was a feeling of warmth on his face, as if he was looking into the sun on a
summer day or was peering into an open oven door. It was hard to tell until the
rest of his senses came around to orient him. Next he heard the soft lull of a
voice, speaking uninterrupted. When the swirling finally settled and his vision
should have been clear, Sam Beckett saw only glittering orange.
blinked, confused, and realized that the orange and heat had combined into a
fire. Drawing back with a sharp intake of breath, he instantly realized that he
was a safe distance away when suddenly the voice yelled loudly, "Over
there!" followed by a deafening scream that made Sam jump to his feet, his
heart in his throat.
screaming went of for a few seconds and dissolved into nervous laughter and a
smattering of whimpers. Frozen and bug-eyed, Sam slowly turned around and saw a
sea of faces surrounding him. Little faces; girl faces, mostly tittering at
Sam's actions as he stood ready to fight or flee. Noticing he was the only one
standing, and therefore the center of attention, he grinned sheepishly and
slowly sat back down on the log that was acting as a bench.
Kristy," the storyteller noted. "I see you're a true believer in the
Curse of the Dead Camper!"
rest of the crowd giggled nervously, but Sam noticed many were glancing around
in the darkness, not quiet disbelievers. There must have been forty girls there,
each around the age of ten, along with a half-dozen women in their twenty's
scattered about. Sam noticed a lot of them were wearing tan T-shirts with
identical writing, which he couldn't quite read in the smoky darkness.
the speaker continued. "Let's get our minds off that horrible tale with a
"Do your ears hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie them in a knot?
Can you tie them in a bow?
Can you throw them over your
Shoulder like a continental
Do you EARS HANG LOW?"
mouth was opening and closing like a landed fish as he tried to sing along to a
song he'd never heard with a very enthusiastic crowd. He looked down to hide his
ignorance, and noticed he was wearing one of the tan shirts. And printed on it,
around the outline of a bear, were the words 'Camp Rancho Oso - Girl Scouts.'
But that wasn't all; across his protruding, female- enhanced left breast were
the additional words 'Counselor Kristy.'
boy!" he moaned as the crowd started its third round of the deformed ear
ditty. "Not a Girl Scout!"
Santa Barbara, California
innumerable choruses of the mind-numbing song, followed by mentions of
extraordinary camper accomplishments for the day and a preview of the next day's
plans, they all joined hands and sang taps. Sam had heard that one before; well,
he assumed so because the words came out of his mouth without thinking.
girls broke up into groups, each group around a pair of counselors, for the walk
back to the cabins. The story of the Dead Camper caused the girls to huddle
around Sam and his partner, making Sam feel like a giant amoeba as they moved
was a narrow path from the campfire past a rustic building that must have been
the bathrooms, because several of the dozen girls begged to stop there as a
group. They were afraid to be left alone.
you want to take them in?" Sam's blonde partner asked with a smile as four
girls clung to her.
lonely light over the door allowed Sam to read her name before he replied.
"No!" He realized he'd said that louder than he intended as several
girls jumped and screamed shortly, then giggled. "Ah, no, um, Kathy, you go
I stay here with you?" Begged one of the girls who tugged at his shirt.
laughed as Sam tried to calm them. "How about I take the ones in that need
to use the potty, and you go back with the rest and get their
Sam nodded enthusiastically. "OK, sounds like a plan! Come on, let's
go!" He used his arms to herd his group off down the path.
could hear Kathy's voice echoing in the restroom. "Come on. Lisa was just
in here with her bunch and they came out alive, didn't they? There's no one in
couldn't help but smile as his girls swept him along down the path, which opened
up just beyond the rest rooms. He could see the outlines of several 'cabins' on
either side of the dirt path. They were wood framed, the top half screen and the
bottom half plywood. Bunk beds were visible through the screens. He realized he
had no idea which cabin was theirs, and slowed to a stop. None of the girls was
willing to take the lead.
he said, his mind working to come up with a plan to locate the cabin. "Who
want's to play Indiana Jones?"
was a moment of silence. "Who?" A small voice asked.
Sam was able to place himself in a year somewhere before 1981, and a fleeting
thought of how spotty his Swiss-cheese memory was crossed his mind. It was
always good for recalling trivial junk like that, but never anything important,
like his life before Leaping! A tugging at his shirt refocused his attention
Inger Anna Jones? Is it a game like Marco Polo?"
shook his head and laughed, "No. Never mind. Who wants to race to the
cabin?" he asked instead. The last word was barely out of his mouth when
the crowd was off, thundering and squealing down the dark path in a pack.
a voice boomed from behind him. "Walk in camp, girls!"
cringed as he tried to follow the group and keep them in sight so he could find
the cabin. His first minute in charge and already the girls were in trouble. He
stopped to apologize, but was cut off by the speaker.
go tell them not to run in camp again, OK?" The owner of the statement was
leading an orderly line of girls down the path past him, her partner bringing up
the rear, snickering. Somewhere in the camp a cabin door slammed shut loudly.
tagged along, embarrassed, and vowed to do better. Loud shrieking from one of
the cabins caused the woman to stop her line abruptly.
think that's your cabin making all that noise?" the woman asked, staring
directly at Sam.
yeah, they sorta got away from me," he said with a laugh, trying to keep it
light. "Ha, ha. I'll quiet them down," and he shuffled off to the
rowdy cabin as pillows flew against the screens from the inside. He ducked in
the door, a shoe hitting the doorframe next to his head. "OK, OK, calm
down! Shhh!" There was little effect on the melee. Sam saw the other group
file by slowly, the leader scowling as she walked by.
IT OFF!" Sam bellowed. That did it; the girls froze. "All right.
