So” Oscar began “What time are you and Jaime taking off tomorrow?”
“Not too early. There is a three hour time difference. I say if we get going by noon, we should get there in time for lunch. Mom is expecting us.” Steve replied.
“Well that’s great. You and Jaime could use the vacation…”
“Yea I know and now with the baby coming and all…” Steve shot him a look.
“Rudy has already warned me no missions till she has the baby.” Oscar muttered.
“Rudy is very serious about this.” Steve cautioned.
“I know he told me. Look Steve what kind of a person do you think I am? Do you honestly think I would send a pregnant woman on a dangerous mission?”
Steve cracked a smile. “Well let me see here.” He teased.
“Aw come on Steve.” Oscar argued.
“Ok maybe you wouldn’t.” Steve laughed.
“Where is she by the way?” Oscar asked.
She’s upstairs packing for the trip. She said she’ll be down in a minute. Rudy is meeting us at Ralph’s for dinner; do you want to join us?”
“I think I will. What time?”
“Just as soon as Jaime finishes packing” Steve pointed upstairs. We have reservations for 7:30 that is if she can finish in time.”
“Look I’ll go ahead. I’ll tell them I’m in your party and they’ll hold the table. You did reserve a table for four didn’t you?”
“Of course I did. That sounds like a great idea. I’ll see you there. It’s 7:15 right now.” Steve looked at his watch.
“I’m on my way. I’ll see you there.” Oscar darted out the front door and headed for his car.
“What was that all about?” Jaime asked coming down the stairs.
“Oscar is on his way to Ralph’s He’ll have them hold the table for us.”
“That wasn’t necessary you know. I am ready.” She grabbed her purse from the closet and the two of them headed for the door Steve had just opened it when the phone rang.
“I better see who it is.” He picked it up. “Yes.” He spoke.
“Col. Austin?” The voice on the other end asked.
“That would be me. Who is this?”
“Chet Wheeler. I’m a mechanic at Andrews. I have been getting your plane ready for tomorrow, but I’m afraid it won’t be ready.”
“What do you mean?” Steve asked. It had been awhile since he had had it up that’s why he asked them to look it over.
“The fuel pump is shot. We don’t have that type around here. We could get one in two days.”
“You do that, in the mean time I better book us a flight to Ojai. My folks are expecting us tomorrow.” He added as an explanation.
Steve hung up and glanced at Jaime. “I had Chet wheeler go over the plane it’s the fuel pump. They need to replace it There is no way it will be ready by morning. I say we take a commercial flight.”
“Mom and dad are expecting us. I think that’s a good idea.” Jaime agreed.
“Ok then.” Steve picked up the phone and booked two seats on the first flight to Ojai. “We leave at 9:00 in the morning.” He reported after he hung up.
“Well the packing is all done so we’ll be set.” Jaime told him as they again headed for the door.
“Did you call mom today to tell her the news?” Steve asked smiling at her as he opened the car door
Jaime shook her head. “I mean I called her, but I thought it would be better if we told her in person.” She slid into the passenger seat and waited for Steve to get behind the wheel.
“I don’t know it just seems better that way.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Steve drove to the restaurant where Oscar and Rudy had already been taken back to their table.
“So” Rudy said after everyone was seated. “Have you told your mom she’s going to be a grandma?”
“Not yet. We wanted to tell her in person.” Steve explained. They ordered their steaks and continued to talk.
“What are you hoping for Steve?” Oscar asked.
“I’m not sure Oscar. I really don’t have a preference over one or the other. Of course I would love a boy, but a little girl who looked like her mother would be wonderful as well.”
“I know what you’re saying.” Oscar sighed. ‘Are you flying yourself or…”
“We were going to, but my plane has to have some work done so we decided to take a commercial flight.”
“Do you need a ride to the airport?” Oscar asked.
“That would be nice. Our flight is at nine. We’d like to be there by eight.” Steve explained.
“I can arrange that.” Oscar smiled as they finished dinner. “I’ll see you around 7:30 then?”
“Sounds good” Steve paid the check and they all headed in their own direction.
