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Our Little Friends
Summary: A hurt/comfort story.
Warnings: A bit gross in parts, graphic details of
injury, violence, naughty words. Clichés out the ying-yang.
Dedication: To Fingers. This story was originally written as a
Welcome Home story for her a year or so ago and features, as she
requested, a Hurting Face and a Comforting Murdock.
Special Thanks to Vickey for proof-reading it and correcting my
many, many errors.
Part 1 - The Hurt
He stumbled, again, and panicked. With his hands bound behind his
back there was no way to break another fall. Thankfully, though, he
managed to regain his balance this time. Face resisted the urge to
lick his dry lips. They were chapped enough. "Maybe they'll give me
some water tonight?" he thought, watching the ground ahead of him
carefully for roots, stones, uneven ground, and anything else he
might trip over. Unfortunately this slowed him down and angered his
One of them, the ugly one, hit Face in the back with the butt of his
rifle, knocking Face to the ground. Face tried to turn as he fell,
so that he didn't hit his head, but the impact jarred his shoulder,
already sore from previous meetings with rifle butts. His other
guard pulled him up by the hair and shoved him forward again. Face
gritted his teeth, unwilling to make any sound of pain that might
Face stumbled down the next hill, but managed not to lose his
balance completely. "Lucky me," he thought, and then groaned when he
saw the small stream at the bottom. At least this one didn't seem as
wide as the last. Even in July the water coming down from the
Face thought, trying to cheer himself.
Unfortunately the cold water only intensified the pain by waking up
all his nerves at once. The pain of every stick and stone and hard
object he'd stepped on in the past two days welled up again, all at
once. He cursed so he wouldn't cry out in pain.
"Shut up!" Ugly hissed at him and hit Face in the back again. Face
stumbled and fell into the water. Ugly grabbed him by the hair once
more and hauled him out onto the bank. Face didn't bother trying to
stand; he just lay there panting.
"Guess super soldier isn't so great after all," Ugly said
sarcastically in his ear. "Can't stand a little march up a mountain."
Face bit back a sarcastic reply of his own and simply lowered his
head. Sometimes humility was required. "The problem is," Face
thought, "I haven't had much practice, and being humble to this
asshole is a little more than I can bear. This is the worst mission
that we've been on since……" He never got to finish that thought, as
Ugly hauled him up and pushed him forward again. Face concentrated
on putting one foot in front of the other.
Finally, the sun set and the forest grew dark. Face was allowed to
fall to the ground while his captors made camp. He rested for a
moment, then lifted up his head. Farther ahead he saw two other
campfires and down the mountain he saw another. The groups that had
Hannibal, B.A., and Murdock. "Splitting us up was pretty smart of
them," Face thought, sighing quietly as he realized how much the
team had underestimated the size, skill, and resources of their
Not to mention that the team itself hadn't done such a great job
this time around. Yesterday, shortly after dawn, the team had
stumbled into an intersection of spectacular bad luck,
uncharacteristically poor planning, and apparently all the bad karma
from several lifetimes hitting at once. This metaphysical junction
had resulted in the team's present predicament: prisoners of a back-
woods militia, split up, and marched uphill in thickly wooded
terrain without benefit of a jacket or shoes.
"To be fair," Face thought as he tried to inch closer to the fire
being built, "I don't know if they took the others' shoes or just
One of his captors, whom Face had silently nicknamed Pretty Boy,
sauntered over. "Want some water?" Pretty Boy asked, holding the
canteen over Face's head.
"Yes, please," Face said, hoping he sounded humble enough. Pretty
Boy slowly unscrewed the canteen as Face struggled to sit up. His
captor held the canteen to Face's mouth and tilted it. Face eagerly
awaited the water, but none came out.
"Oops," Pretty Boy said, laughing a little, "guess it's empty. Oh
well." Face looked at the ground, clenching his teeth together.
"I've been in worse situations. I've been in worse situations," he
repeated the words quietly as he drifted off to sleep.
The next day was worse. No food, no water, and Face was sore all
over. The terrain was very steep now, with fewer places that were
even. His captors resorted to shoving or pulling him over the rough
spots. Face fell more than once, crying out as he did so.
"We are supposed to be silent," Ugly said to Pretty Boy in a low
voice. They argued back and forth and finally decided to gag Face.
"Now I can't even lick my lips," Face thought. And, the rag they had
used to gag him with tasted like sweat. "And look," Face
thought, "another damn stream."
This one was wider than the last one, with steeper banks. Face tried
to figure out how to get across without falling down again. "I'm so
damn wet now, though, it hardly matters." Face thought, trying to
figure out if he just lay down, would his captors just carry
him? "Nope, probably beat me into unconsciousness first."
Face made it down the bank and crossed the stream, but stumbled as
he tried to climb up the opposite bank fell back into the steam his
feet scrambling for purchase. His right foot struck something sharp,
not a rock worn smooth from the water, but something else, sharp and
pointed. He cursed, as loudly as he could through his gag, as he
felt it go into his foot. His foot was bleeding now: blood was
coming out and dirt could get in. His captors yanked him out of the
water by his hair and shoved him forward again. Face stumbled
forward, trying to ignore the pain in his feet.
Later, at camp, Face tried to twist his foot around so that he could
see how much damage was done. It was a puncture wound instead of a
slash and had not had a chance to scab over. That was bad. Puncture
wounds were always worse than slashes. They got infected easier.
Face lay down and tried to rest, trying to figure out how much
further they had to go. Perhaps at the militia's main camp, he'd
meet up with Hannibal and the others again.
Two more days of stumbling, being shoved, having his hair yanked,
and being hit with rifle butts later, Face was allowed to sit down
at the edge of a small clearing. He could see a more definite trail
now, one that had been cleared of stones and roots, and had been
smoothed by traffic. He was still gagged, but had been given some
water both yesterday and today. His right foot throbbed and he knew
that it was infected. "But there's nothing I can do about it right
now," he thought.
A few minutes later he was jerked up again, and sent stumbling along
the path. He tried to see where he was going and just caught a
glimpse of B.A.'s dark hair. "Has to be B.A.'s" Face thought, "no
one in this militia has a Mohawk." The sight cheered him. If the
groups were closer together… If
Suddenly he heard gunfire on the trail behind him and turned,
instinctively crouching as he did so and heard a loud yell that
sounded like Murdock when he flew airplanes. Someone in a brown
jacket streaked by to the left of him, running through the woods
with several militia men in pursuit as rifle shots echoed up and
down the mountain.
"You crazy fool," Face thought half-admiringly.
His captors grabbed him now and hustled him up the trail as fast as
possible. Ugly had unslung his rifle and looked all around,
nervous. "Nervous is not a good thing when you are swinging a rifle
around," Face thought.
