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Summary: A difficult
mission evokes some uncomfortable memories for Murdock.
Warnings/Content: Angst, drama, references to heavy drinking, references to wife/child abuse, inner turmoil and mild profanity… also, lots of blues/jazz music! :o)
Disclaimer: I do not own
anything that refers to "The A-Team".
Comments?: YES. The more the better!
Copyright: © 2004 Sarah
It's dark in the shadowy little corner I'm sitting in. My head is leaning back against the cold, hard wood of the wall behind me as I stare blindly up at the messy ceiling, letting the soft melancholic music wash over me.
The band is good, especially the saxophonist, who really does have a wonderful interpretation of the music, and a fine ability to express emotion through his playing. It's a crying shame there aren't more customers in this small, smoky cellar bar. There are just a handful of men and one woman scattered around, either sitting at the bar, or alone at the tables, drinks before them, staring into nothing.
None of these people would ever dream of speaking to another lonely guest. You don't come here to talk, or socialize. You come here to be alone, to swell in misery while listening to the soft blues music… and to drink.
Most people out there are snug in their nice, cozy homes by this time. The greater part of them will be sleeping already, others perhaps making love to each other, others reading books, or maybe watching one of the hundreds of late night TV shows. There are, after all, jobs to get up to in the morning, maybe even kids to get ready for school. Normal, everyday lives to live and lead.
I have no such things. There is only a cold little room and a small hard bed awaiting me at the place I call home.
I pick up my drink and take a long, slow sip, savoring the taste in my mouth as I swirl it around.
I haven't had a real home for a very, very long time. You can't really call what I have now a home, and yet, I've been happier in these homeless years than ever I was back when I did have one, so long ago.
A faint smile tugs at my lips.
Yeah, I'm quite the happy lad. Living and loving my life, taking what fate throws my way, and trying hard to make the best out of it.
I'm really happy.
So then, why am I sitting here, dwelling in misery?
The answer to this question is as easy as I am uncomfortable with it. I am here, because this last mission really did hit too close to home. Opening wounds I thought had been closed a long time ago, making me remember the past.
In one long swallow, I drain my drink and reach for the bottle to refill my glass.
When I arrived at this blues bar earlier, I'd ordered a bottle of their best, most potent whiskey, and a shot glass. That had been around . Now it's almost half past one. Soon the bar will close, and I've just poured the last drop of the fine malted brew into my glass, the last drop of the second bottle of this delicious whiskey.
I should be drunk by now, but I'm not. In fact, I'm still very much sober. I wish, and not for the first time, that I could get blissfully drunk… but no, no such luck.
I laugh silently.
The irony of it is, that years before now, I made sure of not being easily affected by alcohol.
With a slight, self-mocking smile, I shake my head. How stupid I had been back then, but then, how was I to know how dangerous it was? After all, I'd been little more than a naive kid.
I'd read about this stupid method in a book, and from then on had been determined to try it out. In fact, at that time, I would've done anything to avoid getting drunk, but couldn't really say why. Maybe it was because I knew, even then, that I could never afford to lose control. Too much had depended on me staying in control then, just as it does now... far too much.
The plan had been very simple to execute. I stole all the alcohol I could lay my hands on then barricaded myself in an abandoned cabin in the woods and began to drink. For three days I drank nothing other than alcohol, eating only a little of the bread stolen along with the drink. In the book, it had stated that most people died from alcohol poisoning in their first session… apparently few survived.
I had survived.
Then, like it had been advised in the book, I repeated the same procedure every 3 months.
"Damn!" The soft word escapes my lips before I can stop it.
I really was lucky to have survived all that stupidity.
The most amazing thing about it all was that it worked. It took me two years of going through this strange and extreme method once every few months, to get to the point where I can now drink as much as I want, or need, with the reassurance that it will take a long time, and a whole heck of a lot of alcohol, for me to even begin feeling intoxicated. These days, I mostly do it only once a year, just to be sure not to lose this useful ability.
Of course, none of the guys know about it. Jeez, I don't even want to
think about what
I'm happy it worked, though. Not to mention that it's always a lot of fun fooling people with it, especially the stupid bullies back at the academy, and then later on in Vietnam. They all thought I was easy pickings after they witnessed how much I drank. Of course, I did help the impression by beginning to act drunk after just a few stiff drinks. It's a role I can play very well, and always have. The memories of some of the resulting fights still make me laugh, even today, after all these years. Man, had they been surprised when I'd always sobered up so fast...
Yeah, usually it's great to have this advantage. Tonight, though, I find myself wishing I had never read that stupid book, 'cause tonight, I long to be able to forget everything by drinking the last drop of this excellent whiskey and losing myself in oblivion.
I close my eyes.
I can feel how easily my self-control could slowly slip away, if I simply let go and let it… but I can't let that happen. It's too dangerous… far too dangerous for me, and for those closest to me.
There have only been a few points in my life that I have lost control.
Finally, after quite some time, I found my balance once again, found that control, and have never lost it since. Sure, sometimes I've come close to it, but in the end, I always win my inner battles... always manage to keep that firm control.
Until last Friday.
