Author's note: I'd like to thank Lorraine Anderson for writing this final chapter. As usual, all mistakes are entirely mine.
Chapter 7, part two Thursday, October 27, 2005
after 3:30 pm
"So," Mark said as Sam got into the car. "How was school? Pass your history test?"
"Yeah," Sam said. "I think so. Thanks for the help." He kept thinking about Mindy. She had disappeared after the session with the counselor. After the revelation about Mindy grabbing the wheel, the counselor had talked about contacting Mindy's guardian. When Mindy had vehemently argued against that, the counselor had talked about therapy.
That was when Mindy had rushed out of the office, slamming the door. Even though Sam had hurried after her, she had disappeared.
"Yeah," Mark said. "Something's wrong. Can you talk to me about it?"
It occurred to Sam that Mark hadn't indicated whether he knew what Project Quantum Leap was - so he had better be careful how he talked.
"My ex-girlfriend," he said shortly. "The one that caused me to be in that accident…"
Mark glanced at him. "You mean, Mikey's ex-girlfriend, correct?"
Sam raised his eyebrows. "You know?"
"I have the proper clearance, and I've reported to Senator McBride. She knew I was discrete and I have the proper security level, and she briefed me." He looked wistful. "I knew Al was into something interesting, I just didn't know what, Dr. Beckett."
"Need to know, I suppose," Sam sighed. "Call me Sam."
"Sam. That's why I'm guarding you, and not a subordinate."
"Who guards the guardian?" There was a hint of a smile on Sam's face.
"There's a few of my people around here discretely." Mark returned the smile.
"So, you passed Mikey's test, and his ex-girlfriend caused the accident. Anything else?"
"School lunches are as putrid as I remember." He looked out the window. "Any news about Sally?"
"The sister?" He turned a corner and beeped at somebody who had pulled out in front of him. "I haven't heard anything."
"I'm worried about her. If the kidnappers can't get to me, do you suppose they would take her?"
"Probably," Mark looked grim. "Very probable."
They drove on in silence until they reached Mikey's house
Sam closed the car door and heaved a heavy sigh.
"That bad, eh?" Mark grinned at him impishly. Sam shot him an exasperated look and Mark quickly apologized, "I'm sorry, Sam, it must be really hard having a girl who won't leave you alone."
"Among other things." Sam added grimly and stared at the driveway looking for Dr. O'Malley's car. It was there. He couldn't make up his mind if that made things better or worse.
"Are you going in?" Mark asked, "or do you plan to wait here for an invitation?"
Sam walked with Mark up to the porch step. With another sigh, he opened the front door and looked around. Aunt Elizabeth was sitting in the living room, back straight in her usual rocking chair Marta curled at her feet. With an anxious look, she pointed to the kitchen. Sam nodded, and walked quickly to the kitchen, Mark following him.
Dr. O'Malley was sitting at the kitchen table, looking through the back window. He got up as Sam walked in. Sam stopped, looking at O'Malley. Something was wrong…
"Long day, eh?" Dr. O'Malley asked, almost companionably.
"Yes sir." Sam thought of their last conversation and wondered if Mikey's dad had forgiven him yet. Somehow he suspected not. Dr. O'Malley didn't strike him as the sort of man who could forgive easily.
"Can you wait outside, please?" Dr. O'Malley was speaking to Mark, "I want to talk to my 'son' in private." He put his arm around Sam and gently pushed him through the kitchen door. "We'll be only a minute." He quickly added before shutting the door in Mark's face.
"What's this about?" Sam asked setting his backpack on the kitchen table and taking off his jacket.
"We can't find Mindy." Dr. O'Malley said without preamble. "You said that you traveled through time to fix things." He looked down at Sam angrily. "Well, fix this and give me both my daughter and my son back!"
For the first time Sam noticed that Dr. O'Malley's hands were shaking. "I am very sorry to hear that your daughter is missing," he began gently, "and I will do everything that I can to help you find her, but this is not a normal Leap. Ziggy, our computer, doesn't have access to a lot of the information she normally has."
"Why not?" Dr. O'Malley bellowed. "Why can't you just look into your 'crystal ball' - or what-ever it is - and find my daughter?" He looked very close to a breakdown.
