"In Circles" pt. VII January, 1994 - Original History Chicago, IL "Hey, Jake!" A racous laugh from the bar attracted the man's attention and he turned from the table. A waiterss peered over his shoulder, arms firmly clapsed around his waist. "Whaddya want? Can't you see I'm busy here? You guys know nuthin' about privacy." Jan grunted and turned back to his beer. "Ain't nothin' private about the middle of a bar, stupid. Get a room." Sam, or Jake as he had begun to think of himself, released the waitress and strolled back over to the bar. "We have a room. I just wanna get warmed up down here first." Jan took another swig of beer. "Well, find a corner then." Sam shook his head. "Man, you're drunk." He slapped the bar surface for emphasis. "Watch an after-school special or two, willya?" "Oh, I did. Taught ya not to smoke pot. See? S'not pot. Can you say 'beer'? And I'm not drunk." He grinned, putting out his hand. "But I'm taking donations to get there." Sam made a disgusted sound and turned back to the man on his left, suddenly recalling the real reason he had ceased harassing the waitress. "Sorry 'bout that. You were sayin'?" The man sat ramrod straight on the stool, the only quiet presence in the entire room.He was medium build, balding, with intense brown eyes. All in all, he seemed quite ordinary. When he spoke, it was with a slow drawl that somehow exuded power and the look he nailed Sam with sent rivets of shakes straight down to his toes. "I was saying that this one had better go smoothly." Sam did his best to look offended. "Sure. Well....what else would you expect?" The man raised an eyebrow. "Have you been drinking?" "Don' drink. Bad for business." A pause. "Mr. Sanders," he added lamely, pulling his gaze away. "I don't do small deals, Mr. Marks, and I expect things to go as planned. I could employ you for life if I so chose, but mistakes make me very. Unhappy." "Of course." Alan Sanders stood slowly and patted Sam on the arm. "Glad we understand each other. I will be in touch." "Oh. Great," he called to Sanders' retreating form. "I need a drink," he mumbled, turning back. "Better make it a double..." ^----^----^----^----^ June, 2010 - Original History Charleston, SC "I'm glad you could come for a visit. Matthew's coming in tomorrow and I've been wanting you to meet him." Al grinned, accepting the lemonaide she offered him. "Well, if he's anything like Brian, I'm sure we'll get along great." Beth laughed lightly. "Not hardly. Matthew takes after his mother." "Then I know I'll love him." She refused to respond to his flattery, but she blushed slightly. "You look as if you needed this vacation," she commented. "Things are getting pretty hectic in my desk job," he responded dryly. "You could retire," she pointed out bluntly. He actually appeared to consider it, though she knew he was just humoring her. "The lack of activity would probably bring on a heart attack." "Wouldn't surprise me," she replied, nonplussed. They sat in silence for a few minutes as the sun rose over the bay. The comfortable friendship they had developed was something neither of them would have thought possible even a couple years back. "Beth?" "Mmmm?" She was too comfortable and content to reply decently. "I wanted to ask you something." This time, his tone caught her attention and she turned to face him. "What is it, Al?" He took her hand carefully, as if afraid it would crumble between his fingers. "I have to ask you something," he repeated. She studied him. "Al..." He could see she knew what was coming, but he had to say it anyway. "Will you marry me?" She smiled gently. "Aren't you going to get down on one knee?" He sighed. "Would that change your answer?" "We both know it wouldn't." She squeezed his hand lovingly. "Al, you never do give up, do you? If I married you, you would be forever trying to put me into the void Sam left behind and we both know I wouldn't fit." He nodded slowly and released her hand. "Had to ask anyhow, huh?" she queried, trying to lighten the moment. "I suppose so. I want to tell you something, Beth. I have a confession to make." She didn't reply, but he felt her eyes on him. "Do you remember April 1, 1969?" "Al..." "Just listen," he insisted, sitting up suddenly. "Al, we settled this years ago." "I'm not dredging things up." He stopped. "Alright, maybe I am, but I have a good reason." She took his hand again. "What is it? In great detail and with slow insistance, he revealed to her the true facts of those couple days. She was very quiet and watched him the entire time, though he never met her gaze. "I know you don't regret the way things happened," he said quietly, "but-" She knelt beside him. "Some parts of it, I do. I regret....the hurt, the blame. I don't regret this." She squeezed his hand. "This," she repeated quietly. He finally looked at her and saw the tears in her eyes. "I just wanted you to know