Gunfire up the mountain gave Face a clue as to Murdock's position.
There was more yelling, and a faint, "Geronimo!!!" Face smiled; at
least someone on the team was having fun. Then, disturbingly, there
"Crazy son of a bitch jumped," a voice from up the trail
shouted. "Jumped off the cliff!" Face's captors shook their heads.
"Glad I don't have to retrieve the body," Ugly muttered.
"They'll probably just leave it there," Pretty Boy said.
"No they won't," said Ugly. "General will want proof he's dead. I'd
hate to be in Gold Group's shoes when he finds out they lost a
prisoner." He glared at Face, as if he were daring him to try
something. Face chose to lower his head and look at the ground,
making it seem as if he were no threat.
"Come on, Murdock," he thought, "Come tell me you learned how to
sprout wings and fly."
Murdock held on to the small tree and tried to be still. There were
voices above him. Voices trying to decide if they should attempt a
descent here, or go on a little ways, descend to the valley and then
"There's no way he's still alive," one of the voices protested.
"You'd be surprised, plus we have to have proof. We can't go back to
the camp without proof. You're the one who let him get away,
anyway," another voice said angrily.
"Ah," Murdock thought, they've chosen a scapegoat. He examined the
small tree to which he was clinging in more detail. Hopefully it was
well rooted enough that his weight wouldn't pull it from the side of
the mountain. "How damn lucky am I," he thought happily, "to manage
to grab onto a tree on the way down." How lucky too, that his hands
were bound in front of him and not behind his back. He'd been unsure
how steep the mountainside actually was when he had jumped, but had
hoped that the cliff had curved inwards a little on the way down.
and obviously he had found a nice sloped ledge on which to land.
"Only cracked one rib too," he muttered, not daring enough to shift
his weight. He looked below again. The forested valley was very far
below, but only ten or so feet below him was a wider shelf. He could
probably just let go and hit it, but the men above would hear and
see him. He'd be a sitting duck. The only thing to do was to hold on
and wait for the guys up there to get a move on.
Finally the voices reached an agreement. They'd go down the mountain
a ways, and then come up under the cliff as far as possible, looking
for his mangled body. "Good plan," Murdock thought, cheering up when
he didn't hear them assign someone to stay and keep watch. "Yes,
yes, all go together. You know, gotta stay with your unit."
Murdock slowly counted to five hundred after he could hear the
voices no more, then dropped down to the shelf below. He took a few
minutes to catch his breath and check for further injuries before
trying to find a way up. As far as he knew, he was the only member
of the team to have escaped, so it wasn't likely someone was going
to show up with a rope. Climbing up would be difficult with his
hands still bound, but, he had confidence in his abilities. "Either
that," Murdock said aloud as he searched, "or I really am crazy."
"And lucky!!" Murdock exclaimed an hour later as he pulled himself
up onto the cliff. "It's like my life is a movie and I'm the star.
Of course the leading man doesn't get killed by jumping off a cliff.
There's always a convenient tree or something. Unless this is a
Hemingway like "For Whom the
Murdock made his way back to the trail swiftly and quietly. He knew
his escape might have made it worse for the others, but it was a
chance he had had to take. The others would have made the same
choice. A half hour later, he was in the woods, silently pacing
Face's group. Then he ran silently ahead, to B.A.'s and Hannibal's.
Damn, they were very close to the encampment and all those
reinforcements. In fact, another group had joined
there were ten or so militia. Murdock made a fast decision and
dropped back to Face and his two captors.
Murdock waited at a point where the trail came closest to the
forest. As soon as the first man passed, he stepped out and struck
him in the back of the head with a large stick, then grabbed the
man's rifle and spun around. The second captor was yelling and
lowering his gun to fire, but wasn't quick enough. Face barreled
into him. The gun went off, but the shot missed Murdock entirely.
Unfortunately, men began running back down the trail towards them.
"Go," Murdock shouted, kicking the second man in the head. He
grabbed a field pack that had fallen to the ground and then ran to
catch up with Face, who was moving through the forest to the west.
Carrying the rifle and field pack in his bound hands was awkward and
slowed him down, but he overtook Face easily. Too easily.
"Muchacho," Murdock said, "We need to hurry." Face didn't speak.
Instead he concentrated on putting one foot in front of the others,
stumbling as he walked. Murdock looked down and saw why. At some
point, Face had been deprived of his socks and boots. He was also
gagged and his hands were bound behind his back. "No time to take
care of that now," Murdock thought.
"Face, we've got to move it." Murdock said, hating how heartless he
sounded. "They'll be after us any second." Face barely nodded.
Murdock saw his jaw line tighten as Face gritted his teeth against
the pain of walking. He had a determined look and did manage to move
a little faster, but not fast enough, and they were leaving a trail
that anyone could follow. Murdock glanced down. Along with their
footprints in the mud and broken branches from their passing, Face
was leaving a trail of blood
"Stop," Murdock said. "Lie down." Face looked at him confusedly. "In
the hollow," Murdock directed. Not waiting for Face to obey, he
shoved his friend down into the small depression in the forest
floor, placed the field pack beside him and covered the hollow with
leaves. He worked as fast as he could, hearing their pursuers
closing in. Then he grabbed the rifle and stood a few feet away from
the hollow, waiting. He waited until he could just see the jerks
before firing at them. Then he ran.
Face heard the shots and then men running past the hollow. This was
a bad plan. He had wanted to protest, but [he] didn't have the
energy. "Please let Murdock be all right," he prayed, not daring to
shift into a more comfortable spot. It started to rain and the
hollow began to fill with water. At least that would cover up
Murdock's tracks. He turned his head and drank as much of the muddy
water as he could, then lifted his head a little, to keep it out of
the water, and waited, shivering.
Without Face slowing him down, Murdock eluded the pursuers easily.
He led them as far away from Face as he could before he let them
lose his trail. Then he circled around and went back to Face.
Murdock both blessed and cursed the rain as he went. The rain would
cover their tracks, but it would be miserable tonight. They'd need
shelter and some place to hide.
"Hey, Muchacho," Murdock said, trying to sound cheerful as he helped
Face up out of the water and onto a fallen log. "Shall we go find a
Holiday Inn?" He was pleased to see Face manage a small smile at the
flippant remark. Murdock knelt to examine Face's feet. His right was
already swollen and there were angry red streaks on the top. Murdock
hoped it was not the beginnings of an infection. His left was a
little better, the sole was covered in scratches and stone bruises,
some fresh and some already darkened. "Who did you piss off Face?"
Murdock asked, looking up. Face shrugged, and then grimaced from the
pain of moving his shoulders.
