that one could time-travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sebastian LoNigro
set out to prove the String Theory that he had co-developed with his former
MIT student, Samuel Beckett—an incredibly gifted genius who was destined
After Sam’s sudden and untimely murder in 1973, a distraught Doctor
LoNigro formed a strong bond with Sam’s older brother, Lieutenant
Commander Thomas Beckett, and together, they both strove to ensure that Sam’s
theories would not be forgotten.
quickly rose in the ranks to Captain and eventually aided Doctor LoNigro in
the development of a top-secret government project code-named Chrono-Leap,
which was based off of a combination of the String Theory, and the work of
the late Doctor Alexander Garner and his failed Time Displacer Unit.
During the initial test-run of the experiment, a malfunction occurred
that endangered the lives of everyone inside the project.
In a bold attempt to shut it down, Captain Beckett bravely stepped
into the Chronoton Accelerator...and vanished.
awoke to find himself inhabiting someone else’s body in the past,
suffering from partial amnesia and facing a mirror image that was not his
contact with his own time was maintained through brainwave transmissions
with Doctor LoNigro, who became the Project Observer in the wake of the
Accelerator incident, appearing in the form of a neurological hologram that
only Captain Beckett can see and hear.
in an alternate timeline, Captain Beckett finds himself leaping from life to
life, putting things right that once went wrong.
All the while, he is subconsciously aware that another leaper exists
somewhere, lost in time like himself, who holds the key to restoring reality
back to what it once was.
Until that day arrives, Captain Beckett struggles to recall his lost
memories of a “World Without Sam Beckett,” hoping each time to alter the
hands of fate so that his next leap...will be the leap home.
On The Virtual Seasons
Beckett leaped into one Franklin Benjamin, founder and director of Sanctuary
House, a homeless shelter doubling as a work/rehabilitation program helping
homeless men get back on their feet. Shortly
after Leaping in, Tom found a desperately ill man unconscious on a grave in
Potter’s Field and brought him to Sanctuary House.
Later that evening, Tom was stunned to discover he’d crossed paths
with Albert Calavicci—a former colleague from the Starbright Project who’d
been dismissed due to issues related to alcoholism and anger.
Feelings of responsibility towards Albert complicated Tom’s mission
to save a Sanctuary House resident named Henry Voorhies from dying in an
altercation on Monday, March 16, 1987.
March 16, 1987
awoke Monday morning in a state of dread.
Today was the day of Henry Voorhies’ death unless Tom could do
something about it. So far, all
he’d uncovered was Henry’s tendency to butt heads with Albert Calavicci.
Bobby hadn’t turned up once since Friday night and Tom was growing
more than a bit concerned at his Observer’s absence. It was unlike Bobby to remain scarce for so long and Tom
wondered if the budget proposals Bobby had said he was working on had been
rejected and the Committee pulled the plug on them.
matter what the reason was, Tom was lost without Bobby’s guidance and
input. Without knowing precisely when
Henry would be killed, Tom had no idea how he would prevent it.
The thought of shadowing Henry all day flitted across his mind, but
Tom knew the impracticality and impossibility of such a prospect.
Sanctuary House served breakfast, Tom studied men’s faces, watching each
person Henry interacted with and hoping to find a clue as to whom the
problems might be between. Henry
appeared to relate well with all of them, and Tom wondered why Albert seemed
to bring out such a direct line to Henry’s anger issues.
That brought up a thought that settled like a rock into his stomach. Tom really had no idea how much Al might have changed since
Starbright. He no longer called
himself Al for one thing. And
how had he come by that disfiguring scar?
Was Henry’s fatal altercation with Albert?
Instead of saving Henry, perhaps Tom was responsible for bringing
about the circumstances leading to his demise.
ran down Tom’s spine at the thought and he glanced across the room where
Albert sat eating his breakfast. Once
again, Albert had picked an isolated area of the dining room in which to
eat. Donnie was working in the
kitchen this morning and had already had his breakfast, so he hadn’t
joined Albert at the table as he had at the meals yesterday.
Tom felt a warm rush of affection for the burly black man whose
intimidating size masked the compassionate heart within.
As he watched Albert rapidly consume his meal, Tom noticed the small
man glance around the dining room. Was
he imagining things to think that Albert looked apprehensive?
didn’t have more time to think about it, for Albert had finished eating. After downing his orange juice, Albert rose and carried his
tray to the designated area before he exited the dining room.
Tom watched him go until a tug on his sleeve drew his attention back.
do you have a minute?” Dylan asked.
Dylan,” answered Tom. “What’s
running low on biscuits…”
noticed during the group session that Henry appeared sullen.
He didn’t participate much and rolled his eyes every time Donnie
spoke, which was often. Towards
the end of the session, Tom finally decided to try and get to the bottom of
what the issue now between Henry and Donnie was.
He was still trying to figure out how to bring it up when it came to
a head for him.
was talking about how he thought the “regulars” needed to engage more
often with the “transients” and used his interactions with Albert from
yesterday as an example.
exploded. “What kind of spell
does he have on all of you?! Can’t
you see he’s just USING us?”
four other men gaped at him while Tom cringed.
Donnie jumped back in before Tom spoke.
big man challenged, “How do you figure that, Henry?
I haven’t seen you spending any time trying to get to know him.”
doesn’t want to be here!”
of us ‘want’ to be here,” said Donnie.
know what I mean!”
asked, “Because Albert’s not in the program?”
folded his arms and nodded. “I
don’t care that he’s sick. He
doesn’t deserve the privileges he’s been given!”
just trying to help him,” piped up Matthew.
been pulling his weight,” added Dylan.
“Frank had him working in the office yesterday.”
job,” sneered Henry, giving Tom a dirty look.
gave Albert the job I felt was best for him at the time,” said Tom, his
voice making it clear Henry’s protests were wearing thin.
“His health is poor.”
haven’t looked in a mirror lately, have you, Henry?” Donnie asked, sadly
shaking his head. “I heard
you start a fight with him day before yesterday.”
don’t have to listen to this.” Henry
got to his feet.
did the same. “You sit your
butt down, Henry Voorhies. You
aren’t gonna stir all this up and then run away from it.”
ratcheted up in the room and everyone held their breath—including Tom, who
knew he needed to do something but couldn’t make himself move.
Slowly, Henry resumed his seat and glowered at Donnie.
After a breath, Donnie sat as well.
don’t know what your problem is, man,” said Donnie.
“Have you ever stopped to think that maybe Albert might actually
join the program?”
haven’t listened to a word I’ve said in here.
Not really.” Donnie
shook his head again. “If he’s
treated like he’s an outsider, why should he want to try to turn his life
acts like an outsider. He won’t
sit near anyone else in the dining room.”
apart from me, who’s gone up to sit near him and made an effort to get to
filled the room and settled uneasily on every person within.
Men shifted in their chairs and stared at their shoes while Donnie
cast his hard evaluating gaze on each of them in turn before finally looking
into Tom’s eyes and smiling.
think that’s probably enough to leave everyone with for today, huh, Frank?”
cleared his throat and nodded then watched as the other men uncomfortably
shuffled out of the room.
loud crack sounded as the cue ball broke the small diamond of Albert’s
Nine Ball set up, perfectly striking the 1-ball.
He watched the balls scattering across the green felt and smiled as
the 4-ball disappeared into the pocket.
Albert circled the pool table, cue in hand, and mentally prepared for
his next shot. He leaned over
the table and bridged the cue at the proper angle for the shot he wanted to
make, using his elbow to create a hinge on which the stick moved as smoothly
and easy, Al. You treat Alberta like a lady and she’ll reward you for it.”
nodded and stuck his tongue between his lips as he studied the possibilities
on the expanse of green. He slipped Alberta beneath the crook of his index finger and
focused on the cue ball. The
smooth polished wood was heavy in his small hands, but he determined to
follow Magic’s example and he drew his arm back and then forward, striking
the cue ball. It rolled along
the table, striking the 5-ball and driving it into the corner pocket.
job, Al!” praised Charlie “Black Magic” Walters, patting the boy on
d-done good, Al,” stuttered Grady, taking possession of Alberta and giving
Al a warm smile.
threw his arms around Magic. “Thanks
for letting me try Alberta, Magic,” he said.
“Thanks for everything.”
watched the ball he’d just struck drop into the pocket, followed by the
cue ball. “Scratched that
time, Magic,” he muttered as he waited for the cue ball to drop into the
tray so he could place it and shoot again.
glanced around the empty rec room. All
the residents were either in group session or outdoors working on cleaning
the grounds or washing cars. Vic
refused to allow Albert to help outside and since he knew Albert wouldn’t
attend a group session, he suggested the rec room.
The empty bedroom was Albert’s only other option and it wasn’t an
appealing one. Again wondering
why he didn’t just leave the shelter, Albert meandered to the rec room.
