The Project Gutenberg eBook of Blank?

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Title: Blank?

Author: Randall Garrett

Illustrator: Robert Engle

Release date: August 30, 2023 [eBook #71525]

Language: English

Original publication: New York, NY: Royal Publications, Inc, 1957

Credits: Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at




Illustrated by ENGLE

Amnesia? Well, maybe—but how and
where had he earned that $50,000?

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Infinity June 1957.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Bethelman came to quite suddenly, and found himself standing on the corner of 44th Street and Madison Avenue. He was dizzy for a moment—not from any physical cause, but from the disorientation. The last thing he could remember, he had been sitting in a bar in Boston, talking to Dr. Elijah Kamiroff. After the interview was over, they'd had a few drinks, and then a few more. After that, things began to get hazy.

Bethelman rubbed his head. It wasn't like a hangover; his head felt perfectly fine. But how in the devil had he gotten here? He looked around. No one was paying any attention to him, but no one pays any attention to anyone on the streets of New York. Still feeling queer, he headed east on 44th Street.

He wanted to sit down for a bit, and the nearest place was the little bar halfway between Madison Avenue and Grand Central Station. He went in and ordered a beer.

What the hell had happened? He'd had too much to drink on several occasions, but he'd never gone to sleep in one city and awakened in another. Dr. Kamiroff must have put him on the plane; the biochemist didn't drink much, and had probably been in better shape than Bethelman had been.

He glanced at his watch. Two-fifteen! Wow! The city editor would be wondering where he was.

He went to the phone, dropped in a dime, and dialed the city desk. When the editor's voice answered, he said: "Hickman, this is Bethelman; I'm sorry I'm late, but—"

"Late?" interrupted Hickman, "What're you talking about? You've only been gone half an hour. You sick or something?"

"I don't feel too good," Bethelman admitted confusedly.

"That's what you said when you left. Hell, man, take the rest of the day off. It's Friday; you don't need to show up until Monday if you don't want to. Okay?"

"Yeah," said Bethelman. "Sure." His mind still didn't want to focus properly.

"Okay, boy," said Hickman. "And thanks again for the tip. Who'd have thought Baby Joe would come in first? See you Monday."

And he hung up.

Bethelman stood there looking foolish for a full five seconds. Then things began to connect up. Friday! It shouldn't be Friday.

He cradled the phone and walked over to the bar where the barman was assiduously polishing a beer glass.

"What day is this?" he asked.

"Friday," said the white-jacketed barman, looking up from the shell of gleaming glass.

"I mean the date," Bethelman corrected.

"Fifteenth, I think." He glanced at a copy of the Times that lay on the bar. "Yeah. Fifteenth."

Bethelman sat down heavily on the barstool. The fifteenth! Somewhere, he had lost two weeks! He searched his memory for some clue, but found nothing. His memory was a perfect blank for those two weeks.

Automatically, his hand went to his shirt pocket for cigarettes. He pulled out the pack and started to shake one out. It wouldn't shake, so he stuck his finger in the half empty pack to dislodge a cigarette. There was a roll of paper stuck in it.

He took it out and unrolled it. It was a note.

You're doing fine. You know something's wrong, but you don't know what. Go ahead and investigate; I guarantee you'll get the answers. But be careful not to get anyone too suspicious; you don't want to get locked up in the booby bin. I suggest you try Marco's first.

The note was unsigned, but Bethelman didn't need a signature.

The handwriting was his own.

He looked at himself in the mirror behind the bar. He was clean shaven—which he hadn't been when he was drinking with Dr. Kamiroff in Boston. Also, he was wearing his tweed topcoat, which he had left in New York. A search of his pockets revealed the usual keys and change. In his billfold was three hundred dollars in cash—more than he'd ever carried around in his life—and a receipt for a new twenty-dollar hat. The receipt was dated the tenth.

He took off his hat and looked at it. Brand new, with his initials on the sweatband.

Evidently, he'd been doing something the past two weeks—but what?

He remembered talking to Kamiroff about the variability of time—something about a man named Dunne. And he remembered the biochemist saying that time travel was physically impossible. For a second or two, Bethelman wondered whether he'd been projected into the future somehow. But if he had, he reasoned, he'd still be wearing the same clothes he'd had on in Boston.

No, he decided, it's something else. I've gone off my rocker. I'm daffy as a dung beetle. What I need is a good psychiatrist.

But that didn't explain the note.

He took it out and looked at it again. It still said the same thing. He decided that before he went to a psychiatrist, he'd do what the note said. He'd go to Marco's.

After all, if he couldn't trust himself, who could he trust?

Marco's was a little place down on Second Avenue. It wasn't the most elite bar in New York, but it wasn't the worst dive, either.

Marco was standing near the door when Bethelman entered. "Ah! Mr. Bethelman! The package you were expecting is here. The—ah—gentleman left it." The beaming smile on his face was a marvel to behold.

"Thanks," Bethelman said.

Marco dived behind the bar and came up with a package wrapped in brown paper and an envelope addressed to Bethelman. The package was about three inches wide, a little less than six inches long, and nearly an inch thick. He slid it into his topcoat pocket and tore open the envelope.

There should be close to ten thousand dollars in the package, the note said. You promised Marco a grand of it if number 367 won—which, of course, it did. He got hold of the runner for you.

Again, the note was in his own handwriting.

