CHAPTER FOURTEEN

The afternoon had worn into the evening, and Murdock was getting antsy. While taking his shower earlier in the day, he'd managed to hide away the stuff he would need for his plan; now it was just a matter of waiting for the time to use it. He felt badly that Frankie would be the goat in this, but only for a moment. Sometimes you just had to bite the bullet...

Barney was a much more effective Able than Murdock had anticipated. He refused, almost politely, to allow them to visit the hospital. Hannibal would be out the next morning, BA a couple days later, therefore there was no reason to chance a 'problem' running back and forth. The colonel would be under similar restriction when he arrived. Murdock wasn't sure how the guy planned on sleeping while keeping them under such close scrutiny, but, remembering the handcuffs, was not about to give him any trouble. Well, not much, anyway.

For the evening repast, they called room service. Murdock watched his chance, and while Barney was dealing with the delivery boy, quickly made good his preparations. As usual, Frankie wasn't paying any attention to what was going on around him. It would make it that much more realistic. After all, the kid wouldn't even have to act now.

Murdock and Frankie set the plates around the coffee table and sat on the floor. Barney sat in a chair between them and the door. The man was totally without trust. Murdock dug in enthusiastically - he wanted to get as much eaten as he could before the sparks started flying.

Both other men also dug into the food. There was nothing quite as good as real, authentic south-of-the-border food. Usually. Frankie had taken only two bites when he made a face. Barney, absorbed, for once, in something other than the two of them, didn't notice. Frankie started to say something when Murdock gave him a quick elbow and frowned darkly.

"Good, huh, Frankie?" Murdock glared a warning.

"Uh, yeah, sure, great." It was more grimace than grin but it would do. Murdock continued to glare as he ate, making sure Frankie ate right along with him.

It didn't take long. Frankie turned a beautiful shade of green, and grabbed his stomach. With effort, he pulled himself off the floor and staggered into the bathroom. The noises emanating from there caused the others to immediately lose their appetites. Barney hurried to the door, calling out to Frankie to see if he was okay. In response he got more sounds of heavy-duty retching.

This continued for nearly twenty minutes, and finally Barney decided he had to do something. He called the hotel's front desk, asking for a doctor. He arrived within minutes - obviously the manager was quite concerned about a guest becoming so ill after eating the hotel's food. The doctor decided the safest bet was to take Frankie to the hospital and have his stomach pumped. He suspected food poisoning. That did not make Barney very happy. There was no way he could deal with Frankie ill and Murdock loose at the hospital.

Murdock saw him reaching for his handcuffs. That would not do.

"Hey, c'mon, man, I'm not going anywhere. If you're so worried, lock me in the bedroom, or the bathroom. But don't put those on again. You might be gone for hours, y'know? That just ain't humane!"

Barney was still considering it when Frankie let out another groan, and the doctor was getting impatient.

"Fine, the bathroom. But you damn well better be there when I get back or the rest of the team will pay for it."

"Nooooo problemo, Barn - I mean, no problem. Promise."

So Murdock found himself locked in the bathroom while the others headed for the hospital. He carefully pulled the small bottle of shampoo, which the hotel so thoughtfully had provided its guests, from his pocket and replaced it on the shelf. Smiling, he started in on the door lock. He wasn't nearly as fast as Face - hell, Face would have it open before you could even think about it. But soon enough he had the door open, and was racing down the hall. He'd seen the bank of telephone booths just off the lobby and he headed there immediately. He just hoped Maggie would be home...


*****

Sam sat in the room, watching Randy sleep. He felt strange. He hadn't felt like this for a long time. He knew what they were going to undertake would be dangerous. It was just stupid to think they would ever get away with it. They would be hunted and shot at and God only knew what else. Sure, they would have a good head start. Barish had not said he didn't have to report in every week; that was not part of the deal with the pills. Sam gave them maybe ten days before the hounds were loosed on their trail. And there would be a trail; very faint, but it would be there. For one thing, they had to have a car. There was no way Sam was going to hitchhike with Randy to California. He wanted to get there and get hidden. As quickly as possible.

So, the purchase of a car would be the first of the trail he would leave. That was okay. He wouldn't make it all that easy. Private seller, pay out cash, don't worry about transfer of title for a while. A long while. He knew Barish would find it; he had the resources, the connections. He would find it and follow it. It wouldn't pan out; at some point they would dump it, find something else. Buy time. That's all he wanted until they got into Canada.

Canada. Wonder what Randy would say about that? He sure as hell wasn't going directly to the coast. A few hundred miles out of the way, but necessary. It would be far easier to move from Canada to San Francisco without a trace than make a beeline for their destination and have Barish's people right behind them. Once they were that close, it would be far easier to take the anonymous public transportation back to the States.

So he had the general plan in place. Not too tight, so they could adapt as needed. Not too loose, so they made mistakes. It would work, as well as any plan ever worked.

He focused on Randy again. And that feeling. Protective. God, it was a heady feeling, that. Scary. Yeah, it had been a while. Sure, he'd looked out for Randy all the way through this, but it had been the job. Now, it was different. Now it was the two of them. The two of them. Sam was no longer on his own. Randy would be learning things, all right. Ironic. Sam would be teaching him the things Barish had wanted him to know, but he'd be learning them for a different reason now. And he'd be learning a few other things, too. Things Barish never wanted him to learn. To re-learn. And that would be hard. For Randy. For Sam.

But that was all right. They'd be in this together. One man alone, against someone like Barish - it could be scary. Damn scary. But two men, together...That was different. That was a partnership. A team.

Sam smiled. Maybe it would all work out after all.