Disclaimer: That '70s Show copyright The Carsey-Werner Company, LLC and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC. "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do" (C) ABBA; 1993 Polydor / Umgd.

Zen Factor: High. Jackie and Hyde belong together.

Dedication: To my lovely Lulu (luckisaladycop), whose encouragement has been invaluable. And to Angie (heartlessromantic667) and Prissy (nannygirl) whose writing has both moved and influenced me.

Thanks: To my other fellow writers on the T7S Fan Fic Board, Carla (Bunny1), Carol (twiniitowers), Liz (HydeLuver), and Marla (Marla's Lost). Keep writing, ladies!

CHAPTER 1
THE SETUP

September 8th, 1979

Kenosha, Wisconsin

The Shooting Star Motel

Hyde woke on his stomach, face mashed into a lumpy pillow. His head ached, and his mouth felt dry, and a thick haze smothered his memory, making him unsure of where he was. But as he rolled onto his back, one thought burned through his mind, bright and hot like a comet: Jackie's worth shit.

Wherever the hell he was, he'd had too much to drink last night—and not enough. The pain throbbing at his temples didn't come from a hangover; it came from the shit-awful ABBA song blasting into his ears. He opened his eyes hesitantly, not knowing what—or whom—he would find. But all that stood above him was a pitted, grayish ceiling. A motel... He'd gone to a motel, man.

"Now I just made it. I found you at last."

The crappy music was shoving itself into his brain, and he angled his head to the right. On the nightstand was a lamp, a telephone—and a freakin' clock radio. That was the fucker who'd woken him up at eight in the damn morning.

"I do, I do, I do, I do, I do."

His fist shot out, and the clock radio flew from the nightstand. It fell to the floor, fritzed out for a second but didn't break. His hand, however, got scraped by the clock's sharp corner. Blood was oozing from the needle-thin wound, and he wiped it on his shirt.

"Oh, no hard feelings between you and me if we can't make it, but just wait and see."

The song still warbled below him, like a drunk chick who wouldn't shut up. He was still completely dressed from the night before, including his boots, so he pushed himself off the bed and stomped on the clock radio with all his power. The tuning knob popped off, and the plastic casing cracked, but ABBA continued to assault him through the tinny speaker:

"So come on. Now let's try it. I love you. Can't deny it 'cause it's true."

"Fuck off," he muttered and grasped the power cord. He yanked it, agitating the nightstand in the process, but the plug pulled from the wall.

Finally, some damn silence.

He tossed the plug onto the beige carpet, but the quiet didn't lift his mood. The fog choking his memory had vanished, and he sank to the bed as images flooded his system: Jackie in a nightgown, an uncomfortable smile. The creak of a door and a white towel. What he'd seen in Chicago last night made his body feel tight, like a twisted rope. If Kelso hadn't gotten away from him in that parking lot, one of them would've been in prison right now—and the other dead.

Hyde shut his eyes, clutched his knees. His breath was escaping him in quick, shallow bursts, and it pissed him off. His Zen was nowhere, man. Willpower alone had gotten him safely to Kenosha yesterday, kept him from crashing the Camino into a telephone pole or another car. But he couldn't stop weighing the facts against each other.

Kelso being naked and Kelso talking crap about "doing it"—he could ignore. But when Hyde had shown up in Jackie's room, she was cagey as hell. Even pulled her nightgown tighter around her body like she didn't want him to spot something. And then she'd tried to get him out of the room before Kelso had gotten there...

And those were the details that sent him straight to the Cheesecake Palace last night, a nudie bar next to the motel. He'd gotten plastered and spilled his guts to one of the strippers. She was a blonde about his age, had kind eyes.

"Found my chick about to fuck my fuckin' friend," he said during her lap dance. Her grinding hips made him hard but brought him no deep joy, and she seemed to notice.

"My name's Sam," she whispered. "I can do more with you once my shift is over."

"Don't got enough on me."

"Oh, not for money. Just for fun."

"Why?"

Her hands eased onto his shoulders, and the motion of her hips slowed. "You sound so sad—and you're too cute to be sad."

"Thanks..." A smile broke on his face, and laughter rose from his stomach—the first pleasant feeling he'd had in days. "But I gotta pass."

