TITLE: A Life So Precious
WARNINGS: Violence / Injury
STORY TYPE: Point of View / First Person (Hannibal)
CATEGORY: Angst, Hurt & Comfort
LENGTH: One-offDISCLAIMER: The characters are property of Cannell and company.
He looks dirty, sweating, holding the small lady pistol as if it were a damned uzi, looking manically to each of us in turn. I grin, lighting a cigar, and raising my own weapon, a formidable sub machine gun. He is no match for any of us.
I look across at BA on my left by the wall, ready to move on my signal. I turn to Face by the door, again ready to move on my command. I turn and look at him again, the dirty kid with the slender weapon.
"Let the gun drop, kid" I say, clenching the cigar with my teeth.
"No ..... never!" Michael says stubbonly, a mixture of bravada and drugs helping him to stay tough under the overwhelming odds.
I looked over at Face who winks at me, and I laugh. What a stupid kid. A little background information on Michael. A street punk who sells drugs to a frighteningly young market. The parents of one of the parents with a junkie for a son hired us to help bring the network down.
Turns out the entire network based around Michael Fontera.
We had traced Michael to this warehose, aiming to bring him down quickly and without a fuss, allowing the police an easy task of just taking him into custody. But, he wouldn't go along with it. Keeps waving that tiny gun around like he'll do some damage with it. I can take him out - just don't want to shoot the guy. Its hard doing our job AND keeping a clean record, but I have not killed a mortal soul since Vietnam.
Suddenly, Michael drops the gun and runs towards Face. Face looked puzzled as his fingers close around the trigger, but he won't shoot. Expecting to tackle Michael as he draws close, he doesn't see the knife in the young man's belt being drawn. None of us expects it. As a leader, you should always be on your guard. I fail this time. Fail to expect every eventuality, and now Face's life is in danger. I curse myself. Michael launches at Face, I start forward.
Within seconds Face is wondering whether he should tackle him - Michael has a damned knife at his throat. Face looks at me to determine his course of action, I shake my head. If Face moves, that drug induced maniac will cut him, no doubt about it.
"Drop it kid, let him go before I pull the trigger" I say, closing my fingers threateningly around the trigger.
"No! You do anything and I slit his throat!" Michael says in a tone which suggests he is not faking his intentions. I know already Face is in the shit - Michael will take him out, he has no intention of letting Face go at all. I wonder whether to shoot .....
"Michael, listen to me. You cut Face, and I'll kill you. Put the knife down and we'll put our weapons down and just talk, okay?"
Michael thinks for a moment, and surprisingly nods his head. I sigh with relief, and lower my weapon ....... Michael viciously slashes Face's throat and backs quickly out the door .... I raise my weapon, my incentive the blood soaked figure on the floor .... and shoot ...........
Michael Fontera. Sometimes I feel a failure when I fail to help kids like him. He wasn't a bad kid, just a poor, drugged up boy that ran a network even he couldn't control. Michael Fontera. The late Michael Fontera.
........ and Michael falls dead at the door. Shit. Not a soul since Vietnam, I swore never again. I suddenly don't feel very well. Nineteen years old, a stupid kid without a soul. Damn him for making me lose mine again, back to the hard gritty soul I've lived with all these years. Damn him. I don't think I've ever had a soul, killing every precious life in 'Nam makes you cold and bitter - your soul just wastes away and you become nothing.
Kneeeling beside Face, I see the wound on his throat is quite deep, spewing blood all over the floor. I put my hand over the wound, not a medic's idea of hygiene, but it staunches the flow of blood. Face is looking into my eyes, unable to say anything because of the gushing wound on his neck. He is staring at me in a very daunting way, as if begging me to believe he can make it. Face always has THAT look when something bad happens, like he needs to know someone has faith he'll make it.
"Easy kid, you'll be fine" I say, trying to lift the limp man gently, which is difficult when you have one hand around the neck. "BA! Lift Face for me, so I can continue to apply pressure".
BA comes lumbering over, and lifts Face up like he's a puppet with limp hanging arms, takes him to the van, where I make him comfortable in the passenger seat in the front. BA drives Face to the hospital, whilst I take the vette.
The one thing I hate in the world is hospitals. Its bad enough that one of your men has been wounded, but to have a bunch of doctors take your friend away, completely devoid of emotion makes my skin crawl. That's what's happening now, I'm handing Face over - cursing under my breath as the doctors strap him on a gurney and go into the operating room.
I feel like an estranged father, seeing my kid being taken away. I grip Face's hand tightly for the last time before I am roughly told to "stay out of the operating area".
Half an hour goes by, BA is just sitting next to me - without saying a word. Suddenly, I curse myself, and start swearing profusely.
"What's up?" BA asks in a dismal tone.
