Episode 1219

x 3

by: M. J. Cogburn and C. E. Krawiec


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Theorizing that one could time-travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett led an elite group of scientists into the desert to develop a top-secret project known as Quantum Leap.  Pressured to prove his theories or lose funding, Dr. Beckett prematurely stepped into the Project Accelerator…and vanished.


He awoke to find himself in the past, suffering from partial amnesia and facing a mirror image that was not his own.  Fortunately, contact with his own time was maintained through brainwave transmissions with Al, the Project Observer, who appeared in the form of a hologram that only Dr. Beckett can see and hear.


As evil and neutral forces alike do their best to stop Dr. Beckett’s journey, his children, Dr. Samantha Josephine Fulton and Stephen Beckett, continuously strive to retrieve their time-lost father and bring him home permanently.  Despite returning home several times over the last decade, Dr. Beckett has remained lost in the time stream…his final fate no longer certain.


Trapped in the past and driven by an unknown force, Dr. Beckett struggles to accept his destiny as he continues to find himself leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong with the hopes that his next leap…will be the final leap home.



During his imprisonment inside the massive information system known throughout the world as the Internet, while blocked from certain things, Lothos had discovered the ridiculous ease of acquiring other information in, of all places, chatrooms. It was by sheer good luck in one particular chatroom, that one Patrick Cromwell had given him nuggets of information that with only minor manipulation would, without doubt, allow him to achieve the objective that came a hard second to his primary goal – to rid the world of Dr. Samuel Beckett.  In addition to learning of Patrick Cromwell’s affliction, he learned of the conventions given to bond with the visitors who remembered Project Quantum Leap.


Reviewing over the information he had learned, Lothos couldn’t help but ‘smile’.  In 1966, Patrick Cromwell was a young man who claimed that he had experienced memory losses in time that thoroughly mystified and frustrated him to the point that it consumed all of his free time.  As the years went by, he utilized every new method of research to discover the reason for his memory loss. It wasn’t until 2005 that he found the answer when he’d received a mysterious e-mail from one J. T. Beckett.  Patrick had attended the initial chatroom meeting and caught the attention of J. T. Beckett.  While all of his questions didn’t receive completely satisfying answers, it was enough for Patrick to put that brief period of his life in perspective and move on.


Patrick Cromwell’s unique situation had been discussed in rather animated and detailed length by J. T. Beckett and Samantha Josephine Fuller.  That discussion had gone on for more than an hour after the last chat participant had departed.  Lothos had noted with great delight, the involved and specific details they had shared.  He agreed with much of that conversation and had a new admiration for the depth and breadth of J. T. Beckett’s reasoning and explanation. 


When at last young Mr. Beckett and his associate had closed the chat, Lothos had lingered, pondering all the information he had just acquired.  Whatever he was at that moment, he ‘smiled’.  “Thank you, Mr. Beckett,” he whispered and vanished into the vastness of the Internet until he was found and set free at Project Liberty by the unsuspecting fascination of a young girl for puzzles.  Paige Arlyss never heard the whispering, “Thank you,” that Lothos had given unto her along the corridors of the Internet. 


For one bright shining moment, Lothos had believed that he had decimated the man who had been righting wrongs.  It was discovered that the good doctor had leaped into a depressed young woman who had tried to commit suicide.  Watching the good doctor slitting his own throat and beginning to close his eyes, Lothos had pulled his chief leaper out of the Timestream and waited for history to unravel.  It didn’t.  The news had ripped him a new reprisal against the good doctor.


Now free from the confines of the ‘Net’, he was able to look upon his minions as they went about their daily routines.  He had already set in motion how certain players would be split apart.  Knowing that his Chief Leaper, Vaughn Rickar, and Observer, Johanna Royden, couldn’t be together to fuel their budding feelings for each other, Lothos felt even more confident that his plan would work.  As Lothos observed Vaughn stepping into the accelerator, and a moment later being engulfed in the power stream vanishing in a flash of red light, he knew without a single doubt that this time, Samuel Beckett, was going to die.





San Benito, Texas

September 23, 1966

San Benito Veterans’ Memorial Ninth Grade Academy

4:45 PM


It had been a long, hot, humid day.  It didn’t matter that most of the inhabitants of the city were used to the sweltering heat.  Marla MacDale would never be used to it.  She sat behind her desk, her head propped up by one hand as she graded the first pop quiz of her English classes.  It seemed that she had her work cut out for her since the grades seemed lower than previous years.  What are they teaching these kids in junior high?’ she wondered.


Marla marked yet another low grade of forty-two at the top of the test paper in front of her then flipped the paper over to begin grading the next one when she heard the rap at the door.  Looking up, she flashed a smile for whoever it might be, knowing that it could very well be a parent and she didn’t want to appear unapproachable.  Her smile brightened more when she saw the brilliant blue eyes that belonged to her next-door neighbor, Patrick Cromwell.


“Patrick!  I swear if you get any more muscles under that shirt, you could portray that comic book character, the Hulk.”


“Oh?  Do I look that much like the green monstrosity?” asked the bald young man who took a step into the room as he flexed his muscles and assumed an ‘angry Hulk’ pose.


Marla’s laughter filled the classroom.  “Oh yeah, all you need is hair and green body paint,” she pointed out to him before she stood and went to give her neighbor a hug.  “I’m glad you’re back in town.  Danni was worried about you.”


“My dog was worried about me?  Are you sure that you weren’t worried about me?” he asked as she pulled back from the hug but kept her in his arms. 


Marla’s eyes danced as she gave Patrick a light playful slap on his chest and stepped back from the friendly hug.  “What’s to miss?” she teased as she returned to her desk and sat down.  Picking up the red grading pen she glanced at the paper before her then looked back up at Patrick who had come to perch on a corner of her desk.  “So, what brings you back to school?  Need some tutoring?”


Patrick shook his head, chuckling. “No, I didn’t come for ‘tutoring’, Ms. MacDale,” he affected a slightly nasal tone as a sort of match for her playfulness.  As she chuckled and asked, “Then why are you here?” Detective Cromwell’s expression shifted to a more considering mood.  “I came to talk to you about Lucas.”


The lightness of the moment faded as Marla MacDale’s eyes became considering.  She didn’t realize she had dropped the red pen as she met his brilliant blue gaze.  “And?” she uttered the abrupt one-word question.


It wasn’t the first time that Patrick Cromwell had heard that tone.  It was always used with a client unwilling to hear what he had been paid to find out.  In this case, it didn’t help that this was his friend – not a client - as well as a neighbor and someone he had come to discover that he cared about maybe more than he should.


“While I was in Lake Charles checking on Lucas’ last job there, I came across something... disturbing.”  He waited for the attractive redhead to say something and when she didn’t he continued on.  He doubted that he’d get to finish telling her all that he’d learned about San Benito’s newest school board council member.  “He’s… not who you think he is.  He’s….”


“Patrick, men are never who you think they are,” Marla said simply as she turned in her chair slightly to look at her neighbor.  She had lived beside him for ten years and although she was physically attracted to him, she knew that a relationship with him wouldn’t have budded.  They seemed too different.  “Look at you,” she couldn’t help but grin at the thought that flashed through her mind.  “A Mr. Clean in a nice cute package.”


Patrick Cromwell rolled his eyes at the analogy.  “If I had a nickel for every time someone’s said that,” he responded with a wry grin, “I’d be rich by now.”  He appreciated the lightness of her corresponding giggle, but it didn’t remotely deter him from telling her what he had decided to go and find out on his own.


“Marla,” he began, the tone of his voice dropping slightly.  It was enough to get those brilliant green eyes fixed on his face.  “The reason I went out of town these past few days, was because I was doing some background checking on Lucas Abernathy.”


The red pen Marla had picked up clattered back to the desk as her eyes widened at what her neighbor had said.  Marla blinked as she looked into his concerned, handsome face.  "I... Patrick, why did you do that? I didn't ask you to go out and do a background check on my fiancée."  Blinking again, Marla leaned back slightly in her chair as she watched Patrick Cromwell, a man she had trusted now for over eight years, pick up the scissors from her desk and begin playing with them under her gaze.  She would have almost laughed at the way he was playing with them since she had witnessed Lucas playing with them yesterday when he was in the room talking with her about their upcoming marriage.  "Why would you do such a thing?"


Patrick sighed softly under his breath as he fiddled idly with the scissors, listening to Marla MacDale's somewhat annoyed reaction to his confession.  Still, for all of it, it didn't change the why of his inquiries or, even more, the specifics of what he'd discovered.  "Well, for starters, it was a job," he said evenly then hesitated when the scissors slipped from his hands, clattering onto the desk. "Sorry about that," he apologized as he picked them up, this time handling the cutting implement more carefully, turning them end to end, even opening and closing the blades a time or two. Glancing up to find the attractive woman's gaze fixed on him, he nodded and continued.


"It was a job," he repeated.  "The county school board advisor, Mr. Mayberry, contacted me about doing background checks on the two new candidates.  It's standard procedure for anyone looking for a position on the school board, and the election is coming up in about eight weeks."


He paused to take a breath and assess Marla's expression.  What he saw in her eyes told him he was facing an uphill battle, but it was an aspect of his job that Patrick was familiar with, namely giving unpleasant information to a person, usually a client, that didn't want to hear it.  This was tougher still than that; Marla wasn't his client and what he was about to say also crossed the line into her private life. Her somewhat cool, "If you're working for the school board, why are you divulging whatever you discovered about Lucas to me instead of them?"


Patrick placed the scissors carefully on the desk as he stood up and moved to stand in front of it. Bracing his hands on the edge of the desk, he looked intently into the teacher's eyes and said, "I'm telling you what I discovered because, first and foremost, Marla, you are a good friend, and friends, good friends, look out for each other."


"Even when it means sticking their nose into private personal business when they weren't asked to do so?"


Patrick nodded, keeping his gaze fixed on Marla's determined expression. "Even then."


Marla squared her shoulders as she crossed her arms over her chest.  One eyebrow arched slightly.  "All right, then what did you find, Patrick?  Just come on right out and tell me.  Don't hem and haw.  What?"


Straightening up, the private detective put one hand into his pants pocket as he sorted through the information he had to tell her.  None of it was good, so he decided to ease into it.  "Well, for starters," he said carefully.  "Lucas Abernathy doesn't exist." He watched the determined expression on Marla's face fade, startlement taking its place.  Seeing her mouth open and close a couple of times, Patrick said firmly, "And before you tell me, it's a lie, I’m telling you that it's the absolute truth."


"You're lying, Patrick Cromwell!"


Patrick sighed but didn't hesitate. "Birth certificates don't lie, Marla."


Marla MacDale wasn't exactly sure what to do.  This information was coming from a man that she had known for ten years.  She had never known him to lie, let alone be a bad person, but she couldn't accept the information that he was obviously trying to tell her about her soon to be husband.  "What is this?  Some kind of new ruse to get me to not marry him?  You know, I remember how you looked at me when I told you that I was getting married to Lucas.  You didn't approve then and you’re just making this up so that you can get your way." 


She stood from her desk, pushing away the chair, not bothering to pick it up when it tilted over and landed on the floor.  "I'll not stand for this, Pat... Mr. Cromwell.  Take whatever information you have and..."  Before she finished her thought, she started toward the door of her room, her full intent to get away from the man who obviously didn't want her to be married to the most honorable man she had ever met.


"Marla," Patrick said as he started after her.




Patrick didn't stop to think, he simply reacted, moving quickly around to the side of the desk where he'd stood a moment before, effectively cutting off Marla MacDale's attempt to walk out on the unexpected unpleasant news he was trying to give her.  Lightly, he put his hands out before him and against her upper arms, not allowing her to pass by him.


"The only reason I'm telling you this, Marla, before I tell the school board, is because I care about you... as a friend," Patrick reiterated, though deep inside, he couldn't deny her words about one of their last encounters. However, he brushed that aside, determined to get the information said to her, no matter what her reception of it resulted in.  When Marla took a sudden step back from him, he reacted reflexively when she misstepped, tripping over the fallen chair behind her.  Grabbing her again, this time to steady her, he wasn't prepared for her reaction.  "Marla... Marla, take it easy," he insisted. "I'm just trying to keep you from falling."  His good intentions however, were rewarded by the teacher regaining her balance, followed by an accusing glare and a frosty, "Get your hands off me, Mr. Cromwell."


Patrick just looked at her for a moment then stepped back until he was again beside the desk.  He watched his angry friend as she righted her chair again, this time shoving it under her desk before beginning to thrust the papers she'd been grading into a dark tan briefcase and patently ignoring his continued presence in the room.  Blowing out a breath, he decided to continue with the information.


"I discovered the problem with the birth certificate when I went to Abbottsville, Ohio and checked in the Registrar of Births records. There wasn't a single birth registered, male or female, under the name of Abernathy for the date on the birth certificate Lucas Abernathy turned in."


"Were there any Abernathys listed for any other dates?" Marla paused long enough to spit the question.


"Yes, but...."


"But what?" she turned toward the man apparently bent on destroying her future happiness.  "Obviously somebody in that office made a mistake and mixed Lucas' birth certificate up with someone else’s."


Patrick took a deep breath; she wasn't going to like this. "The last Abernathy born in Abbottsville, Ohio or the surrounding area was born back in 1901."


Marla just looked at the man standing before her and shook her head at his words.  "That's what I'm talking about, Patrick.  Someone must have screwed up.  Lucas doesn't have a... a conniving bone in his body!"


"You've only known him for five months, Marla," Patrick simply stated.  "How can you..."


"I don't care!" she stated emphatically.  "I know him!  He wouldn't..."


"Wouldn't what?" Patrick asked as he reached out and placed his hands back on her upper arms. 


Marla jerked out of his hold and glared at him.  "He's a decent guy, Patrick.  I love him and you aren't going to take that from me." Turning, she shut her briefcase, grabbed it and then turned back to the man blocking her way.  "Get out of my way, Patrick."


"Marla, please listen to me.  You need to know what's going on with this man."


"I said, get out of my way," she said with even more animosity.


"No," Patrick Cromwell came back firmly, not having budged so much as an inch to allow her to pass.  "Not until you hear what I came here to tell you," he told her, his manner now forceful and professional.  "After that, if you never speak to me again... so be it."


"I doubt that you'll have that availability.  Goodbye, Mr. Cromwell."  Marla had enough of a surprise factor with those words that she was able to slide by his side, but he was quicker than she and he grabbed her upper arm and held her tightly.  Marla dropped the briefcase she was holding and immediately began to peel back his fingers from her arm.  "Dammit, Patrick, let go!"


"Not until I tell you what I came here to tell you," he repeated calmly, his eyes coming to rest on her concerned features. "Marla..."


"No!  I don't want to hear what you have to say.  Just... leave me alone," she finally whimpered when she couldn't release his hold.