On the way home Jaime turned to Steve. “Is anything bothering you?” She finally broke the silence in the car.
“Um why do you ask?” Steve muttered.
“I don’t know. You just seem preoccupied.”
“Oh I don’t know just thinking about the baby.” Steve lied. “I’m anxious to see how mom reacts tomorrow when we tell her.”
“Are you sure that’s all?” Jaime looked in his direction. She had nothing by concern in her eyes.
“Yea I’m sure.” Steve sighed. Jaime was barely able to hear him.
“Well as long as you’re ok.” Jaime didn’t buy it.
“Yea I’m fine.” He steered the car through late evening traffic.
Jaime decided to leave it that. She knew something was bothering him but if he didn’t want to discuss it. He wasn’t going to.”
The next day Oscar was at the house at 7:15. “Traffic is really bad this morning. It took me half an hour just to drive the six blocks from my place to yours so I thought we better get an earlier start.”
“Thanks Oscar.” Jaime chirped. “I can’t believe what a lovely day it is.”
“It is nice isn’t it?” Oscar noted looking into the sky. “Don’t you think so Steve?”
“Huh, oh yea it’s real nice out.”
“What’s with him?” Oscar wondered.
“I’m not sure. He’s been that way since we left you last night. Sort of preoccupied I asked him about it. He says he’s fine.”
“Well if he says…”
“No Oscar it’s more than that. Something is troubling him. I can tell the past couple of nights he’s cried out in his sleep.”
Oscar glanced at her. “That’s not like Steve.” he noted.
“I know. That’s what has me worried….”
“What are you two talking about?” Steve asked trudging out the door with his and Jaime’s suitcases
“Nothing” Jaime smiled. “I was just telling Oscar that you seem a little preoccupied the past few days.”
“I told you everything is fine!” It came out harsher then Steve anticipated shocking his wife and friend.
“Steve we’re only concerned for you.” Oscar defended.
“Well you don’t need be. I’m fine really. Now let’s get going before we miss our flight.” Steve tossed the bags into the trunk and slid into the front seat leaving Jaime alone in the back. He didn’t speak all the way to the airport.
“Well you two, have a wonderful time.” Oscar bade them good-bye at their gate.
“We will thanks for the ride.” Steve mumbled.
“Are you sure you’re ok?” Oscar questioned again.
“All I need is to get away from you for a few days.” Steve snorted.
“I’ll be in my office and so will Rudy.” Oscar whispered to Jaime. “If there’s any trouble don’t hesitate to give us a call.”
Jaime gave a slight nod when she saw Steve wasn’t looking then she followed him out the door and on to the tarmac to catch their flight.
When they landed in Ojai they were greeted by Helen and Jim. “I have some news you two just might find interesting.” Helen looked from Steve then Jaime and back to Steve. They are tearing down the old elementary school.”
“Why?” Steve asked.
“To build a new one the whole town is buzzing about it.” Jim added.
“That’s to bad.” Jaime chimed in. There are a lot of memories attached to that old building.”
“Memories’ Steve echoed softly to himself.
“Did you say something Steve?” Helen asked.
“Ah no let’s get to the house shall we.”
“Wait Steve” Jaime stopped him. “We haven’t told mom and dad our news.”
“What news?” Helen looked Jaime in the eye. “Oh my you’re going to have a baby!” She gushed.
“Now how did you know that?” Jim wondered.
“A woman knows these things.” Helen threw her arms around Jaime “Oh this is just wonderful!” I just can’t believe it a baby.” She continued in her ecstasy. “This is the best news I’ve had in a long time!”
Helen had a nice dinner ready for them when they got back. After eating Steve stepped out onto the porch while Helen and Jaime helped with the dishes.
“Anything you want to talk about son?” Jim joined him on the porch.
“Did Jaime send you out here?” He snapped.
“No. I just noticed you were awful quiet over dinner. I thought you had something on your mind.”
Steve shook his head. “No nothing. Do you like the idea of being a grandpa?” He gave his step father a smile.
