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The Eulogy-How Do You Sum up a Life

The Eulogy-How Do You Sum up a Life?
by  meridocbrandybuck


Rating: PG-13 for mild violence and cursing
Warnings: character death
All reviews welcome.

 

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I came back from therapy in a happy mood. Dr. Richter was on leave—boating around in the Mediterranean, I think and the temporary doc was easy enough to scam. I thought the poor thing was going to have a nervous breakdown himself after I finished explaining the real reasons Kennedy was assassinated. And, tonight was movie night. Casablanca again. Well, lately that's all they've been showing, Casablanca—ten weeks in a row, because the prisoners—oops, I mean patients, had insisted, quite forcefully, to the point of a protest walk down the main hallway complete with signs and shouted slogans. What a sight.

But I digress. I was in a happy mood, but then the orderly let me in my room and I saw Hannibal sitting on my bed, calmly waiting for me and I know there was serious trouble. If one of the team was just hurt, then they would call me and I'd come running. Coming in person to tell me—that was a whole other ballgame. And he wasn't here to break me out. That was Face's job.

I just stood there—staring at him. He stood up and looked back at me, as if he were searching for the right words to tell me.

"Face…." He started to say and then stopped.

I looked away, waiting for him to finish.

"We aren't sure that he's dead," Hannibal said. "But there was an explosion aboard the boat. Lots of….. body parts. We searched the area for hours. I…."

What was I supposed to say to that? I mean, he comes in here and tells me that my best friend in the world is just gone and what am I supposed to say? He didn't say anything else either, just looked over my shoulder at the door.

"He could have…" I started to say, then stopped. Face could be alive, but not likely. Hannibal and B.A. wouldn't have stopped searching if they thought there was a chance.

"Who…who did this?" I asked.

"Rivals of the guy we were after, we guess," Hannibal said. "Face had conned his way onto the boat and then the boat just blew up. We'll take care of them later. Why don't you….why don't you grab some gear and come with us for awhile?"

I nodded and grabbed my bag from underneath my bed. "How are you going to scam me out?" I asked as I shoved some slacks and t-shirts into my bag. I paused. I didn't really have a nice suit to wear, in case there was a…and Face kept my uniform in storage.

Hannibal took out a piece of paper from his jacket pocket. "Papers. Face had some orders forged for you to be released into John Frank's custody. All I had to do was add the date."

I nodded. That was typical Face. He made scams look so easy even if he did whine about them. Hannibal asked him for something and it'd appear, like magic. Except he wouldn't mention the months of work he put into getting ready—or all the thought and organization behind it. I bet he'd tons of stuff all squirreled away somewhere, ready for him to pull out with a triumphant smile. I squeezed my eyes shut against the image.

B.A. was in the van, keeping a watch out for Decker. He didn't say one word to me, not one, as I got in, just pulled out slowly and drove till we got to the orphanage. Hannibal didn't say anything either.

"You want me to…" I asked.

"No," Hannibal said. "Help B.A. keep watch."

"Keep watch for what?" I muttered. B.A. and I didn't say anything while we waited. Wasn't anything to say, really. Hannibal came back after only being gone for a few minutes.

"Maghill wants to know if we want to pray with him in the chapel," he said. B.A. and I looked at each other and then got out of the van. I'd never been inside the orphanage before, but I'd heard Face talk about it. The chapel was tiny and I remembered that Face said he once got into trouble for running a dice game in the back row on Sundays. Had to polish all the pews for two weeks as part of his punishment. I rubbed my hand on the smooth wood and then knelt.

Father Maghill prayed aloud for us, but I don't remember what he said. Something about Face resting with God now and I hoped it was true, because if anyone needed rest it was Face. All that scamming, skirt chasing, shooting, and taking care of me must have been hard work. Me. Who was I going to call in the middle of the night now? I opened my eyes and glanced at Hannibal. His eyes weren't even shut, he was just resting his head against the pew. B.A. was praying, though. I got angry. Here was Face dead, and I couldn't even pray for him. All I could do was feel sorry for myself. I wanted to leave, to go somewhere alone and think for a while or not think. But I couldn't leave-I couldn't show Face that much disrespect.

