CHAPTER THREE "Paddy...you're not yourself today," Damon Ramsay observed. Ramsay, the band's manager, a man of slight build much like...what was his name? Sam began to grow desperate. Damon gave him an odd look. "No, I guess I'm not," Sam replied truthfully. He felt as if he were a landed fish gasping to breathe, searching for the knowledge he was losing. Sam knew that Ramsay, in his build, resembled someone that he'd known very closely. His Observer, he realized. Sam at least knew that Edward was not his true Observer. [Al!] He repeated it in his mind like a mantra now that he had retrieved it. He would not allow it to slip away. [Al, Al, Al!] "What's wrong, Paddy? You're not concentrating." Damon gave him a searching look. The truth was, Sam didn't know any of the songs he was supposed to be playing. "I...I...nothing much," Sam stammered as he often did when he found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to cover for his mistakes when he did something 'out of character.' "I guess I just got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning." [I just lost my best friend!] he raged silently. [What's his name...oh, boy...Al! Al! Don't forget it!] Damon rolled his eyes. "Well, shake it off, Paddy! Concert's in three days!" Ramsay clapped him hard on the back and then walked off to talk to one of the roadies. Sam watched him for a second, and as Damon spoke to him, the blond roadie flinched for a second, and blinked in apparent confusion. Although Damon was keeping his voice down low enough to where Sam couldn't hear, the Leaper figured that the roadie was getting a pretty good grilling from the band manager. Ramsay didn't look like the kind of guy to raise his voice when angry. "That guy's a total mental case." Behind him was James Westhall, the keyboardist, whom Edward said was doomed to die unless Sam figured out how to stop it. If Damon reminded him of...[oh, no...Al! That's it!] If Damon reminded Sam of a quieter, calmer Al, then James reminded Sam of a warmer, friendlier Edward. Sam began to get that creepy feeling that he always did when he looked at someone whom he knew was a marked man. "Uh...who's a mental case?" Sam asked, confused. "Mac over there. Honestly, I think he's a few cards short of a full deck. And he hangs on Damon's every word. I dare say all Damon's doing is asking him to get that amp fixed...the one you sat in front of yesterday! Makes me wonder if you shouldn't join him!" The Door to the Imaging Chamber slid open behind him, and Sam did all he could not to groan in annoyance. "Ah, I see you've met James. The name of that technician, roadie, I believe you would call him--what a singularly demeaning term--is Mac Forester. I thought you should know that you have an interview today at Paddy's home with a reporter from Music Scene Magazine in less than an hour. I suggest you dismiss yourself from this gathering and go there now." "Well," Sam told James, "we'll see about that. Right now, I've got that interview, remember?" "Oh, I remember," Westhall commented, a sparkle in his eyes. "Just remember, you are there to make us all look good. No embarrassing stories about any of us...unless it's at your expense! Well...good luck, Paddy." The last thing Sam heard as he left the auditorium was James's good-natured laughter resounding behind him. To lose a talent and a personality like this would be a terrible failure on his part. As Sam drove back towards Paddy's house, Edward materialized just outside the car, and Sam lowered his window to speak to the Observer. "I'll tell you this," Sam declared. "James Westhall is not a man who would commit suicide, believe me. I've developed a sense for these things in five years of Leaping." "Samuel, haven't I warned you numerous times about relying on your intuition in lieu of the facts?" Edward admonished. Dr. Beckett finally decided that he had had it once and for all with this Observer who had intruded on him and stolen the place that had rightfully belonged to...and now, try as he might, he had lost all memory of the other hologram, although he still knew that there was one. He resented Edward, who had not only stolen his place, but Sam's memories, as well. St. John could have at least left that. "For God's sake, Edward!" he snapped with uncharacteristic anger. "Do you have to be so condescending?! And for the last time, don't you dare call me Samuel!" "Samu--Sam, what has gotten into you?" The Observer flinched. It occurred to Sam in the back of his mind that he might have hurt Edward with his tirade; the man couldn't possibly remember the other history, the real history. But by now it was too late for him to call back his words. "You really don't have any memory of me, do you?" "Well, of course I don't! You're not my real Observer, anyway!" By now, Sam was beginning to feel truly awful about his words, and yet he couldn't seem to stop the scalding remarks from coming out no matter how he tried, an experience he found new, and quite unnerving. "I can't remember you. And do you know what's even worse? This whole Leap, I've been slowly losing my memory of my real Observer. I can't remember anymore. I can't remember what he looks like, and I don't even know his name." Sam sighed, feeling himself coming slowly back under control as he gave voice to his fears. "I've just lost my best friend, Edward, and I can't even remember his name. I'm...I'm really sorry." The hologram appeared sobered by Sam's admission, and seemed to be searching within himself, as if debating whether or not to tell the time traveler something. He appeared to decide against it for the moment. "I know, Sam. I suppose this was partly my fault as well. I might have done well to be more understanding of your situation. In many ways, it is as if you have been thrown back to your first Leap, and we got through that, didn't we? Oh, bother...that's right. You can't remember. Do you wish me to stay for the interview, or shall I return to the Project?" St. John appeared as if he wasn't quite sure whether or not the storm had really settled yet. Sam paused. He was feeling as guilty as he'd only felt a very few times in his life, and he was as afraid to tell Edward to leave as he was to ask the hologram to stay, after the tongue-lashing he'd just given him. "Well...I think it would be nice if you were there, but I think I can hold my own," he decided, wanting to let Edward interpret that however he wished. Apparently Edward seemed to