Light wormed its way into his brain, invading a scene belonging to Emil, players familiar to his host but foreign to Sam. He heard a female voice Emil? Warum sind Sie noch schlafen?-Why are you still sleeping? In the distance, cutting through the light. He was gradually aware his bladder was full and his left arm had fallen asleep.
"Emil?" He was no longer asleep. He blinked against the light. The bedroom, just large enough for a twin bed and a wardrobe, was bright, brighter than necessary it seemed to Sam. A woman stood in the doorway, in her arms a uniform identical to the one Sam had left last night crumpled in various places around Emil's apartment.
Sam groaned and struggled to sit up. The woman, similar to the photograph in Emil's wallet, maybe even an exact match, walked over to the wardrobe in two strides, her ginger hair bouncing against her shoulders.
"Didn't you remember inspection today?" she asked, opening the right side of the wardrobe with one hand and placing the uniform inside with the other. "Erich said you were acting strange yesterday." Her voice strained and stilted. She glanced over at him, a question in her eyes that remained unasked. "You should already be out of bed, Emil. You have to be out front in less than a half hour. I'll cook you something quick to eat. Have you made a lunch?" The last question was asked as she exited the room, her voice already fading as she added a tiny 'probably not'. Sam stared at the space the woman had once occupied. He was aware he should get out of bed, but his body was still exhausted from yesterday and the fact sleep had come late and was often light, he just wasn't too excited about facing another day. He still didn't know anything and no one seemed to be willing to help the man along.
Sam finally mustered the energy to push the blankets away from his body and pull himself out of bed. A knee popped in protest as Sam took his first few steps. He grabbed the uniform from the wardrobe as he passed and ducked into the bathroom at the end of the hall. He could hear the woman as she readied his breakfast, and assumedly his lunch, down at the other end of the apartment.
The bathroom door closed behind him with a heavy click. He was aware at how stressed he felt, how uneasy. His stomach was still knotted tightly and he was certain he wouldn't want breakfast or lunch later on in the day. He would eat because if he didn't things would feel much worse, but he wished he didn't have to. In fact, he wished he could sit right here in this bathroom for the rest of the Leap.
He ran a bath and took a look in the mirror above the sink as the tub filled. Emil Trommler stood just about Sam's height (or what he figured was his height; lately he couldn't remember simple things like how tall he was or how much he weighed or even what color his eyes were). If he had to guess, he figured Emil was at least thirty pounds lighter than Sam. Emil was young and looked it; Sam doubted he would even need to shave this morning, but he would anyway just in case. The last thing he wanted was to draw more attention to Emil Trommler. Atop his head laid a mess of blonde curls and his eyes were a dull grey color. His featured were soft, his nose a bit too round and large for his face and his chin ended in a rounded point. Nothing similar to the woman down the hall. Her features were sharp, her eyes a bright blue. Al had said Emil was devoid of siblings, but perhaps a cousin?
A knock at the door startled Sam and he looked away from his reflection sheepishly, as if he had been caught doing something wrong.
"Breakfast is on the table. And your lunch is ready to go. You have twenty minutes, Emil." Sam opened his mouth to give a reply but couldn't think of anything so he closed it once again. He quickly bathed and shaved. After he pulled on his uniform, he figured he still had a few moments to spare. When he exited the bathroom, the apartment was once again empty. Breakfast consisted of a scrambled egg and toast. His stomach rolled at the thought of eating so he set the plate into the sink. He would take care of it when he got home. He grabbed the lunch bag just in case he felt hungry and stepped out of the apartment, nearly running face first into Al. He forgot momentarily Al was a hologram and jumped back before he made contact.
"Al!" he cried out, annoyed and elated at the same time.
Al studied the man in front of him, taking a critical eye to each detail of the outfit in which he wore. "Your gig line, Sam."
"Gig line." Al repeated, as if Sam just hadn't heard the phrase instead of not understanding it. "Your buckle." He motioned with a cigar clenched hand. "It needs to be in line with your buttons, Sam." Sam glanced down and back up at Al.
"No, it's not. Your shirt, buckle and fly should all align to make a straight line down the center of your body. The middle of your buckle right there," another wave of the cigar, "needs to line right up with the buttons, Sam. And then those need to line up with your fly. And you better check because I know for a fact your bosses will be."