Elizabeth rushed into the kitchen, Mark hot on her heals, "For goodness sakes, Jack, it's not Mikey's fault that Sally has taken off – and don't give me grief that I'm saying that it's your fault. That's utter nonsense. Sally is old enough to be held responsible for her own decisions." The older woman fussed with her brother's shirt collar as she spoke, smoothing out the wrinkles and folding it down properly. "You look terrible dear; you didn't get any rest last night did you? You really shouldn't let disagreements between you and Mikey upset you so…"
"It wasn't Mikey." Dr. O'Malley's words were clipped, his voice still tight with anger.
"Then who were you arguing with last night? Was it Bernadette?" Elizabeth's hands finally came to a rest on her brother's shoulders, preventing him from turning away and evading the question.
"Not Mikey." Dr. O'Malley compromised and refused to say anything more.
"Well then," she looked her brother up and down before finally removing her hands and turned to look first at Sam, then back to Dr. O'Malley, "why are you so cross with him now?"
"Because he could help." Dr. O'Malley thrust an accusatory finger at Sam.
"Jack!" Elizabeth said. "You're not making any sense! If you're not arguing with Mikey, then why can you say he can help?"
"Because," Sam said quietly. "I'm not Mikey, and he knows that. I'm a time traveler from a top-secret project who happens to look like Mikey right now. Mark will verify that." Elizabeth looked confused. Mark nodded. He turned back to Dr. O'Malley. "I said I would, I just can't help you the way you want me to. I'm not a magician, nor a miracle worker. There is a limit to what I can do," Sam insisted as reasonably as he could.
"I think you could do more." Dr. O'Malley took a half step closer until Elizabeth pushed him back.
"I haven't heard from – Al – all day. I'm not psychic."
"And I haven't heard anything," Mark added quickly. "I would hear if anything had happened."
"I'm very close to home, aren't I?" Sam said quietly.
Mark nodded. "One hour in the Project's past."
Sam opened his mouth, then shut it. "I see."
Elizabeth looked at her brother, then pulled out a chair and pressured him to sit. Quietly, she took another chair.
Dr. O'Malley deflated in the chair, folding his arms and collapsing into them. "The police said not enough time had passed for them to get involved. They believe that she just spent the night with a different friend and decided to play hooky from school"
"Well maybe they're right." Elizabeth soothed, reaching out to put her arm around his shoulders.
"No, Elizabeth, she didn't choose to spend the night with a different friend and she didn't choose to play hooky from school. She was kidnapped, because the people who tried to kidnap 'Mikey' couldn't reach him and decided on the next best thing." Dr. O'Malley brought his head back up, shrugging off his sister's arm and glared at Sam.
Clearly Mikey's dad felt this whole thing was his fault, Sam sighed and pulled out a chair to sit, turning his back to Mikey's aunt while doing so.
"What's this?" she asked pulling an envelope out of Sam's back pocket and opening it.
"It's addressed to Sam…" Sam turned to look at her, and she paled. "Your name is Sam." Now her hands shook as she gestured with the letter.
"I had forgotten about it. I found it in my locker this morning."
"What does it say?" Dr. O'Malley stood up, suddenly too tense to sit still.
"They have Sally and are threatening to hurt her if this Sam doesn't turn himself over to them. They say they have Mikey too... but this is ridiculous!"
"No," Sam said, looking at Mark. "It's not. Somebody got into the Project and took Mikey." He turned to Elizabeth and Dr. O'Malley. "While I'm here, Mikey is – was - back at my origin spot, in New Mexico." Dr. O'Malley looked alarmed. "Generally, our Visitors are very well taken care of. This has to be an inside job." He looked at his bodyguard. "Mark, can you call Senator McBride and notify her as to what happened?"
Mark nodded. "I recommend we inform the FBI as well. This kidnapping took place over state lines, and they are already involved in the original investigation."
Dr. O'Malley took the letter from Elizabeth's trembling fingers. While he was obviously still shaken, he seemed to steady as he read the letter. "They want you to go to the Soldiers Home Cemetery off of Rock Creek Church Road, Northwest. Stop in front of the Old Soldiers home building." He looked up. "They want you there after 9:00. It'll be dark then. Come alone."
Sam closed his eyes. "They want to do a prisoner exchange." He pursed his lips. "But that makes no sense. They would have enough sense to know that we would call the authorities. Unless…" He turned to Mark. "Belay that call to Senator McBride. They must have somebody inside at the FBI." He smiled grimly. "Do you have any really good friends in the military?"
Mark smiled. "I do. I also know a couple of retired FBI agents that may be able to help."
