blue electricity’s familiar
pull dissipated slowly, leaving Doctor
Samuel Beckett wondering where and when he had landed this time. He blinked, trying to take in the new surroundings, which was
hard to do being that it was pitch black. Sam looked down at
himself, seeing that he was dressed in a sloppy pair of jeans with a
checkered shirt, and he had nothing but a beat-up backpack
at his feet to help indicate
who he was and what he was doing there.
his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he was finally able to make out that he
was in a forest of some kind, and apparently his host had intended to camp
here for the night. Looking
behind him, the leaper saw a small campfire burning and noticed the
bag was open, as if the leapee was just going to unpack a few things.
felt desolate there, and the scientist couldn’t
help but shiver a bit, even though it
was quite warm out. It
was bad enough leaping into an unknown person and place, but even worse when
all alone. Sam
hoped that Al would show up soon so that he could see
a familiar face and find out why he was here.
Surprisingly, a white light came from behind
the quantum physicist, and he turned around to see the Imaging Chamber Door,
adding to the luminescence from the campfire, as Admiral Albert Calavicci
stepped through it. “Heya,
Sam, I guess we got lucky this time. Ziggy’s
proclaiming the nano-search time today to be a record!” the observer
“I think she might be right,” returned Sam
with a small smile. “So, what
do you have for me, Al?”
The expression on Al’s face turned quickly
to one of playful annoyance. “Hey,
you just got here. We haven’t
run anything by Ziggy yet. I
just thought I’d let ya know what was going on, that’s all.
All we know is that the date is June 6, 1960, and you’re somewhere
in South Carolina.”
“All right, good, so I know my when and part
of my where. How about who
I’ve leaped into and why I’m here?”
Al chuckled at Sam’s impatience.
“Beeks is on her way to the Waiting Room as we speak, so just hold
yer horses, Sam!” the observer replied jovially.
He always enjoyed talking to his friend without having to wrack his
brain about those kinds of things, but the leaper seemed to like to get down
As Al figured, Sam wasn’t enjoying the
chitchat. There was a cold wind blowing now as smoke blew in his face.
After coughing and sidestepping the blowing smoke, he said
incredulously, “Hold my horses? Why
don’t you go back and speed things up with Ziggy if you have nothing
better to do?”
“All right, I can see you’re cranky,” he commented as the
Imaging Chamber Door re-opened. “I’ll
come back after you’ve had your nap.”
Without a word more between them the Door closed, leaving Sam alone
again… but not for long. The time-traveler felt a heavy object come into contact with
his back and he fell to his knees, now wishing that he hadn’t ushered Al
away so quickly.
“Ohhhhh boy!” he cried out in pain.
June 6, 1960
Mulhill farm near Carlisle, South Carolina
Sam forced himself to fall forward and he
rolled over onto his back, quickly getting back onto his feet.
Putting himself into a defensive position, the leaper saw what had
been the cause of his fall. A
man in a tank top was wielding a bat-like weapon, looking ready to give Sam
another wallop. Before the
other man could make another move, Sam saw two more men coming out from
behind a bush, also with blunt weapons in their hands.
Being proficient in a few martial arts, the
time-traveling scientist decided that the best way to deal with this was to
rid the men of their weaponry. Quickly,
he brought his foot into contact with the assailant’s one hand, and then
the other, and finished the attacker off with a sweep kick.
Now it was his turn to take
to the ground.
“Boss!” the two men called out as they
dropped their branches, and each grabbed one of the man’s arms to pull him
Now having the upper hand in this situation,
Sam took a better look at the three men who had just appeared. The
original attacker was thin and had dark hair, including a moustache and
goatee. The other two men were
overweight and dressed very similarly to Sam, in flannel shirts and jeans,
although their pants were overalls. One
had a beard and the other’s front teeth were badly decayed.
The thought of Deliverance immediately came to Sam’s mind, but he didn’t want
to jump to too many conclusions until he knew more. Perhaps these men had simply thought he was an intruder on
their property. The question in
his mind was quickly answered when the goateed farmer got to his feet with
the help of the other two men, spitting to the ground and looking like he
was about to explode.
“What’re ya doin’ on our land?” he
“Uh…” Sam said, still not sure what he
was here to do. “I was just
making camp for the night. I
didn’t mean to trespass.”
“Well, ya were,” said the man, but then he
paused, softening a bit. “Aw,
well,” he continued, freeing his arms violently from the other men as if
it was an annoyance even though they had just helped him up.
“Name’s Tom Mulhill. These
here are my younger brothers, Mick and Paddy.”
“I’m, uh… just passing through,” Sam
said, trying to evade the issue of his name since Al hadn’t told him what
it was yet. “Look, I’m sorry if I caused…”
“No matter… where’d you learn them
moves?” Tom asked, making the time-traveler blush with embarrassment.
“I’ve had a bit of training in my day.”
The other two men were oddly quiet, just
letting their older brother take the lead in this encounter.
“Well,” Tom continued, “I reckon we have room t’ put ya up
tonight, if ya want,” he said. “Hate
to see drifters out… driftin’, ’specially on my land. We
got a farm just beyond these woods.”
“That—that would be nice,” Sam nodded,
already figuring out that in the South in the 1960s, people were much more
hospitable than they were in modern times.
“Well, c’mon then,” Tom said, letting
Sam take the lead while he and his brothers followed.
Sam was a little disconcerted having the
tables turn so quickly. First,
this Tom guy attacked him, and then suddenly he was offering a place to
sleep. “Ya look like ya could use somethin’ in that there stomach
o’ yers,” Tom pointed out. “How’s
about we fix ya some grub when we get to the farm?”
“Err… Boss, y’ think that’s a good
idea?” Mick asked as he tromped alongside Paddy.
“Ahh, shuddup, Mick. Hank
ain’t gonna be back fer a few days at least.
What he don’t know won’t hurt ’im. ’Sides, does this man look like he’s a troublemaker?” Despite
the fact that Sam had knocked the man to the ground, Tom Mulhill felt it had
only been in self-defense, and the drifter did not know it was private
Mick, the man with very poor dental hygiene,
licked his lips, still concerned about housing a stranger at their farm. “Err… well, Boss, he did…”
Tom turned quickly on his heels to face his
younger brother. “I said
shuddup, didn’t I? I’m in
charge while Hank’s away, and what I say goes!”
The sudden outburst caused Doctor Beckett to
stop in his tracks as well, wondering what kind of brothers these guys were.
First of all, the two younger ones were calling Tom
“Boss,” and he certainly seemed to be living up to the title.
“Look, fellas, I don’t wanna cause any
trouble. I just needed some rest before the morning, and I can be on
my way now, since it seems I’m trespassing,” Sam said to Tom, attempting
a friendly smile. He didn’t
want to make any disruptions to this family’s farm or their routine.
“Oh jus’ ignore him.
He gets a little edgy ’round new people, that’s all,” Tom
replied, sounding like he was talking about a nervous dog rather than
another human being. After a
brief pause, Tom sped up to join Sam at his side, but still talking loudly
enough for his brothers to hear the conversation. “It’s
Hank he wants to be ’fraid of, and since he ain’t around to do squat,
I’m in charge, and I say you come and have somethin’ to eat.” The
farmer then put an arm around the leaper’s shoulder, guiding him through
the forest back to the ranch. It
made Sam feel a little uncomfortable, but he endured it nonetheless, glad to
have a roof over his head for the night.
“Well, thank you, Mr. Mulhill,” he said,
wanting to sound grateful.
As they walked along, the senior Mulhill
present continued talking. “Aw,
call me Tom. And as I said, this ’ere is Patrick; Paddy we call ’im,”
he said, pointing to the thinner of the two younger brothers and the only
one of them sporting a full beard. “And
that there is Michael, or Mick fer short.”
Mick was very round and was wearing a baseball cap. Smiling at Sam, the leaper found it difficult not to make a
face at the shameful teeth that Mick had obviously not taken very good care
“They’re m’ half-brothers, but since
we’re on duty, they gotta call me ‘Boss.’
Ain’t that right, boys?” Tom continued.
“Right, Boss,” they both replied in unison
reluctantly. Doctor Beckett
found such a custom a little odd, considering his family farm in Indiana had
been just the family as well.
Tom went on talking to Sam acting like it was
some kind of tour. He had
certainly taken to the leaper pretty quickly for some reason. “I
know they ain’t likin’ it, but, well, it’s Hank, our older brother,
who sets the rules around here. It’s
his farm, y’ see, but he’s away on business.
Since I’m next oldest, he puts me in charge when he ain’t
All Sam could do was nod at the words,
actually starting to feel grateful for all of this information. It
would help Ziggy with zeroing in on what he had leaped here to accomplish.
