Chapter IX DECEMBER 15, 1955 KEARNEY, NEW JERSEY To say that Sam was upset would be an understatement. He had been in 1955 for almost 24 hours and his Observer had yet to put in an appearance. The evening before, Sam had wrapped gifts for Eudora, alone, until dinner. The phone rang as they were sitting down to dinner. Eudora took the call. It was Dorothy, calling to tell them she was staying with her boyfriend's parents in the city. Sam hadn't consulted a map at that point, so he was at a loss to know which city it was. Dinner was a quiet affair. Eudora eyed him suspiciously throughout the meal, probably because he kept glancing over his shoulder. After all, Al had a tendency to sneak up behind him. And he checked the time constantly. After dinner, it was `Gena's' turn for kitchen cleanup and Eudora's to see to Dwight. The little boy seemed delighted with this arrangement and Sam got the impression that Eudora, and not Gena, who indulged him the most. Desperate for information, Sam had closed himself in Gena's office with the explanation that he had bills to look over. He soon discovered that Dorothy was Gena's daughter and that both women were war widows. Gena's husband was killed during World War II and Dorothy's was killed in Korea. Eugenia Fiona Hawthorne Grayson was a history teacher at the Thomas Jefferson Public High School in Kearney, NJ, and her daughter was currently employed as a legal secretary in law office in New York City. Sam lugged out her atlas and learned that Kearney was just outside of Newark, on the Passaic River. In essence, Kearney was a suburb of both New York City and Newark. Sam hazarded a guess that the boyfriend's parents lived in New York City. Before turning in for the night, Sam had learned from Gena's files that they were not in any financial troubles. Both men had left their wives well off and both women had jobs they weren't in any foreseeable danger of losing. Unless something came up unexpectedly in the next week, Sam reasoned that he wasn't there to make sure they stayed employed. He went to bed both worried and angry, and woke up the next morning as if he hadn't slept a wink. He'd been plagued by dreams centered around a student needing his help, and no matter what he did in the dream, it never seemed to be the right thing to do. Sam was not in the best of moods for breakfast. Much to Eudora's bewilderment, he closed himself in Gena's office again, and went over the lesson plans and student grades. If he wasn't there for Gena and her family, there were approximately 180 other possibilities. And that was just students. Some were even in danger of failing. With very little difficulty Sam had made it through his classes. The students never suspected that they had a `substitute', so he had very little trouble with discipline. Now, the last class of the day was sitting before him, giving him a sense of deja vu. Certainly Al should have appeared by now, if for no other reason then to check up on Sam. Information was vital, but even a ``We're working on it, Sam,'' would have been appreciated. *Maybe there's something wrong with Ziggy,* Had Ziggy been acting up on that last leap? Sam tried to remember, but he came up with a blank. That had to be it. It wasn't like Al to stay away for this long. There must be a technical problem. However, that thought did nothing to ease his mind. In fact, it gave him a whole other set of worries. Would the problem be fixed in time? *Could* it be fixed? Sam tried again to remember anything unusual, or any glitches, during the last leap. The nagging feeling he had felt when he first arrived returned, but it didn't come with any memories to help him. The feeling puzzled him. The final bell finally rang and the last class of 1955 departed, some calling out Christmas wishes to `Gena'. Sam returned the greetings, silently praying that he wasn't missing his chance at putting something right. Following yesterday's ritual, Sam began straightening up, getting the room ready for its two-week abandonment. He took his time: Dwight's teacher was also sticking around to straightening up, so she told `Gena' that she would keep the boy with her until his grandmother came to fetch him. As Sam was drawing the shades, he spotted the same girl from yesterday outside his window. He still couldn't make out her face and he found himself wondering who she was. The same boy showed up and that reminded Sam that Dorothy and her boyfriend would be there when they got home. With one last look around