Chapter One

     The brilliant cacophony of spectral colours reached a peak
of brilliance, then slowly began to ebb.  Sam knew what was
happening.  He had leaped again.  With unswerving faith he
hoped beyond hope that this time, as with all leaps, he would
be in his own body.  When the lights receded, he knew he was
not home, not this time.  Something's not right.  He didn't feel
like himself, not that he ever did.  But he felt less like himself
than during any other leap.

     Gathering all his forces for yet another magical mystery
tour of his own, but not of his own making, Sam took in his
surroundings.  A series of long, non-descript curtains encircled
him, hanging from overhead pipes painted black and forming a
makeshift square of about three feet by three feet.  They didn't
quite reach all the way to the floor.  A small but functional
mirror hung from a unbent coat hanger suspended from one of
the pipes.  He could hear loud, thumping music with a muffled
spoken word accompaniment coming from the distance.  Not
too far away, but far enough that it didn't hurt his eardrums. 
He really didn't like music when it was so loud you couldn't
talk over it.

     "Might as well get it over with," he said, turning to face
the mirror.  He slowly moved into full facial view.  A very
beautiful, young, and heavily made up woman stared back,
velvet black hair done in what he assumed was the latest style. 
"Aw, man.  Not a woman again!"  Taking a deep prepatory
breath, he looked down at his attire ■ a long flowing sequenced
black evening gown with matching bolero jacket and black silk
stockings.  His bare stockinged toes peeked out from under the
hem of the elegant dress as he bent forward.  Taking a step
back, he nearly tripped over something.  Turning around he
spotted what.  Black stiletto shoes.  Bending to pick them up,
he uttered what had become more like a mantra than a phrase
of apprehension.  "Oh, boy."

     "Come on, Kara, you're up!"  The male voice came from
outside the curtains.  Kara?   "I know you're in there, Kara. 
This is not the time to be petulant."  Realizing he must be
Kara, he took hold of either side of the curtain and opened it.
Eyes widening, he took in sharp breath, and quickly closed the
curtain around him.  "Hurry up.  You're holding up the show!" 
A pair of male hands opened the curtain, reached through and
grabbed his wrist, leading him through the room of several
beautiful, half-naked women.  The other man seemed not to
notice their various states of undress, but he certainly did.  He
could feel the blood rising in he cheeks as he was forcibly led
through them.  He attempted to shield his eyes from the sight
of the other women changing with his free hand, holding the
shoes as much over his eyes as possible without poking himself
blind.

     The man dragging him finally stopped and let go of his
wrist.  Sam slowly looked up.  Bright lights shone in his eyes,
nearly blinding him.  Letting his pupils adjust to the sudden
trauma they had experienced, he slowly realized where he had
been led; to the side entrance of a stage.  His eyes finally
adjusted, he saw a long, well-lit walkway protruding from the
centre of the stage, people seated on either side of it, and more
tall, beautiful women walking confidently along it, each in a
different outfit.

     "Oh, god, I'm a fashion model!"  A tension-filled whisper
came from the man standing beside him, "Well, you're sure as
hell not the Queen of bloody England.  Now, move your
fucking ass, or the next catwalk you'll see will be in a
Wal-Mart in Siberia!"

     Tentatively, Sam put on the stilettos and began to
precariously walk onstage.  Following the lead of the other
models was easy.  They were all doing just about the same
thing, only in different orders.  Walk, twirl, stop and pose, slip
jacket down arms, place hands on hips, walk more, stop and
pose more.  He noticed, though, that none were smiling.  I
guess they're enjoying this as much as I am.  With the end of
the humiliating experience in sight, Sam nearly ran for the
curtained-off side opposite the one where he had entered. 
Controlling a nearly overwhelming desire to run, he walked
slowly offstage, relieved that , at least he had managed not to
fall over.  Now, completely obscured from the view of the
audience, he slipped off his shoes and rubbed his toes.  "How
do these women ..."  He turned his head, forgetting the
scantily-clad women, visible on both sides of the backstage
area, and quickly turned back around.

     "Thirty seconds to the final walk, ladies.  Everyone into
position."  The same male voice that had pulled him from the
sanctity of the curtained-off changeroom spoke these words of
terror.

     "Final walk?  I have to go back out there?!"  Before he
could slink away, the parade of models started past him, women
emerging from both sides.  One model, who barely looked old
enough to be out of her Keds, stopped in front of him, leaving
an obvious gap in the procession. 
I guess this is where I go.  Sam quickly slipped his shoes back
on and continued in behind.  Paying attention to his aching feet
and not the woman in front of him, he nearly collided with her
when she stopped.  She then turned towards the centre of the
runway and began applauding.  Actually, everyone in the room
was applauding, so he thought he had better as well.  Are they
applauding the fact that I didn't end up on my ass!  A heavy-set
man came out, taking bows and waving thanks to the audience. 
He must be the designer.  Al sure would like this guy on his
payroll, he commented to himself, taking stock of the man's fit. 
Purple pants with a gold stripe down the side of each leg, gold
lamé shirt with bolero tie and purple velvet jacket.   Al would
definitely like this guy.  The man stopped, bowed his thanks
and kissed a few of the models.  Before Sam realized what was
happening, he'd gotten a wet one planted on him as well.  Aw,
man.  Thank God Al didn't see that.

