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Puzzles Magazine


May 2002
last modified August 1, 2002

by Amy R.

G.  An alternate future.  Please see the endnote for disclaimers, credits, and all that good stuff.  This fanfiction is a tribute to the television series Forever Knight.


        "Puzzles Magazine.  How may I direct your call?"

        "Customer service?" guessed Senior Director Natalie Lambert, MD.  "My copy of the current issue never arrived."

        "Thank you.  One moment."

        The connection slid smoothly to light tunes meant to encourage patience.  Natalie leaned back in her desk chair and spun it around toward her office window.  Even after all these years, even in her position, she considered her window a privilege.  Knowing the rain or shine by turning her head rather than tuning a radio still delighted her, and her assistant scolded her occasionally about the smudges she left trailing her fingers across the glass, absently reaching for the sunlight when her mind wandered.

        Coordinating forensic evidence for the UN Human Rights Commission had its grim side, as ghastly and more than what she had known in her career as a metropolitan coroner, but that clear, unmediated interface with the wider world kept her balanced.

        She looked out that window at the daytime sky and thought of those who could not.

        "Subscriber relations.  This is Terry.  How can I help you?"

        "Hello, Terry.  My name is Natalie Lambert, and I haven't received my copy of Puzzles this quarter, but I know my subscription was just renewed for the year on my birthday.  As a matter of fact, it's renewed every year on my birthday."

        "Do you have your subscriber code from the back of your last issue?"

        "Sorry, no.  I recycled it.  I didn't, of course, know that the next one wasn't on its way at the time."

        "I understand.  Can you give me your address, please?"

        Natalie provided the information and waited for the magazine's database to tell Terry the problem.  She had received a copy of Puzzles every quarter for over two decades, and fully expected to continue receiving issues until she died or the periodical folded.

        "Um," he hesitated.  "Ma'am, the system says that, three months ago, you canceled your subscription."

        "Excuse me?"

        "Let me pull your profile," he offered apologetically.  "Maybe something crossed somewhere.  It's very unusual, but not impossible."

        "Thank you.  Obviously, I wouldn't be calling if I'd canceled."

        "Of course.  May I put you on hold again?"

        "Of course," Natalie repeated ironically.  The connection slipped back into its lulling, can't-quite-put-your-finger-on-it melodies, and Natalie kept her face to her window and her back to her computer, with its perpetually overflowing inbox and task list.  Ruefully, she acknowledged that she could have fired off a quick email query to the publication and let it rest until the answer arrived, getting who-knows-what-all work done instead of sitting on hold.

        Except that she knew she would get no work done until she resolved this personal matter.  It had taken weeks to notice that the issue had not arrived, she admitted, but once that registered, mental alarms dusty with years rang shrilly to life.  It was, indeed, an intensely personal subject, her subscription to Puzzles Magazine, that annual surprise present that had long since ceased to surprise.

        The first time it had come, she remembered, it had scared her.  Who was this Nikolai Karol buying her a subscription to a magazine of which she'd never heard?  Her Nick -- Detective Nicholas Knight -- had disappeared barely a year before, then, and she had registered the matching initials before her imagination let her eyes override the name she hoped and dreaded to find, with that actually on the periodical's little announcement card.  Though she had always known he might have to slip away someday on a moment's notice -- for his safety or that of the public he protected and served -- she had always expected at least that moment's notice.  But not a word.  Not a clue.  The confusion of assuming he had left by his own choice forestalled the grief of admitting that, for all she knew, he had died.  And if he had died -- in a freak accident, or at the hands of what she now thought of as the dark underworld he had first escaped and then battled -- she would never know.  So did he send it?  Was it a message?  Or a trap, engineered by his enemies?  Would she, too, disappear?  Or did it simply come through ordinary, harmless administrative error?  She had called the magazine then, too.

        Eventually, Natalie had chosen to accept the magazine as a kind of pledge.  The names on the annual subscription cards changed and changed again through the years, but the issues continued every quarter, telling her that Nick was still alive, somewhere.  The biggest puzzle ever to cross her path, he subscribed her to Puzzles to apologize for withdrawing his mystery, and to assure her that he still sought the answers they had been unable to discover in their six years together.  Riddled as those years had been with tragedy and loss, Natalie could still say, now more honestly than ever, that she would not trade a single day.

