Eddie's Crossing by Holly C
Disclaimer: These are not my characters; they are the wonderful invention of Chris Brancato and First wave Productions, Francis Ford Coppola, Larry Sugar and Pearson TV. Borrowed to play with and returned unharmed and for no profit.
Spoilers for Rubicon.
Eddie's thoughts during Rubicon.
The line went dead like so many times before and I slumped back stunned.
Why can't you say goodbye like other people do? Huh? Because you aren't like other people I guess; not like the rest of us, no you were born to be special. Well, special's okay till you get yourself killed isn't it? A martyr to the cause. Remember what Joshua said to you? They don't care about you, they don't honor you as the twice blessed man, they don't respect you as their savior. Your death will mean nothing to them, hell they crave it. All those nameless faceless people that you are willing to put your life on the line for...what have they ever done for you? How have they ever helped you? What they've done is hunted you down, stuck you in an insane asylum, imprisoned you and chased you with dogs. You don't owe them your life, Foster.
Get out of there, man, get out now...now dammit.
Did you listen? When did you ever listen to me, huh? Crazy Eddie?
********************************************************************** I shouted his name like I've done hundreds of time, "Foster? Foster? Speak to me." But I knew it was in vain.
When he said the words, "It's a bomb, Eddie," there was a coldness to his tone which signalled his acceptance of his fate. He knew he was a dead man and accepted it. He knew there was nothing he could do. Impotence; I know that feeling, I got used to it.
I keep going over those last few minutes in my mind to see if I can change things, but no, it always plays out the same. Like a bad TV movie that you rewind repeatedly in the hope that the ending will improve. No matter how many times I rewind the memory the ending is as inevitable as death.
With the clarity of crystal I can recall his last conversation with me. It replays in my dreams. I heard him jemmy open the door of the car then a little silence as he opened the case.
"The briefcase is here like it should be..." so far so good, then he told me his reservation-he thought it was too easy. I scoffed at that...easy? It had taken me weeks to break that Internet code. I was holding a stress ball at the time, throwing it from hand to hand in frustration, wishing I could see what he was doing, feeling a headache growing at the base of my skull.
There was no explosive residue on the case, that was a good thing. I sighed in relief and relaxed my grip on the ball. He was preparing to open the case. It was okay, no residue so no danger.
Still I worried, "Careful."
The click of the fastener releasing sounded too loud in my earphones. God I was jumpy.
"Foster?" No residue-no danger, I reminded myself. Don't panic him.
More silence then his blessed voice whispering, "Alien orbs inside."
"Bingo!" My response was instinctive, excited. But Cade was not so confident.
What was it he said? "Either we got lucky or this is a Hell of a set up."
I started to get that sick feeling in my stomach, the one I always get when the line goes quiet. There was a change in his tone of voice and the alarms started ringing.
"Got a problem," he said.
"What?" I queried, straining to hear something, a ticking, a hissing, him breathing.
His reply sent cold shivers through my body and I almost crushed the little white ball in my fist like it was made of paper.
"The car door is clean..." he began and I knew there was a "but" coming.
Don't do this to me Foster.
Then it came, "But the car door is covered in C 4 residue."
So there it was-the end, the words I had been expecting. In a way it was a relief, yeah this sounds callous doesn't it? All the time waiting for that moment when they got him. The anticipation is stressful especially when you know there's not a damn thing you can do to stop it. To stop the inevitable.
My heart skipped a beat, you know, like you read in trashy novels. Well, it's true, it did-thud thud silence-thud thud.
I swallowed, "There's a bomb in the car?" Silence.
I could feel the coldness slowly creeping upwards from my curled up toes along my calves over my clenched knees and into my hardened stomach. I gulped down the dryness, licked my lips and ground out, "Foster? What are you doing?"
Silence again that seemed to stretch out as my stomach heaved and the coldness made its way to my chest and the tapping on my skull developed into a dull pounding.
