CHAPTER 15 Beth was watching the TV when Al entered their quarters. He crept up behind her, giving her a tender kiss on her neck. Beth jumped, "Oh Al you startled me, I didn't hear you come in." He hugged her from behind, "A nice surprise though." She turned in the chair to face him, "A lovely surprise." Her hands cupped his face, she smiled lovingly. They kissed, a loving kiss, passionate but not lustful. If Sam could see him now, he would know how much Al loved his wife. It showed in his face, in his eyes, in the tenderness of his touch. Yes, Al loved this woman deeply, above all others he loved her, forever and for always. It didn't matter to Beth that Al was away for hours. She knew him, he would always be too restless for the pipe and slippers' routine. She loved him for all his faults, even the beastly cigars he smoked. She loved the way he made her shiver at the slightest touch, when he nibbled her ear, her neck and just for being close. She could believe in him, trust him with her heart, he would keep her secrets and her thoughts, make her laugh and wipe away the tears. Yes, he would always be there for her. She loved her man with a devotion no words could ever measure. Al raised himself, Beth with him. Entwined, they slid to the floor, never taking their eyes from each other. * * * * * Rosie lay on her bed, she had already placed the things she would be needing in a satchel. A thick woolen jumper and a wind-breaker lay over the chair back, ready for the time when she'd be needing them. Anxiously she looked at the clock, still three hours before midnight and furthermore, one-an-a-half hours before she'd have to leave. She'd figured it would take her that amount of time to get to the Black Rock on foot. She didn't posses a car, didn't even have a driver's license, she never needed one before. In the city she used public transport, but out here she'd found things different. She hated this place, the isolation. She shuddered at the thought of the long cold walk that lay ahead of her, the howl of the coyote in the night. She'd heard them howl in the night before, but then she was safe inside. She looked out of the window, there was a full moon rising out of the desert hue, soon the coyote would be baying, to their moon. She pulled a pillow close around her neck and stared at the reflection of the clock in the moon. The reflection made her feel a little easier, by its time it was only ten to three, instead of the real time, ten past nine. Her eyes grew heavy as she stared, soon they were closed. Rosie awoke with a start. She looked around her for a moment not knowing where she was, the moon cast strange shadows upon the walls. Then she saw the clock, it was nearly a quarter to eleven. Not stopping to wipe the sleepiness from her eyes she grabbed the jumper, coat and satchel. She pulled the jumper over her head, awkwardly she managed to get her arms through the sleeves. Running down the corridor she slipped on the wind-breaker dragging the satchel behind her. She slid around the corner to the cafeteria nearly losing her footing. Sam heard her heavy footsteps as she headed for the entrance of the complex. Rosie never noticed that the cafeteria was lit. Sam stretched, watching through the window as she ran along the graveled car park to the end of the buildings. The satchel swinging behind her as she tried to fasten her coat against the cruel evening air. "It's nearly time," Sam whispered into Bernie's ear, he eased his arm from beneath her head as she raised it slightly. He held his arm upward and shook it, it was numb from the way he'd been lying on the couch with Bernie. "Sorry Sam, I was so cosy." Bernie said sleepily. "Why don't you go to bed? It might be quite some time before I'm back." Sam twisted around placing his feet on the floor. "Hmmm, I'm okay here, I can still feel you, feel your warmth. I don't want to lose this feeling." Bernie lay with her eyes closed but she was looking at him. "Do you have to go? I could hold you forever." He leaned forward to slip his shoes on. She caught hold of one of Sam's arms and tugged him close, he slipped on the carpet and fell gently on top of her. "Come here big boy, you're not going anywhere tonight." She wrapped her arms about him. "Bernie, please. Rosie's on her way and Al will be here any minute." Sam tried to pull free, but Bernie's grip was tight. Bernie started to giggle, "I'm not letting you go." Sam relaxed a little, her arms pulled him closer, he was on his knees kissing her, caressing her. He scooped her into his arms and carried her out of the cafeteria. Down the corridor to her quarters, through the hall towards the bedroom. There he lay her on the bed, again she pulled him down. His kisses were full of passion and longing. He wanted to give in, to wrap himself into her beautiful body, to stay with her and revel in her perfume but the clock said no, his head said no, but his body said yes. Whichever were the strongest would win. He deliberated with his inner voice, time stands still for no man, except for Sam