His rejection didn't appear to faze her. She squeezed her thighs around his waist and ground straight into his waning hard-on. "If you change your mind," she said, "you know where I am. I have the early shift tomorrow."

He thanked her a second time and staggered out of the nudie bar around 3:00 A.M. He dragged himself to the motel where he'd already checked in. Then he trudged up the one flight of stairs to his room and fell onto the bed without changing.

Now it was five hours later, at eight-something in the morning. Hyde lay back on the thin comforter, hands covering his face and feet planted firmly on the floor. His eyes remained closed for a long while, but his brain wouldn't give him any rest. Uncomfortable smile. Fingers tugging on a nightgown. Creaking door. He should've known Jackie would always go back to Kelso. Two years ago, man—when he'd spotted them on the Pinciottis' couch—he should've been done with her for good.

9:04 A.M.

Hyde's mouth tasted rank, and his shirt smelled like cigarettes and booze. Yesterday had stunk him up, all right, in too many damn ways—and he couldn't take it anymore, so he finally quit brooding and went to the bathroom.

He brushed his teeth but skipped a shower. He didn't feel like having one, and his duffel bag was filled with fresh clothes anyway. It was by the bed, and after washing his hands, he traded his beer-soaked Rolling Stones shirt for his clean black Zeppelin. He also shrugged on his denim jacket, slid on his shades. The day needed to get started already and push yesterday far behind him, and with that goal in mind, he left the room.

The lobby downstairs was cramped and decorated with cracked yellow paint. A different concierge was on duty than the one who'd checked him in last night. She was a middle-aged woman, fat with a greasy forehead. Chipped tortoiseshell barrettes held back her frizzy hair, and the name tag pinned to her violet blouse read, "Phyllis".

Hyde hesitated before approaching her. "Phyllis" was the name of his aunt—Edna's sister—and the ugliest woman he'd ever known. But his aunt was rail-thin. This chick could've eaten her two-times over.

"Um... hey," he said and took his wallet from his jeans.

Phyllis leaned forward on the concierge desk, "What can I do for you, sweetheart?" and showed off her cleavage. Her eyes were looking at him with something he recognized all too well: lust.

"You got a copy of the paper?" he said.

"Yup. That's an amenity here at the Shooting Star Motel." She smiled widely, revealing a missing molar. "So am I."

He stuffed his wallet back into his pocket. "Just the paper."

Phyllis's smile drooped to a frown. Deep lines, like a marionette's, emerged on either side of her chin, but she handed him the day's Milwaukee Sentinel.

Outside, the sky was a clear blue with only wisps for clouds. The temperature was mild except for some wind, and a strong gust blew a plastic bag across the motel's parking lot. Hyde walked past some cars to the Camino and gave her a pat on the hood. She was his only baby now, always dependable, did what he told her—and she had only one set of keys, which were in his jeans pocket.

His hunger led him to the Birch Road Café down the street. The place looked more like dive than a café. The floral wallpaper was peeling, half the booth seats were duct-taped, and the smell of burnt bacon had absorbed into everything. But none of that mattered long as the food was decent.

He took a booth at the back and settled in. The menu was ten pages long, but his choice was simple: Pancakes, sausage, orange juice. Something Mrs. Forman might have cooked him this morning.

A waiter took his order, and Hyde read the paper while he waited for the food. "Saturday Morning, September 8th, 1979"—just another crappy day in his crappy life. Crappy for other people, too, apparently. The headlines on the front page were a mix:

"Crippled Widow Stabbed to Death".

"Carter Firm on Cuba".

"Milwaukee Road Fears Disputed".

And his favorite, "Miller Loses in 'Light' Ruling". The courts had ruled against Miller Lite's trademark lawsuit against Schlitz. Pretty cool, man... and inspiring. He arched an eyebrow. Booze, a good way to start the day.

He found a liquor store after breakfast. Drinking had been his parents' way of coping with shit, but why break with tradition? He scanned the dusty shelves for something he could use: Jack Daniel's and Southern Comfort were freakin' clichés, but Four Roses Bourbon? Classy.

He bought a bottle of it along with two six-packs of Schlitz. Ten minutes later, he was back in his motel room, sitting cross-legged on the floor and against the bed. The black-and-white TV was on. A beer was in his hand, but the hard stuff he'd save for later, maybe for when he had some company.

