A Grande Adventure in the Pacific Northwest
by Elizabeth Kent
"I want to hold your hand."
"But look where we are!"
Face's eyes narrowed. "Seattle?"
"Not just Seattle," Murdock said. "We're on Capitol Hill. The most gay-friendly part of a gay-friendly city. Everyone's doing it!"
"They are not!" Face said.
"Look, that couple that just walked by us. They were holding hands!"
"They were also wearing eyeliner and lipstick," Face said. "And heels."
"Well you could use a little color. C'mon, Face; I thought we could be out and proud when we got our pardons! I thought we weren't gonna live a lie no more!"
"What do you mean I could use a little color?" Face stopped and looked at his reflection in a store window. He looked fine. There was some gray in his hair now, mostly around the temples. Hannibal said it made him look distinguished. His face was still unlined, and he had his California tan back (the first thing he'd set out to do after they left Langley). He looked pretty good for a guy pushing forty. "What's wrong with the way I look?"
"You're avoiding the subject again," Murdock said. "You know what Dr. Richter would say about that."
Face sighed and met Murdock's eyes in their reflections. "Look, Murdock, maybe for ordinary people out and proud works fine. Maybe walking down the street holding hands with your lover works when you're not already on so many peoples' shit lists. But we've got a line of enemies fifteen years long who haven't forgiven us for wrecking their operations. No government pardon is going to protect us from them. Even in a gay-friendly city, we're targets. You can't ever forget that. We came out to everyone who's important to us. We're not living a lie, and I'm proud to call you my partner. Does it matter whether anyone else knows? You know I love you. How is holding your hand going to make that more clear? We don't need to be conspicuous. Besides," he turned away and started walking again, "you smell like fish."
Murdock sniffed his Pike Place Fish Market T-shirt. "It's just the coastal air."
"It's just the fish scales smeared all over you!" Face said. "I can't believe you leaped over the counter and grabbed that fish."
"You should've seen the look on that salmon's face when I caught it mid-flight!" Murdock crowed.
"You should've seen the look on the clerk's face!" Face said. "You about gave the poor guy a heart attack. You're lucky they have a good sense of humor there."
"Those guys were a blast, weren't they? What a job!"
"Um, let's see, up at, what, three a.m., standing in an open-air market every day of the year, regardless of the temperature, up to your elbows in ice and slimy seafood...I'm not sure I see it as an improvement over soldiering."
"Faceman, seriously, you need to lighten up!"
"First I need more color, then I need to lighten up. Make up your mind!" Face smacked Murdock's hand away. "And quit trying to hold my hand!"
Face pulled open a door. "Here, let's get a latte or something so you have something warm to hold in your hand."
Murdock leaned closer. "You've already got something warm I'd like to hold in my hand." A slender, black-clad youth who was just coming out of the Starbucks winked at Face and blew Murdock a kiss.
"Will you shut up, please?" Face hissed.
Murdock just laughed but dutifully stood in line with Face and kept his hands to himself. The line was long and it gave him plenty of time to contemplate the locals. Starbucks seemed to host a nice cross section of the population. Aging hippies, yuppies, and young families rubbed elbows with rowdy teenagers and computer nerds. Nearly everyone who wasn't with someone else had their nose stuck in a book or was glued to a laptop, oblivious to the conversation that swirled around them until their drink was up. Then it was a quick dash to the counter, then back to their ridiculously small table to lose themselves in their own worlds again. It reminded Murdock a little bit of the VA except nobody was talking to themselves. Well, except that guy over in the corner.
Murdock knew he could get used to this, to the gray skies even in summer, to ferry lines, and to volcanoes as far as the eye could see. But Face would never go for it. "I love to visit," he'd said as they settled into the Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons Hotel and looked out over the chilly waters of Puget Sound, "but I need beaches with real sand, and sun more days than not. I need brown hills in the summer and being able to go out in shirtsleeves almost till Christmas. All these trees make me claustrophobic." Having spent five unhappy years on the East Coast, Face was not inclined to seriously consider living anywhere but L.A. for the foreseeable future. That was okay with Murdock. Anywhere Face was, was home, as far as he was concerned.
Besides, thanks to Face's careful investments over the years, they were very well-to-do. They could afford to buy a place outright here and come and go as they pleased. He had his pilot's license back and owned a pretty little Cessna 182T. They could hop up here anytime they wanted to. The Pacific Northwest was loaded with breathtaking sites he wanted to photograph. The tulip fields in the Skagit Valley; the giant, moss-covered evergreens in old growth forests on the Olympic Peninsula; the jagged peaks of the Cascades, purple against a pink and orange sunrise; smug seals, their bellies full of salmon, resting pretty as you please on a rocky beach. In spite of Face's protests to the contrary, Murdock knew how easily Face could lose himself sketching an alpine meadow (even if BA was howling in the background about being eaten alive by mosquitoes). He could probably talk him into coming up here for a couple of weeks every few months, especially during ski season.