Now." He took a breath. "Get your toothbrushes and pick up these
pillows." The girls moved slowly. Sam got an idea. "I'm gonna count to
ten. Those who aren't ready to go brush their teeth by the time I get to ten
will have to go to the restroom alone in the dark! And I think I heard some
rustling in the bushes out there…" Sam glanced out the windows facing the
girls couldn't move fast enough. They were lined up at the door, toothbrushes in
hand, by the time he reached seven. The trek to the restroom was quiet and
orderly, and Sam was impressed with his ingenuity.
gave him a high five as she passed him on the path with her group, heading to
the cabin. "We'll meet up with ya at the rest rooms," she commented,
not slowing her pace. Sam didn't have a chance to reply.
to go in a girl's rest room, Sam held open the door for the troop. They
clustered inside around two of the six sinks, not willing to thin out. They were
giggling and talking about ghosts and murderers and other lovely subjects,
causing Sam to grin. He recalled his brother telling him stories like that,
meant to scare the bejesus out of him, and it usually did.
smile faded. What was his brother's name, anyway?
thought was deflected by the arrival of Kathy and her bunch. The girls gathered
around a third sink, next to the others. The giggling grew.
girls, keep it down!" Kathy said in an authoritative voice.
one little girl is blond braids asked. "Is the Dead Camper Curse
response, Kathy asked, "Do you think it's real?"
girl's forehead crinkled. "No, because they wouldn't let other campers in
like logical reasoning to me!" Kathy chirped. "Now finish up, I hear
the next group coming." She dropped her voice and directed it towards Sam.
"I hope there's no sleep walking tonight. It'll scare the daylights out of
the rest of the camp to hear someone walkin' around in the dark after that
story!" She laughed quietly.
produced a laugh in reply, his mind racing as he stood in the doorway.
Sleepwalking? Who does that? He filed the information away in his mind for later
and took a closer look at the girls. There were twelve of them, and they all
seemed like your normal ten-year-old, or so he thought. He sure wished Al would
and Kathy managed to round them all up and get them back to the cabin without
too much difficulty. When the girls were getting ready for bed, Sam discreetly
turned his back on them, feeling like an intruder. When he was sure they were
snuggled into their sleeping bags, he turned back around. He watched the other
cabins' occupants file back and forth to the rest rooms talking quietly, and
soon the camp settled down. Kathy was still in her clothes, lying on her stomach
on the bottom bunk, by the door.
taking a shower, right?" Kathy mentioned just as the girls quieted. She was
looking at him, perplexed, and nodding towards the door.
Uh, yeah, I guess so." Feeling like he was getting booted out of the cabin
for some reason, he fumbled through what he thought was Kristy's stuff on the
top bunk, and pulled out a toothbrush. 'Kristy' was written in black ink on the
handle, much to his relief. Luck was with him so far. He grabbed a towel and
some sweatpants, then hesitated, wondering what to expect out there. Feeling
eyes on him, he glanced down to see Kathy studying him, frowning.
motioned him closer, and Sam leaned towards her. "You're taking your white
robe and pants, right?" she hissed.
nodded vigorously, "Yeah. I forgot." He didn't like the sound of this.
He traded the items out.
continued quietly. "Beth will meet you at the campfire with the rest of the
stuff," she said.
Sam was really worried. "OK," he said slowly, squeezing the clothes
closer to his chest.
pulled back and settled down on the bunk, and said a little louder for the so
the girls could overhear, "Have a good shower, Kristy. I'm sure there's
lots of hot water!"
nodded and left the cabin. He could smell a set-up miles away, and this one
reeked. Walking cautiously up the dirt path, he wondered what the heck he was
during a leap I'm thrown into a situation I just have to make the best of. I can
usually fumble my way though and come out safely at the cost of looking foolish,
but that's usually because I leap right into the middle of something. This time,
I was walking right into the unknown, completely unprepared. It is a Girl Scout
camp, after all, so how dangerous could this be? Telling myself that still
didn't make the walk any easier.
he got to the fire ring, pressing the load of clothes tightly to his chest, he
saw a car parked just outside the circle. It was fairly dark; the moon was just
a crescent in the sky, but the car stood out because it was bright yellow. A
figure was waving him over.
on!" the woman called softly. "I have it in the trunk. Let's go."
hopped in the driver's seat and Sam got in the other side of the vintage
Mustang. The engine roared to life, the noise indicative of its politically
incorrect monster engine.
would love it,' he thought, momentarily
distracted as the woman drove carefully through the dark with the headlights
off. Sam peered out the windows and saw open, dark fields surrounded by barbed
wire fences. Something was moving out there, and he squinted to see what they
were. 'Horses,' he realized, 'watching
the car go by.'
whoosh of the Imaging Chamber door made him jump and suck in his breath. The
bright rectangle of light was just outside the window, following him.
the driver queried. "Forget something?"
stepped through, looking around. When the door shut, Al was still quite visible
in the bright orange suit edged in lime green. The tie glowed in the dark. Sam
bit his lip, holding back a spontaneous comment. "No," was all he let
Sam. It's so dark! Where the heck are we?" He floated just outside the
window and turned in a circle. "Oh. What are you doin' out here?"
tell me," he said softly.
The woman replied, glancing at him. They were approaching a small barn that was
illuminated by a single floodlight over the big, front doors, and parked on the
side out of the light. "I told you where I hung the marker, right? Is that
what's worrying you? It's really visible, right at riding eye level. You can't
miss it. I told Kathy to tell you, but I guess she didn't." She opened the
car door, as did Sam. Sam's door opened right through the hologram of his
Nice car! Boy, they don't make engines like this anymore. Lotsa horses under
that hood!" He hesitated and looked around. "Horses! And look where we
are. Funny, huh, Sam?"
tossed a glare in the Observer's direction, and was distracted when the driver
opened the trunk. "Here it is!" she said brightly.
the clothes to his chest, he gave Al a final tightlipped glare, and stepped to
the back of the car. He looked in the trunk and saw a … plastic stick? With a
woman lifted it out of the trunk reverently, and clicked a switch on the handle.
