The Waiting Room
by Lee Kirkland

     Vincent trudged slowly homeward, another night of futile
searching behind him.  How many times now had he begun the
evening in hope, only to end it in despair?  How many hopeful
hours had he spent in alleys and on rooftops, always alert,
waiting, watching, listening for the slightest trace of
Catherine?  Yet he still had faith that she was alive somewhere,
waiting.  She had to be.  And if he searched enough alleys, and
stood silhouetted on enough rooftops, sooner or later he would
find her.
       For now, however, the night was over; the sun had risen,
casting bright beams of light into the shadowed places, and it
was time to go home.  Pacing wearily, he closed his eyes for
steps at atime, allowing his feet to trace the familiar path
without conscious guidance.  Sometimes he couldalmost feel
Catherine walking beside him, her hand small and warm in his.  He
felt her now, andtreasured the sensation, savoring it...
     Without warning, it was as if he'd stepped into the Chamber
of the Winds... somethinghowled around his ears; he felt a
tugging sensation, accompanied by a burst of dizziness.  Hefought
to open his eyes, but they resisted his efforts... and suddenly
all went black.
       At last the dizziness faded and he managed to open his
eyes.  Light and shadow began totake shape around him, replacing
the darkness.
       As the shock of his surroundings drove the breath from his
lungs, he gasped for air,simultaneously scrambling from a relaxed
position to a wary crouch against a wall.  Heartpounding, mind
racing, he surveyed his situation.  He was in a spare, functional
room.  Recessedoverhead lights illuminated white-painted walls,
making the room uncomfortably bright.  On theedge of panic,
Vincent ducked his head, reaching unconsciously behind for
something to cover hisface, but whatever he expected to find
wasn't there.
      He felt alert, not drugged, yet somehow he had been
snatched from safety and spirited tothis place without knowing
it, without even the sensation of passing time.  In contrast to
hisphysical well-being, he was mentally disoriented and confused. 
There were images pressingagainst his mind, pieces of his memory
he couldn't quite bring into focus... things like his ownname...
     With his back pressed firmly against the wall, he inched to
a standing position, eyesdarting as he searched for clues to his
whereabouts and an escape route.
       The room he occupied was neither large nor small, but
somewhere in between.  A door,firmly closed, shared the far wall
with a large window.  Fine wires ran in a criss-cross
patternthrough the glass of the window, but Vincent could not see
beyond it because of the drawncurtains on the other side.  To his
right, another door stood partially open and Vincent was
easingtoward it cautiously, listening intently when a sound made
him freeze.  The knob of the first doorwas turning slowly, and he
shrank back.
     "...call Al," a woman said, pausing with the door ajar a few
inches.  "We've completedanother leap."  As she finished speaking
to her unseen companion, the woman, carrying aclipboard and
wearing a white lab coat, came a few steps into the room.
       "Hello," she smiled genially.  "This must all be very
     Instinctively, Vincent's lip curled back from bared teeth
and he growled softly.  It soundedodd to his ears and he
fleetingly wondered why, but had no time to dwell on it.  The
woman's eyeswidened in shock and he growled again, more loudly. 
Again, his snarl sounded less menacingthan he expected, but it
had the desired effect as the woman stumbled backwards, yanking
thedoor closed behind her.
       Trembling, Vincent slid down to crouch against the wall. 
Despite his confusion, it wasclear that this was some sort of
scientific facility and he had no doubt that he was destined to
beone of its most fascinating subjects.
       As minutes passed and the door remained closed, Vincent
resumed his cautiousexploration of the room.  Creeping forward
quietly, he peered around the frame of the second,open door.
       There was no escape route here, only a small, windowless
bathroom, and after giving it aquick glance, Vincent turned his
attention back to the larger room.  It was furnished simply. 
Onecorner held a bed with nightstand and lamp beside it; another
had a small, utilitarian table withtwo chairs.  A commonplace
beige sofa stood against one wall with a three-shelf bookcase
besideit.  A large clock with a square white face was mounted on
the wall above the sofa.  It was animpersonal, clinical room,
comfortable but not welcoming.
       Vincent eased forward to try the other door.  As he
expected, it was locked, and cautioustesting showed it to be a
solid barrier.  Turning away and moving to the corner farthest
from thelocked door, he crouched down to wait.
     Passing minutes had stretched to nearly an hour when the
door opened again.  This time, itwas a man who entered.  Again,
Vincent bared his teeth in a feral snarl, but this time the
effectwas different.  Instead of showing fear, the man sighed
heavily, closing the door behind him andleaning against the wall.
       "You're not foolin' me with the gorilla act, Vincent," he
said wearily.  "I know you cantalk."
     Vincent's hands curled themselves into a threatening,
talon-like position as he snarledagain, even as the rational part
of his brain seized on the name.  Vincent.  That is who I am. 
     "Come on," the man persisted.  "I'm not scared of you.  Quit
     Warily, Vincent subsided, his eyes never leaving the man who
regarded him with guardedcuriosity.  Sinking into a chair, the
man lit a cigar, waving it for emphasis in between puffs. 
"Myname's Albert," he said.  "Call me Al.  I know you're probably
wondering where you are... but Ican't tell you that.  It's
restricted."  He took another drag at his cigar.
     Vincent watched him, wondering at Al's lack of fear and easy
assumption that Vincentcould understand him.  It was not the
reaction he expected, though he had no clear memory to tellhim
what he did expect.  Instinct kept him from speaking and the man
seemed to have a vastreserve of patience, which was reflected in
kind brown eyes outlined by thick, dark eyebrows.
     Al leaned back, placing his arms behind his head, and the
movement drew Vincent'sattention to Al's outlandish attire.  A
shocking pink shirt was complemented by a wide purple tiewith a
metallic silver stripe that matched his shiny silver racing
jacket.  Al shifted again, crossinghis legs, exposing hot pink
socks and silver high-topped tennis shoes.  He reminded Vincent
of agift wrapped brightly in aluminum foil.  Minutes ticked by as
they watched each other... waiting.
       At last, a light tap on the outer door interrupted and the
man who called himself Al roseand went to open it.  He spoke
quietly to someone beyond the door and Vincent strained to hear.
     "...rine Chandler," he heard, and tensed.  The name was
familiar... his brow furrowed as hetried to force the reluctant
memory.  Rine... rine... Catherine...  He couldn't make the
memorycome clearly, but he knew the person they spoke of was
someone dear to him.  Just thinking hername aroused powerful
feelings; fear, hope, longing.  Who was she?  Why couldn't he
     Al went out, shutting the door behind him and Vincent sank
onto the couch, eyes closedas he searched his fragmented
memory.He had been searching... for Catherine?  Perhaps.  He
didn't know.
      What is wrong with me?  Am I ill?  In his mind were faces
without names and nameswithout faces.  He could picture places
that filled him with a familiar longing, but had no ideawhere the
places were.  Voices echoed inside his head.
     "She can only bring you unhappiness!"
       The man's curt voice was replaced by a woman's, full of
sad tenderness.  "I love you."
     "She can only bring you unhappiness!"
     "I love you."
     The voices repeated, faster and faster, until they began to
overlap, drowning each otherout.
     The memory of another voice, one he knew instinctively was
his own, broke in.  "'For thysweet love rememb'red...'"
     With a low growl, he pressed his fists to his temples,
rocking back and forth.  He knewthose voices, and knew the
circumstances behind each phrase.  He knew his own voice
wasquoting a poem, a sonnet.  But who was the poet?  What names
went with those familiar voices? Why can't I remember?
     Perhaps, if he put the pieces together, slowly, logically,
it would all begin to make sense. He remembered her name...
Catherine.  He heard a woman's voice saying, "I love you."  He
wasabsolutely certain those words had been directed at him,
though he also had the odd feeling it hadnot been a happy
occasion.  Still, the feelings her name evoked convinced him that
she wassomeone very special to him... a lover, a wife?  Someone
who loved him despite... despite what? There was something, and
Catherine loved him in spite of it, but what was the barrier
       He felt as if his memory was a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces
scrambled into a jumbled heap,but one part, one small corner of
the puzzle was piecing itself together.  He had Catherine now. If
he could not see her face, he could hear her voice.  If he did
not know precisely who she was,he knew she loved him and that he
loved her.  He knew... she was gone.  Another piece fellpainfully
into place.  Lost.  Taken away from him.  He had been
     He was struck by an anguished thought.  What if this is the
place where Catherine is? What if, somehow, they have forced her
to betray our secret?  He was suddenly certain that therewas a
secret, though he couldn't quite recall what it was.  Heartache
and fury filled him, imaginingwhat they must have done to
Catherine to force her to reveal the knowledge she had kept
hiddenfor so long.
