"Lost Causes" Part IV April, 1993 Pomona, NE Sam was still for a long time, lost in his own guilt and fear. He honestly didn't know how much more he'd be able to take. It was too hard to be here. Sure, they'd been hard years for Al, but they'd been hard years for Sam, too. It was always hard to watch someone you care about destroy himself. "Hey, kid." The leaper looked up to see the admiral melting in with the shadows, a fond look in eyes filled also with understanding. "Al..." Sam couldn't face him and he stared instead at the dirty tiles under his feet. "You had to do it, Sam," he said quietly. "I know." Al crossed to where he sat and lowered himself to the floor beside him. "Still a little shaky," he explained neutrally. "'Bena told me you went back to the infirmary without them bringing you in at gunpoint. You okay?" He shrugged. "It's bearable. It's also ironic - you always thought I'd get AIDS because of all the women I slept with." He grimaced. "I suppose this is one way to keep me celibate." "Don't you think you're taking this a little too well? You just found out two days ago." Al sighed dramatically. "Oh, no, don't you start, too..." Sam wasn't about to let it go that easily. "I mean it - look at you! You're so calm even though-" "Drop it, Sam." The admiral's voice was firm. Sam winced automatically, but reluctantly obeyed. "Do you remember-" "When it happened?" he interrupted smoothly. "No. They stuck me with so many needles it could have been any one." The solemn silence reasserted itself and, despite the fact that Sam seemed more uncomfortable than his friend, it was the leaper who eventually broke it. "Why did you tell Verbena to have me sedate you? What would have happened if I hadn't?" "It's already starting to fade," Al insisted. "So tell me before it does," Sam pressed, never one to let Al sidestep the issue. The admiral closed his eyes. "I remember... I couldn't move and it scared me. Derrick was trying to calm me down and then Marcus came in, screaming and yelling. He kept...kicking me and trying to force me to quiet down, kept saying that if I didn't shut up, somebody would find us and he'd kill me, but I couldn't stop. I tried, but I - couldn't." He paused, taking a deep breath. "Go on," Sam encouraged after the pause grew too long and he feared Al would close up before he'd even begun. "Derrick - you," he acknowledged with a weak grin, "kept trying to pull him back, yelling at him to stop and calling out to me, but Marcus grabbed you and shoved you hard against the wall and knocked you out. Then he got a needle and... And I think he gave me too much. I was throwing up all night and I was in agony the next morning when they came to get me." He opened his eyes and looked at Sam. "I can't recall seeing Derrick again." "What about when `they' got you," Sam resumed, unperturbed by the implications of that last statement. "Do you know what happened then?" The admiral stared into the distance, searching his memory diligently. "I have...vague impressions of...a cluster of people and... There's a voice, very agitated, but she's not upset with me..." He squinted. "I'm sorry, Sam, I just don't know." "Did they..." Sam swallowed harshly, his chest tight. "Did they torture you?" He stared straight ahead, not responding when Al turned to look at him. "I don't remember. I don't think so. You'd think, if these are our friends from the future, or even our present, they wouldn't need a whole lot of information on the specifics of how Project Quantum Leap works." Sam let out the breath he'd been holding. "So why a whole three weeks?" "You'd probably do better to ask _him_." "Yeah, well, he's not talking at the moment," Sam said bitterly, reminded of the reason for his despair in the first place. "Al, I hate myself right now." Al continued to look at him, a little regretfully. "I know, kid." His familiar term of endearment drew a measure of comfort back into Sam. "Please don't." The admiral's quiet entreaty broke through the last vestiges of guilt. "Al, I-" "You cared," Al interrupted gently. "No-one else cared enough to do that. Do you know why they kidnapped me, Sam, and not you? Had you given any thought to that?" Sam shook his head mutely. "It's because I was washed up. I knew it, the government knew it, everyone knew it but you. And if you hadn't had faith in me, if you hadn't cared enough to come get me when they let me go, I would never have gone back to Santa Fe. But you fought for me; you showed me compassion and caring and...mercy. You saved my life." ~~~~~~ April, 1992 Santa Fe, NM "Dr. Beckett..." Sam's expression hardened at his companion's exasperated tone. "I just came to get information. It's been a week - surely you have something!" Detective Pope rounded on the scientist. "Perhaps we should discuss this in my office," he said, more an order than a suggestion. Sam followed him in and closed the door. "Dr. Beckett, I understand your concern for your friend, but he is just one of many cases. All leads have run dry and-" "It's still your job to try," Sam persisted. Pope licked his lips and laid the file he was holding on the desk. Then he crossed his arms over his silk tie and looked directly at Sam. "Your friend had a drinking habit and a reputation of taking off," he said bluntly. "He's probably mixed up in activities that-" "Al doesn't do anything illegal," he said defensively. "He's an alcoholic." "He has a drinking problem. There's a difference." Unconsciously mimicking Pope's stance, Sam crossed his arms. "It's close enough for me," Pope insisted. "Did you ever consider the possibility that he just picked up and left?" Determined to argue facts with facts, Sam took a step forward aggressively. "Is his money still in his accounts? His belongings still at his house? That doesn't make sense. You should be trying to find him!" He opened a file on his desk and pulled out a sheet, handing it to Sam. "Doctor, we pulled up the admiral's credit report. He purchased a one way ticket to Vegas with his credit card a few days ago. He's no longer an open case." "You can't do this," Sam said desperately. "Where was he for those four or five days, then? He's never left and not come back!" "You might try calling the police in Las Vegas and bothering them." Pope's voice was unnecessarily cold. "This isn't right." "So complain to your congressman," he retorted. *Right. My congressman's on the committee!* "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some actual work to attend to." When Sam didn't respond, Pope left him alone in the office, staring at the report with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. What if the detective had been right and Al had finally done it - what if he'd finally left with no intention of ever coming back? In the distance, the drone of voices melted into a blur and Sam rubbed his face. "Sir?" someone called in the large room outside the door. At first, Sam thought the young man was talking to him, but nobody was even looking in his direction. "Someone called in that a car - a red Ferrari - has been abandoned at some bar outside of Santa Fe for a week now. The bar is called...The Pool Cue. I've been there - it's a nice place." "You going somewhere with this?" Pope demanded, glancing towards the office. Sam snapped his gaze forward as if he wasn't listening. "Well, we ran a check on the plates - they brought the car in a couple days ago. It belongs to that guy from your case: Calloway, or-" He started to rifle through the papers. "Calavicci?" Pope's voice was hushed, probably hoping Sam wouldn't hear. "Yeah, that was it." "Aw, hell. Okay, make arrangements for me to look at it, though I do it against my better judgment. And keep it quiet." The voice was almost too low to be heard now. "Dr. Beckett?" he called suddenly. Sam looked up. "You're in my office." "Oh. Sorry." Sam walked out, casting him a murderous look. "I'll be back soon." "I have no doubt," Pope responded. Sam got into his car, pulled out his cellular phone, and dialed a number. "Donna, it's me. Listen, I need you to look up an address for me. The place is called The Pool Cue. Right. And go into the top right drawer of my desk and get the key to Al's house. I need to look at his last credit card statement. Got it? Thanks, hon." He waited as she fed him the address and promised to have the report out by that evening. Then he hung up, started the car, and headed for the outskirts of the city.