Old 03-09-2008, 06:02 PM   #1
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Default The Time Traveller

I first published this story on my own site, but that is no more sadly, so I wondered if it would be OK to give it a home here?
I have more if you'd like to read them

The Time Traveller
A Quantum Leap story

I never believed in love at first sight.
I never believed that your entire life could change in the space of a heartbeat, or that fate could be cheated, or wrongs put right.
I never considered myself to be special, or my life to be worth more than anyone else’s.
But that was before I met him.
He told me later that he felt it too, as soon as he leaped in. I saw it happen and it nearly scared me to death. One moment I was sitting there, across a typically anonymous desk in a police station, staring into the pale blue eyes of a nondescript, middle aged, overweight and world-weary cop; the next I was drowning in the most amazing eyes I had ever seen. They were luminous, olive green, full of intelligence and kindness, and yet at the same time sharp and wild and, yes, plain old sexy. For one second there was confusion in their depths, and then he blinked, his lashes long and dark and almost feminine in their beauty. He looked straight at me and then coughed nervously and dropped his head, breaking the contact that was still sending little jolts through me, like charges of electricity. He looked down at the report I had been half way through completing for Lieutenant Jackman, and I could see that he was quickly reading it, his long, elegant fingers playing with the edges of the paper as he did so.
“So…Miss Clarke…you couldn’t identify the men who attacked you.”
I was speechless. I mean, literally unable to talk right then. It wasn’t just the eyes, of course. I was staring at him, at his mouth, the upper lip quite thin, and the lower full and sensuous. There were laughter lines at his eyes and in the corners of his mouth, and his chin was slightly cleft, not something I usually found attractive but which, on him, lent a kind of perfection. His hair was dark brown, cut collar length, and there was a vivid streak of white at the hairline, just above his left eye.
He looked up at me, his eyebrows raised in a question.
“Miss Clarke?” Instantly the eyes filled with concern. He got up and moved with a swift grace to be at my side. He bent down, one hand on the back of my chair, the other brushing my arm. “What is it? Are you all right?”
I could understand his assumption that I was unwell. I had seen my own face in the mirror in the ladies room before they let me leave the hospital, and I was a bit of a mess, my lip split, one eye already blackening. There were bruises on my upper arms too, where one of the men had grabbed me, and I had grazed my shin as he tried to push me into the car. I was shaken, yes, but the gratitude I felt at escaping whoever the men were and whatever it was they had planned for me had dulled the pain. All I wanted to do right then was tell him that, no I was far from all right, that I had just seen one man vanish and another take his place and then carry on as though as nothing had happened. But, still not sure that I wasn’t hallucinating, or perhaps had been given too many painkillers, or was still in some sort of
delayed state of shock, all I did was close my eyes and rest my head on my hand. He was still touching me, the feel of his fingers firm and warm and reassuring on my skin. I could sense his closeness.. I took a deep breath and opened my eyes and looked at him. He had hunkered down now and his eyes were level with my own. “Can I get you something?” he asked and his voice was deep and silky and edged with genuine concern.
My God, he was real.
And I just decided to go with it. I don’t know if one person a million would have taken that decision, would have remained sitting there so calmly in the face of what amounted to a miracle, but that’s what I did.
“I think…” I took another breath and let it out softly “…that I’d like to go home, Lieutenant. Would that be O.K? Could we finish this tomorrow?”
He rubbed my arm and nodded and stood up. He was tall, probably just about the six foot mark, and the shabby clothes he had inherited from Jackman could do nothing to detract from the body beneath, which was wonderfully broad in the shoulder, narrow in the hip.
“Of course.” He slipped his hand under my elbow and helped me up, and I looked at him and smiled.
It had become pretty clear, pretty quickly, that I had been the victim of an attempted kidnapping. I am, you see, quite rich: or at least my father is. Jonas Clarke, head of quite the little newspaper empire. Last estimates put him in the top one hundred richest men in America. Not that he and I see that much of each other, not since he divorced my mother and ran off to indulge his mid-life crisis with a woman a year younger than me. Don’t get me wrong: I love my father, and he has always been good to me, always seen to it that I want for nothing. When I told him I had ambitions of becoming a writer, for example, he just smiled indulgently and sent me off to study English at the one place I had dreamed of since I was a kid. I spent four wonderful years at Oxford, falling in love simultaneously with England and with a guy from Ealing by the name of Kevin Hilton. The first affair would prove to be life-long; the second died the death after two years, leaving me, as they say, sadder and wiser. I’m not unattractive, but I won’t ever win any kind of beauty contest, and looking back it is painfully clear to me that Kevin obviously decided to graciously overlook any shortcomings I might have had in the face of the cash at my disposal. It had been a turning point for me. Ten years later and I was leaner and harder, both physically and mentally. I depended on no-one but myself. I allowed no-one into my life except by invitation. There had been other men, of course – I had no intention of becoming a nun, not even after what Kevin had put me through- but no-one since then had gotten beyond my bed and into my heart.
Not, that is, until God or Time or Fate or Whatever, sent me Sam Beckett.
“You shouldn’t be alone right now” he said as we left Jackman’s office and made our way through the noise and bustle of the station. “Do you have anyone who could stay with you?”
“I thought I was under police protection” I said and had the pleasure of seeing a lovely look of embarrassed confusion fill his eyes. He straightened and half smiled and nodded at me. “Well…of course. Of course. But I meant…at home…At your home. A friend? A relative?”
“My mother is flying in tonight from L.A. I have a friend who could come over until then, if you think I should ask her.”
