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No. 51 - "Debt of Honor" 3/13/98
Executive Producer - Grant
Writer - Jim Piddock
Director - Gilbert Shilton
Eighth episode of the Third Season.
We owe major thanks for this description to: Kris Kroner
Funeral- Cloudy day
A military funeral for Joe Fratello is concluding with taps and a 21-gun salute. Nick, wearing a black suit and beige raincoat, stands next to a woman dressed in black. A man, John Griffin, walks up to the graveside just as the flag is folded. A soldier in full dress uniform then comes up and hands the folded flag to the woman. At the end of the ceremony, she turns, embraces Nick and thanks him for coming. She then turns and receives condolences from John Griffin. Mrs. Fratello then leaves the grave with her escort.
John saying "Nick, I was going to call you, buddy" hugs Nick. John tells him that he couldn't believe it when the military finally identified Joe's remains, since he was missing in action for so long. As they begin walking towards their cars, Nick comments that it's been a long time since Desert Storm. John agrees saying at least Joe finally got a decent burial. As they walk, another man joins them and John introduces him as Bob Meyer. He was also the 313th infantry unit with Joe and him. Bob comments that John told him a lot of stories about the trouble they all got into in high school. Nick grins, "He lies like a rug." John remembers how they got caught sneaking a pig into the faculty lounge. Bob, curious, asks how they found out it was them. Nick replies "the pig squealed." He recalls Joe as always being one to kid around. John adds, "not to mention the best third basemen around. Took us to the championships."
They get to their cars and Bob departs first saying he has to get going. John and Nick decide meet for a beer sometime. As Nick writes his phone number down he asks John if he's still the hottest public relations guy in town. John nods saying, everyone needs a champion. Nick asks, "Even the rich and famous?" John replies, "especially the rich and famous." Nick smiles, hands him the phone number and then departs in his mustang with the top up.
Later that night- Griffin's house
John drives up to his house late at night, enters, and sees it's ransacked. Papers are all over the floors and the house is in a shambles. The phone is off the hook and he can hear the beeping of the line and the recorded voice of the operator saying "hang up and try your call again." He reaches for the receiver with his right hand, on which he wears a blue stone high school ring. He clicks the hook then dials the police saying his name and, "2375 Maple. I'd like to report a break-in please. Yes, I'll wait." As he waits, he looks at the desk and sees an overturned picture frame. He picks it up and looks at the photo of Joe Fratello and himself. Suddenly the picture fades and is replaced by the ghostly image of Fratello, asking, "Do you remember me?" John yells and throws the picture across the room. The ghostly apparition of Joe, wearing a camouflage uniform, materializes and advances towards him telling him menacingly, "There's only one way out. You'll never get away." John moves away from the desk but the ghost appears there also, continuing to tell him he'll never get away. Panicked, John runs out of the house as the ghost looks at his fleeing figure.
Legacy House - Afternoon - Nicks room
Nick dressed in sweat clothes, with his hands wrapped, works out on a punching bag. Kristin walks in the open door, watches him then says, "very impressive in a Cro-Magnon sort of way." He keeps punching saying, "don't knock it till you try it." She enters farther telling him it's not really her style. "Although I did read your recommendations to London house on the applications of Zen to confrontations in the field. Not bad." Nick stops punching and replies sarcastically, "I suppose that's as close to good as I'm gonna get, huh?" She continues, " I thought it was very thorough as far as it went." Nick looks directly at her, "Funny, You see I thought it pretty much covered the area." She smugly replies, "From a male perspective, absolutely. You only left out slightly more than half the world's population." The banter continues with Nick, "that's the only perspective I have but don't worry, I'm working on my feminine side." He pats her patronizingly on the arm.
She turns to leave. Nick unwraps the protective bandages from his hands and asks her if there was anything else she wanted to say. "Not really, except while you were bashing your bag, you had a call." He tells her "its punching, not bashing." Then he asks why she didn't call him and she says she did, twice but "you were punching." She tells him it was John Griffin and he wants him to meet him at McCrory's when he can get there. He thanks her and she leaves.