11:01 A.M.

The Price Is Right was playing on the television, and five empty beer cans were scattered on the carpet. Hyde chucked one at the screen as Johnny Olson announced, "Mark Ryerson, come on down!"

The can bounced off the TV and fell harmlessly to the floor.

"Nancy Dibner, come on down!" Johnny Olson shouted, and a sprightly brunette sprang from her seat and ran to Contestants' Row.

"Go fuck yourself, Nancy Dibner," Hyde mumbled. He picked up a full, unopened beer and drew back his arm. The show needed to be destroyed, man. It shitted on people's lives, made 'em do stupid things—but he let the can slip from his fingers. Breaking the television wouldn't impress the maid, and getting kicked out of the motel wasn't on his agenda today.

A return to The Cheesecake Palace, however, was definitely on his agenda, but it wouldn't open until four. That left him with five hours to kill. He dug into his duffel bag and pulled out his stash. He'd packed enough pot and clothes to last him a week, dumbly thinking he'd stay in Chicago for a while—with Jackie.

"Doris Lichtenstein, come on down!"

Hyde stood up and shut off the TV. He took a much-needed leak in the bathroom; then he stretched out on the bed with a joint. The clock radio was still unplugged and in pieces on the floor. No way to set an alarm in case he fell asleep, but whatever. He'd wake up eventually.

He sparked up, sucked in a few deep hits... and felt pretty good. After a few more, he began to laugh. The pitted ceiling looked like the freakin' moon, man. His own private moon in the Shooting Star Motel.

He took another hit and held in the smoke, hoping gravity would shut off. But it made the moon draw closer until it crushed him against the bed. The pressure against his lungs forced open his mouth, and a white cloud burst from his lips. Crap. Air wasn't getting inside him easily, and he tried to shove the moon off him so he could breathe—

But the moon wasn't the moon anymore. It was an ocean wave, undulating over his body. Water lapped at his ears and licked his eardrums. It seeped deeper inside where it moaned in pleasure. Not his. Jackie's. Smoke and booze had pulled the sound from his memory, and another voice joined it. Not his. Kelso's. Like they were fucking each other right on top of him.

Hyde shut his eyes, but it did no good. Jackie and Kelso were behind them, nailing each other inside his skull.

"Get the hell off me..." he mumbled, but the imagined weight of their bodies kept him anchored to the bed. By the time he could move again, the damage had been done. The vision had played out to its scornful, climactic end.

With a whispered curse, he leaned over the bed's side and snatched a beer off the floor. A piece of the clock radio's wiring caught on his eyeball ring, but it came off with a shake. He didn't know the damn time, didn't care. Just needed to get them—to get her—out of his head.

5:26 P.M.

Hyde had fallen asleep, thanks to his beer and another joint, but he was fully awake now. First thing he did was check his watch. Second thing he did was open the bottle of bourbon and down some of it. The liquor burned his throat and settled uneasily in his stomach. It was enough, man. A little went a long way, and he stashed the bottle underneath the bed along with his remaining beers.

Sam was already on stage when he got to the Cheesecake Palace, and she was dancing to the Guess Who's "American Woman". Her stars-and-stripes outfit barely covered her body, but only a few people were in the bar to enjoy it. As far as strip joints went, this place was nothing special. Booze cheap enough to make a guy give up his cash, the playlist a mix of disco and rock—and strippers a mix of ages and body types.

Hyde took a front row seat and caught Sam's gaze. She smiled back warmly, which prompted him to hold out a one-dollar bill. A busty redhead in black pasties reached for it, but he withdrew his hand and nodded at Sam. She spotted his gesture and strutted over to him in-sync with the music. A professional, he appreciated that, and he replaced the one-dollar bill with a five.

Sam bent over seductively, seized the five with her teeth, and tossed it onto the stage. Then she grasped his shoulders and sank down onto his lap. "Glad you showed up," she said and began to grind against him.

Her gyrations gave him a hard-on immediately. This time, the feeling went deeper, alleviated some the tension in his brain. He relaxed into her movements, and in response, she placed his hands on her ass and ground into him harder.

"Needed you this morning," he said.

