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The Only Difference

Sunday, December 25th --

I'm sitting alone and in the dark. It's almost midnight and it's been a long exhausting day. I know I should get some rest, I'm tired, but I just can't close my eyes. Not yet. Not while today is so fresh in my mind. I close my eyes and all I can see is...

The police officer stepped into the dining room. It was obvious that he was painfully aware of the stares directed at him, he was shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other. He turned and looked to John who entered the room just behind him. He made a gesture that could have meant he wished to talk to John privately but John forestalled that motion by announcing that we were all family and friends and what he came to say could be said openly.

I'm not sure what we expected. Six months! Six long worrisome months with no news of what had become of Templeton. Thinking upon it now, I am amazed at the flow of random, silly and serious, thoughts that run through oneís mind when facing the unknown.

My first thought was that Templeton had been found. From there an inner voice whispered that he would be cold in only the t-shirt and slacks he was wearing when he disappeared. I quickly dismissed the silly thought with ĎIím sure they offered him a jacket when they found himí. My next thought was what if he was, what if they had found him? But I couldnít even say it, think it. Then my less than rational side pitched in that it was Christmas. They donít deliver bad news of Christmas, right?...Right?

I found that I didnít have to say it for it to be true. He said it. It was true. It was the same line heard countless times in movies and on TV.

"Iím sorry."

No comfort there. //Please donít say it//

"Iím sorry to inform you that Templeton Peck has been found deceased."

I would have denied it as HM did, but I was too stunned to do anything but sit unmoving, tears flowing.

"His car was found yesterday evening. It appears to have been an accident, no further investigation will be conducted. You have my sincerest condolences."

I felt Jimmy wrap his arms around me.

Shock is an odd feeling. As you slowly come back to yourself you can see what is happening around you but it doesnít seam real. You hear voices but you canít tell what they are saying. People seem to move too slowly...Then all of a sudden you are back. You are yourself once again and everything is far too real. Only a few seconds have passed yet you feel lost, as though you have missed hours.

HM was shaking his head, denying the officerís words. BA, ever-strong BA, stood up, sending his chair crashing to the floor behind him. If the sound hadnít snapped John out of his grief, I believe that BA would have seriously injured the young officer. The trust and faith those men place in John is amazing.

"BA!" John grabbed the big mechanicís arm, "BA! Put him down! This wonít bring back Face! Do you hear me Sergeant?!"

BA had a murderous look in his eye but he dropped the man, who scampered back and found himself in the capable hands of Maggie. He was ushered to the door where they exchanged further formalities before he was shown out.

Back in the dining room, BAís mother had taken charge of her son and he was bawling into her shoulder, letting his grief out in equal bouts of anger and tears. My own children were now hugging each other, the little ones upset and not quite understanding what had happened.

Maggie knelt down in front of HM who had backed himself into a corner and was once again withdrawn into himself. I watched as she tried to put her arms around him in comfort which only gained a violent reaction from the distraught pilot as he pushed her away.

"Murdock?" Maggie tried again, placing her hand on his arm which was tightly wrapped around his legs. He had curled into a tight ball and was slowly rocking back and forth. "Please, Murdock, donít do this."

A gentle hand on her own arm caused her to glance up. Finding the reassuring eyes of the old priest, she relinquished her spot to Father Maghill with a nod. As I watched him sit on the floor beside HM, I registered that Maggie had slipped her arms around John, who appeared to be taking the news stoically, unless you looked into his eyes.

Back in my kitchen, safe from prying eyes, I wipe silent tears from my cheeks. Maybe knowing isnít all that much better than not knowing. The only difference seems to be that with the latter there is hope.

Iím tired...and Iím old. I should be getting some rest. Today was long, tomorrow will be longer.