CHAPTER 11

Bud came home from work Friday evening to find Sam sitting on the couch watching the news on TV. "Hey, Joe. What're you doing home so early?"

Sam smiled and hooked a thumb in the general direction of the television set. "I was just catching up on the latest developments. Good news! The FBI has arrested a man for the bombing."

"Really?" Bud asked, astonished. "They just released those drawings this morning, and they've already found him? That's great!"

Sam chuckled, glad for once that he could safely use a little of his future knowledge. Though he'd only just heard the headline when Bud had walked in, thanks to Al he knew the details. "He's been in jail since shortly after the explosion; seems it blew the tag off his car and the Highway Patrol thought it might be stolen so they arrested him. I'll bet the FBI was sure surprised to find him already in custody."

"They get the other fellow, too?" Bud asked.

"No, um, not yet," Sam said carefully.

"So how come you're here already? You high-powered lawyer-types take Friday afternoons off?"

"I had some things to take care of," Sam said.

"How'd you get here? Guess you haven't got your car yet, I didn't see one in the drive," Bud said.

"Oh, a friend brought me," Sam told him. "I just got here a little while ago."

Bud walked over to the recliner and plopped down with a sigh, pushing back so the foot rest came up. "Good to be home," he said. "Let me just rest a few minutes, then I'll start calling again about Sarah."

"Why don't you wait awhile before you do that," Sam suggested. "You can always make those calls later, if you need to."

Bud looked at him quizzically; he leaned forward to pick up the remote control, aimed it at the TV and hit the "off" button. The room was suddenly quiet without the reporters' voices in the background. The silence stretched for a couple of minutes. Sam was just beginning to wonder if there was a problem when Bud spoke.

"Where did you say you were from, Joe?" Bud asked sharply.

There was definitely a problem. "I've, uh, kinda Leaped around from place to place," Sam responded.

"But where were you born?" Bud insisted.

Sam was getting nervous. If his plan worked he'd Leap out of here soon and hopefully the real Joe would get back to his own life without Bud being any the wiser. The truth would have to suffice. "Indiana," he said. "I was born in Indiana."

"How old are you?" Bud continued the third degree.

"I'm 41," he said, thinking he would have been that age in April of 1995.

"Which made you eleven in 1965 when the Watts riot happened. How does an eleven-year-old white kid from Indiana get caught up in that?" Bud asked with an edge to his voice.

Sam heard the Imaging Chamber door open and saw Al step out. Good! Now maybe he'd be able to give Bud some answers that made sense.

"Twelve, actually," Sam replied. "I turned twelve just before the Watts riot happened. It's kind of a long story, but I can tell you that those people needed help, and badly enough that most of them didn't care about the color of my skin."

"Watts!" Al cried. "What're you doing telling him about the time you were in Watts?"

"It wasn't exactly my idea," Sam said quietly, meaning it for Al's ears.

"I bet it wasn't!" Bud said. "That must've been plenty scary for a kid. You probably wanted to get out of there as fast as you could and never go back after what you must've seen."

"Oh, good," Al said. "He thinks it was Joe in L.A. in '65, that's better."

"Oh, well, yeah," Sam blathered. "I got out of there as soon as I could. I've been back a couple of times, it's changed a lot since then."

"Did you go back to help someone else?" Bud asked.

"Of course he did, that's what he does," Al said, using his cigar to make a visual point.

"There's always someone who could use help of one kind or another," Sam said a bit airily.

"Sounds to me like you run into more than your share," Bud remarked. Then in an apparent complete change of subject, "How did you say you were related to the Becketts?"

"Sam, what's going on here? Why's he asking you all these questions?" Al asked with evident concern.

"I'm not sure," Sam told Al.

"You're not sure, but you remember their old family recipe for griddle-cakes." Bud was not asking a question.

"Well, you know how it is." Sam spread his hands in a gesture of confusion. "I remembered the recipe because they were good. I, uh…"

"Tell him it was your Great Aunt Matilda's recipe," Al suggested. "Everyone's got a great aunt they didn't know very well."

"Yeah, you know, I just remembered, now that you asked," Sam began. "It was my Aunt Matilda, my, um, my grandmother's sister. She married a Beckett."

Bud cocked his head to the side and raised an eyebrow. "You ever been to Pine County here in Oklahoma?"

"Al…have to think about that," Sam said.

"Yeah you have, Sam," Al told him. "I guess you don't remember. Hell, I wish I didn't remember that Leap! That was the time that Leon Stiles escaped from PQL, and shot me when I tried to get him back."

