Chapter 25

	Once into the swirling vortex of transition, Aaron sensed 
his adversary's steadily crumbling control, and gave 'voice' to 
his fury.

 	*You shouldn't have done that, Sam!* he screamed. *You 
shouldn't have denied me!*  Like the ravening wolf he'd been 
likened to, Aaron prowled the shadowy corridors of a frightened 
man's mind, searching out his quarry.

	*I destroyed all those sniveling little brats for just 
getting in my way.  But you're dangerous.  You're stronger 
than they were. Even stronger than that aggravating bitch, 
Evalyn.  I'm gonna destroy you!* he 'shrieked'.  *And I'm gonna 
enjoy doing it!*

	Turning into yet another narrow corridor of Sam's mind, 
Aaron prowled it's length, poking and kicking into the shadows 
of discarded thoughts and ideas.  Relentless as a snake on the 
scent trail of it's prey, he continued his search.  

	He would find this one.   He had found all of the others, 
and had enjoyed their screams as he had enveloped them, smothering 
them with his rage.  He had enjoyed destroying them, and he was 
going to enjoy destroying this one.  Then he paused.... sniffed
...and a smile as bleak as an Arctic winter thinned his lips.

	Drawing in a deep breath of the stench of fear emanating 
from his adversary, Aaron plunged forward.  *You tired of hurtin', 
Sam?" he screamed as he unerringly continued to follow the smell 
of fear.  Drawing ever closer to its source, he felt his rage grow.


	Sam had been in many fights since that first leap.  Always 
the fight was against his will, and it was always to defend those 
unable to defend themselves.  And he had rarely a second thought 
for his own safety each of those times.  But now all the brilliance 
he had been blessed with couldn't keep Samuel Beckett from 
trembling all over as he waited.  Waited like a rabbit for the 
hounds to swarm over him and rip him to shreds.

	Then suddenly the ugliest part of Perry Kirkwood's inborn 
determination to survive at all costs swarmed into the narrow 
corridor where he waited and boiled straight at him.

	The massive, almost venomous hatred all over and around 
him seemed to 'soak' into his being, and Sam struggled to 
breathe as he 'grappled' with Aaron.  For a moment it seemed 
he was winning.  Then the white-hot pain tore through his mind 
again and he fell.  And as he fell, Sam felt Aaron press in 
with every bit of strength his rage afforded him. In that instant 
Sam felt his strength leave him and he surrendered to the terror.

	**AL!** he screamed wildly.  **AL...HELP ME!*

	*Say goodbye, Sam!* Aaron shrieked into the maelstrom of 
the blackest rage that had ever driven him. 

	Then, in the midst of the mindless terror intent on 
destroying him, Sam felt a sudden calm surround him.  It 
sheltered him from the flying debris of unbridled rage, and 
like a child he clung to it.  Then a new yet familiar voice spoke.

	***Be calm, Sam*** Philip said. ***You are safe, but you 
must not speak.  You must shield your thoughts and be silent 
until it is time.***

	Sam obeyed.


	Standing only three feet away from the bed, Al had watched, 
a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, when Sam's body 
suddenly began thrashing violently on the bed.

	"He's in transition," he said sharply into the handlink.  
He opened his mouth to speak again, but stopped to swallow to 
moisten his dry throat.  "Get ready.  He could disappear any 
second."  The words were barely out of his mouth...

	"He's gone!" Gooshie's frantic shout surged through the 

	"Can the hysterics, Mr. Gushmann!" Al barked sharply.  
"We don't have time for 'em! Either get a handle on 'em or get 
outta the control room."

	Giving the chief programmer a few seconds to gather his 
momentarily scattered wits, Al punched a question into the 

	'Ziggy, exactly what part of Sam have we lost contact 

	The hybrid computer with an ego the size of a small 
galaxy responded instantaneously.

	'We have temporarily lost contact with that part of 
Doctor Beckett's brain that controls conscious thought 
processes.  Also that area that has been postulated to be 
the seat of emotions.'

	The Observer punched in another question:

	'What about the connection through our shared mesons 
and neurons?'

	Ziggy responded:

	'As long as Doctor Beckett's body remains alive, and 
barring any severe trauma to his cranium that might alter 
the internal pattern of the mesons and neurons, or..."

	"In twenty-five words or less!" Al snapped.

