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About Face And Final Farewells
Pairing: Face/Murdock….but nothing graphic
Summary: Final part of my About Face series in which Templeton struggles to find justice and happiness in a world where things are just not fair!
Warnings/Content: Contains male/male relationship plus attempted rape and drug abuse. While I strongly believe that tolerance is vital and diversity should be embraced and valued if we are all to survive on this little planet, unfortunately some of my characters do not – their views are their own and a reflection of some of the attitudes that sadly still persevere in some places. Also some full-bodied soldier type language.
Author’s Notes: In a thread on the message board at the A team Shrine, I read that George, T, Dwight and Dirk have been quoted as saying they didn’t want the Team to end with a whimper but rather a big violent bang. So this is my attempt at that – handkerchiefs may be useful in the latter stages.
Also I have no experience of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Thank God!) and though I have researched a little, I am aware I have taken great liberties. Please accept these as plot necessities and not as unquestionable truth – this is the A Team world after all!
Disclaimer: I do not own the A-Team characters and am making no profit from this story, which is a work of fan fiction only.
Thanks to all who have read and commented on the rest of the series. Your input makes it all worthwhile!!!
ABOUT FACE AND FINAL FAREWELLS
The stark astringent smell of disinfectant caused his nostrils to flare widely but the boy did not notice; he was too busy trying to fight his way out of the grasp of the persistent hands that held him and pulled him through the door. His resistance was ineffective as relentlessly he was moved into the shower area.
Wide eyed with fear, the boy looked about himself. Hopes of rescue skittering through his head – how long before the guards did a round; surely somebody else would come, could he delay his assailants long enough? But deep inside he despaired; what these violent men had in mind would not take long, although its enactment would surely destroy his life. No one would come and even if they did they dare not interfere. He struggled again, letting the blind panic rush through him; it brought new strength to his wiry, juvenile form. But all it earned him, however, was a further cuff across the head which caused his eyes to water and his vision to shimmer sickeningly.
“Robby, Robby, Robby, I told you that smart mouth of yours gonna get you into trouble!” A voice hissed close to his ear as a further blow caused him to slow his struggling. “You little piece of white shit! You didn’t follow the rules did you? Step out of line in a place like this and you have to pay. We all been real patient with you but now you are gonna get punished, big time.”
The boy felt his arms pinned painfully behind his back. He tried wriggling desperately but there was nothing he could do, he could not stop the overwhelming force pushing him down to his knees, down to the clinically clean white tiles of the shower floor and down to despair. He growled and bucked as he felt other hands, coming
from behind him, fingering along his waist, working to undo his belt and pants.
Inside he screamed – this could not be happening to him! He knew he took risks, he knew that there had always been a chance he would piss somebody off enough that they would take vengeance out on him and with a pretty face like his and a hot body, this sort of punishment had always been on the cards. But he had carried on regardless, choosing to ignore it, forcing away the fear that this would happen because he knew deep down it was too terrifying for him to contemplate the brutal truth; he feared he could not survive such violation; that it would shatter his voluble but brittle confidence to useless pieces. Nothing in his life before ever had come close to frightening him like this – not his bruised and battering childhood nor his time on the streets, not even his arrests and trips through juvenile hall that had finally lead to this stretch in a proper adult prison. Call it luck or call it skill, he had managed to steer a course dangerously but invigoratingly close to the edge but never over it. He had kept himself safe, in tact, pure even, in a strange sort of way. Now he was out of control and so far over the brink he was hurtling downwards into the abyss.
Robby let out a desperate groan. He was beaten and scared; the fight had left him. He closed his eyes, head bowed on to the tiles, ass exposed as his pants were pulled down low over his hips. He whimpered, shivering in desolation. He was going to suffer whatever they wanted, powerless and alone, in a prison shower, his worse nightmare was about to become vicious, agonised experience.
The kid felt the arms that held him stiffen a little and then they relaxed noticeably. He gulped, trying to make his ears hear over the cruel chattering of his shuddering teeth and his hammering heart. There was shuffling around him as his attackers turned to look towards the door at the owner of this new voice. The boy could not turn as a well-placed knee in the small of his back held him motionless but he recognised the slight whining tone of the newcomer and a small seed of hope germinated deep within.
“Do you mind doing this somewhere else?” The voice drawled. “Only I just finished cleaning here and I haven’t really got the time to do it all again when you’re done. I mean blood and semen make such a mess and it’s so hard to get out of the cracks – ruins the grouting!”
“And you’d know, Peck!” came the voice of the man to the boy’s left. It was dripping with scorn and simmering anger.
“Well yeah, I would actually!” The response was bland but fearless and Robby took a shred of strength from it.
“Quite the celebrity fucken janitor, aren’t you?”
Robby felt the hands tighten around him once more as the knee in his back moved away. He was picked up and pulled to the side, to be held firmly against the wall, the pipe from the shower pressing painfully into his back. He blinked his eyes to still his wavy vision and the scene settled into focus around him.
He was being held by Leroy and Ali, one on his left, one his right. Their hands were digging into the flesh of his forearms but their attention was concentrated, like his, on the action in front of them. Standing arrogantly there was Rumba; the leader of this particular pack of wolves. His eyes were flashing their anger and Robby sensed the promise of physical action as the big brute’s muscles flexed dangerously beneath his ebony skin. Flanking him were Tolly and Terps, his faithful guard dogs, both proudly sporting the prohibited red bandanas decorated with a black dog shape around their left biceps that pronounced them as members of their gang - the Brotherhood of the Black Coyotes. Robby looked past these brainless lumps of testosteronely charged tarmacadam to the door where a very different figure stood.
Templeton Peck was leaning languidly on the handle of his mop. He was dressed in prison fatigues like everyone else except on him they appeared perfectly cut and tailored as if made especially for him. In fact he had the air of someone who had just attended a star-studded Hollywood premier, not finished cleaning a prison bathroom! His silver flecked hair was perfectly precise around handsome, mature features, the lines of which were now slightly more pronounced as they crumpled in irritation. His blue eyes were shining brilliantly with an emotion that Robby found it hard to identify.
Peck sighed deeply. “Look, I don’t want any trouble,” he began, stepping forward with a sureness that contradicted his words.
“Then you should keep your big mouth shut!” Rumba snapped bristling with threat and moving closer to Peck. “Since you butted in maybe we should make use of your snow white ass as well as the little shit! I hear you take it pretty well for an old queer!”
Rumba moved menacingly forward, his hands coming up and contracting into fists as his eyes fixed on his foe. So fixed were they in fact that he lurched straight on to the end of the mop that Peck was suddenly wielding in front of him like a medieval pikeman! Rumba let out a yelp of surprise which soon deepened into a growl of pain as Peck continued to ram his weapon deep into the soft underbelly area.
There were gasps of surprise and Robby felt the arms around him loosen, giving him the chance he needed. In one fluid motion he slipped loose, threw a blow into Leroy’s wobbly gut, pulled up his pants and then turned to take on Ali who was still static with shock over the unforeseen turn of events.