the empty room, Sam turned off the lights and locked up. Dwight was antsy when Sam joined him. ``Hurry up, Grandma,'' he begged as Sam and the teacher helped him into his snowsuit. ``I wanna play with Lowell.'' Lowell Montgomery was Dorothy's boyfriend, and as far as Sam could tell, Dwight worshiped him. The little boy talked of nothing else on the way to school that morning. Considering that the boy lived in a household of women, Sam wasn't too surprised. The trip home was uneventful this time, giving Sam time to mull over his situation. Dwight was practically dragging him down the sidewalk in his eagerness to get home. ``Lowell!'' Dwight's delighted shout startled Sam as the little boy released his hand and ran the rest of the way to the house. Lowell was waiting for Dwight on the front stoop, with a football under his arm. Both the man and the little boy disappeared down the path that led to the backyard before Sam reached the house. ``Well, you'd think he'd let the boy see his own mother first,'' Eudora informed Sam on the front porch. Dorothy was right behind her aunt as she said this. ``Oh, Auntie Dora, I don't mind. He needs to spend time with a man.'' Sam got his first look at the younger woman. She reminded him of someone, but he couldn't point his finger on who. Dorothy had shoulder length dark hair, warm brown eyes, and a gentle smile. She was in her mid-twenties and had a sweet disposition. *Katie, maybe?* But that didn't feel right. Dorothy asked about her mother's day at work and how Dwight had behaved as she helped Sam with his coat and boots. He answered her, but his mind was on other things. ``Eugenia, what has come over you lately?'' Eudora asked. She was giving Sam a sharp-eyed look. ``Nothing. I just . . . have a lot on my mind, that's all.'' ``Is it the pageant, mom?'' Dorothy asked as the three of them entered the warm kitchen. Sam could see Dwight and Lowell from the kitchen window. He almost forgot about that. ``Partly,'' he replied, crossing over to the window to get a better view. ``But I'm also worried about some of my students. Some are close to failing.'' Dwight threw the ball, which apparently fell short in Lowell's opinion. The man walked over to the boy and patiently demonstrated the proper throwing technique. ``He's so good with Dwight,'' Dorothy beamed. Sam looked at her. *There's that smile again,* he thought as he turned back to look out the window. ``Oh, I have to show you what I picked up yesterday at Macy's,'' Dorothy was saying, and she disappeared up to her aunt's apartment. Eudora came to stand next to Sam. ``He'll catch his death out here,'' she observed, sourly. Sam looked at her sharply. She was watching Lowell with distaste. ``You don't like him. Why?'' he asked, frowning. Eudora frowned too, eyes still on the man. She shrugged. ``I really don't know why, to be honest. I haven't liked him from the start.'' ``Who don't you like, Auntie Dora?'' Dorothy asked, entering the kitchen. ``The clerk at the grocery store,'' Eudora replied, turning away from the window. ``Let's see what you bought.'' Sam continued to watch Dwight for another minute. Another wrinkle, another possibility and still no clue. What if Dwight had caught pneumonia and died? This wasn't a leap where the problem was right out in the open. *I hope everything's all right back at the project.* If Al didn't come soon, Sam was bound to start panicking. Reluctantly, Sam turned away from the window to join Dorothy and Eudora. *************************************** ``But the part of Mary has *always* been portrayed by one of the young lady's from St. Cecilia's.'' Sam was way out of his league. Gena was in charge of casting the Christmas pageant. The part of Mary was a highly coveted role among the high school girls in the congregation. Some of the girls attended the public school and, due to shortsightedness of the previous casting `directors', those girls were always passed up for the role in favor of those who attended St. Cecilia Catholic High School. Sam understood the importance of Mary to the congregation, but he was having a hard time grasping why several of the committee members insisted that he chose from the Catholic school. The girls who attended the public school where also from Catholic families and members of the congregation. What was the big deal? He had enough of the argument. ``Excuse me,'' he said, voice slightly raised, ``but I think it would be better . . . if we . . . if I, held auditions.'' ``Auditions?'' one