energy drain from this leap had been enormous. The extra power grids and
some of the mainframe had to be taken off line and replaced. Ziggy
Ďsleptí for a day. By the time Al was able to contact Sam again, it
had been almost 30 hours. It appeared to be a straight forward leap;
keeping an old man from driving and crashing into a crowded bus stop. Sam
had leaped into a retirement home, and all he had to do was spend a lot of
time lounging around and not drive at the indicated time. That time had
passed, and Dr. Beckett was now in flux; a term used when he was between
staff decided that sending out another leaper was not advisable in the
future. The power demand was too much for the system and the possibility
of permanently damaging Ziggy was too great.
Jo was sitting with Al in the cafeteria waiting for the word on the next
he mad at you for taking so long to get to the retirement home?" she
asked about the last leap, trying to keep a conversation going.
But itís not like that hasnít happened before. He got over it."
Al took a sip of his warm coffee. He had taken advantage of the 30 hour
down time by sleeping and having some close, quality time with his wife.
He was back to normal now.
unasked question hung there between them. She was almost afraid to ask,
but she had to know. He knew what she was thinking, but waited until she
he .... ?" she started, unable to finish, looking at him hopefully.
he doesnít remember you," he answered. "At least, he didnít
ask about you."
head dropped. "Now I know how Donna feels," she said quietly.
leaned across the table and took her hand, smiling. "Iím sure
somewhere in his Swiss cheesed brain, there is a little spot reserved just
for you, Sammy Jo. When he comes home, everything will be fine."
smiled at him appreciatively, understanding why he was her fatherís best
disorientation of leaping was slow to wash away this time. Dr. Sam
Beckettís senses crept back as if they were reluctant to complete the
connections to his brain. He was hanging there, suspended by an unseen
force over an unfocused landscape, as if God, or Time or Fate was
reconsidering this assignment. The perceived hesitation was over when Sam
felt pain slam into his body like lightning.
gasped and struggled to escape the pain that enveloped him as the other
senses snapped into awareness. He tried to flee when the pain was paled by
panic when he realized he couldnít move; his hands were bound behind him
and his feet were lashed together.
tried to yell for the only friend he could recall, Al, but gagged on the
cloth clamped tightly through his mouth and around his head. His breathing
severely hampered, he tried to control the panic by concentrating on
breathing through his nose. Looking wildly around the dank, dark room that
smelled of mold, hoping to locate an ally of any sort, he saw two small
windows set high in the wall that showed nothing but grayness, trash and
litter all around the room, and a solid wooden door that was closed. He
lay on an smelly, thin and dirty mattress on the floor as he struggled
vainly against the ties and the pain.
door caught his attention as it thumped and rattled, stuck to the frame
surrounding it. Sam froze and focused on the door, hopeful and fearful at
who may be coming in. The door finally gave away and jerked open, letting
in a blocky Asian man. Sam held his breath trying to gauge the manís
man stood there, just inside the doorway, and broke into a huge smile when
he looked at the body on the mattress. Samís stomach lurched in response
when he said in a cheery voice, "Oh boy! Sheís awake!"
March 17, 1981
Wilderness Lake, Idaho
I couldnt remember when or where I had heard that my leaps would be getting
tougher; I dont recall ever having that thought before. But this time a disembodied
voice said those words to me as I looked at the man that had just come into the room. I
knew instantly I was in a desperate situation and needed help. Now. And although Al was
just a hologram that couldnt physically help me, I needed someone on my side even if
all they could offer were encouraging words. I was in trouble, and keeping my mind working
on escape was difficult when battling the pain and panic rising in my gut.
The man rubbed his
hands together with that smile still plastered on his face, causing Sam to wonder about
his mental capacity. Still breathing hard from his struggling and fighting waves of
claustrophobia, Sam kept is eyes on the man while trying to formulate a plan. Considering
his situation, ideas for escape were rather thin.
Circling around to
Sams back the odd man used his heel to kick Sam onto his side, facing away from him.
Sam felt a tug on his neck and realized for the first time that there was a collar of some
kind fastened there. This was unbelievable, and Sam felt himself fighting
hyperventilation. He felt the click of metal on this neck then a tugging on his wrists,
and then the feeling of his feet being untied.
Just then the sound of
the Imaging Room door echoed in his head and he craned his neck towards the noise to find
his friend. Al rushed into the room, his eyes as wide as Sams.
This is bad," he knelt down in front of his friend, unable to help him as a hologram,
and held his eyes with his own. Al could see how close to the edge Sam was, and knew he
had to calm him down, even in the illogic of this scenario. Al gave the Asian a quick
glance then returned his attention to Sam, whose eyes were glassy with terror.
calm down. Im here to help you. I know whats happening, so calm down. And
dont do anything, OK?" Als calm, authoritative voice was having the
effect he had hoped for; Sams breathing became more even and he blinked slowly a few
times. "Hes untying your feet, but dont do anything, Sam, OK? You could
kick the daylights out of him with the Tae Kwan Do you know, but nows not the
time." He could see that Sam was getting control of himself and hanging on Als
The Asian had
connected a strap that went from Sams neck collar through his wrist bindings. When
Sams legs were finally unbound the man yanked back on the strap which choked Sam and
pulled his arms up painfully behind him at the same time. Trusting Al completely he
suppressed the urge to fight back. As he was forced to his feet, Al kept talking in a calm
"Sam, your name
is Laura Beauchamp and you are a kidnap victim. This man is August Yeng. He and his
partner are two of the most notorious serial killers in this country. You are in grave
danger, buddy, but Im here to get you out."
Yeng pushed Sam
forward and he stumbled, falling to his knees. He caught the sight of a scared,
disheveled, dark haired girls face as a reflection in a puddle of water on the
filthy floor. Struggling to his feet as Yeng clicked his tongue and jerked on the strap
Sam barely noticed the ripped and dirty remains of a dress barely covering his body.
youre here to escape, Sam, but not yet. Yengs partner Charles Moran is
somewhere around, so dont make a move until I can locate him. Hang in there, Sam.
Well get you out of this."
Sam fixed Al with a
pleading look that gave Al a chill all the way to his toes. Sam didnt want him to
leave. "Ive got to find Moran, Sam. Ill be right back. Gooshie!" Al
pulled the handlink from his pocket and tapped madly as he spoke loudly to the Chief
Engineer of the Project. "Center me on the other person here!" There was a
slight hesitation while Al studied the squealing link. "What?" He sounded
furious, but calmed himself quickly for Sams sake.
Yeng had pushed Sam
out of the door, and Al made sure to keep up with him and stay within his sight.
"Moran is out of the immediate area, Sam, but well locate him. Yeng wont
do anything without Morans direction, so youre OK for now, understand?"
With his neck pulled back taut on the strap, all Sam could do was blink in response. Al
saw tears forming in his friends eyes, and it tore at him to only be able to watch.
He kept talking to give Sam something to focus on. "Moran and Yeng have this compound
in the mountains, Sam, northeast of Idaho Falls. Youre in a wilderness area of
outside of Yellowstone National Part, miles from any town. In about three years these two
nozzles get caught and tried, but in that time they murder about fifteen girls." Al
could see Sams mind start to work, and knew he had about a million questions.
"We dont know how many they have killed to this point. You see," Al looked
uncomfortable, trying to think about how to soften his words, "Laura Beauchamp is one
of the victims. Her bones are finally located and identified after the grounds here are
searched for evidence for the trial."
Sams eyes rolled
in Als direction, wide and shining, and Al could see him tensing up. "No,
dont do anything yet, Sam! You have to trust me!"
Yeng had maneuvered
Sam out of the small building that looked like a separate root cellar, and they were now
on a foot path to a larger building that looked as neglected as the one Sam just left.
Being barefoot, Sam noticed the coldness of the ground and how it hurt his feet, and
shivered in the icy breeze that blew over his practically naked body. There were only
trees and mountains as far as the eye could see, and escape seemed pointless; being
dressed like this, he probably wouldnt even last the first night out in the
When Yeng pushed him
into the larger building Sam noticed the bare block walls of the medium sized room had
stout metal hooks at various levels projecting out of them, and little else. There was
another dirty, thin mattress on the floor and a rickety metal table by the door with
several videocassettes on it. Sam stopped, warily surveying the room as Al regarded the
handlink nervously. Yeng pulled painfully on the strap and half-dragged Sam to a wall,
looping the strap over one of the hooks. This resulted in Sam having to stand on his toes
to keep from choking himself. He felt the fear in him slowly turning to hate.
know a time of death for Laura, but she was reported as a missing person three days ago.
These two nozzles are a sadistic pair, Sam, into sexual torture and all that. Poor
gal," Sam look at him with wide eyed disbelief. "Any way, when you escape and
turn them in youll save a lot of lives. This is a vital leap, buddy." Al was
trying to paint a better picture than he saw. Escape from here wasnt going to be
easy, and survival in the wilderness just as difficult. "Video tapes at the trial
showed girls getting tortured in a room like this," Al whispered, looking around.
"Thats probably them right there! God, this is sick!" He swallowed
shakily, getting more worried about his friend. "These guys need to die, Sam,"
Al concluded softly. Sams glare indicated he agreed.
The anger faded with
the minutes as Sam became more exhausted. Lauras body had become weakened from the
treatment she had received so far, and Al had to keep him focused by talking. Yeng
eventually left the room after fiddling with the tapes, and Sam rubbed his wrists against
the wall. He had discovered that he was in metal handcuffs. The strap was his only
possible out if he could just unhook it somehow.
"Moran and Yeng
were finally discovered when one of their victims escaped and made it to the police. She
almost died from exposure and that was later in the summer than you are. She was maimed,
lost a breast, eww, thats disgusting! They cut off her breast!" Al was visibly
riled and shaken. "These guys are animals, Sam." He poked angrily at the
squawking link. "They were arrested, and Moran was able to kill himself at the police
station. Yeng tried to direct all the guilt on the dead guy, saying he was bewitched by
him or something. What a creep."
Al pocketed the link
after a few seconds and caught Sams eye. "Of the two, Sam, Ziggy thinks Yeng is
the weak link. Hes the one you can escape from, but I have to know where Moran is
first. Ill find him pronto, buddy, then well get you out of here." Al
stuck his head through the door, literally, then said, "Ill be right back, Sam.
Im gonna check the car out there," and he faded into the wall.
Struggling to keep his
balance and feeling his body getting fatigued, Sam knew he had to do something now. The
desire to flee was overwhelming, and it was difficult to concentrate on any sequence of
procedure. His strength was fading fast.