It was a bloody but quick fight. After jamming the mop into Rumba, Peck moved with lightening speed that belied his age, taking out Tolly with quick but well-placed blows to his head and Terps with a precise knee to his privates. Robby landed a few blows on Ali who, once released from his surprise, fought back well, bloodying Robby’s nose before the younger man could land a final conscious-shattering fist to Ali’s head sending him crashing to the floor, blood running to join that from the others to create an ensanguined river of red meandering lazily along the once pristine drain. Robby fell to his knees, his hand trying impotently to dab away the blood that was erupting from his nose. He gulped in breaths as his sweating body sought to relax following its gruesome experience and his foggy brain looked for explanation.
“Shit,” he heard Peck mutter. “I knew I’d end up having to clean this place again!”
He smirked then and turned to see Peck was in a similar position to him; on his knees, hands pressed firmly to ease the pain from the blows he had taken to his belly and back, his forehead resting on the tiles. As Robby watched Peck spat out a mouthful of blood and groaned. “Not another cap gone!” he whined. “And no decent dentist is sight!”
“You all right, Peck?” Robby asked.
Bright eyes lifted to meet his then and a bruised face cracked into a beautiful but bloody smile. “Sure,” Peck ran his hand along his mouth to dab at the blood leaking from his split lip. “And you kid?”
Robby nodded. “Fine. Why’d you help me?” he asked.
Peck sighed and slowly eased his throbbing body up and around so he was sitting perched on the lip of the showers. He raised his hands expansively. “I hate it when people dirty what I just cleaned up!” he said with feigned dejection.
Robby shook his head and looked around at the destruction around them. “Gonna be in trouble,” he said wistfully.
Peck sighed again. “I guess,” he agreed, slowly climbing to his feet and reaching out a supportive hand toward Robby. “Won’t be the first time!”
“What the hell is going on, Peck?”
“Fell out of bed.”
“You fell out of bed! And you Blake?”
“I tripped in the shower.”
The warden threw his hands in the air with frustration. “What is it with everybody’s balance these days? You both know the rules; at Folsom State Prison violence is unacceptable and I hold you both personally responsible for your actions.” He shook his head. “How long before your parole, Peck?”
“You know if your part in this incident is reported, your parole could be revoked?”
For the first time Peck’s eyes came down from the point on the wall behind the warden that they had found so interesting and looked straight at the figure of authority. “Bit harsh for falling out of bed,” he mused. Blake could not completely stifle his chuckle.
The warden sighed, threw his pen on to the desk in front of him and steepled his hands. He took on the aspect of a long-suffering and frustrated schoolmaster. “I have five men in the infirmary, one who is going to have to be air-lifted to ER because he has a ruptured spleen, caused by a mop handle of all things. All of them known members of the Black Coyotes,” His voice was tired. “And you two white boys look like you’ve gone twelve rounds with Clubber Lang!”
“Clubber who?” Robby asked innocently.
The warden shook his head and ignored Peck’s smirk as he breathed. “Never mind.” He glared at the two prisoners before him; Peck stood to perfect attention but Blake was slouched with the confidence of disrespect. “I hope I don’t have the start of a race war here, do I boys?”
There was a long deep silence then, punctuated only by the sounds filtering through the office’s open window from the exercise yard beyond; somebody was whistling out of tune, the burble of quiet conversations and every so often the thumping bounce of a ball as an impromptu game of basketball ensued. A loud cheer obviously brought about by the end of the game seemed to bring the warden back to the present.
“Am I wasting my time here?” he asked. “Peck?”
“I fell out of bed.”
“I slipped in the shower.”
The warden sighed again. “Very well,” he said. “Blake, get out of here – all your privileges are suspended for four weeks! My men will be watching you very closely.”
After the younger man had left, the warden stood up and moved around the desk. Peck remained resolutely motionless, eyes back to the spot on the wall, his body comfortable in this pose from long ago.
“I thought we had a deal, Peck, remember?” the warden sniffed from behind him.
“You’ve got nine days to go, just nine lousy days and then you’re out of my hair!” Peck rolled his eyes but decided not to mention the warden’s shining, bald palate at this particular moment. “When I was told you were coming here, I knew you’d be trouble.” The warden continued. “I read your file,” he indicated the dog-eared taupe coloured folder that was so stuffed full of documentation it bulged corpulently on the desk in front of him.
“Gee,” Peck whistled through his teeth. “Haven’t they computerised that stuff yet? You should be careful it looks heavy – you don’t want to put your back out lifting it!”
“Shut it!” The warden spat allowing his normally well controlled anger to get the upper hand for an unguarded moment. He let out a long breath, forced himself to relax and moved back to slump wearily into his chair. “What the hell are you doing, Peck?” he asked finally. “Nine days isn’t long, not long to keep your nose clean. Hell, you’ve managed well over three months already. Nine days left out of a 120 day sentence. Why jeopardise it all and over a selfish piece of trash like Robby Blake. Man, he wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire unless you could prove a direct advantage for him. You are too old for this man!”
The piece of wall was infinitely interesting to Peck once more and he continued to stare at it as the thought ran around his head that he had been chewed out by better men than this. And only one had had enough style and charisma to get him to change his ways. The warden, though he meant well and Peck had found him to be an honest caring man, was no-where close!
“You’re a fool, Peck. You are never gonna beat the system – it eats you up and spits you out. The time for lone mavericks like you is long gone; give it up. Tell me what really happened in the shower and I can fill this damn form in, not mention your involvement and we can all forget about I – in nine days you’ll be out of here forever!” The warden was holding his pen poised over the paper hopefully.
Peck bit his lip as if considering the proposal. “Something happened in the shower?” he said finally. “Damn! I’d just cleaned in there as well!”
The warden snorted in annoyance. His eyes were suddenly hard. “I wouldn’t be so sure I was getting out in nine days, Peck, if I were you – I’m going to have to consider whether I put in a recommendation for your parole to be revoked. And furthermore, to aid me in my decision, I am sending you for psychiatric evaluation – there must be something wrong with your head!”
“My head?” Peck repeated looking worried. “Must have been when I fell out of bed. Jeez, do you think I should sue the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation?”
“Get out!” the warden spat jadedly.
Peck turned to leave but then hesitated and turned back to the man who was now sitting with his elbows on the desk, head in hands. “You know,” he drawled. The warden lifted red rimmed eyes with just a hint of hope back up to look at Peck. “Between you and me, I don’t think you should make any deals with people in here – didn’t they teach you that at prison management school? You’ll only be disappointed in the end – there are some real conmen in here, you know!”
The warden snorted and shook his head slowly. “Get out!” he repeated even more wearily than before. As the door slammed disrespectfully loud behind the retreating prisoner, he looked at the incident form on his desk, sighed and began to fill it in.
“What do you mean your parole might be revoked?” Murdock pouted. “I got the party organised, I baked the cake, I…”
“It’s given for good behaviour,” Peck cut across his rant impatiently.