	Ziggy complied:

	'As long as Doctor Beckett is alive, we can make full 
holographic contact.'  There was a pause then two words 
appeared on the handlink's tiny screen. 'Thirteen words.'

	Off the top of his head the Observer could think of at 
least a half dozen ways he'd like to rip the haughty hybrid 
computer apart once Sam was safely retrieved.  For the present 
he simply muttered an obscenity under his breath, and punched 
in another question.

	'What about his life function readouts?'

	Ziggy's response was clinically correct:

	'Doctor Beckett's body continues to function.'

	"Let's hope we can get the essence of the man back into 
that body," Al muttered softly.  A sudden cessation of movement
from the body on the bed grabbed Al's attention.

	"Gooshie?" Al demanded softly. 

	"Here, Admiral," Gooshie said. "Sir....."

	Al knew he was about to try and apologize. But there 
wasn't time for that now.

	"Save it!" he said sharply.  "I think Aaron's about to 
come out.  Get ready for another switch."

	"Ready, admiral," Gooshie replied.


	As his rage melted away, Aaron searched through the last 
vestiges of it, but found nothing, not so much as a particle of 
his strongest adversary remained. And he laughed.

	The sound of his cruel, triumphant laughter filled the 
darkness, the raucous sound echoing in the once active corridors 
of Samuel Beckett's mind.  But the once stellar brilliance that 
had brought John Beckett's son to this moment had vanished.

	Aaron spent a few seconds gloating in his captured domain,
but his restlessness for release wouldn't be denied any longer.
He sniffed one last time....detected nothing.....and surged 
upward, seizing consciousness and freedom.

	As he rose up and claimed consciousness, Aaron lay still 
a few moments, orienting himself in his new body.  Letting his 
eyes adjust to the low light in the room, he glanced idly around. 
Noticing the cup on the bedside table, he rolled over and picked 
it up and sniffed.

	"Um," he smiled, "chocolate," and drained the half cup 
of cold sweet liquid in a single gulp.  He shuddered, wrinkling 
his nose at the taste.  "Needs more sugar," he muttered, setting 
the cup down.

	Getting up, he flicked on the overhead light, then went to 
the closet and opened the door and assumed a pose in front of 
the full length mirror attached to the door.

	"Thanks for the body, Sam," he said aloud as he studied 
his reflection.  "It's a great body," he said, "but there just 
wasn't room enough for both us."


	Watching Sam's body moving around the small bedroom, 
knowing that the essence that was the true Samuel Beckett 
wasn't controlling it, caused a faint taste of bile to rise 
up in the Observer's throat.  He swallowed, pushing the acrid 
taste down.  He listened and watched without comment or private 
thought to Aaron's gloating.  When he heard the last comment, 
Al knew it was time.

	He punched in a code on the handlink.  "This is it, 
Gooshie.  Time for some hand-to-hand combat.  Switch."

	As he waited the few seconds for the shift to take place,  
Al never took his eyes off Aaron.  "Let's see how you handle 
someone your own size," he muttered.

	So intent was Al's attention on Aaron that he didn't 
notice when the shift was complete until Gooshie's voice came 
over the handlink, advising him of it.

	Moving to stand behind Sam's body as Aaron continued to 
posture before the mirror, Al deliberately took a moment to 
light a cigar.  He took a long slow puff of the fragrant 
Chivello before speaking.

	"The ride's not over, Aaron," he said darkly, a part of 
him enjoying seeing the startled personality jump in reaction 
to his sudden appearance.  "In fact, it's just beginning."

	In an attempt to cover being caught off guard, Aaron 
swaggered toward the Observer.  "Where the hell did you come 
from?" he demanded loudly. 

	When the man dressed totally in black didn't reply, 
he felt his temper start to rise again.  "If you're looking 
for the good doctor...Al," he sneered, "you're a little late."

	"Where is he?" Al asked, his tone not giving away anything.


	"Gone where?"  Al couldn't help the cold shiver that ran 
down his back when a malevolent gleam lit Sam's usually bright 
hazel eyes.  He took another puff on the cigar, never breaking 
eye contact.

	Aaron's anger was steadily building again.  He didn't 
like answering questions from authority figures or someone 
with an attitude; "authority" and "attitude" were written all 
over this guy.  Strike one. He also didn't like others sneaking 
up on him, and this guy was too damned good at it.  Strike two.  
But mostly what he didn't like was the fact that Al was cool, 
not easily rattled.   Strike three.

