Carl is not mine, but I'm borrowing him for this story. Reviewing really helps, let your voice be heard!

Tango

by SpunSilk

Part one


Right now, I'm having amnesia and deja vu at the same time.

–– Steven Wright


He groaned. His mind was large with the expectation that it would feel smooth, but the asphalt under his fingers was rough and stoney. He tried to raise up to his knees, but the effort made his head spin badly and he retched. He collapsed to the ground again, and lay still.

What had just happened? His thoughts were fragmented, confused, overwhelmed. His head pounded and his heart was racing. Slow down, think... That was difficult; there seemed to be no place to start thinking from. All he knew was he was on the ground and his whole body hurt.

As the minutes passed, the fog in his mind cleared enough for him to notice where he was laying: the center of a street. This was not good. He was clear enough now to know he needed to move. Against his body's protests, he pulled himself to his knees and crawled past the cars parked at the side and onto the sidewalk. He forced his body all the way to the wall and came to rest leaning his back up against it, were he sat for a long time recovering from the effort. He pulled his straw hat forward over his eyes in order to lean his head gingerly against the brick, and calmed his body with slow deliberate breaths.

It was dark. Night, then. The city street was abandon, strewn with the normal litter. The nausea was the first to ease. After that, the burning in his muscles improved. The headache seemed to be his to keep. He shivered in the cool night temperatures. Where was he? The nondescript city street could have been any city, but what bothered him most was he didn't know what city he expected it to be. His mind was a jumble.

Alcohol? No, this wasn't like any hang-over he had ever had. He did remember hang-overs. He checked himself over for injuries. Okay, the body seemed to be whole. The camera and recorder still hung on his shoulder. Just the mind was confused. He continued sitting on the ground, blinking and breathing.

At length, though, he got cold. He was wearing only a light seersucker suit coat. And the straw hat offered no warmth. He needed shelter. With great effort, he pulled himself up to his feet, and, using the wall for a handhold at first, started walking.

The corner, once he reached it, offered a street sign. Macmillan Avenue. That's right! Macmillan... Macmillan... Chicago. He was home. Relief washed over him to remember something familiar. He was not far from his room he affectionately called 'The Dive'. Slowly he made his way towards it, paying careful attention to his balance.

Finally at his building, he entered the warm lobby gratefully. A scruffy middle-aged man sat behind a wire grid at the desk. The man looked up when he entered, and exclaimed "Kolchak! Man, you look awful – what happened to you?"

"I – don't know, Sam." his voice was rough when he spoke. "I just gotta... go lie down a while..."

"Ya need help?" he put his cigarette in the ash tray and made to come out of the cage.

"No, no. I'm fine..." Kolchak made his way carefully to the elevator.

Finally at his door, he reached up above the molding for his key. Opening the door and replacing the key, he let out a sigh of relief when he turned on the light. Familiar. He had never appreciated the security that comes from familiar surroundings before. More of his memory was returning now, faster all the time. The room looked just like he had left it this morning, although he couldn't shake the odd feeling that he had been gone a long time. He dismissed it.

He dropped the camera and recorder on the bedside stand and went to the kitchen corner to pour himself a glass of water. He rinsed his mouth and spat, and went into the bathroom to wash his face of gravel and vomit. He stared at his haggard reflexion in the light of the 40 watt. The memory pestered him that he had expected it to feel smooth... He pealed to his boxers and fell thankfully into bed with the lamp still on. He knew he always slept with the light on. Curious...

He sank into the relative clarity of dreams in short order.


A few hours later, Sam was watching the game on late-night TV when the front door opened and Carl Kolchak came in –– upright, but feeling no pain. "Evening, Sam!" he sang out jovially, and started to the elevator.

"Morning, Kolchak!" Sam exclaimed. "You alright?"

Carl swung back to him. "Never better, my friend. And you?"

"Well, ya sure look at lot better. How'd ya go out without my seeing?"