        The logic problems and crosswords in Puzzles occasionally amused her, but the magazine really came to say that the quest continued, the fight mattered, and she was never forgotten.  Or so she had chosen to believe.

        "Ms. Lambert?"  Terry was back.


        "Ms. Lambert, I have good news.  I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, but we can immediately reactivate your subscription.  Now, please understand, it was indeed canceled three months ago.  Not by you, of course, but by the person who purchased your gift subscription, a, um, Mr. Colin Ritter?"  He paused.

        "Go on."  That had been the name on the most recent notification.

        He coughed.  "Well, it's against policy, but this slipped through somehow.  Apparently," he coughed again, "the request came in person, here at our office.  Highly unusual.  Again, on behalf of Puzzles Magazine, please let me apologize for the inconvenience.  Would you like the subscription to resume to your same address?  We will, of course, add the missing issue to your future subscription.  Or, if you prefer, we can find the specific back issue for you."

        "Please just add it to the future run," Natalie instructed automatically.  "And, yes, use the same address.  Can you give me any more information about the cancellation?"

        "I'm afraid the record is somewhat . . . scanty.  Oh!  But I can tell you that there was no refund.  He did not request back the price of the unissued installments; that's why I can reactivate it for you now."

        "Thank you."

        "Is there anything else I can do for you, Ms. Lambert?"

        "No.  Thank you very much for your assistance."

        Natalie continued staring out her window well after ending the call.  She had prepared long ago for the possibility that the subscription might someday run out, unrenewed.  She had reviewed and accepted each possible meaning for that eventual day, setting them gently aside with the other components of that part of her life.  She would have known how that fit.  This, though.  Cancellation.  Deliberate.  Active.  Pre-emptive?  All the old questions and dangers boiled again, as if they had only been simmering the decades since.  Who?  Why?  A threat?  Or invitation?  And what had she communicated in return, by reactivating the subscription?  She knew things, from those days, that no one in her position was meant to know.  And she had used that knowledge, when necessary.  Oh, discreetly -- no one could accuse her of less -- but . . .  It could easily be Nick's enemies.

        It could even be Nick.

        When the glow of the city equaled the light of the setting sun through the window, her assistant knocked and entered.

        "Is there anything you need before I go, Doctor Lambert?"

        "One quick thing, Genevieve, if you don't mind," Natalie answered, turning her chair back to her desk.  "Could you please find me the forms for requesting a leave of absence?"

        Her assistant blinked.  "Leave of absence?  For you?  Is something wrong?"

        "No," Natalie smiled lightly.  "Not wrong.  Just -- unsolved."





  • Disclaimers

    • James Parriot and Barney Cohen created the fantasy television program Forever Knight.  The Sony Corporation owns it.  It sometimes airs on the SciFi Channel.  I intend no infringement Please support Sony and SciFi in all their Forever Knight endeavors!

    • All characters and situations in this fantasy fanfiction are entirely fictional.  Any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

  • Citations

    • From the first-season episode "Only the Lonely" by Susan Martin:  "Solving a puzzle is its own reward for me." -- Natalie

    • "Colin" originated as a medieval diminutive of "Nicholas" (cf. The New American Dictionary of Baby Names, 1985).  "Karol" is "Charles" in some eastern-European languages, and similarly originated from "man" (OE "ceorl," ME "churl" for "peasant," made royal by Charlemagne).  "Ritter" is German for "Knight."  Thus, the names mentioned derive from Nick's name and interests in ways one might reasonably expect Natalie to accept.

  • Credits

    • My thanks go to my test audience members -- Abby, Shelley and Jo -- for their time with and reception of the piece.

    • Please do not archive, post or distribute this piece.  Please just link to it on my own fansite, instead.  I wrote "Puzzles" in May 2002 and posted it to fkfic-l on July 20, 2002.

    • Thank you for readingI always appreciate comments and constructive criticismPlease email me or comment on my LiveJournal or Dreamwidth.

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