He craned his head
around and saw several more hooks and various levels, two of which were in reach of his
feet. If he could hook a toe on one, and push upwards off the wall with his other foot,
maybe he could get enough weight off the strap to just flip it over the hook. If he
didnt get a big enough push, he could choke himself into unconsciousness, then
death. Considering the choices of death by torture or death by choking, Sam decided to
test the latter.
His toe was just able
to get a tenuous grip on the nearest hook and he balanced precariously on the toes of the
other foot for a few seconds before a cramp seized his calf. He lurched, losing his
balance and cutting off his air. Ignoring the cramp, he got back on both feet and
gratefully released the pressure on his neck, gasping for air through his nostrils and
realizing that he just needed a little more height to accomplish this feat; something to
stand on for just a second, and push off of to clear the strap from the hook. The only
things in the room were the table and mattress, both too far away.
Just then Al bustled
back in the room. "I found Moran, Sam. I followed Yeng to the other end of the
house," Al had the handlink in his hand again and he tapped furiously on it.
"Morans asleep, or passed out, or something. Yeng left him alone, and hes
on his way back. Nows a good time to get out, but you cant wake up
Moran." Al regarded the link. "Ziggy says your chances are at 80% for escape
with just Yeng around."
Sam heard the
shuffling of feet just before Yeng entered the room. He looked at Sam and grinned a grin
that gave Sam the chills, then slipped an object out of his back pocket. It was a large
folding hunters knife. A flash of memory entered his head at the sight of the knife;
Sam had used one just like that to fillet fish and gut pheasant on the farm. He dared not
to think what Yeng planned to do with it. Als comment about the girl having her
breast cut off stuck in his head, and he knew this was not just a threat.
That chilling smile
was still on Yengs lips when he stepped up to Sam, pressing his body up to him. He
smelled of sweat and dirt and greasy hair and Sam turned his head away, closing
his eyes. He
felt the cold edge of the knife as it traced a painful pattern from below his left ear
across his throat, and start down his chest. The motion was stopped by Yengs own
body pressed there.
open your eyes and think! You gotta get out of this! Sam!" Als voice restarted
his brain and he instantly acted on a feeling, taking advantage of his untied feet.
Wrapping one leg
around Yengs knees he was able to pull the Asians legs together and up, then
ducked his head and butted the mans chin. He caught Yeng completely by surprise and
he fell back, his head making a loud crack on the floor. Sam stepped his other foot onto
the down mans bent knees and managed to get enough of a push up to unhook the strap.
He fell to his knees on Yengs crotch, disabling him with a loud woof of breath.
before he yells and wakes up Moran! Clobber him!" Al was jumping up and down next to
Sam, who had lost his balance and fallen aside. Shakily Sam got to his feet and kicked the
monster in the head hoping to knock him out. It took several kicks until he stopped
moving, but Sam wasnt satisfied and gave him at least two more before Als
voice broke through his anger.
thats enough! Stop it!" Sam paused. "I think he deserves lots more, too,
but you gotta get outta here. Comon, over here. Use the knife to cut the
were on fire from the heavy breathing and his chest ached. He stumbled over to where Al
was pointing and dropped on the floor to reach the knife. It seemed to take forever to
position the knife with his fingertips and saw on the stubborn strap. He just closed his
eyes and made a mental picture of the task, and sawed away at Als urging. Finally
the strap snapped, and Sam was able to slide his cuffed wrists under his feet so his hands
were in front of his body. He shoulders were on fire and his hands numb, but he forced his
body to work. He ripped off the gag, and gulped huge mouthfuls of air to clear his head.
Slowly he sat up, his eyes watering and head pounding, unable to focus on the next step.
"OK, now, check
that perverts body for the cuff key, Sam, then lets get you out."
Obediently, Sam crawled to the down man.
"I have to get
out, Al," Sam croaked. "I cant stay here."
"Yeah, I know
buddy, now lets get going!"
Sams hands were
shaking as he checked Yengs pockets and found a key ring with about a half dozen
keys, one which was a handcuff key, Al pointed out. His hands werent very
coordinated due to the numbness and he kept dropping the tiny key. Al looked worried as he
bounced on his toes nervously, noting Sams clumsiness.
that for now, and just get his clothes. Youll need them, and we dont have much
time. Ill go check on that other clown." He half ran through the wall, leaving
When Al disappeared
Sam felt a blast of fear shoot thought his body, and his hands started shaking even more.
He felt his chest tighten as panic started to take hold, and stripping the prone man
wasnt helping stave off the attack he felt coming. He didnt want to be left
alone with this guy, unconscious or not. It didnt matter that Al was just a
hologram. He needed someone on his side.
He finally fought off
the panic attack by making a list in his head of what he needed to survive in the woods.
He stripped off the shirt and down vest, and even the pants of his unconscious nemesis. It
made his stomach turn to put on the filthy pants, and he was on his knees, starting to
retch, when Al returned.
"We are out of
time, buddy," Al said with a voice of authority. "Get up. I know youre
sick to your stomach, I know youd rather kill him where he lay, but theres no
time for that." His command presence was calming as it was the voice of experience.
Being a repatriated POW from Vietnam, he knew exactly how Sam felt. And he knew he had to
save him from himself as well as the enemy. The rage had to be channeled to survival right
now. "Moran is awake and will be here any minute. Move it!"
Sam gathered up the
shirt and vest, put the keys and the knife in the pants pocket, then got to his feet. The
sensation of the cold floor on his bare soles made his hesitate, then move to Yengs
feet. He bent over and yanked off the shoes with a force that surprised him, and stumbled
to the door on wobbly legs. Action had caused the panic to subside, and his thoughts
became calm and ordered, but the adrenaline made him shaky.
he whispered. Talking made his bruised throat ache, and he kept blinking to try and clear
his fogged vision. His pounding veins made the collar even tighter.
"Just follow me,
Sam. You concentrate on me and staying on your feet. Ill get you out." Al
gently but urgently kept Sams attention on him. He could see how fatigued
Lauras body was, and was worried that the body would give out soon. They had to get
out now. He led Sam out of the torture room and down a short hall. He saw Sams
forehead furrow with thought. "Im taking you out a door that puts you closer to
the forest. Youll have more cover that way." They both heard a door bang shut
in another part of the house. "Lets go Sam, Morans on his
They ducked into a
utility room that had a door to the outside. "Here it is," Al indicated with his
thumb. "Once youre outside, go straight ahead right into the woods. Dont
look back or stop, you hear?" Sam nodded quickly and pushed open the door just as he
heard footsteps getting louder. He slipped out, but didnt close the door completely.
He saw a motion out of the corner of his eye through the cracked door as a person walked
down the hallway he and Al just came through. Moran was headed to the room, and would find
Yeng in just a few seconds. His heart leaped into his throat as he again fought back blind
panic to make a quiet escape.
It took about a dozen
steps to get into the woods. Stepping from the sunshine into the cold shadows was
shocking, the chilling effect compounded with the occasional near freezing blast of wind.
Sam clutched the clothing close to his body for warmth. He hadnt even had a chance
to put on the shoes. He felt his feet getting poked and cut from rocks but he didnt
dare stop. Al led him deeper into the trees, and after awhile he could hear faint voices
arguing and even a few gunshots over his wheezing breath.
Al was relentless in
his badgering and urging, pushing Sams body to the limit. Sam had difficulty
catching his breath, and saw that his vision was narrowing to a tunnel. The collar was
choking His arms hung limply down, the clothes caught on the handcuff chain, and a shoe
clutched desperately in each hand. Al cajoled Sam up a small valley, then into a rocky
crevice on one side. The crevice bent around in a sharp angle, hiding Sams body from
the opening. The floor was fairly soft silt and pine needles. Spider webs occasionally
draped across Sams face, and it smelled of wet rock. Al finally let Sam stop and he
collapsed gratefully, instantly falling into what Al hoped was an uneasy sleep instead of
The holographic friend
watched over him for several minutes to be sure he was safe.
As Sam slept Al
stepped back into 1999 to see what changes they had accomplished.
ordered, still standing in the Imaging Chamber, "Hows it looking?"
The parallel hybrid
computers velvety voice came back with an answer almost immediately.
"Considering the climate and temperature in the time in this area, the physical
condition of Dr. Beckett, and the type of clothing and supplies, it is a 32.6% chance that
Dr. Beckett will make it to the authorities in the area."
"Are you saying
its a 67.4% chance hell die or that hell get caught?" Al sounded
"I gave a
percentage on Dr. Becketts success, not how he would fail," the voice sounded
insulted. "I calculate 40.7% that Dr. Beckett will die of exposure, and 26.7% for
recapture. Are you happy now?"
Im not," Al was working hard not to lose his temper with Ziggy. Past experience
proved her ability to pout. "Did you factor in my help and experience in wilderness
"And his chances
for success are still that low?"
"Are there any
other factors you used and didnt tell me?"
There was a tell tale
hesitation, like a kid caught in a cookie jar. "Yesss..."
Al waited, hands on
hips. "Well? What are they?"
"I also factored
in information on the future survivors mental condition and abilities at her time of
discovery, taken from doctors and psychiatrists records. And there was a
factor of luck that she was found at all."
Al turned that one
over in his mind as he left the Chamber for the Control Room. He approached the center
console and stood by the pale, red haired head programmer. Gooshie watched Al, trying to
gauge his mood as he spoke to Ziggy.
"I want you to
recalculate the odds, throwing out those last parameters and factor in mine and Sams
instead," he pulled a cigar from his jacket pocket and chewed on it thoughtfully.
every time Dr. Beckett leaps there is some mind mixing with the subject and Dr. Beckett. I
cannot ignore that fact."
"Well, you will
this time. The information you used isnt from Laura Beauchamp, but from some other
person altogether." He noted the hesitation in the computer and decided to push it.
"Or would that be too hard for you?" Al tried to look innocent as he lit the
Ziggys tone was
haughty. "54.73% of success. And I am capable of more difficult problems."
Satisfied, Al then turned to discuss with Gooshie the fact that he would have to be on
line in the Imaging Chamber for long periods in this leap if he was going to be Sams
trail guide. "And get me some detailed maps of the area in that time," he added.
He had some numbers to massage to get the success rate up, and retired to his quarters to
consider the calculations.