At last they were through praying. "If there's anything that I can do," Father Maghill said.

"There is one thing," Hannibal said quietly. "We have a friend overseas—Amy Allen. I'd like for her to hear the news in person." Father Maghill nodded and wrote the details down that Hannibal gave him.

"Anyone else?" he asked.

Hannibal shot a questioning look at me and B.A. B.A. shook his head and I knew that he'd already called his mama. I shook my head too and then we all looked at each other, realizing that we could count on one hand the number of people who would actually grieve for our friend. But then I remembered.

"Leslie Bectall—'cept she's a nun now, down in.." I said. Father Maghill nodded.

"Yes, Alvin, I mean Templeton and I discussed …" he fell silent. I'll make sure she knows."

"Father, Face left most of his money to this place," Hannibal said. Father Maghill held up a hand.

"I trust that you'll take care of it when you get a chance," Father Maghill said.

And that was it. No body to bury. No funeral to arrange. Just pray some and divide up the money. After we left the orphanage. B.A. and Hannibal stopped at their places and grabbed their things. Then we went to Face's latest beach house. He'd been renting this one—no scams—or so he'd told Hannibal. The lights were on, at least one in the kitchen. B.A. and Hannibal took out their guns and I grabbed a rifle from a locker.

"Probably just one of Face's dates," Hannibal whispered, but he motioned for B.A. to go around the front while we went around to the back. The lock on the door was easy to pick and we slipped into the dining room and then paused. Someone was talking.

"What time was he released?" the voice said.

I recognized that voice. I pushed my way past Hannibal and into the kitchen. Face whirled around, gun in hand and then relaxed. He smiled at me. I just stood there, staring at a man who was supposed to be dead.

"So Murdock isn't due back for a few days? I'll try him then. Thanks!" he said and hung up the telephone. "Geez, you guys are hard to reach." He sank down onto a small kitchen chair.

"You look bad, kid," Hannibal said. Face did look bad. One eye was black, his arm was in a sling, and his clothes were torn and bloody. He was dripping wet, too. Funny how I hadn't noticed it till the colonel said something. All I'd seen was his stupid smile, like he was saying "see, everything's alright. What a good joke I played on you."

I put down the gun and walked out, right past B.A. who was standing in the dining room now, apparently unsure of what to say, so he was pretending to keep watch.

"Got twenty bucks I can borrow?" I asked. He flipped his wallet over to me and I got the money I needed out. Didn't ask me why I needed it.

"Murdock, Face says there's a first aid kit in the upstairs bathroom and grab some towels too," Hannibal called from the kitchen. I didn't answer, just headed for the door.

"Murdock!" Hannibal had apparently noticed that I had left the house, because now he was yelling out the front door. "Where are you going?"

"It's movie night and they're showing Casablanca," I shouted back. 'Don't worry about me—I'll catch a cab." I turned around again. Man, I loved that movie. Especially the piano player. I wondered if I could learn to play the piano like that. Face could teach me, if I bugged him….No, wasn't going to do that anymore. I just wasn't. I'd… I'd… learn to play the banjo instead.

"Captain Murdock, get your ass back here now!" Hannibal yelled, closer than before. He'd left the house and had run to catch up. "I don't need this. We don't know how bad off he is or what the hell is going on. Just get back to the house."

"I'd just be in the way," I said lamely and then was ashamed. Face wouldn't leave me in that shape. I turned around and went back with Hannibal.

He'd lost blood. More than a pint, he said. "They were pissed when they found out I wasn't Murphy's accountant. That's they only reason they took me off the boat before it exploded. Caught me going through the ledgers and I just played along. Guess you didn't notice, but I was in one of the carts the catering people were pushing around," he shook his head. "Didn't anyone make survive?"

"Doesn't look like it," Hannibal said. His tone was gentle, which was bad, because usually when you got hurt he made a lot of wisecracks or else went all-keep-your-chin-up. We'd already cleaned Face up and now Hannibal was preparing to stitch his wounds.