God, I was so angry. No, scrap angry, I was furious, so very furious, like I've not been since leaving his home years ago. Not even in 'Nam had I ever felt so much rage, but Friday, during that mission… that house, that family, that home reminded me of so much. So much, I just want to forget. Seeing the scared eyes of that little boy, and the hopeless look of his mother... well, it just reminded me so much of him… of those bad times, all those years ago.
It's been years since I've thought of him with a name. In fact, it's been a long time since I've thought
of him at all. After our last talk - if you could even call it a talk - right
before I went to
What a fool I've been!
The realization makes me chuckle with wry amusement. BA would have a field day, if he were to ever hear me say that. My amusement quickly fades away, however, as I remember the events from Friday.
Last Friday... no, the entire of last week, proves to me that I'm not as much over my past as I apparently thought. It makes me think, and think hard, has led me to this blues bar, on a Monday night, to down two entire bottles of whiskey.
It forces me to remember… to finally deal with it.
Frowning, I sigh and look at the amber liquid in my glass.
The band is still playing its melancholy tunes, and finally I give up the struggle, suddenly too tired to continue. I stop avoiding what happened, and let myself think about the last mission - to really face it, and all that it forces me to remember.
Normally, I'm with the team when they make first contact with a new
client. In part because, as a member of the team, I have the
right to state my opinion about whether we take the case or not, but mostly because
I have good instincts.
Some people would probably say we're cold but I would rather say we're
careful. Even when we're touched at the fate of especially innocent clients,
and as angry at injustice as our teammates, we don't rush in blind to their
aid. We stop and consider things first, then go in. Me, because I was taught,
since my first conscious moments in this life, not to trust anyone - a bitter
and hard lesson, but sadly, it has saved many others, as well as me, more than
once. I have no idea, though, why
This time, however, I hadn't been able to make it to the meeting with
the new client, Darren Javens. When you're a patient
in a Psychiatric hospital, especially a VA, you just don't have full reign over
your time. Of course,
It sounded like a typical, every day mission. Good guy's business gets in the way of bigger fish, so the big bad fish think it's necessary to force the good guys out of business, by any means possible. The police either cannot help, or are turning a blind eye, so the good guy's have, as often happens, called in the A-Team; their last remaining hope.
All these missions, most of the time, really are all the same to me. I generally don't particularly care what the exact situations are. For me, they're freedom. Freedom from the sometimes very suffocating VA, freedom to spend time to be with my friends, my family, and freedom to live and breathe freely without boundaries.
I shift in my seat now and sigh.
It's not that I mind too much being locked up in the VA. Mostly they're nice people, they treat me well, and I get a room and a bed for free, not to forget delicious food on the house. Most importantly, as funny as it might sound, it's the ideal place from which to help the guys. Being certified protects me from having to go to prison, should I ever get caught. It is also a great cover from all those who do suspect, like Decker. After all, who would take an insane man seriously? Who would consider him a danger to them? So, most of the time, I live pretty well there.
There are, of course, the shadowy sides. Like being grounded for good, being imprisoned in one small room, of having no privacy at all. Forced to do some things you wouldn't want to do on your own. Being considered stupid, and treated as if you can't hold a more or less intelligent conversation with anyone.
People just don't understand that insane and stupid are not the same thing, far from it, actually. I'm just glad Dr. Richter came along. He at least tries to have an interesting conversation with me. It's too bad he's so insistent on proving that I don't really belong there in the VA. Or that I'm a member of the A-Team. This forces me to go to every extreme I can think of to still make him believe I'm insane enough to stay there. After all, the guys need me.
I shake my head a little, trying to clear it.
I just do not want to remember but I need to, so getting back onto the mission...
They called us in to help them keep their home - like I said, the usual type of mission. I'd agreed, but as the others already had given their consent, it was more of a formality. Not that we are purely democratic. If one of us has serious doubts about a mission, or a client, we probably won't take the case, even when the others don't see a problem. We just trust each other's instincts too much for that.
The real tricky thing with this whole affair is, that even if I had been there at the meeting with Javens, I probably would not have refused to take the man's case, as much as I dislike him. For all the same reasons I chose not to say anything to the team, when I became aware of what was wrong with our new client.
It was a few days after his meeting with the rest of the team before I finally met him. When I climbed out of the van and saw him coming out of his house to greet us, I felt a shiver run down my spine when I caught a glimpse of his eyes. There was something in his eyes I recognized from somewhere, something not good. I couldn't place it at that moment, but it was there, and it screamed a loud warning to me.
Right then, I was ready to get back in the van and refuse to help the family. Everything in me screamed at me to turn my back on this man and the unwanted memories he would evoke, but then I glanced behind him to the threshold where his wife and son had appeared. One glimpse in their eyes, and I knew I could not walk away from them. As much as I hated this man, I would do what I could for his family. So I kept silent, and followed the others into the Javens living room.
Palish was a real threat, after all. This wouldn't just affect Javens, but also his wife and his son, Robyn. In fact, the boy had already been hurt during the last 'convincing act' by Palish. His goons had forced the Javens car from the road while the man had his son Robyn with him. It resulted in Robyn getting a dislocated shoulder. At least, that was the story Javens told. I didn't really believe it, but the fact remained, the boy had been in the car and could have been seriously hurt.