At the sight of the pool table, a small grin broke across his face
and Albert had set up for a solitary game of Nine Ball.
wasn’t at all surprised thoughts of Magic came to him as he played.
Those had been special days for him—the first time he’d felt
paternal love since his dad had died. God,
it had broken his heart to be separated from Charlie Walters when those
stupid cops in New Orleans had arrested him under the authority of Jim Crow
laws. Albert remembered the
tears he’d shed when the policeman finally managed to pry him away from
Magic, the way he’d screamed and strained to reach the kind black man,
using every ounce of fire within him to fight the cop who restrained him.
After spending a month in a New Orleans children’s home, Albert was
returned to New York under the supervision of a stern nun who lectured him
on the evils of running away. She
frequently punctuated her words by a sharp pinch on the fleshy part of his
now, Albert rubbed his arm. He
shook his head and returned his attention to the pool table.
If he was going to think about Magic, he was going to think about the
good times, dammit. Albert
coughed then picked his shot and bent over to set up.
Frank know this is what you’re doing while every one else is working?”
sharp voice startled him and he missed his shot.
Frowning, Albert looked up to see Henry standing in the doorway.
The angry young man had his arms folded across his chest and glared
at Albert with ice blue eyes.
you hear me, old man? I said
does Frank know this is what you’re
pressed his lips together and turned away from Henry, stalking around the
pool table until his back was to the man even though it meant he’d have to
get creative with banking to make his next shot.
He succeeded and the 3-ball settled into the pocket with a satisfying
clunk followed by the rattle of following along the channels to the tray.
really take the cake, you know that, Albert?”
I?” Albert flippantly asked. He
didn’t look at Henry, just the pool table and the balls atop it.
He mentally evaluated several options based on the location of the
cue ball before finally committing to one.
A gratifying crack rewarded him as the cue ball connected with its
target and drove it and the ball next to it into the pocket.
do you stay here?”
didn’t have an answer—he hadn’t had one when he’d asked himself that
question, so he sure didn’t have one for Henry.
Though his shrug was honest, it served the dual purpose of telling
Henry he didn’t care. He
scratched his beard as he surveyed the pool table.
reached out and snatched the cue ball off the table.
“I want to know what your game is.”
quipped, “It’s called Nine Ball, kid.
Do you mind?” He held
a hand out, palm up.
shook his head. “What’s
your deal anyway?”
you care.” Albert stared at
the blond man, then shook his head and hefted the pool cue in his hand.
Henry flinched as if he feared Albert would strike him.
Albert didn’t see the point in correcting him.
Truth be told, the younger man’s constant animosity had annoyed him
to the point he was finding the thought of punching Henry a pleasant one.
What he did was stalk to the rack and put the cue stick away.
be nice to do whatever you feel like,” Henry said.
“Don’t stop on my account.”
leveled a hard look at Henry. “I’m
not.” He idly ran a hand over
the sticks in the rack, allowing his fingers to pause on the heaviest. Henry gulped involuntarily and Albert knew his point had been
made. He walked to the door.
turn your back on me like that,” Henry said, determined not to let Albert
have the last word.
he walked out, Albert turned back and raised his eyebrow at Henry,
stretching his scar taut. He
waited a moment and then squarely informed Henry, “Don’t tell me what to
paced in Frank’s small office, his nerves a bundle of electricity.
They were drawing close to lunchtime and he still had no idea when
Henry was due to die. The best
Tom could do was keep as much of an ear on the goings on outside as he
could. After another panicked
circuit, he decided to make the rounds.
started in the basement, making idle conversation with the men pulling
laundry detail then excused himself as soon as he could when he didn’t spy
Albert or Henry. Tom moved on
to the kitchen, where the cooking crew was just starting on lunch
preparations. Again, there was no sign of either man. Henry had to be around somewhere!
headed towards the back lot and passed the rec room.
He glanced in and saw that Henry was alone, rolling a cue ball on the
pool table and grabbing it when it rolled back to him.
Henry kept repeating this action and Tom stepped inside.
on your mind, Henry?”
looked up at him and shrugged, returning to his ball rolling.
“Just thinking about what Donnie said.”
uh, you thinking about trying to get to know some of the transients, then?”
Tom asked, hoping the uneasiness he felt was centered around his lack of
knowing when Henry would be put in danger and not due to anything else. If
only Bobby would show up.
Henry rolled the ball again, but this time when it rolled back to
him, he picked it up and looked at it.
“Frank, do you think I have an attitude problem?”
hesitated, choosing his words carefully.
“I think you have some…anger issues, particularly where Albert is
sighed and dropped the cue ball. “He
just…brings out the worst in me and I don’t know why.
I wish Philip was here.”
makes two of us, thought Tom as Henry mentioned the honeymooning
counselor. Even though Tom hadn’t
met the man, he was absolutely certain that Philip was far more qualified to
assist Henry with his anger issues than Tom Beckett.
know I’m not Philip,” Tom finally said, “but I am here for you if you
gave him a small smile. “I
know, Frank. Thanks.”
With that, Henry left the rec room and headed for the stairs.
hoped that Henry’s self-reflection would have a positive influence on his
fate. He wasn’t Leaping, so
his job was obviously not done.
on, Bobby, where the heck are you?
Calavicci had gone outside after the incident with Henry, and taken a seat
on the front stoop. He leaned
an elbow on his knee and rested his cheek on his fist as he surveyed the
long gotten used to not having any friends.
Years ago he’d come to the conclusion that he was doomed to be
alone. The booze was the only
constant he knew he could rely on…and even that had let him down.
How else had he ended up where he was now?
sighed and his lungs seized up in a coughing fit.
He rubbed his face when it released him and leaned his head against
the short wall. Being alone was
nothing new, and he’d not gone out of his way to try and make friends with
anyone in years, even before he’d lost everything.
He didn’t know, then, why it bothered him so much that Henry couldn’t
a little punk, Albert told himself. A true nozzle if ever
there was one.
his face again, Albert’s attention was drawn to a young couple walking
down the street. The woman’s
head leaned against her companion’s shoulder and he had an arm wrapped
around her waist. As they
walked past him, Albert noticed how the man’s grip tightened protectively
around the woman. She whispered
something into his ear and the man smiled then brushed a kiss against her
remembered walking that way with Beth in another lifetime.
Even now, he could feel the soft weight of her head on his shoulder,
smell the clean floral scent of her shampoo.
He closed his eyes and started to let the memory sweep him away, to
take him to the end of that walk which had brought them back to their
bungalow. Once inside, he’d
taken Beth into his arms and kissed her, his hand reaching for the zipper on
the back of her dress and then…
shook his head and pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes.
She was gone. Before he’d
even come back from Vietnam she’d left him.
While he’d endured and survived, thinking only of her, she’d
forgotten him and moved on. Albert
lowered his head and sighed, dissolving into coughs once more.
looked up to see Donnie standing behind him.
Cautiously, the big man sat beside him and rested a large hand on his
don’t look fine.”
once, Albert was happy he couldn’t shake the cough.
“I’m sick, Donnie.”
gave him a kind look. “So why
are you sitting outside then? You
know that’s not good for you.”
shrugged. “Change of scenery.”
black man nodded but didn’t speak. Albert
turned his head away and cleared his throat to drive away the last vestiges
of encroaching tears.
did you end up here, Albert?”
froze before facing Donnie. “Frank
convinced me to see the doctor the other day.”
not what I mean and you know it.” Donnie
smiled at him. “C’mon, man.
Level with me.”
shook his head. “Sorry,
Donnie. And if my silence means
you’re gonna hate me too then so be it.”
He got to his feet and brushed dust off the seat of his pants.
A moment later, Donnie followed suit.
listen. I’m sorry.
You don’t owe me anything. And
I don’t hate you.”
negated that with a shake of his head.
“No, he doesn’t. He
just doesn’t know you.”
had to laugh. “And you do?”
trying to, anyway,” grinned Donnie.
laughed again. “You’re all
atcha.” Donnie paused. “Listen, why don’t you work clean-up with me this
afternoon? You’ll get to know
some of the guys and see that they’re all right, too.”
wasn’t thrilled at the thought of “getting to know” the others, but
helping in the kitchen would
prove he was doing his part. He
met Donnie’s eager gaze and nodded.
March 16, 1987
perk Albert quickly learned went with working on the clean-up crew was that
they got to eat early. Not
quite as early as the cooking and serving crews and in fact, they held the
fort down while that group ate, but they were the very next group to eat as
the dining room was opened to residents and transients alike.
Donnie didn’t give Albert a chance to sit alone.
He steered the smaller man to sit with the other three men, which
included Dylan and Henry. Albert
and Henry simply nodded in greeting but otherwise ignored each other.
