Joe finally gets to meet with Beth this week. It’s a meeting that inspires him into action. The action he takes is a bit reckless and unpredictable, but that’s to be expected given his situation.
Please enjoy this week’s installment of Extra Innings.
If you want to catch up on the previous installments of this serial, you can click on these links:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34
Beth Burton tentatively touched Joe’s hands. She seemed aware of the camera and confused about the situation.
“Joe, what’s going on? Why are you in FBI custody?”
Joe was relieved that Beth seemed to have no hostility toward him. He didn’t know their history in this timeline, but, at this moment, it didn’t matter.
“Listen, Beth, there are some things going on with the company. I’m giving information to the FBI, but I wanted to talk to you about a couple of things before I go through with it.”
Beth visibly tensed up, but made solid eye contact with Joe. He had a warm sensation coursing through his body as he went on.
“The Provenzas are not going to be happy with me. I need you to go somewhere safe for a while until I can fix things. Go right from here. Don’t even stop home. Is there someplace you can go?”
Beth seemed confused.
“What does it have to do with me?”
“Let’s just say, the Provenzas will do whatever they can to get to me so that I don’t turn over information to the FBI. They know I have…feelings for you. They might target you.”
“I guess I can go to my sister’s in Pittsburgh. I’ll have to take vacation time. I need to stop by the mall first.”
“No. Just go right to Pittsburgh from here. You can call in from the road. Home and work will be the first places they look for you, especially if they know you were here. We need to assume they do.”
“Joe, you’re scaring me. If you really think it’s necessary, though…”
Beth squeezed Joe’s hands.
“What about you?” she asked.
“I’ll be fine. I have a plan to fix all of this. Don’t worry about me.”
“I do worry, Joe. They are bad people. You know how I feel about you.”
Actually, Joe didn’t know, but he had something to find out from Beth so he continued.
“Beth, I just wanted to talk about one more thing. How did things end up like this? Why didn’t we make it from the beginning instead of me ending up married to Sophia?”
A range of emotions crossed Beth’s face. Joe wasn’t sure she would answer the question.
“That’s just it, Joe. You’ve been tied to the Morellis and Provenzas for so long that it was expected for you to marry one of them. I never had a chance. We’ve been playing a dangerous game by talking to each other. I should have ended things a long time ago, but I …I just couldn’t. I…I love you, Joe.”
Joe felt tears well up in his eyes. He longed to hear those words from Beth in every timeline through which he had traveled, but now, he could do nothing about their mutual feelings in this timeline. Beth looked at him expectantly and he realized he hadn’t responded.
“I love you too, Beth. I have always loved you. I’ll make this right.”
Beth shook her head slightly.
“It seems like an impossible situation, Joe. I’m not sure how you can.”
“Just trust me. I will make it right.”
A knock on the door broke the mood. Joe was almost relieved. The knock meant it was time to put his plan into action and, once again, try to fix the situation.
McWorter entered the room. He had a look on his face that was almost one of sympathy for Joe.
“Ms. Burton. It’s time to go.”
Beth took one more look at Joe. Gave his hands a final squeeze and turned toward the door.
“Two of our agents are returning to Pittsburgh,” McWorter said. “They can follow you, if you like.”
Beth’s face reddened as she realized the FBI had been listening to their conversation, but she also felt relief.
“That would be great,” she said quietly.
McWorter ushered her from the room and left Joe with his thoughts. The meeting with Beth had helped him build up his resolve. As he went through a mental checklist, he was confident that he had gained some trust from McWorter and Beth would be safe for the near-term until he could get out of this timeline and fix things. It was unfortunate that, if his plan went as he hoped, the trust he built with the FBI would soon disappear.
McWorter returned. He immediately retrieved a key and unlocked Joe’s cuffs.
“Are you ready for our field trip, Mr. McLean?”
“I am, Agent McWorter. By the way, thanks for the meeting with Beth. I really appreciate it.”
“I’m a man of my word, Mr. McLean. Let’s hope that you are. I’m taking a big risk following your lead. Let’s hope you aren’t leading us into an ambush.”