"Okay, let's get these cuffs off," Murdock said, rummaging through
the field pack. Rations, a flashlight, lighter, water, a first aid
kit (joy!), some candy bars, a knife, and a hatchet. Murdock lifted
the last item out triumphantly. "You are going to have to be still,
Face," Murdock said, looking around for a suitable hard surface.
Face found one first, slipping off the log, onto the muddy ground,
and then leaning forward so that his wrists could rest on the log
with the small length of chain stretched between them.
Murdock tried to ignore Face's little grunts of pain at having to
stretch this way and concentrated on hitting the chain hard and
accurately the first time. Face nearly yelled when his wrists flew
apart. Murdock could tell he was resisting the urge to bring his
arms around immediately to his front. "Hold still, Face," Murdock
said, massaging one of Face's shoulders and then his other.
Finally, Murdock handed him the hatchet and stretched his own chain
out against the tree trunk. He saw Face bite his lip as he took aim.
Instead of one long swing from on high, Face chose a series of short
chops, never raising the hatchet much higher than Murdock's wrists.
Finally Murdock's wrists came free and he stretched the stiffness
out of his shoulders and back. Then he took off his leather jacket
and helped Face into it. Face tried to zip it, but couldn't get his
fingers to cooperate. Murdock batted his friend's hands away and
zipped up the jacket quickly. It was time to move out.
"Okay, it's time for the boy scouts to move again, in case someone
heard the hatcheting," Murdock said, picking up the field kit and
the rifle. He looked at Face, not having to state the obvious. They
couldn't stay here. They had to move on. Murdock couldn't carry Face
and he certainly couldn't carry Face and the field pack and the
rifle. Even if Face could wear Murdock's tennis shoes, it wouldn't
do any good to have both men's feet damaged and besides, Face's feet
were too swollen. The rain was still coming down and the sun would
set soon. So Face would have to continue his shoeless march.
Murdock set the trail, trying to find an easy path for Face to
follow. He didn't have to turn around to see if Face was coming. He
could hear Face stumbling along behind him, occasionally muttering a
curse. "At least the rain will wash out the trail," Murdock
thought. "But where the hell are we going?" All the marching of the
previous days had tired Murdock and he considered stopping to rest
for a few minutes, but knew that if he let Face pause, his friend
might not be able to start again.
The rain slackened and then stopped a half hour before sunset.
Murdock had chosen to go uphill and to the west of where the main
militia camp was, hoping to find some high ground which [would let
them figure out where they were. They were nowhere near the top of
whatever mountain they had been walking up the last few days, but
they did find a clearing and were able to look down into a small
valley full of trees. Murdock sighed. He didn't have time to chop
down trees and build a house tonight. He looked further up and saw a
rock outcropping about two hundred yards up. That would have to do.
"Come on, Face, I think I see our bed," Murdock said, tugging Face
forward. His friend's features were pale and worn, and his eyes were
mostly closed. He didn't look like he could take another step, much
less the several hundred needed to get up the hill. "Come on, Face,"
Murdock said, clasping his friend's hand. "Just a little ways and
you can rest. Here," Murdock put Face's hands on the field
pack, "hold onto this and keep your feet moving forwards." Face's
fingers closed around the strap and nodded slightly.
It took them another hour to reach the outcropping. Murdock used the
little flashlight to light their way at the end. He stopped and felt
Face bump into his back. "Okay, stay here and I'll check us in,"
Murdock said, easing the pack onto the ground and Face along with
it. A few minutes later, Murdock had found where the rocks formed a
little cave with a floor that was higher than the surrounding
ground. The rainwater hadn't flowed in here, except through cracks
in the rock. For the most part, the little area was dry and it
didn't seem like any large animals were using the space as sleeping
quarters. Murdock hurried back to Face and helped him as much as he
was able to the cave.
"Okay, crawl in," Murdock said. "The roof isn't high enough to stand
upright." Face nodded and knelt down. He seemed to have an easier
time crawling than he did walking. He lay against the far wall,
panting from the exertion. His cheeks were flushed bright red, as
if he were developing a fever, but his forehead was cool to
Murdock's touch, too cool. He could be developing hypothermia.
Murdock weighed his options. No fire and he couldn't warm Face up.
Light a fire and the bad guys might see it. Rumbling lightening
flashes from the west made up Murdock's mind for him. He pushed the
field pack into the cave and then went to find firewood. Most of the
wood was soaking wet, but there were some large branches beneath
some dense trees that seemed dry enough. Murdock broke them with the
hatchet as quietly as he could and carried the wood back to the cave.
Face had fallen asleep by the time Murdock returned. An hour,
several attempts, and multiple curse words later, Murdock had a
small fire started. The damp wood caused the fire to smoke a lot,
but the smoke mostly went outside. Murdock babied the fire for a
little while to make sure it didn't go out and then turned his
attention to Face.
First, all the wet clothes had to come off. The jacket and shirt
were easy to remove. Face didn't seem to stir. Murdock tugged on
his jeans next, but Face's feet were too swollen for them to slide
off. Another choice. If Murdock cut his jeans off, Face would have
nothing to wear tomorrow. "Solve the problem at hand, then cross the
bridge tomorrow," Murdock murmured as he along the seams as
carefully as he could and eased the jeans off. The silk boxers were
next. They were stained with urine. Apparently Face's guards hadn't
allowed bathroom breaks. Face stirred a little when Murdock pulled
his underwear off, but he didn't wake all the way. Murdock rinsed
them as best he could, then propped up some sticks and hung all the
clothes near the fire to dry.
Face's hair was plastered to his head. Murdock gently ran his
fingers over Face's skull, looking for any injuries. No bumps or
depressions so Murdock ran his fingers along the
nose and then along his cheekbones and jaw line. Although there were
bruises, nothing seemed to be broken. Shoulders and arms were fine.
No broken or cracked ribs, though there were ugly bruises from being
hit or falling. Murdock wondered idly how Face managed to keep his
skin so smooth and soft even while living as a mercenary and
fugitive. "Maybe I need to start using Miss Trudy's bubble bath," he
wondered as he gently spread Face's legs apart to examine his groin
and inner thigh area.
Face had developed a rash from being forced to urinate on himself.
Murdock took the canteen outside and filled it with water from the
rain. Then he poured it over Face and used his hand to rub the dirt
and urine away. It took two canteens full, but he didn't want Face's
rash to get worse.
When Murdock was through cleaning the rash, he gently rolled his
friend over and examined Face's back, gritting his teeth in anger
when he saw the bruise in the shape of a boot on Face's buttocks.
Murdock let out the breath he didn't know he was holding as he
realized Face's most serious injuries were to his feet. He stopped
to add more wood to the fire and strip his own clothes off so they
would dry as well. Then he took out the first aid kit.
