Chapter XII APRIL 2, 1973, SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA *Ten more minutes*, Sam thought gratefully, checking the time on the wall clock. *Just ten more minutes. Al should be back soon.* The admiral had pulled a disappearing act, shortly after the class started, with a promise to return in time for the dismissal. Sam glanced over at Michael, who as listening to the lecture and taking notes. It was then that he realized that the young man wasn't wearing an MIA bracelet. Sam found this to be very odd, given the closeness of the brothers. If Tom had been an MIA, Sam would have gotten one. *Maybe*, he thought, *he's in denial. Or he thinks they aren't . . . macho.* Sam made a mental note to ask Al about that. Before departing, Al had reported that Ziggy could not determine what type of impact Andrea had, or could have, on the situation. Ziggy had reviewed every police statement, and found no mention of her, and Andrea never made a statement in the original history. The computer had projected a 50-50 chance of Andrea Zimmer agreeing to go out with Michael. Either way, Sam needed an ally. One that Michael would perhaps listen to, in order to be successful with this leap. Being the `wife' of an MIA might not be enough to convince Michael of going on without his brother. He'd have to put on a convincing act of uncertainty too, since `Beth' wasn't supposed to know the fate of her husband. Even drawing on his closeness to his own brother wasn't going to be enough. Michael was more apt to listen to a peer than someone nearly twice his age. Sam turned his attention back to the front of the class and noticed that Kramer's eyes were on him. Again. The first time the professor had stared at him, Sam had felt a wave of dislike overcome him. It surprised him with its intensity, and the fact it wasn't *his* reaction. A residual memory of Beth's told him that Professor Kramer had made many passes at her before, and her emotional reaction had crossed time and space. Sam was very much aware of her true feelings. Professor Kramer was around Beth's age, maybe a little older, and was rather attractive looking. The problem was, he knew it. Beth, apparently, couldn't get it through his thick, narcissistic skull, that she was *not* interested in him. Or ever likely to be. Regardless. The Imaging Chamber door opened, and Al reappeared. The admiral had straightened his tie and put on his jacket and cap, back `in uniform'. Sam gave his partner a grateful look as Kramer dismissed the class. Sam gathered up his belongings. "Mrs. Calavicci?" Sam turned. Andrea and one of her friends were standing next to the desk. Michael, Sam noted, saw this and positioned himself by the door, ready to stop Andrea on the way out. "Yes?" Andrea and her friend glanced at each other, uncertain. Andrea spoke first. "We heard what you said earlier. About your husband." "What I said?" "Yeah. About not hearing any news," she clarified. "Oh." Sam hadn't realized that they had paid any attention to his remarks to the professor. Doing his best to be convincing, he sighed and said, sadly, "I wonder if I'll ever know." Al was grimacing. "Aw, Sam, that was *horrible*!" The two young women still looked uncertain, and Sam perceived a reluctance in them to continue. *Maybe,* he thought, *they are afraid of upsetting Beth*. However, they were convinced with his act. The friend finally spoke. "We just wanted you to know that, well, that we're praying for him." Both men were taken aback. Sam didn't see why they were apprehensive, unless they thought Beth would have found it inappropriate. Al recovered first. "That's sweet of them, Sam," he commented, obviously touched. Though neither could see nor hear him, Al turned to the girls. "Thank you," he said, sincerely. Sam smiled. "Well, keep it up. And thank you for telling us, er, me." The two young women smiled back, more at ease. "We will, Mrs. Calavicci," Andrea promised. "And you're welcome." The pair turned and left. Sam watched them go. Michael approached Andrea at the door. "Hey, Andrea, can I talk with you a minute?" He seemed a bit nervous. "Sure," she readily agreed. Michael threw a grateful look at Sam as he and the two girls left the room. Sam and Al moved to follow them at a discreet distance. "Beth?" Kramer called out, before they made it out the door. *Uh-oh*, Sam thought, glancing at Al. "Sam," Al said, misinterpreting the look, "I'll go listen in on Michael and Andrea's conversation." But before Al finished punching in the code, Kramer spoke again. "How would you like to go out for some drinks?" Al snapped his head around so fast, Sam was sure he'd given himself whiplash. By now, Kramer was standing uncomfortably close Sam. That didn't escape the admiral's notice either. Sam could see him getting angrier. "Professor Kramer --" "You can