“I sure am. Is that what’s bothering you. Becoming a father?”
Again Steve shook his head. “No I’m excited, really. Jaime and I have tried for sometime now. We were beginning to think it would never happen.”
“Well you just don’t seem very excited to me.” Jim noted.
“Yes? Well, believe me I am …
They went to bed that night deep in their own thoughts. Helen dreamed all night of becoming a grandmother. Something she had waited for, for a long time
Steve wasn’t sure what he had dreamt about. He only knew he didn’t like it. When he woke up he glanced first at Jaime still snoozing then at the clock by the bed. It read 5:30. Not wanting to disturb Jaime he slipped out of bed, grabbed his clothes and ducked into the bathroom to clean up and get dressed.
When he emerged Jaime was still sleeping. Steve crept out of the house after leaving a note telling everyone not to worry he had just gone for a walk.
He walked to the school that was now boarded up with a wooden fence surrounding it. He easily jumped over the fence to find the school yard a mess with bulldozers and other heavy equipment they were going to use to tear the old building down.
Steve walked over to the swings and sat down. He closed his eyes for a moment then heard a voice. Steve’s eyes popped open. The fence was gone, as well as the heavy equipment. A young boy stood in front of him.
“Hey mister, are you going to let us kids swing?”
“Yea sure sorry” Steve stood and allowed the boy to sit on the swing. As he walked away another boy approached. “Hey Steven” the boy asked. “Who was that?”
“I don’t know.” Steven replied “I just asked him to get up so we could swing, Come on Jeff. Let’s have a contest to see who can swing the highest.”
Steve spun around he looked closely at the boy now sitting on the swing. ‘That’s me.’ He thought to himself. ‘I must be nine years old.’
Steve stood for several minutes and watched the boys swing. In fact, he watched until the bell rang and they were called inside
He walked back over to the swings sat down and closed his eyes trying to figure out if what he had just witnessed was real or not. When he opened his eyes Jaime was standing in front of him.
“I thought I’d find you hear.” She sat on the swing next to him. “What made you come over here?”
“I just wanted to see for myself that their going to tear this building down. You know the strangest thing just happened.”
“What’s that?” Jaime asked.
Steve told her of his vision. “I know the boy was me, and you remember little Jeff Martin?”
“No can’t say that I do.” Jaime ran her fingers through his hair. “I’m sure it was just your imagination.”
“I don’t know it seemed like more than that.” Steve sighed He stood from the swing and the two of them stepped over to the fence and jumped over it. They walked hand in had down the street.
“Your mother wants to take me shopping for baby clothes today in LA do you want to come along?” Jaime smiled knowing the answer.
“I think I’ll just hang out here.” Steve smiled. “I’ll give you some money if you want. And remember only blue.”
“Oh Steve we don’t know if it’s a boy or girl.” Jaime gave him a gentle nudge.
“I say if you think boy, it will be a boy.” Steve teased. “You go and have a good time, but tell mom to hold off on any furniture I don’t want to ship it home try to go to places we have in DC, then we can order it and have it delivered to the house.”
“Good idea.” Jaime said. As they reached the house Helen was waiting.
“I see you found him. Are you ready?” Helen asked.
“Yes I am, but Steve wants to stay around here.” Jaime climbed into Helen’s car.
“Are you sure you want to stay here?” Helen asked.
“Yea, I thought I’d get in a little fishing.” Steve muttered as he took out his wallet and handed Jaime some money. “Get yourself something nice too.” He gave her a kiss
After they left Steve headed for the garage and grabbed his pole. “I’m going to the lake dad. I’ll see you later.”
“Want me to come with you?” Jim asked.
“No I kind of want to be alone. I hope you don’t mind.” Steve replied.
“No not at all. I’ll see you when you get back then.” Jim smiled at him. “Are you sure there is nothing you want to talk about?”
“I’ll let you know.” Steve headed down the path and found his favorite spot. He baited his hook then cast his line out. He sat for a couple of hours and caught enough fish for dinner. After cleaning them he again headed for the school.
