Virgil presents a concert

Tin-Tin and Alan returned mid-afternoon with Ladybird full of bags and parcels.

"Is this all for Lou?" Virgil asked with a grin.

Alan shook his head wearily. "No, some of it is Tin-Tin's. I'm surprised that we didn't take all day with all the stores we went to and all the clothes she tried on."

Tin-Tin smiled serenely. "The mark of a good shopper is to hit as many places as you can in as little time as possible. Now, I'll just take some of these parcels down to Lou and she can get changed into something decent."

By dinner time, Brains had declared Lou to be rehydrated to his satisfaction, had removed her IV, and had released her from the sick room. She was promptly installed in a guest room, where she showered and changed clothes. From there she called her sister.

"Lou? Are you all right? You look... fried," Shelly said with a frown as she saw her sister's face.

"I'm doing better, Shell. Thanks for giving the Tracys the information that they needed," Lou replied.

"Tracy? I know I've heard you mention that name before. Are those the same ones...?" Shelly began to ask.

Lou cut her off. "Yes, they are. And I was very surprised to find them living out in the middle of the Pacific, miles and miles from nowhere. Look, I'll tell you all the details when I get home and settled, okay?"

"When will that be?" Shelly asked. "Mrs. Mason called me today and wanted to know."

"I think they're talking about flying me out tomorrow, their time. Which will bring me home, oh, today your time. I'll be crossing that dratted international date line. It always screws me up." Lou made a face. "Let Mrs. M. know that I'll call her when I hit L.A. and give her a better ETA." She sighed. "I can hardly wait to get home to my cats and my own bed!"

"I'm so glad you're okay, Lou. When I heard that they'd found you, I didn't know what to think! You should know that I have not heard from your workplace," Shelly stated, her countenance severe. "I can't understand why they haven't contacted me."

"It doesn't matter, sis. I'm sure there will be a thorough investigation of the matter when I tell them what happened. I just hope they don't decide to dock my pension for the cost of the plane!" Lou returned, trying to soothe and cajole her sister into a better frame of mind. When she saw the wry smile on Shelly's face, she knew she had succeeded. "Listen, hon. I can hear them calling. Dinner must be ready. I'll talk to you soon."

"Okay, Lou. I'll be waiting. Love you, little sister," Shelly said.

"Right back at you, big sis," Lou said with a smile. "Bye for now!"

The call ended, and Lou sighed. Then she ran a brush (courtesy of Tin-Tin) through her now-dry hair and went out to the dining room.

When Lou joined the rest of the family at the table, Scott decided she looked much better than she had the day before and there was a change for the better from even that morning. Though some of it, he admitted to himself, was probably due to the fact that she was dressed more appropriately. A lightweight, short sleeved, white cotton blouse and a pair of tan linen slacks made her look cool and comfortable. She had brown sandals on her feet, and her skin was starting to look more tanned than burned. Her hair, freshly washed and dried, was darker and attractively wavy with a stray curl that hung over her forehead.

"That outfit looks nice on you, Lou," Tin-Tin said with a smile.

"Thanks, Tin-Tin. You have excellent taste," Lou responded, smiling as Brains pulled out her chair for her. "I'll wear the other shoes and add a sweater when you take me home. March is still a little chilly in the mountains of North Carolina."

"Hey, that's right. I'd forgotten about the seasonal swap," Alan said. "No wonder why Tin-Tin was buying sweaters for Lou!"

"Oh, Alan!" Tin-Tin exclaimed, rolling her eyes. "Sometimes you don't see past the end of your nose."

The diners all laughed, then as Kyrano brought out salads to whet the appetite for the rest of the meal, the conversation turned to differences between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. By the time the main course of steak, baked potatoes, and steamed vegetables arrived, the topic had turned to Lou's departure.

"We'll get airborne after breakfast, if that's okay with you, Lou," Alan said. It had been decided that of the Tracys, he could best be spared. Tin-Tin had been deputized as co-pilot, a situation that Scott was not happy with, but one that he couldn't see any way around. He didn't want Lou to have to fly so soon after ditching her plane; there was no telling what her reactions might be or if she would have flashbacks. He was much happier with the thought of her being merely a passenger.

"I'm fine with it as long as... Brains... gives me the a-okay," Lou responded.

"Mister Scott?" Kyrano said quietly in Scott's ear.

"Yes, Kyrano?"

"I would like a word with you after dinner, please."


Dinner was full of animated chatter, with the Tracy boys telling Lou tales about when they were younger and the trouble they got into.

"And Scott just hung there from that skinny tree limb, hollering 'Help!' at the top of his lungs!" Virgil said with a chortle. "Finally, some kind soul came along with a ladder and helped him down. John and I were laying bets as to which would fail first, his grip or the branch!"