San Benito, Texas

San Benito Bank and Trust


Lucas Abernathy finished up the last of the work that had kept him occupied in his office for the better part of the day—finishing the fourth quarter payroll reports that he was preparing for one of his several business clients.  Closing the file folder, he put it neatly into the top right-hand drawer of his desk, made sure the surface of his desk was immaculate with every item precisely in its place before he at last stood up and pushed his chair under the desk.  Like everything on the desk's surface, so was he as particular about the chair's placement. 


"It won't be exactly the same in the morning, Lucas," Sheila Fenwitty, his secretary teased lightly as she waited to walk out with him as she'd done each evening since coming to work for him four years before. "The cleaning crew will move it to vacuum under the desk like they do every night."


Inwardly, it grated on Lucas Abernathy's nerves at the thought of walking into his office, knowing that the precision he left it would be disturbed, but not by even a flicker of an eyelash did he let it show on his face as he picked up his briefcase and moved to the door. Flipping the light switch off, he closed the door then as casually as ever, strolled down the hall to the elevator and rode down with Sheila, parting ways with her outside the main door, watching her lock it.


"So, what are you doing this evening?" Sheila asked, following her employer down the few steps in front of the building.


Lucas paused to turn back and watch the pleasant middle-aged woman who wore sensible clothing and shoes descending the steps.  "Thought I'd stop at the school and pick up Marla and take her out for an early dinner."  He smiled waggishly, gaining a chuckle from Sheila when he added, "After eight hours cooped up with those renegades also known as the cream of the next generation, she could probably use a good meal, a glass of wine and some intelligent conversation."


Sheila laughed merrily at the comment as she stopped beside him.  "No doubt," she said lightly. She said good-bye again but didn't move as she watched her employer walk over to a dark blue Chrysler four-door and get in then drive away.  As the vehicle disappeared down the street, she roused herself and went to her own car.  Lucas Abernathy could be difficult to deal with from time to time, but Sheila had been so grateful to him for hiring her when she'd needed a job most and at that time most of the jobs were going to the much younger women in the local work force.


Checking for oncoming traffic, she pulled out into the street and headed for downtown.  As much as her aching feet wanted her to get home and out of her shoes, she was determined to make a stop at the local china shop to put another payment on the large bone china platter she had selected from Marla MacDale's registry list as her gift to them.  She wanted to make sure that her employer knew how much she appreciated him.


As she waited at the next traffic light, Sheila mused under her breath, "I wonder where he's going to take her for dinner?"  The sudden sound of a car horn honking behind her yanked her out of her reverie and she stepped on the gas and continued to her destination.



Once away from the office, Lucas made his way as quickly as he could to the San Benito Veterans’ Memorial Ninth Grade Academy, and in spite of the heavy Friday afternoon "going home" traffic, reached it within twenty minutes.


Pulling his car into a parking slot across the way from the school, Lucas got out, locked his door then allowed the warm September late afternoon sunshine to relax him.  He stood on the curb, waiting for a couple of cars of parents come to pick up their children to pass, then strolled across the way and up the walk of the school.  A couple of girls were just coming out of the school. He smiled affably at them, waving off one girl's, "Excuse us," then entered the building.


As he headed down the main hallway toward his fiancée’s classroom, Lucas spoke to a couple of teachers as they passed by. At the corner where he turned right to go to Marla's classroom, he paused to look around, noting that he was, at the moment, the only person in the hall.  He nodded to himself and continued on his way. However, he had only gone about four steps when he heard Marla's voice, shouting—by her tone her anger was thoroughly engaged.


Immediately he forgot about the quiet dinner and evening he had been planning for them; instead, rushing forward, his only thought now was to come to the aid of his future wife. Lucas was within ten feet of Marla's half open classroom door when he skidded to a halt as he heard Marla demand, "Dammit, Patrick, let go!"  For a moment Lucas just stood, his thoughts becoming agitated.  Only one of Marla's friends was named Patrick—Patrick Cromwell, a private investigator. 


"Not until I tell you what I came here to tell you," Patrick Cromwell's voice was clear and of a volume to be heard over Marla's own insistent tone.


A welling up of nerves within him was squelched as quickly as it had appeared as Lucas half turned to look back the way he'd come, listening acutely for the sound of any possible approaching footsteps from the main hallway.  Hearing none, he turned back forward and moved carefully and very cautiously forward.  He wanted to hear, he had to hear what Mr. Cromwell was about to tell his fiancée.


Marla MacDale glared at the man before her.  She couldn't believe his audacity.  She tried to push past him but he quickly matched her step and stayed ahead of her.  Marla's jaw tightened.  "I told you, Patrick, I don't want to hear anything that you have found out.  Don't you understand?  I..."


"I do understand that it's difficult to hear something about someone who you thought was honest with you and they weren't."


Marla shifted only slightly as her hand came up and connected with the side of Patrick's face.  Instant anger rushed through her and whatever she had seen in the handsome man before her vanished immediately.  "Go to hell!"


He'd expected her anger, and even the yelling. In the ten years of their acquaintance, he had seen Marla’s temper roused to this level a couple of times, but never had it been directed toward him, until now.  The slap just caught his own normally even temper oddwise, his reaction a sort of knee-jerk response.


Grabbing the attractive woman by her arms, Patrick shook her hard a couple of times then force-walked her backwards.  Only when the back of her body abruptly collided with her desk did he stop pushing. Maintaining his grip on Marla's upper arms, Patrick pushed his face closer to hers. "You may not want to hear what I've discovered about Lucas Abernathy, Marla, but by God you're going to, like it or not!"  Her renewed struggle to escape him he blocked easily, his greater height and weight his advantage. "Marla, Lucas Abernathy's real name is..."


"HELP!" Marla screamed when her now former friend refused to let her go. "Someone help me! Hel..."


Releasing his grip on one of her arms, Patrick clamped his hand over her mouth. "I'm not attacking you, Marla," he said forcefully.  "I'm just trying to tell you something that may save..."


It was that moment that Marla sank her teeth into his hand.  Yipping under his breath, the tall man jerked his hand away. As Marla began to yell again, Patrick's gaze flitted downward, raking across her desk.  It was a spur of the moment reaction, and one of the more stupid things he'd ever done in his career, hell, in his life, but he was desperate to make his friend listen to him.  It was, highly probable, the last civil conversation they would ever exchange.


Lunging forward, his action pressing his body against the teacher, Patrick grabbed the pair of scissors from where he'd dropped them moments ago and, holding them like a knife, pushed the sharp tips against her throat. Like evil magic, Marla MacDale's cries ceased, her anger instantly replaced by fear.


"Two minutes, Marla," Patrick insisted passionately, staring down into her wide green eyes. "After that, I'll leave you alone and you can do whatever you want, but you are going to hear what I have to say." It made him feel sick to his stomach the way she carefully nodded her head ever so slightly.  He was still pressed against her and in that position he could feel how her heart was pounding in her chest.


Blowing out a breath, Patrick took a step back while maintaining the scissors at her throat.  He studied Marla MacDale's now pale face a moment then licked his lips, took a breath and blew it out again and opened his mouth to speak.


"The man you know as Lucas Abernathy," he began, speaking each word clearly, "is really..."  The words that were to follow never reached the private detective's lips as he was, from one second to the next, overwhelmed by a huge wave of the worst dizziness he could ever recall suffering.  Patrick shook his head and closed his eyes a second in an effort to clear it but it just got worse and then suddenly....



Lucas Abernathy had listened to the confrontation and he slowly slid to the far side of the hallway to be able to look into the room.  When Marla yelled out for help, he took a step toward the room but he wanted to hear what the investigator had to say.  It was obviously something very important and he wanted to know exactly what he had to tell Marla.  It was hearing the P.I. mention his name that made Lucas step even closer to the door.  Then it was seeing the man pressing his body against his fiancée that irritated Lucas more than anything else and he took yet another step toward the room.


'Tell her,' he snapped in his head. 'Tell her,' he reiterated again when he blinked several times at the scene before him, his curiosity of the information driving him to be still.  He shook his head slightly then leaned forward as he put his hand against the frame of the door and watched the expression of the man change.


His mouth opened in awe as he watched as the man holding Marla MacDale moved the scissors away from her neck and in one swift move turned them in his palm, raised his hand and plunged them into her chest.  A painful gasping moan escaped his fiancée and Lucas Abernathy blinked as the man brought his hand up again, sinking the scissors into her chest once more.


He closed his eyes and leaned against the frame of the door totally in shock at what he had witnessed. "Why Cromwell... why?" Lucas asked softly, causing the man to turn back to look at him as his hand twisted the scissors in his fiancée. Lucas blinked as he saw the man smile slightly then turned back and pulled the scissors out to raise his hand once again.


The smile was enough to make Lucas shut his eyes and when he opened his eyes again, he saw the private eye pausing slightly in the final blow. "Marla," Lucas whispered softly as the man slightly stumbled, his hand coming down again, the contact point this time her neck where he had already placed the scissors before.  "No," he mumbled softly as he leaned against the door as he watched his beloved now bleeding profusely from the last point of contact with the scissors in addition to her other mortal wounds.





Project Quantum Leap

Stallions Gate, New Mexico

December 1, 2006

8:45 AM


Four days and three nights had passed without so much as a false alarm of the leap chime that always signaled when Dr. Samuel Beckett had leaped into his next life in which something needed setting right from its original occurrence in history.  In that time everyone, including the project's chief observer had gotten at least two good nights sleep.  The staff, individually and collectively, had been able to make a sizeable dent in whatever portion of the never ending paperwork that was theirs to deal with, make any minor repairs and do diagnostic testings that had to be set aside in the midst of a leap.


This morning, Al had wakened early and even gone for a run in the desert outside the complex, followed in order by a shower and dressing, and even a more or less leisurely breakfast with his wife. From there he had gone straight to the Control Room to assist Dom and a couple of the other most senior technicians in working on adjusting a minor fluctuation in the synchronometer.


Taking the charged handlink handed to him, Al walked up the ramp and into the Imaging Chamber.  As the door sealed behind him, he stepped onto the center pad in the chamber and said, "In position. Commence diagnostic." 


"Diagnostic on synchronization initiation beginning in five seconds," Ziggy announced and then counted down the seconds. "Five... four... three... two... one... initiating," she announced. 


As he stood on the pad, his gaze on the handlink that was dark in his hands, Admiral Albert Calavicci took a deep, slow breath and exhaled softly. Patience was the key with these particular diagnostics.  They could last five minutes or, if, as he had once commented sarcastically, "The planets weren't all in proper alignment today," when one particular diagnostic had kept him 'caged' in the Imaging Chamber and standing on that center pad for over two hours. Now, as the seconds slipped by and Ziggy didn't abruptly halt the progression of this test, Al was getting a good feeling that this was going to be one of those blessedly brief tests.  In the fleeting space left between two thoughts, the observer's good feeling was wiped away with the sudden slight darkening of the room.


"Ziggy, what the hell...."  The rest of the question was lost as the Imagining Chamber, already online for testing, was instantaneously shifted to full active status and the power feed into the chamber surged up.  Where two seconds before he had been looking at the Imaging Chamber's pristine white walls, Al Calavicci suddenly found himself encased in the all too familiar swirling tornadic tunnel of past history.  A glance at the handlink showed that it, too, was fully activated and he punched in a brief coding to mark the beginning of the leap.


He had barely closed his eyes and taken a breath as he always did in preparation to the lock being made but even that was denied him.  His eyelids never fully shut as Ziggy announced, "We have a lock," and the time tornado vanished as wherever Sam had landed in history coalesced into a clear holographic scene.  He looked to the right and saw desks arranged in four rows across and five deep. ‘He's landed in a school room,’ Al thought.  Then he looked to the left and his jaw went slack. He didn't even feel the handlink slip from his hand and clatter to the floor of the Imaging Chamber.


"SAM!" Al yelled. "MY GOD, SAM... NO!"  But his words were too few, too late. Stunned beyond even blinking, Al Calavicci watched in horror as the man he called his best friend, looked up at him at the same instant he saw Sam pulling out a pair of scissors from a young woman’s chest then lurched clumsily, the scissors in his right hand plunging fatally deep into the neck of the already bloody female body sprawled backward over the desk.


 He couldn't move, not even when the leaper seemed to shake off his confusion and jerked his hand back. Al cringed at the sickening soft sucking sound made as the bloody scissors exited the wound.  He watched as Sam just looked stupidly at the instrument of death in his hand before dropping it and, uselessly, pressed his hands to the spurting stream of blood coming from the lacerated carotid artery in the woman's neck.


It was all too surreal as he stood there, staring at the carnage his friend had clearly wrought, now yelling for help at the top of his lungs.  Al didn't know what to think when Sam's eyes found his and pleaded for his help.  What came out of his mouth was anything but that.  "My God, Sam," Al whispered, making no move to get closer to the leaper. "You murdered her."


"Al, no, I didn't...."


The bald-faced denial was the slap that jerked Al from his stunned reverie. "I saw you do it, Sam!" he shot back, his voice with only a hint of unsteadiness in it. "I watched you stab those..." his gaze dropped to the bloody scissors on the floor beside Sam's feet.   "I saw you stab those scissors into her neck." He paused, licked his lips then reiterated more strongly, "I know what I saw, Sam, and I saw you kill her."


Al didn't get a chance to say anything more to Sam, as suddenly the classroom was swarming with people. Male teachers, the principal and an off-duty police officer who had come to pick his son up from school, converged on the leaper and amidst shouting and cries of shock and horror at the viciousness of the murder of a beloved teacher.


He stayed with Sam through the hours that followed, from Sam being hauled off in handcuffs, to the interrogation to the booking.  Neither Observer nor Leaper had any clear notion of exactly how much time had passed when at last, the cell into which Sam Beckett had been shoved had its door slammed shut.


Through it all, Sam kept insisting to every officer and detective who got in his face that he was innocent. All through the booking and strip search and the putting on of a one-piece orange jumpsuit with the word "PRISONER' in two-inch high letters across the back of it, not once did Sam waver from his declaration of innocence. 


As the officers who had shoved him into the cell finally left the cellblock area, silence descended over the area.  Sam continued to cling to the bars of the cell, his face pressed against them, his eyes fixed on the door that led out of the area for several moments.  At last he stepped back, brought his hands up to his face and hid in his palms for another minute. Lifting his head, Sam sighed and turned to go sit on the bare mattress on the narrow cot and froze in his steps, unable to move before the unflinching, accusing stare of the man he trusted more than any other in his life.


“Al,” he began.  His heart dropped through the floor when instead of coming closer to him, Albert Calavicci, without once looking at the handlink, punched a sequence of buttons, summoning the Imaging Chamber door, stepped through and closed it. Not a word had passed the observer’s lips.  Now the silence in the cellblock began to grow to deafening proportions.  Not knowing what else to do at this moment, Sam walked slowly to the cot and sat down on it, scooted back till his back met the wall. Drawing his knees up before him, he crossed his arms atop them then laid his head down on his arms and closed his eyes.  Maybe this was all just a cruelly, horribly bad dream.