"Not even the little …" Face stopped. "Murphy's grandchildren were on the boat. What kind of monster kills little kids?"

Hannibal didn't answer. "What happened after they beat you up?"

"Took out a gun to shoot me but I jumped overboard. The shot at the water, but it only winged me. I floated like I was dead, though, so they took off," Face explained. "Then I just made my way back here. Tried calling the van a couple of times."

Hannibal held the needles up and Face stopped talking and made a face. I turned away. Hannibal was going to stick the needle in and pull the thread through and he'd have to do it over and over again, because the wound in his thigh was long and jagged-Face must have cut himself on the rocks when he pulled himself up out of the water—or else they'd cut him with a knife. Then Hannibal would have to stitch up the gunshot in Face's leg.

"Just make it neat," Faced joked. "The last time you stitched me up the scar looked awful."

"I'll do my best," Hannibal said, again gently. If Face was so bad off, then why weren't we rushing him to the hospital?

I went back to the kitchen while Hannibal was working, even though I should have stayed and lent a hand. Face had some ice cream—gourmet ice cream in the refrigerator. I searched for a spoon and a bowl but settled for eating it out of the carton with a fork. I put the coffeepot on though, so I could pretend that's why I'd gone in there.

By the time that the coffee was ready, Face was on the couch, snuggled under a blanket, dozing. I handed Hannibal a cup and then some creamer and he nodded his thanks without taking his eyes off of Face. I turned to go find B.A., who was on guard duty.

"I'll take B.A.'s coffee to him," Hannibal said softly. "You stay here and keep an eye on Face."

"Hannibal…" I said. "Don't think that's a good idea."

"Stay," he said, just as softly, but insistent. "Face needs you."

I sat down. Face was breathing in soft little sighs, like he was in pain. He might not even be asleep, just too tired to keep his eyes open. I leaned forward. His skin was pale from the loss of blood and his eye was swelling shut. I hated it when the bad guys beat Face's, well, face. He could cover up all the other bruises but I'd have to look at the ones on his face for weeks until they finally faded. I leaned a little closer and brushed some hair out of his eyes.

He opened his blue eyes and smiled at me. "Thanks, Murdock" he mumbled. "Hey, can I have something to drink?"

I didn't say anything, just sat there looking at him. He smiled at me for a moment and then I saw worry creep into his eyes. "You okay?" he asked, struggling to sit up. I just stared at him.

"Come here," He said, patting the couch beside him. Without speaking, I moved over and sat next to him and he covered us both with the blanket.

"Hannibal says that you all thought I was dead," Face said. I nodded.

"I'm sorry. That must have been rough. But as you can see, I'm alive. Pinch me," he said gently. I turned away.

"Hannibal says that you prayed with Father Maghill for me. That must have been what pulled me through, kept me going," Face continued. I got up off the couch.

"I have to go. They are showing Casablanca." I insisted. "Tell Hannibal I have to go."

"Okay," Face nodded, obviously hurt but not arguing. "Tell Hannibal to take you back and I'll see you in a week or so. Can I call you later, if I need you?" I nodded but I didn't look at him again.

B.A. didn't say anything to me on the way back to the V.A. B.A. hadn't said anything, I realized, not even when we'd found Face in the kitchen. I grabbed my bag and headed to my room. If I hurried, then I could still get some of the popcorn.

Hannibal called the next morning to tell me Face was better. I could tell he was still pissed at me, but I didn't care. I don't know why I didn't care, but I didn't. After the phone call I hung up and tried to figure out how I was going to get a hold of a banjo. Usually I'd bug Face into getting it for me, the same way he brought me everything else I really wanted. Comic books, toys, secret decoder rings, materials to make protest signs with. But it occurred to me that maybe he got tired of all my demands and I ought to do things for myself. So I sat cross-legged on my bed and tried to figure out how to get a banjo. Maybe they had mail order catalogues?

Lunch came and went, and dinner and before I knew it, a week had passed and it was movie night again. One of the orderlies knocked on the door and told me the movie was starting soon, but I didn't move. "Come on, it's your favorite, Casablanca," he said. I just shook my head.