Sam smiled back. "Get them. If they're not active, they won't be in the command chain, correct?"
"I would think not," Mark agreed.
"We also need Al here, I think. Tell him we can put Gooshie in the Imaging Chamber, if we need to." Sam blinked and staggered.
"What's wrong?" Mark looked alarmed. Elizabeth started to get up to steady him.
Sam closed his eyes. "I… remember."
Dr. O'Malley raised his eyebrows.
"Part of what went wrong with… the Project… was that I Leapt and I couldn't remember things. Important facts, I had to rely on Al to feed me information and I couldn't remember even basic facts about my own life." He opened his eyes. "Tell Al to tell Donna that I love her. Tell her that I was Charlie. And tell her to think about our star. She'll know what I'm talking about."
"Who is Donna?" Elizabeth asked gently.
Tears started down Sam's face. "She's my wife."
October 27, 1:15 New Mexico Time
"Donna! Verbena!" Al caught up with them just as they were entering Donna's on-base quarters. He stopped in front of them, panting. His face pale.
"Al, what's wrong?" Donna felt faint. "Is Sam…?"
"Sam's fine. Mark just called." He stared at Donna and started smiling. "He remembers."
Donna put her hand to her mouth. "Oh, my God," she said silently.
Al relayed the message that Mark had given him. "And," he concluded. "Mark told him that his time was only an hour behind us. But there's a problem." He told them the situation. "Sam wants me there. He wants Gooshie ready to go into the Imaging Chamber, and he wants you at the controls."
With an effort, Donna dried the tears on her face. "I'll be there." She smiled. He was Charlie. I knew there was something familiar about the boy." Her smile faded. "Does that mean that I'm going to stay in this… timeline?"
Al, about ready to race down the hall, stopped and looked at her. Gently, he took her in his arms. "I don't know, but it looks to me that this change is going to stay."
She smiled down at him. "And if I don't." Her smile faded again, and her tired expression turned resolute. "And, if I don't, my last thought is that I will have helped him come one step closer home." She looked seriously at Al and Verbena. "Don't tell him about me. Swear."
"We won't," Al said, glancing at Verbena. She nodded.
"Go," Donna said. "Be with Sam."
Al smiled, pulling out his cell phone. "Tom? Warm up the jet." He started running. "Yes, again!"
"It will take a couple of hours for Al to reach Sam," Verbena said. She gestured to the bedroom. "You should…"
"I should," Donna said, turning to go back the way they came, "but I'm not. I couldn't sleep now." She started walking down the hall, but she felt like singing.
7:00 P.M. Washington Time.
For the thousandth time, Dr. O'Malley got up and wandered around the room. The doorbell rang, and he started to run to the door. Mark got in his way. "Let me," he said, pulling his gun out of its holster and waving the doctor back.
He looked through the window. "It's a woman." He looked at a picture on the wall of the family. "It's your wife." He opened the door. "Your husband is in the living room."
"And who are you?" Mrs. O'Malley said. "And what's going on here?" She turned to the living room. "Sally still hasn't come home. I was hoping…"
Dr. O'Malley bit his lip and walked to his ex-wife, arms out as if to embrace her. "She's not here."
"Then where…" She looked at him closely. "You know something."
He looked hopelessly at Mark, at Sam, and at Elizabeth. Sam looked at Elizabeth, realizing that he didn't know her last name. "Um… could you tell her?"
"Everything?" she asked.
Sam sighed. "Yes."
Before they could move to the kitchen, the doorbell rang again. Mark held his gun up again and peered out the door. Smiling grimly, he opened it.
"Al," Sam breathed. He looked haggard, but his dress whites were still crisp. "Al," he said louder.
Mrs. O'Malley looked puzzled. "Mikey? Jack mentioned that an Al had come to see Mikey."
Dr. O'Malley looked non-plussed as Sam looked at him. "I'm sorry. That was before."
Elizabeth tried to lead her into the kitchen.
"Before…?" Mrs. O'Malley was insistent.
Dr. O'Malley closed his eyes. "Bernadette, that's not Mikey. He just looks like Mikey right now. Both Sally and Mikey have been kidnapped."
Mrs. O'Malley sat down in the nearest chair. "Wh.." She swallowed and tried to speak. "Why? Jack, who are these men?"
