“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.”
The first thing Beth noticed as she woke was that she was on a cold, concrete floor and she could feel her arms and legs were chained. Looking around carefully Beth saw the cell she was in was small, no larger then 4 x 6 and illuminated by a dim light bulb in the ceiling. There was pail in the far corner and a moth-eaten blanket next to her. Judging from the smell she could guess what the pail was for. After several tries Beth managed to sit up with her back against the wall, now she could see her legs and arms were chained together only giving her the limiting her ability to move her limbs in any direction.
Taking stock of herself Beth saw that she was still dressed in her black camo pants, but her shirt was missing and she only had her green tee shirt on her. Beth thought sarcastically. Beth pulled the thin blanket around her to try and keep warm when she heard footsteps outside her cell.
The cell door flew open and Beth barely had time to see the two large guards before she was picked up and slammed into a wall. She struggled to fight back but the chains prevented any movement, Beth felt herself pulled into the corridor and slammed into the wall several times as her captors moved her down the hallway. Dazed, Beth heard the weak calls of support from the other cells. “Stay strong Beth” and “Semper Fi,” before she was pulled out of the cellblock. Beth decided to try and save her strength for what came next as she was dumped into a medium sized room that stank of old blood and sweat. The only furniture in the room was a wooden table and the metal chair she was sitting on. Quickly and efficiently the guards chained Beth’s legs to the chair and her arms behind her.
The wait wasn't long as two men walked into the room; the first man was about 5' 5" with dark hair and eyes. The other man was short, thin and bald. Beth noticed that no one so far was wearing any sort of uniform or anything identifiable and started to worry.
The dark haired man grabbed Beth by the face roughly pulling it up to his, “So you are a ‘soldier’ eh.” The man said with a sneer and a thick French accent.
Beth kept quiet knowing that these men didn't want an answer or needed a reason for anything they were going to do and goading them would only make things worse, it that was possible.
“Can't talk? Well don’t worry little girl we will teach you some manners. This small gentleman is an ‘expert’ in convincing individuals to speak. He has had many years of practice to hone his craft on individuals such as yourself.” The door to the room opened and in walked a large guard who walked over to the table and put down a large black satchel, several odd implements, a car battery and jumper cables on the table in front of her.
Beth shivered at the sight of the items on the table. [I will not break, I will not break, I can do this, I can do this,] Beth kept saying as a mantra in her head.
And then the questions began, “What is your unit? What is its location and strength?”
“Summers, E., Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps, RP6511298.” Beth replied. Beth never saw the first blow, which slammed into her left eye or the next or any of the others that followed. When the blows finally stopped Beth's face felt a bloody mess, the left side of her face was swollen and she couldn’t open her left eye from the swelling as blood ran down her face from several other cuts Beth didn’t remember getting.
“So ‘Miss Soldier’ where is your unit located? What is its strength? What other units are on this base?” The dark haired man demanded even as her torturer had yet to utter one word.
Spitting out blood, Beth struggled to speak thru her swollen lips, “Summers, E. Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps, RP6511298.”
Beth watched as small man attached the jumper cables to the legs of the chair and then attached one of the two on the other end of the cable to the car battery. The small bald man held the unattached piece in his hand and wore a thick, black rubber glove.
“One last chance little soldier. Where is your unit located and what is its strength?” Beth’s dark interrogator asked.
Beth stayed silent. She saw the small man touch the other cable to the battery and Beth felt waves of pain as the electricity rolled thru her as she screamed in agony…
Her throat was raw from screaming, Beth wasn’t sure she had a voice anymore. She sagged against the chair, exhausted from the beatings and electricity.
“I see they breed their women stupid in America, do not worry we will be more than happy to show you your proper place.”
Her dark haired interrogator nodded to the smaller man he came in with. The guard behind her who had been beating her periodically grabbed her chained arms and jerked them upwards until she heard two loud pops and felt her arms pop out of their sockets in her shoulders, gritting her teeth Beth clamped down on the scream that threatened to tear its way out of her throat even as tears ran down her face. Beth focused solely on one thought, as she felt the tears of pain she couldn't hold back.
“So, do you feel more talkative my little songbird?”
Slowly Beth looked up “Summers, E., Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps, RP6511298.” Beth choked out, refusing to give an inch.
The dark haired interrogator turned away, “Take her back to her cell, let the pain be her companion for now.”