	"As in for good.....Al!," he spat the words angrily.  
When Al didn't react, he spelled it out with cruel bluntness.  
"I destroyed him.  Doctor Beckett no longer exists."  He glanced 
down at himself then turned a cold smile on the man watching him.  
"Of  course, his body's here....only it's not his any more.  
It's mine."  He cracked up with harsh laughter.  "And there 
ain't a damned thing you can do about it."

	"It won't work, Aaron," Al said, his tone becoming as 
cold, if not colder than that of the personality.  "You're a 
part of Perry, not Doctor Beckett, and genetics is something 
you can't control."

	Aaron mistook Al's attitude, honed by years of experience,
as arrogant bluster.  Getting within an arm's reach of him, he 
smirked, "Oh, but I can...Al. In fact," he said, turning so he 
could admire himself in the mirror again, "I think it'll work 
out better this way.  Sam's body's in much better condition than 

	The Observer's outer demeanor remained unchanged,  But 
inside, the hunter focused on his objective with an intensity 
he'd never felt before.  *Come on, you bastard* Al thought. 
*Just a little closer...*

	"But that's just it," he pointed out calmly, not letting 
his Italian temper slip the stranglehold he had on it.  Losing 
control now, would, most likely, doom Sam.  "Without Samuel 
Beckett's mind, his body is just a shell. You don't have the 
slightest notion of how to keep it in this condition."

	"No problem," Aaron continued to smirk at Al, folding 
his arms across his chest.  "I'll just use Dr. Beckett's 
memories as a guide."

	The Observer's smile was coldly calculating as Aaron 
unknowingly walked into the trap.  "You can't."

	"What makes you so damned sure?" Aaron demanded in a 
particularly ugly tone of voice.

	"You've already admitted that you've destroyed Doctor 
Beckett," he said, his tone taking on the attitude of one who 
has just assumed control of a situation. "You have nothing to 
draw from."  Now it was his turn to take a step toward the punk. 

	"When you destroyed Sam Beckett, you destroyed his 
memories."  Al took another long, slow pull on the Chivello 
and blew the smoke in Aaron's face.  "And now you don't have 
any access to Perry either."  He liked the way the punk's face 
went white, startled confusion written all over it.

	"What do you mean?" he shouted angrily.

	Al was enjoying turning every vindictive attitude back on 
Aaron.  "Just what I said.  Perry's in a place you can't ever 
reach him."


	"Not even Howard can get to him," Al cut him off 
mercilessly.  He watched Aaron's cockiness begin to crumble. 
*How's it feel, you no good bastard!* he thought.  *How do 
you like feeling the ground disintegrating under your feet?*

	He took another step, closing the gap between him and 
Aaron. When he spoke again, his voice was still, but now with 
an element of command. 

	"How do you think the people in this town are going to 
react when Perry does a complete turn around?  When he starts 
doing things that are the total opposite his normal behavior?"

	"They'll think he's finally woke up and started to enjoy 
life," Aaron shouted, grudgingly taking a step back as Al 
crowded him.  But again, Al's words jerked him up short.

	Al advanced another couple of steps.  "Or gone crazy. 
And they'll put in the Colver County State Hospital 
for the rest of Sam Beckett's life." 

	"Well...then, I'll just make Perry appear to change so 
slowly nobody'll notice."

	Al's voice was pure ice as he pronounced the words that 
slammed the trap door shut. "Nobody... but me."

	For the first time in his existence, Aaron felt an uneasy 
jolt go through him at Al's words.  "What do you mean?"

	"Just what I said."

	"You're bluffing!" Aaron's voice rose to a fevered shout. 
 "If the 'goody-two shoes' is gone, you can't reach him."

	"Wrong."  Al paused to take a long slow puff of the 
Chivello, his eyes never leaving Aaron's defiant glare.  "Dr. 
Beckett's personality may be gone, but I'll always be around, 
because I'm tuned to his brain waves."  He noted that as he 
took another step closer, Aaron fell back another step.

	"You might control his body, Aaron," he continued, 
hurling each word with a precision that made each one sting 
worse than the one before.  "But you'll never tune me out.  
I'm always gonna be here."