With an apologetic look at Sam, Al stepped in. "Mrs. O'Malley, I'm Admiral Albert Calavicci. I'm connected with a top-secret project in New Mexico called Project Quantum Leap. The man you think is Mikey is actually our Project leader, Dr. Samuel Beckett. We believe that – opposing forces – have kidnapped Mikey and Sally to force us to turn Dr. Beckett over to them."
She looked at Dr. O'Malley. "Jack…?" she said, in a small voice.
"Did you know this morning?"
"I knew about Sam, yes. I didn't know about the kidnappings until a couple of hours ago. I just thought Sally was staying with a friend." He looked down. "I didn't want to alarm you, and…" he looked at Mark and Sam…. "I wasn't sure I could tell you anything."
"Did you ask?"
"He couldn't have said anything even if he did ask," Mark said.
"But – I'm their mother!"
"Yes," Al said. "I'm sorry."
"What we are doing now," Sam changed the subject, "is waiting. A note was slipped to me to meet the kidnappers at 9:00 tonight. Because we believe that the kidnappers have ties to the FBI, we cannot contact the authorities directly, but we do have some investigators and we…" he looked at Al. "We have an inside source. Has Ziggy said anything?"
Al pulled out his handlink. "She…" he pounded the handlink. "She just hacked into the FBI computers and the security system. So no. The odds are remaining steady for your… tasks."
"I see," Sam said, realizing that this was one time Al couldn't say anything directly.
The phone rang.
Mark motioned Elizabeth to answer the phone.
"Hello?" she said shakily. "Mindy? What are you… this really isn't…" Her face paled. "You're what?" She looked at Sam. "I'll get Mikey on the phone." She handed off the phone to Mikey trembling.
"Mindy?" Sam said. "What…"
"I can't do this anymore! I just wanted… to say goodbye."
"Don't try to stop me…"
"Mindy," Sam said. "Where are you?"
"I'm not going to tell you. You'll stop me," her voice was slurring. "It was a cat! I didn't want Jake to hit the cat. Now everybody hates me!"
"Mindy," Sam said. "I don't hate you."
"You'll be better without me." The phone was slammed down.
"Gooshie! Recenter…" He stopped, looking frustrated.
"Al." In spite of everything Sam nearly smiled. "Remember, you're here."
"Right," Al said. He pulled out his cell phone. "Gooshie! Get in the Imaging Chamber now! I need Ziggy to center you on Mindy." He turned to the rest of the room. "We'll find her."
"I'll call Jim," Dr. O'Malley said. "Maybe he can go…"
Sam walked across the living room to face him. "Dr. O'Malley. I believe that I am here to save your son and daughter – but I can't ignore Mindy. Part of Mindy's problem involves Mikey – so 'Mikey' needs to be there to help her." He sighed. "I've been on many, many Leaps –" He noticed the confused looks. "That's what we call these time journeys – many Leaps that seem to reference a random, unimportant event. I've rescued cats out of trees, stopped shopping carts from running into cars, even scared a butterfly out of a tree before a bird could get it. I don't know why God or Time or something else sends me to do these things." His voice was firm. "But I can't pick one person over another. Mindy needs me. I think we can time this that we can save both of them."
Mrs. O'Malley looked stricken at her husband. "Jack?"
"Bernadette," he said, getting up. "Bernadette. He's right." He folded her into his arms.
She buried her face into his shoulder. "I know. I don't understand, but I know."
Al looked up from his phone. "Gooshie has a lock on Mindy. It's around Catholic University Stadium."
Dr. O'Malley looked up. "That's not far. And it's close to Soldier's home."
Mark grabbed his keys. "I'll drive."
"I'll follow." Dr. O'Malley insisted.
Sam went up to them. "I would recommend that you don't. You might rattle Mindy. I'm going to have to find her alone."
"I'm still driving," Mark said.
"Al. Stay here with the O'Malley's." He looked around. Off to the side, he saw Gooshie flicker into focus." Gooshie's here."
"I'll be all right. Get Fr. Jim over there."
Elizabeth's eyes were full. "We'll make sure of that." The parents nodded, still hugging each other."
Mark and Sam rushed out of the house.
"Dr. Elesee," Ziggy said. "I am having trouble keeping Dr. Gushman centered on Mindy."
Donna looked down at the controls. "Damn. We never could get Gooshie added into the matrix correctly. She looked at the read-out along to the side of the control panel. "But… we could if we substituted his DNA for Al's…." She looked up at Verbena, stricken. "If we do that, we may not get Al's DNA in the matrix properly aligned again."