"Okay, Face," he said, "this is kind of going to hurt." He was
startled to see Face's eyes open slowly and Face look at him
quietly. Murdock wondered how long he'd been awake. They regarded
each other silently for a moment and then Face looked up at the
ceiling, signaling that he was ready.
Murdock examined the feet quickly and quietly, ignoring Face's
little gasps of pain. Most of the scrapes and bruises looked all
right, but there was a puncture wound that was crinkly around the
edges and stank. He pressed on it gently and heard a little gas
escaping. How could it have gotten so bad so fast? He tried not to
let how bad it was show in his expression, but he'd been friends
with Face too long.
"Am I going to lose my foot?" Face asked calmly, a little too calmly
to Murdock's ears.
"It's not that bad," Murdock lied. "A few rounds of antibiotics and
you'll be fine." He could tell Face didn't believe him. "I'm not
going to let you lose your foot, Face," Murdock said
forcefully. "You don't get off the team that easily." Face nodded a
Murdock tried to remember his first aid training. Gangrene lived in
dead flesh. Oxygen killed it. Get rid of the dead flesh, get the
remaining flesh exposed to air, and the gangrene would die. The
field pack had a knife sharpener in it. Face flinched each time
Murdock drew the blade across it; both of them knew what had to
happen. After the knife was sharpened, Murdock held it in the fire
for a minute to sterilize it.
"You can't scream, Facey," Murdock said as he put his belt in Face's
mouth. "I don't know how close they are." Face barely nodded.
Murdock tried to decide the best way to do this and finally settled
on kneeling on Face's legs, facing his feet. It would be awkward to
do the surgery this way, but it would keep Face's legs still. He
didn't bother to ask Face if he were ready. The kindest cut was the
quickest cut, so Murdock grasped his friend's foot and began to cut
away the dead flesh.
He cut in a rectangular pattern, first the left side of the wound,
then the right, then the top and finally the bottom, stopping to
clean the knife after every cut, so as not to spread the infection.
Face tried to move out from under him, but Murdock just pressed down
harder. He wiped off the knife and began to scoop out the flesh
inside the wound. The pain was so great Face voided his bladder.
Murdock ignored the smell, and the wetness, and concentrated on
finishing. As soon as Murdock stood up, Face rolled onto his side
and vomited up everything in his stomach. While Face fought to get
control of his nausea, Murdock began to wash out the wound with
water from the canteen. The wound was bleeding freely now, from the
new, deeper cuts, but Murdock was glad to see this. Blood brought
oxygen, but the infection was so deep, Murdock couldn't be sure he
had gotten it all.
"There's nothing more I can do," he thought as he smeared the of the
antibiotic cream inside the wound and then pressed down with some
gauze, trying to slow the bleeding a little. Finally he wrapped the
foot with a bandage, loosely, so the air could get in.
"All done," Murdock said to Face, who was still covered in vomit,
blood, and urine. Murdock brought more canteens of water, one by
one, and washed Face off until he was clean. Then he used a small
branch to try to push the filth away from Face and outside.
Finally satisfied that he had done all he could medically for his
friend, Murdock took out one of the field rations and opened it,
heating it a little over the fire.
"Is that food?" Face asked Murdock.
"Um, yeah, Face, but I know how you hate rations, so…," Murdock
started to tease Face gently, but then stopped. "When's the last
time you ate?"
Face stopped and thought, "I had one of those cereal bars right
before we got caught. But I just threw up so maybe…."
Murdock frowned and used the spoon to feed Face a little of the
brown lumpy gravy substance, and waited to see if Face held it down.
After a few minutes, he began to feed Face some more.
"I got some lunch and dinner yesterday and breakfast this morning,"
Murdock mused out loud as Face gobbled down the small meal. "And
they didn't take my shoes or my jacket. Just how much of a smart
ass were you?"
Face stopped chewing a moment and looked up with the expression of a
child who had just been caught robbing the cookie jar. He didn't
need to say it. Murdock knew by looking at him just what had
happened: one sarcastic word too many.
"Eat," Murdock ordered, rolling his eyes. Just a few more bites and
the meal was gone. "Water," Murdock said, making sure Face drained
the canteen. "Candy bar," was the last order Murdock gave. He broke
it into small bits and made sure Face ate every one.
The fire had begun to make the cave a little warmer. Murdock added a
few more sticks to it and then felt the clothes. They were nowhere
near dry enough to put on. "Okay, Face, guess we get to spoon
tonight," Murdock said. Face gave him a smile. "My favorite spooning
partner," he mumbled, half asleep again. Murdock gently stepped over
Face and lay down on the other side of him, so that the fire was at
Face's front and Murdock was at his back. Gently he put one arm
under Face and the other over him and hugged
him careful of Face's many bruises.
Face fell asleep immediately but Murdock struggled to stay awake
throughout the night. Someone had to keep watch and keep the fire
going. Towards the rain slackened off again and the
moon began to shine a little. Murdock added more wood to the fire
and felt Face's skin. It had turned cold and clammy. Murdock's shirt
was mostly dry, so he draped it over Face and then lay down again,
wrapping his arms around his friend, trying to warm him.
It didn't work. Face began to shiver and his teeth were chattering
so loudly that Murdock was sure they could hear it over in the next
county. Murdock began to massage Face's arms and legs, trying to
increase the circulation. It was difficult to rub Face without
pressing down on any of his bruises, but for some reason Face didn't
complain. It suddenly occurred to Murdock that Face hadn't
complained or whined once since the escape. He'd just been still and
quiet and compliant. Murdock rubbed Face more briskly, suddenly
very afraid. Dawn took a long time to arrive.
It was good to not be bound anymore and not be on an enforced march,
but he couldn't sit still and rest. Murdock and Face were both
free. That was excellent. Maybe their luck was finally turning.
B.A., he knew, because he had heard him shouting earlier, was
imprisoned in a little cell farther up the corridor. "How many
prisoners do they take, anyway,"
this many cells for them?" One thing was plain, these guys, while
nuttier than fruitcakes, were organizing into a pretty serious
militia unit. They had to be stopped. "And,"
soon as Murdock and Face bust B.A. and me out of here, we'll stop
Murdock gathered as many dry branches as he could. There weren't
many, in fact, most of the ones he had picked up were damp, but a
few hours in the cave and they'd be dry enough for the fire. "I
hope," he muttered. At least the branches could serve as more
comfortable bedding for Face, if no fire could be lit. Murdock had
dressed and slipped out as soon as it was light enough to see. Face
was half awake, but Murdock hadn't disturbed him. "Let him get a
little more rest before I torture him some more," he had thought.
Face was fully awake and sipping from a canteen by the time Murdock
returned, though. He looked green. "Nausea is one of the symptoms of
gangrene," Murdock thought, but tried to dismiss it, by saying that
it could just be from the pain. Pain caused nausea too, right?