“Oh, God,” he prayed softly. “Please, this has to be just a bad dream.”



Even as the Imaging Chamber door closed, Admiral Albert Calavicci remained silent.  Screwing up his mouth, he handled the handlink for a moment before he took in a breath and let it out heavily.  Moving into the Control Room, Al went directly to the mainframe and without saying a word and not particularly caring if the handlink was caught or not, tossed it toward Dominic.


"Al?" Dominic called out as he fumbled then caught the handlink.  "Al, what's wrong?"


Al didn't bother answering.  He walked out of the Control Room heading toward his office.  His step echoed in the hallway.  As he passed by Ensign Sharpe, Al blew off the salute the young man gave and blew out his breath before he entered his office.  If it had been a normal door, he would have likely slammed it.


Going to his desk, he sat and rubbed his left hand down his face, then covered his mouth and chin as he leaned on his elbow thinking back over what he had seen.  He didn't want to believe it, but how could he deny what he had seen?  His eyes flew over his desk as he went over everything again, his vision blurring, not really taking in anything that was actually on his desk.


"I saw you, Sam," he whispered against his hand.  "The question is... why?"


That was the one thing that Al couldn't come up with.  It didn't make sense.  He had watched his best friend kill a woman, then immediately turn around and begin trying to stop the bleeding that couldn't be stopped.  Why?


"Ziggy, pull up any and all information on the man that Sam's leaped into.  I want all the data."


"Yes, Admiral," Ziggy replied.  The parallel-hybrid computer paused slightly before she asked, "Are you all right, Admiral Calavicci?"


Al's eyes shot up to the conductive unit in his ceiling that he considered to be Ziggy's eye into his office and immediately answered the computer with a low military voice. "Get me the data and display it on my computer."


A moment later, a chime from his computer indicated that the information was up for him to peruse.  Propping his head in his hand, Al began reading the data.  He had barely gotten into the midst of reading the information on one Patrick Cromwell when a musical sound indicated that someone was outside his office door wanting admittance. 


Al rolled his eyes and closed them trying to get his anger under control.  "Enter," he said and waited to see exactly who was going to disturb his inquiry of Patrick Cromwell.



Like everyone at the project, especially the most senior staff assigned to the Control Room and surrounding areas, Verbena Beeks was used to the leaping chime interrupting whatever she happened to be doing at any given moment.  Like everyone else, when that chime sounded, everything else took a backseat to the leap commencing.  However, this time, she had been caught utterly unaware when instead of hearing the familiar leap chime, Ziggy’s voice announced into her office, “Report to the Waiting Room immediately, Dr. Beeks.”


As she dropped what she had been working on to grab the notepad and pen she always kept handy, Verbena said, “I didn’t hear the chime.”  There hadn’t been time for further questions as Ziggy reiterated her immediate presence being needed in the Waiting Room.  “On my way,” was had been her response.


In the Waiting Room, though cloaked in Samuel Beckett’s aura, Verbena recognized by mannerisms and bearing alone, that the Visitor was an adult male.  The interview went more or less as a typical initial interview went, except that this man asked her as many probing questions as she put to him. By the time she exited the Waiting Room, she had been able to discern enough basic facts about him to enable Ziggy to get started on an information search. 


Once outside the Waiting Room, Verbena had stood for a moment, pondering the interview, and even more, the Visitor.  Pulling her notepad from her jacket pocket she had perused her notes, pursing her lips then chewing lightly on the inside of her lower lip as she read.  Somewhere in that brief span of moments, she reached a decision and turned and marched through the halls until she reached the door with the nameplate that read: “Admiral Albert Calavicci”.  Knocking firmly, Verbena had the door open and was inside the office on the first syllable of the command to, “Enter.”  Holding up the notepad up for the project’s Chief Observer to see as she crossed to stand in front of his desk, she asked plainly, “What’s going on?”


“Sam leaped.”


Verbena’s gazed narrowed subtly as she tossed the notebook down before him.  “The chime never sounded,” she stated firmly, her dark eyes fixed on her colleague’s face, “So I repeat, what’s going on, Al?”  His answer blindsided her.


Al blinked as he leaned back in his chair and folded his arms over his chest and resolutely said, "What's going on is that Sam killed a woman with a pair of scissors."


"What?!" Verbena asked astounded.


"I saw him do it and he's claiming that he didn't do it."  Shaking his head also in disbelief, Al pushed himself up from his chair and began pacing behind his desk.  "His hand went down with the scissors.  It landed on her chest.  He pulled them back out, stumbled then got her again in the neck.  I saw him do it..."


For a moment Verbena Beeks lost her cool. "That's insane!" she finally said when she got her thoughts under control again.  "Sam Beckett does not kill... unless it's self-defense or he's protecting somebody.  Did you see anybody else in the room?  Was there a fight going on when you got there?"


Al began shaking his head almost immediately to her questions.  He took in a deep breath then let it out slowly before he met her gaze.  "Verbena, I'm telling you when I got there, Sam had her pressed almost intimately against the desk, pushing her upper body down on the desk.  The scissors were in his right hand and I saw him and called out to him as he went down the first time with the scissors.  I saw..."


"Then you must be mistaken, Al.  Sam wouldn't..."


"I saw him bring down his hand the second time hitting her neck, cutting her carotid artery. Verbena, he..."


"No, Al.  Sam wouldn't... couldn't..."


It was as if Verbena had just told Al that he had lied to her about what he had seen with his own two eyes and just the thought of it made his temper rise faster than Mt. Vesuvius.  "Dammit, Verbena, don't you think that I know that!" he exploded.  "That's why I can't believe it still!  I know what I saw!  I saw my best friend kill a woman!"  Al blinked, closed his eyes then shook his head.  It was as if he was on automatic as he made it to his desk and lowered himself back into his chair, seemingly to melt into it, and then met her gaze once more.  "I saw him do it, Verbena," he whispered, the tone of his voice so different that he seemed like a little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar, apologizing quietly for his mistake.


Verbena knew that it took a great deal to be able to rattle Al Calavicci, and for a moment she didn't reply to his quiet response.  For a moment neither of them said or did anything as both tried to wrap their minds around the unimaginable mental picture of Samuel Beckett deliberately and without provocation killing another human being.  Slowly at first then more determinedly, Verbena began to shake her head negatively as she again looked into Al's eyes.


"Regardless of what you think you saw," she said her voice firm if quiet. "There's more to... to what you saw than... what you saw." She knew that sounded like double talk but she didn't budge from it. Turning on her heel, she went back to the door and opened it.


"Where are you going?" Al called after her.


The psychiatrist paused just long enough to look back at him and say crisply, "To do my job." She paused a second then added, "I do not now nor have I ever worked for a murderer, and I intend to start looking for proof to refute what you saw, Admiral."  She didn't stick around to see how that last part had been received.  Instead, Verbena’s mental batteries were recharging as she began considering what questions to put to the current Visitor to find out what his grievance had been with the woman Al had said was killed by Sam.



In the Waiting Room, Patrick Cromwell had turned quickly at the sound of the only door into the room opening.  He chose, for the moment, to hold his tongue when the handsome black woman walking toward him informed him that he was safe and would be kept so for the duration of his stay there.  He maintained steady eye contact with her as she stopped a few feet from him and said, "I have some questions to ask you.  Your answers to them will aid us in getting your situation resolved.  Now, sir, what is your name?"  As he sized her up, he had no way of knowing of the man sitting in an interrogation room, bound with handcuffs and being accused of murder.





San Benito, Texas

September 23, 1966

San Benito Jail

8:30 PM


The dull ache that had begun to throb behind his eyes during the booking and incarceration procedures had developed into a full-blown pounding by the time Sam Beckett was retrieved from his cell and taken to an interrogation room.  He hadn't said anything when upon entering the room, he saw a pair of detectives and another man dressed in a gray suit, all three of them staring at him as he shuffled in and sat down at the table in the middle of the room.


"Take the handcuffs off my client, Detective," the man in the gray suit requested firmly.


The uniformed officer who had escorted the prisoner to the interrogation room looked to the senior detective.  Seeing Hal Grayson nod, the officer took a key from his pocket and unlocked the handcuffs when the prisoner lifted his hands to him.  The officer took the handcuffs and exited the room, leaving the cuffs with the officer assigned to stand guard outside the door.


Inside the room, Sam carefully chafed his wrists, just nodding when the man in the gray suit said, "Are you all right, Patrick?"


"I've been better," Sam said quietly.


The other man nodded his head at Sam's words. Leaning forward on the table, he regarded the private investigator carefully.  "What's going on Patrick?  What... what happened in Marla MacDale's classroom?"


"I don't know," Sam said softly.


"I can't help you, Patrick, unless you talk to me and tell me what happened."


George Dennis studied his client's face closely a moment before looking up at the two detectives ready to start their interrogation.  "I need some time to confer with my client," he told them, his attitude and voice level, calm.


Hal Grayson matched looks with the attorney for a moment then met his partner's gaze and jerked his head toward the door. Both of them went to the door.


"Close the blinds, if you please, Detective Grayson," George Dennis requested. "And turn off the intercom, too."


Sam watched without comment, his gaze going from his attorney's face to the detectives, not in the least inclined to say anything to anyone at the moment.  Together, he and the attorney watched the detective close the blinds then exit the door, closing it solidly.  For a moment he stared at the closed mini blinds before murmuring, "I wonder if they really aren't listening?"


George Dennis sat down in the chair beside Patrick Cromwell and said, his tone spelling out for the man exactly how serious his situation was. "They aren't going to do anything so stupid as to violate attorney client confidentiality and risk you getting off on a technicality."  Shifting in his chair so he was facing his client as he sat facing the table, the attorney said simply, "What happened in that classroom, Patrick?"


Sam looked at the man and he thought back on what he knew about the Leap, and came up with nothing.  "I don't..."


The Imaging Chamber door opened and Al stepped out looking at Sam suspiciously.  Although Sam heard the door open and close behind him he kept up with his same appeal. 


"...know. Oh God, I wish I knew."


Al looked down at the handlink, and then cut off anything that the attorney was saying as he began, "You might want to tell him this."


Sam looked at his holographic partner and couldn't help but see the wearied, tired, frazzled look. 


Without waiting for Sam to respond to him with someone else in the room, Al began, "You've Leaped into Patrick James Cromwell.  Age: thirty-four.  Patrick is a Private Investigator and he had been sent out by Tom Mayberry to investigate the latest two additions to the school board.  The applicants had signed that it would be okay for them to go digging into the past to look up how they were in other schools.  Anyway, according to our Visitor, he knew something about one Lucas Abernathy.  He's not that sure what he had found out, but he said that it was something big."


"I'm sorry, what did you ask, sir?" Sam asked his attorney.


"Since when do you call me sir?  What's wrong with George?" he asked with a smirk.


"Well, you are my attorney.  I'd hate for someone to think that I'm not showing you the respect that you have earned," Sam said with a slight shrug.


George Dennis gave his friend a slight smile.  "I appreciate that. Now, Patrick, what happened?"


Sam glanced over at Al for a slight second then swallowed and leaned back in the chair.  "The county school board director," he began.


"Tom Mayberry," Al supplied knowing that Sam would need that information for his attorney.


"Tom Mayberry," Sam continued, "contacted me about doing background checks on the two new candidates, Walter Merriweather and Lucas Abernathy."  Sam turned his head slightly to the right and downward as he found himself connecting with Patrick Cromwell's thoughts.  "It's a standard procedure for anyone looking for a position on the school board, and the election is coming up in about eight weeks, so, Tom, er, Mr. Mayberry asked me to do my job.  A man's got to earn a living, even if it's not the best job in the world."


Al turned his head slightly to look at his best friend and folded his arms over his chest as he listened to what Patrick Cromwell was giving them to work with.


"I found out some rather interesting information about Lucas Abernathy.  Marla MacDale is my neighbor and... she needed to know who she was about to marry.  I look out for my friends, George, and when I find something that's not right about someone they are involved with, I'm not going to close my mouth and just leave it alone."


Sam pushed back his chair and stood up and slowly began to pace behind his chair.  "I... I went to the school to talk to her.  She... God, George, you know that feeling when you wish you had what was in front of you and you know that you can't have it?  Marla's that item for me.  We are so almost right for each other... and yet... not right for each other."  Sam shook his head slightly a bit confused at what he was saying himself, but allowed the words to come flowing out of his mouth, hoping that they weren't going to pull him deeper into a hell that he couldn't get out of. 


"Anyway, when she found out that I had researched Lucas, her fiancée, she got hot.  Really hot.  Never had Marla hit me before with such maliciousness.  I wasn't going to let her leave until she heard.  We struggled as she tried to get around me, but she was so determined.  I was trying to save her life here.  That maniac is not to be trusted, George.  So, I reverted back to the basic primal nature to get what I wanted—fear.  I picked up the scissors and put them up to her throat to get her to listen.  I told her, 'Two minutes, Marla.  After that, I'll leave you alone and you can do whatever you want, but you are going to hear what I have to say.'  She was so scared.  I felt her heart beating from how I had her pinned against her desk... but I had to tell her.  I had to."


"Tell her what, Patrick?  What did you find out about Lucas Abernathy?"


Sam stopped and turned to look at George Dennis in complete and utter shock wishing that his host had given to him the answer that the man was looking for.  Sam quickly looked over at Al hoping that his hologram had the answer and when he saw Al slightly shrug with a hand gesture from the handlink and a shake of the head, Sam turned back to the man sitting at the table.  "I... won't say until trial," he finally answered. 


George Dennis had been an attorney going on seventeen years, and in that time had handled a good many criminal cases.  In some of those cases, his client was acquitted, in the other cases, his client wound up paying for his or her crime in prison, and the rest fell somewhere in the area between those extremes.  He'd heard a lot of excuses as well as explanations and all sorts of reasoning.  Now, listening to Patrick Cromwell explaining how he had wound up in the San Benito Jail staring at a first-degree murder charge, George kept his mind open. That didn't, however, prevent him from mentally starting to inspect more closely the plausible, on one hand, explanation that in another breath, took a slight bend that made him wonder.  It was Pat's response to his question about what he'd learned about Lucas Abernathy that made him turn in his chair to face the big man who could have been a model for a genie popping up out of some Aladdin's lamp.  He could see the anxiety clearly in the younger man's face along with the hint of determination that had colored those last words.


"Patrick...Pat," he said clearly.  "This isn't the first time you've used my services but this is the first time you've been on this side of the table so to speak." He watched the other man nod at that. "I'll tell you now, like I've told every other person I've represented in a criminal matter. I'm here to represent you and your best interests, but I have to know all of the facts. All of them, Pat."