lady form the St. Cecilia camp asked, incredulous. ``Yes.'' ``But . . . Mary doesn't have anything to say,'' the chairman of the pageant committee pointed out, holding up a copy of the `script'. The man had not joined the arguments, nor did he put an end to them. Very peculiar behavior for a chairman. Not very effective, either. ``Yes, I know.'' Sam looked around the table, noticing for the first time the absence of Dora Carmichael. He had meant to stop by before coming to the church, but he had been running late. He wondered what made her stay home. The chairman nodded thoughtfully and spoke again. ``Well then, I make a motion that Mrs. Grayson conduct auditions. Do I hear a second?'' Sam was a little taken aback by the statement. The motion was seconded and passed with a little grumbling among the committee members. It was decided that the auditions would be held the next day, during choir practice. As the committee broke up, Sam wondered wryly if his decision to hold auditions was what he was here for. Could the pageant have caused a rift in the congregation? Torn a family apart? He helped himself to some coffee that had been provided for the committee and sank down in a quiet corner, behind the fake stable, to think. Sam was now beyond worry and he was getting close to panicking. ``I wonder where Dora is tonight?'' Sam heard one of the ladies ask. She wasn't talking to Sam; neither woman could see him because of the prop. ``She never misses a meeting for anything.'' Sam sat up straight, wondering if she was hurt. He silently cursed himself for not checking in on her. ``Oh, I saw her heading for the library earlier this evening,'' another woman replied. Sam recognized the voice. She was the one who insisted that Mary should be played by a girl from the Catholic school. ``Probably looking for Alice.'' Alice Carmichael. Sam had an Alice Carmichael in one of his classes. He hadn't made the connection earlier. ``You know,'' the first woman said, lowering her voice slightly, ``she's hoping Alice gets the part of Mary.'' ``Of course she does. But my Catherine says she's seen Alice hanging around Tony Morgan.'' ``No!'' the second replied, shocked. Sam didn't like the sound of that, and he got the impression that Tony Morgan was trouble. He leaned forward, hoping to catch what they were saying. ``Yes. I doubt Dora knows. And with Thomas always on the road, I don't know how she manages alone. That girl is going to get herself into trouble, if you catch my drift.'' They moved out of earshot. Sam's mind raced. Dora's husband was out of town a lot. Their teenage daughter was hanging out with a boy who was considered bad news, without her parents' knowledge. This was familiar territory for Sam. How many times had he saved someone whose life was ruined by getting involved with the wrong person? For the first time, Sam was confident that he'd stumbled on the reason for this leap. Gathering up his things, Sam headed back to Gena's. The church wasn't far from her house, but it was cold and snowy outside. Sam ignored the elements. It would be nice to know what happened in the original history, before speaking with Dora. Did Alice and Tony elope? Did she get pregnant? Was she raped? Did he kill her? Sam remembered her from class and she didn't seem like the rebellious type. *We're dealing with teenagers and their hormones,* Sam reminded himself. *If she's told to stop seeing him, she could turn on us in the blink of an eye.* He'd have to rely on instincts, until Al arrived. If he ever arrived. Sam came up on the Carmichael house first, and noticed that it was dark. Only the porch lights were on. He glanced at Gena's watch. It was 10:30. Sam stood for a moment in the snow, debating whether or not to wake Dora up. It looked peaceful there and Sam noticed that Gena's house was dark as well. He made up his mind. *This can wait until morning. I hope.* Someone had left the porch light on for Sam and he entered the house without fear of waking anybody up. Dorothy and Dwight had an apartment in the finished basement, and Lowell was presumably on the couch in the basement. Eudora's bedroom was on the second floor, at the back of the house. Sam was glad that he decided on waiting until morning. He was exhausted. After nearly two days of worrying and a night of restless sleep, Sam was looking forward to getting to bed. He opened Gena's bedroom door and flipped on the light. Standing in the corner of the room, near the window overlooking the backyard, was Al.