Episode 1320

L is For...

by: C. E. Krawiec







Scott Bakula as 

Dr. Sam Beckett

Dean Stockwell as 

Admiral Albert Calavicci




Jennifer Benda as Child Actor, Mackenzie as John Carnie as Vince Curran as
Bess Graham Lacy Ted Graham Carson Burnes
Shannon Faulkner as Kevin Zegars as Taylor Hogue as Lauren Diewold as
Marcy Burnes Thad Burnes Tracey Burnes Meghan Burnes


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


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


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


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




        For a minute after the last traces of the leap transition had faded from his body and mind, Sam just stood, not opening his eyes for a moment, listening to his new surroundings. He smiled, savoring for a moment the kiss of warm sunshine on his face and arms, a soft breeze scented with the fragrance of wildflowers gently ruffling his hair.  Opening his eyes at last, a soft sigh escaped his lips as he surveyed the peaceful

rural scene before and all around him.

        “Why can’t they all start out like this?” he murmured softly then drew in a deep breath of the soft summer country air.  After another moment, he thought to check himself out and looked down at his body.

        It wasn’t the sight of his jeans clad legs or the comfortable boots that shod his feet that caused a long-suffering “here we go again” sigh to issue from his lips.  No, the sigh was wholly and only for the sleeveless yellow daisy print blouse that wasn’t tucked into the waistband of the jeans he was wearing.  The jeans hugged his body slightly below his waist and the tails of the blouse, instead of being buttoned, were tied snugly high on his chest, revealing his bare midriff.  It could only mean one thing. That one thing was confirmed a moment later when he heard the sound of a little girl’s laughing squeal of, “Mama!” That was followed immediately by the feel of little arms wrapping around his legs from behind and just above his knees.  Hearing the little girl’s giggling singsong of, “Tag!  Me and Suzy tagged you, Mama Bess. You’re it!” sealed the confirmation - he was a woman this time.

        The fact that he’d leaped into a woman was accepted and set aside as Sam went along with the innocent laughing ‘tag’.  Turning carefully within the tiny arc of little arms, Sam looked down into the face of a happy little girl with hazel eyes and blonde pigtails. She was wearing a bright yellow shorts set sprinkled liberally with smiling little bees and flowers.  On her feet were yellow socks and sneakers.  In one hand, she grasped the arm of a rag doll that was almost as big as she was herself.

        “Okay,” he said lightly. “I’m it.  Here I come,” he began.  Whatever else he had been about to say was forgotten when the little girl’s entire demeanor changed, her eyes growing huge, her face pale as she released her hold of him.  She backed away before turning to flee across the grassy meadow, screaming. 

        “Oh boy,” Sam muttered then took off after the frightened child.




Countryside somewhere in

Burnet County , Texas

May 18, 2002


        The momentary pleasure of leaping into a peaceful country setting was forgotten as Sam started to follow the child.  However, he had only gotten a few steps in that direction when he heard a boy’s voice call out, “Mrs. Graham, what’s wrong with Lacey?”  Stopping, Sam turned to see a boy and a girl, running toward him.  The boy reached Sam first, his expression wondering. 

         “What happened?” 

        It was tough enough dealing with surprises during a leap; being confronted with such immediately upon leaping in was even harder. Sam scanned the boy’s and girl’s faces, answering, “I’m…not sure. She had just tagged me...”

        “Tag? We were playing hide and go seek,” said the little girl wearing lightweight denim shorts and a pink tee shirt decorated with a colorful picture of a slice of watermelon on the front. Craning her head to look past Sam then back up to him, the girl brushed her bangs out of her eyes, her ponytail of brown hair flicking with the movement of her head.

        As the girl was talking, Sam turned his head to keep the frightened little girl in sight.  It was the sight of Lacey heading for a large boulder and almost immediately disappearing from sight when she veered around one side of it, that dismissed the children around from his thoughts and jerked him into action.  Sam wasn’t the only one who saw where the frightened child had fled, as the older boy yelled, “Lacey, no!  Stay away from there.”

        Sam shot a look at the boy.  “Stay away from what?”

        Thirteen-year-old Thad Burnes’ expression was plainly puzzled.  “The mine.”

        Sam’s voice sharpened as worry reared up at the boy’s words.  “What mine?”

        Thad’s sister, Tracey, piped up, “You know, Mrs. Graham, the mine behind the boulder.  That’s why it’s there.”

        Hearing Thad add, “Yeah,  Mom told us before Dad stopped the truck, to stay away from it,” started a knot forming in Sam’s stomach as he again took off after Lacey.  Hearing the boy calling after him, “Mrs. Graham…” Without missing a step, Sam shouted back over his shoulder, “Go get help!” then ran faster toward the large boulder situated against the side of a small hillock some one hundred yards from where he had been standing when he leaped in.  As he got closer to the massive boulder, Sam was forced to slow down in order to pick his way amongst the smaller rocks to avoid stumbling.

        “Lacey,” he called out strongly then realized that his strong tone might add to the little girl’s fear.  Halfway to the boulder, his eyes searching busily for any sign of the child, Sam called out more gently, “Lacey...it’s Mommy. Where are you, honey?” He paused, listening. Nothing.  He tried another tack, making his voice still softer and lighter in hopes of encouraging the child to trust him.

        “Come out, come out wherever you are.”  Again, Sam paused, holding his breath and listening intently.  He was about to hurry forward when the sound of small whimpering sobs reached his ears and he waited.

        Dismissing every other sound around him, Sam focused solely on the soft sobbing.  After a moment of focus, it seemed to him that the sound was coming from the direction of the left side of the massive boulder.  Moving slowly, Sam picked his way to the left, making a wide circular path, taking care not to rush at the boulder.  All he wanted at this moment was to see for himself that Lacey was unharmed.  As long as that was the case, then winning her trust could take whatever length of time GTFW would allow him.  Keeping his movements slow and easy, Sam continued edging further around the perimeter of the boulder.  Only when his gaze fell on the frightened little girl squatting in the narrow opening between the boulder and the side of the small mine it blocked, did he stop moving.  When Lacey jerked her head up, her gaze zeroing in on him, her expression made Sam’s heart ache.  That ache became anger toward a man he would never know as Lacey’s frightened whisper-sobbed, “N…n…no, Daddy, go ‘way!” gave him, a bit of a clue as to why she had run away from him.

        Staying where he was, Sam smiled at the child as he carefully squatted down to be more on an eye level with her.  Based on her age, which he guessed to be about four, Sam knew that only the truth would do in this situation.  Glancing over his shoulder, he caught a glimpse of the two older children talking to three adults near a stand of trees on the other side of the small grassy meadow.  The sight of one of the men turning to look in his direction, told Sam that he only had a few seconds to speak the truth to Lacey.  Turning back to face her, he licked his lips a couple of times then said, “Lacey, my name is Sam and I’m sorry I scared you.”

        “Wh...where’s M…m...mama B..B...Bess?”  The hiccupped words falling from the little girl’s lips tore at Sam’s heart.  “I w...w...want M...mama  B...B...Bess.” 

        “I know, honey,” he answered gently, but your mama had to go somewhere for a little while, so I’m going stay with you ‘til she gets back. I promise she will be back real soon.”  He paused.  “Okay?” When Lacey didn’t respond, Sam slowly stood up again and decided to chance taking a step closer to the massive boulder and the scared child.  “Lacey, no! Lacey!” he cried out rushing forward when the girl screamed again as she scuttled backwards, disappearing behind the boulder.


Project Quantum Leap

Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico

The Calavicci quarters

January 30, 2008


        Arising before her husband, Beth padded around to Al’s side of the bed.  She glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand; it read: 7:26 A.M. .  Quietly she turned off the alarm, deciding that he deserved a few extra minutes of sleep. For a moment she stood by the bed, gazing down at her husband wrapped up in a cocoon of covers, still immersed in slumber.  She was grateful that the weariness that had seemingly been etched irreparably on her spouse’s face over the recent spate of very intense leaps for Sam Beckett had yielded to the best healer and rejuvenator of all – sleep – and plenty of it.

        Now, much as she wanted to lean down and brush a soft kiss on his hair, Beth didn’t give in to the temptation.  Instead, she drew on her robe and padded quietly out of their bedroom and went to into the small kitchen.  She filled the coffeepot with cold water and measured several spoonfuls of rich dark French-roasted coffee they liked best into the brew basket then set it to brew. Experience had taught her that the aroma of brewing coffee was often more effective than any alarm clock in rousing Al from sleep.

        By the time the final burbles heralding the completion of brewing were heard, Beth heard the soft muffled sounds of Al getting out of bed.  Taking two cups from the cupboard, she went to the coffeemaker.  She had just finished pouring the first cup when she heard from the doorway a softly mumbled, “You turned off the alarm again.”

        “Guilty as charged,” she quipped, an amused grin in place as she turned, watching her husband, clad in rumpled peach satin pajamas, shuffle over to her. She held out a cup of coffee to him. Al took the proffered cup, sniffing it appreciatively before taking a sip of coffee.       “Ummmm,” he hummed softly. Eyeing his wife as he took another swallow of the rich fragrant Columbian coffee, Al lowered the cup. “You think this gets you off the hook for turning off the alarm, don’t you?”

        A saucy sparkle lit Beth’s blue eyes, her grin widening as she lifted her own cup of coffee to her lips.  “Pretty much…yeah,” she quipped then took a sip.  She giggled against the rim of her cup as he moved closer to smudge a kiss on her cheek.   “Morning, Flyboy,” she murmured softly before returning the kiss.  Tilting her head slightly away from him, she looked into his eyes, saying, “Why don’t you go get a shower and shave those bristles off?”

        “And just what are you going to do while I’m in the shower?” he asked impishly.  “You know you could….

        “Make you some breakfast?  Aren’t you the mindreader this morning,” she quipped lightly.  “That is precisely what I had in mind.”  She just grinned when he rolled his eyes.  “Remember, you’ve got that staff meeting at 8:45, and the way I figure it, you’ve got enough time to shower, dress and sit down and have breakfast with me before you have to leave.” She slid a pointed glance at the clock face on the small microwave oven on the counter.  It read 7:38.

        AL knew a dismissal when he heard it –or in this case, saw it– and sighed dramatically.  The only response he received was the sight of Beth going to the refrigerator to take out a carton of eggs and a package of lean turkey bacon.  Her sparing him an amused glance over her shoulder as she took a skillet from a cupboard and set it on the stove told him that further wheedling wasn’t going to fly at this moment.

        “Shot down before breakfast,” he “pouted” as he headed back to their bedroom. “What a way to start the morning.” A grin spread across his face as the sound of his wife’s responding giggle followed him down the short hallway to their bedroom where he quickly selected an outfit.

