Alamitos. A Red Car line ran down Los Alamitos Boulvard, which was designated as Republic Highway 35. We then hopped onto the Pacific Electric Red Car trolley.

"You know, it would be a lot easier if the 605 had been built," said Angela.

"The what?" I asked, assuming it was a bus or trolley route.

"Never mind," she said. "you'll find out what I mean."

"Why was he trying to kill you?" I asked.

"You see, colin. I'm in the witness protection program."

"I've heard of it."

"I was supposed to testify in a case against some gang boss. The feds placed me here until I am scheduled to testify. a guy named Rickman was my contact. He called me yesterday and told me I might have to appear in court by Friday."

"so you were calling this Mr. Rickman."

"Excpet when I called, they told me that something had happened, and they would not be able to relocate me or even bring me home."

"Was a flight canceled or something."

"You'll find it hard to believe. I guess I'll have to show you when we get there."

After a few minutes, we finally arrived in Santa Fe Springs. We were in an industrial neighborhood and it was dark. She took me to this warehouse. she knocked on the door.

"hello," someone said.

"iIt's Angela. I called Mr. Rickman earlier."

After a few seconds, the door opened. "He's expecting you."

We both went into the warehouse. Fluorescent lamps lit the place. We went into a what looked like a conference room where two men sat, both wearing white shirts and khakis. They both looked familiar.

"Hello there," said this man. "So you said someone tried to kill you."

"Yes," replied Angela. "It was this big black man."

"he had a gold tooth," I said.

"It appears that one of Van Dahl's people made it here," said the other man, adjusting his eyeglasses.

"I'm Colin Mallory," I said.

"I'm Angus Rickman," said the man. "this is Michael Hurley. We are from the Witness Security Agency.

"We're familiar with the description you gave us," said Michael Hurley. "He is a known enforcer for Van Dahl."

"Could you tell me what is going on?"

"This young lady here is a tobacco addict," said Rickman. "She decided to become a small-time tobacco dealer to pay her debts. She got caught, and she chose to testify for the government rather than spend five years in a federal prison. You see, we are trying to build a case against Galen van Dahl. He is a businessman whom we suspect is running a tobacco distribution ring, but we never had the chance to prove it. Mr. Van Dahl is a very wealthy person from his sales of illegal tobacco. Aparently he even has the resources to send his people here to kill witnesses."

Something was obviously wrong with this story. "Tobacco isn't illegal," I said. "They sell cigarettes at the Circus Circus gift shop."

"It's hard to explain, Colin," said Angela.

"They managed to find us here too," said Michael Hurley. "Apparently, someone sent us an e-bomb. It fries all electronics within thirty feet. It's used by the military against communications arrays. It fried our equipment, and we can't even contact home, let alone relocate Angela to another place."

"Well, there's a gas station down the street," I said. "why not use the pay phone."

"It's not that simple," said Angus Rickman. "Maybe we should show you."

He and Michael Hurley took me and Angela to this room. there was a whole bunch of electrical equipment in there, none of which was on. I saw compiuters in there, which looked more advanced than any computer I have seen in this world.

"I'm not from this world, Colin," said Angela. "I'm from a parallel world."

Now that was a surprise.