The clear, Lucite 'stick' funneled light from a bulb in the fat handle, and
Al chirped brightly. "It's a light saber!" He tapped on the handlink,
then noticed Sam's blank look. "You know! Luke Skywalker and all that! It
is 1978, Sam, so the Star Wars epidemic is at its height! Neat!"
it over to Sam, the woman showed him where the switch was. "You can use it
like a flashlight to get there. Turn right just past the marker, which is my
yellow scarf tied on those dry bushes, so it stands out. There's a little path
there. It'll take you right to the rock." The woman continued to chatter as
she walked in the barn where a tall, white horse was tied. Sam followed a few
steps behind. Al continued to admire the car. "Nothing like being the
Grandfather by forfeit, huh? That's what you get for having the only white
horse!" The woman laughed as she leaned against the wall by the horse's
head. "I love this stuff. That light saber will work much better than a
flashlight!" Then she got serious. "Don't wreck it. I just got that at
a Star Trek convention, and I can't get another one."
noticed that the horse was watching him. As he got closer, the horse's eyes got
wider, and its head raised a bit higher. Nostrils flaring a little, the horse
tried to smell Sam, carefully extending its long neck towards him. 'She knows I'm not Kristy,' he thought. The soft muzzle blew warm
air out on Sam's folded arms.
be scared of the saber. Better let her smell it," the woman said as she
turned to go. "Keys are in the car. I'll see you in camp. Hee, hee! This'll
be a session those girls will never forget!" She walked off in the darkness
towards the cabins.
she was gone, Sam snapped, "OK, Al what the hell is going on??"
horse jumped slightly at his tone. "Oh, sorry, girl." He patted her
neck, and curiosity seemed to win out as the mare started sniffing him from head
walked in and stood next to Sam. The horse's ears twitched and she started
sniffing at the hologram's elbow. "She probably thinks you’re an
overgrown carrot," Sam commented, pulling the white sweatpants over his
shorts and pulling on the long, whites robe.
funny," Al replied. "Hey, I think she likes me." The horse's
muzzle went through his chest, which caused its ears to twitch back and forth
for a second. Al ignored the inspection and read from the handlink.
"Apparently, you are Kristy Lockwood, 23, and a recent college graduate,
along with most of these counselors. Recruited at the college for this summer
gig as counselors." A sly grin crept on his face. "Oohhh, now there's
a job. Interviewing healthy college girls…"
Sam snapped. "Why am I here?" He indicated the barn.
'here' specifically in the barn, or 'here' as in the camp?" Al asked
innocently then noted Sam's exasperated glare. "OK, we'll start with the
barn," he decided quickly, punching at the keys. "Let's see. It's
1978, and you're at Camp Rancho Oso, and apparently this is the summer the Curse
of the Dead Camper legend becomes a live show. Ha! No pun intended." There
was no reaction from Sam, so Al continued. "Ziggy found a reference to the
story in the papers. The tale goes that a camper died here many summers ago and
is buried under a big rock by the cabins. The camper, a girl named Josie, was an
orphan whose only relative, a grandfather, died while she was here at camp. She
pined away and died, so she was buried at this camp because she loved it
rolled his eyes. This was ridiculous.
after she's buried, there's rumor that the grandfather, who only wore white and
raised white horses, started visiting the grave every summer on the anniversary
of Josie's death. Which is tonight! Ooooh, perfect camp story!" Al grinned
I'm the grandfather?" Sam held his arms out.
look more like a Jedi," Al quipped, "but you can pull off grampa in
the dark! Come on, this'll be fun!"
looked around and found a bridle and a white hood on a hook by the horse. He
tucked the hood in the bathrobe belt, and with Al's coaching and the horse's
patience, finally got the bridle on. There was a brass nameplate on the
cheekpiece that said 'Snowtips'. The tack room full of saddles was securely
locked, so, much to Sam's distress, Al told him he had to ride Snowtips
there's lots of mane to grab on to, and this gal seems nice." Snowtips
bobbed her head up and down as if in response. "See?"
led her outside. "And what else am I here for, besides scaring girls half
want more? Sounds great to me!"
stopped, eyes narrowed. "Ziggy has no clue why I'm here, does she?"
Of course she does. You're here to make sure one of the campers doesn't wander
off tomorrow afternoon and get killed in an earthquake. Piece of cake."
In an earthquake? Who is it?" Sam asked, trying to put the horse next to
the fence so he could get on. Could he even ride? He could feel his hands
getting sweaty from nervousness.
regarded the handlink. "One Rebecca Kendrick, ten years old. You all are
playing capture the flag tomorrow at 3:55 PM when a 5.1 earthquake, centered a
little south of here, causes a rock slide that kills her. Little Becky wanders
off during the game, I guess, because all her teammates are with you, sneaking
up on the flag base. Nothing happens here in the camp, so everyone is safe as
long as they are in camp. Just gotta keep her by your side, Sam. Easy."
struggled onto the patient horse and was finally able to sit up, panting.
"And what does this have to do with the Curse? Why am I doing this?"
regarded the link again. "It seems the Curse is why this camp becomes
popular in the future. Gotta keep the legend alive!" he chuckled.
Sam nudged the horse into an easy walk. Snowtips had a nice, comfortable back
that seemed formed to his seat. So far, so good, he thought. "There's a
marker somewhere…" he started.
on it," Al said cheerily, disappearing. Then Sam heard his voice.
"Over here! Come towards my voice!" The horse's ears perked in Al's
seemed to be on autopilot, and followed Al's voice without much guidance. All
Sam had to do was hang on. It was difficult, with the light saber in one hand
and the reins in the other, but he managed to find Al in some tall, dry brush
off a small trail. A bright yellow bandanna was tied eye level to the brush as
right across from the cabins. On the other side of this brush is a dry creek bed
that runs next to the cabins. There's a big boulder in the creek bed…"
would bury a body in a creek bed?!" Sam chirped as he struggled to put on
the mask. This was stupid! What was he doing here!?
Sam, lighten up already! There's no one buried there! If there was, I certainly
wouldn't be here!" Al straightened his jacket primly. "ANYWAY, you
walk through these bushes up to the rock, stop, turn on the light saber, lightly
touch the rock or something dramatic like that, then gallop through camp on the
path. That's it; ba BOOM, its back to the barn and the legend continues. Should
become a marketing goldmine."
There wasn't going to be any galloping if he could help it. Sam swallowed hard
and felt his heart pounding. Snowtips shifted her feet, feeling his nervousness.