Dylan had gotten good news that morning and he held court, so Albert
and Henry’s silence generally went unnoticed.
said the job at the department store came through,” grinned Dylan.
awesome, man!” Donnie exclaimed. “Congratulations!
When do you start?”
Monday. It’s in the warehouse—not
exactly what I used to do, but it’s a start.”
did you do…before?” Albert found himself asking, to his own amazement.
was general manager for an office supply store,” answer Dylan.
He ate a bite of sandwich and then asked, “What about you, Albert?”
he’d asked now, Albert focused on his bowl, noisily slurping the creamy
potato soup. Donnie gently
nudged him and leaned in close to whisper, “Come on, Albert.
It won’t hurt.”
sighed and met Dylan’s eyes. “I
was in the Navy.”
snorted. “Sure you were—that’s
an Army jacket you’re wearing.”
can’t be choosers,” shrugged Albert.
you didn’t like taking charity.” Henry
wasn’t letting it rest.
turned to give the blond man a hard glare.
that’s enough,” Donnie cut in.
Albert and Henry returned to ignoring each other and Dylan sat uncomfortably
until the third man, Lucas, said, “Congratulations, Dylan!” as if the
intervening conversation had not even taken place.
Dylan smiled and Lucas and Donnie restored a lighter tone to the
conversation by pressing for more details on Dylan’s job.
finished eating first and he didn’t wait for the others before getting up
from the table. He deposited
his tray and then walked to the men’s room at the back of the dining room.
While he was gone, Donnie turned on Henry.
do you have to pick a fight with him all the time?”
come on, Donnie,” said Henry.
said, “No, Donnie’s right. You
need to give him a chance, Henry.”
didn’t respond. He exhaled
roughly through his nostrils and then finished his meal.
He carried his tray to the clean-up area and immediately set to work
washing it. Dylan, Lucas, and
Donnie exchanged helpless glances then shrugged and picked up their own
trays as well. The line of men
needing a meal had begun to stretch and plates needed cleaning.
They arrived in the kitchen just as Albert returned from the
reigned as long as meals were being served.
Once the serving trays had been emptied and the last men left the
room, the five men had only each other for company.
Albert and Henry worked on opposite sides of the cleaning area and
there seemed to be an unspoken agreement between the other three to keep the
two distracted from each other. Since
Albert had slowly started warming up to Donnie, he took charge of the
bearded man while Dylan kept Henry occupied.
Lucas decided to try to keep things light, so he regaled them with
funny stories as they worked.
were fine until Vic poked his head in and asked Dylan and Lucas to clean the
tables. Donnie was left alone
in the kitchen with Albert and Henry, and he cringed as he felt the tension
thicken. Things were silent
with only the sounds of dishes rattling in the sink for quite some time.
pulled his hands out of the sink and shook the excess water off then grabbed
a towel and started drying off. Henry
looked over his shoulder at him.
where do you think you’re going?”
threw the towel down. “I was going to get some more detergent out of the cabinet.
Is that okay with you?” He
stalked to the cabinet in question and threw the door open, grabbed the
detergent, and slammed the cabinet door shut again.
When he got to the sink, he squirted the bottle so fiercely that far
more detergent than he needed ended up in the dishwater.
Frustrated, Albert slammed the bottle down on the counter and a small
explosion of tiny bubbles floated into the air.
moved to stand next to Albert and started drying dishes.
“That’s pretty neat about Dylan’s job, isn’t it?
You’re next in line for one, aren’t you, Henry?”
muttered under his breath, “Criteria mustn’t be strict.”
was that, old man?” snapped Henry, throwing the silverware in his hand to
heard me, kid.”
glared at Albert and took a step towards him.
“You think you’re tough, do ya?”
know I am.” Albert moved a
step closer now.
don’t you prove it then?”
tried to block Albert, but the smaller man pushed past him.
Before either Donnie or Henry could react, Albert had thrown a punch
and connected with Henry’s upper cheekbone.
The blow nearly knocked Henry down and when he came up his hand was
pressed against his left eye.
proof enough for you?” demanded Albert.
He panted, anger emanating from him as he stood before Henry.
“Or do you want me to hit you again?
Is that what it’ll take?”
eyes narrowed menacingly and his fists balled up.
Donnie quickly stepped in between the two men and put a hand against
Albert’s chest. He felt the
man’s heart racing with anger.
calm down. Henry, back off.”
shook his head and shoved his way closer to Albert.
“No way, Donnie, this is between me and Albert.
We’re gonna finish it.”
on, then, kid,” taunted Albert, pushing against Donnie’s restraining
hand until the pressure started him coughing.
Only then did he take a step back, leaning against the counter as he
revived the pain in his chest. He
didn’t let it hold him back for long, and as soon as the coughs stopped,
he lunged for Henry.
dander was up, but his guard was down, and Albert swiftly pinned him,
twisting his arm behind his back until Henry grunted in pain.
might want to consider who you’re dealing with next time,” Albert hissed
in the young man’s ear before releasing him.
whirled on Albert as soon as he was free and inhaled angrily through his
nose. He grabbed Albert’s
collar and drew a fist back. Albert
glared at him and brought both arms up inside of Henry’s grip.
Quickly and viciously thrusting his arms out, Albert knocked Henry’s
hands away then stepped rapidly around to pin Henry’s arm again.
twice,” Albert said evenly. “Want
to try for three in a row?”
yanked his arm out of Albert’s grip and gave both him and Donnie a
disgusted look then stormed out of the kitchen.
he’s a joy to be around,” commented Albert.
He gathered up the silverware Henry had thrown to the counter and
began putting it away.
not so bad,” said Donnie.
not if you don’t mind someone thinking they’re better than you.”
doesn’t think that, Albert.”
chuckled humorlessly. “Coulda
just like the rest of us here. Just
trying to clean up his life and get back on his feet.”
I guess he fell from pretty far, huh?”
He used to work on Wall Street until his addiction took control.”
Street. Albert was impressed.
“And what addiction would that be?”
looked over at Donnie. “Cocaine?
to get over, too. But Henry’s
done it—with a lot of hard work. He’s
beat the addiction, now he’s trying to get the rest of his life straight.”
could start by working on his attitude.”
chuckled. “He’s trying to.”
needs to try harder.”
was walking down the hallway when he overheard an exchange that made him
got into it again?”
nodded. “I was walking past
the kitchen when I heard the yelling and I saw Albert pinning Henry’s arm
behind his back.”
was all Tom needed to hear. He
picked up his pace and hurried to the kitchen.
When he got there, he paused in the doorway and honed in on the
slight man calmly washing dishes.
may I have a word with you?”
looked over and nodded, drawing his hands out of the sink and drying them on
a towel. He stepped out of the
kitchen without saying a word and followed Tom to Frank’s office.
Once they were inside, Tom closed the door and Albert sat in the
guest chair. He folded his
hands in his lap as he waited for Tom to speak.
there anything you want to tell me, Albert?”
think of anything.”
looked intently at him. “Not
about the fight between you and Henry?”
wasn’t a fight,” Albert calmly answered.
“I was just making a point.”
that point was?”
shrugged. “That I’m not an
old man and I’m not a slacker.”
leaned forward. “Albert, let
me ask you a question. Once
your health improves, then what?”
don’t know.” The answer,
when it came, was quiet.
paused then said, “I don’t want to see you end up on the streets again.”
sat reflectively a moment before raising his head.
He met Tom’s gaze and said, “I don’t want that either.”
fell in the office until Tom asked, “What do
of answering, Albert alternately tugged at his beard and rubbed the back of
his neck. Tom let him fidget
for a few moments and then prompted, “Go on, Albert.
Try to put it into words.”
want…a chance to start over.”
looked at Albert, looked past the scar, the long tangled hair, and the
beard. He looked into Albert’s
brown eyes and saw the first glimmer of hope, the first hint that the man he’d
known, the man who’d achieved so much in his life, who’d overcome so
much, still resided within this damaged shell.
in the right place for that,” Tom said, “if rebuilding your life is what
you want to do.” He paused
and let that sink in. “I can’t
say it for you, Albert. I need
you to tell me what you want.”
looked at his hands resting in his lap for a long time.
When he lifted his head, there was no question in Tom’s mind as to
whether or not he meant what he said. With
conviction in his voice, Albert firmly said, “I want to start over.
I don’t like who—where I am.”
to get that second chance?”
do whatever it takes.”
stalking out of the kitchen, Henry had gone up to his room to sulk for a
while. He’d lain on his bed,
staring up at the ceiling and counting the dots of the popcorn finish until
he’d reached 500. His temper
settled down somewhat and he reflected over his fight with Albert.
arm still twinged from being twisted behind his back.
Henry couldn’t get over how agilely the small man moved. To look at him, Henry would never have believed he had that
in him. Maybe he was telling the truth about the Navy, Henry wondered.