     Agitated, he rose and began to pace.  If Catherine was here,
he would find her.  Somehow,he would find his way out of this
room, and when he found her, they would never be
separatedagain.Suddenly, Vincent whirled to face the opening
door.  "Sorry," Al apologized breezily. "We're having a little
trouble getting information from New York.  Sealed files, or
something.  Ihad to make a phone call."
     He made himself comfortable in the same chair and lit
another cigar.  "I gotta tell you,Vincent, you're a kick.  I
never thought I'd see someone like you!"
     Never thought I'd see someone like you... like you...  Al's
comment echoed in his ears. "Yet you do not fear me," he said
slowly.  Strangers usually did fear him, though the reason
fortheir fear remained stubbornly obscure.
       "If the little girl wasn't scared of you, why should I
be?" Al asked easily.
     Vincent shook his head in an abrupt motion of confusion. 
"Little girl?  I've seen nochildren here."
     Al waved expansively, cigar ash fluttering.  "Not here.  The
other place.  Where you comefrom.  What's her name... Samantha?"
     Samantha.  The name evoked an image... long dark hair,
expressive dark eyes... a child notof these harsh, brightly
lighted white walls, but of another place, one dimly illuminated
by candles,their aroma faint in the air...
       As he brought himself out of the memory sharply, he became
aware of Al's heightenedscrutiny.  "How do you know of Samantha?"
      "Saw her in the tunnel outside your room," Al said
casually, his gaze intent.  "The guy youcall Father was tryin' to
convince her that you're all right."
     Tunnels!  The word brought a flashing memory of twisting
rock corridors, connectingchambers hacked out of rock...  And
Father!  With the name, he suddenly had a face, carewornand lined
beneath graying curls.
       How does this man know of that place? he wondered in
sudden suspicion.  I do not knowhim.  Where could he have seen me
and Father and Samantha?
     "They should be concerned," he said reasonably, determined
to learn whatever he couldfrom this man.  "I am not there."
     "They don't know that," Al said.  Looking guilty, he closed
his mouth abruptly.
     Vincent straightened to his full height.  "Tell me what is
happening," he demanded.
       Al hesitated, and, across the space which separated them,
Vincent could sense genuineregret.  "Sorry, Vincent.  I've said
too much already."
     That avenue of questioning was obviously closed, so Vincent
changed course.  "Tell mewhy I am here."
     Al offered a wry grin.  "You're waiting."  He gestured with
both hands, indicating thewalls that surrounded them.  "The
Waiting Room.  Your temporary home."
     Vincent glanced around the functional room cursorily.  "What
am I waiting for?"
     Stubbing out what was left of his cigar, Al pushed the
ashtray away, crossed his arms andsighed.  "That's always an
interesting question to answer.  In your case, I think you're
waiting forsomeone to be found."
     "Catherine," Vincent breathed.  "Is she here?"  The question
was spoken almost before itwas formed; it was not a wise question
to ask now, but he ached to know.
     To his mild astonishment, Al shook his head.  "We aren't
even sure who she is, yet," hesaid in frustration.  "Computers
are wonderful machines when they work, Vincent, but about halfthe
     Vincent left the comment unanswered.  He knew what computers
were, of course, but hisknowledge of them was extremely limited
and he didn't care much about Al's problems.  What hewanted
was... "Catherine..."  Unconsciously, he breathed her name aloud.
     Al's expression turned eager and he leaned forward, bracing
elbows on knees.  "Tell meabout her, Vincent.  The more I know,
the better."
     "You cannot truly think that I would provide you with
information that would enable youto imprison her here, too,"
Vincent said in contempt.
     Al looked surprised, almost shocked.  "No, no, you have it
all wrong!  We're here tohelp!"  Meeting Vincent's implacable
gaze of disbelief, he went on, almost pleading.  "She's
lost,isn't she?  We think we're supposed to find her for you."
     "You think you're supposed to find her," Vincent repeated
slowly.  A dispassionate part ofhis mind observed that talking to
Al was a little like talking to Mouse and automatically he
beganto offer the carefully worded questions he would have asked
his strange friend.  "Are you with thepolice?"
     To his surprise and consternation, Al snorted back a
derisive chuckle.  "Not even close,"he said.
       "Who is it that expects you to find her, then?"
     Al gave a quick glance upward.  "Good question."  He didn't
     "Why must you find her?" Vincent pressed.
     Al shrugged.  "It's what we do now.  We fix things."
     That line of questioning was going nowhere.  "Who is we?"
Vincent inquired, changingtacks.  "You and the woman I saw
     Al laughed out loud.  "Yeah, me and her and about two
hundred and fifty more."
     "So many?"  Instinctively, Vincent shrank from the idea of
so many strangers seeing him. He still didn't remember why. 
"What is your job, Albert?"
     He was prepared to hear words like research scientist, or
anthropologist, or evenpsychologist.  Al's answer surprised
him."Communications," he said with a cocky grin.
     Vincent's brow furrowed.  "I do not understand."
     "It's simple, Vincent.  There's someone, his name's Sam. 
He's the one who does most ofthe actual fixing... the rest of the
crew is just back-up... but someone has to communicate withhim. 
That someone's me."
     Al seemed about to elaborate when a flat plastic box shoved
carelessly into his shirtpocket beeped suddenly and began
flashing colored lights.  "Hang on a sec, Vince," Al said,pulling
the device out and punching a few buttons on its front.  He
frowned at it.  "Machines," hemuttered, smacking the side of the
flat box with an impatient swat.  Evidently, the results of
thataction didn't satisfy him, because he rose and went to the
       "Hey, Larry!" he shouted down the corridor.  "What's Ziggy
trying to tell me here?  It's allfutzed up!"
     On his feet, Vincent had already considered and discarded
the idea of escape, at least fornow.  Al was both a source of
valuable information and a way out, since he had the ability to
openthe door from the inside.  Each time Al had opened the door,
Vincent had seen him press his palmagainst a flat gray box next
to the doorknob and surmised that it was a very sophisticated
type oflock.
       "...got the file!" a disembodied voice called back,
answering Al's shout.  Vincent couldonly make out some of the
words.  "...rine Chandler, ...tant D.A.  ...sing for six
months... found...apartment... murdered..."
     He had been creeping closer, trying to hear.  The last word,
echoing clearly down thebarren corridor, made him freeze in
horror.  "No!"  His whisper was one of shocked, stunneddisbelief. 
Catherine dead!
       Al whirled around at the sound, his face at once full of
compassion and concern.  "Youweren't supposed to hear that," he
chided gently.  "I'll get the rest of the data later," he told
theunseen man, and closed the door again.
       Vincent forgot caution.  "Catherine is dead," he said,
hoping against hope that Al wouldrefute his words.  He had never
known such agony.  A flashing image of soft, luminous green
eyessmiled up at him and were just as quickly gone.
      Al nodded briefly, his eyes sad.  "Sit down, Vincent," he
invited kindly.  "You shouldn'thave heard that," he repeated. 
"I'm sorry."
     "Where?  When?  How?"  Vincent's voice shook with barely
suppressed anguish.
     Al hesitated, lighting up a fresh cigar and chewing on it
nervously.  He didn't bother toremove it from his mouth before
answering the middle question.  "Six years ago."
     Vincent's head came up, his eyes wide.  He knew that
couldn't be right.  "Six years?" Hope began to flow.  Six years
ago, he hadn't even known her; he was sure of it, even though
partof him thought he'd known her all his life.
         "In the fall of 1989," Al continued, watching him.
     "No!" Vincent whispered in a mixture of agony and confusion. 
