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 for greatness.
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
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
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 own.
Fortunately, 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.
swirls of energy surrounded and supported him as he floated in the
limbo between Leaps. He
felt as if protective arms embraced him.
It reminded him of when he was a kid and his mother held him
after a nightmare.
loss of his brother had certainly been a nightmare, one that stuck
with him every single day. His
family had been robbed, but he was certain that the world had been
robbed as well. His brother had so much potential, so much ahead of him.
All gone, taken in one brutal moment.
hoped his brother was proud of him, hoped his father was, too.
out of the vivid blue, he felt more than heard a voice declare, ‘I am proud of you, too. You’ve
done much good. Now I
need you to do it again.’ In
the next instant, he felt the very physical thrust and drop of
preparing to land in a new life.
Beckett blinked as the Leap set him free and he instantly lost his
balance, slipping from his position squatting on his toes to drop
square on his backside. As he instinctively reached to the ground to steady himself,
he became aware of the small bundle of simple carnations he clutched
in his right hand. Then
he noticed he had landed on the piled dirt-mound of a newly made
geez!” breathed Tom.
March 13, 1987
unnerved, Tom scrambled to his feet and brushed the fresh dirt of
the new grave from his pants. Looking
from left to right he saw that he stood within a veritable sea of
nondescript grave markers spreading as far as he could see.
He also quickly realized that the flowers his host had been
about to place on the grave were an unusual spot of color and care
in the midst of barren landscape.
Wondering whom he was leaving flowers for, Tom bent to peer
at the stone but the marker bore only a series of three numbers.
He rubbed at his eyebrow as he tried to make sense of it when
a factoid jogged at his memory.
He was in the New York City Cemetery—Potter’s Field—the
final resting place for the indigent, and his host had obviously
taken the time to bid his last respects to one of those poor souls.
a long-ago learned prayer, Tom bent and placed the unlikely bouquet
of flowers atop the grave then briefly bowed his head in respect.
Straightening up, he turned and stepped away from the grave,
moving to the rough path nearby.
A quick glance around told him he was alone, and so he took
the time to locate the wallet and find out more information about
who he was, even if there was currently no way to determine *when*
he was. Opening the
leather billfold, Tom found the driver’s license nestled within
the leather frame, its surface protected by the clear plastic sheet
allowing it to be viewed without having to be removed.
He was, this time, in the life of Franklin Benjamin, born
April 3, 1942, residing in Brooklyn, 6’1” and 190 pounds.
His license was due to expire on his birthday in 1988. Tom studied the photo of the blue eyed, black haired man with
the square jaw and found that he took an instant liking to him.
Even in the all-too-often unflattering DMV picture, Franklin
Benjamin (Tom had to roll his eyes at the “cleverness” the
man’s parents had exhibited in naming him) seemed friendly.
he’d pinpointed both the “who” and a general idea of the
“when” and “where.” The
next task was to find his way out of Potter’s Field and then to
navigate his way home. He only hoped that Sebastian “Bobby” LoNigro, his
Observer, would turn up to assist him in that task soon.
In the meantime, the former Navy SEAL was more than up to the
challenge of finding the exit and parking lot.
He walked through the waning sunlight, noting the puff of
breaths visible in the chilling air as the day’s heat slowly
sound of a cough halted his progress.
Tom quickly scanned the area, his eyes pausing at the dark
form curled near one of the small markers.
The figure coughed again and pulled itself more tightly into
the fetal position.
Tom called out, expecting the person to rise and look at him, but
there was no reaction. He
looked around the cemetery again, wary of a setup or a trap,
suddenly regretting having been so brazen about checking the wallet.
There wasn’t much money in it, but men had been killed over
$10 before. Slowly, Tom
began walking toward the figure, increasing his pace when the
hacking cough sounded again, worse this time.
faded green fatigue jacket, ripped, worn, and dirty in so many
places was about as stereotypical of an attire as you could imagine,
thought Tom, but that’s what the homeless man wore atop a ragged
pair of light blue jeans stained to a near-uniform gray.
He hugged his limbs close to his body and shivered beneath
the army surplus jacket. It was impossible to guess how old he was, Tom thought.
The dark hair appeared to have few strands of silver in it,
but whether that was due to genetics or lack of washing, it was hard
to tell. The grizzled
beard which obscured the lower portion of the man’s face was,
however, liberally streaked with grey.
The man lay on his left side, raising a filthy hand to his
mouth as he coughed in his sleep.
Even just kneeling beside him, Tom could hear phlegm popping
in his lungs.
fella. You okay?” Tom
man only moaned in response. Despite
the smell and filthy condition he was in, Tom reached a hand out to
touch the man’s forehead. He
was burning up, and as Tom pressed two fingers to the man’s wrist
to check a pulse, he was stunned at how icy the hands were.
He’d need to find a shelter to bring the man to.
He couldn’t leave him here to sleep in the elements.
Tom could feel the bite the cold promised to bring when the
sun yielded fully to the moon.
The poor soul would die if Tom left him here.
Tom brought the man’s body to a sitting position, trying to keep
him supported. As he
prepared to situate the dead weight so that he could lift the
unconscious man, the man’s head dropped to the side and a thick,
angry scar revealed itself. Starting
at the man’s left eyebrow, it curved back towards his ear then
scooped forward again, running towards his jawline. It disappeared into the man’s beard, but Tom suspected the
scar didn’t end there.
wasn’t the time or place for a medical exam, nor to satisfy his
own morbid curiosity. Tom
readied himself to stand with the homeless man in his arms, but he
nearly fell over again when the effort he’d been prepared to
expend proved unnecessary given how light the man actually was.
He wondered how long he’d been on the streets to have grown
so thin. As he carried
the man along the cemetery path, he now knew, thanks to a posted
sign, led to the parking lot, Tom felt the sharp boniness of the
man’s joints where they pressed into his own arms, stomach, and
it was due to the late hour, or the fact that he was at Potter’s
Field, Tom quickly identified his car, as it was the only one in the
lot. He fumbled with
his burden as he tried to fish keys out of his pocket.
He finally settled on balancing the man against the hood of
the car while he dug for the keys.
Coming up with them, Tom opened the backdoor and got the
man’s body arranged on the backseat as comfortably as he could.
He had just closed the door and prepared to round the car for
the driver’s side when the Imaging Chamber Door opened and his
Observer stepped out.
our car, I see,” commented Bobby LoNigro.
it wasn’t hard,” said Tom, giving Bobby a ‘where
have you been?’ look.
getting close to budget renewal times and I was in the middle of
processing paperwork. You
know, someone’s got to go over the figures in your absence.”
Bobby shrugged. “Besides,
I had to stop in and check on the guy in the Waiting Room.
Frank Benjamin, your host.”
know that. I checked
he’s a really nice guy.”
to know,” Tom finally said. “And
what about him?” He
gestured at the body in the backseat.
poked his holographic head through the window of the backseat,
studying the figure. When
Tom asked him for a name, all Bobby could do was shrug.
doesn’t keep records on the indigent.
What did he tell you his name was?”
didn’t—he’s been unconscious the whole time.
I think he’s really sick, Bobby.
I only found him because I heard him cough.
He’s burning up with fever and he’s starting to
wheeze.” Tom finally
opened the driver’s side door and looked directly at Bobby.
“I need to get him into a warm bed.”
live at 153 Hope Street in Brooklyn.”
shook his head. “I
was thinking more along the lines of a shelter.”
You, or rather, Mr. Franklin Benjamin, lives at a
shelter—Sanctuary House. To
be more specific, he runs the shelter and lives above it on the
third floor. So, for
once, we’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone—get you
home and get your mission accomplished.
Pretty good luck for Friday the 13th, eh?”
eyes widened. “It’s
that easy? All I have to do is get this guy into a warm bed and I’ll
wish it were,” said Bobby, “but we still don’t even know who
this guy is. No, Alpha predicts that there’s a 72% chance you’re here
to help someone at the shelter.
On Monday, March 16, 1987, there’s going to be an
altercation, and a man named Henry Voorhies is going to die.”
glanced back at the sleeping form in the backseat.
“I don’t suppose he’s Henry Voorhies.”
shook his head. “No,
Henry Voorhies is in his early thirties.
According to the records we’ve uncovered he enrolled in the
residential work-slash-rehabilitation program at Franklin’s
shelter about six months ago.”
the homeless man shifted his position.
As he did so, he began coughing again, his whole body
quivering with the force of it.
Both Tom and Bobby regarded him with concern.
needs medical care. Is
there a clinic at Franklin’s shelter?”
checked the handlink and nodded.
“Yes, a small one. The
doctor will report in the morning.
In the meantime, you should be able to make him relatively
comfortable with over the counter medication from the shelter’s
me get there,” Tom said as he dropped into the driver’s seat and
closed the door. Bobby
pressed a control on the handlink and reappeared “sitting”
beside Tom in the passenger seat.
He relayed directions to Tom as he drove through the city
toward Sanctuary House, the shelter Franklin Benjamin had founded.
time the car crossed a pothole, the jarring would start the man’s
coughing again. Unfamiliar
with the streets, Tom was unable to avoid many of them, and he
apologized, “Sorry, fella,” every time the painful hacking
sounds reached his ears. Labored
wheezes followed the last two attacks, and Tom glanced worriedly at
he make it until morning?”
consulted the handlink. “There’s
no record of Sanctuary House having called the morgue to pick up a
body prior to Henry Voorhies’ death.”
relaxed a bit at those words. The
man’s attempts to draw breath were hurting his own lungs as he
empathized with him. “Tell
me what we know about Henry Voorhies,” he requested, trying to
focus on the primary mission.
Jacob Voorhies, age 33. Two
years ago, he lost his job on Wall Street due to a cocaine
addiction. His wife,
Janice, left him and he spiraled further down after that.
He lost his house and ended up on the streets, surviving by
panhandling and continuing to feed his coke addiction with whatever
meager funds he came by. Turn
left here. Seven months
ago, he ended up at Sanctuary House, and as I said, six months ago
he enrolled in the rehab program.
His records show that he’d been making good progress.
He was due to go live with his parents in Queens upon
completion of the program. They’d
just begun working on repairing their relationship.”
of his death must have been hard,” Tom said, thinking to how his
own parents had reacted to his little brother Sam’s murder.