Another knock later, but this time it wasn't the orderly, it was Face. "Mind if I come in?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said, but I really did mind. He walked wearily into the room and sat down. I could tell that he was still hurting from the dark circles under his eyes and they way he walked slightly bent over.

"Why aren't you in bed still?" I asked.

"Can't rest," he said. He leaned against the wall. "Besides, Hannibal insists on moving us every day so just when I find the comfortable spot on a bed…" He didn't finish the sentence. "I saw Casablanca playing down the hall." It was more of a question than a statement, but I didn't answer.

"Thought it was your favorite movie," he said, after a moment. I shrugged. He nodded as if he understood.

"Murdock," he turned and looked straight at me. "It must have been terrible, thinking I was dead. I keep trying to imagine it the other way around. You gone and me…."

"You can't imagine it," I said, but I didn't know where the words were coming from. "If I got whacked tomorrow, you…" I got up and started pacing. "You were dead and I didn't even pray for you. All I could think of was…was how you weren't going to be there to get things for me anymore. Like a banjo. I want a banjo. I didn't even pray for you, Face."

"Okay," Face said.

"What do you mean, okay?" I asked. "It's not just okay. I should have….said something or did something or got you flowers or something."

"Do it now," Face said. I looked at him, not understanding what he meant. "Throw me a funeral. A big one. Flowers and women standing around weeping and everything. And you can give the eulogy."

"You're not dead," I protested. Sometimes Face was crazier than I was.

"No, I'm not." He agreed pleasantly. "But if I'm dead I won't be around for you to tell me how sorry you are that I am dead." He ignored my baffled look. "And, too, they'll probably dress me in a brown suit. I don't look too good in brown. This way I'll be sure to look good."

"And you want to lie in the coffin and have everyone go by and say how natural you look?" I asked, picturing the scene in my mind. He pretended to consider the idea.

"That might be a little too much for B.A. to handle," he said sadly. "B.A.'s been walking around punching things."

"Yeah?" I asked.

"Yeah, can't figure out if he's mad I'm not dead or not," Face laughed wryly.

"He's not mad you're not dead—he's just mad that he had to think you were dead," I assured him.

"Really? Think of that. I hear people do and think some crazy things when they first hear the news," Face said, looking at me carefully. "Too much of a shock."

I looked down at the floor. "Face, I'm sorry. I should have…and then when you weren't I just…"

"Apology accepted," Face said, before I started talking again. "But if you really want to make it up to me, you'll throw me a funeral. Thank of it as a dry run."

"Don't even joke about it," I protested. "I'm going first."

Face shook his head. "I don't know if I could handle that. But I'll settle for a nice dinner—but I still want the flowers and eulogy." His watch alarm beeped.

"Got to go, I've been in here too long," he said.

"Do you need me?" I asked. He shook his head.

"No," he said gently. "Hannibal wants to leave town for a while so I can actually rest. I had to do some fast talking to get him to stop here. Besides, you have a dinner to plan and a speech to write."

I could tell he was serious.

I sat on the bed, crossed legged again, and thought. I couldn't even figure out how to scam a banjo. I was an inmate of an insane asylum. How was I supposed to plan, prepare, and execute a dinner party. I didn't even know who to invite. Well, no, I did. Us, Amy, and Father Maghill. I wandered down the hall to find a telephone directory.

I heard from Hannibal every few days—just a quick call to let me know that everything was okay. Face must be insisting that he call, otherwise Hannibal wouldn't have risked. The military dropped in on me every now and then. Meanwhile I was busy making lists. I figured I could get a few things from Face's storage lots, but that mean I had to sneak out after lights out and sneak back in before breakfast. And then take a cab to where I thought the lots where. I got a lot of practice picking locks. Luckily Face was well organized and most of the time I found a neat little manifest of the lot's contents taped to the inside of the door.

I was sneaking back in one morning when it suddenly dawned on me. I really didn't need Face to break me out every time. Well, if they caught me going back and forth they'd plug up my rabbit hole, a loose screen on the windows and then a hole in the fence. But even if they did, I could still figure a way out. I had both times I needed to before—when B.A. got shot near Bad Rock and then when they all got caught by Lynch. And it was a good thing to, because both times it had gotten a little hairy. I remembered how Face had stood there, his hands tied behind his back, the look he'd had when his cigarette had gone out. He'd thought he was about to get shot full of holes. He hadn't known I was there, waiting for the right moment to lob my flare.