Face jabbed Murdock in the ribs. "Order!" he said.
"Uh, I'll have a cup of coffee."
"Just coffee?" asked the barista. She didn't look like she heard that order very often.
"Well, uh, what's she having?" Murdock asked, pointing to a bespectacled, middle-aged woman partially hidden by a stack of books at a nearby table.
"That would be a grande, skinny vanilla latte with two Splenda, well-stirred, with a sprinkle of nutmeg."
"Um." Murdock always hated it when he was confronted by too many choices. Maybe he should get something more exotic. Something extravagant and sinful. Something...
"He'll have a venti, two-pump, extra-hot, white chocolate mocha with whip and a little caramel sauce on top," Face supplied.
"Yeah, okay, that'll be good," Murdock said. That was exotic. "What are you having?"
"Cup of coffee," Face said, smiling. He handed a bill to the barista. "Grande. Please leave room for cream."
"What, you're just having coffee after you put in that complicated order for me?"
"Hey, I had her leave room for cream."
Face pulled out his new guide book and perused it while they waited for their drinks. "We should probably leave by seven tomorrow if we're going to climb Mount St. Helens early enough to get some good pictures. There's supposed to be clouds moving in tomorrow afternoon.
Murdock nodded. He was looking forward to getting up there. He'd seen the pictures, of course, and marveled at the swath of destruction all around the mountain, but he'd never been able to make the trip. They'd actually been talking about going just before Stockwell had nabbed the team, and he'd kept them too busy for the next five years to even think about a real vacation.
This time they were doing it right, and they were taking all the time they wanted. This was their second in-city night. Yesterday they'd spent most of the day at the Museum of Flight before going to the top of the Space Needle to look out over the city. Today had been devoted to the Pike Place Market and the waterfront, then a side trip to Capitol Hill to visit a couple of art galleries and a vintage record store. They'd left BA and Hannibal in the record store spending their hard-earned cash on albums to fill up the record cabinet BA had just brought back from his old bedroom in Mama B's apartment. Now that they were free men (and could really, finally bring themselves to believe they were free) Hannibal and BA were making their own little love nest in Burbank and filling it up with stuff. Lots of stuff. Who knew BA's mother had kept everything he ever owned? Hannibal had never collected much, being a career soldier, but he was making up for it now.
He and Face were making a love nest, too, in Brentwood. It was a really big nest, and Face knew exactly what he wanted in it. Except for artwork, Face wasn't much interested in old stuff. If it wasn't a valuable antique of some kind, he wasn't much interested in owning it, and even if it was a valuable antique, he was more likely to sell it than not. He liked shiny new things, so he'd lost interest in the record store pretty fast. Murdock had grabbed up some Sinatra albums (because he liked old stuff) and was looking forward to listening to them, scratches and all.
Face led the way to a table by the window, sitting with his back to the wall by force of habit, and leaving himself a clear view of the door and the passageway to the back of the shop. They might not be fugitives anymore, but Face would probably never be able to free himself from the cautious habits ingrained in him over more than fifteen years on the run. Murdock shook his head, slid into the chair opposite Face, and applied himself to the whipped cream and caramel sauce mounded on his drink. This was a lot better than the cocoa at the VA.
They sat in companionable silence to study their guide books and watch people go by on the street. Murdock decided Seattle was a good place to people watch, though he was a little disappointed not to have seen Bill Gates yet. Maybe Face could figure out a way to get them invited to Gates's house. He really wanted to see the gadgets that guy owned.
At Face's tone, Murdock looked over his shoulder and saw the reason for Face's concern: three skinheads, conspicuous in their Doc Martens, bomber jackets, and buzz cuts. They were young, loud, and full of themselves as they swaggered to the counter, pushing ahead of two women, one pregnant, who were about to put in their orders.
"You two dikes don't care if we go first, do you?" one of them said.
The women said nothing, but they each took a step back. The barista gamely tried to crane her neck around the skinheads and get the women's order, but one of the men stepped over to block her view. "We're goin' first," he said. "They said they don't mind."
" `Cept I dunno what I want," one of the men said. He stood with his arms folded, staring up at the menu while the line got longer behind him and the pregnant woman shifted uncomfortably.
"Why don't you go get us a table, Alice," the woman behind them said. "I'll put your order in. You've been on your feet too long already."
"Good idea," Alice said, resting her hand on her stomach. "Davey's getting restless."
This time the man moved to block the pregnant woman on her way to the table. "Can't believe they let you homos have babies," he said. "Like we need one more homo baby."
"Look, we don't want any trouble," Alice said. She tried to move around the man, but he blocked her way again.
Her partner left the line and moved to stand beside her, putting an arm around her waist.
"Come on, just leave us alone," the woman said.
"How about you come spend the night with me, Alice," the man said, leering. "When I show you what a real man is, you won't need Miss Butch anymore."
