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The headstone had a simple inscription. "Hunt Stockwell, 1932 – 1989".
He knew the year of death was accurate. More than two years now, and the memories were still as clear as if it happened last week.
Colonel." For a second, still lost
in reverie, he heard it as Stockwell's voice and started violently. He whipped around to see Face standing behind
"Can't believe it's over two years."
didn't answer for a long time.
Eventually he just said, "Yeah, two years," before going quiet
was symptomatic, he thought. It was all
too typical of the way things had been between them lately. Since
he seemed fine. Seemed. Face was always good as seeming. He watched Face standing by the grave, his
hair blowing in the breeze. Then,
feeling even this was too much of an intrusion;
"Come here often?" Face asked.
"First time," he said. "Since the funeral." He glanced over at the rise in the ground where they had stood and watched the funeral service from a distance. The only witnesses to Stockwell's death. The only living witnesses.
nodded slowly. "I come here fairly
often," he said quietly, not looking at
Face turned to look at him. "I… guilt, I guess. I'm good at the guilt. Catholic thing, you know."
"Do you bring flowers?"
smiled a little. Knew
"I'm not quite that guilty." He paused for a moment, and then went on. "And I wondered if he had anyone, you know, to visit the grave. I saw a woman here one time, but she left before I could speak to her." He shrugged. "I figured someone should visit, that's all." He sounded slightly defensive.
"Few weeks ago I saw Farrell here," Face said.
"How's he doing?"
"Fine, he says. Though not so fine, I think. Didn’t look like he was sleeping much." He went silent, bit his lip. The same memories that had painted dark smudges under Farrell's eyes haunted Face's nights too.
working for his father now, right?"
"Vice-President in charge of corporate mergers and acquisitions." He shook his head. "I shudder to think of his methods. If we went back to the old job we'd probably run up against him inside a month."
"I hope he'll be okay," Face said. "What he saw…" His voice trailed off.
saw it too, Face."
well, I've seen that sort of thing before," Face said, seeming to dismiss
"It doesn't get any easier."
"No, I guess not," Face admitted. He gazed unseeingly across the manicured grass. In the distance a hearse and a convoy of limousines moved slowly though the cemetery.
me?" Face stared at him, apparently
amazed. "I don't understand,
"Well, I've been through it, in the war, in two wars. I know what it feels like."
"And could you have told me? Can you honestly say that you could have described it to me? And even if you could have, do you think that would have made it easier for me to held Gonzales while he called for his mother? Made it easier to see…" his voice cracked, then he brought it under control. "To see Collins get his brains blown out?" Face shook his head. "I knew there was a chance it could happen, that I could lose men on that mission, and I was terrified of that. But there is nothing you could have said that would have made it easier for me."
were so angry."
shook his head. "No,
not at you. Well maybe, yes,
partly at you, for getting us into that in the first place and, well, you
screwed up royal on the rescue mission."
Face, you didn't fail. You had bad luck, even the best commanders can have bad luck." Face didn't argue the point.
sat quietly again for a while. The
breeze felt quite cold now and
"Sure." Face said. They set off slowly along the gravel path, leaving behind Stockwell's grave.
why did you come here,
guess the way I feel about him has changed a little."
I always thought, 'forget the judging, you're a mile away and you have
his shoes!'" He grinned.
"Well, I walked a mile in Stockwell's shoes and it made me change my mind about a few things."
"Those shoes didn’t suit you, Colonel." The comment was still a little flippant, but Face said it more quietly, more serious now.
"I know that now." He put his hands in his pockets, shrugging his jacket up on his shoulders. They walked on slowly for a few minutes.
"So what are the things you changed your mind about?" Face asked.
mostly the idea that he started out as an irredeemable bastard."
was lucky. I had good friends, good
advice. Maybe he never had that. Maybe he was on his own."
"And you're a better man than he was." Face said.
"Prove it to who?" Face asked, puzzled. "You know you don’t need to prove anything to us."