McCrory's batting cage
John Griffin stands inside the batting cage and hits balls thrown by the pitching machine. Nick wearing jeans, black sweater, and a brown leather jacket walks up to the fence and says he didn't expect to hear from him that soon. Nick mentions he hasn't been there in years. John replies he comes there all the time since it helps him deal with stress.
Nick asks him what's on his mind. John says seeing him at the funeral got him remembering about the good times they had. Nick replies "we tied a few on." John recalls he still owes Nick 50 bucks from last year's World Series. Nick tells him to forget it but John says it's a debt of honor. "Just can't write that off." Nick grinning, "cough up the cash. It's probably the first time in my life I beat you at a bet. I should cherish the moment." He enters the fence.
While he puts more money in the pitching machine, John asks Nick if he remembers one night in high school when Nick tried to get Joe and him to join the Navy and become SEAL's. Nick grins as he enters the batting cage, "as I recall, you thought I was certifiably psycho." John continues, "You said we'd be a team, back to back we couldn't be beat." Nick picks up a bat and swings it as he recalls the league finals. There was a tie score with 2 out in the bottom of the 9th. Joe was only one hit away from league history and hitting 400. But he sacrificed. John scored and they won. John grins and tells Nick he still has that ball, then wistfully asks if Nick still feels that they're a team. Nick, looking at John quizzically, asks if he's in some kind of trouble. John tells him he had a strange, supernatural experience. Concerned, Nick asks for more detail. John relates it happened right after the funeral. First he thought someone robbed the place. When he went to call the cops he saw Joe. Nick replies, "You saw what? Fratello's ghost?" John says it was Joe, right there in the living room of his house. Same face, same uniform. Nick asks if he said anything and John tells him no. John thinking, adds, he had a weird look on his face. He guesses he's "going nuts."
Legacy House - kitchen
When Kristen asks Nick how his friend is, he replies that it's hard to say and tells them John thinks he saw the ghost of a friend from school, Joe Fratello. Derek asks if that's the same man from Desert Storm and if he believes John. Nick tells him he's going to check it out. Derek adds that it could be a latent reaction to whatever happened over there. Nick replies, "Could be. 7 years is a long time." When Kristen asks if he thinks following it up is worth his time, Nick replies seriously, "Call it a debt of honor."
Late evening John Griffins house
John opens the door for Bob Meyer, asking where he'd been. Bob enters, appearing very nervous and says he hasn't been home. He worriedly tells him he saw Fratello's ghost. John tells him to calm down and that his mind is playing tricks on him. Then he tells him the same thing happened to him after the funeral. Bob frantically tells John that Joe follows him wherever he goes and keeps staring at him. He showed him how he died and it was horrible. John continues to try to calm Bob, telling him that whatever is out there, it's just his imagination working overtime. He tells him Fratello's death was a tough break and suggests he forget about it. Bob continues to worry that he's after him. John again encourages him to put it out of his mind. He ushers him to the front door at that point and tells him to get some sleep and reassures him there has to be a rational explanation to this. "You have to block this stuff out of your head." Bob is relieved, thanks him and leaves after telling John "you're always so smart about everything."
Bob's car - that night
Bob walks nervously to his car, talking to himself, telling himself to go home and get some sleep. As he gets to his car he hears Fratello's ghost goading him and asking him where he's going "what's the rush?". Bob, terrified, yelling, "leave me alone," gets out of the car and runs. He hears Fratello's voice and it confronts him telling him there's only one way out. "Jump. Do it now." Fratello screams and a ghostly wind blows Bob off the overpass. The ghost looks down at his body before vanishing.
Legacy Kitchen - next morning
Nick drinks a cup of coffee as he reads an article in the newspaper about Bob Meyer's death. Derek comes in, pours coffee and seeing the look on Nicks face, asks, "You all right?" Nick replies yeah and tells him that Meyer, the guy he met at the funeral, committed suicide. Derek remarks that some people take things harder than others do and maybe the funeral triggered a deep-seated emotion he wasn't able to deal with. Nick agrees but mentions he just didn't seem that broken up at the funeral, certainly "not enough to off himself." Derek suggests that something really rattled him. Nick looks at Derek, thinking.