Sam turned his head slightly towards Al and raised both eyebrows in a silent question. "When," he mouthed.

"When? Let me think," Al said, taking a puff from his cigar to aid his memory. "Oh, I remember now! That was 1958."

"You know, I think I was there when I was a little boy," Sam said with relief. "My folks moved around a lot," he added.

"You know anyone called Gooshie?" Bud asked.

"Gooshie!" Sam and Al said together.

"Sam, how does Bud know all this stuff?" Al asked. He gave Sam an accusatory look. "You didn't tell him who you are did you?"

"No," Sam said hastily.

"Because you can't do that," Al continued. "You know the rules. You have to pretend to be Joe Smithfield."

"Then how about an Al?" Bud queried.

"Oh, yeah, I've got a good friend named Al," Sam answered easily. "What's with all the questions?"

"There was something about you that seemed funny, right from the start," Bud said. "You knew exactly what to do to help all those people, yet at other times you seemed so lost. Like you weren't exactly sure what you were doing here."

Al whipped out the handlink and began furiously pushing its buttons.

"Yeah, well, I've had some medical training, see. So I knew how to take care of the injuries," Sam said. "But it was just…so overwhelming, and I was so tired, so yeah, I guess I was feeling a little lost."

"You're a doctor, aren't you." Again, Bud made it a statement of fact.

"Why would you think that?" Sam asked, trying for innocence.

Bud leaned back in his chair, but kept eye contact with Sam. "When we were first married, my wife told me the craziest story. She swore it was true, but I assumed it was something she'd made up, or maybe dreamed. Now I'm not so sure."

"Sam!" Al said. "His ex-wife is Becky Pruitt!"

"Becky Pruitt?" Sam echoed, clearly not remembering the name. "You, uh, you told me her name the other day," he finished.

"Yeah, Becky," Bud said. "When she was a little girl some crazy killer broke in and held her and her mother hostage. He tied 'em up and threatened to kill 'em."

"How horrible," Sam said. The name meant nothing to him. "Obviously he didn't kill them; Becky grew up and married you."

"You know he didn't," Bud told him. "Becky said suddenly the man changed, untied them and treated them nicely. He seemed particularly concerned about her, seemed to think she might die if he didn't change things. He insisted he wasn't this killer, but was a time-traveler from the future named Sam Beckett."

"Sam, Becky must've told him!" Al exclaimed. "This's never happened before." He looked at Sam in confusion. "Don't admit it's true!" he coached. He looked up at something Sam couldn't see. "Gooshie! What happens if someone recognizes Sam?" he yelled.

Sam managed an uncomfortable laugh; it wasn't difficult. "OK, but what's that got to do with me?"

"This Mr. Beckett Leaped around helping people," Bud said. "He said in this case his mission was to stop the sheriff from killing this Stiles in revenge for the death of his daughter, and to save her and her mother. She said he'd talk to people who weren't there, and called them Gooshie and Al. He was a doctor, and he knew things about the future that came true. He saved their lives."

"Oh, boy! That's quite a story, Bud," Sam said uneasily. The explanation had begun to bring back the memory of that Leap. "But it sounds like something a little girl would make up. An easy way to explain how she got out of a bad situation."

"I asked her mother about it once," Bud said. "Carol said it was all true. But she wouldn't talk about it much; she said a man like that can't go around telling everybody the truth because he'd spend so much time proving it that he couldn't do what he was there for."

"Somethin' like that," Sam muttered. Aloud he asked, "You don't think I'm this Sam Beckett, do you?" He managed a semi-convincing laugh.

"It would sure explain things," Bud told him. "Your, ah, medical knowledge, the places you've been, the way you seem to know what's going to happen sometimes."

"Ah, that's just a lucky guess!" Sam said. "Everybody gets it right sometimes."

"I've seen you talk to your friends from the future," Bud continued. "I've seen you wave your arms around and talk to someone who's not there. I heard you talking to Al last night at Sarah's house, you called him by name. Maybe he's even here right now, or the other one, Gooshie."

"Sam, this is getting weird," Al intoned. "He's figured out who you really are!"

"I know…that I talk to myself a lot," Sam explained. "It's a bad habit I have. But that doesn't mean I'm really talking to someone else! There's no one else here, just the two of us."

"It also explains why you don't talk about yourself," Bud said. "Because you're not "Joe" and you don't know very much about him."

"I'm a private kind of guy, that's all," Sam said with false bravado. "Nobody travels through time! Something happened to Becky a long time ago, something she didn't understand; she made up this story to explain it and her mother went along with it because she didn't want her little girl to think about all the evil in the world."

