"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
  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
  Sam did his best to look offended. "Sure. Well....what else would you
  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.
  "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?"
  "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
  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
  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
  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?"