It was a few minutes to six when I slipped back into my room. Betty would be bringing me my morning medicines soon. I hurriedly cleaned up. The staff was worried about me sleeping during the day so much. I knew they'd even called Richter in the Mediterranean a few days ago and I laughed. My mania always drove them crazy but now my lack of it was worrying them to death. I stretched out on my bed, glad to be home after a hard night's work and reviewed what was left to do.

Face's favorite restaurant was catering and I had already rented a beach house. I figured that it would take me only a few hours to get everything set up and decorated. The only thing really left to do was to write Face's…a speech for Face. Didn't know what to say though. Maybe it will come to me later. I rolled over and fell asleep.

Hannibal called to tell me they'd be back in L.A. in a few days and they would need me to take care of the guys who had hurt Face. "Yeah, I know," I said. "Where do you want me to meet you?"

"B.A.'s coming," Hannibal said and hung up.

"Yep," I said to my image in the mirror above my sink, "still pissed at me."

B.A. pretended to be an orderly picking me up for some medical tests at another hospital. Didn't say two words to me and I knew he was still pissed at me too. Face was happy to see me, though he still looked weak-too weak.

"Got a secondary infection," he explained, waving me over to the table where he was sitting. "Worked on that assignment I gave you?" his voice fell to a whisper. I nodded.

"Just need a date," I whispered back, glancing over at Hannibal who was looking at us unamusedly.

"A date for what?" Hannibal asked. Apparently I hadn't whispered quietly enough.

"Nothing important," Face declared, "how long do you think this case is going to run us?"

Hannibal shrugged. "Long enough to catch something on tape." He outlined the plan. Apparently it involved him planting the bugs and then B.A. and him taking turns listening to the tapes.

"What do I do?" Face asked.

"Stay here and let Murdock keep an eye on you," Hannibal stared at me intently as if he were daring me to protest. "And Murdock, I mean a close eye." I nodded but chose not to make any wisecracks.

The next few days were weird, even for me. Face slept a lot or else lay on the couch and pretended to watch TV. I wanted to talk things over with him, but he was too tired to even whine. B.A. and Hannibal switched off watching the marks. When they were at the hide-out, they were asleep, or checking on Face. "Mostly just ignoring me," I thought, "but I deserve it."

I spent my time chewing on a pencil and tearing up paper. Still didn't know what to write. I glanced over at Face who was sitting at the kitchen table, alternately dozing and eating some soup. His skin was still too pale and his hair needed cutting. It didn't even look like he'd washed or combed it today. I walked over and put a hand on his forehead. It was warm again.

"Come on, Face," I said, pulling him to his feet. "Let me tuck you back in bed and shove some more pills down your throat."

"K," he mumbled.

After he was settled back in bed and had swallowed some aspirin, he grasped my hand. "Stay," he said. I sat down on the bed next to him.

"How's Billy?" he asked.

"Off visiting," I said. "Off visiting….Amy. He went to see Amy."

"Pity. I kind of miss the mutt," he mumbled. I tucked the blankets around him tightly.

"Sleep," I ordered.

"Can't. Bored," he closed his eyes though for a few minutes, then, without opening them, "what are you trying to write?"

"Uh, nothing," I gulped.

"No," he guesses and opened his eyes. There was a twinkle in them. "It's my eulogy. What do you have so far?"

"You're morbid," I said, "and I'm not telling. It's going to be a surprise." Especially to me.

He looked disappointed. "Well, what are we going to eat?" he whined.

"Not telling," I teased. "You'll just have to wait." He sighed dramatically, but didn't try to weasel any further information from me before he rolled over and went to sleep.

Hannibal was not in a good mood the next time he returned to the house. "We need to push them some," he said. "We need you to make an appearance. Maybe if they freak they'll be more forthcoming."