He also noticed the mask narrowed his vision a little. He didn't have a good
feeling about this, and he turned to Al and started, "I still don't see why
I have to…" but was cut off when Al made a clicking noise with his tongue
and Snowtips started off through the brush, which rustled loudly in the
darkness. "Hey!" Sam said in a loud whisper, grabbing the mane to keep
from getting rubbed off.
broke through to the other side and Sam saw the boulder. Giving in to the
inevitable with a sigh, he reined the mare to a stop by the rock. Actually, she
stopped herself because Sam held the reins too loosely, but he didn't have time
to adjust them. He was there a couple of seconds when he heard shushing noises
from the cabins. It was show time, whether he liked it or not!
clicked on the light saber, which glowed brightly in the night. Snowtips, being
white, reflected the light and they both glowed eerily. Sam reached out and
tapped the rock, feeling rather stupid, then raised the saber, holding it
between the horse's ears to light the way out.
my God! It's him!" he heard whispered from the various cabins. There was
rustling and stifled screams and giggles, and he shook his head as he turned the
horse to the path between the cabins. They had to climb out of the creek bed
first, and Sam hung onto the mane keep from slipping off over the horses' rump.
When they reached the top, he was laying across the length of the mare's back,
so he kicked his legs to scoot back up towards her neck. Snowtips flicked her
ears back at that, interpreting the motion to mean 'run like the wind!'
he still had a death grip on her mane as she shot up the path. The hoof beats
hammered loudly in the night, each cabin erupting in screams as he galloped by.
The mask had slipped and all he could see were Snowtips' ears as they bobbed up
and down as she ran. The light saber, which was still on and tangled up with the
mane and his fingers, made them glow weirdly.
the cabins were behind them and the horse slowed to a bone-grinding trot, then
stopped. Sam was lying on her neck, his fingers entwined in her mane. When he
realized she had stopped, he slipped off, his wobbly knees threatening to
collapse at any second. He held on to her mane with one hand and ripped off the
mask with the other. They were in the barn.
glared at the horse. "That was completely unnecessary!" He scolded
her. She merely bobbed her head, blowing softly, her big, brown eyes looking at
appeared a second later. "Wow, Sam, that was great! Screaming, semi-clad
co-eds… ah, what a sight!" He tugged at his belt. "Good thing Beth's
in town tonight!" His grin was a cross between 'lecherous' and 'evil'.
was still too shaky to comment. He unbridled the horse, and put her in an empty
stall, and got into the car after dumping everything in the trunk, including the
white clothes. It took him awhile to get his heart beating normally, then he
started the car. On the drive back, he grumped to the hologram sitting next to
him. "I still don't see why I had to do that."
I didn't want to tell you earlier, but originally Kristy falls off the horse on
the way back to the barn and the management decides to discontinue the practice.
The legend dies before it gets, well, legendary! She's not hurt, just really
snorted. "That makes no sense. People fall off horses all the time, don't
they? So I was sent here to prevent a bruised butt!?" He glanced at Al.
it sorta looks that way now, but between that, the earthquake and the camper
dying, there's a lot of pressure to close the camp. They have to promise not to
perpetuate the legend to keep it open. So now they just have the quake and death
to deal with. And with you here to stop the death, there's only the quake, and
nobody can do anything about that." He pulled out an unwrapped cigar from
an inner pocket and chewed on it. "Originally, they say the camp was cursed
by the dead camper. I guess you're here to lift the curse!"
gripped the steering wheel harder. "Go away. Just go away. I need facts,
not legend mumbo jumbo. Come back when you have facts, OK?"
looked miffed. "Gee, aren't we grouchy tonight. Fine. I'll be back
tomorrow. And be sure to wet your head so the campers believe you were in the
shower." With that, Al tapped the link and he was gone.
did what he was told and wet his head in the shower, still feeling like an
idiot. His legs were still weak from his encounter with Snowtips, so he was
especially careful walking down the dim path to the cabin. When he pushed open
the door, he heard muffled screams, and Kathy say, "It's OK, girls! It's
half dozen girls swarmed around Sam's legs, all babbling at once. He heard
'Josie', 'Grampa', 'man in white' and 'ghost' several times; it was hard to keep
from laughing. One girl looked up at him with serious eyes, and studied him
Sam finally asked her.
were you during the visit from the ghost?" she asked seriously, arms
crossed, obviously skeptical.
In the shower! See? My hair's still wet." Sam ducked his head a six curious
hands touched his head. They all agreed that Kristy couldn't have been the
ghost. The serious-eyed girl still looked unconvinced as Sam herded them all
back to bed.
was sitting on the lower bunk, back against the wall, smiling at Sam and the
girls. She patted the bunk for Sam to sit down when he finally got them all
staying in the cabin, right?" A little voice asked sleepily. "Both of
Becky, we are." Kathy soothed. Sam plopped down next to her, drying his
hair with a towel. "She's so insecure." Kathy commented softly. She
hugged her pillow close and rested her chin on it. "She's really improved
since she's gotten here, don't you think?"
continued. "I love this job. Too bad it only lasts a summer." She
sighed, and Sam's gut instinct roused.
he started, deciding to go with the feeling. "There are careers that have
the same rewards, I would think. Psychology, physical therapy, even teaching.
Stuff like that. You can specialize in children. Or even manage a camp like
this. Someone's got to do it." He finished rubbing his hair, and wrapped
the towel around his neck. "A professional Girl Scout!"
long as I don't have to wear one of those Brownie beanies!" Kathy giggled,
trying to keep quiet. Then she settled down, and said quietly. "My parents
would blow a gasket if I did that. I would like it, though."
was a thoughtful quiet. "What do they want you to do?" he asked.
glanced at him and hugged the pillow tighter. "You know I was an Accounting
major. They expect me to join the family firm." She sighed. "I wanted
to major in Literature. Or Physical Education. But they say there's no jobs out
there in those fields. Accounting is a good, safe field."
hesitated a beat. "And boring."
better believe it!" she said with another sigh. "Every year, it's the
same thing. At tax time you work your tail off 24 hours a day. And my parents
get so grumpy! The clients are always mad, even when they get money back. And no
one appreciates all the work you put in. They only have eyes for that refund
check." She flopped onto her stomach, legs bent up and arms crossed under
her chin. "Boy, you sure can rake in some money, though. Other than that,
it's not very rewarding."
that what you want? A career that's rewarding?" Sam whispered.
tapped her toes together, thinking. "I'd like a job doing what I like to do
anyway, and helping kids. Helping them change their lives. That would be
rewarding. But then, I'd have the wrath of my parents! All that wasted college
don't think they'd come to admire you for doing what you love?" Sam
fleetingly applied that question to himself. He was living what he did best; did
his family admire him? Or hate him? Or did they even know what he was doing?