Murdock blinked. “And?”
“I guess I’ve been a bad boy,” Peck informed him, finding himself unable to meet the other man’s hurt stare. He sighed, looked down at his hands, fiddled nervously but he sensed Murdock still had him skewered by soulful eyes, so he continued. “There was a fight in the showers….”
“I didn’t start it!”
“But you sure finished it!”
Peck looked up then, his eyes wide and beseeching, his tongue ran across his lips nervously and Murdock felt the familiar melting sensation deep inside that was always a direct result of being skewered by those searching blue eyes. “There was some kid,” Peck perceived it too and, never one to miss an opportunity, pressed home his advantage. “They were gonna…. with him and in the showers too. You know that’s a sore point with me. Anyway he’s OK – didn’t deserve that for sure. Maybe if somebody had just taken the time to give him a little support, a little friendship, he would have never gotten in here in the first place. You know what I mean.”
Murdock regarded his friend, eyes sparking with empathy. – how could he stay angry with this man for long? “Face,” he said softly. “You can’t save all the little, lost orphans in the world.”
“It wasn’t right, Murdock,” Peck said softly. “I couldn’t let it happen; not when I could stop it.” He shivered and Murdock knew he was remembering other times from his long gone youth when he had suffered similarly and there had been no-one to step in and save him.
Murdock gulped and reached out to take hold of Peck’s hands where they rested on the table. “I know, babe,” he whispered softly. “So you put yourself on the line. I wouldn’t expect anything less from you but where does it leave me? I’m hanging by a thread here. I need you now, Face. I don’t know if I can wait another month. Sometimes I think I should rob a bank just to get in here, so I could be with you!”
Peck smiled sadly. “Or a train.”
“Shush! I’m through that phase now,” Murdock replied. “I haven’t watched Butch and Sundance for over two weeks now.” He snorted. “Got to admit, still got a tiny, weenie craving though!”
Peck squeezed the other man’s hands tightly. “I got a massive, all-engulfing craving,” he disclosed with a lusty sigh.
They were silent for a while, neither being able to find anything to say since Peck had voiced the real issue between them. A guard ambled past, hesitated but said nothing as he moved away.
With a sad smile Peck withdrew his hands and began to fiddle with the collar of his denim shirt. “Anyway I need a few tips,” he said finally.
Murdock cocked his head in interest. “On what?”
“Warden has recommended me for a psyche assessment. No doubt it’ll be by some bald, sweaty old man in a grey suit!”
“You; a psyche assessment!” Murdock howled so loudly he drew the attention of the other occupants of the room, who paused in their murmured conversations to regard the leather jacketed man curiously. “About time too!” He continued more quietly after having noted Peck’s warning look. “Man, I have said you’ve been madder than me for years!”
“So what do I do?”
“What do you mean, what do I do?”
“How do I play it, what line do I take? The warden’s gonna use the conclusions to decide about my parole revocation.”
Murdock smirked and sat back in his rickety chair. “Well, I just don’t believe it! Ultra cool, ultra confident Faceman wouldn’t be asking the advice of little old me about running a con, would he?”
“Come on, Murdock!” Peck said. “You’ve had more experience than me in this sort of thing. I don’t want to say anything that might be misconstrued, that they might take the wrong way.” He was fidgeting nervously.
Murdock smiled imperiously. “Just what are you afraid of Face? That you might turn out to be as nutty as a Snickers bar?”
“Of course not!” Peck snapped back too quickly. “It’s just… it’s just….” He stopped, eyes wide, panicked even.
Murdock hesitated, regarded him, noting the consternation in the other, worrying about its source – why should Face be so freaked out by a simple psyche assessment? Hell, Murdock could do them standing on his head, with his fingers in his ears watching Woody Woodpecker! But then again he had had years of practise whereas Face had not. Face, in fact, had been very careful down the years to ensure he was never in a position where he would have to reveal any intimate thing that he did not want to. Murdock rated himself as most fortunate to be taken into that very tightly controlled confidence; he was Face’s best friend as well as his lover. They had known each other for thirty years and if Face had come to understand the nuances of Murdock’s particular psyche it was true to say that the talent was reciprocated. Nobody knew Face as well as Murdock did and nobody had been allowed to get so close to the conman as the pilot had. Nobody had seen the vulnerable interior hidden so deep below the brash shallow, beautiful packing, not like Murdock had. He knew how Peck reacted, how he coped, how he avoided and ignored his emotion, fighting to appear shallow and bland so that no one would bother to look deeper. Always Murdock could sense his friend’s disquiet and his fears. Sitting in the visiting area of this prison he sensed them loud and clear.
“The dreams,” he said softly. “You’re dreaming again.”
Peck shuddered as if he’d been physically struck. Not knowing how to respond to the exposure of a perceived weakness except as he always had, he lied. “No, I’m not.” Murdock snorted dismissively, so Peck continued. “I just don’t want somebody delving into my past,” he chuckled, the sound so brittle it did nothing to hide his discomfort. “I’m a private sort of guy.”
“Tell me, Face,” Murdock said firmly. “What is it? What are you hiding this time? What are you afraid of?”
Peck shook his head. He opened his mouth to talk, closed it again. “What if ….” He began but the discordant ring of the bell that signalled the end of visiting interrupted his words and he stopped, unable to subdue a sigh of relief. “God is it two thirty already?” the metallic chuckle was back, along with the superficial smile. “Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?”
Murdock regarded him with a pained expression. “You were always one blessed son of a bitch, Templeton Peck,” he muttered. “If we’re talking clichés how about; saved by the bell!”
Peck stood up. “I gotta go Murdock,” he said softly, brushing his hands down his pants to extenuate the non- existence creases there.
Murdock nodded. “You look after yourself, pal. No more fighting – I want you back with me real soon. And we got to talk properly.” He stood and reached across to run his hand down Peck’s bruised cheek. “You are too pretty for prison,” he said.
Peck smiled bravely. “Lucky that I’m too clever then too!”
“I mean it, Face.” Murdock was serious. “Don’t upset anybody else. And tell the shrink the truth – maybe he’ll be able to help you. Dr Richter is one of the best friends I ever had.”
Peck snorted and rolled his eyes sceptically. “See you,” he said softly and then he moved away to join the line waiting to go back into the main building. Murdock watched him minutely, his eyes drinking in every second as he always did at this point. He was filling his memory with a vision; a vision he prayed would sustain him through the long, lonely days to come. “See you too, buddy,” he whispered softly. “Look after yourself.”
As the prisoners made their way through the mess area, Peck felt a presence too close behind him.
“Peck!” a voice hissed in his ear. “You screwed up in the showers big time. You may think you’re important cos you’ve had your pathetic face on the front of a few papers but you are nothing in here. From the ‘A team’ to the ‘gay team’, nothing except a sad old ass bandit and the brothers are gonna make you pay!”
The fist was hard and perfectly placed into Peck’s kidneys. He let out a long groan that started in surprise but ended in pain as his legs crumpled and he fell to his knees.