He nodded his head “I think that would be a good idea, yes.”
I sighed. “Or perhaps I should just jump on the first plane out of here, go to England and stay there until you catch these creeps?” I sighed again “Or just stay there, period.” I added softly.
He glanced down at me and then quickly away when his eyes met mine. I was starting to enjoy this. I was enthralled by what I had seen happen back there in the office, my novelist’s brain working overtime on one crazy theory after another. In the space of moments I had gone through a number of outlandish ideas: ghost or alien or just the workings of a tired and shaken and over-worked imagination. Or perhaps I was dead and this was some crazy version of purgatory, even heaven? In the end I decided to go with my first instinct and treat this as some kind of everyday miracle and see where it took me. Perhaps this happened all the time. Perhaps angels revealed themselves to no end of people after a near-death experience or a trauma such as I had suffered, but the people involved just forgot, or just accepted it, or else stayed silent, afraid that if they mentioned what they had seen to anyone they would end up being carted away to the nearest loony bin…
I was fascinated by the reaction of those around us as well. No-one else could see him! No-one pointed or paled or pulled their gun on him as we made our way to the exit. In fact a couple of the cops shouted out ‘See ya Andy’ to him, to which he replied with a little nod but no names in return.
This was getting really interesting…
“Won’t you come in?”
He hesitated just a moment and then slipped past me into my apartment. There was a uniformed officer outside the door, another two in a squad car parked across the street. In one way I was deeply grateful to see them there, but their very presence was also a frighteningly graphic reminder that I was still in danger, that they still saw me as a potential victim.
“Can I get you a drink?” I offered.
He nodded and I went to the kitchen to make coffee for us both. My home is one of those ultra-modern loft-style eyries that modern city-dwellers are supposed to aspire to. I had moved in a year ago and spent a small fortune (of my own money I might add) on furnishing it, only to find myself lost in its wide open spaces and longing for something smaller, somewhere cosier, with actual rooms and walls and doors. And so my kitchen was hardly a separate space at all really, and I could easily see him, out of the corner of my eye. He went straight to the large bank of shelving that occupies one entire wall of my loft, and took down a book and opened it, began leafing through the pages. Even from here I knew that it was one of mine and felt an absurd little rush of excitement at the thought of him reading my work. I shook my head and chased away an emotion that was, at best, adolescent, and was just about to pour out the freshly-brewed coffee, when the second miracle of the day occurred. Accompanied by a strange shifting, grating sound, one corner of my living room was suddenly suffused in white light. Just as my ‘angel’ turned toward it I saw, emerging from its midst, the ghostly figure of another man. He stepped away from the light and it disappeared, leaving him semi-transparent but very real. He was dressed in iridescent purple and he carried, in one hand, something that looked as though it was made of a child’s building blocks, except that this contraption was flashing and screeching as though it, too, was alive.
Mouth open, coffee poised above the cup, I just stood and stared, then quickly put down the jug and backed away into the far corner, where I knew that I couldn’t be seen.
“Al” I heard him say to the ghostly, bizarrely dressed man. “What have you got for me?”
Al consulted the twittering mass of Lego and looked up. “Not much Sam.”
I gasped very softly and shrank back further, straining my ears to hear their quiet conversation.
“You are Andrew Jackman. Age…forty eight. You’re a police lieutenant and we are in…”
“I know where we are Al. And I know who I am. Tell me I’m here for her, for Olivia. Olivia Clarke. She was attacked in the early hours of this morning. Attempted kidnapping, they think.”
“Got it. Yep. Wow, Sam, she’s loaded. Rich Daddy., but a success in her own right…if you pardon the pun. Novelist. Writes fantasy. Had two of the books made into movies. She’s… single Sam…”
“Oh for goodness sake…”
“And yes, she was almost kidnapped this morning. Lucky lady- two security guards heard the commotion behind the club where it happened and saved her. The kidnappers got away though.”
“And Ziggy says you are here to stop their second attempt succeeding.”
“They try again?”
“Tomorrow night. She was…Jeez, Sam…she was never seen alive again, even though her old man coughed up the 5 mill they asked for. Swines. Uh oh. Wait…”
I could sense the tension, even past the horror of what I had just heard; the sheer…impossibility of all that had happened in the last hour or so.
“What about him?”
”He was protecting her at the time. Sam, they killed him too.”
“Here you are” I said as I went towards the two of them. My heart was thumping hard in my chest and I was having a problem controlling the trembling in my hands, but I was not about to let any of that prevent me from getting to the bottom of this. The hardest part was forcing myself not to look at ‘Al’, a difficult feat because he was the single most amazing thing I had ever seen in my life. From the corner of my eye I could see him looking at me, and I could see enough, in return, to realise that, close up, something was slightly off. He wasn’t as solid as Sam was, in fact he kept phasing in and out of focus, like a T.V. signal in a thunder storm. But I could see enough of him to know that he was older than Sam, and quite a bit shorter. Close to, his clothing was even more outlandish than I had first thought, the purple shirt set off by a diamante-studded tie, the trousers shimmering with silver thread. He walked around me as I placed the coffee on the table.
“Very nice, Sam.” I heard him say and I looked up instinctively at Sam, just in time to see him frown at Al, a weary reprimand in his eyes. The eyes shifted to me and filled with softness. “Thanks.”
“Please sit down Lieutenant.”
He did so, perching on the edge of my sofa. “Are you going to call your friend?” he asked.
“My friend?”
“The one we agreed would stay with you.”
