Chapter Eighteen

     By five o'clock Donna had passed through Phoenix and
was well on her way to Flagstaff.  Her long sleep the night
before left her feeling fully rested and confident enough to
continue for several more hours.  She wouldn't get as far as she
had hoped for, but since she wasn't on any specific schedule,
it didn't really matter.  Flagstaff may be her destination today.
Maybe not.  "I'll decide when I get there," she thought.
     Arriving in Flagstaff at around seven that night, she
decided she could push it a little further.  She consulted her
map, and found that there were numerous small cities and
towns along the eastbound I-40.  "Great.  I'll go a little further,
then stop for the night."
     Two hours later, she pulled into a small motel in Pinta,
Arizona.  Something about the motel seemed ... familiar.  I
know I've never been here before.  Why would it seem familiar?
She didn't know, but somehow she knew it involved Sam.
     She checked in, requesting a 7:00 a.m. wake-up call.
She didn't want to sleep late again.  The motel didn't have
much of a coffee shop; it was actually just a few vending
machines, a delivered pizza from the local restaurant had to
     Sitting cross-legged on the bed, she watched a movie on
tv while she ate.  The motel didn't have cable tv or a satellite
dish.  The only station within signal distance was showing a
movie about a man, a farmer, who goes back to college to play
football.  The film was at least ten years old.  She didn't
remember seeing it before, but then, she had been deeply
involved in the implementation of the Project at the time.  Not
much free time for frivolities like movies.
     Her pizza, and the movie, finished, she pulled back the
sheets and crawled in.  Seven o'clock would come early, and
she wanted to get through New Mexico and into Texas in one
day.  That would take about nine hours, give or take.

     Al stood outside the main building.  He had nothing to
do, again, and decided he needed to get some fresh air.  No
one else had slept for days, and if your men didn't sleep, then
you didn't sleep.  Military rules, whether official or not.
     Leaning against the rented van, he watched the desert
wind pushing clouds through the night sky.  Normally, the cigar
he held between the fingers of his right hand would be lit.
Tonight, however, he watched the sky smoke-free.
     "Beautiful, isn't it."  Sam approached him, the rubber
soles of Kara's sneakers barely making a sound on the gravel.
     "Yeah, it sure is.  You forget just how beautiful until
you're away from it for awhile."
     The Leaper leaned against the van next to his friend.
"It's been ... far too long ... sine I've seen it."
     Do you remember your stars?
     Try me.
     Magrez.  Ursa Major.  The faintest one in the bowl.
     You have great eyes.
     Are you talking about the way they look or my vision?
     "Far too long."
     "How'se it going down there?"  Al's voice brought Sam
back to the present.
     "Uh, pretty good.  Ziggy predicted a thirty-two percent
chance that Gushie would crosswire something."  The Leaper
grinned.  "So he did.  Made her voice go up another octave for
a couple of minutes."
     The two chuckled, knowing Gushie would have done it
on purpose.
     "Sounds like Ziggy's getting better by the minute.  I'm
glad, Sam."
     "But ..."
     "But what?"  The Admiral couldn't make eye contact
with his friend.
     "You tell me."
     All pushed away from the van, taking a few steps, then
turned to face the young woman with Sam's soul inside her.
     "I don't have a good feeling about this whole thin."  He
fidgeted with the cigar, placing it between his teeth, then
removing it again.  Sam leaned against the van, arms crossed,
     "Something doesn't feel ... kosher about, whatshername.
     "I know.  She bother me, too.  But I don't have any
other source.  Ziggy can't help like she used to, not until she's
completely functional, so we're dependent on Monica."
     "I don't like it."
     "Sam, Gushie needs a hand."  Verbeena's voice
interrupted them.
     "I'll be right there."  He moved towards the door.
"You coming?"
     "In a minute."
     "Sam stepped back into the building, leaving Al alone in
the night-darkened compound.
     A coyote cried in the distance.  A breeze blew a
tumbleweed across the compound.
     And Al shivered.
     Not from the suddenly chilled breeze.  From the feeling
he couldn't shake.
     A feeling of ... dread.

     The phone rang next to the bed. It was 7:00 a.m. on
New Year's Eve.  Donna picked up the receiver and was
greeted by a overly friendly front desk clerk.
     "Ms. Elesee, you requested a wake-up call this
     "Yes, thank you," she groggily replied, then placed the
handset back onto it's cradle.
     Fighting the desire to roll over and go back to sleep, she
forced herself up and out of the bed.  She showered quickly,
not wanting to waste any time.  She would have to cover as
much territory as possible today, then try to find a hotel that
wasn't already booked for any number of New's Years Eve
     She had already made her resolutions, the most
important one being to start again.  A new life, someplace back
east, maybe, but definitely a new start.
     Clicking the suitcase shut, she opened the door, stepping
out into the morning light.
     The sun rose in a blaze of cherry red.  Red sky at night,
sailor's delight.  Red sky in morning, sailor take warning.  That
old saying ran through her mind.  She didn't know why.
