Chapter 9 MONDAY, MARCH 6, 2000, CONTROL ROOM, PROJECT QUANTUM LEAP Verbena stood, arms folded, in the center of the control room, regarding Ziggy's main terminal sternly. Donna, nursing a cup of coffee, stood nearby. Sammie Jo waited by the terminal. "Well, Ziggy," Verbena addressed the computer, "Are you going to apologize to Dr. Fuller for teasing her cat?" "*I*," the computer replied, stressing the word haughtily, "did nothing of the sort." "Yeah, right," Sammie Jo muttered. "Sammie Jo, please be quiet," Verbena advised her. She turned her attention back to Ziggy. "Do you observe the cat when Dr. Fuller is not around? I remembering you once telling me that you monitor the staff's pets." "I do," Ziggy replied. "Do you ever speak to the animals?" Donna asked. "I am *not* Dr. Doolittle, Dr. Elesee." "You know what she means," Sammie Jo snapped. "Sammie Jo," Verbena warned. The squabbling between Ziggy and Sammie Jo was nothing more than sibling rivalry. "Ziggy," Donna said to the computer, "you're holding back information from Admiral Calavicci. Now, we'd be happy to discuss these accusation with you, but leave Al out of it and continue giving him the information he needs." "*He* believes *her*," Ziggy sniffed. "Then do it for Sam," Donna snapped. Ziggy sighed. "Very well, Dr. Elesee. I will continue processing the information," she conceded. Verbena hid a smile. Ziggy's loyalties lie with both men. If Donna couldn't persuade Ziggy to cooperate by appealing to her loyalty to one, she always went for the other. "And for your information," Ziggy continued, "I keep Dr. Fuller's cat from clawing the furniture, eating her plants, and drinking from the commode." "See!" Sammie Jo exclaimed. "That scares him. Ziggy, I can move my plants, keep the bathroom door closed, and the furniture isn't that important to me. You tell *me* what he's doing, and I'll take care of it." "Very well, Dr. Fuller. I will prepare a full report on his activities. It will be waiting for you later, in the morning." Satisfied, Sammie Jo bid the other two women good-night, and left. Verbena stared at Donna. Both blinked. "Children," Verbena observed. FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 1960, GINO'S PIZZERIA Sam divided his attention between his Observer, the presidential debate at his table, and the pool instruction going on across the room. The young pilot was instructing his future bride in the art of shooting pool. Both wore serious teacher/student expressions, but Sam could tell Al was taking advantage of every opportunity to touch her. A couple of times, Sam swore Beth purposely gave him a reason to put his arms around her. A look of pride crossed the pilot's face at his pupil's achievements. Sam, remembering his own lessons given to him by Al, and wondered how he had explained proper cue handling to a woman. The future version of the couple, had continued their surveillance of the room. They walked arm-in-arm, talking quietly, and reminiscing. Al periodically consulted the link. Either Ziggy was still in a snit, or she had nothing new to tell him. The debate was winding down beside him. Janet and Kelly had found a lively conversationalist and the three had basically ignored ‘George'. It was plainly obvious that Sam was going to have a hell of a time convincing the red head to breakup with Henry. "So, George," Henry said, suddenly, "I appreciate you looking out for Kelly's safety. You know, I worry about her driving alone at night." Sam regarded the younger man. He seemed sincere. "Does she call you when she gets back? To let you know she's fine?" Henry blinked. "No. I never thought of that." He turned to Kelly. "That's a good idea." "But I make it back, sometimes, before you get to your apartment." Henry made small frown. "Well, in those instances, I should call you." Changing the subject, Sam asked, "So, what do you do?" "Oh, I work for a small electronics company," he replied. "In fact," he said, turning to Kelly, "I have a conference next weekend." Kelly pulled out a pocket calendar and annotated it. "Are you from around here?" Janet asked him. Sam glanced at her. It was exactly what he was about to ask. "No, I'm from Kansas." *I'll have Al check that out.* Sam thought. Chip came in, just then, with the three new pilots. Janet was asking Henry how he came to work in Florida. Sam was only half listening. He'd rather hear what Ziggy had to say. "Hey, George," Chip called out, leading the new arrivals to their table. "I want you to meet the new guys." Sam was introduced to the new arrivals, but he scarcely paid any attention to their names. He wanted to talk to his Observer, but short of walking over to where he stood, Sam was at a loss on how to get the hologram's attention. "So," the tallest, Paul (at least that's what Sam thought his name was) said to Chip, a bit arrogantly, "who's the best in the squadron?" Sam half-expected Chip to either say himself or George. Instead, he turned and pointed to the pilot teaching pool. "Bingo. He's the *best* assigned to the *station*." Sam was a bit taken aback. If Chip hadn't said it so matter-of-factly, he'd of believed Chip was just saying that because they were friends. Chip was serious. The other two new pilots were suitably impressed with Lt. (j.g.) Al Calavicci's flying record, as narrated by Chip. Paul, on the other hand, was more impressed with a certain brunette. "Who's the doll he's with?" Sam spoke without thinking. "His wife." "Wife???" Chip, Janet, and Kelly chorused. "Bingo's never gonna get married," Chip added. *That's what you think!