Beckett, time had lost. There was more time for moments like this, Bernie would wait, his body had lost. His head ruled. He felt flushed and hot, he stood up and backed away, not trusting his body, "I have to go, Al's waiting. Rosie's out there, I've got find out what she's up to. Trust me Bernie, please trust me." Sam turned and left the room. "I'll be waiting, I'll be here when you get back." Bernie shouted after him. Sam saw Al waiting as he closed Bernie's door. He almost skated as he hurried along the corridor in his stocking feet. "I won't be long, I'll just get my coat." "I'd put some shoes on too, if I were you." Sam stopped and confronted Al. "They're in the cafeteria Al." "Spreadin' yourself about a bit, nice touch." Al smirked, "I'd cool off with an ice-pack too Sam, if you go out there with a sweat like that, you'll be steaming in no time." Sam headed down the corridor. "Quit the sarcasm Al, it doesn't suit the new you, I'm beginning to like the old Al better." "Take your time pal, it's only five past eleven, plenty of time for a cold shower. Ha, ha" Sam stopped dead and turned back and looked at Al with discord, "It's not like that," Sam smiled, "Well nearly." He turned back slowly, shaking his head and continued to his quarters. Al stood whistling when Sam returned, as he approached Al held up Sam's shoes. "Didn't even have time to undo them either eh, pal." He waved the shoes in the air. Sam snatched his shoes from Al's grasp and dropped them on the floor, "I never unfasten them, I'm usually too tired." Sam stepped into each shoe as he headed for the door. Al as usual in his wake. The wind blew at Sam's coat as he struggled with the buttons, "It's gonna to be a cold one tonight." he remarked, shivering, pulling the collar up around his neck. "Sure is, a full moon too." A coyote howled in the distance as if encouraged by Al's words. Al unlocked the truck, the two men bundled themselves inside, their movements restricted by the weighty overcoats. The engine roared into life, rubber scuffed at the gravely ground as they sped in a westerly direction. The speed didn't last long. The road that was shown on the map was not a road at all but a rough mammal track. Potholes and rocks peppered the trail, making it impossible to get above five miles per hour. All turned out the lights, from now on they would dive by the light of the moon. There was no time for words, just the frequent 'OUCHs' and 'AGHs' as each were a battered and pounded. By the time the track turned into a north-easterly direction, both men were sore and covered in bruises. Sam being the taller of the two, slouched in his seat, holding his hands over the top of his head, trying to prevent it thudding into the roof of the truck. Now and again, on particularly bad patches they were thrown into the sides of the truck, their thick coats preventing any real damage to their limbs. Once Sam hit his head so hard on the roof he was jolted forward, hitting his forehead and knees on the dashboard. Al's thighs and ribs felt like they were black and blue as he was jolted into the steering wheel. He could feel blisters bubbling up on his hands as he wrestled to keep control of the steering. The Black Rock loomed ahead of them, about two-hundred-and-fifty yards in front. Al stopped the truck, exhausted. Both men turned to each other and let out deep sighs of relief. Al pointed to the distance, "There she is." Rosie's was walking, her figure silhouetted against the bright moon in the night sky. Further along the horizon Sam saw the silhouette of a light aircraft, "Look there Al," Sam pointed, "they're here already." "How on earth," Al swallowed, "did they land that thing out here?" "Come on Al, we've got to get to the rock before they do, we've got to find a vantage point." The two men scrambled out of the truck, Al was limping. "What's wrong Al?" Sam panted, the cold wind catching his breath. "Oh I bashed my legs against the steering column a few times. They'll be okay when I've moved a while." Al too was breathing heavily. "You don't look too good yourself, you've got some blood on your head there pal." "Oh I can't feel it, I'm hurting in too many places to feel one pain." Sam rubbed his arm, wincing as the pain became worse. The two friends climbed the rock and Al beckoned to a hollow on the other side. "Let just hope that we can hear what they're sayin' from here." They crouched down in the hollow and waited, shivering. As Rosie neared the rock, three men lowered themselves from the aircraft. A gust of wind blew a hat off the short, stumpy man's head and he chased after it. Al couldn't suppress a comment, "Schmuck." He laughed. "Shush, they'll hear us." Sam whispered. "Nah, the wind's in the wrong direction, thankfully, to our advantage." Rosie waited for the two men to join her, the other still chasing his hat. A large man stopped abruptly and stood still and silent a few yards from Rosie, the second, taller and very thin continued walking towards her. "What do you have for your dear old father?" Rosie handed him