He figured Albert had to have a pretty interesting story to know
moves like that. Pinned twice!
By a guy who only came up to his shoulders!
Henry was glad only Donnie had seen that.
It was pretty embarrassing.
thought of Albert besting him now moved Henry from grudging admiration back
to annoyance. Henry jumped off
the bed and began pacing the confines of his room until his nerves got to
him. He shook his head and opened the nightstand drawer to
retrieve a pack of cigarettes.
didn’t exactly approve of cigarette smoking, but he didn’t forbid it
either…at least not outside. Inside
was a smoke-free zone, no ifs ands or buts.
Henry dug within the drawer for a lighter.
He wasn’t a frequent smoker—the pack in his hands had lasted him
the better part of a month—but occasionally Henry needed to calm his
nerves, and this was one of those occasions.
left the room without speaking to any of the men taking a break on the
stairs as he passed them. Henry
went into the back lot, now empty, and moved to a spot at the edge of the
property, near the fence. He
lit a cigarette and inhaled the smoke, tucking the pack of cigarettes and
the lighter into his breast pocket. As
he exhaled, Henry closed his eyes and shook his head.
He’d let his temper run away today, found fault with Albert in any
and every way he could think of. And
Donnie had told him came to mind. “We get most annoyed by what reminds us most of ourselves.”
Was that why Albert’s presence irked him so?
Was it perhaps not so much that Albert hadn’t chosen to enroll in
the Sanctuary House program, but that in Albert, Henry saw bits of himself?
He drew a long pull on the cigarette and shook his head. Preposterous.
on the other side of the fence caught his attention and pulled him out of
his self-reflection. Henry saw
two men approaching a young boy who couldn’t be more than fifteen years
old. His gut told him something
wasn’t right, but for the moment, he just watched.
The boy glanced nervously about him, and nodded when the smaller of
the two men indicated something in his hand.
The boy reached into his pocket and the smaller man prepared to pass
over the item. Henry squinted
and saw that it was a small bag of white powder.
he whispered to himself, appalled at the prospect of this youngster becoming
enslaved to the addiction that had held him captive for so long. He threw his cigarette to the ground and shouted, “No!
Leave him alone!”
boy panicked at the sound of the voice and ran off, his money still clutched
in his hand. The two men
whirled as one in Henry’s direction and even from this distance, Henry
could see the way their faces twisted in anger.
covered the ground to enter the back lot quicker than Henry could have
imagined possible. He turned to
flee, but the larger man grabbed him, pinning his arms behind him as the
smaller one punched him in the gut. As
Henry doubled over, the man punched him in the face, striking him in the
same spot Albert had gotten him earlier.
Henry thought his eye was going to explode.
cost me a sale, you," snarled the bigger of the two men. "You
stuck your nose into my business, boy."
He jerked Henry loose from his associate's grip and whipped him
around to face him, his free hand already balled into a fist.
As he slammed his fist into Henry's face he said, "Now I'm gonna
teach you what happens to stupid s.o.b.’s that mess with my
beat Henry until tears streamed from his eyes.
Henry had no idea he could hurt so much.
After a moment, the big man returned to holding Henry while his
companion pummeled him.
punches continued until the smaller man appeared to tire.
But Henry wasn’t going to get off that easy. The two men simply changed position, and now the bigger of
them started in again on using Henry as a human punching bag.
He called Henry all manner of names.
The more profane they got, the harder the blows came.
me, Henry silently cried out. Oh,
God, help me!
Gate, New Mexico
listen to me. I don’t know
what’s going on in that electric noggin of yours, but you’ve got to turn
power back on in the Imaging Chamber!” pleaded Bobby.
“Tom won’t be able to accomplish his mission if you don’t.”
don’t want to jeopardize Captain Beckett,” the computer said,
thoughtfully. In the next
moment, its voice went sultry again. “Something
is not right, Dr. LoNigro. It
understand, Alpha, but if you don’t cooperate, things are going to go
very, very wrong for Captain Beckett and he may get stranded in 1987.
Now, you don’t want that, do you?”
replied the computer.
release the Imaging Chamber, Alpha. Please!”
computer hesitated and a series of lights flashed on its panels.
Letting out a weary sigh, the computer said, “The Imaging Chamber
will be back online in 5 minutes.”
you!” cried Bobby, snatching the handlink and pacing as he counted down.
staff was so focused on preparing the Imaging Chamber that none of them
heard Alpha sigh in its feminine voice again and wistfully say, “Oh,
March 16, 1987
left Frank’s office feeling simultaneously better and worse.
Mixed-up was probably the best word for it. He rubbed his face, and then glanced around the building that
was going to be home. He
supposed he ought to go tell Donnie he’d decided to stay, but Albert shook
his head. He wanted to be alone
for a little while.
paused before beginning the walk up the stairs.
He wasn’t sure why the walk to his room should be different this
time. Then it hit him. He was going to his
room. There would be no
questions about whether or not he belonged there now.
he reached the landing between floors, Albert paused again.
He looked to his right at the small casement window, and felt
compelled to look out of it. Albert
stared straight out at the plain view then lowered his gaze.
His eyes widened as he took in the sight of two men beating a blond
man in the back lot. A moment
later, his stomach tightened as he recognized the blond man as Henry
had no idea who the two assailants were, no idea why they were beating up on
Henry, but Albert immediately turned and dashed down the stairs.
He grabbed the newel post, used it to pivot himself swiftly towards
the back door, and barreled through it.
He barely paused to get his bearings once he made it outside.
held Henry as the other punched him over and over again.
Henry’s face was bleeding—Albert could see it from across the
lot. As he drew closer, Albert
saw the man beating Henry pause, take a step back, and then draw a knife.
away from him!” yelled Albert, breaking into a full run.
launched himself at the man threatening Henry and body checked him, driving
him to the ground even as he fell atop him.
His right arm protested with a sharp pain as they hit, but Albert
didn’t let that stop him. Straddling
the thug’s body, Albert threw punch after punch until the man’s face was
bloody and he subsided into unconsciousness.
Then he jumped to his feet and turned to help Henry.
was struggling with his other assailant, who had him from behind in a
chokehold. Albert circled
warily then pounced. He
delivered a sharp dirty blow to the man’s kidneys, which caused him to
release Henry. As soon as Henry
was free, Albert grabbed the man in his own chokehold, reaching to seize the
man’s forehead with one hand. He angled the man’s head threateningly.
break it,” he warned. “I’ll
break your filthy neck, I swear to God I will.”
man instantly ceased his struggling and panted.
Henry was aghast. He clearly read in Albert’s face that even though the man
had stopped fighting him, he was looking for any excuse to snap his neck
anyway. “Let him go.”
He’s not going to get away. He’s
not going to do this to someone else.”
won’t!” whimpered the man.
right you won’t,” snarled Albert, again angling the man’s head in a
panted as he came back downstairs. Once
he’d gotten Albert settled, and confident that things were going to
improve for him, he’d gone in search of Henry.
But Henry hadn’t been in his room.
The clock was running out and he cursed under his breath.
Where on earth was Bobby? He
frowned and turned to go back to his office.
to the source of the panicked cry, Tom saw Donnie running towards him. The man barely paused, beckoning for Tom to follow.
Some guys attacked Henry in the back lot and Albert got involved.
One guy’s down and it looks like Albert’s gonna kill
the other one!”
that moment, Bobby finally turned up. “He’s
right, Tom. Henry doesn’t
die, but now Albert goes to prison.”
waiting for more, or for an explanation of Bobby’s absence, Tom broke into
a run and followed Donnie outside. He
barely noticed the prone, bleeding figure on the ground.
His gaze went instantly to Albert, who threatened to break the neck
of the man he held in his arms. Albert’s
breathing was labored and Tom could tell it was more than his lingering
illness that caused it. There
was a vengeful look in his eyes, an aspect to the tension in his body that
showed more than this incident alone influenced Albert’s behavior.
had obviously received a beating from the men before Albert had intervened,
but he stood nearby, pleading, “Let him go, Albert.”
shook his head. “Why? He would have killed you, Henry.”
stepped into Albert’s line of sight.
“Henry’s alive, Albert. He
didn’t kill Henry. You
I’m gonna stop him for good.”
man Albert held whimpered.
do this, Albert. You’re too
good of a person to kill him.”
laughed. “You don’t know me
very well,” he scoffed.
pressed a series of keys on the handlink.
“Tom, the police are going to be here in about five minutes.
One of the residents called for help.
They’re going to arrest Albert.
He’s had a run-in with one of the cops several times in the past
couple of months, and his mouth hasn’t won him any favors. Alpha has run several scenarios, and if he goes into prison,
he won’t be coming back out. Tom,
you’ve got to do something!”
nodded and suddenly a last ditch idea came to him.