Palish needed to be stopped, and that was a job for the A-Team.
That had taken five days. The entire time I hadn't had much to do, sadly. I would have preferred to be occupied, rather than stuck close to the family. There was only a bit of surveillance and running a scam with Face, to get our bugs into Palish's office. Then, of course, the time when we stormed his home, but all that was far from enough to keep me busy.
I tried to avoid the annoying reality I was stuck within, by occupying myself with Solomor, a five-foot tall mixture of a bat, a human, and a spider - don't ask - who sometimes comes out from where he lurks, just to bother me. The problem with Solomor is that he only comes when I don't want him. This time, though, I welcomed his appearance. Although, to be frank, I ended up not being able to stand him even for one guard duty, so continued to ignore him, and to tell him to go away, back to the dark shadows where he came from. He finally disappeared after three days, and no one else appeared to replace him. Nor did I find any other distractions. Probably because, even while Solomor had been there, I still could not help but to see through the facade of the family idyll we had been presented with.
I can't blame the team for not seeing through it themselves. It really is a very nice picture. Lorry is an exceptionally nice woman, a perfect cook, and a loving mother. They couldn't see that most of her shyness is naked fear, that the special gleam in her eyes is not love, but fear and shame, and possibly even hatred. Nor did they recognize the shy look in Robyn's eyes as the ever-present carefulness it is. They couldn't see that his eyes are much too serious, and hold far too much wisdom within them. Yeah, the two really are very good actors.
Not even BA suspected anything. Perhaps it's different to work with children you already know have problems at home, than to be in such a lovely home and recognize the signs. After all, how could he? The Big Mudsucker had almost a perfect family. Sure, his father had died early, that had been hard for him and Mrs. B, but they had been loving and devoted parents, probably deeply in love with each other. I call that perfect. I'm sure that he would not agree with me though, especially as they had a hard time financially.
And, Face, well, he grew up in an orphanage, had never known his parents. Even when that had been very hard for him, and still can be, he was well protected there. The sisters may have been a bit strict, but they cared for their protégés and loved the children. Father Magill also has a soft spot for Face, and gave him a lot of extra special love. Then, of course, there are all the friends he made there, some of which he still keeps ties with even today. Face knows all this, and appreciates it, or we wouldn't donate large amounts of money each year to his old orphanage.
No, they didn't see through the façade of the Javens home, or through the man of the house. They saw the devoted husband and father, the innocent and honest man who was being harassed by a powerful bad guy. They couldn't recognize the tyrant, hidden under his pleasant mask.
They know me, however, and they sensed that something was wrong, but
they just didn't know what. They've been deeply worried by my behavior these
past five days. I've noticed their worried glances. Lately, even BA has tried
to cheer me up, by trying to encourage me into another imagination, and by not
constantly calling me a fool. I could also see
The nightmares started that first night. Nightmares I hadn't had in a very long time, haunting me even in my waking hours. Resulting in me being very sleep deprived over the past days. Then I lost my appetite. I ate, but without much enthusiasm, and from day to day a little bit less. In fact, I threw up my last two meals there, but that's one of the few things I managed to keep secret from the others.
Solomor was their first warning that I wasn't at my best. I remember their shocked glances as I introduced him to Javens. Like I mentioned, it hadn't been the first time he'd visited me. The team had been present at a few of his other visits, and knew Solomor was bad news. They didn't mention it, though. They didn't mention anything but simply worried about me and gave me their silent support, letting me know they were there, should I decide to confide what was troubling me. They trusted in the knowledge that I would warn them should I think it was necessary.
Of course, it was pure luck, for me, that they decided to deal with me in a 'silent, supportive' manner, rather than in a 'corner him - confront him' manner. It was as if they sensed it would be the wrong time for confrontations. I would have exploded, and ended up not telling them anything at all, and they sensed that within me. Although, I could still sense and see that they were close to losing it at one point or another, especially BA.
Then, this last Friday,
We had been working silently for about two hours, and nearly finished, when I became aware we were being watched. Carefully checking around the stable, I finally located a pair of green eyes looking out from behind an old truck.
For the first time in those five long days, I truly grinned and called out, "Hey, Robyn! Care to help me a little?"
My grin started to strain when, as I watched, his curious eyes widened into fear, and he made himself small, trying to blend back into the shadows.
I kept the grin plastered on my face, and continued more softly, "You see, BA here watches with Argus eyes my every move. A bit unnerving if you ask me, but with your help, I bet we'll get finished in no time, and then I can get away from those evil eyes. Besides, it will probably be a far better job than when I'm doing it all alone."
Content, I watched as Robyn slowly crept out of his hiding place to stand uncomfortably before the truck. I waved him to my side and he slowly came nearer. After I showed him what he could do, I started jabbering, letting my mouth keep on talking about this and that. After an hour, we were finished, and I felt that even though the boy had hardly talked, part of the tension I'd sensed in him had dissolved.