Suddenly, he realized that he was living out the very fears Kathy was having.
reply was the very same one Sam answered for himself. "I would hope so.
Eventually." But then she added, "But I'm too chicken to try something
different. It's so frustrating. I took this job as a 'last fling' before having
to become a career Accountant. Then I come across girls like Becky, who I can
really see that I'm helping. They're lives are improved because I'm in it, and I
want to help. That's what I really want to do." Thinking out loud was
helping her become more focused on a goal. "I'm 22, a grown adult, and I
can take care of myself." She looked at Sam, and sat up, excited. "I
can do this. I've got to take charge of my life, don't I? I don't want to be
forty years old, and never had the chance to do what I really love. I don't want
to waste the time."
reached over to pat her arm and encourage her a little more, when she turned
around and threw both arms around his neck. "Thanks, Kristy! You've helped
me get my head on straight. You're not the airhead Colleen says you are!"
hugged her back and laughed at the airhead comment. Would the real Kristy have
some explaining to do on her return? Sam got up and checked the girls, confident
they were all asleep. He stopped at Becky's bed, and looked down on her in the
lower bunk. Why did Kathy feel protective about her? Then it hit him: Rebecca
Kendrick. Becky. That's the girl that gets killed tomorrow! Sam felt his eyes
grow wide as he looked at her. She looked so peaceful right now; her curly,
brown hair strewn across her pillow, freckles all over her nose, and her lips
and cheeks pink from the sun. What was going on in her life that Kathy felt made
her insecure? Was it just coincidence that she was the one to die tomorrow? He
wished he hadn't snapped at Al, and hoped he would be back in the morning in
time to ferret out some details. He had until 3:55 tomorrow afternoon to figure
Sam circled the cabin, Kathy was settled into her bed. "Good night, Kristy.
Thanks again. I'm really excited for the summer to end now!"
great!" Sam replied as he climbed up to the top bunk. He could see the camp
was dark and quiet and he crawled into his sleeping bag, and felt himself
relaxing. After a few more thoughts about Becky, Sam drifted off to sleep to the
sounds of crickets and owls.
was jerked awake by an unnaturally cheery song playing over a scratchy PA
system. Groans from the surrounding bunks confirmed that he wasn’t the only
person hoping it was only a dream. It was still gray outside, the sky covered by
a lifting fog common to the summer in the coastal region of California. The day
still held the promise of being hot.
girls," Sam heard Kathy's muffled voice croak from below him. "We need
to pack up today, so make sure all your stuff's together. We'll start after
breakfast." Her voice got stronger as she spoke, and Sam felt the bunk
wiggle as she sat up. A hand appeared over the side of his bed, trying to find
any part of his body. "Hey. Kristy. Your turn for the bathroom run."
The sentence was finished with a yawn.
sat up, still clad in the shorts and T-shirt from the night before. He smelled
strongly of campfire smoke, and would be grateful for clean clothes. Slipping to
the floor, he pulled out a duffel bag from under the bed and rooted around for
clothes. "Come on, girls. Whose ready for a bathroom run?" It was
unnatural how quickly some of the girls woke up, and Sam envied their energy.
About half of them were at the door, dressed, before Sam was finished finding
clothes for himself. Holding the items, he shuffled behind the crowd as they
darted up the path. "Walk!" he barked automatically. He had learned
something about being a counselor after all!
he rubbed his eyes, he heard the Imaging Room door slide open and squinted at
the bright light. When the door closed, he opened his eyes again to see Al
decked in a warped version of a safari suit. He blinked. "Did you just come
in from Africa?" he commented dryly. At least the muted colors were easy on
is my camping outfit! Got pockets for everything. See? Compass, maps, emergency
rations, cell phone, little black book …"
names of cute forest rangers, I suppose?"
I'm a married man. No, it has the list of nice campgrounds. Those with
restaurants nearby that will deliver. Beth and I don't have time to cook while
we're… um… appreciating nature, so to speak." The hologram bounced on
his toes with obviously pleasant thoughts of past camping trips.
shook his head, and rubbed his eyes. They were at the restroom door, and girls
from the entire camp were milling in and out. The counselors were grouped
together to one side, quietly talking. He made a motion that told Al he couldn't
talk right now, so Observer opted to simply hang around and listen.
one in the group saw Sam, she motioned him over. It was the woman who Sam had
seen last night on the way to the cabins. Her camp shirt said 'Marilyn'.
"Hey, Kristy. Here's the mail from yesterday for your girls. You have ten
getting picked up, right? Yvonne and Sandra are staying for another session,
mouth opened, but nothing came out for a second, "Ah," he said,
glancing at Al.
Hang on, Sam." His fingers flew over the handlink. "Yeah, that's
Sam finally said, tucking the mail under his arm.
They should all be gone by noon, and the new bunch here by two. The usual drill.
Becky's finally going home today, huh?" She commented lightly as she
separated out more mail.
counselor, 'Anna' according to her shirt, said, "I can't believe she's been
here a month and a half. That must cost a pretty penny." The other
counselors mumbled agreement or simply nodded.
refrained from giving an opinion, but said, "She was here last year, but
only for one session. Guess she liked it. OK, that's all the mail. See ya in the
mess hall," and walked up the path in the direction Sam assumed the mess
of the other counselors snorted shortly. "I bet that little girl likes it
here. Gets more attention and she can get dirty." The others laughed, and
comments about wishing they could swap places with Becky floated around.
Eventually the circle broke up as the counselors gathered their girls together.
Sam lingered outside the restroom with the hologram. His girls were still
horsing around inside the bathroom, their laughter echoing off the bare walls of
do you think of that, Al? Did you check on Becky's home life? "
but I will. Not that it matters, Sam, you just gotta make sure she's with you at
3:55." He typed in some information and waited for the reply as little
campers milled around with their counselors and moved towards the cabins singing
a song about bringing home a baby bumblebee.
came up with these songs? Sam thought distractedly, shaking his head and turning
his attention to the Observer. "And if she's supposed to go home at noon,
why is she still here this afternoon?" he whispered.
check on that in a sec. Well, nothing really surprising here, Sam. Her dad was,
is, a successful international corporate lawyer who travels a lot, and mom stays
home and throws parties. Filthy rich, it says here, with a huge house in
Berkeley. Hmmm. They get divorced after Becky's death; that's not unusual. Sad,
but Beeks says that's common especially since Becky was an only child. Trauma
like that changes a relationship; although it sounds like they had separate
lives anyway, what with him gone all the time and mom being the Party
Queen." There was a tinge of bitterness in Al's tone. He obviously didn't
care for the parental skills of Becky's parents. "Which is why Becky's
still here this afternoon. A brunch invitation. And Dad's in London."
proverbial poor little rich kid, huh?" Sam mumbled quietly. Becky had come
out of the restroom all smiles, giggling with another girl.