“Special Forces trained you might be but that was a long time ago. You’re old and slow now and you can’t watch your back forever. You know how it works, you know there is an order in this place – you know the rules, man! Step outside of ‘em, defy the Brotherhood and you will be punished!”
A fist smashed into the side of Peck’s face. His closing eyes noted the flash of violent red on black as he fell forward onto the cold stone floor as unconsciousness took him.
“Do you fall out of bed often?”
Peck let out a lecherous chuckle. “I normally prefer to fall ‘in’ bed,” he replied. “Especially with a beautiful woman!”
Judy Bowcott regarded him with eyebrows raised. It was a hot day and the warm breeze was blowing into the small cramped room in which they sat. How she longed for a little A/C, a fan even but such luxuries were off limits – this was a prison after all!
The real reason she felt hot and stifled was her complete lack of progress with her newest interviewee. It never ceased to amaze her that such sexist dinosaurs continued to exist in the world. God this guy had gotten stuck in the 1980s somehow and all the subsequent progress of the feminist movement seemed to have past him by. It was a shame really because physically he had been a very attractive man, and she could see that he had aged well too, but every time he opened his mouth he uttered a totally un-politically correct statement. How arrogant of him to think that she would in any way be interested in a lecherous old fool like him!
She had suspected it when she had read through his files previously, her reservations had only increased when she saw the knowing light twinkle in his eye as she had entered the room earlier. And ever since then, every single answer to her questions had been steeped in double entendre and sexual undercurrent. She regarded him now, keeping her voice studiously neutral and wondered if he had any notion of just how pathetic she found him!
She guessed not, from the continuing twinkle in his eyes, to the over-confident smile of his lips – he seemed to be enjoying himself. She bit down the urge to vomit and schooled herself that she should be professional about this. So the guy was an asshole; most of them were, that shouldn’t interfere with her job; she was here to do a psychological assessment and that’s what she would do! Still he wasn’t making it any easier for her by a full on flirting technique which may have worked on her mother twenty years ago but was not appreciated by Judy in the twenty first century.
She jotted down a few notes, more to delay the next question and his ribald response to it than from any need to express her thoughts on paper.
“I didn’t realise they let pretty ladies like you in to do stuff like this,” he said.
She stifled down the cringe his words had brought her, forcing away the bitter retort that sparked in her brain about not being a lady and why should her physical appearance influence which job she chose to do, instead she made herself respond calmly. “Why would you think that?”
“Well,” he said leaning forward, his eyebrows scrunching suggestively. “There are a lot of men starved of a woman’s company in here. Being alone with a beautiful girl like you, who knows where a man’s sex drive might take him? And her?”
She fixed him with a stern stare, wondering if this wasn’t all some big joke, was this guy setting her up? But she could detect no irony in him, he seemed completely sincere. “I am a black belt in karate; I can handle myself,” she said. “Besides, there is a guard just outside the door, and he could hear my scream.”
“Black belt,” he repeated nodding, seemingly impressed. “He would hear your scream but would he hear your moans of passion and ecstasy?” His eyebrows went skywards once more.
She stared at him eyes wide as the scarlet anger raged through her. She had been hanging on to her temper all afternoon but now she could control it no longer. She did not care, she had heard enough. “What did you say?” she growled.
“Oh come on, dear,” he said. “I saw the way you looked at me when you walked in. You have been sending me the signs all afternoon and like every good soldier I am famed for reading signals. I’m a celebrity, a star – I can tell that you want it from me, and I am more than willing to deliver. You come flouncing in here, wearing next to nothing, flicking your long blonde hair at me and blinking those eyes. Hell darling, I’m a man not a monk!”
She stood up in a rush of fury, the scrape of the chair on the floor a discordant accompaniment to the anger that flashed through her. “How dare you!” she spat. “You arrogant, conceited neandethal! Do you have any idea of how stupid you sound!”
“Come on girl,” Peck was standing too. “I know you want it!”
“Guard!” Judy shouted. “Guard!”
The door swung open and the guard, Jeffers, stuck his head round the door. “Can I help you any, Miss?” he asked.
Judy threw her notes into her briefcase and thundered towards the door. “You sexist prick!” she shouted over her shoulder at Peck as she retreated. “What century do you live in – dinosaur!”
Peck rolled his eyes and sat back down again. Jeffers chuckled. “I thought you were supposed to be a ladies’ man,” he said.
“Officer, you weren’t listening at the door were you?” Peck said in mock indignation.
“That’s my job,” Jeffers pulled two cigars out of his pocket and offered one to Peck. “Got to protect the psychologists from sexual predator inmates like you!”
“Arrh, don’t mind if I do,” Peck breathed accepting the cigar. “Although I hope this isn’t a violation of policy that the warden will take into account when he considers my parole.” He nodded toward the ‘no smoking’ sign that silently shouted from the wall above the door.
“Damn stupid policy!” Jeffers shook his head. “Reckon I owe you one, Peck. You’re a brave man, coming out with that stuff in this day and age,” Jeffers said as he leaned across to light it. “Haven’t had such a laugh in a long while – you got her underwear in some mighty twist, serves her right with such high and mighty ideas! ”
Peck blew out a mouthful of smoke, his face beaming with an appreciating smile. “I did, didn’t I? Fair play though she held on to her professional detachment longer than I thought she would. There was a point when I thought she realised that I wasn’t being entirely serious but then her sense of humour seemed to self destruct and she was fair game. I guess I feel a little sorry for her, though.”
Jeffers chortled. “Don’t reckon she’ll be coming to follow-up her assessment real soon!”
Peck raised his cigar. “Colonel Hannibal Smith I salute you!” he said. “You taught me that attack is sometimes the best form of defence!”
Jeffers hooted. “Ain’t it the other way round?”
“Not in my case,” Peck replied. “Certainly not in my case. Now, may I be allowed to return to my cell. If I am not very much mistaken I am due a new copy of my favourite publication – Feminism Today and I really do like to read it as soon as I can!”
Jeffers guffawed. “You’re always entertaining, Peck, good value!” he said as he moved to open the door. “Gonna miss you when they let you out. They don’t make ‘em like you any more!”
“You did the right thing, kid,” Hannibal’s familiar voice came from close by and if Peck closed his eyes he could see the grey haired man beaming beside him. “You can’t give anything away, not about me. People like psychologists would not understand, trust me on this.”
Peck drew in a long breath. “I just didn’t like giving her a hard time – she must have thought I was such a jerk.”
“Doesn’t matter, Face. You achieved what we needed, kept our secret safe.”
Peck was sitting on his bed, taking advantage of the time to reflect on what had happened and to try to assess what he needed to do. He had been in Folsom State Prison for the last 118 days. As he had been quick to inform the warden, the day of the fight in the showers, he had had only nine days left of the sentence the Parole Revocation Hearing had given him, following his arrest after he turned himself in the day after the Christening.