	He watched as Perry Kirkwood's most aggressive and 
dangerous alternate personality, now highly agitated, jumped 
like a frightened child who has just seen himself in a 
warped fun house mirror.

	Dodging away from the closet door, he moved across 
the room, wanting some distance between himself and Al.  
"Yeah, well, maybe so.  But it won't do you no good.  Sam 
ain't never coming back."

	"Maybe not. But it damn sure won't do you any good 
either," Al informed him, his words soft as silk, as he 
continued his steady advance toward Aaron.  When Sam's back 
collided with the wall near the bedroom door, he got right 
up in his face.

	"You see....Aaron, nobody but you can see or hear me." 
The Observer's eyes took on a look of cruel pleasure.  "And 
because no one else can see or hear me, starting right now I 
intend on making the rest of your life a living hell." Al 
watched the color drain from Sam's face as Aaron realized 
what he was saying.

	"You'll never know when I'm going to show up.  And 
people who talk back to someone who isn't there ... " For 
effect, he held his cigar in Aaron's face then delicately 
tapped it, the ash disappearing as it fell.  The sweat 
popping up on Sam's brow told him he'd scored a direct hit.

	"I'll...I'll just ignore you," Aaron shot back, but 
the words weren't as confident as before.

	"People in mental institutions..." Al began.

	Aaron temper began to reassert itself.  "Nobody's gonna 
put me in no goddamm cracker factory!"  Slithering sideways, 
he escaped from Al, backing hurriedly away from him. "Nobody'll 
ever get me in that booby hatch up the road."

	Al turned but didn't follow. Instead he deliberately 
looked from the cup on the bedside table to his watch to 
Aaron.  "Oh you're going all right," he said.  "Howard took 
care of that about fifteen minutes ago."  He glanced at his 
watch again. "It should be taking effect right about now."

	"What are you talking about?" Aaron shouted, unaware 
of the large drops of sweat beginning to trickle down the 
sides of his face.

	"The knockout drops Howard put in that hot chocolate," 
Al said.  He saw something in Aaron's...Sam's...eyes and 
nodded.  "Guess he didn't use quite enough sugar to hide 
the taste."  He peered closely at Aaron.  "You know, you 
don't look so good.  You feeling okay?"  He looked concerned 
when Aaron stumbled as he backed up again.  "Yeah....they're 
startin' to work." 

	Too much was happening all at once.  Aaron felt a 
wave of dizziness that caused the room to tilt crazily 
when he jerked his head around at the sound of footsteps 
pounding up the stairs.

	"I think you better get on the bed," Al continued to 
press relentlessly.  "Because when those drops kick in, 
you're gonna go down like a load of bricks."

	"Shut up!" the now uncertain and desperate personality 
screamed.  "Just shut up! 

	Al smiled a small cold smile. There was fear in Aaron's 


	Coming back downstairs, Howard had thrown out the rest 
of the hot chocolate and put the pan to soak in the sink.  He 
then spent the next fifteen minutes chain smoking and pacing 
restlessly around the small room.  Every few minutes he checked 
his watch and looked upward, listening.

	He was lifting his lighter to light yet another cigarette 
when he heard the shouting.  Both lighter and cigarette hit the 
floor as he stared upward disbelievingly.

	"It can't be," he whispered hoarsely. "I used half the damn 
bottle!  He should be out cold."

	When he heard the shouting start again, Howard tore out of 
the kitchen and up the stairs.  As he reached to open Perry's 
bedroom door, his mouth set in a bitter line as he recognized 
the voice.  Aaron!

	"Dammit all to hell!" he swore bitterly.  "Just once! 
Why can't I catch a break just once?!  First her and then 
Perry.  And now this!"  It was a bitter, desperate but doggedly 
determined man that slammed open the door and bellowed. "What 
the hell's going on in here?"


	The door slamming open and Howard's big frame filling 
the doorway was the last straw.  Aaron's temper blew. 

	"You no good son of a bitch!," he screamed. "Why did you 
drug me?" 

	Howard's eyes narrowed. "Who told you were drugged?" he 
said suspiciously.

	"He did!" Aaron said and pointed at Al standing by the desk.