The cornfield swayed
in the breeze making a restful whispering noise that always calmed Sams mind. He
stood watching the golden topped stalks against the impossibly blue sky and felt
comforted. He was home, and it was a joyous feeling. Closing his eyes he felt the Indiana
sun caress his cheek and the warm breeze lift the hair from his forehead. He never wanted
to leave, but now the feeling on his cheek tickled, and he felt himself frown. Then he
felt something hard on the other side of his head which was beginning to hurt. In his
dream, Sam raised his arm to brush away the tickle, but the pain from striking something
hard, cold and out of sight forced him to jerk awake and bang his head on the close rock
Surprised, he quickly
sat up and slapped the tickle on his cheek, forgetting his hands were cuffed together. He
managed to clip the bridge of his nose with the metal, bringing tears to his eyes. He saw
the squashed body of a fairly large spider drop into his lap, causing him to scramble to
his feet awkwardly. The spider hadnt bitten him, but the other side of his face was
tender and bruised from resting on a rock. His body was stiff from the previous exertion
and cold, but at least his breathing was easier now.
Sam shakily looked
around him, recalled the cuff keys in his pocket, and retrieved them. His fingers were
numb and shaking so badly, he had to sit and rest his arms on his knees to hold them
steady enough to unlock the cuffs. Finally, he got one unlocked and opened. His wrist was
purple and deeply indented from the tight metal. He worked his fingers to rid them of the
numbness, and unlocked the second bracelet, letting the offending device drop to the
floor. It hurt to touch his wrists, and Sam wondered if there were any broken bones.
Noticing the shirt and
vest on the ground, Sam grabbed them and shook them out before putting them on. That
helped a lot, but he was so chilled he wondered if he could ever recover the lost body
heat. He checked the shoes and slipped them on. All the clothes were too big, and he
untucked part of the rags that were formally a dress and ripped off enough pieces to make
a belt and cinched the clothes down.
he whispered loudly, looking around the crevice as he worked. "Where are you?"
His stomach growled with hunger, and his mouth was thick and parched. He needed food and
water, but wasnt about to leave the safety of the cave without his guide. His words
echoed lamely in the tight quarters.
The previous events
were kind of hazy to him, but he recalled the block room and the gag, as well as the
collar. He felt his neck, and found it still there. There was a small padlock securing it
in the back so it was not removable right now. It was tight enough that he didnt
think he could get the knife between it and his neck to cut it off. As he tried to work
his fingers under it he started to feel light headed as the pressure cut off the
circulation to his brain. When the welcome sound of the Imaging Room door greeted him, Sam
plopped down to rest and talk with his friend.
Al wasnt hard to
spot, decked out in black and neon orange. "Oh, Sam, youre awake," he said
cheerily as Sam chuckled and shook his head at the image. "I was worried
there...what?" the hologram asked innocently, arms out from his sides. "All
hunters wear this color in the woods!" he protested smugly, pulling Ziggys handlink from an outer pocket. "Keeps them from getting shot."
needs to be put out of its misery," Sam mumbled, throat still sore.
"Well, it looks
like youre recovering nicely," Al shot back, but obviously pleased.
"I need food and
water," Sam whispered, discovering it didnt hurt as much to talk that way.
"I guess medical attention is out of the question for now," he said, flexing his
stiff fingers. "I dont think anything is broken." Stretching, he wished
for a hot bath, but knew such luxuries were just a dream. Returning to the problem at hand
he turned to face his friend. "And thanks, Al, for your help back there," he
ducked his head. "Id probably be dead now if it wasnt for you."
softened. "Youre welcome," he replied formally. "Now, you need
supplies." He consulted the link briefly then slipped it back into his pocket, all
business. "I hate to tell you, but the only ones around here are back at
that...place," indicating the direction with a nod of his head.
Sam got a chill up his
spine that wasnt from the weather. "I didnt want to hear that."
"Yeah, I know,
but remember, you got me." Al looked his friend over. "Ill get you in
closer, then check the place out. Youll need food," at the sound of that
Sams stomach growled painfully. "And a coat or blanket or something. A tent
would be nice, but lets be realistic, here." Al motioned him to stand up.
"Follow me, but dont come out until I say."
Sam shuffled along in
his too big shoes behind the hologram, and paused as Al stepped into the open. Sam felt
like Bambi waiting to come into the meadow for the first time. "Come on," the
hologram said, motioning with his hand.
Sam stepped out of the
crevice and felt an icy wind on his face, then bent down to tighten the laces on the
shoes. Traveling in these wasnt going to help him any, he thought. Al surveyed the
area with a sharp eye, then pointed towards some trees. Sam headed in the indicated
direction as Al caught up by walking through the bushes and trees. They took a jumpy
route, using the trees as cover. Sam lost one shoe or the other about every dozen steps,
as the laces broke in several places, so the return trip took much longer. Al finally
found a well covered spot and sat Sam down.
"Stay here and
keep quiet," he ordered. "The compound it just ahead."
Sams hands went
cold and clammy at that news, and his stomach did a flip. He sat quickly because he
doubted his knees could hold him any longer. Al noticed his distress.
"Stay with me,
Sam, thisll be a piece of cake," he said trying to sound light. Sam just
nodded. "Ill be right back."
whispered in reply. Thoughtfully silent as his friend surveyed the grounds, he rubbed his
swollen fingers and tried to stop the flashes of Lauras shared memory that kept
intruding his mind, probably triggered by the sight of the compound. All of the thoughts
were accented with terror. He looked miserable when Al returned.
"You with me
here?" Al questioned, slightly alarmed. "You have to do this. I
Sam said quietly. "I guess Im ready."
Al looked him over
with a skeptical eye. "Youll do better without the shoes."
Sam slipped them off
without a word, then stood shakily to meet Als eyes. The hologram could see the fear
was barely under control, but it would have to do. There wasnt much time.
Ill lead!" Al tried to sound light as Sam rolled his eyes, then disappeared
into the brush with Sam following, carefully weaving between the bushes. He stopped when
he came to the edge of the woods and spotted the hologram standing in the open between him
and a collection of eclectic buildings. A chill went up his spine when he saw a small
shack; it was where he had leaped in.
Al was motioning
wildly. Sam swallowed and slunk across the open space to a small utility shed and crouched
down behind some piles of newspaper. "Theres a garage thing over here that has
a freezer and canned stuff, and probably a bag to carry things." Sams stomach
was cramping with hunger, and his extremities tingled with fear.
they?" Sam whispered.
looked around to get his bearings. "Yeng walked down the road, that way," he
pointed in the opposite direction. "I think Moran went looking for you in that beat
up Jeep, because its gone." He chose not to tell Sam that Yeng was carrying a
shotgun. "I didnt see him anywhere around here, so get movin."
one else here? I mean, no more victims?"
"Not that I could
find. Now come on!" Al walked anxiously ahead towards a low wood and block building,
and Sam followed, slipping around the side to the front doors.
The whole compound had
piles of junk everywhere. Trash in bags were just tossed behind the outer buildings,
having been torn open by various critters. Bears entered Sams mind. He hoped he
didnt run into any. There were five buildings that he could see. The shack and
cellar affair he had leaped into, the garage he was in now, the larger block building that
seemed to be the main house that Sam escaped from, a small outhouse appearing structure
behind the big building and a medium sized block building that had trash cans along the
side. For all the good it did; it looked like they never used them.
Sam checked the
cluttered garage and found a dilapidated freezer. When he opened it he saw the inner door
and walls were caked with ice, and pried a couple of paper wrapped packages from the
shelves. Then he scraped some ice from the inside and put it in his mouth. His eyes closed
in ecstasy as he felt it run down his throat.
wrapped meat, Sam," Al said, looking around as he talked. "Get a bag and take
some. Youll need it." While Sam emptied out a canvas bag he found Al examined
the room. "Theres metal cabinets over here. Look inside, there may be more
Sam tossed a half
dozen frozen packs in the bag, some more ice in his mouth, then opened the cabinet to find
camping gear crammed inside and some very old looking freeze dried food packets. He
grabbed all of them and a small, rusty frying pan. Rooting around also turned up a box of
matches, a compass, a canteen, and a leather work glove. The other glove was missing, but
he took it anyway. As the seconds ticked on, his heart pounded harder and the urge to flee
grew. He passed up a small tent for a ratty sleeping bag, knowing his take would have to
be small enough to carry. He returned to the freezer and put more ice in his mouth.
Youll get cramps!" Al cautioned, worried.
"Ah ahlreahdy hab
em," Sam replied through a mouthful of ice as he stuffed in more. He could feel
the coldness running all the way from his throat to his stomach. It was wonderful. It was
hard to stop, but he knew he had to get out of here. As he was cramming the sleeping bag
in the sack his eyes fell on a pile of clothes near the open garage door. Al followed his
stare and walked over.
"Not too clean,
but theyll help," he looked closer. "Whats that?" he pointed at
something on top of the pile.
Sam slowly walked
closer, a feeling of dread growing. "Its the toe of a shoe." He carefully
lifted pieces of cloth away from the dainty dark red pump, buried in womens
clothing. With the toe of the shoe exposed, Sam lifted it up.
The pump used to be
beige. Half of it was now stained in blood, and Sam could see nibble marks from some small
animal. He flung the shoe in revulsion, the scent of dried blood combined in the
revelation making his stomach lurch. Turning his back on the clothes he clamped his hand
over his mouth to keep from vomiting, and broke out in a cold sweat. His legs wobbled and
he fell to his knees.
Theres no time for this!" Al stuck his head out the garage wall. "Yeng is
just down the road here, and we gotta move!" He looked back at the pile of clothes.
"Look, theres a sweater here, and two smaller tennis shoes. They dont
match, but theyll stay on your feet. Come on, buddy! Get yourself together!"
Inwardly, he was just as repulsed as Sam, but he knew it was up to him to keep his friend
alive. He took that responsibility seriously. He egged Sam on, who crawled over and picked
up the items Al pointed out without question. He looked pale as he stuffed them in the
bulging bag and clumsily stumbled back to the freezer.
As he struggled with
the load and his weak knees, Sam confronted Al. "Are you sure theres no one
else here? Where did those clothes come from?" His voice was a harsh whisper.
"Why didnt I leap in to save them?"
know!" Al sputtered, nervously checking the driveway. "Ziggy pulled the
information from the trial transcripts. Yeng didnt say how many girls there were
before Laura. He plead the 5th amendment. You know, the self incrimination thing."
"I think you need
to look around." Sam directed sternly.
"Just do it,
OK?" Sam snapped.
already. Jeeze," he yanked out the handlink and tapped the keys. "Just keep out
Sam had plunked down and was wrestling with the shoes when Al blinked out of sight.
The shoes were a much
better fit and Sam stood up. He checked a set of small wooden shelves and found a couple
of easy open cans of beans. Yanking them open he devoured them both and decided to search
for water. There was back door out of the garage and Sam pushed it carefully open and
stuck his head out. He saw a hose bib and put his lips to he faucet after forcing it open.
He drank until his stomach threatened to cramp again, then filled the canteen. All he
needed now was a better jacket.
