Sam Beckett was very familiar, though never accustomed to the process of leaping into the life of some unsuspecting instrument of life. Whither it be a man, a woman, or a child he could never be certain until the exchange process was complete and he could begin his own process of sorting the facts.
This particular leap literally felt different, the process longer, the transfer more difficult. The thick fog, always clouding his thoughts at the onset, seemed to be taking longer tho thin and ebb.
Sam waited, patiently waited. His first clear realization was position. He was lying on his back, stretched out on a very thin, straw mattress, on a narrow slat-board bed. Sam opened his eyes and waited while they adjusted to the dim, flickering light of the room.
He appeared to be in a cage, composed of heavy metal bars and sandwiched between adjacent cages on either side. Lifting his head ever so slightly, Sam could see a man slouched in a chair across the room, his feet resting on a desk, his hat resting low across his forehead, blocking the light of the two oil lamps that cast the only light in the room.
Sam heard a low snoring sound emanating to his right and he turned his head in that direction. Two men lay sleeping on their own small cots in the middle cage, adjacent to Sam's. The one furthest from Sam was the one snoring and only his head and one arm hanging loosely over the edge of the bed were visible to Sam.
The nearer one, whose bed was pressed against the cell bars that separated the two cages, slept with his back propped slightly against the front of the cage. A mop of curly blonde hair peaked out of the brim of the man's brown hat that almost completely covered his face.
Yes, nothing appeared familiar to Sam. Nothing looked contemporary to Sam. Nothing felt...right.
Sam felt a wave of relief spread over him when he saw the familiar sparkles of light that indicated the imaging chamber had been activated, and he waited anxiously for his hologram partner to appear. Al's informative hand link was squealing and an array of colors were dancing in unfamiliar patterns as it displayed much needed information.
"Al!. Thank God you're here! Where am I? Who am I?" Sam demanded of his only contact with his own true reality.
Kid Curry was a man always on the alert. Even in his sleep, sounds and voices somehow registered and his brain somehow recognized the familiar from the unusual. Such was the case that night, when Kid's brain triggered a warning of an unfamiliar voice that spoke in an urgent, but very low tone in the adjacent cell. This voice had the same quality as the man present in the cell when Kid had settled in for the night, but the way in which he spoke, the verbiage uttered sounded almost foreign.
"Charles Hadley?...How can I be in 1886? That's not possible, Al. I can only travel in my own lifetime... Who's Warren Moonlight?...Outlaws?...Help them do what..."
Kid listened intently, though no part of the one-sided conversation made sense. With ever so subtle a movement, Kid tilted his chin against his chest and turned his head toward the adjacent cell, , causing his hat to slide lower on his face and enabling one eye to open just a sliver, enough to see that man who was apparently engaged in a deep conversation with a ghost.
"I was able to leap here because my great, great,great,great grandfather was Warren Moonlight? That doesn't make sense, Al. Tell Ziggy to check it all again," thevoicedemandedwithgreatauthority.
Kid opened his eye just a little more. The man looked like the same person who had occupied the cell the night before, a short, stocky, middle aged miner with a week's stubble covering his chin and cheeks. His clothes old and worn, his hands wrinkled and stiff. The man was obviously awake, and distraught. He didn't seem to be talking to himself. He really did appear to be talking to a ghost or worse, some imaginary person in his brain.
"Hey, what's all the noise in there?" the deputy asked as he dropped his feet to the floor and sat up in his chair.
"I gotta go, Sam," Al said, jabbing urgently at the flickering lights on his hand link.
"AL," Sam whispered urgently.
"There's people trying to sleep, Hadley," the deputy called to the man whose body Sam Beckett now occupied.
"Sorry," Sam said in reply. "Bad dream," he uttered for explanation.
Kid closed his eye and turned away, mystified by the one-sided conversation he had overheard.
"Stand over here with your back to the bars, Hadley, so I can get the handcuffs on you," Sheriff Thompson instructed as the three prisoners were finishing their breakfast of cold eggs, toast, and lukewarm coffee.
"Handcuffs? What for?" Sam/Hadley asked.
"You got a nine o'clock court appearance. This is where the judge will tell you just how long you'll be a guest of the State."
"What was I charged with?" Sam/Hadley asked.
"Same thing you're always charged with, disturbing the peace. One of these days the judge is gonna declare you habitual. You ain't gonna like what that'll mean."
Sam did as instructed and waited for the handcuffs to snap shut. Then Sheriff Thompson unlocked the cell door and took Sam by the arm to lead his across the street to the courthouse.