"This is the fall of 1989..." He was suddenly sure of that, too,
but allowed his voice to trail away as a nightmarish thoughtcame
to him.  Rip Van Winkle slept for twenty years... is it possible
I've slept for six?  As quicklyas the thought came, he dismissed
        Al shook his head sadly.  "Where you came from, it hasn't
happened yet," he explainedslowly.  "Gee, Vincent, I shouldn't be
telling you this.  It's a big no-no on Ziggy's list.  They'll
havemy head if they find out..."
     "What do you mean, it hasn't happened yet?"  Vincent was
grasping at straws, seekingsomething, anything, that would mean
Catherine lived.  "Please, you must tell me!"
      In a gesture of defeat, Al spread his hands wide and began
to speak slowly.  His voice wasbarely audible.  "You've gotten
involved with a project called Quantum Leap.  It's a
     "Are you saying I've travelled through time?"  Vincent's
bewildered disbelief was growingby the second, contending with a
helpless, grieving fury.  He wanted to strike out at something,
orthrow back his head and wail his heartache.  Instead, he fought
down an outraged snarl, ballinghis hands into fists to control
his rage.  "Do you expect me to believe it?" he hissed
throughclenched teeth.
       Al regarded him through a haze of cigar smoke.  "No, I
don't guess I do," he answeredfinally.  "But then, I have a hard
time believing in you."
      "Where is Catherine?" Vincent demanded with complete
disregard for Al's remark.
     Al sighed.  "I told you.  She died, six years ago.  I don't
have the details yet.  Our peoplehere are still working on that. 
Ziggy thinks Sam's supposed to find her."
     "If she is dead, how can this Sam find her?"
     "You don't understand.  Sam isn't here, now.  He's back in
your now.  He's you."
     That statement was absurd enough to make Vincent blink.  For
the first time, he began towonder if this was all a fantastic
dream, or nightmare.  "He's me?"
     "Yeah.  Come here."  Taking his arm fearlessly, Al pulled
him around to face the wallbehind him.  A mirror, about three
feet square, occupied part of it.  "Look."
     Vincent did, and, for the first time in his life, was
utterly nonplussed by what he saw.  Twomen stood reflected in the
mirror.  Groping, he tried to remember what he looked like... and
swiftimages began to form.  He recognized Al, but the other
      Was a man.  Completely human.  No fur, no mane, no cleft
lip or sharp teeth.  Andsuddenly Vincent was sure he'd always had
those things.  Astonished hazel eyes peered back athim from under
heavy brows.  Short brown hair was highlighted at the forehead by
a small patchof gray.  Gingerly, Vincent brought his hands up to
touch, and froze, staring first at the image ofhis hands in the
mirror, then at the hands themselves.  Like his face, they were
human.  Smoothand slender with long, tapering fingers ending in
blunt nails, they were without the dense fur andwickedly sharp
claws he abruptly remembered.  His eyes met Al's in the mirror. 
"How is thispossible?" he asked hoarsely.  "Am I dreaming?"
     Al gave a brusque shake of his head.  "Not dreaming.  Come
sit down and I'll try toexplain."
     Dazed, Vincent obeyed.  "You're telling me the truth," he
whispered.  "Catherine is dead."
     "Now she is.  Back in your time, she isn't yet.  Sam's got
to find her before she's killed."
     Suddenly Vincent was on his feet.  "No.  Take me back.  I
must find her."
     "I can't do that," Al began.
     Vincent's temper snapped.  "You must!  Do you expect me to
leave Catherine's fate in thehands of a stranger?  I can protect
     Al was on his feet, too.  "You can't!" he shouted back. 
"You didn't!  She died, Vincent! You didn't stop it!"
     Helpless fury made Vincent raise one curled hand as his lip
lifted in a snarl.  He took astep toward Al before shocked memory
reminded him that he no longer had the claws whichserved as his
weapons.  Again, he fought down his outrage, stepping back and
lowering his hand.
     "Please, Albert," he said, prepared to beg if necessary.  "I
sense you are a good man.  Youmust send me back.  She needs me."
     Al looked uncomfortable and rubbed his eyebrow.  "Even if I
wanted to, I couldn't,Vincent," he tried to explain.
       "Of course you can," Vincent argued forcibly.  "If you
brought me here, you can send meback."
     "That's the trouble.  We didn't bring you here, at least,
not deliberately.  We've lost controlof the experiment."
     A tiny part of Vincent observed again that talking to Al was
a lot like talking to Mouse.  "Idon't understand," he said
     Al sighed and reached for another cigar.  "Neither does
anyone else.  Best we can figure issome higher power has taken
over and is using Sam to correct things that once went wrong."
     His rage suddenly exhausted, Vincent bowed his head.  "Tell
me about Sam," he saidfinally, softly.
     Al leaned back in his chair.  "Dr. Sam Beckett.  The genius
behind this project."  His voicesoftened.  "My best friend."
     "He is a good man?"
     "The best."
     "How is it that this... experiment has gone awry?"
     "Money," Al said flatly.  "The government was going to halt
funding unless somethinghappened quick, so Sam, against all
advice, decided to be the first to try it.  He steps into
theaccelerator and poof!  Next thing we know, somebody else is
wearing his body."  He made anall-encompassing gesture toward
       Vincent touched both hands to his chest.  "This is Sam?"
        "That's Sam," Al confirmed with a nod.  "He's back in
your time, looking like you."
     Even through his bewilderment, grief and despair, Vincent
was able to find a spark ofhumor in that.  "I can imagine his
     Al grinned.  "When I left him, he hadn't found a mirror yet. 
He keeps looking at his hands,though."
      "How is it possible that you're able to see him?"
     "I told you.  I'm his link with now.  We communicate through
brain wave transmissions." Seeing Vincent's blank expression, he
sighed.  "Look, it's very technical and complicated and I'mnot
even sure I understand it completely.  Sam designed it, just like
he designed everything else. We have a special room, called the
imaging chamber, where I go to see him."
     "Do you travel across time, as well?"
     "No, I stay here.  My image, my brain waves travel across
time, and I appear to Sam as ahologram.  He can see me and hear
me, but he can't touch me.  I can see and hear him, but
can'ttouch him or anything around him because I'm not really
there, I'm still here."  He sighed.  "I toldyou it was
     For the first time, Vincent showed the ghost of a smile.  "I
think I may be starting tounderstand.  Does your friend Sam come
back here often?"
     Al frowned.  "He doesn't come back at all.  We've tried, but
we can't get him back.  God,or whoever it is running things now,
doesn't want to let him go just yet."
     Vincent cocked his head curiously.  "Why do you believe a
higher power has takencontrol?"
     "Because whenever Sam leaps, he ends up where somebody needs
help, and as soon as hehelps them, he leaps again.  Ziggy...
Ziggy's a computer... is pretty good at calculating why Sam
iswhere he is, and he says there's a 96.4 percent probability
that Sam's leaped into you in order tofind Catherine Chandler
before she's murdered."
     Vincent couldn't help a small, involuntary flinch at the
harshness of Al's statement.
       Al offered a blunt apology.  "Look, I'm sorry, Vincent. 
Fact is, you shouldn't knowanything about any of this.  You know
what they say... ignorance is bliss."
     Vincent spoke slowly.  "I have been... ignorant of
Catherine's fate for nearly six months. The pain of not knowing
where she is, whether or not she is safe, is the worst I have
ever known. I do not think that ignorance is bliss."  The holes
in his memory were filling rapidly now.  "Howwill your friend Sam
try to find her, when I could not?" he asked softly.
     "He probably won't," Al answered, waving his cigar.  "We
      "With the advantage of being six years in the future.  When
we get the people in NewYork to unlock the files, we'll find out
where she died..." again, Vincent flinched involuntarilyfrom Al's
words... "and work backwards from there."
     "What do you know?" Vincent asked intensely.
       Al regarded him thoughtfully for a moment before pulling
the small, flat plastic box out ofhis pocket again.  It beeped
and flashed in response to his fingers.  Al looked at it and
sighed. "Look, Vincent, are you sure you want to hear this?"
     "Please," he said, his voice ominously quiet.  "I must
     Al sighed again.  "Okay.  Don't say I didn't warn you."  He
studied the flat box again. "Her body was found in her apartment,
in her own bed.  The mystery of how she got there hasnever been
cleared up."  He raised a questioning eyebrow in Vincent's
     "How did she die?"  Clasped hands gripped between his
thighs, he stared sightlessly at thefloor as those wide,
expressive green eyes floated just out of reach.