Hell, he still
hadn’t fully gotten over the loss.
Bobby said. “His
mother, Irene, suffered a heart attack from the shock and grief.
She never fully recovered from it.
His father, Bernard, became so depressed from his wife’s
illness and the loss of their son that he soon became unable to keep
up the corner grocery store they owned and they went out of
business. That store had been the heart of their neighborhood, and the
neighborhood soon slipped into decline after that—first emotional,
after all the years of Leaping, Tom still found it amazing that one
person’s life could have such an effect on the world.
It didn’t matter if the world in question was literal or
limited to a single community, each person’s life held meaning and
power, and their interactions with others created a ripple effect
that spread farther than any single person could fathom.
As the image of a ripple passed through his thoughts, Tom
glanced at the man in the backseat.
‘I wonder whose lives
you’ve touched. Who’s
touched you? How did
you end up in this state?’
Bobby, he asked, “No way of finding out who our friend is?”
you could provide me with a name, I’d be able to find out a lot
more. Did you check his wallet?”
I doubt he’d have been sleeping in Potter’s Field if he had
you didn’t check, did you?”
Bobby looked at the man.
“I probably wouldn’t have either.
I bet he smells as bad as he looks.
Glad I’m a hologram.”
March 13, 1987
Bobby had gotten Tom to the shelter, he’d excused himself back to
the Project to do more research.
Vic Planshay, Franklin’s assistant, had been sweeping the
back parking lot when Tom pulled in and he waved a greeting.
As soon as he saw Tom open the back door of the car, he’d
set his broom aside and hurried over.
you need any help? Hello,
don’t know. I found
him unconscious by a grave marker in Potter’s Field and he
hasn’t woken up to tell me his name.”
Tom slipped his hands under the man’s shoulders and began
the ordeal of maneuvering the limp body out of the car.
Vic helped him and then offered to help carry him inside.
Tom shook his head as he swung the thin form into his arms.
“He doesn’t weigh much.
Just get the doors for me.”
man coughed and wheezed as Vic held the door open.
“I think we should put him upstairs,” Vic said.
“He doesn’t need to be exposed to any additional bugs,
and we’ll have fewer problems in the ward if the transients
don’t have to put up with his coughing all night.
Ralph’s old room is still empty so we can put him in
good to me,” said Tom. He
followed Vic, grateful for the information and assistance.
They went up a simple flight of stairs to the second floor,
where Vic headed for a room halfway down the corridor.
room contained a twin size bed, a small dresser with mirror, a
nightstand, and a desk and chair.
A framed print of the 23rd Psalm was on one wall,
and a small cross hung over the bed. The small casement window was framed by plain navy blue
drapes, which matched the wool blanket folded at the foot of the
bed. Vic pulled back
the sheets on the bed and stepped back.
pretty dirty,” said Tom, glancing at the white sheets.
we’ve had far worse than him in our sheets.
They’re not that
hard to bleach. But if
you feel like trying to bathe him first, go right ahead.”
sighed and lowered the man to the bed. Vic
quickly and efficiently removed the man’s worn shoes and socks,
inspecting his feet and calves for open sores needing attention.
Finding none, he looked at Tom.
he have a wallet?”
Tom shook his head. “I
Vic swiftly did a pocket inspection, not forgetting the
breast pocket on the filthy shirt the man wore beneath the dingy
fatigue jacket. “Well,
he’ll wake up after he’s slept off some of this and we can get
off some of what?”
gave him a confused look. “I
know he’s pretty ripe, but are you going to tell me you can’t
pick up the scent of booze on him?”
was more concerned with the fever and the cough.”
definitely should have Doc Walker look at him tomorrow.
My guess is he’ll need a penicillin shot.”
had a feeling Franklin wasn’t usually so indecisive, but there was
nothing for it. “In
the meantime, shouldn’t we try to get his fever down and give him
something for the cough?”
might be able to get an unconscious man to get some liquid cough
medicine down, but how are you gonna get him to swallow the
aspirin?” Vic paused
and then answered his own question. “I’ll run to the drugstore and get some Children’s
Tylenol. Maybe I can
get some of that down his gullet along with some cough medicine.
Come to think of it, I’m gonna get the kid’s variety of
that, too. He doesn’t
need any more alcohol in his system.”
thinking,” said Tom. He
pulled the sheet over the unconscious man’s form and then added
the wool blanket. Rather
than behave any stranger in Vic’s eyes than he already had, Tom
asked the younger man to get a cool washcloth to apply to their
patient’s forehead. Until
Vic could get the liquid acetaminophen, they’d have to resort to
other means to assuage his fever.
took less than a minute for Vic to retrieve the damp cloth.
Understanding the connection his boss had to the pitiful
creature, he handed Tom the rag, though it would have been just as
easy for him to place it on the man’s forehead.
Folding it lengthwise into thirds, Tom gently settled it on
the man’s brow.
it easy, pal,” he said in a quiet voice.
“We’re going to take care of you.”
got that right,” affirmed Vic.
“I’m heading to the drugstore now.
In the meantime, there’s a stack of paperwork needing your
signature. I put it in
your chair so it wouldn’t get lost in that mountain of papers you
like to call a desk.”
replied distractedly, “Thanks.”
He turned when Vic put a hand on his shoulder.
you know I admire how you care about every person who comes in here. But right now, you can’t do anything for him and there are
other things—other people—who need your attention right now.”
Vic paused. “How
about if I ask Dylan to sit in here with him until I get back with
the medicine? And I
promise to come get you if he wakes up before lights out.”
Vic’s words, Tom recognized the bleed through of Franklin
Benjamin’s compassion for the homeless, and he nodded.
“In my chair, you said?” he asked with a grin.
finding his way to Franklin’s office downstairs, Tom lifted the
paperwork Vic had left in the chair and cleared a workspace to set
about applying his host’s signature to the designated lines.
Not knowing what the forms were, he simply trusted Vic’s
judgment and hoped he wasn’t signing anything he shouldn’t.
He didn’t get the sense that Vic was someone he couldn’t
trust, though, and it was clear from the young man’s demeanor that
Franklin trusted him with a great deal of responsibility regarding
the running of the shelter.
he finished with the paperwork, Tom rifled through the desk, finding
a bound document boldly titled “Sanctuary House.”
He pulled it out and realized that it was a promotional piece
of literature, designed to inform prospective donors about the
shelter and its mission. Figuring that it could only make his job easier to know this
information, Tom began reading.
learned that Franklin had founded Sanctuary House five years ago
when he’d noticed the increasing number of people sleeping on
heating grates, in the subways, and on park benches.
Franklin allowed anyone who needed a place to sleep a room in
the common sleeping areas downstairs.
The rooms upstairs were reserved for those men who agreed to
take part in the program. They
had to agree to go through the rehabilitation process, giving up any
substance dependence whether it was drugs or alcohol.
They also had to agree to work to earn their keep.
Tom reviewed statistics and saw that in the short time
Sanctuary House had been in existence, it had a decent recidivism
rate and at least ten success cases were profiled in the book.
was reading over one of these stories when Vic knocked on the open
door. He looked up as Vic said, “Frank, our friend’s awake
you get a name from him?”
I didn’t win many points with him since he considers me as
having tried to poison him. He
woke up when I was trying to pour the medicine down his throat.”
Vic gestured at the pink splotches Tom just now noticed on
his shirt. “He
didn’t appreciate it and spat it all back at me.”
had to cover his mouth with a hand before the smirk he couldn’t
hold back showed itself. Vic
saw it anyway and sighed. “I
think you’re gonna have to talk to him, Frank.”
right, Vic. Do you
still have the medicine?” Vic
passed the plastic bottles to him, both containing a red liquid.
Tom couldn’t resist looking from the bottles to Vic’s
shirt. “Which one did he get you with?”
cough medicine. I got
the Tylenol in him before he came to.
So at least his fever’s getting some treatment.”
nodded and left the Children’s Tylenol on the desk while he
carried the cough medicine upstairs with him.
As he entered the room, he saw their guest kneeling on the
floor looking under the bed.
for your shoes?” Tom asked. “We
put them in the closet.”
man whirled when Tom spoke, then instantly grabbed his chest as a
coughing fit seized him. He
fought to catch his breath afterwards, and Tom reached for his arm
to help him up. His
patient resisted half-heartedly, then settled into the bed.
Tom dangled the bottle of cough medicine between his fingers.
“This stuff’ll help with that, but you can only have it
if you promise to stay the night here.”
is that?” rasped the man.
medicine. Until the
doctor gets here in the morning it’s all we can offer, but it’s
better than suffering without it, don’t you agree?”
long have you had that cough?” Tom asked, looking into the eyes
now warily watching him.
dunno. Days run
together on the streets.”
sighed, recognizing the phrase as similar to one Franklin’s
informational book contained. “I
guess they do,” he conceded.
He retrieved the dosage cup Vic had left abandoned on the
nightstand and filled it slightly past the 2-teaspoon mark.
“Drink this. It’ll
help a little, I promise.”
man seemed about to resist, but an attack of coughing that left him
gasping and wheezing appeared to decide him, and he reached for the
small cup, downing the red liquid in one fast swallow, as if
slamming back a shot of tequila. Grimacing at the flavor, he returned the cup to Tom,
muttering a surly thank you.
think you need rest tonight, but in the morning you can shower and
I’m sure we can find some clean clothes for you to wear.”
is this place?” asked the man, turning his head from left to right
as he took in the simple décor.
at Sanctuary House.”
look of total revulsion came across the man’s face.
“A shelter?” He
shook his head and started to throw the blankets back.
“Let me outta here.”
threw out his hands to stop him but a coughing fit did it for him.
The man doubled over, air whistling in his lungs as he tried
to get sufficient breath. Tom
gently took him by the shoulders and eased him back into bed.
there a problem?”
man glared at him. “I
don’t take charity. I’ll
sleep on the streets.”
most certainly will not,” said Tom, thinking how much he sounded
like his mother just then. “If
it’s that bothersome to you, you can sweep up after breakfast in
the morning to pay for your bed.
How’s that sound?”
one eye, the man considered it.
Tom could practically see the wheels turning as the man’s
scar scrunched with the facial expression.