"Ziggy," Verbena said. "The odds of that?"
"Fifty percent, Dr. Beeks. But there are ninety percent odds that Mindy will die if this is not done."
"Damn percentages," Donna muttered. "For years, we've been listening to percentages." She looked up. "Do it, Ziggy."
"Done, Dr. Elesee." There was a hesitation. "Optimal projection achieved."
"Better like hell be," Donna said, her voice shaking.
"Donna," Verbena said. "He will be fine."
"I know." She closed her eyes. "We need him there. God knows, we need him there."
Sam looked to the back seat. "Gooshie!"
Gooshie looked up from the handlink and looked around, blinking. "Oh, that's much clearer. What happened, Ziggy?" He raised his eyebrows. "Oh?" He looked speculative. "Oh." It was more of an exhale than a word.
"They replaced Al's DNA in the matrix with yours, didn't they?" Sam guessed.
"Yes." Gooshie looked unhappy.
"I see." Sam looked forward. He didn't really want to think what would happen if he kept on Leaping – yet he had seen Al grow more and more tired. And the clearer he remembered the more he realized that Al had been looking very tired for a long, long time.
It wasn't fair for Al.
Did he feel guilty? Yes. And no. Al had wanted the Project to succeed as much as he did, but, in retrospect, he should never have gone into the Accelerator. But if he hadn't started Leaping, where would the world be now? Would it be worse? Would God have found another way? He was certain that what he called God had helped him time after time again.
He may never go home; he accepted that, but… "The Bartender never said I couldn't go home," he realized. "I said that. He never said that."
"What was that?" Mark said, puzzled.
"Never mind," Sam said. "Gooshie?"
Gooshie was intent on the handlink. "She's there," then louder, "there!" He jerked his thumb to the right.
Sam looked to the side. "In the woods?" Mark stopped with a jerk.
"I'll lead you!" He popped out of the car, appearing to the side. "Here!" he called.
Sam jumped out of the car, rushing up a hill. He found Mindy, behind a bush, sobbing on her knees. Pill bottles were in front of her, as was a gun.
"No!" Mindy said, looking up at him. "No. You're not supposed to be here!"
Sam started to lean down beside her, but backed off as she raised the gun. "Mindy. What are you doing?"
Mindy looked up at him and swayed. He realized that she was drunk, backed off even more then knelt on the ground. "Why, Mindy?"
Mindy stared blearily at him. "I didn't get drunk. I just had a sip! Why do you always think I'm drunk?"
"Mindy. I didn't say you were drunk now."
"Well, I'm not." She waved the gun around, and Sam tensed involuntarily. Then he deliberately relaxed and thought back to the night he found Al hammering the vending machine in a drunken rage.
"Mindy. This afternoon, we were speaking about the night of the accident. The night Jake died. Why did you get drunk that night?"
"It wasn't night, it was after midnight."
"Don't evade the question Mindy," Sam said gently.
"It wasn't my fault." Mindy sulked, so deep in her own pain she was oblivious to Sam.
"Mindy, you're still evading the question," Sam said softly, "and I'm not going to let you get away with it. Why did you get drunk the night Jake died?"
"I just didn't want to hit the cat."
"Mindy answer the question. Why did you get drunk the night Jake died?" Sam tried to keep his voice calm. Lord knew that wasn't easy.
"I don't know why the cat was out, it was pouring rain. The wind was bad. And this cat just ran across the road from out of nowhere." She whined to herself.
Sam looked Mindy in the eyes. "Never mind the cat, it's safe. Think only of before the accident. Why did you get drunk that night?"
Mindy shook her head and tried to look away. "Which night?"
Sam held her with his eyes. "Mindy. The night we were talking about."
"I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry." Mindy tried to look away again. "I just wanted to have fun." Sam shifted forward, grabbed the gun gently tossing it to the side, then held her face with his hands.
"Mindy. You are allowing yourself to drown in guilt. You need to let go and forgive yourself."
"I can't. I can't! Jake died! But if I hadn't grabbed the wheel…"
"Mindy," Sam spoke up, "Mindy, look at me." He moved closer to her and waited for her to look him in the eye again. "I forgive you." Of course, Sam could only speak for himself, but Mindy needed to hear that she was forgivable. Short of Mikey being here, Sam could think of no better way of convincing her.
"You forgive me?" Mindy's face lit up with hope.
"Yes, I forgive you." Sam poured every bit of sincerity he had into his voice.
