Chapter 8

     Sam spent the balance of the day at the house.  A half  hour
soak in a warm bath helped ease some of his stiffness.  To avoid
the temptation to curl up on the bed for even five minutes, he
dressed in jeans and a short-lived flowered pullover, then
began slowly tidying the house.

     Deliberately taking his time, Sam was rewarded as the gentle
exercise gradually helped to lessen the dull ache in his head. It also
gave him the opportunity to get to know his host a little better.

     Pausing while dusting in the living room, he picked up the only
framed picture in the room, Tommie and Derek's wedding picture.
He smiled at the genuine joy he saw in Tommie's radiant face
delicately framed by her lace veil.  Derek's smile never quite reached
his eyes.  Recalling something he'd learned as a kid, Sam placed his
hand over the faces in the picture so that only the couple's eyes were

     "The eyes are the mirrors of the soul" was one of his mother's
favorite sayings.  "If you're looking at a someone, extend your arm
and turn your hand so that only the eyes of the person you're looking
at are exposed.  Or if it's a picture, cover it so only the eyes are
showing.  By blocking out all of a person's face except for the eyes,"
she'd explained, "the eyes become the focal point.

     A smile can be deceiving, but the eyes never lie.  When only a
person's eyes are revealed you can see in them if the smile on the
their lips reaches their eyes.  If the smile is in their eyes, the smile

on their lips is genuine.  But if their eyes are emotionless, even if
they're laughing, be watchful."

     Now he saw how Tommie's blue eyes sparkled, reflecting her
joyful smile, as the eyes of a bride should.  Shifting his gaze to
Derek, Sam shivered as he looked at the dark eyes that glittered
like those of a snake focused on it's prey.

     The phone rang, startling Sam and he narrowly avoiding dropping
the crystal framed picture.  Setting it down carefully, he picked up
the phone.  "Hello?"

     Derek's voice lunged at him through the receiver. "Where the hell
have you been?  Mr. Groves just called me asking where you were.
If you lose this job, Tommie, so help me....."

     "I couldn't go to work this," Sam said defensively.

"Hell, I was so dizzy the driver had to help me into the cab."

     "What did you need a cab for?"

     The simple question made Sam's skin crawl.  "I...I went to the
doctor," he said, sinking down on the couch, his knees suddenly weak.

     "What for?  What did you tell him?"

     Another simple question, but it, too was asked too quietly.
Sam felt another shiver run through his body.  The shiver became
trembling when Derek shouted into the phone, his tone even uglier.
"Goddamit, Tommie, what did you tell him?!"

     When Al's voice spoke directly behind him at nearly the same
instant, Sam jumped up and spun around, his heart thudding against
his ribs. Then, in the next instant the dizziness and the pounding
in his head increased and he wobbled then collapsed on the couch

     Al had seen Sam scared, hurt, confused in previous leaps, but
never gripped by the fearful uncertainty he saw now.  He glanced at
the handlink, then ignored it, and spoke as a survivor of the ugliness
of humanity's inhumanity upon it's own.

     "If you cave in now, this will be your last leap," The Observer
said bluntly.  "That's right," he continued as Sam's eyes widened.
"If you let him intimidate you now, you won't survive this leap,
because that bastard will have won the battle of wills.  I saw too
much of it in Vietnam, Sam.  I know from first hand experience that
when you give up, when you stop trying, you lose."

     Even holding the receiver a few inches from his ear, Sam could
hear Derek's angry shouting but continued to focus on the hologram.
"But he's..."

     Al cut him off. "But nothing!  You've never been a quitter,
Sam.  I've seen you in some awful situations before this, and not
once did quitting ever cross your mind.  Don't cross that line,

     The pressure in Sam's head was thundering, aggravating the pain
of the concussion as he felt himself torn between his fear of Derek
and knowing the Observer was right.  Still..."He frightens me," he

     It was the first encouraging sign Al had seen since the doctor's
office. "Okay," he said, coming around the couch, "you're afraid.
Half the battle of overcoming fear is admitting it. But you can't
stop there.  "You've gotta get your mind off your fear and onto
something else."

     "Like what?"

     "Put those Nobel-prize winning brains to work!  Start theorizing
about how to get the goods on that bastard so that he get's locked
away for so long that the world forgets he ever existed."

     A long minute passed, the only sound being Derek's screaming
coming through the telephone.  Finally Sam swallowed, and put the
receiver to his ear again.

     When Derek paused for a breath, Sam snapped, "When you can
speak in a civil tone, call me back," and hung up the phone.  In spite
of feeling like he'd just hit an angry cobra with a stick, his standing up
to Derek was a much needed booster shot of confidence.  He smiled at Al.

     "You look like a washed out ghost," Al said, grinning. "But it's
good to hear some bite in your voice again."

     Sam glanced at the feather duster in his hand, then tossed it
aside.  "Come on," he said, turning toward the kitchen.  "I want a cup 
of tea."  He settled for warm milk.

     Al watched his friend moving around the kitchen preparing the milk.
He wished he didn't have to put his best friend's just renewed
confidence to such a heavy test so fast.  But Sam had to know that he had 
already changed history...Allison Kent hadn't died in the original history.