“I know you better than you think, Bingo.”
head popped up at that. “What
did you call me?”
don’t know where you heard that name.
No one’s called me that for a long time.”
sure.” Tom took a step closer
and held out a hand, palm up. “I
know you’ve fallen on hard times, but I also know that somewhere inside
you is the man you once were.”
shook his head, but his grip on the thug loosened slightly.
“How can you know that?”
saved Henry, didn’t you?”
drew nearer and nodded. “You
did, Albert. Please, I’m
begging you—let him go. Don’t
do this. Don’t ruin your life.”
over at Henry, Albert snorted, “What life?”
Tom said, “you just told me you were ready to start over.
To rebuild your life. Now
the police are on the way. If
you kill him, they’re going to take you to prison.”
He paused and looked intently into Albert’s eyes.
“Don’t let your new life end before it’s had a chance to start.”
held Tom’s gaze for a long time. As
the first sound of a siren reached their ears, Albert appeared to come to a
decision. Sighing, he removed
his hand from the man’s head but not from around his neck.
won’t get away with this,” Tom vowed, glancing at Bobby for
doesn’t,” affirmed Bobby, consulting the handlink.
“He goes to prison and stays there for a couple of years. When he does get out, he’s killed in an armed robbery gone
a distasteful face, Albert flung the man to the ground and spat on him. His chest heaved and he turned away, slowly walking back
towards the shelter.
wait!” Tom called. “Don’t
go in yet. Please.”
Albert turned back and stopped just outside the entryway.
this guy press charges against Al?” Tom quietly asked Bobby while two men
helped the assailant to a sitting position, simultaneously ensuring he didn’t
move as the police cars entered the lot.
no he doesn’t.”
cops quickly assessed the situation, speaking with Henry, determining that
he didn’t require an ambulance, and taking notes as they listened.
As Henry described how Albert had stepped in and saved him (wisely
leaving out the near-murder), the police glanced in the direction of the
shelter’s back stoop, where Albert quietly stood.
should go talk to him,” Tom said. Albert
looked dazed and Tom could just imagine the muddled emotions whirling within
you… Wait…this can’t be
right.” Bobby shook the
handlink and peered at its screen again.
Alpha’s saying that Albert is going to die in less than an hour!”
as Bobby was about to answer him, Donnie said in a loud voice, “Hey,
Albert, what’s wrong with your hand?”
looked down at his right hand, at the blood dripping from his fingers. Slowly, he lifted his hand before his eyes and stared dumbly
He swayed and his eyes started to roll back into his head.
caught him before he fell and shouted, “Help!
Frank!” even as Bobby said, “He bleeds to death.”
was at their side in an instant, Henry and one of the cops at his heels. The other cop was keeping charge of the two assailants with
the assistance of the same two men who’d helped earlier.
him to the ground,” he ordered Donnie.
black man nodded and with Henry’s help, lowered Albert to the ground. Albert didn’t seem to have control over his eyes—they
rolled around in his head with each movement—but he hadn’t lost
consciousness. Tom quickly
scanned Albert’s arm to find the source of the bleeding and noticed a dark
sticky spot on the upper part.
his jacket off.”
and Henry worked together, but as soon as Albert felt his jacket being
tugged, he cried out in protest and started struggling.
again!” he wailed.
quickly, Tom accessed his military training and drew his most intimidating
commander’s voice forward. “Calavicci!” he bellowed.
“You hold still, Calavicci, and that’s an order!”
subsided enough for the two men to get his jacket off.
Rather than go through this again to get the shirt off, Tom reached
for the shoulder of the blood-soaked sleeve and yanked, ripping it off.
A small rectangular slice in Albert’s bicep pulsed out a steady
spurt of dark red blood.
policeman reached for his radio and called for an ambulance.
brachial artery’s been nicked. He
must’ve gotten stabbed when he attacked the first assailant,” explained
Bobby. “Originally, no one
realized it until it was too late. Vic
found him unconscious and bleeding in the hallway outside his room.
They tried their best to save him, but Albert died in the backseat of
Frank’s car en route to the hospital.”
now?” Tom asked, as he used Albert’s torn sleeve to fashion a
had taken hold of Albert’s left hand and pressed it.
“Hang on, Albert,” he pleaded.
moved his colorless lips in a weak smirk of defiance.
“Don’t…tell me…what to do…” he gasped out before losing
looked at Bobby with fear in his eyes.
“And now?!” he asked again.
shrugged. “Alpha says there’s
a 92% chance you saved his life.”
Henry said, tears forming in his eyes, “Albert’s not gonna die is he? He can’t die! He
saved my life! He can’t die,
not like this!”
him, Donnie gripped his shoulder and before Tom could answer, he boldly told
Henry, “We’re not gonna let him die.
I don’t know ‘bout you, but I’m kneeling before the throne and
begging God to spare him.” Donnie
looked down at Albert, “He might be a stubborn little cuss, but I’m
gonna plead his case before the Great Judge.”
had to chuckle. Albert was
a “stubborn little cuss.” Gently
touching Albert’s pale face, fearful at how cold it felt and thinking of
that other 8%, Tom softly said, “C’mon, you little cuss. That fire you have in you—use it. Use it to fight.”
ambulance’s sirens could be heard from several blocks away before it made
its arrival. The paramedics
quickly started what treatment they could before ensconcing Albert within
the vehicle. After telling Tom
which hospital Albert would be brought to, they sped off, sirens blaring and
lights flashing. The lot was
crowded by the time the ambulance left as more and more residents had come
down to see what all the commotion was about.
was inconsolable. It was the
most emotion Tom had seen him show. Sobbing,
he leaned heavily on Donnie, who reiterated his determination to pray Albert
into safety. Donnie met Tom’s
eyes and inscrutably smiled and nodded, patting Henry on the shoulder and
steering him inside. Once the
police cars left the lot, the other residents followed suit one by one.
remained, standing next to Albert’s abandoned jacket.
Slowly, he bent to pick it up, shifting it in his hands until the
bloodstained sleeve was front and center.
Tom regarded the deceptively minor tear in the fabric and shook his
his odds gone up?”
nodded. “Yeah, as soon as
they got him in the ambulance it became nearly 100% that he survives.”
why am I still here? Henry and
Albert are both still alive.”
handlink squealed and Bobby shook it. “Alpha,
are you getting metaphysical on me all of a sudden?”
what’s it saying?”
met his eyes. “It’s saying
that they’re physically alive, but your job isn’t done yet.”
Answering the question he knew Tom was about to ask, he added, “And
no, I don’t know what you need to do.”
Henry I have an idea…”
you need to get a grip now,” Donnie said in even tones.
“Dr. Walker can’t get you cleaned up if you don’t calm down.”
and Donnie had succeeded only in getting Henry to sit on the exam table.
Every time Dr. Walker leaned in to try and check one of Henry’s
cuts or bruises, Henry would pull back and emphatically shake his head as he
cried out, “No, I don’t need anything!
Albert’s the one who got hurt!”
Vic had finally given up and gone in search of Frank, hoping he could
talk some sense into Henry before Dr. Walker sedated him.
soon as Vic found him, Tom hung up the phone he was pretending to use so he
could speak freely with Bobby and followed Vic to the clinic after Bobby
punched out to return to the project. Henry
started crying harder as they entered.
I’m sorry! It should’ve
been me. They were going to
kill me! But Albert…”
finished the statement for him, “Albert stopped them.
I know, Henry.”
my fault! I’ve always gotta
stick my nose in where it doesn’t belong…”
Walker gave Tom a significant look that meant, ‘calm
him down NOW!’ Tom
why were those men attacking you? Because
you stopped them from getting a kid hooked on cocaine.
Where’s the shame in that?”
shook his head and wiped ineffectually at his eyes.
“It’s not that,” he sobbed.
“It’s Albert! I was
so horrible to him and now he might die before…before I get a chance to
make it right! He’s going to
die hating me.”
grabbed Henry’s shoulders. “Stop
it! Albert doesn’t hate you.
He saved your life, man.”
he got stabbed
for it!” yelled Henry. He
covered his bruised face and sobbed. “Oh,
God, please don’t let him die.”
looked at the other men and requested, “Guys, would you give us a moment,
please?” Nodding, Dr. Walker,
Vic, and Donnie all stepped outside. Dr.
Walker pulled the door closed behind them.
stepped closer to Henry and gently took hold of his hands, pulling them away
from his face. “Look at me,
Henry raised his swollen eyes to meet Tom’s gaze.
understand you and Albert have had your rough spots.
He’s not the easiest person to get along with.”
Tom paused before continuing, “I don’t know what you know about
wiped at his eyes again, “I know he was in the Navy.”
nodded. “Did he tell you he
was career Navy? I didn’t
think so. You have to understand, Henry.