"Good morning," Murdock said cheerfully. "How did you like your stay
at Casa Murdock?" Murdock asked, feeling his jacket to see how damp
it still was. He waited for Face to respond with some comment about
there being no mints on the pillows, or bad maid service, but there
weren't any forthcoming. Face was just staring at the ceiling of the
"Face, what's wrong?" Murdock asked.
"Huh?" Face replied, looking confused.
"What's wrong?" Murdock repeated.
"Nothing," Face muttered. "What jaunt are we going to take today?"
he asked, then, sounding suspiciously a little too much like Face.
Murdock frowned, but let it go. "We aren't going anywhere. I'm going
to try to find either our lost compatriots or a way off this berg.
You are going to stay here." He put more rocks near the fire.
"You think we should split up?" Face protested.
"I don't see how you are going to get down the mountain with just me
helping you," Murdock pointed out.
Face turned his attention back to the ceiling without saying
anything. Murdock resisted the urge to smack him. "Here," Murdock
said, pointing to the canteen, "drink up so I can refill it." Face
slowly drained it and handed it to Murdock.
"So, more rations for breakfast?" Face asked unenthusiastically.
"No, first your very own spa treatment here at Casa Murdock,"
Murdock said jovially, scooting over and putting Face's right foot
on his lap. The bandages had only a little blood on them; that was
"Okay, Face," he said quietly, "this is kind of going to hurt." Face
looked at him quietly and then up at the ceiling, signaling that he
Or thought he was ready. Murdock worked as quickly as he could,
cleaning out the wounds with water and then wrapping his feet
loosely in bandages. He kept getting a little distracted, by the
interesting names Face was coming up with for the men that had put
his feet in such shape, and he secretly wished he had a notebook to
write some of them down. Face didn't curse often, but he was
awfully good at it when he got started. Face was still hoarse from
lack of water and the cold air so the cursing was not very loud, but
it was effective.
"Done," Murdock said, rolling Face onto his side and propping his
feet up on a flat rock he had found. Face didn't respond; he was too
busy describing the details of their captors' conceptions. Murdock
let the words wash over him as he put the first aid kit away neatly
and took out the rations. The cursing stopped abruptly.
Murdock glanced over and saw Face looking hopefully at him. "Sick to
your stomach?" he asked Face.
"Just a little," Face answered. "Mostly hungry."
"Well, then, treat yourself to Chez Murdock's Fabulous Complimentary
Breakfast," Murdock said, opening the rations and feeding Face once
The small fire had died to just glowing embers but Murdock didn't
add any more wood. The rain was gone and it was daylight. There
was too great a chance for a fire to be seen.
"Hey, muchacho," Murdock said, smoothing his friend's hair, "I'm
going scouting. You stay here and be quiet, okay?" Face nodded a
little, his features still etched with pain and exhaustion. Murdock
covered him with clothes and the jacket and put the field pack under
his head. He didn't want to leave Face alone, not as sick as he was,
but he needed a doctor. Murdock hid the entrance to the little cave
with branches and then walked backwards, covering his and Face's
Face lay shivering for a while, trying to fight down his nausea
again. "Gangrene causes nausea," he wondered, "but it could just be
from the pain." And there was still a lot of pain in his foot, but
worse, pain shooting up his leg. "Okay, Peck," he said aloud, "time
to face the music. You are going to be lucky just to lose your foot
and not your life. Murdock doesn't need you moping about and
distracting him. Now be a good little solider and stop whining."
The pep talk didn't help. He didn't want them to amputate his foot,
not even to save his life, and without Murdock there, there was no
need to put up a brave front. He lay on his side and the shivers
turned into shaking as he tried to get control of his emotions again.
It took Murdock about an hour to reach the militia camp. Actually it
wasn't that far away, but Murdock had wandered around a bit and then
tried to cover his trail carefully. "No fire tonight," he thought as
he sat, perched in a tree, looking at the activity in the camp. "Too
damn close. If I'd known how close it was last night," he thought
then shook his head. He still would have lit the fire.
The camp had a ditch, about five feet wide surrounding it. A little
bridge went over the moat at the camp's only entrance and exit.
Around the camp was a wooden fence made of trees, with their tops
sharpened to a point. "Of course," Murdock thought.
Right inside the camp wall were tents and small buildings, sleeping
quarters probably. At one end of the camp was a long building, "mess
hall," Murdock thought. In the middle was a cluster of buildings
that looked sturdier and better built. "Headquarters, supply rooms,
and where they are keeping Hannibal and B.A.," Murdock decided . He
looked around again, trying to spot anything he had missed. One way
in, one way out. The gate was guarded and the militia small enough
that all the members probably recognized one another.
"Damn," Murdock thought. "I can't even sneak in and steal
supplies." He sat there, sulking about his rotten luck as he
watched the militia come and go. Apparently groups of them had
been out all night, looking for the escaped prisoners, and now those
were coming in and more groups were going out. Groups with field
packs. Suddenly Murdock cheered up and he slipped out of the tree to
follow a unit.
Face slowly regained control and the shaking subsided. "It's
exhaustion," he thought, "making it worse. Being sick, hungry, cold
and tired makes it harder." He rubbed his eyes with one hand. "There
are worse things than losing a foot." He nodded, "Yes, worse
things. What those things would be, I don't know. But they make
those fake feet now, little prosthesis things. I could still walk."
He nodded again, imagining himself walking along the beach with a
cane, an elegant one made of wood with an ivory handle, not one of
those ugly metal ones.
He'd still have his dashing good looks, and of course, he could
tell the women all sorts of things about what happened to his foot.
He mulled over several possible scenarios and decided that losing it
by rescuing a baby and a puppy from a fire was probably the best
one. Most women got moony over children and those that didn't
usually got moony over puppies. "What breed of puppy did I rescue?"
Face asked out loud. Details were very important. He wanted to make
the story realistic, but not too sappy. A Dalmatian would just be
too coincidental, unless it was not a puppy that he rescued, but a
child. That might work. His poor dog, lead him to the child in the
burning house and then was crushed to death by a falling board. Hmm,
maybe that would be overkill.
Murdock had an easy time tracking the militia men. They were well-
trained, for a back woods militia, but they didn't have the
experience he did, and they didn't stop to consider that the prey
they were tracking could be tracking them. Murdock almost felt sorry
for them, almost. If Face lost his foot, his life, these fools
would be sorry they were ever born.
The unit, made up of three militiamen, moved to the west and north,
unfortunately coming closer to Face's hiding place. "Well," thought
Murdock, wishing he had brought the rifle, "now we'll see how well I
covered our tracks."
