Notes: This is a crossover with the 1999 movie Purgatory in which D.Dubs plays the borderline psychopathic Deputy Glenn (aka Billy the Kid) in the city of Refuge in the Wild West, which is actually Purgatory. Infamous criminals who die go there for a final chance at redemption, living pious lives surrounded by the temptations of their old lives, and giving themselves new identities in order to complete their 10 years of retribution. Regular people can come and go from Refuge, but those who commit unforgivable sins there enter Hell immediately.
Summary: Speirs did not give Lipton the permission to die. So help him, he would go to any lengths to make sure the man kept alive, even if it meant endangering his mortal soul.
which fled before it, and I saw and knew
the distant trembling of the sea.
We went along the lonely plain,
like someone who has lost the way
and thinks he strays until he finds the road.
Purgatorio, Canto I
He’d known for a while how the man had a tendency to be strong even though he didn’t need to be. He was a beacon of hope, a pillar of strength, and even downtrodden and being kicked around by a particularly nasty cold, he coughed discreetly so that he wouldn’t worry the men. He protested evacuation because he had men to care for, not even aware that they were glad for the turned tides. They had dues to pay, and that came in the form of something nearly like coffee which was at the very least hot, and moth eaten blankets in a leaky old house. He could care for them all he liked, but he never seemed to have a lick of self-awareness. They cared for him even more than could be described. He never seemed to realise that not once since occupying that couch was he ever left alone.
So Speirs was understating Lipton’s pneumonia. The damned man didn’t make it seem all that bad with his bloody unnecessary strong front.
It was a terrible thought to have, but Speirs was glad that it worsened. Smoke and dry air strained his throat and he choked on his coughs that were becoming harsher as night drew. Lipton’s stubbornness, though only somewhat endearing, was starting to wear Speirs’ patience thin. He had all but yelled at the man when he found Lipton disobeying direct orders of R&R to seek Malarkey out to personally inform the man of the upcoming patrol. His grouchiness was well justified, Speirs thought sullenly. He hoped Lipton suffered through the night so that there’d be no fight left in him when he was eventually dragged back to the hospital for the next check up.
Already on edge with the impasse and near-constant shelling, the men had learnt to stay clear of Speirs lest they accidentally cause him to burst an artery. He was cranky. And the only man who could defuse Speirs was the one causing it. They felt sorry for Lipton in more ways than one, but mostly for being on the receiving end of Speirs’ dark mood. They didn’t dare say it aloud, but each man was making personal bets with himself regarding the period of time it would take before Speirs shot their First Sergeant.
It was a fear that was only almost unfounded.
Lipton grimaced lightly each time Speirs shot him a cutting remark, dropped things, or kicked furniture as ‘subtle’ displays of his humour. Speirs knew that Lipton was fully aware that he was the cause. He could only guess what Lipton thought he had to do to continue to provoke his anger, but whatever it was, he was being pigheaded about it. It was all he could do not to drag the man to bed himself.
Finally, when the tension was thick enough to be cut with a knife, Winters suggested Lipton retire for the night with the aid of some of the NCOs. Before Lipton could object, there was a man on each arm, hoisting him onto his feet and gently ‘guiding’ him to the room he and Speirs were occupying. Johnny Martin returned to the CP shortly after, walking directly up to Speirs and, with no undisguised amount of exasperation, informing him that Lipton was refusing the bed.
He was only partially alarmed when Speirs shoved him aside roughly and stormed off.
“You’re sick,” had been the magic words, but they weren’t the sole reason Lipton had finally given in. Already, his room was filled with NCOs, each with disapproving looks on their faces that matched either crossed arms or hands on hips. They shifted to accommodate the main tenant’s entrance, and as he stood at the foot of the bed, he shot Lipton a look that challenged him to argue. Speirs spoke with slight acid, but his words were genuine and echoed the sentiments of every other man in the vicinity who nodded their approval.
Lipton didn't stand a chance.
Satisfied and with newfound camaraderie with their CO, the men each wished Lipton a good rest and left, one after another in an easygoing single file. Speirs closed the door with a parting shot.
“The moment I see you out of bed, you are a dead man.”
New rumours circulated. It wasn’t as bad as the ones from D-Day depending on how you looked at it, but that Speirs was gruff and sour when his trusted men disobeyed him was something that some of the boys were not surprised to discover. What did make the rumour mill turn was that Lipton had ruffled enough feathers to get the most feared man in the company to band everyone together to force him into bed. It was likely due to fear of being pistol whipped by an irate Speirs at the drop of a hat, but most men wanted to believe that Speirs legitimately cared for Lipton even though they knew the former was a more dominant motivator.
Any mention of Lipton thereafter was taboo, but it was not a main point of contention for the men as the patrol across the river loomed over them.
Everyone was grim. A sombre tone befell the CP as the men prepared for their patrol, with the XOs almost thrumming in anticipation. Speirs disappeared eventually. No one quite noticed.
For all his tantrum-throwing earlier, he didn’t want Lipton to suffer the night. He had seen how the man hacked and coughed, his violent shivering. Speirs was surprised that the pneumonia hadn’t drawn any blood from him, but the unsettling feeling of worry overtook that surprise and he could only hope that Lipton kept fighting. He didn’t doubt the man for an instant, but bodies seldom listened to a man’s willpower when he was ill and devoid of proper medical treatment.