“I’m not. Trust me. I have more to lose here. You’ve already got enough solid evidence to lock up the leadership of my company. I’m only trying to help my family’s situation here.”
“Where are we going, anyway? Where do you have this offsite evidence?”
“We are going to RPM Deluxe Storage. I have a unit there and we will find exactly what we need.”
“So, what’s stopping me from just sending a team over there to box up everything in the unit.”
Joe’s heart sank.
“You said you were a man of your word. It will be faster if we go and I find exactly what you need.”
“We will try that, but if this is some kind of trick, it won’t end well for you.”
“I understand,” Joe said.
McWorter and Joe exited the building and got into McWorter’s sedan. He allowed Joe to sit up front without handcuffs. Joe wasn’t totally trusted though. A bulky agent sat in the back seat and an identical sedan with two additional large agents followed closely behind. Joe directed McWorter to the storage facility and they pulled up to his unit with the agents close behind. The way they parked ensured that Joe would have a hard time trying to make a run for it.
McWorter stood over Joe as he turned the dial on the combination lock. He pulled the lock open and raised the overhead door. The stench of long idle cardboard boxes, wood, upholstery and pesticides hit them immediately as the air conditioning whooshed out of the unit.
“Now, let’s take this slowly, Mr. McLean,” McWorter said. You get the materials, hand them to me, and I’ll give them to the agents to properly catalog and store them for transport.”
Joe steeled himself for what would happen next. He walked into the unit and made sure to take the most circuitous route through the furniture and boxes so that McWorter would have a hard time following too closely. He saw his objective. The stadium seat and a box of Langerton Chiefs program books were in the far corner of the unit. He climbed over a sofa that blocked the way and pretended to twist his ankle as he came down on the other side. He stumbled and let out a yell of pain.
“What is it, Mr. McLean?” McWorter asked. “What happened?”
“I just twisted my ankle. I’ll be fine. Just let me sit for a second.”
“I don’t like this. Come back out here and we’ll take a look at it.”
“No, I’m fine. Just let me sit here and I’ll get you the files. There right in this area in a box.”
All in one motion, Joe sat in the seat and grabbed a random program book and sat down. He squeezed his eyes closed and felt the familiar electrical tingling and heard shouting.
“What the hell!” McWorter said. “What’s happening?”
Then the shouting faded and was replaced by the sound of crowd noise and the smell of freshly cut grass. Joe opened his eyes to an overcast, but warm day. Judging by the color of the leaves on the trees around the field, it was likely late September. He looked at the program book in his hands. The cover read, Farewell to Maxwell: A Langerton Legacy. A realization dawned on him. He was at the very last Chiefs game in the old stadium. His brother Mike was next to him. It was a rare capacity crowd with many that had come to pay tribute to the stadium’s last hurrah before it was demolished to make way for a new venue. Joe tried not to get distracted by the game as he organized his thoughts. This game was before he had impulsively bought the stadium seat. His parents had already passed away. He was entrenched at the Provenza family accounting firm. This was as close to a total reset that he could imagine. He had randomly picked up a program book in the storage unit and had ended up back at the beginning. He immediately asked himself the question, “What can I do from this timeline?” As he thought about his options, his brother Mike broke his train of thought.
“This place needs to be replace, but I’ll miss the old girl,” Mike said.
His voice sounded far away. Joe didn’t respond.
“What’s the matter, Joey? Are you daydreaming?” Mike asked.
“Um…oh, sorry Mike. I was watching the game.”
“Watching the game? The pitcher is just warming up. What’s wrong with you?”]
“Oh, nothing. Just thinking about work.”
“Work. You need to get yourself away from that place. Take a vacation or something.”
“Yeah, right,” Joe said. “Too much to do.”
As the game went on, Joe continued to go through his options. He could just go back to his apartment and go to sleep and wake up back in the present, but he would have a lot of explaining to do if he ended up back in FBI custody. Finally, a thought crossed his mind and he began to formulate a plan. He sat back and, for the time being, enjoyed reliving this momentous game with his brother.