        Even though the living quarters for Project Quantum Leap were some three hundred feet below ground and the temperature maintained at a comfortable level year round, Al liked to keep in touch with the seasonal time of year.  To that end, and since it was the end of January, he chose a burgundy cashmere mock turtleneck sweater, dark gray slacks and his favorite black and white houndstooth sports coat.  Dark gray socks and a pair of comfortable black Italian leather loafers completed the ensemble.  Once he was satisfied with his choices, the habit of efficiency when showering and dressing learned during his years in the Navy kicked in.

A few minutes later Al turned off the shower and was reaching for a towel when an all too familiar claxon went off. He paused a moment, waiting and listening.  When no other alarms went off in connection with Sam Beckett’s landing in a new situation, he finished drying off.  A little less than fifteen minutes later, showered, shaved and looking casually dapper, he returned to the kitchen, lured by the delicious aromas emanating from there.

        Hearing a soft chipper whistle as Al came back into the kitchen, Beth looked around at him.  “Talk about good timing,” she quipped as he took his place at the table.

        Since his heart attack, Beth had been vigilant in watching Al’s diet like a hawk. To that end, the closest breakfast similar to one of Al’s favorites (“Back in the good old days”) that she allowed him on occasion, like this morning, consisted of two real eggs, three slices of crisp turkey bacon and whole wheat toast with a little apricot jam.  The best that could be said for the heart-healthy butter substitute his new healthy diet allowed was that Al tolerated it simply because he didn’t like unbuttered toast.

        “One of the many things the Navy teaches you is punctuality, as you well know, Mrs. Calavicci,” Al responded as he picked up a slice of the bacon and took a generous bite.  “I could eat about a dozen pieces of this bacon,” he mumbled as he chewed and swallowed.  Finishing the rest of the piece of bacon, he took a half slice of toast then picked up his fork and started in on his eggs.

        Beth sat down and picked up her fork, however the quiet breakfast with her husband was interrupted by a sharp alarm that rarely boded well for Sam Beckett.  This particular alarm only sounded when Ziggy detected a sudden problem with Sam’s vital signs.  Shifting her gaze across the table to her husband, she watched his expression shift from relaxed to all business as he dropped his fork and stood up from the table. She watched him hesitate just long enough to wash down the bite of bacon with a final swallow of coffee before rushing out of their quarters. 




Countryside somewhere in

Burnet County , Texas

May 18, 2002


Pressing against the narrow opening where Lacey had been, Sam shielded his eyes from the bright sunlight and peered into the shadowy entrance of the mine beyond. The sound of the little girl’s frightened sobbing, “I want Mama Bess,” was hard enough for Sam to hear being unable to reach her to try to comfort her.  In the next moment, that frustration was surpassed when he heard a scuffling sound followed by a shriek then a wail of pain.  It was that wail that pushed the parental instincts in the leaper over the line.  It insured that Sam didn’t think about the extreme tightness as he pushed,  squeezed and forced his body through the narrow opening between the side of the massive boulder and the rough-hewn rock outcropping that framed the opening of the abandoned mine behind it.  He ignored the way the rock ‘fingers’ of the outcropping scraped the exposed skin on his back. Feeling his body become wedged in the narrow space, Sam stubbornly refused to accept that he’d been stopped.  The sound of a man’s voice yelling, “Bess!” just added to his determination that nothing was going to stop him reaching the scared little girl.

        Cursing under his breath, Sam redoubled his efforts and was rewarded a few seconds later as he wiggled free of the opening, dropping clumsily to his knees on the ground behind the boulder.  Panting and wincing lightly at the pain from the scrapes on the exposed area of his back, Sam turned his head, peering into the deeper shadows.

        “Lacey?” he called softly.  Getting his feet under him, Sam shifted into a crouch then carefully stood up, ducking his head a bit to avoid scraping it on the low ceiling of the mine’s entrance.  The small amount of light filtering into the area in spite of the massive boulder blocking the entrance enabled Sam to spot Lacey’s small form, her back pressed against one side of the opening that led deeper into the old abandoned mine.  He didn’t want to think about what might lay further back in the inky blackness yawning beyond the child.  Sam couldn’t see her face clearly, but that didn’t matter.  Thanks to his photographic memory, a clear image of Lacey’s face was imprinted in his mind.  Keeping his gaze pinned on her, Sam started slowly forward.

        Out of some corner of his ever-Swiss-cheesed memory popped a flash of memory from his childhood.  The memory wasn’t clear.  In fact, all that did come through were two fleeting impressions.  The first impression was that something had frightened him when he was a little boy.  He had run away to hide and gotten lost; the second snippet of that memory was that it had been his father who had found and reassured him.  It was that reassurance that Sam wanted to give to Lacey, and so he took the fragmented memory as a sign and acted upon it. 

        “Lacey, don’t be afraid,” he said, keeping his voice calm and soft as he began to pick his way over the littering of small rocks and bits of old wood, following the direction of the whimpering.  Forced to bend his head down even a bit more, Sam squinted, straining in the dimness to keep his gaze fixed on the little girl.  Extending one hand in the direction where Lacey cowered, Sam kept his voice low but clear.

        “Come on, honey. Come to Mama,” the last word added as much for the adults whom he could now hear on the other side of the massive boulder, as it was for Lacey.  He understood the anxiety and concern in the adults’ voices, but Sam’s didn’t have time to think about them.  His only goal right now was to gain a scared little girl’s trust and get her to safety.  “Come to me, sweetie,” he urged gently, inching forward. “I promise...”

        “Bess, for God’s sake what’s going on in there?” The sudden loud, worry-sharpened voice of the man who had yelled a couple of minutes earlier, startled Sam, causing him to stop in mid-step.  Biting back the urge to yell at the man to be quiet, Sam turned and carefully moved back to the narrow opening where he had forced his way past the boulder to get inside the mine’s entrance.  Getting close to it, he leaned down a bit until he met the concerned gaze of a man pressed against the side of the boulder near the opening and peering in at him.  Sam felt safe in assuming that the man was his host’s husband.

        Before he could answer though, Sam heard more rushing footsteps, followed immediately by another man calling out, “Ted, is Bess okay?”

        The leap had snowballed from the instant Sam had opened his eyes.  Now, with Al still not having appeared, he was most grateful to at least have the small confirmation of the name of his host and her husband.

        He managed a bit of a smile as he met Ted Graham’s gaze. “I’m okay,” Sam said quietly.  He started to speak but hesitated as Ted told his friend, “She’s okay, Carter,” then was prompted when Ted turned back to him.

        “Bess, honey, what the hell happened?” Ted Graham demanded, concern sharpening his tone.  “One minute you go off to call the kids to come and eat.  Then the next, Thad comes tearing up saying that Lacey ran away and you went after her.”  Mentioning the little girl’s name prompted Ted Graham to press his face closer into the opening, trying to peer into the deep shadows behind his wife.  “Where is she? I don’t see her.”

        Sparing a quick glance back over his shoulder toward where he knew Lacey was, Sam began, “Lacey’s...”

        The sound of someone scrabbling over the coarse small rocks on the ground outside the massive boulder drew his attention from the Ted. An instant later, a woman’s face peered over Ted’s shoulder. The concern in her blue eyes was a replication of that of plain in Ted Graham’s eyes. “Bess,” she called urgently.  “Are you okay?”

        “She’s okay, Marcy,” Ted told the woman, but was cut off when Marcy Burnes continued speaking over him.

        “Lacey’s in there with you?  How did she get in there? For that matter, how did you get in there?”

        Sam bit back the urge to snap at them, fearing that any anger in his tone might scare the little girl more and cause her to move further from him.  He knew with a certainty born of his years of leaping, that every minute he wasn’t focused on getting closer to the frightened little girl cowering in the deep shadows a few yards behind him, the more the possibility of something going wrong increased. He didn’t have time to stand around playing Twenty Questions.

        Forcing himself to speak calmly, Sam looked again into Ted Graham’s eyes.  “It’s awfully dim in here, but I can see her,” he added.  “As for why, I guess something must have scared her.  What exactly, I’m not certain,” Sam hedged his answer.  He knew full well what had frightened the little girl, namely, his own sudden appearance in her mother’s place.  However, the memory of the abject fear he’d witnessed in those heretofore bright hazel eyes caused a niggling deep down inside. A niggling that told Sam it was more than just his trading places with Lacey’s mother that had frightened Lacey.  No, it was the fact of his gender that had triggered and was continuing to feed the little girl’s fear, and driving her to keep away from him.  Speculation urged him to stop and try to figure out exactly why, but Sam dismissed that as fast as it occurred to him. Later, after Lacey was safe, there would be time to delve deeper into the specifics.

        A small sound of scuffling behind him yanked Sam back to the moment, and he turned quickly.  His eyes, having become acclimated to the dimness, searched for and relocated on the little girl. He started to move toward her then stopped when another thought occurred to him. Half-turning back toward the mine’s entrance Sam called softly over his shoulder to Ted and the others, “Don’t say anything for a few minutes.  She’s already scared.  Hearing too many people talking right now might confuse her.”

        “Be careful,” Ted Graham whispered, watching his wife turn away and begin walking slowly carefully deeper into the murky shadows.

        Reaching the spot where he had been when Ted Graham had called out to him, Sam paused a moment to slow his racing thoughts.  Taking a deep breath and blowing it out softly, he dismissed every possible distraction then began taking slow measured steps toward Lacey.  When he was near enough to make out the child’s small pale face, her wide eyes staring at up at him through the dimness, Sam paused.

        “Lacey?” he called softly to her. He was answered with a sniffling sob.  The sound of small shoes scuffling on gravel drove Sam to keep moving carefully forward.  “Honey, please come to Mama.  I just want to take care of you.  Come on, sweetheart,” he urged gently.  “Let’s you and me go back out into the sunshine.”

        Due to his intense focus on the child and hindered by the increasing lack of light as he inched closer to her, Sam wasn’t paying attention to where he was stepping.  Those elements conspired against him as the toe of his boot snagged on something, causing him to fall clumsily.

        “Ahhh!” Sam cried out, involuntarily throwing his hands out before him as he went sprawling, wincing as rough bits of old wood and rock scraped his palms, forearms and exposed midriff.  That, however, was at the bottom of the list of his worries.  What seized first place on that list turned Sam’s blood cold, namely the sound of Lacey’s ear splitting shrill scream.  The scream reverberated in the dusty abandoned old mine as she ran from him, blindly fleeing further into the mine.  Sam’s heart leapt into his throat and adrenaline poured into his blood at the sound.

        “LACEY!” he shouted, scrambling to his hands and knees before getting on his feet again. “LACEY, NO!!  LACEY COME BACK!!