"You'll go out with me again?"
Sam sighed; this wasn't going to be easy. In a way it shouldn't have surprised him. To Mindy, being forgiven meant that she could continue as if nothing happened.
"Being forgiven is not license to avoid the consequences of your actions," Sam said. "We had an agreement. You broke your agreement."
Mindy's eyes grew wide, "I did?"
"Yes, you did." Sam agreed solemnly.
"How did I do that?"
Sam couldn't tell if she was seeking to evade responsibility for her actions or if she was sincerely confused. A wind came up, and leaves started falling onto them. He brushed a leaf from her head. "You remember. The agreement required something of you, it required something of me as well." he tried to explain.
"Like what? You don't like to drink."
"But I like you. But I like you sober." He quickly added.
"I don't get it. If you like me why won't you go out with me?"
"Because you choose to drink over going out with me; you decided that drinking was more important to you than being with me. That's not good for me. After all, I have epilepsy because of that car accident, and we never would have had that accident if you hadn't been drinking."
"You don't forgive me, how could you really and bring that up?"
"Because it's the reality I live with now. It's what I have to face every day when I take my pills. I forgive you, but I can't forget because of how much it has changed my life. My best friend is dead. He would still be alive and I would still be playing football with my friends if you had only stayed sober. I can't talk to Jake, I can't play football on the team, but I can forgive you. That doesn't change what I can't do. I have to live with that, Mindy. I just can't pretend that never happened."
"I don't believe you. If you really forgave me then you wouldn't say those things."
"Why do you believe that, Mindy?"
"Because it's true - forgiving means not holding grudges. If you really forgave me you wouldn't hold this grudge against me and wouldn't say those things."
"Mindy, I'm not boasting when I say that I was a good football player. Playing was important to me. Now I can't play anymore. How can you expect me not to think about that? Also, how can you expect me to not think about my best friend?"
"I-I guess I can't." Tears started rolling down her cheeks.
In the corner of his eye, he saw another couple of cars pull up. Not letting her go, he stared into her eyes. "Forgiving someone is just refusing to hold on to the pain of those hurts. It's choosing to let go, not deciding that the pain no longer hurts. It may always hurt, and those hurts will last a very long time – perhaps for the rest of our lives."
"Then how can you forgive, if it doesn't make the pain go away. Why bother forgiving if it doesn't do any good?"
"Oh, forgiving does a world of good," Sam pointed out. "It is the first step towards healing. It's really not about feeling better so much as it is about being better."
"How do you know if you are better if the pain never goes away?"
"Mindy." Sam looked away and thought of Al and his losses, of his Dad, of his brother who had died, and who he ultimately saved, at the price of losing a woman who didn't have to die. "Mindy, the pain will lessen. It will never go away, but you will be able to live with it. You will have to trust me."
She looked Sam in the eyes. "You're different. Ever since you came back from the hospital, you're different." She pointed her finger at him.
"I care about you, I want what's best for you; and that isn't me." Sam pulled her hand down, folding down her accusing finger. "You'll have to trust my judgment on that."
He saw a couple of people come up the hill. She jumped, jerking her hand from his grip. "Why?" Mindy raged at him, "Why should I trust you? You tricked me. You brought people here and now you're trying to dump the responsibility of Jake's death and your illness on me!" She began pummeling Sam, striking his shoulders and chest. "It was the cat, I told you! The cat, not me! I didn't do it." Tears were flowing freely now down Mindy's face.
Sam gestured Fr. Jim back – and, he noted with surprise, there was a couple who was following Father. He nodded them back as well. When she finally calmed down Sam held her gently as he asked her, "Was it you or the cat who drank that night? Was it you or the cat who spiked my drink? Was it you or the cat who couldn't stand to sit by me in the car? Was it you or the cat who jerked on the steering wheel?"
She looked him in the eye. "I… I…" She got up and turned to Fr. Jim. "Father, he… he…"
"Mikey," Father Jim said softly. "Mindy's father is here." He turned to Mindy. "Mindy, you need to go with your parents now. They're terribly worried about you."
Mindy snorted, obviously not believing him. Sam wondered where they had been before, then decided that it wasn't important right now.
"I have to talk to Mikey." Mindy stated angrily.
"Mikey will talk with you later, honey. You need to go with your parents now. They're going to take you to the hospital."
"Why," she looked up warily. "I'm not sick."