"Oh, you could've stopped by." She raised herself so her cleavage was level with his face, and her scent drifted into his nostrils—a hint of spice and citrus. "A few of us live in an apartment upstairs," she said. "Me and the girls were sewing some new outfits, including this one. You like?"

He glanced at the sparkly red, white, and blue halter top. "I'd like it better off you."

7:00 P.M.

Sam eventually removed her top on stage, revealing large breasts that looked out of place on her thin body. But now she was covered by a trench coat. It was time for her break, and Hyde offered to buy her dinner. She accepted happily, and he brought her to the Birch Road Café where she ordered a turkey sandwich to go. He ordered nothing. His hunger had nothing to do with food.

They split his bourbon and her sandwich back in his motel room, shared a few laughs about random shit. She had him on the bed afterward, his jeans yanked halfway off his legs. This was what he needed—escape, and his hands bunched up the comforter as Sam's warm mouth skillfully worked his latest erection. She varied the intensity to keep him from coming too fast, but as she finally pushed him toward release, he told her to stop.

"What's wrong?" she said by his thigh.

He was breathing hard, found it hard to speak. "Don't... wanna finish when you're on the other end. Fun for only one of us." He lay back his head, remembering all too well how some of his "uncles" had treated his mother—like she wasn't part of the picture. "Just use your hand," he said. "Or I can—"

Sam rubbed the top of his knuckles. "You're really sweet," she said, "but you've let me do this my way, so let me finish my way, 'kay? I promise I'm good at it."

Her mouth slid over his shaft again, driving euphoria straight into his body. His eyes shut involuntarily, and he gave in as she proved herself right.

7:42 P.M.

Sam used Hyde's knees to push herself up and kissed him lightly on the cheek. "You really are sweet, you know."

"Whatever."

He zipped up his jeans, and the dismissive tone of his voice rang sharply in his ears. He hadn't recovered yet from his explosive release—or everything it meant. But this chick didn't deserve any of that crap.

He cleared his throat and tried again. "Thank you... That was the nicest thing anyone's done for me in a while."

"Oh..." She lowered her eyes shyly. Her trench coat was only half-buttoned over her body, and she finished the job. Then she cupped Hyde's chin. The gesture was gentle, just like her. "I could marry a guy like you."

"Yeah... right." He walked her to the door, and loneliness enveloped him like frost. Once she left, what did he have? One friend had screwed him, another friend was crossing the damn ocean, and Jackie... He touched Sam's arm. "You wanna come back here when your shift's over?"

"Sure," she said, and the joy in her dark blue eyes melted some of the frost.

12:07 A.M.

Hyde had downed the bottle of bourbon to its last third, and he was trashed. Trashed and fuckin' waiting, man. Sam wasn't back yet, so he sat against the door, hoping to feel the vibration of her knocks. To pass the time, he picked at the needle-thin scab on his hand. It started to bleed again and sting. Physical pain, man. A good distraction.

But not the best.

When the knocks finally came, he stood up on wobbly legs—and accidentally kicked the bottle of bourbon. It rolled away toward the TV. His instinct was to go after it, but he pulled open the door instead.

Sam was standing in the motel hallway, wearing her trench coat and holding a small, sequined purse. "Hi," she said. "I brou—"

Hyde kissed her, sliding his fingers into the back of her hair and drawing her inside the room. Once he let them both breathe, her eyes glazed over with elated surprise.

"Wow. I mean... wow," she said. "I almost never let guys kiss me anymore, but..."

Her mouth returned to him, and her nimble tongue coaxed his need into overdrive. He wanted her naked, to feel her warmth against his skin. His reflexes were completely dulled, but his fingers managed to undo the buttons of her coat. He tore off his shirt, pulled her to the bed, and she giggled when he practically fell on top of her.

"Sorry," he mumbled, but his clumsy, drunken enthusiasm seemed to delight her.

She dug her hands into his back as his lips gave attention to the parts probably ignored by most—the crook of her elbow, the soft skin behind her ear, the curve of her waist. She tasted different than what he was used to, reacted differently... but she was here.

"Hyde," she said between unsteady breaths, "no one's... No one kisses me like this."

He looked at her with bleary eyes. "Like what?"

"Like they care... about me."

"Guys who fuck chicks without giving a shit about 'em..." his voice was slurring, and he barely knew what he was saying, "don't deserve to fuck."