the satchel. "So that's Peter Saint-James." Sam turned to Al, "I can't remember him, should I know him?" Saint-James took papers out from the satchel and tried looking at them in the moonlight. "A bit before your time Sam, ha-ha, get it, time." Sam managed a snigger, "Phew pal, you were doin' your bit for humanity when he came on the scene. The other two must be his body guards." "Hey bozo bring me that torch and quit chasin' that dammed hat, we'll be here all night at this rate." Saint-James squawked. "I don't like him Al, he looks too wryly to me." The short stumpy man stopped and lumbered reluctantly over to Saint-James, he opened his coat and pulled out a small torch, a flash of bright metal shone in the moonlight, revealing a harnessed revolver. He handed the small torch to Saint-James. "Wow, if I'm not mistaken that's a Desert Eagle .50AE 6" titanium gold Magnum pistol, blow a man's head off at 650 feet" "Must be good then." Sam stated uninterested, he was only interested in what Rosie was handing over. Now and again Sam noticed that the large man's hands would twitch, was he concealing a firearm too. "Good! It's the best damned firearm Magnum ever made this millennium." "Is this all you have for me?" Saint-James asked Rosie. "Yeah and we're only eight years into this millennium, now shush Al. We might miss something." Sam listened intently. "That and the fact that Austin Bebrooks visited here a couple of days ago." Rosie looked a little worried that her information wasn't of any use. "Bebrooks eh," Saint-James was thoughtful. "I wandered who'd took it over since the government dumped it. Must be some feasibility in this project after all. Dreasney was a hard nut to crack at the best of times, didn't get much from her, and Yen Hsuieh-lung shut up like a clam when he was arrested. She'd be kickin' herself right now if she knew about this. What have you found out about Beckett? Have you managed to allure him with your charms yet?" "I don't seem to be able to get close to him, he's taken to this English tart, she's getting in the way." "Well somethin' will have to be done about her, we can't have her standin' in the way of true love. What's her name?" "Bernadette, Bernie for short." "Her surname, are you stupid or somethin'?" "Erm, Davis I think, I'm not sure though, I don't know if that's her married name or her maiden name, I'd have to get back to you on it, to be really sure I mean." "Good girl, now you're thinking sensibly, and remember whenever you phone me go through the operator, that way the call can't be directly traced, that super-computer of Beckett's can do almost anything I hear. Have you seen it yet?" "No, I'm not allowed down there, Ziggy controls who uses the elevator, and I'm not on her list." "Who's Ziggy?" "The computer." "The computer has a name? And it's a She!" "Everyone refers to the computer as a she, her name's Ziggy." "Right you get back to me tomorrow with this floozies name, I'll arrange for her to disappear and then the way will be open for you. I'm relying on you my sweet, be the fly in the ointment for me, see all, hear all and say nothing. I'll take care of Bebrooks, anyone can be bought, if the price is right. I've got too much at stake here to lose it now." Saint-James kissed Rosie's cheek. "Take care go straight back, don't speak to anyone about this meeting, and remember you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, but only if you get it right." "I know father, I'll get it right, you can count on me." She smiled at Saint-James but the affection was not returned. Saint-James returned to the plane, followed by his two body guards. Rosie stood and watched as the plane turned, taxied and took off. Its little lights flashed in the in the distant sky and soon disappeared. She suddenly shivered in the cold air and tugged at the wind-breaker around her neck. Again she looked to where the small plane had disappeared into the night, she turned and headed back to the complex, longing for the warmth of its interior. As soon as Rosie was far enough away the two friends headed back to the truck and sat inside. They sat awhile with the engine running, warming up from the icy desert wind. "What are you waiting for Al?" Sam questioned. "If you think I'm going back the same way we came, you're very much mistaken." Al rubbed warmth back into his hands. "I've got enough bruises here to last me seven more lifetimes." "I know how you're feeling, I don't know which inch of skin doesn't hurt." They waited another half-an-hour, to make sure they didn't run into Rosie on the way. The journey back wasn't half as rough as it had been on their way out, but even so bruises were added to bruises. Never had the two friend welcomed such a sight as the dilapidated tin roofed building, the graveled car park was a pleasure to drive on after the rugged terrain of the desert. Both were weary and disheveled from their recent escapade. The cold no longer a factor in their suffering. As they entered the complex, they both collapsed on the floor in a rumpled heap.