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A CRY FOR HELP
Rating: PG 13
Summary: Murdock calls for help.
Warnings: Violence. Pain. Angst. Slash. Nothing graphic though.
Disclaimer: Don't own anything related to TAT. Wish I would!
Copyright: Sarah Diaz 2004
Thanks: First to Viskey, who's unbeatable with the plot and Missy, who gives the story, with her magic on the grammar, the last perfection.
Comment: This one is for you Susie! Sadly way too late for your birthday, but I really hope you'll still like it!
A CRY FOR HELP
The phone rang.
Face ignored it.
The phone rang again.
Groaning, Face sighed. Was it really too much ask to have more than two hours of sleep?
The phone rang some more.
"Argh!" Giving in, Face pushed up and reached over to the phone. "This better be good!" he growled into the speaker.
At hearing Murdock's voice Face frowned. He would have
bet it would be
When there was silence at the other end instead of some usual Murdock craziness Face's frown deepened. He was just about to open his mouth when Murdock finally talked. "Sorry Face but - I need you."
Getting worried now Face sat up. "Murdock? Something wrong?"
The bitter laugh coming over the line crept Face out. This was so unlike his zany friend. "Yeah Face. Something's wrong. Something's definitely wrong."
"You hurt?" Face asked worried.
"No… Yes… Not sure. Don't care. Just come get me Face." With these few words his voice had gone from deep, scary sarcasm to utter despair. Oh yeah, there was something terribly wrong and Face was out of his mind with worry.
But now did not seem like the time for questions - he needed to get to Murdock, fast. Already up and dressing hurriedly he tried to speak calmly. "Ok, I'm on my way. Ten minutes and I'm at the VA so…"
He didn't get any further as Murdock interrupted. "No, not at the VA. I'm at the docks. Near 'The Drunken Sailor'." There was a slight pause where he had to gasp. "Hurry Face," he said in a flat, whispered voice that sent fear crawling up Face's skin.
Before Face had a chance to say anything to this startling revelation about Murdock's whereabouts, the line went dead. Cursing, Face slammed the receiver back down, grabbed his gun, some extra ammo, his keys, and ran out to his corvette.
While he was racing through the streets towards the
docks he reached for his car phone to call
"Colonel. Got a call from Murdock. He's in trouble. Said to come get him at the docks," Face blurted out.
"Did he tell you what happened?"
"No. But I think he's hurt. Though I'm not sure about that one. He really sounded off," Face reported.
"We'll see. BA's staying over so we're on our way
in a few minutes. You know where he is exactly?" There was rustling in the
"The Drunken Sailor."
A very short moment of silence was all the indication
Face got that
"About five minutes away."
"Good. Try to find him, but watch out. It may be
Face shook his head. "No
"Probably. But just to be on the safe side…"
"Yeah, ok, I'll be careful," Face said impatiently and hung up.
Exactly four minutes later Face came to a stop in front of The Drunken Sailor. He got out and took a quick look around. The bar was dark, and had already been closed for at least an hour. Only the sounds of the nightlife in a port were heard and the area seemed deserted. Which was for the best: Usually it was hard to find any decent human beings in this part of LA. Just what the hell had Murdock been doing down here?
Discarding the thought for later, he set to the task of finding his best friend. Murdock had told him he was near the bar. Resisting the urge to call out, Face went over to one of the dark allies going around the bar. Slowly he walked past some crates and old cases, closer towards the water. Hand hovering over his gun he searched the dark corners and shadows for his friend.
Coming to an intersection, he chose to leave the alley he had come from to enter an even darker one, trusting that Murdock would stay away from the light as much as possible as he seemed to have wanted to hide from something or someone.
Again he barely suppressed to call out for Murdock. It wouldn't do any good. Face had no idea what was going on. Were there still enemies around? If yes, there was no point in alerting the baddies to his arrival and presence, or to the location of a hurt Murdock.
In the meantime he had reached a nearly pitch dark corner of the alley and suddenly stopped. The hairs on his arms stood up and he knew without a doubt that Murdock was close by, but he couldn't see anything. In the end he decided to whisper into the night after all. "Murdock?"
"Face?" Murdock's frightened voice came almost immediately from his left.