* "Just a slip of the tongue," Sam said aloud. "She's his girlfriend." "We'll see if I can change that." "Change what?" Sam heard the Observer say from behind the new pilots. "Oh, hi Chip." "Excuse me. I have to make a quick phone call," Sam informed his guests, just as Al was saying, "Sam, I need to talk to you." Sam headed for the phones, with the invisible couple in tow. Sam had intended to call JP, or at least leave a message, informing the man he would be over later then normal. Part of him hoped that he would leap out that evening, but after listening to Henry, and seeing them together, Sam conceded it might take longer. If only Henry would do or say something that Sam could use to convince Kelly her life was in danger. The Observer was trying to get his attention. "Sam." Sam held up a finger as the phone was ringing. The maid answered. "Yes. This is Lt. Whitmore-Jones. Could you please tell my grandfather I will be there sometime after noon tomorrow." "Yes, sir." "Thank you." He didn't replace the receiver. "Al. Has Ziggy got anything on Henry's past? Where he's from? How he ended up working in Pensacola?" "Well, he's from Kansas, went to college in Florida, and then worked in various companies across the state," Al replied promptly, consulting the link. Beth, still holding on to Al's arm, was busy watching Gino's patrons. "That's the same thing he just told Janet and Kelly." Sam looked down at the handlink. "It looks like Ziggy's talking to you again." "Yeah. I have no idea--" He stopped abruptly. Beth was tugging on his arm. She was pointing, for Sam's benefit, to a couple who just came through the door. "Tom Crenshaw," Al informed him. He turned slightly and kissed his unsuspecting wife. "Good work." Sam studied the new arrival. Tom was scanning the room, looking for someone. Sam held his breath. Another couple, on the far side of the room, caught Tom's eye, and he waved to them. Sam sighed. Then something occurred to him. "Where was he the night she was murdered?" "Which time?" "Either. Both." "Let's see. Uh. Oh." Al looked up, grim. "They didn't come here. They went to a movie. Both times." It looked suspicious, but if he was with his girlfriend, when could he have killed Kelly? Beth was pulling on Al's arm again. "Sam, Beth says Janet's getting suspicious. You better get off the phone." "Is George cheating on her?" Al looked gravely at him and nodded. "He doesn't think I know." Al paused. "Call Maryland." "What?" "So you have a legitimate reason for being on the phone." Sam obediently dialed the number Al gave him and asked, "Who am I calling?" "Adam. But you'll get a member of the household staff. Just confirm JP's travel arrangements." Sam picked up a napkin and took a pen from George's pocket. The person who answered the phone was the butler. The conversation was brief, but informative. Sam made a show of still listening and taking notes, even after the butler hung up. "Does Ziggy have any idea what may have happened that caused them to change their mind?" "Nope." Sam sighed. "This is frustrating, Al." "I know, Sam, I know. Hey, maybe he got wind that ‘George' was picking up the tab on this date and hoped to weasel in on it." Sam glanced at the new pilots with Chip, and then over at the new pool shark and her doting mentor. "Oh, by the way, I think I may have started something that may change history. You may want to check the odds of one of those new pilots may trying to steal Beth." Al looked decidedly unconcerned. "I wish him luck. Beth doesn't go for pilots." He wasn't joking. Sam blinked in confusion. Beth turned to look at him. Smiling, she nodded. Sam knew she couldn't hear him, but he spoke slowly and enunciated every word. "Beth, I hate to tell you this, but Al's a pilot." Her smile broadened and she winked at him. Apparently, she understood every word. Sam hung up the phone and Al said, "Uh, Sam, would you *please* feed the jukebox. Beth's having loads of fun as assistant Observer, but I invited her to dance." He paused and looked over at Janet. "And you may want to join us on the dance floor with Janet." That idea appealed to him, even though he knew very little about Janet. He escorted the confused woman to the machine. Sam began feeding money into the machine. The first selection was a Platters' tune, and he was about to make his second selection, when a better and more appropriate one caught his eye. He made the selection and went on to the third before any of his companions could identify it. "OK, Sam. You don't have to put George's entire Trust fund into the machine," Al commented after the fifth choice. The Platters' tune had started and Al was already pulling Beth gently into his arms. For someone who couldn't hear the song, Beth was managing rather well. A quick look over to their table and Sam saw Henry lead Kelly unto the dance floor. The younger Al and Beth were still shooting pool. Another momentary pang of guilt came over Sam as he watched the Observer and wife dance. The looked very good together, dancing off to one side where no one was likely to walk through them. Janet interrupted his thoughts. "Why were you on the phone so long?" "I called Maryland to confirmed JP's travel information, and left a message with the maid at Admiral Johnson's." Janet's expression was unreadable. She shook her head. "George, you've been out of it, all day," she observed. "I've been kinda worried about Kelly. Don't ask why, I just am." He paused. "What do you think about Henry?" She looked thoughtful a moment. "He seems . . . artificial, to me. But mostly harmless." Sam smiled. He felt the same way about him; she was able to put it into words though. Also, she was turning out to be a great dance partner. It wasn't going to be so bad after all. Sam dropped the topic, momentarily, as he heard the song end. Sam looked over at the Observer as the next song came up. The familiar strains of Ray Charles' song caught the Observer off guard. He looked up at Sam, startled. Beth, responding to his reaction, looked around. Al's lips moved, and Beth looked directly into Sam's eyes. Sam couldn't stand still in the middle of the dance floor for another second without arousing Janet's suspicion. Sam wasn't surprised to see that the song had lured the other pair from their game of pool. Both the pilot and the Observer held their Beths close. Both Beths looked contented; however, Mrs. Calavicci rested her head, with eyes closed, on the Observer's shoulder, and Lt. Townsend, was looking her partner in the eyes. Janet was smiling, pleased. "You know, I'm glad you planned this. I wish you'd do this more often. Now that Lenora's gone and Beth spends most of her time alone with Al, we stopped doing this sort of thing." She gave a little sigh. "I miss Lenora." "I wish I could've done something to prevent it, Janet," Sam told her sincerely. The song ended, and Sam saw that the younger couple made no immediate moves toward the pool table. The handlink chirped behind him. When he was once again facing the spot where the holographic couple had danced, they were gone.