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Good news from the European National Lottery Foundation

by Luc Reid

As scams go, this one was lousy. But only one person had to fall for it for it to work.

"Hello, this is Arthur Gentry from the European National Lottery Foundation," I said when she picked up. "Is Mr. Thomas Geiger in?"

She said the usual thing.

"That's terrible. I'm so sorry for your loss," I said. Actually, I wasn't. Sometimes Geiger wasn't dead, and on those calls I just hung up. Angry dead men unnerved me.

"I'm sorry to disturb you at a time like this," I said, "But I may have some very good news for you. Did Mr. Geiger tell you about the European National Lottery Foundation ticket he purchased on July third? No? Then, perhaps you can find the ticket? I'll wait."

When she finally gave up forty minutes later, I resumed the patter. I assured her that if she could supply proper identification, she could still get her prize, after some legal costs.

"... I know," I said at the end. "I don't understand it either, but gold bullion is what the lawyers said." Wait, and ... laugh. "So, overnighted today, all right? OK, then. Yup. Buh-bye."

I hung up, then took out the pocket universe hopper and chose the next universe in the sequence, at two hours behind the one I was in. The hopper could create any time shift I wanted between two universes, but two hours was about the most I could manage without getting violently ill.

I already knew what the new universe would be like: all the others. Very little changes from one version of reality to the next. That's why I was working the same scam over and over, in universe after universe. Pretty soon I would have enough to set me up for life.

I jumped.

The jump left me with the usual harsh, queasy feeling, and I was taken by surprise when someone slapped the hopper out of my hand from behind. Then he spun me around and kneed me in the stomach. I collapsed, wheezing, as he picked up the hopper and put it in his pocket. The funny thing was, he had a bulge of the exact same shape and size in his other pocket.

He was old, maybe late sixties, but built like a side of beef. "Mr. Geiger?" I finally managed to gasp. But if he already had a hopper, that meant he was going to take the hopper he'd just gotten from me and hop back in time to give it to himself--

"I want to talk to you," he said, "about my wife." And he leaned over me like a falling piano.

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