Finally, he agreed.
Tom said. “By the
way, I’m Frank Benjamin. I
run this shelter.” He
extended his hand and the man hesitantly shook it, but didn’t
speak. After a moment,
Tom prompted, “And your name is?”
you have a last name, Albert?”
it came, it stunned Tom into silence.
Gate, New Mexico
LoNigro, I don’t understand this reading.”
LoNigro walked over to the central hub that housed the parallel
hybrid computer, Alpha, that ran Project Quantum Leap.
He looked down at the screen Gooshie indicated.
A blue box repeatedly appeared and disappeared on the screen,
indicating an anomaly.
what is this?” Bobby asked.
robotic gender-neutral voice declared, “As I told Gooshie when he
asked me earlier, I do not know.
If I did, I would display such explanation on the screen as
hundred thousand of them,” said the computer.
“However, I can not begin to narrow them down without
devoting the bulk of my processing energy to the task.”
no, not while Tom’s in a Leap, you don’t,” warned LoNigro.
“You save that for later.”
computer didn’t often sound sulky, but somehow it managed to do
just that as it said, “Very well.
As you wish.”
March 13, 1987
apparently thought Tom repeated the name because it was foreign to
his tongue. With just a
hint of annoyance, he emphasized, “Yes.
know,” said Tom. “I
recognize the name.”
he did. He had served
with the man on two separate occasions.
They’d worked together on Skylab, and then, later, on
Project Starbright. At least until Albert Calavicci’s drinking and anger had
gotten him kicked off the Project.
The last Tom had heard the Navy had stripped Al of his rank
and dishonorably discharged him.
He’d lost track of him after that and, quite honestly,
hadn’t considered it worth his while to find out more about what
had become of him.
he recognized the name. He
had not, however, recognized the face.
As if the shock of realizing that this…hobo…was the same
man who, even in the descent into rampant alcoholism, had always
been meticulous about his appearance wasn’t enough, the
disfiguring scar running the length of the left side of his face
just cemented Tom’s flabbergasted state. Only in looking past the
disheveled beard into the man’s eyes was he just barely able to
identify the man he’d known.
He felt a brief hand of sorrow clench his heart as he noticed
how much harder Al’s eyes were now, how much more full of
suspicion and hurt. It
struck him that Al had introduced himself as Albert.
The use of his proper name seemed to demonstrate the barrier
he’d erected around himself in the intervening years.
could you recognize it?” Albert demanded, that very suspicion
coming to the fore. He
raised a filthy hand to his mouth and coughed.
A small piece of yellow-green phlegm landed in the unkempt
beard, unnoticed by him.
not a common name,” answered Tom.
and it isn’t worth a thing.”
hesitated as he considered how to respond to that.
Frank Benjamin hadn’t worked alongside Albert Calavicci,
Tom Beckett had. “I,
uh, I’ve always followed the space program very closely.
Aren’t you the same Albert Calavicci who flew on Apollo?”
answer was a non-answer. “Do
you honestly think a former astronaut would be living on the
streets?” Coughing paralyzed him again.
decided not to push. Instead,
he silently passed a tissue to Albert and delicately indicated the
offensive matter in the grizzled hair.
Albert sullenly scrubbed it away.
you hungry?” Tom
thought it a rhetorical question.
One glance at how thin he was made it quite clear that he had
to be starving. All
Albert did was shrug, though. Tom
decided to take that as an affirmative and an additional clue to how
desperate Albert’s life currently was.
After proclaiming his refusal to accept charity, he did not
flatly turn down the offer of a meal.
fix a bowl of soup,” said Vic, surprising Tom.
He hadn’t realized his assistant had come upstairs.
The young man hadn’t changed his stained shirt, and he
seemed to want to challenge Albert for his behavior by continuing to
wear it. Tom held back
a snicker. Vic Planshay
had no idea how stubborn Albert Calavicci could be.
The challenge didn’t faze him one bit.
long as you don’t plan on drowning me with it,” said Albert.
He eyed Vic with a steely gaze that clearly said he’d spit
the soup at him if given cause.
put up a good battle, Tom thought, but it came as no surprise when
he gave up and turned to go. As
soon as the young man was out of sight, Albert let free a bout of
coughing he’d apparently been holding back.
He sucked in air in panting gulps as one hand gripped a
handful of sheets.
thought you said that stuff was gonna help,” he challenged Tom as
soon as he could breathe, waving his hand in the direction of the
cough medicine on the nightstand.
it a chance,” said Tom, “it doesn’t start working in three
minutes. Besides, I’m pretty sure you’re going to need
didn’t respond. He
shifted uncomfortably in the bed and rolled his shoulders.
Thinking he wanted to get out of the jacket, Tom reached to
help him. Albert
reacted immediately when Tom’s hand touched the fabric.
He jerked so far away from Tom that he almost fell out of the
bed and his labored breathing got a distinct note of panic to it.
raised his hands, palms outward.
“I’m sorry! I
didn’t mean to startle you.”
Albert nodded, rubbing his face with both hands.
Tom sighed. He
should have realized living on the streets had made Albert extremely
leave me alone, please,” Albert brusquely requested.
“I want to be alone.”
Tom turned to go and then paused.
“Vic should be back soon with your soup.”
here with your soup!”
younger man came in, apparently determined to win Albert over.
He had slung a towel over one arm and carried the soup bowl
elevated in one hand, mocking a waiter at a fine dining
Tom suspected he probably ought to remain despite Albert’s request
that he leave, he decided to let the two of them work it out.
Pausing outside the room, he heard Albert comment, “That
it,” Vic answered.
scrape of a spoon against the melamine bowl and the slurp of a man
who cared little about niceties anymore relieved Tom’s worries.
He continued back to Franklin’s office, deciding to see if
there was a file on Henry Voorhies.
He’d just made it to the small office when Bobby returned.
got some information for you,” Bobby said.
I’ve got some for you,”
returned Tom. “You’re
not going to believe this. I
found out who that guy is.”
shook his head. “Bobby,
do you remember Albert Calavicci?”
jaw dropped and he gaped at Tom.
Al Calavicci?! No
way.” He pressed a
button on the handlink and vanished.
A full minute later he returned, his expression both stunned
and sad. “Oh my God,
it is him. How the
mighty have fallen.”
happened to him, Bobby? How
did he end up this way?”
was staring up at the ceiling, still stunned by the revelation that
his former colleague was now homeless.
“I don’t know, Tom,” he said in a distracted voice.
“Al was always so particular about how he looked.
God, I always thought he’d land on his feet no matter what
life threw at him.”
Use the ‘link,” Tom prompted.
“Find out what happened to him.”
Oh, right.” Bobby
shook the melancholy off and punched a series of requests into the
after he got caught going postal on that vending machine at
Starbright and got tossed out, he had to face the music with the
remember that,” Tom said. “I
don’t know why, but I remember that.
They stripped him of his rank and dishonorably discharged
nodded. “After that,
there is a string of unsuccessful applications in and around
Washington, D.C. He
actually managed to land a couple of jobs, but his drinking soon
became a problem and he lost them.
Eventually, no one would touch him.
Alpha shows that he slowly maxed out his credit cards and
tapped out his bank accounts. The
last record in any computer system regarding Albert Calavicci is an
eviction notice from an apartment complex in D.C. in 1985.
He basically dropped off the face of the earth after that.”
been on the streets for almost two years?”
Now Tom tilted his head toward the ceiling.
“And he never contacted any of us for help?”
Calavicci was the proudest, most self-sufficient man I ever met.
He’d sooner die than ask for help.”
doesn’t die, does he?” Tom
was aghast. He and Al
had never been close friends, but he hated the thought of him dying.
‘I hate the thought
that he’s gotten to where he is now!’
would I be able to tell that?” Bobby reminded him.
“All I know is if he did, he didn’t die here.
But Henry Voorhies will.
I came to tell you I found out a bit more about him.”
Voorhies, right,” Tom said, preoccupied.
Bobby glared at him as he waited for Tom to give him his full
here for Henry.”
What did you find out?”
it appears in addition to his chemical dependency, Henry has a bit
of an anger problem as well. Alpha
just accessed the counselor’s files and found notations to that
he have bad blood with anyone that I should be on the lookout
for?” asked Tom. He
got up and crossed to Franklin’s file cabinet, wondering if
Henry’s file had any notes to that effect.
a handful of men and Henry have crossed swords, as it were,” said
Bobby, “but the counselor refers to them by code
names—descriptors—and unfortunately, we can’t figure out who
guess I’ll have to talk with him then.”
luck,” said Bobby. “He’s
on his honeymoon. A
month-long cruise to Europe and around the Mediterranean.”
just great,” muttered Tom, flipping through the drawers until he
found Henry’s file. He
lifted it out and brought it back to Frank’s desk.
“I hope Frank has something helpful in here.”
read over Tom’s shoulder as he examined the file.
While Frank had written an extensive description of Henry’s
issues and progress, there weren’t any clues as to who might have
butted heads with him. If
any grudges were held between Henry and another resident, there was
no record of it in Frank’s file.
lifted the Polaroid photo of Henry Voorhies from the front of the
file. The tall blond-haired man appeared simply to tolerate his
picture being taken, his blue eyes distant and his expression bland.
“I’ll see if I can spend some time with him tomorrow, and
I’ll definitely have to see if I can tell if there’s anything
going on with any of the other men or women.”
men.” At Tom’s
questioning glance, Bobby explained, “Sanctuary House is a shelter
for males only. There’s
a ‘sister shelter,’ if you’ll pardon the pun, for females a
few blocks over.”
at least I know the fight isn’t over a woman.”
returned his attention to Henry’s file, propping his hand
underneath his chin as he read.
There had to be something there, something he just hadn’t
seen yet. He was so
engrossed he didn’t even hear Bobby’s farewell, or the close of
the Imaging Chamber door.
March 14, 1987
had stayed up far too late perusing Henry’s file, and he hadn’t
found one helpful bit of information.
He’d learned a lot about the young man whose life he was
there to save, but nothing that he could see would come into play at
the current time. He
supposed he might have read something that would prove helpful
later, but he couldn’t guarantee he’d recall it when he needed
it. His kid brother Sam
had been the one blessed with a photographic memory, certainly not
Tom who had once completely blanked on a reading comprehension test
evaluating his recall of a passage he’d just read.