A choked whimper escaped her, and she lay his hand over her breast. "I really could marry you."

Hyde chuckled and continued to kiss her. But his booze-soaked brain soon lost all sense of time. One moment his face was between Sam's thighs, the next she had him on his back and completely inside her. Her rocking thrusts sent intense currents of pleasure through his body, but his voice was calling out for someone who wasn't her... two syllables... and they turned into an anguished groan as he came.

"Oh, is that the girl you found with your friend?" Sam said breathlessly.

"Wha—what?" he said.

"Jackie." She hugged his chest and nuzzled his face. "She's a fool for giving up a catch like you."

Her breasts didn't feel right against his skin, the sound of her breathing was unfamiliar—but she was here. He wrapped his arms around her back, wringing whatever comfort he could from her presence, and they lay together long enough that he fell asleep.

A light tap on his cheek woke him. "It's almost three," Sam said. She'd slipped off him and was putting on her trench coat. "I have to get back home."

He sat up, forced himself to focus. "I'll walk you," he said.

"You'll..." Her eyes widened in disbelief. "It's just next door."

"Yeah. I'll walk you."


Hyde sobered up a little once they were out in the cool night air. Sam held onto his arm, probably more to keep him steady than to show affection. The entrance to her building was down the street, right next to the Cheesecake Palace.

"3-E, that's me," she said and pointed to the buzzer system. She unlocked the front door but didn't go inside. "Hyde, I had a really nice time." Her hand was cradling the side of his face, and she drew him in for a final kiss. "Will I see you tomorrow?"

He shrugged. "Dunno." And the truth was, he didn't. The tenderness he'd given her belonged to another girl. "I'm sorry."

Sam nodded sadly, "So am I," and left him to the lampposts lighting the dark.

3:03 A.M.

Hyde stumbled into the motel lobby, slapped ten bucks on the concierge desk and muttered, "One more night," to Warren, the guy on duty. But one more night or a thousand, it wouldn't make a damn difference. He couldn't change shit, even if he wanted to.

The stairwell to the second floor looked a mile long, but Hyde dragged himself up the steps with the bannister. He felt sick from his thoughts and the booze and from everything that had happened since yesterday—and the stair-climb did him in. He fell to his knees when he got to his room, and his stomach unloaded onto the beige carpet. It stank like hell, but he didn't have the strength to crawl away.

He collapsed beside his own puke, exhausted.


"I do, I do, I do, I do, I do."

Hyde felt sagging mattress beneath his stomach instead of hard floor, soft comforter against his skin instead of rough carpet. He didn't remember climbing onto the bed last night, but it must have happened... 'cause here he was.

"Oh, I've been dreaming through my lonely past."

The strains of ABBA were polluting his ears again, just like the morning before.

"Now I just made it. I found you at last."

It was the same damn song, too. What the hell were the odds, man, of being woken up twice by that crap? He groaned and popped open his eyes. A clock radio, an exact copy of the one he'd broken yesterday, sat on the nightstand. The time read 8:00 A.M.

"So come on. Now let's try it. I love you. Can't deny it..."

He scowled and got off the bed. Then he pulled the clock's plug from its socket. The resulting quiet let him concentrate and gave him a chance to scan his surroundings. No traces of the clock he'd busted, not even the plastic knob. And the puke on the carpet... gone.

Huh. His mouth didn't taste like he'd puked, either. In fact, his body felt a whole lot better than it should have, considering the amount of booze he'd thrown back. His skull wasn't pounding with a hangover, and he wasn't tired. Maybe he'd just imagined vomiting up his stomach and falling asleep beside it.

A long stretch got the morning kinks out of his back, and a yawn brought the smell of cigarettes and alcohol into his nose. He glanced down at his torso. His yellow Rolling Stones shirt was covering it, but hadn't he been wearing his black Zeppelin shirt? How freakin' drunk had he gotten last night?

He searched underneath the bed for his few remaining beers but found nothing. His bottle of bourbon wasn't near the TV either; it wasn't anywhere. Sam couldn't have swiped it...

Hyde ran a hand over his face and gave himself time to think. Only one explanation, man. The maid had come into his room while he slept. She cleaned up, replaced the clock radio, and dragged him to the bed.

