Chapter 7 FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 1960 BOQ, NAS PENSACOLA Sam didn't go back to JP, right away. He grabbed something to eat and he and Al went back to the barracks. "What do you have, so far?" Sam asked as he cleared a spot off of George's desk for his deli sandwich. "Basically, she was found at the same place. The updated data indicts she was also at the same restaurant, the night she died." Sam looked up, suspiciously. "The same events didn't occur, did they?" "Ah, no." Al replied, fiddling with the handlink. "Henry was in Mobile, at a conference. She went alone." "How's Ziggy doing with the stalker scenario?" "Slow. It's taking her some time to research all the cases." "Has she offered any odds?" "Well, she says the stalker theory seems the most plausible of the possibilities, now that you've affected history; but she won't give me a number." Sam bit into a pickle. "What about Henry's fate?" "That hasn't changed. He still dies in November." Sam considered the implications of this. The stalker theory was beginning to feel right to him, too, or at least on the right track: someone purposely followed Kelly. The death of the boyfriends, including Lenora's still bothered him. He couldn't help but think they were all connected somehow. "I still have Ziggy pulling data on everybody connected to the deaths," Al was saying, "including Lenora's." Sam signed. "All we can do is wait then." "Not necessarily, Sam," Al replied, checking the readout. "Call Admiral Johnson's house. Leave a message for JP. Say something's come up and you might not be back today." "Why? What I'm I doing?" "You and I will take the route Kelly took the night she was murdered." "Which one?" "Both, if we have to." "And the restaurant, too?" "Yeah. And where she was found," Al added. "Ziggy also suggested that I trail both Tom and Henry for a while." "Speaking of Tom," Sam said, carefully wiping the crumbs into the trash, "Crenshaw, I mean. I've had this . . . dislike . . . for the guy ever since you've mentioned him and I've never met him. I think it's clouding my judgement." Al raised an eyebrow. "That must be George seeping through. He always thought Tom was a jerk." Sam nodded, thoughtfully. That made sense. George's perceptions were influencing him. "In that case, Al, you can forget about Tom. I mean, there's no point in running down information on an accidental death." Al shook his head. "No. I'll have Ziggy continue researching his death. I probably trail him. You never know, Sam, there might be clues we're missing." Sam looked around George's Spartan room. "Where's the phone?" "We didn't have our own phones back then. You have to use the one in the day room." SUNDAY, MARCH 5, 2000 CALAVICCIS' QUARTERS, PQL Beth felt something cold against her nose and something tickling her cheek. Her eyes flew open and she found herself nose to nose with something furry. "Ferdinand!" He meowed at her, right under her nose. She gasped. "Ugh. Your breath's worse than Gushie's." Beth sat up. She looked down at the cat, who was gazing back up at her with his hopelessly lost look. "Ok, hairball, where's Al?" "I see you're finally awake." Beth looked up startled. Verbena stood in the doorway. "What are you doing here?" "Al asked me to keep an eye on you. How are you feeling?" Beth quietly considered the question before answering. "Better. Things aren't as bad as I thought they might be." "What do you mean by ‘bad'?" "Well," Beth said, pulling the cat into her lap. "It's Al. I thought the man I spent the last 27 years with was gone; but I know he's not." "What made you change your mind?" Beth plucked at her nightgown. "This." Verbena looked at her, blankly. "Your nightgown?" Beth nodded. "Out of a draw full of night gowns and pajamas, he picked this one. He actually had to look for it, since I keep it on the bottom." Beth could tell she wasn't making herself clear to Verbena. "It's my favorite, Bena. I like to curl up in with a good book and hot tea or chocolate, or watch an old movie. Al calls it my cuddling gown. He knew, instinctively, it would be the one I would've asked for." It was a simple white cotton dress, floor length and modest, with wide ruffles on the long sleeves, collar, and hem. She kept an identical one at the house. She had watched him look for it. His actions reminded