"Yeah," said a relieved Face, and he hurried in the direction of the voice. Coming nearer he could finally make out a slumped figure in the corner of a little niche. A pale face stared at him and Face could hear the thankful sigh Murdock let out at the sight of him.
Murdock dragged himself up, but as soon as he stood on his feet his knees buckled again. If Face hadn't rushed forward and caught him he would have fallen back to the ground.
"God Murdock, what happened to you?" asked Face; deeply shocked by the poor condition Murdock was in while he supported his weight.
"Not now Face," pleaded Murdock with a pained voice.
Face shook his head. "Dammit Murdock, what have you gotten yourself in now?"
"Now? Uh, aren't you confusing me with yourself? I'm the good one from the both of us, remember Muchacho?" This sounded much more like Murdock, if it hadn't been for the subdued voice and the short breaths between the words.
Face shook his head. "Come on. The sooner I get you to a safe place to check on your injuries the better."
When Murdock merely nodded it was only a further hint of how much he seemed to be hurting. Gripping him harder to take even more of Murdock's weight Face started to slowly move back the way he had come. Only after a few steps Murdock signaled him to stop for a moment.
"One of the only time's I wish BA was here," Face muttered while he tried to ease Murdock's struggle even more.
In the blink of an eye Face had turned in the direction of the voice, his gun pointed at chest level. Sure, he had recognized the voice at once, but he still had been too wired and he had reacted instinctively.
BA held up his hands and frowned. "Ya called ta shoot me?"
Face let out a sigh of relief. Good. Finally back-up. He had been so worried about Murdock he hadn't paid much attention to their own security. Hell, he hadn't even heard BA's approach. Stupid.
"Lax Lieutenant, really lax. If I had been Decker
you'd be on your way to
Face frowned at him. "Please
Before Face could say something Murdock laughed, which
turned to a yelp and he clutched his free arm close to his side.
BA stepped up to Face and picked Murdock up gently. Checking him over quickly he growled. "What did ya do Fool?"
Not waiting for an answer, he turned and walked away. Alone again, Face took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment, letting a bit of the tension he had felt since Murdock's call go. There were still a lot questions unanswered, but at least Murdock was under their care now. Safe. Alive. So everything would turn out good. With this last thought he followed his teammates.
Twenty minutes later Face pulled in behind the van
into the parking lot of the building where
When he saw BA lift an unconscious Murdock out of the back of the van he once again cursed himself for not insisting on staying with him. He hurried up to join them. "What happened?"
"He lost consciousness almost immediately after
we had him safe in the van. No wonder. I checked him out a bit. At least four
broken ribs, nasty bruises and lacerations all over and something that looks
like a scratch from a knife. And I'm sure he has a heavy concussion. Just hope
it isn't too serious. Whoever worked him over was intending to beat him to
For a moment Face wasn't able to say anything. He had already guessed that Murdock's injuries were pretty serious, but to hear it in detail made his blood boil. When he got the bastard who had done this he would get a taste of his own medicine. Judging from the dangerous and angry glint in the eyes of his teammates he guessed he would have to fight to be the first in line.
Just how Murdock had been so unsure about if he was hurt at all when he had called was really a mystery to Face.
"You think they know he's still alive?" Face asked.
"I don't know. Judging from the fact that we
found him alone I guess not. For now he's safe, so we better treat his wounds.
Face, you're helping me. BA, guard the door, just to be on the safe side."
Wordlessly, the two men started to wash out the many wounds, disinfect them and then bandage them. It took them a good hour and when they were finally finished the pilot's upper body was almost entirely covered in bandages.
Face nodded. "I'll watch over him for the rest of the night."
Studying his Lieutenant for a moment
Face just nodded again and waited until
He was dying to know what had happened this night. Why had Murdock been at the docks? How did he get out of the VA? Who had put him in this state? Why hadn't Murdock called them sooner for help? For that matter, why hadn't Murdock told him about his plans at all? Why hadn't he asked Face or one of the others for back up? He should know after all that the docks were not a safe place.
Perhaps he had been kidnapped once again? No, it
couldn't be. Face would have gotten wind of it somehow. After the fiasco with
the bounty hunters
Old Willy had been in the VA for much longer than Murdock or most of the other inmates. He functioned pretty well in the safety of the VA, but several attempts to release him showed that the outside just was too much for him. With no relatives who could care for him Dr Richter finally had taken care of getting him admitted permanently. Sure, they still tried to heal him, but after 66 years it wasn't likely to happen.