Guess so," the hologram replied.
that's all Ziggy says I have to do? Keep her from dying in a rock slide?"
Now that didn't seem like enough to Sam.
it a 97.86%."
girls had all lined up to wait for Sam. They started singing another repetitive
song involving a bear going over the mountain, who saw a valley in the mountain,
then a river in the valley, then a raft on the river, then a man on the raft.
Sam felt the start of a headache as the song went on, and on, and on.
hologram grinned a lopsided grin. "I think I need to do some more research.
Or finish paper work. Or wash my car…" he tapped the handlink hurriedly.
"Find some earplugs, Sam, before you go insane."
Sam hissed as he led the girls back to the cabin. Al waggled his fingers at his
friend as he stepped through the bright rectangle.
was a barely contained affair involving waffles and syrup that almost erupted
into an all out food fight. Energy levels were high with all the campers excited
at the prospect of going home. Kathy had a knack for distracting them and
focusing their energy elsewhere, which was the saving grace for their table.
breakfast, camper awards were handed out along with the final batch of letters.
Sam noticed that Becky seemed less enthusiastic than the rest, as if she was
pretending to be happy. He watched her open and read her letter at the table,
quietly sitting amongst the energetic crowd. He saw her bite her lip, then
carefully wipe any negative emotion from her face and tuck the letter in her
morning passed in a rush of packing and cleaning. Sam tried to get a moment
alone with Becky, but she always seemed to be just out of reach. Around 11:00 a
bulk of the parents showed up. While they were milling about, Marilyn appeared
at Sam's side.
staying until later today, Kristy. Her mom got tied up at a meeting. She just
Is that what she considers a brunch?' Sam thought as he held back another
comment. "All right," he said.
rounded up the campers that were staying over to go horseback riding. Becky
changed into her jeans, and took off happily. She wasn't the least bit upset at
the news of her mother's tardiness. After she left, and the other campers
departed with their parents, Sam took the opportunity to slip Becky's letter
from the discarded shorts and quickly read it.
he read made his heart go out to the little girl. Her mother was writing to tell
Becky that she had been accepted into a boarding school in Vermont, and that
they would go shopping on her return home. And that she may be late picking her
up because the Annual PEO Luncheon was on that same day. No wonder she likes it
here, Sam thought. At least everyone notices she exists.
counselors barely had a breather before the half dozen campers returned from the
barn and the new campers arrived. Becky greeted them cheerily along with Kathy
and Sam. As they settled in, Sam kept his eyes on his watch, knowing what was
going to happen. 'Just gotta keep 'em in
camp,' he thought. Deep in his heart, though, he knew Becky needed more than
three o'clock, Marilyn called everyone together at the flagpole in the center of
the camp. "OK, everyone! We have a couple of hours until orientation and
dinner, so let's get acquainted by playing a game of Capture the Flag!"
heart raced. He looked around for Becky, and moved to her side behind the new
group. Marilyn divided the girls into two groups and handed out colored sashes
with coordinating flags. The groups ran to opposite ends of the campground until
they were out of sight of each other, giggling excitedly. Sam's eyes were glued
to Becky as the flag was placed and guards posted. The game started at the sound
of Marilyn's whistle.
girls scattered, a counselor for every ten girls or so. Sam's group, part of the
Blue Team, stayed together as they crept through the riverbed.
Becky whispered to the new girls. "Watch out for the Dead Camper's
controlled hysterical giggles followed as Becky pointed out the boulder and
briefly explained the legend. "Ssshhh!" Kathy whispered from behind,
joining Sam's group. "We'll never get anywhere with this noise!" They
herded the group behind the boulder and through the sparse foliage in the
felt tugging on his shirt, and looked down at Becky. "Kathy says I can go
with her. Is that OK?"
down! I see Green Team!" Someone whispered loudly, and the girls scrambled
for cover. Sam looked frantically around, losing sight of Becky as she darted in
the brush. Little hands pulled him down behind a bush as he tried to find her.
"Hide!" A girl's voice begged him. Sam complied, hoping Becky went
with Kathy. After a minute or so, the green group filed by, and Sam jumped up.
He saw Kathy going ahead with Becky by her side. Sam gathered his group and
finally made it to the opposite team's base and planned a charge for the flag.
The ensuing melee was boisterous and physical, and Sam saw a small group of
Blues running off with the flag, Becky among them. Captured, Sam stayed at the
post until she was out of sight, then made up an obscure 'floater' rule that
applied to captured counselors only, and invoked it. The Green Team was
suspicious, but being new here at the camp, they grudgingly let him go. He
passed Kathy at the place he last saw Becky moments before.
Becky?" he asked, winded.
she was on her way to our base with the Green flag. And she wanted to change out
of her riding boots, so she's stopping by the cabin first. Why? Her mom
glanced at his watch. 3:40. "I don't think so. Watch my group, will ya? I
gotta find her." Before Kathy could argue, Sam took off.
he went to the Blue base. No Becky among the celebrating crowd. He turned back
to the cabins, and burst inside. Empty. And he saw her tennis shoes still on top
of her packed suitcase. Sam's heart dropped and he pushed the door open to
leave, relieved to see the Imaging Chamber door slide open and Al step from the
didn't even give the door time to shut. "Al! She's gone! Where'd she
mouth dropped open. "Sam, you lost her? How could you?" He tapped
frantically away on the link.
easier than you think with a hundred girls running around!" he hissed in
reply. "Where is she found?"
looked at the display on the link, then around the camp for any landmarks.