With the canteen and
full bag in hand he crept along the back of the building to the corner closest to the main
house. He shivered, remembering the room with the hooks, but managed to carefully dash
across the open space and not fall over any of the trash piles. He tried not to think of
what could be in some of the piles as he peeked in each window. Each room he saw was as
trashy as the yard, and it sickened him to think of actually living in all this. The
fourth window proved to be his best bet, as it was mostly clothing strewn about, and a
sorry looking bed piled with magazines.
He dropped the bags
and pulled out the screen and forced the squealing window open. Climbing through it was
tricky with the baggy clothes and numb fingers, and he was hanging halfway inside when a
pair of black shoes and orange pant cuffs popped in his line of vision. It made him lurch
and fall through the hologram in a heap.
"Youll never make it as a cat burglar," he quipped.
Sam shot him an
annoyed glance, "Tell me something helpful for a change." He rubbed his shins
where they had scraped along the sill, then crawled to the closest pile of clothes and
pawed through them.
"What are you
looking for?" Al questioned, glancing to the door, and cocking his head at the
magazines on the bed. "Hmm. Looks like the pornography business is safe with the
amount these losers buy," his eyebrows arched in curiosity at the stack. "Wow!
Look at the Grand Tetons on that one!"
Sam ignored him in
disgust. "A warm jacket. And socks. Then we can go," Sam looked up at his
friend. "Unless you found something? Other than that?"
Turning his attention
back on Sam, Al shook his head. "No. Just a roll of carpet back there behind those
trees that gave me the creeps. Exactly what a body could get rolled up in."
Sam regarded him for a
few seconds. Under more normal circumstances he would chide him about watching too many
horror movies, but he was now living that reality and couldnt argue the possibility.
He got back to looking for a jacket and noticed his hands were shaking again. He wanted
out of here. Now.
He found a dirty down
jacket by the closet, several pairs of socks, which he stuck in the jacket pocket and
thermal underwear bottoms in the corner of the closet, along with a dusty backpack hanging
on a nail. He put the jacket and socks inside and made for the window. Al stuck his head
out into the hall and jumped back inside.
yelped, making Sams heart leap. "Yengs coming in the front door! Get
Sam threw the backpack
out the window, and heaved himself over the sill. He heard the front door bang shut and
the sound of footsteps grow louder. He wiggled out the window, falling unceremoniously
onto the ground, then jumped to his feet and dragged the bag and backpack to his shoulder,
stuffing the jacket in the pack straps as he ran back the way he came. He just entered the
forest again when the blast of a shotgun ripped through the bushes behind him.
hes got a gun!"
Sam gasped "No
kidding!" as he darted through the trees and brush, putting as much distance as he
could between himself and certain death.
There are times in
some leaps when I honestly think its my last moment on Earth, and this was one of
those times. Although the water and small amount of food I had managed to find was a great
help, there was still a lot to overcome. Between the altitude and the collar choking off
my breath and blood, it was getting harder and harder to keep it going. It was only my
determination that kept me going. I had to evade Yeng long enough to rest; if I
didnt, well, either way I was dead.
The cat and mouse
pursuit through the woods was difficult with all the equipment Sam had taken. It was only
the head start he had on Yeng that gave him an edge, and it was a very slight edge. Al was
the one that tipped the scales in Sams favor. He directed Sam quickly and carefully
using the maps supplied by Ziggy as a guide. His knowledge in terrain and how to cover
tracks were the only thing that kept Sam from Yengs sight. What saved him was time.
When the sun dropped behind the mountains in the afternoon, Yeng knew he had to get back
or suffer the elements. Al watched him move away for a long while before returning to Sam,
convinced that he wasnt coming right back.
breathing heavily in the thin air and starting to feel the chill of the night, had
collapsed in a circle of trees.
for awhile, Sam," Al told him, relieved. "He wont be back for awhile, if
at all. The compound is at least three miles back." The handlink, which had been a
constant source of beeps and squeals for the past couple of hours was silent now, and he
slipped it into an inner jacket pocket. Al wiped his brow with his hand as he pulled out a
cigar and proceeded to light it up. "Im exhausted, here. And you did all the
running!" he joked, relaxing some. "Hey," he looked at the ring of trees
Sam had stopped in. "A fairy ring."
Sam, his breath
somewhat recovered, tilted his head and looked at him oddly. "What?"
"A fairy ring.
The ring of trees your in. When they grow in a circle like that its called a fairy
ring. Its supposed to be magical," he dropped his voice at the end, like he was
letting Sam in on a secret.
Sam repeated. "Do I get three wishes?" He leaned over tiredly and pulled the bag
and backpack to him.
Im not talking genies, here, Sam, Im talking mysticism. And you can use all
the help you can get right now!"
Sam took a long drink
on the canteen with shaking hands and dumped out the freeze dried food. "I guess
its one of these, because the wrapped stuff isnt thawed yet and I need
something to eat now. I need a fire, I think."
"Your best bet is
against that cliff there," he indicated the far side of a dry creek bed, just within
Sams sight. "Build it under the over hang, and it will disperse the smoke some.
Although it wont matter so much now in the dark, it will in the morning. Plus
theres some boulders you can sleep behind. Come on, lets move."
Food was the only
thing that got him to move. He took the pan, the canteen and the matches and stumbled over
to the rocks, and cleared out a small area to make a fire. There was enough wood around,
and soon there was a small blaze going just in time to warm his frigid fingers. He was
glad he had grabbed the single leather glove, as the metal handle of the pan would have
been too hot to handle. The paste like gray mush that evolved from one of the packets and
water looked awful, but tasted like heaven to Sam. He gobbled it greedily, and made a
second batch of something brown. He swallowed that just as quickly. Al watched in
"I was going to
get something to eat myself, but youve just ruined my appetite," he
With a warm glow in
his stomach, Sam felt himself getting drowsy. He leaned back against the cliff, eyes
closed, trying to relax his aching muscles as the scrapes and bruises on his body
throbbed. "Just get me out of here, OK?"
here, buddy, but dont go to sleep yet or youll freeze." Al pointed at the
bags, still in the fairy ring of trees. "At least get the sleeping bag and clothes.
Come on! Move it! Then you can sleep." The relentless nagging prodded Sam into
motion, and he dragged the items back and prepared to sleep. The fire died slowly, and
Sam, wrapped in a smelly sleeping bag with his face close to the glowing embers, fell
deeply asleep. Al had made sure he was hidden behind a boulder and safely out of sight.
The sole light came from the dying fire, and it, too, faded slowly as the darkness
deepened with the night.
Only when total
darkness surrounded his friend did Al finally leave his side.
A noise pulled Sam
from the depths of sleep to confused awareness. It was completely black and it took him
several seconds to realize where he was. The scuffling, scraping noise continued and Sam
sat up, feeling the cold air creep into his bag as he moved. He frowned as he zeroed in on
the direction of the noise, which was out of his sight beyond the boulder, and debated
investigating further. Finally, the noise accented with a tearing sound, teased him enough
to stand and look over the rock.
It was black as pitch
save the bits of moonlight that managed to dart between the leaves canopy. There was
a light breeze that made the splashes of light dance, and created a jumpy effect on the
forest floor. Sam squinted, trying to make out the source of the noise. All he could see
was shadow, and one huge shadow was moving in the area of the fairy ring of trees. His
heart jumped into his throat as thoughts of Yeng and Moran leaped into his mind, but part
of him finally convinced him that the shadow wasnt human. Whatever it was, it was
big and eating the remainder of his food!
yelled instinctively, instantly chastising himself for drawing attention. There was a
slight pause in the noise, followed by a snuffling sound, then the shadow continued its
feasting. Sam stood up, helplessly watching as the bear devoured his supplies. It seemed
like ages, but was probably only about 45 minutes before the critter finished his snack
and glided off into the shadows. He shivered, his breath clearly visible as icy clouds,
then stood with the sleeping bag wrapped around him, miserably going over his options.
They were few. At least he had the canteen with him. He decided not to retrieve what was
left, if anything, in case the intruder returned. Better the beast was in the woods than
in his campsite. He slid back down to the ground, waiting for the sunrise, his nostrils
burning from the cold.
He was lightly dozing
against the rock when a voice jerked him awake.
Al barked. "Wake up! Time to get some space between you and this place!"
Sam groaned and opened
his eyes, feeling like he could sleep a million years.
"Come on, Sam,
rise and shine!"
He felt like doing
neither, but rubbed his eyes and wiggled to a sit. It was only slightly grayer that when
he was last awake. "Suns not up," he grumped.
we Miss Congeniality," Al commented wryly. "You need to get moving from this
spot. The gruesome twosome will be here first thing, I think."
Sam woke up
immediately at the mention of the pair. He rolled his bag and collected the pan and glove,
feeling for the matches in his pocket. With inventory done, he buried the fire at
Als suggestion, and tried to wipe out the signs of his presence, which was difficult
in the grayness. He started to the fairy ring and described the nighttime visitor with
"A bear! Probably
a Grizzly. Good thing you were over there," Al nodded to the rocks. "You could
have been the main course."
Sam snorted, and found
the backpack somewhat intact with the socks and handcuffs still inside. The canvas bag,
however, was ripped to pieces. Surprisingly, Sam found one pack of wrapped meat, still
frozen, several yards from the bag. He tossed it into the back pack along with the pan and
other sundries. He slipped on the shoes and was ready to go, and ran his fingers through
his hair as he waited for Als directions. His stomach growled.
Sam," Al lead him off along the cliff face. "The maps show a logging road at the
end of this ridge."
Sam nodded and walked
at a steady pace, sipping the water. There wasnt much edible along the route that
hadnt been picked clean by the native animals. Al indicated a berry bush that had
some sorry fare left on it deep inside the foliage. Sam came away with numerous scrapes on
his hands and a handful of berries. He ate them hungrily as Al scouted ahead. They came to
a small creek and Sam filled the canteen. His holographic guide urged him on.
"This is the only
water source for awhile, so they must be watching it," Al commented, looking
It was early afternoon
when Sam, exhausted and taking a rest against Als desires, noticed the thunderheads
building. He didnt care at this point. The rest felt wonderful.
Al on the other hand
was getting more fidgety, bouncing up and down on his toes and sounding anxious.
"Come on, Sam, lets move."