"Sam, my boy, I go out without your permission every night!"

"But–" however Kolchak had disappeared into the elevator.


Inside the room upstairs, Kolchak awakened quickly to the sound of a key fumbling into his lock. One doesn't live through what he had lived through and sleep without one eye open. His door was swinging open–– he grabbed for the small metal crucifix he kept under the other pillow and held it out in defense.

Kolchak entered the room whistling and closed the door, but when he saw the man laying in his bed, he let out a cry and fell back. He grabbed for a baseball bat kept at the door for just that purpose and held it up, ready to strike.

The two men stared at each other, each with wide eyes. A large number of beats passed.

The Kolchak at the door was the first to speak. "I don't know who you are, but I know what you are!" he snarled. "You're DEAD and you have to accept it! Leave me alone!"

The Kolchak tangled in the sheets glared. "I'm not dead yet!" he barked. "Don't you come closer!" Damn! The crossbow was in the storage locker in the basement. He always figured he'd have at least a few hours notice before he'd need it again. "You have to be the dimmest demon in the bunch. I realize I don't trust anybody but myself, but just how dumb do you think I am?"

Kolchak gripped the bat tighter in surprise. He had never heard one talk before. He glanced cautiously around the room for the fires. "Look you, I'm not asleep, and after your little heads-up it will be a long time before I am. So just leave now!"

The other stared at him, trying to make it make sense. The face-off continued for a full minute longer in silence. Frowning, he finally spoke. "If you think I'm a Doppleganger, that bat isn't going to do you a lick of good."

The other shifted his weight nervously. "I think I'll keep it with me anyway, if it's all the same to you!" he said. He paused, then added, "If you think I'm a Rakshasa, that cross isn't helping you either."

Another pause. The man in the bed exhaled slowly. "I think I'll keep it with me anyway," he answered darkly, "If it's all the same to you."

They stared.

"Who are you?"

"You're asking me? That's rich."

"You are in my room, in my bed! I'll ask what I like!"

"It's my bed and you're drunk!" he observed in annoyance.

"Not that drunk! Who are you?"

"Carl Kolchak."

"Problem there. That part is already taken. Try again."

"Why should I answer your questions?"

"Cause if you're human, me swinging this bat is gonna hurt you a lot more than you swinging that cross is gonna hurt me."

He conceded the point with a tip of the head. "Then ask." he said reasonably, but still from behind the crucifix.

"Who are you?"

"I am still, since the last time you asked, Carl Kolchak."

"Prove it!"

"Prove it?" he said, at a loss. "...Ask me something only he would know."

"What did I call my Granddad?"

"Bunicul. Buni for short." he answered without needing to think.

"Who were my close pals when I was young?"

"Just the two, Rusty and... and Jimmy." A cloud passed over his brow.

Kolchak's suspicious eyes raised in surprise. "What was my first editor's name?

"Old Man Wiedermeyer. For all of eleven weeks," he grinned grimly. "Until I managed to get myself fired."

The Kolchak wielding the bat frowned, but held the bat high. "Huh." he said.

"Now you answer me: whose desk faced mine at the Las Vegas Daily News?"

He hesitated. "Jamie's. A force of nature, that one."

"Where did I find Francois Edmonds?"

"In a hearse. In a junkyard..." he shuddered. The bat sunk a fraction.

"Where was Cassie's mole?"

"Cassie? I don't know a Cassie."

"Carl Kolchak would not have forgotten Cassie." He shook his head. "And you were doing so well..."

The bat returned to the striking position. "What was the name of the guy stuck me with the cost of that cross?"

"Lt. Mateo. But I'm asking the questions now! How long did I work in D.C?"

"Eight months. Until I managed to get myself fired." He paused, and got a cunning look in his eye. "What gift did my dad give me on my 10th birthday?"

The other stopped short. "That's a trick question, and you know it! How dare you?" he growled.