      Al punched some buttons and slapped the side of what
Vincent finally recognized as somesort of link with Ziggy, the
main computer.  "Morphine."  He looked up.  "A painless death."
      "Small comfort," Vincent answered tersely.  "What has she
undergone during the pastmonths?"  It was a rhetorical question;
he didn't expect or even want an answer.  Suddenlyrestless, he
rose and began to stride back and forth in the confines of the
room.  "What else?"
     Al spread his hands and shrugged.  "Nothing yet.  We're
still waiting for somebody in NewYork to give us access to their
     "Will they?" Vincent asked, suddenly alarmed that some
self-important bureaucrat, thekind of dogmatic paper-shuffler
Catherine used to complain to him about, might delay too long.
     Al appeared unconcerned.  "We're a government-funded
project," he explained.  "We haveall the top clearances.  It just
takes a little time for everything to be checked out.  We should
havethe file by the end of the day."
     "And how long does Catherine have?" Vincent asked, his
borrowed voice sounding harshin his ears.  "Will there be time?"
     "Day after tomorrow she's found, your time." Al assured him. 
"Sam has 'til tomorrownight."
     "If he is me, then there are places he cannot go safely,"
Vincent warned.  "He must clingto the darkness, travel the city
only at night.  It is dangerous for one who is so different." 
Isolatedmemories of slipping silently through shadows, pressing
against alley walls to avoid being seen bycasual passersby,
invaded Vincent's mind.  He shook them off impatiently.   There
would be time,later, for remembering.  "He must go with care."
     "Don't worry," Al said comfortingly.  "He will."
     The thought of someone who looked so very different
venturing unknowing into thedangers of the world disturbed
Vincent.  "What will happen if Sam should be injured...
killedwhile he is there?" he asked slowly.
     Al looked grim.  "We don't know, exactly.  Probably one of
two things.  Either a leaptakes place immediately and it's you
that dies, or else Sam dies and you're stuck here.  Forever."
     Vincent was very quiet for a moment.  "If a life is to be
given, I wish it to be mine.  Noone else should have to suffer
because of me."
     "Not going to be our choice, pal, if it comes to that, which
it won't," Al said, trying tocheer him up.  "Besides, if you get
stuck here, you're free!  You can do whatever you want,
gowherever you like!  No more hiding underground!"
     The silence which ensued was uncomfortable.  Head down,
Vincent brooded quietly.  Hecould hear Al shifting nervously in
his seat.
       A life without Catherine... would be no life at all.  A
life without Catherine...  He couldnot imagine so bleak an
existence.  There is still time, there is still hope, he reminded
himselffiercely.  Al seems to place great trust in his friend. 
All I can do is wait.
     Waiting.  It wasn't something he excelled at.  He wanted to
be there, taking part, using hisphysical gifts - his speed,
agility, and strength - to assist in Catherine's rescue, and here
he was,hemmed in by these four white walls.
     "While we wait, what is Sam doing?"  It was an innocent
question, born of wanting toknow, but Al looked momentarily
       "Reading," he said at last, uncomfortably.
     "Reading?" Vincent questioned.  It seemed a mundane
occupation for one whoseexistence consisted, if Al could be
believed, of saving others.  Al's uneasiness made him
probefurther.  "What is he reading?"
     Al actually squirmed.  "A journal," he said finally, lifting
his eyebrows.
     Vincent straightened slowly, his bearing regal as he gazed
at the other man.  "My journal?"he asked incredulously.
     Al nodded gingerly.
     Outrage warred with pragmatism; pragmatism won, barely. 
"Why?" Vincent asked faintly.
     Al seemed relieved.  "To learn about you.  The more he
knows, the better he'll be at beingyou.  Besides, the information
Ziggy digs up is never as good as stuff Sam gets first-hand."
     Vincent lowered himself carefully into a chair.  "Why did
you not simply ask me what youwant to know?"
      The look Al bestowed upon him was one of rueful amusement. 
"You can't imagine howdifferent you are from most of the people
who go through this room."
     "Can't I?"
     Al snorted.  "Not that kind of different.  I mean you talk. 
You remember.  Most peoplewho come here have swiss cheese for
     "Swiss cheese?"  Vincent questioned the analogy.
     "You know... full of holes.  Leaping through time does that,
apparently.  You don't seemto have any holes."
     Many things were beginning to make sense.  "The holes are
there," he assured Al.  "Not somany now as when I first arrived,
but there are many things, simple things, I cannot remember."
     "Really?" Al was interested.  "Like what?"
     "At the moment, I'd like to recall who wrote a sonnet that
ends '...for thy sweet loverememb'red such wealth brings, that
then I scorn to change my state with kings.'"  Vincent'scomment
was wry.
     "Beats me," Al said.  "'There was a young man of Eau Claire,
enjoying his girl on the stair; On the forty-fourth stroke, the
bannister broke, and he finished her off in mid-air...'" Al
quotedwith a cheerful leer.  "That's all the poetry I know.  You
could check out the bookshelves later,though.  Might be something
there.  What else can't you remember?  We like to keep track of
     "Silly things," Vincent admitted, eyeing Al dubiously.  "How
old I am.  My brother'sname.  The kinds of food I like to eat." 
His voice became soft, pensive.  "Catherine's face..."
     There was a light tap on the door and Al got up to answer
it.  After speaking briefly withthe person outside, he turned to
Vincent.  "Our medical team needs to come in and run some
testsand the shrink wants to ask some questions," he said. 
"Don't worry, they aren't going to hurtyou."
     Vincent's instinctive surge of alarm must have shown.
      "Don't worry, Vincent," Al repeated.  "Remember, they see
you as Sam."
     Even though the door to freedom stood open, Vincent made no
move toward it, and hewondered exactly when his disbelief had
turned to trust.
       "I've got things to do," Al went on, oblivious.  "I'll be
back later."
     Three white-coated technicians entered the room.  One was
the woman Vincent hadgrowled at when he had first arrived, and
all three approached him warily.
       Fighting his natural aversion to inspection, he allowed
himself to be coaxed to a chair,where he sat rigidly while the
two medical technicians took his pulse, temperature,
bloodpressure, and checked reflexes and pupil reactions.  A
shudder swept him as another, fragmented,memory presented itself.
       Strapped to a table... bright light shining in his eyes...
a man poised above him, holding asyringe....  Lying on the floor
of a cage, weak, desolate, alone.
     "Are you experiencing any dizziness?"  The question brought
Vincent back to awarenesssharply.  "Any instances of blurred
vision...?  Difficulty hearing...?  Ringing in your ears...?
Doyou feel disoriented...?  Weak...?  Lightheaded...?  Any pain,
especially in your head...?"
     Guardedly, he answered the questions about his physical
state of being, always aware ofthe third person, the woman who'd
come in originally, perched on the end of the sofa takingnotes.
     When the medical techs were finished, they packed up their
instruments and exited quietly,leaving the woman behind.  She
looked nervous.  Vincent, remembering how he had growled ather,
and compassionate as always, felt the need to reassure her.
     "Don't be afraid," he said quietly.  "I will not harm you."
     She peered at him over pink plastic designer glasses perched
precariously on the end ofher nose and offered him a weak smile. 
"I'm Dr. Verbena Beeks," she said.  "I have just a fewquestions
to ask you."
     Vincent nodded apprehensively.
     "What is the last thing you remember before you leaped?"
     Rising, he began to stray restively from place to place
about the room.  "I rememberwalking... searching..."
     "Searching for what?"
     When he answered, his voice was edged with frustration.  "I
don't remember."
     "Do you remember your name?"
     He looked at her.  "Vincent."
     "Do you know what year it is?"
     Vincent looked up warily, remembering what Al had told him.
"...1989," he answeredcautiously.
      "Good!  Who's president?"
     "Of the United States?  George Bush."
     "Where do you live?"
     "...the City of New York."  He braced himself, waiting for
the next question.
     "Often, people who have made these leaps find them
disquieting.  Would you mind sharingyour feelings with me?"
     Relieved that they centered on his present state of being
and did not touch upon his home,Vincent answered her questions
patiently.  Perhaps she, like Al, assumed he could not remember.