Since it was Saturday the workers were not around Steve again jumped over the fence and walked around the playground. This time rather than sit on the swings he sat on the merry-go-round before he knew it he had laid back and closed his eyes.
Once again the sound of children awakened him Steve sat up to see the playground swarming with children.
“What in the world is going on around here?” He asked himself. He searched the playground to see if he could see himself.
He walked around till he saw his friend Jeff standing near the make-sift ball diamond that the boys had made.
“Hi there” Steve approached him.
“Hi.” Jeff replied.
“Where’s you friend?” Steve asked still looking for himself.
“He’s over there.” Jeff pointed toward the building. Steven was bent over picking up a baseball. He grabbed it up and ran back to Jeff.
“Hi” he replied. “What’s your name?”
“Steve.” Steve answered.
“Hey that’s my name.” Steven laughed. “Come on Jeff let’s finish our game.”
Steve watched as the two boys joined their friends on the ‘ball diamond’ He walked over to where they were playing.
“Hey mister” Jeff called. “Do you know how to pitch?”
“A little” Steve called out “why?”
“Would you mind pitching to us?” Steven asked.
“I’d love to.” Steve stepped onto the pitcher’s mound and began pitching the ball to the boys playing. He was saddened when the bell rang and called them back to class.
Once again the playground changed into the construction site. Dejected Steve headed back toward home. The sun was starting to sink, and he knew Jaime and his mother would be back from there shopping spree eager to show him all the items they had bought for his eagerly awaited child.
“Steve.” Jaime called when he walked through the door. “Where have you been?”
“Fishing” Steve lied. “I caught a bunch for dinner.”
“I went to your favorite spot.” Jaime accused. “I didn’t see you.”
“Well then where did these come from?” He showed them the fish he had caught and cleaned earlier.
“I don’t know. All I know is that I didn’t see you there. I was worried about you.”
“Yea well I’m fine. Eat the fish if you want. I’m going to bed!” Steve stomped upstairs.
“Steve. Come back here. I’m sorry.” Jaime started after him.
“I don’t like what you’re saying. I told you I was fishing and I was fishing!” Steve yelled.
“Steve!” Helen walked over to him. “I think you should apologize to Jaime.”
“For what? she’s the one accusing me…”
“Accusing you, of what?” Jim asked. “Steve no one has accused you of anything. We’re all concerned about you.”
“Were you at the school again?” Jaime asked half scared of the response she might receive.
Steve softened just a bit. “Yes I was. It happened again.” He looked at Jaime.
“What happened again?” Helen asked.
“Steve was at the schoolyard earlier. He says there were some children there playing.” Jaime answered
“There were.” Steve shot daggers at her.
“Steve that schoolyard has been closed for two weeks now. All the kids in town know to stay away from it.” Jim explained.
“They weren’t kids from here.” Steve whispered. “Jeff was there.”
“Jeff? Do you mean Jeff Martin?” Helen asked referring to her son’s childhood friend.
“That’s the one.” Steve replied.
“Steve you know Jeff was killed in that auto accident when you kids were in high school.” Jim reminded.
“I was there to. I was about nine years old.” Steve continued to whisper.
“Steve. That’s just not possible.” Helen walked over to him.
“I know it’s not, but I’m telling you it happened.” Steve left the stunned group and stomped upstairs.
“I’m really worried Helen.” Jaime spoke after Steve had left. “He really believes that it happened.”
“Maybe you should give Oscar and Rudy a call.” Helen suggested. “Rudy might be able to help him.”
“I was thinking the same thing.” Jaime responded, “I’m afraid Steve will be upset if he knew I called them for this.”
Jim thought for several minutes. “I have an idea. If he wonders why you called tell him it’s for you and the baby”
“Jim I’m not due for ….”
“I know that, just say you had some concerns or something. I’m sure Steve would believe that. You have to do something. I don’t know what’s going on, but Steve is bothered by something, and if he won’t tell us, maybe he’ll tell them.”
“I suppose you’re right. I’ll call them first thing in the morning.” Jaime headed up to the bedroom to tell Steve dinner was about ready.