Having heard his story from Murdock, Face had checked
out Old Willy's files and then had gone to ask him to keep an eye on Murdock.
The old veteran had been delighted to have a mission again after so many years.
To have something important to do. When Face discovered he liked the same
Also, Face had told him to give him a call if Murdock had any run-ins with other inmates or orderlies. As sad as it was, Face had learned that life in the VA wasn't automatically a safe one. In the past more than one orderly had taken advantage of the helpless state the patients were in - or simply enjoyed their position of power a bit too much. And as everywhere in life, where a lot of people were around, bullies could be found in the VA, both within the patients or the people who were supposed to take care of them.
So Face did everything he could to protect Murdock
from this. Though no one knew of his little deal with Old Willy.
Oh, Murdock would understand it, but he wouldn't like it. And though he wasn't easy to insult, he would probably see this as a sign that Face thought that he couldn't take care of himself. Which wasn't true. No matter how innocent and childlike Murdock sometimes could be, Face knew the truth. Like himself, Murdock hadn't been innocent or childlike in a very, very long time.
Sure, the Captain knew how to take care of himself. How to defend himself. Problem was, that to defend himself would sometimes make the situation only worse for him. Neither Murdock nor the team could afford to see him in an isolated cell, or worse, in the ward for the real wackos. In addition to that, Murdock somehow didn't take his own safety and health as important as others did. And jeez, what was wrong with wanting to know the person you loved was safe?
Forcing his musing thoughts away, Face sighed and took off his shoes and socks. After getting rid of his pants too he slipped in next to Murdock, who was still out cold. Gently, Face drew the still body into his arms, and started to soothingly stroke him, ever careful of the bandages.
With a soft voice he started to speak to him in the hopes of getting a rise out of him. "Hey Murdock. Come on, wake up."
"Please Murdock. You don't have to wake up entirely. Just open your eyes for a moment to let us know your head didn't get banged up too badly," Face pleaded.
Still no reaction.
"If you don't wake up I'll go get BA to make you wake up. You don't want that, do you?" Face tried.
Not getting a reaction to this threat either Face tried it again with probing. "If you wake up I promise to get you junk food three times a day for a whole week. Whatever your heart desires. And I promise I won't say a word at all."
He waited to see if his words had any impact, but not even an eyelid wavered. "You know, I heard the Thunderbirds are coming to LA in a few weeks. I could spring you and we'll go see them together."
When there was still no reaction he continued, desperate to get some kind of reaction out of Murdock. To hear that he was fine, considering his injuries. "The fair is in town too then, you know. I think I can manage to get you out for a few days. We'll go see the Birds, visit the fair and for the rest of the days we'll spend together, just the two of us. We'll relax, have fun… make love to each other. Doesn't that sound like a fine plan, Murdock? But first you need to come back to me. Please?"
Sighing and giving in to the pent up worry and fear of the last two hours, Face drew Murdock even closer, hugging him and finally kissed him tenderly onto the lips, letting his desperation and angst pour into that kiss. Closing his eyes, he drew back and laid his head against Murdock's forehead. "Please," he begged.
"You'll never make it a week without saying a word against junk food, Faceman," finally came the longed for response. Murdock's voice was weak and sounded groggy, but definitely like Murdock.
Face's eyes flew open and he drew back to get a better look at Murdock. Tired, brown eyes looked slightly unfocused at him out of a pale face, but with the whisper of a smile at the edge of the corners of the mouth. Relief flooded him and he sent a quick prayer heavenwards. Then he frowned. "If I tell you I'll do it, I'll do it. I'm a man of my word." Pausing a moment he narrowed his eyes. "And when exactly did you wake up?"
Murdock frowned, thinking. "Since your first please," he admitted, sheepishly.
"Aha, and why didn't you say something sooner? Put my poor mind at ease so I can get some sleep myself?" Face questioned, arching an eyebrow up.
"'Cause I wanted to see what I'd get for wakening up," Murdock answered grinning, looking innocently at him.
Face wasn't floored so easily though. "Well, you were cheating. So you'll get nothing."
"Aww come on Face, my man! Pretty please?" Murdock pleaded.
"We'll see." For a moment Face stared into the brown eyes and he grew serious again. "How you're feeling?" Face asked concerned.