Face dozed off and on. The pain would subside, then stab at him and
he'd wake with a gasp. He'd started coughing badly too, and had
drunk most of the water from the canteen again in an effort to quiet
it. Unfortunately, that meant he had to pee.
"Never rains but it pours," Face thought,
wincing at the imagery.
Not the best time for it. He became as still and as silent as
possible as he heard animals coming towards the small cave.
"Trust Murdock to pick some bear's cave," Face thought, straining to
hear more sounds. There were three, bears? No, men. Men were outside
and he knew it wasn't the rest of the team. They'd have given a
signal by now.
Murdock stopped and watched the men from the ridge above, a stone
ready in case he needed to draw their attention away from the cave.
But they barely glanced at it, obviously not seeing the entrance
hidden by the brush Murdock had covered it with. Instead they
plopped down and took out a little snack and began to talk quietly
Face heard them sit down and begin to speak. They were complaining
about having to go out and look for the escaped prisoners.
"Probably long gone by now," said one voice, obviously chewing on
something as he spoke. "Don't know why we just didn't kill them when
we first captured them."
"Because," another voice said, "that would not have been honorable
and besides, we needed to interrogate them to find out why they are
Murdock watched the men speak back and forth for a few minutes, then
get up and continue to move west and north. He shook his head. If it
had been his camp, he would know the layout of all the land for
miles around and would have noticed that the cave had been hidden by
"I can't figure these guys out," he thought. "One moment they act
like halfway competent soldiers and the next they make mistakes a
fifth grader wouldn't make." He continued to follow them, not taking
the time to check on Face.
It started to rain again, in big drops, fast and heavy. Murdock
didn't notice it much, but the men he was tracking complained
constantly. They had gone over a ridge and now were sliding down the
other side, griping so loud that Murdock held back a little,
confident he could track them by the sound of their voices.
"Idiots," Murdock thought. "Two seconds. They wouldn't have lasted
two seconds in
into a small hollow, then up another ridge. Eventually the men tired
of searching fruitlessly and found a comfortable spot for lunch and
a nap. Murdock watched quietly as two of the men dozed off, leaving
a third to keep watch. Silently he slipped closer and waited for his
opportunity. The guard stood up to stretch. He glanced away.
Murdock reached out and snagged his backpack then retreated a few
steps and crouched down again, listening for the shout that would
let him know the theft had been spotted.
No shout came, so Murdock began working his way up the ridge,
deliberately leaving clear footprints in the mud and breaking twigs
and branches along the way. At the top of the ridge he turned and
followed the line of the ridge north, leading a trail that not even
the idiots still asleep could miss.
An hour later he was resting in a hollow. This was where the obvious
trail would end. Hopefully he'd be able to circle back to Face
without leaving any signs. He forced himself to be still, to remain
calm. He'd been away from Face for to long now. Face's fever could
have risen again. His infection would almost certainly be worse. But
panic would only lead to dumb mistakes.
Without warning it began to rain again, pouring down in heavy drops
onto his face and hands. Murdock looked up at the sky, drinking some
water and rubbing the muck off his face and hands. The rain would
wash away any trail that he made going back to Face, which was good,
but it also might make it harder to find where he needed to go. And
it eliminated the possibility of moving Face further down the
mountain tonight. Murdock signed and started the long circular hike
back to the hideout.
"Time to face facts, Murdock, old buddy," he thought, "you are lost
and there's no way that you can find Face a doctor today." He
chewed on his lower lip. If Face didn't get medicine today, then he
was going to lose his leg and possibly his life. Rotting from the
leg up was not the way Face was supposed to go. Being shot at age
ninety-six by a jealous husband, crashing in his corvette, never
dying at all, that was the way Face was supposed to go, not alone
and cold, lost on some mountain.
"Where the hell are Hannibal and B.A.?" Murdock said angrily. "Why
aren't they here?" He hunched down and put his face in his hands.
How would Face be able to live as a fugitive if he lost his foot, or
worse, his leg? He'd have to leave the States if he wanted to stay
free and Murdock might never see him again. "Or maybe I'll just go
with him" Murdock thought, "to keep him out of trouble." Murdock
imagined Face strolling along some beach, with an elegant cane, not
an ugly metal one, but a carved wooden one with an ivory handle, and
telling some outlandish tale of what happened to his foot.
Murdock wanted to go back, so Face at least wouldn't be alone, but
the rain was coming down so hard he could barely see five feet in
front of him. He tried to think logically, to figure out how to get
Face down the mountain, down to a doctor, but there was no way for
him to even figure out which way a doctor was. Murdock looked up at
the dark sky, blinking away the water. He shook his fist at the sky
and yelled, "How could you let this happen!" then sighed. After all
the times he'd asked that question, he should know by now he'd never
get a response. He huddled back under the tree again and waited for
the rain to slacken.
"Billy, Billy, come on," Murdock called and then whistled. Damn dog
was always running off, and he didn't have time to go chasing it. He
had to get back up the mountain to Face, but he wondered what had
attracted the mutt's attention. Ah, yes, a dead, rotting raccoon.
Even though the sun wasn't out, Murdock could see flies buzzing
around it. "Nature's very efficient," Murdock thought as he
struggled up the path, "the raccoon doesn't need its body anymore so
the flies are recycling it for a nursery. Even now little baby flies
will be crawling around feasting on the dead flesh, growing bigger
and stronger as they eat the putrid remains." In his head Murdock
had begun to sound like Marlin Perkins from the old Mutual of
"Did you know," Murdock said out loud as he grabbed a small tree to
help his ascent, "that during the Civil War doctors used maggots in
cases of …." He stopped suddenly, so startled by his idea that he
stood up straight, let go of the tree, lost his balance, and fell
back down the side of the mountain a few feet. Unhurt, he jumped up
again, eager to find the dead creature.
"Wakey, wakey, Face," Murdock said in a singsong voice an hour
later. Face blinked awake reluctantly. He hadn't remembered falling
"What took you so long?" Face asked, not bothering to ask if Murdock
had been successful in finding help. Obviously he wasn't.
"Well, as I was strolling along, I found some new friends, and they
wanted to come back here and have a party with us," Murdock said
gaily, waving a sock at Face. The blonde man shuddered at the cold
and at the crazy look in Murdock's eyes.
"Ah, Murdock, what's in the sock? Lefty?" Face asked
nervously. "No, better," Murdock said mysteriously. He picked up
Face's foot gingerly and unwrapped the bandages. Face tried to sit
up and watch what the pilot was doing, but he got too dizzy.
"Just leave that alone, not much you can do," Face said, forced to
grit his teeth again through the pain of having his foot moved.