"Shit! Murdock is back at the VA. He doesn't know about this - I have to go phone him". I get up, lay a reassuring arm on BA's shoulder and disappear into a phone booth. I hear a small and squeaky voice on the other end, the veteran's administration receptionist.
"Yes, Captain HM Murdock's room, please. He's in your mental ward."
The phone is put on hold, I am in no mood for waiting. Suddenly I hear Murdock's voice.
"Hooooooowlin' Mad Murdock here. If the caller is a bill collector, please hold the line whilst I transfer you. If you are on the line for any other reason - then I hope its a tall blonde with big .....".
"Murdock!!" I say, my patience straining slightly. "Its me. We have a Red One, Slice and Dice". The codes we use are not as complex as some people imagine. When a member of the team is shot, Murdock is given the code Red Ball One. RED stands for top priority, urgency, BALL stands for bullet, and ONE means that Murdock is on his own, getting himself out of the VA. Doesn't normally happen, but when it does, Murdock is forced into doing some outlandish cons to free himself. The code I gave Murdock barely a second ago was for Ugency, Priority, he'd have to get out of the VA by himself, and one of the team had been injured by a knife.
Murdock is silent for a moment "Say what? Who got cut Hannibal? Is it bad? Is it BA?".
"Meet you in ten at Westwood" I say, referring to the road opposite the VA.
"Gottya Muchacho. Be there in ten" Murdock hung up.
I walk back over to BA, who is very agitated. "I have to go pick up Murdock. Be twenty minutes. Hold tight".
BA nods, I can see his composure starting to crack.
I leave, my own composure breaking. As a mark of respect I choose Face's corvette over the van for this little pick-up mission. I start the engine and the car glides onto the road.
Within minutes, my mind is drifting. Being in the corvette doesn't help. Its just not the same without Face behind the wheel. I feel tears forming in my eyes and pull over to compose myself. Its just too damned much. It was hard when Murdock was shot six months ago and nearly didn't make it. I take some deep breaths, and look in the mirror at my reflection. Red eyes. Shit, I look like some creepy vampire roaming around in a fancy car. I sigh. I feel a little better, so I start the car again and park on Westwood Street, and wait for Murdock to emerge.
When a member of the team is seriously injured, then Murdock is required to break himself out of the VA. There simply isn't time for a lengthy con. I see him running out of the VA in a straight jacket, heading towards me in the corvette. A number of white coats are following him, big burly orderlies. He dives headfirst into the back of the vette, and I drive quickly away towards the hospital.
Murdock regains his breath and then looks at me seriously, all his insanity stripped away with concern "Who got cut? Is it bad? Its not the mudsucka is it?"
"Its Face, and its bad. He went into the operating room an hour ago" I say, and glance at Murdock through my mirror. He looks downcast, distraught.
"What happened?" Murdock asks. "I thought you guys said you didn't need me on this one"
"The kid was high on drugs, and took a knife to Face's throat" I say, feeling sympathy towards the Pilot, knowing how torn he must be.
"Maybe, if I was there, this wouldn't have happened" Murdock says vaguely.
"Hey! Listen to me! It would have happened with or without you" I say firmly.
"Yeah, but I seen enough drug addicts in my time to know how to talk to 'em. You, BA and Face don't have that experience. What's happened to the drug dealer? Is he behind bars now?".
I suck in a deep breath, sharply. Murdock realises within a second the choice I was forced to make, and falls silent.
"You did the right thing" Murdock says, putting an arm on my shoulder. "It takes a hell of a lot of guts to turn back on a vow for a friend. You did it".
Why the hell does Murdock have to read so far into my soul? He knows me too well, he's touching on all the little points that make me want to break down.
I feel relieved that we are now at the hospital. I park, and cut Murdock free of his restraints. We go inside, forlornly to rejoin BA.
Murdock and myself walk numbly into the waiting room. I look around myself, amazed. BA? Gone?
"Thought BA was going to be here" Murdock sniffed, looking around the waiting room, as if expecting him to emerge from behind one of the seats at any moment.
"He was, when I left. Will you be okay waiting here for a moment, whilst I go look for him?" I ask.
Murdock seats himself and nods his head. He's not going anywhere.
I look outside and see the van still parked in its space, it hasn't been moved. Maybe BA has gone for a walk to clear his head.
I walk into the restroom, and look at my hair - all over the place. Subconsciously I turn to Face, who would normally produce one as if by magic, and he's not there. For some reason this affects me more than the whole tragedy so far, and I grip the basin with my hands tightly, unable to let go, taking in deep, rapid breaths.
That's when I hear the soft sound, soft sobbing coming from one of the closed cubicles. I walk softly towards the sound, and press my ear to the door.
"Face, Face, Face, Face, Face"
I try to compose myself "BA? Are you alright in there?"