	Beyond caring, Howard shouted the only word he'd never 
spoken in his son's presence.  "You're crazy!  I didn't drug 
_you_, you rotten, conniving punk," Howard shouted, his own 
anger reaching dangerous limits.  "I drugged my son so I could 
put him somewhere he'd"

	"You ain't locking me up in no goddamned nut house," 
Aaron screamed back.  "I'll kill you before that happens." 
Even as the room tilted crazily, his fury pushed him to fling 
himself at Howard, fists flailing.  But another wave of dizziness 
turned it into a stumble and he fell.

	Howard jumped forward and caught Aaron before he hit the 
floor and received a glancing punch on the jaw.  Angrily, he 
manhandled Aaron into a reverse bear hug, his son's back to 
his chest and the boy's arms pinned against his body.

	 "If it wasn't my son's body you're in, " he said against
Aaron's ear, "I'd beat you senseless."   Then, like Al, he 
noticed the glassy glaze in his son's eyes. "But you're about 
to pass out.  And when you wake up tomorrow morning,  you'll be 
in a strait jacket, in a padded room with bars on windows too 
thick to break and too high to reach."  

	Shaking Aaron roughly, he half-pushed, half flung him 
on the bed.  A semblance of decency made him go and arrange 
his son on his back in the center of the bed.

	Straightening up to his full six foot three inch height, 
Howard stared coldly into Aaron's glazed, half open eyes and 
said,  "Perry is gonna grow old and die in Colver.  And you 
with him."  He paused, watching his son's body go limp as Aaron 
finally succumbed to the power of the knockout drops.  "Good 
riddance to old trouble."


	When Howard burst into the room, Al had moved to a 
vantage point by the window, able to see everything in the room 
and with a good view of the driveway.  A flicker of uneasiness 
flashed through his mind when Howard and Aaron started screaming 
at each other.  A moment later the uneasiness became anxiety 
when the now half out of it personality flung himself at Perry's 
father, fists swinging wildly. 

	He checked his watch again and looked out the window.  
"Come on, Margie," he said softly.  "Sam's a goner if you 
don't hurry up."

	In the next instant he felt a sense of relief wash over 
him as a red station wagon pulled into the driveway and four 
adults and one teenage girl got out and hurried toward the 
house.  Another moment passed and he heard the sound of 
multiple rushing footsteps on the stairs.

	"Hurry," he muttered urgently.  Seeing the callous way 
Howard threw Sam's body at the bed almost made him lose it 
right then and there.  Even when the big man relented and w
ent to arrange Sam's body in a more comfortable position on 
the bed, didn't stop Al from hurling every filthy Italian 
epithet in his vocabulary at him.  

	Rarely in his life had anyone ever done or said anything 
that ever left Albert Calavicci gape-mouthed with speechlessness.  
But this leap had seen that event occur once, and now, it 
happened again.  The Observer's emotional outburst out of worry 
and concern for his best friend was no match for the cold and 
indifferent hostility of Howard Kirkwood's final words to Aaron.  
Al could only stand and stare at the man consigning his son to 
a lifetime of horror in bedlam.

	But in the same instant Al was rendered momentarily 
speechless by Howard's unfeeling pronouncement, a beautiful 
woman with snapping dark eyes stepped into the doorway.  Never 
had a prayer of thanksgiving from Albert Calavicci's heart 
winged its way heavenward faster than when  Stacia O'Nyan 
McCutcheon snapped, "You nor anyone else is putting my son in 
a mental hospital, Howard.  You'll have to go through me and 
hell first."


	Howard Kirkwood's moment of bitter triumph over the 
arrogant alternate personality of his son evaporated at the 
sound of a voice he hadn't heard so close to him for fifteen 

	Whirling he demanded, "What are you doing here, Stacia?  
I told you never to come back here."  But Howard was quickly 
reminded of one of the things he hated about his former wife 
when she didn't back down.

	Even in her early forties with a couple of strands of 
gray showing in her thick, black hair, neatly done up in a 
twist, Stacia O'Nyan McCutcheon was still a breathtakingly 
beautiful woman.  And the independent and undeniable, 
unbreakable self confidence that Howard had despised was 
stronger than ever. She met his gaze squarely.

	"I came because my son called me yesterday and told me 
he was scared," she said advancing to stand toe to toe with 
Howard, not at all intimidated by the fact that he towered 
several inches over her.