Project Quantum Leap

Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico

January 30, 2008


        Al hurried to the elevator at the end of the hall near his quarters.  He had just pressed the call button when the vital signs alarm went off again.  Hearing it once was bad enough.  Hearing it a second time barely five minutes after the first sounding, only ratcheted up the tension even more sharply.

        “Ziggy, what the hell’s going on with Sam?” he shouted. The elevator arrived just then and he entered it, jabbing the button for the lowest level in the complex where the Control Room was located.  As the car descended, Al impatiently paced the small confines of the car as Ziggy provided more information.

        “Doctor Beckett landed approximately twelve minutes ago,” Ziggy replied.  “His vital signs remained at a normal level during that time. Approximately one point three five minutes ago his vital signs began to escalate rapidly, then, seventeen seconds ago Doctor Beckett’s heart rate spiked.”


Countryside somewhere in

Burnet County , Texas

May 18, 2002


        Outside the blocked mine entrance, Ted Graham’s anxiety, as well as that of Carson and Mandy Burnes, was immediately escalated to heart-pounding fear at the ominous sound of wood cracking that was followed by his wife’s crying out.  Near him, he heard Mandy gasp, “Oh my God!”

        Carson Burnes’ jerked his head around at his wife’s reaction.  As he did so, from the corner of his eye, a vague movement caught his attention.  A glance in that direction revealed the sight of their children, Thad, Tracey and five year old, Meghan, lingering a few feet behind the adults.  Shifting his gaze to his wife again, he jerked his head in the direction of the children, saying quietly, “Go see to them and keep them out of the way.”  Seeing her nod then move away, Carson turned back to his friend beside him.

        “BESS!” Ted shouted, his heart hammering in his chest.  Pressing his face against the narrow opening, he squinted, straining for a glimpse of movement in the darkness cloaking the back of the mine’s entrance.  “Honey are you okay?” Two seconds passed and he called out more urgently, “Bess! What the hell is happening?  BESS!”

        Though consumed as he was by the solitary intention to find Lacey, Sam responded to Ted Graham’s plainly concerned demand. “I’m okay. I just tripped,” he called loudly as he scrambled carefully to his feet then took a small step forward.  Almost falling again, Sam lunged forward into the inky blackness of the abandoned mine shaft, panic and parental instinct blocking the logic that was his touchstone.  Yet in spite of that, enough common sense managed to seep through the panic to send him to the wall against which Lacey had huddled just moments past.

        Putting his hands on the cold stone, Sam slid them along the wall as he moved forward. He had moved only two steps when he and the adults huddled anxiously beyond the huge boulder, heard the little girl scream again. This scream though was worse than the first one because instead of fear coloring it, the sound was tinted with the ominous shade of abject terror. Worse still was the chilling realization that the sound wasn’t continuing straight ahead of him in the blinding darkness - it was descending.  Suddenly the screaming stopped.

        There was no way of telling which it was that reared up within the leaper at that moment, whether it was an unusually strong psychosynergizing with his host, or merely Sam’s own parental instincts increasing at the abrupt cessation of screaming. In that moment it didn’t matter to Sam as he obeyed whichever it was as he rushed forward, his arms extended before him.

        “LACEY!” Sam called loudly as he went along.  “LACEY!”  Behind him, Sam heard Ted Graham’s renewed shouting to his wife.  Turning his head slightly to one side even as he continued moving forward, Sam shouted angrily, “Be quiet!  I can’t hear anything…” The rest of the thought vanished in the next instant as Sam’s leading foot came down on a flat surface that creaked just before it cracked and gave way under his weight.  Sam jerked back reflexively, his arms flailing wildly as he fought to regain his balance, but it was too late.  All he could do was to imitate the frightened screams he’d heard moments before as he, too, plunged down the large yawning airshaft made invisible by the inky blackness of the long abandoned mine.

        As he plunged downward, the right side of Sam’s head struck one side of the airshaft, rendering him mercifully unconscious before he landed at the bottom of the cold, dank and impenetrably dark shaft seconds later.  He had no way of knowing that in that instant he had found Lacey.  That in fact, his right hand now lay beside the unconscious little girl’s face.  Neither did he or Lacy heard the frantic screams far above them.




Project Quantum Leap

Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico

January 30, 2008


        Al stood still in the middle of the elevator car as any number of reasons for Sam having such a sudden and intense physical reaction ran through his mind.  It was only the sensation of the elevator slowing that jarred him back to the moment so that when the doors slid open, Al charged out and straight the Control Room situated at the far end of the corridor.  The Control Room doors slid open before him, revealing the familiar sights of Dom and other necessary personnel manning their respective stations.

        “Ziggy, do we have anything from the Visitor yet?” Al demanded as he strode to the main console.  “Where’s Verbena?”

        “Doctor Beeks has been with the Visitor for approximately eleven minutes,” Ziggy responded.  “Thus far the only confirmable information she has been able to glean from the young woman is her name, which is Bess, or rather Elizabeth, Graham and that she lives in Texas ... somewhere.”

        The Observer held out his right hand, no words necessary as Dom Lofton slapped a handlink against his palm.  “Well,” he said as he headed toward the ramp. “At least it’s something.  We’ve started other leaps with a heck of a lot less than this.”  He was just starting up the ramp but the stopped in mid-stride when the alarm monitoring Sam’s vital signs sounded a third time.  Fear tried to take over his mind but Al swept it aside ferociously.  Whatever Sam was going through, Al knew he needed to be clearheaded and in control. 

Rushing up the ramp and into the Imagining Chamber, Al quickly stepped onto the small circular pad in the center of the large acoustically perfect chamber and keyed in a numerical code to mark the beginning of data entry on this leap.

        “Ready, Admiral,” Dom’s voice filled the chamber.

        “Do it,” the Observer barked.  “Center me on Sam.”  An instant later, a low thrumming began, growing steadily as a swirling tornado of times past appeared to engulf him. It had been spinning only a few seconds when Ziggy announced, “We have a lock.” The blue walls of the Imaging Chamber began to coalesce, shifting to assume the visual form of Sam Beckett’s present location but there was nothing to see, literally, impenetrable blackness surrounding him.

        “What the hell’s going on, Ziggy?” Al shouted as he mashed whatever buttons on the handlink were under his fingertips. “If you blew a fuse then fix the damned thing and get the lights back on in here!”

        “I have not, as you say, blown a fuse, Admiral,” Ziggy responded, her tone unruffled.  “There’s no light because wherever Doctor Beckett is, that is the situation.  However...”  The parallel hybrid computer left the comment unfinished as she sent a signal to the handlink that immediately caused it to give off a soft illumination sufficient for the Observer to see the buttons. 

        “Okay, now let’s see what the hell’s going on here,” Al muttered as he pressed four buttons in a sequence, entering a command for a special built in light on the instrument to activate. Instantly, a pool of light illuminated the area around where Al stood and it was then that he saw his friend’s dusty, unconscious form crumpled at his feet. 

        “Oh my God! Sam!” Al exclaimed, his eyes widening at the sight of the streak of blood on the rough chuck of rock on which the left side of Sam’s head was rested. The sight of the rocks, pieces of old timber and such upon which Sam’s lay, as well as the positioning of Sam’s body indicated to him the very real possibility existed that his best friend could have internal injuries or even worse.  Dropping down on one knee, Al peered closely at his friend’s slack, blood-stained face.  “Sam, can you hear me?  Sam?” he called urgently, the knot of tension already twisting in his gut tightening even a little more.



Countryside somewhere in

Burnet County , Texas

May 18, 2002


          Hearing his wife’s terrified screams reverberating inside the old abandoned mine went through Ted Graham like a dagger through his heart, but that wasn’t the worst.  The worst was the sudden silence that replaced Bess’ frightened cries.

        “God Almighty!” Carson Burnes’ gasped at the terror in the scream emanating from the mine beyond the huge boulder.

        “BESS!” Ted bellowed urgently, straining to peer into the shadows of the mine’s entrance, but there was no response.  “We gotta get inside there,” he said agitatedly.  The words were barely out of his mouth as he fruitlessly tried to force his six-foot one-inch, one hundred ninety-five pound frame through the narrow space between the boulder and the rough-hewn stone framework demarcating the entrance of the mine.

        “Ted, stop!” Carson Burnes insisted strongly, grabbing hold of Ted’s nearest arm and pulling the worried, anxious man away from the boulder.  Carson ’s solid size helped him fend off Ted’s attempts to pull away from him.  Grabbing Ted by his upper arms, Carson gave him a hard shake and shouted in his face, “Ted! Get hold of yourself. Ted!”

        “Let go of me!” Ted Graham shouted back, yanking to break free of his friend’s hard grip. “Bess and Lacey are in there, most likely hurt or...,” he spat furiously.  “I’ve got to get there.” A startled expression replaced the glower on his face when Carson released his hold on him.

        Carson kept his voice down as he demanded, “How you gonna get past that?” he asked, flicking his left hand at the massive boulder that had been deliberately set in its current location, obviously meant to be a deterrent to prevent anyone entering the old mine. “I’m willing to bet it’s solid granite and prob’ly weighs at least seven or eight hundred pounds. Maybe more. So how are you gonna get in there, Ted?”

        “I don’t know, Carson !” Ted snapped, worry and fear for his wife and the sweet little girl they had been fostering now going on nine months, sharpening his tone. “But we’ve GOT to get in there!”

        Carson nodded as he reached out to place a hand on Ted’s arm nearest him.  “I know how badly you want to get in there and find Bess and Lacey and get ‘em out. So do I. But goin’ off like a chicken with your head chopped is likely to just get you in the same damned fix they’re in now.”  He paused then added, his tone firmer, “You can’t let your fear take control of the situation; you gotta control both the fear and the situation.” He paused a moment, allowing his friend and neighbor a chance to collect his thoughts. Seeing Ted Graham take a deep breath Carson said, “The first thing we gotta do is call 9-1-1.”  It was his turn to be startled by his wife’s reappearance at his side.

        “I had Thad run back to the truck and get your cell phone,” Mandy Burnes said quietly, handing the phone to him.



Countryside somewhere

in Burnet County , Texas

May 18, 2002


        Vaguely aware that it seemed like he could feel the blood in his veins throbbing with every beat of his heart, Al punched in a specific code then used the handlink like a miniature scanner, scanning it from Sam’s head to his feet. Licking his lips, Al asked, “Ziggy, is...is he...”  The only thing that eased his concern minutely was hearing Ziggy say, “Doctor Beckett’s is alive though unconscious.  However, based on my scans of his vital signs, particularly his brainwave activity, there is an eighty point two percent probability that Doctor Beckett is suffering from a concussion.  Is there any indication of what happened to Doctor Beckett, Admiral?”  Al, however, was interrupted from replying immediately by the sound of a tiny whimper then another.