Finally, his voice, calm despite the panic he must have been feeling, "Under the seat."
That was it, twice blessed be damned, I shouted to him, praying that this time he would take some notice of me.
"Get outta there!" What was I saying, moving would set the thing off. Boom!
Praying he hadn't done what I said I shouted, "No, no wait, don't move."
Truth to tell, I had no idea what to say to him. What do you say in that situation? We both knew what was going to happen whatever he did, I was just too cowardly to admit it to myself. He was going to die senselessly and I could do nothing but sit there and listen. Listen to him draw his last breath.
How could he stay so calm? "Fail-safe Eddie, it's gonna blow either way."
I wasn't going to let him give up without a fight, I couldn't could I? What's that they say? Where there's life, there's hope? He was our savior wasn't he? He always had the answers. He always survived, even death that time he was shot in the back.
"No, ya gotta do something!" (Don't leave me.)
"Can't happen like this man," (You were supposed to stop the invasion.)
Then he said it, three last words which meant nothing and everything to me at the same time, "See you, Eddie."
"Foster...what are ya doing?" Silence as he broke the connection.
"See you Cade," I whispered, alone in my trailer. My name on his lips; the last word he spoke was my name and I couldn't do a damn thing to help him in his last moments.
How long did I sit there stunned, the ball falling from my senseless fingers to roll away under a unit never to be found? I have no idea. It must have been sometime before I came to my senses, a quarter hour or so. I'm not a man of action, not like him. I sat there staring into space, totally zoned out. Then the headache made it's presence felt. If I wasn't careful I was going to be suffering from one hell of a migraine.
Okay so I admit it; for a few minutes there I panicked. Blindly. But after a few advil and when my mind finally cleared I logged on and hacked into the emergency services to find out if anyone had called in an explosion.
But there was nothing. Not a damn thing. I would have to go to the scene of the...his accident myself. I searched the trailer for first aid equipment trying to ignore the panic that screwed up the muscles of my stomach into a tight ball.
A bottle of water, bandages, antiseptic cream, morphine, a blanket. I even had IV equipment stashed away, you never know when it might come in useful; sterile needles and all. What sort of injuries would he have if he'd survived? Burns, sure; head injury? He'd be in shock, maybe, God help him, unconscious, dehydrated, bleeding, possibly broken bones if the explosion had thrown him some. Something to carry him with? How the hell was I going to get him into the car if he was burnt or concussed? Man if he was that bad I'd have no choice, I'd have to get an ambulance for him. I could manage minor injuries, even a knock on the head; I could cope with that. But severe burns would be beyond my capabilities. There's only so much a genius can do without the proper equipment. Better then that he took his chances with the authorities-at least he'd still be alive. Yeah, better under arrest in a hospital than dead. Didn't know whether Foster would agree with that, he'd been a bit down past few days. Almost thought he was gonna give up the fight till we got that lead. Huh, a lead which in hindsight was a trap.
Then the thought hit me. Could the Gua have got him? Surely not. They'd be happy to know they'd killed him, for sure. I needed to keep a sense of perspective if I was gonna be of any use to him. Needed to stay cool, keep my head, be detached.
I bundled the medical equipment into a bag and threw it into the back of the Caddie along with a laptop. I knew that time was short: I had to get there before anyone else did, even if it was just to prove to myself he really was dead this time. I didn't want the damn Gua to have his body to slice up or make a husk out of it. He'd get a proper burial, next to Hannah. Together at last.
I tried to push those morbid thoughts away, but man it was difficult under the circumstances. The chances of surviving a car explosion were slim. I tried to reassure myself that Foster had-has fast reflexes, he's in the prime of life, strong, healthy and quick-witted. He would have shot out the car and tucked and rolled to safety. May just only be a little beat up. Yeah, I contented myself then with a picture of Foster brushing himself down and limping off, attaché case in hand, into the bushes to hide till I came to get him. Like he always did.