	"Scared of what?" Howard's tone became ugly as all the 
reasons he'd driven Stacia away came rushing back.  Her strong 
will, her intelligence and education, and several other reasons 
filled his thoughts.  Bt when she spoke again, they vanished 
in the unshakable, unmoveable presence of a mother protecting 
her child when she answered him.

	"He told me he'd overheard you talking to someone on 
the phone yesterday morning. And," she continued strongly, 
"he also said he'd heard you say you had gotten the drops, 
that you knew how to use them."

	Howard felt his anger begin to rise at the accusing 
words being hurled at him.  The fact that Margie Hennessey 
and her parents and Stacia's husband were standing in the 
bedroom doorway, watching and listening to everything being 
said only added fuel to the fury beginning to burn in him, 
the fury that hadn't burned for a long time.

	"He's imagining things," he shouted angrily, waving 
his hands in her face.  "It's all those goddamned books he 
reads and his teachers stuffing his mind full of garbage 
about 'higher education.'  It's your fault.  You started 
poisoning his mind when he was little with all that garbage 
about climbing mountains and sailing seas and writing books 
and going to college to 'be somebody.'"

	Stacia remained undaunted.  "Just because several members 
of your family who went to college became mentally ill and ended 
up in Colver, doesn't mean that the same thing's going to happen 
to Perry."  She glanced at her son's unmoving form then back at 
Howard.  "He's my son, too, Howard."

	"Don't I know it!" Howard spat the bitter words at her.

	"What's that supposed to mean?" she demanded.

	"Nothin'.  Just forget it," Howard said coldly.

	"Should I also forget that Perry told me after you drugged 
him that you were going to sign him into Colver tomorrow morning 
before dawn?"

	"Prove it," Howard challenged, then saw the flicker of 
hesitation in her eyes.  "You can't because none of whatever 
he told you is true."  Barely holding the fury in check, he 
drew himself up to his full height again and stared icily down 
his nose at her.

	"It's my word against yours, Stacia," he bit the words 
off. "Now you ..." he swept the Henneseys and Stacia's husband, 
Jarrod with barely concealed contempt, "..._all_ of you get out 
of my house." He paused then said, "Anyone of you sets foot on 
my property again and I'll kill you."  He ignored the gasps from 
the doorway, and sent a defiant glare at Jarrod McCutcheon.

	But Howard and the others went rigid with shock when a 
young familiar male voice...from the direction of the bed....
said, "But there is proof."


	While Howard and Stacia clashed, exposing a lot of things 
that had started tumbling pieces of this leap into place in his 
mind, Al had begun to pace back and forth beside the bed, 
keeping a vigilant eye on Sam's still unmoving body.

	"How much longer?" he said aloud agitatedly more than 
once.  Howard issuing his threat to Stacia and the others 
doubled his worry.  When the handlink chirped from inside 
his pocket, Al pulled it out and punched in a response code.  
Gooshie's babbling that the odds of Sam's possible death by 
Howard's hand had jumped to seventy percent decided the 
Observer's next move.

	Going to the bed, he leaned over so his face was above 
Sam's face and said sharply, "Things are getting outta hand 
here, Philip.  You better do something and quick."

	The intense exchange kept the others from seeing the 
young man on the bed twitch slightly, a slight frown furrowing 
his brow before he opened his eyes and looked up at the Observer.

	"Philip?" Al said uncertainly.

	"Yes, Al," Philip said so softly Al had to lean closer 
to hear.  "It's me."  He also saw the question in the dark eyes 
watching him.  "Sam is safe," he assured him.

	That's all Al needed to hear, and he heaved a deep sigh 
of relief.  "Best thing I've heard in this room in several 
hours," he said.  But some of his relief was curtailed when 
Howard issued his threat.  He looked back down at Philip.  
"I think it's time for you to put in an appearance."

	He watched the others shocked reactions when Philip's 
quietly strong voice said, "But there is proof," and watched 
a young man they'd thought was drugged sit up and swing his legs 
over the side of the bed.


	Howard was having trouble getting his breath as he 
turned toward the bed.  The sight of Perry sitting calmly 
on the side of the bed, his eyes clear and obviously not 
in pain, sent shock waves through his body.  Just looking 
into his son's face, he knew that it wasn't Aaron.  But it 
also wasn't Perry.

	"Who...who are you?" he asked, stumbling over the words.  ]
" should be knocked out. I used over half the bottle..."