        “Oh my God!” Al exclaimed, his concern doubling when he saw the unconscious little girl sprawled beside Sam. So intent had he been for his friend, that he hadn’t noticed the child.  “There’s a little girl in here with Sam,” he said, using the handlink to scan her as he had Sam. “Looks like she might be four or five years old.”

        Waiting the few seconds for Ziggy to analyze the vital signs of the child, the only good thing Al could see was that the little girl’s fall had been cushioned by what appeared to be some sort of rag doll.  He was able to breathe a grateful sigh of relief when Ziggy informed him, “In spite of her injuries, the child’s vital signs are with normal parameters for a healthy child in that age range.”

        “Poor little thing,” Al murmured as he stood up and, using the handlink like a flashlight to begin looking around the area where Sam and the child lay. “How the heck did she...did they get here...wherever ‘here’ is?”

        Turning slowly around, Al scanned the beam of light around the area and then upward.  He frowned when the beam of light didn’t encounter any sort of ceiling.  Shifting the beam back to the scattered rocks and debris and chunks of wood on which Sam and the little girl lay, he said aloud, “If I didn’t know better, and from the looks of this stuff, I’d say this is some sort of cave or a mine shaft.”  Just then an echoing shout from somewhere high above his head caught the Observer’s attention.

        “Bess…honey, are you okay?”

        “Ziggy, center me on the guy that just yelled,” Al commanded.  He flicked a glance at his unconscious friend, but there wasn’t anything he could do here, physically, to help Sam.  Perhaps, however, he might be able to glean additional information from the man calling out to Sam’s host.  That notion jogged Al’s memory and he asked, “Ziggy, has Verbena been able to get any more information from the Visitor?”

        Even as she relocated Admiral Calavicci per his order, Ziggy increased her search parameters based on the fragmented information Dr. Verbena Beeks was continuing to coax from the bewildered woman in the Waiting Room.  The super-hybrid parallel computer scoured her massive data banks, as well as drawing from every source she could access and from the Internet, to locate even more information.




Countryside somewhere in

Burnet County , Texas

May 18, 2002


        Al blinked reactively to the brightness of the midday sunlight when he appeared within ten feet of two men near a large boulder that was blocking what appeared to be the entrance of a cave. It was the sound of the slightly shorter man saying, “…we have to call 9-1-1,” that sent Al scurrying to get closer to them.  At the same time, he watched a tallish woman with blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, and wearing jeans, a summer tee shirt and cowboy boots hand a cell phone to the man who had just spoken then return to a boy and two girls waiting several yards away.  He guessed that they were her children.  The anxious look on her and the children’s faces just reinforced Al’s concern over how this leap had begun, but he didn’t let his mind venture down any darker paths of “what if”.

        As he reached the two men, Al saw the man dial three familiar numbers.  He stopped a couple of feet from the pair, standing ostensibly between them, though his focus was on the man with the cell phone to his ear. With Sam unconscious, gaining information about the new leap situation became his responsibility.

        The instant he heard the man say, “This is Carson Burnes. Some friends and my family were having a picnic in the back meadow on my ranch,” Al rapidly began keyed into the handlink names, directions and every other bit of information that might help him help Sam.

        “…it’s an old graphite mine. Been there since my great-granddaddy’s time.  When my dad was a kid back in ’34, somebody dragged a huge boulder in front of the entrance; it’s been blocked up ever since.”  The Observer’s gaze never left Carson Burnes’ face when the man paused as he listened to the emergency dispatcher on the other end of the line then nodded.

        “The easiest way to get here is to take the Old Burnet Road .  It used to be the main road between Burnet and Marble Falls years ago.  Yeah, I’m going to send someone to put a red flag at entrance of the road, you can’t miss it.  Turn in there and go in about six miles ‘til you see a blue Chevy Silverado and red Ford pick-up parked on the side of the road.”

        Al’s fingers flew over the handlink keys, sending every scrape of information to Ziggy as fast as he could.  Punching in the directions that Carson Burnes had given, he paused, frowning at the conflicting information that appeared on the handlink’s small screen.

        “Wait a minute,” he said. “This guy just told the 9-1-1 dispatcher to take the Old Burnet Road to get to this place.  Ziggy,” he called aloud. “According to what you’re sending me the current map of Burnet County , Texas doesn’t show any such road by that name.  The main road from a little town called Bertram to Burnet is Highway 29, and from Burnet to Marble Falls the road is U.S. Highway 281 South.”  Al kept his tone civil in spite of wanting to yell at the computer.  Counting to three, he opened his mouth then closed it again when Ziggy responded before he got the first syllable out.

        “That’s because the county changed the name of that stretch of road from Old Burnet Road to 1435,” the computer informed him.

            Al nodded then looked up when a sudden motion caught by his peripheral vision, watching Ted Graham snatch the cell phone from Carson and demand strongly, “Please hurry. My wife and...little girl, we haven’t...it’s been almost ten minutes and we haven’t heard a sound out of the mine since then.  For God’s sake, PLEASE HURRY!”

        Al watched silently as Carson Burnes retrieved the cell phone from the worried man who then returned to the narrow opening between the boulder and the framework of the mine.  By the way Ted cocked his head closely to the opening, Al knew he was listening for any sound coming from within.  The Observer understood how Ted Graham was feeling.  The man’s emotions matched those he had felt the time when Christa had been kidnapped as child.  No matter how bad his imagination might suppose the situation to be inside the mine, he understood that for Ted, it was the not knowing that was already eating him alive.  Watching Carson Burnes talking with blunt but caring concern to his friend, it summoned back to Al’s mind his response to something someone had suggested to him during that awful frightening time of his daughter’s kidnapping. His response of “No! You’re wrong. No news is not good news. Not knowing what’s going on is not what’s best for me.  No matter what it is, if I know what’s happening then I can deal with it,” was as clear in his mind now as it had been when he’d first uttered it.  At this moment, he knew without a doubt that the same sentiment was forefront in Ted Graham’s mind.

        Ted and the others with him couldn’t see or hear him but Al still moved a short distance from them to speak with Ziggy more openly.  The place where he stopped afforded him a clear view of the people and the boulder blocking the mine’s entrance.

        Keying in a sequence on the handlink, Al asked, “Ziggy, has Verbena had any luck in getting more information from the Visitor?”

        “Yes, Admiral,” Ziggy answered.  “Doctor Beeks has been in the Waiting Room with the Visitor since you entered the Imaging Chamber.  She has also been successful in gaining the Visitor’s confidence and due to that, I have been able to acquire additional information about the Visitor.”

        As far as Al was concerned, that was the best thing he’d heard since Sam’s leap had begun, by the project’s time, some twenty minutes ago.  Taking a steadying deep breath and blowing it out, he said, “What did you find out about this woman, Ziggy?”

        “The Visitor is Elizabeth Trotter Graham, though she often goes by Bess.  Mrs. Graham is twenty-eight years old and resides in Austin , Texas with her husband, Theodore.”

As Ziggy talked, Al was watching Carson Burnes talking with his wife.  He knew without hearing what the man was telling his spouse; he was sending her to mark the entrance to the road leading to this area with some sort of red flag or kerchief.  He watched the woman nod firmly before turning to hurry the two vehicles parked a couple of hundred feet from where her husband and Ted Graham remained standing.  Her children accompanied her, and within a couple of minutes, all four were inside the Chevy Silverado.  Another moment passed before the engine of the Chevy Silverado roared to life.  Mandy Burnes got the truck turned around and sped off down the quiet little road.

        “How many children do they have?” asked quietly.  Ziggy’s answer succeeded in startling the Observer out of his resumed intense watching of the two men pacing and talking near the boulder blocking the old mine’s entrance.

        “Bess and Theodore Graham never had any children.”

“What?” Al demanded, frowning at the handlink.  “That can’t be right.  I told you, there’s a little girl lying beside Sam at the bottom of the mine shaft.  The Burnes’ aren’t in hysterics about her, so that means that she’s gotta be the Grahams’ little girl.”

        “No, Admiral, it does not,” Ziggy stated.  “According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in September 2001 three-year old Lacey Christine Vickers was taken away from her father and placed with foster parents.”

        “The Grahams?”

        “Yes,” Ziggy affirmed.  “According to information in Bess Graham’s medical records, to date she and her husband have tried all possible methods available that they could afford, to become pregnant. To date, none have succeeded.”

        “So they decided to become foster parents instead?”

        “Something like that, yes,” Ziggy replied.  “As it turns out, Theodore Graham spent two years in a foster home as a boy before being eventually returned to his family.  The experience apparently was a good influence in his life, and eventually aided the Grahams in their decision to become foster parents.  Prior to Lacey being brought to them, they had taken in and cared for four other children.”

        Al didn’t say anything for a minute, then asked, "Anything else?”  Ziggy began to speak but Al’s attention was caught more closely when he saw Ted Graham and Carson Burnes talking intensely as Ted handed something to the older man.  In the blink of an eye, Carson turned and ran toward the red pickup truck parked on the side of the narrow country road at the base of the very gently sloping meadow.  Glancing back to Ted, Al’s saw that Ted was once more beside the boulder, his face again pressed close to the narrow opening into the blocked mine entrance.

        “Ziggy, relocate me beside Ted Graham,” he ordered abruptly. The sentence was hardly out of his mouth when Al found himself near the frantic husband and father.  He didn’t have to move any closer to hear what Ted was saying as he reached out the only way available to him to comfort his loved ones. They were, Al knew, words that Ted Graham would remember to the end of his days.  In fact, Al felt it important that he be with Sam and the little girl laying at the bottom of the inky black mine shaft as Ted Graham continued to call out to his wife and little Lacey, without knowing whether or not they could hear him.

        “Ziggy, recenter me on Sam,” Al instructed even as he entered the familiar code into the handlink. A nanosecond later he vanished from the bright sunny meadow.

        “Bess?  Bess, can you can hear me, honey?” Ted Graham shouted into the mine entrance.  He paused, straining to hear some small sound of acknowledgement from within the mine.  None came, and he stomped the imp of despair that tried to whisper to him, determination etched even more clearly on his countenance as he called out again.

        “Honey, you and Lacey hang on.  We’re doing everything we can to get in there and get you out.  The rescue unit will be here...soon...so don’t give up.”  He paused to take another breath to steady himself.  The last thing Bess and Lacey needed to hear in his voice at this moment was fear or uncertainty.

Taking another quick breath and blowing it out, Ted willed his voice to be calm as he called out, “Honey, until the rescue unit gets here, Carson and I are gonna rig up some ropes with the tow chain in the truck to get this rock out of the way.  So don’t you worry if you hear some commotion going on up here in a few minutes.”