feel he was back in Sam's good graces, for he didn't move an inch, except to start calling up something on the handlink. "Thank you, Sam. Perhaps I should give you a little information about the circumstances of this interview. It appears that the article was written by Heather Lynden, a young writer for Music Scene Magazine. Despite her age, she is a fairly established presence on the staff, and she will be very experienced, and direct in her questioning. However, she is reputed to be quite personable. I'll meet you at Paddy's house," Edward finished, and with a touch to the handlink, disappeared from sight. Even with the help of the hologram, Sam was still beginning to build up something that was closely akin to stage fright, and he began to truly dread the coming torture. For the second time this Leap, Sam murmured, "Oh, boy." After fifteen minutes of tense waiting and frenzied attempts at preparation as Edward filled him in on the some of the band's albums and accomplishments, the reporter arrived. Lucy, the gigantic black Labrador, bounded happily to the door and immediately began a storm of playful barking as soon as she heard the car and kept it up as Heather rang the doorbell. "Just a minute!" Sam called as he was forced to grab the dog's collar to put Lucy in another room. [Nice start, Beckett!] he chided himself, his insides churning with nervousness. "Coming!" he called, and opened the door to admit the young reporter. She was a somewhat plain-looking woman, with glasses and mouse-brown hair, and an average figure, not the kind Al would go crazy about. [Al! Yes! I remembered!] Sam cheered inwardly. [Oh, please, please don't let me forget that again!] Already things were looking up, even after the dog fiasco. "Sorry about that, Miss Lynden. Lucy...my dog...she gets a little over-enthusiastic." "Oh, that's all right," Heather answered, setting her purse down on the couch beside her. "I know what you mean. I have two of them myself. And when I walked in the door this afternoon, they acted like they'd never seen me before, the way they started jumping all over the place." Sam could not imagine having to deal with two of the huge bounding goofballs of dogs. He had to smile at the thought. "Ah, can I get you anything, Miss Lynden?" he asked as he wandered into the kitchen and yanked open the refrigerator. He desperately needed something to keep his throat from drying out. "I have Coke, Sprite, root beer, punch, and iced tea." "That's all right," Heather called back from the living room. "Do you mind if I get myself a glass of water?" "Not at all. Oh, and please, call me Heather," she asked as he returned to the living room and took the easy chair next to the couch where Heather had sat. Glancing off into a corner, she took from her purse a miniature tape recorder of the kind that uses answering machine tapes, and pressed the record button. "Are you all right with me recording this? I'm going to use the tape to help me write my article." Sam smiled rather shakily, hoping Heather didn't notice. "Say yes," Edward prompted in the background. "Uh, yes, that's fine." The Leaper began to feel like he was fumbling already. He took a sip of water, hoping to cover for his fear. Heather glanced at a paper that contained her set list of questions. "Well, then, I think we can begin. After only two years in the United States, Overdrive has already released three hit albums and has had six singles in the top ten. To what or whom would you attribute your success?" Still fairly unfamiliar with this Leap, Sam had to struggle for a moment to come up with some kind of answer. "Hmm...I'd guess it would have to be luck," Sam decided. "You know, we in Ireland have a lot of faith in luck." It sounded completely lame, but then it was better than not answering. "How did you get into the music business? What inspired you?" She glanced at a far point on the wall for a second, as if staring at something Sam couldn't see. Sam opted for the truth, not knowing of any other possible response. "I suppose I Leaped into it by accident." Edward gave him a shocked look and warned him frantically not to reveal his true identity, but when Heather took it as he'd had planned, the hologram visibly calmed down. Something buried deep in his Swiss-cheesed mind told him that Al wouldn't have gotten so worked up over such a small thing. "I didn't even see it coming myself. I guess there's no telling what God or Time or Fate or Whoever has planned for you." Heather appeared as if she could sympathize. Sam's remarks had made sense, but of course, Heather wasn't the Leaper. The interview continued back and forth like this, and a couple times Sam had to consult Edward by way of a sidelong glance to ask for an answer or two that he could not come up with himself. At long last, Heather stopped the tape, and Sam let out a sigh of relief as the ordeal ended. "It's been a pleasure, Paddy. I think this will be in next month's issue..." She glanced at a point on the wall as if searching for confirmation in the pattern of the wallpaper. "Yeah...next month," she confirmed after a few seconds of apparent deliberation. "It's been nice having you over," Sam answered, and it's nice to have it overwith, he added inwardly. In reality, the best thing was that he discovered that he had made it out in his mind to be far worse than it really had been. Heather had been every bit as personable as Edward had promised, which had made everything go over a lot more smoothly, and even she had appeared to have her moments of nervousness. Just before she went out the door, Sam automatically reached out to shake her hand, remembering something his father had drilled into him relentlessly: [It's a man's job to be polite and respectful to a lady.] Sam had thought it had sounded a little sexist at first, but now he understood what it meant, having seen many cases on various Leaps where someone had forgotten or never learned that rule. When he took her hand, he felt what almost seemed to him like an electric shock, and a dazzling, blinding light engulfed the two. For a second of wild panic, Sam feared that he was about to Leap prematurely. Both Sam and Heather jumped back as if they had been burned. Edward stared in total amazement and alarm, the latter of which seemed to increase as the light dimmed and finally ceased. And at that point, Sam finally realized what had happened. His heart pounded wildly with fear at what he now saw. Another Leaper.