CHAPTER FORTY EIGHT

The scissors sliced neatly through the last strands of hair. He dropped the remnant into the trash, laid the scissors down softly on the nightstand. He sighed and arched his back, getting the kinks out. He tilted his head, looking critically at the job. It was much shorter than normal, about two inches all around, but it would do. Much better than it had been. It had taken a long time to cut all that hair, carefully adjusting the head so he could do a proper job, but it was the least he could do.

Murdock sighed again, rubbed his eyes, hard. Taking a deep breath, he reached for the razor.


*****

He fingered the material. He didn't know anything about this kind of stuff, but it felt real soft. That was good. The color was nice, too, a light gray-blue. It just looked like something he would wear.

"Hey, Frankie, this look okay?"

"Yeah, sure, BA. I mean, it doesn't really matter that much, does it? Not like he's gonna know..."

"Hey, it's important to Murdock. Wants him to look good."

"Okay, BA. It's good. It suits him, man."

BA nodded, satisfied.


*****

He gently wiped the last of the shaving cream from the cheek. Again, looked critically at his handiwork. Much better. Now it looked like him. Pretty much, anyway. It had been hard to see, with the window boarded up and just the light from the table lamp. But he'd done okay. He reached over to the basin of warm water, picked up the washcloth and wrung it out carefully. Began washing the face.


*****

He sat on the bench in the shed, swinging the hammer slowly between his fingers. He was so tired. Angry. Disgusted.

"It wasn't your fault, you know."

"I let down my guard. I should've been watching him closer."

"No one could've seen that coming. No one."

"Yeah." He laid the hammer in the toolbox, closed the lid. Together, he and Kurt put away the remaining lumber. Daryl carefully latched the shed door as they left.


*****

He had to stop. The water in the basin was a deep pink now. He needed to change that. Get fresh. It had been hard, washing all the blood away. Dried blood. He didn't want to scrub. So he'd had to go over it and over it, gently, almost easing it off the chest and stomach. The back. And the water in the basin got pinker and darker...

He needed to change that now.


*****

He sat on the dock, watching the waves slap against the pilings. Over and over again. Listened to the sound. Soft. Soothing. Calming.

It had been Hannibal who had come after him, there in the trees. Sitting in the spot where he'd fired from. Just sitting. Hannibal had tried to get him to go into the cabin, but he wouldn't. Couldn't talk, couldn't say 'no', just wouldn't go through the door. Wouldn't even go on the porch. He couldn't.

So he found himself sitting on the dock, not really thinking. Just seeing it. Over and over. Just like the waves lapping against the dock.

Over and over...


*****

Murdock tried again, but gave up. He couldn't do this by himself. He knew it didn't really matter, he couldn't feel anything anyway, but he didn't want to be too rough, just the same. The blood on the jeans had dried and they were stiff and he just couldn't...

He looked over at the man across the room, who had been watching all this time. Silently. He appealed to him, silently. Help.

The man nodded, stood and walked slowly over. Together, they managed to remove the bloody jeans. Murdock once again reached for the washcloth, wrung it out carefully.

So much blood. It would take a long time to clean off.

He worried that it would never come off. Not really...


*****

He carried the clothing out, trying not to think about his blood on them. His blood. They'd heard the shot, and BA had broken down the door. Such chaos in that room. Blood, all over Murdock's face and neck. All over him. Laying on the floor. A wreck of a man.

He opened the back door, placed the bloody jeans almost reverently in the trash. It wasn't right. It shouldn't have happened like this. None of it.

He looked out at the man on the dock. Another casualty. Another victim. Again. Could Hannibal still consider him salvageable? Or had this pushed him too far away?

He returned to the bedroom. Murdock was still cleaning him up. Hannibal didn't say anything, moved quietly back to the chair and sat there, watching. Murdock needed to do this, needed to make amends. Not that there had been any choice. One had only to look at the wounds on Murdock's face and neck to see that. They all knew there'd been no choice.

Didn't make it any easier.

So Hannibal sat in the chair, quiet. So Murdock could do what he needed to do. So Murdock wouldn't be alone.


*****

Frankie took the clothes into the cabin. BA went down to the dock. Stood near Randy, not saying anything at first.

"Get everything okay?"

"Yeah."

"Good."

"Yeah." BA looked at the man sitting there, knowing his thoughts. "Nothin you coulda done different."

"Right."

"Wasn't your fault he moved. It'd been okay otherwise."

"But it's not okay now, is it?"

BA sighed. There was nothing he could say to that.


*****

Hannibal hadn't waited to be asked this time. When Frankie handed him the packages, he'd just taken the clothes out and gone over to the bed. Murdock had finished a few minutes before, and had been sitting, exhausted, by the bed. Together, the two men got him dressed.

When they were finished, he looked almost normal. His eyes and mouth slightly open, as if he were just waking up. But of course, he wasn't. The sweatshirt was only loosely wrapped around his left shoulder, adjusted carefully so as not to disturb the bandages covering the shoulder. Murdock gently pulled the blanket up over him, leaving the right arm out, because of the IV.

"Feel better now, Murdock?"

"No, but I hope he does. That doctor better know what he's doing."

Hannibal nodded. If anything happened now, Dr. Garr wouldn't stand a chance in hell.