Al! You get to float along, and Im doing all the work, here!"
think I know that? The only chance those future victims have is you. You have to get out
of here. The only other choice is being dead!" Als words were accented with
distant thunder and the wind picked up. He knew Al was right, but he was beginning to
doubt he would make it. He needed food, and the thought of the wrapped meat in his
backpack made his mouth water. He trudged on, dreaming about the meal he would have. He
had to eat all the meat at the next stop, or risk losing it to another scavenger during
Sams legs were
wobbly by the time the wind really picked up and the sky grew dark, the clouds bulging
with rain. It would be a cold rain, too, Al warned, and they had to get to shelter. As the
first fat drops slammed into Sams face driven by a wild wind, Al excitedly motioned
towards another rocky cliff face. He had Sam stuff dry sticks in his pocket for a fire,
then Sam had to climb up some large boulders to get to a minuscule opening, barely big
enough to qualify as a cave. As Sam wedged his body in, the downpour started and the
fierceness of the lightning made the rocks vibrate. There was the barest space for a small
fire, but Sam had to wait out the worst of the rain so the matches wouldnt get blown
out. He dozed fitfully, trying to keep his body heat in the coldness of the storm,
dreaming of the upcoming meal. His stomach was cramping with hunger.
When he was jerked
awake by Als voice it was dark. The rain was now very light, and the wind gone.
There was an occasional flash of lightning, but the worst it was moving off. With shaking
hands Sam carefully assembled the dry sticks from his pocket and managed to start a meager
flame. The flame grew stronger and Sam fed it a thicker piece of a broken branch. All he
needed was enough heat to cook the meat, which he carefully extracted from the backpack.
It had thawed enough during the day to be a bit softer, but it was obviously still frozen
in the middle. Al suggested putting in his armpit to thaw it further. With grimace of
reluctance, Sam complied, wincing at the initial contact. A chill coursed through his
body. He looked forward to bundling up in the sleeping bag.
"How much further
until civilization?" Sam gasped, trying to keep his mind off the cold.
Al thoughtfully poked
the handlink as he eerily floated outside the cave opening, the neon orange glowing
weirdly in the dark. "Um, lets see," the light from the display reflected
in the holograms eyes. "If we keep this course, we hit the logging road
tomorrow afternoon. If you dont get picked up there, I think well get to a
busier road in about two days."
Sams face fell.
"Two days? Thats forever!"
"Sorry, but I told you this was a remote area! You can make it. Theres more
water along the way, and with each day ahead of those nozzles, the better your chances
are. Right now, Ziggy gives you a 62.4% chance of success," He pocketed the link,
"and its going up each hour!"
Sam nodded miserably
and added more fuel to the fire. "I think you have enough ember and flame to cook
now. Poke a stick in the meat and roast away!" Al rubbed his stomach. "Im
getting a little hungry, too."
retrieved the chunk of meat from his armpit and slowly unwrapped it. He was careful
because his fingers were numb with cold and didnt work very well. The flickering
fire was the only light to work by, and Sam had difficulty figuring out what kind of meat
it was in the dancing shadows. For some reason, the tiny hairs on the back of his neck
raised as he brought the paper up to his face for a closer look. Just then a flash of
lightning brightly illuminated the lump in his hand, and he recognized it immediately.
"Oh my God!"
he choked, instinctively heaving the package out the cave opening and fought down the bile
rising in his throat. Al had jumped back as the item sailed through his body to the ground
"What? What is
it?" The holograms alarm grew as he watched his friend trying to control the
dry heaves wracking his body. "Sam! Whats wrong?" He looked behind him in
the dark, a sudden realization hitting him. "Dont tell me...it
wasnt....was it? Oh, jeeze, I think Im gonna be sick, too!" Al sidled up
to the cave opening, his back against the rock. "It was a body part wasnt it?
All Sam could do was
"Oh, yuck! I
dont want to know! Dont tell me what part!" Al was doing a little dance
of terror, wanting to put distance between him and the lump of flesh, but not wanting to
leave his friend.
Sam had closed his
eyes and lay back, weak from hunger, exhaustion and the emotional trauma. Finally
controlling his disgust, Al nervously hung around long enough to make sure Sam covered
himself with the sleeping bag before falling asleep. Al wasnt sure if it was sleep
or shock, but there wasnt much he could do about it now, and he didnt like
being here in the quiet darkness, even as a hologram.
He stepped through the
Imaging Chamber door, food the furthest thing from his mind, and driven to seek out Dr.
Beeks and find out how monsters like Yeng and Moran could live with themselves.
Sams sleep was
plagued with unsettled dreams of flying knives and pleading eyes. When he finally woke in
the pre dawn lightness, he was more exhausted than the previous evening. He rolled up in a
ball under the sleeping bag trying to preserve body heat as he watched the foggy clouds of
his breath dissipate in the frigid air. It wasnt quite light enough to see clearly
and the thought of what lay outside his little nest was heavy in his mind. He hoped
something had dragged it off, and the thought made him queasy. The smell of the damp ashes
hung around him. The whole scene was surreal. He wished Al would show up.
As he lay there
thinking, Sam tried to ignore the little voice in his head which kept telling him what to
do. Usually he followed his gut feelings without question, instinctively knowing it was
the right thing to do, but this time he tried to deny its message. He had waken up with
his purpose clear in his mind, but forced his thoughts in other directions. Deep inside he
knew the truth. He knew what he had to do. But for right now hed rather lay here and
wait for his friend, try to deny the little voice and let Laura Beauchamps part of
his mind take over for awhile.
It was much lighter
when Al cautiously emerged from the Imaging Chamber doorway. He looked nervously around as
he called to his friend, and became slightly alarmed when Sam didnt answer right
away. He leaned closer and saw the puffs of foggy breathing, and Sams open eyes
focused on some distant thing. Was he asleep with his eyes open? It was creepy, and a
chill ran down Als spine as he spoke louder. "Sam!" he called. "Wake
up! Come on, already!"
With a slow blink, Sam
came around. "Al?" he whispered, now blinking rapidly.
its me. You awake now?"
As he struggled to sit up, the denial was gone and Sams mind was clear. "Yeah.
Im here. Sure could use a hot cup of coffee."
Al snorted in
response, but was relieved. "Cant help you there, pal. Wish I could."
Sam smiled at his
friend. "Yeah. I know you would."
get going here. Ziggy says that theres lots of logging activity in the area, and the
chances of catching a ride at the logging road are pretty good."
Al went on for a
second as the statement sunk in. "Theres a logging company called....WHAT?
Youre WHAT? You cant go back there!"
"I have to."
Sam wiggled out of the bag and started rolling it up.
be turned into beef stew! Your best chance is to continue on! Ziggy says.."
care what Ziggy says. I have to go back."
Al was apoplectic and
momentarily speechless. His mouth opened and shut but no words came out. "Youll
be killed!" he finally squeaked, hammering away on the handlink to get the facts
from Ziggy. "You need to be as far away as possible from those creeps!"
Sam continued to pack
up, ignoring Als opinion. He didnt want to go back, he just knew he had to.
Breaking into Als tirade, Sam quietly asked, "Ask if anyone else is reported
missing since my leaping in." He had to repeat the question a little louder to get
his friends attention. Al angrily complied, pounding on the keys.
The answer was clear
from Als reaction to Ziggys information. Surprised, he replied, "This
afternoons paper has an article about a missing 17 year old girl." He continued
to read, growing angry. "She disappeared late last night after leaving a party. She
never made it home." He turned to Sam. "Its them, isnt it? They
grabbed her to replace Laura, didnt they? How did you know?"
Sam just shrugged, the
dread growing inside him. "Gut feeling. Lets go." It was clear he
didnt want to talk about it anymore as he slipped out of the cave and shuffled off
in the direction he had come. He didnt want to discuss the wild dreams hed
had, and the clear abduction scene that had played out for him while he was asleep.
Sam Beckett knew he
had to save the girl or his dreams would never be peaceful again.
The trek back was
quiet. Al had returned to the Imaging Chamber to run scenarios leaving Sam to his thoughts
and fears. The day started getting dreary in the afternoon, the gathering clouds gradually
edging out the sun. The air felt cold and moist, and Sam knew he was in for a gloomy
night. Just before dark he came across another berry bush and was able to gather quite a
pile; the bush climbed up a rocky face and lodged itself well above a bears reach.
Sam ate the whole pile from a rock perch above a wooded canyon.
It started to drizzle
as darkness fell and, again, Sam found shelter among the rocks. His stomach somewhat
satisfied he wrapped up in the sleeping bag and pushed himself back out of the wetness,
watching the valley below. Based on what Al had told him, the compound was at the end of
the valley and as he tried to think of a course of action, his eyelids growing
Suddenly, his eyes
snapped open. Was there motion below him, or was it the falling darkness and creeping
shadows? He squinted, heart pounding, trying to locate the motion, when he heard the crack
of a gunshot and saw muzzle flash from a gun. He wrapped himself tighter and held his
breath, listening. It was quiet for a few minutes, then he heard rustling in the brush of
the valley. The sounds were impossible to pinpoint; they echoed in the valley and he had
no visual connection in the now complete darkness. It had to be one of the two murderers.
There were no other people or roads around here.
When Al returned Sam
was wide awake, only his face exposed from the bag. He whispered what had happened,
fearing his voice could carry down the canyon in the quiet darkness. The hologram,
floating outside the niche opening, turned and peered into the darkness himself, squinting
into the black shadows.
check it out," he said in a normal tone, causing Sam to wince and shush him.
already. Im a hologram, remember? They cant hear me."
Sam looked properly
chastised as Al blinked out of sight. He stared into the forest with curiosity trying to
get a glimpse of his friend. It seemed like forever before Al reappeared.
"It seems those
nozzles may have had a temporary falling out. That Yeng character has a doozy of a black
eye and is roasting what looks like a rabbit over a little fire about a half mile from
here," as he spoke, he was unwrapping a cigar, pausing before putting it in his
mouth. "At least I hope it was a rabbit." He had a visible chill, then proceeded
to light up the cigar. Sam found the glow a somewhat comforting.
"What does Ziggy
say? What have I changed?"
Al pulled out the handlink and fired it up with a few jabs. "Nada. Well, Lauras body is now never
found. And these two get caught nine months later that before. I guess your escape made
them more cautious for awhile." He slipped the connection to the parallel hybrid
computer into his pocket. "Those arent the kind of changes were
shootin for, Sam." It was a thinly veiled poke at Sams plan to return to
Wiggling further down
into his bag Sam simply glared at him. So Yeng was out there with a gun. "I wonder if
I could get the gun from him while hes sleeping," Sam thought out loud.
"He had the thing
in his lap while he was cooking. He probably sleeps with it in his sleeping bag," Al
muttered in reply. "But I can check later, when hes asleep. Maybe youll
get lucky!" His attempt at cheering up fell flat. They both knew that luck was
"It just seems
like too good an opportunity to pass up. Youre sure hes alone?"
rabbit, one small pack. Hes alone."
