Death rang like a dial-tone over the air, muting all sounding and draining all thoughts from the mind; leaving attendants as an empty shell. The sky, having predicted the disaster, had prepared its ominous disguise. Fog lingered low and eavesdropped on the somber eulogy delivered so late in the afternoon. Everything had taken a shade a gray, as though the entire area had been washed out and left with lifeless color. Even the cold metal chairs, equally spaced about the trim field, seemed to have lost their complexion. A light push of air reminded trees to bow in mourn; their shaking leaves the echoing sobs of what nature knew was a unfulfilled life laying in the open coffin. Scattered dandelions regarded the ceremony by sending seeds in their direction, a few white umbrellas kissing the forehead of the tranquil corpse.
Dim-suited clones sat in aligned rows, eyes forward and hands clasped in their laps: by the men as a form of respect, and by the women as an attempt to refrain from quivering. Every female's cheeks were drowned in a river of crystal tears, their wrinkles no longer made invisible by make-up; instead accented by the pools of water that clung to their faces.
Janice Marlow, known by most as Agent Marlow of the FBI, had performed great restraint in securing her eyes dry. Although she suspected the previous night's hysteria of tears had been enough of an outcry, listening to the minister speak of her partner in the past tense immediately moistened her eyes. She watched as seven soldiers, who had up until this point remained still statues behind the casket, approached where the minister stood.
Marlow hadn't known Borjes was former military, though it came as no great shock. Borjes is… was… tactful, fast on his feet and very brave. She had known ever since he was assigned to her six months back that he would be a terrific agent. Her dark eyes focused on the men as they performed the 21-gun salute, her gaze locked on their faces. Emotionless as they were now, Jan could picture them sitting at a bar with Borjes a year before, laughing up a storm at his expense, roasting him a farewell as he prepared to join the FBI.
The sound of the gun shots awoke Marlow from her traveling mind, ringing against her heart like a beating drum. Glad to be seated in the front row, she hoped her fellow agents hadn't seen her jump. She was never so skittish, and guns were never a fear of hers. It was only now that they caused emotional pain, from seeing the handsome Mexican's calm face and knowing that his eyelids would never open again. Never again, because of that bullet to his heart. A shot that may have never pierced him had she not pushed him away.
They had been working on the Drexler bombing for only a week, although it seemed like years. The terrorist attack was all they thought about, all they worked on, day and night for seven days. They had made so much progress, considering where they started and what little they had to work on. So when Marlow had learned about one of their runaway suspects meeting at the Fervor Club, she hadn't wasted time to tell Borjes, or her boss, where she was headed. The trip had resulted with her held at gun-point, and her suspects escaping with all the evidence that proved her case.
Fred Chambers had always disliked her. He had motive; the fact that she desired his job as boss had not gone unnoticed, so after the night's escapade, he had taken her discretion as trying to go over the chain of command. He immediately took her off the Drexler case, leaving her bound to her desk to complete paperwork. And in her frustration, she had taken it out on Borjes…
And that was why he hadn't called on her when he went to the Manhattan Athletics club, whereupon he met up with their lead suspect, Otis Wailey. Her outburst was the reason he had chased an armed Wailey down the street and into the apartment complex without backup, without a savior and without a chance.
After the soldiers lowered their rifles, the general of Borjes' old unit removed the swaying flag from above the coffin. He wrapped it slowly, with fragile hands, before doing an about-face and approaching a frail woman. She was Borjes' only remaining family, a cousin, whom by her spilt tears, had apparently been very close to the deceased. Fresh water grazed the temporarily dry eyes of every female as the general delivered a heartfelt recognition: "On behalf of the President of the United States and this grateful nation, we offer to you this flag as a symbol of gratitude towards the sacrifice of your loved one."
The woman nodded and muttered an inaudible "thank you" before accepting the flag. Immediately, a man who had been sitting towards the back approached the small chrome stand. His face was stern and in full-color, though he paused as though he couldn't form words. Instead of feeling sympathy, Marlow felt her emotions jump from mourn to loathe so quickly she released a low grumble. Chambers placed two hands on the stand, his slightly-too-large lips forming words before he had even spoke them. "I had worked with Borjes for only a few months, but I feel as though we had been partners for years. He was one of the most competent and dedicated men I have ever had the pleasure of-"
It took all the nerve in her body to keep Marlow frozen in her seat. Every inch of her muscles desperately wanted her to reach for her .9 millimeter and silence the mouth that spewed lies so fluently.
The day of Borjes' death, she had gone to see Joseph Langdon, who had a connection to the Drexler Museum. Shortly into her visit Joseph received a phone call. The second he hung up, he pulled a pistol and fired at her. While she had made it out alive (the same could not be said about Joseph) Marlow knew he had been instructed through the phone call to kill her.
She and Borjes' had learned that the government was involved with the bombing, but not once had she considered it to be someone she knew. It had been more horrendous to learn than of Borjes' death. She had requested the phone number of the call to Langdon, and received it only hours after Borjes was murdered. Upon calling the number, the voice that answered was that which was speaking right then, at Borjes' deathbed.
The shock had died over two days, replaced with a cold hatred that spurred new thoughts to counteract what she wanted to believe. Chambers had been with Borjes that day, chasing down Otis Wailey. If he truly thought Borjes was getting too close to the truth, who is to say that he, who now stood at the podium beside Borjes' corpse, was not the one to end his life? To bury a bullet into his chest, and destroy the soul of a beautiful man and friend.
"… strong, dedicated; completely devoted to protecting those around him…"
Talking over Chambers' prevarication, Marlow mumbled a solemn promise under her breath. Your life will not be wasted, she assured the handsomely dressed body as though he could hear her. No matter who did this to you; Otis Wailey, Chambers; it doesn't matter. I will hunt them both down, and make them pay for the slow pain they caused you. Your death will be their final regret.
"…But to know that he died a heroic, inescapable death, we know that his passing was not in vain. He will always be remembered as a selfless soldier to the end."