Sam pulled his jacket of the dull brown uniform down so that it rested tighter against his body and made the adjustments. It wasn't until Al was satisfied did the hologram step aside and allow him to move from his spot by the door. It never once occurred to Sam he could have walked through Al at any time.
"Has Ziggy figured out why I'm here?" Sam asked, the time forgotten as he paused at the top of the hallway stairs to talk to Al.
"It took a lot of work; I don't think Gushie got a wink of sleep last night. When I left him, he was still going over hundreds of records by hand."
"By hand? What about Ziggy?"
"Oh, don't get me started. She was insulted when she thought I was blaming her for that last Leap, which I guess I sort of was…"
"Last Leap?" Al paused and thought about filling in the blanks in Sam's mind with a play by play of the two little boys versus the speeding train before deciding better of it. The knowledge of previous Leaps was best lost to Time or whatever.
"Never mind. Anyway, Ziggy decided to stop helping right after I left you last. She's refusing to talk to anyone but Beeks and then only in Sumerian. Beeks has no idea what the hell she's saying but when she ignores that hunk of metal you decided you give a brain, Ziggy shuts down completely. So now Gushie's going over records by hand. Earlier today, we had to go to the library to do a search. You believe that?" Sam thought maybe he could but he was too busy trying to remember who Gushie was and what his purpose at Project Quantum Leap actually was. He remembered his face clear enough, and the fact he suffered from Halitosis, which his girlfriend, Tina, didn't seem to mind.
"So, this is what we've figured out so far." Al glanced down at the handlink for answers, forgetting temporarily about the Ziggy temper tantrum he had just described. The hologram heaved a sigh and tucked the handlink into the pocket of his pants. "There's record of an Emil Trommler dying August 21st, 1962, which is three days from now."
"What?" Sam was suddenly alarmed. The idea of sitting in Emil's bathroom for the rest of the Leap was beginning to look better and better. "How?"
"An escape attempt. During your, I mean Emil's, shift, he attempts to escape to West Berlin with an Elke Schreiber. They never make it. They're both shot down by border guards."
"Who's Elke Schreiber?"
"Your guess is as good as mine?"
"Wait, there was a woman in my apartment this morning, Al."
"A woman?" Eyebrows raised.
"And I think Schreiber is the name of the man who helped me out yesterday."
"So maybe you're dating the guy's sister." As his voice trailed off, Al's eyes suddenly widened. "Sam! Schreiber. Erich Schreiber! In '97, two men were brought up on charges for the death of Peter Fetcher, the kid who was killed yesterday. One of them was an Erich Schreiber. There were three gunman who were brought up, but one of them had already died. You think that's the same Schreiber?" Al spoke excitedly, thrilled at the information he had retained from the quick scans he had done yesterday. It felt much more satisfying recalling information from things you've actually read as opposed to remembering through a web search.
"There has to be many Erich Schreiber's in East Germany who happen to be border guards." Sam said quietly. He remembered the smell of gunpowder. The smell had attacked his nostrils moments after his Leap. He was sure the smell had come from his rifle. But maybe it had come from the man next to him. The man in which he found solace, even if it was a familiar face in a sea of strangers. The man who had steered him home after warning him against the dangers of acting out of sorts. The man Sam had figured was a close friend of Emil's.
"Did you find any information about Elke and Emil's death other than they were shot trying to escape?" Sam asked, finding it difficult to find his voice.
"Like who did it? Who shot them? Why it failed? Why they were trying to escape in the first place?"
"Sam, I can tell you why they were trying to escape. All they wanted from freedom from the Communist oppressed East. Many people died for that want."
"Emill!" The hushed, yet stern tone caused both Al and Sam to startle. Sam glanced down the U shaped stairway where Schreiber was staring up at him, anger in his dark eyes. "Let's go, we're going to miss the bus."
"Uh, Sam, I'll talk to you later. I'll talk to Emil and find out more about the elusive Elke and angry boy down there." Sam heard the door to the Imaging Chamber whoosh shut as he trotted down the stairs, taking two at a time.
"Sorry." He offered humbly when he joined Schreiber at the bottom of the stair case. He received only a harsh glare in return before the large German stalked out the door the complex, Sam hustling close behind.