“Are you ok?” She asked when she found him sitting in the dark.
“I told you I’m fine. What did you want?” Steve snarled.
“Dinner is ready.” She sat next to him.
“I’m not hungry.” Steve stood up and moved toward the door. “I think I’ll sleep in the other room tonight.” Without another word he stepped out into the hallway and across the hall to the third bedroom.
Stunned Jaime headed back downstairs “is he coming?” Helen asked
“No he’s even moved into the other bedroom. I’m calling Oscar and Rudy now.”
“Tell them we’ll meet them at the airport anytime even if they want to come tonight.” Jim offered.
“That’s awful sweet of you dad.” Jaime walked into the living room and caught Oscar in the middle of the nine o’clock news.
“That is strange.” Oscar spoke after he had listened to Jaime. “Rudy and I will be out first thing in the morning.”
“Thanks Oscar. I just don’t know what the problem could be.” Jaime hung up and joined Helen and Jim for dinner….
Again Steve spent a sleepless night. He hoped he would sleep better in his own room but that only seemed to make matters worse. It was four in the morning when he sat up in bed still shaking from the dream he had just had. ‘If only I could remember what it was about.’ He thought. ‘Maybe it would help.’
Again he got up, dressed and headed for the schoolyard that seemed to call to him all the time.
When Jaime woke up she was not surprised to see Steve was not there she wanted to go to the schoolyard and knock some sense into him but just as she was getting ready to leave the phone rang. It was the base commander. Oscar Goldman and Rudy Wells would be landing in the next fifteen minutes. Jaime decided to give Jim a break and she got in the car to pick them up.
“How was your flight?” She asked when they were all in the car.
“Never mind that” Oscar spoke. What’s going on with Steve?”
This time as Steve rounded the corner that led to he and Jaime’s old school the construction fence was no longer there. In fact the entire block was just as it had been when he was a boy.
He walked onto the playground. No kids were around, then the bell inside the school rang and they came charging out. Once again Steve looked for himself as a boy. ‘There I am. And I’m with Jeff again. Why am I always with him?’ Steve thought.
Steve watched as the boys continued their baseball game. Steve remembered how the game would always take up from where they had left off the previous recess.
“Hey Steven” Jeff called “You’re up.” Steven walked up to home plate and grabbed a bat. “Ok Rick I’m ready.” Steven hollered to the boy standing on the pitcher’s mound.
‘Rick?’ Steve thought looking at the boy. ‘That’s right. Rick Preston. He moved closer the group of boys. He watched as Steven missed the ball and was struck out.
‘Funny’ Steve thought ‘I don’t remember this game that well.’ He continued to watch the boys play. Just as it was his turn at bat again, the bell rang once again sending the children scurrying into the building.
This time Steve followed them into the building. He knew he shouldn’t but he just couldn’t resist. ‘This is amazing.’ Steve thought ‘this is just the same as when I was a kid.’ The hallways were empty, but he could hear voices coming from behind each door.
He walked around till he came to his classroom. ‘I can’t believe this.’ He continued to think. ‘Mrs. Mann. My fourth grade teacher’ Steve stood outside the classroom for several minutes watching the class.
‘I wonder what would happen if I walked inside’ Steve slowly opened the door and stepped in. Mrs. Mann seemed completely unaware of his presence. Even the children didn’t seem to see him.
‘Good.’ Steve thought ‘I don’t think they see me.’ He took a seat in the back of the room.
“Ok gang.” Mrs. Mann began. “Let’s settle down from recess.”
The class settled down. Although he wondered why no one seemed to notice him, he was glad they hadn’t.
“Now if you will take out your math books, we’ll review last night’s home work and go over tonights. “Now if you will please hand in your math homework.”
Steve watched as the kids reached in their desks and pulled out their math books and handed their homework to the front of the room.
“Steven, would you please gather up the papers and bring them to me?” Mrs. Mann asked.
Steve watched as he got up and went from desk to desk in the front row and gathered up the papers.
“Thank you Steven.” Mrs. Mann took them from him.