“Oh. No. Not yet. I…I don’t think I really want anyone here just now. I think I’d rather be by myself.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m comfortable in my own company Lieutenant. And I have plenty of protection.” I nodded towards the door with its guard on duty beyond. “You think they will try again, don’t you?”
I loved him for that, for not lying to me. In the sudden quiet I could hear the distant sound of traffic from the street below.
“Are you sure you didn’t get a look at them?” he asked urgently.
“Anything…a…an indication of height or…or hair colour? The make of the car?”
I was finding the pretence of calm difficult to maintain just then. I wanted to scream at him. I wanted to know who he was and what he was doing here and who the hell the ghostly figure was, standing there beside him now, his fingers busy on the pad of the…whatever it was, in his hand. I wanted to tell him that I knew, that I was capable of understanding, that I was…
God…Oh dear God- I had just heard my own death sentence…
I caught a hold of myself then and looked at him anew, suddenly calm again.
Because he had just heard the same thing hadn’t he? Whoever he really was he was, for now at least, Andrew Jackman, the same Andrew Jackman who was, in this craziness I now inhabited, going to die within the next thirty six hours- because of me.
And the strangest thing happened then: I stopped caring about myself. For perhaps the first time in nearly a decade, I put another human being before my own needs, my own desires.
And tears started to my eyes, because I could not bear the thought of him being hurt, let alone killed.
How could this be happening?
I hadn’t the first clue. All I knew, sitting there in the light of a spring afternoon, with the universe as I always believed I knew it turned completely on its head, was that I was looking across the room at a man who couldn’t possibly be real. He might not even be meant to inhabit the same place I did in the cosmic scheme of things. Here was a man I perhaps would never have known under normal circumstances. And I realised that, finally, and at long last, I had encountered something so beautiful, something so infinitely precious and so valuable, that I would give my life for it.
For him.
My mother is what some people who don’t know her might call ‘good for her age.’
Were they to say this in her hearing they would live to regret it. She has, you see, a mental picture of herself permanently frozen at age thirty- six. The fact that she was sixty last birthday was a major shock to her, but she countered it with yet another visit to her plastic surgeon, from which she emerged, suitably nipped and tucked, looking tanned and, if possible, even blonder, albeit a few grand the poorer. Not that money matters too much to her: my father was forced to hand over a sizeable portion of his empire’s assets when they divorced, including a house in Toluca Lake and a condo in Miami as well as, for some reason, the farm in Upstate New York, which I loved but which they both probably only visited twice in their entire lives.
She breezed into my home, fresh from the airport, and smothered me in her arms before trailing a wake of Chanel Number Five all the way to the spare bedroom, where she tossed her overnight bag (Gucci) onto the bed and slipped out of her coat (Armani) before demanding to know every last detail of my ‘ordeal’ as she had taken to calling it. She had been in touch with ‘Your Father’ as she always referred to Dad. In fact I could actually visualise the capital letters whenever she said it, impressed that so much venom could be attached to two such innocent little words. He was caught up in a business meeting in Milan.
What had really happened?
Was Livvy exaggerating again?
He would call me tomorrow, but if there was anything I needed…
The same old song.
We ordered in, ate our Chinese with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and watched a movie.
Or at least she did.
Me? I was someplace else entirely.
Mother ‘retired’ for the night in her (Janet Reger) nightdress, leaving me blessedly alone at last. At 11:30 I went tentatively to the door and opened it a fraction. There was a different cop on duty now. He was sitting across the hallway, reading a newspaper. He looked reassuringly big and burley, his uniform straining over his chest.
“Can I get you anything Officer?”
“No Ma’am. I’m just fine, thank you.”
“Is Lieutenant Jackman coming back tonight?”
“Couldn’t say for sure Ma’am.” He half smiled at me and I tried to return the favour but failed miserably.
“O.K. Well, goodnight Officer.”
“Goodnight Ma’am. Be sure to bolt the door.”
There was no way I was going to sleep and so I opted for a hot bath instead. The tub in my apartment is actually big enough for two, with all the bells and whistles attached, including a jacuzzi and a whirlpool. I filled the bath and lit a dozen candles and dripped lavender-scented oil onto the surface of the water, watching little rainbows form before I turned the controls and created a miniature maelstrom. I slipped in, lay back and let the water caress my aching, weary body.
I am, I truly believe, a self-reliant, independent and capable woman. I make my own way in this mad old world, and escape it whenever I need to by creating others. The societies I conjure revere the concepts of honour and justice. These fantasy worlds allow for unselfish love in the face of undoubted evil, although sometimes that love falls beneath the heel of greed and avarice and cruelty. I’m not afraid to kill off my heroes, my heroines, but right always triumphs in one form or another, which is probably why I am the success I am. I’ve actually discovered that a little tragedy lends power to my stories, and several of my novels are haunted by the shades of the people I created, made my readers care about and then killed off.
I discovered long ago that, in the real world- a world that actually believes in very little of anything any more- people need to place their trust in something other than themselves. They need to believe that there is a place where there are still people who are willing to sacrifice themselves to make things better. They need to believe in heroes. They need to believe that under the right circumstances, they can be heroes too.
I didn’t feel very heroic just then. I hadn’t felt very heroic in the early hours of this morning either. I had shied away from thinking too much about it all, but now it came flooding back; the darkness of the car park, the sudden awareness of danger, the hands on my arms and the fist in my face when I struggled free, but not enough to escape. I knew now what would have happened to me but for my two knights in shiny suits, who had come barrelling out of the rear entrance of the club and saved me.