And changed his shirt.

Whatever. He'd gotten wasted last night. Maybe he'd switched shirts himself.

Either way, it didn't matter. He needed to take a leak and a shower. He lumbered into the bathroom and began to unzip his jeans—and flinched at his reflection in the mirror. Two days-worth of not shaving, but his face showed the stubble of only one.

"What the hell?" He raced back to his duffel bag. His razor was still inside it, untouched. Sam. She'd brought a small purse with her, and it could've contained a razor. She must have shaved him while he slept, probably had a fetish or something... freakin' stripper.

He rushed through his shower and put on his green "This T-Shirt Stops At All Bars" shirt—'cause he'd be hitting a bar or three. Going home wasn't gonna happen today, but staying in Kenosha didn't seem like a viable option either.

He went downstairs to the lobby, and Phyllis was wearing the same violet blouse as yesterday. Her frizzy hair was pulled back the same way, too. Not surprising. Didn't seem like a chick who gave too much thought to how she looked.

She pushed her fat breasts into the concierge desk and stared at him with naked lust. "What can I do for you, sweetheart?"

"Newspaper," he said.

"That's an amenity here at the Shooting Star Motel," she said, and her grin showed that missing molar of hers again. "So am I."

He rolled his eyes behind his shades. "Man, does that line actually work?"

"Well, when it doesn't—" she stuffed a paper under her arm and stepped out from behind the desk; then she grabbed a sizable chunk of his ass, "—this usually does."

"Right." He snatched the paper from her arm.

"See ya later, hot stuff!" she called after him.

He was halfway out the door when he mumbled, "Not if I can fuckin' help it."

8:35 A.M.

The Birch Road Café's menu lay closed on the table as Hyde stared at the Milwaukee Sentinel. The date read, "Saturday Morning, September 8th, 1979," and all the front page headlines were the same: "Crippled Widow Stabbed to Death," "Carter Firm on Cuba," "Milwaukee Road Fears Disputed".

Phyllis had given him yesterday's paper, the fucking botard.

"You ready to order?" A waitress was standing beside his table, order pad in her hand and gum in her mouth.

"Just some toast," he said. His appetite had shrunk.

"Toast." The waitress wrote down his order and began to leave.

"Wait a sec, man. What day is it?"

"Uh..." she chewed her gum noisily, "Saturday."

He sighed. This town was full of botards. "Wasn't that yesterday?"

"No, Friday was yesterday."

"What's the date, then?"

"Look," the waitress jabbed her pen at him, "I'm not paid enough to play Twenty Questions,and I got other customers. So unless you're asking me out on one, I don't give a cow's teat about the date." She turned away and walked to another booth.

She came back minutes later with his toast, assorted packets of butter and jam, and the bill. "It's the eighth," she said with a glower. "Enjoy your toast."

Hyde picked up a triangle of toast and bit into it, but his appetite had completely disappeared. The bill was a buck plus tax, about what he could afford. He took out his wallet to pay—and a lot more cash than he expected was inside: two twenties, a couple of tens and fives, six ones. Hell, it was the same amount as yesterday morning.

Someone had to be playing a joke on him.

He dropped two bucks on the table and left the restaurant. He needed a newspaper stand before he beat the crap outta somebody. Three streets over, he found one. But all the Milwaukee Sentinels and Milwaukee Journals had the same date: September 8th, 1979.

"Hey!" he shouted to the guy working the stand. "Where the hell's today's paper?"

"Are you blind?" the guy said back.

"No, man. These are all Saturday's. What about Sunday's?"

The guy wrinkled his brow. "If you want that, come back tomorrow... on Sunday. Hophead."

"Thanks..." Hyde flipped him off, "asshole." But as he gave the bird, he spotted something strange about his hand. No scab. He'd gotten scraped yesterday, bad enough to bleed. But his skin showed no trace of it.

The ABBA song, his lack of beard growth, the supposed date—all these things revved his pulse into overdrive. He bolted down the street, had to get somewhere safe. Someone wasn't playing a joke on him, man—he was being setup. It had finally happened. But who the hell would wanna set him up? What was the point?

He ran all the way to Lichter Road and called the Formans' with a payphone. It was past nine o'clock, and he hoped someone was home.