“You’re welcome Mrs. Mann.” Steven walked back to his seat next to Jeff.
‘Funny’ Steve thought. ‘I don’t remember sitting next to Jeff.’
Steve left the room and wandered through the rest of the school. No one seemed to notice or even see him.
He wandered around till he came to the principal’s office. He opened the door and walked in. The secretary was looking directly at him but didn’t acknowledge his presence at all.
‘What?’ Steve asked himself ‘I’m invisible?”
Steve had stood there for several minutes when Mr. Baxtor the principal stepped in. He to seemed to not see Steve either.
Steve left the principal’s office and headed back out into the hall. ‘Just what in the world is going on around here?’ He asked himself again.
“Steve!” He heard Jaime calling from somewhere but where. The images in the building began to fade.
He left the building and headed up the schoolyard. He could see Jaime standing on the playground. He glanced around the schoolyard hoping Jaime would see it was the same as when they were children, but once again the construction fence surrounded it.
“I thought I would find you here Steve why do you keep coming here?” Jaime moved closer to him. She could see the distant look on his face. “It happened again?” She asked.
Steve nodded. “Yea Jaime I don’t know why this keeps happening.” They walked over to the swings again.
“Steve I wish you could tell me what’s bothering you.” Jaime looked into his eyes.
“I wish I could to.” Steve gave a slight chuckle “Now I know how you must have felt. You feel like you are this close to remembering something. Something important, and then it’s gone.”
“What are you trying to remember?” Jaime asked. “Maybe I could help.”
“I don’t know. I was just in the school.” Steve pointed to the building behind them.
“Jaime it was just the same, our teachers were there, Mr. Baxtor was there…”
“Ed Baxtor, the principal?” Jaime asked.
“Steve Ed Baxtor died five years ago.” Jaime reminded
“I know that.” Steve shouted. “I’m sorry Jaime I didn’t mean…”
“I wish you could tell me what’s bothering you.” Jaime gave him a concerned look “You know that what you’re telling me can’t be possible No matter how you slice it.” Jaime continued.
Steve nodded. “Yea I know that. You probably think the same thing I do. I’ve flipped.”
“No Steve I don’t think that at all. I just don’t understand why you keep having these visions or what ever they are.”
By now they were walking down the street. Steve turned one more time as he heard the school bell ring. He saw the kids pouring out of the building to go home. He wondered why Jaime couldn’t hear the noisy kids right behind them. Steve turned toward her to see if he could read the expression on her face but her expression was that of concern. Once again he turned in the direction of the children they were still laughing and playing.
“Is something wrong?” Jaime asked once again seeing the distant look on Steve’s face.
“I don’t understand why you can’t see or hear them.” Steve continued to watch them.
“I don’t understand Steve. See and hear who, what?”
He turned toward Jaime. “The kids Jaime the kids in the schoolyard” Steve pointed.
Jaime turned in the direction Steve was pointing. “Steve there are no children playing how can they with the fence up?”…
Steve turned back to the schoolyard. Jaime was right once again the fence surrounded it
“Oh Steve: Jaime cried! “What is going on?”
“I’m telling you Jaime, they were there. Jeff, Rick I played ball with them yesterday.”
“Listen Steve Oscar and Rudy are here…”
“You called them for this? Steve winced “oh Jaime!”
“We are all very worried about you. Maybe they can help. I mean if you are seeing people and things that aren’t there…”
“I suppose you’re right.” Steve sighed. “I just wish you hadn’t called Oscar and Rudy. I mean their going to send me to the loony bin or something.”
“That’s not true and you know it. Come on the car is over here.” They walked in silence toward the car. Steve climbed into the back. Jaime stared at him for a moment, then shrugged her shoulders and slid into the driver’s seat.
When they arrived back at the ranch Oscar and Rudy were sitting at the kitchen table with Helen.
“I see you found him.” Oscar rose to greet Steve. “Where have you been pal?”
“None of your business” Steve snapped he walked past both men and headed upstairs.
“You’re right Jaime.” Rudy looked from Oscar to Jaime. “Something is defiantly bothering him. I’ll go see if I can talk to him.”