BA didn't threaten me once the entire time to shut up, amazing when you consider that he usually demands quiet while he works. Perhaps he too sensed the tension in our little friend and finally began to suspect something.
Securing the last nut, I ruffled Robyn's red hair and thanked him. Then
I turned to BA to tell him that I wanted to go check on the plane, see if
everything was ready for
BA nodded then asked Robyn if he wanted to help him with a few of the bigger things, if his still sore shoulder allowed it. I literally saw the boy's little body tense back up, and the haunted look return to his eyes, and inwardly cursed BA. Of course, he just wanted to further occupy the boy who had seemed to like the work. He had not intended his words to have that affect on him.
From the scowl on BA's face, I could see that he knew he had said something wrong, but that he didn't know what exactly, or, to be more exact, could see that he'd read it all wrong. Something, which became clear, when he added in a soothing voice that Robyn shouldn't worry, that we would take care of Palish, and that he needn't to be afraid of him anymore.
The boy was well trained, I have to say, for he produced a brave nod, and said with reassurance, that he knew all that. The tension stayed, though, as well as the haunted look.
Then, before I knew it, I said, "Oh come on, BA! You don't really want to keep this fantastic little mechanic all for yourself. Listen Robyn, I could use a second pair of eyes when I inspect the plane, and I bet you're more interested in having your first aeronautical mechanism explained by yours truly, than to bore yourself with helping the big guy here, right?"
Robyn looked hesitantly at me, then back at BA, uncertainty in his eyes, but I could also see I'd sparked his interest. Finally, he shook his head and said, "Dad told me to stay away from you." A moment passed, before he added, "To not get in your way and trouble you."
Anger surged through me, hot and fierce. I'm pretty sure my eyes must have even flashed for a moment. Then, as I could see BA looking at me curiously, I'm sure I also paled a bit, as I felt my face drain.
I battled down my anger, crouched down before Robyn to get at his eye
level, and said, "Now listen to me, Robyn, you haven't been any trouble at
all to us. In fact, you have been a great help so far, and I really need a
little more help. Face and
Suddenly, the boy's face lit up with sheer joy, and he nodded. "Right, Mr. Murdock!" Then he raced away to the main house.
I stood there looking after him, my fists balled, and allowed my anger to swell up again.
At BA's quiet inquiry, I looked up and shook my head, my silent response telling him I did not want to elaborate on anything. Then I left him standing there and went outside to wait for Robyn.
I didn't need to wait long. He came out running, barely three minutes after he'd left the stable. Twenty minutes later, we were at the plane, and I watched as he admired it with wonder. It really was a beauty, quite new and modern. I started to explain to him what he needed to watch out for, and it didn't take him long before he was asking holes into my stomach. I didn't mind, though, and patiently answered them all. He reminded me too much of the first time I was 'introduced' to a plane.
This also gave me an idea…
"Hey, you up for a quick ride with her?" I suggested, with a grin.
Understanding the meaning of my words, Robyn stared up at me with big, bright eyes, and nodded, clearly too exited to say anything. I laughed, and then helped him up into the cockpit.
Patiently, I explained every step I took and every purpose of the controls I had to use. A few moments later, we were up in the air, both of us leaving the tension down on the ground. The feeling of being far away, up in the air, where no one was able to get to you, to be in true freedom, enwrapped Robyn. I smiled knowingly, for it looked as if one of the pilots of tomorrow had just had his first lesson. It had not exactly been my intention, for I had taken him up there to talk a little with him, to help him, to give him a little time for himself. However, I knew that look in his eyes, for I see it whenever I look into a mirror, or when I meet another pilot.
Always glad to help a fellow pilot, I did what he least expected, I let him hold the stick and therefore fly for the first time. Of course, I was ready to step in if necessary, but Robyn did a good job, and someday he will make a very fine pilot.
Seeing his joy, I considered if I really wanted to talk about things with him at that point, and so decided to let him have this experience without any dark thoughts shadowing it. There would be enough time for it once we were back on the ground, which was all too soon.
After I was finished with my check, and we left the cockpit, Robyn looked up at me, his eyes sparkling. "Thank you Mr. Murdock! That was…" He stopped there, apparently unable to find any words to describe it all.
Once again, I crouched before him. "I know, and skip the Mr. It's just Murdock to my friends, or as pilot to pilot, you can call me Howling."
Robyn nodded, his eyes still shining with excitement. I sighed, but continued, "I want you to promise me something, all right, Robyn?" When he nodded, I went on, "First of all, this little trip is our secret, okay? I don't think your parents will understand this moment. It will be our own little, private, special adventure. You okay with that?"
Robyn grinned. "Sure, Howling. It's our big secret!"
I smiled. "Exactly, and it was a great feeling, wasn't it? One of the best places you've ever been to?" The boy nodded eagerly, just like I guessed he would, so I finally came to the point. "I want you to think yourself back into the cockpit, back into the feelings you had when you had the stick in your hands, whenever you feel the need to escape, especially whenever he hurts you." The light in Robyn went out immediately. It nearly broke my heart, but I continued, "Look me in the eyes, Robyn. You don't need to tell me anything. Nor do you need to break whatever oath, or promise you've made, or to disobey your Dad's orders. You don't need to, okay? I promise you that I won't tell anyone else about our little talk here."