One guard opened the door while the other grabbed Beth and dragged out of the room by her arms, the pain blinding her when she was thrown into her cell. As she fell Beth twisted to miss hitting her shoulder and land on her back. Beth rested her head on the cold floor, letting the pain subside; finally Beth pulled herself up next to the wall. Beth knew she couldn’t let her arms stay dislocated and there was only one option.
Steeling herself for a moment, Beth slammed her left shoulder repeatedly into the wall until she felt the joint pop back in. White lances of pain and tears from the pain blinded her, her cries of pain echoing in the cell. Resting her head against the cool wall, the pain subsided to the point that it was no longer overwhelming, as soon as that happened Beth slammed her right shoulder against the wall. Her cries of pain echoed in the empty cell and outside, but the joint popped back in. Beth fell back to the floor, tears streaming down her face. As she laid there on the cold floor, exhaustion finally overwhelmed her and she passed out.
Beth awoke to a faint tapping on the wall on her right, as she listened she could make out the tapping was Morse code. Beth closed her eyes, trying to block out the pain radiating throughout her body. She was so thirsty and the smell from the pail by the door permeated the enclosed room. Beth tried to remember back to her training and mentally translate what each tap meant. Listening to the tapping, they slowly turned into words, then sentences, as she wearily translated them and the tapping dots and dashes turned into words and the fog that clouded her thoughts cleared as she concentrated; -... . - .... / .- .-. . / -.-- --- . .- / --- -.- .- -.-- . She translated the tapping on the wall, *Beth are you okay?*
Picking up a loose rock, she started to reply back, *Yes I am, who is this?*
There was a short pause before the tapping started again on her wall, * It's Shintaro*
Beth started tapping *Have you seen Taylor?*
*We saw him brought in to the ‘room’ earlier. He’s been there since. There are about 5 others from the platoon here, not sure what happened to the wounded when they separated us,* Shintaro replied.
*How long have you been here?* asked Beth.
*Not sure, maybe a week. You were brought unconscious a few days later. Gotta go, the guards coming. Semper Fi Beth.*
Dawn entered the house, taking in the unusual quietness. Checking her watch she saw that is was 3:30. but there was a lack of cooking food smells in the house. “Mom? Giles?”
“Dawn, I’m in the living room, come here." she heard Giles call out. His voice sounded rough and Dawn felt a leaden feeling in the pit of her stomach as she walked into the living room. She saw Giles' face, his eyes were puffy and red as if he had been crying, “Sit down Dawn, we need to talk. It's Beth...she's dead Dawn.”
Dawn felt her vision suddenly tunnel and go gray, and her knees buckled beneath her as she started to collapse. Before she could fall completely, she felt Giles’ arms grab her and pull her close. “No Giles, NO!!!” she yelled as she fought to break away from him.
“I love you, it'll be okay Dawn.” Slowly she stopped fighting as she heard him softly whisper. “I love you. Shh. It'll be okay.”
Willow had just arrived at the Summers’ when she saw the door to the house was open, walking in she heard someone crying loudly. “I just got my sister back...why?”
Rushing in Willow saw Giles sitting on the floor holding a hysterical Dawn. “Giles....” she asked afraid that she knew what had happened.
Giles looked up at Willow silently shaking his head.
“Oh Goddess, Beth,” Willow felt tears burn her eyes. Wiping her eyes, Willow focused on staying strong now for Dawn. “Dawnie?” Will wrapped her arms around Dawn from behind holding her as Dawn cried. She could only pray to the Goddess to give them the strength to get through this.
Willow walked up to the apartment door, after several tries she unlocked the door and stepped inside the apartment. Quietly closing the door behind her she walked forward and dropped her backpack on the floor. She could see light from under the kitchen door and walked over towards it. Willow saw the kitchen door open and Tara walked out over to her and pulled her into her arms. “Hey honey, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”
Willow held onto Tara and buried her face in her shoulder, “Tara...” Willow shook her head as her throat clenched shut and hot tears of pain rolled down her face.
“Will baby, please tell me?” She pulled her closer feeling how badly Willow was shaking. “Shh, honey.”
“I....Someth....” Willow felt the words catch in her throat, choking her as she tried to tell Tara. But she couldn't, the pain was just overwhelming. She just clung to Tara as she sobbed, she had lost Beth once, found her and now she was lost again. Except this time she would not return, there would be no opportunity to say anything but goodbye to the woman that she had barely begun to know and the best friend she had lost twice and would never see again.