     The fashion show over, two lines of women followed the
designer offstage.  Sam had only removed one of his shoes
when the small man who had dragged him onstage came
running up to him.  "Kara, just what the hell were you doing
tonight?  Trying to ruin Jean-Louis' biggest night ever!"  His
nostrils flared with puffed up anger.

     Sam started to back away, wanting to avoid getting
whomever he was currently occupying into trouble.  "Well, no,
I, uh, ... got a run in my stockings and had to change them. 
Sorry."

     "You were wearing a full length gown.  A run wouldn't
have mattered!"

     Sam hesitated, trying to think of another strategy.  None
came.  "It went right up the front of my foot.  It would have
shown."  The little man backed down, seeming to take that into
account.

     "Well, alright.  But next time be more careful with your
stockings."  He turned and walked away and began picking on
another model for some minor indiscretion.

      Sam slowly made his way back to his curtained sanctuary
but a quick look inside the area told him that there were no
other clothes for him to wear.  He stepped back into the main
area, searching for anything that might be labelled 'Kara'. 
"Missing something, Kara?"  Sam's eyes followed a pair of
booted feet to legs swathed in blue jeans.  A loose-fitting white
cotton blouse lead him to a young, very 'girl-nextdoor' face,
clean of make-up and flash.  She can't be old enough to drive,
and she's a model!  "Kara?"

     "Uh, I can't find my clothes," he said, embarrassed at
asking a child for help.

     "Don't worry.  Somebody probably just moved them."  She
turned and bent at the waist, looking through a pile of clothes
and gym bags on the floor.  Sam quickly turned in the opposite
direction, away from the rather young posterior sticking in his
face.  "Here it is!", she cried, hoisting a duffle bag from the
bottom of the pile.

     Sam turned back towards her, but still kept his face slightly
turned.  "Uh, thanks."  He took the offered bag.

     "Are you working the Chicago show in a few weeks?"

     "I'm not sure.  Maybe."  Sam wished she would just leave. 
He hated having to answer questions when Al hadn't shown up
with any information.

      "Well, I guess I'll see you there.  I gotta run, my mom's
waiting for me.  Have a Merry Christmas!"  She gave him a
peck on the cheek, then ran towards the door marked "Exit".

     Watching her leave, Sam opened the bag and pulled out a
pair of jeans, jacket, blouse, socks, sneakers, and a bra.  "Man,
I hate wearing these things," he groaned, stuffing everything
back in the bag and turning towards the curtained area.

     A few minutes later, he stepped back out, having changed
into Kara's clothes.  He held the evening gown over one arm,
not sure what he should do with it.  Before he could ask, an
older, grey-haired woman with a tape measure around her neck
snatched the dress from his hand.  "The, uh, shoes and
stockings are in the ...," he said, watching the woman
disappear with a wave over her shoulder, acknowledging that
she had heard him.

     Where's Al?  It's not like him to miss something like this. 
Looking around, Sam saw another model sitting at some
make-up tables and, following her lead, began to remove the
make-up from his face and brush out his hair.  The reflection
in the mirror of the scrubbed clean face and de-pouffed hair
showed a pretty young woman of about 20 years old.  Piercing
blue eyes shone, the colour enhanced by the blackness of her
hair, and the caramel hue of her skin.

     "Hey, Kara, nice job today.  You really got Bobby Blue
pissed."  Looking up, he saw the reflections of two girls in the
mirror.  The seemed to be about Kara's age.  They were
laughing as if he'd missed out on some inside joke, which of
course, he had.

     "Yeah, I guess I did."  Sam turned around in his chair. 
Maybe these two could tell me something.  "So, what do we do
now?"  They looked at him as if he had just asked them to
explain quantum physics.  "I mean, what's up?"

     "We thought we'd go to grab a burger, before heading back
to the hotel.  You game?"  The one with the long blonde hair
had replied.  She seemed to be the leader between the two of
them.

     The mention of food sent spasms through Sam's stomach. 
Leaped hungry again.  "Sure, sounds great."

     "Let's go, before Bobby Blue finds something else to yell
at us about."

      As the two turned, Sam reached down and grabbed the
duffle bag.  A small purse fell out.  "Figures I'd have to carry
a purse, too," he moaned.  Picking up the purse, he slung it
over his shoulder, then followed the two out a side door.  It led
directly to the parking lot, where, Sam discovered, several cars
were parked.  The ringleader turned.  "Since you've got your
car and I've got mine, why don't you follow us, Kara.  Carnie
can ride with me."

     Great.  A dozen cars in the lot and I've got to figure out
which one's ... .  It was then he spotted the personalized plate,
"KARA1".  Thank god for vanity plates.  "Sure, you lead," he
said, walking towards the car.  Al can catch up to me while I'm
eating.

     Reaching for the driver's door, he realized he didn't have
the keys in his hands.  He looked inside the purse, nothing.
Then, patting down Kara's jacket pockets, he found them there. 
Opening the door to the bright red sportscar, he threw the
duffle bag and purse into the back seat.  He settled himself
behind the steering wheel, shoved the key into the ignition and
revved the engine.  At least she had great taste in cars, he
thought.  He put his foot on the clutch, threw the gear into
reverse and began to back out.

     "I've always loved the sound of a powerful engine.  Don't
you?"  He nearly jumped out of his skin.  The voice didn't
come from Al, but from a woman.  His foot slipped off the
clutch, stalling the car.  "Thought we'd lost you there.  You
disappeared on us for a while."