May, 1988 Charlotte, NC "Do you want me to connect you to that number? Sir?" Sam blinked. The phone receiver he was holding drifted away from his ear and he squinted, as if that would call up some knowledge he'd lost. "Sir?" The voice, loud enough that he could still hear it clearly, was beginning to sound irritated. "Sorry?" he said as politely as he could manage, pulling the phone back up. "Would you like me to connect you to that number?" "Uh..." Sam swallowed and quickly weighed his options. If he connected, he would have no idea who he was talking to, but on the other hand- "Sir?!" *Ouch. Yeah, definitely annoyed.* "Uh, no, could you just...give it to me one more time?" There was an exasperated sigh. "384-2853." "Ah..." From some hole, Sam recalled that operators had to average a certain number of calls per minute. "No, wait, let me guess," she said angrily, "no paper? Sir, I do have other callers that I have to-" "Yeah, okay, sorry," Sam muttered, fumbling for a pen. "One more time, then I promise, I'll let you go." "384-2853," she repeated, then disconnected before he could get in an apology. He whistled softly to himself and replaced the receiver. He considered calling the operator again (banking that it wouldn't be the same one) and asking who the number was for, but then decided against it. He needed to find out a little bit about himself before doing that. Sam laid the paper on which he had written the number down on the table by the phone and started wandering. An overcoat was draped over a chair in a small kitchen and he found an ID badge with the name Daniel H. Geller printed in block letters. Still holding the badge, he searched until he found the bathroom and peered in the mirror. He looked to be in his mid-forties. He had on a brown patterned jacket, a cream, striped shirt, and a solid, black tie. His short, almost military-style haircut revealed steadily graying hair and a receding hairline. Piercing blue eyes peered back at him and he reached up to stroke a beard he couldn't feel. "Thought it only took a glance with you?" Al's voice asked suddenly from behind him. With no reflection to prepare him, Sam jumped reflexively. "What?" he asked after recovering from his surprise. Al tapped his temple with his index finger. "Photographic memory," he elaborated. "Yeah, well it does...only take...a glance," Sam finished in a mumble, then sighed. "What do we have, Al?" "A pretty sorry dresser," the hologram replied, smiling slightly and looking Sam up and down. Sam turned to eye Al's forest green suit and shook his head mournfully. "Depends. Whose standards are we going by here?" Al made a face, mainly for appearance's sake, then dug the handlink out of his pocket. "Let's see...you're Daniel H. Geller, but you go by Danny. You're in the public relations department for Sans and Harper..." His voice trailed off and he frowned. "What?" Sam asked, leaning over to look at the handlink. "I dunno," he muttered. "The name just sounds familiar. I wonder if I know this guy." The leaper shrugged. "Don't ask me. I'm supposed to be the one with half a memory. What does his company do? Maybe you've worked with him." Al looked doubtful. "Step in front of that mirror again, will ya?" Sam moved to comply and Al stood beside him, silent for a few minutes. Then the admiral snapped his fingers in triumph. "What?" Sam prompted. "This guy...his company was responsible for this big chemical spill in the early 80's. Made national news for days. It was contaminating all the groundwater in the area. There were a bunch of us that were trying to get them shut down. Didn't happen, though." "Ah." "It's a serious problem, Sam," Al insisted forcefully. Sam threw up his hands in defense. "Hey, I believe you. So, what, am I here to get them shut down?" "I wish, but it doesn't look that way." "Oh?" Sam again tried to look at the 'link, but Al gave him a decidedly annoyed look and moved it out of sight. Sam couldn't help but grin at the action. "Well, it seems that your - well, Daniel's wife and daughter were killed in a car wreck a year ago. Then, about three weeks ago, your only other child, Evelyn, ran away. She's only 16. She was the younger of the two." "He doesn't find her?" Sam guessed, pulling out a chair and sitting down. "Well, I don't know yet. Ziggy's still pulling the details." "Do we know why she left?" he prodded. There was a pause while Al resumed his traditional arguments with the handlink. "We don't know that, either," he confessed. "But she went in for therapy soon after her mother and sister died and we'll try to pull the details of that for you." "So I assume I'm here to find her?" "Ziggy gives that an 85.4%, yeah." Sam rubbed his forehead. He had the feeling this leap was going to be harder than it seemed to be at first glance. "Do you have any idea where to start?" "Uh, not yet, kid. We're working on it." "Al!" Sam's face lit up suddenly. "Can you trace this number for me? Daniel was trying to get this number when I leaped in." He held up the slip of paper for his partner to see. "Oh, yeah, sure." Al fed in the numbers and then started reading. "The number is to an office building just outside Raleigh. The office