by Jason A. Miller ©1998

Chapter 5: Don't You Want Me?

Jimmy slid open the alley-side door of the Tool 'N Die, and wheeled his bike inside. One of Callie's dark blue jumpsuits hung on a peg just inside the door. He looked forlornly at it, and grabbed a sleeve, as if to grab Callie's arm.

Barek coughed. Jimmy jumped, and let go. His boss was taking apart a boat motor, but looking right at him while working.

"I understand that Callie was a little late to school this morning. Is that right, young James?"

"How'd you find out about that, Barek?" Relations between the two had become rather frosty over the last couple of weeks.

"This is a small town. Word gets around fast. It's easy to find out what anyone is up to. Anyone at all."

Callie, during one of their fights, had shouted that everything Barek ever said was laced with double meaning, and that Jimmy was too blind to notice. Well, not anymore.

"Yeah," Jimmy said. "She showed up for the last half hour of school today. Didn't get a chance to speak to her, though." He still stood near the door, hesitant to walk further into the room.

"I was hoping you might. I'd like to know if she's planning to come back to work. Otherwise, I'll have to have her jumpsuit refitted."

"Ah, c'mon, Barek, cut her some slack. She and her dad haven't been getting along. It's not wonder she's missed work."

"Times are changing, my friend. You may not have the pleasure of my company for much longer. And I'd certainly miss working with two such gifted young gearheads."

Time to be direct. "You're not threatening to shut the place down, are you, Barek?"

"Let me give you a word of advice, young James, he said through a sneer. A bad sign -- the sneers were usually reserved for Callie. Jimmy was the one he was supposed to smile paternally at. "If things keep up the way they are, I won't be needed in Swans Crossing for much longer."

"And where are you planning on going?"

"Oh. Abroad, perhaps. And I can't take you with me. So it's in your best interest to..." Barek trailed off, looking meaningfully at his employee.


"Win Callie back. And, as a one-time only parting gift, from me to the two of you, I may have just the idea..."

The man in the black suit shut off the receiver, and pushed back his swivel chair with an annoyed sigh. He spoke aloud to himself. "Our operative would appear to be losing patience with his current assignment. This does not bode well." His voice was refined and theatrical. In the half-light of the chamber, his skin glowed a dull bronze, and he looked somewhat sinister.

Or maybe he wasn't speaking only to himself, for a disembodied voice answered him. Perhaps it came from the next room. Or perhaps there was no next room, and it was coming from an intercom.

"Maybe the arrival of our commander in chief this coming weekend will refocus him for the task at hand."

"One would hope. If he keeps this up, his cover will be blown by a group of schoolchildren. And that would be a disaster for the national interest."

Jazz braced herself for the after-school onslaught. On some afternoons, it seemed as if the entire population of Swans High passed through her diner. No problem there -- it paid the bills, and so soon after racking up a hefty tuition as a business management grad student. And it made her feel close to the kids, those who liked her and included her in their groups of friends.

But, oh, carrying all that food. She should've picked a less exhausting career -- like running marathons!

In need of a quick break, she sat down on a spare stool next to Glory and Nancy at the bar. Thirteen, and fourteen. Add up their ages, and they were still younger than she was (albeit with a combined boyfriend total of one, which was about one or two greater than her own total at the moment.)

"So, girls. Fill me in."

"What do you want to know, Jazz?" asked Glory. She wore a rose-pink sweater (sweater during the summer? Jazz wondered) over a white long-sleeved T-shirt, with tight- fitting flower-print pants.

"Gossip, of course!", and they all laughed.

"Callie was sick all day. But she showed up for English class -- in the middle of ninth period!" said Nancy. "Imagine that -- coming all the way to school just for half an hour of a substitute teacher. Something's strange about that family of hers."

"But what a teacher ninth period," chimed in Glory. "Jazz, you remember the Doctor and Professor Summerfield? They visited here one day last month?"

"How could I forget? The Doctor ordered enough food to put my dishwashers through college!"

"Well, they're back, as substitute teachers! The Doctor taught ninth and tenth grade English, and Benny taught history to the eighth graders. She had us in stitches!"