Face nodded. "Just tell me what you have in mind."

"He had a fever this afternoon," I protested.

"I'm fine, Murdock," Face tried to assure me, but I wasn't buying it. He must have read my expression. "Murdock, they murdered little girls. Little girls. They're like rabid dogs that need to be put down."

What was I supposed to say to that?

Hannibal's new plan involved Face having lunch at the same place as Fielding did. "That's all," he said. "Just sit at the table and smile at him. Maybe needle him a little. B.A.'s going to be a bus boy nearby and I'll be outside."

"And Murdock can be my date for lunch," Face said, straightening his tie. For some reason he had insisted on wearing one of his most expensive suits and nicest tie, though he'd complain incessantly for weeks if they got ruined. "And," he went on, "the lunch tab gets taken out of the case fund." He was speaking lightly, but I knew he was covering up how nervous he was. The way he kept straightening his tie and running his fingers through his hair gave him away though. I glanced at Hannibal, who had a slightly worried expression, but who was also trying to cover it up.

"Just don't order the filet mignon," Hannibal finally said, taking out his piece and checking to see if it was loaded.

The restaurant was an expensive little place near the marina. Face and I arrived early, before the lunch rush. We studied our menus for a few minutes, checking out ear pieces and the listening device we had planted, just in case. B.A. lingered nearby, looking snappy in his white apron.

The waiter came over and started to list the specials of the day. Face waved a hand. "We'll each have lobster and filet mignon and some of this wine," he said, pointing to something on the wine list. I heard Hannibal mutter something inaudible in my ear.

The food arrived before the bad guys did, but Face only ate a few bites of each dish. He didn't even touch the wine. But he kept encouraging me to eat and drink. "Can't get food like this in the hospital cafeteria."

Fielding didn't see us when he first arrived, didn't notice much of anything, too busy being lord of all he surveyed. Everyone scurried around, bringing him wine, flowers for his table, and fresh bread. It was a few minutes before everything settled down. Face put down his fork and waited patiently. At last one of the Fielding's monkeys glanced over towards us and paled. He tugged at Fielding's sleeve and pointed. Fielding's mouth fell open when he saw Face. I almost laughed at him.

Face smiled and raised a glass to Fielding, then sipped it very slowly. Fielding paled, but still didn't say anything. He turned away, angrily, and then rose, whispering angry orders to his entourage. They left the restaurant, visibly shaking.

"Well, that went pretty easy," Hannibal's voice whispered. "I'll follow them. You finish your lunch." Out of the corner of my eye I saw B.A. slip out of the restaurant. Face motioned the waiter over.

"We'll have a take-out bag," he said. He sounded tired again, now that his fun was done. Out in the car he buckled himself in and then closed his eyes. I leaned over and touched his forehead. Another low-grade fever.

"Home and straight to bed," I said, turning the key in the ignition.

"You think I'll tumble in bed just for some steak and wine," Face mumbled. I laughed a little.

"There's a rumor going around that you're easy," I said. I backed the car out carefully and then eased down the street, checking for a tail. There was a car following us, but it was just B.A. Hannibal must have sent him back to keep an eye on us.

The radio squawked and I picked it up. "This is Howling Mad," I said.

"You got a bird on the wing," B.A.'s voice came over.

"Yeah, I see you," I said back.

"I think he means that cab," Face said, sitting up and pulling his gun out of his shoulder holster.

"What do we do?" I asked. Hannibal was probably out of radio range by now. Obviously Fielding had left a henchman to follow us.

"Just let him follow us," Face said. "Too bad we have to ruin out hide-out. That's a nice little house. I was hoping we could use it again."

I made a left, heading back towards the marina. "I know a place we can go," I said. It only took about ten minutes to get to the beach house I had rented. The stuff I had collected was piled up along the wall in the dining room.

"Is this where you picked for my party?" Face asked. He poked through some of the boxes. B.A. slipped in through the back carrying a large machine gun.

"Cab's parked outside," he said. "Probably contacting Fielding."

Face nodded. "Is the telephone on, Murdock? Better call Hannibal and tell him to get his rear back here."