     She threw the suitcase into the trunk, slamming it shut
with a determined thud.  The motel provided a continental
breakfast in the lobby =FE bad coffee and danishes that looked
leftover from the day before.  She passed, opting to stop at
whatever restaurant chain she encountered first =FE a Stuckey's
or Bob Evans' perhaps.
     The signs were nearly side-by-side.  "Thank You for
Visiting Arizona =FE Please, Come Back Soon" and "Welcome
to New Mexico =FE Home of", the end of the second sign
whizzed past before she could finish reading it.  Donna
chuckled, imagining it read "Home of Top Secret Project
Quantum Leap and Several Alien Visitations".
     She felt she knew New Mexico like the back of her
hand.  Or at least part of New Mexico.  Hadn't she spent
fifteen years in the middle of the desert, living in tunnels that
went deeper than some mines?
     A loud bang from somewhere under the hood startled
her back to the here and now.  The car lurched several times,
making sounds like it was choking, then stopped completely.
     "Now what?" she exclaimed.  The car was practically
brand new.  In fact, it was the most recent issue from Italy, a
Prevalar.  Reaching down along the side of the driver's seat,
she released the hood latch before getting out of the car.  Steam
poured out from under the hood.  She nearly burnt her fingers
as she opened the hood entirely, fanning the steam from her
face as she stepped back and coughed.
     Once the steam had dissipated, she leaned back in to
take a look, not that she actually knew what she was looking
for.  The total sum of her education did not include one single
course in auto mechanics.  Quantum mechanics, yes.  Auto
mechanics, no.
     She looked up and down the highway.  There were
several vehicles on both sides, but none seemed willing to stop
and help her.  She had forgotten to take her cellular phone
when she had left the house.  Philip had purchased for her last
summer, but she had never even used it =FE never needed it.
Until now.
     A quick glance at her watch told her it was nearly eight
in the morning.  "There's never a towtruck when you need
one," she said, sitting on the edge of the car, arms and legs
crossed in frustration.
     It only took another ten minutes for her wish to come
true.  As the truck came to a stop on the shoulder in front of
her, then backed up, she stood to greet her saviour.  The driver
jumped down.  Apparently, he hadn't been out for very long.
There weren't any telltale signs of him having done any work
that morning =FE clean hands, fairly clean overalls and the scent
of bathsoap.  A cigarette hung loosely from his lips.  She
quickly slid on her sunglasses.
     "Need help?"  The man sauntered towards her.
     No, you idiot.  I always park in the middle of nowhere
and look helpless.  "Yes.  It just made a loud clunk then
stopped.  A lot of steam came out.  I don't know what's
     Throwing the cigarette aside, he stuck his head under the
hood.  He wiggled wires, pushed and pulled at various caps and
     "Looks like you might have blown out the water pump,"
he said, standing up again.  "See that trail of water comin' from
under the car."  He pointed to a rivulet that ran from under the
car to the edge of the shoulder.  "I'm not a hundred percent
sure, though.  Don't get to see too many of these newer models
out here."  He stuck his head back under the hood, but didn't
do anything but look.
     Donna waited for him to say more, then realized he was
more interested in the car itself than getting her back on the
road.  "Can you fix it?"
     "Not here.  No.  But I can tow you into Gallop.
Someone there's bound to understand this new type."  He stood
again.  "I'll hitch her up.  Better stand back, ma'am."  The
man turned towards his truck, while Donna reached into the car
to remove the keys and her purse.
     Within ten minutes, the car was hooked up to the back
of the towtruck.  Donna sat in the passenger seat, watching the
landscape go by.  By nine o'clock, they were pulling into a
small garage.  The sign on the road's edge read "Thompson's
Garage =FE We Service All Makes and Models".  I sure hope so,
she thought.
     She thought her teeth were going to bounce out of her
mouth as the truck came to a very bumpy stop just outside the
service bay doors.  The driver jumped down and headed back
to unhitch her car.  It took her a few moments to gather her
senses and step down as well.  By the time she walked back to
her car, another, older man stood next to the towtruck driver.
He, too, wore workworn overalls.
     "Whatcha got here, Jerry?  Looks pretty fancy."
     "Hey, Bill.  Found this lady stranded out near the
border.  Says the car just," he turned to Donna, "how'd you put
it, ma'am?"
     "Well, it made a loud banging sound, then lurched to a
stop.  Steam was pouring out from under the hood."
     "I told her it looked like the water pump, but couldn't
tell for sure.  These newer cars really baffle me."
     "Uh, huh.  Uh, huh."  The mechanic, Bill, opened the
driver's door, then pushed the button to open the hood.  Jerry
finished opening it as the two men leaned under the hood.
     Why do men always act like they know everything under
a car hood, even if they don't?  "Do you know what's wrong?"
     "Think Jerry's right.  Looks like the water pump.  Tell
better once it's on the rack."  Bill stood, reaching up to close
the hood.  "Help me push it in, will ya, Bill?  Ma'am, if you
wouldn't mind steerin' ...".  They moved to the back of the
car, not waiting for Donna to step to the driver's door.