	"Half of what?" Stacia asked.

		"My name is Philip," the male personality said as 
he stood up and moved to stand near Howard and Stacia.  A glance 
at Stacia told him she was thoroughly confused.  He turned to 
her and said, "I am one of several alternate personalities who 
have...been with Perry since he was a little boy."  He glanced 
back at Howard. "And what he's referring to are knockout drops." 
 He nodded when Stacia gasped.  "Fortunately, I found them this 
afternoon before he got home and replaced them with water."

	"Why does my son need alternate personalities?" was the 
first question to cross Stacia's lips as she looked up at her 
son, confusion on her face.  He'd been twelve years old and 
several inches shorter the last time she'd seen him. He was 
almost a man now.

	Al had to admire the aplomb with which Perry's mother 
received the next bit of information when Philip, though 
quiet spoken, answered bluntly.  "To help him preserve his 
sanity and, more recently, to protect his life from his father."

	Philip turned a piercing, unwavering gaze on Howard. 
"On numerous occasions he's beaten Perry into unconsciousness," 
he said in an unhurried tone that carried a conviction that 
wouldn't be denied.

	"He's insane," Howard shouted, stepping between Philip 
and Stacia.  "Can't you see it?"

	"What is it I should be seeing?" Stacia said, fighting 
to keep calm when her every instinct was telling her to let 
her anger loose.

	"That Perry's inherited my family's tendency to 
insanity," Howard said, talking as fast as he could, trying 
not to babble.  "He needs to be in Colver where they can take
care of him."

	"And that's why you beat him senseless?" Stacia stormed.

	He saw that the situation was getting away from him, but 
still Howard fought.  His next words snatched everything 
irrevocably away from him.

	"It's the only way to get the gypsy outta him," he shouted 
at her as he grabbed her by the shoulders. "It started when he 
turned fifteen..."

	"Perry experienced his first kiss that evening," Philip 
explained softly to Stacia.  His eyes went to Margie, standing 
in the doorway, a look of absolute confusion on her face.  
Philip smiled at her. "Margie was the girl he kissed that night."

	"God only knows what he woulda done if I hadn't dragged 
him away from her that night," Howard ranted as he lost touch 
with reality.  And as the pressures of his own fears, 
suspicions, and jealousies, which he'd punished his son for 
finally broke free, all the defiance and resistance seemed to 
leave his body.  He would have fallen if Jarrod and Margie's 
father hadn't darted forward to catch him.

	"Where's his room?" Jarrod asked.

	"The next door on the left," Philip told him.

	Jarrod nodded.  He glanced at his wife. "I'll call the 
police and his doctor," he said.  His eyes flicked to Philip 
and back.  "Will you be okay?"

	"Yes," she said without hesitation.  She watched as 
they walked Howard out of the room, then turned back to Philip.

	Her mind was in a whirl at the complex and disturbing 
information erupting all around her.  Still she kept her wits 
about her.  Reaching out, she hesitated only a fraction of a 
second before putting a hand on Philip's arm.  "You said there 
was proof of...what happened son?"  Without hesitation 
she followed his gaze when he looked again to the doorway.

	"Yes, ma'am, there is," Margie said, her voice calm 
and steady as she went to Perry's mother and placed a slim, 
much handled brown diary tied with a shoelace in her hands.  
"Perry," she darted an uncertain glance at Philip, "told me 
yesterday about calling you," she said, looking into Stacia's 
eyes.  "He gave it to me for safekeeping.  He said that when 
you got here to be sure and give it to you.  So you would know 
the truth."

	"What is it?" Stacia asked, turning the book over and 
over, but not untying the shoelace.

	"It's a diary that I and Evalyn, another of Perry's 
personalities have been keeping for a number of years," 
Philip told her.

	Stacia hugged Margie warmly.  "Thank you for being his 
friend Margie," she whispered against the girl's ear.


	This roller coaster ride was nearly over, and Al was 
glad to see it come to a end.  But something was still missing.  
Sam.  Catching Philip's eye, he motioned for him to come closer.  
It was Philip who spoke first.

	"Thanks, Al," he said, smiling Sam's smile at the 

	"For what?"

	"For trusting me."  The smile widened as he said, "Sam's 
right.  No man could ask for a more loyal and caring friend."