Face looked back over his shoulder. Stockwell's headstone was lost among hundreds of others now.
casts a long shadow." Face
said. He turned back to
"Yeah. I guess. Even once he was dead. Like you say, being competitive with a dead man led me to taking that job. Not that I admitted it to myself at the time. I really believed what I was telling myself, about doing good."
never doubted that,
I let them flatter me into taking it, Face.
I let them appeal to my vanity.
They knew exactly how to work me, letting me think they believed I would
be better than him at the job. That
first contact they made, they told me how impressed they were with how I
handled the coup attempt in Qumar. And I just sat there and swallowed that
whole, like it was all down to me. I forgot
there were other people who shared the credit for how things turned
out." He smiled a little and added,
"You for one, Lawrence." Face
grimaced at the '
hasn't all been bad." Face
argued. "We've done some good, made
new friends, because of the things we did as… well as Stockwell's
men." He frowned a little at the
reached the gates of the cemetery.
"You want to get a coffee?" He asked.
They got their coffees and took a window table, overlooking the cemetery gates.
know Murdock's writing a book?"
Face said as they sat down.
"Yeah, he told me. What's it about?"
won't tell me. At
least not the whole thing.
Sometimes he tells me bits of it.
I think it must be sci-fi or fantasy or something, it seems to have a
lot of spaceships and dragons and dinosaurs in it." He shook his head and grinned. "Of course this is Murdock we're talking
about, so it could be a gritty autobiographical account of his time in
like Murdock." They sipped their
coffee, sat in silence for a few moments.
A more comfortable silence than before. The barrier was starting to crumble. Eventually
"I was just thinking about something you mentioned earlier. About 'the old job'." He hesitated, and then, attempting to sound casual, said. "You ever miss it?"
"Sure," Face said. "Well not the getting beaten up, shot at and generally menaced parts, but, you know, the rest…"
"Yeah," Face smiled. "The Jazz."
you go back to it?"
"Are you trying to recruit me, Hannibal?" He sounded amused.
"Would you?" Face asked.
"If I had you guys with me."
Face stared at him. "Really? You'd really go back to it now? At your… uhm, is this some kind of 'die with your boots on' thing?"
also died at the battle of Trafalgar."
"Okay, bad example." Face admitted.
Face. Good example."
get restless too,
"Okay," Face said. Then after a moment he added. "Chasing thugs through the park, huh?" with a sly smile.
else are we qualified for?"
you really think we could go back to it,
"Think we could spring for a quarter page in the Times? It could go something like…ah… 'If you have a problem, if no-one else can help…'" They were both laughing when the waitress brought over their coffees. She smiled at them.
"Nice to see happy customers," she said.
with service this good…" Face said, giving her a smile and a wink. She blushed as she walked away. Face shot his cuffs and straightened his tie,
old Faceman's still got it." He said, smugly. "I didn't even have to tell her I was an
Face said. He looked at
"Yeah, I'm serious."
I'll set something up. Maybe we can go
"That'd be nice. You know I'm away for a couple of weeks though, so make it after that."
"Yeah, he finally got some leave. Come with us if you like."
"Hah! Sleeping on the ground with the bugs and snakes listening to you two talk about military history all night. Gee, I think I'll pass, thanks."
can't you take him somewhere fun?"
Face said. "Like Vegas. He'd love Vegas." When
scratch the surface and every guy is a Vegas kind of guy." Face said.
"And I've seen plenty of Arabs in
"It would work!" Face protested. "It just needs the right Arab. I wonder if I can find my old notes about it," he wondered to himself.
I do it?"
"Er, well, you're not an Arab, Hannibal."
but I'm an actor. A
bit of make up, the costume. And
I've got the accent down," he claimed, laid on the accent and said "I
am sure I could totally fool the infidels." Face looked around nervously in case there
were any Arabs nearby. Thankfully not,
"I'll, uh, call you." Face said.
me how the con goes."
Over by the counter the waitress heard the two men laughing again. It was rare to hear that in here. Their location opposite the cemetery meant they had many customers who just sat and stared off into space, or looked sad, or even cried. It was good to have a couple of happy customers. It was very good to hear that laughter.
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