Whatever the reason, she was satisfied.
     When he was finally alone again, Vincent began to pace
restlessly.  Fraught with concern,frustrated by his helplessness,
he traveled the short distance between door and opposite wall
overand over, his mind seething with questions and
half-remembered answers.  Catherine needed himdesperately, and
everything he was urged him to rush to her aid.  He moved faster
and faster until,suddenly furious, he turned and slammed his hand
into the wall, welcoming the distraction of pain.
      He stood still for a moment, cradling his hand and
breathing heavily.  Feeling more calm,he began to roam the room
again.  Attracted to the shelves of books, he went for a closer
look.  All the books were classics; none of the editions had been
published later than 1950.  He reachedfor a fat volume and tugged
it from the tightly-packed shelf.  "Shakespeare," he
murmured,turning a few pages.
       Well-known words and phrases leaped up at him.  He read
Shakespeare, and frequently,judging from the number of passages
he recognized.  Occasionally, he stopped to read a
familiarsection, smiling.  At the back of the book were
Shakespeare's sonnets, all 154 of them.
       He skimmed slowly, stopping now and then to read a line, a
couplet, or an entire sonnet. The opening lines of Number 3 made
him smile.
       'Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest,
     Now is the time that face should form another...'
     Appropriate, he thought, touching the unfamiliar planes of
his face with one hand. Following Shakespeare's advice, he set
the book aside, moving to the mirror to view
himselfdispassionately.If Catherine could see me now, what would
she think? he wondered.  If I lookedlike this for always, would I
be able to find the courage to move past my fears?  He
experienced asudden, frighteningly vivid flash-memory of himself
on the dusty floor of a darkened cave, lockedin a torrid embrace
with a woman. (Catherine!?)  Alarmed, he shook it off.  He and
Catherine hadnever been intimate, he was sure... yet the
intensity of the memory pervaded his thoughts.  Couldhe have
imagined it all?
       Troubled, he returned to his inspection.  Leaning closer
to the mirror for a better look, hetraced his nose slowly.  It
felt strange under his fingers, not flat and furry, but
high-bridged andsmooth.  He tried a smile and the face in the
mirror smiled back.  It was a friendly smile, full ofcharm and
good humor.
     Al's friend Sam.  He had a nice face, a nice smile.  A good
man, Al had said.  A man whohelped others, a man who would soon
be risking his life to help a woman he had never met. Vincent
smiled again, and this time the smile was for Sam.
       Sam smiled back at him, and Vincent took a sudden,
startled step backwards, alarmed bythe abrupt certainty that
someone was standing inches away, on the other side of the
mirror. Armed with suspicion, he examined the mirror carefully. 
It did seem to have a certain smokyquality, but it was the strong
sense of another's presence that convinced him that this
wassomething he had only read about - a two-way mirror.  Someone
on the other side was watchinghim.
       The concept of being watched made his skin crawl and he
fought down an involuntarygrowl.  Succumbing to rage would not
accomplish anything.  Forcing himself to retreat, he movedslowly
to stand braced against the wall where he could not be seen. 
Gradually the sensation ofbeing observed faded, and he knew that
whoever had been behind the mirror was gone.
     When the door opened, he did not look up.  He knew without
looking that his visitor wasAl.
     "They're watching me," Vincent observed, almost
     Al didn't look surprised.  "I know.  I'm sorry.  I can't do
anything about that."  He droppedinto a chair.  "How did you
     Vincent shrugged, his shoulders barely moving.  "I knew."
     Al seemed momentarily uncomfortable and held out a slim blue
folder.  "For you,Vincent."
     The hand holding the folder did not waver, and Vincent moved
slowly forward to take it. Opening it, he allowed the few
curling, shiny-soft sheets of thin paper to slide into his
hand."I gota newspaper in New York to fax these to us," Al said,
his voice only a dim buzz,half-incomprehensible to Vincent, who
was staring at the grainy, oddly textured reproduction of
       "You said you couldn't remember her face."
     Vincent touched the paper lightly.  How could he not have
remembered this face wheneach feature was so indelibly imprinted
on his mind?  There were the eyes that had followed himso
elusively the past hours.  The angle of jaw, the nose, the soft
mouth, all were as intimatelyfamiliar to him as his own hand.
       "Which you weren't able to remember either," Al said,
       Vincent wasn't aware of having voiced his thoughts aloud
until Al spoke.  "Still, howcould I have forgotten?" he murmured
in reply.
       "You really love her, don't you, Vincent?"
      "She is my heart."
       "She feels that way about you, too?"  Al's question
bordered on tentative.  He did notmeet Vincent's eyes.
     "Yes."  It was as much a question as a reply, but Al did not
answer it.
     "Listen, it's getting late and we can't do anything until
tomorrow.  Why don't you try toget some sleep?"
     Vincent did not miss the trace of uncertainty.  "Has
something happened, Albert?"
     "No, of course not.  We're still working on the information
we're getting from New York,"Al explained too effusively, tugging
on his ear.  "Nothing will happen until tomorrow."
     "Are you certain?"  Vincent had the sudden, uncomfortable
conviction that Al was hidingsomething.
     "Absolutely," Al said brightly.  "I'll see you in the
morning, Vincent.  Try to sleep."
      Sleep.  First Father, now Albert.  They do not understand
that I cannot rest whileCatherine is in danger.  Even now, when I
am helpless...  Vincent turned from his wearycontemplation of the
neatly made bed.
       A tray of food, delivered moments after Al left the room,
sat untouched, cooling on atable.  Eat, he thought morosely. 
That is as impossible as resting.  Restlessly he began to pace.
Albert is hiding something from me.  He has learned something
that distresses him, and does notwish to share it.
       Vincent sighed and stopped pacing.  Do I trust Albert, or
not?  He gave the question thecareful consideration it deserved. 
Do I believe in time travel?
       He smiled, remembering how he and Devin had read H.G.
Wells together and had tried tobuild their own time machine out
of cardboard boxes, pop bottles, a discarded steering wheelfrom a
1949 Studebaker and miles of insulated wiring Devin had scavenged
from a junkyard. They'd stocked it with old wall calendars,
broken alarm clocks, a world atlas, and enough food fora week. 
The machine hadn't worked, but had provided hours of imaginative
       There have probably been significant technological
advances since then, he thought inamusement.  What was impossible
for us may well be possible now.  So do I trust Albert? heasked
himself again.
     I do trust him, he finally decided.  He is hiding something,
but I can believe him when hesays it is nothing that will change
what is to happen.  I must believe him.
     Sinking into a chair, he rested his forehead against his
hand.  Whatever Al did or did notknow was immaterial.  For now,
there were the long hours until dawn, empty hours, waiting to
     The volume of Shakespeare still lay open on the table beside
him and he reached for itautomatically.  Words printed on pages
had long been both comfort and escape for him and evennow, in a
strange place, under uncomfortable circumstances, taut with fear
for Catherine, thewords maintained their bewitching power.  All
his concerns faded, for the moment, beneath thebeauty of
Shakespeare's poetry.
     And then he came to the twenty-ninth sonnet.  With the
opening words, he knew this wasthe poem that had been fluttering
on the edge of his memory all day, the poem that wanted sobadly
to be remembered.  He read slowly, cherishing the feelings
brought forth, knowing, withoutremembering clearly, that
Catherine had understood, and had treasured this sonnet as much
as hedid.  Gloriously, he lost himself in almost-remembering.
       Morning brought another meal to be ignored as Vincent
waited impatiently for Al to put inan appearance.  The observers
were back behind the two-way mirror.  He could sense
theirpresence but chose to ignore them.  As time passed, his
restless impatience grew and he began topace the room, stalking
from one end to the other and back again.
       Eventually the presence behind the mirror disappeared, and
when the door finally swungopen, Vincent whirled.
       "I've been waiting for you," he told Al, trying, without
much success, not to soundaccusing.
     "Sorry," Al said, not at all contrite.  "I had to talk to
Sam, tell him what we know."
     "You've seen him?  This morning?"
     "Yeah."  Al grinned.  "He finally found a place where he
could see himself."
     Vincent paused.  "What does he think... of himself?"
