Chapter 8 Sam shivered when he felt the cold deep down in his mind as the someone or something brushed past him as he left the darkness. Only when the coldness disappeared did he know for a certainty that he was free of the darkness, and lunged up into consciousness. Opening his eyes, Sam sat bolt upright, momentarily confused by the darkness. Then the low sound of an air conditioner and crickets chirping somewhere nearby (*the window must be open*) reassured him he was indeed awake, but that it was night. Taking care to be quiet, Sam got up and found the light switch. Turning it on, he was surprised by his state of undress, but not unduly so, then began to explore the small room. Finding a thin, brown wallet in plain sight on the dresser, was the first good luck he'd had since this Leap began. It didn't take long to scan the few items in the wallet. A library card, a savings account passbook at Willendale Bank and Trust, and a Florida driver's license. "Okay," he murmured. "Let's see. I'm Perry Dale Kirkwood. Date of birth August 13, 1944. That makes me, him, nineteen years old. What is today's date?" Sam glanced around and saw a limp calendar opened to August thumb- tacked to the wall beside the dresser; August 13th had been circled in red. He looked back at the mirror in front of him and said to Perry's reflection, "Happy Birthday...I think." He noted the address, 261 Liberty Street, Willendale, Florida matched what Al had told him earlier. Putting the wallet down, Sam continued to explore. A Louisville Slugger baseball bat leaned in the corner at the end of the dresser, a worn mitt hanging on it. An old picture of Whitey Ford, cut from some sports page was tacked to the wall above the bat. Going to the closet, Sam continued to search, and was surprised to find, on the shelf above the few items hanging in the closet, and pushed to the back, several books on chemistry. All of the books were of a college level, and one he judged was probably required reading for someone pursuing a doctorate in chemistry or physics. *Now why would he be hiding these books at the back of his closet?* He thumbed through one of the books, much of the text bringing back memories of a long ago time when it was him avidly reading this book and questioning, much of what he read as he read it. After carefully replacing the books, Sam continued to look through the closet, searching for more clues to this Perry Kirkwood whose life he was living for the moment. Finding the bright colored shirts and sharply creased khaki slacks and even a pair of blue jeans, also with sharply ironed-in creases carefully hung behind a dark brown raincoat so as not to be seen by a casual glance into the closet, caused a small warning sound go off in Sam's head. Comparing them to the three pair of plain, dark slacks, two jackets, and two white shirts still in dry-cleaner's plastic, as well as the contents of the room itself, told him plainly that at least one other person shared the room with Perry. But who? Being even more thorough, Sam went over the room again, looking for any scrap that would give him a clue about who the other person who's clothes were hidden at the back of the closet. The search, however, yielded nothing, and finally he conceded defeat. Yawning, he glanced at the clock beside the bed. It was nearly 3:30 in the morning. Sitting down on the bed, he hesitated to lay down, eying the invitingly soft pillow hesitantly, as if he expected....what? "This is ridiculous," Sam said aloud, more as an exercise in ridding his thoughts of "things that go bump in the night" that might suddenly loom up over him as he slept and..... He shook his head, and said aloud, even more sharply, "Enough of this! I'm just tired, that's all. A good night's sleep and I'll be fine." Getting up, he flipped the light switch off then got into bed, settled his head more comfortably on the pillow and closed his eyes. But it was another ten minutes before near exhaustion won the battle, and Sam at last fell asleep. Three hours later, he was sleeping so deeply that he didn't hear the soft scraping of a key in the door's lock, nor the little squeak of a hinge as the door was opened a crack, then closed again, but left unlocked. Once more, the footsteps retreated down the hall. -------------- At The Project -------------- After leaving the Control Room, Al had spent the better part of three hours behind the locked door of Verbena's office. More than a third of that time had been spent listening to her detailed report on her initial interview with the young man in the Waiting Room. Having risen through the ranks in the Navy to attain the rank of Rear Admiral, Al had learned early the value and wisdom of listening carefully to a report. Even more important was listening to what wasn't said. The inflection of a person's voice, the look in their eyes, their body language were often the deciding factor in Al's response to the countless thousands of reports he'd listened to over the years, honing his instincts to a fine degree. Verbena's reports were no different. But he had learned