The rest of the walk back to the farmhouse was
uneventful as Tom prattled on about what they did at the farm, mostly
focusing on crops like corn and green beans, but also raising some livestock
and running a small dairy business. They
entered through a side entrance that led to a small room beside a kitchen
and removed their boots before stepping into the kitchen.
“You got a name? Don’t
wanna have t’ call ya ‘Stranger,’ even though that’s what y’
are,” Tom said with a laugh while the other two Mulhills watched on.
Sam knew this was coming.
“Uh yeah, I suppose you wouldn’t want to just call me
‘Stranger,’” he laughed, trying to buy time. Since
these men didn’t know him from Adam, he decided that the best option was
just to use his own name. “I’m
The time-traveler had just begun when behind
him echoed a voice, saying, “Martin… ‘Marty’ Adler…”
Sam glanced back, pretending to be
acknowledging Paddy and Mick, as well as Tom, and saw Al staring back at
him. He tried not to miss a
beat with the three brothers. “Sammm…martin—Martin Adler.”
Tom looked at the leaper like he’d come from
Mars, his upper eyebrows scrunched in skepticism. “Well,
which is it? Sam or Martin?”
“You can just call me Marty,” Sam replied,
thankful that Al had decided to show up when he did.
“Well, we like nicknames ’round here,”
Tom nodded. Mick and Paddy
tried hard not to show it, but Sam caught a subtle expression that gave him
the impression they were less than thrilled with their nicknames. “So,
Marty, why don’t you sit on down at this here table and we’ll get ya
some vittles. We have some
leftover chicken and ’taters from our dinner.
Paddy’ll heat it in the oven fer ya.”
Paddy rushed over to the fridge, grabbing a
couple of pans and placing them in the oven.
Sam could see that Paddy and Mick seemed to have an obvious fear of
crossing their older brother. He
wondered if his leap had anything to do with possibly strengthening the bond
between these men and improving family ties. He
had been on so many leaps that had something to do with bringing a family
“Thank you,” Sam said to Tom as he sat
down, waiting for the food. Al
stood beside him and ran off some information he had just gotten from Ziggy.
“You’re from… well hey, what do you
know? You’re from Indiana. You’re
twenty-one years old, born in nineteen thirty-nine, and you—I mean,
Martin—ran away from home about four years ago and have been drifting from
state to state during that time, doing odd jobs and just trying to get by. Ziggy
still doesn’t know why you’re here, but it’s probably no accident you
landed near these clowns,” Al commented, pointing to the three brothers.
“So, where ya from?” Tom asked.
“Indiana,” Sam answered, just glad to be
able to actually say something that was true.
“I’ve been gone for about four years now, just wandering
around.” Tom nodded in
response, looking as though he understood Martin Adler’s situation
After Sam had finished the meal, Mick and
Paddy cleared his plates and started to wash the dishes. The
scientist felt a little awkward not helping them with the chores, but Tom
insisted that he was a guest and encouraged him to come into the living
room. Sam followed the farmer
and took a look around, noticing a group of pictures hanging on the wall
above the mantel of the fireplace. At
the top were an older man, also with overalls, and a young dark-haired
woman. Underneath them were
four men, three of which he had already met.
Sam assumed the one remaining was Hank—the older brother that Tom
had mentioned was away on business.
Sam nodded to the photos. “Your
family?” he asked, already knowing the answer.
Tom nodded, but Sam detected a subtle
annoyance in his features, as if he wasn’t happy that the visitor had been
nosey enough to ask. “Them’s
the family,” he began, and explained who each of the people were.
“That there’s our ma,” explained Tom, pointing to the
photograph of the young woman, “and this here’s our pa,” he continued,
now pointing at the man in overalls. “Both
of ’em’ve gone to be with the Lord, bless ’em.”
Sam bowed his head, unsure of what to say. He did not know how long ago either of them had passed away
and hoped Al might be able to give some insight.
Tom went on, identifying the last unknown
photograph. “You already met
me ’n’ Paddy ’n’ Mick: that
one there’s Hank, our older brother I mentioned to ya.”
“Well, you look like you have a very nice
family,” Sam admitted.
Al was hitting the handlink behind Sam, trying
to gather data on all the names he’d just heard. “Hmmm…
Sam, it appears in the original history that Hank, the older brother,
disappeared without a trace. He
apparently went to a farm expo in North Carolina and his family never saw
“Hank disappeared?” Sam repeated, a bit
Tom was now staring at him with a glint of
anger in his eye. “What’s
that?” the farmer asked, almost accusatorily.
“Er…” Sam said, “I mean, so Hank
disappeared for awhile and left you in charge of the farm, huh? You
must enjoy being the leader.” The
leaper was now blushing fiercely, embarrassed to have made such a stupid
mistake, but the data Al had given him had taken him completely off guard. It did indicate a reason for why he might be here though.
Tom still looked at him strangely, but decided
to let it go for the time being. “Yeah,
and I have to admit, me an’ my brothers have gotten even more work done
around here just in the few days since Hank left. Them
boys know how to take orders.”
Just at that moment, Mick and Paddy came out
of the kitchen after cleaning up the dishes. “Well,
Boss, I’m beat,” said Mick, yawning and exposing his teeth. Sam wished he could have handed Mick a toothbrush and reminded
him of the importance of dental care before bed. Of course, he himself didn’t have any supplies along those
lines either, unless of course Marty had a brush in his beat-up sack.
Maybe you’re really here to teach this guy how to brush and
floss,” Al commented at the sight of Mick’s mouth, obviously thinking
the same thing as the leaper.
“Sounds fine t’ me, Mick,” Tom said. “We got a lot o’ weeds to be a-pullin’ tomorrow, so ya
might as well turn in. As fer
me, I think I’ll go check up on Midnight, Icing, Donut Glaze, and the cows
before turnin’ in. Why
don’t you and Paddy get a pilla and some blankets here for Mr. Sam Martin
Adler to sleep on?”
“That’s very kind of you,” Sam stated,
suddenly feeling fairly tired himself. He
also knew that he would have a better opportunity to talk to Al once the
brothers were out of the room.
Paddy returned with a pillow and a blanket for
Sam, leading him over to the couch that looked like it had been around as
long as the brothers and then some. After
letting Paddy know that he was fine, Sam settled on the couch, taking a seat
in the middle. He was alone
now, except for Al.
“Hank disappears in North Carolina? How am I supposed to stop that, Al? They wouldn’t believe me if I suddenly told them that,”
the leaper asked of his observer, remembering the expression that had
crossed Tom’s face when he accidentally repeated Al’s report. “Is
Ziggy sure there’s nothing else that goes wrong here?”
“I don't know what to tell you, kid,” Al
said, shrugging. “That’s
all Ziggy has. She’s looking
up information on the parents and the rest of the family, but I guess for
now, just keep your eyes and ears open, find out all you can about these
people. I’ll try to get Ziggy
to narrow things down on what you’re supposed to do.”
Sam made a face. “That
would be terrific,” he said snidely.
You get a good night’s sleep on that… comfortable couch,” the
admiral said, smirking, and then he opened the Imaging Chamber Door and was
Dr. Beckett lay down, the couch’s old bars
digging into his back. It
obviously wasn’t meant to be slept on, and as tired as Sam was, he found
it hard to fall asleep between the horrible couch and all the thoughts
running through his mind. He glanced around the room, taking everything in. He
saw the photos again hanging on the wall, a cellar door with a dresser just
beside it holding all the usual office materials, an old television set from
the mid-Fifties, and two other well-used chairs. The
leaper sighed, trying to close his eyes and get some rest. He
eventually drifted off and never heard Tom come in that night.
June 7, 1960
Mulhill farm near Carlisle, South Carolina
After waking up several times throughout the
night, Sam finally saw light pouring through the windows, indicating
morning. He was grateful to finally be able to get up off the couch and
move about. Sitting up and
rubbing his sore back, Sam heard footsteps coming down the stairs.
The leaper wiped his eyes as Tom stepped into the living room.
“Mornin’, Marty,” greeted the farmer, giving a sideways smile. “Didja sleep well?”
Not wanting to offend his host, Sam nodded his
head. The couch was the most
uncomfortable piece of furniture he had ever had the displeasure of sleeping
on and it had been humid all night long, not that anybody could do anything
about the weather. “Yeah,
just fine, thanks,” answered Doctor Beckett as he stood up, pulling at the
front of his shirt in a vain attempt to get rid of the wrinkles that had
formed during the night.
“Good, good, glad to hear that,” the elder
brother responded as the two younger ones appeared at the bottom of the
steps. “Ya can go grab a shower if ya want. Paddy an’ Mick here’ll make breakfast.”