Kristen reads when Derek comes in. Commenting that Nick left in a hurry, she asks if he is always that hard on himself. Derek tells her it was the way he was brought up, "If you never take the easy way out, you're always ready for the worst." Derek reassures her that he's much tougher on himself than others to which she replies she hasn't noticed that. He tells her to he's never known Nick not to recognize talent and suggests she give him time. He tells her Nick went to his friend's house and tells her about Bob Meyer's suicide. Puzzled, she asks if that's just a co-incidence. Derek replies that what Nick hopes to find out.
He then mentions that he talked to the head of Boston house that morning and she's still holding her place there, assuming that she wants it. Kristen replies she still has unfinished business regarding her father and wants the freedom to follow those leads until they're resolved. He tells her legacy bylaws prevent other legacy members from staying in the Houses unless they have official business there. Then he grins deviously and says that's why I told her I requested your services on an "as-needed basis." Kristen replies she can't believe the precept agreed. He replies that the precept accused him of stealing her. His response was that Kristen was too intelligent for that and that if she didn't believe him she was welcome to "try to steal you back." Kristin asks if Derek always gets what he wants and he replies, "not always." They both smile.
John is on a business call in his office. As he talks, he tosses a baseball and catches it. The intercom at the front door buzzes and it's Nick who tells him he tried to call on the way over in the car but couldn't get through and now he's outside. John buzzes him in and gets off the phone as Nick enters. Nick glances around the expensive house and then, as John completes his call, remarks, "nice dump" John tosses the ball to Nick, who catches it in his right hand, lets it roll up to his elbow and back down a few times, then holds it up. He recognizes it as the game-winning ball from the league finals.
Then, seriously, Nick asks if he read the paper this morning. John tells him he gets all the news he needs from the Internet. Nick sighing, puts the ball down and tells him that Bob killed himself the previous night by jumping off an overpass. John is surprised and tells him it can't be right because he saw him the previous night between 9:30 and 10 pm. Nick tells him that Bob was dead by 10:15. Nick questions how well John knew him and he replies they were in the Gulf together; and they talked, on and off, every few months. Nick asks what Bob wanted the previous night. John shakes his head and lies, money. He tells Nick Bob had been playing the commodities and when the gold futures went belly up he took a bath. John loaned him a couple bucks, never expecting to get it back. Nick asks him if Bob said anything about seeing Fratello's ghost and Griffin denies it. Nick makes eye contact with John who breaks it and looks away. Then he says it's a shock and that he's really shook up about Bob. Nick says, "why don't I come back later," and leaves telling him he'll see himself out.
Kristin is doing a Legacy Netsearch as Nick enters. She's just downloaded and has a photo and an article about Bob Meyer up on the screen. Nick responds angrily and asks, "what the hell is this?" Kristen calmly replies that "it's good to see you too." She then asks why he got defensive, since she's just doing research. Still angry, Nick asks whose idea it was. She tells him, "You really are something." Since he's always preaching teamwork around there she thought he'd be impressed someone took the initiative to find out where they were stationed during Desert Storm. Nick replies that Desert Storm was ancient history. Kristen quickly retorts, "so was every other battle fought there in the last 4000 years." Nick, "so what?" Kristen calmly replies, "So. Fratello died there. If we knew the exact location I might be able to help."
She puts up a map of the location of Desert Storm and shows they were 60 miles from Asbusaiya and 11 or 12 from the border. He sarcastically says "and a million miles from a real assessment of the problem." She doesn't get upset, instead says, "maybe." She tells him that back in 94 she spent the better part of the year in the middle east cataloging ancient burial sites for the Smithsonian and there are some ancient ones around there. These sites may explain why Fratello's spirit isn't at rest 7 years after his death. "If I find anything out, I'll give you a shout." Nick responds curtly, "do that."