"Not me, oh Facial One, but this little brood can," Murdock said. He
gently turned the sock in his hand inside out. Face could see little
white things squirming against the dark brown fabric. He stared at
"Maggots eat dead flesh," Murdock said, in voice that reminded Face
of Marlin Perkins. "And you have dead flesh in your foot. So the
maggots will eat the dead flesh and then the gangrene won't have
anything to live in." Murdock waited for Face to protest, but his
friend didn't. Instead Face lay back down, quietly, apparently
willing to give this idea a try. Murdock washed the foot out again
with water, then began placing the maggots inside of the foot. They
seemed to be hesitant at first, then scooted farther in, and soon
were happily munching on rotting flesh. "Mary Magdalene says this
is a five star restaurant and Dick agrees with her. Says you have
good taste," Murdock reported.
"Don't," Face said, through gritted teeth.
"Don't what?" Murdock asked.
"Name them,' Face said, "Don't name them." Murdock shrugged and
wrapped Face's foot with the last of the clean bandages.
"Now, some warmth," Murdock said cheerfully as he arranged some wood
for another fire.
"They'll see, Murdock, better not," Face protested.
"Got to have some warmth, Face, Billy is wet and cold," Murdock
replied evenly as the light the fire and slowly added leaves until a
bright blaze was burning. He had to warm Face up some. Another
night here in the cold wet dark would make Face even sicker. It was
worth the risk.
Face refused to eat anything but the barest bit of crackers from one
of the rations, claiming he was still to sick at his stomach for
anything else. Murdock polished off the rest of the meal, then
warmed more rocks to place near Face. He sat up, tending the fire
and changing the cold rocks for warm ones every so often, trying to
keep alert. Face dozed off and on; pain and sickness keeping him
from falling into a deep sleep. Towards dawn Murdock began to let
the fire die down, then unwrapped the bandages from Faces foot.
"I can't see any change," he thought disappointedly, "but at least
the red streaks aren't any further up his legs." He smiled at Face,
who was staring at him with slightly unfocused eyes. "Looks good,"
he said cheerfully, "they are getting fat and happy."
"Good," Face muttered through clenched teeth, "now tell me you found
a jeep or a lost doctor hiking in the woods."
"Nope," Murdock said, "I only found the fort." Quickly he relayed
the results of his reconnaissance mission.
"So, no easy way in then," Face said, too exhausted to even be
"Only through the front gate," Murdock answered, watching the little
maggots crawl around. He wondered if they needed a source of water
or if Face's bloody flesh was enough for them.
"Tell me the supplies we have," Face ordered. Murdock wrapped the
foot again in clean bandages and set it gently down on a folded
blanket before opening the packs and telling Face what was inside,
down to the smallest crumbs of rations that were lying loose in the
Face listened quietly. "Murdock, you know the only thing we can do,"
he said at last.
"No, I don't," Murdock lied stubbornly.
"You have to go, as fast as you can, down the mountain and get some
help," Face stated calmly, ignoring Murdock's expression.
"No," the pilot said. He clenched his fists unconsciously.
"Yes. You have to go. You can't get me down the mountain easily and
Hannibal and B.A. are running out of time. I still have a chance
of…." Face stopped to swallow and take a deep breath, "At this point
I still have a chance to live, even if it means I lose the leg. I
accept that. I'm going to lose my foot and probably my leg. But I
still have a chance of living and B.A. and Hannibal have a chance of
living if you can get down the mountain fast enough and get help."
"Who the hell will believe me?" Murdock protested quietly. "I'm an
escaped mental patient."
"Lynch, just call Lynch," Face answered quickly. It was obvious he'd
thought this through.
"No," Murdock said.
"It's not open to negotiation." Face stared at the ceiling of the
small cave as he spoke. "It's an order."
"Or what? You are going to court-martial me?" Murdock asked
incredulously. "B.A. and Hannibal might already be dead."
"No," Face said quietly. "They aren't. If death was the goal they
would have killed us as soon as they captured us. They want us alive
for some reason. But the longer the colonel and B.A. are held the
more the chance is they will be killed. That's why you have to start
out tonight to get help."
"No," Murdock said again, just as defiant. "I'm not leaving an
injured man. I'm not leaving you. We just need to figure out a way
into the compound.
"Well," Face said sarcastically, "We could always surrender. That
would get us into….." he stopped talking, chewed on his lip for a
moment, and then asked. "Hey Murdock, how thoroughly were you
searched when we were captured?"
Surrendering turned out to be harder than Face had anticipated.
During a break in the rain, Murdock had helped him move closer to
the compound and then built a small fire that somehow managed to
cling to life despite the drizzle. But no one in the compound saw
the smoke. It was a small search party headed back that stumbled
across Face in the clearing and "captured" him.
After his weapons were removed and his clothing searched, Face was
dumped onto a cot in a cell. "Part one accomplished," he thought. A
small, gray haired man entered the cell and returned the salutes of
"I'm General Mess," the man announced. "And you are?"
Face resisted the urge to laugh hysterically and managed to reply
with his name, rank, and serial number. Then he bit the inside of
his lip, trying to keep himself lucid.
"And where is the other?" Mess asked. "Your brown haired companion?"
"He's on his way down the mountain to get the real army," Face
replied simply. "Where's my commanding officer?"
"He is a few cells down," Mess answered. "Why was it so simple for
my men to capture you when you've eluded them so long?" Face
gestured to his wet, bandaged foot and then gritted his teeth as the
bandages were unwrapped and his wound poked at. He heard one of the
"Maggots, interesting," he heard Mess saying calmly. "Maggots were
used in the Civil War to treat gangrene. The wound needs cleaning."
"No," Face protested. "I don't want anyone but my c.o. treating me.
He has, uh, medical training."
Mess didn't seem to mind the request. A few minutes later,
fresh bandages, hot water, and medical supplies arrived in his cell.
amused that they had reverted back to military protocol in the
presence of this aspiring general.
Any hope that
captors died the moment he saw how pale Face was. He checked Face's
temperature first, then poked the foot wound a bit, barely managing
to keep from gagging as he saw the fat, white larvae crawling around.
"We need to cut out some of the flesh,"
you have anything to numb the pain?" General Mess, who had remained
to keep watch, shook his head.
"Just some whiskey and aspirin," he answered. "I don't allow heavy
narcotics. They are too easily abused."
"I need a sharp knife," Hannibal said, not looking at Mess, but
rather straight at Face, trying to tell him how sorry he was about
what he was about to do.
Mess assisted in the operation and even gave permission for
to remain in the cell to tend to Face.
"He's a brave man," Mess said an hour later, as he prepared to
leave. "I hope you will reconsider my offer to join us. My army
could use your experience and skills."
I still need time to think." Mess left, obviously satisfied at this
turn of events.
before remembering that General Mess didn't allow nicotine in his
He turned his attention back towards Face, who seemed to be stirring
slaked he managed to drink some soup and eat a few pieces of bread.
