I don't believe in Airwolf's USA Network season as anything other than an alternate world. But in that dark world, the fact no one mentioned Michael, Le Van or Caitlin has to mean something sinister.
"What's _she_ doing here?"
Jo followed her cousin Holly's gaze and saw a petite redhead climbing up the hill. Not very well. She seemed to stumble over every little molehill. Obviously, something behind her sunglasses was blurring Caitlin O'Shaughnessy's vision. Jo knew what it was. It was blurring her own.
"She worked for Uncle Dom," Jo said. "She has a right to pay him her respects."
"I suppose." Holly turned her attention back toward the open grave and the priest. Jo allowed herself to relax. That new medication was really helping Holly. Maybe the state was right, and Holly wasn't dangerous anymore. Jo sure hoped so. Because Holly'd been sent to the mental hospital for trying to kill Caitlin, and all for the love of Stringfellow Hawke.
But Holly had turned her eyes back to Caitlin, finally almost up to the top. "She's coming over here, isn't she?" Holly trembled. "I can't talk to her yet, Jo. Don't let her come over here."
"You don't have to talk to her if you don't want to." Jo patted Holly's shoulder. "I'll go over there and intercept her, okay?"
"Thanks, Jo," Holly breathed gratefully. Jo shrugged and faded back through the small crowd of fliers and stuntpeople, then went to meet Caitlin. She felt a little guilty. Jo made uncomfortable company at best, and Caitlin was easy to be with, even though she'd only met her a few times.
Caitlin looked up, saw Jo, and tried to regain composure. "I'm so sorry," she said, her voice raw. "I just heard this morning - - caught the first flight from Dallas...."
"You didn't miss much," Jo managed, her throat suddenly tight. "It...it was a closed coffin, anyway."
Caitlin held out her arms, and Jo hugged her, her eyes filled with tears again. The problem was, you could cry and cry without crying enough to feel any better. But at least there was someone else there who felt lost and alone, now that Dom was gone.
They let go of each other after a bit. "We've got to stop meeting like this," said Cait.
"Yeah. Two funerals and a farewell party. It stinks."
They both turned to look across to the next hill, where the last burial'd been. Le Van Hawke lay there, next to his grandparents. In String's plot. A stupid drive-by shooting while he was visiting a friend's house.
"You know," said Cait, "I always thought there was something strange about that shooting. Some member of some gang called the Bloods just happens to decide to shoot some member of the Creeps..."
"Whatever. And Le Van just happens to get in the way? And now Dom? What did Michael say about this little bombing incident?"
"Nothing." Jo pursed her lips. "He's been 'transferred to the Far East.'"
"Michael?" Cait rolled her eyes. "Oh yes, someone as high up as Michael gets transferred to some dinky job. Michael, who never does fieldwork unless it's personal." She grimaced. "I hope he's just gotten caught in the office politics. Otherwise, he's a goner and..." She swallowed hard. "And they're just not telling us."
The priest had finished the service, and now people were going up to the grave to pay their last respects. Jo and Cait joined the sad line, picking up hunks of dirt and throwing them in. Jo's clod had sharp little pebbles in it. They hurt her hand. When she threw her clod down into the grave, the pebbles rattled on the coffin-rails. It was a lonely sound.
Jo made the sign of the cross, got up from her knees, and started crying again. She believed. She really did. But it would be a good long time before she saw Uncle Dom again.
Cait took her place at graveside, and Jo stood by, waiting for her. Jo could hear what Cait was whispering. It was either a prayer or an argument.
"I told you to watch your back, dammit!" she whispered, gulping tears. "I never should have gotten this new job. I've missed you both so much, and now...."
Cait sighed. "I know you're in Heaven now, but I'll pray for you anyway. You pray for me back, you hear? You and Le Van both. And pray for Hawke, 'cause he needs it worse'n me." She almost got up, but then she folded her hands again.
"God, give me some help here. I gotta keep going, 'cause Hawke and Jo need me. Not to mention Santini Air. And I know I've said it before, but can you give Hawke a break? He's not Job, You know. Let him have some peace." Cait made the sign of the cross and stood up slowly, like an old woman.
The funeral was breaking up, and Jo and Cait gradually followed the other mourners down the hill. "I know Hawke's in the hospital. Is he going to be okay?"
"I don't know."
"Oh, no." Cait looked even paler than before. "I shouldn't have left. I should have been there. What hospital is he in?"
She grimaced. "That place is a deathhouse. Hawke used to say people only went there to die. You'd better get him out of there soon." She smiled a little. "Before he starts kicking up a fuss himself, that is. I guess the hospital's my next stop, then. And that's where I'll be most of the week, assuming I'm still on Hawke's next-of-kin list. But I also want to help keep Santini Air going. I'm a good pilot, a good mechanic, and I can answer a phone as good as anybody. So I'm warning you now; you'll see me Monday morning."
Cait turned to go, but Jo put out a hand to stop her. "Thanks for coming, Cait. Thanks for everything."
"It's the least I can do." Cait put her sunglasses back on, but it was obvious that she was holding back tears. "Dom took me in, gave me a job, treated me like I was his own daughter. And I loved him better than my own dad. Let me tell you something. He loved Le Van. But he took the time to tell me, at Le Van's funeral, not to quit test-piloting and come back to work for him, or he'd throw me in the nuthouse." She paused. "I should have stayed anyway." She bit her lip. "I'd better get going. I'll be at the VA if you need me."
"There's guards from the Firm there. They may not let you in."
"They'll let me in," Caitlin said with determination. "I still have my clearance. Besides, I'd like to see them stop me!" She took off her sunglasses for a moment and looked at Jo. Cait's eyes were red and exhausted. But their gaze was absolutely steady.
"Watch your back, Jo Santini. We need you, 'cause there's paybacks due." She put her glasses back on. "See you later."
She swept down the cemetery hill a different woman from the one who'd stumbled up it. She had a goal, and she meant to achieve it. For the first time since the bombing, Jo felt a spark of hope. If anyone could make Hawke fight to live, Cait could.
When Jo got to the VA hospital that night, Caitlin wasn't there.
She asked the guards. Cait hadn't been there. They would have remembered. She went down to ask at the front desk. The receptionist hadn't seen her, and nobody had asked for Mr. Hawke's room number.
When she went back out to the airport, one of Santini Air's neighbors walked over to meet her. "I just heard. Terrible, especially coming right after your uncle."
"What are you talking about?"
"Oh, you haven't heard? That other girl who used to fly here, Caitlin? Got in a car accident coming back from Dom's funeral. Gone, just like that. Hard to believe. She was always so alive."
Jo made some kind of conversation and thanked the man. Then he went to the office and called the Firm, wondering all the while if they didn't already know all about it.
Jo could hear Cait's voice in her head. One last warning.
"Watch your back."