John Griffin is on the phone when he hears the ghost telling him he's next, then the call goes dead. Griffin hangs up startled. Across the room, the fax machine starts and he goes to it and finds a fax of Fratello's face. Panicked, he unplugs it and returns to the desk, leaning against it for support. Suddenly the unplugged machine starts again. He returns to the fax and picks up the paper. There's another picture, but this time when he looks at it, Fratello's eyes open. John looks away just as Fratello's ghost materializes and advances towards him asking, " Remember Johnny? No way out. No escape." John covers his ears yelling, "you aren't real. You're dead." Fratello continues, "you can't run, you can't hide. You'll never get away."
Legacy house - foyer
Nick looks at the black fax pages as Griffin tells him he saw the ghost. Nick tries to calm him down and asks what was faxed to him. John agitated replies, "Fratello's face its right there." Nick hands him the black pages. John defensively says he can't believe it, since just seconds before he gave them to Nick, he saw the ghost's image there. Nick asks him why Joe would come after him. "Did anything go down between you guys? I know this is tough on you, but you, me and Joe were buddies, there must be something." Griffin denies anything happened saying that after Basic, Joe asked to be reassigned so they could be in the same unit. Nick asks how he died. Griffin says he was a supply sergeant in the 313th, which was strictly back up. Joe was part of perimeter defense team. When things got hot a couple Iraqi tanks had gotten behind their left flank and Joe was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Nick asks where it happened and Griffin says a couple clicks south of a village called El Shabot. When he asks why, Nick says he was just curious and that he never knew the details of his death. Griffin, still shaken asks Nick if it's real or if he is going nuts. Nick simply replies, "I don't know."
Derek, wearing a suit, hands over an Army file chuckling, "God only knows why it's classified." Nick glances at it commenting, "We could get more dirt on Disneyland." He then puts the file on the table and wonders why Fratello didn't' return fire. There he was, sitting in a bunker with surrounded by 3 dozen-m72 rocket antitank launchers, "sitting right there." Derek picks up the file again and reads, "the conclusions of the inquiry into the death of Corporal Joseph Fratello; Weapon Malfunction. Signed: Colonel F. Rollins, Commanding Officer." Nick doesn't believe it; and says the M72's are single shot disposable tubes with 99.5% efficiency. "What are the chances of all 36 going south?" Derek, "highly unlikely." Nick, "try impossible." He asks where Colonel Rollins is now and Derek tells him he's still in the Army, stationed with the 313th in Fort Bragg.
Derek, wearing a long grey coat and Nick in black jacket, walk along with a uniformed Rollins as he tells them that weapons malfunction happens, even in the computer age. Nick comments that all the weapons could not have misfired. The Colonel tells them that in combat, men panic. Derek asks about Meyer and tells him he killed himself. Rollins replies that he wasn't much of a soldier. He was a scrounger, wheeling and dealing. He adds that kind of thing earns a man enemies. The Army always thought he was into black-market business but couldn't prove it. They never tied anyone else into his dealings either. Derek asks about Griffin and Rollins replies that John Griffin was an exemplary soldier as far as he can recall. He asks if there is anything else and Derek says no and thanks him for his help.
John enters and looks at his mail. The doors unlock by themselves and the ghost enters. John grabs a baseball bat and screams for the ghost to get away from him. Nick drives up, hears the screams and runs to the house and bursts in. As he enters, he hears Fratello's voice saying, "there's only one way out." Nick stops inside the room and sees Griffin striking at the apparition with a baseball bat. Each time he swings, the bat passes right through the ghost. "No chance, Johnny, no way out." Nick, astonished, stares at the ghost, "Joe." As he does, the ghost looks directly at Nick then vanishes.
Nick goes to John and helps him up. John asks Nick if he saw it and he says he did, but "the question is why?" There has to be a reason. He helps him up to a chair and asks how well he knew Bob Meyer in the Gulf. "Was there any chance he had his fingers in the till?" John replies, "Bob? Stealing?" Nick goes on, "A little side action. Black market?" Griffin replies anything is possible but he was mostly worried about doing his own job.