her he was basically still the same person, and that the two of them would just have to work it out. Verbena nodded. "He's wearing your favorite suit, incidently." "How is he?" "Worried about you, Sam, and Kelly Hardy. He won't talk to me, so you'll have to encourage him." Beth smiled faintly. "I meant," Verbena said, looking embarrassed, "to talk. He's told me what was upsetting you." "Where is he, by the way?" "Imagining Chamber," Verbena and Ziggy said in unison. Ferdinand jumped at the sound of the computer's voice. Beth cradled him closer. "Hear. Let me take him back to Sammie Jo." Verbena moved forward, and took the cat from her. "By the way, madame president, the appreciation society has started the marathon without you. I think you should stop by before the end of the day." "Oh, I will. I haven't had anything to eat since breakfast, so I'll grab something there." Verbena left with the cat and Beth spoke to the computer. "Have you informed my husband that I'm awake?" "Yes, Admiral. He and Dr. Beckett are currently researching the events surrounding the death of Lt. Hardy." Beth paused in the act of getting out of bed. "Ziggy," she asked hesitantly, "did history change while I was asleep?" "Yes, Admiral, it did." Beth nodded slowly. To her, Kelly died on October 22, 1960. "When did she die originally, Ziggy?" "October 14, 1960. Beth's memory was foggy. She could not remember anything significant about October 14th. "How did Dr. Beckett prevent her murder?" "You should know, Admiral, you were there." And then it came to her. George's strange behavior. She had always wondered about that and now she knew. She shivered. Once again, Al had been near, without her being aware of his presence. The phone rang. "It's Dr. Calavicci, Admiral." Beth picked up the phone. "Hi, Bertie." "Hi, mom." "So, when will you be here?" "Ziggy didn't give you Hope's message, did she?" Beth immediately became concerned. "No, what happened?" "The weather. The East Coast is getting hit, hard, with snow storms. The airports are closing down as we speak. I may not be able to get back to Washington." "Where are you now?" "Phoenix. Kevin wanted me to meet him there. We'll stay here a few days. Hopefully the airports will be reopened by then." "Will you stop by here, first?" "No. Since the plan was for all of us to meet and finally discuss the disposition of Evermore, I've moved it up until the end of the month, or the beginning of April. Sandy is too far along in her pregnancy to join us then, but she said not to hold up the meeting for that." A mixture of relief and disappointment came over her. "I understand." "Trudi said she'll call you tomorrow, and I think Faith and Hope will, too. Oh, and by the way, Claudia will be there tomorrow." Claudine Louisa Barnhilt was the daughter of Sabina Rose Barnhilt, an old friend of Beth's, from the time she was stationed in Balboa in the 1960s. Claudine was now Bertie's administrative director and Ann Marie McNeill's mentor. "The project I was sent to evaluate is a candidate for termination, and Ziggy and June might be able to save it," Bertie was saying. "Tell June and the Special Projects team I have a really challenging one for them this time." "I will, dear. Give my love to Kevin." "I will. Say hi to everyone and give Dad a kiss for me." Beth smiled. "Good-bye, Bertie." She hung up the phone. "Ziggy, did you factor in the weather patterns when you made your estimates earlier today?" The computer was silent. "Well?" "No, Admiral, I did not. Nor did Dr. Calavicci, Mrs. Beckett, and the others take in it into consideration, when they made their plans." Beth shook her head and finished changing. She didn't bother remaking the bed. First things, first. Food. Beth made her way to the recreation room, wondering what Al would say when he found out about the change of plans. As she approached the rec room, she could hear the sound of Katherine Hepburn's distinctive voice. Not long after Sam's first leap, the project's female personnel had formed a craft club, where they could all meet, socialize, watch a movie, and work on a project. They soon learned that most of them had another similarity, their favorite actor, and an impromptu appreciation society was formed, separately. Soon other, like Sammie Jo, joined. Beth was this club's president. The recreation