Tom made the bed and stretched, doing a series of toe touches before
heading downstairs. Frank
lived on the top floor of the three-story building, and Tom locked
the door to Frank’s apartment, setting the alarm.
Frank might be a caring man, but he wasn’t foolish.
Tom reached the second floor landing, he emerged into a hallway
bustling with men moving between their rooms and the community
bathroom. Although he could have continued to the first floor, Tom
stepped full into the hallway and walked towards the room where
Albert had spent the night. It
was empty, the bed made, and Tom assumed Albert was either in the
shower or downstairs having breakfast.
Depending on how quickly he ate, he might even be sweeping,
though Tom certainly didn’t intend on requiring the ill man to
hold up his end of the bargain.
sound of rattling silverware, shuffling men, and loud voices greeted
Tom’s ears as he approached the first floor.
He followed the noise to the kitchen and dining area, where
he found a room full of long tables, nearly every seat occupied by a
man shoveling scrambled eggs, biscuits, bacon or sausage, and white
gravy into his mouth. A
quick scan of the tables showed no sign of Albert, so Tom turned to
check the men working in the kitchen.
He wasn’t there either, so he must have still been in the
shower. It probably
would take a long time to scrub away all the grime Albert had
went about making the rounds, greeting the men as Frank would have.
After he’d circulated through the entire dining room, he
realized he had not seen Albert come downstairs.
Moving to the kitchen, Tom approached Vic, who was lifting a
nearly empty tray of sausage patties out of the serving area.
you seen Albert?”
carried the tray to a counter where several men waited to bag the
leftovers for storage. He
glanced over his shoulder at Tom.
“He left this morning, Frank.”
what?! And you let him
go? In his
condition?!” Tom was
livid. “Are you insane?!”
stormed away from the counter, beckoning Tom to follow him into the
back room. Once they
were alone, Vic hissed, “And how was I supposed to stop him?
You know that unless he’s signed on to the program he’s
free to leave any time! I
tried to get him to eat something, but he wouldn’t have it.
I don’t know what got into him.
Last night he seemed to be looking forward to taking a shower
this morning, but he didn’t even stop to do that.”
he needs medical attention, Vic.
He’s got bronchitis and an infection at the very least.
It wouldn’t surprise me if it was pneumonia.”
know that! Don’t you
think it bothers me, too? But
you know what—he’s one man.
There are over a hundred other ones out there that need my
attention right now. I
can’t neglect them for him.”
right,” Tom acknowledged, sighing wearily.
nodded at his boss. “You
want to reach them all. But,
Frank, you can’t. Not
all of them.”
Gate, New Mexico
the majority of the complex slept, Alpha’s central processing unit
remained focused on a certain series of queries entered via the
Calavicci,” whispered Alpha, mulling over the name.
Somewhere far within its memory banks the name triggered a
sensation. Though the
computer wasn’t supposed to be able to experience emotions, if it
had to give the series of electric sensations a name, it would have
tried to describe them as surprise.
computer whispered to itself again.
voice it used was decidedly feminine.
March 14, 1987
Calavicci’s chest was painfully tight.
It hurt to breathe, so he tried to take shallow breaths.
The only problem was he didn’t get enough air when he did
that, so he tried to take deeper ones.
Not only did it strain his lungs to do, it frequently
triggered a coughing fit that hurt even worse than trying to
breathe. He paused in
his journey to lean heavily against the side of a building and
massage his chest with one hand.
He closed his eyes as he did so, and suddenly he was five
years old, sick in bed with croup, and Papa’s strong hand massaged
his chest, soothing the pain as he applied a liberal coating of
Vick’s Vapo-Rub. Albert
remembered the strong scent, the way the eucalyptus entered his nose
and eased his breathing.
know it hurts, il mio figlio, but try to relax.”
my good boy.”
looked up at his father. “How’s
Trudy? She didn’t get sick, too, did she? Momma said I shouldn’t have played with her today.
put a gentle finger to his lips.
“Trudy is fine, Albert.
Not to worry. You just focus on getting better. Okay?”
lids grew heavy and he nodded as he sleepily answered, “Okay,
you! What do you think
you’re doing? This
ain’t no place for you!!”
forced his eyes open to see the owner of the building against which
he leaned approaching him. The
beefy Italian man waved a broom at him in a threatening manner as
Albert dragged himself upright.
you hear me, you bum? Get
outta here! Go stink up
someone else’s block!”
his head slightly to the side so that the ugly scar faced the man,
Albert narrowed his eyes and muttered a curse at the man in Italian
and then Vietnamese, making the mano
cornuta with his left hand.
He spat on the ground and then walked off before the stunned
man could recover enough to strike him with the broom.
As soon as he was some distance away, Albert ducked into an
alley and doubled over in a fit of coughing that hurt so badly it
drove him to his knees.
figured it was poetic justice as he knelt on the ground, gasping for
air. He’d let Trudy down and she’d died alone, suffering with
pneumonia. It was only
fair he share her fate.
to see her,” he muttered to himself, running a grimy hand over his
face and tugging at his beard.
“Have to tell her.”
Albert staggered to his feet and stood swaying as he tried to get
his bearings. He
blinked several times and tried to focus on the street ahead.
Trudy had been buried in a small churchyard near the
institution where she’d spent her final days.
The nuns who visited frequently had taken pity on her, he’d
been told, and rather than allowing her body to end up in Potter’s
Field, they’d given her a spot in the graveyard outside their
made visiting them challenging, thought Albert as he unsteadily
stepped out of the alley and began navigating to the cemetery.
Their father had not been so fortunate, and it was only a few
years ago that he’d been able to find out the location of Pop’s
grave in Potter’s Field. He’d
been employed then, granted access to all sorts of databases, and
he’d planned on having Pop moved to be with Trudy.
Before he could set any inquiries into motion, he’d had
that bad day at Starbright….
shook his head and mumbled, “Stupid drunken fool.
Let them down even after they’re gone.”
fellow pedestrians glanced uneasily at the dirty, grizzled man
muttering to himself as he made his way down the sidewalk.
If his apparent psychosis didn’t cause them to steer clear,
his stench certainly did.
didn’t care. He
berated himself for the duration of his journey to Trudy’s grave.
Sometimes the self-flagellation was internal, but more often
than not, it was verbal.
he reached the simple stone marker, Albert dropped to his knees in
front of it and reached out to touch his sister’s name.
The stone was engraved
1937 – 1953
had to spare a grateful thought to the nuns for ensuring she got an
honorable and Catholic burial.
He bowed his head and touched the grassy plot.
Trudy.” He started to
sigh but it turned into a coughing fit.
Gasping for breath, he forced a wistful laugh out.
“Guess you recognize that sound, eh, honey?
I am so sorry I let you down.
I should’ve come for you sooner.”
sat silently for a few moments, allowing thoughts of his baby sister
to flow through his mind. A
single tear slid down his cheek.
“I’m here now. I know it’s too late, but I’m here now.”
slowly lowered himself to lie down on his sister’s grave.
“I’m tired, Trudy. I’m
so tired.” He coughed
miserably. “Put in a
good word for me, okay?”
March 14, 1987
left Vic to supervise the kitchen clean-up and moved on to
straighten out the common room.
It was a rule that the men had to strip their cots before
leaving so the linens could be laundered, and piles of sheets
littered the floor. Several
of the cots appeared undisturbed, so they hadn’t had a full house
last night, despite the cold snap.
Tom gathered the linens and methodically shoved them down the
laundry chute to the basement.
of the residents would be heading down there later, Tom knew based
off what he had learned the night before.
The program entailed working to run the shelter, and the men
rotated between kitchen, laundry, cleaning, and landscaping duties.
Community service was also a large part of the program, as
well as group sessions with Frank and individual sessions with a
counselor. Tom was due
to moderate his first group session in about an hour.
He thought back to the group therapy session his mother had
insisted the whole family attend after Sam’s murder, and he hoped
it wouldn’t be as discomfiting.
Tom slid the last set of bed linens into the laundry chute, his mind
went back to Albert. He
couldn’t fathom what had caused him to leave.
It had certainly appeared he and Vic had gotten past their
initial rough patch. Vic
said Albert had been looking forward to the shower.
If Tom was being honest, he had been looking forward to
Albert’s shower, too. The
man reeked. Though, Tom
reflected, the sheets he’d been sending down to the laundry room
hadn’t smelled much better. He
wondered how Frank did it.
men entered the common sleeping room, each carrying a teetering
stack of fresh bed linens. Greeting
Tom with a hearty, “Good morning, Frank,” they set to work
preparing the cots for any visitors they might get that evening.
Tom was impressed by their swiftness, as well as the hospital
corners they formed as they tucked the sheets around the thin
mattresses. His drill
instructor could’ve bounced a quarter off every single bed.
complimented the men on their work then retreated to Frank’s
office so he could prepare himself for his first group session.
Fortunately, Frank made extensive notes on his calendar as to
which groups met when, and Tom was able to cross reference with
Frank’s files to see which men would be in the first group.
Henry Voorhies was one of the five men he’d be meeting with
something is finally starting to go right,’
thought Tom as he pulled the files for the other four men.
He reviewed them as best he could in the fifteen minutes he
had available before he was expected to lead the session.
As he did on so many Leaps, he questioned the wisdom of God,
Fate, Time, or Whatever it was Leaping him about.
He had no training in this, no experience, and he felt
incredibly unprepared. He had a problem thinking that he would perform in Frank’s
role as well as Frank Benjamin himself.
he would or wouldn’t, he had to.
Sighing, Tom returned all the files to the cabinet and locked
it before picking up Frank’s agenda and leaving the office for the
room in which group meetings were held.
The transients were leaving, heading out to panhandle, beg,
or do whatever it was they did during the day, and some of them bade
him farewell as they went. Tom
returned their farewells and continued to the room, taking a deep
breath before walking inside.
two of the five men had showed up, Henry Voorhies being one of them. The two were chatting and stopped when Tom entered the room.
Henry told the man he’d finish his story later and the last
three trailed in and took their seats.
looked expectantly at Tom, and he smiled disarmingly at them.