George Dennis stood up and faced his client, looking him squarely in the eye and told Pat Cromwell what, by this hour of the evening, just about everybody in San Benito knew.  "You're not in a position to bargain, Pat," George said. He shook his head and held up a hand to indicate to his client to let him finish.  "I believe what you've just told me, but Patrick, no matter that it's the truth... or even if it isn't..."


"But it is!" Sam insisted earnestly, stepping up to the lawyer.


"Pat," George said, giving him a firm look that achieved the acquiescing nod from his client he expected. He didn't further waste precious time. "Listen, Pat, as I was saying, I believe you, but," he paused then said, "there was an eye witness who heard you arguing with Marla MacDale AND who saw you kill her."


Sam couldn't move, just stand and stare at the lawyer.  Slowly his head started to shake negatively.  "No," he finally got the word out. "I... I didn't see... no, there wasn't anyone else in the room."


George reached to put a hand on Patrick's shoulder to still him. "He wasn't in the room," he told his client. "He was in the hallway... in the doorway." He stopped, giving Patrick a few seconds to absorb the damning comment. "I've seen a copy of the statement he gave to the police, Pat," George told his client. "The witness told them that at one point—just after you stabbed her the first time, he made some little noise and... and you turned your head and looked right at him and..."


"And what?" Sam instantly pressed.  "What?"


George had witnessed, in the past, a few incidents of Pat Cromwell's temper when aroused.  Now, it was looking like those instances might come back to haunt him.  "The witness said you looked at him and smiled. He said then you turned around and stabbed Miss MacDale through the heart and twisted the scissors."


Sam's eyes widened as he searched the lawyer's face looking for some inkling of a joke, hoping and praying that it was a joke.  He instantly found himself shaking his head negatively.  "I... I couldn't.  I wouldn't.  I..." Sam looked down again as he felt the high nauseating wave of psychosynergy that crossed over him.  "NO!" he hollered as he backed up away from the man before him.  "NO!"


Instantly the door opened and the two detectives stepped into the room to assess the situation and were more than amazed to find their prisoner pressing himself into the corner of the room, sliding down the wall, instant hot tears streaming down his face. 


"I didn't kill Marla MacDale!" both Sam and Patrick Cromwell cried out at the same time.  "Oh God... Marla... no!"


Even as the men started toward Sam, George Dennis took a step toward his client and shook his head and motioned back toward the door.  He was more than surprised at the response that Patrick had given to the news.  It was as if the man had just found out that she was dead.  Once the officers nodded and with a look of disdain left the room, George looked at Pat and shook his head not understanding what was going on.


Al moved to Sam as the handlink squealed out in response to what was happening around him.  Reading the link, Al said, "Sam, it seems that it was in the same moment that George Dennis told you that Verbena told Patrick in the Waiting Room about what happened to Marla.  The connection is rather strong between the two of you because Ziggy's climbing the walls about how the two of you reacted the same way.  Both cowering to a corner in response."


Sam glanced up at Al and he wiped at his face before he looked up at his lawyer.  "I didn't do it," Sam said softly.  "I didn't kill Marla."


It wasn't the first time a client had reacted with passionate intensity to something he had just told them. It happened more often than it didn't, so when the two detectives had stepped suddenly into the room, George Dennis had moved a couple of steps to place himself between them and where Pat Cromwell sat huddled in a corner.  After a moment the two men exited the room again and George turned and walked over to stand close to his client.  He waited a second then squatted on his haunches, resting his forearms on his knees as he studied his distraught client.  "I believe you, Pat," he said in a plain, quiet voice. "But you've got to tell me everything."  When Pat lifted his head in order to meet his gaze, George spelled out in simple, stark words what was facing the private investigator/ bounty hunter.


"An eyewitness heard you arguing with Marla, Pat, and he saw you stab her repeatedly.  By the man's description, at one point you looked at him and grinned like... like you were enjoying what you were doing to her."


Almost numb to the center of his being as the enormity and the cold hard facts being told to him, as well as a sense of weariness came over Sam. He turned those few hard nuggets of damnation every which way in his mind but they repeatedly gave back to him the same conclusion. Hearing the lawyer's last comment, Sam sighed and closed his eyes a moment, leaning his head back against the wall. Only one question was able to assemble in his thoughts and then successfully cross his lips.  "Who?" he asked softly. "Who is 'he'?"


It felt like a vast chasm suddenly opened in the floor beneath the Leaper, the color draining from his face as if sucked out by a vacuum when George Dennis said quietly, "Lucas Abernathy."




Project Quantum Leap

Stallion's Gate, New Mexico

December 1, 2006

1:20 PM


Al moved so quickly from the Imaging Chamber to the Control Room that he was even a bit shocked at how fast he went calling out as he went, "Ziggy!  I want any and all information on a Lucas Abernathy from San Benito, Texas.  Do whatever you need to, but I want to get the same information that Patrick Cromwell had found out and I want it two weeks ago!"


"Yes Admiral," Ziggy replied and immediately began to process through the information as she watched the Italian walk from the Control Room toward the Waiting Room.


Al knew exactly what had to be done now, and he hated waiting for the answer so he was going to go straight to the source who had already had the information somewhere in the midst of his Swiss-cheesed mind.  Waiting only a moment as the doors of the Waiting Room opened, he walked in and approached the man lying on the bed just staring up at the ceiling.  "Get up, Mr. Cromwell.  We need to talk."


Patrick turned his head to look at the small man that had entered the room and just looked at him wondering if he just ignored him if he'd go away.  Seeing the way that the older man was looking at him, he slowly sat up and wiped at his face.  "What do you want?" he asked softly.


Al didn't skim around the issue, but came straight to the point.  "What did you find out about Lucas Abernathy?"


Patrick held his counsel at the terse demand, as he looked the older man over.  "Who wants to know?" he asked, his tone making it plain he wasn't intimidated by his questioner's authoritative attitude.


His years in the Navy, as well as the on the job experience he'd gained since Sam had begun leaping, had taught Al Calavicci well. He'd seen, experienced and dealt with just about every attitude a human being could throw at him.  The one the Visitor was presenting was quite familiar and he handled it as he always did.


Taking a deep breath and blowing it out, Al moved from the foot of the hospital bed around to stand beside it, putting him eye to eye with the still seated Visitor.  "My name is Al and I'm in charge of this place," he informed the private investigator. "Before you ask, all you need to know is that while your arrival here was somewhat unusual, nonetheless, it is important.  And that importance at this moment lies in your telling me what you ascertained about one Lucas Abernathy during your investigation of his suitability to serve on the San Benito School Board."  He didn't miss the way the other man reacted to that tidy piece of proof.  "And before you try lying to me, Mr. Cromwell... don't.  Here, I have irrefutable methods of knowing if you're lying."  Al paused, took another breath and gave the Visitor a moment of silence during which anyone looking down from the observation deck would have seen what appeared to be a staring contest between the two directors of Project Quantum Leap. It was the Visitor who 'blinked' first.


"Why do you want to know?" Patrick Cromwell asked, his tone reasonable though his body language was definitely a controlled coiled spring.


Al didn't budge or back off an inch. "For a reason likely very similar to yours, Mr. Cromwell," he stated, his tone and manner straightforward. "To assist a friend who is in a dicey situation that deals directly with Mr. Abernathy.  Now, Mr. Cromwell, what did you find out about Lucas Abernathy that was most likely the proximate cause of Marla MacDale being murdered?"


Patrick looked at the man standing beside him for a long moment before he nodded.  "I know that you want to help Al," Patrick began, "but it's one of those things where I'm not sure if anything is up there anymore.  When that woman... Beeks came in questioning me, I really wasn't able to tell her much."


"Anything is better than nothing," Al conceded.  "Now, let's just start from where Mr. Mayberry asked you to investigate the two new candidates and just see what we come up with."


Even as Patrick looked down and seemingly searched his memories, he began with little pieces of information to try to connect the dots.  As time began to stretch on, Al joined Patrick sitting on the bed and did his best to be patient in finding the information that he needed for Sam. He knew and believed what he had seen when this unusual leap had begun but he couldn't just accept that.  He had to prove, to himself if no one else, what his guts were telling him, namely that what he had seen had been a lie, and that Sam Beckett wasn't guilty. But he had to have somewhere to start.


Project Quantum Leap

Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico

December 4, 2006


Time and patience seemed to be the enemy during this Leap.  Time kept flying by at the speed of light while the information that he needed was slow in coming.  Even Ziggy had to stop her search in finding anything on Lucas Abernathy for an essential update that Dominic was sincerely apologetic for.  She was kept offline for over three days but that didn't stop Al from visiting with Pat to find out more information. 


His daily visits with Patrick Cromwell were so regular that Patrick was usually waiting for the Italian even as the doors opened with an inkling more of what he had found out from his Swiss-cheesed memory.

It was during the last meeting with Pat that there seemed to be an interesting development in his memories.  Al looked at the younger man as his head popped up in sudden acknowledgement.


"It had something to do with his marriages," Patrick finally said as he snapped his fingers. "Yeah... he was married... uhm... God... it's right here on the tip of my tongue."  He closed his eyes and willed the memory to come to him, but when it didn't he cursed.  "Dammit.  I'm as bad as a nursery rhyme that won't go... nursery rhyme... a nursery rhyme... now why did I say that?"


Al shrugged one shoulder with a shake of his head.  "I don't know, Pat."


Pat stood up and began pacing as he put his hands up on his head.  "Ugh, if I had hair, I would be bald by now, you know that?" he said as he raised his arms then let them flop to his sides.  "Nursery rhyme... nursery rhyme... it was something like a riddle.  You know like the one where you ask how to spell 'that' without any i's... but it was about..." he closed his eyes and stopped pacing for a moment and finally said it, "cats."


"Cats?" Al asked carefully.


"Yeah," Patrick said a bit more adamantly.  "I'm sure of it.  Really creepy, actually."


"Admiral?" the loudspeaker announced through the room, calling Al's attention toward the ceiling.




"You are wanted in the Control Room."  Hearing Dominic's voice, he was more than curious as to why he was called out from talking with Patrick.  "Thanks Pat.  We are making progress."


"Yeah, progress.  A memory of something about marriages and a nursery rhyme about cats.  Some progress," Patrick replied cynically.


Al turned to look at the man he had grown accustomed to within the past four days and said, "Remember with what we started with, Pat.  A little is better than nothing."


Seeing the man nod, Al left the room and hurried down the hallway to the Control Room.  As he entered, he found the whole team assembled which immediately put him on instant alert.  "What's going on?" he asked.


Dominic Lofton looked up from his position at the main control panel at the Observer's, "What's going on?"


"You said that the moment we could recommence contact with Dr. Beckett, that you were to be notified instantly...." He was interrupted by a familiar sound that hadn't been heard in the past seventy-two hours, that sound bringing a broad smile to his face as he saw the same recognition come over Al Calavicci's face.  "The Imaging Chamber is coming online, Admiral.  You may enter the Imaging Chamber now. Synchronometer engagement will begin in one minute and counting, sir."


Al didn't need hearing or telling twice.  As he marched swiftly past the main console, he held out his hand, his fingers curling firmly over the charged handlink slapped against his palm.  By the time he entered the Imaging Chamber and stepped onto the central pad in the room, he was almost antsy.  Not until he heard the subtle power shift, noted by Ziggy saying, "Synchronometer engaged," did Al take a breath, only releasing it a few seconds later when he heard the four words he'd been going nuts to hear.


"We have a lock," Ziggy stated clearly.  The words were still fading within the acoustically perfect Imaging Chamber as the white chamber walls coalesced into Samuel Beckett's current location.  It was instantly clear that it was going to be a one-sided conversation in the cell that the project's director, now clad in prison garb of jeans and a long-sleeved blue shirt, occupied with another prisoner. For a moment he and Sam just stared at each other.  When the leaper suddenly shifted around on his cot and rolled onto his side facing the wall, it confused Al for a moment until he saw Sam turn his head a bit to peer up at him, beckoning him with a slight gesture with his chin before facing the wall again.


"Ohh, okay! Gotcha, Sam," Al said as he had Ziggy relocate him.  If Sam's cellmate had been able to see Al, the man likely would have started yelling about a ghostly face sticking out of the wall.  As it was, the man spared Sam a brief look then climbed up onto the top bunk, a well-thumbed paperback in hand.


"Where the hell have you been?" Sam hissed so softly under his breath that the hologram had to lean so close to hear him that if they had been able to touch, someone might have thought the two were about to kiss.


"Sorry, Sam.  Ziggy had to have some thingamabob that I'm not sure exactly what it's all about but we're back online.  I've been talking with Pat about what he remembers.  It's been slow but he barely remembers anything.  What I have from him is a town, a pastor, something about a nursery rhyme about cats and Abernathy's marriages."


Sam blinked at the hologram before him and shook his head.  "Three days.  Three days and that's all you've got?" he asked a bit heatedly albeit quietly.


"I'm doing the best that I can, Sam.  His memory is full of holes and getting that much in the last three days is better than not getting anything at all, don’tcha think?"


Sam closed his eyes and sighed heavily.  "I just want outta here," he said a bit too loud.


"You ain't the only one, bud.  I want outta here as bad as you do," the man from the top bunk said plainly.


Sam looked up at the mattress and shook his head then glanced back at Al.  "They think that I did it," Sam whispered.


The bed moved slightly and the man who shared the cell leaned over and looked down at the man below him.  "Hey, Cromwell?"




"I believe you that you didn't do it. I didn't rob that bank either," the guy said then chuckled as he leaned back to situate himself on the bed once again.  "You keep telling yourself that, Cromwell.  It still doesn't help your case any."


"Shut up, scumbag," Al muttered, casting an irritated glance at the inmate.


Sam shook his head slightly as he glared up at the bunk above him.  He was about to reply to him when a rattle of keys caught his attention and he turned to the cell door to see the guard opening it.


"Come on, Cromwell.  You've got a meeting with your lawyer, then you get to have your arraignment tomorrow," he said. 


Sam stood up and gave a final glare at the man who shared the cell with him and started toward the cell door.  He wanted to say something but he decided to keep it to himself to save himself the trouble.


On the way down the hallway, Sam looked at Al.  "So, we don't have anything to go on?" he questioned softly as he brought his hand up to cover up that he was asking anything of his holographic pal.


"No.  Not really."  As they continued to walk down the hallway, Al pulled up Ziggy's holographic representation and asked, "Anything?"


"History has majorly changed, Admiral.  Since my upgrade, I was able to ascertain that Dr. Beckett was supposed to be here to help find Marla MacDale.  She vanished the night after she wed Lucas Abernathy.  She was never found.  Now, with the way that history has been re-written, Patrick Cromwell murdered Ms. MacDale in jealous passion and will be executed for his crimes on September 10th, 1968."  Ziggy turned to her creator and slightly tilted her head. "Sorry, Dr. Beckett.  It looks rather grim."