Sam glanced at Fr Jim. "But you're cold," Sam said. "The hospital will have blankets." He hugged Mindy. "We will talk later."
A hagridden man came up beside Mindy. "Come on, honey." He took her gently in his arms, then looked at Sam. "Thank you. With my wife's illness, I didn't realize…" Sam hadn't even realized that her mother was ill, standing next to her husband she didn't look ill, just irritated. Sam looked questioningly at Mindy's father. "We told her not to tell."
Sam thought about how alcoholism tended to run in families and just nodded. "I see."
Mindy passed out. Her mother helped her father lifted her to the car.
Sam looked at Fr. Jim. "I'm surprised to see him here."
"I knew," Fr. Jim said, "that she needed more help than I could give. I knew where her father was and told him what was happening."
"Thank you." They walked down the hill.
Another car drove up. To Sam's surprise, Beth got out and looked ruefully at the other car driving out. "Al called me. He thought you might need a nurse here. I see you don't." She looked at Fr. Jim, a question in her face. Sam shook his head. "How are you?" she asked instead.
"I… seem to be fine," Sam said. He looked down at his watch. "We need to go to… our other appointment," he said to Mark, who was standing anxiously beside the car.
Beth chewed her lip. "Al told me."
"You'll need me there."
Fr. Jim looked between Mark and Beth and Sam. "I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm getting a very strong feeling you might need me, too."
"Father?" Sam said. "Can you take what might happen next on faith?"
Fr. Jim laughed. "Son, I've been doing that for years."
Sam looked sober. "I can't explain now, but I'm not Mikey."
Fr. Jim looked incredulous. He looked at the other two for confirmation. They nodded at him.
"Good makeup," Fr. Jim said weakly.
Sam nodded. "The problem is that Mikey and his sister have been kidnapped, and they want me for exchange."
"And you're valuable why…?"
"That's top secret, I'm afraid."
"Will you follow us to the rendezvous point? I believe you may be useful."
Fr. Jim didn't hesitate, "Of course."
Sam got in the car with Mark. Beth and Fr. Jim got in the back seat. As they introduced themselves to each other, Mark eyed Sam. "I hope you know what you're doing."
Sam sighed. "Same here." He muttered looking at his watch again. The car jerked to a start.
A few minutes later, they pulled up to an intersection. Al was waiting, with Mikey's parents. "Mindy?" Sam asked Al.
Al smiled sadly. "I'm in the same time as you, remember? You'll have to ask Gooshie – and I doubt if he'll know anything either."
Sam blinked. "Come to think of it, I haven't seen Gooshie lately."
Al's eyebrows drew together. "Probably his neurons overloaded the machine," he shrugged, but looked speculative.
Sam looked closely at him. "Do you…"
"Bogie at the end of the street," Mark said quietly.
Sam looked. A black car was turning the corner. It stopped halfway down the street and five people got out. Cynthia Marley, two men in a black leather jackets and two others who were blindfolded. One was a young girl – it finally occurred to Sam that he had never actually met Sally – and the other was a tall man in a white outfit.
That was Mikey.
Sam blinked. He had never looked at himself from the outside before. Then he shook his head. Now was not the time for existential reflection. He motioned to Al to walk with him. "Everybody should stay here."
Mark started and moved behind the car. Sam could see him open his cell phone and then gave Sam and Al a hidden thumb up.
"What was that about?" Sam asked.
"You don't want to know," Al muttered sotto voce. He looked down the street, then they started walking.
"They don't look right," Al indicated the O'Malley children with a jerk of his chin.
"They're drugged," Sam said, "makes sense."
"Sick sense," Al said grimly.
"Dr. Beckett," the woman sang out.
Sam looked at her closely, the light finally dawning. "I know you," he said, then shut his mouth.
"Really?" the woman arched her brow smugly. "I don't recall meeting you. I must have made quite an impression." She laughed, but the laugh had no humor. "I seem to have a couple of people you want."
"So I see," Sam said. "What do you want? Money? You already have the plans and our DNA for the neural interface."
"Ah," she said. "But what we actually need, is you." Her eyes flashed a wicked smile.
Sam smiled back without much warmth. "You seem to have me – " he pointed "—over there."
"But what we don't have is your retrieval program."
"Oh," Al said quietly.
"And you think we do." Sam looked as if he had bitten something sour.