“I’m coming with you.” Oscar and Jaime followed Rudy upstairs. Rudy knocked on Steve’s door.
“Go away!” Steve shouted.
“Steve we just want to talk to you.” Rudy called through the closed door. “Come on open up so we can talk.”
Steve slowly stood and walked over to the door. He unlocked it but didn’t answer. He walked back over to the bed and sat down.
Oscar, Rudy and Jaime all stepped in. “I think we need to talk Steve.” Rudy walked over to where Steve sat and sat next to him. “I think we should talk.” Rudy looked Steve in the eye. Can you tell us what’s bothering you?
“There’s nothing to talk about.” Steve hissed. “I just want to be left alone.”
“Is that why you moved out of the room you and Jaime had into this room?”
“What you told them everything?” Steve screamed.
“Steve calm down.” Rudy soothed. “We just want to help you. Jaime is very worried about you. We all are.”
“You don’t need to be. I’m fine.” Steve sighed.
”Well you don’t act fine. Why don’t you tell us about the schoolyard?” Oscar sat in a chair across from the bed.
Again Steve shot daggers at Jaime. “You just had to tell them didn’t you?” He seethed.
“Now Steve that’s no way to address the woman who’s carrying you child” Rudy scolded. “I am anxious to hear about your daydream though.”
“It’s not a dream Rudy. It’s real. Those kids are real….”
“Kids, you said kids? Are the kids always there?” Rudy’s eyebrows narrowed.
“Interesting” Rudy observed.
“Interesting? What’s that got to do with the price of corn and beans.” Steve muttered.
“You say that you’re there as a child?” Rudy disregarded Steve’s remark.
Steve nodded. “But like I said….”
“Listen Steve I’m trying to get to the root of this. Just bare with me I’m a scientist not a psychiatrist “
“See you think I’m nuts!” Steve shouted.
“I didn’t say that. I just said I’m not a psychiatrist they know more about the way the mind works. I’m not saying you’re crazy.”
“What are you saying?” Steve sighed.
“Now where was I? Oh yea. You say you yourself are a child?” Rudy pressed.
Steve nodded. “All the kids I used to play with are there. Jeff Martin, Rick Preston. I just don’t…
“Steve.” Jaime broke in. “Am I there?”
Steve thought for several minutes. “No.” He muttered. “As a matter of fact you’re not.”
“Hum.” Rudy commented “That is very interesting.”
“What do you mean by that Rudy?” Steve glared at him.
“Oh nothing I want you to tell me everything Steve, from your first encounter with the children to the last one you had today. I don’t want you to leave anything out.”
Everyone listened as Steve relayed the visions he had had.
Steve noted the expression on Rudy’s face when he had finished. “You see you think I’m nuts.”
“No Steve not at all.” Rudy assured. “But now that you’ve shared it with us I doubt it will happen again, unless you want it to.” Rudy added.
“What’s that supposed to mean.” Steve snarled.
“I think you have an over active imagination.” Rudy explained. “I think you’re letting it run away from you…”
“Rudy those kids were as real as you are right now.” Steve argued. “I held that ball in my hands. I threw it to them.”
“Ok Steve. I believe you.” Rudy soothed
“Why don’t you just all leave me alone for a bit?” Steve practically shoved them out of the room.
“Well of all the…” Jaime began after Steve had shoved them into the hall.
“No, no that’s fine. I was trying to think of a way to back out so I could talk to you and Oscar.” Rudy motioned them toward the stairs. “Let’s go down stairs so we can talk.”
After Oscar and Jaime had followed Rudy down to the kitchen Steve opened the door. He peeked down the hallway. “Good.” He spoke to himself. He slowly crept down the stairs and out the front door.
“So what is it Rudy?” Oscar asked after they were seated in Helen and Jim’s kitchen.
“Now you’re going to think I’m the one who’s nuts. Rudy began. “But here is my theory on the matter.
“Go on Rudy I’m willing to believe just about anything.” Jaime whispered.