Again he paused, swallowing down the small lump that had formed in his throat in spite of his best efforts.  Hearing the sound of his truck roar to life, Ted glanced back over his shoulder to see that Carson was driving the truck up the gentle incline toward him.  Turning again, Ted leaned in close and called out, his voice strong, his tone unequivocal, “I’m going to go help Carson now, but don’t you worry Bess. I’ll be back!  I swear to God, I’ll be back!”  Ted started to draw back then leaned in again to call out one more thing to them.  “I love you, my girls.”  Only then did he turn and hurry to his truck that Carson had just stopped some fifty yards from the mine entrance.

For a moment Al felt a bit unnerved when he was suddenly again in the blackness of the mine shaft but he dismissed it just as quickly.  Without having to ask, once again a signal from Ziggy caused the handlink to give off a soft glow, enabling Al to key in the command for the small but powerful light source to pierce the blackness with bright light.

        “Ummmmmm,” a tiny, hurting whimper drew Al’s gaze down to the child.  He was heartened mightily at the sight of Lacey’s small brow wrinkling a bit as she whimpered. Staying where he was, Al carefully went down on one knee to be more on a level, his experienced fatherly gaze scanning the little girl sprawled atop her doll and covered with a fine layer of dust. Her arms and legs were adorned with various bruises and scrapes.  Just above her right eye was a small bluish bump on her forehead.

        “Lacey,” Al whispered gently, watching the little girl’s dusty face intently.  The sight of her eyelashes fluttering softly before she slowly opened her eyes and peered at him sent a small surge of encouragement through the Observer.  That encouragement was sorely tested when in the next instant Lacey’s hazel eyes widened and in a demonstration of the resilience of the young, suddenly scuttled as far as she could from him.

        The shaft’s smallish confines allowed her to put only six or seven feet between herself and Al and the stranger dressed in Mama Bess’ clothes.  Warily Lacey crammed herself into one of the rough corners where two sides of the shaft met.  Pulling her knees up close, she wrapped her arms around them and hugged them hard. She wished she had Suzy to hold onto.  Yet not even having the comfort of holding her doll and hiding her face in Suzy’s red yarn hair was enticement enough to tempt her into getting anywhere near the strangers.  Letting her gaze stray to where Suzy’s soft, lumpy, comforting form lay beside the stranger in Mama Bess’ clothes, the little girl couldn’t hold back a little whimper.

“It’s okay, Lacey,” Al gently reassured the frightened and battered little girl.  When the child’s gaze met his, Al smiled softly at her.  “I know this is a scary place, but you don’t have to be afraid.  No one’s going to hurt you.”

“Uhhhhhhhmmmm.”  The low drawn out moan from Sam grabbed Al’s attention.

“Sam! Oh thank God!” he exclaimed, relief flooding through him as he watched his friend’s eyes slowly flutter open.





“Al?” Sam whispered through dusty lips, lifting his head, peering about at the area where he lay.

“I’m right here, Sam,” Al assured his friend as he stood up to move around to face his friend.  He watched as Sam moved his hands over the rubble on which he lay, trying to find somewhere to place them to find purchase enough to lift himself from his prone position.

Sam tried once then repositioned his hands when the material under them wobbled.  His second attempt at moving his body was more successful as he managed to lift himself and get his knees underneath him.  His success, though, came with a harsh price as sharp pain seared through not only the area of his ribcage but in his left ankle as well.

“Ahhh!” Sam gasped, his eyes instantly watering as he ceased all movement.  He tried to take a deep breath but all that did was to increase the strength and sharpness of the pain.

“What’s wrong?” Al demanded when he heard Sam’s cry of pain.

Gingerly balancing on one hand, Sam skimmed the fingers of his other hand over his bruised and scraped midsection.  As he panted lightly, the least painful way to get air into his lungs, his fingers searched from and found what he suspected.

“I...I think I’ve got some cracked ribs,” Sam gasped.  “And...I think... my ankle might be broken, too.”  He felt his arms begin to tremble, telling him that what little strength he’d had to aid him in getting up on his hands and knees was beginning to fade.  He wanted so much to just lay his body down again where he was but that wasn’t an option in his mind.  He looked straight ahead and saw a small bare area near a corner of the rubble he was kneeling on.  Dread of adding to his pain didn’t deter the leaper as he gritted his teeth and forced himself to crawl with slow carefulness off the pile of rubble, every move of his body, every gasped breath an agony.

When Sam’s hands touched the unobstructed area, he paused a second then, before he could change his mind, put himself through the torture of shifting from his hands and knees to a clumsy sitting position.

“Ahhhhh!” he cried out again before gritting his teeth.  Beads of pain-induced sweat appeared on his brow as Sam’s breath hissed between his clenched teeth as he pulled and hitched himself closer to the nearest wall of the mine shaft.  When his aching and stinging back touched the chill stone of the mineshaft, he stopped moving.  Closing his eyes, Sam gently leaned his head against the wall, gasping and wincing.

For several moments, Sam didn’t make any attempt to speak, rather spending that time getting his forced shallow breathing under control.  From out one of the many holes in his Swiss-cheesed memory, came the knowledge that as a doctor who had treated similar injuries in others, Sam knew he was getting adequate oxygen.  Even so, it was still scary not being able to take a deep breath.

Al and Lacey watched without comment. Lacey, because she was fearful of him, and Al because he didn’t want to startle Sam and perhaps cause him to add to his injuries by reacting suddenly and falling over.   Relieved when Sam finally opened his eyes again, the Observer moved to his friend’s side.

“How you doing buddy?”

The leaper heard the concern in the Observer’s voice and at last opened his eyes again.  “I’ve been better,” he panted.  “Where...am I?”

Al thanked God and every lucky star he’d ever wished on that he had some information to give Sam about this leap.

“What we’ve been able to learn based on the information we managed to get from the Visitor so far,” Al told him as he entered a code on the handlink. “Is that you have leaped into Elizabeth Graham—she goes by Bess-- of Austin, Texas on May 18, 2002. As for where you are at this moment,” he told Sam, keeping his voice calm, “is at the bottom of a  winze…”

“A what?” Sam asked.

Al double-checked the information on the handlink.  “According to Ziggy’s information, a winze is a vertical shaft between levels in a mine.”  He glanced around .  “From the looks of it, they must have used this one for dumping debris and rubble.  Anyway, this winze that you’re in is in an old abandoned graphite mine on a small ranch owned by a guy name Carson Burnes.”  He paused to let Sam absorb that information then continued, “But other than the obvious in that you took a header down this shaft, I don’t know the exact particulars of how you got here.”

“Any idea of how deep this...winze is?” Sam asked wearily.  His face wrinkled in pain as he gingerly shifted one hip a bit.

Al pressed several keys on the handlink, retrieving again certain information.  “A little bit before you woke up, Bess’ husband, Ted, was calling out to you...er, Bess and Lacey.  Ziggy used echo resonancing, and determined that this shaft is approximately twenty-seven feet deep.”  He paused, looking into his friend’s pain-filled green eyes for a long moment. “Other than some cracked ribs and your ankle possibly being broken, some bumps and bruises and that little gash on the left side of your head,” Al said with quiet frankness. “I’d say that you and Lacey both were damned lucky.”

Sam had closed his eyes again as Al talked. At the mention of a gash on the side of his head, Sam opened his eyes again as he carefully lifted a hand to examine the wound.  He winced as he probed the area gently, glancing at the blood on his fingers when he brought his hand down and closed his eyes again. 

“If this is what luck feels like,” he panted softly. “Then I’ll pass the next time it comes around.”  However, it was hearing Al say, “Lacey,” that caused his eyes to pop open again in time to see Al nod his head. Looking beyond his friend, the leaper’s eyes widened as he saw the child.

“Lacey!” he gasped, reactively starting to sit up only to gasp even louder, his injured ribs forcing him to be still. “Honey, are you okay?” he panted when he could speak again.  Al was quick to do what he could to set Sam’s mind at ease.

“Take it easy there, buddy boy,” Al admonished his friend.  “From what I’ve seen, other than some scrapes, a few bruises and a bump on her forehead, Lacey’s appears to be okay.”

Glancing around at the pile of rubble, Al flicked a hand toward the rag doll lying within an easy, if painful, hand’s reach from where Sam was sitting.  “Her guardian angel must have been on duty because she landed on the doll.  It probably saved her from worse injuries.”  Shifting the handlink a bit so that the pool of light reached the other side of the shaft, allowed the injured leaper to see the truth of what he’d said.

The sight of the distrust so clear in the little girl’s wary gaze brought back to Sam everything that had happened him since he’d leaped in.  He hated the thought that in one way he was to blame for Lacey having been hurt.  If only I hadn’t leaped into her mother’s life, she might not have been hurt at all, he castigated himself.  As ready as he was to take every shred of responsibility for putting both of them in this grim situation, his often hard learned experiences of leaping made him set the guilt aside.  He hadn’t been given a choice in leaping in here, so he focused on doing what he’d been sent here to do – he hoped – namely, to help the child.

Shifting his gaze to the Observer’s face, Sam asked, “Considering how this leap’s started out, I don’t suppose you know anything about... any of this, do you, Al?”

A wide smile flashed across Al’s face as he answered his friend.  “As it turns out, yes, we do.”  He couldn’t help chuckling at Sam’s reaction to the good news.  “Between Verbena and Ziggy working with Bess... it’s her life you’ve leaped into... we were able to find out some stuff.  And with my listening to Ted, that’s Bess’ husband, and their friends up top, there’s even more information.”

Sam was so much more than grateful upon hearing his friend’s words.  “So?” he whispered then just listened without comment to Al’s recitation of facts. When the Observer reached the end of his informational monologue, Sam considered it a moment then asked, “Is there any information on why Lacey was taken away from her father?”

Al started to say there wasn’t but instead put the question to Ziggy.  “Ziggy have you been able to find out anything more about the little girl...why she was taken away from her father?”  When the queried for information began scrolling across the handlink’s small screen, just the reading of it made the Observer’s stomach twist in disgust.

Given the Observer’s very close proximity to him, there was no way that Sam didn’t see the expression that came over the older man’s face.  That fact alone told the leaper plainly that the additional information was likely as bad as the suspicion that had first went through his mind when Lacey had whimpered fearfully, “N...no, Daddy.”

“What is it, Al?” Sam asked, keeping his voice low.  His suspicions gained strength when Al stood up and moved around to the other side of the leaper, kneeling down so his back was to the little girl huddled in the corner just a few feet away.  Disgust was evident in Al’s voice when he began to speak, like Sam, keeping his voice low.

“In the original history, according to the records of the  Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, in September 2001 three-year old Lacey Christine Vickers was taken away from her father and placed with foster parents.”

