Perfect Timing

Author: Vikki

Disclaimer: The SMK characters belong to Warner Brothers and Shoot The Moon Productions, and this story belongs to the author. McMurtyís comments are confidential, however, so please donít distribute her report without Agency permission.

Special Note: This is being posted in response to emanís October ďBack From The DeadĒ challenge. It qualifies in a couple of ways. Itís been sitting around for a long, long time. And who knows more about death than Mrs. McMurty?

Timing: Shortly after ďBad TimingĒ

Summary: Mrs. McMurtyís post-breakout security briefing

Rating: G

Archive: eman and Merel have blanket permission to archive anything I post. Anyone else, please ask first.

Thanks to Wendy for challenging me to try this. It's my first effort at writing in first person.

Feedback: All feedback is greatly appreciated.

I almost didnít come in.

Iím nearing seventy, you know, and not getting around quite as well as I used to. But my Patrick -- Mr. McMurty, that is, bless his soul -- my Patrick always said I had a sixth sense about when I was needed, and I felt I was needed at the inn that day.

The inn? Yes, Iíve always called this place ďthe inn.Ē Isolation facility sounds so cold and impersonal, donít you think? And my . . . guests . . . need more than cold and impersonal. They need warmth and caring. They need someone to look after them, someone willing to give a little extra to make sure their stay is comfortable. They need me.

Itís hard, of course. Iíve seen more than my fair share of human suffering during my years here. Every time a young man or woman walks through my office door, only to be carried out through the front gate a few days later, a little part of me dies right along with them. Iím pretty emotional that way. I may be in the wrong line of work, if you want the truth. But there isnít much call for field agents who can barely walk across a room without assistance, and this seemed like a place where Patrick and I could make a difference after the . . . accident. There wasnít any point in sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves, after all. So we found a place where we could make a contribution, if only a small one. Keep our fingers in the pie, so to speak. Watch over our friends the way we used to do when we were covering their backs out on the streets. Of course, most of the ones who were out there with Patrick and me are at Birchwood now, enjoying their golden years. Iím not ready for bingo and volleyball yet, though. I still have something to give.

Oh, yes, you asked me about the breakout, didnít you? My mind does wander a bit these days. Yes, I can see why you would be concerned about a security breach like that one. Weíve never had a breakout here before, not in all the years Iíve been in charge.

I remember quite clearly . . . such a nice young couple. Of course, they never admitted they were a couple. Partners, they called themselves. But I havenít spent the better part of five decades in this business without learning to use the two eyes the good Lord gave me. And I can recognize two people in love when I see them.

They were a couple, all right. Their names were Lee Stetson and Amanda King -- ďMrs. KingĒ according to the guard who escorted them to the office. But she wasnít wearing a wedding ring . . . hadnít worn one for quite some time, to my way of thinking. And I saw the way they looked at each other, the way they reached for each othersí hands as they signed the register. He signed in with his left hand, and she signed with her right, and they never let go of each othersí fingers. It was as if they needed that lifeline to pull them through the storm they were facing.

I spent several minutes looking through their paperwork, not that it told me much. Mr. Stetson was the one under quarantine, and his . . . confinement wasnít expected to last more than a few days.

He didnít appear to be ill -- just a little pale and rather quiet. He looked like a man who was facing his own mortality and, believe me, Iíve seen enough of them to know. Such a fine young man, though. Over six foot tall, Iím sure. Well-built and obviously used to getting plenty of exercise. Nice, thick hair. Gorgeous eyes . . . hazel if I remember correctly. A strong jaw. I couldnít help wondering whether he had dimples. I never saw him smile, not a real smile anyway, but he had the look of a man with dimples. He reminded me a little of my Patrick.

Now Mrs. King . . . she was a bit of a puzzle. She was tall, slim and brunette -- very pretty in a quiet, understated way. There was a certain . . . fragility about her, although, if I were a gambling woman, Iíd wager even money that she was a lot stronger than she looked. And she was a real lady . . . trying to be so cheerful and polite, when I could tell that the effort was costing her dearly.

