CHAPTER ONE

Randy sat up, stretched. He was cold. He needed to find a thicker blanket. Soon. He stared up at the ceiling. It was really just the top of his box, but he preferred to think of it in terms of his 'house'; therefore he looked at his ceiling. It had rained during the night and there was some seepage. Not too bad. He'd found a large sheet of plastic a couple days before and wrapped it carefully around the large box, for protection. So far it was working pretty well.

He looked around his home. He was pretty proud of it, actually. He’d been really lucky that day, finding the box. From a big freezer. Much better than what he’d had before. He had even made two rooms in it, sorta. An old movie poster divided his 'bedroom' from the front end of the box, the part he called his living room. Sam thought it was dumb, but liked to sit in there with Randy anyway.

Sam was Randy’s best friend. They watched out for each other’s stuff. Took care of each other when they were sick. Shared their food. Sam didn’t have a box like Randy’s, but he wasn’t jealous. He’d helped Randy haul it over here. One day they’d find another, and then Sam would have his own. For now, he had a smaller box coupled with some wood panels, just enough room to curl up in, but Randy had shared the plastic he’d found, so at least Sam stayed dry. Sam spent most of his time with Randy, anyway. They liked it that way.

Well, enough gathering dust. Time to get moving. If he was lucky today, Joey would be working at the deli. Joey always saved him the scraps. Yeah, maybe he'd be lucky today...


*****

Hannibal was the first one awake, as usual. And, as with every morning, when he woke, his first conscious thoughts were of him. Even after all these months, the feeling was just as intense now as it had been the very first day. Shock, anger, sorrow. He’d still been tangled in the cobwebs in his head, after their revival following the ‘executions’, when Stockwell had pulled him to one side and told him. Hannibal made him repeat it.

"We didn’t know about the heart condition. Apparently a hidden defect, which had been getting worse over the years. The drugs Mr. Santana used to fake your deaths were simply too strong under those circumstances."

Hannibal had immediately demanded to see the body, convinced there was a mistake. But there had been no mistake. Hannibal had grasped the hands and felt the face that had been with him for so many years. Cold. Ice cold. Cold and almost hard, like marble covered in a thin sheet of putty. Eyes and mouth slightly open, as if he were just waking up. The life gone; it was like looking at a stranger.

Hannibal went numbly back to his team, and painfully told them. BA started hitting the wall. Just kept hitting it. It took Stockwell’s men to subdue Murdock, his anger and pain directed at Frankie. Frankie himself was in complete shock. He kept mumbling that there was ‘just no way’ those pills could do that. It didn’t matter. Hannibal didn’t want to think about blame, or anger, or anything else for that matter. The only thing he had to hold onto was that the man had died with the hope of real freedom.

The next few weeks were dulled, dream-like. They took care of business, moved into Stockwell’s accommodations, and did what they were told. Those had been busy days, weeks. Which was just as well. Didn’t give them a chance to dip too deeply in self-pity or sorrow. Only at night, and then he could hear not just one softly letting go of their grief. Himself among them. Murdock had eventually gotten over his anger at Frankie, which was good, considering Frankie had been moved in as part of the team. There really was no way the kid could have known. None of them had had any idea that their friend was anything other than 100% healthy. Hannibal doubted if he knew himself.

The frenetic days had slowed now, and Hannibal awoke first every morning, and, as with every other morning, his first thoughts were of Face.


*****

Randy and Sam had been together for a long time. They’d met at the VA hospital. Randy couldn’t remember not being there. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. He remembered Nam. Parts of it. The bad parts. But it seemed that one day he was over there, the next he was at the VA. And that’s where he’d stayed. That’s where Sam had met him. ‘Made his acquaintance’, was how Sam put it.

Sam was smart. Especially about the VA. He knew how to do things, get things. Even the nurses; Randy thought it was funny, the way they swarmed around him. A real lady killer. He told Randy he was smart, too, in his own way. He was just ‘different’. Randy liked that better than what the doctors said. They told him he was ‘trainable’, like a dog. Randy preferred being ‘different’.

Randy didn’t know why Sam was there. Sam would never say. ‘Didn’t matter.’ He wouldn’t tell Randy how long he’d been there, either. Randy just knew that that first day, when Randy understood where he was and that he wasn’t in-country any more, Sam had shown up. And he’d never left him. Even when they sent Randy to a halfway house, and told him he would be taught a trade, Sam went right along with him. And when Randy got beat up by one of the other residents, Sam gathered their few belongings and they left. Randy never did learn a trade.

They had tried to stay near the VA. Randy was supposed to go there every week and pick up his pills. He didn’t like taking them, but Sam said he had to or he would get really sick. So Sam made sure they went there every week, and he made sure Randy took the pills every day. Sam couldn't tell them what they were for. Said it was something about the way Randy thought about things. Didn't matter. Sam said he should take them, so he did.

Not that Randy didn't do things for Sam, too. Like the plastic for his house. And if Joey was working the deli, Sam always got some of that, too. And, as Sam had said, Randy was smart in his own way. He knew how to get things they needed, too. He made friends with people and then they'd give him things. It was easy. All he had to do was smile.


*****

Hannibal had pulled the death certificate out of the drawer for what must have been the millionth time. Murdock watched him, frowning deeply.

"Why do you keep doing that, Hannibal? It's not going to change anything."

"I know, Murdock. But I just can't...there's something wrong. All the times Face was in a hospital, all the times Maggie checked him over - and nobody noticed anything? There's something wrong."

"Well, if it was like Stockwell said, it wasn't noticeable unless you were looking for it. And with the drug..." Murdock stopped. It was still almost impossible to think about, killing his best friend trying to save him.

"Frankie swore the drug wasn't that powerful." He sat staring at the document for a long time. "I'm going to send this to Maggie."

Murdock stared. "You can't do that, Hannibal! If Stockwell finds out..."

"He won't find out. He can't keep his eye on us 24-7, especially when we're out on one of his little jobs."

"But Maggie thinks you're dead, Hannibal. How can a dead guy send her a death certificate for another dead person? Especially when the death certificate doesn't match the way he was supposed to have died? And then saying that the death certificate might be wrong in either case..." Murdock stopped, confusing himself.

"I'll have to let her in on the secret, Murdock. Tell her everything. I need her to get the autopsy report. And not the one that Stockwell handed out."

"You really think Stockwell pulled something?" There was a hint of anger in Murdock's voice. If he thought Stockwell had anything to do with Face's death...

"I just know that something isn't right about the whole damn thing. And I need Maggie to find out what it is."