CHAPTER SIX

The ride back from the compound was silent. Carla knew Stockwell would demand an explanation soon. He was playing with her again. He wanted her to think he wasn't upset about the security break. Didn't want her to think that he was surprised that she had known what he hadn't. She also knew he would want an explanation as to why she hadn't said something before. This was not going to be easy.

"Well, have you thought it through yet, Carla?"

"I'm sorry, General?" Bluff for time...

"Have you come up with a plausible reason for not telling me about your suspicions before this?"

Pompous ass he might be, Carla mustn't forget he was smart. He hadn't gotten where he was by being stupid. Well, play it honestly. Somewhat.

"I really have no excuse, General. I apologize. I had heard a few rumors, but that's all. I was hoping to have it checked out before I bothered you with it. It wasn't until I thought about the team going out of the country that I realized it could be a problem - if the rumors were true."

"Hmm." Stockwell didn't know whether to believe her or not. Carla never expressed any emotion; one of the things that had been attractive about bringing her in as his assistant. It had its drawbacks, however. How did one look for ulterior motives in a machine?

"Where did these 'rumors' come from?"

Carla thought fast. Which of the Ables assigned to the team owed her big time? And which one could she get to before Stockwell did?

"Able 13 brought it up, sir. He hadn't heard them himself, just comments made by some of the others. He couldn't even remember who exactly." It sounded lame, but often rumor mills were rather murky.

"Hmm." Stockwell either didn't believe her or was playing his cards close to his chest. "You felt it warranted this intervention, then?"

"Until we can prove or disprove the rumors, I thought it best, sir."

"Very well. I'll expect a full investigation and report, Carla. Soon."

"Yessir." Carla looked out the window. She was getting good at this.


*****

Randy had hardly touched the meal in front of him. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had a cheeseburger. A real cheeseburger. Another time he would've wolfed it down. Now, just the thought of eating it made him feel sick to his stomach. He stole a glance at Sam, who was eating as if nothing at all had happened.

Randy had no idea where that anger had come from. No idea how he'd gotten Sam up against the wall like that. It was like magic. Evil magic. There was a guy at the VA, he was telling everybody how this evil spirit had gotten inside him and made him do things like that. Randy hadn't believed him. But maybe he was telling the truth. Maybe that spirit had gotten inside him, too. He wished he'd listened to that guy, now. He didn't know how to get rid of it. He'd ask Sam, but he was afraid Sam was mad at him. Sam would know what to do. Sam always knew what to do. But Sam was mad at him. Sam was so mad at him. He just knew it.

He stole another glance at his friend. Sam stopped eating for a moment, smiled at him. Why would Sam smile at him if he was mad at him? Sam was smart. Maybe he just wanted Randy to feel better. Feel calm. Feel safe. So he could get back at him. Randy thought Sam was his friend, but maybe not any more. Randy hadn't meant to choke him. But maybe Sam didn't believe him. So he was going to get even with him. Teach him a lesson.

If Randy wanted to get even with Sam, he knew what he would do. He would make that evil spirit go inside Sam. But Randy already had it inside, so what would Sam do? Randy looked at the cheeseburger. They never spent money on stuff like this. Never. Why would Sam spend his money on this stuff now, when he was mad at Randy? Maybe that was how he was going to get something bad into Randy. Something to make him sick. Or die, even.

Randy glanced at Sam one more time. You said it yourself, Sam. I'm not stupid. I know what you're trying to do.


*****

"What are we gonna do now, Hannibal?" BA dropped the last broken mic into the garbage. Every day he swept the place, either destroying or marking the various listening devices around the house. And the next day, just like clockwork, the Ables would have put new ones in. It was a game. If Hannibal wanted Stockwell to hear what they were saying, or didn't care, they talked in certain rooms. If he wanted privacy, they talked in others.

"We're going to be down there for at least a week. A lot can happen in a week. If there's only two of them, it shouldn't be that much of a problem. After all, there's four of us. They can't keep tabs on all of us all of the time. The only thing we have to worry about is them knowing they've been hoodwinked. It also means that I may not be the one who's able to call Maggie. If she got the package, she's probably going to have a lot of questions."

Hannibal paused. None of them were going to want to do this. "No matter which one of us has the opportunity to make that call, we all have to be able to answer any of those questions. That means we all have to know exactly what happened. We know from our own parts, but we've never talked about all of it. What each of us saw, heard, did. So," he stood, taking on the cold, professional military attitude, "we're going to debrief."

"Colonel..." Murdock began. He did not want to go over this. He knew, from looking at Frankie, that he wasn't the only one. After all, it had been his plan and Frankie's pills that killed Face.

"Murdock, we have to. We may be running missions for Stockwell, but our only real mission right now is finding out what really happened to Face. We need to, Murdock. I can only speak for myself, but I think it's true for all of us. I have to do this before I can move on. I don't trust Stockwell, especially on this. Until I know what happened..." Hannibal stopped short. He wasn't going to plead. But he wanted their cooperation.

Murdock looked at his colonel. He'd known Hannibal had been torn apart by this whole mess. He hadn't realized just how badly.

"So, who's first?" He sat, ready to work this mission. Completely.