A dead silence descends, and then a small muffled voice says from inside the cubicle "Fine, man. Just need a moment"
I wait, until I hear the toilet flush. The door opens and BA emerges. Not the tough, hard, strong BA I have always prized the strength of. A scared, red-eyed, emotionally torn man without any strength, only vulnerability. I open my arms to him without thinking, he looks confused for a moment, wondering whether or not to take my offer. Then he walks towards me, and embraces me tightly, the bottled up emotions of the last hour emerging as a torrent of uncontrollable tears.
"Come now, BA! What would Face think if he saw you like this" I say, light-heartedly. Knowing the pain BA is feeling, because I am feeling it myself.
He shudders in my arms, and then takes a few deep breaths.
"I'm okay now, thanks Hannibal" BA says, wiping his eyes. I pass him my tissue.
"Want to tell me why I find you crying your eyes out in the bog?" I ask, trying to instill a little humour into the seriousness of the situation.
"I'm just ..... very worried about Face. I never seen that much blood, and the ride with him, alone, to the hospital tore me up" BA says.
I curse myself. Not only burdened with the failure of protecting Face fully and not telling Murdock immediately what had happened - now I feel responsible becuase I left BA alone in the van with Face, to bring the corvette along.
I leave suddenly, not caring any more, and walk out of the hospital, feeling the scrutinous gaze of Murdock accompany me out, and I walk briskly away.
Don't they think I have my own failures, without worrying about their's as well? I can't believe that two days ago, I had a fight with Face, a nasty fight, in which we both sought to catch each other out. I feel alone, distanced, ever the estranged father trying to get to know a son who will never even try.
I walk twice around the block, and suddenly realise the time that has lapsed. Fourty minutes. I head back quickly, into the waiting room - but BA and Murdock are not there.
The receptionist walks towards me "John Smith?"
"Yes that's me, where'd the other two men go, the ones who were with me?"
"Tempelton Peck was brought out fifeteen minutes ago, and moved to intensive care. He's not out of the woods yet, but it is looking better. The two men have gone in to see him just, they wanted me to inform you when you got back" The receptionist says.
"Thanks" I walk over to intensive care. I look through a glass partition, and see both BA and Murdock sitting beside Face. I do a double take. It can't be. Face is awake?
I open the door, and walk in.
"Hannibal" BA and Murdock say in relief.
Face croaks something, which I guess would have been my name. I surprise the others by kissing Face on the forehead, before taking my saved seat, right next to Face.
Face smiles, no mean feat under the circumstances, and takes my hand. To my surprise he starts tapping my hand in morse code. I laugh proudly.
"What's he saying?" BA asks, drawing a little closer.
"He's just explaining he can't talk right now. He says .... he's sorry???!!" I look sharply at Face.
Murdock leans forward "No baby, not your fault. I should have been there, I should have backed you guys up".
Face smiles, and starts tapping my hand again. "He says, not your fault Murdock. You weren't supposed to be there, how could it have been your fault? Just forget it, these things happen"
Murdock sits back, and thinks about this for a moment, then he smiles. "Thanks, muchacho. I needed to believe that"
Face closes his eyes and then open's them again, he looks at BA, and starts tapping my hand again "He says .... thanks for being there in the van, he needed your strength, and you wouldn't give up. He says thanks"
BA looks away, feeling proud at having taken care of Face in the van. Now he knows how much that meant to Face, he suddenly feels admiration for taking on such responsibility.
Face looks at me and sighs.
"What?" I ask tenderly.
Again, that gentle tapping on my hand alerts me to the fact that Face wants to say something "He says .... why are you always taking so much onto your shoulders? This isn't your fault, any of it. You hold the blame for every mistake. Even mine, BA and Murdock's. This situation was MY fault, not yours. I am trained to deal with situations like this, and I failed. Not you. Do you understand"
I nod, gently. "Face, I am the leader of the team. I shoulder responsibility becuase it is my job"
Face is tapping furiously, getting irritated.
"He says ..... Bullshit! We all are responsible to ourselves. Don't be a pain in the ass, Hannibal. Accept it ......."
I laugh, and stop Face's fingers from tapping by enveloping his hand in my own. "Your a pain the ass, kid"
Face tries to laugh, but the pain stops him. He smiles at all of us, and reaches out with his other hand to BA and Murdock.
BA grasps the hand, and Murdock puts his hand on top of BA's. I smile.
"Its good to know what a great team I have" I say, laughing. "But, all this intimate hand grabbing, hugging and kissing is gonna have to stop when we get you back, kid"
Face pouts, BA laughs, and Murdock grins.
I soften my voice and lean closer to Face "But, before that you are gonna get your rest, kid. So close your eyes and sleep. We'll stay with you"
Face nods and closes his eyes.
And that is where we stay. All night long, watching Face sleep.
Have you ever noticed how innocent someone looks when they're sleeping?