is to a Dr. Keeee - what?" He whacked the 'link. "Thing's on some feedback loop or something," he muttered, hitting it again. Sam rolled his eyes. "Ah, Keenan." He glanced up to see Sam eyeing him, humor glinting in his eyes. "Ziggy had a hiccup," he explained and Sam shook his head. "She's - oh - she's the psychiatrist." Sam stared at the paper. "Looks like Daniel was looking for clues himself." "Yeah, but, Sam...she stopped going to therapy months ago. The chances that this lady'll know, it's slim to none." "So he was really grasping. And so are we, until we know more." "Seems that way," Al agreed passively. "I just don't get what could possibly be so bad in a home like this that she'd run away." "Maybe she just couldn't handle the loss," Sam suggested. "Maybe," he conceded. "I'll never understand teenage girls. They don't make any sense." "Sure they do," Sam countered with a smile. "I should know - I've been one." "So you understand it all, huh, pal? I thought that it was an M.D. you had." "Ah, shows what you know." Al pointed at him in mock challenge. "Well when you come back home, I dare you to explain some of the things my girls do." Sam snorted. "That's easy. Look at their father. _He's_ the one I don't get." Al stared at him, trying not to laugh. Each of them seemed to sense in the other the need for the banter. The leaps had been harder lately, and, in cases such as this, heartbreaking. The bartender had said they were going to get harder and he'd been right. Even so, Sam was beginning to wonder if that leap hadn't just been one huge hallucination or maybe even a dream. All except the last part, of course. His main suspicion for this was that Al had never mentioned that leap again and Sam had yet to gather the courage to ask. Considering the end results, perhaps it really didn't matter, anyhow. Every time Al used the words, "my girls", it was all Sam could do to contain himself. And the pride that flashed in his partner's eyes while he said it made it that much more fulfilling. Al was about to continue with the light-hearted debate, but the handlink started making sounds and he looked at the readout, his face sobering. "What?" "We know what happens to Evelyn. Her body is found two days from now. She overdosed and...she died." Al and Sam exchanged a mournful gaze. ^----^----^----^----^ Nant, NC May, 1988 Eve took a seat and stretched her legs. She had long ago convinced the owner of the establishment to let her in here. He still wouldn't serve her, though. Said he was still afraid of losing his license and nothing would convince him to risk that. The bar was all the income he had. She sighed and looked again at the man sitting at the adjacent table, considering. It looked as if she may even have a place to sleep tonight. She knew him well and was aware that he knew her. They had just exchanged words a few times, but not only did she see him here often, she'd seen him leave with other people and that told her all she needed to know. She was about to get up when someone slid into the seat across from her. She sighed dramatically and rolled her eyes. This man, she didn't know as much about. She just sorta...knew him. Whenever he was around she had the absurd notion of fhaving been adopted. "Need some money?" he asked her. "Leave me alone," she said, upset, but not angry. It felt more like pleading. "Eve," he said quietly, resting his beer on the table top, "I told you if you needed anything I could get it for you." "Why are you always here?" He shrugged. "Gotta be someplace." She leaned forward, curious despite herself. "Don't you have a family to go home to?" "Not tonight." His words were tight and she knew she shouldn't press the subject. "What, do you rent them on the weekends?" she couldn't resist remarking. "Well...either way, I don't want your money." "You'd rather earn it like _that_?" he demanded, motioning to the customer behind him. She sighed and picked at a stain on the table. "I'll take it where I can get it." "Yeah," he agreed angrily. "So will he." He stood up and turned to leave. "Have you ever felt...smothered?" she asked suddenly, loudly enough to call his attention back to her. He sat back down. "Like - like nobody will ever let you grow?" He took a deep breath, and let it out slowly, but didn't respond. "Trapped?" she whispered. "Everybody does, from time to time," he compromised. "Not like... You know what I mean." He considered her. "Sure." She nodded. "Then you'll understand why I'm asking you not to offer me charity. Good or bad, I have to do this on my own." He shook his head, then pulled out a pen and a small slip of paper, scribbling something on it. "If you change your mind," he said, handing the paper to her, "call me." She glanced at the paper. "Joseph?" she questioned, then smiled slowly. "That's the first time anyone here's even told me their name." He looked somberly back at her. "What about people like him?" The man at the other table was still there. "Nobody that mattered," she remedied, then stood. "I have to get to work." He nodded slowly, watching her as she went to talk to the stranger, watching as she left with him. Joseph drained the beer in one gulp, and left.