"How bad is it?" he asked at last, leaning back against the pillows
and closing his eyes.
"I want a bath," Face demanded strangely.
"You want a what?"
"A bath. I want you to give me a sponge bath. I want to be, uh,
clean, if, uh, I die," Face stammered. The tips of his ears were
turning a little pink.
kid was up to something.
Face would never live this down. He went to ask the guard for soap
and hot water. Unfortunately Mess had ordered the guards to remain
in the cell with them, to prevent any useful communication, but they
seemed to be uncomfortable with the notion of one man washing
another man so intimately and kept glancing away.
stripped Face's clothes away, in some places literally tearing them
and then covered Face with a blanket. Face's ears and cheeks had
turned a nice shade of pink by then and
that the lieutenant could still get embarrassed.
quickly but thoroughly, rubbing Face briskly to stimulate
circulation. He washed everywhere except the injured foot, of
course, and Face's groin area.
"You want to finish up?" he offered, holding the cloth out.
"Uh, too weak," Face muttered, "but, uh, you do a good job, please,
it really itches."
The guards moved even further away, and were now completely against
assumed that Face had a reason for wanting a bath, probably to
convey some message to him. But Face had just lain there, quietly
turning pink while
in the clothes, either.
And Face certainly wasn't hiding anything anywhere else, unless he'd
stuffed it up his…Realization of what Face wanted him to do hit him
upside the head like a brick bat. He glanced at Face questioningly
and Face simply sighed and nodded.
also soaping up his fingers as well. Then slipped his hands and the
cloth under the blanket. Face turned part ways, lying on his side
and bending a knee.
thoroughly and then as gently, but as quickly as he could, slipped a
finger inside the anus, stopping only when he'd touched the cold
metal of an object, most likely a knife.
another finger inside and attempted to retrieve the object. After
three tries, he'd managed to grasp the object firmly enough and
pulled it out. He didn't look up as Face let out a quiet, relieved
taking the time to hide the knife in his own pocket. Face, his part
finished, allowed himself to drift off to sleep.
The attack came around . A bomb exploded at the rear of the
compound, right outside the fence. A few moments later, another fire
started on the eastern side as well. Guards were running everywhere
and Hannibal and Face's two guards quickly slipped out of the cell
towards the trouble, leaving only the guard down the hall to keep
forgotten to lock it in their haste, but they hadn't panicked that
He awoke Face, checking to make sure the bandages were securely
fastened and wrapped Face up in a few blankets. The knife was a good
one, the fancy kind with all sorts of attachments-one which allowed
him to pick open the cell door.
up and down the hall. Damn, the guard spotted him.
not to retreat, instead he ran at the guard as fast as he could,
pummeling into him before he could raise his rifle to fire. A moment
later the guard was out cold.
cell. "You should have already had your weapon out and ready."
"About time those two showed up," B.A. growled as
out of the cell and handed him a rifle.
the big man to follow him back to the first cell. Face lay there,
wrapped up in a blanket and shaking like a leaf. His fever had come
"Get Face down the mountain to a doctor,"
care how you do it."
B.A. swallowed nervously. "Don't know they way," B.A. said. "But…."
He took a big gulp. "Heard guards talking about some supplies coming
in today. Must be coming in on chopper, the way they were talking."
"K, go find the chopper and I'll try to find Murdock,"
ordered. He hadn't heard a chopper, but it was always possible he'd
B.A. slung the rifle up onto one shoulder and then picked Face up.
down cover fire as B.A. ran from the prison barracks to another
building that looked like the kitchens.
fire seemed to be on all sides now, north, east, south, and west,
and he wondered why Murdock would block their escape. "Unless he
spotted a chopper too?"
B.A. lay Face down for a moment in the kitchens and then peered out
a window. First time he could remember actually looking for a damn
helicopter but one glance at Face and you knew he needed a doctor
fast. Plus it didn't mean he had to get on it, did it? Just get Face
and Murdock on it. There was a sound behind him and he whirled,
brining the gun up at the same time. Murdock was standing in the
"Though I might find you in the kitchens, big guy," Murdock said,
trying to sound light. He gently touched Face's forehead. B.A.
lowered the gun.
"Looking for a way out. You seen one?" B.A. said, peering out the
"Yeah, they got this itty bitty copter that folds up its wings. Saw
it come in after they captured Face. Really neat looking. Don't fit
but two people though."
"Good," B.A. grunted. That was the best news he'd heard in a
year. "Let's get to it."
"Where's colonel?" Murdock asked.
"Out there playing last stand at the
the rifle towards Murdock and picking up Face again.
The helicopter was in the back of the compound, nearest the largest
fire. No one really paid attention as Murdock slipped into the shed
and pushed it out. Only when the wind from the blades whipping
around caused the fire to burn worse, did any of the Mess's men
notice. B.A. lay down covering fire while Murdock got the bird in
the air, then he retreated back towards the barracks, hoping to spot
the fences and they should be able to get out that way. And then
they'd show the general what a real mess was.
The first thing Face saw when he awoke was a blurry white light. For
just a millisecond he panicked and thought he was dead, but then the
light came into focus more clearly and he realized he was alive and
flat on his back in a hospital. The next thing he noticed was the
pain in his foot that shot up his leg. He groaned.
"Face, you awake?"
some distant place, then nearer to him came the sound of Murdock's
"Good morning! I mean, evening, cause it's well after lunch time."
His friend's face appeared above him, a cheerful grin spread from
one ear to the other.
"Does this mean they didn't take my leg?" Face thought. "The pain,
that could just be phantom pain. But Murdock wouldn't be so cheerful
if …." He refused to continue that line of thought. Murdock might be
pretending to be cheerful to cover it up. No, Murdock wouldn't do
that. Would he?
Face closed his eyes again, then forced them open. Whatever had
happened to his leg had happened and he was still alive. Still
alive. That mattered, didn't it? Whatever happened, he was still
"It's still there," Murdock said suddenly and surprisingly
gently. "They didn't take your leg or your foot. Docs said that the
gang really did their work."
Face let out a sigh of relief. "Thank God," he said, but then
couldn't say anymore. The others seemed to understand and remained
silent until Face spoke again.
"What happened with that mess? I mean General Mess," Face asked. He
glanced over at B.A. standing by the door, cracking his knuckles.
B.A. shook his head. "Man put a bullet in his head," B.A.
answered. "Fool couldn't live with being defeated." His expression
and Colonel Smith's dark look let Face know that there was a lot
more to the story, but he was satisfied for now and allowed himself
to drift off to sleep again.
As he did so, though, he could have sworn he heard Murdock talking
to someone named Mary that he had hidden in his hand.
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