Kid stood and reached for Heyes' plate and coffee cup and, crouching down, Kid slid both of their things through the space at the bottom of the cell. Then he moved slowly toward his partner and sat down beside Heyes on the edge of the cot.
"There's something funny going on, Heyes," Kid said in a low voice that only his partner could hear.
"Well, that fella in the next cell. I think he might be a little loco."
"What makes you think that, Kid?"
"Well, he was talking a lot in the night."
"So? You talk in your sleep sometimes, Kid."
Kid nodded. "But he weren't asleep. He was wide awake. And he was carrying on quite the conversation. But there weren't nobody around to be talking to. Even the deputy was sleeping."
"What was he saying?"
"I only heard his side of the conversation, but he mentioned the governor, said something about the governor being his great, great, great great grandfather."
Heyes smiled. "That would make Moonlight about a hundred and fifty years old."
"Well, he mentioned Moonlight by name. I also heard him say the word outlaws."
"Kid, neither one of us has seen Mr. Hadley before. I'm sure he doesn't know who we are."
"The person he was talking to, he called him Al."
"He had to have been talking in his sleep, Kid, and what he said just happened to be coincidental to our situation, that's all. But, if it will make you feel any better, I'll strike up a conversation with him when I can and try to see what, if anything, he really knows."
"Kay," Kid replied.
The Sheriff and Sam returned by ten. The Sheriff escorted Sam inside the cell, then stepped back out and locked the door.
"Over by the bars Hadley, and I'll unfasten those cuffs.
Sam did as instructed. As he stood with his back to the cell bars, Sam noticed Al standing in the far corner, his head down but his eyes looking up at Sam.
"It's about time," Sam muttered.
"Don't get snippy with me, Hedley. I ain't the one behind the bars," Sheriff Thompson said.
"Sorry," Sam replied, not having meant to be overheard.
Al studied the hand link as Sam made his way across the cell to his bunk.
"Bring your cot over this way," Heyes said, sitting on Kid's bed with his back leaning against the bars.
Sam looked at Al who gave him an approving nod, so Sam dragged his cot across the cell.
"The one sitting near you is Hannibal Heyes. The other one is Kid Curry. They are both notorious outlaws, although Sheriff Thompson doesn't know that's who he has in his jail," Al explained.
Sam brought the cot up next to the bars and sat down so he was parallel to Heyes.
"How much time did the judge give you?"
"Two days," Sam replied.
Heyes smiled. "So, you'll be getting out soon enough."
"Heyes and Curry went straight almost three years ago, Sam. It seems the Wyoming Territorial Governor at the time agreed to an amnesty deal. Your great great great great grandfather has agreed to continue that deal."
"My friend tells me you talk in your sleep quite a bit," Heyes said with a smile. "If you're trying to make a deal..."
"What kind of deal?" Sam asked, jumping at the opportunity to ask Al a question without appearing to be talking to someone not present.
"Originally they were told they had to stay out of trouble for a year, but it's now been close to three," Al replied.
"A deal with God. You know, some sort of bargain," Heyes replied.
"No,"Sam answered. "No deal with God."
"Good, cause it's been my experience that God don't tend to make deals with prisoners. He leaves those deals to the judges and lawyers."
"You mean like...amnesty?" Sam asked very quietly.
Sam saw the look Heyes shot his partner. "Now what would you know about amnesty?" Heyes asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
Sam looked questioningly at Al.
"It's alright Sam, you can tell them you know who they are. Just keep your voice down when you do it," Al replied as the hand link squealed.
"I understand Heyes and Curry are working on an amnesty," Sam replied.
Again, Heyes shot Kid a surprised and worried look. He laughed nervously.
"Thaddeus and I wouldn't know anything about that," Heyes said.
"Sam, Ziggy says you're here to help move that amnesty along quicker. But you can't let the governor know that's what you're doing."
"Why not?" Sam asked.
"Cause we're Smith and Jones, not Heyes and Curry," Heyes replied.
"Because if the Governor finds out someone outside their little circle knows about the amnesty deal, he'll consider it a violation of the deal and he'll call the whole thing off. These two will go to prison for twenty years."
"Twenty years," Sam said, awestruck.
"What about twenty years?" Heyes asked with blatant urgency in his voice.
"Oh, a...that's the prison term Heyes and Curry face...Twenty years," Sam replied.
"Why are you so concerned with Heyes and Curry?" Heyes asked.
Sam sighed heavily. "Look, why don't we just cut to the chase here," Sam began and looked at Al who just shrugged.