"Of course," she said. "Really, Dr. Beckett, do you think we're naïve? There are many people in Washington who believe you've had the retrieval program all along, but refused to admit it." She smiled knowingly. "I salute you. That's a great way to keep funding for a program. The Admiral would come to Washington every year, claiming that, yes, he's still Leaping, no, the retrieval program doesn't work, but he's doing so much good back in time, correcting 'what went wrong.'" She smiled sarcastically. "I loved it."
Sam closed his eyes and shook his head. "So you think I would leave my wife and constantly travel through time for money?"
She smiled knowingly.
"Zoe." Beside him, Sam could see Al shift slightly in shock, but he knew that was the only reaction Al would give.
Her smile faded, but in a minute, she recovered. "Who?"
"Zoe, the reason I've been doing this so long is that the retrieval program does not work."
"And, if that's true, I have no problem finding a place for these two – forever." She pulled out a gun.
Mikey stiffened up. Sam noticed this and decided that he wasn't nearly as drugged as he looked.
"I will go with you," Sam said. "Don't harm them."
"I also want guarantees that we won't be followed."
"I can guarantee that you won't be followed," Al said. "But I can't guarantee that we won't search for you."
"Then give us a day."
Al started to swear. "Agreed," Sam said swiftly, with a look at Al. Al continued to swear under his breath, quiet sailor's curses that reminded Sam just how bad his old friend's temper could get.
"Then walk," Zoe said.
The men holding the kids gave them a gentle push, and they started walking. Sam angled himself so he was facing Mikey. "Mikey. When I tell you, grab your sister and run," he said lowly, without moving his mouth. He passed by Mikey, pushed him –
"Odds going up to one hundred percent," Ziggy sang out.
Donna found herself trembling. Was this going to work? Where would she find herself?
"Ninety-nine. Ninety-eight," the computer's voice droned on.
No, God, no!
"One hundred percent."
Donna's hand plunged downward on the control panel without hesitation.
Sam brushed by Mikey, shoved him on the back –
and found himself facing the other direction, his eyes blindfolded. Tearing off the blindfold, he turned and said, "Run, Mikey, run!"
Mikey, looking startled, grabbed his sister's arm. As they ran, he tore off her blindfold. In the meantime, Sam whirled, and sprinted towards Zoe. She raised her gun, then hesitated, obviously at a loss of what to do – then leapt into the driver's seat of the car, backed off swiftly, and drove away, leaving her guards behind. They started running, but as they did so, a car flew around the corner behind Sam, passing him, and cutting off their escape. The car door opened, and Mark pointed his gun at the pair. "I wouldn't, if I were you," he drawled.
He glanced beyond them. "Dr. Beckett, I presume?"
Sam grinned broadly, then felt a tap on his shoulder. "Sam?"
"Damn," Al said, then more emphatically, "Damn." He looked like he was afraid to reach out.
Sam grabbed him and hugged him.
"I have to call the Project…"
"You have to wait an hour," Sam grinned. "Remember?"
Al grinned as a group of cars came up. "My buddies," Mark said, as they poured out, their guns at the ready.
"Are these the kidnappers?" one said, looking at the two men, but glancing curiously at Sam.
Mark pointed. "Yup. Those two. I'm an eyewitness, as is Dr. Beckett and Admiral Calavicci. The children are around the corner."
"We'll need to talk to you, and them also."
"Of course," Sam said. "We'll let them know."
They led one of the men around the corner.
The O'Malley family was oblivious to everybody but themselves. Sally was still somewhat out of it, but they were hugging. The two O'Malley parents looked at each other, and, as one, embraced each other and kissed. "Al?" asked Sam.
"No clue," Al said, sounding happy. "We can't see the future." He looked at Beth, who smiled at him.
She moved forward. "Al," she said softly. "It was good to see you."
"Beth." Suddenly, Al seemed ill at ease. "Beth, may I call on you the next time…"
"Al," she smiled at him, almost shyly. "Dirk was a good man, but you are and always have been my first love. Of course you may…"
Al's face outshone any of his civilian shirts.
"I think I'll wait a bit to talk to them," the FBI agent said wryly. "Do you have time to talk?"
What seemed like a short time later, Al's cell phone rang. He looked at the ID, answered it, then got a broad grin on his face. "Just a second," he said. He handed the phone to Sam. "It's for you."
Sam searched Al's face whose eyes were dancing impishly. "Hello?" Sam had to clear his throat and tried again. "Hello?"
"Sam?" said a trembling female voice.
Sam's eyes filled up with tears. "Donna?"