He let his mind wonder back to the day when the hearing panel had decided there was ‘a preponderance level of evidence to show good cause that he, Templeton Peck, had violated a condition of parole’. He had been lucky; his attorney had informed him that he could have been returned to custody for 12 months. But on hearing the Board proclaim his sentence of 120 days, Peck had felt his stomach lurch and his resolve weaken. One hundred and twenty days in a penal institution, one hundred and twenty days denied his freedom, one hundred and twenty days at the mercy of the authorities and the inmates but worse of all one hundred and twenty days without Murdock! He had suddenly felt very weak and cursed himself for turning himself in.
But the lack of belief had not lasted long. Peck had survived thus far by taking all that life had to throw at him and enduring it. He was not about to change that strategy now. He was streetwise and clever; he knew he could survive the time if he applied himself appropriately and so that was precisely what he had done. In the first 111 days he had played the game, keeping his nose clean, biting back the wise retorts that threatened to spring from his mouth, and fighting but only when he was forced to in order to prove his reputation was well-earned and to make the point he was off limits to anyone that might come sniffing. He had worked hard at keeping out of the power politics of the gangs that unofficially ran the prison. He had, as he had promised the warden, been a model prisoner and when he came before the Parole Hearing the Board had little option but to agree his return to society after his sentence was served.
But that had changed when he had made the decision to go up against the Black Coyotes in the shower. He had done it secure in the knowledge that in lifting his head above the parapet he was risking a lot more than just a simple beating and that had proved to be the case. Now his parole was in doubt and he had come to the notice of the black brotherhood, things were going to get exciting!
Still, as he had told Murdock, he did not regret his actions. Robby Blake was a smart-assed, over-confident kid sure, but Peck didn’t see that as a problem. In fact Peck saw definite potential in the boy and even if he hadn’t, put in the same situation again he would make the same choice. Hell that was what he did – what the Colonel had taught him!
He did, however, regret his behaviour with Judy Bowcott. Deep down he had always wanted to be loved, with a natural desire to please especially where women were concerned. He still remembered the look of sheer hatred she had thrown at him as she exited the room and it crucified him. He wished it hadn’t been necessary to behave in that way but he had simply been defending himself. Through his prison sentence, in his times of extreme loneliness and doubt, he had begun to hear Hannibal more and more. What had first manifested itself under the influence of Lorelei’s drugs had become a daily occurrence. A habit that Peck had begun to cling to so desperately that he refused to contemplate it further. For him it was simple; Hannibal was with him, he embodied the strength that Peck could not find in himself, he supported him, he got him through and it was enough.
But deep inside Peck worried about the phenomenon and feared its exposure. That was why he had been so unnerved by the thought of a psychological assessment and why he had behaved in the way he had to Ms Bowcott. Sure enough it had worked; she had never even gotten close to peeling away his layers of mystery, choosing to see only the shallowness he served up for her. And Hannibal remained with him, undetected and giving him the strength to survive. But it was a dangerous place to be; the dreams were back and Peck knew he often woke his cellmate as he thrashed about in the darkness. It was only a matter of time before somebody discovered his secret.
“For how long?” he voiced his worry now. “You’re dead and gone, Hannibal! I shouldn’t be able to see you, talk to you…”
“Who are you talking to?” Robby Blake’s handsome face was puzzled as he hovered on the lip of the entrance to Peck’s cell.
Goddamn it! Peck cursed himself – all that time and energy trying to keep it secret and he revealed it by simply not keeping his defences up. Jesus, how the hell could he be so stupid? Pushing the panic away he forced his features into its usual mundane mask.
“What?” feigning innocence came naturally to Peck as he indicated that the boy should enter.
Hands thrust nonchalantly in his pockets Blake stepped inside. “You were talking to somebody,” he pressed.
Blake shrugged, looked around the empty cell suspiciously. “Guess it must be voices from outside,” he said uncertainly.
Peck nodded. “There’s always somebody talking in this goddamn overcrowded place.”
Blake smirked. “I blame all those damn parole jumpers that they drag back here to take up the space us proper criminals should have.”
Peck rolled his eyes. “Well I’ll give up the space I’m taking up in here anytime for a ‘proper’ criminal, no sweat!”
“Wouldn’t we all?” Blake laughed. “How you doing, man? You heard about your parole yet?”
“Nope, but I’m a firm believer in being positive – no news is good news.” Peck frowned slightly. “Hope they tell me soon though – I got such a lot to pack!”
“I’m sorry, Peck,” Blake’s eyes were wide. “I didn’t mean to screw it up for you. I still don’t see why you did it and don’t give me that bullshit about your cleaning!”
Peck snorted. “Let’s just say that I know how you felt; I’ve been to that place, Robby. It’s not a good place to be and I wouldn’t want anyone to suffer it if I could stop it.”
“You’re quite a guy, Peck. Is it true what they say about you being some sort of vigilante?”
Peck smiled. “Hell no – you know what crap gets around in prison. I’m just a conman who ran one too many cons. Never meant to end up here but looking back I guess here is the only place I was bound to end up.”
Blake looked uncomfortable but nervously licking his lips, he asked, “That guy that comes to visit you. Is he… is he your partner?”
“Why do you ask?” Peck snorted and ran his hand through his hair; he really didn’t want to discuss this at anytime but especially not now. His eyes were burningly intense as he gazed at the younger man shuffling nervously before him. “I didn’t help you in the shower so I could have your pretty ass instead of the Coyotes if that’s what is worrying you, Robby.”
“No,” Blake answered too effusively. Then he shrugged and forced indifference into every part of his body. “I’m not worried about that and it’s none of my business, I know. I’m just trying to understand.”
Peck blinked as he looked away. Blake controlled the shudder that threatened to flash through him as if the temperature was suddenly chilled by ten degrees. “There’s nothing to understand,” Peck shrugged ineffectively. “I just made a lot of mistakes in my life and I’m trying to sort them out, that’s all.”
“Oh man, what a pitiful confession!” Rumba’s deep voice cut across Blake’s higher pitched one.
Suddenly the cell was vastly overcrowded as the Black Coyotes filed dutifully into it behind their leader. Both Peck and Blake stepped backwards away from the over-muscled specimens bearing down on them. Unfortunately there was only so far the two of them could move until they were backed up against the hard granite rock of the outer cell wall.
Then there was no where further for them to retreat…..
“Oh what a pitiful confession!” Rumba’s deep voice cut across Blake’s higher pitched one.
Suddenly the cell was vastly overcrowded as the Black Coyotes filed dutifully into it behind their leader. Both Peck and Blake stepped backwards away from the over-muscled specimens bearing down on them. Unfortunately there was only so far the two of them could move until they were backed up against the hard granite rock of the outer cell wall.
“What, am I having a party or something?” Peck muttered.
“Blake, get your pretty little white ass out of here. We’ll see to you later!” Rumba spat.
“I ain’t going,” Robby replied bravely. “I ain’t leaving Peck with you!”