Nodding again in response, and really needing
a shower, Sam asked for directions to the bathroom. It
was down the hallway along the stairs, opposite a closet. Upon entering the washroom, it was obvious that the brothers
were in desperate need of cleaning lessons. The
fixtures were covered with water spots, the toilet was running, and the
bathtub had a wide, grimy ring. The
thought ran through Sam’s head to just pretend to take a shower for fear
of getting filthier at having to step into the tub, but instead breathed a
sigh and disrobed. The shower
was pretty quick, as the water temperature could not seem to get above
lukewarm. The leaper dried
himself off with a clean towel, which seemed to be the only thing in the
bathroom that had been washed lately.
Doctor Beckett considered combing his hair,
but after seeing that the only two combs were congested with hairs and
dandruff, he simply put his clothes back on, feeling at least slightly
refreshed and a little more awake. The
scientist left the restroom as quickly as he could and returned to the
kitchen, smelling the wonderful aroma of bacon, eggs, and home fries. Tom
was merely sitting at the table watching Paddy and Mick, looking at them as
if at any moment they were going to make some kind of mistake.
Noticing their houseguest had returned, Tom
looked up at Sam with a welcoming grin.
“Good shower?” he asked.
Inwardly, the quantum physicist grimaced at
the pathetic bathing that he just experienced, although it was probably
better than the locker rooms at high school.
“Yeah, thanks for letting me use your bathroom,” Sam responded,
smiling politely. The men were very hospitable, despite their appearance, and
the time-traveler wouldn’t dare offend them by complaining about the
cleanliness of their restroom.
“No problem, Marty,” Tom replied, nodding
toward a chair as he indicated for Sam to take a seat, immediately having
Paddy drop a plate of eggs, bacon, and home fries in front of him. Mick
did the same for Tom, and then they sat down with their own meals. Nobody
touched their food: both Paddy
and Mick were looking at their older brother in anticipation.
Tom looked at the leaper, and so followed the gazes of his younger
siblings. “Since you’re our
guest, Marty, would you do the honors?”
Sam was stunned for a moment before realizing
that he wanted him to say grace, making the leaper feel guilty about
thinking anything bad about these people. Appearances
could be very deceiving. “Oh,
sure, if you’d like,” he answered. Bowing
his head and clasping his hands, Sam prayed, “Thank you, Lord, for this
food you have given to us. Also,
please bless Tom, Paddy, and Mick for being such gracious hosts to a
complete stranger. May the
strength of this meal help us throughout the day. Amen.”
“Amen,” the three brothers replied in
chorus and they dug into their food with eagerness.
Breakfast was over pretty quickly and, after finishing his last home
fry, Mick jumped up as a kettle began whistling on the stove. Paddy got up as well, grabbing four mugs from a cupboard and
placing them on the table. He
dumped a spoonful of instant coffee in each cup and retook his seat. It
sure appeared to Sam that Tom had these brothers of his well trained.
Mick walked over with the kettle and filled
each of the mugs with the boiling water. As
Sam began stirring his soon-to-be coffee with a spoon, Al suddenly appeared
in the middle of the table, startling the leaper so much that he forcefully
jittered his spoon, knocking over the mug from the inside and spilling the
freshly made coffee on the table.
“Sorry!” he exclaimed, jumping up to get a
towel. He grabbed one from the
counter and turned around to favor Al with a glare, but he had disappeared
without a sound.
“Don’t worry about it, Marty,” Tom
answered, the gracious host that he was. Doctor
Beckett was grateful, however, that neither he nor his brothers made any
motion to help clean up. To
Sam, it only made sense that since he had made the mess, he must clean it
only I could make Al do it!
he mused silently to himself.
The coffee was downed speedily and the three
men went through the kitchen door leading outside.
“We’ve got some work to do on the field. Feel
free to relax, Marty,” Tom reported as they began gearing up with rubber
boots and coveralls.
“Well, the least I can do is wash the
dishes,” Sam responded, getting a smile from Tom.
“I have no other way to repay you, really.”
“All right, Marty. Do
whatever ya feel like.” The
three exited through the screen door and disappeared around the corner of
the house. Collecting up the
breakfast dishes after starting to fill the sink, the leaper added soap to
the water and began the process of washing the plates, utensils, and
glasses. Thinking back to his
days in Elk Ridge, he remembered that they never had a dishwasher at home,
and as far as he could remember through the Swiss-cheesed brain of his, he
had never had one in any of his own places either. Hand-washing
the dishes had the advantage of some quiet time to think.
“Sorry about that, Sam,” the scientist
heard from behind, startling him again. So
much for some quiet time.
“What was that for? Doesn’t
Ziggy normally center you on a more acceptable place to appear?” Sam
criticized as he dried his hands on a tea towel.
“Well, uh… Ziggy’s been having issues
lately,” Al explained. “We
have Dom working on the problem. I
have to admit, the look on your face was priceless when I appeared in the
middle of the table,” he chuckled.
“Oh, ha ha, very funny, Al. Just
tell me Ziggy has something for me.”
Al looked embarrassed. “’Fraid
not. All we know is that Hank
disappears off the face of the Earth, Tom takes over the farm with his
brothers, and that’s the end of story. However,
we have found out that this family has a history of tragedy. Both parents are dead, the second-oldest brother died seven
months ago, and Tom is only a half-sibling to the rest of the family.
His mother, Lily Mulhill, was raped and he was the result. Seems
the family took him on as their own, though.”
Sam looked thoughtful. “Still,
it might explain Tom’s temperament. Al,”
he said, turning to the observer, “I think there’s more going on here
than those brothers are letting on. I
can’t have leaped in here to do anything about Hank… if he disappeared
in North Carolina, I should have leaped in there.”
“My advice,” he said, opening the Imaging Chamber Door, “is to
take a look around the farm, see what you can discover about their
lifestyle, although, of course, you got a pretty good idea last night from
the looks of that couch out there.”
“And the bathroom this morning,” Sam said,
shivering. “Just… just see
what you can find out from Ziggy. This
place is giving me the creeps.”
“Well, there’s no woman’s touch to keep
the place alive,” Al commented, looking like his thoughts were elsewhere.
Sam cleared his throat. To
him, it didn’t matter who was living in a house, man or woman, the place
should be kept picked up and clean in order to feel comfortable.
“Right… right, I’m on it,” Al
exclaimed, going through the Door and vanishing.
After finishing up the dishes, Sam was at a
loss as to what to do. He hated
to impose on his hosts any longer if he didn’t have to, but the idea of
spending a night in the foreboding forest really didn’t appeal to him
either. He decided the best
thing he could do was play detective for now and take a look around the
premises, as Al had suggested. The
sooner he could leap out of this place, the better.
Sam Beckett walked outside to be greeted by a
sunny, hot, and humid day. He
could feel the sweat forming on his brow before he had been out there for
two minutes. He could now see the outside of the house more clearly, since
the night before it had been too dark to make out its nuances. It
wasn’t in much better shape than the inside:
it needed a fresh coat of paint and more than a few new boards to
replace the ones that had come loose. Apparently,
looks didn’t really matter much to the brothers. There
was something strange about them all around, and even as hospitable as they
had been, thoughts of the hillbillies featured in the movie Deliverance
still plagued him.
He started making his way around the
perimeter, looking in all directions and finally seeing the field and the
three forms at a distance working it. The
leaper started heading toward the field, thinking he could offer his
assistance and perhaps get some more information about what the brothers did
Hearing Sam’s footsteps crunching on the dry
earth, Tom stood up from the weed he was pulling and greeted his guest.
“How’s it going, Marty?” Paddy
and Mick stopped what they were doing to look up as well, probably hoping
that Sam would offer his assistance.
“Good,” responded Doctor Beckett. “I
just wondered if you needed some help.
I mean, no reason for me just to sit around the house.
I lived on a farm as a boy, after all, and I could give you a
Tom just nodded and explained that they were
pulling weeds, proceeding to demonstrate which were the offending plants. Mick and Paddy just kept on with their work as Sam began to
pluck at the weeds, deciding that conversation might be the ticket to
forgetting about his nervousness. If
Al wasn’t going to be any help, he obviously had to do some reconnaissance
of his own.
“So, it must be nice being in charge when
Hank’s gone, huh?” he asked Tom while tugging at a very uncooperative
Mick grumbled something under his breath, but
the elder brother seemed to brush it off. “Yeah,
I guess so. He usually leaves
me to tend to these two twits anyway.”
Now it was Tom who was starting to get nervous, but he covered it up
as he always had. What Sam said
next made the farmer want to kick his behind into the next county, but
again, he had to restrain his emotions.
“I’m sure your brothers don’t appreciate
you calling them twits,” the time-traveler said, trying to be as
good-hearted as he could muster. He
was starting to get the feeling that the two younger brothers bowed to
Tom’s every command, because they were not laughing. Sam
cleared his throat. He had
never been good at pulling off jokes. “Well,
anyway, I’m sure that you’ll be happy to have him back. I’d
like to meet him and thank him for his hospitality, too.”