After two rings, Red answered with his usual grumpiness.

Hyde's pulse relaxed a little. "Hey, Red."

"Steven?"

"Yeah."

"How's Chicago? Did you find the loud one?" Red's tone had shifted. He sounded pleased to hear from him.

"Yeah, I found her. Could you tell me the date?"

"What?"

"No one 'round here seems to know," Hyde said.

"Why the hell don't you know yourself?"

"I'm a dumbass."

A sound like rustling paper came through the phone, followed by Red's sigh. "It's the eighth."

"Saturday?"

"Are you doped up? Yes, it's Saturday."

Hyde pressed his forehead against the payphone's housing. Whoever was setting him up, they'd already gotten to Red. But Hyde had to play it cool. "Thanks, man," he said.

"Yeah, well, you better get your ass home soon," Red said. "Kitty doesn't like cooking for an empty house."

"Sure thing, Red." But Hyde had no idea if he'd ever be home.

9:21 A.M.

Hyde ended up at Sam's apartment building, and the walk there had calmed him down enough to think things through. He could've dreamt yesterday up, but the theory didn't explain the ABBA song on both mornings. Or how he knew what was in the paper. Unlike Kelso, he didn't believe in psychic bullshit.

Facts, man. They were the only thing he could go on. If yesterday had been a dream, then this wasn't Sam's apartment building, and she wouldn't answer when he buzzed apartment 3-E.

He pushed the white square button, and a hesitant voice answered moments later. "Who is it?"

Damn it. That was Sam's voice.

"It's Hyde," he said. "Can I come up?"

"Oh, the curly cutie." Giggles came through the speaker. "Sure!"

She buzzed him in, and he entered a small, dimly-lit lobby. No elevator, which was fine by him. Those things were death-traps in buildings like this. He climbed the warped stairs to the third floor, and when he reached the landing, a mouse skittered past his feet.

Cracked ceiling lights were flickering in the hallway. Roaches crawled along the stained rug, and Hyde nodded at them. Nice place. Reminded him of the house he grew up in.

The door to 3-E was already open when he reached it. Sam opened it wider, and her expression warmed upon seeing him. "Come on in," she said.

He hesitated and stuck his hand into his left jeans pocket. His lock pick and lighter were inside, and he felt safer knowing they were there. Those two items were always on him, thanks to his uncle Chet's advice.

"It's okay," Sam said and brought him into the apartment. Her living room-kitchen combo was a decent size—and a beat-up mess. Torn curtains covered the windows. Cabinet doors hung off their hinges or were missing. Flush against the baseboards were mousetraps and bug traps.

And cigarette smoke choked the air. A few of the other strippers were sitting at a table with a bunch of colorful material. They were working on their outfits.

Hyde approached them, and one of the strippers pointed her cigarette at him. "Yeah, I remember you," she said.

"He is cute," another stripper said, and they all began to giggle.

None of the chicks were wearing much, mostly t-shirts and panties. And none of 'em seemed surprised to see him there either. A good sign. Sam had shown him where her apartment was last night, not Friday.

He pointed to the table. "You work on your costumes every morning?"

Sam gave him a funny look. "Saturdays and Wednesdays usually."

"'Usually...'" He pulled her into the kitchen, behind the divider separating it from the living room. "Sam," he whispered, "what day is it?"

"Saturday." She was smiling with complete innocence, far more innocence than a stripper should've had.

He stared at her from behind his shades. "They got you, too."

"Who did?"

"Them," he said.

She peered around the divider at the other strippers. "Oh, no. I was dancing before I met any of them."

"No, that's not what I..." He clenched and unclenched his fists. "Never mind." This place was a dead end. He headed for the front door.

"Wait! Didn't you want something?" Sam shouted after him.

"Nothing you can give, man."

9:48 A.M.

Hyde was in the Camino and driving away from the Shooting Star Motel. His car, at least, he could trust. He'd gotten his duffel bag from the room and made a decision. If Red had been taken, Point Place was compromised. Returning there wasn't an option.

So he drove south... to Chicago. Kelso was too dumb to be taken in, and Jackie wouldn't be snowed either. Her will was too damn strong.

His foot laid into the gas pedal once he hit the highway. He had to get to Jackie, man—before anyone else did.