call me David." "*Professor Kramer*," Sam said again, emphasizing it, "in case you've forgotten, I'm married." The look Al was giving the professor should have, by all rights, killed the man. David Kramer had no idea how lucky he was that Al Calavicci was a hologram. "Yes, I'm aware of that," he replied smoothly, "but he's not here right now." "You wanna bet?" Al challenged sharply, eyes still hard and deadly. Kramer continued, seductively. "I could see to it that, well, your grades --" Sam took a step back, doubly angry. "Professor Kramer, unless you want to be answering to an ethics committee, you'd better watch what you say to me. Also in case you've forgotten, I don't *need* this class." "What a nozzle!" Al sputtered, furious. "Sam, take him out!" Sam was tempted to do just that. Kramer's expression went from startled to confused. It was apparent that he was use to getting his way with the ladies. There was charm and then there was *charm*. The younger co- eds probably melted like butter for him. This creep had no clue that Beth knew a thing or two about men with real charm. "And one other thing," Sam said, turning to go, "even if I *was* available, you're not my type." "Why didn't you slug him, Sam?" Al asked, still furious. "I wanted to, Al," he replied through clenched teeth, looking up and down the hallway for Michael. "Believe me, you don't know how much I wanted to punch him." He calmed down a bit they exited the building. "I just didn't think it would be fair to Beth. She'd have to put up with the consequences, not me. How would you feel if you came home to find your wife was brought up on assault charges and she had no memory of the incident?" Al, still a little hot under the collar from the encounter, replied, "Well, you've got a point, Sam. Doesn't make me feel any better though." Sam nodded, mind already back on the problem at hand. He hoped that Michael and Andrea hadn't gone far. The scene that awaited, surprised them both. Al and Sam glanced at each other, dumbstruck. Michael and Andrea were talking to each other, looking relaxed. She didn't look repulsed or even disdainful, and his nervousness was gone. Al immediately zeroed in on the couple, as Sam nonchalantly headed over to Beth's car. He trusted Al to call out if there was trouble. It didn't look like there would be. Sam saw the couple part with a wave and a smile, and he felt alternately elated, confused, and stunned. The look on Al's face, once he joined Sam in the car, told him that Al felt the same way. "I don't believe it, Sam," he said, amazed, "but she actually agreed to go on a date with him. They're going to the movies on Saturday." Sam turned somber as he started the car. "No, Al, they're not. He dies tomorrow, remember?" Al consulted the link. "Well, history did change a little. Now Andrea shows up in the reports. He leaves her a note. I guess you were right. He didn't ask her out, originally." Sam sighed, pulling away from the parking lot. "Now he's heading home to get the news. I think he's in denial, Al. About his brother. I noticed he didn't have an MIA bracelet. I felt sure he would have one. I would have worn one." "Yeah, I guess he is." He paused, thoughtful. "Sam, do you remember Ernie Tyler?" Sam looked confused. He didn't see the connection. "Wasn't he the person I leaped into, whose granddaughter got run off the road and the ‘whites only' hospital would take her?" "No, that was *Jesse* Tyler," Al corrected. "*Ernie* Tyler owned a roadhouse here in California. He's kid, Darrell, was a Marine, during the Korean War, and he was listed MIA." That was enough for Sam. "Right. He kept all of his son's gifts in the closet --" "And the Shadow," Al added, referring to Darrell Tyler's 1949 Black Shadow motorcycle. "For when he came home," Sam finished. "But Darrell was killed, wasn't he?" "Right, and Ernie gave up on life not long after he found out, in the original history." "But we changed that too, when we saved that girl's life. She stayed with Ernie, didn't she? And helped him get through the loss." Al nodded. "Maybe Andrea can do the same for Michael." "I already thought of going to her for help. I figured he'd listen to her, as a peer. Now that we know she's . . . fond of him, I think it'll work. I don't know what I would have done if she said no to him." Sam paused, getting his bearing and made a turn in the direction of a grocery store he'd seen earlier. "What about his parents, Al? Maybe, if I can talk to them tomorrow, we won't have to worry about Andrea at all." Al checked the handlink. "No good, Sam, unless you want to be at their door at the crack of dawn. They go Fort Irwin tomorrow morning. Michael doesn't go with them, obviously. His father's brother, from El Cajon, stays with him. The uncle leaves him alone, to pick up the grandmother, who is flying in