I would be in the hands of men who would have killed me.
Men who still might do just that unless...Unless what? Was that the reason Sam had come into my life? And if so, from where? And who had sent him? And how the hell had he got here, and how was any of this even remotely possible…and…
I shuddered and touched gentle fingertips to my swollen eye. There was moisture there that I told myself was just bath water, but it was a lie. The candles were quivering now, elongating, their flames shivering into extravagant stars as tears filled my eyes. I let them fall, but didn’t sob, didn’t make a single sound, my mind going over and over it all like a record stuck in a groove.
And then I gasped aloud and sprang from the bath and threw on my robe and sprinted for the phone.

“That’s great.”
“It will help?”
“Of course!”
“I don’t know where it came from Sa…Lieutenant Jackman…I was lying in the bath and I suddenly saw it, as clear as a picture. I know it isn’t the whole registration number but…”
God, I was babbling like a nine year old.
And I had nearly called him Sam.
The line was quiet for a moment and when he spoke his voice was tinged with an edge of wariness. I froze, the phone cradled against my cheek.
“Are you still there?” I asked
“Yes. O.K. Leave it with me. I’ll see what we can find.”
Another pause, and then the welcome sound of his voice in my ear again “Are you all right there?”
”I’m fine. My mother is asleep and the biggest cop I’ve ever seen is right outside the door.”
“Good. Try to get some sleep yourself.”
“I can’t. I know that I won’t.” I wanted to say: please come to me. Please let me just see you again, be with you, touch you, see the light in your eyes and hear the sound of your voice.
And if silence can speak it did then.
“I’ll come over.” I could hear him make up his mind, take some kind of decision. “I’ll run this through the computer and then I’ll…”
“How long?”
“An hour. No more.”
“I’ll be here.”
Two hours passed and still he hadn’t come.
I wore the clock out looking at it in an apartment that suddenly seemed like the home of a stranger to me. I was on edge, waiting for the sound of his footsteps in the hallway outside, the soft tap of his knuckles on the door.
The night was warm and star-lit and quiet. From my window I could see a fair distance, to the lights of the city away to my right, the darkness of rolling hills to my left. A thin sliver of moon hung in the sky, like an illustration from a book of nursery rhymes. I longed for a cigarette, but I hadn’t kept any in the apartment since giving them up last year.
For the hundredth time I scanned the street outside looking for the lights of his car, a beat up old grey Chevvie, and just as I was about to give up and make some more coffee I saw them. But he was not alone.
The pounding on the door was frantic and I rushed to open it, breaking a nail as I pulled back the bolts. He staggered a little in relief and then rushed into the room, followed by three uniformed cops, their hands on their guns.
“What is it?” I gasped.
His hands grasped me carefully at the shoulders “Go and wake your mother, Olivia. You both have to leave. Now.”
The road was dark and the car’s headlights were on full beam, sweeping along hedges and spilling over the trunks of trees. The moon raced ahead of us as we rushed northward, each mile putting us further away from the city and the evil that Sam and Al clearly believed lay in wait for us there.
It had been a nightmare. My mother had been outraged at being woken in the dead of night, at being dragged off in a police car, at the very thought that I wasn’t coming with her. But Sam had been adamant, and one look at his eyes, and even she went quietly in the end. I hadn’t said a word, because Al had been there too, and I had heard it all:
“Hurry, Sam! You’ve changed history and now they try again tonight. They kill the cop AND the mother and they take Olivia anyway!”
“This isn’t the first of these. There have been two before Olivia and there’ll be three more after her if we don’t stop them.”
“Ziggy thinks there may be someone on the cops tipping them off. You can’t tell anyone where you are going but you’ve gotta take her somewhere safe Sam. If you can keep her alive for the next thirty-six hours Ziggy says there’s a 90% chance the kidnappers will be caught. If not…”
And for one split second Sam had seen me staring directly at Al.
His brow had furrowed and his eyes had narrowed and I had looked at him then, willing him to ask me the question. He hadn’t, had just carried the bag I had swiftly packed down to his car in silence and thrown it into the trunk.
And now he was driving us to the one place he believed we could be safe: the farm. We still had a hundred miles ahead of us, and already the eastern sky was showing signs of dawn. I glanced over at him, at the perfection of his profile, but his eyes were fixed on the road ahead as it twisted and turned. It would have been easier to take the Interstate, but he was opting for the anonymity of these back roads, the chance to see any pursuit, the greater opportunity offered us by the countryside to escape them if they came after us. I sighed and glanced over my shoulder but the road behind us was blessedly empty, the darkness reclaiming it in the wake of our passing as we sped our way onward through the night.
A brief flash of light and then the sound of a voice in the darkness.
“I think you’re safe for the moment Sam.”
I saw his little surreptitious glance in the rear-view mirror.
“Her mother and the cop are O.K. now. You saved them at least. And don’t give me any of that crap about them not being in danger before you changed things. You know it doesn’t work like that.”
A slight lifting of the eyebrows and then a glance across at me. I kept my eyes on the road, kept my breathing regular.
“How far to the farm?”
The question wasn’t for me alone.
I looked at him.” About thirty miles I guess.”
“Thirty- two” Al echoed. “Take the next on the right and stay on that road for seventeen miles.”
”I’ll tell you where to turn.” I said, talking over Al. Sam frowned again, but just nodded.
“We’ll be safe there?” Again I knew he was talking to Al as much as to me.
“I don’t see why not.” I answered before Al could. “They won’t know about it, surely. Neither of my parents ever cared much for country living. They hardly ever came up here.”
