Chapter VII APRIL 1, 1973, CALAVICCI RESIDENCE, LAJOLLA, CALIFORNIA The most pressing thing in Beth's life at this moment, was her homework. With very little paper shuffling, Sam was able to find her notes and determine what she was working on when he leaped in. It took him a little over an hour and a half to complete the assignments that were due, and when he was finished, he neatly put the work away. The rumblings in Sam's stomach told him it he should look into having something to eat before he did anything else. Checking to see if she had all the ingredients, Sam decided on pancakes for dinner. They were fairly easy to make, and he knew he could do it without burning the house down. Before starting, Sam propped open the kitchen door and went into the living room. Sam flipped through the Calaviccis' record collection, looking for something to sing along with will he cooked. He came across several Beatles albums, and loaded them all onto the turntable. Sam turned the volume up before heading back to the kitchen. As he sang along with John, Paul, George, and Ringo, Sam tried to remember if Beth could sing. In the end, it didn't matter. No one was around, and if Al did come back, he would only hear Sam. Sam ate his dinner at the kitchen table, preferring to keep the mess in one room. He cleaned the kitchen up after he was finished eating, and considered what he could do next. There wasn't anything on the television that interested him, Beth's choices in reading material didn't appeal to him, and taking a walk would require him to change clothes. He searched the bookshelves flanking the fireplace, hoping to find something of Al's that would interest him, but he came up empty-handed. It was a pleasant evening for sitting on the porch, so he put some Motown records on the stereo and went out. Sam left to the door open behind him, so he could hear the radio. He took the opportunity to focus on everything he could remember about Beth, hoping to gain some insight on how to act like her. Most of what Sam could remember came from Al and that wasn't going to be very helpful. His thoughts were interrupted by an elderly couple and their poodle. The couple was across the street, chatting with a neighbor. It was the dog who spotted Sam and intruded on his thoughts. It started yipping at him like mad. Of course, Sam was a stranger to it, and Sam hoped that Beth was too. The couple spotted `Beth' and started across the street, their dog nearly dragging them along. Sam began to panic. It was obvious that he was expected to know them, but Al wasn't around to play prompter. "Now stop that, Snookums," the woman chided her dog. "It's only Beth." *Snookums??* Sam tried to keep a straight face. "Did you hear the news, dear? The President said all our boys are coming home. Your Al will be home before you know it." Before Sam could form a suitable reply, the woman's husband spoke up. "Matilda Duncan, you don't know that for sure! Have some consideration for her feelings. What if you're wrong?" "Oh, hush, Herbert," she replied. "Al's not the type to roll over and die. It takes a lot to keep him down." The poodle was still barking. "Matty, what's with her? She's acting as if she's never seen Beth before." "Oh, I don't know." She looked up apologetically at `Beth'. "Sorry, dear, but I'm afraid we have to cut this short. Something seems to be upsetting Snookums." The walked off before Sam could say anything to them. He waved good-bye. *Nice talking to you. We should do it again sometime. Bye.* he thought, shaking his head. They never noticed that `Beth' hadn't said one word to them. Sam was once again left alone in silence, and he sat gazing at the calla lilies. The sun went down and the temperature dropped. It was getting too cold for Sam to sit outside much longer. He entered the house, locking the door behind him. With nothing better to do, Sam prepared for the next day. He double checked the calendar for times and classes, reset the alarm for earlier than he would normally have gotten up at (if it was his own life he was leading), and made a grocery list. If he had the time, he would get some groceries for his meals. Avoiding the mirrors, Sam changed into a plain nightgown and robe. He removed her jewelry, but stopped when he got to her MIA bracelet. *I wonder if she wears it to bed?* he thought, fingering the slim band. Uncertain, he took it off and placed it next to her watch. Sam stifled a yawn as he gave the bungalow one last security check. He was glad to see Beth used night lights throughout. As a leaper, he really appreciated that habit in his hosts. Satisfied that all was secure, Sam selected a gardening book, and crawled into bed. Half an hour later, he was sound asleep. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * The obnoxious sound of the alarm going off brought Sam out of a deep sleep. Sleepily, he made her bed and laid out her uniform, hoping it was the right one. Still avoiding the mirrors, Sam took a quick shower. He thought briefly of Elizabeth and wondered how she was doing. He hoped that Verbena had returned to the project and reassured the woman that she was safe. Sam wasn't looking forward to putting on panty hose and wondered if there was any way around wearing them. He sighed. It was probably against regulation for woman *not* to wear them when in certain uniforms. Beth didn't wear heavy make-up, and Sam was glad of that. A hint of color on her eyes, lips, and cheeks was enough. She also kept her hair style simple and Sam didn't have to fuss with that either. He could just hug her. Satisfied with the results, Sam went back into her room and starting dressing. He put everything on except the skirt and blouse. He pulled the robe on and went to have breakfast. Opting for a simple meal of toast, fresh fruit, and tea, Sam ate in contemplative silence. He rinsed the dishes before returning to the bedroom, and Al still hadn't shown up. Sam was hoping he would, and soon. Even if he had nothing for Sam, he needed Al to act as tour guide. Sam finished getting dressed and was putting on Beth's jewelry when he heard the Imaging Chamber Door behind him. "Hi, Sam." "I was wondering when you'd get here," he replied, turning to face his friend. Al was in his pajamas, coffee cup in hand. "Going casual today?" "I'm going to see Elizabeth later and Beth is picking out what I