That really seemed to rub Tom the wrong way. The elder Mulhill gave a darting glance that could have been
malice or suspicion. Doctor
Beckett was now very confused and was beginning to suspect that something
was amiss here, knowing that it would probably be best to find out what that
was, and soon, because he was starting to get the impression that he
wouldn’t be feeling their hospitality for long.
March 26, 2006
Gate, New Mexico
As Al left Sam for the third time during this
leap, he sauntered into the Control Room and placed the handlink in its
place near the main control board. “Any
luck yet?” he questioned to Dominic Lofton, the chief programmer for
Project Quantum Leap. The
reluctant response came in the form of a negative headshake.
“I’m sorry, Al,” Professor Lofton
responded with a tinge of nervousness in his voice, “but all we have to go
on is what the visitor has told Doctor Beeks beyond the data we could pull
before taking down the research unit. It’s
still offline for month-end maintenance and should be up within a couple of
hours.” About to say something else, he cut himself short there,
hoping the admiral wouldn’t push any further.
Eyeing the programmer warily, Observer
Calavicci stepped up closer to Dominic. “What
else is going on, Dom?” he demanded in a no-nonsense fashion.
“Nothing,” Lofton replied, trying to evade
the question. “It’s all
theory and we can’t speculate on that alone.”
“Enlighten me,” Al encouraged with a wan
expression. He didn’t like
the thought of anything being kept from him that involved Sam.
“Well, this leap doesn’t make much sense. From the data that we already had on the time period, Ziggy
can’t find any reason why Doctor Beckett is in South Carolina in 1960 on
that farm at all. All she knows
is that Hank Mulhill disappeared… but nothing else even remotely comes
together. I know Ziggy isn’t
up to top speed, but she’s never not been able to determine the reason for
one of Sam’s leaps. It’s
just… disturbing is all. It’s
like he’s going to have to find it out on his own.”
Al looked deeply concerned. The
programmer was right, nothing about this leap made much sense so far. The
admiral knew that Sam would be waiting for some sort of guidance that he
couldn’t give him right now, and he only hoped that Sam getting to know
the hillbillies would shed some light on the situation.
June 7, 1960
Mulhill farm near Carlisle, South Carolina
Tom wondered what their visitor was up to,
making all of this talk about Hank. He
stared at the stranger for a moment, trying to see what he meant by wanting
to meet their older brother. Tom
couldn’t see anything in his expression except perhaps curiosity, and
although the guest didn’t know about Hank’s situation, he was still
getting way too nosey for Tom’s taste. “Yeah,” he answered levelly to the statement about meeting
Hank, trying to keep civil, and then turned back to his weed pulling. The
farm was better off without Hank, Tom figured, and Tom’s being in charge
certainly got things done a lot faster.
As the four men continued to pull weeds in
silence, Sam glanced at his watch and noticed it was nearing noon.
The day was half over and any hopes that he would leap out of there
before having to spend another night were dashed. If only he could figure out what he was here to do. Al
didn’t seem to know anything, which had struck him as odd. Usually
Ziggy was able to determine something by now, unless she was having
technical problems. However, he
knew that he was there for a reason, and all he knew was that he did not
want to be stuck in South Carolina circa 1960 forever.
Dr. Beckett shook the thoughts from his head
and looked back to the brothers. He
was so sweaty now that it was running into his eyes and stinging. The brothers seemed unaffected by the heat; they were probably
so used to the weather that it didn’t bother them nearly as much. At
any rate, maybe there was an opportunity for him to go get something cold to
drink and do some more exploring. The
other men weren’t very good at conversation, so Sam wasn’t getting
anywhere. He was going to have to see if anything else on their property
told him anything. Maybe they
had defective equipment that was going to kill one of them and that was what
he was here to do, or maybe he was here to make sure Tom was nicer to his
brothers. It could have been
anything. Their responses to
his questions about Hank were suspicious, but he couldn’t read these
people well enough to know why.
Sam finished with a weed and then told Tom,
“Well, I might go in and make us some lunch. I’m
not used to this southern sun, being from Indiana, you know. I’ll call you when it’s ready.”
Tom was starting to think that maybe Marty was
on to him… he and his brothers had only been out in the field for a couple
of hours clearing up the weeds before the corn grew any taller, and the
drifter already wanted to go get lunch. Well, I may be a welcoming host, the elder Mulhill thought to
himself, but I sure as Hell ain’t
gonna let him snoop ’round here on his own. I
shoulda left one o’ the twits in the kitchen with him before.
Putting on a façade of hospitality, Tom
responded very contrary to his emotions. “Sure
Marty, I’ll send Paddy on in with ya.” He
then looked over at Paddy who nodded and rose up from his knees.
Sam hadn’t been expecting this, but it also
told him that Tom no longer trusted him, not wanting the leaper going
anywhere alone on the property. Then
again, having one of the younger Mulhill brothers alone with him might allow
him to open up without the oppressive Tom around. “All
right, I could use the help,” Sam smiled at Tom. “And
I’m sure Paddy could use the break.”
Tom’s expression continued covering his true
feelings as he nodded at Sam. “We
don’t normally take a break ’til two o’clock, but if yer willin’ to
make us somethin’ up, I’m sure we’ll gobble it down.”
He then moved his glance over to Paddy.
“Go with ’im, Pad’.”
As if having Tom in charge wasn’t bad
enough, Patrick Mulhill always had to endure being called “Paddy.” Hank
and everyone else always called him Pat for short, but since Mick had never
gone by his Christian name of Michael and Tom got a kick out of those Irish
jokes, he got dubbed Paddy. He
had never liked it, but the chain of command was always oldest to youngest:
Hank, Tom, Mick, and then him.
“Yes, Boss,” he responded, though he was
already on his feet. That was
another thing that bothered him—having to call Tom “Boss” when they
were on duty—but that was Hank’s idea for whoever was in charge of the
farm at the time.
Once Sam and Paddy were out of earshot of the
other two men as they headed toward the house, the time-traveler decided to
spark up some conversation. “So…
you like working for the family business?” he asked Paddy innocently. “You
and your brothers look like you make quite a team.”
Paddy had been following behind the leaper as
they walked toward the farmhouse, but found himself beside Sam, who began
talking to him. “Yeah, I
guess so,” he answered a bit distantly. “Mick
and me usually like having Hank around, though. Tom
doesn’t boss us around as much when Hank’s here.”
Paddy figured that Sam wouldn’t go around telling Tom about what he
had just said, and it was about time he got to complain to somebody besides
Mick. Just in case, he quickly
added, “Don’t tell Tom I said that.”
Nodding, Sam assured Paddy that nothing would
be passed on, noticing that the farmer almost seemed relieved to get that
out of his system. More and
more, the quantum physicist was getting the feeling that Paddy and Mick were
afraid of their older brother. “So
when is Hank due back?” he continued, hoping to stray away from the talk
of Tom being in charge.
“Oh, he gone t’ North Carolina fer a few
days… won’t be back fer two more days, sometime on Thursday. I’m
sure hopin’ he’s back by Friday: the
tenth is Mick’s birthday. We’re
s’posed to be goin’ down t’ Columbia on the weekend fer the whole
family t’ gather. We got an
aunt and two cousins also celebratin’ birthdays this month.”
“Well, I hate to impose on you too long,”
Sam said as they entered the farmhouse. “I
get the feeling that Tom doesn’t like me too much. I
don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.”
Shaking his head, Paddy told him the opposite.
“Naw, I think he jus’ sent me in t’ watch ya. If
I go back without you, he’ll get mad. An’
don’t worry ’bout Tom, he seems to like you a lot. Normally
he don’t care fer drifters.”
Calling Sam a drifter hit a nerve with the
leaper—Paddy didn’t know the half of it. Sam
traveled from place to place just like a drifter, never sure where he was
going to end up.
“Whatcha gonna be makin’ for us?” Paddy
asked when Sam was just standing there, lost in his thoughts.
Patrick Mulhill seemed to be getting a bit
fidgety, so Doctor Beckett took no more time as he looked in the
refrigerator. There was some hamburger in there that looked like it needed
to be cooked right away. “Well,”
he laughed, “I could make some Hamburger Helper.”
Paddy stared at the stranger blankly and Sam
realized that they wouldn’t have had that brand name in the 1960s.
It hadn’t come out until 1971.
Now why could his Swiss-cheesed memory recall the date when a product
came out and nearly nothing of his own personal history? “Er,”
he quickly replied, “it’s a specialty of mine… I need some pasta and
cheese to add to this hamburger.”