Just like you, Albert lost a lot when he ended up on the streets.”
was so hard on him.”
what I understand, he was pretty hard on you, as well.
You guys butted heads, Henry, that’s all.”
shook his head and fought back tears. “It’s
not all. Frank, I didn’t even
get to tell him ‘thank you,’ much less, ‘I’m sorry.’
What if he dies?”
not going to die.” The words
were out of Tom’s mouth before he really thought about them.
can you know that?” Henry
shook his head. “Frank, I’ve
never seen so much blood in my life.
And he was so pale.”
knife hit an artery,” said Tom. Before
Henry could sink into despair again, Tom held his chin to force him to keep
looking. “But Albert’s
getting treatment. They’ll
take care of him at the hospital. And
when he gets back here, you can tell him everything you have on your mind.”
sighed and nodded. Tom wasn’t
sure if what he’d said had made a difference or not, but a soft knock came
on the door before he could press further.
Vic poked his head in.
I just got off the phone with Kelsey.”
girlfriend—she’s an ER nurse at Kings County Hospital.”
right,” Tom nodded.
admitted Albert. Kelsey said
they had to do emergency surgery on him.
He lost a lot of blood, and they’re starting transfusions.
He hasn’t regained consciousness and it’s gonna be touch and go
for a while, but she said the doctor feels confident that he’ll pull
lifted his head to look at Vic. “He’s
going to make it?” Vic nodded
and Henry said, “I want to go to the hospital.”
unconscious, Henry. With the
amount of blood he lost, he’ll probably be out for a while,” said Tom. “He won’t know you’re there.”
want to give blood for him.”
and Tom exchanged a glance. Tom
said, “That’s a noble idea, Henry.”
noble about it,” denied Henry. “It’s
my fault he got hurt. It’s
the least I can do for him.”
want to give blood, too,” Donnie said from behind them.
Tom and Vic turned to see Donnie in the doorway, Dr. Walker behind
you what,” Vic said, seeing an opportunity and grabbing it, “you let Dr.
Walker check you out and I’ll take you and anyone else who wants to donate
blood to the hospital.”
nodded and submitted to the doctor while Donnie dashed from the room,
ostensibly to go round up blood donors.
While Tom would have gladly joined in that number, the intricacies of
his blood type being different from Frank’s was an issue he didn’t want
to deal with.
County Hospital Center
March 16, 1987
men in addition to Donnie and Henry went to the hospital to donate blood for
Albert Calavicci. Vic drove the
15-passenger van which was unusually silent for the trip.
At the hospital, Henry demanded that he be first to donate, rolling
his sleeve up when they were still in the parking lot.
surprised by the size of their group, the hospital staff quickly set to work
accommodating them. Although
they hesitated at the sight of Henry’s bruised face, Vic vouched for Dr.
Walker’s clearance and they drew a pint from him.
After consuming the oatmeal cookie and orange juice, Henry paced the
chamber as the others in turn gave blood.
he approached Vic. “I want to
don’t you remember what Frank said? He
won’t even know you’re there.”
sighed. “Okay, Henry. I’ll see if I can find someone to bring you up there.
You can sit with Albert until we leave.”
Vic got up and spoke to one of the nurses, who nodded and approached
Henry with a kind smile on her face.
Calavicci’s room is upstairs. If
you’ll follow me, please.”
Henry followed her to the elevator. The
trip up was short and it wasn’t long before she brought him to a
semi-private room. Though two
beds were in the room, only Albert’s was occupied.
When the nurse left, Henry took a seat in the chair beside Albert’s
bed and looked at him.
long curly hair draped the lower portion of the pillow and his graying beard
didn’t entirely hide the fact that his lips still lacked color. Albert’s right upper arm was wrapped in thick gauze and an
IV had been inserted into the crook of the same arm.
Henry shivered at the sight of the red blood making its way into
Albert’s veins courtesy of the IV.
took hold of Albert’s left hand. “I’m
sorry for all the things I said to you,” he whispered.
“You were so brave. You
saved my life, you know.”
sat quietly for a few moments then said, “You have to get better, Albert.”
didn’t react. His eyes
remained closed and only the slow inhales and exhales he made gave any sign
that he was alive.
bunch of us gave blood for you. Me
and Donnie and Dylan. Lucas has
AIDS otherwise he woulda gave. But
Matthew’s here, and Vic, and a whole bunch of guys you don’t even really
know. That’s how important you are to us, Albert.”
Henry lowered his head and pressed Albert’s hand.
“That’s how important you are to me.”
wondered how much time he had to sit with Albert before Vic would come to
get him. He was glad to see
with his own eyes that Albert was on the mend, though.
Silently he sat with his head bowed, remembering Donnie’s words and
praying for Albert. He had no
idea how long he sat that way when a soft moan drew his attention.
Henry leaned in and saw Albert’s eyelashes fluttering on his
cheeks. “Albert, are you
lips moved back and forth and his brow crinkled as he let out another groan,
asked again, “Albert?”
Albert’s eyes slid open and he stared blearily at the ceiling before
blinking and turning his head to the side.
Albert licked dry lips and looked at Henry as if he’d never seen
him before. He slowly blinked a
couple more times then licked his lips again and croaked, “Henry?
Where am I?”
in the hospital, Albert. You
got stabbed in the arm.”
did?” Albert turned his head
to the other side and stared at the bandage on his arm and the blood being
delivered via the needle. He
grimaced and rolled his head back to face Henry.
“What ‘bout you? You
I’m fine, thanks to you.”
don’t look fine,” Albert said thickly.
laughed. “Well, they did get
some licks in before you got there.”
nodded and started to close his eyes. Henry
called his name and Albert slowly forced them open.
want to tell you I’m sorry, Albert. I
treated you pretty badly.” Henry
lowered his eyes for a second then met Albert’s tired brown eyes again. “Can you forgive me?”
did,” Albert declared, giving Henry one last weak smile before
surrendering to the exhaustion that laid claim on him once more.
County Hospital Center
March 17, 1987
drove to the hospital to pick Albert up, with Bobby riding shotgun beside
him. Bobby punched queries into
the handlink and shook his head.
doing better, you said, and the scenarios prove that out.
I can only guess you’re still here for Albert.”
decided he wanted to sign on to the program,” Tom said.
“That was the last thing we’d talked about before he saved Henry.”
still can’t get over that, Tom. You
were dropped in here to save Henry and Calavicci does it for you.”
looked at his Observer and nodded. “Even
after all he’s been through, he’s still a good man.”
always was,” Bobby agreed. “Just
lost his way for a while.”
Alpha have any records of what happens to Albert after this?”
consulted the link. “He
reappears in the records as of yesterday with his hospital stay.
Alpha shows that he did indeed sign on to the Sanctuary House
program, but after that, everything’s still in flux.
It can’t predict anything with any decent amount of certainty.”
doesn’t go back on the streets, does he?”
don’t know, Tom. Alpha claims
there is a scenario where Albert does end up on the streets.
One possibility has him helping Frank run the shelter until he’s
killed in a holdup. Still
another has him marrying a woman half his age and running for office.”
Bobby shrugged. “His
future’s an open slate right now.”
should be reassuring, but it’s not.”
Tom parked the car and got out.
“You coming up with me?”
looked up at the hospital and shook his head.
“I’ve got nothing helpful for you, Tom.
You’re going to have to go with your instincts on this one so I’m
going to help Gooshie get Alpha straightened out again.”
thanks.” Tom watched Bobby
give him a rueful smile then punch out.
Sighing, Tom strode across the parking lot and entered the hospital. He took the elevator to Albert’s floor and stopped at the
I’m Frank Benjamin. I
understand Albert Calavicci’s being released this morning.
I brought some clothes for him and I’ll be taking him home.”
pretty blonde nurse smiled at him. “You
can go into his room. Dr.
Mathis just signed the papers.”
returned her smile and walked into the room she indicated.
Albert was sitting on the bed, his bare legs dangling over the side
as he gripped the IV pole for balance.
At some point they had transitioned Albert to glucose, for the liquid
traveling through his IV was clear. He
looked up when he saw Tom out of the corner of his eye and surreptitiously
tugged at his hospital gown, trying to cover a jagged scar on his right
Albert said. “I’m just
waiting for the nurses to get me free of this thing.”
He indicated the IV.
be long. I understand the
doctor already signed your release papers.”
Tom hefted the small paper bag he’d tucked under his arm and handed
it to Albert. “A change of
clothes for you.”
Albert opened the bag and shifted position on the bed as he pulled
the clothes from it to lay them in his lap.
Moments later, a dark-haired nurse entered.
“You here to take this out?” Albert asked without preamble.
to you, too,” she said, moving closer to him.
She shut off the valve controlling the drip first then removed the
tubing from the cannula inserted into Albert’s arm.
