Summary: Frank Martin hated complications. A glimpse into what made Frank the way he is.
Author’s Note: Because this is so much better and easier than writing for law school.
Frank Martin lived by a set of rules.
Rules were clear. Rules were rational. Rules were about knowing what was at the beginning, the middle and, definitely what was at the end. Rules meant that there would be no surprises.
Rules were meant to be broken.
He pitied the men who lived by that careless aphorism. Frank smirked mirthlessly, his slate gray eyes remaining cold. Not his rules. When he was doing his job, he only lived by three cardinal rules.
Rule 1: NEVER CHANGE THE DEAL.
When the deal is made, no detail can be altered or renegotiated—not for any price. It was a simple rule, meant to keep everything precise, preclusive, and predictable. All t’s crossed, all i’s dotted, all scenarios envisioned and pre-planned. All possibilities anticipated and covered. This rule kept him alive.
Rule 2: NO NAMES
If he didn’t know, he couldn’t tell. If he couldn’t tell, he couldn’t be indicted. End of story. There was also the matter about how knowledge had a way of complicating the simplest matters. If he didn’t know, he couldn’t be asked to make judgments. He was just the transporter, a middle-man hired for his skills behind the wheel. Nothing more, nothing less.
Rule 3: NEVER LOOK IN THE PACKAGE
Just as simple and as rational as Rule 2. All it required were cold discipline, plenty of discretion, and maybe a touch of disregard. After all, if he didn’t know, there was no way he could care.
Because the problem was in caring.
Not many people could possibly know it, but Frank Martin cared. He cared a lot. Maybe a little too much. And that was when things got complicated—when he started to care. Then things had meaning, they had substance, they carried emotional baggage. And when that happened, lines became blurred, rules were broken, and chaos happened.
And he always got hurt.
Frank pressed thumb and forefinger over his closed eyelids, adding pressure until he saw a red-white flash over his lids. Then he slid the two fingers closer together until they pinched the bridge of his nose. He tried to ease away the headache that was starting to pound over his temples as memories started crowding in his consciousness.
He turned to look out the window instead, to watch the waves crash onto the shore. He liked the sea despite the fact that its mercurial nature was the antithesis of his life. He liked the sea because it was easy to drown away memories in its ever-changing face. And he did not particularly like it when memories came calling back at him.
“Frank,” The voice over the phone line was almost desperate, even through the noise of static. “We need you to do this for us.”
“No.” His fingers tightened minutely around the phone, but his expression never changed as he stood staring out of his window.
“How could you just turn your back on us? We’re buddies remember?”
Gray eyes narrowed as if pinpointing a small object far into the distance. “Oh, I remember,” he said coldly into the receiver. He remembered the explosions. He remembered how he had staggered under the dead weight of Thuy. He remembered watching from a distance as the Black Hawk hovered just over the horizon—leaving him and Thuy in the burning jungles of Vietnam.
As if remembering the same memories, the voice on the other end softened. “We were only following protocol, Frank. You know that. You were completely way out of AO. You broke formation.”
You broke the rules.
The unspoken thought hung between the two Marines, the silence between them stretching taut. “I know.” Frank’s voice was cool, soft, deceptively light. “But my answer is still no.”
“It was in the past, Frank. Leave it there.”
“A past like ours…can’t be left behind. You know that as well as I do.”
“The difference is, I try to leave it behind.” The voice on the other line was growing colder and harder. Less friendly, less camaraderie.
Frank bared his teeth at the telephone, his anger showing on his face. It was all very well that the man on the other end of the telephone conversation could not see the fury on his face. “The difference is, I try not to repeat it.”
There was a long pause, a silence filled with resentment, guilt, anger, denial and fear. “Very well.” The voice on the other end was curt, quickly followed by static as he hung up.
Frank flipped his phone off and slipped it casually into the back of his jeans pocket. He took a deep breath and released his anger as he released that breath.
He padded softly over towards his bedroom, the soft light of the coming dawn streaming from the long windows. The room was Spartan: a king-sized iron-wrought bed, a mahogany chest and a rug on the wooden floor were the only pieces of furniture in the room.
His eyes were drawn towards the woman sleeping soundly, wrapped in the pillows and sheets. She was beautiful, with thick dark hair and lush lips. Her dark lashes fluttered briefly, a sign that she was waking.
He came to stand before her, looming almost. His face was dispassionate. “Wake up.” He said flatly.
Slumberous gray eyes fluttered open. She really was beautiful. And she had been fantastic company last night. Frank tightened his jaw and narrowed his eyes. “It’s time for you to go.”