"And I didn't even get to see them," Nancy said, "after everything Glory's been saying about them for weeks. Very convenient!"

"You should invite them to this party of yours," said Jazz. "Maybe I could get the Doctor to be my date!"

The girls laughed. "Don't worry, Jazz dear. I'm helping Glory arrange some interesting couples for this weekend," said Nancy.

"Oh, do tell!"

Nancy flashed an I-know-something-you-don't-know look at the others. "Let's just say that Sydney Rutledge and Sandy Swan are going to be in for quite an evening!"

That was, Jazz realized later, when she really should have started to worry.

Ralph, the butler of Rutledge Mansion, took his daily afternoon tea at the library. Since earlier that summer, he'd taken to sharing the ritual with Mr. Han, the librarian. They kept each other up to date on goings-on about town. For his part, Ralph divulged the Mayor's campaign strategies, and secret rendezvouses with Jerry the campaign manager. Mr. Han knew what everyone read, and shared his political science volumes with the inquisitive butler.

"Most good of you to join me, Mr. Han," said Ralph. "I eagerly await our afternoons away from the hustle and bustle of life in this small, yet undeniably important town."

"Indeed, Sir Ralph," said the librarian. "In order to truly observe one's world, one must step away from it entirely and observe from a distance."

"Well put, Mr. Han," said an unfamiliar voice.

They turned around. The Doctor stood in the office doorway. He doffed his hat to them.

"Might I pull up a chair?" he said.

Ralph and Mr. Han glanced at each other curiously, and then Ralph spoke. "I see, sir, from your accent, that you and I are of a kind.

"Indeed," said Mr. Han. "You must be British. And with whom do I have the honor of meeting, Sir.."

"Not Sir. Just Doctor," the newcomer said. "And the accent is Scottish, properly speaking."

"Well. It is an honor to meet you, Doctor, um... who, exactly?" said Ralph.

The Doctor flashed his Cheshire-cat grin, and remained silent.

Like Jimmy before, Callie slid open the alley door and walked into the shop. There was no-one else there. She shrugged, grabbed her worksuit off of the hook, and slid inside. She zipped up the front, grabbed a headband off of the hook, and pushed her hair out of her eyes.

She walked over the main workbench in the middle of the shop. There were only three employees, and one of them was Barek, so there wasn't much need for organization here. Indeed, it wasn't so much that she or Jimmy was assigned to a particular project, as they just worked on whatever lay on the table in front of them.

She heard a motorcycle engine in the alley. At the same time, the front door opened, and Barek walked in. "Well well well, she has returned," he announced.

"Nice of you to notice, Barek."

"What can I say? I value my employees."

"And where have you been?"

"Young James and I had a brief errand to run. We were expecting you'd be back, actually."

"An errand? Wouldn't have anything to do with ice cream, cotton balls, or rock-hound tools, would it?"

He glared at her, which awkwardly turned into a smile. "In fact, Callie, Jimmy and I had the idea to buy something for you. A welcome-back present, so to speak."

"I've only been gone one day!" she said, through gritted teeth.

"What?" he said, "is it so wrong for me to bestow a gift upon a favored student?"

"I don't understand," she complained. "Is this `Be Nice to Callie Walker' day again?"

Barek grabbed her by the elbow. She flinched, but the grip wasn't an unkind one as such. He steered her out into the alley, where her bike was parked next to Jimmy's. Jimmy sat on his bike, helmet at the ready, with a plastic shopping bag slung over one shoulder. So that was the engine she'd heard.

"Here you go. Why don't you gearheads go enjoy the autumn afternoon, and get to know each other?

Callie wanted to scowl, but there was Jimmy... oh, to not have Barek to keep an eye on! There was so much she wanted to say, needed to say, but not while she was trying to keep an eye on her enigmatic boss. She'd already lost the wonderful feeling she'd felt in class, looking at Jimmy.

But before she could think of an answer, Barek had already retreated into the shop, and the door was closed. She tried to open it, but it had been locked from the inside

She felt a hand on her shoulder, and tensed.

"Walker Woman," he said. "You have to learn to relax."

"But I left my things in there!"