His eyes were full of fear and near panic, and the tension was back. "Shush, Robyn," I reassured him, "You did not do anything wrong. Never! I know exactly what you're feeling right now."
Then I let him see in my eyes how much I did indeed understand. Robyn took his time studying me as I patiently waited. I saw acceptance and relief slowly appear in his eyes. Finally, he nodded his acknowledgement of my words, and I held out my hand for him to shake. A silent pact had been made.
I reached into the inside pocket of my jacket and retrieved one of my most precious possessions. Hiding it in my fist, I held the hand out to Robyn and slowly opened it. Robyn stared at the silver chain with the tiny silver airplane suspended on it.
"See this?" I said, "This is a little model of the very first plane made by the Wright Brothers. My grandpa gave it to me after my first ride in the air. I was six then, I think. He wanted me to have something to always remind me of those moments in the air. He told me that it should give me luck and protect me." I let these words sink in for a moment, before continuing, "I'd like you to have it now as a reminder of your first flight, and for it to give you strength. I hope it will bring you the luck I had with it."
Robyn didn't seem to be able to say anything for the moment, but he slowly reached out his hand, and I let the chain glide through his fingers, silently saying goodbye to it. His hand closed tightly around his new possession, then he looked me in the eyes and swallowed.
"Thank you, Howling. I promise I'll take good care of it. I'll always honor it," he said to me seriously. Too seriously for a boy his age, but at least his eyes were shining again, a little.
I nodded. "I know, Robyn, that's why I gave it to you."
More or less satisfied, I stood back up. It would not make things for Robyn any easier, but it would, perhaps, make it a bit more bearable for him. It had for me, and I really hoped it would also help this boy a little, by giving him the strength to cling to when times got bad. Sure, I'd try to stop those times coming for him, somehow, but personal experience kept telling me that it would be a task easier said than done. If I could just find some way to convince his mother to leave Javens and take Robyn away from all this, or to at least send him away to her relations for a while, until she sorted her choices out, and found her courage to move on. The impotent frustration of it all was agonizing.
Inwardly shrugging it off, just for now, in a far lighter tone, as if nothing had happened, I then said: "The others are probably already asking themselves what we're doing out here. Let's get back."
Robyn nodded, and so we returned.
BA was still working on something when we got back. Lorry Javens had become a bit worried when we stayed away for so long, but apparently, BA told her I'd probably lost myself in telling stories about this plane and that plane. A bit surprised by this, I left Robyn with his mother, while I went out to see BA.
As soon as I entered the stable, his gruff voice welcomed me.
"Better now?" I nodded and went over to him to see if I could do any
more to help, but he shook his head. "Not much left ta
Frowning, I thought about this.
"I'll go warn Lorry, then. She should be warned to be careful too, and to not let Robyn out of her sight," I informed BA, and then went to go in search of our hostess.
I found her in the kitchen, preparing the next meal. "Hey, Lorry, smells delicious," I said, after I closed the outer door behind me.
She startled, and looked back at me a little fearfully. Obviously, she had been deep in thought but immediately relaxed on seeing me. "Oh, Murdock, you gave me quite a scare," she said.
I smiled in apology. "Sorry, didn't mean to."
Lorry returned a faint smile. "You don't have to apologize, it's all right. Can I help you?"
I shook my head. "No. Where's Robyn?"
"Oh, I sent him out with some sandwiches for his father," she replied. "Thank you for taking him with you, he seemed to have a very exciting time. No wonder, he always has had a special interest in planes. To actually be able to get so near to one was really something for him."
I shrugged. "I could tell. It's been my pleasure, he's a good
boy." When she nodded, I went on to tell her about
Now she fully turned to me, alarmed. "What?"
"Don't worry. We have the place pretty well secured, and we're keeping watch. It's best you know about the risk and be careful until we can deal with Palish," I tried to calm her.
She nodded, visibly more relaxed, and turned back to the stove. I was just about to leave, when I saw her slight wince as she reached up to get a spice from the shelf above the stove.
Frowning, I stayed to watch her for a moment. Surely, Javens was not stupid enough to do anything while we were there? But, Lorry was moving very stiffly, clearly hurting.
Suddenly, I lost all patience. So far, I had kept silent, because I could not shake the feeling that there was nothing much I could do. I had also been trying to think of ways to approach it all with her, especially about Robyn, without spooking her. I could have told the others, of course, but then, what could we do as a team? There was not really all that much that we could do. Sure, we could warn Javens off, but then he might take it out on Lorry and Robyn. Perhaps not right away, but as soon as we were gone for good, everything would turn back to the old ways, and possibly be even worse than before.
I hated the thought of not doing anything much in an active sense to help them, and hated even more the feeling of impotence those thoughts filled me with. Yeah, I'd do what I could, of course I would, starting with having a serious, candid talk with Lorry, and including keeping a close watch on Javens in the future. Other than that, though, I felt helpless about what else to do, and everything inside me was screaming that I could not do much at all… screaming at me to leave it alone, in case I made the situation far worse.