“Sure, pasta’s in the cupboard and cheese
is in the ’frigerator somewhere,” Paddy informed. “Want
me to boil the water for ya?” The
youngest Mulhill thought this man was making lunch, so there was no point in
him standing by and just watching.
“That’d be great,” answered the leaper
as he found the cheese and took it out of the brand-new refrigerator along
with the hamburger. He then
proceeded to look for a bowl and some utensils to get the meat and cheese
In the meantime, he was also watching Paddy
closely, who seemed at ease now that Sam wasn’t asking him a bunch of
questions. Still, if Ziggy had nothing, Sam obviously had to find out
more. “You know, some
corn-on-the-cob might make a good side-dish… or some of those beans in the
field. I’d be happy to go gather some if you’d watch the water
for me and add the pasta when it starts to boil,” the scientist said as
nonchalantly as he could.
Paddy helped Sam get out the utensils,
grateful that the leaper had stopped asking him questions about his family. Tom
probably wouldn’t be too happy with him if he knew Paddy was talking too
much about the Mulhill history. He
also felt uncomfortable when Sam asked if they could have some vegetables
for dinner from the field. That
would mean leaving Sam alone again, and Paddy knew Tom would react pretty
badly to that.
“Nah, we’ll save that for supper,” Paddy
replied, getting a brief but quickly recovered look of disappointment from
Sam. “Just somethin’ quick is all we need right now,” Paddy
told him, eyeing the drifter up as he tried to figure out if he was up to
something or just being helpful.
“Yeah, sure, we can just have it for supper
then,” Sam agreed, turning away from him and starting to squish the
hamburger with a fork while Paddy put the water on to boil.
The scientist could feel Paddy’s eyes on him, and he had the
feeling the farmer could see right through him. Sam
had pretty much resigned himself to taking the cooking opportunity to come
up with another plan when he heard voices from outside. They
were raised in anger, and within moments, Mick and Tom had come in, arguing
like Sam had never seen them do before.
Paddy had turned wide-eyed toward them as well, appearing equally as
stunned by Mick’s anger towards Tom. Mick
was carrying a piece of corn in his hand and flailing it up and down.
Mick cried out, “Hank woulda never let this
happen… Boss.” His words
sounded bitter and condescending, which seemed to enrage Tom even more. The
fact that he would actually challenge Tom’s authority had been
unimaginable, until now, and Tom was not taking it too well.
“Well, I guess he did, now didn’t he?! I’m not the one who was pullin’ the damned weeds all
spring and I’m not the one who was givin’ the orders neither!” he
yelled at him, noticing Paddy cringe out of the corner of his eye.
It had all started while the two farmers had
been in the field. Continuing
to pull weeds after Sam and Paddy had gone back to the house, Tom had asked
Mick to check a few ears of corn to see how the crop was coming along. He
had been gone just a few minutes when he had screamed out Tom’s name—not
“Boss,” but “Tom”—which made Tom realize that this was something
serious. He ran to Mick’s
spot, and immediately his younger brother started accusing him of being the
cause of some bug getting into the corn. They
opened a few more ears and they all had, along with most of the nearby
weeds, an infestation with the same larval stage of cutworm.
Tom began yelling back, blaming Mick and Paddy
for shoddy keeping of the fields. After
all, they were the ones who were supposed to do the work. Hank
had been around all spring, so Tom wasn’t even the one in charge when the
infestation probably started. To
Tom’s surprise, though, Mick just continued to talk back, grabbing an ear
of corn and walking away from his older brother back toward the house.
Tom followed him, the two of them arguing all the way to the kitchen,
where they saw Sam and Paddy staring at them like stunned dogs. That’s
when Mick had said Hank would never have let this happen.
Tom’s outburst in response to this had only
made Mick angrier, so he made his way over to Sam and thrust the corn into
his face. “This! What do you make of it?”
Sam was taken aback at first, but inspected
the corn, frowning at what he saw. “Well,
this species is black cutworm; it tends to infest corn if weed growth
isn’t minimized in the spring. It’s
more common for them to affect the weeds, but if left alone, they’ll
attack the corn as well.”
The three brothers were now staring at the
scientist intensely; Tom especially looked about to explode, his eyes
shooting daggers. That had
obviously been the wrong thing to say, because it looked like Sam was
insinuating that the men were not knowledgeable about farm matters and had
been mistaken about when they chose to pull weeds in order to prevent this
problem. Sam quickly felt
embarrassed, and he stood there stupidly, saying, “I mean… uh…”
Tom stared him down with intensity. He couldn’t believe the nerve of the drifter: he
acted like he knew everything about farming when probably hadn’t set foot
on a farm for five years, when the Mulhills had been working their farm all
their lives. “How dare you
say that?! We’ve been workin’
this land day in, day out since we was old enough to use a hoe, and we
ain’t never had a bad crop, ’cept for poor weather.” What
Sam had said was the least of his worries though, and he turned his
attention back to Mick. “Hank
got you boys to pull every weed out there, so don’t go blaming this on me
either!” Tom’s temper was getting the better of him, but he knew he
was right, damn it.
Sam, Paddy, and Mick seemed lost as to what to
say, but Tom wasn’t finished yet. He
now looked at all three of them, his head starting to spin from the anger. “And if y’all don’t stop accusin’ me of trying to
sabotage our crop, you’ll have somethin’ comin’ for ya, I
June 7, 1960
Mulhill farm near Carlisle, South Carolina
Doctor Beckett realized that he really
wasn’t helping the situation, but if Tom didn’t calm down soon, Sam
imagined the farmer’s head might literally explode. To
Tom, who was now reeling with anger, Sam put his hands out in a peace
offering and said, “Look, Tom, I didn’t mean to insinuate anything. I
know about the cutworm because my father ran across it many times in our
fields, too. Even the most
dedicated farmer is going to have problems with pests.”
Tom Mulhill seemed to calm down, but only
slightly. Continuing in his
attempt to settle the situation, Sam began walking back and forth among the
brothers. “The important
thing is you discovered it while the corn is still young, so you can do a
bio-control or insecticide treatment and stop it before it gets out of
hand.” Sam was hoping out of all hopes that they were taking in his
words. Obviously a pest taking
over the crop could be devastating if one made one’s living from food
production. He wanted to
suggest to Tom the kind of insecticide that his father had used in the
fields, too—a natural pyrethrin that was less toxic than other
formulations—but thought Tom wouldn’t take to being told what to do,
even if it meant better safety for applying it later.
He only hoped the farmer would consider this sort of thing before
doing anything rash.
“He’s right, Boss,” said Mick, who was
beginning to think he had overstepped his bounds.
Tom had a short temper, but very rarely displayed as much fury as
they had just witnessed. “It’s
just that things ain’t the same ’round here without Hank… ya know how
it takes this whole family everything we got to run this place, and with him
gone, it’s hard t’ keep up. Plus,
it’s m’ birthday in a couple days and that’s the only time our whole
family is together.”
Sam was beginning to think that his purpose
here had something to do with keeping this family from being torn apart. Many of the leaper’s assignments had that theme, so he was
hoping that was all it was. Turning
to look at the three of them, all of whom still appeared stiff and in shock
over the argument, he suggested, “Why don’t you guys just sit down and
take a load off, and I’ll finish making the Hamburger Helper?”
“The what?” Mick declared, thinking to
himself that the stranger was talking nonsense, but sat down as suggested. He was exhausted from the argument with Tom.
“Just a recipe from home,” Sam explained,
trying to create an atmosphere of warmth and camaraderie to cool down what
had just ensued. When Mick sat
down, Tom continued standing by the door looking like he was thinking hard,
and Paddy returned to the pasta while Sam cooked the hamburger.
Once the meal was ready, Sam told Paddy to sit
down while he combined the meat, noodles, and cheese. He
also got out the plates and forks, insisting that he serve the farmers after
a wonderful breakfast and letting him stay last night.
“Thanks, Marty,” Paddy said as the
physicist put the plate in front of him. Tom
finally sat down at the table, still looking pretty angry, and said nothing
throughout the meal. Mick and
Sam were silent too, and Paddy didn’t want to say anything to break the
From Tom’s perspective, one thing was for
sure: the boys weren’t getting their two o’clock break that day,
and he guessed neither was he if he had to go find pesticide. He
was still angry that Mick had acted like a little upstart about the corn and
that the stranger had taken it upon himself to act like a know-it-all about
how to run a farm. He finished first and leaned back in his chair, arms crossed
in front of his chest as he waited. Mick
and Paddy seemed to speed up their eating. At least they still know
who’s boss ’round here, Tom thought to himself. The eldest Mulhill had been starting to worry about the way
Mick kept going on about Hank and the corn.
“Well, let’s get back to work,” Tom said
emotionlessly, standing up from his chair after his two brothers had
finished their food. Mick felt
another tinge of annoyance at the brother currently in charge.