"I'm here, sitting in this jail with the two of you, for a reason... I think that reason is to help the two of you get that amnesty."
Heyes looked at Kid who now had cold blue eyes focused on Sam/Hedley. Heyes wiped his hand across his mouth, then rested his chin on the palm of his hand.
"And just how do you propose to do that?" Heyes asked.
Again Sam looked at Al who was rapidly punching at the lights on his hand link.
"Ziggy says the Governor is attending some sort of rally in Cheyenne on the eleventh. There's a ninety-three percent chance the Governor is going to be shot and killed at that rally unless you and these two outlaws can intervene."
"All I know is that someone is going to try to kill the governor on the eleventh in Cheyenne. If we can prevent that, well the Governor might just be willing to push your amnesty along, get it done a little faster."
"How do you know about this plan, unless you were involved in it somehow, maybe having seconds thoughts?"
"No," Sam said quickly. "I don't even know who it is that's wanting to kill him."
"So what, you overhear a conversation in a saloon somewhere?" Kid asked quietly but unable to remain a silent bystander.
Sam looked at Al who gave him an approving nod.
"Something like that," Sam replied.
Kid moved across the room and sat down at the foot of the bunk.
"Hell, I've said something like that in a saloon somewhere. It don't mean I really plan to do it."
"This is different," Sam replied. "I'm certain there is a plan."
The front door opened and two waitress from the cafe across the street walked in carrying a tray of sandwiches and a try of coffee.
"Lunch is ready," Sheriff Thompson said.
"This conversation ain't over," Heyes said and swung his legs off the far side of the cot to await his lunch.
Sam did the same so he and Heyes were now sitting back to back. Sam looked up at Al who at this point, had nothing to add.
"Sam, I'm going back to the waiting room to see if Tina and Gushie can't help me prod Ziggy along for more information. I'll be back as soon as I can."
Sam looked at Al and nodded. Then he watched Al slowly disappear.
When Heyes and Kid gathered their plates and coffee, they moved to Kid's bed where they were facing Sam/Hadley, but could talk privately if they were very quiet.
"Smith, Jones, you'll be facing the Judge at two. My guess is, if you can pay the damages and your bail, you'll be out of here by suppertime."
"That's...good to hear. Thanks, Judge," Kid replied and glanced at his partner to see if they did in fact have enough money. Heyes gave him a reassuring nod.
"Let's wait till we got a hotel room tonight, Kid. Then we can hash this all out freely."
Kid nodded in agreement.
"Hey, Sheriff, was there a bail that Hadley could post to get outta jail?" Heyes asked.
"Ten dollars, but he don't got ten dollars. Don't know too many vagrants that do."
"Suppose I could post his bail?"
"Why would you want to go and do that?" Sheriff Thompson asked and Sam slowly turned around on his bunk to look at Heyes and hear his answer.
"Well, he seems like a nice enough fella, Sheriff. Just a little down on his luck, that's all."
"You want to do that before or after you find out what your own bail's gonna be?"
Heyes smiled. "After, of course."
Heyes looked across the cell to Sam who smiled and gave Heyes a thankful nod.
By five thirty that evening, Heyes, Kid, and Sam were all standing in front of the Sheriff's desk picking up their personal possessions and signing the receipts. When they stepped out on to the boardwalk, Heyes and Curry each slipped an arm around each of Sam's arms and led him down the street toward the hotel.
"Hadley, if what you're telling us is true, and I'm not convinced that it is true mind you, then we've got a lot of talking and a lot of planning to do. The eleventh is only eight days away," Heyes said. "The three of us is going to be sharing a hotel room, and only Kid and me is getting beds."
"Cheyenne is a four day ride from here, so plans have got to be made quick Hadley," Kid added.
"Please, call me Sam."
Kid stopped dead in his tracks. "Last night I head you say your name was Charles... Charles Hadley."
"I did," Sam said nervously. "I like Sam better."
Kid looked at Heyes very skeptically. "Why do you need an alias?" Kid asked.
Sam started to offer an explanation but stopped before he even got started. His shoulders dropped and he sighed heavily. "You wouldn't believe me even if I told you. Now I haven't asked the two of you about your aliases, so why don't we just leave it at that?"
Kid again looked at Heyes who gave a quick nod. "For now, anyway," he said and pulled Sam along toward the hotel.
"Don't suppose you got a room with three beds?" Heyes asked the hotel desk clerk.
"And a window facing the street?" Kid added.
"I've got a room with two beds. I can have a cot brought up," the clerk replied.
"With a street view?" Kid asked again.
The clerk nodded. "The corner room. It's got a window facing both streets."