Murdock pulled a face. "Like shit warmed over." He paused a moment and closed his eyes. Then he opened them and looked back to Face. "Can I go back to sleep now?"
Face nodded. "Yeah. But you know I've got to wake you up again in a few hours?"
Instead of answering Murdock just nodded shortly, closed his eyes again and curled himself further into the warmth of Face's arms. Silence filled the room, but this time around Face didn't fear it.
Surprised Face looked down at the head snuggled into the crook of his neck. He had thought Murdock was already fast asleep again. "What for?" he whispered back.
"For coming and rescuing me. For taking care of me," Murdock answered quietly without opening his eyes.
"I know. Love ya."
Face smiled, feeling the cold grip around his heart loosening. "Sleep now. You need it."
Laughing quietly, Face whispered a "Night." back.
Murdock was out for almost 24 hours. Face and the others woke him up regularly, but he always went immediately back to an exhausted sleep. Finally, in the morning of the second day, he was able to sit up and stay awake. After he ate he even got back some color into his sunken cheeks. Of course, his bruises had started to shine in many different colors, and he had a monster of a headache, but it was endurable. Barely.
While he drank the last bit of his orange juice
With an inaudible sigh Murdock pushed the tray with
his breakfast away and waited for
Face put the tray away, before he sat down beside Murdock, leaning against the headboard.
Murdock cringed at the clearly unpleased tone of his Colonel. "Sir." Probably not enough. "Sir, I had just left The Drunken Sailor and headed home when I heard noises. Following them I went into the first alley beside the bar. After a few moments I found the source. Three guys were pummeling another, calling him names. They even spat at him. By the time I arrived the man was lying motionless on the ground, and couldn't defend himself anymore. Probably never had a chance. The three were all right out bulls with lots of muscles. And they were in such a rage the poor guy never knew what hit him. So I intervened."
The Captain shrugged. "Not exactly. I got in a few real good punches and kicks. As did they… But ultimately I had luck you know? Turned out that the guy they were trying to beat to death hadn't been alone. A friend had been with him when the bullies attacked them. The friend ran for help. Called the police."
Murdock nodded, careful of his aching head. "Yeah, but don't worry. As soon as the sirens were heard the three dumbbells scurried away. I stayed as long as I could with the unconscious man, and then I left as well."
Face, who had been silent until now, frowned. "Why did you lie to me on the phone?"
"Huh?" Murdock looked at Face confused.
"On the phone. You said you weren't sure if you were hurt. Not even you could dismiss your injuries as 'nothing serious'," Face said, slightly angered at Murdock's carelessness.
A bit embarrassed, Murdock looked down before he locked eyes with Face. "I didn't lie then. It wasn't until a while later that I could make the phone call to you, you know, until the police and ambulance had left again. And I hadn't been hurt then. My body ached in a few places, but that was it."
"Then how ya got so banged up?" BA was the fastest to ask the question they all had in mind.
"You know, I hadn't much time to get far away and I thought it would be better to wait it out. So I waited, saw them load the man into an ambulance, listened to what the friend told them hysterically. Only when the police finally had gone did I dare to come out. I walked to the phone near the bar. While I was talking to Face I saw someone coming. It was just my luck that they were my new friends. Apparently they had thought it best to wait it out themselves," Murdock said and took a short break, shaking his head. He had been careless and hadn't paid enough attention to his surroundings. Very stupid.
"But it was hardly a half hour 'til I got to you!" Face protested, not wanting to believe that they had put Murdock in the state he had been when he had found him.
"They didn't need much time, Face." Murdock sighed. "They were furious to have been interrupted. Furious with me to have stuck my nose into their business, and furious that they couldn't finish the job. Besides, two seemed to be extremely unhappy about their broken noses and ribs they'd gotten, thanks to me. I could withstand them about five minutes before suddenly someone gave me a hard blow to the back of my head and I went down. The friend who had gotten the police had mentioned that some guy had gone after him, but he had managed to loose him. Guess his pursuer had found his friends again. When I woke up I was alone. I dragged myself to the niche where Face found me not long after. The rest you know," Murdock ended his report with a shrug.
Murdock had known these questions would come sooner or later, but damn, he had hoped a miracle would occur and they would forget these minor details. Luck really wasn't with him lately. He shifted uncomfortably. "Well, I just went for a walk," he said evasively.