Lou laughed, then sipped her water. Her eyes were on Virgil, but she didn't see him. I remember hearing about that one. I got an email giving me all the gory details. What a handful this bunch were when they were young. Maybe they wouldn't have gotten into so much trouble if....

Her train of thought was derailed by a concerned Gordon asking, "Lou? Lou, are you all right?"

Startled, she brought her mind back to the present. "Hmm?" she asked, looking around.

"You were out in space somewhere there for a minute and you looked so sad," Virgil explained.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Your story just triggered a memory of my own," she replied.

"Not a happy one, I take it?" Gordon asked.

"Oh, no, Gordon. The memory was a happy one. It just led to some other, more wistful ones, that's all," Lou responded, smiling. Gordon nodded, satisfied with her answer.

Virgil cleared his throat. "Ahem. I have an announcement. As a goodbye gift to our guest, I'd like to play some selections from the repertoire of Victor Borge this evening in the lounge after dinner."

"Oh, Virgil! You don't have to!" Lou declared, surprised and delighted.

"I want to, Lou. Ever since I talked with you last evening, I swear he's been haunting me! I've had nothing but his jokes running through my head all day. I don't do a very good Danish accent, but maybe if I play his stuff for you all, he'll leave me alone!"

The group laughed, and finished up their meal with coffee and apple pie à la mode.

"Kyrano, is this one of Grandma's pies?" Scott asked as he tucked into seconds.

The retainer smiled. "Yes, it is. She left it in the cryofreezer for you to enjoy while she was away."

"I thought so," Scott said smugly. He leaned over toward Lou. "Our grandmother makes the best apple pies in either hemisphere!"

Yes, I know! Lou caught herself before the thought became words and instead said, "It's delicious! Such a light crust!"

After dinner, the group meandered into the lounge for Virgil's impromptu concert, except for Scott, who made his way to the kitchen. "What's on your mind, Kyrano?" he asked.

"I find myself in need of some foodstuffs from the US mainland. I was wondering if I could fly with Mr. Alan and Tin-Tin to Los Angeles tomorrow as they return Ms. Myles to her home."

Scott's face lit up. Here was the answer to his concerns. "Sure, Kyrano. Go ahead. We can take care of ourselves for a day or so. You can fly the first lap and let the other two fly from L.A. to Asheville and back. Make sure they have a layover when they get back to L.A., too." He leaned in and said more softly. "I'm glad you spoke up. I was a bit worried about the two of them flying there and back together... alone...."

"That was my concern as well, Mr. Scott," Kyrano admitted. "My presence should forestall any youthful... indiscretions."

"Well, now that that's settled, I guess I'd better head up to the lounge. Are you coming?"

"I will be there directly."

When Scott arrived, the concert was well under way and Virgil was telling a story about a Mozart opera, complete with the singing voices of the various members of the cast. The "messy soprano" sang a "die-aria", which sent Lou and Tin-Tin into fits of giggles. The "chorus" was dressed in "some cheap kind of underwear" and when they came in, the lights were lowered so that the costumes couldn't be seen. This meant that the members of the chorus "came in and fooled around in the dark", a double-entendre that made Gordon and Alan guffaw. Even Brains laughed when Virgil talked about the baritone who came in and sang, "To-ray-odoor, to-raaay-odoor," but left because "he realized he was in the wrong opera."

When the description of the "opera" was over and the soprano had "stabbed herself between the two big... trees!", Virgil switched gears to play something sweet and lyrical that had Lou smiling a sad smile.

He played that just as she would have, with the same gentle touch caressing the keys. I wonder if he knows how much like her he really is.

Eventually, Virgil stopped trying to sound like the Great Dane and moved on to other pieces, including one that made Lou really sit up and take notice.

I know that piece! She wrote it! she thought to herself. And when Virgil had finished playing, she commented, "That's a beautiful tune, Virgil. Who was the composer?"

Virgil looked down at his hands, then raised his eyes to Lou's, a sad smile on his face. "Our late mother wrote it when we were very small. I don't get to play it much; only when Father is away. It makes him very sad to hear it."

"That's too bad," Lou replied. "It's a lovely song."

There was a long, awkward moment where no one spoke, then Lou said, "Virgil? Would you play 'Liebestraum' for me?"

That broke the ice and Virgil gave Lou a wry look. " 'Liebestraum', huh?" he asked. "Straight or Borge style?"

"Straight. I don't think I've ever heard it played straight," Lou replied.