“And you?”
“I love the place. It’s very beautiful. I have done some of my best work there, actually. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a city girl at heart, but I love the countryside as well.” I tried a smile to see if I still knew how. “And you?”
His face softened “Its home. Always will be. I’m a country boy.” He smiled and the world lit up.
“I don’t know…if she goes there often it might not take much for them to put two and two together.” Al said darkly.
”I haven’t been up here for a year.” I said, keeping my voice as neutral as I could “I’ve been in England for the last six months. And it’s in my mother’s name, not Dad’s.”
Sam actually turned then, seeking eye contact with Al, trying to cover by pretending he was scanning the road. I did the same and looked straight at Al, still flickering like a silent movie. I saw him raise his eyebrows at Sam and shrug.
“I…think I’d better go, Sam.” He looked at me and I allowed my eyes to lose focus so that he wouldn’t realise I could see him. He punched the keypad in his hand and the grating sound filled the car, as though some rusty metallic door was being opened. For a second he was haloed in brilliance.
“Keep your wits about you, Sam. I’ll get back to Ziggy and see if we can’t find out some more. This is far from over.”
“O.K.” Sam said softly as Al vanished.
I couldn’t resist. “O.K. what?” I asked Sam gently.
He coloured a little and half shrugged and did that little coughing thing he did. “O.K….that… it’s…in your mother’s name?”
I smiled and rested my head against the back of the seat and allowed Sam to take me home.
The house nestles against the side of a hill like a child against its mother. It is nearly eighty years old but has been well cared for over that time, and looking at it as the sun struggled upward in the sky, I felt a swell of affection. I always thought that it was the kind of place that ought to ring to the laughter of children. There should be bikes and skateboards and dogs littering the front yard, a pony in the paddock. There were none of those things on that morning. It was a Wednesday and the cleaner, Mrs Talbot, only came on Mondays and Fridays. The place stood silent, the air still, the only sound that of a tractor in the far distance.
When we call it ‘The Farm’ we are being a bit disingenuous of course. The house is the thing we mean; the forty acres that go with it is leased out to our neighbours at a peppercorn rent so that they will think kindly of us.
Sam pulled up at the front of the house but left the engine running.
“Stay here.”
“Just…I want to take a look around first. Can I have the key?”
I fished in my purse and handed him the key. He got out of the car and went up the veranda steps to the front door. He opened the screen door and I saw the brief flash of metal as he inserted the key in the lock. He disappeared inside. I confess that I held my breath for the brief time he was in there and out of my sight, my over-active imagination running rampant. But he quickly reappeared, and came back to the car.
“It’s O.K.” he said as he helped me out. The morning sun was catching his hair, highlighting it with shimmering gold and hints of red, the grey standing out clearly. I wanted to reach up and touch it, to ask him how he came to have it, whether it was genetic, or if he had suffered some kind of trauma. I wanted to touch his cheek, to run my hands over his skin, to brush his lips with my fingertips, gently touch my own to them.
But of course I did none of those things. He touched my shoulder reassuringly then went to get my bag from the trunk.
The amazing thing about Martha Talbot was that she was the kind of lady who believed in being ready for anything. Having seven children of her own had taught her that, I guess. The freezer was always kept well stocked, the kitchen cupboards neatly stacked with coffee and tea and sugar and flour, with jars and cans and packets of cereal. There was enough for many days, but if Al was to be trusted, two would do us, one way or the other.
I defrosted a loaf from the freezer in the microwave and opened a tin of tuna and started to make sandwiches, watching Sam completing his third trip around the house.
I had never seen so elegant a man before. He was strong, well-built, with hardly an ounce of spare flesh on him. He moved like a dancer, with an easy grace that I found spell-binding. He exuded pure masculinity. Not the ‘in your face’ macho crap that so many men mistake for sex appeal, but a quiet, self-contained assurance. I felt safe with him. I felt protected.
But I also felt protective.
Despite his strong maleness there was an edge of heartbreaking vulnerability about him too. It was what I had felt back in my apartment, the desire to shield him from harm, to keep the world from hurting him too much.
Because I had the strangest feeling that it already had.
Having accepted all the incredible things I had seen and experienced over the last day I had come to the conclusion that this was nothing new to Sam, or Al. This had to be what they did…however the hell that might have come about. But when I looked into Sam’s eyes I sometimes caught the echo of an old sorrow in their depths, a sort of longing for something he knew he couldn’t have, or that he had lost.
The back door opened and he came in, closed it behind him and bolted it securely.
“Everything O.K?” I asked him.
I picked up the pile of sandwiches and offered them to him. “I hope you like tuna.”
“I love tuna. Thank you Olivia.”
He smiled “Livvy.”
I turned away so that he couldn’t see me colour, and opened the cupboard door. I reached in and pulled out a bottle of Chardonnay, turned back and waved it. “What do you think?”
“Go ahead…please.”
”But you won’t join me?”
He looked away as though searching for an answer. I saw a smile brush his lips. He straightened and drew a deep breath and said softly, with a roguish glint playing in his eyes and his head cocked slightly to one side “I’m on duty Ma’am.”
“What did you find out?”
He looked at me.
“About those men- the kidnappers?”
“Not a great deal. The car was a rental, and the I.D. they gave when they hired it was fake.”
I gazed at him, wanting to believe him, but knowing better. Al had said something about his having changed history, about that change almost costing my mother and that cop their lives.
“So what happens now?”
“We wait. “
“We wait? For what? And for how long?”