Willow finally felt the tears slow and she looked up into Tara's worried face “B-Beth...she's dead!” she managed to sob out. The tears started to fall from her eyes again at the pain of losing her friend once again overcame her.
Tara was shocked as the words finally spilled forth, she knew something was wrong when Willow had come home. She ‘saw’ the blackness that had surrounded Willow like a fog.
Tara took Willow's hand and led her into the bedroom.
Los Angeles, CA
3 Days Later…
It was a slow week, so with some free time Faith decided to tinker with her favorite toy, her Kawasaki Ninja. She had just gotten to work when she heard the phone ring. “Crap, this had better be good,” Faith growled as she got up and wiped her dirty hands on her jeans. Picking up the phone, “Yeah?”
“Faith, it's Willow. I'm in LA, we need to talk,” Willow's voice was painfully blank and emotionless.
The bottom dropped out of Faith’s stomach, worse than when Red stopped by last month. “Red, what's up?” she tried keeping her voice calm.
There was a long pause before Willow answered with one word, “Beth.”
“Stop by the loft, we can talk here Red,” Faith answered, the feeling of trepidation washed over her.
“Tara and I'll be by in about 30 minutes. See you then.” Faith heard the line click as Red hung up.
Faith put the phone down and then sat, her good mood shattered she waited for Red to arrive.
Exactly 30 minutes later she heard the elevator come up and out stepped Red and Tara. “Hey Red, Tara. What's up?” Faith tried to put on a mask of cheerfulness.
“Hi Faith. Can we sit? I'm tired,” Willow said as Faith looked closer at Red's face and noticed she had bags under her eyes and seemed edgy about something.
Faith sat across from Red and Tara, “What's going on Red? You're all mysterious when you called and now I see you and you look like shit.”
Willow looked at Tara and then back at Faith, “It's about Beth Faith. She's dead.”
Faith sat there feeling as if someone had punched her in the gut and found it hard to breathe for several seconds. Taking a shuddery breath, “How?”
Tara spoke up here, “We're not sure about the details Faith. The Marines aren't saying much more than she was injured twice helping her unit. The last time she was hurt getting several other Marines out of a trap, and was killed. That's all they told Giles and Mrs. Summers.”
“When's the funeral?” Faith asked, her voice devoid of any emotion, her face a blank mask that hid the anger churning inside.
“It's this Wednesday in Sunnydale, at the Roselawn Cemetery at 2:30.” Getting up Willow walked over to Faith and put her hand on her shoulder gently, “I'm so sorry Faith, I know...”
Faith smacked Red's hand off her shoulder as she stood up angrily, “What do you know Red?! Just get out of here, I don't want your pity.”
Tara walked over to Will and pulled her away from Faith, “You're right Faith, we don't understand. I am sorry though, it hurts to lose someone you care for.” Tara guided a surprised Willow towards the elevator, “We'll see you on Wednesday,” and they walked into the elevator and punched the button for the ground floor.
October 31, 2003
Willow and Tara arrived at the Roselawn Cemetery several minutes early. The chairs were mostly filled, Willow could see quite a few Marine and Navy personnel in their dress uniforms among those who had come to the funeral. She could see Joyce and Giles were already seated in front. Xander and Anya had already arrived and were sitting, but Faith was nowhere in sight.
Walking forward they made their way next to Xander, who was seated behind Joyce. “Hi Xand,” Wills voice was low, she could see that he hadn't gotten much sleep recently. His eyes were bloodshot and he had bags under his eyes.
“Hey Will. You hear from Faith?”
“No, nothing since we spoke to her in LA, do you think she's coming?” Willow replied.
“Yeah, she'll be here. She loved Beth, she wouldn't not show up,” Xander replied sadly.
Willow sat down next to Xand, squeezing his hand before turning to Tara. For a long moment she couldn't remove her gaze from the red, white, and blue of the flag draped over the casket. She couldn't help the onslaught of thoughts that echoed through her head.
Willow tore her gaze from the casket and caught a glimpse of the Marine Honor Guard, her mind traveled back....
“Beth, I know what Tara said did bother you. But aren't you worried though?” Will asked, concerned about her friend.