	"I can say the same about you," Al admitted.  "Thanks for 
being a safe harbor for Sam in the midst of a damned ugly storm."

	Philip smiled again, then glanced at Stacia and Margie, 
then back to Al.  "I think it's time Sam came out so he can 
finish this leap."  

	Sam's hazel eyes twinkled as Philip dropped a wink at 
Al's surprised expression.

	"Sam and I talked while we waited. Who knows?" he looked 
deep into Al's dark eyes.  "Maybe some of what we talked about 
will one day help him return home."

	Al's next words were the closest thing to a verbalized 
prayer to fall from his lips in decades. "From your lips to 
God's ears," he said fervently.

	"Goodbye, Al," Philip said.

	"Goodbye, Philip." Al barely got the words out before 
Sam's eyes closed for a moment, his body swayed a bit, then 
regained its balance.  This time when Sam Beckett's eyes 
opened, it was Sam Beckett who looked at the Observer and 

	"Hi, Al," he said softly.

	"Welcome back, Sam," Al said, his voice a trifle husky.  
"We missed you."

	"We?" Sam asked, dropping his voice to a whisper.

	"Yeah.  Me, Gooshie, Verbena, the ego-in-a-can...."

	Sam stifled a chuckle at the last part as he asked, 
"So, what happens to Perry?"

	Never had Al smacked the colorful handlink with more 
pleasure than he did now as recited the new history.

	"Well, considering that in 1964 nineteen wasn't legal 
adult age, Stacia goes to court and gets permanent custody 
of Perry until he turns twenty-one.

	It's also gonna take several years of intense therapy 
for all of Perry's personalities to reunite."

	"All...of them?" Sam asked, cocking an eyebrow at the 

	"Yes, all of them," Al said.  "Aaron's bullheaded about 
it, but eventually he comes around."

	"What happens to Howard?" Sam asked.  "Is he okay now?"  
The look on Al's face told him not to hope.

	"Howard's committed permanently to Colver by the end of 
next week," Al said somberly, continuing to read the information 
Ziggy was feeding through the handlink.  Al met his friend's 
eyes. "He's only there for a couple of years."  He answered 
the question before Sam could voice it.  "He dies in his sleep 
of a massive stroke on September 18, 1966."

	Al wasn't about to let the harsher details of the new 
history to cast a pall on the moment. Punching in another code 
he said brightly, "Oh, you're gonna love this. According to 
Ziggy, Perry's now a middle-aged physics professor at a small 
state college in Washington state."

	"Did he ever marry?"

	"Yep," Al said, retrieving that information.

	Sam turned his head and saw Margie watching him, and 
smiled. He understood her hesitancy when he held his hand out 
to her. "It's me, Margie," he assured her.  Sam gently clasped 
her fingers when she took his hand, and drew her close.  "Do 
she and Perry have any children?"

	Al smiled as he watched Margie walk unhesitatingly 
into Sam's arms and hug him tightly.  When Sam looked over 
her shoulder at him, he said, "Two boys. Philip John...and 
Samuel Albert."

	But even with all things being as they should, Sam 
didn't feel a leap coming on.  He quirked an eyebrow at the 

	Quickly Al punched the buttons on the handlink.  "Oh, 
Ziggy says that it's a ninety percent probability that once 
you propose to Margie, you'll leap."

	Never had Sam felt more at ease in proposing marriage 
than he did as he took Margie's hand and led her a few steps 
away from the group by the door.

	Taking her hands in his, Sam looked into her eyes and 
said in a soft, clear voice without any hesitation, "I love 
you, Margie.  I have since I first saw you."  He saw the color 
come up in her cheeks but her eyes never left his. "I know 
it'll be a while before it happens, but..." Sam paused just 
long enough to get down on one knee, her hands in his and said, 
"Margie Hennessey, will you be my wife?"

	"Yes," was quick, quiet but very firm answer.  Then, her 
eyes shining with happiness, she leaned down for a quick kiss.

	"This will make an interesting story to tell our 
children," she giggled giddily.  "How you proposed to me 
in your bedroom wearing just your pajama pants."

	Still on one knee, Sam laughed with her.  As he pulled 
her close for another hug, he felt the familiar tugging tingle 
deep inside.  "Be happy," he whispered, looking up at her as 
the tugging within became stronger.

	He barely had time to hear her whisper, "I know we will,"
before he leaped.