I pushed the key into the ignition with a trembling hand and drove off as fast as I could without drawing attention to myself: the last thing I needed was to be pulled over for speeding. As I drove along reason broke through and I could not shake a persistent vision of Foster a burnt unrecognisable mess besides a smoking hulk that was once a car, I could already hear the crackling of the car's ruined upholstery, smell the sourness of scorched flesh and the despondent odor of death.
If he was able to talk he would have called me. I knew that. Pretending he was okay was just not facing facts and you know how much I love facts. I shook away the melancholy thoughts and tried to concentrate on not running a red light or missing a turn. The advil had muddied my thought processes, shouldn't have taken so much.
It wasn't long before I found the location and sure enough I saw black plumes of smoke before I saw the smoldering car. Parking under cover of trees, I killed the engine and sat white knuckled, clutching the steering wheel for a few seconds, anchoring myself as I breathed deeply and tried to calm my shattered nerves.
I did not dare look so I closed my eyes. Where would the body be? Inside the car or a few feet away, thrown by the explosion? By the driver's door, or would it be burned beyond recognition? Immolated. How much of him would be left for me to recognise? Hell, how would I even know it was him and not some dissolved Gua? Yea, all those fractious thoughts scurried round my mind coming to no satisfactory conclusion. Just pictures I did not want to see.
Even before I stepped out onto the concrete, the acrid smell of charred plastic, rusted metal and melting paint assaulted my nose and made me gag. Flakes of soot drifted slowly past my face like hellish snowflakes. Some landed on my nose and as I raised a hand I wondered, irreverently, if it was a piece of my friend I was so casually brushing away. What is the body reduced to when it is burnt?
What weight, what mass? Don't go there Eddie, I remonstrated, snagging the medical bag and turning with a cold heart toward the wreck, keeping a wary eye out for Gua or police. There appeared to be no sign of anything remotely like a body between me and the car, I sighed my relief.
So far so good.
I searched good and hard for nearly an hour without finding anything; not a scrap of clothing, no belt buckle, no lock pick, no hair, no watch, no teeth, no attaché case. What's left when flesh burns away?
No sign of Foster at all. I figured this was good as it probably meant he wasn't dead, he'd either got out alive under his own volition or had been taken off to a hospital by the authorities. What I needed to do was get back to the Airstream and start searching for him. As I turned away from the scene of Foster's last stand, I felt a great weariness and tears began to fall from my eyes. I could not explain why this was happening, they had a will of their own. By the time I got into the driver's seat the sobs had started up too. As soon as I wiped the tears away more flowed to take their place and I had to admit defeat. I pulled out onto the road, weeping uncontrollably, hardly able to see through the windshield. Get a grip, Eddie, I told myself, fruitlessly.
When I arrived back at the trailer I was still crying like a hurt child. I could not tell if the tears were of relief or sorrow, some things can't be explained. I can still clearly remember how much it hurt to cough out the sobs and not be able to stop, to try to still heaving shoulders without success. It took two Jolts and a couple more advil to finally calm my nerves and focus on searching through hospitals for recent admissions. With each negative result my heart grew heavier and the tears threatened to re-emerge.
What was wrong with me? Why did the guy mean so much to me? It's so much easier to bear loss when you don't get attached. Me and Foster-we got attached. Like friends do, like brothers. I was there for him when he lost everything and he came to rely on me and I got to rely on him relying on me. Interdependence. That's a hard thing for a paranoid person like me. I rely on my medication to help me function normally, I relied on Foster for more of the same. Normality. That's a joke. Nothing normal about my life since he came into it with his damned prophetic book.
Dejected and exhausted at 4 am I finally had to admit defeat that first night and fell asleep still clothed, the charred odor of explosives clinging to my hair, my shirt, my jeans and my heart.