“Bess and Ted,” Sam said, his words more a statement than a question.

“Yeah. Anyway, according to the records, Lacey was taken away from her father when he was discovered...”

Without the Observer even finishing the sentence, that one word put a bad taste into Sam’s mouth as he repeated it.  “Discovered?”

Al looked into Sam’s eyes. “Yeah,” he said quietly.  “The records state that Lacey’s mother, Jenna Vickers, got home early from work one day in September 2001 and literally walked in and caught her husband, sexually abusing their three-year old daughter.”

Sam felt like he wanted to throw up as he listened to what Al was telling him.  Craning his head a bit, he looked past Al’s shoulder to the little girl still watching them avidly.  “How old is she now?” The sick feeling in his guts became stronger when Al replied, “Today is Lacey’s birthday.  She just turned four.”

“My God, Al,” he whispered, dragging his gaze back to the hologram kneeling beside him. “What possesses a grown man to do something so... so hideous, so...so disgustingly wrong to his own little girl?”

Al didn’t say anything but the look in his dark eyes told the leaper in no uncertain terms what would have happened if he had been able to get his hands on Lacey’s father at the moment of that horrible discovery. As that occurred to him, from somewhere within Sam’s Swiss-cheesed memory trickled a vague recollection of something that had happened to Al’s youngest child.  As the trickle of memory slipped away again, Sam managed to recall that it had ended very badly for the person...a woman...with red hair...I think…  who had made the monumental mistake of attempting to harm that little girl.

A sharp twinge of pain along the left side of his ribcage made Sam gasp, effectively pulling him back to the present.

“Why didn’t her mother get...ummm,” Sam winced again. “Why didn’t her mother get custody of Lacey?”

“Because Arthur Vickers killed her,” Al recited somberly.  He nodded at Sam’s dropped-jaw reaction.  “I won’t go into the details but he did it just because she caught him abusing Lacey.”  He waited a moment then added, “According to the records, the authorities figured that based on Lacey’s behavior and what she could tell them, it had been going on for several months.”

“Poor little thing,” Sam murmured as his gaze again strayed to where Lacey sat in the corner.  He looked back to Al again when he heard a soft sound from the handlink as Al mashed a sequence of buttons before turning the handlink so that Sam could see the small screen.  “My God,” Sam said softly.  “No wonder she ran away from me.” It was all he could say as he looked at the small picture of Arthur Vickers, a man who, save for his very blonde, slightly curly hair, bore a striking resemblance to Sam Beckett.




As Al moved the handlink away from him, Sam asked, “So, does Ziggy have any idea of what I’m here to do...for Lacey?”  There wasn’t a doubt in Sam’s mind that the little girl was the focus of this leap.

Al read the information that had resumed scrolling across the handlink’s small screen.  “In the original history, on May 18, 2002, Ted and Bess and some friends of theirs, the Burnes, came out to this little meadow on the Burnes’ property for a picnic to celebrate Lacey’s birthday.  The Burnes’ kids and Lacey were playing hide and seek and at some point, Lacey slipped past the boulder to hide.  I guess she got curious or something and wandered back and...and she fell down this winze.”

“They found her and got her out, right?”

Al sighed deeply.  “Yes and no.  Yes, they found her and got her out but it was two weeks later.”  Just saying the words made his heart ache.  “By then she had died as a result of a head injury exacerbated by exposure.”  He sighed again.  “The best the authorities could figure out was that because of what her father had done to her, even though she got along well with Ted Graham, she didn’t call out –if she even could have – when he and the men searching for her were calling her name.”

“How am I supposed to put that right, Al from the bottom of this...winze?” Sam demanded.  “Hell, it’s my fault that now it’s both Lacey and me down here.”

“No, Sam,” Al interrupted firmly, his dark eyes flashing.  “You had no way of knowing any of this before you got here.”

“Then why am I here?”

Al paused, thinking about the situation and what Lacey had endured to reach this point in her life.  “Maybe,” he began thoughtfully. “Maybe you’re here to help Lacey learn, or at least to start to learn, to trust men again.”  There was a warble from the handlink; Al glanced at it.  “In fact Ziggy’s giving it a ninety point three percent probability as the reason you leaped into Bess Graham.”

All that Al’s telling him Ziggy’s estimate of probability for this leap succeeded in doing, was to increase the dull ache throbbing between his temples to blossom into a full scale headache.  Added to the multiple scrapes and bruises on his bare arms and exposed midriff, along with the pain in his ribs.  All of that, plus his left ankle, now swollen to the size of a softball inside his leather boot, combined and conspired against the leaper. What he wanted to do was to go to sleep and wake up only after all the pain was gone.  However, all that he was able to do at the moment was to gently lean his head back against the cold stone wall and close his eyes.

“Al,” Sam sighed, not trying to hide the weariness in his voice. “There’s more than enough of a physical resemblance between me and Lacey’s father to scare her. How the heck am I supposed to overcome that?”  Preparing himself for what it was going to cost him, Sam carefully coaxed a careful deep breath. He couldn’t hold back a whimper of pain, placing his left hand gently over his injured ribs. “Oh, God, that hurts,” he panted lightly. 

The Observer didn’t say anything.  Considering where he’d found his friend, clearly Sam didn’t have a lot of options on how to accomplish his mission.  Achieving the task of helping an abused little girl to begin to try to learn to trust again, when the one sent to help reminded her of her father, would have been a monumental task for anyone but GTFW had allotted it to his friend.  Sam, too, had been doing his own pondering on how he was going to accomplish this leap.

Okay, Beckett, what are you going to do? he pondered to himself.  You can’t just sit here...  He couldn’t help the small chuckle that escaped his lips, which he paid for as his ribs protested the action.  As he caught his breath again, Sam turned his head again, looking at the little girl huddled in the corner... and watching me like a hawk.

Licking his lips, Sam swallowed then, looking straight into Lacey’s hazel eyes said, “Lacey, do you remember who I am?”  Seeing the little girl’s shoulders hunch a bit didn’t encourage Sam but he continued talking, in spite of the throbbing steadily intensifying between his temples.

“My name is Sam,” he said clearly.  “Someone...very important sent me to help you.”   He paused to let the child absorb that, watching her dusty and scraped little face for any signs of acceptance.  Nothing.  He tried again.

“Lacey, I’m so sorry that I scared you when I came to take your mama’s place today.  And I’m sorry about what happened to you. You see, I came to help you.” He paused then asked, his tone gently wheedling, “Will you let me help you, Lacey?”  The flicker of discouragement that went through him when the child still didn’t react to him was almost a physical sensation, like a little more of his strength was drained away.

Sighing, Sam offered a rueful smile to the little girl then closed his eyes yet again.  An especially strong throb burned through the left side of his ribcage just then and he winced.  Opening his eyes, Sam’s gaze dropped, falling upon the large dusty rag doll a few inches from where he sat.  He studied the doll’s face a moment then looked at Lacey. After a moment he looked again at the doll then acted on the inspiration he had received.

“Sam, no.  Don’t move,” Al admonished, watching his injured friend sit up a little then take as much of a deep breath as he could muster then slowly but determinedly leaned forward. He could only imagine the currency of pain Sam was paying as he strained, scrabbling his fingers over the rubble and debris until they closed on a few strands of the doll’s red yarn hair.  Inside, Al sympathized with his friend; he knew personally the pain of cracked ribs.  Silently he encouraged his friend as he watched Sam drag the doll back to himself before once more leaning against the cold stone wall.  His wondering of what Sam was going to do with the doll increased as the leaper placed the doll on his lap then proceeded to carefully smooth the doll’s yarn hair and straighten her blue gingham-checked dress.  It was only when Sam, his gaze fixed on the doll’s face, said in a clear stage whisper, “Suzy, are you okay?” that it clicked for the Observer what his friend was doing.

He didn’t know how or why, but as Sam gently wiped a dusty smudge from the doll’s face, it was almost like he could feel the longing in the wary little girl for her doll.  He held to that notion and continued talking to Suzy.

“Suzy,” Sam said. “I’m sorry you got hurt when you and Lacey fell down here.  I got hurt, too.”  Using his right hand, Sam picked the rag doll up and pretended to show Suzy the scrapes and bruising on his left side just below the tied up hem of his blouse.  “See?”  Turning the doll so she was looking up at him, he raised his voice while keeping his tone gentle.  “Can I tell you a secret, Suzy?  I’ll tell you, but only if you promise not to tell anyone...okay?”  He cocked his head a bit, as if listening, then carefully raised the doll, pretending to whisper in one of her ears so softly that even the Observer couldn’t make out what he was saying.  However, the tactic worked.

“What did you tell Suzy?” a quiet little voice asked.

A marveling and impressed smile spread across Al’s face as he watched Lacey react to Sam’s leading conversation with the much loved doll.  He remembered playing whispering games with his girls at that age, and how none of them could resist demanding to know what secret he had whispered into the ear of a treasured doll or teddy bear. He glanced back to see that Sam wasn’t looking at Lacey, but rather still was focused on the doll.

Sam, of course, had heard Lacey, but knew that talking directly to her would very likely defeat the achievement of his goal.  Holding the doll close to his face, he stage whispered, “I’m afraid, Suzy.  It’s dark down here and my side hurts and...and there’s no one here who will take care of me.” Again Sam cocked his head a bit to one side as if listening to the doll’s reply.  “What did you say, Suzy?” he asked, keeping his voice pitched for Lacey’s hearing.  Then he smiled at the doll.  “You will?  You’ll stay with me so I won’t be afraid?”  Demonstrating his gratitude, Sam pressed the doll to his chest and managed a little hug.  “Thank you, Suzy.  I’m so glad you trust me.” He lifted the doll to look into her black button eyes and said softly, “As long as you stay with me until help comes, I won’t feel so afraid.”  One more time, the leaper hugged the rag doll, whispering even a bit louder, “We’ll take care of each other until help comes for us.”  With those words, Sam placed the doll on his lap and became still.

Though he had moved only minimally during the play-acting with the doll, even the gentle movements had been a drain on Sam’s depleted reserve of strength and energy.  As he waited, a wave of dizziness washed over him. To counteract it, he closed his eyes but from one moment to the next, his head lolled slowly to one side, his face going lack as his mind and body succumbed to the pain. Sam’s left hand that was on the doll, gradually slipped down to rest beside his leg.

“Sam!” Al called his friend’s name sharply.  “Sam, what’s the matter?  Are you okay?”  Quickly he entered a code that allowed the handlink to be used like a narrow beam body scanner.  “Ziggy...”

The parallel hybrid computer interrupted the Observer, answering the question without it being asked.

“Doctor Beckett has fainted again,” Ziggy informed Al.