Her eyes widened and she pushed herself up to a sitting position. She didn’t bother to cover herself, secure in her beauty and sensuality. Frank did not aver his gaze, but neither did he allow it to roam over her soft curves. He kept his cool gray eyes on her surprised ones. “I have work to do. You can go.”
Confusion brought a small frown to her petulant face. Then fury caused her to harden her own features as she finally understood his meaning. “You are a bastard, Frank,” she said scathingly, her lilting French accent adding more than enough scorn to her dark voice. “An unfeeling, cold bastard.”
He did not reply. Instead, he reached over towards the chair where her clothes had been discarded the night before. He grabbed them and tossed them towards her. He kept his back ramrod straight as he walked to stare out the window at the crashing waves down below. He had his back to the girl as she pulled her clothes on.
“So,” her voice was demanding, cracking like a whip. She was obviously a woman scorned. He slowly, laconically turned to face her. His face remained impassive and granite hard. He didn’t bother to cross his arms over his chest. The air that surrounded him had gone chilly enough to form a wall of ice around him.
She crossed her arms over her chest though, almost protectively. Her anger seemed to waver. “So, what happens now?” She had a low voice, made for seduction.
But not this morning. Because there it was, the quiver in her voice, the sign of vulnerability and hurt. The same things that Frank was always so careful to avoid. He did not know how he had allowed things to go so far between them. They had met a week ago at the local pub. She had intrigued him, sparkling like a multi-faceted jewel among one-dimensional women.
But he realized now that his interest in her was exactly the reason why she had to leave. Now. Before he knew her more. Before he became involved. Before he started to care.
“Let’s not make this—”
“Complicated?” she filled in with scorn and hurt. Her full lips pursed.
Frank steeled himself against that look on her face. The look that told him that complicated could be worth it. “I don’t particularly like complicated.” He replied evenly.
She sighed, half in disbelief, half in exasperation. She allowed her eyes to roam around the room, at the sparse, neat and ordered furnishings. Then she looked at him. His shirt was perfectly ironed, his pants had the single crease down each leg, his shoes were clean and he stood with the bearing of someone with an iron rod for a spine. She shook her head in defeat. “Everything is always so neat with you…nothing ever out of place.”
“I like it that way.” His reply was curt, not really defensive, but not revealing either. It was a simple statement of a fact.
“Pourquoi? Why?” she asked just as curtly, her French slipping in.
His jaw tensed and he felt his patience suddenly seeping out. “It’s the way I am.” He smiled mockingly, his eyes remaining blank. “You may go.” He was deliberately insulting her by dismissing her.
He turned away from her and started to walk out of the room.
“Life isn’t always so neat, Frank. It always gets complicated. It is the curse and blessing of being alive. It is called living.”
“Not for me.”
She sighed and shook her head almost sadly. She picked up her purse from the chair where her clothes had previously hung. She walked past him, her shoulders held straight. Then, just before she stepped over the threshold of his room she turned to him. “J’ai pitié de vous.” With that, she left him, closing the door behind her, her footsteps echoing softly down the hall.
Frank breathed out slowly, counting the seconds, controlling his emotions. She pitied him. The thought left him feeling bitter and empty. He reached for the doorknob, only then realizing that his hands were shaking.
He kept hearing the rescue chopper hovering over the jungles just outside the village of Than Khe. He had her in his arms, dark hair, darker, slanted eyes, pink lips, bloodied mess, almost dead weight. He could still feel the mass of her, the way his biceps had ached, the way his lungs had heaved as he tried to make it to the LZ they had cleared off.
But he had tripped.
And Alpha Company had left one good soldier and one innocent girl behind to die.
Frank Martin felt a chill go through him all the way to his core. She had told him to run, to leave her behind. He had not run, had not left. He had gotten involved, had cared and things had gotten way too damned complicated.
And by God, he had paid the price. He couldn’t even save her.
No, complications were not for him. “Not for me,” he murmured to himself. “Remember what comes with breaking the rules.”
Suddenly, his phone rang and he almost started, but he controlled his impulses remarkably well. Instead, he slowly reached into his pocket and retrieved it. He flicked it open and pressed the small phone to his ear.
“I need a transporter.” No preamble was needed. It was only a business transaction after all.
Frank felt a small surge of electricity run through him, as if his body were recharging itself, preparing itself to do what it did best. “I’m listening.”
He paid attention to the details: the man’s voice, his accent, the tones, the background noises, everything. “Dimensions?” he queried quietly.
He mentally took note of the answer, filing it away for future reference. “Weight?” he prodded. Then after a pause, “Be precise.”
He asked for pick-up and destination. He named his price. And finally, “I only have three rules…”