from Pasadena." Sam was confused. "But you said that he breaks into the strong box after his *parents* leave." "Yeah, well, Ziggy goofed. She said `Mr. Murphy'. Since it's his paternal uncle, she's right. She didn't clarify it." "Why are they going to Fort Irwin?" "Sam, Kenny was in the Army and they shipped his . . . remains . . . to Irwin." "Oh. Well. I think I'll still try talking with the uncle. Has Ziggy established a more accurate time of death, or am I winging it?" Al tapped a query. "No, but the grandmother's flight is due to land at 1:30." "So, I want to get there before noon. That means I should try to talk to Andrea before then. Does she work?" "Uh, not tomorrow." Al read off both addresses and phone numbers. "Fortunately, they live close to each other." Sam pulled into the grocery store's lot and sat back, looking at his partner. "That's it then. I'll go over to Andrea's and tell her about Kenny. I'll tell her I heard it from an Army Nurse friend, and ask her if she'd come with me to the Murphy's. I'm not sure what I'm going to say to the uncle." "Don't worry, Sam, we'll think of something," Al said, confident. Sam grabbed Beth's purse, getting out of the car. "Are you going to stick around and watch me shop?" "Ah, no. I can forgo that experience. I think I'll get back to work and do a few things, before heading home. I don't think Beth's coming back to the project on this leap." Al keyed the Door. "Well, unless Ziggy comes up with something that earth shattering, I'll see you in the morning." Sam nodded. "See you later, Al." "Goodnight, kid." ************************************* Michael could barely contain his excitement as he drove home. He almost didn't ask her out. Mrs. Calavicci's smile of encouragement was a godsend. She had always seemed a little sad to Michael. He knew about her husband from a friend whose father was a doctor at Balboa. Today she seemed . . . different. Michael reminded himself to thank her when he saw her again. *Andrea said `yes'!* he thought jubilantly, for the umpteenth time. He had a feeling she just wanted to be friends, and that was fine with Michael. It was a *beginning* at least. Michael saw an extra car in the driveway and recognized it as his uncle's. It wasn't unusual for him to come by in the middle of the week, but it was unusual to come unexpected. Parking on the curb, Michael hopped out of the car, still on cloud nine. "Guess what?!" he exclaimed, bursting into the livingroom excitedly. It took him a second to realize that his mother was crying. Michael looked around. His father was on the phone taking notes, and his uncle was going through his mother's address book. Something was terribly wrong. "Mom! Is it Grandpa?" he cried, rushing to her side. All she could do was shake her head no. Uncle Harry carefully set aside the book and came over to his nephew and sister-in-law. "No, Mike, it's not your grandfather," he said sadly. "My baby!" his mother sobbed, and Michael *knew* she wasn't referring to him. "Mike, they found Kenny," his uncle said, quietly. "When will he be home? Did he call?" he asked. "You don't understand," Harry said, gently. "Kenny's body--" Michael jumped to his feet and hollered, "No! They have the *wrong* person! Kenny's not dead! I would *know* it if he was!" His body went numb. He didn't want to believe them. Murphy was a common name, so was Kenneth. Michael knew several Murphys, unrelated to him. They *must* have the wrong Kenny Murphy. "Michael, please don't yell. Your father's on the phone, long distance," Harry said, trying to calm his agitated nephew. "They have his *jaw*, Michael. They've confirmed it with his dental records." The room began to spin. "No," he whispered, his mother's sobs drowning him out. "It's not true. My brother is *not* dead." "Michael," Harry said, beginning to lose patience. "There is *no* mistake." But Michael refused to hear another word. Ignoring his mother's tears and attempts to hold him, Michael ran from the room, slamming his bedroom door behind him. He threw his books across the room, breaking a lamp. "You're wrong!" he shouted. "My brother is *not* dead!" Michael paced his room, frustrated and angry, saying the same thing over and over. "You're wrong." He said it in increasingly softer tones, until it was no more than a mumble. His paced slowed, and eventually he came to a stop in the middle of his room. Eyes drawn to the picture on the night stand, Michael walked over and picked it up. It was taken, just before Kenny left for Vietnam. The two of them had gone to the Grand Canyon. He remembered the good times they had. Michael remembered all the other good times they had shared, growing up. Realization slowly began to seep in and he carefully placed the picture on the stand. Emotionally and physically drained, Michael sank to the floor and wept.