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.
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.
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
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
scene before and all around him.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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...”
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.
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.”
shot a look at the boy. “Stay
away from what?”
Thad Burnes’ expression was plainly puzzled.
voice sharpened as worry reared up at the boy’s words.
sister, Tracey, piped up, “You know, Mrs. Graham, the mine behind the
boulder. That’s why it’s
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?”
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?”
just what are you going to do while I’m in the shower?” he asked
impishly. “You know you
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
he could answer though, Sam heard more rushing footsteps, followed
immediately by another man calling out, “Ted, is Bess okay?”
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.
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.
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.”
a quick glance back over his shoulder toward where he knew Lacey was, Sam
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, Marcy,” Ted told the woman, but was cut off when Marcy Burnes
continued speaking over him.
in there with you? How did she
get in there? For that matter, how did you get in there?”
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.
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.
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.”
careful,” Ted Graham whispered, watching his wife turn away and begin
walking slowly carefully deeper into the murky shadows.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
he shouted, scrambling to his hands and knees before getting on his feet
again. “LACEY, NO!! LACEY COME
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.
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.
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
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!”
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,
turned back to his friend beside him.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
do we have anything from the Visitor yet?” Al demanded as he strode to the
main console. “Where’s
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
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.
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
Admiral,” Dom’s voice filled the chamber.
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
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!”
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.
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
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.
Almighty!” Carson Burnes’ gasped at the terror in the scream emanating
from the mine beyond the huge boulder.
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.
stop!” Carson Burnes insisted strongly, grabbing hold of Ted’s nearest
arm and pulling the worried, anxious man away from the boulder.
’s solid size helped him fend off Ted’s attempts to pull away from him.
Grabbing Ted by his upper arms,
gave him a hard shake and shouted in his face, “Ted! Get hold of yourself.
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
released his hold on him.
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?”
!” 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!”
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
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
had Thad run back to the truck and get your cell phone,” Mandy Burnes said
quietly, handing the phone to him.
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
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.”
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.”
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?”
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.
are you okay?”
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?”
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
way to get here is to take the
Old Burnet Road
. It used to be the main road
between Burnet and
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
“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
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
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
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
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
with her husband, Theodore.”
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
“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.”
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.”
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.”
“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,
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
“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, 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
“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.
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.”
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
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
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
had just stopped some fifty yards from the mine entrance.
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
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.”
The low drawn out moan from Sam grabbed Al’s attention.
Oh thank God!” he exclaimed, relief flooding through him as he watched his
friend’s eyes slowly flutter open.
Sam whispered through dusty lips, lifting his head, peering about at the
area where he lay.
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
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.
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.
wrong?” Al demanded when he heard Sam’s cry of pain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
you doing buddy?”
leaper heard the concern in the Observer’s voice and at last opened his
eyes again. “I’ve been
better,” he panted. “Where...am
thanked God and every lucky star he’d ever wished on that he had some
information to give Sam about this leap.
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…”
what?” Sam asked.
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.”
idea of how deep this...winze is?” Sam asked wearily.
His face wrinkled in pain as he gingerly shifted one hip a bit.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?”
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.”
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?”
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.
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.”
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.
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
and Ted,” Sam said, his words more a statement than a question.
Anyway, according to the records, Lacey was taken away from her father when
he was discovered...”
the Observer even finishing the sentence, that one word put a bad taste into
Sam’s mouth as he repeated it. “Discovered?”
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.”
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.”
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?”
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
sharp twinge of pain along the left side of his ribcage made Sam gasp,
effectively pulling him back to the present.
didn’t her mother get...ummm,” Sam winced again. “Why didn’t her
mother get custody of Lacey?”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
found her and got her out, right?”
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.”
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.”
Sam,” Al interrupted firmly, his dark eyes flashing.
“You had no way of knowing any of this before you got here.”
why am I here?”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
did you tell Suzy?” a quiet little voice asked.
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
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.
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.
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.
parallel hybrid computer interrupted the Observer, answering the question
without it being asked.
Beckett has fainted again,” Ziggy informed Al.
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.
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.
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.
has a boo-boo,” she said plainly. “He
blinked. “Patrick?” he asked gently.
pink star?” Al parroted the simple but mystifying answer back to the
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.”
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?
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.”
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?”
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?”
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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, 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.”
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
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
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.
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.
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.”
Sam licked his lips then
said, “It’s a letter of the alphabet.”
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
bad...man put it there.”
long time ago….I think.”
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.”
looked closely up at Sam’s face for a minute before asking still another
question. “Why did the bad man
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.
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.
you be scared?”
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.
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
Lacey,” Sam admitted. “I was
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.
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
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.
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?”
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
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?”
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
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.
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...”
Beckett didn’t need psychosynergizing between himself and Bess Graham to
know what to do.
he shouted as strongly as he could.
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?”
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.
sweetheart, are you all right?”
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
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.
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.
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.
found them, Carson,” he called out. “They’re
God Almighty!” Carson Burnes exclaimed fervently.
“I was just coming to tell you that the rescue unit out of
just called. They said they’d
be here in about twenty-five minutes.”
‘em back and tell ‘em that both of my girls are alive.”
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.
, 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
them to be sure that the medical unit has a box of Patrick Star(fish)
Band-Aids with them.”
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.
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
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?”
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.
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.
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
“They never do anything
by half measures,” Al quipped. Pressing
a button to keep the feed of Lacey’s new history coming through, Al
“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
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,
“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
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...
she lived happily ever after.”