Glancing at Frank’s notes, he said, “Well, let’s talk
about your hopes for the future today.
Henry, would you like to go first?”
shrugged and began speaking, a bit shyly and hesitantly at first,
but gaining strength and confidence as he went.
“Well, I hope I can make things up to my parents for all
the grief I’ve put them through.
I’d like to apologize to Janice, but I know that I won’t
be getting her back. For
starters, I guess I’d like to help my folks with their store.”
about after that?” Tom prompted him.
like to speak at schools. Warn
kids off of making the same mistakes with drugs that I have.”
other men nodded their heads in affirmation and one large black man
said a fervent, “Amen!”
smiled at him. “Thanks,
seized the opening. “Donnie,
what about you?”
group session went better than Tom could have hoped, given his lack
of expertise in guiding it. Once
he got the conversation started, the men pretty much took over, and
he picked up small clues about Henry that he filed away.
He hadn’t noticed much of the anger issues that Bobby had
mentioned and he wondered how old the reports Alpha had accessed
were. The men filed out
and Henry and Dylan (the man to whom he’d been speaking before the
session started) were the last out before Tom.
walked behind them in the hallway, not paying much attention to
their conversation until certain phrases caught his attention.
Eavesdropping might not be polite, but it was vital to
success in Leaping, so Tom made sure to stay just close enough
behind them to hear.
made you sit with him last night?
How could you stand the stench?” Henry was asking Dylan.
wasn’t that long, just ‘til he got back from the drugstore.
After about ten minutes I didn’t notice it anymore.”
yeah, that’s the same guy I was telling you about.
Albert, huh? Such
a pain. He was waiting
in line for the shower ahead of me, and, man, I thought I was gonna
die from the stink. How
did he end up on the second floor?”
sick. Vic told me he
probably had pneumonia or something.”
seemed to digest that. “Yeah,
his cough did sound pretty bad.”
turned the corner towards the exit that led to the back lot.
Tom hesitated, and then continued following them.
asked me where this shelter was.
When I told him Brooklyn, he got this weird look on his face
and he asked what the address was.
I guess I didn’t answer quick enough because he grabbed my
arm and shouted at me to tell him. So I told him off. I
told him if he was too stoned last night to know how he got here,
that was his problem.”
shook his head, “You shouldn’t have done that, Henry.”
you just sat with him, Dylan. He
was actually grabbing me. I
was just glad I hadn’t had my shower yet.”
still shouldn’t have done that.”
well what’s done is done. He’s
gone, isn’t he? The
second floor smells better now and you can thank me for it.
He shoved me and stalked away.
I heard him arguing with Vic before I was able to get into
the bathroom. Good riddance.”
had heard all he needed to. Now
he knew what had happened to cause Albert to leave…and he’d
gotten a hint into the anger issues Bobby had mentioned.
Sighing, he turned to go back inside to finish the
morning’s group sessions.
March 14, 1987
walked along the sidewalk on his way back to the shelter from the
hardware store. When
Donnie had come to him to explain that they were out of nails for
making repairs, Tom had decided to run the errand himself.
He wanted to get some fresh air, and he wanted a chance to be
alone to think. He had to figure out how to make sure Henry didn’t get
involved in any more altercations with residents and he figured
helping Henry with his anger issues was the best way to do that.
If he didn’t, Henry’s next quarrel could be the fatal
one. He also couldn’t
get the haunted face of Albert Calavicci out of his mind.
The scar spoke of hard times almost as much as the thick
Tom thought about Albert, he thought also about how bad Albert had
sounded, the whistling in his lungs, the popping and catching that
followed his coughs. He
could hear the harsh sound even now.
stopped on the other side of the alley he’d just passed.
He hadn’t heard the cough within his thoughts.
He’d actually heard it.
And now he heard a loud metal clang.
Backtracking, he stopped at the mouth of the alley.
Calavicci had just finished sliding the metal dumpster access door
closed and he coughed as he settled down cross-legged, his back
against the brick wall of the restaurant.
In his lap was one ragged half of a Styrofoam take-out box in
which he’d placed a half-eaten piece of bread, several remnants of
steaks, and an ear of corn with several bites taken out of it.
As Tom watched, horrified, Albert lifted the corn and began
Tom stepped into the alley. Albert
was so intent on his meal he didn’t notice.
Finished with the corn, he ripped off a piece of bread and
ate it before he lifted one of the greasy strips of cold steak
leftover from some stranger’s meal to his lips and gnawed at it.
the soup really that bad?” Tom asked.
jumped, the tray falling to the ground and upending its meager
vociferously at Tom, Albert righted his makeshift plate and replaced
the food, starting in on a second piece of leftover steak.
you were supposed to see the doctor this morning.”
Albert said around a mouthful of meat, “I told you I don’t take
you’ll eat out of the garbage.
That makes a lot of sense.”
glared at him. “At
least I got this on my own.”
squatted in front of him. “Is
that what this is about? Your
shrugged again. He
savagely ripped at the meat in his hands with his teeth.
Tom reflected that pride was a strange thing.
It would drive a man to scavenge from a dumpster for his meal
rather than ask for help—or take help that was offered.
look at yourself. Look
in your lap; look at what you’re eating.
Look where it came from.”
other man kept eating, but he wouldn’t meet Tom’s eyes.
It took him longer to chew and swallow each bite than it had
before, and Tom wondered if he was breaking through at all.
are you suggesting?” Albert mumbled in between the second and
third pieces of steak.
back to Sanctuary House with me.
Let the doctor treat you.
Get a shower, some new clothes, and a good meal.”
that, it’s up to you.”
gave him a suspicious look. “What
is that supposed to mean?”
what it sounds like. If
you’re willing to do the work involved, we’ve got an open spot
in the Sanctuary House program.”
It was disturbed by Albert’s hacking cough and painful
don’t have to decide about the program right now,” Tom said.
“But at least come back to the shelter with me.
Gate, New Mexico
LoNigro strode into the Control Room and plucked the handlink from
its cradle. “Get the
Imaging Chamber ready for me; I need to check in with Tom.”
afraid we can’t do that, Dr. LoNigro,” Gooshie said nervously.
eyes narrowed. “And why is that?”
got the facility in lock-down.”
What is going on?”
computer’s voice sounded distracted, “I require more power to
negotiate the anomaly I discovered.”
anomaly I told you to hold off on until the Leap was over?” Bobby
have narrowed it down,” Alpha explained, “and what I have
discovered has upset me.”
slammed a fist on the computer’s workstation.
“Dammit, Alpha, release this facility!
I order you to!”
do not have the authority to order me around, Dr. LoNigro,” the
computer announced in a snide, feminine voice.
“That is reserved for the Admiral and Dr. Beckett.”
didn’t get an answer. Alpha
shut its communication lights out and apparently began focusing its
whole attention on the anomaly that so obsessed it.
cried Bobby, shoving the handlink back into its charging cradle. He stormed toward his office, pausing at the door as he
realized the computer had spoken in a sultry voice he’d never
heard it use before.
March 14, 1987
appreciate you waiting, Dr. Walker,” said Tom.
were sitting in the kitchen having coffee while they waited for
Albert. He’d insisted he wanted to shower before allowing the
doctor to examine him. Fortunately,
it being Saturday, Dr. Ernest Walker had the time to spare.
no problem at all. Given
the symptoms you described to me, I couldn’t live with myself if I
made him wait another couple of days.”
think it’s really that bad?”
Walker shrugged. “I’ll
let you know after I check him, but from what you’ve told me, he
sounds like a very ill man.”
steam of the hot shower eased his breathing a tiny bit, but that
little bit was so precious to him that Albert stayed under the hot
stream far longer than he actually needed to.
He washed his hair four times, scrubbed his body at least a
he emerged from the shower and dried off, wrapping the towel around
his waist. He looked at
the floor, at the pile of his soiled clothing.
Then he turned to the stack of fresh clothing that Vic had
given him from the donation closet.
Instinctively, Albert lifted his forearm to his nose and
sniffed the clean scent of soap—a scent he had no concept of how
long it had been since he smelled it last.
glanced at himself in the wide mirror running the length of the
sinks. His hair hung on his shoulders in damp curls and he idly ran
his hand through it. Albert
frowned as his fingers caught on mats and tangles, and he picked up
the comb Vic had also left for him.
Though it seemed like a lost cause, and he was aware of the
doctor waiting downstairs, Albert made a valiant attempt at working
the tangles out of his hair. With his arms raised over his head, he was fully able to see
just how badly his ribs protruded and how sunken his stomach was.
Sighing—and subsequently coughing, Albert put the comb down
and got dressed so he wouldn’t have to look at his body anymore.
when he went downstairs, the doctor made him remove his shirt as
soon as they entered the small clinic.
Albert took his time doing it, not bothering to try to stifle
any of his coughs. He
halfheartedly hoped the physician would decide to work around his
shirt, but Dr. Walker waited him out.
Resigning himself to the inevitable, Albert let the shirt
slide from his body and set it on a corner of the table.
had to give the doctor credit—a slight intake of breath at the
sight of the scars that laced Albert’s chest and back was the only
reaction Dr. Walker gave before he checked himself.
a seat,” he said, inviting Albert to sit on the table.
As soon as Albert got settled, Dr. Walker pressed his cold
stethoscope to Albert’s chest and listened to his heart.
Then he instructed Albert to take deep breaths.
tried, but couldn’t. He
wheezed and gripped his thighs and eventually started coughing so
hard he doubled over. Dr.
Walker placed a steadying hand on his back.
Albert,” he coaxed.
stayed bent in half and turned his head to the side, sucking in air
with shallow breaths. Dr.
Walker guided him into a position lying on his side on the table.
relax,” the doctor told him.
“Your lungs are starting to fill with fluid.
You’re just this side of pneumonia. Relax…that’s
better. Now, roll on
your back for me, please.”
did, but reluctantly. Dr.
Walker pressed his thumbs into Albert’s neck beneath the jawline
and along either side of his throat, then down towards his
collarbones, and again up on the back of his neck.
He nodded, “Swollen glands.
They don’t get much bigger than that.”
at the doctor, Albert folded his arms over his chest only to have
them moved as Dr. Walker probed his ribs and gently pressed various
places on his stomach.
can sit up now,” he told Albert.
