CHAPTER FORTY EIGHT

Maggie and Mama had not yet gone to bed when the men had arrived in the very early morning hours, long before the sun rose. They were all exhausted, mentally and physically. BA had put Face in his room and then Mama sent them all to bed. Explanations could wait until later. Once they had disappeared upstairs, the women went in to Face. Obviously he had been through a very rough time. He was bruised, bleeding, and filthy. So they set to work.

A couple hours later, Mama covered her transformed charge with the light blanket, sent Maggie off to bed and settled herself in a large rocker she had found during the day. With no word from anyone during the day, she had paced the hours away around the house and found this stashed away in a corner. She decided it would be perfect for the vigil she intended to keep over Face. There was no way he would come to harm again while under her care.

She was very worried about Face. He had awakened while they were cleaning him up, but had just stared at the ceiling, never uttering a sound. Shortly before they finished, he had fallen back asleep. She knew, without being told, that whatever had happened had set him back, possibly worse than he had been before. She was afraid that they would not be able to reach him again, that he had pushed himself so far away that he could not be retrieved. Out of habit, born of many hours of worry for her own son, Mama started softly humming the old hymns she had learned as a child. They gave her comfort, even as her mind was a thousand miles away in worry.

At first she didn't notice. Then she felt, rather than saw, eyes on her. Looking at the bed, she saw Face was awake and watching her. Instinctively, she reached over and took his hand, continuing to hum. She felt Face's hand tighten on hers, and he closed his eyes.

She held his hand until the rest of the family awoke hours later.


*****

Maggie and Mama learned the details of the search for Face over breakfast. It had been worse than they had imagined. Maggie had not even gotten very upset over her rear window.

Mama sat quietly for some time, deep in thought. Things had changed for Face now. She knew that learning of Stockwell's death had had an affect on him that was not good. She needed to talk to Murdock. When Hannibal drove Maggie home, and BA started repairing the wheelchair, Mama took the pilot aside.

They walked out to the yard, taking in the early morning sunshine. Murdock looked worn out yet, as if sleep had given no real rest. Mama realized what Murdock must be feeling, watching his best friend disappear into that haze that the pilot himself had only recently escaped from. Quietly, she told him what had happened earlier that morning, as she sat with Face.

Murdock took it in solemnly. He didn't think this was some fluke. Face had been raised with religion, and despite his various rebellions against convention, it was still there, deep inside, so his reaction to Mama's hymns didn't really surprise the pilot. What did surprise him was that Face would pull himself out far enough to react at all. He had gone so deep within himself after he found out about Stockwell...

"Mama, we gotta use this. Face, well, I'm afraid that he just doesn't think he has any reason to come back now. Everything's done, I guess you'd say. The only thing keeping him going for so long was the idea of getting rid of Stockwell. He only shut down when he thought he couldn't get at him. After the shooting, he obviously thought he still had a job to finish and that brought him back again. Now, he has no reason at all. I don't know if we can give him that, but maybe we can open the door for him.

"I think we're going to change our tactics. No more talking about what happened, or that we still want him back. No, from now on we're gonna concentrate on everything he can have if he comes back. The little things that make life worth living. Remember how he finally came back and stayed with me? I wasn't trying to persuade him, to force him. I just gave him something he missed. That's what we all gotta do now. Give him the things he wants back. And," he smiled broadly at Mama, "I think I'll give Father Magill a call. This should be right up his alley. What do you think, Mama?"

"I think you're a very smart man, Murdock." And she gave him a Mama hug.


*****

Murdock's new plan included getting Face back on his feet, literally. He told BA he wanted him to start working with Face on rebuilding his muscles. Obviously he wasn't as disabled as they had imagined. BA thought about it for a while and decided he would check with Maggie, and start the next day, giving Face one more day to recuperate from his 'travels'.

In the meantime, Murdock and Hannibal scoured the house and old barn, finally finding a chaise lounge stuck away in storage. Mama put them to work repainting the frame and getting new cushions for it. That afternoon it was in place and ready, resting in the sunniest spot in the meadow. Face would be getting a lot of fresh air from now on.

Murdock also made the call to Father Magill. It wasn't nearly as difficult as Murdock had thought. All he had to tell the Father was that Face was in trouble and needed him. The next words Murdock heard were asking directions to the farm.