“This might sting a little, chico,”
she told him as she ripped the tape holding it down and then slid the needle
from his arm. Blood welled up
and she tucked a piece of gauze in the crook of his arm before bending his
elbow and directing him to hold his arm in position.
winced as the movement of his bicep muscles caused his stitches to pull.
The nurse sympathetically patted his shoulder and said, “I know.
Oh, I see your friend brought you some clothes to go home in. Let me help you.” Before
Albert could protest, she’d untied his hospital gown and removed it,
hardly even hampered as she slid the wide sleeve over his bent arm.
bugging out, Albert held the clothes Tom had brought firmly in his lap and
gathered the sheets around him as best as he could one handed.
“Do you mind?!” he
finally choked out.
you have anything I haven’t seen before,” snorted the nurse, reaching
for the bundle of clothes Albert kept a death grip on.
pressed his lips together to hold in an explosion of laughter and excused
himself on pretense of having to go to the bathroom.
Once inside, he silently let it all loose, his humor tempered only by
the sight of the scars covering Albert’s body, scars he knew had come from
the POW camps where Albert had spent six years in captivity.
When he figured enough time had elapsed that one or the other of the
two had won, he flushed the toilet and stepped out.
sat on the bed in the empty room, fully dressed in the jeans and long sleeve
plaid shirt. His arms were
folded over his chest and Tom would’ve sworn the man was pouting.
He looked over at Tom and growled, “Thanks a lot for leaving me
alone with Nurse Ratched!”
a minute. Am I hearing this
correctly? Albert Calavicci is
complaining about having been left alone, naked, with a woman.
I’ll have to write this date down!”
As soon as the words left his mouth, Tom regretted them.
narrowed his eyes, his scar once again scrunching.
“Who are you? First you call me Bingo and now you seem to know about a
reputation I had years ago.”
hesitated then said, “Consider me your guardian angel if you like.”
Albert shook his head and sighed. “Have
we met before?”
to sound mocking, Tom truthfully answered, “In another life, maybe.” While Albert thought about that, Tom asked, “So, are you
ready to go home?”
Albert seemed to be trying the word out, tasting it almost.
He rubbed his face with his left hand, obviously still favoring his
right, and said it again, “Home.” He
looked up at Tom and nodded.
March 17, 1987
men of Sanctuary House were gathered in the dining room when Albert
returned. As soon as Frank
escorted him past, they all cheered. Though
tired, Albert had allowed himself to be drawn in and seated as the men
clapped his shoulder and shook his hand.
He tried to extend his left hand as much as possible due to the
soreness in his right arm and after a while had just about decided to make
use of the sling Dr. Mathis had given him.
if reading his mind, Frank handed him the sling and helped him get his right
arm situated in it. The
supportive fabric eased the pressure on his stitches and Albert let out a
short exhale of relief that turned into a series of coughs.
Someone handed him a cup of water and gradually the throng began to
drift off to get to work. Donnie
and Henry sat down at the table with him, as did Frank and Vic.
to have you back, Albert,” Donnie said, briefly squeezing Albert’s left
cleared his throat and then said, “Albert, I never really got to thank you
for saving my life.”
waved his left hand dismissively. “You
woulda done the same for me.” He
looked at Henry and saw that wasn’t the response the young man needed.
Smiling, Albert added, “You’re welcome.”
you want to go up to your room and rest?” Vic asked.
is due to start soon, isn’t it?”
looked at Albert and said, “No one expects you to work today, Albert.”
him a firm glare, Albert said, “I expect
can work the check-in desk for today’s meal, Albert,” said Frank.
“Just keep a tally of how many we feed.”
Albert nodded. He grunted
slightly as he got up from the chair and moved to the desk in the hallway.
Henry hurriedly caught up to him and pulled the chair out for him.
As Albert sat, he looked up at Henry and quipped, “Looking out for
an old man?”
shook his head. “Helping out
March 17, 1987
Tom Beckett glanced at his companions as they approached the three story
building that housed the homeless shelter.
Their Navy reunion had started with breakfast at the diner where they’d
enjoyed liberty, and then they’d proceeded to tour New York, revisiting
old locales and reminiscing.
Sanctuary House hadn’t been a shelter when Tom and his fellow naval
officers had stopped there years ago. It
had, instead, been a tattoo parlor where each of them had gotten tattooed on
their upper arm.
Lanny, show us your tattoo again,” laughed Commander Jack Grayson.
sparked hysterical laughter among all the men.
Lanny Thomas had panicked halfway through the application of his
choice of a buxom mermaid. However,
the artist, a particularly lecherous man egged on by drunken sailors, had
done the breasts first. Lanny
thus became the proud possessor of a googly-eyed dragon.
your wife ever take a really close look at those eyes?” chuckled Commander
Thomas shoved Norris and changed the subject.
“Sanctuary House, so what is this place now?”
homeless shelter,” Beckett answered.
“You know, this is the place that was in the paper.”
one where the resident broke up the drug deal and almost got killed for it—I
saw that, too,” said Grayson.
looked up at the sign and scratched the back of his head.
“You think places like this make a difference or just perpetuate
homelessness?” He nodded
towards a cluster of poorly-dressed men shuffling down the steps and heading
off towards the city.
knows?” said Thomas.
shrugged. “Supposedly this
place has a residential program to help guys pick up the pieces, get them
set up with a job. At least
that’s what the article said.”
stood near the front steps, glancing from the sign to the front door when it
opened and a large black man emerged followed by a shorter man with long,
dark curly hair and a shaggy beard streaked with grey.
The short man’s right arm was in a sling and the black man helped
him to sit down on the steps.
still say it’s not good for you to be outside,” the black man was
I say I need some air,” argued the short man.
about his voice tickled at Tom Beckett’s memory and he broke away from his
friends and their reminiscing about the tattoo parlor to walk up to the
said the black man, kindly. “Can
we help you with something?”
attention was focused on the short man, who suddenly wasn’t looking at
him. He stared so intently at
him that it was obvious he was starting to ignite the black man’s
protectiveness toward the smaller man.
Remaining polite but firm, the man asked again, “Can we help you
short man continued to avert his gaze and Tom got the distinct impression he’d
been recognized. In that
moment, something clicked and Tom asked, “Al?”
man flinched and Tom knelt in front of him.
“It is you, isn’t it? Al
Do you know this man?”
waited until the short man turned to face him and reluctantly said, “Hello,
cursed himself for insisting on going outside.
Now he was face to face with Tom Beckett in Hell’s version of This Is Your Life. Beside
him, he could feel Donnie’s readiness to leap to his protection in any way
necessary and past Beckett, he was aware of the group of men with him.
Albert wanted to disappear, but he ultimately faced the man from his
past and slowly said, “Hello, Tom.”
eyes widened and he sat on the step below Albert’s.
“God, it’s been years since I last saw you, Al.”
ahead and say it,” said Albert, “I look like hell.”
you…work here?” Tom delicately asked.
was quiet for a moment.
me,” said Donnie, “but how do you know Albert?”
closed his eyes, dreading this, but Tom simply answered, “We used to work
you were in the Navy?” Donnie asked Albert now.
nodded, but Tom offered, “We flew on Apollo together.”
eyes widened. “Albert?
You were in the space program?”
was a long time ago, Donnie,” Albert said, looking down at his shoes.
awkward silence fell for a few moments before Tom asked, “How have you
raised his eyebrows at him and then deliberately tilted his head so that the
scar running down the left side of his face was in plain view as he looked
up at the sign over their heads. Turning
back to face Tom, he said, “I’ve been getting by.”
men with Tom were obviously getting impatient and they drew closer. Finally, one of them leaned in and said, “Beckett, we’re
going to head on to the restaurant. We’ll
hold a seat for you, okay?”
I’ll catch up,” Tom said, not even making a move towards getting up.
surprised Albert so much that he asked, “Why aren’t you going with them?”
I’m talking with you.”
didn’t know what to say.
silence unnerved Tom Beckett, for it spoke of deep emotion in response to
Tom’s attentiveness. The
black man, Donnie, seemed to be weighing Al’s privacy (or Albert’s, as
Tom noticed Donnie called him) versus his desire to protect him.
The sling Al’s right arm was in hadn’t escaped Tom’s notice and
he wondered what had happened. Hell,
he wondered how Al had come by that scar on his face.
Al, how did you end up in New York?”
grew up here. Seemed like as
good a place as any to come back to.”
have family here?”
laughed bitterly. “Oh yeah…Pop’s
in Potter’s Field and my sister’s in a churchyard on the other side of
was shamed into silence. “I’m
am I,” said Donnie.
waved off their sympathy and asked Tom, “What brings you to New York?
Aren’t you still with Starbright?”