Through all of the goings on, Lacey hadn’t budged an inch from her vantage point.  Neither had she taken her eyes off the stranger in her foster mother’s clothes, nor the man with the blinking thing in his hand that made funny noises.  As she listened to the two men talking, Lacey’s gaze roved between them and her doll, and she was curious to know the secret that the stranger named Sam had whispered in Suzy’s ear.  When he had looked straight at her, Sam’s face reminded her of her Daddy and Lacey trembled, hugging her knees tighter. But the look in Sam’s eyes when he talked to her... “Lacey, I’m so sorry that I scared you” ... was different than Daddy’s eyes; it didn’t make her feel scared that something bad was going to happen to her. Then she saw Sam’s head drop down so his chin was resting on his chest.  She watched how the old man ...Mister Sam called him Al...was acting while he was talking to Sam.  Lacey thought how the look on Al’s face as he looked at Sam reminded her of the look on Mr. Ted’s face when she was sick or fell down and skinned her knee.  Al cared about Mister Sam. In her young mind, Lacey added it all up, what she had seen and heard the two men saying to her and to each other, that achieved what nothing else had since Sam had taken her foster mother’s place just a short while ago.

Al was busy with the handlink, so he didn’t see Lacey stand up in the corner, and it wasn’t until he heard a small step that he realized what was happening.  It took about three seconds for him to decide not to look up immediately.  Instead, he continued pressing some of the buttons on the handlink in a random non-activating pattern, allowing the little girl to come closer.  It was only when, from the angle of his bent head, that he could see her feet and scraped legs as far up as her knees, that the Observer very slowly raised his head.

He remained silent, watching Lacey, now standing at Sam’s left side and gazing down at his friend’s unconscious face.  Not a word passed his lips as he observed her after a minute, edge a little closer then lean down and careful retrieve her doll from Sam’s lap.  Al half expected the child, now hugging Suzy fiercely, to retreat to the corner again, but Lacey didn’t move.  Rather, she tilted her head a bit to one side as she studied Sam’s face.  Reaching a hand out, she used one small finger to delicately touch an area of the dried blood on the side of Sam’s cheek.  Bringing her hand back, Lacey shifted her gaze to Al.

“He has a boo-boo,” she said plainly.  “He needs Patrick.”

Al blinked. “Patrick?” he asked gently.  “Who’s Patrick?”

“A pink star.”

“A pink star?” Al parroted the simple but mystifying answer back to the little girl. 

“He’s SpongeBob’s bestest friend,” Lacey explained.  She glanced at the dried blood on the side of Sam’s face again. “A Patrick Band-Aid would make his boo-boo feel better.”

Oh sweetie, Al thought as he smiled softly at the little girl. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all it took to fix our problems and hurts was a Patrick Band-Aid?

“I’m sure that Sam would agree with you,” he replied softly.  “But,” he glanced over at his best friend. “But we don’t have any Patrick Band-Aids...or anything to make Sam feel better ‘til your Da...” Just in the nick of time, Al stopped himself from using a familiar phrase that usually comforted small children, saying instead, “Until Mister Ted brings help to get you and Sam out of here.”

Lacey didn’t say anything as she hugged Suzy tighter, nestling her chin amidst the thick red yarn hair and pondered Al’s words.  More than once her hazel eyes strayed to Sam’s lack face then back to Al. Finally she said quietly, “Mama Bess hugs me when I have a bad dream.  It makes me feel better and I don’t feel scared.”  Her gaze flicked to Sam then back to Al.  “Would a hug help Sam to feel better?”

Al licked his lips, nodding softly as he smiled at the little girl.  “Yes,” he said softly. “I think that a hug would help Sam to start to feel better.”  In the next moment though, he forced himself to keep his expression calm when Lacey asked with the bluntness of innocence, “Would Sam.…hurt me if I sat on his lap to give him a hug?”

In the split second before he answered, the father’s heart beating in Albert Calavicci’s chest throbbed with fury for the one man in Lacey’s life that she should have always been able to trust unconditionally not to ever hurt her and to always protect her.  When he did answer, he knew he spoke with complete authority for his best friend.

“No Lacey, Sam would never, never hurt you,” Al told the child, letting her hear the conviction in his voice and see it in his eyes as he held gazes with her.  “Sam cares about you.  That’s why he came here; to help you be safe so you can grow up to be a beautiful young lady.”

For a long minute, the little girl didn’t say anything, didn’t move as she thought about Al’s words.  Finally, it was clear to the Observer, by the look on her face that she had made her decision.  He held his breath and didn’t make a sound.

Slowly Lacey released her tight hold on Suzy then laid the doll across Sam’s knees. Carefully, she crawled onto Sam’s lap, wiggling a bit to get comfortable before she turned to face him.  Opening her small arms and stretching them as widely as she could, Lacey pressed against Sam’s chest, hugging him with all her might.

On the opposite side of his friend’s unconscious form, Al came close to losing it when Lacey, her cheek nestled against Sam’s chest, tipped her face up to look at Sam’s unconscious face.  The once abused little girl reached a hand up to softly pet his friend’s cheek as she whispered, “Don’t be ‘fraid, Sam.  I’m here. I’ll stay with you.”

It was at that point that the Observer blinked furiously, a sheen of tears blurring his vision before slipping down his cheeks.  Grabbing the handkerchief from his breast pocket, he wiped his eyes then stuffed it into his coat pocket.  Moving with care, Al got to his feet and moved around the holographic images of Sam and Lacey then sat down on the Imaging Chamber floor close to them, but not so close as to make Lacey uncertain.  He held the handlink so that the pool of soft white light emanating from it engulfed Sam and Lacey.

As the minutes continued to slip by, Al observed the little girl as she studied the scrapes and bruises on Sam’s arms.  Craning her head down a bit, she peered at the lowest point of Sam’s ribs on his left side.  “What’s that?” she asked, tracing the tip of her right index finger over the center of a somewhat large and steadily darkening bruise.

“What’s what, honey?” Al asked, shifting the beam of light to focus on the area that had caught Lacey’s attention.  He winced sympathetically at the sight of the bluish-purpling bruise, roughly the size of one of the chucks of rock on which Sam had landed.  “It’s a bruise, honey,” he said. “A very bad bruise.”

“But what’s this?” Lacey murmured again, this time pressing the tip of her finger a little harder as she traced again a flowing raised line within the borders of the bruise. The slightly increased pressure of Lacey’s fingertip on his injured side jerked Sam Beckett out of the blackness of unconsciousness.

“Ahhh!” he gasped, reflexively clapping his left hand over the throbbing area on his ribs.  The movement also effectively pinned Lacey’s hand against his side.  Wincing, Sam opened his eyes and looked down but his pain was momentarily forgotten as he found himself gazing into Lacey’s hazel eyes as she sat on his lap.  There was no mistaking the watchfulness in her eyes, nor the way she tensed upon seeing that he was awake. Sam didn’t move. Licking his lips, Sam smiled at the little girl. “Hi, Lacey,” he said gently. 

Lacey looked up at Sam, uncertainty in her expression; he reminded her of Daddy. She had no way of knowing that the leaper watching her understood her reaction.  It was Sam’s stillness, as well as the kindness she saw in his eyes, that helped the little girl to decide what she was going to do.

She looked up into Sam’s eyes and said, “I been hugging you. He said it would make you feel better,” she added, pointing to the hologram. Sam’s gaze flew to his Observer, reading Al’s dark eyes in a flash.  Almost instantly he refocused on Lacey’s face as she asked, “Do you feel a bitty bit better?”

In spite of the pain wracking his body, Sam smiled at her because his answer, “Yes, Lacey, I do feel a little bit better,” was true.  Inside, in his heart and spirit, the leaper did feel better.  Slowly so as not to startle or frighten her, Sam removed his hand, releasing Lacey’s hand and exposing again the large bruised area over his ribs that had caught her attention.

Satisfied that she had done a good thing, Lacey returned the smile tentatively then returned her attention to the bruise on Sam’s side.  Once more she began moving her fingertip over the smooth raised line engulfed by the bruise.  “What’s this?” she repeated the question she had posed a short time before to the hologram.

Though the action caused him to see stars for the pain it caused, Sam slowly bent his head, his gaze following down his midriff to where the little girl’s finger remained on his skin.  However, though the light from the handlink illuminated the bruised area, Sam still couldn’t make out what it was that had so captured Lacey’s attention.

        “I can’t see it for the...for the bruising,” he panted, resuming leaning against the wall of the mine shaft.  Looking to his Observer, Sam asked, “What does it look like?”

        Before Al could respond, Sam felt Lacey’s finger begin to move. Closing his eyes, Sam focused on the child’s touch, through his mind’s eye following the path her small finger was tracing on his skin.  In the space of three or four seconds, a cruelly sharp and clear memory of what the mark was sprang into his mind.  The clarity of the memory of the hideous pain and how he had come into possession of the mark mocked him, causing him to tremble in spite of his best efforts not to. Taking a moment to school his expression, he cleared his throat then opened his eyes. When he did so, Sam found a certain pair of dark brown eyes fixed on him, but it was to Lacey he looked.

        “What is it?” Lacey asked yet again.

        “It’s a...mark,” Sam replied.  Nothing or no one could have induced or intimidated him into describing it to the child in the manner that had sprung to mind when recognition of it had hit him.... ”It’s a brand.”

        “What kinda mark?”

        Sam licked his lips then said, “It’s a letter of the alphabet.”

        “Which one?”

        Phantom pain seared the scar as Sam said, “It’s the letter -L -.”

        As the little girl leaned a bit closer, continuing to trace her fingertip over the subtly raised scar on his ribs, Sam and Al conversed with their eyes over her head.

        After twelve plus years of leaping and observing, the two friends were fluent in the silent conversation of the eyes.  As one relived an awful memory, the other offered the eloquent sympathy of understanding, at least in part, of what had been endured.  Only Lacey asking another question ended their “conversation”.

        “How did it get there?”

        As the memory continued to mock him, Sam steadfastly refused to permit it to color his voice or tone in any way.

        “A bad...man put it there.”


        “A long time ago….I think.”

        “Did it hurt?”

        Sam couldn’t hide the wince as he felt again the phantom pain in the -L - brand burned into his flesh. “Yes, honey. It hurt very badly.”

        Lacey looked closely up at Sam’s face for a minute before asking still another question.  “Why did the bad man hurt you?” 

        Sam closed his eyes again for a moment, the memory continuing to taunt him.  He heard his own frantic pleas, followed by his screams of agony as his torturer had firmly pressed the red-hot branding iron against his flesh.


        The leaper was grateful for the familiar gravelly voice that broke the memory’s hold.  Taking a shallow, shaky breath, Sam shrugged his shoulders as he admitted, “I…don’t know why he did it, honey.  He just did.”  It was and wasn’t a truthful answer.