Kolchak started in surprise. A long silence hung between them. "It's true, then...You're me..." Slowly he lowered the bat. "Sorry. I was more interested in your reaction than an answer..." he swallowed hard. "Forget I mentioned it." The other Kolchak lowered the cross with a look of distaste on his face.

They stared.

"Where did you come from?" asked the one in the bed.

"I didn't come from anywhere! Has any thing strange happened to you in the last 24 hours?"

He then remembered the street, the burning in the body, the fog in the head. "Oh." he said in realization, a far-away look suddenly in his eyes.

"A-ha!" cried the other. "That is my bed!"

"But it's mine too– I remember... if not, how could I have known to look for the cross there?" he asked, confused. "This... this is my room. It's ...familiar."

Kolchak approached him cautiously. "What do you remember about what happened to you?"

"I expected it to feel smooth." he answered immediately.

"What to feel smooth?"

He opened his mouth, but nothing came. Finally he breathed "I don't know."

"And then what?"

"I was laying in the middle of Macmillan Avenue."

"Did any one see what happened to you?"

Kolchak shook his head. "Nobody was around when I came to."

"Don't you have any other leads?"

"Sorry to disappoint, I wasn't planning on getting amnesia today!" he said, irritated.

"Don't be so touchy, I'm trying to help. Maybe you got a picture of it, is your camera with you?"

Kolchak's eyebrows jumped. He rolled over to grab his camera from the bedside stand. He turned on the power called up the card's memory. There was in fact a picture! He held the camera first one way, then the other trying to make out what it was a picture of. He continued back through the other pictures.

His twin loss his grip, and the bat dropped loudly.

"There are pictures! But the photographer, as always, was distracted...I'd like to see these full-sized. Where's the computer?" he glanced up and trailed off.

The other Kolchak was staring in shock at the camera in his hands with a mixture of curiosity and fear. "What the hell is that thing?"

"It's my camera," he answered simply. He held it up. "What's the matter? "

He approached it cautiously, peering at it from different angles. "Those are pictures? From the film?"

"From the card. What's your problem?"

"Show me your recorder."

Kolchak rolled over and retrieved the digital recorder and handed the compact device to him.

He let out a long whistle. "Friend, you are not from around here." He held up his own camera and tape recorder from his shoulder. "Look."

He took the equipment from him. The cartridge camera and chunky cassette tape recorder were familiar, but so was the equipment from his shoulder on Macmillan. He understood each button on them. "I don't get it." he admitted, feeling the fog just outside his reach.

Kolchak stood frowning in thought. He reached into his pocket. "Show me your driver's license," he instructed seriously.

"It's in my wallet, there on the chair, in my trousers..."

Kolchak picked out the other man's wallet and knew exactly where he kept his license in it. "Uh-huh." he said looking at both of them side by side.

"What 'uh-huh'?"

"My license says I'm from Chicago, it expires 1977. Yours says you're from LA, and it expires... 2015."

"And?"

"And the year is 1975, friend."

"Who says it's 1975?"

"I say it is, and I'm in better shape to think, drunk, that you are sober." He replaced both licenses. He regarded the man with his bed hair and startled expression. He extended a hand. "Pleased to meet you, Carl."

He took the hand and shook it, blinking fast. His face screwed up in thought. "1975? "

"Yep. Come on, relax. You and I have seen stranger stuff than this!" he looked again at the camera. "What do you remember from before you took that picture?"

"Not...not a lot. It's all vague. But I remember everything here," he looked around. "I remember where the key is, I remember the window needs to be held up with the dowel, I remember where I keep the toothpaste..."

Kolchak was pulling a thin blanket out of the closet. "You remember we don't have a lot of guest bedding?" He tossed it at the man on the bed. "You can have the couch."

His anger flashed. "Why should I sleep on the couch of my own room?" he demanded.

"My room." his twin corrected him. "When I visit your decade, I'll sleep on your couch."