“For as long as it takes Livvy.”
I got up, cradling the wineglass against my chest, and went to the window, looking out over the front yard to the empty paddock and the fields beyond.
I heard him get up and come to me. “You should stay away from the window.”
I turned, aware of his closeness. I sighed and shook my head and he raised one hand, brushed a stray strand of hair off my face.
“It will be all right. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
He pulled me closer and into his arms. I leant my face against his chest, heard the steady beat of his heart. He drew me closer still and touched his lips to my hair.
And I wanted the world to stop right then and there. I wanted it to leave us like that for all eternity.
But instead he moved slightly and I lifted my face to his and his eyes were liquid as they met my own. I saw just the briefest moment when he hesitated, but I also saw something there, in those green depths, something that I recognised, something that I knew he was seeing reflected in my own eyes.
He tilted his head and tentatively, softly, sweetly, pressed his lips to mine.
I had never known such joy could exist in the world.
It was more than the physical, more than the finding of a body so beautiful that it took my breath away, or the amazing discovery that I hadn’t even realised half of me was missing until we made love, that his body completed mine and made me whole.
No. It was so much more.
I knew him. I had known him forever. He had forever been with me, but just out of my reach, like the echo of a song or the ghost of a memory. He was a warm thought in the night and the sparkle of sun on the ocean. He was the silent promise of all that could be, and the realisation of any given dream and of all desires.
And yes, I know that is flowery and, probably, something I would never have dreamt of putting in any of my novels.
But I don’t care.
Because it was also the truth.
We lay, our bodies entwined, his arms encircling me, my hand nestled in the soft hair of his chest. I let it move, tracing the perfection of his shoulders, the muscles of his arms. His skin was smooth and firm and warm. I turned my head to his and he bent and kissed me again, long and sweet and deep and I felt the same melting sensation all over again, as though I was falling into him, becoming part of him.
Dusk was painting the sky with the most delicate shades of pink and mauve when I woke. Through the window I could see the first star of the evening pulsing brightly in the sky.
I love stars. I used to love them because they seemed permanent and fixed and eternal. And then I had learnt that they were none of those things, and that most of them were actually no longer even in existence. They were the ghosts of things long dead, their light travelling through aeons to twinkle briefly above us, long after they had gone to dust. There was a song, as I was growing up: ‘Woodstock.’
We are stardust
We are golden
I liked that idea, that there was nothing new in the universe and that all we are is matter changed and ever changing, and that one day we will be what we once were.
We are made of stardust and will one return home to the stars.
It was the closest I ever came to glimpsing the meaning of life.
Until Sam.
He was sleeping, and I lay there for an age and studied him and still could not get enough of him. My eyes drank in his features which were, by themselves really quite unremarkable. His eyebrows were perhaps too heavy and his nose a touch large, his face almost too long. But when all those things were put together what was left was the single most astonishingly beautiful man I had ever encountered. His hair, soft and shining, was just long enough that it fell onto the pillow, and I touched it and let it run through my fingers. I could see the steady beat of the pulse at his throat, the soft rise and fall of his chest, the way his fingers moved a fraction as he slept. I touched him, the softest of kisses, moving down his throat and over his chest and over the flat stomach, before coming to rest at his hip. We had made love over and over as the day drifted past outside, and yet still I wanted more. I wanted to feel his body against mine, his warmth mingling with my own. I wanted that amazing sensation of completion I had only ever felt with him. I wanted to look into his eyes as we made love…
“Oh…Sam,” I whispered. I closed my eyes and looked away.
Because I had already begun to wonder- I had begun to realise- that his ‘stay’ in the form of Andrew Jackman might well end as abruptly as it had begun.
That I would lose him…
“How long have you been able to see me?”
I looked at him. He hadn’t moved, but his eyes were fixed on mine.
I smiled, but I could feel my mouth tremble a little as I did so, the tears start to my eyes. He raised himself up on one elbow and drew me close and I relaxed against his shoulder, as his arm gently moved around my back, pulling me to him.
“Since yesterday- in the office.”
“You are an amazing woman.”
I laughed shortly “Because I didn’t run away screaming, you mean?”
“Something like that, yes”
“No-one else can see you, can they? They see Lieutenant Jackman. But he’s not here anymore.”
“That’s right.”
“So where is he? Where did you come from?”
He sighed. “That will take some explaining.”
I moved, so that I was looking down at him. “I’m listening.”
And so I learned that miracles can happen, and that Sam was, in many respects, what I had first thought he might be. Not an angel as such, of course, because he was, after all, very real, very much flesh and blood. But he was on a mission of mercy nonetheless. And he had been sent here, by forces even he didn’t understand, to save me.
To save me.
There was so much I wanted to know. Why me? What could I ever do that was worth this?
And who had sent him? And how?
And then I wanted to know the rest.
What was it like, travelling through time, becoming so intimate a part of other lives and yet remaining always invisible? How could he bear the loneliness, the uncertainty? Was he ever afraid? Would he ever be allowed to go home, back to his own life? And if that ever happened would he still have a life he could even still call his own?
And how long did we have before he left me again, and forever…
Night had fallen and the house was encased in warm darkness. The sky had clouded over and all I could see, looking out over the front yard, were the deeper shadows of the trees as they moved in a gathering breeze and the distant lights of the Talbot’s farm, two miles away.
We had finally gotten up, showered together, dressed, and Sam had cooked us both dinner.