As he walked along with Sam and the guard escorting him to the visiting area, Al didn't have to look at his friend to know what he was thinking.  Instead of things taking a turn for the better, Ziggy's comment appeared to just tighten the noose a bit more around her creator's neck.


At the visiting area, Sam waited for the guard to unlock the door, simply nodding when the man told him, "Cubicle Six," and stepped into the room.  He didn't stop to look back when the door was locked behind him, just went straight to Cubicle Six where he found George Dennis waiting for him.  Only this time, the attorney had another man with him. Sam had barely sat down when George began with the court appearance the next day.


"Your arraignment is set for ten o'clock tomorrow morning, Pat," George told him matter-of-factly.  "You'll be transported to the courthouse with the others being arraigned at that time."


Sam nodded his understanding then cut his gaze to the man sitting beside the attorney.  "Who's this?" he asked without preamble.


George Dennis had always appreciated Patrick Cromwell's get-down-to-business attitude in previous such situations, and he appreciated it now. However, it wasn't he who answered Sam's question but the attorney's companion.


Pastor David McKinney smiled kindly at the man sitting on the opposite side of the table.  "I'm surprised you don't remember me, Mr. Cromwell," he said.  "Last week we had a rather long conversation when you were in Abbottsville."  He was encouraged by the way the man's eyes brightened measurably as he parroted, "Abbottsville...last week." Still, he considered the man's current situation and reminded him of his name. "I'm Pastor McKinney," the man of the cloth supplied.  "We talked at some length about a man named Lucas Abernathy... well, that's what he calls himself now. But that wasn't his name while he was at St. Ives."


Al was so startled that he dropped his cigar and almost the handlink as well.  "Did he say St. Ives?!"  He didn't see the odd look Sam managed to slide his way, he was too busy punching instructions and questions into the handlink even as he issued orders aloud.  "Ziggy, have Verbena check with the visitor. Have her ask him if the nursery rhyme that he can't think of was about St. Ives."  Almost as an afterthought he added, "There's cats in it."


It was a five-minute wait before Al got a response, but it was the best five minutes since this leap had begun.  He was almost bouncing off the walls when he relayed what the prompting had done for the Visitor's memory.


"Sam," he said urgently, moving to his friend's side, the handlink in his left hand a rainbow of flashing colors. "Get this Pastor...whatshisname to tell you about Lucas' other life at St. Ives."


"St. Ives?" Sam said uncertainly.


"Yes," David McKinney responded, thinking the young private investigator was speaking to him.  "Charles Kitwell... that's Mr. Abernathy's real name... was a patient at St. Ives Mental Hospital for several years."


George Dennis saw both the immediate interest and surprise in his client's eyes. He took as an encouraging sign that Patrick's seeming apparent temporary amnesia about his working trip to the small Ohio town had been cleared away.  He chose for the moment not to interrupt but instead to watch and listen and make notes of whatever might surface from the murkiness of his client's cloudy memory of the last few days.


George wasn't the only one taking full advantage of the information that was beginning to come out.  Al had re-summoned Ziggy's holographic imagine to observe as well.  He thought that her 'physical' presence as she retrieved and filled in information would do Sam's emotional and mental well being more good to hear it from Ziggy's own lips, as it were.


As fast, nay faster than thoughts, Ziggy processed the new information as Pastor McKinney related it to a leaper who had up until that moment, whether he realized it or not, had begun to entertain fleeting little whispers that this time he was at the end of his rope, both figuratively and literally.


After a few minutes, Sam asked, "Why was he in that place...St. Ives?"  George Dennis' answering of that question made both leaper and hologram's skin crawl.  But as the time crept by, both were equally beginning to believe that they were starting to see a glimmer at the end of what had been till now a long, long black tunnel from which Sam couldn't escape.





September 27, 1966

San Benito, Texas


9:00 AM


Even after they had heard and learned a bit more than they had wanted to about Charles Kitwell, a/k/a Lucas Abernathy, Sam had a restless night's sleep before he was transported to his arraignment hearing.  He was escorted through the halls with the cuffs chafing his wrists, but Al was consistently by his side, which he appreciated more than anything else.  After being without a friend to even talk to for three days, it was a bit more comforting to have this pal around even if they couldn't talk.


Being shoved into the room with the other men, Sam looked for his attorney, found him and went toward him until a guard stopped him.  "Stay still.  When it's closer to your time, you'll get called up.  Until then, sit."


Sighing, Sam nodded and did exactly as the guard said.  Looking at Al who gave him an encouraging smile, Sam nodded in acknowledgement then played the game that he was beginning to get tired of in this leap -- the Waiting Game.


Two hours later, he was more than grateful to stand when George Dennis asked for his client.  Getting up, he went to stand with his attorney.  Once beside George, he licked his lips as he looked over at the young woman who was on the prosecuting team for the state of Texas.  He met her gaze only for the woman's eyes to narrow before she turned back to her paperwork.  Swallowing, he looked up at Judge Martin Sandoval, who seemed very passionate about his work and finally turned his gaze on the newest arrival.


Judge Sandoval adjusted his glasses on his nose and leaned back in his chair then raised his gavel and let it flop down on the desk.  "Bailiff Monrow, what's our next case?"


"Case Number: 54328, State of Texas VS. Cromwell, Patrick.  Charge:  Murder in the first degree."


"Patrick Cromwell," Judge Sandoval looked at the man standing beside George Dennis and finally found why Cromwell looked so familiar to him.  The man had brought in one of the most hated men to his court for prosecution.  He appreciated the PI's help, but now, it looked as if he was on the wrong side of the law.  "Mr. Dennis, how does your client plea?"


Seeing out of the corner of his eye that George slightly looked at him, Sam replied, "Not guilty, your honor."


Martin Sandoval's thick eyebrows quirked somewhat at the plea offered then shifted his gaze to the prosecution.  "Ms. Greene, I trust that the prosecution has satisfied the criteria for a first-degree murder charge?"


"Yes, Your Honor," the tall, slender woman with dark hair pulled back in a stylish twist and wearing a dove gray suit responded crisply.  "We have an eye witness to the moments leading up to the moment when Mr. Cromwell viciously and repeatedly stabbed Marla MacDale to death in her classroom at San Benito Veterans’ Memorial Ninth Grade Academy."


Judge Sandoval nodded.  "Bail?" he queried.


Justina Greene came back promptly, "Considering the heinous nature of the crime, the people request remand, Your Honor."


Martin Sandoval's gaze flicked to the defense even as he nodded and gaveled the case. "The defendant is remanded to the custody of the Sheriff's Office to await trial.  Next."


As Al watched as Sam turned to his lawyer to shake his hand and start back toward the back of the room, he couldn't help but notice Lucas Abernathy sitting behind the prosecuting table watching.  After learning what the man had done, Al shook his head, flicked his cigar ash from the end of it then started after Sam. 


He arrived as Sam and George met up with Pastor McKinney, who was talking with a rather attractive, nicely dressed blonde who kept batting her eyes at the man before her.


"I had heard that you were coming down to Texas to help out in a trial. So, I thought that it was the best way to show my earnest desire in backing you in your endeavors, Pastor McKinney," she said simply as she looked him up and down before she turned to the men who had approached from the side.


The woman glanced at the men who approached and did a double take as she looked at them before she stuck out her hand to them.  "Lulu Logan," she introduced herself.  "I'm one of Pastor McKinney's fold and I wanted to let you know that I'm a prayer support for you in this time in your life," she said as she stepped up in front of Sam.


Sam was about to shake hands with the young woman when one of the other people in the gallery brushed past them, pushing them further apart. 


A small gasp escaped her and one word slipped out then others quickly followed.  "You... you're the one that came last week to Abbottsville, aren't you?" she asked carefully.


"Yes, Ms. Logan.  I did," Sam said carefully then reached over and shook the pastor's hand.  "Thank you Pastor McKinney.  I really do appreciate everything that you've done.  Thank you for coming."


Pastor McKinney smiled then put his hands on Lulu's shoulders and slowly moved her away from in front of the young PI.  "Anything to set things right," he said softly.


Sam nodded at the pastor when he felt a hand on his elbow and turned his head to see the guard. "Okay," he said then turned to each one of them in turn; Lulu, George, David… and Al.  "Thank you," he said simply then turned and walked away from the group.


"He's a rather interesting fellow.  I... I think that I've met him before," Lulu said simply.


"You met him last week when you were in church," David answered with a smile.  "Don't you remember?"


"I was too busy listening to your sermon," she said as she fluttered her lashes.  "Do you know that you and he look... alike?"


Al turned to look at the young woman before he looked up at Pastor McKinney.  "They don't look anything alike... Patrick's bald... but... McKinney sorta looks like Sam... but not that much."  Picking up the handlink, Al quickly recentered himself back on Al unaware that Lulu had turned her head to look seemingly through him as if she had actually seen something there.





Brownsville, Texas

Cameron Country Criminal Courthouse

October 6, 1966

9:00 AM


Due to the heinous nature of Patrick Cromwell's crime, George Dennis had petitioned the court for a change of venue. He had won his point that it wasn't likely that his client could receive a fair and impartial trial, and so the venue for the case had been moved to the Cameron County Criminal Court in nearby—Brownsville.  He had also waived, with his client's authority, all appeals and delays, requesting that a speedy trial be set. 


From Sam's point of view, he wasn't so sure about the speedy aspect of the trial when the judge to whom the case was assigned put it on his trial calendar a mere ten days hence, but what else was there that he could do?  Nothing but literally sit and wait, and, of course, give his full cooperation in defense of his host.  It helped that moments of psycho-synergizing helped fill in spots of information about Patrick Cromwell but Sam still awoke the morning of the trial with an even stronger uneasiness in the pit of his stomach.


He passed on the breakfast brought to him, opting just for the cup of orange juice and a few sips of the coffee, before putting on a dark suit that George Dennis had brought to him from Patrick Cromwell's apartment.  Even though it was nearing the end of October, Sam found himself sweating as he waited in the holding room off the courtroom until it was time for the trial to begin.  The air conditioning in the building seemed to be not working to him, but Al, who hadn't left his side since appearing while he was dressing, assured Sam that this was most likely due to nerves.


It was obvious, by the sight of Al Calavicci attired in a conservative slate blue suit and tie just how seriously he was taking the trial of Patrick Cromwell since his best friend was the one who would, God forbid, end up serving time, or worse, be executed, if found guilty.


All too soon Sam was brought into the courtroom to stand next to George Dennis.  The handcuffs were removed shortly before the bailiff called out in a strong, clear voice, "All rise. The Criminal District Court for Cameron County, Texas is now in session. The Honorable Bertram T. Oswell presiding.”  Every eye watched in silence as the judge emerged from the door to the right end of the bench and walked up and took his seat then banged the gavel smartly.  The bailiff faced the courtroom again and intoned, "Court is now in session. Be seated."


Sam swallowed and looked over at his lawyer and saw the small smile before he turned and glanced at the gallery and saw the pastor as well as the beautiful blonde sitting beside him.  Nervously, he looked back up at the judge and saw him focusing on the prosecuting attorney.


Beside him, Al placed the chair kept in the Imaging Chamber for occasions when he was in there for long periods, beside Sam at the defense's table. He had the handlink firmly in hand as he settled down to listen and, if needed request information from Ziggy about anything that was said.


"Ms. Greene," Judge Oswell called out.  "Are you ready to proceed?" 


"Yes, Your Honor," she said looking directly at him.  "The State is prepared."


Judge Oswell's gaze turned to George Dennis.  "Mr. Dennis, are you ready to proceed?"


"Certainly, Your Honor," Mr. Dennis responded as he stood up and met the man's gaze. 


"Fine.  Then let us proceed.  Opening statements." 


An hour flew past as both sides gave their opening statements as to how each intended to prove the guilt or innocence of Patrick Cromwell, Private Investigator.  As Sam heard how viciously the attack had come, a bit of him wondered if he had somehow aided the attack in the leap in.  He didn't want to think that he was the one that caused her to die, but he couldn't help but wonder.  It bothered him that there were some things that he had no control over.  However, he knew what he could do and he was going to do his damnedest to free Patrick Cromwell of this sentence.


The first witness called by the Prosecution was Detective Grayson.  The man answered the Assistant District Attorney's questions, as well as the cross-examination by George Dennis.  After that, in rapid succession, Grayson's partner and then the coroner were called to the witness stand. The few graphic pictures of the scene of the murder as well as the victim caused Al to turn a little green but he didn't budge. Sam, on the other hand studied the blow-ups of the pictures intently.  It wasn’t the sight of the blood or the unfortunate victim that made his stomach tighten. Rather, it was the knowledge that through no fault of his own he had been thrown into the awful mix.


As the noon hour approached, Sam's head was awash in the testimony of the teachers and other school personnel who had rushed to their colleague's aid.  Though he appreciated the skill of his attorney's cross-examination of them, Sam couldn't help but silently give high marks to the prosecution.  As each of their witnesses testified, he began to mentally hear over and over in his mind the hard, metal clang of a prison cell door swinging irrevocably shut behind him.  It was twelve fifteen when the judge recessed for lunch and Sam was escorted back to the holding area.  After an escorted trip to the restroom, he was taken back to the holding cells in the basement of the courthouse where he was given a light lunch. But he had no appetite, settling for a plastic cup of iced tea that he sipped as he paced the confines of the cell.


By the time the trial resumed and the rest of the defense witnesses were summoned and questioned, Sam was totally in shock at the amount of evidence that the state had compiled against Patrick Cromwell.  If he had been one of the twelve members of the jury, he would have already been convinced that Pat Cromwell had murdered the woman because he was a jealous bastard who didn't want Lucas Abernathy to have a chance with his beautiful next-door neighbor.


As the afternoon continued to crawl on, Sam felt the final slam of the door when the last witness, Lucas Abernathy, walked to the stand to give his testimony.


Ms. Greene glanced down at her notes and then walked in front of the witness stand and said, "Please state your name for the record."


"Lucas Andrew Abernathy."


Ms. Greene moved smoothly on with her questions.  "What was your relationship with the deceased, Mr. Abernathy?"


"Marla MacDale was to be my wife, Ms. Greene," Lucas said simply.  "We had set the date for December 31st, but I was going to suggest that we move it up to be a simple impromptu wedding this weekend.  I was going to ask her that evening at dinner what she thought of that," he said with an even smooth tone as he looked at her before he glanced at the man he knew as Patrick Cromwell.


"Are you acquainted with the defendant, Mr. Abernathy?"  At his affirmative answer, the prosecutor asked him to elaborate.


"I know Pat Cromwell through Marla.  She introduced us when I began dating her.  It's not every day that you meet a man of his stature and ability.  He definitely made an impression on me."


Ms. Greene nodded her head then asked, "So, you would know his voice if you heard it?"


"Of course, I would.  Pat has that smooth, deep lilt to his voice.  Even Marla said that he had a charming nature."


"Objection," George Dennis called out firmly. "Hearsay."