Lorry's pain was, however, the final straw. After a real shitty week with nightmares and ignored ghosts from my past, I was already very near the limit of my self-control. Time spent with Robyn had been slowly getting me nearer and nearer to my breaking point. Seeing Lorry's hidden hurts at that point was just too much. I could not keep my silence any longer, so I did one of the things I know you should never do in these situations... I lost control.
"Tell me something, Lorry," I said, exasperated, my voice tight with controlled anger, "Does your loving husband just beat the heck out of you and your son, or does he rape you too? Does he drink himself into oblivion before he lets out his frustrations on you, or is he just one of these guys who thinks beating his family is the best way to handle a wife and kid?"
Shocked by my blunt outburst, the ceramic bowl Lorry had just retrieved from one of the cupboards fell from her hands and shattered on the floor. Angered, she turned on me, but I could also see the fear in her eyes.
"I beg your pardon?" she demanded.
After starting down the road, I was not about to let her pretend ignorance. "Don't even try to deny the truth, Lorry," I said then, trying to moderate my tone. "I know exactly what's going on here. You may fool your neighbors, friends and relatives, and yeah, you might even be fooling the rest of the team, but you're not so lucky with me, even though I do have to acknowledge that you and Robyn hide it all real well."
At my words, Lorry paled. "I don't know what you're talking about," she hedged.
I snorted. "Oh yeah, right… of course you don't," I said, sarcasm dripping off every word. "Well then, let me make it real clear, Lorry. I'm referring to your loving husband abusing both you and your son."
She glared at me. Anger and fear radiated off her in waves. "You're crazy! Get out of here now and I won't talk to anyone about your absolutely atrocious and unacceptable behavior."
In four long strides, I stood right before her. "You'll have to deal with it a bit longer, Lorry. I'm sick of turning a blind eye to all the signs, to all the little pointers to what happens here behind closed doors."
Lorry took a few steps back, trembling, her slim fingers closing and opening in convulsive fists. "Get out!" she ordered, in a shaken voice.
I shook my head. "No, I won't, not unless you can show me your arms and legs and prove to me there are no bruises. Not unless you can show me Robyn's back and prove to me I won't find even one slight mark on his pale skin." Her trembling grew more pronounced, but this time she didn't say anything.
Lorry's reaction calmed me a little, so I took a few steps back, and softened my tone. "Look, Lorry, I know I'm not doing this the right way, but please, I beg you, think about yourself and your son. I know it's hard, and that you're scared of leaving your husband, but try to think about it, and do it, before it's too late, especially before it's too late for Robyn."
At this, she looked away. "Not that it's any of your business, but Darren loves us. He would never seriously hurt us."
Her denial was enraging me again, but this time I managed to keep more of my control. "Robyn has already had a dislocated shoulder, and you at least have sore ribs right now. Tell me, when will it be enough for you?" I demanded.
"Palish's goons hurt my son, not my husband!" she vehemently denied.
I frowned. Did she really not know? "Palish is a good excuse, but I'm afraid that's not true. A dislocated shoulder is not very typical for a mild car crash, where neither your husband, nor the car, suffered any real damage. You also simply have to look in Robyn's eyes, and mention his hurt shoulder, and you'll see the awful truth."
Unwilling to believe this, Lorry shook her head in desperation. "No, no, he would never hurt him! No, you're lying!"
Angry, I cupped her chin and made her stare into my eyes. "You need to stop lying to yourself, Lorry. Darren abuses your son, Robyn. Open your eyes to it," I said with firm, blunt conviction, trying to get through to her.
Her eyes shone with tears when she finally, truly looked at me. "I swear to you, he hasn't touched the boy so far," she whispered, "I swear it."
I drew in a deep, steadying breath, released her chin and stepped back a little to give her room. "Has it ever occurred to you, Lorry, that maybe Robyn hides his injuries and pain from you, just like you do yours from him?" All color drained from her face, and it was obvious that she had indeed not thought about that possibility. I shook my head sadly. "No, it didn't, did it?" I paused for a second to collect myself, then continued, "I'm also certain that the shoulder injury isn't the first time your husband has hurt Robyn. Lorry, just look in his eyes and you'll see it all there for yourself. If you want to, that is. You can also be certain that Robyn knows full well that his father hurts you as well."
Lorry let out a whimper and shook her head in silent denial.
Closing my eyes, I took a few moments to gather my tumbling thoughts, and decided to let her know something about myself. With another, calming breath, I fixed my intense gaze on hers, holding her eyes with my own.
"You know," I began, "when you've been through it yourself, you learn fast to recognize the look and feel of another victim, almost immediately." At my words, her eyes widened in urgent question, and she gasped. I nodded, then picked up a notebook and pen from the kitchen table and scribbled down two phone numbers. I held the paper out to her. "Here, take this. I wanted to give you this anyway, just not quite in this manner. I lost my temper just now, and I'm truly sorry for that," I told her, in all sincerity, then said, "I know that I can't do anything for you myself right now. You have to take the necessary first steps by deciding to accept that what Darren does to you and your son is wrong, and by having the courage to leave him, in spite of the fear you both are feeling. When you're ready, call one of these numbers. The first is a place I know that has a lot of experience dealing with abuse victims. The second number is where you can always reach me. Just leave a message for me there. Then I'll know you need my help, and I promise I'll come to you immediately."