     Al sobered.  "I think he's really sorry he's not going to
get to meet you.  Your journalsmust be powerful stuff."  He eyed
Vincent speculatively.
       "Your Catherine, she wasn't seeing anybody before she
disappeared, was she?"
     "Seeing anyone?"
     "You know, dating.  A man."
     Vincent shook his head slowly.  "No one."
     "Except you."
     "Yes.  Except me."
     Al sighed.  "That's what Sam says.  That you love her. 
     "What is it, Albert?" Vincent prompted gently.
       "She really loves you, doesn't she?"
     "You asked that last night," Vincent said slowly.  "Am I so
terrifying to look upon thatyou cannot believe that anyone could
care for me as Catherine does?"
     "Sam thinks love conquers all, too," Al said, obviously torn
between fascination anddoubt.  "I have to tell you something,
     "Something you've learned about Catherine?"
     Al nodded.  "Yeah.  Something you'll need to know when you
leap back home, so youwon't be too startled."
     "What is it, Albert?"
     Al shifted from foot to foot, looking like a penitent
schoolboy.  "Maybe you'd better sitdown, Vincent."
     Bewildered, Vincent complied.
       "You and Catherine, you spent a lot of time together,
     Vincent nodded apprehensively.
     "And... and she was in love with you?"
     Vincent exhaled sharply.  "Albert, what are you trying to
     "Just... she's pregnant, Vincent.  Sam thinks the baby's
     Again came the sharply defined memory of himself and
(Catherine?) on the floor of thecavern, even as he shook his head
in shocked denial.  "No."
     "No, she's not pregnant, or no, the baby isn't yours?"  Al
cocked his head inquisitively.
     Vincent was on his feet, his thoughts spinning, unable to
keep still.  "No."
     Al allowed him to pace for a moment before interrupting. 
"She is pregnant, Vincent.  Theautopsy report..."
     He paused as Vincent stopped, every muscle taut.
       "Look, I'm sorry, Vincent, but for now, she's dead, okay? 
The autopsy report says shehad a baby just before she died.  That
part's real.  I don't know who the father is.  Nobody does. Sam
says it's you."
     Vincent's voice, when he finally spoke, was low and harsh. 
"Where is Catherine's childnow... your now?"
     "I don't know, Vincent.  The baby disappeared and was never
     Vincent felt as if he could not get enough air.  "The person
who... caused her death...?"
     "Gabriel.  He's dead.  Found in a room with an empty crib. 
Shot in the heart."  Al paused. "Funny thing.  He had three
parallel slashes across his cheek.  Like he'd been mauled."
     Vincent's head came up quickly as he dared to hope.
       "Maybe you were there, Vincent," Al said quietly.  "Maybe
the baby's with you."
     "And maybe not.  Maybe Catherine's child is forever lost to
me.  Perhaps I do not evenknow of its existence."  As he spoke,
the hope in Vincent's heart flickered and died.  "Perhaps Inow
have nothing."
     Al leaned forward.  "That's why you're not supposed to know
any of this, Vincent. Because it might not happen that way.  We
know where she is now and we have schematics of thebuilding. 
We're going to get her out."
     Hope was rekindled.  "Where is she?"
     "In a building at 53rd and Sixth," Al said.  "There's a room
on the sixty-fourth floor."
     "I've passed that building a dozen times during the past
months," Vincent said softly. "How could I have been so near and
not known?"
      This was a day of waiting.  Vincent sensed the occasional
presence of watchers behind themirror, and Dr. Beeks came to talk
to him briefly, but he was largely left alone.  Al was
workingwith other members of the Quantum Leap team, preparing for
the evening's rescue.  These were,he had told Vincent firmly,
preparations he could not assist with.
       Vincent hardly noticed his absence.  He was lost in his
own thoughts which swung fromone extreme to the other.  Catherine
was to have a child.
       Whose child? he wondered in agony.  Mine?  Inwardly, he
cursed the gaps in his memorythat would not allow him to remember
clearly.  With the exception of that all too briefhalf-memory of
the dark cavern, what Vincent could recall seemed to deny an
intimaterelationship with Catherine.
     But if the child is not mine, then whose?  He was certain
that she would not have gonewillingly with another man, and the
mere idea of her having been - forced - made him feel ill. Whose
     Vincent sat motionless, staring fixedly at the wall clock. 
Time was not a concept of greatimportance in his world, but now,
in these new surroundings, he was strangely engrossed by theslow
sweep of the second hand.  Each revolution brought Catherine's
life closer to its end.
     His thoughts were interrupted when Al put in a reappearance. 
  "Come on, Vincent," hesaid cheerfully, holding the door wide.
     Vincent regarded him warily.
     "Come on!" Al urged again.  "As long as I'm doing things I'm
not supposed to do, I mightas well keep going."
     "Where are you taking me?" Vincent asked faintly,
approaching but not going through theopen door.
     "A surprise.  I want to show you something.  Hurry up before
somebody sees us!"
     Al's intent was vague, but his feelings were of excitement
and anticipation, not betrayal, soVincent stepped out of the
Waiting Room for the first time.  Al led Vincent cautiously down
along, white-painted corridor whose walls were punctuated with
only a few gray metal doors.  Asolid steel door sealed the end of
the hallway and Al pressed his palm against the flat gray
panelbeside the latch.  Silently, the door slid open and Al
pulled Vincent through it.
      "Here," he whispered, handing Vincent a laminated card that
dangled from a small metalclasp.
       "What is it?" Vincent whispered back, wondering at the air
of secrecy Al carried with him.
      "It's an I.D. - Sam's I.D.  Put it on!"
       Vincent's fingers fumbled with the unfamiliar clasp before
he succeeded in suspending itfrom the pocket of the white
jumpsuit he wore.  Al pulled another card out of his pocket
andfastened it to the lapel of his own jacket.
       "Why do we need these here and not back there?" Vincent
asked as Al started downanother long corridor.
     "That's the inner circle," Al explained.  "Only a select few
have clearance and we all knoweach other by sight.  This pin," he
displayed a metal insignia on his collar, "is the official
clearancefor that area, but anyone who saw you there would have
recognized Sam and known somethingwas up.  There are a lot more
people out here in the secondary area and all you need is an
     A stranger was walking toward them and Vincent hesitated,
fighting the instinctive urge tohide his face.
       "It's okay, Vincent," Al said patiently.  "You look like
Sam, remember?"
     "It is hard to break the habits of a lifetime," Vincent
said, feeling a little sheepish.  Theywere passed by several
others and he fought hard not to shy away, finding that it became
easierwith practice.
     "You still haven't told me where we're going," he said when
he felt less awkward.  "Doesit have something to do with
     "No.  It has to do with I've seen where you live and how you
live."  Al stopped in front ofa set of heavy steel doors and
nodded to a uniformed guard.  "When was the last time you
stoodoutside in the sunshine, Vincent?"
     Vincent's eyes widened.  "Never."
     Al grinned.  "That's what I thought.  Come on."  He pushed
the door open and steppedoutside.
       The sun was bright, blazing out of a crystal clear blue
sky.  The day was warm, but notuncomfortably so, for it was early
spring.  Vincent hesitated on the threshold and Al reached forhis
arm, pulling him forward.
       Beyond the compound lay the desert, stark and barren. 
"It's very beautiful," Vincent saidslowly, his voice as bleak as
the landscape.  He began to walk, his pace measured and steady.
     Making his way across rocky, arid ground, he altered course
now and then to avoidclumps of mesquite or cactus.  He finally
stopped beside a small rocky outcropping and seemedaware, for the
first time, that Al had accompanied him.
       "Thank you," he said.
       Al sank down on a rock.  "I was starting to think you were
trying to go home!"
     Vincent smiled faintly, taking a seat on another small
boulder.  "No," he said, almostwistfully.  "Only walking."
     Al pointed back the way they had just travelled.  "Look how
far we've come."
     Vincent looked.  The compound was small in the distance.  "A
mile?" he asked.  "Two?"
     Al snorted.  "A mile, maybe, stretching it."
     Vincent gave a small, bashful grin.  "I am not accustomed to
being able to see so far."
     "No, I guess not," Al answered.  He hesitated.  "You know,
Vincent, I only brought youout here so you could have a chance to
see the great outdoors.  I figured you'd never haveanother
opportunity to visit a real desert."