"We'll take it," Kid replied.
They led Sam up the stairs and into the room where they unloaded their saddlebags on their beds. Heyes and Kid then sat down on the edge of their beds, leaving Sam standing alone in the center of the room.
"Now, it's truth time. Who the hell are you, really?" Heyes asked.
"You're not going to believe me," Sam replied.
"Try us," Kid said.
"Alright, If I tell you who I am, who I really am, do you two promise to take me at my word, no matter how far fetched it's going to sound to you?"
Heyes and Curry glanced at each other.
"Deal," Heyes said.
"In all the places I've been, I've never told anyone the whole story. I've had people suspect, but that's as far as it has gone."
"We're listening," Kid replied.
Sam sighed. "My real name is Sam Beckett. I'm a Quantum Physicist."
"A what?" Kid asked.
"A scientist," Sam explained. "I invented...created a machine capable of transporting a person through time."
"How far through time?" Heyes asked, disbelieving but still intrigued.
"In this case, further than I've ever gone before, over a hundred years."
"So you're..."Kid began.
Sam shrugged. "From the future."
Kid's eyes grew wider than Heyes had ever seen them.
"So, what's the future like?" Kid asked.
Sam shook his head. "I can't tell you. I can't tell anyone because it could change history."
"Ain't your being here changing history?" Heyes asked.
"It's complicated," Sam replied. "I travel through time to correct things that have gone wrong, to put history back the way it was supposed to be, the way it was before someone or something inadvertently changed it."
Kid was lost, but Heyes was absorbing every word. "So you're saying, in the...original history...the Governor ain't supposed to get killed on the eleventh?"
"And if we prevent him from getting killed, he'll move up our amnesty?"
"Well, you'll get amnestied on the date you're supposed to get amnestied."
"So you're saying we do, eventually get amnestied?" Heyes asked.
Sam nodded. "Yes."
"Heyes, he really is talking to imaginary voices in his head. He really is some kind of nut," Kid replied.
Heyes smiled. "That may or may not be true, Kid. But it never hurts saving a life, and if it's the Governor's life we're saving, well that can only be a good thing for us."
"So you're saying we should...believe this kook?"
"Maybe not believe him, Kid, but I don't see no harm in going along with him. Do you?"
"Might get you or me killed in Cheyenne."
Sam shook his head. "Ziggy...Ziggy is connected to the time machine. Ziggy is what keeps track of the real history as opposed to the changed history. Anyway, Ziggy says there's no chance of the two of you being killed."
"How about hurt?" Kid asked quickly.
"I don't know the answer to that. But I'll have Al check the next time he's here."
"Who's AL?" Heyes asked.
Sam sighed. This was so complicated and so unbelievable.
"Al's a hologram."
"What's a hologram?" Kid asked.
"Al is a person...back in the future...He's the only person that I have any visible contact with."
"He's the fella you were talking to last night."
"Where was he? I didn't see no one but you."
"Al is...invisible to anyone be me."
Kid just rolled his eyes. "Heyes, this is just crazy. This man claims to be from the future, only he can't tell us what the future is like. He talks to invisible friends for crying out loud."
"It is a might difficult to believe," Heyes said, having to agree with his partner. "Still, Kid, if the Governor is killed on the eleventh, and we don't do nothing to try to stop that, well that's gonna be kind of hard to live with...And even more important, the amnesty goes down the drain."
Kid just shook his head at his partner's gullibility. "Sometimes, Heyes, I could just flatten you."
"Let's all go get some supper, then maybe a beer or two, maybe play some poker, and just let all this information just soak in a bit. Then we'll figure out in the morning what we're going to do."
"Fellas, I don't have any money," Sam said sheepishly.
You say you're a scientist, right?"
"So that means you're good with numbers, good a determining the odds,"
"So, are you good at poker?"
Sam smiled and nodded his head. "Yes, I am."
"Good, I'll stake you some money for poker tonight. At the end of the night, you give me my stake back, and you keep whatever profit you got."
Sam smiled. "Thank you."
Kid again rolled his eyes. "Now I got two people to keep an eye on tonight. That won't leave me much time for going upstairs."
"Ah, we'll work that in for you, too, Kid."
By the end of the night, Sam had paid Heyes back his money and had a sizable wad of dollars in his pocket , Heyes had divided his winnings with Kid, none of them had been accused of cheating, and Kid was feeling very well satisfied and content. All three men slept quite soundly that night.
Over breakfast the next day, they made plans to buy Sam a horse and equipment before starting on their way toward Cheyenne.