"Sustained," the judge ruled, looking at the jury and adding, "The jury will disregard the witness' last comment." Shifting his gaze to the witness, he admonished, "Just answer the questions asked, Mr. Abernathy."


"Yes, sir," Lucas responded with the right degree of respect in his tone and expression.


Justina Greene let a few seconds pass then continued her examination of the prosecution's star witness.


"Mr. Abernathy, on the afternoon of Ms. MacDale's murder, please tell the court how you came to be at the school at that particular time."  She listened, pleased at how well his preparation for testifying had gone.  Everything about his manner and voice now reflected what she had instructed him: "Just tell the truth, Mr. Abernathy. Do not embellish what you heard or observed. Trust me when I tell you that the facts of this case will convict Mr. Cromwell."


Nodding when he repeated again about taking Marla MacDale out to dinner that evening and his decision to surprise her with that suggestion, Justina took a breath and let it out slowly then moved to stand at the far end of the jury box, turned to face him and said, "As you approached Ms. MacDale's classroom, what did you hear, Mr. Abernathy?" 


“Objection,” George Dennis said crisply.  “Council is leading the witness.”


“I’ll rephrase,” Justina Greene said and did so.  “Mr. Abernathy, as you approached Ms. MacDale’s classroom, did you hear anything?”  She watched him lick his lips then start to speak and then hesitated as he took a sudden breath and blew it out.  "Just take your time," she reassured him when he apologized for the hesitation.


Taking another deep breath, he finally began, "I heard my fiancée speaking angrily with someone then I heard her say, 'Dammit, Patrick, let go.'"  It was at that point that Lucas paused.  "I know that it's not polite to curse, but I'm just letting you know what she said.  I heard Mr. Cromwell tell her loudly, that he wasn't going to let her go until he told her what he had come to tell her what he had found out."


Lucas shifted uneasily in the chair and said, "When I heard the argument, I moved down the hallway to make sure that she was okay. I knew that Patrick was a friend and if he had a hold of her that he wasn't going to hurt her, at least, I thought he wasn't."  Lucas looked down slightly then turned his gaze back to the prosecuting attorney.  "It was an argument about something that she didn't want to know, yet when he mentioned that it was about something that a loved one might not have been honest about, I heard a slap and Marla's curt words of 'Go to hell.'  Marla wasn't easy to irritate.  She works with students who try to push her buttons, it was quite obvious that Mr. Cromwell had not only pushed them, but crossed the line."


"What was the argument about from what you could tell, Mr. Abernathy?" Justina asked carefully.


"About me.  I think that he knew that he was going to miss out on something he had an opportunity to have and got jealous and took it—her from me.  I finally decided to look in just to make sure that Marla was okay.  She couldn't see me.  She was facing Mr. Cromwell and he was between her and the door.  I saw him pick up the scissors and use them as a tool to get her to listen to him and then he turned them and stabbed her with them."


"Could you stand and show us how the motion was carried out?"


Lucas stood and performed the same motion that he had seen, a downward plunging motion with his hand in a fist acting as if he had actually been holding the scissors.  As he went back to sit back down, he slightly stumbled and regained his footing.  He looked up at Justina Greene and saw the concerned smile on her lips.


"Mr. Abernathy, did you at any time say anything to Mr. Cromwell?"


"Yes, I did," Lucas said as he turned to look at the man at the defense table.  "I asked him why.  He only looked back at me with a maniacal smile then plunged the scissors back into her body.  I saw him stumble slightly and I had entered enough into the room to see the blow to her neck.  I then left for help.  Marla was gone and that... sorry son of a bitch killed her," Lucas said hotly as he turned back to the man and glared at him as tears came into his eyes.


Ms. Greene carefully made her way up to the stand and placed her hands up on the wood as she looked at him consolingly.  "The state is sorry for your loss, Mr. Abernathy, however, could you answer one last question?"  Seeing his nod, she continued.  "Please tell the court why you didn't try to stop Mr. Cromwell."


An odd expression crossed his face before he stood up and motioned toward his body.  "I'm five foot eight.  Marla was a mere five foot seven.  He's well over six three.  Even if I was in my prime, I don't have a chance in hell against him.  I was just hoping that I could get help before it was too late for Marla."


George Dennis watched and listened closely to the prosecutor's questions and the answers given by Lucas Abernathy.  He jotted a few notes, issuing no more than the one objection he’d already raised to one of the witness' answers. Several minutes passed and finally Justina Greene returned to the prosecutor's table and sat down.  George glanced at his notes for a moment, formulating a question.  When it was the way he wanted to put it to the witness, he did so.  Standing up but not moving from the defense's table, he looked across the room to Lucas Abernathy.


"Mr. Abernathy, you loved Marla MacDale, didn't you?"


Lucas' eyebrows dipped in a vague frown of puzzlement but his voice was firm, a trace of annoyance in his tone when he responded, "Yes, of course, I did!"  He looked directly at the attorney. "We were going to be married."


George Dennis nodded, "For better or worse, in sickness and health..."


"Yes," Lucas' voice remained strong. "Wedding vows are meant to be taken seriously."


"But they apply only within the strictest context of marriage, is that correct?"


Lucas Abernathy considered the question.  He had an ally in wondering about the question as the prosecutor addressed the judge, "Your Honor, does Mr. Dennis have a point?"


Judge Oswell's gaze shifted to the defense attorney.  "Make your point and move on, Mr. Dennis."


George Dennis acknowledged the instruction and got to the kernel of his point.


"So Mr. Abernathy, you stood in the doorway of that classroom, with an unobstructed view of my client allegedly stabbing Marla MacDale... your fiancée, and all you did was to ask him why?" George Dennis' tone was incredulous. "You never stirred a foot or lifted a hand to go to her defense?"


Lucas' face darkened at the suggestion of the questions as he reiterated, "Like I said," he said defensively, his gaze sliding to the man sitting beside George Dennis before returning to the defense attorney’s gaze. "He's bigger than me. I'd have likely wound up getting hurt or killed, too."


"So," George dug in the spurs.  "In that moment, your love for Marla MacDale was an inconvenience..."


"That's not true!" Lucas shot back, shifting agitatedly in the witness seat.  "We were going to be married..."


Now George Dennis moved away from the table and took two steps and stopped.  "But you didn't go to her aid, Mr. Abernathy."


"I told you..."


George just kept pressing harder. "We're about the same height, Mr. Abernathy," he pointed out.  "But if that had been my fiancée being attacked so viciously, even by a man with the same build as my client, wild horses... nothing would have stopped me from going after him with everything I had to aid and protect the woman I loved."


Justina Greene was on her feet in an instant. "Your Honor, counsel is badgering the witness!"


George Dennis' chin came up a bit as he looked steadily at the witness, noting the man's discomfiture even as he said, "I'll rephrase."  Taking a breath, he said, "Isn't it true, Mr. Abernathy that your reason for not going into that classroom to try to save the life of your fiancée was more about protecting yourself than it was to attempt, perhaps even save, the life of Marla MacDale?"


Lucas fought to keep his head, to not lose his cool as he maintained eye contact with the attorney.  "No," he stated in a flat, unflinching voice. "She was already dead from when he stabbed her through the heart," he said. "There was nothing I could do for her at that point."


George cocked his head slightly to one side as he studied the witness. "So you just stood there and watched him mutilate the woman you loved and never lifted a finger to even try to stop him."


"You're twisting what I said," Lucas began but didn't get any further as the defense attorney said, "I have no more questions for this witness at this time.  However I reserve the right to recall him at a later time."


Judge Oswell eyed the defense attorney for a moment then turned his gaze to the man in the witness box and excused him.  Neither he, nor the prosecutor, missed the way Lucas Abernathy cast a narrow, considering look at George Dennis as he returned to his seat in the gallery.



Project Quantum Leap

Stallions Gate, New Mexico

Waiting Room

December 15, 2006


As Patrick Cromwell paced in the Waiting Room, he began to feel a bit dizzy as he walked and stopped to lean against the bed to steady himself.  Even as he straightened up, his mouth dropped open as his memory seemed to flood him with things that he had been searching for.   He blinked in shock and then spun around to look at the door of the room.  Shut.  His eyes shot upward and he searched the dome that he was in and he finally just licked his lips nervously and said a bit louder, "Listen, I... I know that someone is listening to me. I... I need to talk to Dr. Beeks or Al.  I... I remember.  Oh God, I remember everything."


Ziggy who had consistently monitored the Visitor at all times picked up immediately on what Patrick had said and went directly to the source that he wanted.  "Dr. Beeks, Mr. Cromwell requests your presence."


"I was just in there, Ziggy.  What does he want?"


If Ziggy had been in holographic form she would have smiled and tilted her head slightly as she responded, "He says he remembers everything."


Verbena stopped in mid-step and turned and started back down the hallway toward the Waiting Room, hoping that he wasn't pulling her leg.  If he remembered, it might help with the trial that she knew that Sam was in.


Moving to the door, she turned to smile at Eddie Sharpe then entered the room and smiled warmly at the man waiting for her.  "Do you need anything else, Mr. Cromwell?"


"Yeah, I do.  I need your ear."


"I beg your pardon?" Verbena responded, looking closely at the Visitor's intense expression.


Patrick got to the point. "I remember... about Lucas Abernathy," he told her straight out.  "Don't ask me how but I was pacing around in here and boom! It all came back in a rush to me."


Verbena kept a tight hold on the initial urge to let excited relief take control.  "What exactly is it that you remember about Mr. Abernathy?"


"You're going to need to write this down," he told her.


"Don't worry about that, Mr. Cromwell," she reassured him.  "Even if my pen runs out of ink, not a word of whatever it is you say will be lost.  Now, what is it... what is it exactly that you remember?"


Patrick studied the handsome woman's face a moment and then began.  "I know who Lucas Abernathy is."  A glance at Dr. Beeks' face told him he had her undivided attention.  Turning away from her, he paced a few steps, his hands pressed together, as if praying, the tips of his fingers just touching his chin.  Turning abruptly to face her again, he said, "I told you earlier he was really Charles Kitwell?"


"Yes, and that he was institutionalized in St. Ives Mental Hospital.”


Patrick returned quickly to Verbena. "About fifteen years ago, he escaped from there.  It’s near Abbottsville, Ohio." He paused but didn't wait for her to ask the obvious question.  "To make a long story short, Lucas... I mean Charles Kitwell was charged with murdering his elderly parents but he never spent a day in prison.  His attorney convinced the court that he was crazy and so wasn't responsible for his actions."


The Visitor paused to take a breath then hurried on, resuming his pacing as he talked as fast as he could so he didn't let any of what he'd remembered slip away.


"Kitwell was only in St. Ives Hospital for about sixteen months when he escaped."  He nodded at the doctor's wide-eyed reaction. "I remember there was a nationwide manhunt for him. It was front-page news all over for weeks. They tracked and hunted him for the better part of three years but they never found him, and it eventually died down and people forgot about it.  I had heard about Kitwell again while I was in training.  He mysteriously appeared then disappeared again."


"And what does this have to do with..." Verbena started but Patrick held up a hand to stop her.


"I'm getting to that, Ms. Beeks.  Kitwell interestingly enough was married several times."


"That's not uncommon," Verbena said trying to keep up with him, but not obviously understanding where he was going with any of it.


"Oh, really?  How many people do you know that have been married six times, Dr. Beeks?"


For a fleeting second it was like a teasing snippet of a memory fluttered at the edges of the psychiatrist’s memory at the question.  Then it was gone and she shook her head lightly and refocused on the Visitor. "Well other than Elizabeth Taylor or Zsa Zsa Gabor, no one that I know, personally," she replied her tone light but not condescending.  Seeing the intent expression in the Visitor's eyes, she reiterated about multiple marriages not being the norm but that such wasn't unheard of.


The private investigator fixed Verbena with a close look.  "How many of those marriages ended because one of the spouses, in Kitwell's case, his wife, just vanished into thin air?"


Verbena felt a cool shiver across the back of her neck at that. "People don't just vanish into thin air, Mr. Cromwell," she began, even as she thought about how Sam did pretty much that very thing each time he leaped.


Patrick, however, wasn’t swayed by the doctor's comment.  "All six of Kitwell's wives did," he said with conviction. "The police went over every square inch of his life, his house, everything."


"Kidnapping?" Verbena suggested though she knew by his facial reactions that he was going to knock that suggestion out of contention as well.


"No ransom notes, no phone calls," Patrick said simply.  He didn't make any move to approach Dr. Beeks, just maintained a steady gaze on her.  He shook his head slowly when she suggested, "Insurance policies?"


"Each of his wives had an insurance policy on her life while married to Kitwell but nothing big.  I think the biggest policy was on his third wife, and that was only ten thousand dollars."  Saying that, Patrick lapsed into silence for a moment or so, allowing Verbena the opportunity to digest that.


Verbena did just that, assimilated and assessed what the Visitor had told her but it just didn't add up.  "That's an interesting story, Mr. Cromwell, but what has that got to do with Marla MacDale?"


This time, Patrick did more than just hesitate, falling back a step as he reviewed what he was about to say.  It hadn't been easy to get his own mind wrapped around it when the last piece of the odd and, he'd discovered, chilling puzzle about Charles Kitwell's—a/k/a

Lucas Abernathy's—string of disappearing spouses had flipped into place.  He started his answer by again reciting the nursery rhyme, moving slowly to within a few feet of Verbena Beeks, his gaze fixed on hers.


"As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives.  Every wife had seven sacks, every sack had seven cats, every cat had seven kits.  Kits, cats, sacks and wives, how many were going to St. Ives?"


It was just a child's nursery rhyme; it shouldn't conjure anything more than a teasing lilt in the teller's voice.  So why does is it making me think that someone is behind me?’ Verbena thought.  She didn't voice that thought, instead she swallowed and licked her lips lightly before speaking, keeping her tone professional and calm. "Again, Mr. Cromwell, what does a children's nursery rhyme have to do with Marla MacDale?"


"She was going to be his seventh wife," Patrick said softly.  "One of Kitwell's most telling quirks was that he had a thing for three things: Women, cats and the number seven."


Verbena shook herself lightly and cleared her throat to rid herself of the feeling that was trying to usurp her thinking.  She didn't get a chance to ask the question poised on her lips as the Visitor resumed speaking, and what he was saying was becoming compelling.


"I didn't get the first niggle about a connection between Lucas Abernathy and Charles Kitwell until I went to Abbottsville.  While I was there, I talked to some of the locals and showed them a picture of Lucas Abernathy.  Only one person recognized him, but not as Lucas Abernathy.  The pastor of one of the local churches took one look at it and said, ‘That's Charles Kitwell!’ The man was startled to say the least. I told him no, that his name was Abernathy and, well, we wound up talking for a good while about the guy in the picture.  It was when he started telling me what he knew about the guy that I started thinking about Lucas."


That soft breeze Verbena had felt on the back of her neck made her look at the man before her and couldn't help but just look at him consideringly.  "Patrick, that's..."