Rumba turned his attention from Peck to face the kid. “Oh it’s gonna be so fine when I finally get to crush you little boy, when I get that smart mouth to beg me, when I show you what trash you are and how you were born to be my bitch!”
“That’s enough!” Peck stood up and moved to stand between the two glowering men. “Go Robby – there’s nothing you can do here.”
“But…” Blake began to argue.
“Go,” Peck responded firmly. “The gentlemen just want to talk to me, isn’t that right, Rumba?”
Rumba cracked a broad grin, his white teeth beaming brightly in his dark face. “Of course, talk and then some!”
Blake sighed. “If you…”
“Enough, Robby, go!” Peck ordered. With a sniff and a last look over his shoulder Blake reluctantly left the cell.
Peck sighed. “Well gentlemen, what can I do for you? I’m afraid I can’t offer you martini – I’m still waiting for my order.”
“Very funny, Peck!” Rumba spat as Leroy moved forward, clutched hold of Peck by the collar of his shirt, and used his motion to propel them both backwards until Peck’s head hit the hard cell wall with a dull thud. Peck groaned as stars leapt into his vision.
“You’re real smooth, Peck!” Rumba spat. “But nobody puts me in a hospital without paying for it.” He was standing right next to Leroy and as he spoke each word the other Coyote banged Peck’s head into the wall.
“Oh that’s right,” Peck squeaked through the constriction of his windpipe by the massive hand and the growing fuzziness of his vision. “Jeez I wanted to apologise. I just don’t know what came over me with that mop – don’t know my own strength, I guess! How are you feeling, Rumba?”
“Sore, but not as sore as you’re gonna be!” Rumba promised. He turned to the rest of his men. “Wreck the place boys!”
Peck stood pinned to the wall, fighting for each breath as the Black Coyotes tore the contents of the cell apart. When they were done Rumba turned back to him, a superior smile across his big lips. “You really upset me, Peck, I thought you were clever. I thought you understood your place in this world. You dissed me real bad. You gonna pay.”
His fist was hard and fast and straight into Peck’s gut as Leroy stepped slightly to the side without releasing his grip. The breath groaned out of Peck as he sagged forward.
“Look, can’t we talk about this, guys!” he tried lifting his head back up weakly.
Rumba’s smile was evil. “Got no time to talk, Peck. You see I just found out the warden is gonna confirm your parole. You’re gonna be out of here and that makes me sad cos I don’t want you leaving until you understand what pain you caused me. Wouldn’t look good on the Brotherhood if I were to let you get away, people might think we was going soft, people might try same sort of thing and I don’t want no more mops in my belly!”
“I’ll make a deal with you then. I won’t tell a soul, my lips are sealed, honest Rumba there’s no need for…” A second blow to the same place stopped Peck and his sentence dissolved into a moan of pain.
“There’s every need, Peck! Don’t play dumb with me; you know exactly how it works, just like I do! Get him!”
The Black Coyotes fell on Peck then in a flurry of kicks and punches. Leroy held him up for a while and then let him go, so Peck fell to the floor as the beating continued. He curled up into as small a ball as possible, his hands protecting his head and resolved to simply endure. In his head Hannibal’s voice was firm. “Hold on, Lieutenant, hold on!”
Eventually it was over and Rumba awkwardly bent down, his hand gingerly resting on the recently wound from his operation to remove his ruptured spleen on his belly. “That’s just for starters Peck. My Brothers are everywhere and you can get away from me, you can’t get away from the Black Coyotes! We will have you, you won’t know when and you won’t know where but we will hunt you down; your life ain’t worth shit; you are gonna die! People have to know they cannot stand against us!” With that he stalked out of the cell with his men, leaving the beaten figure still curled on the floor, panting painfully.
“Melodramatic bastard!” Peck groaned faintly.
“You OK?” Robby Blake had kept a watchful eye out and as soon as he saw the Black Coyotes leave Peck’s cell, he returned. He bent down to offer his hand to Peck who groaned weakly but accepted and used it to lever himself up. He struggled forward to slump on to his bed, his left hand clutching at his stomach.
“To tell the truth, I have felt better,” he muttered his head slouching forwards to be held up by his right hand.
“You wanna go to the infirmary?” Robby asked. Peck shook his head, trying to ignore the further pain it brought him. “What did they want?” Blake asked.
“They came to tell me I got my parole – I’m leaving day after tomorrow, I guess.”
Blake rolled his eyes. “How nice of them to think of you when they came by such information.” He moved to the sink, wet a cloth and passed it to Peck who wiped his face with it.
“Yeah, they just couldn’t wait to rush over here and tell me,” Peck moaned. “And with a promise that they aren’t going to forget me either, too. Apparently they have friends outside able to pass on their best wishes whenever they need to.”
“How touching,” Blake mused.
Peck sighed. “I seem to have upset them,” he said. “Can’t imagine how!” Slowly he eased his legs up on to the bed and turned around to lie down. “I think I just need to rest,” he said weakly.
Robby nodded and turned to leave. “Sure, but if you need anything, let me know.”
“Robby,” Peck called after him. “Look after yourself – I think they’re pretty pissed at you too!”
Blake smiled. “They gotta catch me first!”
Peck wanted to say more, to caution the kid further but an overwhelming wave of exhaustion washed through him. He knew his faculties were closing down and he could do nothing but give in to oblivion.
Folsom State Prison is California's second oldest prison; it primarily houses Level II and Level III inmates. At Folsom, a walled perimeter encompasses five general population cell blocks and an Administrative Segregation Unit. This portion of the prison includes one of the state's best-known prison industries, the license plate factory. The prison’s location was selected due to an unlimited amount of native stone which was used to build it initially. Also the American River offered ample water and formed a natural boundary for the prison. As one of the nation's first maximum prisons, Folsom received its first forty four inmates on July 26, 1880. They were transferred by boat and train from San Quentin.
Murdock had found out this information one day he had come to visit Peck. He had brought with him Mo and her two boys and as the regulations stated that an inmate could only receive three visitors at any one time, Murdock had allowed the others to go in first while he visited the Folsom Museum located near the entrance of the prison. Run by volunteers, the museum contained documents and artefacts from throughout Folsom's long and colourful history and the pilot found it both interesting and horrifying. Folsom State Prison gained the reputation of being violent and bloody in its early days. Prior to the completion of its granite wall in the 1920s, the prison witnessed numerous escapes; the first one occurring in 1880. The prisoners' attempts to escape had been desperate and frequent and many had not survived their frantic flight for freedom.
Murdock felt a shudder freeze along his spine when he learnt of such history. He knew Face could look after himself but still he didn’t want him anywhere near a place that echoed with the ghosts of so many lost souls – Face had enough baggage of his own!
Murdock remembered the stories now as he pulled into the parking lot and parked at the far left-hand side as directed. Today was the day that Folsom State Prison could be assigned to the back of his mind, along with all the other places he had visited in his life that he had no intention of visiting again. This was the last time he would make the drive up to Sacramento, the last time he would pull into the lot, make his way to the gates, allow himself to be searched by the sweaty but polite guards, and enter the institution. Because today was the day that his Faceyman was coming out!