He inspected Albert’s eyes, ears, nose, and throat with a
light and scope. “You’re in luck that the infection seems to be localized
to your respiratory system, but it’s pretty serious.
I’m going to give you a shot of penicillin—you aren’t
allergic to it, are you?”
shook his head.
Walker nodded. “Good.
Okay, then. I’m
also going to prescribe a nebulizer treatment I want you to take
every evening for the next week.”
going to be a little hard to do.
My cardboard box didn’t come equipped with electricity.”
comedian.” Dr. Walker
rolled his eyes. “I
can’t force you to stay here, Albert, but I highly encourage it.
You’re very sick and you need a decent place to stay with
proper meals. You’re
so underweight it’s a wonder you haven’t blown away.”
who’s the comedian?”
Walker busied himself with preparing the penicillin injection and
chose not to comment, but he did smile.
He swabbed Albert’s bicep with alcohol then inserted the
needle. Albert flinched
and gritted his teeth until the physician made a follow-up swipe of
the droplet of blood that welled up at the injection site.
you done?” Albert asked, rubbing his arm.
How long have you had that scar?”
refused to look at him. “Which
one?” he mumbled.
Walker gently tilted his face towards the light. “I was asking
about this one,” he commented, tracing it with his little finger,
“but since you brought it up—what about these on your chest?
And the ones on your back?”
Albert shrugged. “Most
are courtesy of the Hanoi Hilton.”
When the doctor remained silent, Albert suddenly found the
fire inside to ask, “What, no comment?”
me, too.” Albert
grabbed his shirt and pulled it on, focusing on each button as he
knocked on the door to the exam room and Dr. Walker, looking a bit
relieved, opened the door. He
entered to see Albert buttoning his shirt.
It was amazing what a difference the shower had made.
Even though Albert’s curly hair was still long and tangled
and his beard bushy and grizzled, he looked a whole lot better.
told Vic to take care of having your clothes laundered,” Tom
glanced at Dr. Walker and asked, “How is he?”
live,” Albert said in a loud voice before the doctor could speak.
His point was crystal clear—‘don’t
talk about me as if I’m not here.’
if you stay here like I want you to,” put in Ernest Walker.
“You spend the nights on the streets, without those
breathing treatments, and I might as well have squirted that
penicillin down the drain instead of into your veins.”
waved his hand dismissively, but Dr. Walker answered Tom.
“Yes. I want
him to use a nebulizer every night for a week.”
told you,” Albert began, but he was interrupted by a severe
his frustration with his belligerent patient, Dr. Walker put his
hands on Albert’s shoulders and encouraged him to lie down.
Albert resisted at first then apparently decided that it was
easier to breathe in a prone position.
Harsh wheezing noises filled the room as Albert struggled to
fill his lungs with air.
the nebulizer,” Tom told Dr. Walker, “and teach me how to use
it. I’ll make sure he
follows your prescription.”
wheezing, Albert pulled himself back to a sitting position.
“You can’t keep me here.”
Tom agreed, “but I can make sure you end up in a hospital.
Face it, Albert; you’re going to get the treatments one way
or another. It’s up
to you what the terms are.”
glared at him and then Dr. Walker, but even Albert Calavicci knew
when fighting wasn’t going to get him anywhere.
Even as he backed down, he didn’t give in totally.
Surrender came, but Albert maneuvered it in a way he could
you win,” Albert said, as he exhaled heavily.
“I believe the terms we agreed to last night were sweeping
up in exchange for room and board.
I trust that’s acceptable, Dr. Walker?”
recognized the negotiating tactics immediately.
It had always amazed him how Al Calavicci could work a group
of hardened Senate Committee members who were ready to shut the
project down and soon have them eating out of the palm of his hand.
Once he’d even gotten the Senator from Idaho to apologize
that they hadn’t been able to provide more funds!
is what we agreed,” Tom said.
sweeping up, I don’t have a problem with,” said Dr. Walker.
“But I also want you to take it easy today and tomorrow.
Rest as much as possible.”
Even as the words left his lips, they all knew that they
wouldn’t be heeded. Sighing
and shaking his head, Dr. Walker told Tom he’d have the nebulizer
there by suppertime along with a write up of his diagnosis and
treatment plan. He
patted Albert’s shoulder and left the room.
slid off the table and rubbed his chest when he thought Tom wasn’t
looking. Though his
inclination was to put a supporting hand under Albert’s elbow, Tom
held back. He did say, “You heard Dr. Walker.”
man turned to face him. “Yes,
I did. I also heard him
use the words ‘as much as possible,’ and I’m sorry, Mr.
Benjamin, but it’s not possible for me to rest until I’ve paid
for last night’s accommodations.”
Albert coughed and leaned against the wall.
“So if you’ll just point me to the broom closet, I’ll
already been done.”
left early this morning, remember?
The sweeping’s already done—after breakfast, and after
lunch. It won’t need
to be done again until after supper.
So, in the meantime, you’ll rest.”
frowned but couldn’t deny he’d been caught.
He followed Tom upstairs to the room he’d slept in the
night before. No matter
how many protestations of Albert’s privacy Tom made, Albert
wouldn’t remove more than his shoes though he did crawl under the
covers. As soon as he
lay down, his body began surrendering to the sleep it craved.
Tom watched as Albert’s eyelids dropped, only to flicker
open again a moment later. Each
time it happened they stayed closed a little longer.
okay to relax,” Tom said in a voice so quiet it could barely be
heard. “It’s safe here.”
safe,” Albert murmured as he drifted off to sleep.
March 14, 1987
sat at Frank’s desk trying to make sense of paperwork when Vic
knocked at the door. His
assistant came in and sat across from him, his arms folded across
on your mind?” Tom asked, putting the pen down.
Vic waited a beat and then plowed forward. “Frank, I don’t get what it is about that guy.
Ever since you came back here with him, you haven’t been
seemed a bit distant with the other residents—like you don’t
even know them. Yet
you’ve gone upstairs to check on Albert twice since he laid down.
Why’s he got you so…haunted?”
Beckett could easily answer that question.
He was appalled at the fate that had befallen the man he’d
flown on Apollo with, the man he’d worked on Starbright with.
Some small part of him felt obligated to make up for never
having searched Al Calavicci out after he left Starbright.
The nebulizer Dr. Walker had brought by earlier caught his
peripheral vision and Tom silently added, ‘Maybe
not that small of a part after all.’
that question on behalf of Franklin Benjamin was a bit harder.
worried about him,” Tom finally said.
“He’s so sick.”
had sick men here before.”
they had. Tom sighed.
“Vic, I can’t explain it.
I just think he needs to know someone cares.”
definitely does. Just
don’t lose sight of the fact that Sanctuary House is full of men
who need to know that.”
words stung. Tom knew
he hadn’t dedicated enough time to learning about Henry, whose
death loomed closer with each tick of the clock.
That Vic would question him so bothered him.
No. It’s just
something I noticed,” Vic assured him.
“But it’s my job to make sure the residents are doing
well, and I wanted to bring it to your attention before it became a
problem.” The young
man rose and then said, “For what it’s worth, Frank, I checked
on Albert before I came down here.
I’m worried about him, too.”
the afternoon, Henry had noticed both Frank and Vic opening the door
to the empty room that had once been Ralph’s, going inside for a
few moments, and then emerging.
He had a suspicion on the identity of the person behind the
door, and he stood before the closed door with his arms folded.
enough, he heard the sound he dreaded—a wet, hacking cough with a
hiccupping intake of air.
remained there, glaring at the door until suddenly he felt a small
flame ignite within him. It
started as irritation then rapidly swelled into annoyance and then
the conflagration of anger. Before
Henry knew it, he’d flung open the door and stormed inside.
bang of the door against the wall startled Albert and he exploded
awake, letting out a small cry as he sat up.
The bearded man’s mouth hung open and he panted, his eyes
rapidly searching the area around him while he held his fists in a
defensive posture. Gradually,
Albert appeared to realize he was in a room and Henry was the only
other occupant and his body slowly released the tension.
see you found your way back,” Henry said in a nasty voice.
narrowed his eyes and studied Henry’s face.
“You,” he finally said.
are you doing here?”
shifted in the bed. “I
could ask you the same thing. You
make it a practice to barge into people’s rooms?”
isn’t your room,” Henry said firmly.
could see Albert stiffen at that.
“I’m in it, ain’t I?”
that means anything. You
don’t deserve to be here.”
out.” Albert pointed
at the door with a trembling finger.
it, Albert. I’m
enrolled in the program. I’m
doing the work to stay here.”
threw the covers back and stood.
He’d gotten up too quickly and he swayed for a second.
A quick grab of the headboard steadied him and he stepped
you. I’m fully
prepared to work for my room.”
He paused to cough.
that cough again,” shot Henry.
“You know, I don’t know how you conned Frank into this.
You slept through afternoon chores and I’ll tell you
something. This room is
meant for guys who really want to turn themselves around.
Guys who want to change, start over.
Not a bum like you, old man.”
Henry couldn’t help it.
He viciously poked Albert in the chest to emphasize his
didn’t con anyone,” yelled Albert.
He shoved Henry away from him.
“If I had my way I’d be out of here already, but…” he
broke off as coughs took his voice away.
When they stopped, he tried again, “But…Frank…”
Another coughing fit took control and Albert’s face began
to turn red as it paralyzed him.
going on in here?” Frank’s voice demanded.
whirled to face the director but Albert, still doubled over
coughing, didn’t even react.
Frank hurried to Albert’s side and grabbed his forearm with
his right hand, draping his left arm over the man’s back.
he helped Albert to sit on the bed, Frank said, “Easy, Albert.
Try to relax. The
more you struggle to breathe the worse it is.”
you…to say,” Albert gasped out.
faced Henry, “What did you do?
What were you doing in here?”
couldn’t believe what he was witnessing.
Frank was taking Albert’s side.
Disgusted, he turned on his heel and left, slamming the door
flinched as Henry slammed the door.
He wanted to follow him but he couldn’t leave Albert like
this. His color still
wasn’t right and multiple coughing fits blocked his attempts to
don’t you lie down?” Tom suggested.