According to the papers, she was supposed to leave that night, no later than 11:30. She had a bit of a spat with Mr. Stetson about it, I recall. She said she was staying with him until the last possible minute, but he wanted her to leave a few hours early. He didnít trust the doctors -- said if they didnít know enough about the bacteria to cook up an antidote, they couldnít be sure sheíd be safe until midnight. I canít say who won the argument. They were still going back and forth when they left my office, hand in hand despite their heated words.

I felt for them. You wouldnít think, after all these years, that I would take their situation personally, but there you have it. They were just . . . . special.

I put them in cabin nine. Alice, my assistant, was already checking them in when I arrived, and she was about to give them the keys to cabin three. Now, donít get me wrong, cabin three isnít so bad. Itís a bit stark, but itís pleasant enough if you donít need much space and you donít mind the traffic. You see, itís right smack in the middle of the compound -- close to the kitchen, the guardhouse . . . the infirmary. Threeís a bit noisy, in my opinion, and a bit austere.

But cabin nine . . . . Itís the nicest one here, big and airy with plenty of room to move around. Nine has a cozy fireplace and homey furnishings. It looks like someplace you might choose for a vacation, someplace youíd go to relax and take your mind off your troubles. It also has more privacy than any of the others, being at the edge of the compound by the east gate, and I could tell that those two had things to say to each other. Things they wouldnít be able to say if there were too many prying eyes and ears close by. Coincidentally, or maybe not so coincidentally, nine is my lucky number. And I sensed they needed all the luck they could get.

Mr. Stetson and Mrs. King checked in around dawn, and I didnít expect any trouble. We rarely have any trouble here. Well, I suppose I should clarify that: our guests rarely cause *us* any trouble. They obviously have . . . how should I put this? They have their own, personal, difficulties.

Things were real quiet until around ten oíclock, and I was thinking about sending Alice over to cabin nine to ask whether they wanted anything special for lunch. Betty, our cook, can whip up just about anything on a couple of hours notice, and I like to offer our guests a few simple pleasures . . . while they can still enjoy them. So Iíd been thinking about sending Alice for better than an hour, but I kept putting it off -- not wanting to interrupt anything, if you know what I mean. But ten oíclock was about as late as I could wait and still be sure to have lunch ready at a decent hour, so I was thinking about sending Alice.

Thatís when it happened. I was looking at the clock, thinking I couldnít wait any longer, when a flicker from the silent alarm panel caught my eye. There was just a flicker at first, then a few more flickers, then suddenly the whole side of the room was blinking like a Christmas tree. I suppose I didnít react as quickly as I should have -- I was that surprised. Letís face it, most of our guests donít have the strength, much less the ability, to escape. And Mr. Stetson was an Omega class prisoner; he had to know thereíd be a ďshoot to killĒ order if he as much as stepped out of the cabin.

It only took me a few seconds to get over the shock. I picked up the phone and called Charlie Ramsey, the agent on duty at the east gate. His panel was going crazy, too, but he hadnít seen anything out of the ordinary. Then I called the guardhouse and sent out four Rapid Response teams, one to each gate and two to the cabin. At that point, all I could do was sit by the phone and hope for the best; as you can tell, Iím not in any shape to go hobbling around the compound myself.

What happened was rather amazing, really. Mr. Stetson and Mrs. King must be quite a team. They got the jump on Charlie and RR-2, hijacked a jeep, and got clean away. No one was hurt, thank God, although there was a good bit of damage. One of the cleanup crew techs said the window bars on cabin nine were blown off with a thermite wire, and the side of the cabin will have to be repaired as soon we get to the next budget year. The east gatehouse ought to be rebuilt, too. All of the electronic panels were replaced that first day, though. We canít do without those, as many guests as we care for here.

Thatís about all I can tell you, except I do know everything turned out well in the end. Mrs. King stopped by a few days later to apologize for the inconvenience she and Mr. Stetson caused, and she said her *partner* was doing fine; the doctor found the antidote after all. And she brought a big platter of homemade cookies for Charlie and a bouquet of flowers for me, fresh from her garden. Didnít I tell you what a nice lady she was?

The End