"Unbelievable?  You’re right.  It is... but it's true.  I've seen too much and know too much about that man.  I don't want Marla MacDale to be next on his list."


Verbena looked at him carefully.  Even as she saw the concern in his eyes, the genuine heartfelt expression, Verbena knew somewhere in her being that Patrick Cromwell hadn't done anything to Marla MacDale.  Looking up into what she saw as Dr. Beckett's green eyes, she tilted her head slightly.  "There's something else that you're not telling me.  What is it, Patrick?  What else is there about Lucas Abernathy that you are holding out on?"





Brownsville, Texas

Cameron County Criminal Courthouse

State VS Cromwell

October 6, 1966


As the hot September afternoon dragged on outside the courthouse, in Judge Oswell's courtroom the emotional tide was rising as the defense called several character witnesses to testify as to Patrick Cromwell's character and standing in the community.  The hands on the clock were reaching toward the four o'clock hour when the judge excused the witness presently on the stand and looked to the defense counsel.


"How many more witnesses are you going to call, Mr. Dennis?" Bertram Oswell asked.


George Dennis rose to his feet, meeting the judge's gaze as he did so.  "We have just one more witness, Your Honor," he said respectfully.


"Do you anticipate a lengthy examination of the witness?"


George Dennis kept his features schooled as he responded, "No, Your Honor."


Judge Oswell nodded and made a note on the pad before him. "Very well, Mr. Dennis. Call your witness," he said glancing up to when the defense counsel spoke.


"The defense calls as its last witness Pastor David McKinney."


No one in the gallery said anything as a tall, nice-looking man with brown hair and wearing a conservative navy blue suit stood up and walked forward to the witness box at one end of the bench where he was sworn in.  Responding appropriately, he was seated and recited his name, address and occupation for the record.


George Dennis didn't waste any time.  All afternoon it had looked, he knew, like his client was surely facing at the least, the rest of his life in prison or, at the worst, being put to death.  Glancing at his notes, the attorney stood up and walked toward the witness, stopping a few feet from him.


"Pastor McKinney, how long have you known my client, Patrick Cromwell?"


David McKinney looked over at the clearly anxious young man then back to the attorney.  "I met Mr. Cromwell about...ten days ago.  He said he had come to Abbottsville to do some sort of background check on a man being considered for a seat on the school board here in San Benito."


"Did he tell you who the man was he was investigating?"


"Yes, he said the man's name was Lucas Abernathy."


A low hum of whispers began and the judge immediately used his gavel sharply. "Quiet. Another outburst of any sort and I'll clear the courtroom," he pronounced firmly, sweeping the gallery with a stern look. When all was quiet again, he indicated for the questioning to go on.


"Did you know this Lucas Abernathy that my client was inquiring about?" George asked.


The pastor didn't hesitate. "I was born and raised in Abbottsville," David McKinney replied. "And I told him that, to the best of my knowledge, there wasn't anyone in town by that name."


"How could you be sure that there wasn't a family or an individual with that last name, Pastor McKinney?"


David McKinney smiled.  "The population of Abbottsville has always been around four thousand people, Mr. Dennis.  In a small town like that, you pretty much know who your neighbors and such are."


George nodded.  "Did Mr. Cromwell show you a picture of Mr. Abernathy?"


The pastor nodded.  "Yes, he showed me a picture, but I told him there had to be some mistake."


"Why do you say that?"


"Because I told him that the picture he showed me was of a man that I and just about everyone with a long enough memory knew."


George Dennis paused a moment, took a step to one side then asked, "Who was the man in the picture that my client showed to you, Pastor McKinney?"


David McKinney didn't hesitate as he looked straight at George Dennis and said, "The man in the picture was about fifteen, maybe twenty years older than the last time I saw him, but there was no such thing as me not recognizing him." He paused and this time the pastor's brown eyes strayed just to the left and behind the defense attorney to fix on the man seated in the gallery behind the prosecutor's table.  "The man in that picture was Charles Kitwell."


Immediate murmurings went through the gallery but Judge Bertram Oswell didn't stop them immediately.  His first reaction was to snap his head around to look at the pastor for a long solid moment before he picked up the gavel and rapped it several times, achieving cessation of the murmurs and whispers, before he let it flop back down onto his desk.  Judge Oswell looked through the gallery and found the man who he was looking for- namely the man they had known previously as Lucas Abernathy.


Turning his attention back to the pastor for a moment, the judge asked, "You did say Charles Kitwell.  Is that correct?"


Seeing the nod that the pastor gave, he turned his attention back to the man in the gallery and narrowed his gaze.  He didn't like people who perjured in his court. 


"Enough," he muttered.  "Mr. Dennis, continue," he said as he watched the man in the gallery who had married his cousin, Meredith Littleton.  He watched him very closely indeed.  His family had searched for Meredith for years and he had never given up hope that they would find her.  If what this Pastor McKinney had just said was true, he had a lot of questions for which he wanted answers.  Questions, that he intended on getting answers for, one way or another. 


"Enough," he muttered.  "Mr. Dennis, continue," he said as he watched the man in the gallery who had married his cousin, Meredith Littleton, very closely indeed.  His family had searched for Meredith for years and while her family had eventually accepted that Meredith was gone forever, he hadn't ever given up hope that they would find her.  If what this Pastor McKinney had just said was true, Bertram Oswell had a lot of questions for which he wanted answers.  Questions, that he intended on getting answers for, one way or another from the man in the gallery who was oddly unreactive to the revelation just made about him.  The sound of a throat being cleared followed by the defense attorney courteously requesting, "May I continue, Your Honor," brought the man on the bench sharply back to the moment. Refocusing his thoughts, Judge Oswell looked intently at the attorney and nodded.  "Proceed, Mr. Dennis."


George Dennis waited a few seconds then turned once more to the witness.  "Pastor McKinney, can you think of any reason why this Mr. Kitwell would be using an assumed name?"  As he waited for the middle-aged man to answer the question, George silently reviewed again the startling information given him by the private investigator he had hired to retrace his client's investigation that had landed him in this courtroom accused of a heinous murder.


David McKinney looked at the man sitting in the gallery and then looked back at George Dennis.  "I would think that anyone who had spent time at a mental institution would not want that to follow them around their whole life, Mr. Dennis."


"A mental institution?  What mental institution was he in?"


"He was in St. Ives in Abbottsville, Ohio."


George Dennis nodded his head as he cast a glance at the judge to see the officiating judge tighten his jaw as he looked over the man they were talking about seated in the gallery.  He wasn't sure why Judge Oswell was getting heated, but he paused for a moment then looked back at the pastor.  "To your knowledge, why was Charles Kitwell admitted?"


Justina Greene stood up and immediately asked, "Your Honor, this line of questioning has nothing to do with the current case.  This trial is not even about Charles Kitwell.  This..."


"Your Honor," Mr. Dennis jumped in quickly.  "The prosecution does realize that we are talking about their star witness in the case isn't who he claims to be.  If Lucas Abernathy is in fact Charles Kitwell, it does open up another kettle of fish, however, it also does destroy their star witness’ credibility."


"Sit down, Ms. Greene.  I want to see where this line of questioning leads us to," Judge Oswell replied then watched as the sullen young woman sat with a huff.  "Continue, Mr. Dennis."


"I re-ask my previous question, Mr. McKinney.  To your knowledge, why was Charles Kitwell admitted?"


David looked at the defense attorney with adamant concern.  "To my knowledge, he was sent to St. Ives to deal with some issues in his life."


"What issues were those?"


"He was suffering from mental exhaustion as well as physical stress."  Mr. McKinney paused slightly then lifted his chin slightly.  "Mr. Kitwell had burned down his house to get rid of his problems."


"And what were his problems exactly?"


"His parents."


George Dennis stopped and frowned.  He knew that he had to ask questions that he knew the answer to; however, the pastor caught him off guard with that answer.  "His parents were his problems?  Could you explain your answer?"


David smiled slightly.  "I don't know if you asked but since it's going to come out in the wash anyway, Charles Kitwell and I were roommates in college before I went away for seminary school.  I heard about his problems every day for three years. To answer your question though, Mr. Dennis, Charles was always inundated with calls from his parents, worrying about him, wanting to know what was going on in his life.  You know, the normal day-to-day questions that any loving, caring, concerned parents would ask.  When he came home to Abbottsville after his sixth wife, Meredith, disappeared, he burned down his house to rid himself of all his problems and those who caused them."


A dawning realization came onto the lawyers face as he faced his witness.  Just the thought of what the man was actually referring to was too much for even him to think of.  "So you are saying that..." he swallowed then stopped to think about what he was about to say.


"Yes, Mr. Dennis," Mr. McKinney answered.  "Charles Kitwell burned his parents alive.  That was why he was sent to St. Ives for mental instability."


A hush fell over the gallery as they began to peer at the man that they had known as Lucas Abernathy.  The man who they peered at remained calm and steady.  He slightly cleared his throat as he watched the man who was in the witness stand.


"Just a few more questions, Mr. McKinney.  The picture that my client showed you.  Who was that picture of?"


"He called the man Lucas Abernathy.  The picture was of Charles Kitwell," he reported plainly.


"Is the man that you know as Charles Kitwell in the court today?"






"In the second row of the gallery.  He's in the third seat from my left."


Yet again a low excited murmur began to buzz amongst the people in the gallery, rippling like a fast moving wave. Judge Oswell grabbed up the gavel and pounded it several times.


"Order! Order!" he called out strongly, the strength of it rising above the whisperings and reaching to the furthest corner of the courtroom as he slammed the gavel down mightily.  The percussion of the strike of wood on wood ricocheted around the room, leaving in its wake subdued observers in the gallery.


Bertram Oswell, now on his feet, surveyed the entire room, his gray gaze sharp as he surveyed those before him.  "If there is another outburst, I am going to fine everyone in the gallery one hundred dollars."  He let that sink in, taking his seat again when he saw that his words had finally gotten through to the people.  Shifting his shoulders slightly, he picked up his pen again and turned a piercing look on George Dennis.  "Proceed, Mr. Dennis."  He watched the defense counsel nod then resumed his questioning as if nothing had happened.


At the defense table, Sam had reacted much as the spectators had, sitting up straight as he stared at Pastor McKinney, his mouth dropping open and then he'd turned in his seat to look across the aisle, craning his head to get a look Lucas Abernathy.  What he saw caught his attention more than all the excited murmurings or the judge trying to get control of his courtroom again.  It so struck him that he turned quickly to Al, who was, it looked like, involved in his own hand to hand combat with the handlink.


"Look at him," Sam whispered to the hologram.


"Look at who?" Al muttered as he paused to follow where Sam was indicating, nodding a couple of times when he saw that his friend was pointing subtly at the 'man of the moment' where he sat across the way.  "What about him?"


"He hasn't stirred a muscle," Sam hissed under his breath.  "He's just been revealed as an escaped mental patient who murdered his parents, but....look at him."




"He's just sitting there," Sam pointed out the obvious.  "He hasn't twitched a muscle."


Al saw what Sam meant but, "He's good under pressure.  That doesn't mean anything."  The hologram didn't get to say anything further since the judge had just given the room an either or ultimatum and the courtroom was quickly quiet again.


"Get on with it, Mr. Dennis," the judge said sharply, his tone clearly indicating he wasn't putting up with any more...anything.  Sam squarely caught the narrow, piercing gaze the jurist aimed at him and held his tongue. He, however, was surprised when one of the doors at the back of the courtroom opened and a man in a plain blue suit came in and approached the  defense table, where he waited for George Dennis to reach him.


"What's the hold-up, Mr. Dennis?" Judge Oswell asked sharply.


George turned away from the man with a manila envelope in his hand, to face the bench.  "I'm sorry, Your Honor. May I have a moment?"


"You've got one minute," Bertram Oswell snapped. "Exactly." Flicking a glance at his watch, he made it clear he meant that common phrase literally.


George Dennis needed only half of that allotment during which he withdrew two sheets of paper from the envelope handed to him then faced the judge.  He didn't wait to indicate he was finished with the witness, turning instead to face the bench, the two sheets of paper firmly in hand.


"Your Honor, the defense would like to enter into evidence this report on the fingerprints found on the murder weapon as Defense Exhibit 2." 


The Assistant District Attorney was on her feet in a flash. "I object, Your Honor," Justina Greene insisted.  "The people have not had a chance to examine this report...


"It's only just reached me, Your Honor," George Dennis explained.  "I had a man literally waiting at the lab while this second testing of the fingerprints on the scissors that killed Marla MacDale was completed."


"Approach," the judge said sternly, not quite snatching the papers from the defense attorney's hand before perusing it quickly. It was evident to those watching his face that something unexpected caught his attention as he appeared to reread a passage a couple of times. Satisfied, he handed the report to the District Attorney.  She didn't try to hide her thoughts as her eyes widened at what she read before returning the papers to the judge. She slid a sidelong look at George Dennis before schooling her voice as she said, "The people have no objection to the evidence being entered into the record," before returning to her desk. The junior member of the District Attorney's staff who had been assigned to assist her, looked questioningly at her.


George Dennis, however, once more at the proper distance from the bench, took control of the focus of the occupants of the courtroom, as he said, "I have no more questions of this witness, Your Honor." 


As the witness was excused Judge Oswell ordered, “"Get on with it, Mr. Dennis or I'll fine you as well for delaying tactics.”


The defense attorney, familiar with this judge's ways, didn't press his luck further.  Lowering the prize in his hand, he said, "I recall to the stand, Lucas Abernathy."  He stepped aside to allow Lucas to pass by him on his way to the witness stand where the judge advised him sharply, "Remember… Mr. Abernathy, you're still under oath."


George Dennis barely allowed the witness to be seated when he moved to stand before him, holding the report before him, and asked a single question.  "Mr. Abernathy, please explain to the court why *your* fingerprints were found on the murder weapon?"


Lucas Abernathy's face slackened as he looked at the man before him.  "My fingerprints?  What kind of ploy is this, Mr. Dennis?  You have the murderer sitting beside you and your going to try to blame the man who loved her?"


"Answer the question poised to you, Mr. Abernathy."


Lucas narrowed his eyes at the man and then finally stated, "I was holding them the day before while I talked with Marla at her desk.  I tend to play with objects on her desk.  Pencils, pens, the little puppy dog too, but none of those objects were used to..."


"Scissors, Mr. Abernathy?  Playing with objects?  Who's to say that you didn't kill her and that Patrick came in afterwards and tried to save her although it was already too late.  Several of the men who came in after the murder took place said that they found Patrick Cromwell with his hands on her throat, trying to stop the bleeding."


"That's not what happened!  Your twisting things, again!"


"It's your word against Mr. Cromwell's now, Mr. Abernathy, or should I say Mr. Kitwell."