He gave Marco the thousand and left. There were some things he'd have to find out. He went to his apartment on 86th Street and put in a long distance call to Dr. Elijah Kamiroff in Boston. After an hour, he was informed that Dr. Kamiroff was out of town and was not expected back for two weeks. Where had he gone? That was confidential; Dr. Kamiroff had some work to do and did not wish to be disturbed.

Bethelman cursed the biochemist roundly and then went to his private files, where he kept clippings of his own stories. Sure enough, there were coverages of several things over the past two weeks, all properly bylined.

Two weeks before, he had written the little article on research being done on cancer at Boston University School of Medicine, most of which he'd gotten from Dr. Kamiroff. No clues there; he'd evidently been behaving naturally for the past two weeks. But why couldn't he remember it? Why was his memory completely blanked out?

He had to know.

He spent the next two weeks running down his activities during the blank period, and the more he worked, the more baffled he became. He had never been a gambling man, but he seemed to have become one over those two weeks. And a damned lucky one at that.

Horse races, the numbers game, even the stock market, all seemed to break right for him. In the blank two weeks, Bethelman had made himself close to fifty thousand dollars! And every so often, he'd come across a little note from himself, telling him that he was doing fine. Once, a note he found in his bureau drawer, tucked among the socks, told him to invest every cent he had in a certain security and then sell the next day. He did it and made another nine thousand dollars.

It was exactly four weeks to the day after he had sat in the bar with Dr. Kamiroff that he found the last cryptic note to himself. It was in his unabridged dictionary, laying right on the page which contained the word he happened to be looking up.

Tomorrow morning, it said, you will see Dr. Kamiroff. But don't expect him to explain anything to you until you have explained everything to him.

So he would see Kamiroff in the morning, eh? He'd been trying to get hold of the biochemist every day for the past two weeks—and there had been no results.

That night, just before bed-time, Bethelman drank a glass of beer. One glass. No more.

And that's why he couldn't understand waking up the next morning with a king-size hangover. He rolled over in bed, moaning—half afraid to open his eyes.

"Oooooh!" he said. "My head!"

"Want a bromo?" a familiar voice asked sympathetically.

Bethelman forced his eyes open. The stocky, smiling face of Dr. Elijah Kamiroff floated above him.

Bethelman sat straight up in bed, his eyes wide. The effort made his head hurt worse. He looked around.

He was in the upstairs guest bedroom of Dr. Kamiroff's suburban home.

He turned to look at the biochemist, who was busily mixing a bromo.

"What date is this?" he asked.

Kamiroff looked at him with mild blue eyes. "It's the second," he said. "Why?"

Bethelman took the glass of fizzing liquid and downed it. The pattern was beginning to make sense. He had gone to sleep in Boston the night of the first and awakened in New York on the fifteenth. Then he had gone to sleep in New York on the twenty-ninth and awakened on the second.

It made a weird kind of sense.

He handed the empty glass back to the biochemist and said: "Dr. Kamiroff, sit down. I want to tell you something."

Half an hour later, Kamiroff was rubbing his chin with a forefinger, deep in concentration. "It sounds wild," he said at last, "but I've heard of wild things before."

"But what caused it?"

"Do you remember what you did last night? I mean the night of the first?"

"Not clearly; we got pretty crocked, I remember."

Kamiroff grinned. "I think you were a few up on me. Do you remember that bottle of white powder I had in the lab down in the basement?"

"No," Bethelman admitted.

"It was diazotimoline, one of the drugs we've been using in cancer research on white mice. That whole family of compounds has some pretty peculiar properties. This one happens to smell like vanilla; when I let you smell it, you stuck your finger in it and licked off some of the powder before I could stop you.

"It didn't bother me much; we've given it to mice without any ill effects, so I didn't give you an emetic or anything."

The bromo had made Bethelman's head feel better. "But what happened, exactly?" he asked.

"As far as I can judge," the biochemist said, "the diazotimoline has an effect on the mind. Not by itself, maybe; perhaps it needed the synergetic combination with alcohol. I don't know.

"Have you heard the theories that Dunne propounded on the mind?"

"Yeah," Bethelman said. "We discussed them last night, I think."

"Right. The idea is that the mind is independent of time, but just follows the body along through the time stream.

"Evidently, what the diazotimoline did was project your mind two weeks into the future—to the fifteenth. After two weeks—on the twenty-ninth—it wore off, and your mind returned to the second. Now you'll relive those two weeks."

"That sounds like a weird explanation," Bethelman said.

"Well, look at it this way. Let's just say you remember those two weeks in the wrong order. The drug mixed your memory up. You remember the fortnight of the second to the fifteenth after you remember the fortnight of the fifteenth to the twenty-ninth. See?"

"Good gosh, yes! Now I see how I made all that money! I read all the papers; I know what the stocks are going to do; I know what horses are going to win! Wow!"

"That's right," Kamiroff agreed. "And you'll know where to leave all those notes to yourself."

"Yeah! And on the afternoon of the fifteenth, I'll blank out and wake up in my bed on the morning of the thirtieth!"

"I should think so, yes," Kamiroff said.

"It makes sense, now." Then Bethelman looked up at the biochemist. "By the way, Dr. Kamiroff, I want to split this money with you; after all, you're responsible for what happened."

The scientist smiled and shook his head. "No need of that. I have the diazotimoline, remember? You said you couldn't get hold of me on the phone; you said I was doing experimental work and couldn't be disturbed.

"Now, just what do you think I'm going to be experimenting on for the next couple of months?"