Murdock sighed. "I snuck away while we were out in the garden."
"You know you're not supposed to go off on your
own. We need you and you can't help us from an isolated cell because you're
deemed as a flight risk,"
Sighing, Murdock nodded and looked down guiltily. Suddenly a thought struck him and he looked up worried. "The VA! What…"
"I took care of it. Somehow your temporary transfer papers got lost," Face said, calming him down.
"Oh, did they? Too bad. And where am I now?" Murdock asked amused, glad that that was taken cared of.
"Checking out your ability to work with hypnosis,
mediums and such ridiculous swindlers at the brand new
"Really? Cool. Thanks Face." Murdock beamed at him and Face smiled in return.
"Let's get back to your little escapade, Captain,
if you don't mind,"
Immediately Murdock sobered and his grin vanished. "Yeah?"
"You should have informed one of us of your plans. Now about The Drunken Sailor."
But Murdock shook his head. "If you don't mind, I'd like to not say it Colonel. It had nothing to do with what happened."
Puzzled, his friends looked at him. Why this secrecy?
"I do mind Captain. Report now,"
Murdock cringed and finally gave up.
"A contact for what?"
"To get me something I'm looking for," Murdock answered, still trying to keep his secret. He had been working on this for weeks and was adamant to not let the effort he had put into it let be for nothing.
"Drop the mystery Captain,"
They were all pretty surprised when Murdock suddenly
glared at him. "Damn
"A present for me? What in the world would you find in a bar like The Drunken Sailor for me?" Face asked, totally surprised. Then he frowned. "Besides, my birthday isn't for at least two months."
Looking at Face, Murdock just shook his head. He would not say another word about the matter.
At this Murdock looked doubtfully at the two in question and raised an eyebrow. "Oh, like the last time perhaps? Then Face knew about his present even before I was able to get my hands on it because you couldn't keep the secret. No, sorry Colonel, but I figured out that this time I need to keep it a secret from everyone in order to be able to surprise Face."
Opening his mouth to protest,
For a moment, Murdock was speechless. That idea had
never occurred to him. "You're right
BA hadn't said much until now, but as soon as
BA nodded. "A'm on my way too then." He turned around and headed for the door but Murdock called him back. "BA?"
Stopping BA looked back. "Yeah?"
"You care!" Murdock accused, smiling.
With a scowl BA shook his head. "Ya wish Fool." Then, he too was gone.
Laughing Murdock turned to Face. "Isn't he just cute?"
Face frowned. "You better not let him hear that or you're out cold another day."
"Not even I am that crazy, Faceman, so don't worry," Murdock replied, still chuckling.
"You better. I've lost enough time off my life with the shock you gave me the other night," Face said seriously.
Surprised Murdock looked at him with wide eyes, feeling guilty all over again. "Sorry Face. I didn't…"
Face held up a hand to silence him. "No Murdock. I understand why you intervened. We all would have. But you still should have taken better care of yourself. If not for yourself, then do it at least for me."
Murdock could tell that Face was dead serious. "I'll try Face."
With a nod Face acknowledged Murdock's promise. He just hoped Murdock would remember it the next time his life was at risk. Taking on three muscles all by himself… Face shook his head. No wonder the guy lived in the VA.
Deep in thought, Face studied his lover, who seemed to
be thinking about the mess his actions had caused. Good. But there was
something else that needed to be cleared up. "So Murdock… why don't you
tell me what you didn't tell
Caught off guard Murdock looked away. "What do you mean?"
Face smiled humorlessly. "Don't even try it."
Murdock sighed. Face knew him too well. "It's nothing, really Face."
Face shook his head. "Give it up Murdock. I heard you on the phone. There was something else and it surely wasn't nothing."
Murdock was silent this time and Face let him have his time, sensing that Murdock was searching for the right words.
Finally Murdock shook his head and looked tiredly at Face. "Those bastards, they were some real bad jerks. Rednecks of the worst kind. I had already noticed them in the bar. Actually a whole bunch of them had been there, at least ten or so. But these three had been the worst. They made bad jokes, groped the poor kid who had to serve them and were right out assholes. It was a relief when the bunch finally left. I didn't stay much longer myself. When I got to the fight I wasn't surprised to see the thugs as some of the jerks from the bar."
