Chapter 3 "I'm here to save Susan's life," Sam concluded. "Not just her life," Al said quietly. Sam looked at Al with concern. "What happened... What's going to happen?" Al's face grew sad. He spoke without once looking at the handlink. "Susan's going to go home to her apartment which she shares with her sister Angela. Her sister won't be home. Susan undresses and takes a shower. When she steps out, someone grabs her and kills her." He hesitated. "She survives just long enough for Angela to find her dying on her kitchen floor from knife wounds to her abdomen." Sam frowned at the manner in which he had spoken. "You speak as if you were there." Al looked at Sam with surprise. "I wasn't there, Sam," he told him, sounding a little defensive. "It was completely impossible for me to have been there." He started to pace again. "I wish she could have understood that." "Susan?" Sam questioned gently. Al shook his head and looked at him. "Angela." He stopped pacing. "She committed suicide this morning." He lowered his head. "And she made sure that I was there to witness it." "Oh, my gawd!" Sam exclaimed. He closed his eyes in sympathy before looking up at his friend again. "She never got over her sister's death?" Al shook his head. "No, she never did." Sam exhaled sadly. "Why you?" Al hesitated. "She has always believed that I killed Susan." "But you didn't." Al glared at him. "Are you doubting me?" Sam stood, frowning at his friend. "Of course not, Al. You know me better than that. I'm just getting all the facts." Al's face softened a bit at the realization of his question. "Sorry, Sam. I guess I'm still a little bothered by not being able to save Angela." Sam gave him a reassuring smile. "We'll both save her when we save Susan." Al nodded. "And we'll save her from years in a mental hospital. You can see how Susan's death was one hell of a big wrong." "Did they ever find her killer?" Al shook his head. "Never. Yet another reason Angela blamed me." "She needed a scapegoat," Sam concluded. "But why you? I mean, other than you used to date her sister, I don't see the connection." "She insisted that Susan named me as her murderer before she died." "That's impossible!" Sam exclaimed. "You couldn't murder anyone, Al!" "I'm glad you think so," he replied. "Because I did have the perfect alibi." "And that was?" Al gave him a small smile. "I was orbiting the Earth in the space shuttle, launching a military satellite." He paused. "Now, tell me that's not one hell of an alibi." "But Angela still insisted that you did it," Sam stated. Al nodded his head sadly. "Yeah. Poor woman." There was a moment of silence between the friends as they thought of the situation in which Sam had leaped. "What time does Susan die?" Sam questioned. Al checked the handlink. "We aren't sure. Sometime between four and six. Ziggy says the best way to keep her safe is to take her out tomorrow night. That is unless her murderer is someone she knows. In which case, the time and date of her death may shift." "How's that?" "If her murderer knows her, it's obviously not a random act of violence. So, the guy would be watching for opportunities to do it and get away with it." He hesitated. "I hate to say it, but I think it could be someone she knows. The police said that the door was unlocked so anyone could have gotten into the apartment. But, from what I remember of Susan, she never left the door unlocked when she was alone in the apartment." "So, you're saying that whoever killed her had to be someone she knew because he would have needed to have a key to get into the apartment." "Exactly," Al told him. Sam exhaled. "Terrific," he said sarcastically. He exhaled loudly. "So, how do we find out who this guy is?"' Al looked at him firmly. "The only way we can at the moment. I'll go back and have Ziggy run a few things around in that hard drive of hers while you keep an eye on Susan." He opened the Imaging Chamber door. "Wait a minute, Al," Sam stopped him. "Where's Susan's apartment? What's her phone number? I'm supposed to keep an eye on her, right?" "Oh!" Al said quickly, stepping back into the Imaging Chamber. He punched a few buttons on the handlink and slapped it before he got what he wanted from the small device. "Here you are," he told Sam, showing him the information he needed. "Watch out for her temper, Sam. She can be a tornado if she's pushed hard enough." Sam gave him a small smile as Al slipped through the door and disappeared from Sam's sight. Sam exhaled at Al's words and began to form a plan of defense for the fiery Beth-look-alike. Verbina Beek's calm composure cracked the moment she left the Waiting Room, suddenly free to let herself show her anger and frustration. She glared at Al, who had just returned to the Control Room as well. Al took a step back, surprised by the glare. "What is that for?" he questioned her. "Do you know what that... THING... has been doing?" she said angrily. "He's been trying to judge my bra size!" She slammed her handlink down on the control console as Al placed his on it with much less force. "That man is impossible!" Al held back his amusement of Verbina's situation but not enough for the psychiatrist not to notice. "Of course, you would find this amusing! You're not the one being sexually harassed!" "Calm down, Verbina," Al told her. "This isn't the first time we've had a guest make a pass at you." Verbina exhaled. "This wasn't a pass, Al! This was sexual harassment!" Al thought about her words, his face looking at her with genuine concern. "Do you want me to put a little pressure on him so he'll stop?" She exhaled again, finally calming herself. She shook her head. "No. He isn't being very cooperative with giving us information now and his personality indicates that he'd just close up completely if we put pressure on him." Al was uncertain. "Are you sure?" She nodded. "I'm sure. Thanks for the offer, though. I can handle him." She sounded like she was trying to reassure herself rather than Al. He nodded a bit. "Okay. If you really are sure..." He took a breath. "If you change your mind, let me know. I'll be glad to teach the guy a lesson on respecting ladies." Verbina smiled at his words, taking them for the genuineness of his intentions. "Thanks, Al. I'll remember that." Al gave her a friendly smile before turning towards Dr. Gushie F. Conelf, the head programmer for the project. "Gushie," he told the small nervous man with halitosis. "Have Ziggy run scenarios to find out who Susan's killer could be if it were someone she knows. Update me on her progress." Gushie nodded. "Right away, Admiral," he answered as Al and Verbina left the Control Room together. "So, other than sexual innuendoes, what have you got from Dick Anderson-Kemp?" Al asked as the two walked to the elevator, seeming to head for the same destination. Verbina shook her head. "Very little. He has no idea who would want to kill his fiancée. But he did swear that he would, and I quote, 'kill the fucking bastard' once he finds out who attacked her." Al gave a small shrug. "Can't really blame him for the sentiment. She is his fiancée, after all. I would've reacted the same way if I were in his place." Verbina frowned in disgust. "The man has a mouth more foul than yours when you're angry. And that's when he's calm." She rubbed her hands together. "I can't wait for this leap to end and soon. He gives me the serious creeps. I can't see how any woman would find him attractive." "She likes it kinky," Al commented. "Maybe that's his appeal to her." She exhaled. "Maybe." The two entered the elevator and started up to the fifth level. "But what she may find attractive, I find disgusting." Al said nothing, letting the elevator reach its destination and stepping out. He turned, noticing that Verbina wasn't following him as she usually did. "No coffee break today?" he questioned. She shook her head. "I think I'll go take a nap, get ready for round three in the ring with Mr. Chauvinist Pig." Al smiled with understanding. "Don't let him get to you, Verbina. You won't have to see him again after a couple of days." She gave him a slight nod just before the elevator door close and continued towards the residents' apartments. Al proceeded to the cafeteria, procured his cup of steaming hot coffee with three packets of sugar, and took it down to his office where a pile of paperwork waited for his attention.