"So Moran is
alone with the new victim, then." The thought made Sam sick.
Al obviously had the
same feeling. "Yeah, I guess. Theyll let her get weak for a day or so without
food or water. It makes them more pliable."
question the comment, and tactfully accepted it with silence. He knew that Al was speaking
from personal experience.
"Yeah, well, why
dont you wake me up in awhile after you checked him out? The deepest sleep a person
has is usually around 4 or 5 in the morning. Wake me then if it looks like I could get the
"Sounds like as good a plan as any. Personally, I hope he gets eaten by a pack of
wolves first. Hungry wolves. Slowly and painfully, limb by limb," Als hand
motions accentuated his words, his teeth gritted as he spoke. Sam had to agree with him,
but interrupted the fantasy with a polite cough. "What?" Al asked innocently.
"In case that
doesnt happen, wake me, OK?"
OK." He put one hand in his pocket as he puffed on the cigar with the other.
Sam focused on the
glow of the cigar. It made him feel warm. More relaxed, he felt his eyelids grow heavy,
and they slipped shut. "Wake me, OK?" he was almost asleep, so his mumbled
question was barely audible.
buddy." Al stayed until his friend was deep asleep, the stepped back into the Imaging
It was still black
when Als voice woke Sam. "Come on, wake up!" he urged. "Yeng is still
asleep and the rifle has worked its way partially out of the sleeping bag. I knew
hed sleep with it." He saw that Sam was rousing slowly. "Wake up, Sleeping
Beauty. Time to hit the trail."
Sam could see his
breath in puffs, and it felt like he had icicles on his nose. It was so cold, and the bag
was, well, not as warm as hed like it but still better than outside the cave!
Als nagging finally got him up, reluctantly. He could barely see, it was so dark. He
struggled to tie up the bag, his fingers reluctant to work in the chill, but managed to
pack up by feel. Al helped him with his footing down the face of the cliff to the ground,
and indicated the direction to go.
closely. Ill take you there using a small deer path, but watch the low branches and
bushes. Weve got to be quiet. Dawn isnt far off, so by the time we get to Yeng
there will be some light to see by." Sam had noticed the blackness seemed a bit more
gray, but figured his eyes had just adjusted to the dark.
They move slowly and
carefully, Sam silently following Als direction. It seem like a long half mile. When
Al finally told him to put down his pack, Sam saw that he could see black forms against a
gray background now. Rocks and bushes were more clear to him; the sun was just about up.
He felt his heart race, and the nervousness he felt staved off the ever present hunger
pangs and made his body feel like he had caffeine jitters.
With the pack off, Sam
felt more free to move around. He tried to calm his shakiness with some deep breaths but
it didnt help. It was probably low blood sugar that made him so shaky, he thought,
and hoped Yeng had something edible with him. Preferably not meat, though.
Al signaled him to
walk slowly, and pointed out noisy hazards as Sam crept closer.
Soon he caught the
musty smell of a dead fire, then noted a large, black lump between some small trees. Al
was standing right over the sleeping figure animatedly pointing out the rifle barrel
poking out of the bag. Forgetting he couldnt be heard, Al was talking with hand
motions. Or maybe he did that on purpose so Sam wouldnt talk, either.
He was only about six
feet from Yeng when Sam stopped. There was enough light for him to clearly see the barrel
and the side of Yengs sleeping face. It made Sam feel sick, being so close to him.
Part of Lauras mind must be reacting, he thought, trying to control the fear he
felt. He forced his feet to move, slowly creeping closer. His eyes were focused on the
rifle, and nothing else. Als voice was soft. "Get a firm grip and yank it hard,
Sam. I think thats your best bet. Hed wake up if you tried to take it
Finally, so close he
could touch Yengs hair, Sam carefully crouched down and held his breath. Slowly, he
reached out and gently wrapped his fingers around the barrel. His hands were numb from the
cold, but the barrel was so icy it still stung his fingertips. For an instant he feared he
wouldnt be able to hang on, it was so cold, but he forced his grip tighter and
slowly stared to slide the rifle out from Yengs sleeping form.
"I said yank it,
Sam! Go on!"
Yeng grunted in his
sleep and rolled into a tighter ball, the rifle butt against his chest. Sam stopped, and
waited until he stopped moving. He would have to pull it quickly now; the butt was stuck
under Yengs chin. He tightened both hands on the barrel and braced his feet, but
just as he gave a great heave, Yengs eyes flew open.
The sight made
Sams stomach drop, and he stumbled backwards, the rifle in his grip as he fell back
against a tree trunk.
RUN!" was all he heard, accented with an animalistic roar from Yeng.
He rolled aside just
as the bulk of a man arched over him, landing against the tree where Sam had just been.
Sam tried to stand, but was laying on the rifle which he still gripped. He was up on one
knee, just bringing the rifle to bear on where the bellowing shadow had been when the
barrel was pushed aside with a force that surprised him and the rifle flew from his frozen
Sam leaped to the
side, again dodging the furious Yeng. He felt for the rifle for a fleeting second, but it
was lost to him amongst the patterns of black and gray on the ground. He scrambled to his
feet, torn between fleeing and fighting for the rifle as he backed away, scanning the
ground. Yeng jumped to his feet and charged. Sam was barely able to dodge him again, and
felt a hand brush his leg. "I cant see it, Al! Where is it?!" he shouted.
"Oh, no! Forget
it, Sam! Hes pulled a knife! Get outta here!" Al waved frantically in a
direction for Sam to escape.
As the sun just peeked
over the mountains behind him, Sam clearly saw Yengs face as he pulled out a hunting
knife from inside his coat. The man eyes were squinted in anger as he lunged towards his
"This way, Sam!
Theres a steep hill behind you!" Sam bolted in the direction of Als voice
as a rush of wind from Yengs sweeping attack tickled Sams ear. Sam sprinted
through the trees, which were visible now in the light of dawn. He had taken about a dozen
steps when he heard the click of a rifle cocking followed instantly by the crack of a
shot. The sound of a bullet thumping into the ground somewhere urged Sam on faster.
There's a pile of rocks! Go around to the other side!" Sam saw what Al meant, and
changed directions instantly hearing a second shot thump into a tree behind him.
The rocks offered
excellent cover as he put them between himself and Yeng. The pile had come from a recent
slide from the hillside in front of him. The face of the hill was too sheer to climb, and
Sam ran along the bottom looking for a way up. The brush was thick higher up, and he could
hide in them if he could get up there.
"Keep going, Sam!
It slopes down over here...you can get up the hill over here.."
Apparently Al had the
same idea, and Sam darted towards his voice. As soon as he saw it was possible, Sam
clambered up into the brush. Another shot whistled over his head. The bushes offered
concealment, but gave no cover. He could hear Yengs heavy footfalls as they got
Sam," Al whispered next to Sams ear. "He cant see you but he can
hear you. Right now he knows youre up here, but doesnt know exactly where.
Hold still a second..." Gladly, Sam froze. He saw Yeng trot into his line of vision,
and watched as he scanned the hillside.
he roared, "and I wont kill you right away!" He said the statement with a
incentive to give up," Al retorted. "I hope you die a painful death,
buddy." The sound of Als voice was all that kept Sam from bolting as he tried
to control his breathing. A rustle in the bushes off just beyond Sam caught Yengs
attention, and he raised the rifle. Sam looked at Al, who looked as surprised as Sam. The
hologram floated just above the brush to get a look see just as the rustling repeated
itself. "I see something moving in the brush along the base of the...." he
didnt get to finish his sentence as a shot rang out, followed by an unhuman squeal.
"Hey! Theyre bear cubs! I think he hit one!"
There was such a din
of squealing from the injured cub Sam took the chance to push some brush aside. One cub
was rolling on the ground and the other was running along the base of the hill away from
Yeng, barking in a frightened way. Surprised himself, Yeng had lowered the rifle to see
what he had hit, then smiled that eerie smile at the animals plight. It made Sam
Suddenly there was a
loud crashing noise coming from the woods, followed by a grunting roar. Sam watched as
Yeng spun around, the smiled on his face replaced with total open-mouthed shock.
"Oh, oh! Here
comes mama and shes pissed!" Al said quietly, knowing animals could sometimes
see and hear him. He dropped down beside Sam, whispering quickly. "Bears have a keen
sense of smell, Sam, so hopefully Yeng down there will keep her distracted enough for you
The friends watched as
the mama grizzly bore down on her target, amazed at the tremendous speed of the enormous
animal. They were close enough to see the snarling fangs and the fire in her eyes, and Sam
thanked God, Fate or Whomever that he wasnt the target. Yeng was between her
and her injured baby, and in her eyes he was the problem. Yeng quickly raised his rifle
and even got off a shot, but it didnt faze the furious creature. She was easily
twice his size, and hit him like a freight train.
out of here while we can!" Al snapped, pointing up the hill. "Id love to
watch her pulverize that creep, but this may be our only chance." He pulled out the
"She may be able
to see me, so Im leaving. You head up the hill, Sam!" With the tap of a few
buttons Sam heard the Imaging Room door open, and his friend disappeared.
He struggled uphill in
the underbrush, urged onward by the screams from Yeng. It wasnt long until he was
silent, and Sam tried to block the reason why out of his mind. He could hear the grunts
and squeals of the bear family reuniting, and the thought of Mama coming after him kept
him moving until he was over the top of the hill and out of sight of the furious bear. He
collapsed under a tree when he finally felt safe, gasping for breath and rubbing his
cramping legs. Al popped in next to him looking as fresh as a new day. Sam glared at him
shrugged. "One of the hologram perks." He looked Sam over. "Got a few
scrapes there, I see. But you dont have to worry about that nozzle anymore."
Between breaths Sam
asked, "Did...you... go... look?"
"Yep. First from
the top of the hill in case ol Mama wasnt quite done, then closer up." Al
put his hand over his stomach. "It was pretty grizzly. Ha, ha."
Sam rolled his eyes
and shot him a disgusted glance, but there was a huge sense of relief. Only one more to
go. "I...could...go...get ... the ..rifle," he managed to gasp.
"Yeah, you could,
but the wooden butt is broken. I think Mama chomped it."
Al looked thoughtful.
"It would be kinda hard to shoot, but I guess its possible."
Sam measured the value
of a possible useless gun and his meager supplies against the climb, the gore, and the
possibility of the bears return. He decided not to go. He was flirting with altitude
sickness as it was; the extra climbing stress was not outweighed by the benefits. The
thought struck him that he was comparing ways to die: by exposure, madmen, torture or
As if reading his
mind, Al pointed off in the trees. "Theres a creek over there. You can get a
drink and rest, but now youve got to keep moving because your supplies are over the
hill near the meat market, there." He tapped away on the handlink. "Following
the creek is the most direct way to get back there." He looked uncomfortable with the
thought of his friends ultimate destination. "Looks like youd be there by
late this afternoon. I dont know what youll do after that, because youll
be exhausted by then."