He allowed himself a contented whistle as he made his way to the gates. He didn’t mind waiting in the stifling outer office; he knew bureaucratic formalities always took time but the wait did serve to quicken his heart and kindle his excitement so that when Peck finally exited through the door, an almost bashful look on his features and small bag stuffed under his arm, the pilot let out a whoop of pure exhilaration.
“Faceyman!” he cried. “Where you been all my life?” As he drew close he noted the swelling and bruises on Peck’s face. “Been fighting again?”
Peck smiled and pointedly ignored the question. “Hi, Murdock. Thanks for coming!”
“Give me that!” Murdock ordered moving in close to relieve Peck of his carryall. As he did so he whispered in the other man’s ear. “I haven’t yet – but I aim too as soon as I can get my hands on your delectable butt!”
Peck let out a high pitched chuckle but then his features hardened. “Come on; let’s get out of here before they change their minds!” He threw a slightly nervous glance over his shoulder.
“That a possibility?” Murdock asked as he nodded to the guards and moved to open the door.
“You never know.” Peck hesitated on the verge of the door, his features suddenly lacking in their normal confidence. “Hell of a big world out there.”
Murdock threw a supportive arm around the others shoulder. “You bet,” he encouraged. “And it’s waiting for us to explore together! How’d your psyche assessment go?” he asked trying to distract his friend as they finally moved forward.
Peck gulped. “OK,” he said, allowing himself to be eased gently forward while secretly revelling in the other man’s touch.
“What did he say?”
“I think the words she used were ‘arrogant, conceited neanderthal’ and ‘sexist prick’!”
“She?” Murdock stopped and regarded the other man. “That’s not the normal response you get from the fairer sex, Face!”
Peck snorted. “No, I must be losing my touch!” he answered with a smile that was so enigmatically stunning that it caused Murdock’s heart to flip in his chest. “You didn’t bring the Viper?” Peck changed the subject as he realised which car they were making their way to.
Murdock drew in a deep breath and snorted it out nosily. “You are something else!” he muttered. Then deciding not to pursue his enquiries at the current time he smiled. “No, left her in the garage, safe and sound for you to play with when you get home.”
Peck nodded and opened the door to the conservative station wagon Murdock had brought. He settled himself into the passenger seat and waited while Murdock dumped the bag into the trunk and then started it up.
After a few minutes travelling, Peck cleared his throat. “I know I haven’t been out in a while, Murdock,” he said. “But I’m sure my sense of direction isn’t shot. Aren’t we going the wrong way? Isn’t this east?”
Murdock rolled his eyes. “Sure is!”
“But LA is the other way!”
Peck ran his hand through his hair. “I got to ring my Parole Officer when I get home, Murdock! I haven’t got time for any of your games.”
The pilot pouted. “Sure you have, Face. You’ve had 120 days away from my games – reckon you owe me some.”
“No,” Murdock’s voice was hard as the granite wall they had just driven away from. “We got plenty of time. You don’t have to phone in until tomorrow morning – I checked. And don’t be getting so paranoid about this parole gig – I’ll keep you right. Besides when I get you home everyone is gonna be there, and I wanted you for myself, just for a while.” He sniffed. “Lake Tahoe is nice this time of year.”
“Lake Tahoe!” Peck’s eyes were wide as Murdock fluttered his at him. But then the conman nodded his head slowly and his face broke into a wide grin. “Oh, I get it,” he breathed. “Never knew you were into water sports though.” He relaxed back into his seat.
“That depends of your definition of water sport, does it not?” Murdock leered. Peck let out a chuckle in response and Murdock turned to look at him. “I missed that, Face,” he said softly. “I missed you laughing so very much!”
“For every one you pull out another six will grow, you know,” Murdock drawled.
“Really?” Peck pulled a face as he turned to look at the driver. He was seated in the passenger seat of the car looking at himself in the mirror and resolutely pulling out grey hairs. He gave a resigned sigh. “I guess you’re right. Can’t stop time, can I?” He looked moodily away then across the brilliant vista of mountains that surrounded them. “Twenty years,” he mused. “Just twenty years – that’s all I want back!”
Murdock glanced at him and smiled sadly. “It’s never gonna be, Faceman. And there’s no point in wasting the time we got craving after it, either.”
“I guess but…” Peck had returned his attention to the mirror and was precisely combing his hand through his hair but he caught a glimpse of the car behind them and stopped in mid sentence. He screwed his eyes together to get a better view.
Murdock glanced a second time. “What you need glasses as well as going grey now?” he asked. As he spoke he felt his own body tighten as he perceived the tension in his partner. Peck was now peering over his shoulder, his body taunt and straining. “Son of a bitch!” he spat.
“Should have come in the Viper!” Peck said as he turned back to the front. “How fast does this go?” As he spoke he moved over and used his own foot to depress Murdock’s that was on the accelerator.
“Shit!” Murdock cursed as the car lurched forward. “What the hell?” Furiously he pushed away Peck’s leg.
“Car behind,” Peck said, ruefully rubbing his leg. “It’s got Westwood and Thomas in it.”
“And they are?”
“Well, why didn’t you say that?” Murdock snapped, pursing his lips as he concentrated on sliding the bulky stationwagon around the sharp corners as best he could.
Peck looked over his shoulder, noting that the black sedan behind had increased its speed correspondingly. “How in hell did they find me so soon?”
“Doesn’t matter!” Murdock growled. “What matters is that they un-find you pretty pronto!”
They were on a tortuous narrow mountain road that wound its way precariously up and down some of the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada. There were wonderful views but also heart-stopping drops on either side of the road.
“Some scenic ride this turned out to be!” Peck said referring to the disagreement they had had earlier when he had voiced his objection to leaving the Interstate and going cross country. Murdock had persuaded him that there were plenty of hidden hideaways along this road where they would not be disturbed and could renew their friendship.
“How was I supposed to know that mad bitch had you staked out?” Murdock snapped. “You got your gun?”
Peck snorted. “Hardly! You just picked me up from prison, remember? I’m on parole – where am I supposed to have got a gun from?”
“Glove compartment,” Murdock said.
Peck gulped as he stopped his hand from moving forwards. “I can’t Murdock!” he whined. A sinking feeling clutched at his guts. He had just spent one hundred and twenty days in prison, one hundred and twenty days to get a clean sheet, one hundred twenty days so he didn’t have to be afraid every time he saw a cop car, 120 days so that he and Murdock could relax, buy a house with a picket fence and be like any other couple. And now, within two hours of his release, he was about to violate the terms of his parole. He lurched from one fuck up to another as trouble seemed to stalk him.
“It’s not fair!” he said despondently.
“No, it’s not,” Murdock agreed, sensing precisely what was going through Peck’s head.
“But it’s happening and I need your help to get out of it!”
Peck ran his hand through his hair, licked his lips and then reached forward in a rush to flip the door of the compartment open and take out the gun. Once resolved he quickly released the safety, wound down his window and, sticking his head out, began to fire at the car behind. “What’s another parole violation anyway!” he muttered.