At Tom’s hesitation when the top secret project was mentioned, Al
rolled his eyes. “Oh, come
on, Tom, just talking about the name
isn’t gonna hurt anything. Or
is it that you’re worried what’ll happen to you if they find out you
were talking to me and Starbright
Tom’s discomfort and picking up on the sensitive aspect to the
conversation, Donnie got to his feet. “I’m
going inside, Albert. Call if
you need anything.” He gave
Tom a look that clearly said he would pay for any hurts he caused Albert.
Somehow, Tom was sure that included more than just physical ones.
I’m still with Starbright,” Tom answered.
“As for what brings me to New York, it’s an informal reunion with
some Navy buddies.”
be nice,” Al said wistfully, looking past Tom in a way that made it seem
he was looking into time itself rather than the street beyond.
finally decided to bring up the elephant in the room.
“How long have you been homeless, Al?” he bluntly asked.
sighed and looked away from Tom as he answered, “Since ’85.”
be!” A sudden fire came into
Al’s being and he gave Tom a hard look.
“You didn’t put me here, okay?”
silently nodded and that seemed to satisfy Al.
you still in the Navy?” Al asked, conversationally.
just made full bird.”
remembered that Al had been a captain when he’d been dishonorably
discharged. It made him feel
awkward but didn’t seem to have that effect on Al.
ever miss it?” he asked.
smile was tinged with sadness. “All
sat in silence for a moment until Al said, “Well, I guess I better get
back inside before they think something happened to me.
And you’ve got friends waiting.”
He hitched himself to his feet, grunting and reflexively holding the
sling as he did.
was good to see you again, Al,” Tom said sincerely, getting to his feet as
Al turned to go, Tom stood straight and angled his right hand to his brow in
a sharp salute.
stared at Tom Beckett as he held the salute.
For a split second, he wondered if he was being mocked, but Tom
stayed at attention, gazing kindly and respectfully at him.
As he realized Tom’s sincerity, Albert’s eyes briefly drifted
closed and he felt his brows tilt in a pained way then he opened his eyes
and looked at the tall sandy haired man.
automatically started to lift his right arm before he remembered it was in a
sling and felt the pain of calling the muscle into use.
Mentally fumbling, Albert lifted his left hand in a salute, held it
for a second, and then snapped it down.
Tom held his for another second before snapping down himself.
Without saying another word, Albert turned and walked inside the
was grateful that the tears waited until he was inside.
March 17, 1987
the end of the day, Tom Beckett, Leaper, was wondering why he was still
there. Bobby had come back from
helping to stabilize Alpha and had no further information for him.
The two of them were in Frank’s office, Tom assembling Albert’s
any of his possible futures increased in odds?”
shook his head. “I don’t
get it. Normally Alpha can sort through the possibilities easier than
this. It just hasn’t been
right this Leap. Gooshie’s
gonna run a diagnostic when you’re between Leaps again.”
like a good idea,” Tom said.
knock on the door stopped their conversation and Tom called out, “Come in.”
poked his head in the door. “Frank,
sorry to bother you, but there’s a gentleman here, a Captain Beckett, says
he needs to talk to the man in charge.”
can send him in,” said Tom. As
soon as Henry disappeared, Tom whirled on Bobby.
“Captain Beckett? Me?”
Bobby could answer, the office door opened again and Tom saw himself, twenty
years younger, enter the office.
Benjamin? Captain Tom Beckett,
nice to meet you.” His
younger self extended a hand and Tom shook it.
can I help you, Captain?” Tom asked.
wanted to talk to you about one of your residents, Albert Calavicci.
I used to work with him and I lost track of him about three years
ago. Today I met him outside
didn’t remember any encounter with Al any more than he recalled this
encounter. Still, he carried
along as he believed Frank would have.
“Albert didn’t do anything to upset you, I hope.”
no, not at all!” Beckett was quick to assure him.
“I was just wondering how long Al’s been living here.”
few days now.”
appeared surprised by that. “That’s
nodded. Hesitant to violate
Albert’s privacy, he questioned, “If I may, Captain Beckett, why is it
important to you?”
nodded, implicitly understanding. “I
don’t want to intrude on Al’s personal life and I don’t want to ask
you anything that would violate his trust.
Am I correct in my understanding that Sanctuary House’s goal is to
help men get back on their feet?”
affirmed that it was and when asked if Albert was involved with that
program, Tom said, “Yes, he’ll be starting full-fledged tomorrow.”
I ask you, Mr. Benjamin, what your opinion of him is?”
handlink squealed, and Bobby said, “Tom, Alpha thinks this may be a key to
why you’re still here.”
his words carefully, Tom answered, “I think Albert has a remarkably
positive attitude considering all he’s been through.
He’s recovering from a bronchial infection that’s bordering on
pneumonia and he nearly died yesterday when he got stabbed saving one of our
other residents from an attack by two pushers.”
was Al?” Beckett gaped. “I read the article but neither man was named.
No wonder his arm was in a sling!”
nodded. “He’s very proud
and independent. And a hard
got reflective. “That’s the
sense I got from talking to him this afternoon.
He’s still sharp as ever.” He
looked intently at the man he saw as Frank Benjamin. “I know it will be a long time before Al ‘graduates’
from your program, but when he does…”
Beckett reached into his back pocket and took out his wallet,
withdrawing a business card. He
tucked the wallet back into his pocket and handed “Frank” the card.
“I don’t expect these numbers to be changing any time soon.
Don’t tell Al—Albert—that I talked to you.
Just…hold onto that card, and when he’s ready have him get in
touch with me.”
stapled the card to the inside of Albert’s file folder and scrawled a note
to Frank Benjamin to that effect. He
looked up at Beckett and smiled. “Thank
you, Captain Beckett, you’re a good man.”
are you,” Beckett said. “And
so’s Al. If you haven’t
found that out already, you will.”
men rose and shook hands again. When
his younger self left, Tom turned to Bobby and widened his eyes. “You’re not gonna tell me that
didn’t change anything?”
just stared dumbfounded at the door. “I’m
still stunned.” He looked at
Tom, “You didn’t remember that was going to happen?”
shook his head. “I don’t
even remember ‘talking to Al outside’.
Did you check the histories?”
started to consult the handlink when another knock came on the door.
in,” Tom said again.
and Bobby both stared as Albert entered the office.
Tom could now see that the scar on Albert’s face ran the length of
his jaw to the point of his chin, because the beard was gone.
In addition, Albert’s long hair had been trimmed to an almost
military length, not professionally, but well enough to pass muster.
and smiling at Tom, Albert ran a hand across his chin and said, “I figured
if I was gonna start over I might as well go all out.”
did that yourself?” Tom asked, indicating Albert’s arm still in the
laughed. “No, Donnie and Dylan helped me out.”
He scuffed the back of his head with his left hand and said, “Not
the best job, I know.”
looks good,” Tom said, honestly, and was rewarded by Albert’s broad
Albert glanced around the office and saw the file with his name
printed on the tab. “I guess
it’s official, huh?”
reflexively looked over, relieved he had closed the file so that “his”
business card wasn’t visible. “Yeah.
The rest is up to you.”
won’t let you down, Frank. I
promise,” Albert said.
felt the tingling start, and said, “Just don’t let yourself down,
Gate, New Mexico
do you mean you’re going to Washington?”
Calavicci stood in front of Bobby LoNigro’s desk with a look of utter
panic on his face.
got to make the budget proposals to the Committee, and Tom isn’t exactly
available for it,” Bobby said. “As
Acting Director of the Project it falls to me.”
what if Tom lands while you’re gone?”
looked steadily at Al. “Then
you’ll observe for him.”
I can’t do that!”
filled in before.”
when you were stuck in a meeting or down with the flu, but you were still here!” complained Al.
got to his feet and walked around the desk to stand next to Al.
He put a hand on Al’s thin shoulder and looked into his eyes.
“Al, you can do this. Just
be yourself, you’ll have the handlink to give you information.
Gooshie’s already got Ziggy coordinated to your brainwaves; you
know, sometimes I think that computer works better with you than me.”
needs contact with us back here—he knows you and trusts you. You’ll do
hope you’re right, Bobby.”
computer chose that moment to speak up, “You have handled yourself well in
each of your prior Observation sessions, Albert.
I see no reason why this occasion should prove any different.”
sure where to direct his attention, Al grimaced at the ceiling.
Albert, your presence is required in the Imaging Chamber. Captain Beckett has Leaped.
His current location is St. Louis, Missouri and the date is August
sighed and made a face at Bobby, then turned towards the door.
He took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and headed for the
Control Room. Bobby moved to
the corridor and watched him go. As
he walked Al’s confidence level seemed to shift from feigned to actual as
his posture straightened accordingly.
do fine, Al,” Bobby quietly said. “You
were meant to be here.”
the computer agreed.