"The newspapers say she's found at the base of Vespers Hill… that way, I
think!" He pointed in the direction of the mess hall and campfire.
think?" Sam sputtered.
what? What are you trying to think about?" a pleasant voice offered behind
him. Sam spun around to see Kathy and all the Blue Team members. The alarmed
look on Sam's face was clear, and Kathy responded to it by turning to the girls
with her. "OK, team. We're taking a break. Everyone up to the mess hall.
Now." She pointed out which way to go, and dropped back to walk with Sam as
the girls followed the trail. "What's up?" she whispered.
gone. We need to find her, Kathy. Now! Don't ask me to explain, but she's in
danger." He stopped her by grabbing her arm. "Is there a place near
Vespers Hill she likes to go to?"
who had been floating alongside, said, "Oh! Good idea, Sam."
blinked for a second. "Yeah! There's a clump of tall brush that's hollowed
out… come on!"
threw Al a glance. "Got it!" The hologram blinked out of sight.
passed the girls on the trail with Sam on her heels. Marilyn was at the mess
hall, checking rosters. "Marilyn! Take the girls!" She yelled as they
raced by the astonished manager.
glanced at his watch. 3:50. This was cutting it too close.
spoke as she ran. "Becky and I found this brush 'cave' about two weeks ago.
She wanted to sleep in there one night, but I told her she couldn't."
they passed the campfire and entered a small stand of scrub oak trees, a small
hill came into Sam's sight. The hill was topped with large boulders, and Sam
shuddered at the thought of what one of those could do to a ten-year-old girl.
wonder why she took off?" Kathy asked, panting.
at home, I think." Sam offered, searching the area with his eyes.
ran around the base of the hill and stopped, breathing hard. She pointed to a
thick stand of chaparral that ran partially up the hillside. "There. In
there," she said, then yelled, "BECKY!" There was no response, so
Sam and Kathy started to wade their way through the brush. "The hollow area
is on the other side of these bushes. We found it coming down the hill."
brush was dry and scratchy, and their legs, hands and arms were soon laced with
bleeding scratches. They burst out on the hillside and made their way along the
brush line, looking for the opening.
Sam!" Al's voice rang out, followed by his unscathed form popping up a
couple of yards away. "She's in here!" He was pointing down at his
feet. Sam made a beeline to him, and Kathy followed.
both came to a halt when they heard soft crying. "Becky?" Kathy called
softly. "I hear you. Come on out." She started to bend over, the
suddenly stood up and spun around. "What's that?" she said, looking up
the hill with a puzzled frown.
heard it, too. A low rumbling that seemed to be coming in their direction.
"Earthquake!" Sam barked as he leaped into the brush. Kathy didn't
hesitate at the warning, and was seconds ahead of Sam.
launched herself into the brush, and came up with Becky in a tight hug.
"Everything will be OK, Becky," she managed to get out before they
felt the ground start to quiver.
outta here, Sam! Those rocks'll come down fast!" The Observer was yelling
to be heard above the rumbling.
the increased shaking and loose dirt, it was tough to keep their feet. Sam
pushed Kathy and Becky along the brush line away from the hollowed out bush,
trying to keep forward progress. Although they fell to their knees often, Kathy
managed to hang on to the terrified Becky. Sam could hear loose pebbles and
small rocks tumbling down the hillside, knowing the big ones would soon follow.
here! Sam! There's ravine! Quick!" Al was waving wildly, floating above the
brush. Sam fixed his eyes on the Observer and made straight for him, pushing the
pair ahead of him.
they reached the edge of the shallow ravine the lip gave away at their weight
and they fell in a heap at the bottom. Sam pushed them against the wall and
covered them with his body.
I think it's stopped!" A sheet of loose dirt rained over them as she
finished her sentence, and she let out a short scream. Sam pushed them harder
into the wall, feeling the vibration of the runaway boulders. The rumbling grew
louder. There was nothing else he could do except shut his eyes and pray.
huge boulders launched off the ravine edge, over their head. They were pelted
with bits of flying chipped rock, but were unscathed at the finish of the
assault. It was eerily quiet for a few seconds as the dust settled.
cries had reduced to shocked sniffles. Kathy's wide eyes met Sam's for a second
over the little girl's head, then the counselor dropped to her knees and pulled
Becky close. "My God!" Kathy whispered, stroking Becky's hair.
thought the same thing as he sank to the ground.
Sam, you should see the number those rocks did on the brush! You were almost
road kill!" Sam heard his friend's comments coming from the top of the
ravine, where they had fallen off. A moment later he popped in beside him.
"You better get back and tell them you're OK. That Marilyn chick is getting
a search party together."
smiled. "I'll go as soon as my legs stop shaking and I can stand," he
grinned at him, her eyes sparking. "Yeah, I know what you mean! Ready to
little girl was sitting on her haunches with her arms wrapped around her legs.
"I don't want to go. I want to stay here. I'm sure my mom can arrange
it," she looked up at Kathy with big, teary eyes. "She won't care. She
doesn't really care where I am."
sat down beside her with a sympathetic smile. "Sure she does, Becky. Your
mom loves you."
kid," Al mumbled.
little girl turned and faced Kathy, totally serious. "No she doesn't. If
she did, she wouldn't send me away to school in Vermont. If I stayed here, I'd
still be out of her way, and I wouldn't be scared because I like it here!"
at that reasoning, Kathy offered, "But your parents just want what's best
for you." Sam could tell by her expression that even she had a hard time
swallowing that one.
looked crestfallen. "Right," she said sadly. She'd obviously been
hoping for help from her favorite counselor, and seeing that it wasn't coming,
she gave up and allowed herself to be led from the ravine. She watched her feet
in silence for the entire walk back. She didn't even look up when Kathy
expressed horror at the pile of boulders that now lay directly on top of the
very bushes Becky had been hiding in.
however, had a flash of inspiration. He let the other two get ahead of him and
greet the search party. "Al," he whispered. "What kind of grades
did Kathy get at the University?"
his attention taken away from the happy co-eds, turned to Sam. "Huh? Oh,
here," he pulled out the handlink from one of the many pockets of the
outrageous safari suit, and tapped smartly. "Let's see. Hey, she's pretty
brainy. Top of her class. Why?"