room itself was decorated with balloons, streamers, and a large colorful birthday banner, in honor of the event. The wide-screen TV had streamers and balloons attached to it. There was even a birthday cake, and party hats. A long table near the door was loaded down with food and drink. Non-society members where also invited to help themselves to the table. "Very nice, Ann Marie," she complemented the young woman, who sat at a small table near the food, carefully cutting out a project. Ann Marie was the hostess. "Thank you, ma'am. Would you like me to fix you a plate?" she asked, standing. "Yes, please." "Feeling better?" Beth turned and looked at the speaker, the society's vice president, Francine Wainwright. Fran was the project's chief financial officer. She was also the third oldest person on the project and the younger personnel frequently referred to her as Aunt Fran. "Yes, thank you." She paused. "Well, you'll be glad to know we will be receiving a check from another project tomorrow." "Oh, goody. Bertie's round up another client." Beth nodded and looked over at June Johnson, head of the Special Projects team. Ferdinand had just decided June would be the person he would annoy for the time being. He was sitting in the middle of her lap. "Bertie says this one will be a challenge for you, June." "Wonderful. It's getting pretty boring down in our offices. I was on the verge of asking Donna if she wanted help with the Retrieval Program." June and her team were formed to take a load off of Donna, Tina, and Sammie Jo when Bertie first started sending failing projects to them. Once Claudine arrived with the necessary documents, June, her team, and Ziggy would get right to work on finding a solution, providing the research, or doing the tests. June and her bunch (and Ziggy) were usually the ailing project's last hope. If they couldn't solve the problem, Bertie would be sent by the Senate committee to pull the plug. "So, Bertie's arriving tomorrow, instead of today?" Sammie Jo asked. "No. She's meeting Kevin in Phoenix instead," Beth said, taking a seat. "What about the others? What happened to Ziggy's predictions?" "Snow." "SNOW??" "Yes, snow. Ziggy didn't take the weather into consideration, and neither did my daughters," Beth added, before the computer butted in. "So," June asked, trying to shove the cat from her lap. "How is this documentation getting to me?' "Claudine." "Claudine?" Ann Marie asked, excited, as she handed Beth the plate. "I bet she'll be upset that she missed today." Beth chuckled. "If I know Claudine, she's having her own mini-marathon." Karen Frye, Fran's deputy, made a shushing noise. All conversations died. Beth settled back to eat, taking great pains not to munch too loudly. FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 1960, BOQ, NAS PENSACOLA "Well, that was a waste of time." Sam and Al were now back at George's room. Sam had followed Al's directions and "reenacted" Kelly's movements, based on both case reports, on the night she was killed. Al had dropped in on both Henry and Tom, at work and scouted out their residences. "I take it you didn't find anything lying around at Tom's or Henry's?" Sam asked sinking into the desk chair. "Nada. Do you know, that both are neat as pins? I would have loved to open drawers and cabinets, but I can't. And following them around was a joke. Both did their jobs, made no personal phone calls, and no shifty eyed meetings took place. I have a feeling were barking up the wrong tree here, Sam." Sam nodded. "But somebody knew what we were up to tonight, if she died driving home from Gino's." "That's where our stalker theory fits in. So, I take it, your little driving excursion was fruitless?" Sam nodded again. "I don't know what we expected to find, but nothing looked suspicious." "Too bad we don't have the time to follow Kelly around, and see if anyone is trailing her." "Besides us?" "Very funny." Al did not look amused. He had been in the Imagining Chamber since Sam woke up hours ago, and Sam imagined that Al was tired and hungry, not to mention down about Kelly. And of course, whatever he and Beth had an argument about. "What next?" Sam asked. "You can sit around here for another four hours, or you could go back to JP." "And you?" "I'm out of here. I've got to have something to eat, Sam. Plus, Beth's