Lorry hesitated a long time before she took the note. When she finally had it in her hand she stared at it blankly.
"I just want you to start thinking," I said, my voice softer, "And to know that if you decide to save yourself and your son, there is someone out there who can and will help you. In fact, there is a lot of help out there, Lorry, but it's up to you to take the first steps to wanting it."
I waited a moment to see if she had listened to and comprehended my words. She had, but I did not know if she would consider them, or simply throw the numbers away as soon as I left. Knowing there was nothing more I could do, I turned away, intending to leave her alone.
"Why are you doing this?" Her bemused, whispered words stopped me in my tracks.
Frozen, I stood there and battled with myself. I didn't want to answer, but if I kept silent, my entire effort would probably have been for nothing, so I quietly answered in a flat tone: "Because no one was there to help my mother. She wasn't strong enough to leave my father before he killed her right in front of me. I wasn't able to protect her, but there's a chance I can help you." Then I turned around and looked deep into her eyes. "Lorry, I look at Robyn and see myself. I see the same fear. The same despair. For me it's far too late, but not for him. He still has a chance for a better childhood than he's had so far. Sure, he'll never forget these past years, but there's still a lot of time to give him greater hope. To give him some joy, some normality. Please, Lorry. You are the only one who can save him from living through the same horrors I did. Even now, sometimes when I close my eyes, I see the broken and bloody body of my mother lying before me, her dead eyes staring up in wonder and resolution. Do you want that for yourself? Do you want that horror for Robyn? Answer me that, please!"
We stood for a long time staring into each other eyes. I deliberately let her see the pain that was always a part of me. Finally, she nodded, her eyes shadowed and haunted, and then turned back to the stove. I then left the kitchen without another word.
When I stepped outside, BA was standing together with Face and
"Hey! Finally got bored enough to come back and do a bit of real work?" I greeted them.
I smiled as well; glad to finally see an end to our stay there, the
sooner the better. Face, however, was groaning, and BA was growling. Guess they
were not of the same opinion as our Colonel. I had to chuckle. They rarely
admit it, but they love the action as much as the Colonel and I. Ok, to be
Perfect. "I just came from the kitchen and Lorry's delicious cooking. Go ahead and refresh yourselves, I'll take first watch."
"Aye, aye, Colonel."
After my acknowledgement,
When I turned back, he was still standing in the same spot, watching me. Becoming slightly uncomfortable under his scrutinizing eyes, I waited a moment to see if he would say what was on his mind. When it became clear that all he intended to do was stare at me, I finally decided to ask what was up with him.
"Something the matter, Faceman?" I asked, as casually as possible.
"What?" he said, looking confused. Apparently, my words had brought him out of whatever state he was sunk within.
I frowned, uncertain. "You okay?"
Once again, Face seemed confused by my question. "What? Um, yeah, I'm, ah… okay."
However, he continued to stand still, staring at me, lost in his thoughts. "Face? Something you want to tell me?" I said at last, beginning to get exasperated.
"Huh?" he replied, blinking.
Okay, by then I was beginning to get a tad irritated. "Spill it out, muchacho," I said, slamming the rear door shut on the van, my weapon pointing at the ground. "The last few minutes you've stood there staring at me, not saying anything. Either say what you want now, or leave me alone to take the first watch. What's it gonna be?"
Surprised, I watched his cheeks flush a little, and there was something in his eyes I couldn't place. "Well, Murdock, you see, I was… you know, just now I…" his worlds trailed off.
"You, what?" I probed.
Face looked away and shook his head. When he looked back at me, I could tell he'd come to a decision. He shrugged his shoulders, then said: "Ah, it's nothing, Murdock. Forget it, okay."
I frowned again. "You sure, Face?"
He nodded and shrugged one shoulder again. "Yes. Just go, I'll see you later. Have a good watch." He finally turned and followed Hannibal and BA on into the house. I stood there a moment, puzzled by his strange behavior, then decided to shrug it off, and went in search of a good place to keep a look out.
The watch was soon over without incident. During that time, I watched Robyn come running back and vanish into the main house. The hardest time had been when Javens came back in with his other tractor. I wanted, with every fiber of my being, to follow him into the stable and give him a piece of his own medicine, but I gripped my rifle tighter and forced myself to stay put. Nothing could be achieved by such stupid behavior, other than more pain for Lorry and Robyn, something they really did not need right now.
When BA relieved me, I debated if I even wanted to attempt sleeping. I
knew there would be no sleep for me, but in the end, I went in to rest anyway.
Later, when we were all packed up ready to leave, and standing before
the van to say goodbye,
"It's amazing what you've done. Thank you," said Javens, visibly relieved that Palish would not be pestering him anymore.
"No, really, we can't thank you enough for your help. Be sure that we'll never forget it." Lorry looked at me directly as she said this, worlds of meaning reflected within her eyes.