"Your Honor, In light of this new development, I request a continuance in order that further investigation that may well exonerate my client be conducted. And that Mr. Abernathy...or Mr. Kitwell's involvement in the murder of Marla MacDale may be more fully examined."


Bertram Oswell slid a look at the man in the witness box and all ready came to his decision without any hesitation in the matter.  "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you are here by released until your services are required again when this matter resumes in thirty days."


Even as the judge began to talk, Lucas Abernathy turned to look at several people in the courtroom before he felt a wave of dizziness and he put his hand on his head.  He then somewhat straightened up and closed his eyes and swallowed as he turned a menacing glare at the man sitting at the defense table looking around in awe at the proceedings around him.  He stood up and he shot out an accusing finger at the man who was sitting at the table.  "What's the *matter* with you people!" he yelled hotly.  "I saw it!  I saw it all.  You weren't there.  I saw what happened.  I saw the way he looked and the way that they killed her!  I saw it!"


George Dennis didn't miss a word that Lucas Abernathy had yelled.  He stopped short and with a glance back at his client he said, "Who is 'they'?" he asked over the gasping and the thwacks of the gavel.


"Them!  All three of them!" Lucas Abernathy spit out.  "I saw it!  And that guy!  He saw it too!" Lucas said as he pointed to the man who sat at the defense table.


"Who?" Mr. Dennis asked still wary of the man now standing in the witness box.


"The guy in the blue suit sitting off to the side, beside Cromwell!  He saw it!  He was there!  Don't you see him!?  He's at the defense table right now!"


George Dennis turned his eyes to the defense table as did the rest of the people in the court room to see no one sitting at the defense table but the man they all saw as Patrick Cromwell.  He turned back to Lucas and was about to ask another question when Lucas exploded.


"Dammit!  I saw them!  It was Patrick Cromwell!  He was first.  He held Marla at bay with the scissors!  He was going to tell her about me and my wives at the boat slip in the bay.  I wasn't about to let that happen!  But that other guy with the brown eyes and brown hair came in and took over.  He was the one that plunged the scissors into her chest.  He turned and smiled at me.  Then that guy over there with the green eyes and the white patch in his hair showed up and fell forward and finished her off.  I saw it!  You can't let them off!  You can't!  I didn't do anything!  I didn't..."


Bertram Oswell's temper was sorely tried being kept in check as the wild-eyed man in the witness box continued to ramble and accuse; finally he reached his limit when the man he'd known as Lucas Abernathy started with a description of not one but two other supposed perpetrators of the MacDale murder.


"Bailiff! Take Mr. Abernathy into custody," he ordered loudly.


"You can't do that!" Lucas Abernathy, his heretofore paranoia he kept under strict control now running amok. "I won't let you!"  His gaze flew around the room until it came to rest on the man at the defense table, now on his feet.  "IT'S YOUR FAULT!" he screamed madly, spittle flying from his lips as he rushed down from the witness box.  "SHE WAS GOING TO BE MY PERFECT NUMBER SEVEN!  YOU RUINED EVERYTHING!" Lucas continued screaming as he started across the room, his rage boiling inside him. But he never reached the defense table, in fact, he'd barely gone three steps when the bailiff and two police officers on duty outside the courtroom doors came pounding in and restrained the clearly berserk man.


"Restrain him and get him out of here!" Bertram Oswell shouted as he stood there behind the high bench and slammed his gavel thunderously.  For several tense moments, the courtroom subsided into hushed quiet as every person present had their gazes fixed on the sight as a heretofore respected member of the community was forcibly led away in handcuffs, all the while raving that, "You're letting three murderers get away!"  Abernathy and the guards were barely outside the door when the judge rapped his gavel again for their attention.  He didn't bother with frivolous word wasting.


"Mr. Cromwell," he said sharply.


Sam wasn't sure if he was supposed to stand up or not, but he did so anyway.  He was grateful when George Dennis moved to stand beside him again.  It also helped his frame of mind that Al, about as wide-eyed and at a loss for words as most of the people in the gallery was getting to his own feet to his left.  "Yes, Your Honor?" the leaper said hesitantly.  He glanced over at his attorney when the man placed a hand on his arm, indicating for him to be quiet.


"Mr. Cromwell," Judge Bertram Oswell said in tone that brooked no argument whatsoever. "In light of the new developments in this matter, I am going to release you on your own recognizance."  He didn't miss the way Patrick Cromwell heaved a huge sigh and let it out.  "You are not to leave this town for any reason until the matter of the murder of Marla MacDale has been concluded and her killer brought to justice."  He watched the private investigator nodding vigorously and repeating two or three times, "Yes, sir...yes, Your Honor."


"Step beyond those borders for any reason, sir, and you'll find yourself back in jail for the duration of the conclusion of this matter."  He didn't bother to listen to the man's continuing assurances; instead he aimed a sharp look at George Dennis.  "Keep him in line, Mr. Dennis," was all he said then brought the gavel down very hard one more time. "This court is dismissed!"  Without another word to anyone, Bertram Oswell moved down from the bench and entered the door to his chambers and slammed it.




As Sam watched the judge slam down the gavel for claiming that court was dismissed, he’s still couldn’t believe it.  The outcome of the case was even more than what he expected.  He couldn’t believe that Lucas Abernathy was Charles Kitwell.  It seemed so surreal.  Even as Sam and his attorney left the building, they received any number of handshakes from various people that were in the courtroom, but there was only one person that Sam Beckett wanted to talk to – his best friend.  Although the hologram was physically impossible to touch, Sam needed to hear the comforting voice and his words of wisdom.


It was only after conferring with Mr. Dennis about not leaving town anytime soon that Sam was able to steal away some time to be with Al. With of his hands shoved it deeply into his pockets, Sam met the holographic representation of Admiral Albert Calavicci.   Looking at his best friend with suppressed emotion, Sam asked, “What was going on in there, Al? It seemed almost like a  soap opera.”


Al handled the handlink loosely, as he looked at Sam. “It was getting a bit hinky in there. At one point, I didn’t know if Patrick Cromwell was going to make it.”


“I know. They had wonderful witnesses. It’s too bad that they didn’t get a chance to get that lousy son of a …”


“They did,” Al responded before Sam could finish his sentence.


“They did?” Sam queried. 


“Oh yeah.”  Al looked down at the handlink and hit a few buttons to call up the information that he needed.  “According to Ziggy, in the original history, Marla MacDale vanished from existence two days after she married Lucas Abernathy.”  Looking up from the handlink, Al said, “But now, he’s tried and convicted.  Oh, and Judge Oswell recused himself because it turned out that one of the Kitwell’s victims was his cousin.  It’s really quite sad that Marla MacDale was destined to die whether you had showed up or not.”


“Oh no.”


“Yeah.  Now since that nozzle was found out, all of the bodies found underneath the man’s boat slip are now laid to rest in several cemeteries across San Benito.”


“Under his boat slip?”


Al nodded and swallowed.  Not wanting to mess up on reading the information to Sam Beckett correctly, he brought the handlink closer and cleared his throat.  “Patrick Cromwell pointed the police to the evidence that he had found at the man’s boat slip.  It seemed that what Lucas Abernathy, AKA Charles Kitwell, was doing was he was marrying different women, killing them by cutting off their head and placing it in a burlap bag that had pictures of seven cats and seven kittens for each cat.”  Al shivered and shook his head slightly.  “The man was really living out the nursery rhyme before he went back to St. Ives.”


Sam shook his head in shock at what he heard.


“However, what Ziggy says that she’s still not sure as to why you leaped into Patrick Cromwell.  She says that she’d rather not discuss the issue since she can’t come up with a logical solution.”  Putting the handlink back into his pocket, Al licked his lips, his eyes flitting down to the ground before he looked back up at Sam. 


“Uhm, Sam, I…”


“Yeah, Al?” Sam said as he looked at his partner with considering eyes.


“I’m sorry, Sam, for not believing you.  I should have known that the evil leapers were…”


“Its okay, Al.  You stood beside me like you always do.  That means more to me than anything.  Thanks.”


“Pat?” George Dennis called out.  “Would you mind coming over here?  They have a few questions for you.”


Sam grinned at his pal before he turned and headed back over to the group of people who still wanted some answers.



David McKinney looked over at the group that Patrick Cromwell was walking over to and immediately realized that the man was going to be answering a lot of questions about everything that had happened in the trial for quite some time.  He smiled when Patrick’s eyes found him then waved a final goodbye before he started toward the parking lot where he had parked his Oldsmobile Buick.  He was only halfway there when he heard a voice calling out to him and he turned to find Lulu Logan coming up behind him.  He offered his arm to her to be able to walk her arm in arm the rest of the way to the parking lot. 


Seeing her smile, Pastor McKinney smiled back at the attractive blonde as she met up with him.  “I appreciate it that you came all this way offer support for me. I think that your faith… ow!” he yelped suddenly as he looked down at his looked down at his arm to see that Lulu had a beautiful hatpin in her hand.  “What a lovely pin,” he told her with a smile as he turned to look at the woman only to find a menacing look had replaced the smile.


“Ms. Logan?” he looked at her carefully before he began swallowing several times then brought his hand up to try to release the clothes around his neck.  He suddenly felt as if he was being choked.  “Help… me?” he questioned her softly.


Sam, who had just come out of the building, saw the pastor somewhat clutching his throat and he began jogging over to see what was the matter.  He barely got half way when the pastor dropped to the ground.  "Pastor McKinney!"  Stopping slightly, he turned back look over his shoulder to see the rest of the assembly coming out of the courthouse.  Sam knew that the pastor was the main reason why he wasn't in the small cell with a roommate.  "Help!" he called out, getting the attention of the men and women who had just left the building.  "It's Pastor McKinney!  He needs help!" he yelled and saw several men starting toward him.


Running the rest of the way to Pastor McKinney, he saw the young woman he had met earlier kneeling down beside him, calling out to him.  Coming to a stop, he dropped to his knees beside Pastor McKinney and quickly placed his fingertips on his carotid artery, and blinked when he didn't feel a pulse.


Tearing open the man's shirt, he began CPR immediately.  As he looked at the woman sitting slightly across from him he saw her shaking her head.  "How do you do it?" she asked softly.


"What?" he asked breathlessly.


"Nevermind!" she said vehemently as she quickly slashed in the air with the hatpin.


"WATCH OUT, SAM!" Al called out.  "That thing is laced with poison," he exclaimed as he looked down at the handlink for details about the death of the good pastor.


Sam recoiled from her reach then just as quickly grabbed at her arms.


"NO!" Lulu shouted, frustrated fury coloring that single word as her attempt to achieve her goal was thwarted.  She jerked back but it wasn't fast enough to evade the hands of the man whom the dead man on the ground had helped with his testimony.  "Let go of me!" she shouted, as the man's hands grabbed and held her wrists tightly and shaking the hand in which she held the hatpin. But Lulu forgot about the hatpin, she forgot about the man on the ground, she forgot everything and everyone, even forgetting to struggle when suddenly the strangest thing happened. It was like she could see the very air around her expand then contract in a weird warping before it regained its proper place and attitude in time.  Her eyes grew big then got bigger as she searched his face, knowing its every nuance. From that first moment of beholding his face, Lulu had engraved it on her mind and now she just stared.


"Who are you?" Sam asked firmly, looking closely at her.


The simple question jarred Lulu out of her startlement, her muscles tensing instantly. "You!" she hissed venomously. It apparently was enough to cause her accoster to lessen his hold on her, and Lulu jerked mightily and escaped his grip.  She didn't waste time taking a second look. That one up close look had imprinted his face in her mind even more intensely as she took advantage of the crowd pressing in around to make her escape.


"Stop her!" Sam shouted, jumping up and made to go after her. But the excitement of the crowd and the police officers, and even George Dennis and the Assistant District Attorney rushing to join the clamoring mob prevented him from following.  Frustratedly, Sam could only watch as the comely but deadly blonde disappeared from sight. He kept pushing and after a couple of minutes, got free of the crowd and ran the direction he'd watched Pastor McKinney's murderer go.  He searched up and down the street and the alley between the two streets but...


"She's gone, Al," Sam said, frustration clear in his voice, his eyes still scanning the area he'd just searched fruitlessly.


In the midst of the melee, Al had ordered Ziggy to do a pinpoint lock on the woman but it seemed the fates were in collusion with the woman, as Ziggy had informed him that she couldn't achieve even a momentary lock. After that, he'd stayed with Sam as the leaper searched, in vain, for the absconded woman who had murdered a man in cold blood in broad daylight.


Listening to the tone of Sam's voice that told him his friend was blaming himself for what had happened, Al glanced at the handlink when it chirped.  Pressing the sequence of buttons to retrieve the new information about this leap, he knew that it wouldn't be much comfort to his friend but it was what it is.


"Thanks to David McKinney's testimony, and the subsequent in depth investigation of Lucas... I mean, of Charles Kitwell," he said. "Patrick Cromwell was fully exonerated of having anything to do with Marla MacDale's murder."


"And all it cost was a good, decent man his life," Sam said as he walked slowly back along the street. At the corner he turned right and returned to the main street and stopped at the sight of the people milling about as an ambulance was just pulling away from the scene.


"That may be," the hologram said soberly as he drew even with his friend.  "But it saved the life of another good man," he said looking into Sam's green eyes.


But that didn't seem good enough to Sam and a determined look came over his face.  "Then that man is going to see to it that David McKinney's killer doesn't get away with murder," he said as he turned suddenly on his heel and started back the way he'd just come but it was as far as he got as between steps and without the usual inkling of its onset, Sam Beckett was whisked away into the all encompassing blue as he Leaped.





There's a somebody I'm longing to see
I hope that he turns out to be
Someone who'll watch over me

I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood
I know I could always be good to
One who'll watch over me.

Although he may not be the man some
Girls think of as handsome
To my heart he carries the key!

Won't you tell him please to put on some speed?
Follow my lead, oh, how I need
Someone to watch over me!



 “Someone to Watch Over Me”

Lyrics and Music by

George and Ira Gershwin



The mind-bending twisting turning of the leap in always seemed to catch Sam off-guard even under the best of circumstances. He never knew where or when he would leap, which was disorienting enough in his opinion. But when the leap in was like this one, it was all the worse. As reality met him, he felt a not quite hard and yet quite large object collide with him. His eyes widened in surprise as he realized that he was on his way to kiss the floor.


He tried to catch himself from falling and instead found the same not-so-hard object, which gave a peculiarly feminine squeal as he pulled it down with him. Without any success in preventing it, he hit the floor hard, causing him to wince.


When he finally opened his eyes, he got a good look at the not-so-hard object that he had brought down to the floor with him. The look on the woman’s face was that of pure anger. What was worse, he found that the woman was actually nearly completely underneath him.


“Would you get off of me, you clumsy oaf?!” the woman demanded, pushing him away from her.


Even as Sam tried to right himself, the only thing he could say was a familiar two-word phrase.  


“Ohh, boy!”


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