He sighed. "Listen. If you're not up for this..."

She turned to look at him. His hand dropped down. She had a decision to make. Who was it going to be?

Next on his list of places to visit was the DeCastro home. It would be nice to see Saja again, see how the youthful Eastern mystic was getting along. The Doctor rapped on the door with his umbrella handle, and a dark-haired girl, probably only a few years older than Saja, answered.

"Ah, good afternoon!" he burbled, doffing his hat. "Is young Saja home?"

The girl asked, "Who?", rather rudely, he thought.

"Er, Saja," he stammered. "Or Bobby."

"Don't any of you people know his name?" the girl complained.

"Aha. You must be his older sister."

"Who are you? And what do you know about me?"

"Absolutely nothing, I can assure you," he demurred. "Er, perhaps I'll return later, good afternoon to you!" He replaced his hat, stuck his umbrella back in the crook of his arm, and hastily backpedaled away from the residence.

Once he was gone, Sophia shut the door, and sighed dramatically. Saja came to the door, crunching on an apple.

"Who was that?", he asked between mouthfuls.

"Some weirdo," Sophia said, shoving past him, leaving him somewhat bewildered. "And stop telling your grownie friends about me!"

In the end, Callie decided to follow Jimmy. She rode after his bike for about twenty minutes. The entire world was his tailpipe, denim jacket, and the back of his helmet. Left to her own thoughts, she spent the early stages of the ride worrying about Barek. However, by the time they had arrived at their stop, her thoughts had traced an intricate spiral all the way down to what she and Jimmy would *say* to each other after all this time.

"Don't say anything. Just... don't say anything, all right?" she'd admonished him, the first time they'd seen each other, after he'd gone off with Sophia and left her at the dance.

"Sshh. Let's just get lost in the clouds again, all right?" she'd said, after she'd gotten mad at him and spoiled the magical afternoon at the Swans' Club.

Maybe she'd just let him do the talking this time.

So she was surprised when they ended up at a park at the edge of town. Lots of tall trees and leafy green foliage, and a bicycle trail ("Positively no motor vehicles allowed!"). Militant bicyclists in helmets and spandex shorts whizzed off into the distance, pausing only to dodge kamikaze roller-bladers and the occasional dog-walker.

Jimmy sat down on a nearby bench, and started untying his shoes. And he'd not looked at her once, the whole time.

"Are you still mad at me for what I said back at the garage?"

But he said nothing. Both shoes were off. He opened the drawstring top of his plastic bag and placed his shoes inside.

"Look, what are we doing here? You can at least say something to me!"

He looked up at her, doe-eyed. She fell silent. He pulled two pairs of roller-blades out of the bag. One pair had neon green wheels, the other, pink. He placed the green pair down by his feet, and silently offered her the other pair.

"But I don't know how to roller-blade," she protested.

"What's the matter? Scared?"

"Excuse me, I can ride my cycle just as well as you can. I can learn to do this, too. Just watch." So she put on the pair he'd given her, and immediately started sliding around the pavement. With an undignified yelp, she grabbed onto her bike for support.

"It's all right, Walker Woman. I'm gonna teach you."

"Was this Barek's idea?"

He didn't answer that.

"And how are you going to teach me? By letting me fall?"

"Don't be unfair. I caught you when the ladder broke, remember?"

"And I wouldn't ever forget that."

"This time I though I'd hold your hand and teach you how to skate next to me. With me," he said.

So she blushed.

"Of course, the mansion has been deserted since my darling angel moved to France. But the staff has been efficient, and everything is well prepared for our return," said Countess Rosnovsky. She sat on an overstuffed pink couch in Mila's bedroom, taking afternoon tea with the Doctor. A serving-lady in a French maid's outfit stood unobtrusively in the background, dusting furniture.

"Indeed," said the Doctor. "After time spent in Swans Crossing, a month in Europe must seem positively, erm," he said, grasping for a word she wouldn't recognize.

"Stultifying! Thank you," said the Countess, laughing heartily and placing a hand on his elbow. "I must say, dear Doctor, that the Captain was right about you. You are a man of rare perception and wit."

"The Captain and I do go back some time, yes."