I hate that feeling when you wake up from a restless night's sleep totally groggy and uncomfortable. Rotating my arms to get rid of the stiffness in my shoulder joints, I groaned as I squinted at the clock. It was 10 am. I'd have to get up before Foster woke me with whatever physical exercise routine he was into that week. He had to keep fit to keep his edge. The Gua were strong and Foster had to compete, couldn't let his guard down. So he jogged and did, what was it-Canadian airforce exercises, the 11 minute a day plan? I tried to do them with him and never got past level two. Then it hit me. Foster wasn't here. Well, he often wasn't here, I knew that; he spent more time in Motel rooms and hostels than he did here. His absence was more ominous because it was unintentional. I had it get back on the trail, back to searching hospitals. First off though, I needed a shower and some breakfast, I tried not to get morbid on an empty stomach.
And so the days progressed each one pretty much the same. I'd awake unrefreshed expecting to hear my friend doing stretches or making coffee, then it would hit me like a two by four across the back of the neck, he was gone and I would have to face another bleak day searching hopelessly for him. I'd prepare breakfast alone and with my mind only half on frying bacon, grinding beans, flipping pancakes. I would eat it in solitude whilst the computer booted up. Then I would take my coffee to the desk and start searching, checking e mails, checking newspapers for deaths, checking morgues and hospitals. Reading the Nostradamus book over and over for clues. The headache always started up around midday and stayed with me until I fell exhausted onto my bed after midnight. My dreams would be of Foster dying in a hundred different and successively painful ways and each time his last word would be "Eddie."
Sometimes I would forget lunch. There were times when I would open the refrigerator to find only rotting food. Then I would have to organise myself into ordering a food delivery. As the days became a week I neglected myself even more, forgetting to wash and to shave. I had one goal only and that was to find him - to find him alive and with amnesia, to find him hidden away till it was safe, to find his body and bury it properly.
I admit it, I grew despondent and sometimes I lost hope completely. Those were the darkest days and I tried to put them behind me. There was more at stake than friendship, than the attachment of two lonely people united against a common foe; there was a world to save, an alien race to defeat, an invasion to stop. But, Hell, I'd gotten so used to having him around, my anchor in the real world that being without him was becoming more unbearable by the day and I feared a descent into true paranoia or even depression.
I was this close to breaking down.
Then the cellphone chirped, one afternoon almost two weeks after I'd lost him. It chirped and I stared at it, hardly recognising the sound. Only one person called me on that line. I brushed the debris under which it was buried off the chair and picked it up, holding it at arms length, my breath coming in gasps. I pushed the button,
"Hello" I whispered clenching my eyes shut, thinking, "Oh please let it be him."
Then as if there was no time separating that moment and the one in the car he spoke, "Eddie?" The word echoed like sound does in a payphone booth. His voice was faint, filled with the pain of whatever he had been through, filled with pain but real. He was alive.
He managed to tell me where he was, to ask me to come get him before exhaustion took its toll and he rang off. I collapsed to the chaotic floor of the Airstream with the sheer relief of being freed from a nightmare. He was safe. I could collect him and bring him back, lecture him on not taking chances like that again, let him know what I had been through. We were both safe, the world was safe.
And as the tears started to fall again I smirked cynically. Yeah, sure we were safe. Till the next time he put me through Hell. This was only the beginning, this was only the first wave. I pulled myself together and headed out the trailer. I closed and bolted the door, then leant my forehead against the cool metal. It was hard and unyielding and I wished that I could be like that too, wished for a cold metallic tin man's heart. A heart that could not mourn for the loss of a friend, a heart that did not need the solace of friendship.
Damn you Foster, I thought as I jumped into the driver's seat, for ever coming into my life and changing it so irrevocably, damn you for catching me with my guard down. For putting me through Hell. It was not the first time, and I knew as sure as the Gua were evil little bastards who all deserved to fry, that it would not be the last. But what the heck, I also knew at that moment that I would go through it all again for him.
For our friendship. And what's more, he would go through that for me too.
Nov. 2000 Holly C