that I don't regret it either. Not anymore. Because then we wouldn't have....this." He kissed the back of her hand and leaned back again. She was silent for minute. "Sam knew you loved him, you know?" Her comment was seemingly random, but he knew it wasn't. She had been his anchor in that time after the project had been closed down, and at the funeral for Sam. Al had insisted that there was no reason to assume he was dead and that a funeral was certainly uncalled for, but Verbena insisted. Wherever he was, she had said, he was dead to their time and they all needed closure. That had been followed with a lot of yelling including the plaintive cry of "to hell with closure!" But in those hours of denial and pain, it hadn't been Verbena who had stood beside him and cried with him; it had been Beth. If Sam's disappearance had done nothing else, it had brought them together through trial. *He's still putting things right, even now,* Al thought to himself. "I know," he said quietly. "And I hope, wherever he is, he still does." ^----^----^----^----^ July, 2000 - Original History Minneapolis, MN Sam turned in a blind panic to Jan. "Man, oh man," he muttered over and over. "I've done it this time." "Sure have." "Dammit, will you be serious for once in your life?" He pounded the table. "This is my life here." "Yep. Your life." "Jan, he threatened to kill me. How was I supposed to know my new dealer was FBI?" "Background check?" Jan suggested innocently. Sam pushed violently away from the table. "Hopeless," he muttered angrily. Jan swiveled in his chair. "So take your pick: death or time in prison." "I already evaded the cops. If they catch me now, that'll be their excuse to toss me in for a _few_ lifetimes." He sighed and rubbed his face. Desperation had driven him to a different city with Jan, who had still insisted on finding a bar. Of course. "Hey, man, I just don't wanna go in with you." He stood up and walked over to signal a waitress. Another man took his vacant seat without missing a beat. He was tall and heavy-built, but very clean cut looking. "Couldn't help but overhear," he commented, twirling a spoon around in the coffee he had brought to the table with him. It looked absurdly out of place in the room. "Need a bodyguard?" Sam brightened minutely. "Depends on what you charge." A slow smile spread from one side of his face to the other, as if he had just zeroed in on his prey. "I know guys like you; you can afford me. Besides, this is your life we're talking about, right?" He leaned forward. "Sometimes God just puts people right where they need to be, y'know? That's why I'm here." He grinned. "Don't know about that one," Sam commented sullenly. "Sounds to me like you just need a good friend to watch your back and that's me." Sam shook his head. He glanced momentarily at Jan, chatting it up at the bar. "I don't have any friends," he commented. A commotion at the door attracted his attention and he glanced over. Two men and one woman in Navy whites had just entered the bar and were talking loudly with two other people just inside the door. Sam blinked rapidly as if trying to clear his vision. There was something off with this picture. It was if what he was seeing was wrong, but he couldn't put his finger on it. He watched them carefully, as if afraid one of them would recognize him. Although what he could possibly have done to irritate some servicemen, he couldn't imagine. Then again, he had managed to irritate quite a few people unintentionally in his career. Somtime before Amber had died, something had been very very wrong. He had known that for years. He didn't remember anything before her death, and even some of the things that happened a couple days before were unusually fuzzy. He had never told anyone and he was still unsure how he had known Amber was going to die. He wasn't sure why he was thinking about this now, with more pressing matters demanding his attention, but he did. And it seemed very important. One of the men pulled out a cigarette and started prodding his buddies for a light. Sam shook his head as if to clear it and realized what it was that was different. "That should be a cigar," he muttered, low enough so that his companion couldn't hear him. He stood slowly and stared at them, little fragments of something he couldn't identify drifting through his head. That, and a name. He turned back to the man. "You're hired. Let's go." "You haven't heard my price yet." "Doesn't matter. Come on, let's go." He shrugged. "What about your friend?" he asked, gesturing to Jan. "That's who I need to see," he whispered, not noticing the motion. "Let's _go_." He laughed and stood. "Sure, sure. Lemme just make a quick phone call. I'll be right back. Sam watched him as he threaded his way to the phone in the corner and dialed a number. "Mr. Sanders? It's Ben. How much are you offering to pick off Jacob Marks?"