"The Day After That" pt. II

August, 1980
Seattle, WA

  Al went white as Sam led Beth to the couch and urged her to sit down. "Let
me get you a towel or something, okay? I'll be right back," he told her.
  Sam went into the back part of the home to the linen closet and started
rummaging through it. Al stepped up beside him.
  "Al? You okay?" Sam whispered, looking at his partner carefully.
  "Sam, I...God, I don't even know how to feel! Angry, upset, scared, I don't
know." Al kept his eyes glued to the woman on the couch. They were facing her
back and she kept running her fingers through her wet hair. It was
considerably longer than it had been when they'd last seen her and it fell a
good way down her back.
  "I know this is hard, Al, but I need you to tell me what happens to her."
Sam pulled out a large towel and hid behind the open door so Beth couldn't see
him.
  For the first time, Al turned to him, his eyes glistening in the pale light.
There was a blank look on his face. Sam motioned to the handlink, hanging limp
in his hand. "Right," he murmured, his lips barely parting when he spoke.
"Well, in the original history, that flea bag lawyer-" He stopped.
  "What?" Al was staring at the `link in amazement. His lips traced one word:
`no'.
  "Al, what?!"
  "He...beats her to death." He clenched his jaw.
  "When?" Sam prompted.
  "A week." Al looked back up at her. "I was in one hell and she was in
another," he said quietly.
  Sam dropped his gaze for a moment. "What did you say today's date was?"
  He drew in a heavy breath and consulted the `link again. "It's August 2,
1980."
  "She married him in `69," Sam said to himself. "She's been hanging around a
disaster area for over a decade."
  "I don't get it," Al said, still staring. "She's a bright, intelligent
woman. Why would she put up with crap from a nozzle like Dirk?" He paused for
a heartbeat. "Sam, I'd give anything to be with her through this."
  Sam nodded, eyeing his friend. "I'll take care of her, Al. We'll keep her
safe."
  "I know you will, Sam." He took a deep breath. "You'd better get back out
there or she'll come looking for you."
  "I can't believe he'd kill her," Sam muttered, closing the door to the
closet.
  "Linny was really afraid for her. She told me to be gentle with her, that
she was starting to fall apart. I guess she just couldn't handle it any
longer. Maybe she said something or did something and that was it and he k-
killed her."
  Sam nodded and then walked back out into the room. "Here you go, Beth," he
said, wrapping the towel around her shoulders. "Can I get you something to
drink? Maybe some hot tea or coffee?" He frowned as she flinched. "What's
wrong?"
  She leaned back. "Nothing."
  Sam glanced down and noticed she was cradling her wrist. He knelt down
beside her. "Let me see that," he instructed.
  "Since when were you a doctor?" she asked, not sharply, but with a worried
edge to her tone.
  "Let me see." Sam took her hand in both of his and she bit her lip.
  "It's just sprained."
  "That _bastard_!" Al fumed, standing just behind Sam. "How could he do that
to her?!"
  "Let me get you some ice," Sam said, rising to his feet.
  "No, Linny...I'm sorry, but I can't stay."
  Sam looked back down at her.
  "Talk to her, Sam," Al urged in a tight voice. "Don't let her to back to
that shyster!"
  "Beth, don't you think it's time to leave him for good? He's just going to
keep hurting you and you're going to end up in the hospital. Or worse."
  Beth rose to her feet, a trapped look in her eyes. "No," she said
desperately. "I can't."
  Al drew up next to her. "Hon, listen to him. He knows what he's talking
about. _Please_."
  "Beth..."
  "Linny, you don't understand!"
  "Beth, you can't possibly think you have a marriage to go back to!" Sam said
urgently as she took a step for the door.
  She spun to face him, still slowly backing her way towards the door. "I'm
not an idiot. I know he doesn't love me."
  "But you love him," Sam said in flat tones.
  "Not anymore," she said, surprising him. Al wiped at his eyes. "I stopped
loving him years ago."
  "Then why are you going back? Is it because you're afraid for your life?
We'll get the police involved, we'll-"  "_No_!" she cried. "I can't leave
him!"
  "Why?" Sam and Al said together.
  "I just _can't_!" Her tone became more frenzied as she moved towards the
exit. "Please, Linny, don't say anything to anyone, okay? I'm fine, really.
I'll be fine." With that, she turned and ran out the door, dropping the towel
on the ground as she went.
  "Beth!" Sam called out to her, but she vanished as quickly as she had come.
He retrieved the towel and reentered the small house, shutting and locking the
door behind him. Al stood motionless behind the couch. "I'm sorry, Al. I
tried," he said in subdued tones.
  Al's voice matched his. "It's not your fault, kid. She... I don't know." He
grimaced. "I don't understand."
  Sam collapsed on the couch. "Neither do I. She says she doesn't love him and
she knows he can't possibly love her... What other reason could she possibly
have to stay with him?"
  "Fear?" Al suggested.
  "That can be a hard thing to overcome after so long. Where do I even start?"
  "I don't know, Sam, but you have to get her away from him. You have to!"
Al's hands flew about in anxiety. "Drag her away bodily if it's the only
option; it's got to be better than...than... Than _that_!" He gestured
fiercely in the direction Beth had run off.
  Sam rubbed his eyes. "Okay, Al, can you get me a bio?"
  The familiar sounds of the handlink resounded in the stillness. It was a