should wear." "Speaking of clothes, how do I look?" "Ridiculous." "I mean the uniform. How does it look? Is it right?" Al gave him a small frown. "Go stand in front of the mirror," he ordered. Sam gave him an odd look. "So I can see what it looks like on Beth," Al explained. "Oh, and don't forget her jacket and put her shoes on." Sam complied. He picked the shoes up off the floor of the closet. He grinned. "Give Beth a kiss for me when you see her, Al." Al raised an eyebrow. "What for?" Sam held up a shoe. "Look, flats." The Observer shook his head. "You know why she wears flats?" "Because she's smart," Sam replied, putting on the shoes. "Because we're approximately the same height." Sam chuckled. He obediently stood in front of the mirror. Sam watched his friend out of the corner of his eye. Though Al was dressed for nap time, he still managed to look like an admiral conducting an inspection. "Looks good, Sam. Don't forget her hat." "Got it." "Oh, and are you wearing her MIA bracelet?" "Yep." "Good, then you're all set." He paused. "How'd it go last night?" "Oh," Sam said, leading the way out into the living room. "It was quiet, as you'd expect. I sat out on the porch for a while." He chuckled. "I met the Duncans." "I remember them," Al said, with an amused smile. "And their dog." "Snookums? Who names their dog Snookums?" "Their five-year-old granddaughter." "Oh. Interesting couple though. Never got a word in edgewise." "Yeah." Al's face became thoughtful. "They were a real nice couple, Sam. Herbert was a POW during World War II. Japanese had him. They had kids, and Matty had to struggle without him." "She seemed convinced you were alive, without me having to say anything," Sam observed quietly. "But Herbert doesn't share her views." "Well, he's been there, you know?" Al fell silent, still lost in thought. "You know Sam, I used to tell Beth, even before I went to ‘Nam, that I wanted the two of us to be like Matty and Herbert when we got older. They married right out of high school in 1930 and were together for 70 years. Beth kept in touch with them. They were very much in love, right up to the end. Matty died this past August and Herbert died a month later." He paused. "That's how we want it to happen for us," Al said, solemnly. Sam was struck speechless by Al's honest confession. The silence was shattered by the muffled chirping of the handlink. Al fished the little machine out of his bathrobe pocket, and replaced it with the presumably empty mug. "So, what have you got for me?" "Well, Ziggy eliminated all the nursing home possibilities. Those who passed away in the next 72 hours died of natural causes and Ziggy couldn't come up with anything you could do for the family members or the staff. The hospital was a little trickier, but she's eliminated all those possibilities, too. Unless you want to be here several months counseling grieving families, Ziggy can't come up with anything more tangible." "What about Balboa's staff?" Sam glanced at his watch. He still had plenty of time to get to the hospital. "Same thing. Nothing you can do for anyone at this point in their lives." Sam sighed. "One of her classmates or teachers?" "It appears that way." "Let's get going. You can tell me on the way." Sam locked up and got into Beth's car. Al gave him some directions, to get him on his way, before continuing. "Ok. Ziggy says there's a 90% chance that you are here to prevent the suicide of Michael Murphy." "What do you have so far?" "Uh, it's coming up now, Sam. Hmm. Not much. Gun belonged to his father." "When did he do it?" "Tomorrow afternoon, in a deserted building. The police report doesn't give us much detail on the reason he killed himself." "No note then?" "Well, so far, Ziggy hasn't run across any mention of a note." The handlink continued to chirp as Al coaxed more information from the little box. "Oh, no," Al said, sad. Sam looked sharply at him. "What's wrong, Al?" he asked, concerned. Al sighed heavily. "His older brother's body was shipped back to the states yesterday. From `Nam. According to the report his father made, they tell him tonight, after classes." Sam felt as if a knife was twisting in his gut. He knew what it was like to lose an older brother to the Vietnam War. *But Tom's alive, isn't he?* He remembered Al's statement from yesterday. "Al, I still remember when Tom's body was brought home." Al studied him a moment, solemn. "Do you remember his homecoming, after we saved his life?" Sam looked out the side window, trying to remember. He could see his brother clearly, but it was some point after their father had died. "No, but I can remember things that happened later. That could be the leaping though." Al sighed. "That's the way it's for me, too. I can remember, vividly, finding out that Beth had remarried. I also can remember things that belong to this new time line, but *not* my homecoming." Sam looked at him. "You mean, even with me leaping into Beth, none of this," he waved a hand to include Balboa, "is jogging your memory?" "Nope." Sam frowned. It was understandable for his memory to be always full of holes, but Sam was certain that Al's memories should have straightened themselves out by now. "Don't you think you should go in now?" Sam grabbed Beth's purse and hat and followed Al's lead. "I wonder how I'm going to get through this day without you to prompt me," Sam muttered as they crossed the parking lot. "You'll be ok, Sam," Al assured him, walking through the hospital door. "Good morning, Beth." Al and Sam turned. "Sam, that's Kelly!" Sam recognized her even before Al said her name. "Hi, Kelly." "Sam, Kelly's married. Her new name is Morgan, and both of you are lieutenant commanders," Al supplied. "Stick with her, Sam, and you won't need me around here today." "Did you hear that Anderson wants us to straighten out Records?" Kelly was saying. "There's an inspection team coming out from the Surgeon General's office sometime in the next 60 days, and you know how Anderson gets." "Well, there's no help for it, I guess." This was going to be easier than he thought. If the pair of them stayed in Records all day, he was less likely to make any horrendous mistakes in Beth's life. Al was punching the buttons on the handlink. "Sam, I have Ziggy working on getting more information for you." The Door appeared. "Right now, I need to get ready to visit Elizabeth."