Beth stopped and turned to look over at Willow, “Some, but I've got some things on my side. I'm in the toughest platoon in the Battalion, they're all skilled operators, and I’ve got Taylor. If anyone is gonna watch my back, he's it, and with him backing me up I'm not worried.” Beth threw her arm over Willows shoulder, “I'll be fine, don't worry about it,” and she smiled confidently at her.
Willow’s day dreaming was ended when she heard the Navy Chaplain’s voice;
“Family, friends, and fellow service members. We are gathered here not just to mourn, but to celebrate the life of Elizabeth Anne Summers. On this day we are covered in darkness that fills our hearts and our minds, yet we are not alone for He is with us and He stands beside us in our moments of weakness.”
“I had the honor of meeting Elizabeth when she was a sophomore in high school. While I was there I found Elizabeth to be a caring and compassionate individual who cared deeply about the safety of others. When she joined the Marines, it was to protect the freedom and lives of those of us who live in the United States. When her unit was sent to France and she was baptized in the fires of combat, Elizabeth always put the lives of her fellow Marines ahead of herself.”
“Elizabeth strove to live by the highest ideals of the Marine Corps; Honor, Duty, Country. When Elizabeth saw her platoon ambushed she broke free and attacked the enemy, freeing her unit from the ambush and in doing so she was injured by enemy fire. Later when her unit was attacked, again Elizabeth selflessly put the lives of her fellow Marines above her own.”
“Today we are here, not just to say goodbye to her. But to celebrate all that she did in her life, to remember her and what she stood for. For that is her legacy to us, a reminder that ‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’ or the one. She sacrificed her life so that others may live, let us not forget that sacrifice ‘lest we cheapen it and her life.”
“I would like to leave you with a passage from Psalms 23. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Stepping back the Chaplain moved out of the way allowing the Honor Guard to take their places.
“Detail, Raise Arms! Ready!…Aim!…Fire!” Five rifles firing as one shattered the silence, Willow felt herself jump in her seat. “Aim!…Fire!” The detail fired their rifles 3 more times, each time Willow jumped in her seat. “Shoulder Arms! About face!… March!” as they marched away and 6 Marines walked to the 4 corners and center of the casket.
Something caught her eye off to the left, and Willow turned and saw a solitary figure with dark glasses and dressed in black pants, shirt and a long jacket, about 75' feet away. “Faith,” Willow whispered.
Willow felt Tara pull her hand to get her attention and she turned around to see the flag that had been draped over Beth's coffin was now folded into a perfect triangle with only the blue field with the stars showing. The Marine holding it in his hands turned crisply to his left and extended his hands to the older Marine who had lots of red stripes down his sleeve and accepted the flag. Willow watched as the as the Marine Gunnery Sergeant turned around crisply and walked over to Joyce stopping directly in front of her when he bent over and handed it to her. Willow heard him speak in a low voice as he gave Joyce the flag, “Please accept this flag as a token of a grateful nation for your daughters sacrifice.”
Straightening up he turned around, walking back to the honor guard still standing at the coffin. Willow saw the tears streaming down Joyce's face as she broke down and Giles held her closely.
“Detail! Attention! Arms!” and all five Marines snapped their right hands up to the brim on their caps and held them there for several moments before bringing them down sharply. A bugler started playing ‘Taps’.
Willow turned to look back for Faith, only to see her back as she walked away in the opposite direction from them. Willow turned back to Tara, “She's leaving? How can she leave?” Willow asked.
Tara stood up with Willow and threw her arm around Will's shoulders and held her close as they started walking back towards their car. “She just needs time and space Will, just be there for her.”
Slowly they made their way out when Tara noticed a mob of reporters that were gathered behind yellow tape sealing off the cemetery from the press. The Marines there held the reporters back, forming a wall between the reporters and Joyce & Giles as the Limo pulled up and they went inside.
They could hear the reporters yelling questions at everyone who was there, “How does it feel to have a hero for a friend?”, “We have sources that say she was a lesbian, is that true?, “Do you believe that women should be in combat after this?” More questions were thrown at them as they fought their way past the reporters and the cameras until they finally made it back to the car.
One of the reporters had the misfortune of trying to question Anya however, “Excuse me, were you like this as a child or is this the result of a head injury that precludes the ability to show a minimal amount of compassion?” was the last thing Willow and Tara heard as the car doors closed.
End Chapter 7