Surprised, but pleased, I nodded back at her imperceptibly, so as not to raise her husband's suspicions. Apparently, she had indeed taken my words to heart. It did not necessarily mean she would ultimately do something herself, but it was a start. I felt hope surge through my heart, along with the prayer that she could and would change things sometime soon.
I looked over at Javens, and again suppressed the urge to slam my fist into his smiling face. I nodded my unsmiling farewell silently, not trusting my voice. Then I turned to Robyn and flashed him a secretive smile and a wink. To my delight, he gave me the same in return, and grinning I climbed into my seat in the back, and waited for BA to drive on.
"Sir?" Startled, I pull myself back from my memories, and look at the waiter standing by my table. "Sorry, sir but we're closing now," he explains, when he see he has my full attention.
I look around in surprise. Indeed, I'm the last guest in the bar, and the band is already packing their instruments. I smile with apology. "Sorry. Guess I got lost in my thoughts a bit."
The waiter shrugs and smiles, saying: "No problem, sir. That happens a lot here."
I nod and quickly down my last glass of whiskey, after which I stand up, grasp my jacket, and throw a note on the table. "I better get home then, bye!"
A chorus of, 'Goodbye, sir,' from the staff, follows me out.
Outside, I pull up the zip of my jacket. It has grown colder. For a few moments, I stand there, tilting my head back to look at the stars, and let the cool air clear my still tumbling thoughts.
To the further worry of my friends, I had stayed silent on the way home that day, but they still didn't ask what was bothering me, and I felt relieved for that.
As soon as I got back to my room at the VA, I called the first number I'd given to Lorry. It belongs to a center for abused women and children. The director is a friend of mine, and I told him all about Lorry and Robyn. He told me he would keep out an eye out for her, and that he would notify me if he heard anything. That's about all I can do, at this point, anyway. The rest is up to Lorry, for now…
But if she didn't take action soon my friend would have to notify the authorities. A step I don't want to take as it means Robyn would be ripped away from Lorry as well. And that was not the right way, not helping either of them to get happy. Robyn loved his mother, tried everything to protect her. And Lorry loved him, so far was clear. No, for their happiness sakes I'll give Lorry the chance to make it on her own. Still, if Lorry won't find the strength to save herself and Robyn we will have no choice in the matter. I was not willing to risk Robyn's life. One way or another I'd make sure Javens would not have any more opportunity to make Robyn's life hell.
I've tried to forget about the entire mission, to regain my inner peace once more. Of course it hasn't worked. The image of Robyn's scared, sad eyes keeps haunting me, as I know it all probably will for the rest of my life, especially if Lorry Javens fails in her courage to save her own son, along with herself. I hope she will be smart and brave enough to leave Darren soon. If not… As much as I know that Lorry needs to empower herself to change her own life, I'm equally determined not to let Robyn go through what I did.
The nightmares are still there as well. I cannot get rid of the nagging emotions, or the memories of my own abused childhood, which persist in forcing their way through the solid walls I've built high around my past.
I close my eyes and once again slowly let my head tilt back. Okay, so, I faced head-on the memories of this last mission, but I can feel that it still has not been enough to restore my inner peace. That it hasn't been enough to close the old, half healed wounds the mission has ripped wide open.
The big question now is: what can give me back my inner peace? I sure don't know. The experts would advise me to face what happened in my past, and deal with it. The problem is that even though I know it's good advice, how can I? Could I face him again? What no one knows is, my father is not only still alive, but I am also very much aware of where he is. Facing him would achieve nothing. It would probably simply hurt me even more. That option will always be my last resort, if I even resort to it at all, which I don't intend to. I really feel that I have faced my past more than enough to last the next several hundred lifetimes.
Then perhaps by talking about it? But what for? Talking is fine and everything, but it doesn't work all that well with me. After having spent more than a decade in a mental health institution, I know that for certain. I could talk to the team, they would be eager to listen to me, to help me, but it would not resolve anything for me, and might only cause further pain to my friends. Besides, they can't help me. This is something I need to deal with myself, and when I do find a way to deal with it, I know they'll support me and be there for me.
I glance down the road. The street looks abandoned. I can't see the van, but I know they're there. They've been close by the entire time since we've been back, watching over me. They also followed me to this bar. It isn't as if all three guys are sitting in the van, waiting around for me. No, they've been taking it in turns. When I first arrived at the bar, it had been BA on watch, but now I'm guessing it's probably Face watching out for me... I can just feel it.
A smile tugs at my lips as I turn in the opposite direction and slowly
begin to walk away. I appreciate their back up, but it's time for me to set off
for a few days. From time to time, I need to get away for a while. I usually
just get up and leave, feeling too restless to stay in one place.
Right now is one of those times to leave.
It isn't too hard to loose Face. He may have excellent tailing techniques, but I know this area very well. After I'm sure he isn't following me anymore, I set off for the train station.
I'm not exactly sure where I want to go at the moment, I just know that I need some quiet and an isolated place to think, to get myself back under my precious control once more.
An echoing blues rhythm murmurs though my head, lifting my spirits as I amble on my way.
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