The Paradox of the Missing Twin who Wasn't

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  The dame was cooler than Bose-Einstein condensate, with a figure hotter than the first microsecond of the Big Bang — a miracle of thermodynamics. She took a drag on her cigarette holder and purred smoke, “So you’re a private investigator.”
  “That’s what it says on my door,” I admitted.
  “They say you’re a man who can help me.”
  “Who’s they?”
  “A friend of mine lost a Higgs boson. He said you helped him find it. And Professor Schrödinger,” she tapped some ash into an ashtray, “Whose cat you got out of that horrible box.”
  I hadn’t been sure if Whiskers was dead or alive, even after I had gotten her out.
  And I had never found the sicko that had put her in it.
  “What’s the subject?” I asked.
  “It’s my sister,” her brows furrowed, “She’s in some sort of godawful trouble, I just know it.”
  “What’s the hypothesis?”
  “Alice and I are twins. You may laugh, but since the moment we were born, we were like two entangled particles. What she feels, I feel, and right now my insides feel like a Gordian knot of superstrings.”
  It sounded like egghead stuff, but I needed the dough.
  “And the equation?”
  “Couple years back, she took to the fast life with a wiseguy named Black Hole Bob, a regular no-gooder,” she sighed, “When we met last week, she had the nerve to say I looked older than her. I told her she had aged me with worry. I advised her to drop him like a superheated potato and we got into this godawful argument. I haven’t seen her since. I regret it all now, but you can’t go back in time, Wheeler-Feynman non-withstanding.”
  “Black Hole Bob, the owner of Quark?”
  She lifted an eyebrow. “You know him?”
  I nodded. “He’s a particle I’ve collided with.”
  

  Quark was a waterside dive in the bad part of town. Outside the door, a working girl was moving on some tourist, broaching the subject of non-local entanglement. I stepped past the pair and into the hopping honkytonk.
  I had been a regular, in the long ago. From top to bottom, the bar had a certain charm, but I remembered the drinks having strange flavours. Back in the when, I had been more preoccupied with the uppers and downers I could score in the alleyway beside.
  Fermi was on tonight, dressed in reds and greens and singing the blues. I sent a smile her way, and she sent one back. I found a seat at the bar beside Old Lorentz. The wino looked adrift in a Dirac sea of negative energy, and there was no shore in sight. In front of him were three empty cups and a thin wallet.
  “Take it slow, oldtimer,” I said, looking at the cups, “The faster you go,” I tapped his wallet, “The shorter you become.”
  He cocked a bleary eye at me. “Haven’t seen you around in a neutrino’s half-life.”
  It hadn’t been that long, but time moved slower for Lorentz, trapped in the gravity of his booze-bound existence.
  “I’m looking for a dame called Alice.”
  “We’re all looking for something,” he turned his eyes away, “I’m looking for another drink.”
  I took out my wallet. “Oh look, I appear to have dropped a ten-dollar note.”
  He closed his eyes. “I’m not looking, and till I do the wave function hasn’t collapsed. It’s entirely possible that you might have dropped a twenty.”
  I put another bill down, a twin to the ten, and Lorentz opened his eyes.
  He signaled the barkeep for a top-up. “Alice was a good kid. Pity she fell for the Black Hole. Word on the street is she’s gone now, permanently, past that event horizon from which none of us can return.”
  A chill went through my body like a large hadron through a collider. “What happened?”
  “No one knows exactly, but everyone knows the gist. It’s a strange paradox ain’t it, how some information escapes?”, the barkeep came by and poured a cup to perfection, “But word is Bob was there, watching her, when she went down,” Lorentz sipped his drink, “And that Alice didn’t fall,” he turned to me, “The girl was pushed.”
  

  Black Hole Bob.
  He hadn’t gotten that nickname for his sunshine disposition. He was the apex predator of his tiny galaxy, and once you got sucked into his orbit there was no hope of escape.
  I snuck past his goons and into his office with a gun in hand.
  He looked up from a newspaper. “You.”
  “Me,” I confirmed.
  He put down the newspaper and took up a smouldering cigar. “What’s with the armament?”
  I said, “I want to know where’s Alice.”
  He puffed away. “Quantum fuzziness, boyo, means that anything and anyone can be anywhere. For example,” hands grabbed me from behind and threw me to the floor, “My guys could be behind you.”
  One goon held me down and the other took my gun.
  “Who sent you?” he asked.
  “Her sister.”
  Bob frowned. “Alice doesn’t have a sister.”
  Guns spoke eloquently — once, twice, thrice. I opened my eyes. The goons and Bob were dead. The dame and Lorentz were standing in the doorway, guns in hand.
  “Nice to see you again,” I said, “Alice.”
  She smiled and shot Lorentz through the head. The wino died without a whimper.
  “A sweet set-up,” I nodded, “What now?”
  “Now,” she smiled, “I’m free to take over Black Hole Bob’s operation. Thank you so much, for being such a sweet decoy.”
  She turned her gun towards me. I dove for mine. She fired, but I was faster, faster than a tachyon.
  She fell to the floor, and sighed, “Oh, it could have worked.”
  I went and sat by her. “According to the Many-Worlds interpretation, darling, somewhere, there’s a universe where it worked out for you.”
  She closed her eyes. “That makes me feel a little better.”
  But she was dead in this one.
  

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