woke up awhile ago and I need to ask her what she remembers." Al replied punching in the code for the Door. "That's right. She was there, or here, or whatever." "Right. See you later, kid." Sam watched the Door close behind Al, leaving him alone once more. SUNDAY, MARCH 5, 2000, RECREATION ROOM, PQL "Come on in, Al. They're not going to bite you," Beth heard Verbena say. Beth, and for that matter everyone else, turned to look at the man in the doorway. Al stood, looking a bit uncertain, behind Donna as she and Verbena were getting snacks to take back to their offices. Ann Marie, who was busy serving punch to Donna, said, "Would you like me to fix a plate, Admiral?" "Uh, I can get it myself, Ann Marie. You can go back to watching the movie." "Oh, It's not a problem," she replied cheerfully. Beth turned to Sammie Jo, who was hogging most of the couch. "Sit up please, so Al can join us." "That's OK, honey. This is to go." Beth joined him by the snack table. "You're not going back to the Imaging Chamber, are you?" "No. I'm going back to our rooms." "Did Ziggy tell you about the girls?" Al nodded. "Yeah. I'm a little disappointed they're not coming." Beth looked him in the eyes. "It's for the best, Al, considering." She paused. "With the weather being the way it is." Al returned her look and knew what she was inferring. "Do you want some company, Al?" Beth noted the lines on his forehead. Glancing behind her at the screen, he said, "I thought you were watching the movies?" "I am." She smiled. "But they're all on tape, and I can watch them anytime." Al nodded again. He noticed the woman watching them, or him to be precise, and he looked perplexed. Beth bit her lip to keep from smiling again. Obviously, he was unaware of the situation. "If I'm not interrupting you," he said looking back at her, "then sure, I could use some company." Before she could answer, Pam Cambridge, the project's chief of personnel, gave a frustrated yelp and snatched up the large cat, giving Sammie Jo a dirty look. Pam marched over to where the couple stood and held out the cat to Al. "Here! Since you're leaving, take him with you." Al took the cat without hesitation. "What's wrong?" he asked her "He's chasing my yarn!" "That's what cats do," he replied drily. "Al," Fran said, "we've tried giving him balls of yarn, but he insists on playing with whatever happens to be attached to our needles." "And his cat hair gets stitched into all our work," Ann Marie added, handing Al's plate to Beth. Al looked over at the cat's owner. "Why don't you just leave him in your room?" Sammie Jo sighed and stood up. "Because I've finally discovered why he's a nervous wreck when I leave him alone for a few hours." She rolled her eyes ceiling-ward. She reached over and scratched Ferdinand's ear. Ferdinand was purring loudly, and looking blissful. "Well," June said, smiling, "this place is only big enough for one absolute center of the Universe." Fran was also smiling. "Yes, and it appears that Her Imperial Majesty has the upper hand." This brought more smiles and giggling from her friends. "So, you're accusing Ziggy of torturing your cat?" Al asked blandly. "Yeah." The computer, Beth noted, remained silent. A fact that did not escape the notice of the others. "She's sulking," Sammie Jo surmised. "Probably complaining to Beeks about being unappreciated and abused," Al added. "Uh, ladies, this scene's almost over," Karen said pointedly. Beth motioned to Al and the two of them headed for the door. She saw Al look back over his shoulder at the recreation room. "I guess," Beth started as they moved further down the corridor, "you've never realized that half the ladies on this project have crushes on you. They vary in degree from mild attraction to madly in love." She briefly glanced back over her shoulder and saw Al was stopped, cold, three or four steps behind. His eyes were wide. Beth smiled, amused. "Don't worry, I don't feel threatened or jealous. Bena keeps an eye on things. If any of them become obsessive and our lives become endangered, she'll have them removed." She studied his flabbergasted expression. "I wonder, was it like this on that other time line?" "Yes," Ziggy snapped. Beth nearly lost Al's plate and punch. Al nearly dropped the cat, who was trying to climb up on his shoulder, after hearing the computer. "Anyway," she