I stepped into the kitchen to call the van. When I came back Face was sitting on the floor, leafing through one of the boxes of photos I had found in one of the storage lots. B.A. stood near one of the windows, keeping watch.

"We took this one on leave in Hawaii. What was her name? Leah?" he smiled fondly. "Oh, here's one of the Little League team I was on. Missed winning the championship by one run."

"
Put those down, fool, cabbie's got company," B.A. said, stepping back from the window. "Five. Two's going round back."


Face put the photos down reluctantly and pulled out his handgun. I pulled mine out as well and double-checked to see if it was loaded. We were surrounded and outgunned. Too bad Hannibal wasn't here. He'd have loved the odds.

With one look between us, we retreated to the front bedroom. There was a door there, leading directly to the balcony, so we wouldn't be boxed in. B.A. stepped into the closet and slid the door shut. We could already hear them, moving around in kitchen and living area. I crouched down next to the dresser. It'd give me partial cover if they came through the door. Face glanced around, then lay down on the bed as if he'd passed out, his gun tucked under his body.

The first one to step through the door was a large goon wearing a bad, bad, brown suit. "hey, in here," he shouted when he spotted Face. He hadn't even noticed me. I felt like jumping up and shouting, "Here I am!"

Face didn't move. The others swarmed in behind the first. "Where's the other one?" the guy who was obviously the leader said, coming close to the bed.

"Get up," one of the goons prodded Face. Face lay there limply. "Hey! Move it."

They were so focused on Face they still hadn't noticed me. "I said get up," the goon said again. He leaned down and slapped Face's cheek, hard. In one smooth move B.A. stepped out of the closet and placed the barrel of the gun against the leader's head.

"Don't move," he said quietly. All eyes whirled to him. I stood up and pointed my gun too. The man who had hit Face yelped when Face sat up and pointed the gun straight at him. A few minutes later all five were stripped down to their shorts and tied up in the dining room under B.A.'s watchful eye. I patrolled the house, every so often stopping to glare at the goons. What a bunch of idiots. Who fell for such an obvious trap?

Soon Hannibal arrived and surveyed the goons. "Your boss is on his way to jail, boys," he said as he lit a cigar. "so are you." He flicked some ashes at them and went to the bedroom to check on Face.

Face had fallen asleep, curled up on the bed under a warm blanket. He looked peaceful, but flushed. His fever was rising again. "We need to get him back to the house. We'll leave these nuts for the police. I've already sent them the tapes we made. Fielding babbled everything to one of his henchmen in the car after seeing Face."

"Hannibal," I said. "I need to move the boxes out first." At his questioning look, I quietly explained.

"He wanted a what?" he asked. "And you've been busy getting it all set up?"

"Yeah, it's kind of my …um, well I guess it's his way of punishing me for being such an ass," I said, looking at my sleeping friend. I heard Hannibal laugh. I looked over and saw a mad gleam in his eye.

"A funeral is what he wants, a funeral is what he gets. Got the eulogy ready?" he said, slapping me on the back. I groaned. There was no getting out of it.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the funeral was delayed while the deceased struggled to recuperate. Face's secondary infection lingered.. Finally Hannibal took him away to lie on some warm beach. I wanted to come, but Face didn't want me to be away from the hospital that long. B.A. stayed though and I got a phone call every few days from one kid or another asking me if I had Prince Albert in a can, and if so, would I mind letting him out. I pictured the military eavesdropping on the prank phone calls and trying to figure that code out. Meanwhile I tried to write the speech for the dinner party, but I just couldn't figure out what to say.

The day of the party arrived and I still didn't have it written. Me, who runs off at the mouth all the time, couldn't think of what to say. B.A. picked me up the night before so I could get everything ready; he even helped set up the tables. Amy caught a cab from the airport. Sweet Amy. She looked so classy in the little red dress and pearls. Father Maghill arrived, two bottles of whiskey in each hand.

Then Hannibal came, carrying a large cloth bag. He had dressed in his military uniform, complete with his beret and medals. He took a glass box out of the bag and set it down near a display of pictures. Inside the cases were Face's medals, each neatly pinned in proper order.