"Oh, that's good, Sam," Al verbally applauded. "You know, it is pretty amazing that you'd run into somebody connected – even a little bit – to a past Leap."

"The crazy thing is, the facts fit so well with her story," Bud said.

"Look, Bud," Sam said seriously. "My name's Joe Smithfield. I'm a lawyer at Dancey, Parsons, Stanton, and Waters. I'm here because that bomb destroyed my apartment, and you've given me a place to stay out of the kindness of your heart. You're the one who's helping me!"

Sam couldn't help darting a look at Al though he wasn't sure if he was asking for help, or reassurance that this was going to turn out all right.

Al shrugged. "Don't look at me. We're both still here, so I guess you haven't changed history enough to do any major damage. I hope."

Bud cracked a big smile. "It's OK, Joe. I get it. You can't admit it's really you. I'm not real sure why because you don't have to prove it to me, I'm already convinced. I'm sure you have your reasons, so I'll go along with it."

Sam and Al both relaxed. Sam grinned and shook his head at Bud, as if to say "whatever". At that moment the doorbell rang, startling all three men. Bud looked at the front door in surprise.

"I don't need to be from the future to know who's at the door," Sam said in a shrewd voice. "Why don't you go let Sarah in."

Bud didn't seem to know whether to laugh or cry at seeing Sarah safe and sound. For her part, Sarah didn't quite know how to act either. Finally they hugged awkwardly, and then retreated to the conversation area.

"So that's why you told me not to make those calls earlier," Bud told Sam. "You found her for me! Why didn't you just tell me? Not that it wasn't a wonderful surprise." He beamed at Sarah who sat on the couch next to Sam.

"I guess you didn't have a chance to tell him yet, huh Sam?" Al asked.

"I thought Sarah should speak for herself," Sam replied.

Sarah dipped her head nervously, then made firm eye contact with Bud. "I need to tell you something, Bud."

Sam scooted to the edge of the couch in preparation for standing up. "I'll just go make some coffee."

Sarah reached out to take his hand saying, "Don't go, Joe. Please stay here and help me tell the truth."

Sam nodded his acceptance and settled back on the couch. Perhaps it would be better if they weren't alone for this discussion.

"The truth is," Bud said, "that I missed you and I was afraid you'd been in that building when the bomb went off. And that I'm glad you're back, and that you're OK."

"Why did you miss me?" Sarah asked. In another setting the words might have seemed coquettish, but she was not smiling.

Now it was Bud's turn to be a bit uncomfortable. "Well, gosh, because I like you, Sarah. I thought you'd figured that out. Remember, we talked about how we seemed to feel connected right from the start."

"We are," Sarah said. "But not the way we thought."

"What do you mean?" asked Bud.

Sarah looked at Sam, who nodded encouragement for her to continue.

"I don't know how to say this, except to just say it. You're my brother, Bud," she said.

"Your brother!" Bud exclaimed. "But I'm an only child, and so are you."

"You're her half-brother," Sam put in.

"But your parents are both dead," Bud said with a confused look.

"I lied about my mother, Bud," she explained. "I'm sorry, I truly am. I didn't want anything more to do with her and it was just easier to tell people she'd died than to try to explain. And my mother lied about my father being dead."

"John wasn't really her father," Sam said. "You're both the children of Jess Luckinbill."

"Dad?" Bud exclaimed.

Sarah gave a detailed account of the circumstances of Jess' departure from Cottondale. "So you see, Mama couldn't admit to herself that her husband had left her so she always talked about him like he'd died. But he hadn't – he'd moved here and re-married and had another child."

"Think about it," she continued. "Your father was older when you were born. You told me yourself that he never talked about his past much. Didn't you ever wonder why? Didn't you ever wonder if he'd had a whole other family before he married your mother?"

Bud looked pensive as he mulled the questions over. After a moment he said, "You know, Mom did say something once that made me wonder. She'd found a picture of some children, looked to be in their teens. It'd been tucked away at the back of a drawer in Dad's workshop. She thought maybe it'd been there when they'd bought the house, except he was always getting tools outta that drawer. She said she didn't care, he treated us both real good and that's all that mattered."

"You don't still have it, do you?" Sarah asked excitedly.

"Not unless it's in one of those boxes of Dad's stuff," he replied. "We can look in a little while. They would've been your older brother and sisters – and mine, too." Now Bud sounded a little excited himself. "Wow! I've got siblings!"

"You've found a whole new family," Sam said.