        “Did you be scared?”

        It was a simple question, and as he and Lacey looked into each other’s eyes, Sam felt like his answer might be a turning point.  He had to answer this question correctly, for Lacey’s sake.

        Lifting his right hand, Sam softly stroked Lacey’s head, using his fingers to gently brush her bangs out of her eyes.  When he began to speak, he never let his gaze move from her solemn intent expression.

        “Yes, Lacey,” Sam admitted.  “I was very scared.”

        “Did you cry?”


        A minute or two passed after that without any more questions.  Sam could only cross his fingers and pray that his answers and been enough.  His answer came in three quietly spoken little words.

        “I did, too,” Lacey whispered, looking up at him, then laid her cheek against Sam’s chest again and resumed hugging.  An emotionally charged moment of silence passed before the little girl whispered, “Mr. Ted says he won’t never let a bad man hurt me again.”

        Emotion welled up inside leaper and Observer as they listened to Lacey’s words.  Al’s eyes glistened with unshed tears as he watched Sam gently wrap his right arm over Lacey’s shoulders and hug her as tightly as he dared.  It was what Sam said next that sent the tears in Al’s eyes flowing down his face.

        “Lacey,” Sam said softly, waiting for her to look up at him.  “I’m sorry that a bad man hurt you.” He hugged her a little tighter when he felt a tremble run through her small body. “But you know what makes me more glad than sad?”


        Sam’s smile grew as he ignored the pain in his left side as he lifted that hand to put a finger under Lacey’s chin as she continued to gaze steadily up at him.  “I’m so glad that you have Mr. Ted to take care of you.  You can trust him, Lacey. I know he –and Mama Bess– care very much about you.”

        Lacey thought hard about Sam’s words as she looked up at him, total trust of him reflected in her eyes before she laid her cheek against his chest again.  After a second, she began to fiddle with one of the yellow buttons on the front of his blouse. Tipping her face up to look into his eyes, she whispered, “Can I tell you a secret, Sam?”

        Sam smiled down at her. “Yes,” he said softly.  His heart skipped a happy beat when the child cupped her hands around her mouth and whispered up to him, “I like Mr. Ted. I wish he could be my Daddy.”

In the next moment, Sam, Lacey and Al all jumped as Ted Graham’s shout echoed in the darkness far above them.  More startling was the fact that the proximity of his voice made it seem like he was standing at the top of the shaft and calling down to them.

        “Bess...honey, I don’t know if you can hear me...I pray to God that you can. I just wanted to let you know that Carson and I just dragged that damned rock out of the way, and...”

        Sam Beckett didn’t need psychosynergizing between himself and Bess Graham to know what to do.

        “Ted!” he shouted as strongly as he could.

        The sound of his wife calling out his name just at that moment made Ted Graham freeze in his steps but only for a second. “BESS!” Ted shouted, a variety of emotions, chiefly relief and thankfulness, surging through him. “Where are you?”

        Aiming the flashlight he held into the inky blackness before him, the powerful beam clearly illuminated the broken boards that had once spanned the mouth of the large “blind” vertical shaft beneath them.  That was all he had to see to know where his wife and Lacey were.  With utmost caution, Ted picked his way as close to the leading edge of the rotten and broken planks as he dared approach.  He used one foot to clear away some of the rubble under his feet, then got down on his knees and stretched out on his stomach.  Painstakingly Ted inched his way forward the last four or five feet until he was close enough to gingerly touch the ends of the broken boards dangling precariously downward into the mouth of the shaft.  There was a space about the width of where two planks used to be that revealed a small area of the edge of the vertical shaft. With excruciating care, Ted Graham inched forward until he could just peer over the edge into the inky blackness.  Keeping a tight grip on the flashlight –God knew he didn’t want to accidentally drop it and possibly cause his beloved wife and Lacey any more harm than what had they had already endured – Ted aimed the bright beam of light down into the darkness.  Internally he stomped on the fear that tried to regain control of him when he was forced to wiggle another inch forward to increase the downward angle of the light as the beam drove steadily deeper into the blackness.  Then in the space of his next heartbeat, the powerful beam of light illuminated the upturned bruised and bleeding face of his wife to Ted Graham, causing a rush of joy to flood throughout his being.

        “Bess, sweetheart, are you all right?”

        Sam started to answer but a small voice spoke first, the words said effectively choking all three men, one in holographic form, into an emotional momentary silence. 

        “Mr. Ted...Daddy!”

        For two of the three men, the willingness to begin to learn to trust that an abused little girl was offering in that last word meant very likely that a mission had been accomplished.  It also meant that a precious little life originally snuffed out far too soon now had a future. Yet it was the third man who felt that all of the hours of patient care and loving concern he and his wife had lavished on an abused child for the better part of a year was being returned tenfold.

        “I’m here, Honeybee,” Ted called out, his voice a little shaky as he used the pet name that always delighted the little girl when he addressed her by it. “Are you okay?”  When he heard Lacey call out, “I need lotsa Patrick Band-Aids ‘cause I got boo-boos all over me. Mama Bess needs some, too,” he couldn’t help chuckling softly.  Blinking hard to keep his vision clear, Ted peered down to the bottom of the shaft to where his wife and a little girl who, he was beginning to hopefully believe might become their daughter in the not to distant future, gazed up at him as she and his wife comforted each other.

        “Okay, Honeybee,” Ted called back down. Pausing to lick his lips, he called to his wife, “What about you, Bess?”  Even from nearly thirty feet above, there was enough light from the flashlight to reveal to him that his wife would need a lot more than a few Band-Aids.  He turned his head to look back over his shoulder toward the mine’s entrance when he heard Carson Burnes’ voice.

        “I found them, Carson,” he called out.  “They’re alive!”

        “Thank God Almighty!” Carson Burnes exclaimed fervently.  “I was just coming to tell you that the rescue unit out of Austin just called.  They said they’d be here in about twenty-five minutes.”

        “Call ‘em back and tell ‘em that both of my girls are alive.”

        Carson Burnes just smiled to himself when his friend answered his, “You coming out?” with an unequivocal, “I’m staying right here.”  He started to leave then stopped when Ted called out to him again. “ Carson , there’s a blanket we keep stashed under the seat. Get it for me so I can drop it down to Bess and Lacey. Hey Carson ?”


        “Tell them to be sure that the medical unit has a box of Patrick Star(fish) Band-Aids with them.”

        Carson Burnes grinned. “Sure thing, Ted,” he replied and hurried out of the mine with a lighter step than with which he had entered a moment ago.




        At the bottom of the shaft, Sam and Al listened without comment to the echoing conversation far above their heads.  A chirping sound from the handlink tucked into the breast pocket of Al’s jacket broke the silence.

Taking out the handlink, Al quickly retrieved the new information being transmitted.  The pleased expression on his face as he read it couldn’t have been scrubbed off with steel wool.

        Sam’s sigh was weary but even the pain wracking his body couldn’t overshadow the satisfaction bubbling inside him as he waited for Al to share Lacey’s changed history with him.  “So?”

        Al glanced at the little girl once more with her head against Sam’s chest then met his friend’s gaze.  “You want all of the hearts and flowers or should I just cut to the happy ending?” he asked with a grin.

        Al had barely finished his question when Sam felt the familiar first tinglings beginning deep inside.  Meeting the Observer’s watchful gaze he said softly, “I think we’ve got just enough time for the happy ending.”  The Observer understood without further explanation.

        “Along with a variety of bumps, scrapes and bruises, Bess had three cracked ribs.  The gash on her left side of her head was stitched up during the same surgery to fix her broken ankle and, after eight weeks of recuperation, she makes a full recovery.  During that time, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services conducted a very thorough investigation of the incident, and I’m pleased to say that no charges were ever made.  What’s more, three weeks from now, after Lacey and Bess are rescued, Carson Burnes has a nine-foot square, foot thick slab of granite set in place at the mine’s entrance, permanently sealing it. He also had that boulder shoved up against the slab for good measure.”  He paused, a satisfied smirk on his face.  “That’s what I love about Texans,” he said.

        Seeing the gleam in his friend’s eyes, Sam took the lead-in.  “What’s that?”

        “They never do anything by half measures,” Al quipped.  Pressing a button to keep the feed of Lacey’s new history coming through, Al continued.

        “As I was saying about Ted and Bess, two weeks after the investigation is over with, they begin proceedings to adopt Lacey.” He glanced at the little girl sitting quietly on Sam’s lap, her beloved rag doll clutched tightly against her body and her chin nestled in Suzy’s red yarn hair, and smiled. “And a year and a day from today –the day after Lacey’s fifth birthday– a judge signs the order finalizing her adoption by the Grahams.  You’ll be happy to know that as we speak, Lacey Christine Graham, now at nine years of age, is a happy young girl, who is doing well in school and likes to play soccer.  She now also has to share Bess and Ted with a three year-old brother, Shane, whom they adopted two years ago.”

        If ever he’d heard a fairy tale ending, or at least a darned good start toward one, for a leap that had taken such a frightening nosedive from its beginning, Sam couldn’t think of it.  Yet for as glad as he was for Lacey, logic nudged him, reminding him that in every fairy tale there was always a dragon or such to try and spoil it those happy endings. 

        Before he could ask Al about a particular ‘dragon’, the moment was interrupted when Ted called out to his wife.  A moment later he dropped the blanket down to her and Lacey for warmth while awaiting the arrival of the rescue unit.

        Lacey looked up, watching the blanket fall then looked at Sam. “Want me and Suzy to get the blanket, Sam?”

        “Would you, please?” Sam replied with an encouraging smile.  He winced as the child extricated herself from his lap and went to retrieve the blanket. It took a little doing, but once Lacey was on his lap again, Suzy secure in her arms, he managed to get the blanket draped over the two of them in one fashion or another.

        As Lacey became quiet again, Sam looked at the Observer.  “What...” Sam began then thought about what he’d been about to say, finishing his question by mouthing “...about her father?”

        The Observer acknowledged the half-voiced question with a nod.  Entering the query into the handlink, within seconds, a look of satisfaction came over his face.  Edging a tad closer, Al turned the handlink so Sam could read the scrolling passage of information. 

        Sam had barely finished reading, “...was convicted of capital murder in the death of his wife and is now on death row awaiting execution...” when the draw to leap surged up within him.  He had only enough time to glance down at Lacey and smile before he was yanked once more into the ceaselessly swirling eddies of Time.  As he went, Sam took with him, if only for a few seconds, a paraphrased bit of a familiar line that he prayed would play out to a greater rather than lesser degree in Lacey’s future life...

”And she lived happily ever after.”



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