Well, O.K. it was hardly a gourmet meal, but the pizza was, I swear, the very best I have ever tasted, even if the edges were a little well done. We had eaten by candlelight, with Miles Davis weaving his magic in the background- Porgy and Bess, and ‘Summertime’ as sublime as you’ll ever hear it played. Sam had swapped Jackman’s shapeless suit for some of the clothes my father always left here, and was dressed in jeans and a white shirt and sneakers. They fit him very well indeed..
“Jeez Sam,” Al materialised in white light beside the table. “Make yourself comfortable why don’t you!”
I tried hard not to look at Al, or feel annoyance. I knew that this was Sam’s only link to home and I knew that he loved Al and trusted him, but something in the way he spoke to Sam just then made me bite my lip.
Sam’s mouth pursed in slight annoyance and he glanced at me.
Sam knew, of course, that I could see Al as well.
He had no explanation for any of it.
It had happened before, but never so completely, or so instantly. It had something to do with neurons apparently, and brainwaves. That was what linked the two of them, although Al was never really there, of course. What Sam saw, and what I was seeing, apparently, was Al Calavicci’s holographic image. In reality he was somewhere in the future, in New Mexico.
Of course he was…
Of course…
“We need to talk Sam. It’s urgent.” Al’s voice rasped with an edge of impatience and his eyes glittered a warning at Sam, who sighed and got up.
“Would you excuse me for a moment Olivia?” Sam said, keeping up the pretence we had both decided upon: that I was none the wiser about either of them. “I have to check on the house.”
I nodded and watched Sam gesture with his head for Al to follow him out of the back door. I sat back in the chair and took a sip of the tea Sam had made for us, and waited for him to return, afraid of what Al might be telling him, out there in the darkness.
“We have to go.”
“What? Why…”
“They are coming. They’ll be here within the hour.”
“But how on earth can they possibly know about this place?”
“Because you told Jackman about it.”
“I told…Oh God, yes. Yes I did. You mean…”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. He was in on it. But he was getting greedy. Al thinks that why they killed him when they kidnapped you.”
“Please…just…please don’t talk about it…in that way, as though it was…real.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry Livvy, but it is what happened, what I was sent here to change. Sometimes I find out that there is more than one person to rescue. I guess this is one of those times.”
We rushed around, picking up those small things that seem important at the time, and I swear that we were within minutes of escape when they found us. In fact Sam was in the garage when they came, about to start the car. I heard the sound of their engine, and thought for a moment that it was Sam’s car, that he’d come rushing up to the house, and that we would be off, somewhere safe, somewhere they would never find us. And then I looked out of the bedroom window and saw the headlights sweep over the front of the house, saw the three shadowy figures hurl themselves out of the vehicle, guns drawn, and disappear into the garage.
I have written about similar situations. I have sat in my comfortable armchair, pen and paper in hand, and written scenes of violence and death, of heroism and doomed love, and thought myself very clever, very perceptive, very insightful. I actually used to believe that I had accurately captured the trauma of sudden violence and the depths of despair.
But I was wrong. About it all.
I guess that I was transfixed for a moment or two. I froze, helpless with fear and rage, sure that I would hear the sound of a single shot and that I would die myself when I heard it. I was, quite literally, numb with terror. And with grief. Because if they killed Sam I would have nothing left worth living for.
But the sound never came. I held my breath and stared at the garage door until my vision grew blurred. And then I blinked.
They had hurt him. I could see that from the way they had to half drag him to the house, but he was alive.
It was all I needed.
I knew the house like the back of my hand. I knew where to hide, how to stay out of their clutches as they searched for me..
“Where is she Andy?”
“I told you, I don’t know. She took off, ten minutes ago.”
“And you just let her?”
“She gave me the slip. I was going after her when you got here. Maybe…maybe she put two and two together…”
“Don’t take me for a fool.”
“I’m not…please…I’m…”
“Just kill him Mack. He’s no use to us anymore and the broad’s gone. Give it up. There’s plenty more fish in the sea.”
“We are looking at five mill here Marty! Five million dollars! I’m not ready to let that go yet, not when it’s all set. The old man will pay up. I know he will. God! God this was going to be so sweet…”
“If he’s telling the truth we can still go look for her.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean she’s either rushed off to the nearest neighbours, in which case she’s on foot, or she’s still here, hiding.”
“You lost it, Pete?”
“Or turned psychic on us?”
“Neither. There was just one car in the garage, and its still there, and only one set of tyre tracks apart from ours on the gravel.”
“She might already have called the cops…”
“No phone Mack. This is some kinda hideaway for her. I checked.”
“Weird chick…”
“So let’s go find her eh? Five million Mack. Worth a little searching don’t you think? Just to be sure.”
“What are we doing standing around here then?”
“What about him?”
“He’ll keep.”
Mack and Pete and Marty: they talked like characters from a bad Scorsese movie, and I realised that that was probably how they saw themselves: the cool guys, so clever and fast and quick to use their fists, their guns.
The men who wanted to kill me.
I knew that for sure, because in some alternate timeline, some bizarre and impossible place that existed almost but not quite in parallel to this one, I had died at their hands.
And so had Andrew Jackman.
Well that, as they say, was then.
This was now.
I saw them leave.
I was actually amazed that they thought so little of me that they could seriously imagine I would be that stupid. Flashlights cut the night as they spread out, clearly hoping to find me cowering in some ditch.
But then, their type of man hardly believed women were really people anyway. They would certainly never believe that a woman was capable of escaping them, eluding them, outsmarting them.
First mistake, guys.
They had left Sam in the kitchen, cuffed to the radiator.
They had used Jackman’s own handcuffs.