The road climbed steeply towards the summit and Murdock cursed as he saw a slow moving gasoline tanker in front. The occupants of the sedan had started to return fire and a bullet shattered the station wagon’s rear window with a terrific crash.
Rather than be caught between the crawling tanker and the enemy, Murdock pulled out to overtake it.
“Murdock!” Peck shouted as the pilot just managed to squeeze back onto the correct side of the road in front of the tanker before being swept away by the on-coming traffic. The discordant note of a hooter screeched through the air.
“Loads of room!” Murdock retorted. “Can’t outrun these goons though. We need a plan.” He was flooring the gas pedal, trying to take advantage of the fact that the sedan was momentarily trapped behind the tanker. The station wagon’s engine was complaining loudly and a tail of black smoke was beginning to grow behind their car.
Peck was reloading his gun whilst trying to keep his adrenaline rush from shaking his hands too much. “Shit!” he spat as he dropped one of the bullets. It rolled away under his seat lost.
“You OK, Face?” Murdock asked worriedly.
Peck snorted. “Just dandy!” The firing had started up from behind them again. The sedan was past the tanker and bearing down on them once more. ”Ditch the car?” Peck suggested, nodding towards a picnic area fast approaching.
Murdock nodded. “Mountains are big – easy to get lost in them!”
“And I am so dressed for a mountaineering expedition!” Peck muttered, glancing down at his powder blue suit and soft leather shoes.
The car screeched to a halt and they were both out in one bound, both heading left, up a steep slope and disappearing into a clump of evergreen trees. The few picnickers in the area just stared, their mouths dropping wider as the sedan pulled up, black suited, burly occupants alighted with weapons flashing in the afternoon sun, cursed and then made to follow their disappeared quarry.
Further up the track Murdock was jogging along quite happily. “Lovely scenery,” he breathed. He ran an appreciative hand down the wrinkled bark of the nearest pine tree. “And the smells…” Peck laboured up behind him, panting hoarsely. “You’re out of condition, Face,” he admonished. “Didn’t you do no exercise in prison? Shame on you!” he reached across and took the gun from Peck’s limp hand. He shook his head. “I’ll take that – what your parole officer don’t see, your parole officer don’t know!”
Peck opened his mouth to respond but the crack of a branch breaking and muttered curses drifting on the breeze towards them stopped him. Murdock puffed out his chest and snorted imperiously. “Come!” he ordered.
Peck shook his head but wearily followed. “Do you have any idea where we’re going?” he muttered.
“My dear boy, I am a pilot!” Murdock pronounced in his best upper class English accent. “Inside my head is a map, a map of all the terrain I have ever flown over. I know precisely the location of every mountain, every stream, every molehill, why every traffic light even in this whole damn state!”
“Yeah but do you know where we’re going?” Peck repeated through gritted teeth.
“I know exactly where! Yonder, at the top of this little hillock we climb is a gully; a place of sanctuary, of escape from all the disenchantment of life. A place of hope and fulfilment; far flung from the barren batterings and dreaded disappointments. Yes, my friend, there is the refuge that you seek. A small babbling brook meanders gracefully through the patchwork of soft grass. There are tall pines that shade and shelter as they whisper, contentedly on the breeze….”
“… while overhead an eagle, the epitome of American freedom glides blissfully on the currents, watching, waiting…”
“Mur – oh shit!”
Murdock ceased both his physical and verbal rambling and turned to see Peck behind him, on his knees on the pine needle covered forest floor.
“Faceyman, what you doing down there?”
Peck looked up, his face red with both exertion and anger. He pulled himself to his feet and kicked out at what appeared to be an innocent fallen branch. “Who put that there?” he hissed. He looked down at his filthy pants. “Awwwh! Dry clean only – I am never gonna get these clean!”
“It’s OK, Facey!” Murdock reached out his hand to steady the other man. As they touched he felt the unhealthy tension that was thrumming through Peck. “Calm down,” he said soothingly. “You OK to carry on?”
Peck snorted. “I guess. Lead on, Murdock!”
They climbed for another few minutes and Murdock topped the rise first. He stopped. “Oh!”
“Oh, what?” Peck asked slithering along the last part of the climb. The forest had thinned until it stopped completely a few feet below the top, petering out into bare stark grey rock and the two men had to clamber up to a narrow plateau above. Eventually Peck stood beside Murdock stricken by what he saw. “No gully, no valley, no grass, no eagle! So much for what’s inside your head, Murdock!”
“All right!” It was Murdock’s turn to snap. “I maybe made a slight miscalculation!”
The narrow plateau on which they stood held a few giant boulders that dotted its surface in a random pattern but after that was a whole, great lump of nothing – a sheer drop of some forty feet. To their right a waterfall crashed from the height they were at down into the basin it had carved from the rock below.
“Oh great!” Peck breathed.
A bullet chose that particular moment to whistle past his head as the goons exited the trees below. “Face!” Murdock screeched as he took hold of the other man’s shoulder and pulled him down behind the shelter of an ample boulder.
Murdock took the gun from out of the back of his pants where he had shoved it and managed to get off a few shots that stopped the goons climbing any nearer.
“What now?” Face asked, breathing hard and finding it even more difficult to control his adrenaline rush.
Murdock screwed up his face, opened his mouth to speak and then stopped. His features suddenly broke into the most exquisite of grins. “Oh my god!” he breathed.
“What?” Peck asked.
“Don’t you get it?” Murdock was so excited he was almost levitating.
Peck put a grounding hand on the other’s shoulder – just in case. “Get what?”
“Look at this place!” Murdock swept his arms wide, scrunching his eyebrows knowingly. “Do we fight or do we jump, Sundance?”
“Sundance? I thought….” Peck groaned as comprehension came to him. “Oh shit,” he moaned bleakly.
Murdock shook his head. “No, you say ‘We fight!’”
“With what?” Peck snapped back.
Murdock pouted. “Face! You’re not doing it right!”
“Murdock – I am not doing it at all!”
“You want to fight, you can’t swim, remember?”
“Murdock! This is not a scene from goddamn Butch Cassidy and the goddamn Sundance Kid! And besides, I can swim, not that it matters much cos the fall will probably kill us!
“No!” Murdock shrieked. “That’s my line! You’re ruining this for me, Face!”
A bullet twanged off the boulder they were hiding behind. Peck snorted. “How much ammo you got left?”
Murdock shrugged. “Only what I got in the chamber – three, four maybe.”
“Right.” Peck drew in a deep breath. “I want you to know I am only doing this cos I have to.” He turned towards the drop behind them but then hesitated. “Oh, and one other thing,” He grabbed hold of Murdock and planted a strong but swift kiss on the pilot’s startled lips. “I love you!”
“Funny, I don’t recall that bit!” Murdock murmured as Peck pulled him towards the edge. Taking one last deep breath they leapt into the yawning abyss together.
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