"And?" Face asked gently.
Murdock looked away. "The two guys they attacked - they were gay."
Suddenly, everything made a lot more sense to Face. He sighed and gently laid a hand on Murdock's shoulder.
Covering Face's hand with his own Murdock continued. "I heard what the bastards called them. God Face, the only reason why they nearly killed that poor guy was because they couldn't accept that he had different tastes than them."
"Hit too close to home?" Face asked, knowing how such injustices angered his gentle lover.
"Let's just say it didn't help when I saw that their victim was blond. I'd longed to throw my fist into their scornful faces all evening. When I saw what they had done to the poor kid I saw red, Face. I lost control. If the police hadn't shown up I'm not sure if I would have stopped before at least one of them was dead. If I'd had a gun with me, Face I…" Murdock finally admitted. This had haunted him since he had left the crime scene to avoid the police.
With a sigh Face drew Murdock into a tight embrace. "Murdock, please. I know you. You would have snapped out of it in time."
"Not so sure there Face. Seeing the bloody guy lying there, motionless, totally helpless, it reminded me too much of all the crap from earlier. When I fought them, I didn't just fight against those three, but against every bigot I have ever run across in my life. Afterwards, I was so ashamed Face, but not of what I did to them. Or that I really was no better than them. They had no training, were easy targets after all and I went wild on them. No, I was ashamed that I lost control like this. That I let them affect me like this. I had sworn to me that I'd never let some redneck get at me again. That I was over their insults. But it was just a lie," Murdock said sadly.
Face shook his head and looked at him intensely. "You were angry about what they did to an innocent man. Angry at the reason for all the pain of the guy. You probably saved this man's life, and from what I see they deserved what they got. They nearly killed this guy. They nearly killed you. Don't even think to beat yourself up over some scumbags like them. They're not worth it."
"But will it ever end Face? When we got together it was never a question that we had to hide our relationship. But today people are supposed to be more tolerant. So that guys like us are supposed to be safe when they go out into the street openly. Yet, two guys were nearly killed last night. I'm just so sick of it," Murdock admitted.
"It did get better. Your recent experience just makes you blind to it right now. I don't think it's perfect, but then, nothing is perfect. Just think about the guy you saved. He and his friend can make sure their attackers will pay for their crime. Something that hadn't always been a matter of course." Face tried to comfort Murdock.
When Murdock just nodded Face drew back a bit. "Hey, about this present…"
"No Face," Murdock said with a slight smile.
"No Face," Murdock repeated, shaking his head.
"No Face, you won't get it out of me." Murdock still stayed firm, laughing.
Face looked at him with his best pleading baby blue eyes look. Murdock just gave him an unyielding look and shook his head no.
Now Face frowned. "Fine. You know, I don't think I'll get any tickets for the Birds anymore. You know best how soon they sell out."
Unaffected by this threat Murdock gave him a look of his own. "You should know by now that blackmailing me will just backfire."
"There's a first time for everything," Face contradicted optimistically.
"Uh uh Face. Not with me. I know you too good to not get back at you. So now Face, if I remember correctly you promised me a week of junk food three times a day. This breakfast was disgustingly healthy," Murdock informed him.
Face snorted. "Just wanted to wait until we knew for sure you would keep it down. I'd hate to waste even more of my money."
Triumphantly, Murdock held up a finger. "AHA! See, told you you'd never make it a week without saying something against junk food. You didn't even last five minutes!"
"I didn't say anything!" Face protested.
"You said 'waste even more'. That implies it's a waste of money in the first place, which in return is an insult against junk food," Murdock corrected.
"That's splitting hairs. If you want to, you can see an insult in anything I say," Face further pleaded his innocence.
"You're the one talking about splitting hairs?!" Murdock said laughingly.
"I'm just always careful to be as exact as possible," Face defended himself, happy to see the familiar sparkle he loved so much back in his lover's eyes. Though he knew Murdock still needed time to get over what had happened. And to be honest, Face would need some time to get over the shock as well.
But as long as they were together they'd get each other through it like all the other crises' they had to overcome in their long relationship. But first he had a new mystery to solve. "So Murdock, you said you met someone in the bar. Was she nice?"
"Try again. That was really lame Face," Murdock replied dryly. Boy, the next two months would be long. 'But definitely fun,' he thought chuckling.
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