Tom had never been one for long meals… it was always “work, work,
work,” although Paddy and Mick were the ones who did most of it. Figuring they had better obey him after the outburst Tom had
already had, the two younger brothers quickly got up from their chairs as
Sam didn’t feel the meal had gone nearly as
well as he had hoped. He was
thinking that by them all sitting there together, having lunch, maybe they
would open up. That was always
how it was with his family, but he often forgot that not everyone had the
nice family life that he had had. Everyone
just sat there in silence, and Sam quite honestly did not really know what
to do to keep a conversation between these brothers flowing.
He found himself wishing he had leaped into
one of the brothers instead of as a drifter. If
he were someone they knew, they would be more apt to listen.
Unfortunately, he was a stranger here in every sense, and his opinion
counted very little, especially to someone as headstrong as Tom.
If he had leaped into Hank, for example, he could probably have
knocked some sense into these guys. That,
and he would have been able to prevent Hank’s disappearance. There
were some odd variables to this leap anyway—the fact that he had leaped
into someone unknown to the people he was supposedly here to help being only
The three brothers had gotten up from the
table now; they had practically rushed through the meal. Tom
said it was time to get back to work, and Sam suddenly had another idea. “Sure,
you go do that,” he said, getting up himself and picking up his plate to
bring to the sink. “I’ll
just do the dishes and then, if you like, I can go to town and get the
pesticide for you while you work in the fields.”
The time-traveler figured maybe he could ask the townspeople what
they knew about the brothers and get better insight into their history.
Tom felt that something seemed fishy about the
way Marty immediately offered to go get the pesticide. He
certainly wasn’t going to trust some drifter with his truck.
It was quite possible that the stranger had been trying to gain their
trust just to take off with one of the vehicles, sell it to someone for some
quick cash, and go back to Illinois or Indiana or wherever he said he was
from… unless of course he left there for “legal” reasons. Not
to mention, he could get the kind of pesticide that he felt would be the
“That’s all right, Marty. I’ll
go inta town. Paddy and Mick
here’ll go back out into the field, and if you wanna help ’em out,
it’d be much appreciated,” the older brother responded, watching the
man’s face while he thought over the words.
Sam knew it would have been a miracle if Tom
had agreed to such a request. Figuring
that he would have had to take one of their vehicles to town, the leaper
could not really blame him since he did not really know him at all. However,
with Tom going to get the pesticide, that meant that Sam could probably get
away with searching the farm on his own. Mick
already seemed a bit rebellious, and if Doctor Beckett could come up with an
excuse to stay in the house while the two youngest Mulhill brothers went to
the fields, it might buy him some time.
Besides, maybe Paddy and Mick would loosen up without Tom around. All
Sam knew was that this whole situation was becoming more uncomfortable by
the minute and was growing more worried as the day crept by. Staying
another night with these people really didn’t appeal to him very much at
Trying to wear as straight a face as he could
when Tom said he would go to town instead of him, Sam replied with a polite,
“No problem. I just thought
I’d offer since you have all been so hospitable. But
I’ll just get these dishes done, and then help Paddy and Mick in the
fields.” With that said, Sam
began to clear the rest of the dishes away, then smiled at Tom, hoping that
he would take the bait. The
quantum physicist really wanted the elder brother to leave now, realizing
how Paddy and Mick could feel so intimidated by him. He
was supposed to be a guest in this house and yet he felt that Tom was
bearing down on him too.
“Thanks for making lunch, Marty,” Tom said
simply in answer as the three brothers walked toward the kitchen door
leading outside. Sam waved his
hand and nodded in response; wordlessly saying “it was nothing.”
Tom was not going to outright trust a stranger, despite how pleasant
the drifter seemed. He was sure
the three of them could defend themselves against him if they had to…
which reminded him that he had better get his revolver ready just in case.
Mick looked at Paddy and Tom. “Well,
Paddy and me best get t’ work then. We’ll
try t’ clear ’s much ’s we can t’ get ready fer the pesticide.” The
second-youngest Mulhill hoped that Tom was not still upset and just wanted
to get on with their work, keeping in mind that Hank would return by Friday
and things would be back to normal.
“That’s a good idea, Mick… for once,”
Tom snarled at him, still somewhat angry about the way Mick had yelled at
him. “You two boys go on out, I’ll be out in a second.” Paddy
and Mick went outside and Tom headed up the stairs, leaving Sam alone in the
Paddy and Mick went back outside, putting
their gloves and field boots back on. The
argument was weighing heavily on Paddy’s mind and decided to let out his
thoughts. “Tom sure is pissed off at ya, Mick. You know y’ ain’t supposed t’ yell at ’im!” he
chastised his brother, even though he knew that Mick already realized that.
Mick nodded his head, knowing that Paddy was
just being his younger brother. “I
know, but he’s been pushin’ us too hard lately since Hank left, an’ I
just blew up. He’s never been
this tough on us before when Hank put ’im in charge.
Somethin’s crawled up his butt and died, I think.”
Mick looked like he was about to say something else when they heard
Tom speaking with Sam, the voice of the older brother becoming louder.
Upstairs, Tom had retrieved his gun from his
dresser drawer, hidden behind a bunch of old shirts.
It still had four bullets left in it, having used the other two to
get rid of his older brother Hank. “Bastard,”
he muttered aloud at the thought of Hank, the same word that he used for Tom
so often since he had revealed to Tom about how their mother really got
pregnant with him.
Stuffing the revolver in his pocket, Tom
headed back downstairs. “Well,
have fun with the boys out there, Marty,” he said, trying to be friendly.
Surprised at his appearance, Sam looked up
from the dishes. “Will do,”
the leaper replied, also somewhat surprised at the sudden change of
There was no reason for Tom to be mad at the
guest, so Tom figured that he might as well make him feel comfortable while
he was there. Heck,
if he’s this useful all the time, we might as well hire him on to replace
the workload that’ll result from Hank ‘quitting,’ Tom thought to
Without a word more, Tom exited the kitchen
door and saw his two younger brothers suddenly turn around to face him. Motioning them to walk away from the house with him a bit,
they followed. When Tom figured
they were out of earshot, he said to them quietly,
“Yous two keep a good eye on ’im. I figure he’s up t’ somethin’, and I don’t want nothin’
happenin’ to this farm anymore than you two do. Got
Paddy and Mick stared at their older brother
blankly and right in sync answered, “Yes, Boss.”
Tom looked pleased, especially at Mick, who
was thinking it was just best to keep the peace, despite how good it had
felt to backtalk to Tom a bit. After
all, before they knew it, Hank would be back, and things could get back to
normal. Tom then went to the
driveway, still glancing at his brothers with a “you’d better not screw
things up” glance, and then boarded one of the two pick-up trucks. Hank
had decided to take the bus to Gastonia in North Carolina, so both vehicles
were available. Driving the
1956 Chevrolet down the road was a lot nicer than the 1946 Ford rust-bucket
that they had had since their father was in charge of the farm.
The truck started up without a problem and Tom
took off down the road toward Highway 121. He
started thinking that it might have been better to send either Paddy or Mick
into town. At least then, he
could watch Marty for himself. The
farmer was beginning to suspect that the drifter felt something was up, and
he seemed pretty smart, if not more than he should be for his own good. As the truck traveled down the dirt road toward the highway,
he removed the revolver from his pocket and put it at his side.
Tom hoped that he wouldn’t need to use it, but he would if he had
Reaching the highway, he turned right and tore
off down the road toward Carlisle. Tom
didn’t want to take any longer than he had to with the insecticide.
Thankfully, traffic was light at that time in the morning and he
didn’t have to worry about somebody taking his sweet time in front of him.
It would only take a half-hour
before he got to Carlisle.
Paddy and Mick stood in their place for a few
moments after their brother had left. “Well,”
Mick said to Paddy, “we best go t’ the field. We’ll
take turns goin’ back t’ check on Marty, makin’ sure he’s not up to
somethin’.” Paddy nodded
and the two youngest Mulhills headed toward the field.
Sam watched out the window as Tom’s truck
drove off and sighed with relief. Somehow
it felt like a huge weight off his shoulders. Now
he could finally take a look around the place, wishing he had done so this
morning when Tom hadn’t been so suspicious of him. The
leaper had already seen most of the house just from the time he had spent
there, so he decided not to waste too much time with that. That
was something he could risk tonight after everyone had gone to bed. For
now, Sam felt that he needed to search the grounds and see if there was
anything unusual or faulty that would signify possible danger to the
Though he hadn’t finished the dishes, Doctor
Beckett figured he didn’t have time to dawdle with it now. Who
knew how long Tom would be gone, or if he’d change his mind and come back?