     "With real mountains on the horizon," Vincent said, pointing
to a barely discernable,jagged purple line to the west.
       "Yeah.  And the cactus and mesquite are blooming, but
you've hardly looked at anything. What's wrong?"
     Vincent looked down at his outstretched legs and feet,
studying the white leather andrubber of the shoes he wore,
thinking distantly that he hadn't worn sneakers since he was ten
       "Today is the first day since Catherine disappeared that I
have not searched for her," hesaid quietly.  "The first day that
I have not directed all my energies toward finding her.  I feel
guiltfor that."  He sighed.  "It does not help to know that in
this time, in this now, she is beyond myreach."
     Al watched him closely, head tilted a little to one side. 
"You know, Vincent," he saidsuddenly, "Maybe you're placing too
much emphasis on this one woman.  I mean, take me, forexample. 
I've been married five times... and then there's Tina, and
Brenda, and Marguerite..."
     Vincent looked up, allowing Al's words to draw him out of
introspection.  "For me thereis only Catherine," he said.  "Of
all the women you have known, have you never loved deeply?"
     "Aw, sure," Al said, waving his hands.  "I loved all of 'em
while I was with 'em."  Hepaused, returning Vincent's patient
look.  "There was one... my first wife...."  He turned his gazeto
the desert.  "Her name was Beth," he finished softly.
     "You love her still," Vincent observed.
     Al continued to stare, unseeing, at the mesquite.  "It was a
long time ago."  He bent toscoop up a small handful of pebbles
and debris and began tossing the larger bits at a
nearbycactus."Can you not love that way again?"
     Al's voice turned sharp.  "Could you?  If Sam fails tonight,
will you find someone else?"
     Vincent bowed his head.  "For me, there is still hope, still
a possibility...."
     "And if the possibility is gone?"
     "I do not know.  I cannot think beyond the hope."
     Al sighed.  "Yeah.  Well, I guess I understand that.  I
lived on hope for a long time,myself."
     Vincent scuffed a line through the dust on the desert floor. 
"Albert," he asked, tentatively. "How great is the possibility
that Sam will fail?"
     Al put a strong hand on Vincent's shoulder.  "He's never
failed before."
     Vincent met his eyes gratefully and stretched his legs,
leaning back in the bright sunshine. "Tell me, Albert, about your
time.  What is happening in the world now?"
     "Cars are faster, women are faster, and everything costs
more.  The Cleveland Indians stillhaven't won a World Series and
the Denver Broncos just lost their seventh Super Bowl," Al
saidbreezily, grinning.  "On the plus side, we're finally
recycling more aluminum than we throw awayevery year, and plastic
bags are a big no-no!"
     "Is that good?"
     "Whaddaya mean, is that good?  People are finally becoming
environmentally conscious. Where have you been?"
     Vincent ducked his head to hide a small grin at Al's
vehemency.  "I have been occupiedwith more immediate concerns."
     "Oh, yeah."
     "And you still haven't told me of your world today."
     "Vincent, you know I can't do that.  All that stuff's
     "Okay, okay," Al went on, wilting visibly under Vincent's
amused disbelief.  "So I've goneway, way out on a limb already. 
I haven't told you anything that could get you into trouble. 
Afterall, you go home and start telling stories about travelling
through time, they'll lock you up!"
     "I doubt that," Vincent said, shifting to a more comfortable
position.  "And you've told memany things already."
     "Nothing that you won't either know yourself tomorrow, or
that won't be changed bythen," Al answered.  "Come on, Vincent. 
Knowing the future would be like knowing what yourpresents are
before you open them.  Takes all the fun out of it."
     Vincent considered that and nodded slowly.  "Still, it is
difficult to know that I am inanother place and time and not be
curious."  He looked out across the stark grandeur of the
desertand the surrounding hills.  "It is truly beautiful," he
said.  "I once thought I would never seebeyond New York, never
stand in the sunlight."  He paused.  "Catherine has opened more
doorsfor me than either of us could ever have imagined."
     He paused again.  "Al, what will happen to me, to my world,
     Al raised an eyebrow.  "That depends on whether Sam gets
Catherine or not."
     Vincent shook his head.  "No, I mean now.  Your now.  What
will happen to my worldnow that you know of its existence?  When
I go back, will there be only six years left of myworld?  Of me?"
     "Five and a half years," Al corrected.  "It's fall in your
time.  Here, it's spring."  He leanedback on a casual elbow. 
"You're wondering if a horde of scientists is going to descend on
thetunnels," he continued.
       "You know our secret now," Vincent said softly.  "The
lives of many good people are inyour hands."
     "You know, I already thought of that," Al said slowly.  "But
what those scientists know iswhat I tell them and what Ziggy
tells them.  And they're just a small horde, anyway.  Besides,
theycan't see back there.  Ziggy's a computer, so what does he
know?  He tells them that Sam is inManhattan, or, more precisely,
below it, but they don't know where, and they don't know
otherpeople live there.  As far as they know, Sam's all by
himself, living in a subway tunnel."
     "But Sam has been there.  You have seen."
     "Yeah.  And we like what we saw.  You, Vincent, you're
special.  How could we rat onyou?"  He shifted positions,
squinting at the sun, which was low in the sky.  "Don't
worry,Vincent.  Your secret is safe."  Getting to his feet, he
brushed loose sand from his trousers. "Come on, we need to get
back.  Sam'll need me soon."
     The sun was dipping below the faraway line of mountains as
Al and Vincent re-entered thebuilding.  The guard behind the desk
took careful note of their I.D. tags and let them pass.  Manyof
those who worked there had left for the day and the halls were
largely empty.
       Vincent dogged Al's steps, thinking that these long,
intersecting hallways, despite drasticdifferences in color and
lighting, were not unlike the passages of the world below.  As
they cameto yet another turn, Al stopped.
       "Get back!" he hissed.
     Bewildered, Vincent stepped back, instinct taking over as he
flattened himself in adoorway.  "What is it?"
     "It's Bartles!" Al hissed again.  His expression altered to
one of pleased animation.  "Hi,there!" he called to someone out
of Vincent's sight.
     "Oh, Al," the someone called back.  "Wait right there.  I
need to talk to you a moment."
     "Sure thing!"  Al's tone was a little too chipper.
     "Who is it?" Vincent asked.
     "He's one of the committee members," Al whispered rapidly,
from behind an artificialsmile.  "He knows Sam!  If he sees you,
my goose is cooked!"
     Vincent couldn't help a small, silent chuckle over Al's
frantic despair even as an idea cameto him.  "I can find my own
way back to the Waiting Room," he said softly.
     Al brightened momentarily.  "That'd be great... the
doors..."  He hesitated.  "They'll openfor you!" he said in
astonishment, after a moment's thought.  "You're Sam!"
     "The gray plates on the walls?  Sam can open them?"
     "Sure!  They're keyed to all of us authorized for the inner
circle.  Sam too."  Al waseffusive in his relief.
       "You mean I could have gotten out of the Waiting Room at
any time?" Vincent askedsoftly.
     Al grimaced, amused.  "Yeah.  Guess that's something we'll
have to fix."  His gaze moveddown the intersecting corridor. 
"Yes, what can I do for you?"
      "I just have a question about..."
      As Vincent watched from his place in the doorway, a tall,
graying man came into sight andput a confiding arm around Al's
shoulders, turning him away from Vincent.  They walked
off,talking energetically.
       Vincent let them get halfway down the hallway before
slipping around the corner.  Hismemory for twisting, turning
passages served him well, allowing him to retrace the path to
theinner circle without hesitation.  At one point, a woman came
out of a room and he flinchedinwardly, but she merely smiled and
nodded without breaking stride.
      Reaching the gray steel door to the inner circle, he placed
his palm against the flat graybox as he'd seen Al do, and the
door slid open.
       This would be the most difficult part, because Al had said
that everyone authorized for thispart of the building knew each
other by sight.  If anyone saw him, they would recognize Sam
andknow something was wrong.  Hugging the walls, ears straining
for the slightest sound, he slippedtoward the Waiting Room.
       Once voices warned him of someone approaching.  To his
relief, he discovered that Sam'shand would open all the doors on
this level, and he slipped inside an empty office until the
voices'owners passed safely.