smiled slyly, then slipped through the crowd and tugged at Kathy's arm. He
nodded at the numerous congratulatory pats on the back, and left Becky in the
capable control of Marilyn. Maneuvering Kathy to a quiet location, Al saw him
talking animatedly to her. Kathy frowned, listening, then broke into a huge
smile. Curious, Al tapped again at the handlink. "Hey," he said to
himself when he saw the crazy readings. "What's up with this?" Then he
realized Sam wasn't quite ready to leap.
mother showed up with a flourish around six, and disappeared into the office
with Marilyn after giving a sullen Becky a peck on the cheek. The counselors
marveled at the shiny, black Mercedes parked outside the office, and wondered
how she kept all the dust off of it after coming to camp on a lengthy dirt road.
you got money, you pay the dirt to do what you want," one counselor groused
that's for sure," Al agreed, rocking on his toes. In the time since the
earthquake, Sam and Kathy had a brief meeting with Marilyn, and sequestered
themselves in the camp office. Curious, Al had kept quiet, and finally figured
out their scheme. Ziggy projected an almost 90% chance of success.
the rest of the counselors broke in the new campers to the Rancho Oso schedule,
Kathy and Sam waited patiently outside the office. Actually, Kathy was having a
hard time standing still, and tried not to rumple the sheets of paper she and
Sam had produced in Marilyn's office. Becky stood with them. Finally, the office
door cracked open, and Marilyn waved Kathy inside. "Good luck!" Sam
Kathy smiled as she slipped in the door, looking all business.
the door closed, Becky looked up at Sam with a pouty face. "NOW will you
tell me what's going on?" She crossed her arms and tried to look demanding.
Sam grinned at her, and gave Al a questioning look.
Observer pulled out the hand link. "The probability is shooting way up
there, Sam. 50, 58, 67, 82….95! 99, 100! Yeah! Tell her!"
knelt down in front of the little girl. "Well, Kathy is in there trying to
get a job as an au pair."
frowned. "A what??"
like a live in day care person. A nanny."
thought for a second. "A baby sitter?"
laughed, "Well, sort of. You see, Kathy wants to go to Berkeley, a college
in your hometown. She wants to be a teacher. But she'll need money to pay for
her classes and a place to live."
it dawned on Becky, and her face lit up like the sun. "And she can live at
what she's trying to convince your mom. With Marilyn's reference, and Kathy's
grades and experience here, it shouldn't be a problem. And she gets paid for
taking care of you, so she can take her classes! What do you think?"
was jumping up and down. "And I wouldn't have to go to boarding school!
Kathy can help me and keep an eye on me and I can help her be a teacher!"
Sam smiled, as the office door cracked open minutes later. Becky raced to her
mother, begging for all she was worth.
mother smiled and shushed her, and turned to shake first Marilyn's, then
Kathy's, hands. "Thank you," she said to them both. Then to Kathy,
"I guess we'll be seeing you at the end of the month!" Becky squealed
happily, as Sam and Al grinned. Becky's mom herded an excited Becky into the
car, which was already loaded up with the little girl's things. Kathy escorted
the neatly dressed woman to the driver's side, chatting happily.
Al, what happens?" Sam asked softly.
Observer had been reading the readout on the handlink. "Ziggy says that the
arrangement works out perfectly. Kathy takes three years to finish her studies
and get that advanced degree and becomes quite a fixture at Becky's private
school, helping Becky and the school. She's picked up to teach there as soon as
she gets her degree, and loves it. She's still there, and has been the
headmaster now for a couple of years. Gets quite the reputation."
her parents stay together, but the lifestyle doesn't change. Too bad; they
really miss out on really getting to know their little girl. Thanks to Kathy,
she grows up to be an OK adult. Works in Social Services with foster care kids.
Happily married to another social worker. Ha! Bet mommy and daddy hate
that!" Al pocketed the link. "Think it's time to say bye-bye,
you'd think." Sam started walking down the path to the cabins. He could
hear the newest crop of campers settling down happily, and the Leaper had a
rare, solitary moment on the path. Al's attention was focused on the path to the
cabins, so Sam stopped at the campfire to admire the pink sunset over the rise
above the bonfire pit when felt the electrical tingling of the impending leap.
movement in the oak trees behind the campfire caught his attention, and his jaw
dropped when he realized what he thought he saw. "Hey," he said
pointing in the trees at the ghostly white figure of a horse and rider in the
shadows. "Did you see the…..!!" He didn't get the chance to finish
the sentence before he leaped.
banquet hall was filled with family and friends wishing Lewis Rich a long and
prosperous future. Lewis’ best friend and college pal, Kevin Erickson, was
sitting right next to him at table Number One when Lewis told him the good news.
"I just got the job at the First Street Research Institute! The one I, I
mean we, wanted from the day we first declared our Physics majors! Being a
graduate of MIT really tipped the scales!"
awesome!" Kevin replied, excited about his friend’s success but a bit
jealous and not wanting to admit it. He was still hoping for an answer himself,
though things started to seem a bit dim at this point. Then there was Lewis’
'girlfriend' Laura, if one wanted to call her that. He wondered how she would
take the news, him moving to Washington and all. He even wondered if Lewis had
even told her yet. In all this deep thought Kevin failed to notice that he was
no longer sitting at table Number One, or even in the banquet hall; he suddenly
found himself lying on a cot in a strange blue room with white-coated people
that looked like scientists approaching him.
are you there??" The voice of a very good-looking young Caucasian girl
demanded gently. She had straight, short black hair and a stunning blue dress.
"Mr. Rich wants you to make a toast," she said.
Me?" replied Kevin – only it wasn’t Kevin. Oh sure, he looked like
Kevin Erickson to everyone else around, but it was merely an aura, fooling
everyone around into believing they were seeing someone they weren’t.
Unbeknownst to her, the man Laura was talking to was actually Dr. Sam Beckett.
slowly rose and raised his glass, which was full to the brim with sparkling
cider. He nervously looked around the room. As he rose, he noticed all the
people around him; there had to be about twenty or so packed in a banquet room
not much bigger than a child’s bedroom and very well decorated. He noticed the
closeness of the room, filled with people who must have been friends, but of
course, just having arrived on the scene in a flash of blue light, were as
strange to him as the look on his face was to them. As Sam stood up to make the
toast, but the only thing he could utter was a nervous, "Oh boy!"