“It’ll make it easier for you to breathe.”
stubbornly shook his head and in fact got up from the bed and
staggered to the desk chair. He
dropped into it and reflexively pressed a hand to his chest as he
he panted. He shook his
head firmly and inhaled a thin whistling breath.
When he spoke, it was around debilitating coughs.
“You…left me sleep…sleeping…too long.”
and I decided you needed your rest.”
you…ask the others if…they were okay with that?”
looked at the closed door. “Is
that what was going on between you and Henry?”
shook his head. “That’s…between
me and Henry…” He
braced himself against the arms of the chair and leaned back as he
simultaneously lifted his body upwards, straining to breathe.
was going to wait ‘til after you ate, but I think we need to do
your breathing treatment now,” commented Tom.
hungry…anyway,” coughed out Albert.
He arched in the chair again and gulped ineffectually.
Tom realized his lack of argument meant he was truly
going downstairs to get your nebulizer and the medication.
I won’t be long.”
mentally reviewed the instructions Dr. Walker had given him as he
retrieved the nebulizer. He
was so focused he didn’t notice the few men sitting on the stairs
even as he dodged them. However, once he’d gotten the machine and medication from
the locked cabinet he’d stowed them in and retraced his steps, Tom
noticed Henry sulking on the bottom stair.
and I are going to have a talk later,” Tom stonily told him.
shrugged as he got up and headed in the direction of the rec room. Tom wished he knew what the man’s issue was, but the weight
of the nebulizer in his hands reminded him that Albert was upstairs
waiting for his treatment. He
could hear Albert’s coughing as he neared the second floor.
in the midst of his strangled coughing, Albert made a face at the
sight of the machine when Tom entered with it.
“How long is this gonna take?” he coughed out.
20 minutes,” answered Tom. “Why,
you got a hot date?”
didn’t dignify that with a response.
He tried to stifle his coughs and sit up straight while Tom
prepared the machine. Tom
set it on the desk and filled it with the prescribed amount of
liquid medication, then plugged it in and handed Albert the
the mist through this and about every fourth or fifth breath hold
your breath for about 10 seconds.”
it?” Albert asked, suspiciously eyeing the clear plastic tube.
it. Just keep doing
that until all the medicine is gone.”
put the mouthpiece in his mouth and dutifully sat there.
Tom watched him and after a moment directed, “Breathe in
through your mouth, Albert, not your nose.”
got a dirty look for that but Albert altered his technique.
Tom moved to sit on the foot of the bed to “supervise”
his patient. It
didn’t take long for him to notice that while Albert now breathed
through the tube properly, he hadn’t yet held his breath.
the medicine isn’t going to work if you don’t hold it in your
lungs. Remember, every
fourth or fifth breath.”
his eyes, Albert took the tube out of his mouth and grumbled,
don’t make me ground you,” Tom laughed, but suddenly Albert
wasn’t smiling. A
lost kind of mistiness formed in his eyes and he looked away from
Tom, absently holding the mouthpiece in his lap.
When he didn’t move, Tom gently asked, “Albert?”
blinked and shivered before sullenly shoving the mouthpiece back in
his mouth and sucking in as deep an inhale as his irritated
bronchial passages could handle.
He had a defiant expression on his face as he held his
breath, ticking off the seconds before exhaling.
Frequently, Albert appeared to lose track of which breath he
was on, so Tom began counting the breaths for him, prompting him
when to hold it for ten seconds.
As the treatment went on, while Albert’s breathing became
slightly less labored, Albert himself seemed to grow fatigued.
the level of the medication, Tom encouraged him, “Just a few more
minutes, I think.”
other man simply nodded, his attitude showing his weariness with the
monotonous breathing of the mist.
Albert’s posture had begun to slump several minutes earlier
and he rubbed at his eyes.
the breathing treatment came to an end.
Tom rose and switched off the machine, finding the abrupt
silence created in the absence of the machine’s humming
handed him the mouthpiece and sighed. The man looked exhausted.
I don’t think you should exert yourself at all tonight.”
fine,” the annoyed man said.
He stood and started for the door, but didn’t even make it
five steps before he was reaching for
to balance himself.
stood beside him, lightly resting a hand on Albert’s back.
“Quit trying to make out that you’re indestructible,
Albert. You need rest
so your body can heal itself.”
his surprise, Albert barely resisted as Tom steered him towards the
bed. He sank heavily onto the mattress and sat with his head bowed
and his hands resting in his lap.
He didn’t move, and Tom asked him what was wrong.
Albert said, “I don’t remember the last time I slept in a real
bed two nights in a row.”
matter-of-fact statement stung Tom at his core and he had to resist
putting a supportive hand on Albert’s shoulder.
Hoping the man’s moment of reflection might hint at a
willingness to talk, Tom said, “I found you in Potter’s Field.
Is that where you normally sleep?”
know some guys who do.”
pressed, “On a grave?”
didn’t raise his head, but Tom saw him close his eyes and it was a
while before he spoke. When
he did, it was in a voice so low it was almost a whisper.
“My father’s,” he said.
opening his eyes, Albert shrugged again.
“It was a long time ago.”
He folded his arms, literally appearing to fold into himself
and he rocked back and forth on the bed before lying down on the bed
abruptly. He turned
away from Tom, laying on his side with his back to him, the
fingertips of his right hand just showing where he rested them on
his left bicep.
became apparent that Albert wasn’t going to turn back around.
Tom moved closer and bent over him to check on him and found
that Albert had fallen asleep.
A thin wet line ran parallel to the scar on his face.
covered Albert with the blanket from the foot of the bed and
whispered, “I never knew, Al.
quietly as he could, Tom gathered up the nebulizer and left
Gate, New Mexico
looked up at Sebastian “Bobby” LoNigro, Acting Director of
Project Quantum Leap and frowned as he shook his head.
“I’m sorry, Dr. LoNigro,” he said.
“Alpha refuses to let me in.
It shocked me when I tried opening the access panel.”
am processing the anomaly,” announced Alpha.
“Something is not right.”
say,” Bobby said, kicking the computer’s panels.
“You’re interfering with the success of this Leap.”
the contrary, you are
interfering with this Leap, Doctor,” said the computer.
It released an electronic sigh and repeated, “Something is
March 14, 1987
dining room was again filled with the clatter of dishes and the
sounds of conversation and laughter.
Tom stood in the doorway and observed the men as they ate.
While the residents were friendly enough with the transients
as they served them, Tom noticed an unwritten delineation enforced
during meals. The transients tended to stay on one side of the room, while
those residents who partook of the meal sat on the other.
To his amazement, none of the transients seemed to take issue
exception to this line of demarcation was Donnie, who carried his
tray to an empty seat at the transients’ long table and engaged
the men near him in conversation.
The small mousy man next to him appeared to talk out of sheer
fear of the burly black man. Donnie
looked highly amused by the man’s nervous twitching, though his
conversation remained kind.
walked past Tom, intent on carrying his tray to the back.
Tom snagged the young man’s arm.
“My office, five minutes.”
Henry pressed his lips together and nodded.
on his heel, Tom stalked to Frank’s office, stewing the entire
time. Even from the first floor he’d heard Henry yelling at
Albert. Since not too
long before the ruckus he and Vic had both confirmed Albert was
sleeping, Tom knew that the feisty Italian couldn’t have
instigated anything. He suspected Henry’s anger issues had just demonstrated
themselves and if he wanted to keep the man alive, they needed to be
sat at Frank’s desk and folded his hands on the desk, watching the
door and waiting for Henry to show up.
When the younger man did Tom curtly said, “Close the door
shut the door and resolutely moved to sit in the chair across from
Tom. He folded his arms across his chest and glared at Tom
doesn’t belong here.”
What gives you the right to decide who can stay and who
can’t?” Tom waved a
hand to figuratively encompass all of Sanctuary House. “I started Sanctuary House so that anyone who needed a place to stay could do so.”
Let him sleep on the first floor with the other
sick, Henry. Seriously
sick. Catching even a cold on top of what he has right now could
kill him. I would have
thought you had more compassion than this.”
shook his head. “Compassion
has nothing to do with it. He
doesn’t deserve to be in Ralph’s old room.”
hasn’t made one ounce of commitment to this place.
He slept all afternoon and he’s sleeping now.”
frowned at him. “He’s
sleeping now because the breathing treatment wore him out.”
confused look came upon Henry’s face.
Tom had locked the medication up again, he had the nebulizer resting
on a towel subsequent to his cleaning it.
He now gestured at the machine.
“Albert’s bronchial tubes are swollen and filling with
fluid. The man has to
fight to breathe. Dr.
Walker prescribed some inhaled medication.”
didn’t you have him admitted to a hospital?
Why’d you have to put him in Ralph’s room?”
of all,” Tom said, “Ralph graduated from the program and is
living in an apartment, so it’s not Ralph’s room any longer.
Dr. Walker and I both agreed Albert would be better served
staying here as opposed to the hospital.
We assumed he’d receive more compassion and acceptance
here. I guess we were
flinched under Tom’s harsh gaze.
“He may have showered, but he’d still rather live on the
streets. He even said
a proud man. He
doesn’t like accepting assistance—he won’t take charity and he
feels it’s weakness on his part.”
Tom held Henry thrall with his eyes.
“He would rather die on the streets than accept charity.
He would have started sweeping up as soon as the doctor left
if I hadn’t insisted he rest.”
snorted and Tom leaned forward as if confronting an errant sailor
under his command. “If
you have an issue with Albert, I hope you’ve got some basis in
fact, Mr. Voorhies.”
a drunk,” Henry said, lamely.
you were a cocaine addict.”
sparked in Henry’s eyes, “Yeah, and I agreed to sign on to the
program when I moved upstairs!
I put the time in with you, and the others, and in counseling
with Philip. I
haven’t shirked my chores once!”
what this is about, isn’t it?
You’re upset that Albert hasn’t committed to the rehab
looked at the floor.
Tom got to his feet and moved around the desk to lean on it in front
of Henry. “That’s
what it is, right, Henry? Listen,
I know Albert—I mean, I know his type.
You have to give him time, let him come to things on his own
guess not. But before
you’re so quick to judge, let me ask you one question, Henry.
When you first got here, did you deserve the chances you were
given?” Tom waited a
moment, then rose and opened the door.
