VIRTUAL SEASONS EPISODES
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
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 grave.
“Ahhh 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 evaporated.
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
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 chest.
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
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 his
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
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 stores.”
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 Bobby.
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, then
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 one.”
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 there.”
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.
laughed. “Frank, 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, nothing. Hopefully
he’ll wake up after he’s slept off some of this and we can get his
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
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
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
one eye, the man considered it. Tom
could practically see the wheels turning as the man’s scar scrunched
with the facial expression. Finally,
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 well.”
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
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. Cal-uh-vee-chee.
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
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
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
Albert nodded, rubbing his face with both hands.
Tom sighed. He should
have realized living on the streets had made Albert extremely paranoid.
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 establishment.
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 was
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. “He’s…he’s
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
handlink. “Well, after he
got caught going postal on that vending machine at Starbright and got
tossed out, he had to face the music with the Navy.”
remember that,” Tom said. “I
don’t know why, but I remember that.
They stripped him of his rank and dishonorably discharged him.”
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?”
sighed. “Albert 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
attention. “You’re here
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 he means.”
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
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
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 acquired.
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
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 handlink.
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. “Admiral?”
The 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, Papa.”
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
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 chapel.
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
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
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
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.
shrugged. “It 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
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
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 ragged beard.
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 eating.
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 contents.
Cursing 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 wheezes.
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
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 dozen.
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
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
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
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 closed it.
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 commented.
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 coughing
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
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 live
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
Albert coughed and leaned against the wall.
“So if you’ll just point me to the broom closet, I’ll get
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 his chest.
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
yourself. You’ve 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
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.”
shrugged. “We’ve 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
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.
Waiting. Sure 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 towards
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 point.
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 behind
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 breathe.
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 wheezed.
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 suffering.
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 mouthpiece.
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, “Yes, Pop.”
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
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 uncomfortable.
Albert 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
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. I’m
quietly as he could, Tom gathered up the nebulizer and left Albert’s
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 not
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 with
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
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 dealt
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 behind you.”
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 transients.”
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 wrong.”
flinched under Tom’s harsh gaze. “He
may have showered, but he’d still rather live on the streets.
He even said so.”
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!”
dawned. “That’s what this
is about, isn’t it? You’re
upset that Albert hasn’t committed to the rehab program.”
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 shower.
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 towel.
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
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 him.
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 any
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 time.”
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
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
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 chair.
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 room.”
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 streetlights
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 sarcastic.
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
shrugged. “I shouldn’t
have stood so close to you when you weren’t expecting it.”
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
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
to be continued…
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