Sam Beckett was ready
for all this to be over. He decided to go with his instincts and continue on. The sooner
he saved the current victim, the better, and after a short break by the creek he was on
Thankfully the day was
clear and he held off any chill by walking briskly. Under the annoying leather collar his
neck was tender and raw in places and his feet ached from the poorly fitting shoes, but
overall he was in good shape. He kept his mind off his aches by thinking of Moran and how
to deal with him.
Al had plenty of
ideas. "I say strip him down and hang him by his..."
Sam interrupted at this latest graphic idea of what Moran deserved. "but I dont
want to hang him. By anything. I dont even want to touch him."
"Well then, how
about introducing him to Mama back there and calling it natures revenge?"
forgetting that I have to get him first," Sam reminded him sharply. "Im
not exactly decked out for hunting, here."
point," Al conceded. "A trap, maybe? With really sharp things in it?"
have to set it up pretty fast because itll be cold and late by the time I get
Al was undaunted.
"True. I guess youll just have to sneak up on him."
Sam didnt look
happy about that either. "Thats what I was thinking."
Just as Al projected
it was late in the afternoon when the compound came into view. Sam could only see a
glimpse of white between the trees as he looked down the valley. His route had brought him
to the front side of the property, and atop a rise so he looked slightly down on the
buildings. Goose bumps tickled his skin as the buildings came into view one at a time. The
main house was towards the front and the other buildings slightly behind. The sun was just
sitting on the surrounding mountain peaks and Sam knew he had little time left. He was
about a quarter mile out when a cloud of dust rolled down the drive way from the direction
of the main road, the dilapidated jeep barely visible as the cause of the cloud. Sam
see you from here, Sam."
He didnt care.
He wasnt taking any chances.
The jeep abruptly
stopped, momentarily enveloped by its own cloud as a single figure stepped down. Sam
couldnt see any details of the madmans features, and was slightly relieved. He
wasnt sure what the bit of Lauras mind still with him would do when they came
face to face with her tormentor, and he made a mental note to be prepared for anything.
"Go see where the
girl is, Al," Sam whispered. "Ill move in closer."
Al disappeared in a
blink. Sam watched as Moran walked to the front door and hesitate, the dust settling
around his feet. The figure turned in Sams direction and scanned the hillside. Even
knowing that he couldnt be seen, Sam automatically ducked down as a surge of
adrenaline shot through his veins. After at least a heart pounding minute, the figure
disappeared into the house and Sam carefully continued onward.
Sam had covered about
half the distance to the house when Al joined him again.
Dusk was quickly
turning to dark and they saw one solitary light turn on in the back of the house, and Al
confirmed that Moran was back in the room with the light polishing a rifle and leafing
through one of the porno magazines. Al said he was talking to himself, apparently angry
about Yengs absence and life in general.
definitely one can short of a six pack, Sam," Al commented as he pecked at the handlink. "Hes smart enough to not get caught, though. Its kind of a scary
girl?" Sam knew the darkness would shield his movement, but it was going to be
unbearably cold soon. He had to do something right away or freeze to death.
name is Carolyn Leslie, and shes in the same building you leaped into." He
glanced quickly at Sam to see how he would take the information. The scientist only looked
thoughtful as he frowned slightly, thinking.
Then he stood, moving
to the mentioned building as he spoke. "Im getting her now, Al. You keep me
updated on Morans movements," and he slipped off into the darkness, circling
around to the back of the property.
hologram said to empty space. He didnt have anything better to offer, and again
tapped the handlink. "Gooshie, lock me onto Moran." He was gone in an instant.
By the time Sam crept
to the root cellar it was so dark he could barely make out the shape of the building from
the edge of the trees where he stood. The moon wasnt up yet, and he considered this
an asset. Taking a few deep breaths to calm his heart he patted his pockets to make sure
he still had the keys and knife. Sam was sure Carolyn would be in worse shape he had been;
escape wasnt going to be easy.
He darted to the back
of the building and moved around to the door in front. It was solid wood, and stuck in the
frame. Sam recalled it sticking in the frame before, and gave it a mighty shove. The door
gave way with a squawk, and Sam managed to keep it from crashing against the wall. The
noise was enough to cause the girl on the mattress to jump and start struggling vainly
against her bonds. Sams heart went out to her, and he approached slowly.
Im here to help you," he whispered. The girls back was to the door, and
twisted her head around to see him. Her eyes were wide and glassy with tears, reflecting
the same terrified expression Sam recalled feeling in her position. It was eerily quiet,
as her mouth was taped, but as Sam got closer he could hear the wheezing sound as she
breathed through her nose.
Sam laid a gentle hand
on her shoulder for reassurance as he peeled the tape from her face. Tears ran down her
face as he tugged off the last part and she gasped a huge breath. "Shh, shh, keep
your voice down, OK?" He quickly got out the keys and unlocked the handcuffs, sliding
them into his pocket with the keys. He started down to her tied legs as she struggled to
sit up. Her clothes were filthy and torn, and he saw numerous cuts and bruises on her
arms, legs and face. She was fighting hysteria and Sam had to give her credit for not
breaking down right here. She was so young...
Carolyn rubbed her
wrists, unable to stop the tears from running down her cheeks. She fought to control the
gasps as Sam tossed aside the rope from her ankles and offered her a hand up. She took it,
and leaned heavily on him. "M...m...my feet... asleep...." she stuttered between
everythingll be OK. Take it easy for a minute and get your balance." Sam kept
his voice calm against his building anxiety. He wanted out of here as much as she did and
the words were for himself, too. He held her shoulders as she quietly sobbed and shifted
her weight from one foot to the other. Sam felt the time ticking away; it was several
minutes before her crying was under some control and she could stand on her own. The
urgency to flee fairly screamed in Sams mind.
He knew better than to
ignore his gut feeling. They had to leave. Now.
go," he said gently, guiding her to the door. "We have to leave now."
were as big as saucers, "Theyre coming back now, arent they?" she
only one now," Sam said, but still felt her tense up.
"How are we
getting out of here?"
hadnt.." his thought wasnt complete yet as Al popped into the room.
"Hes on his
way, Sam," Al urged. "You gotta hurry.."
Sam roughly pushed
Carolyn out the doorway, realizing she was barefoot as she tripped on a rock in the
darkness and fell to her knees.
"Get her up, Sam!
Morans almost here!"
Sam bodily hauled her
to her feet and glanced in the direction of the house. The aura of the moon had lightened
the sky just enough to make the pale blocks of the buildings glow a bit brighter. Sam saw
a dark patch appear against the main house, and it was growing larger. Moran!
dragged Carolyn towards the trees.
heard in the darkness, followed by the click of a rifle cocking.
Sam pushed the girl
forward as he heard the crack of a shot and a whizzing sound as the bullet flashed past
his ear. Carolyn screamed and scrambled into the dark woods, Sam on her heels as he heard
the sound of another shot. There was a burst of pain in his thigh, and he crashed to the
ground among the trees shadows, an involuntary bark of pain exploding from his lips.
up!" Al glowed eerily among the trees, waving wildly in the direction Carolyn had be
hit!" Sam groaned, using a small sapling to help him to his feet. His leg
wouldnt hold his weight, and he fell again. "Al, I think my leg is broken. I
think he hit a bone!" The pain was bad, but would have been worse if he wasnt
so intent on escape. He crawled frantically, the adrenaline driving him onward as he heard
Moran pushing through the brush behind him. Sam had lost Carolyn in the dark, and vaguely
wished her luck.
Sam had crawled into a
small stand of trees, the pain keeping him from continuing on. He huddled against one of
the trunks, hoping he was concealed enough. Even his best friends ranting
couldnt take his mind from the pain; he was sure his thigh bone was splintered and
sticking through his skin, but all he could do was grip his injured thigh with his hands
and hope it stopped bleeding.
Sam could feel himself
becoming light headed. Als voice was wavering in and out of his hearing, but his
glowing form stayed close. It was a matter of time before he passed out, he thought. He
sat there against the tree, breathing deeply and gripping his thigh when the moon crested
the peaks. The forest floor was illuminated in a spotty pattern. The smell of pine struck
him and he looked at the stand of trees he had fallen into.
He had fallen into a
He smiled slightly,
recalling Als description of the growth pattern, and fleetingly wished the mystical
powers were real. His gaze fell outside the fairy ring and he saw a dark figure
approaching quickly. Instantly he was aware again, fighting off the pain and trying to
replace it with determination. It was Moran.
"Go to Carolyn,
Al," Sam croaked. "She shouldnt be alone."
leaving you, Sam," Al snapped. "Ive got to get you out of this."
"Do it, Al,"
Sam replied with conviction, holding Als eyes. "Please. For me."
Al was torn. He
didnt want to leave.
"I need to know
shes OK," Sam pleaded. "Please."
nodded. "But Ill be right back."
replied. "Thanks, Al." He did want to know how Carolyn was, but he also knew he
didnt want his best friend to see him shot again.
Al blinked in beside
Carolyn, who was hiding behind a tree and trying to bury her face into the rough bark. She
wasnt crying anymore, and her breathing was heavy from running. The icy clouds of
her breath floated off into the shadows like fleeing ghosts.
"You look OK now.
Lucky for you Sam came along," Al tapped the handlink, anxious to return to his
friend when something caught his eye. His head jerked up to study her.
Her head had turned in
his direction ever so slightly when he had spoken. Could she hear him? His fingers
hesitated over the keys as he fixed his eyes on Carolyns face.
"He needs help,
you know." She blinked, and looked right at his face, but Al could tell she
couldnt see him. "Hes hurt bad, Carolyn. You can help him like helped
The girl was so young.
Al felt guilty doing this, but it was Sams only chance. He wasnt about to let
his friend die without trying everything possible to save him. If this girl could hear
him, he could guide her. He took a deep breath, and continued.
Carolyn. I can help you."
Carolyn pushed away
from the tree and stood nose to nose with the hologram. Her lower lip quivered, but there
was determination in her eyes. She was angry. "I must be crazy," she said
quietly to herself, then stepped right through Al.
OK?" Al coaxed, floating right in front of her as he poked and whacked the squealing
link. She followed Als voice through the trees as he coaxed her back to Sams
position. In reality, it had only been a few minutes since he had left Sam, but every
second seemed like and eternity for Al. He only hoped he would make it in time.