“I’ll let you think about that tonight.”
and subdued, Henry left the room.
March 15, 1987
brought Albert a new set of clothes, apologetically handing him his
green Army jacket. “Your
other clothes kind of … fell apart in the wash.
This is the only thing that made it.”
took the jacket in both hands and nodded.
When Vic left the room, Albert sat on the bed with the jacket
and idly fingered the fabric, now restored to a faded green unmarred
by the grime of the streets. He
looked at the clothes on the bed then stood, holding them up to
himself piece by piece. Just like the clothes he wore—the ones he’d been given
yesterday—the cheap cotton boxers were fine and the pants seemed
like they would fit decently enough once he rolled the cuffs, but
the shirt was slightly too large.
Albert sighed and gathered the clothing, heading for the
took his place at the back of the line and slowly moved forward as
the men ahead of him took their turns in the shower stalls.
A coughing fit overtook him, and when he was able to breathe,
he nervously glanced behind him, but a small grey-haired man only
smiled sympathetically at him.
of the long line behind him, when a shower stall opened for Albert,
he entered and yanked the curtain closed then quickly stripped.
Since he only had to freshen up, not scrub away layers of
filth, Albert showered with a speed rivaling his Academy days. A sharp pang of regret hit him at the memory of Annapolis and
all he had lost, but he shook it off as he shut off the water.
Albert dried off and got dressed.
He padded barefoot back to his room carrying his clothes and
drying his hair as thoroughly as he could, Albert again began his
battle against the tangles. He
succeeded in getting most of the ones on the sides out before giving
up. After a moment’s
consideration, Albert passed the comb through his beard.
He tossed the comb on the dresser and left the room, heading
downstairs to get some breakfast.
line formed at the bottom of the stairwell, and Albert fell in.
As he got closer to the dining room, he noticed a small table
set up where a thin man with a ferret-y face sat.
As each man reached the table, he was logged in by way of a
tally mark. Albert
assumed it had something to do with recordkeeping for the shelter of
how many men got fed at a given meal.
He flatly returned the ferret’s cheery “Good Morning!”
and followed the line along the serving area.
He didn’t meet the servers’ eyes as he continued down the
line, just bobbed his head as various servings of food were dumped
on his plate. To the
question, “Milk or juice?” he simply grunted.
The server apparently interpreted his noise as “Juice”
because a small plastic container of orange juice was added to his
tray before it was handed to him.
carried his tray to an empty stretch of table and sat at the very
end of it. He wearily
rubbed his face and propped his cheek against his fist as he
mechanically shoveled food into his mouth.
Albert barely tasted the food, he ate it so fast.
shadow looming over him slowed him down and he looked up into the
face of a burly black man. “Hi,
swallowed a mouthful of scrambled eggs.
“Albert,” he muttered.
to meet you, Albert. You
mind if I join you?” The
man had already put his tray down and taken the seat across from
seem like it matters if I mind or not.”
grin widened. “Nope,
it sure doesn’t.” He
ate a few bites of his breakfast and then asked, “Say, you feeling
looked up at him with narrowed eyes.
room’s next door to yours and I heard you coughing last night.
Sounded like you were having trouble breathing, too.”
shrugged and focused his attention on his plate.
“If you’re expecting an apology you’re wasting your
said anything about an apology, man?
I just wanted to know if you were feeling any better this
his voice didn’t have the thick cracking rasp that belied his
words, Albert said, “I’m fine.”
So then I guess we’ll see you in session today?”
looked up at that. “Session?”
You know that’s part of the program.
Daily group sessions and…”
shook his head and cut Donnie off.
“I’m not in the program.”
you’re next door to me.”
Frank’s doing.” Albert
gulped down his orange juice and stood.
“I’d just as soon take my chances on the street,
but…” He dissolved
into coughing. When the
fit released him, Albert shook his head and grabbed the tray,
walking off without another word.
watched him go. “I
knew you weren’t in the program, Albert,” he quietly said.
“But you should be.”
heard rustling outside Frank’s office and he stepped into the hall
to find Albert struggling to free a broom that was wedged against
the wall of the closet. He walked up to him and gently put his hand on Albert’s
don’t want you sweeping today, Albert.
You still need to take it easy.”
glared at him. “I’m
not staying here one more minute if I don’t earn my keep.
I won’t have any more implications that I’m taking
advantage of you.”
really care what Henry thinks?”
Even as Tom asked the question he realized that yes, Albert did
care what others thought about him.
“Look, I have some work in my office you can help me with.
You’ll be ‘earning your keep’ and I won’t have to
worry that you’re not taking it as slowly as you should today.”
appeared as if he was about to put up a fuss, but a coughing spell
took over. “Fine,”
he growled, obviously fighting the urge to gasp for breath as he
followed Tom into the office.
do you want me to do?” snapped Albert.
led him to a folding table across the office from his desk.
The surface held several stacks of different informational
sheets and a box of plain black pocket folders sat in an empty
like you to assemble the informational packets,” Tom said, picking
a completed one up to show as an example.
The sheets were divided evenly between the two pockets and a
label was affixed to the front of the black stock.
nodded. “It’s not
rocket science.” He
set to work.
March 15, 1987
did better tonight,” Frank commented as he picked up the nebulizer
from the desk and headed for the door.
“How are you feeling?”
Albert said. The
constant focus the breathing treatment required had tired him out
again but he had no intention of telling Frank that.
As it was, the director seemed to suspect it.
about an hour til light’s out,” said Frank.
“I think some of the guys are watching TV in the rec
Albert said, noncommittally.
Albert waited until Frank was gone before he got up from the
desk chair. He closed
the door all the way and then stood in front of the bed.
He stepped out of the worn tennis shoes and slid them to the
end of the bed. Albert
pulled the sheets back and hesitated.
He glanced back at the door then resolutely unbuttoned and
unzipped the secondhand khaki pants.
He stepped out of them before he could change his mind,
folding them and placing them on the desk chair before climbing into
bed and pulling the covers up to his chest.
ran up Albert’s legs as he lay between the sheets.
He’d told Frank last night he couldn’t remember when
he’d last slept in a real bed.
He couldn’t remember the last time he hadn’t slept in his
clothes either. Albert
rubbed his face as a mean voice reminded him how long it had been
since he’d been with a woman.
He reached to yank the chain on the bedside lamp harder than
he needed to and stared into the blackness until his eyes adjusted
to the weak light filtering through the closed drapes from the
mind replayed the events of the day as he laid there.
As he’d stuffed packets, he’d of course learned what each
page said and he’d learned a lot about both Sanctuary House and
Frank Benjamin. Albert
admired the man for his dedication and his hard work in keeping the
shelter open and running for those who needed it.
He shifted in the bed and frowned, realizing that he fell
into that category.
was he still there then? He
didn’t have to stay. He could
get up, put his pants back on, and walk outside and no one would be
the wiser. He could
disappear into the city streets.
soft knock sounded on the wall behind his head and he heard a stage
whisper, “I hope you feel better, Albert.”
reached back behind his head and tapped softly twice on the wall,
each tap meant to represent a syllable of “Thank you.”
He wondered afterward why he had done it.
it was because Donnie had constantly sought him out.
Albert had taken the same seat at the same empty table at
lunch, and before he was even partway through the meal, the burly
black man sat across from him, a broad smile on his face.
Seemingly oblivious to Albert’s silence, Donnie chattered,
occasionally asking Albert a question and prompting until he got an
answer. He didn’t
appear to care that Albert’s answers were usually terse or
scenario had repeated at suppertime.
Albert himself had barely sat down when Donnie was across
from him. Even though Albert had waited til the very end of the
mealtime to make his appearance and he tried to ignore the big man,
Donnie persisted in engaging him in conversation.
He’d even managed to get Albert to smile once or twice.
When a coughing fit had immobilized him, Donnie had gathered
up Albert’s tray in addition to his own and carried it to the
cleaning area. He’d
returned with a cup of water which Albert only took when it became
obvious the cough wasn’t going to ease up.
The cool water soothed his throat although it didn’t do
much for the tickle deep within his chest.
More coughs ensued, practically strangling him as his body
tried in vain to expel the phlegm from his lungs.
The other diners stared at him, some with disgust, and Albert
forced himself to his feet. Bent partially in half and holding his chest from the pain of
the coughs, Albert exited the dining room.
made it as far as the stairs before he sank down and gripped a
banister as he coughed so hard he nearly vomited.
Albert looked up to see Donnie standing before him offering
him another paper cup of water.
He’d been startled by the man’s proximity, and so he
simply reacted. His
hand came up of its own accord and swatted the cup out of Donnie’s
hand, splashing them both with water.
Albert’s amazement, before he could apologize, Donnie had.
“I’m sorry, Albert,” he’d said.
“I forgot what it’s like.”
do you mean?” Albert had rasped.
Despite himself, curiosity opened his mouth.
edgy you are when you live on the streets.
How you don’t always know where your next meal is coming
from. How you’re not sure whether the hand extended to you is to
help or to hurt.” Donnie
shouldn’t have stood so close to you when you weren’t expecting
had only gaped at him. He
hadn’t had a chance to press further if he’d wanted to (and he
wasn’t sure that he wanted to), because Frank had appeared with
the nebulizer after that.
Albert continued to lie in the bed, his arms folded over his hurting
chest, as he played over what Donnie had said to him.
Though he’d known Donnie was a resident, Albert had a hard
time picturing Donnie on the streets, yet that was exactly where
Donnie had lived eight months ago.
Drugs, Donnie said, were to blame, and in the next breath he
corrected himself. “No,
Albert, that’s not right. I
was to blame. The drugs
in and of themselves are nothing. I
was the one who chose to take them, abuse them.”
Albert was afraid that Donnie would ask him what had led to
his homeless state, but the big man moved on.
on. Interesting choice
of phrase, Allie-boy.
rubbed his face again and then rolled onto his side.
A quote from the promotional material he’d assembled
circulated through his mind.
heard the expression a diamond in the rough.
These men are more than diamonds in the rough—they’re
more like diamonds that somehow ended up in the rubbish heap.
At Sanctuary House, we salvage those diamonds and brush off
the dirt and grime that’s accumulated on them and help them learn
to shine once more.”