Then, Nick asks John if he had anything to do with Fratello's death. John is upset at the question and tells Nick that both he and Joe are like brothers to him. Nick apologizes, and says he had to hear it from him. He then sees a picture of the 3 of them that was taken in the photo booth at Candlestick Park the night the Giants won the pennant and is surprised he still has it. In it, the 3 of them had gotten themselves in the booth at 2 seconds intervals. John says proudly, "One of a kind, split second timing." Nick adds, "Teamwork baby." He tells Griffin to get some sleep and he'll crash on the couch. "If Fratello's spirit comes back, then he'll have to deal with me too."
Nick returns to the house and joins Kristen and Derek in the library. On the way down the library steps Derek thanks Nick for calling the previous night, and asks if they saw the ghost again. Nick says, no, he thinks the ghost is nocturnal so he doubts he'll show up during the day. Nick sits down at the table in the library with Kristen. Kristin and Derek tell Nick they checked backgrounds and the bank records make interesting reading. After the war Meyers came into lots of money. 6 figures. They then checked the black market and found that M72s were going for 50,000 cash after the war. They believe it cost Fratello his life and his spirit wants revenge.
Nick agrees that the spirit wants revenge on Meyers, but wonders why on John and asks if he's guilty by association. Derek says calmly, "I don't know how to say this, Nick, but there's a strong chance that Griffin is in deeper than you thinks he is." Nick, unwilling to believe, says he'd trust John Griffin with his life. Kristin continues, telling Nick that after the war Griffin bought into a very old established PR firm as a full partner. Nick replies he came from money and Derek gently tells him he also bought a house for 600 thousand dollars. In cash. Nick stubbornly replies that's still not hard proof, and doesn't explain how that connects him to Fratello. He asks them to cut to the chase. Kristin rises and tells him there's something he needs to see.
Kristen puts up a map and data she downloaded from the Pentagon, saying she was able to establish the position of Fratello when he died. It's an area that once was Mesopotamia. Derek says that Sumerian cosmology explains the supernatural occurrences. Taking the location of the bunker and overlaying the map of Sumerian burial sites, Derek tells him that Joe died in the middle of a ziggurat, a temple and burial site. The bunkers overlap the ziggurat. Kristen adds, according to Sumerian death rites, any person wrongfully killed will walk the earth wreaking vengeance on those that betrayed him. Kristen surmised that the moving of the body had something to do with the reason it took so many years for the ghost to appear. Derek replies that "Rightly or wrongly, Fratello's ghost thinks Griffin is guilty." Nick asks, "what if he's mistaken?" Derek replies that's what they have to find out. Nick agrees but says, "I should go alone."
Griffin's house, night
Nick drives up and hears John screaming and firing a gun. Nick enters with his gun drawn and takes cover. Shouting, "Johnny, it's Nick" he tells him to put the gun down. Fratello, on seeing Nick enter, vanishes. John begins firing again only the gun is empty now. Hearing the click of an empty chamber, Nick rushes John, grabs him and demands, "what the hell's going on? Get a grip!" "What's going on here? Talk to me, why would Fratello want you dead?" John replies he doesn't know and it doesn't make sense. Nick, getting angry demands, "Doesn't it? You want to tell me where you got the money to buy into the PR firm, not to mention this house." He replies his dad helped him put up the money. Nick asks about the rest of the money and John tells him he found it. Nick incredulous, asks how he found a couple hundred thousand in cash. John asks, "what's this about?"