The man in charge seemed rather
friendly on his way out, but Sam knew better than to take that at face
Sam slipped out another side door of the
farmhouse, on the opposite end of where the field was, just in case Paddy
and Mick were keeping an eye on the house. His
first stop was going to be the barn just a few feet from this side of the
house. Sam Beckett headed
toward the large, red structure, looking back and forth behind and to the
sides of him on his way. The
time-traveler felt he was becoming paranoid, but Sam knew when to be
careful. Making his way to the
barn door without incident, he went in.
It looked like a normal barn, sending a pang
of nostalgia through him. There
was hay on the floor and a small loft. Stalls
held horses and a couple of cows that started making noise when he walked by
them. Sam petted their muzzles
and soothed them to be quiet as he took in the place. Nothing
seemed unusual there, and there wasn’t any large machinery that looked
like it could cause damage. He
continued to walk along past the last stall, where a beautiful black horse
was whinnying and pawing at the ground.
“Easy girl,” Sam told her, petting her
muzzle. The horse seemed distraught and Sam wanted to comfort her, but
he also did not want her cries alerting Mick and Paddy. The horse would not be comforted though, and the leaper saw
where her hooves had made quite an indentation in the back of her stall as
she had paced around it. Curious,
he went inside the stall in order to get a better look at the indentation. The
horse neighed loudly as Sam went to the area, and as he glanced down, he saw
something protruding from the dirt.
Hunkering down, the horse getting more fidgety
behind him, Sam took a closer look and his heart suddenly skipped a beat. It was a nail—a human fingernail—attached to a human
June 7, 1960
Mulhill farm near Carlisle, South Carolina
and Mick were out in the field, thinking
only about how they had a lot of weeds to pull and were only at
After ten minutes, Mick looked up at his younger brother and vocalized
his curiosity about what could be
taking Marty so long.
“I’ll go get ’im,” Paddy answered as he stood up straight, stretching before taking
off for the house. He
got to the kitchen and found that the dishes were only half
he went to the restroom,”
Paddy mused to himself. He
searched the whole house quickly but
found no sign of their visitor. However,
the side door was ajar, and
nobody had used it since the afternoon
of the previous day, before they had come in with Marty.
hurried out the door and looked all
around, thinking maybe the drifter decided to move on to wherever he
was headed, but he didn’t see anything for miles around:
the flat land surrounding the Mulhills’
was then that the farmer heard
a horse’s whinnying from the
barn and he rushed over to the stables,
spotting Sam Beckett in the aura of Martin Adler as he backed
away from Midnight’s stall,
felt chilled and frozen in his position as he looked at the finger, but
somehow had managed to get up and back away. “What the Hell
is going on here?”
he whispered. Obviously
the secrets in this family were much more sinister than the leaper had
was the buried person? Who
had put him there? Even
the horse’s behavior made him wonder… had she known the dead person, and
was her whinnying because of her being alarmed at his placement in her
believed that animals had a lot to tell, as they sensed some things on
different levels than humans did. If
only she could speak and tell him what she knew.
Sam had to figure out the next step. The
first thing he needed to do was get out of that stall and back to the house
so that the brothers would not know that he was
snooping around. The
scientist could see now why Tom seemed to be hovering over him all the time.
probably knew about this whole thing, whether he was the actual murderer or
as the leaper tried to soothe the black horse and had gotten just outside
the stall, he heard footsteps in the barn. “Hey, what’re
ya doin’ out here, Marty? Y’re suppose t’ come
help us out in the field,”
Paddy told him, trying to make his voice sound as authoritative as
possible. The leaper didn’t
answer him and just stared at
him with a shocked look on his face, both
from what he had seen in the stall and from Paddy’s surprise visit.
“Whoa, Marty, did Midnight give y’ a fright? She
can be a purty scary beast, I know. Just
come on out with me and Mick, huh?”
farmer didn’t seem very
worried about Sam being near the stall, other than concern over being
spooked by the horse, whose name apparently was Midnight. The
time-traveler really wanted to tell Paddy what he had found, but he had no
idea if Paddy was involved, and if he was and Sam told him about it, Sam
would be in big trouble. If
only Al was here! Sam thought, wishing the cigar-smoking
admiral would show up and give him some insight into this new development so
he’d know how to proceed.
As usual, Sam had no idea when Al was coming back, so he had to make due with what he knew… which was pretty much nothing.
He just played as cool as he could in front of Paddy.
“Uh, yeah, Midnight here gave me a scare. Ha!
my hands are shaking,” he said, forcing a smile. “Anyway,
I was doing the dishes when I heard her neighing, so I thought I’d
just come out to see what was wrong. I
think she’s okay now. I’ll
just go in and finish those dishes, then I’ll
bring some iced tea to you boys in the field.”
letting Paddy get a word in edgewise, Sam just left him in the barn and
nonchalantly walked back to the house. He
could hear that the farmer was
not following and hoped
that his excuse had sounded convincing. When
he got in the house, the leaper found the telephone and the phone book for
the nearest town, Carlisle. Rustling through the directory with shaky fingers, he found
the number for the sheriff and dialed.
“I’d like to report
a find… a possible murder,”
he said, his hands still shaking. The
person on the other line asked where, and all Sam could tell him was the
Mulhill farm. After
giving the man the details
about what he had seen, Doctor Beckett hoped that they would get there soon
to investigate. All
he knew was that he didn’t want to end up like the pour soul buried in the
was it?” Mick asked when his
younger brother returned to the field.
“Oh, Marty heard Midnight an’
thought somethin’ might be
wrong… she gave ’im a
little scare is all,” Paddy
gone back inta the house t’
finish up them dishes, and then he’s
bringin’ us out some iced tea.”
nodded and went back to his
work as if nothing had happened. “But
y’ remember what Tom said: we
gotta watch ’im. I
give ’im five minutes to get out here, then I say we both go in to fetch
’im.” It was a good
feeling for Mick, having someone report to him
for once, instead of always having to answer to Tom or Hank.
Sam finished up the telephone call, he found some solace in the fact that
they were going to send someone out to the farm. However,
he would have to make sure that he didn’t
act suspicious in the meantime. Mick
and Paddy would be expecting him in the field, and it would be to Sam’s
benefit to do everything they asked him to do until this mess was
straightened out. He
was already fearing when Tom would return, because he was sure Paddy would
tell his older brother about him being in the barn.
Sam had finally stopped shaking, and as he
turned away from the desk to head to the kitchen, the Imaging Chamber Door
revealed itself before him, sending another shock through his body.
“Again, Al!” the leaper exclaimed, feeling a sense of déjà vu
from that morning’s coffee incident.
If you don’t want me here, I’ll just close the Door right
now…” threatened Al with levity, hovering his finger over the button to
close the portal. When Sam
simply walked through him, the observer completed his trip into the Imaging
Chamber and closed the door behind him. “Look, how was Ziggy supposed to know you’d turn around
just at that moment? You need
to calm down a bit, Sam.” The
admiral followed his friend into the kitchen and noticed the expression of
apprehension etched in his face. “Is
Swallowing hard, the leaper nodded his head. “Yeah. Yeah,
you might say that. I just got
off the phone with the sheriff. I—I
found a body, Al.” A brief wave of nausea washed over him as he spoke with the
Oh, Sam, no wonder you’re on edge.
Who is it? Where?” he
questioned frantically, getting about as uneasy as Sam.
Cadavers never went over well with the observer.
“I don’t know who it is, Al… it’s
mostly buried in the barn. All
I could see was a finger.”
Now it was Al’s turn to start feeling
queasy. “Ah, yuck! But
a finger’s hardly a body, kid. How
do you know the whole person is buried there?”
The admiral quickly changed his mind and dismissed the thought with a
wave of his hand. “Never
mind, I don’t want to know!”
Rolling his eyes, Sam placed his hands on the
kitchen counter and leaned forward. “Nonetheless,
I found a human body-part in Midnight’s stall, and the police are coming
out to inspect it. So why
haven’t I leaped yet? There
can’t be more to this than solving that mystery, right?”
“Well… Ziggy’s got something to say
about that.” Observer Calavicci pressed a button on the handlink and a
second hologram appeared in the form of a woman.
“Indeed I do.
Good afternoon, Doctor Beckett,” greeted the female hologram
representing Ziggy. “After my
research unit went back online, I was able to supplement the data already
processed for your era and location. It
appears that you have changed history for the worse, Doctor.”
It felt to Sam that today was just one piece
of bad news after another. “What
are you talking about? I’ve
found a body and the sheriff is on his way.
The poor person out there can at least have a decent burial now and
the murderer will be brought to justice.
I think Tom has something to do with it.”
“I’m afraid that the murder is never
reported, at least not in any official capacity.
I can find no records with the Carlisle sheriff’s office indicating
a murder in Nineteen Sixty nor any pertaining to the Mulhill family,”
Ziggy relayed, and then sighed impatiently.