"Sure. I think I remember it." He paused a moment to collect his thoughts, then launched into the piece. His fingers glided over the keys as he let his memory of the score take possession of his hands. Faces around the room took on looks of appreciation at his skill and technique. Lou smiled broadly, the laugh lines around her eyes crinkling up into slight folds. At last the song ended, and those in the room burst into applause.

"Oh, thank you, Virgil!" Lou exclaimed. "That was lovely!"

"You're welcome, Lou. Thank you for the compliment. I must have been channeling Victor tonight to do as well as I did. It's been a long time since I've learned that piece," Virgil said with a grin.

"It sounded like you had practiced all afternoon," Tin-Tin added. "It was marvelous, Virgil."

"Well," said Alan, "at the risk of being a party pooper, I'm headed to bed. We're heading out rather early and I've still got preflight checks to do." He rose to leave. "Goodnight all."

"Goodnight, Alan," said Scott, who was surreptitiously watching Lou, and saw her pale beneath the healing burn at the mention of preflight checks. I wonder if she did her own or relied on someone else to do them for her.

"G-goodnight, Alan," echoed Brains. He turned to Lou. "I s-suggest you turn in, uh, early, also. Y-You'll have a g-good deal of jet lag to d-deal with."

"I think I'll take that advice," Lou said. "Thank you all for this evening and all you've done for me. Goodnight."

The others in the lounge said their goodnights to her, and a few moments later, Tin-Tin left the lounge for her own bed. Scott locked down the lounge, and headed for his father's desk.

"Now that we've seen her in a less dire situation, what do you all think of Lou?"

"I don't think she's been entirely candid with us," Gordon responded, dropping into a seat and draping a leg over one of the chair's arms. "But I don't think she's dangerous. Just private."

"She's not been nosy about us, either, which I've appreciated," Virgil added. "She didn't even ask what happened to Mother."

"Or why your playing that piece made Father sad," Scott mused. "I find that odd."

"Sh-She might have seen that as, uh, p-prying," Brains offered.

"Mr. Alan did mention that one or two of the women who have been... uninvited guests... were tabloid reporters," Kyrano pointed out. "Perhaps she wishes to make it clear that she is not a member of that group by curbing her curiosity."

"And maybe she's just being a polite guest," Virgil said, shaking his head at their conversation. "Especially considering that she is uninvited. And that she doesn't seem to want to get more entangled with us than she already is."

"True. She's going home tomorrow and we'll probably never see her again," Scott admitted. "Though I wish...."

"That you could remember where you've seen her before, I know," Virgil said with a snort. "Just leave it, Scott."

"Yeah. Not every mystery is meant to be solved, you know," Gordon added.

"I'll try," Scott said, sighing. He looked at his watch. "Who's got night watch?"

"I do," Gordon replied.

"Okay. Thanks, Gords. Anybody for a game of pool?" Scott offered.

"I'm in." "I-I'll play." "I fear I must decline. I must finish my duties in the kitchen."

"Good enough. Meet you two down in the games room. Gords, the desk is all yours."

"Gee, thanks, Scott."

The four men left the room, Kyrano for the kitchen, and Scott, Virgil, and Brains for their date with the pool table. Gordon locked the study after them, then closed and locked the balcony door, which had been left open for some fresh air. Then he settled in behind his father's desk and toggled the switch that brought John's video screen to life.

"Hey, bro!"

"Hi, Gords! Thanks for leaving the audio open so I could hear Virge's concert. He was in primo form tonight."

"Yeah, he was. Did you hear Scott's little discussion?"

"Yeah, I did. Did he tell you that I dug up coordinates for her plane?"

"No, he didn't! Wish he had! I could have gone out in Four to investigate."

"Virge reminded him that Dad might frown on such an investigation, so he squelched the urge."

"Hmm." Gordon looked thoughtful. He turned to John. "Any idea when Dad will be back?"

"I think he's going to be Stateside for a couple more days. I figure that Alan might get back from the States before he and Grandma do." John frowned at his younger brother. "What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking that I might try and persuade Scott to let me go out and take a look-see. It's been quiet rescue-wise, and I'm not always needed. It wouldn't take too long, not at Four's speeds."

"Good luck, bro. You know he doesn't want to get in trouble with Dad."

"Yeah. I know. But his curiosity is just eating him up. I think I can talk him round to my point of view. Especially if I talk to him without Virge around."

"Again I say, good luck," John told him. "And I sincerely hope that Alan gets back in time to make the trip up here. I refuse to wait one extra hour for him!"

Gordon laughed. "Sounds like you're eager to get back."

"I am always eager to get home!" John shot back. "Now, tell me what else has been going on down there."

"Okay, okay." Gordon leaned back in his father's chair and proceeded to shoot the breeze with his astronaut brother.