Nick replies "after the war, a number of items were found on the black market. One of the hot ticket items was the m72. The same ones that were supposed to be in Fratello's bunker." He asks if he was stealing weapons and selling them on the black market. John looks away and denies it, then asks Nick what he thinks. Nick replies, "it doesn't matter what I think, what matters is what Fratello thinks." Nick then asks why Fratello didn't return fire since he had all the firepower. "Did he panic. Did he freeze?" He tells John that he thinks when Joe tore open the crates, "the question is, what did he find inside, m72's? Or sand?" John asks Nick why he's doing this. Nick grabs him and demands the truth. John looking off in the distance, says he "didn't think it'd matter, skimming weapons we were never gonna use." Nick covers his mouth with his hand in disgust. John pulls off his high school ring and looks at it as he asks if Nick thinks he wanted him to die? Because they were in reserve, "nothing was supposed to happen." Nick looks away and says quietly "but it did." John repeats, "Yeah, it did. Past tense." In a whining voice, he asks Nick how he thinks he felt and that it was painful for him. "There was nothing I could do about it, and he's gone. It's over." He stands up and Nick stares at him in disbelief and anger before saying, "No, it's not." You just don't get it do you? But that's your problem, you deal with it." He heads towards the door and John plaintively, calls, "Where are you going? I need you here. He's still out there. I thought we were friends. " Nick, without looking back, leaves saying, "Fratello thought the same thing."
Outside the house - full moon
Derek drives up behind the mustang as Nick exits the house. Nick angrily demands to know what Derek is doing there. Derek replies that after he left, Kristen found more. Nick tells him, "forget it, I'm out." Derek replies that he can't, to which Nick says "watch me" and shoves Derek's arm. Derek continues trying to convince him to help; "you're morally bound." Nick disgustedly tells him that Griffin's morals got lost a long time ago. Derek agrees, "Yes, but yours didn't." Derek, face to face with Nick, tells him he can't turn back or he's as guilty as Griffin. Nick stares at Derek "don't ask me to do this, I can't. He betrayed everything I believe in." He turns to get in his car and Derek grabs his coat telling him to do it for Fratello. He tells him if Fratello succeeds in killing Griffin he'll be trapped in limbo and doomed to walk the earth forever. "He must break the cycle." Nick retorts, "So you tell him." Suddenly, from inside the house, they hear glass breaking and screams as Fratello confronts John again. They hear Fratello saying menacingly, "Go ahead, get your gun, lock and load. Pull the trigger. It's time to finish it." The gun fires from inside the house.
Inside Griffin's house
Nick enters and sees Fratello's ghost standing over John as he begs, "Joe, if I'd known I never would have done it." Fratello turns, looks at Nick and growls a warning. Nick, quietly and sadly advances, telling Fratello slowly, "Listen to me, you can't do this. What's done is done. I wish it were different. But it's not and nothing is going to bring you back." Suddenly John says piteously, "Don't kill me." Nick without looking at him, abruptly replies, "Shut up John."
Nick walks to the desk and puts his own gun down and picks up the baseball. He asks Joe, "you remember this? Bottom of the ninth. 1 hit away from the record. But you didn't go for it. You made the sacrifice and that is the Joe Fratello I remember." The ghost growls low as Nick implores, "Let it go Joey." Fratello distressed looks at John and screams at him, a rush of wind and heat spewing out of his mouth. Nick yells "No, Joey! Stop." The ghost stops, turns and looks at Nick with a sad, pained expression. Nick holding the baseball up towards him implores "Let it go." The ghost vanishes amid distant screaming.
Nick stands still and holds the baseball, looking very sad. Griffin begins to come to him, saying, "Nick, you son of a b " As he gets very close, Nick, without looking at him, holds up his arm for him to stop and keeps him at arms length. John continues, "you did it." Nick with disgust dripping from his voice, replies, "Yeah, but not for you. For him. His war is over." Looking directly at Griffin, Nick concludes "But yours has just begun." Nick picks up his gun and still holding the ball, shows it clearly to John menacingly then he turns and leaves with the ball. With John screaming his name as he walks out, Nick slams the door behind him.
Nick, looks off in the distance while a fire burns in the fireplace of his room. The voice-over says:
"To lose a friend is hard. To be the cause of his death is even harder. Joe Fratello was a casualty of Desert Storm but he didn't die alone; he took John Griffin with him. A little bit at a time for the rest of his life. I guess Plato said it best, only the dead know the end of war."
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