This little piece precedes "Like a Thunderbolt, He Falls" by four years.
I heard him tell a girl once, when we were working in a diner, that he preferred crystal and candlelight. It didn't get him anywhere that time but I've never forgotten it.
It's such a perfect description of him. Crystal, fine and elegant, expensive and fragile. Candlelight, concealing and yet apparently open, and romantic and fleeting. But he doesn't need it. He just prefers it.
And why not? I always thought, from the first time I saw him, that he was born to the finer things. Crystal and candlelight, silver and linen, eggshell china and fine teak. Soft classical music and fine food and quiet waiters ... footmen, maybe. Yeah, footmen. Face was born for footmen and butlers.
Okay, maybe not technically "born" for them, but he should have been. He deserves to have been. He was made for the finer things in life.
Like this place. I don't know how he got it, and I don't want to ask. But it's the kind of place he should be in, large rooms with fine furnishings, cool in the summer heat, through which he can drift in cashmere and hand-laundered linen...
He can wear other stuff, sure. Blue jeans and flannel shirts and sweats. But even though he likes them and looks good in them, even his blue jeans have a guy's name on them and I don't mean Levi Strauss. And he truly prefers the other. Suits by Italian guys. Lauren shirts. Silk ties. I remember how upset he got with that client, the one who said he didn't see how a guy in a hundred-dollar suit and a thirty-dollar haircut could be any good. "Hundred-dollar suit?" Face said, mortally wounded. "Does this look like it only costs a hundred dollars? The haircut is a hundred dollars!"
That was funny. That guy didn't know what to make of Face, or the way Hannibal calmed him down, assured him he looked much more expensive than that. And he did. He always does if he has his druthers. And when we go on a mission, he's always dressing down, not up. Because he dresses up most of the time... And looks... well, natural that way. Right. At home.
Even with an M-16 on that designer shoulder.
Like he does here. This classy place, with the swimming pool and the library. I swear to God I don't know how he gets places like this. And I don't want to ask, I never want to know. That ginger-headed bimbo on the mantelpiece probably comes into it...
He hasn't told Hannibal and BA about this place yet. He might not. The last time BA got near one of his scammed places, he ended up having to replace an end table and a vase. Of course, a purist might say it was partly my fault, but I was the throwee, not the thrower. And Face agreed you couldn't blame Billy for running away from the big guy, not when he was in that mood. Like I say, Billy's invisible but he's not dumb. And Hannibal would want to run training exercises in the back yard, which would disturb the neighbors.
I mean, there must be neighbors. Somewhere.
So it's just us two here. Most of the time. It's relaxing. Billy's having fun, running around in the back yard chasing birds, and I love the swimming pool. I'm not gonna want to go back when the week's up. It's almost perfection. And it must be more or less honest this time, he's got a gate-card.
And that's another thing: I don't know how he gets away with it, everybody he knows using his name, either. Even the gate guard called him "Mr. Peck". All his girlfriends call him "Templeton". Worse, we go to restaurants and it's "Ah, bon soir, Monsieur Peck" and "So nice to see you again, Mr. Peck", and "Oh, Mr. Peck, you're back; I was worried we had somehow offended you." Lynch must not move in the right circles...
I do, though. At least when I'm with him. It's like magic. I was brought up on Welch's grape jelly jar glasses and fluorescent lights and stainless steel and checkered tablecloths and mugs and vinyl tabletops. But when I'm with him, I'm there. Crystal and candlelight and the whole nine yards. And him.
It's a nice place to visit, but I'm not comfortable there, and I wouldn't stay there except for him.
And it's not as much him as I wish... though more than I deserve, maybe.
Like now. Like tonight. Fine restaurant (Ah, bon soir, Monsieur Peck), fine food, fine clothes. Both of us. Fine music, fine dancing... fine ladies. Very fine. My brunette didn't look at him more than a coupla times all evening. Fine Town Car back to this fine house for a fine nightcap. And then to bed.
I don't like Face's women. It's not women, I like women. It's hard to meet them when you spend most of your time locked up in a loony bin, but sometimes I do. Sometimes I meet really nice women, with shy sweet smiles and good senses of humor. Women who like me. Not women who go out with me to please Face, to earn a date with him some other night. But I don't complain. And I have sex with them. Because fucking a woman who's slept with Face, who will again, that's as close to heaven as I'm gonna get.
'Cause he doesn't want me. Not like that. He's my best friend, which is more than I deserve, really, but that's as far as it goes. I know; I tried it on a couple of times, years ago now. He never took me up on it... acted like he didn't notice. So that's that. Not gonna push it, not gonna make him wish he hadn't saved my sorry ass over and over again. Not gonna look into those blue eyes and see him wishing he wasn't there. Not gonna run the risk of him not coming by the VA except when the Team needs me. Not gonna lose these little vacations with him. Gonna keep things like they are. Accept reality.
Not that accepting reality is my strong suit. But, you get a good distribution of cards and play no trump and you can win. As long as you play your cards right. And the stakes are high enough here, I'll be careful. Face is my partner in it, though he may not know it. But he's dummy, he doesn't have to play, just lay down his cards. Which he's done. Friends, no more.
But no less. And with him, no less is all there needs to be.
"Night, Murdock," he says, steering whatshername, all giggly, towards his room. "See you in the morning."
My brunette's already lost her shoes. "Good night, Peck old bean," I say in the Boston Brahmin voice that came out when I saw the girls coming out of their apartment and Henley Michael "Trip" Murdock III materialized complete with yachts and a race horse. "Shall we, my dear?"
So we do.
But in the morning, it'll just be me and him again.
Us. No more. No less. Enough.
And enough is as good as a feast. Right?
Right. A feast with crystal and candlelight.
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