Murphy’s Law

Andrew Finch was wet, and he was sick of his bad luck. He couldn’t hold a job due to luck, even though he was a genius. As yet, he’d failed to obtain his PhD in physics because he hadn’t made it to the defense of his thesis—due to a car accident. Then, his father, who was also his mentor, had mysteriously disappeared, leaving him to face his lot alone.

Lately, his bad luck had touched his love life. He had finally discovered the perfect woman, the brilliant Elise Murdoch, who was the daughter of longtime family friends. But every attempt he made to woo her went wrong. When he took her to a restaurant and advised her what she should order, she nearly died of food poisoning. When he practiced his declaration of love for her on his neighbor, Elise happened to be coming up the staircase and misunderstood his intentions. That very evening, when he invited her for a walk, clouds appeared from nowhere, and a summer shower poured on them.

Still wet from the shower, he stood at her door. A moment before, she’d slammed it in his face. He envisioned her pale, dripping lashes and red hair made stringy from the torrents. If anything bad could happen, it would happen to him, and not to somebody else—that was the true nature of Murphy’s Law.

Several months ago, he’d decided to give up the laws of physics for researching Murphy’s Law. In a good stroke of luck, Andrew had discovered, while searching through his father’s papers, the original bad-luck Murphy—or so he hoped. His plan, now, was to kill the Irishman who ran his life, and kill his bad luck with it, even if he had to travel to eighteenth-century Ireland to do it. No Murphy, no Murphy’s Law.

He ran home to his family’s brownstone apartment building, stole his grandfather’s revolver, then ran downstairs to the basement, and stared at his father’s computer, which doubled as a time machine. Andrew had helped him build it. He carefully enclosed himself in one of the time travel suits, keyed in the pertinent information, and braced himself. Soon, he felt the earth shake around him, felt himself sucked into the vacuum of time. Eventually, the vacuum pressure let up and shot him out.

He landed in a muddy street and was nearly crushed to death by a carriage. Several dirty street urchins stared at him with wide eyes. He didn’t care. Let them stare. He had one destination only: the pub called The Brazen Head, where, reputedly, Murphy drank his life away.

He pulled off his head unit. “Can you tell me where The Brazen Head pub is?” he asked a ragged boy.

The boy pointed to a sign across the street. Obviously, Andrew had keyed in his destination accurately. Murphy was not going to beat him this time—and yes, time—he had to beat that. He’d programmed the computer so it would send him back after twenty minutes. He certainly didn’t want to get stuck in eighteenth-century Ireland.

He marched across the street, ignoring the world around him, which at any other time might have fascinated him. But right now, the Irish people in it pointed and stared at him. So what if he looked like an astronaut? It was 1790. They probably assumed he was wearing the latest French fashions.

He threw open the pub doors and shouted above the din, “All right, where’s Murphy?”

“Which Murphy would that be?” asked the bartender, and several men shook with laughter. “And what kind of fool Englishman are you?”

Andrew pulled out the revolver. “Dubhan Murphy.”

“Andrew, what are you doing?”

He whirled around. “Dad?”

“Dubhan Murphy is right here; we’re drinking a pint together. Put that gun down and tell me what you’re doing in one of my suits.”

Bewildered, Andrew saw that his father was, indeed, drinking a pint with a black-haired man who was laughing like there was no tomorrow. So that’s where his father had gone. He was busy supping up the soup and brew with the very man whose curse was destroying Andrew’s life.

Andrew didn’t think. He simply aimed the revolver at Murphy’s laughing face, pulled back the hammer, and fired.

The pub went quiet, except for his father, who yelled, “No, Andrew, don’t!”

But he’d already done it. He rearranged his head gear and, before anybody woke up from shock and nabbed him, the vacuum sucked him back to the brownstone. Elated, he pulled off the suit, ran up the stairs, and burst into his apartment. He was finally free from the curse!

“I’ve got to call Elise,” he said to his mom, who was peeling potatoes in the sink.

“Who?”

“Elise, Mom. You love Elise.”

“You’ll have to introduce me,” his mom said.

Dread filled Andrew’s chest. He dialed Elise’s number, and a strange voice answered.

“Is Elise there?”

“I’m sorry, you must have the wrong number.”

“Elise,” he muttered, as he paged through the phone book, searching in vain for the woman he loved. “What have I done?”

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