*****

BA had taken Face out to the chaise lounge before going back to working on the wheelchair. He had also called Maggie, who promised to check with a physical therapist on what exercises Face could 'do'. This was good. This was what BA needed. Something that at least looked like a new beginning.

Hannibal was waiting for Father Magill. He had elected to be the one to give the Father all the details. He was apprehensive about this part of Murdock's new plan, knowing that Face would never want the priest to know what had happened. But he, like Murdock, knew that Father Magill was the person who could help Face in an area that was an integral part of his life, and in which the rest felt totally inadequate.

Murdock and Mama were sitting with Face. At first they just let him sleep, knowing he desperately needed it. Eventually Mama started humming softly once more, more to see if anything would happen than anything. Nothing. She continued humming for some time, but Face showed no sign of acknowledging her. After a while she gave up, disappointed, and the quiet sounds of the meadow were all that were heard.

Father Magill arrived mid-afternoon. Hannibal greeted him warmly, but the priest was all business. He wanted to see Face immediately, but Hannibal had to prepare him. He had a long story to tell, and it wasn't going to be easy. He thought he knew the priest well enough to know that nothing he said would change his dedication to his former charge, but he had lived long enough to know that there was no such thing as a certainty.

Father Magill listened without saying one word. At the point where Hannibal told of the first murder, he closed his eyes and kept them closed for the rest of the recitation. When Hannibal finally concluded, the priest was still for many minutes. He then crossed himself, and Hannibal realized he had been praying.

"Please take me to Templeton."

They walked slowly around the house and back into the meadow where Mama and Murdock were holding vigil. Both looked nervously at the priest, who ignored them and strode directly to Face. Sitting beside him, he took Face's hand with both of his.

"Hello, Templeton."

It took maybe two seconds. Face's eyes flew open.

"It's all right, my boy. I believe we have much to talk about."

Hannibal, Murdock and Mama quietly left them.


*****

Face knew he wasn't in his room any more. It was brighter, much brighter. And he thought there was a breeze, too. Outside. Murdock. Another one who wouldn't give up. When would they realize it was no use? He had to pay. Accept it, guys. There's always a price.

He'd almost caved in earlier. He'd heard the hymns, off in the distance. He thought at first he'd finally made it all the way. Then he realized it would hardly be hymns he'd be hearing. They got louder, clearer. He was drawn to them, despite himself. He really didn't want this darkness. He wanted to come back, he wanted to be with the team again, like nothing had happened. Of course, it didn't matter what he wanted. He was supposed to stay. But that music kept pulling him out. He recognized some. Others he didn't know but they meant the same thing. He'd opened his eyes finally and saw Mama. Felt her take his hand. He'd grabbed that hand. Hold on to me. Don't let go. Please...

But in the end, he let go. He had to. It wasn't for him. His visions reminded him of that. And now Murdock, taunting him once again with the things he couldn't have. Don't you see, you're just making it harder, pal? Please. Stop. I have to do this.

And then he'd heard that voice.

Oh, God, no. No, they didn't.

He opened his eyes. Saw him. Sweet Jesus, why?


*****

Hannibal and BA had taken off in Maggie's car - or what was left of it - to pick up the van. Mama was cleaning house and baking - anything to keep herself occupied. Murdock sat in the sun room, watching Father Magill and Face.

Frankly, he was not all that happy now that Father Magill had arrived. After he saw the dismay in Face's eyes, he wished he had thought it over a bit more. He had not expected that strong a reaction. Father Magill had rather alarmed Murdock himself. In all other encounters, he had seemed firm but affable, almost indulgent of Face and the team. Yet today he had been all business - all Church business. And for the first time, Murdock was thinking that Face and his religion could be more entwined than he had ever thought. It added another 'complication' to things.

He didn't know all that much about Catholic teachings, but he thought there were two kinds of sins. Mortal sins he knew about. If Face thought he had committed a mortal sin, and if Father Magill thought so, too, well, they might as well say good-bye to Face. He couldn't believe that God would judge Face so harshly for saving his friends. He hoped Father Magill felt that way. He suddenly realized that there was a lot more riding on this visit than anyone might have imagined.

He carefully watched the two figures in the meadow.