Amy smiled at one of the pictures. It was of the team and Trish at the baby's christening. Face was holding Little Ray and smiling down at the child. I swallowed. Face hadn't had the chance to have children of his own.

At last the guest of honor arrived, wearing a beautiful white suite with a silk shirt and a new tie. Everyone hugged him and laughed. Everyone but me. I stayed in the back, fussing with the food, until it was ready to serve.

"Amy, you look so good in that dress. I might have to put an new entry in my book," Face said, grinning at her wolfishly.

"Oh, which volume?" she retorted, laughing. Father Maghill poured whiskey all around.

"Whiskey? Where's the champagne?" Face pretended to complain.

"Whiskey's the proper drink for a wake, boy," Father Maghill chided. "Did you learn nothing from me?"

"Nothing but how to get into trouble," B.A. said, sipping his water. "You are the noisiest dead person I ever met. You may be wearing white, but I don't think it's gonna fool the angels."

Everyone thought that was the funniest line they'd heard in years. Face laughed and smoothed his tie, then looked at me and winked.

"Is this a funeral or a roast?" Face asked.

"If it's your funeral, it's sure to be roasting soon after," Hannibal said as he smeared some pate on a cracker.

Soon dinner was gone and it was time for the speech. I nervously stood up and cleared my throat. It didn't help that I was on my fifth glass of whiskey. Everyone looked at me expectantly.

"I was supposed to write the eulogy, you know, some pretty words and sum up Face's life. I don't think I can, though. I just know that," I paused and took another gulp of whiskey. "Billy! Billy came back." I leaned down and patted my dog on top its head and then put down the rest of my dinner for him.

"My speech, Murdock" Face said insistently.

"Oh, yeah," I said. Where had I been? "Uh, glad you aren't dead." I sat down again. Face groaned.

"That was what I've looked forward to for nearly two months?" Face whined.

"Guess you're just going to have to wait until you are dead for real and try again," Hannibal said. "Here's a bone for your dog, Murdock." He scraped his plate onto mine.

"Fool, there ain't no dog," B.A. said, but without any anger. He leaned back in his chair.

Father Maghill cleared his throat. "I could say a few words, lad, about your childhood. For example, there was the time you cut up your rubber pad to use.."

"Face had a rubber pad on his bed?" Amy leaned forward. "was he a bedwetter?"

"Uh, Father, not that story," Face interrupted.

"I could tell about the date with the general's wife," Hannibal offered.

"Or how we found out you was allergic to English peas," B.A. said.

"Maybe about the time you knocked yourself unconscious by running into a tree?" Hannibal asked.

"Which time," I said, leaning forward.

"What about the twins out in Phoenix?" Amy asked. I glanced at her; hadn't heard that story.

"No," B.A. said, "the time he made that date with that hot babe and she turned out to be a m.."

Face stood and held his hands up in mock surrender. "Fine, fine. Wait till I'm dead and gone to say what a great guy I am."

Hannibal rolled his eyes. "Well, you do know how to get us fancy hotel rooms."

"Yeah," B.A. said, "and you have nice hair."

"And neat penmanship," I offered, finishing off the whiskey in my glass.

Father Maghill leaned forward and poured me some more. "Lad, you keep your fingernails neatly trimmed."

"You look good in a dress," Amy said brightly. Her nose was red from too much whiskey.

Face sat down, laughing. "Thanks for the party, Murdock," he mouthed at me.

Later, after everything had been cleared up and Father Maghill and Amy had left, I found Face sitting in the kitchen, looking through his pictures again. The case with his medals was sitting next to him. I poured us some coffee and sat down next to him.

"I'm sorry that I didn't write a better speech," I started to apologize.

Face shook his head. "It was perfect. If I ever die for real, that's what I want."

"Yeah, but I never got to say… that…" I stopped talking.

"You don't have to say it, Murdock," he said. "Just don't let Father Maghill tell the rubber mat story. Please. Think of it as my last request." I nodded.

Then he smiled at me.


End

 


The Eulogy-How Do You Sum Up A Life? by meridocbrandybuck

 

 


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