said, grinning, "They think you're romantic." That was something he always accused her of, but in reality, he was as much of one as she was. Al finally remembered how to walk and talk. "Who's madly in love with me?" Most women would have been on the offensive or suspicious. Not Beth. She knew he loved her more than anything, with the exception of their children. "Me," she replied. Al blinked several times. "Strange. Some of the women in that room wouldn't give me the time of day," he murmured, "on that other time line." Beth considered this as they continued on to their rooms. "I think they are the type who holds certain values in high regard. Faithfulness and loyalty, for instance. We've been married nearly forty years. They know that and what we've been through to get there. You're devotion to Sam does go along way, in their eyes, too. If, on that other line, you were as unfaithful as I was led to believe, I could see why. And no matter how loyal you were to Sam, I doubt that could completely change their minds about you." She smiled fondly at him. He was looking at her, pensive, as they stood outside their rooms "Are you really happy, Beth?" Beth looked deeply into his eyes. Behind his concern for Kelly and Sam, was Al's fear that she was not happy on this time line. "Yes, Al. I am." If she hadn't had her hands full, she would have hugged him for reassurance. Beth followed him into the living area and set his meal on the coffee table. The room was furnished with most of their old furniture, which had miraculously survived their four daughters. Beth only wished that the girls' bedroom sets had lasted. Al had put Ferdinand down and removed his jacket. He walked around to the other side of the coffee table and sat down. Beth and the cat followed. She sat down next to him, sideways, and draped her arm across the back of his shoulders. Ferdinand gazed at the couple, and opted to sit on the armrest, on the other side of Al. He was purring loudly. "What's with this cat anyway?" Beth gave a little laugh. "He was a birthday gift from Alberta to Sammie Jo, last year. The weather was awful, too, and the plane trip was miserable. Bertie has your equilibrium, but she was an unusual shade of green when she landed. Anyway, the cat was petrified and you took care of him. The cat has adored you since, and *hates* Alberta." Al chuckled and looked at the cat. The cat looked back and meowed. He ate in silence. Beth watched him, gently rubbing the back of his neck. She realized how silly this little tableau must look, her and the cat, watching him. "History changed, Beth," Al said, suddenly. "Yes, I know. Ziggy told me." "What do you remember?" "About?" "The 14th of October, when the six of us went out on a date." Beth looked at him quizzically. "You don't remember?" "No. Maybe when Sam leaps out, I will." He didn't sound too convinced. Beth looked away, thoughtful. "Nothing stands out in my mind except George was acting strange that weekend. Oh, and you taught me to shoot pool." "Nothing about Henry?" Al pressed, brows furrowed. Beth shook her head. Al sighed. "What are we overlooking?" She said nothing. Beth had no suggestions or counsel to offer. He stood up. "Where are you going?" "Back to the Imaging Chamber," he replied. She stood up and took his arm. "Oh, no you don't. You're staying here and getting a rest." "I'm not tired," he protested, automatically. "I didn't necessarily mean for you to sleep, Al. Just put your feet up and rest for a while." Al looked from her, to the couch, to the bed in the next room. When he looked back at her, he had an all-too familiar twinkle in his eyes. "Want to join me?" Beth felt herself blush. "Thanks, but I've had all the rest I can handle for one day." "Who said anything about rest?" he replied, smoothly sliding his arm around her waist. She laughed. "You are something else, Albert Calavicci," she told him ruefully. "All right, here's the deal. You go in there and get some rest now, for me, OK?" Al considered it for a moment. "Go on." "Later," she continued, smoothing his collar, "after the date at Gino's, . . ." She didn't finish. She didn't have to. "What's the catch?" he asked suspiciously. "You have to actually take a nap now." "You drive a hard bargain," he grumbled. "Take it or leave it." Al sighed, theatrically. "It's a deal."