Chapter 10 SATURDAY, OCTOBER 16, 1960, NAS PENSACOLA Sam dribbled the basketball, paused, and made the basket. He didn't care whether George played basketball or not. He couldn't sit, alone, in George's room, and he'd rather not spend the entire day with JP. Sam was working off some frustration that was partially directed at Al. It started with Al's sudden departure after ‘Georgia on My Mind'. Sam was left entirely alone with George's assorted friends, not knowing what to say or do. Fortunately, Janet was willing to dance the night away, and he was able to get her to elaborate on her previous statement about Henry, without arousing suspicion. *"What makes you think he's artificial?" Sam had asked.* *"Well, some guys will use any act to get what they want, if you know what I mean. Kelly isn't THAT type of person, and Henry comes across, to me at least, that he's putting on an act to get her into bed."* The rest of the date was uneventful and Sam's annoyance had diminished a bit. By the time he dropped the women off, it was all-but-gone. The goodnight kiss between Beth and Al reminded Sam that the Observer's disappearance was partially his own fault. After all, it was possible they would have stuck around if Sam hadn't played Ray Charles. Now, it was almost noon, and the only Al he had seen today was 26 years old and had no clue that a dear friend would be dead before the end of the month. Sam made another basket. The swoosh of the ball going through the net was mimicked by the Imaging Chamber Door. "Finally." Sam turned to the hologram, decked out in red. He looked . . . perky. "I spent the day with Beth, if you must know," Al informed him, responding to the unasked question he knew was on Sam's mind. "I talked to my daughters, and then I had a little talk with Ziggy concerning this leap." The last bit immediately got his attention. "What did Ziggy have to say?" "She threw out our stalker theory. If it was just Kelly and Janet, then yes, it might have been a stalker. But once you factor in Henry and Lenora's boyfriend, the odds drop to single digits. Throw Tom's death into it, and you get negative numbers. Ziggy ran some numbers on the scenario that the four of the five deaths were connected, and she gave it a 70% chance it's mob related." Sam, who was still shooting baskets, paused. "Why?" "Well, I took a closer look at Henry's job history. He was never fired and never received a less then glowing appraisals, but he did change jobs a lot. Ziggy thought that was a little out-of- the-ordinary and she's digging further to see what else she can find that might point to mob connections." "And how does that tie in with Lenora, Kelly, and Lenora's boyfriend?" Al shoved the handlink into his jacket pocket. "Lenora's boyfriend was a small-time thug. I seriously doubted that she even knew that. Ziggy thinks that Lenora and Kelly's deaths were ‘warning shots', directed at their boyfriends. When they didn't heed, they were killed, too" Al shrugged. "Personally, it seems far fetched. It's not completely impossible, though." "And Tom's?" "Ziggy is 99% sure it was an accident." Sam mulled over the information, and continued shooting baskets. Sam had to admit that, as implausible as it may seem, they could be on the right track: Kelly *was* followed by someone who *could* have been a hit man. He stopped shooting for a moment and walked over to Al, who was standing off to one side with his hands in his pockets, watching Sam, and saying nothing. Sam looked apologetically at his Observer. "I hate to stereotype, but what do you think the odds are that one of Gino's bus boys or cooks could have alerted the killer not to make an attempt on Kelly last night? I don't want to imply that all Italians have mob connections." Al waved him off. "Don't apologize, Sam." He retrieved the link and punched in the request. "Ziggy gives that a 100% probability." "I think we've finally hit pay dirt," Sam commented, looking around. Being a weekend, the makeshift basketball court by the squadron building was deserted. Al nodded in agreement. "The way I see it," Sam said, resuming his shooting, "Originally, the killer saw Kelly leave her favorite restaurant, and trailed her." "And then somehow forced her off the road," Al added. "And then killed her," Sam finished. "We step in, change her plans for the evening," Al started, pacing along the side of the court. "But not the fact she drove herself," Sam interjected, "so she still died." "Wait. Then it couldn't be a busboy or cook at Gino's." Al consulted the link. "Oh. 100% that it was someone *at* Gino's. Semantics." A thoughtful look crossed his face, and he slapped his forehead. "What?" It was obvious something had just occurred to his Observer. "We were so hung up on someone trailing *Kelly* it never occurred to us that the killer may have trailed *Henry* to the restaurant and then followed Kelly when she left." "Well, that's understandable, Al, since we were working on the assumption it was a stalker." Al seemed to consider that, and nodded. "Well, you do have a point." "Anyway," Sam resumed the line of thought, "we convince her --" "*I* convince her," Al corrected. "--to come with me instead." "The killer sees no opportunity, and lays low until the next week, when she goes out on her own," Al concluded. "In that instance, the killer would have had to follow her to the restaurant, because Henry was out of town. Now, how the killer knew what her plans were, still stumps me." Al was consulting the link as Sam was speaking. "Based on the scenario we've just hashed out, Ziggy revised the mob theory to 90%. That sounds pretty close to