“Ok this comes from way out in left field but I think Steve is more than likely afraid of becoming a father.”
“Say what?” Jaime couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Come on Rudy Steve is more excited than anyone about this baby.”
“I’m afraid it all adds up. Steve for some reason seems to want to go back to his childhood. That’s why he’s always a little boy playing with his friends now if he hadn’t actually ‘played’ with them I may not have come up with this theory at all.
Steve was afraid Rudy may be right. He ran all the way to the schoolyard Just as he approached the bell ran and the children again spilled out of the doors. Steve knew just where to go this time. He headed straight for the ball diamond. Soon they all surrounded him as the game once again got underway. Jeff handed the bat to Steven “Your turn.”
Steven took the bat and stood on home plate.
“Come on Steven.” The other boys on his team called. “You can hit it this time!”
Steven looked at Jeff who was standing on third base. “I’ll get you home Jeff.” He called.
“I hope so. Smack it hard.” Jeff encouraged.
Steve watched the scene play out. ‘This can’t be my imagination.’ He thought as Steven swung for the second time missing the ball.
“Come on Steven.” His team encouraged. “You can do it.”
Rick again threw the ball and Steven smacked it out of the schoolyard. Steven ran the bases just behind Jeff.
“Ok you got a homerun.” Rick teased. “You get to go find the ball.”
“Ok.” Steven called as he headed in the direction he had hit the ball.
Steve watched from where he was. ‘No Steven.’ He thought ‘no don’t go.’ He followed himself out of the schoolyard trying to stop him.
But try as he might he just couldn’t catch him. He caught up to him only after it was too late. He watched as Steven bent over to pick up the ball. Then it happened.
Steve watched as Steven stood with the ball clutched in his hands. He was just about to turn and head back to the schoolyard when he heard voices coming from close behind him. Steven tuned and saw Rick’s father and Jeff’s father standing not ten feet in front of him.
“Where’s the money Noel?” Jeff’s father Paul Martin stated.
“I don’t have it Paul.” Noel Preston replied.
“I told you, you had to have it by today.” Paul snarled. “I told you what would happen if you didn’t have it.”
Noel nodded. “I’ll have it for you tomorrow. I just don’t have it today.” Noel pleaded.
“Look Noel if it were up to me…”
“Just tell them you didn’t find me. Look my kid’s birthday is this week I had the money I really did. But the wife found it and used it to buy Rick a present.
As they stood and argued Steven watched as two other men approached “don’t get soft now Paul.” The one spoke. “We know your kids are friends. That’s why the boss sent us to make sure you did your job.”
“The boss didn’t need to send you.” Paul hissed “I don’t need any help.”
“Please Paul. Give me till tomorrow.” Noel continued to plead.
“I’m sorry Noel, but a bet is a bet. You really shouldn’t bet if you can’t pay.” He drew a gun and fired hitting Noel in the head.
Steven staggered backward; as he righted himself Paul fired another shot hitting Noel in the chest this time.
Steven stared at the scene for another minute before racing back to where his friends stood. What Steven didn’t see, Steve did.
“What was that?” Paul asked.
One of the men pointed in the direction Steven had gone. “Some kid saw.” One of the men called.
Paul looked up just as Steven reentered the playground. “That’s Steven Austin.” Paul replied.
“Go get him. You can’t have a witness.”
“I’m not going to hurt a child.” Paul threw the gun down. “You want him dead Vic, you kill him.”
“You will do as you’re told.” The Vic man snarled.
“Ok, ok.” Paul headed toward the schoolyard.
“Hey where are you going?” Steve shouted. He grabbed at the man but his arms went right through him. Just then the town was back to modern day.
“Oh my g-d” Steve whispered to himself. He walked back into the empty schoolyard and sat on one of the swings. “So that’s been what the trouble is.” Steve now remembered the entire incident he had long buried in his mind. And that at least once a year he had these nightmares, but they never made any sense to him. “But if he was after me back then why didn’t he do something then.” Steve wondered aloud. “I never said anything to anyone.” Steve remembered. “Not even mom and dad.”