"Elia was such a cut-up when we were all in school together. One wonders both how he managed to become a recluse, and how he managed to find a friend as unique as you, Doctor!"

"I have been known to assist him out of a few tight corners," said the Doctor slowly.

"Yes. I heard something about that dreadful affair last month. You mean to say you were all stranded on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?"

"Ah," murmured the Doctor. "That wasn't my show. His daughter rather proved herself a fine young woman that afternoon."

"Such a resourceful child," the Countess agreed.

"But it is the Captain who holds your attention, my sources tell me."

"You know how it is, Doctor. One must do what one can to draw the recluses out of their shell, and place them back in proper society."

"Indeed I do, Countess. Indeed I do. Which is why I've come here. There's the little matter of a ball being held this weekend, and I thought the Captain might appreciate the pleasure of your company."

"Ah! How absolutely charming! Of course I shall contact the Captain and once and convey my acceptance." She reached for the telephone. The Doctor sat back and allowed himself a cat-like smile. Elia would never forgive him for this, of course, but even this unlikely pairing would have its advantages in the long run.

And so it was that Callie clung onto Jimmy, first his hand, and then his arm, for dear life, as he took off faster and faster down the path. She wasn't exactly dressed for physical exercise, but she wouldn't trade the time alone with Jimmy for anything. Here she was, holding his hand, and they didn't even have to talk to each other. If only they could have done this a month ago. I f only she hadn't been so preoccupied.

It started raining heavily towards 5 PM, and they sheltered under a tree during the downpour, still managing to get very wet. But then the sun came out again, and burned the rainwater off the ground. They resumed skating, surrounded by a thin coating ground mist. It smelled heavenly. It smelled like the fresh laundry in the rain from her dream. Maybe it was all coming true.

Jimmy pulled off to the side of the trail again, and they sat down on a bench. He pulled his knees up, and turned to look at her.

"I love ground fog," Callie commented. "This reminds me of the time my dad and I went hiking in Iceland. I was 11 years old. It was so peaceful."

"Was it?"

"It was. It has to do with the volcanoes, and the ground. It's like a movie set."

"And what about this?" he asked.

She beamed at him. "Nice scenery. Nice company. It's nice."

He still peered at her. His gaze was so direct. "I've missed you, Callie." She noticed that he flushed a little, as if saying her name aloud had required an effort.

She hesitated, and looked away. "It's been a while, I know."

"A long while."

"I know, I know. It's just that... well..."


She laughed. "All right. I have no explanation at all. I'm fifteen years old and I just don't know what it's like to live at one port, and deal with the same friends for so long."

"This is real life, Walker Woman. You can't just pull up anchor and leave Clayton City behind without notice. You've gotta talk to me, you know"

"Even so. I've missed you too. I've had a lot of dreams about fighting with you this past month. I don't want to go through any more of those."

"You'll have to tell me about them some time."

"But there was my dad to think of, and Barek and J.T. and Neil and the spies. and... and..."


She thought of the "Mariner"'s helmsman. So many faces in and out of her life. "Well. I'll tell you, one day."

"Would all this have anything to do with why you asked the Doctor back?"

"A lot of stuff is going to happen very suddenly. We need to be prepared. Only the Doctor can plan that far in advance. My dad can't do it alone. A lot of people are going to need our help."

"There wasn't even a fight between us, you know. I spent the last month trying to figure out what I said, or what I did, or... or something. I, er, haven't been able to figure it out."

She held up her finger, and shushed it against her lips. Then she pressed it against his. "We're here now. We have this now. Can we just enjoy it? Enjoy the sun, the mist."

"The company," he said, and flushed again. She was beginning to recognize his sudden flashes of energy. He was about to do something unpredictable.

"The rain is gone, but we're still here," he said, and there was a gleam in his eye. It spoke of cloud-watching, engine-building, woobie-hunting. Late night at the Walker Estate. Do you know where your ghost is?

So then they kissed in the lengthening shadows, embraced by the smell of fresh rainfall, their hands clasped together. They stayed that way for a while. There had never been a time in her life like this before, and now she was going to make sure that she held on. Held on, to him.