confirmation in itself, in my opinion." "Personally," Sam said retrieving George's towel and canteen. "I would prefer higher odds. But the way things have been going, that's as good as were going to get." Sam headed for George's car. "So, what's next?" Al asked. "I'm heading over to the women's barracks." Al's gaze was level and he looked Sam up and down. He was sweating from exertion and clad in a tank top and a pair of shorts. "Sam, if you go over there looking like that, you'll incapacitate most of the off-duty nurses." He paused and frowned. "Why are you going over there anyway?" "To talk Kelly into dumping Henry." Al's eyes widened. "What? How?" Sam shrugged, toweling his face. "I don't know. Ask Ziggy." Sam climbed into the car. Al popped in beside him. "Sam, Ziggy doesn't have any proof, just yet, on a mob connection. You can't just walk up to her and say ‘Hi, Kelly, your boyfriends part of the Mafia.' She'll say something to Henry and the odds are pretty good they'll come after George, which means, you." "I've got to do something, Al," Sam replied, irritably. "I can't spend a week as George. And every time we changed history, she still dies." "Sam, Ziggy gives it less than 20% that you can convince her. And even if you do, Ziggy still projects her death at 90%." "Why?" "I don't know. Maybe he killed her for dumping him. Sam, without proof, she's not gonna listen. And with it, her life is still in danger." Al was getting just as irritated. The life of a friend hung in balance, and they still had nothing concrete. "Could you at least wait until Ziggy can get more information, Sam?" Al asked. "Fine. How long will it take her?" The Observer consulted the link. "Three days." Sam stared at him. Deep in his gut, Sam knew that three days wasn't going to be enough. This leap would rely on how convincing Sam could be, not on actual, hard proof. That would require surveillance work and research on his part. Neither activity could be done overnight, and Sam knew that George would be coming off leave shortly. Sam made up his mind. He turned down the road that lead to the Nurses' barracks. "Sam, stop and think about this," Al said firmly. "She's not gonna believe you." "I have to do something," Sam said, again. "What are you planning to say?" Sam didn't answer him. He hadn't thought that part over. As long as he was sincere, he figured she'd listen to him. "Sam," Al begged, "please wait until we have more proof." He shook his head adamantly. "Look, she gave you a hard time yesterday. Why don't you go back and talk it over with me, I mean, Bingo?" "What would that accomplish? You're as stubborn as she is," Sam shot back, "What could I say that would convince you?" Sam could tell he was pissing Al off. In the past, Al would have up and left. This time, he hadn't. As luck would have it, Kelly and Janet were sitting on the steps, enjoying the pleasant weather. Sam wished that Janet wasn't with her. "George." Janet was shocked to see him. "You didn't call." "Oh, hi Janet. I just came over to see Kelly." Even as the words left his mouth, Sam realized that he made a mistake. He saw Al wince, out of the corner of his eye. "About what?" Kelly asked confused. "About Henry." "What about him?" Sam heard the handlink chirp. He took a deep breath. "Kelly, don't ask me how I know this, but your life is in danger." Sam seemed to recall this approach working before. "I think Henry has something to do with it," he added sincerely. Sam had decided it was best not to mention anything about the mob. He heard Al sigh. The two women stared blankly at him. Then Kelly burst out laughing. "Oh, George! I never realized you had a sense of humor!" Janet, after a moment, joined in with her friend. "I'm serious. You really should stop seeing Henry." This brought Kelly up short. "Why?" "Because I think he may have mob ties." Sam explained. Al was muttering under his breath. He ignored him. Anger flashed in Kelly's green eyes. "What kind of game are you playing? How dare you go around throwing wild accusations like that?! Do you have proof?" "Not yet. I'm working on it, Kelly. I don't trust this guy." Sam paused, remembering a conversation he had last night. "Neither does Janet." "Sam! Don't drag Janet into this!" "Me?" Janet looked startled. Kelly rounded on her friend just then. "You don't like him?" "All I said," Janet replied, glaring angrily at Sam, "was that he seemed artificial. Putting on an act to get you to sleep with him, Kelly." "Well, you're wrong!" "It was just my perception, Kelly, I wasn't implying that I thought you shouldn't see him anymore," Janet snapped back. "This is the first I've heard about mob ties." This brought the focus back to Sam. Now both women were mad at him. This was going horribly wrong. His sincerity hadn't worked. Kelly thought he was joking. He quickly glanced at Al, who was watching the whole thing with an ‘I told you so' look on his face. "Way to go, Sam. Now what?" As if in response, the barracks' door opened and one of the other nurses stuck her head out. "Kelly, Henry's on the phone." Ziggy was chirping frantically. "Uh-oh, Sam. You've changed history. Originally, Kelly declined Henry's invitation for tonight. Now, the odds are going up that she will accept." "Please, Kelly, " Sam pleaded, looking her in the eyes. "Don't go out with him." Kelly's eyes hardened. "Mind your own damn business, George." Both women turned and stormed into the barracks. Sam turned to Al, who was consulting the link. "I've really screwed up, didn't I?" "Yes, you did," Al responded, bluntly. Sam sighed. "Just give me the bad news, Al," Sam said quietly. "She dies tonight."