Bud seemed to have thought of something else. "You did tell me about that old biddy who hinted that John wasn't your father. I guess she was right after all, but I wonder why she didn't just say so."

"Cottondale's a small town," she said. "Everybody knows everybody else's business – but you don't meddle with it. She probably thought I knew and wouldn't admit it, just like Mama."

"So how'd you figure it out?" Bud asked.

Sarah told them how she'd discovered the yearbook with the picture of Jess and Molly. The more she'd thought about it, the more she was afraid she knew what must've happened. And the more she didn't know what to do about it. She'd felt the attraction to Bud, but suddenly felt ashamed. She'd already lied to him about her mother's death and didn't know how to face him with this new possibility.

"So you see," she ended her explanation, "I felt like I just had to get away. I heard about the bomb on the radio, and drove by a few streets away to see. I wasn't thinking straight, I was so upset by all this. It occurred to me that people knew I was going to the credit union that morning and, oh! There was so much damage, so many people hurt. I guess I thought if I just disappeared they'd think I'd been killed in the explosion."

"Were you really going to run away without talking to me?" Bud asked with a hurt look on his face.

"It was a spur of the moment plan," Sam said. "She was distraught and suddenly this seemed like the answer."

Sarah ducked her head in discomfort. "I know it doesn't make much sense now, but it seemed like the thing to do at the time. I knew I had to go talk to Mama, but I really didn't think about what I'd do after that."

Now it was Sam's turn to explain how he'd found her car at the bus station and put it all together. He laughed at his idea that she'd planned for the car to be stolen; she'd told him that she was in such a hurry that she'd just plain forgotten to take the keys. Bud was astonished that Molly had refused to confess after all this time.

"I can see now why you wanted nothing to do with her," Bud said. "You must've been madder than a hornet when she wouldn't tell you anything, especially after you'd found those papers and figured out the truth. I can see why you high-tailed it outta there, but where were you going?"

"Anywhere!" Sarah replied. "I'd have calmed down after a couple days and come back. I mean, I couldn't just walk away from the job or give up the house – and I knew I'd have to tell you the truth eventually. I just needed time to think things through."

Sam and Al traded meaningful glances. "You didn't tell her what would've happened if she'd gotten to the highway and hitched a ride with a stranger, did you, Sam?"

"I saved her from that," Sam said to Al. Then to Bud, "I, uh, got her to see that she needed to face you sooner rather than later. Besides, I didn't think it was a good idea for her to be hitch-hiking; you never know what kind of nut-cases are out there."

Bud gave Sam a sharp look, but said nothing.

"And I'm glad he did!" Sarah said. "I was really afraid you'd be mad, Bud."

"Mad? No," he said. "Surprised, yes. Astounded is more like it. It's a little much to wrap my mind around, but I'll get used to it. It all makes sense, now. I have a sister! And I'm real happy to know you're safe."

"Could we maybe go look for that picture now?" Sarah asked. "So much has changed, I think I'd like to see if we can find the rest of the family."

"Sure, Sis," Bud said with a twinkle in his eye.

They stood up and headed for the spare bedroom, but Sam stayed put for the moment. "Do they find their siblings?" he asked Al.

Al had been busy calling up the information on the handlink, knowing Sam would want to hear how things worked out. "Yes, they do. It takes 'em awhile, they're scattered across the country, but they all meet for a happy reunion and they keep in close touch. Bud and Sarah each get married again, too."

Sam nodded. "That's great. What happens to Molly?"

"Molly apparently saw the consequences of her actions, she and Sarah forgive each other. They sell the old place in Cottondale and she spends the rest of her life with her daughter. Unfortunately she doesn't live too long, but she's finally happy."

"Does she get to see the rest of her children again?" Sam asked.

"Oh, yeah, she does. She helps Sarah and Bud look for them. In fact, the family reunion is held on Molly's 80th birthday. They got her a fancy cake with candles and everything, it was quite a bash for the old lady."

Bud came running back into the living room yelling, "Hey, Joe! Look here – we found the picture!"

Sarah followed him in. "It's got their names on the back, too. Well, first names, but it's a start."

Sam began to feel a familiar tingle run through his body. "I think it's time for me to go," he told them.

"You don't need to leave us alone," Sarah said. "You're an unofficial member of this new family."

"Oh no you don't!" Bud said with a wink at Sam. He turned to Sarah and said, "Joe's gonna need our help for awhile after his big adventure."

Al waved bye-bye to Sam.

As the blue aura began to spread over his body Sam said, "Say hello to Becky for me." And then he Leaped.

11