quickly to give full value to any report presented to him by the astute woman who had the intimidating task of keeping an eye on the mental health of everyone at the Project and, hopefully, as he'd phrased it once,"...keep us from becoming a bunch of crazed rats in this underground maze." Verbena hadn't gotten more than three sentences into her report on Perry Kirkwood when Al's instincts kicked into high gear. He had listened, hearing everything she said, but it was what she wasn't saying that concerned him most. More than anything it was the troubled expression in her eyes as she carefully paced the confines of the office that was almost as spartan as his own. Getting up, he deliberately stepped into her path. "Spill it," he said, his tone and gaze direct. "But, I have been...." Verbena began. "Look," he said, "It doesn't take a degree in psychiatry to see that something's eating at you. So, out with it. What haven't you told me?" Verbena hesitated, then said, "You'll laugh." "Let me be the judge of that," Al said. "Having seen what Sam went through with that headache didn't put me in a mood to yuck it up." "It's something Perry said to me just before he asked to take a nap," Verbena said carefully, hesitating again. Al could see in her eyes that she was replaying in her head, yet again, whatever it was the young man had said. Her repeated hesitation bothered him, too. Though never a person to plunge recklessly ahead, he had been around her, worked with her enough to know that she wasn't one to shy away from "something in the shadows", either. Verbena met his gaze and told him, "Perry said, and I'm quoting him, word for word, "...Guess however I got here took a lot out of me..." "It's understandable," Al said. "A lot of our Waiting Room visitors fall asleep at sometime during their stay. And..." "No," Verbena shook her head. "It's more than that. It's..." That hesitation again, then, "Laugh if you want to, but I got some bad vibes as soon as he said it." "Bad vibes?!" Al repeated, fighting to keep a straight face. "Did someone turn the clock back? Is it the sixties again?" "So much for "I won't laugh"," she said. Al couldn't hold in the laugh that was threatening to make his ears pop if it didn't get out. "Uh, uh. I said, "Let me be the judge". I never said I wouldn't laugh." "Many of the women in my mother's family are highly intuitive," Verbena said crisply. "Women's intuition?" Al sputtered, his eyes dancing with laughter. "You might be able to deal with it better if I called it my "sixth sense"." She crossed her arms over her chest and waited for Al to quit chortling like a gleeful toddler. She decided she'd better get it out in the open. "Perry wasn't laughing, nor was there any laughter in him when he said that to me, Admiral. I got a very strong, distinct impression that he was telling me the truth. Whether he knew it or not, I believe he was right on the money with what he said." "Oh come on, Verbena," Al said lightly. "You can't believe..." "Remember when Sam leaped into that women's prison, with Alia?" Her tone was cool and professional. "Remember what happened after you and Sam hypnotized her, and told her she was Angel Jensen? What happened when they put her back in solitary confinement?" The laughter disappeared as Al thought back to that Leap. He still got the "willies" when he thought about that leap, though he'd never admit it. "She went squirrely," he said. "Didn't Sam tell you once, that when he crossed minds with a person with a phobia, that bits of that phobia sometimes stayed with him? Like it did to Alia when she retained some of Angel Jensen's claustrophobia?" Verbena bit her words off short and sharp. "This kid that Sam bounced out suffers from migraine headaches," Al said, taking his cue from the chief psychiatrist, "not claustrophobia." "I don't think Perry's headaches are organically based," she said, the expression in her eyes becoming serious, and at the same time, cloudy with concern. "If the kid doesn't have migraines, then what the hell is causing them?" Al's tone matched hers. Both nearly jumped out of their skin when Ziggy interrupted. "Doctor Beeks?" "Yes, Ziggy. What is it?" "There is a situation in the Waiting Room," the computer said. Al didn't like "situations". "What the hell kind of "situation"?" he barked, turning toward the door. "The visitor's voice has...changed." "Come on, quit playing, Ziggy," Al barked impatiently. "Just tell us what's wrong with Mr. Kirkwood." "I don't believe Evalynn would like being addressed as "Mr.","Ziggy responded. "Ziggy, have you fried your circuits?" Al demanded. He would have continued, but the look on Verbena's face as she flew out the door prevented him. Running ran after Verbena as she ran pell-mell down the hall, heading for the Waiting Room, Al also didn't like the way his insides were beginning to twist into knots as they rounded the last corner. What he saw when he skidded to a stop behind Verbena just inside the Marine-guarded, double Waiting Room doors made him believe whatever it was that Verbena had been trying to tell him.