Moran had heard
Sams voice, and headed in his direction, his form passing through the patterns of
dark and light flickering like a surreal silent move. Since Al had left and Sam had been
quiet, Morans search for him became more difficult. The moon light was Sams
enemy, and all he could do was keep still and try to breathe into his raised jacket
collar. The wisps of frozen breath would be like a flag if they caught the light. Moran
was almost on top of him when the angle of the moons rays caught Sam right in the
face. Moran happened to be looking right at Sams face when it happened.
Sam heard him chuckle
as he raised the gun and sighted it in on his prey. He walked the last feet confidently
until the muzzle of the gun was mere inches from Sams forehead. Morans teeth
were chattering slightly either from cold or excitement. His eyes were dark and flashing,
and had a maniacal, predatory look to them that hypnotized Sam. A name flashed through his
mind as he stared at the startling eyes: Charles Manson. The infamous serial killer had
the same eyes; Sam recalled seeing them in the newspapers, and it gave him chills then.
involuntarily Sam felt the tiny part of his mind that was Lauras trying to be heard;
it was screaming hysterically, and Sam was frozen, transfixed by those eyes boring into
He felt the cold metal
of the rifle press between his eyes.
He felt the throbbing
in his thigh.
He felt the cold air
caught in his throat as he forgot to breathe.
And he thought he was
dead when he felt an ungodly weight crash into him. The world snapped back into normal
time with the sound of someone cursing at the top of their lungs. It wasnt Moran,
because Moran was draped across Sams chest, unmoving. He groaned and pushed him off,
breathless from the pain in his thigh.
The moon was above him
now, shining directly down the middle of the fairy ring. Sam wiggled out of the ring
leaving Moran in the center. Just outside the ring stood Carolyn, with Al next to her
jumping up and down.
"She did it! She
did it, Sam! For some reason she can hear me. Thinks Im her guardian angel or
something," he waved the glowing, multicolored handlink around over her head and
noticed that she wasnt reacting to him anymore. "Huh. She doesnt seem to
hear me anymore." His arms dropped by his sides as he added, "She whacked him
with a rock, but good!" He looked proud.
couldnt take his eyes from Carolyn. She was trembling, staring at the unconscious
man on the ground, her hands hanging down. She hadnt even acknowledged Sams
presence; her eyes looked haunted and filled with anger.
said softly, watching the girl closely. "What does Ziggy say happens to her?"
The handlink beeped
and blinked and Al started to read the display quite happily, "Says here that Laura
and Carolyn are both picked up by the Sheriffs Department, and Carolyn is charged
with manslaughter?" The holograms pitch went up a bit as he read, startled. He
was no longer happy. "The court papers say she shot him several times as he.."
his narration stopped as his attention was caught by Carolyn moving. She was bending down
and picking up the rifle, "..lay unconscious! Sam, you have to stop her! She
cant just shoot him! It haunts her for the rest of her life. She cant hold a
job, or keep a relationship going! It ruins her life, Sam!"
Sam spoke sharply, ignoring the throbbing in his leg. "Carolyn, please listen. This
isnt you." He tried to catch her eyes as she brought the rifle to her shoulder.
animal," she whispered fiercely, gripping the gun until her fingers were white.
"He deserves to die for what hes done to me."
Sam licked his lips.
No argument there, but he couldnt let her do it. "Carolyn. Dont. Please.
Dont let him do this to you."
She blinked slowly,
then turned to Sam, really seeing him for the first time. "Hes done more than
you know," she whispered, tears forming in her eyes.
youre reaching her, Sam," Al said quietly. There was no reaction from the girl
to his voice. Her grip on the rifle, though, didnt lessen.
Sam kept talking.
"I know what hes done, and yes, hes an animal. But if you do this,"
he nodded his head to the down man, "if you do this, hes managed to make you
into his image. You will be carrying on his work. Is that what you want? To be like
She was crying openly
and silently, her hands shaking as she held he gun. Each muffled sob was accented with a
puff of frozen air. "No," she whispered between the tears. "No." Her
grip on the weapon loosened, and the muzzle dropped. "NO!"
When she threw the
rifle deep into the woods, Carolyn appeared to have gotten control of herself. She fell on
Moran and yanked his arms up behind him as Sam dug through his pockets and tossed
handcuffs over to her. As she swore a blue streak at her captor and cuffed him to a tree,
Al quickly read off the handlink.
Sam! Carolyn here gets herself and Laura out of here and to the police. Moran is
arrested," he whacked the side of the link, "but still kills himself before the
trial. Oh, well, no great loss, I guess."
"What happens to
her?" Sam asked softly, nodding to Carolyn, who appeared to finally be tiring.
graduates from law school at the top of her class, and now works in the District
Attorneys office. Laura Beauchamp becomes a psychologist that specializes in violent
trauma victims. They are both doing well, Sam. And you saved all those other victims,
too." Al had a smug look as the handlink disappeared into his pocket. " I think
thats it, buddy. Bye, bye Sam!"
As Al finished his
summary Sam could feel a tingling starting in his fingertips. Just as his vision was
enveloped in a blue fog, he saw Carolyn stand up in the middle of the fairy ring and turn
towards Al. Als attention was on Sam, but Sam saw the girl cautiously reach out and
touch what would have been Als shoulder. There was a look of wonder on her face as
the scene dissolved into a whirling mist.
"Do you see
The black and white
patrol car crawled down the alley. The officers inside werent sure about what they
were seeking but searched anyway. The call came from an elderly woman who resided in an
apartment above the alleyway. She claimed she heard screaming and crying coming from what
sounded to be a young woman, so she decided to call the police.
David Mitchell, the
newest recruit, scanned the right side of the alley, while Officer Jacob Hendson searched
the left. Mitchell clicked his tongue disapprovingly as he rolled his eyes. "Hendson,
theres nothing here. It was probably some kids having some fun."
Hendson replied dryly. He knew Mitchell wanted to be where the action was, but disturbance
calls were a part of their job. He continued to inch the car down the alley. The
headlights gave little light in front of them so he reached for his flashlight to shed
light on the boxes they passed. He had a sneaking suspicion that they would come across
something. Call it a sixth sense or a gut feeling; but he knew something was wrong. He had
the same feeling when his daughter totaled her car last month.
He squinted out into
the darkness beyond his flashlight searchingly and he stopped the car suddenly. Hed
found it. He was staring at a white tennis shoe. It was laying on its side splattered with
blood. That in itself wouldnt have bothered him, but it was still attached to the
person that it belonged to. "Oh god." He picked up the mike and said,
"Possible assaulted victim in alley between Elm and Ash Grove. Ambulance
female voice responded to his call.
As Hendson opened the car door, he saw the tennis shoe slightly move. He kept his
flashlight on the shoe as he approached the victim and removed his gun from his holster as
he approached. He was aware of Mitchell behind him from the sound of his breathing. He
moved the flashlight up the body. He heard a muffled sob and turned to find Mitchell
ducking his head across the alley to become violently ill.
He returned the light
to the victim. He swallowed hard tying to control his own stomach. Before him lay a young
lady laying half on her side, half on her back. Blood covered her body. The cause
was from two deep slashes on her face each gash went diagonally from her hairline
to her chin.
situation, Hendson quickly went to his patrol car and grabbed the first aid kit from the
trunk. He returned to her, gently picked her up and placed her in the light that came from
the headlights. His fingers slipped on her slick flesh as he searched desperately for the
throbbing artery in her neck. He could feel a faint beat, so he went to work on stopping
the bleeding. He looked at the first aid kit and frowned. He knew that he didnt have
the proper supplies in there for an injury this severe. Knowing that he had to do
something so she wouldnt bleed to death, he opened the first aid kit, picked up the
gauze compress and applied it to the cuts on her face. "Mitchell," he called
out. "I need your help to stop the bleeding."
a sob replied.
"Get your ass
over here. This girl needs your help." Hendson demanded.
A physical change came
over Mitchell as Dr. Samuel Beckett leapt into his aura and Jacob Mitchell leapt out. Sam
straightened himself up as he heard the other officer call to him.
"At least check
the damn alley. God knows that bastard could still be here."
"Oh boy." He
whispered. Both the facts that the officer had called him and he wasnt particularly
pleased at what he was looking at, brought Sam back up on his feet. Even though his
stomach was still flipping from looking at Mitchells lunch, his mind wouldnt
let him concentrate on it. He swept his gun up and began to slowly make his way down the
alley. His nerves now finally tuned as he saw a movement to the left of him. He lowered
his gun on the movement and his arms betrayed him. They began to shake from all of the
adrenaline in his system. Using his other arm to steady him, he moved forward. He moved
and it moved and he took his aim and yelled, "Freeze!". The noise resounded in
the alleyway making Hendson jump. He turned his head to see what was happening but
couldnt tell what was going on.
okay?" he called out.
Sam held his ground
and so did the movement until he moved again. Frowning, he moved his hand up to run his
hand through his hair and saw the movement do the same. Realizing he was after his own
shadow like Peter Pan, he frowned and he headed back, still on edge, knowing that someone
could still be around. As he turned, he missed seeing the long shadow that slowly
disappeared around the corner.
Hendson asked when Sam got back up to him.
"It was nothing.
No one else is here, I dont think." It was then that the doctor in him took
control. "No, you need to hold the compress this way on a cut like this."
Hendson focused back
on his patient as he changed the way he was holding the compress. Her eyes opened slowly.
They didnt stay open long, but she managed to say a few words. "Dad, help
Hendson responded with hot tears filling his eyes. He knew that it wasnt his
flesh-in-blood daughter before him, but she was someone just as close. Someone who came
into his life three years ago and he considered her as a daughter. His face rose as he
looked up into the night sky. "Why?" He looked back down at the young woman once
more. "Why did it have to be Cassandra?"
Even as the ambulance
pulled into the alleyway, a warm enveloping feeling encircled Sam, warming him from the
inside out. He sighed when he saw the paramedics arrive and he leapt.
through time, Ive leapt into situations where instincts led me to my outcome.
Without even contemplating about the newest situation I was in, I relied on my instincts
on this one.
His first sensations
after a leap usually left him with a sense of confusion. At least this time it wasnt
confusion that found him. He knew at least he was lying down. He opened his eyes.
It was dark; almost
pitch black. The only thing that cast any light was a digital clock that was approximately
two feet away on a bedside table. It read: 1:30. It had a dot beside the time indicating
in the morning.
He immediately gazed
up toward the ceiling with a sigh. "Thank you." It was the first time to leap
into a person where he could rest beforehand. It was not only a welcoming feeling, it was
a joyous one. He laid his head back down on the pillow, and snuggled down on the mattress.
"Oh boy." He then closed his eyes, sighed once more and slept.