Second mistake.
I dashed back up the stairs to the bedroom and found the crumpled old brown suit, and in the trousers pocket, the key to the cuffs. I clenched my hand around it, the most precious thing in the entire world to me just then, and made my way out onto the landing. My eyes had adjusted to the gloom but I stuck close to the wall, my ears straining for any sound that might tell me they had returned.
“It’s O.K. It’s alright now.”
My hand trembled as I tried to fit the key in the lock. I wanted to just take him in my arms and cradle him and take away the hurt. But I had to concentrate and after what felt like an age and with fingers that seemed the size of hotdog sausages I succeeded.
“Where are they?”
“Out looking for me.”
He smiled at me and I felt my heart skip a beat. I brushed his cheek with the back of my hand. “Can you get up?”
“No problem.”
“Sam!” Al’s voice cut the night. “You O.K?”
“I’m fine. Help us get out of here Al. We have to get Livvy away from them.”
“You ain’t going nowhere Andy.”
We all froze this time, the sound of Mack’s voice deep and calm and very cold. I turned and saw the man, tall and thickset and with eyes the colour of steel, standing in the kitchen doorway.
" Sam… “ Al said “You gotta do something. Ziggy says if you don’t you’re gonna get killed.”
Mack’s eyes shifted and came to rest on me. “You are proving to be a lot more trouble than I thought Miss Clarke. Andy here told us it would be a cinch, taking you. He was in on it, of course, in case you were wondering. Does a lot of homework for us on our…guests…and then helps muddy the waters afterwards. I just don’t know what he was thinking today.” He looked past me at Sam. “What were you thinking eh Andy? That you could go into business for yourself perhaps?”
“Saaaa…amm. I don’t like this…Do something!” Al rasped.
And then so much happened at the same time that I still don’t know exactly what came first; the shot, the siren, the scream…the pain.
All I know is that I was absolutely certain of what I had to do, and I did it. Just as Mack fired at Sam I moved in front of him. Sam was already moving himself, trying to push me out of harm’s way and so by a series of random chances the bullet caught me at waist level, ripping through my left side instead of my heart. The doctors would later tell me that I was lucky, that it was a miracle I wasn’t killed.
My friends would question me, over and over, as to why I had done it at all, why I had risked my life for a man who had betrayed me in the way Jackman had- Jackman, who is serving ten big ones, as they say, for attempted kidnapping; Jackman, who had the grace to thank me in court for saving his life, who apologised to me for what he had put me through, even though he claimed that he had no recollection of any of it: trauma-induced partial amnesia his defence team had called it, even though it did him little good in the end.
He hadn’t known it at the time, but Andrew Jackman had been under surveillance by his colleagues for weeks- the colleagues who had followed Pete and Mack and Marty to our farm, and who, for once, arrived in the nick of time.
There are other people who need to be grateful too, I suppose: the three women who will now live out their lives in peace, never knowing the horror I had lived through, safe and sound and, thankfully, totally oblivious to the fate that fate had altered for them.
I guess that’s the beauty of what Sam did…what he does: the ignorance of the alternate, the escaping from what might have been, what was never meant to be.
Oblivion I was not granted.
Because I knew.
And I still know.
I knew, as soon as the cops burst in through the door and shot Mack, I knew as soon as I hit the floor, I knew as Sam bent over me, his eyes frantic with concern...
I knew that it was over.
“Oh God! Livvy! Stay still, don’t move.” Hands on my sweater, now drenched with blood, tender and expert. “It’s going to be alright.”
They tried to take him from me then, to arrest him I suppose, but I gathered all the strength I had left and clung on to him, pulling him down to me. His lips hovered above mine, but we both knew they would never touch again this side of heaven. And even though I knew it could never be, I said it anyway;
“Please don’t go. Please stay with me.”
I saw the tears fill his eyes and I saw him cast an anguished look in Al’s direction before his eyes returned to mine. I saw him swallow the tears as he gently touched my hair and whispered the words I most wanted to hear.
“I loved you” he said. And then “Remember me. Don’t ever forget…”
And then he was gone.
And I will do as he asked, and he will be alive inside of me forever, and whenever I look at our son I see Sam. I see him in the sparkle in my little boy’s eyes and the perfect symmetry of his strong little body, in the way he stands, so straight and tall, and in the way he attracts people like moths to his flame. I see Sam in the wisdom my little boy has possessed all of his short life, and in his quiet intelligence, and in his amazing spirit.
But I only ever hear Sam’s voice inside my head. He comes to me in the velvet softness of a summer night or when snow glistens on the fields outside our farm, where our son rides his pony and plays and laughs. I only ever hear him when I am quiet and still and content. And I know he is still out there somewhere and the knowledge gives me all the strength I will ever need. I hear him, a whisper, an echo of love, and he is the sweetest of melodies and the softest touch of the sun on my skin.
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Old 03-10-2008, 10:07 AM   #2
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What a beautiful story!

I'd love to read more of your material.

Welcome to the board, it is always especially great to welcome another writer.

Your talent is God's gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.(Leo Buscaglia) Helen in Bedford
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Old 03-11-2008, 08:05 AM   #3
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I think somebody has a crush on Sam! A BIG crush!

Welcome to the board. I enjoyed your story.
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Old 03-12-2008, 01:33 AM   #4
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I'm relieved to see one of your stories again! I enjoyed them when you had a website, and was saddened to see them gone - especially since I had downloaded all of them to my computer, and lost them all when it crashed. I hope you share all your fics again!
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