       It was not that he feared for himself, he thought when he
finally reached the sanctuary ofthe Waiting Room.  Anyone finding
him roaming the halls would probably march him straightback here
anyway, but it was very important to Vincent that Al not suffer
because of his kindness.
      It was another ten minutes before Al put in an appearance.
       "You made it," he said in relief.  "I wasn't sure.  It's
easy to get lost in this place."
     "Not for me," Vincent said.
      "No, I suppose not.  Sam's having a heckuva time at your
place, though.  Good thing thatkid, Rat, is guiding him tonight."
     "Rat?  You mean Mouse?"
     "Yeah, that's him.  Strange kid, but knows his way around."
     "Mouse knows a great deal more than that," Vincent said. 
"You would be wise not tounderestimate him."
     "Aw, he's Sam's to deal with," Al said, dismissing Mouse
with a wave of his hand. "Listen, Vincent, I don't have much
time.  I'm sure Sam's wondering where I am.  The leap
willprobably take place as soon as she's safe, and since I don't
know when that will be..."
     "We may not see each other again?"
     "Well, not anytime soon," Al said.  "Who knows, I may come
visit the next time I'm in theBig Apple."
     Vincent regarded him solemnly.  "You will always be welcome
in my home, Albert."
     Al was suspiciously misty-eyed.  "Yeah, well, I may just
take you up on that."
     Feeling a genuine sadness at the impending loss of this
new-found friend, Vincent openedhis arms.
     After sharing a brief, hard hug, Al backed away, dashing at
his eyes.  "I don't go in muchfor this hugging stuff," he said
gruffly.  "Unless, of course, it's a beautiful dame."
     "You've been a good friend to me, Albert.  I thank you."
     "You've been an experience, Vincent.  I won't forget you."
       "Goodbye, my friend."
     As the door closed behind Al for perhaps the last time,
Vincent found himself once morewaiting.  Right now... six years
ago... and yet right now, Sam and Al and perhaps Mouse aremaking
their way to the tunnels beneath the building where Catherine is
being held.
       Unable to help himself, he began to pace.  In his mind, he
traced each part of the journey,knowing the path Mouse would
take.  "Surely they are inside by now," he murmured restlessly.
His feet continued to carry him relentlessly back and forth. 
After a while, he began to wonder ifhe would wear a path in the
     The click of the door startled him and he whirled.
     "We did it!  We did it!  Aw, Vincent, it was great!  You
shoulda been there!  Sam wasgreat!  Roaring and everything!  He's
got her, Vincent, and they're on their way down the stairs,and I
gotta get back in case they need me, but I had to tell you!  Oh,
and Vincent, I almost forgot! It is your baby!  She told Sam!" 
Al was almost unintelligible in his breathless
excitement,bombarding Vincent with rapid-fire facts.
     "My child?" he asked in wonder.
     "Yeah, she said so!  I think she was scared to tell Sam... I
mean you..."
     "Frightened of what I would think?  Did Sam reassure her?"
     "I guess.  He said something mushy about love making
everything possible and she smiled. Boy, but she was awfully glad
to see you!"
     "She believes Sam is me?"  Oddly, Vincent was a little
disappointed that Catherine did notimmediately sense the
difference, though his primary emotion was joy.  Catherine, safe!
hethought ecstatically.  "Will I leap now?"
     "Doubt it, since you haven't yet," Al said.  "Probably
because they're still in the building. I've got to go!"  He
turned and collided with the closed door.  "I forgot," he
mumbled,embarrassed.  "I'm not a hologram here."
     More waiting.  Elation battled with concern as he
alternately rejoiced in Catherine's rescueand worried over
possible dangers lurking between her and the safety of the
tunnels.  The bluefolder, lying on a table, drew him and he
opened it to gaze at her face.  I'll see you very soon, mylove,
he promised.  You'll be safe in my arms.
     "What's taking so long?" he asked of no one.  He began to
pace again, waiting,anticipating the rushing sound and the
tugging sensation that would herald his leap home, toCatherine.
       The door flew open again.  "She's in labor," Al gasped
out.  "They're resting, so I have aminute."
     Vincent moved toward him quickly.  "Is she well?"
     Al waved his hands.  "Seems okay.  So far, she's walked down
forty flights of stairswithout trouble.  Don't worry, Vincent. 
Sam's a doctor.  He's taking real good care of her. Treats her
like she's made of glass.  Which reminds me," he said, leaping to
another subject. "You're going to have some explaining to do.
     "On the way up, Sam knocked out a few guards and tied them
up," Al went on.  "Sheseems to think that's strange.  The one he
clawed up didn't bother her, though."  Reaching for thedoor
handle this time, he paused and turned back.  "I gotta tell you,
Vincent, you've got greattaste in women.  She's gorgeous!"  The
door slammed on that parting shot.
     More waiting and pacing.  Vincent was beginning to think
that he would spend the rest ofhis life going back and forth
across this small stretch of tan carpeting when the door burst
openfor the last time.
     "We did it!  They're in the tunnels and you'll be leaping
any second, so I gotta talk fast!" Al had his computer link in
his hand and punched some keys.
       "By the way, Vincent, Sam's carrying her, so don't drop
her when you leap back in," hewarned, watching the box in his
hand beep and blink.
       "Yeah!  Right now, in 1995, Catherine Chandler is chief
deputy to District Attorney JoeMaxwell.  Her testimony helped
indict and convict former D.A. John Moreno, and also tookdown the
man known as Gabriel.  She lives in a small townhouse on the
Upper West Side with..."he grinned and glanced at Vincent, "her
     "Children?"  The air around Vincent was beginning to buzz.
     "Yeah, two of 'em.  A three-year-old girl and a
five-and-a-half-year-old boy."
     The buzzing was louder, and Vincent felt a mild tugging. 
Al's voice was fading.
     "Their names are... Samantha and..."  In a gesture Vincent
had seen him use before, Alsmacked the side of his computer link. 
He was fading from sight, his voice growing dim, butVincent could
hear his startled yelp.  "...Albert!"

About the Author

Lee Kirkland is a pseudonym for Sue Hernandez and Becky Bain. 
(Denver-based group) meeting in December of 1988 and began
writing together shortly after that.  Altogether, Lee has
written four B&B 'zines (WHERE THE RAINBOW ENDS, Vols. 1-4),
three B&B/Quantum Leap crossovers (QUANTUM BEAST Vols. 1-3), and
several short stories.  Writing alone, Becky has written three
'zines, ETERNITY,  ETERNITY 2: I Shall Emerge,  ETERNITY 3:
Collected Dreams, and some short stories.  In addition, working
with Beth Druhan, she helped produce (and has a story in) a B&B
'zine called THE HAT ON THE BENCH IN CENTRAL PARK, in which each
of five writers wrote a story using that image.

Lee's 'zines are all now out of print.  All will eventually be
available via Father's Online Library.

Lee's short stories, The Catnip Caper and Sleeping Beauty, are
available via Father's Online Library.  Her story Absolution
appeared in the TUNNELCON II con 'zine; Vincent, I Don't Think
We're in Verona Anymore, appeared in MacWombat Press' OLD SOULS.

Becky's individual work can be ordered as follows:

ETERNITY and ETERNITY 2 are now out of print.  ETERNITY 3
is $17 USA, $19 FC or CAN, $24 Europe.  THE HAT ON THE BENCH IN
CENTRAL PARK is $14 USA, $16 FC or CAN, $20 Europe.  Order from:
Becky Bain, 16845 Hightree Drive, Elbert CO 80106, or Email
rbain@clsp.uswest.net for further information.

Becky's short stories have appeared in WITHIN THE CRYSTAL ROSE
Vols. 5 (Star Light, Star Bright, under the pseudonym Anna
Gerard), 6 (Riches, also under Anna Gerard), 7 (Little Boy
Lost), and 8 (The Choice) all available from Mountain Rose Press,
MacWombat Press' BEST MIRRORS (Not Ever), in the GREAT
EXPECTATIONS con 'zine (Fairy Time), the TUNNELCON III con
'zine (Green Eyed), the REFLECTIONS con 'zine (Forsaken), and THE