Speirs entered the room soundlessly, a mug of hot coffee in his left hand. The room was unlit, but noticeably warmer than the others. The men had done a good job in fixing the heating.
It was a full moon out – bad for the patrol, terrible for the patrol Winters had said – and through drawn curtains, what light managed to filter in vaguely illuminated the outline of a man who was curled up tightly and trembling underneath bundles and bundles of thick blankets.
He placed the coffee on an end table and took a seat in the chair beside it, silently watching the man sleep fitfully. His thoughts flitted from the patrol underway to the man in front of him to the coming supplies backdropped by the whistling of artillery and gunfire and he soon nodded forward with eyes fluttered shut.
Speirs woke with a start.
His hand was on the gun holstered at his waist, silently pulling it free as his eyes homed in on the burly figure at the entrance of the room. It was deathly quiet now. He wondered if the patrol was already done with to warrant the quiet, but he didn’t wonder for very long.
Speirs' voice wouldn’t come to him.
The man hobbled along inside the room, dressed in a long mantle with white stringy hair flying out underneath a wide-brimmed hat. His eyes met Speirs’ for a time, pensive but very sharp, until they moved away to rest on Lipton who Speirs only then realised was completely still… almost peaceful.
Something was wrong.
The man approached the bed, a gloved hand poking out from the mantle to take Lipton’s shoulder and shake gently.
“Boy,” he said with a rusty drawl. “Boy, get up. It’s time.”
Speirs hardly believed what he saw.
The old man’s grip didn’t waver in the least, and as he pulled Lipton up, who – or what – sat up wasn’t really Lipton. Lipton, real as anything in the world, remained curled up and asleep on the bed, but at the same time, it seemed like another Lipton was rousing and responding to the stranger’s touch, bodies joined at the waist as he sat there for a moment, dazed. Then he moved to stand. Two Liptons. Both looked like hell, both were exhausted, but one was lying on the bed immobile and the other was looking at the old man with tired eyes. The standing Lipton looked just as real and solid as a regular human, but he seemed paler somewhow… almost discoloured. But it was dark and the dark could play tricks on the eyes.
“It’s time, boy.”
Lipton nodded and began to limp after the old man.
“Hold it right there,” Speirs finally heard himself say. They were out the door. He repeated himself, speaking even louder, out of his chair and walking briskly after the men. He paused quickly by the Lipton who was asleep, touched his face, felt he was icy cold.
“I said hold it!” Speirs was running now, chasing after their shadows. “Sergeant Lipton, I order you to stop!”
They either ignored him or couldn’t hear him. Down the street, Speirs saw a horse drawn carriage that was somewhat ratty, with worn out wheels and a black tarp on top that concealed what looked like bags. Under moonlight, he had a good glimpse of the old man and he looked like a right old cattle driver.
As the old man climbed into his seat at the front of the carriage, Speirs launched himself into the carriage, grabbing hold of the door and jamming it with his foot to keep it from closing. His gun was in his right hand, trained fast on the coach driver, with the other clinging onto the glassless window. He hung there, with one foot in the door and the other on the foothold.
“Lipton,” he said, with some strain. He tried to keep his balance. “Lipton, get the hell out of there. Didn’t I say I’d kill you if you got out of bed?”
Lipton didn’t respond to him.
There was a bark of laughter from the front and he glared at the coach driver.
“He ain’t gone from the bed, boy,” the man drawled with a grim smile. “And to be frank, won’t matter none if you shoot him right now.”
“He’s not dead,” Speirs insisted coldly. “And you’re not taking him. He’s mine.”
“ ’fraid the Creator don’t think quite the way you do, boy.”
“He’s mine,” Speirs repeated, eyes narrowing dangerously. “He’s the First Sergeant of Easy Company, under my direct command, and he is not dead, nor have I given him permission to die.”
“That’s awful nice of you to care so much,” said the man amusedly as he felt around for what looked like a pocket watch. He flipped it open briefly before returning it to his waist. “But I’m afraid I got me a schedule to keep to.”
He jerked the reins sharply and the horses came to life, running forward and throwing Speirs off the carriage, the door rattling in his wake before it clasped shut on its own. Speirs let out a growl, running after the carriage, shooting at it only to have it fade before his eyes, like mist or smoke. Frustrated and angry, he tossed his gun to the ground. He didn’t know why the entire place was so damned quiet, or why no one had heard the entire commotion. Something was fucked up. Not only that, Lipton had been kidnapped.
Running a hand through his hair, Speirs glared at the ground, trying to sort his thoughts, figure out what to do. An old coachman from the Wild West had just come and carried off Easy’s First Sergeant… or his soul or something ridiculous from the looks of it because there was another Lipton on the bed in their quarters still. Whatever it was, the worst part was that they had simply de-materialised. Even if Speirs took a jeep, he had no idea where to go.
“The moment I see you out of bed, you're a dead man. Jesus Christ, Ron,” he berated himself, wanting to shoot something. He hated irony. Especially under the present circumstances.
There was a neigh.
He looked up slowly, turned, and found himself staring at a single horse that had been tied up to a lamp post. It was extremely and completely black, with dark beady eyes that simultaneously challenged Speirs to ride it and implored him to return it to its rightful owner. He approached cautiously. The horse seemed tame enough. He took the reins and hoisted himself up onto its back.
As they rode after where the coach had gone, Speirs hoped to god that this didn’t mean he was dead too.