A hush fell over the coffee shop as everyone sensed the women's distress. Murdock sighed and took one last sip of his mocha as Face calmly folded up the map and slipped in into his back pocket. The store manager came around the counter and did his best to insert himself between the women and the man. "Gentlemen, I'm going to have to ask you to leave," he said. "I've already called the police."
"That's nice," the man said. With one swing, he slugged the manager, knocking him into a table and sending coffee and scones flying. By then Face and Murdock were out of their seats, and in three quick strides reached the manager, helping him to his feet and depositing him in a chair on their way to the front.
"I believe you were asked to leave," Face said. His voice got that dangerous edge to it that Murdock only heard when Face was truly pissed off.
"Ooh, you guys, the pretty boy wants us to leave!"
The other skinheads moved to join their friend. Face moved a couple of steps away, and Murdock quickly put his arms around the two women and maneuvered them out of harm's way. "The mocha's good today," he whispered. He glanced down at Alice's swollen belly. "Better get decaf."
"Pretty boy, eh?" Face was saying. "Haven't heard that one for awhile! Now, if you guys need some help finding the door..."
"How about we help you find it, faggot?" one of the other men said. "Head first."
Face shook his head. "And I thought Seattle was supposed to be such a liberal, gay-friendly city," he said. "You know, I'm sure the Chamber of Commerce is going to be very disappointed in you for the impression you're leaving me with." As he talked, he kept his hands up in a non-threatening gesture and moved toward the counter.
Murdock picked up a fallen chair. "They've forgotten all about that warm Seattle welcome we're supposed to get," he said. "I guess all the cold air must have seeped into the pores on their scalps and frozen their brains."
The skinheads turned back to face Murdock. "This is gonna be fun," one of them said. "A two-fer! Let's start with this one." Together they surged toward Murdock, who held the chair up like a lion tamer.
"Back! Back!" he shouted. "Down boy!"
Face reached over the counter. "Is that sugar-free?" he asked. The barista nodded.
"Give me one that's not," he said.
The barista slid a bottle his way, and Face grabbed it up. He stepped forward, and in one swift motion he smashed the bottle against one skinhead skull. The bottle shattered, and raspberry syrup poured down the man's face. He just had time to say, "What the fu..." when his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed on the floor.
Patrons scattered, hugging the walls and pulling tables over in front of themselves.
"How about we even up the odds a little bit?" Face said. With both hands he grabbed the bottom edge of one of the remaining skinheads' jackets, ducking a swing as he did so, then with one mighty tug, he pulled the jacket up and over the kid's head.
"Hey!" the kid yelled. "Hey!"
When his remaining friend moved to help him, Murdock shifted his grip on the chair and hit his opponent across the back, effectively refocusing his attention. The man took a swing at Murdock, missing by a mile. A blow to the stomach and a hard jab to the chin, and Murdock's man joined his compatriot in a sticky syrup puddle on the floor. In the meantime, Face spun his man around, grabbed him by the belt and the back of his jacket, and launched him through the front window, where he fell at the feet of the Seattle police officer.
Murdock smoothed his new T-shirt while Face straightened his tie as the patrons burst into applause. So much for being inconspicuous. The manager, holding a white towel to his split lip, hobbled over and shook hands with each of them. "Thank you!" he said. "Thank you so much!"
"Sorry about the bottle of syrup," Face said.
"No, no, it's okay," the man said. "Really. You put it to good use."
Alice and her partner came over. "You two were fantastic!" Alice said. "How can we ever thank you?"
"No need," Murdock said. "Your smile is thanks enough."
"That and a healthy baby," Face said, "with two loving moms to give him a good home."
Alice smiled. "Two more weeks," she said, "if I make it that long. This kid's ready to come out and see the world."
"It's a good world," Face said. "Most of it, anyway. Good luck with him." He turned to Murdock. "I think we've done about all the damage we can do here," he said. "You ready to go?"
"I'm ready," Murdock said. On the way out, he stopped and leaned over one of the groggy skinheads. "You're a disgrace to those bomber jackets," he said.
"You okay?" Face asked once they were standing outside in the fresh air.
"Fine. You okay?"
"Right as rain."
"Bet he's gonna wish he never called you pretty boy," Murdock said.
"Bet he's gonna think twice before he cuts in line again, too," Face said. "And before he tries anymore gay bashing."
"You wield a mean raspberry syrup bottle," Murdock said, grinning.
"You wield a mean chair," Face said.
"We make a good team."
"Yeah, we do," Face said. "A really good team." He held his hand out.
"What about our fifteen-year line of enemies?" Murdock asked.
"To hell with `em," Face said. "I want to hold your hand."
Murdock smiled, reached for Face's hand, and pulled him close as they walked away.
In the doorway of the Starbuck's, a bespectacled, middle-aged woman watched the two men walk up the street hand in hand, and the taller one's happy laughter floated back to her on the breeze. "They're never going to believe this on the list," she thought. She went back to her seat, punched a button on her laptop computer, and typed, "Chapter 1: The Gay Team."
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