comforting racket. Then Al started reading. "After they...married in 69, they
moved into Dirk's home in San Diego. About a year after marrying the jerk,
Beth left the Navy. She seems to have left nursing altogether as far as we can
tell. In less than a year, that shyster took away her life, Sam!" he cried out
in anger, looking up.
  Sam opened his eyes and swallowed back a sigh. "Al, I need you to keep
together for me."
  Al met his friend's gaze unsteadily. "I know, Sam. I - I'm sorry. It's just
that I feel so helpless seeing...her like that and not being able to do
anything about it."
  "I know, but perhaps that's for the best for now. I know it's hard-"
  "Sam, you're my friend and I'm not trying to start an argument, but no, you
don't know. And I'm not just talking about Beth. Either time. I'm talking
about all your leaps - all those people I've come to care for. I can never do
anything for them. They never even knew I was there."
  *I knew, Al.*
  "And...when a leap like this comes along, with someone I already..." He
trailed off and cleared his throat. "It just intensifies that tenfold."
  Sam was silent for a moment. "I'm sorry. I...I never thought about it like
that before."
  Al dropped his gaze, staring at the floor. "Aw, Sam, I just...I don't want
anything to happen to her."
  "We won't let it."
  Al offered him a small smile. It wasn't much, but it was a start. "I know
you won't."
  "So what happened after she got out of nursing?"
  The expression on his face was resigned. "Well, they stayed in San Diego for
another three months, then moved out here so _he_ could start a partnership.
There's almost no records of her here beyond her mere existence. Except maybe
a few hospital visits." Al's jaw clenched. "Then, in a week, she dies. He gets
off in the clear. Not a damned scratch." He muttered something harshly under
his breath.
  Sam couldn't understand what he said, but he figured it wasn't anything
civil to begin with. "Where do they find her?"
  Al swallowed audibly. "In her house. Linny later testified that he - beat
her and then she... Sam, I can't." He rubbed his face. "I can't..." he
whispered, a faint echo, or maybe a plea. Sam didn't say anything; he just
waited, watching carefully. He said he couldn't, but Sam knew he would. For
her and for himself. After a moment, Al took a ragged breath and only then did
Sam realize he'd previously stopped breathing entirely.
  *That's it. Come on...* Sam thought, a silent support team of one.
  "He, uh, left the house and Beth called Linny from the bedroom. By the time
she got there, Beth was - dead from internal injuries. Linny found her on the
floor by the phone." He said the last as if in a rush to read the report and
be done with it.
  Sam gave Al another few seconds to compose himself. He could see another
apology building in his partner's eyes, but he just smiled and shook his head.
Five years of trial - they could practically carry on an entire conversation
non-verbally. "The first objective," Sam said calmly, trying to pull Al from
the emotional spiral he was in onto a more logical path, "is to get her out of
the house before anything more happens. Legalities are secondary to that."
  "Not if she won't go," Al said. His voice was still too quiet, but at least
the tremors were gone.
  *He accomplished more in San Diego than either of us probably thought at the
time,* Sam thought to himself. *If he hadn't let her go, at least a little,
this could be that much harder for both of us.*
  "Then he comes for her and, legally, there's not a thing you can do about
it," Al continued, his voice sounding stronger as he went. Whether that was
due to anger or a recovery from his earlier sorrow was anyone's guess.
  "Al, you know her better than me... We have to go at this from her angle. We
have to get her to agree with us, one step at a time. What should I do?"
  Al faltered slightly at the question and Sam thought he could fathom why. He
knew Al and he knew his solution had been to take all his anger and pain and
hide it away in some unlocked part of his mind - or maybe even his heart. Al
may recover quickly, but he healed slowly.
  Al took a long drag on his almost-forgotten cigar and began to pace the
room. "I don't know. She bases a lot of her actions on emotion. She operates
from the heart; when she arrives at a decision, it's governed more by how she
feels about a situation."
  Sam stood as the timer in the kitchen went off. "What time do I have to be
in to work tomorrow?"
  "Ah...9:00."
  "And Dirk?"
  Al cast him a knowing glance. "8:00."
  "Good. Tomorrow morning, we get to work. In the meantime-" Sam pulled out
his dinner and grinned mischievously "-you hungry?"
  Al smirked.

^----^----^----^----^
March, 2000
Stallions Gate, NM

  He couldn't eat. He couldn't sleep.
  He couldn't think.
  Al Calavicci wandered around his office like a caged animal, picking up a
file and putting it back, turning on his computer and then staring at the
monitor until the screen saver came on, pulling out his writing pad and then
forgetting what he wanted to write.
  He was a mess.
  *Okay, Calavicci, you know better than to let your emotions get the better
of you. Eight years in hell didn't teach you that?*
  Sure, eight years. Except she'd been in hell for three years longer than
that. Five if you counted the agony he put her through after he'd been shot
down.
  "So?" he demanded of the empty air. "What the hell am I supposed to do about
that now?"
  *Help her.* The answer was clear as day. The course of action wasn't.
  He sighed and sank down in his chair. "How?"