Al shifted in his position, already knowing what she was about to
say. “However, that is not
the issue to which I was referring. In the original history, the three brothers continue running
the farm along with a variety of hired hands over the years, including
Martin Adler. Now, there is an
eighty-two percent chance that Patrick Mulhill will die by tomorrow evening
and a seventy-nine percent chance that the family sells their farm.”
realizing that the dishes still
needed finishing, turned to complete the job while speaking with his two
holographic companions. “All
right, so what happens to Paddy?” the leaper demanded, working on the
information that Ziggy revealed. “And
how did my leaping in here endanger him and the farm?”
“Insufficient data,” stated Ziggy sadly as
Al took his turn to roll his eyes. “I
am still attempting to retrieve his medical records from the South Carolina
“What she really means is she’s been lazy.
Thank you, Ziggy,” Al interjected and turned off the hologram,
which swirled into oblivion and caused the handlink to make an annoyed
squawk. “Sorry, Zig’, but I
think Sam’s stressed out enough as it is.
Now, how can we figure out who that is out in the barn?
We can worry about Paddy after, I guess.”
As he finished washing the last utensil, Sam
unplugged the sink and watched the water swirl down the drain.
“Why not get the fingerprints?” he said in a sudden revelation.
“Sam, I can’t do that!
I’m a hologram!” Al proclaimed, waving his arms.
Rolling his eyes with a huff of exasperation,
Sam reiterated himself. “Can’t
you scan the fingerprint with the handlink?
With any luck, the print will be stored in some
Smacking his palm lightly against his
forehead, Al declared, “Now why didn’t I think of that?
Great idea, Sam. I’ll
go out there and do it now. Which
stall is Nightshade in?”
Sighing with annoyance, Sam corrected the
and she’s in the last stall. You
can’t miss her. She’s the
big Arabian with a temper.”
Al waggled his eyebrows lecherously.
“Sounds like a woman I dated once,” he commented while getting a
glare from the leaper. “All
right, all right, I’m going, I’m going.”
“And don’t come back until you have
something about Paddy, okay?”
“Sure, Sam,” the admiral nodded, his
expression turning serious as he pressed a button on the handlink and
With Al gone, Sam recalled that he was to prepare some iced tea for Mick and
got some glasses out and was just getting some ice from the freezer
in the refrigerator when he
heard crunching sounds outside the house, and the door opened. Mick
and Paddy were standing there, looking pensive. Mick
said they had just come to check on him, but seeing that Sam was putting ice
into glasses seemed to relieve them somewhat.
“Well, I’m a
thorough dishwasher,” the
leaper laughed nervously and proceeded
to get the tea out. “I was just getting the iced tea now.” After
filling the glasses, he brought them over to the table. “You want it now or
should we bring it to the field?”
Marty, it’s mighty nice o’ ya to keep treatin’
us like this, but I think we should drink this stuff down purty quick and
git t’ work. If
Tom don’t think we was doin’
nothin’ while he was gone, he’ll
be purty cross,” Paddy said
to him, noticing Mick nod in agreement. Deciding
to go along, Sam didn’t protest and they quietly drank their iced tea.
June 7, 1960
Driving through Carlisle, Tom headed for the
farming supply store, pretty much the only attraction this town had, as far
as he was concerned. He parked
his truck in the parking lot and headed up to the front doors when a police
cruiser with the word “Sheriff” printed on the side pulled up beside
“Afternoon, Billy,” Tom greeted the
“Afternoon, Tom. I
got a mighty disturbin’ phone call from your farm just a few minutes ago. Told
the fella that we’d be out as soon as possible, but it shure didn’t
sound like one o’ yer brothers. You
got a hired hand there playin’ tricks with us?” the sheriff asked.
Tom could feel his blood starting to boil, but didn’t let it show
Tom shook his head, playing annoyed. “Yeah, I found some drifter last night sleepin’ on my
grounds, so I put ’im up for the night. Guess
it was a mistake; sounds like he ain’t right in the head. What’d
he say that’s so disturbin’?” he questioned his friend.
“Says he thinks someone got murdered on your
property an’ he found the body,” Billy reported, obviously not believing
what Sam had told him. “Y’
might wanna think about kickin’ this guy out if’n he’s gonna be makin’
prank phone calls like this.”
Laughing, Tom nodded in agreement. “Y’
may be right there, Bill. But
you’ll pardon me; I just gotta get some insecticide. Corn crop’s infested with cutworm,” the farmer explained.
“Sure thing, Tom. Just
saw you comin’ inta town and thought I’d let ya know about that
fella’s phone call. Take
’er easy,” Billy said, and with a tip of his hat, left the parking lot.
Tom Mulhill waved him goodbye and headed into
the store. He was already
there, so he figured that he might as well buy the pesticide and then gun it
back to the farm to make sure that Sam Martin Adler didn’t say anything to
anybody else anytime soon.
Paddy and Mick just seemed to want to get back
to the fields. As the three men
drank the iced tea quickly, Sam noticed that Mick and Paddy appeared
agitated and worried. He
thought they were almost as afraid of Tom coming back as he was, but for
them it was because they knew he would scold them for taking time away from
their work. Doctor Beckett could only hope that the police arrived before
Tom did. It seemed obvious that
Paddy and Mick would tell their brother that their visitor had been snooping
around, and somehow Sam didn’t think he’d take that too well. There was something about the man that just gave the leaper
the creeps; Tom was abrupt, headstrong, and seemed to keep to himself. Sam
was sure that he knew about the body… he could have murdered the person,
but even if he didn’t, Sam was sure that he knew who did.
Beyond that, Sam was beginning to wonder about
Hank, too. It seemed almost too
convenient that he was gone right now. Mick
and Paddy seemed to genuinely be ready for him to come back, and apparently
he was a much better “supervisor” than Tom was. Still,
it made Sam wonder… was Tom covering for Hank? Had Hank murdered someone and had Tom caught him, saying the
only way he would keep the secret was if Hank left?
That would be awfully lucky for Tom, having the opportunity to run
the farm by blackmailing his older brother.
Sam swallowed the last of his tea and then
looked right at Mick and Paddy. “I’m
sure you guys are anxious to get to the fields again. I’ll
come with you and help you now that I’m done with the dishes. And with Tom and Hank gone, you’ll need the extra pair of
hands.” Sam attempted to
laugh lightheartedly. “I’m
sure Hank must have felt a little guilty leaving you here to do all the work
yourselves. He must have really wanted to go to that conference.”
Mick and Paddy looked at each other. Mick shrugged. “Actually,
he ain’t never mentioned it to us ’imself. Tom said it came up quick and Hank left one day while we was
in the fields. Guess he had to
take a quick train outta town. But
it was apparently an expo that would really help give us some good tips on
“Look, enough with the questions, we really
need to get to the field,” Mick added, nervously putting his glass on the
table and getting up from his chair.
The leaper nodded.
Either Mick was lying, or the two of them had not seen Hank actually
leave or even discussed him going to the conference.
This wasn’t getting any easier for Sam to figure out, and he hoped
the sheriff got here soon so that they could find out who was in the barn
and get to the bottom of it. For
now, he just had to bide time.
“Hey, Mick, don’t you remember Hank sayin’
he was takin’ the bus to Gastonia? Least
that’s what he told me,” Paddy piped up as they stood from the table,
noticing that Sam was paying special attention to the conversation. “Oh,
right, you and Tom’d gone t’ town when he made his plans. Guess
I forgot to tell ya. I figured
he told Tom and thought you’d know too.”
Mick looked at his brother with scrutiny. “Ain’t nobody told me nothin’!” he shouted.
“Sorry, Mick, I thought Hank or Tom woulda
said somethin’ to ya.” Mick
nodded his head and calmed down—thankfully the opposite of what Tom would
have done in the same situation. “He’d
pret’ near forgot about the farm expo and had to leave quick-like.”
Paddy was annoyed with Sam seeming to have a
pretty keen interest on what they were saying, and although he tried to look
like he wasn’t listening, Paddy could tell he was concentrating on the
conversation as they finally departed from the table. He
didn’t say anything more to Mick or Sam, and Mick took the actual facts
about Hank’s absence with grace.
The three men headed for the farmhouse door
and went outside. Sam’s head
was starting to spin after the contradicting tales about Hank’s absence…
he didn’t know what to believe anymore and felt the story was getting more
convoluted by the minute. Doctor
Sam Beckett was no detective—even if he had leaped into one a time or
two—and really needed some guidance or some true, solid facts. The
only way that was going to happen was if Al or the police came soon. They
were the only ones who could shine some light on this mystery.
As they stepped outdoors, the heat was intense
again… but this time, it wasn’t the heat that was making Sam sweat.