     Between the three of them, they managed to manoeuvre
the car into the service bay.  Donna stepped out as the
hydraulic arms came into position, lifting the car above their
     "Gotta get back on the road.  See 'yall later."  Jerry
turned and left the service bay.  Donna could hear the shock
absorbers, or at least what was left of the shock absorbers,
squeak as the truck bounced back onto the road.
     Jerry stood under the car, his neck straining upward
looking for whatever the problem may be.  "Yeah.  It's the
water pump, alright.  Never seen one positioned there, though.
These damn newfangled cars put things in the most ridiculous
places."  He turned his head, spitting a stream of tobacco juice
into the drainage hole in the middle of the floor.  Donna tried
to ignore his crude action.
     "Can you fix it?"
     "Sure can."  She smiled.  "Day after tomorrow."  The
smile faded quickly.  "Ain't got the parts for this model on
hand.  Hafta be ordered from Phoenix today, then, with
tomorrow bein' New Year's Day, won't get back to it 'til day
after."  Another dark stream left his lips, hitting the drainage
     "Isn't there another way?  Maybe someone in town,
another garage, would have the parts?"  I can't stay in this
town.  I've got to keep going.
     "Well, maybe.  But doubtful.  Best bet's to call the
distributor in Phoenix and have them ship it out."  He rubbed
his bristle-covered chin, apparently in thought.  "Unless ... I
could get my grandson to fetch it for me.  It'll cost extra,
though.  Travel time, there and back, plus gas and the parts ..."
     "Whatever it takes.  I'll pay.  I just really need to get
back on the road today."
     "Gimme a second," Jerry said, stepping out from under
the car and reaching for the telephone over the workstation
against the wall.  He dialled, then spoke quickly.  Then dialled
another number.  Hanging up, he walked back to Donna.
     "Matthew's gonna run into Phoenix for ya.  It'll take
him about two hours there, then back, plus the time waitin' to
get the part.  I called the distributor and told them to hold onto
the part for me.  It's gonna cost about two hundred and fifty for
the pump parts, plus installation time.  That's take the longest.
Never worked on one of these before.  I'll figure out the cost
for Matthew's time when he gets back.  Probably around a
hundred.  I told him no foolin' 'round in town.  Git there and
back.  That's all."
     Donna mentally calculated the total in her head, adding
enough to cover the taxes and any "extras" that may occur.
She figured she'd need at least seven hundred dollars.  That
was nearly everything she had in her wallet.
     "Meantime, I'll call the wife.  You can't spend the
entire day hangin' 'round here.  Might as well be comfortable
while you're waitin'."  The mechanic stepped back to the
phone.  He kept looking towards her as he spoke, then returned
to where he had left Donna standing.
     "Molly says to come straight over."  He lead Donna
back out into the morning sun.  Raising his left arm, he pointed
down the street.  "It's the second house down on this side of
the road.  Blue shudders.  Can't miss it."  A stream of dark
liquid hit the ground, causing a small cloud of dust to rise
around it.  I really wish he'd stop that.
     "I can't thank you enough, Mr. Thompson."  She began
to extend her hand, but upon seeing his were greased-stained,
faked reaching up to scratch her head instead.
     He chuckled.  "My name's not Thompson.  It's
Koznicki.  Thompson's the guy who owned the garage before
me.  Everybody around her still calls it Thompson's Garage, so
I just left the sign up."
     Well, thank you, Mr. Koznicki.  I really appreciate your
going out of your way to fix my car.  I really do need to get
back on the road as soon as possible."  She didn't know why
she said that.  She didn't have a final destination in mind.  At
least not for today.  I guess I just want to get as far away from
Philip as possible.
     "Go on.  Molly's waitin'.  I call you when Matt's back
with the part.  I'll give you updates as the day goes by."
     The mechanic lover the car so she could retrieve a few
things from her car.  She then walked the short distance to Bill
and Molly Koznicki's home.
     The woman made her feel at home.  It was still too soon
after breakfast and too early for lunch, so the two woman sat
in a porchswing on the front porch, sipping coffee and watching
the small town traffic, such as it was, pass.  Although not
pressuring for answers, Molly Koznicki tried in several ways to
find out just who this lovely stranger was.  But Donna only
gave cursory answers, she even lied once or twice.  She didn't
need to leave a trail, just incase Philip was following her.  But,
she hoped, he was tending to his own problems =FE those
involving his parents.
     Realizing she wasn't going to get any answers from
Donna, the older woman stood and, declaring that the day
wasn't getting any younger, and neither was she, that she had
best get to her housework.  Big neighbourhood New Year's Eve
party that night, she told Donna, and plenty to do.  Donna
volunteered to help, but was graciously turned down.
"Sometimes it's just easier to do it myself, no disrespect
intended," Molly told her.
     Re-filling her coffeecup, Donna made her way to the
backyard.  A pristine white wooden fence surrounded the entire
circumference.  This was obviously a place of pride for Molly,
and with good reason.  A few flowers and shrubs dotted the
area, no easy task considering the type of soil and time of year.
There were signs of many, many fragrant species that grew in
the warmer weather.  Settling herself into an Adirondack-style
chair, she opened the book she had found in the glove