CHAPTER FIFTEEN

"Murdock? Where's John? Is everyone okay?" Maggie had answered the phone on the first ring. She had hoped it would be Smith, but hearing a voice from any of the team was like manna from heaven to her.

"Everyone's fine, Maggie. A few minor things, but nothing serious. Look, I don't have a lot of time and Hannibal said you would probably have some questions. But first off, did you figure out what happened to Face?"

Maggie had been dreading that question, but she had an answer all prepared.

"No, that's one of the problems. The coroner sent me the wrong file. I'm waiting for the right one to come, but there was some mix-up out there so it's going to take some time." She hoped that would satisfy them, even as the guilt draped itself around her shoulders.

"The wrong...no, c'mon, I...damn it to hell!" Maggie winced at his words.

"I'm sorry, Maggie. I know it's not your fault, but, damn..."

Maggie wanted so badly to tell Murdock that Face was alive. It practically ripped itself out of her. But she couldn't. She couldn't take a chance that Face could be hurt if she spoke too soon. "I'm sorry, too, Murdock. More than you know." She cleared her throat, collected her thoughts. "But I do have some questions, Murdock. I need to know exactly what happened the day they were supposedly executed. I know about this Santana and you giving them the pills and all that already from John's letter. But what happened when they were revived? Exactly."

This was what Murdock had dreaded. He'd prepared for it, knowing he might be the one to talk to Maggie. But giving her all the details about his best friend's death...He took a deep breath, went into auto run.

"Okay. This is basically what Hannibal, BA, Frankie and I could put together. The guys were taken to, like a warehouse, to revive. Stockwell woke Hannibal first, and told him about Face..."

"Stockwell woke Hannibal? He didn't wait for him to come to on his own?"

"I guess not. When we talked later, he said he was real groggy, and it took a long time to clear the cobwebs. BA said he was, too, but it didn't last that long. So we figure Hannibal was revived early, before he would have normally. So anyway, then they went to look at...the body. Frankie and I got there just as they were leaving. I saw one of Stockwell's men kinda holding onto Hannibal as they left, and then they were gone. I saw BA then, and ran over and hugged him. I knew he was still kind of out of it, 'cause he actually hugged me back. Then I...I looked for Face, but he wasn't there. That's when Hannibal came back in and told us what had happened."

"What was John like when he came back in? Did he seem okay? Or was he still groggy?"

Murdock thought a moment. "Well, he was pretty upset, y'know. Seemed kinda dazed, I guess."

"Okay. What did he say about the body? Did he describe it to you? Then, or later?"

"Not then, he didn't. But when we debriefed, he said Face was cold, and...hard, but...the skin was still kinda soft-like..." This was so hard. "The eyes and mouth were open a bit. That's all."

"Cold and hard? How long had it been since the 'execution'?"

Murdock had to think. "Uh, not quite four hours, maybe a little less..."

"One last thing. Did you or BA see the body? Then, or at the funeral?"

"No, they were in too much of a hurry to get us all out of there. There was no real funeral. Three closed caskets, for the press, you know? We were told Face was taken to LA, to Father Magill. But the casket would have been sealed by then."

"Okay. That explains a lot."

"What do you mean, Maggie? What's it explain?"

"Nothing, Murdock, just thinking out loud. I can't say any more right now, not until the right autopsy report gets here. Any idea when you'll be able to contact me again?"

"Well, we're working on that. Stockwell's paying less and less attention to what I do, so I'll probably be the one getting in touch most often. I'd give you my phone number but it's probably bugged."

"Okay, well, why don't you call me in a couple weeks? I should have more to tell you then." If Carla comes through, she thought.

"Okay, doc. I better get going now before Barney comes back. I'll call you in two weeks then. Bye."

Maggie sat, listening to the dial tone. It fit. Rigor mortis would have set in, yes. But the body shouldn't have been cool, let alone cold. And the skin shouldn't have felt like putty. If John was still groggy from the drugs...it explained it, pretty much. Someone who looked like Face, but had been dead much longer. Maggie didn't even want to think about how they got the body. The skin would probably have been some kind of prosthesis, to make it look even more like Face, which would explain the feel. And John, still fighting the effects of the drug - yeah, it all came together. They had to make John believe it was his friend he was seeing.

So what had they really done with Face?


*****

Sam's life was getting infinitely more complicated. Someone at the hospital had contacted the county social services office. They wouldn't talk to Sam, except to give him generalities. Randy's competency was being looked at, with the do-gooder social worker thinking he should be brought into their web, not allowed to just leave the hospital on his own. Talking about a competency hearing, for chrissake. The social worker, some young bitch probably just out of college, had almost laughed when Sam said he would take care of Randy. He had to admit, he could understand. As far as they were concerned, he wasn't any better off than Randy, at least financially.

Added to the problem was Randy's shoulder. The doctor, having been taken in by Sam's charms, had been more than open in discussing his patient. His other injuries were healing nicely. His shoulder would take at least six weeks to be back to normal, and then only if he got the proper physical therapy. The doctor, social worker notwithstanding, put Sam in touch with the physical therapist. Sam had to learn, and quickly, what exercises Randy would need to do and how to do them.

Sam was also trying to get ready for their getaway. Which meant getting hold of money, a great deal of money. A car to purchase, camping equipment (no hotels or motels to leave a trail), money for food along the way. Clothes. Gas. He could get some from the accounts set up for the experiment; the rest would have to be tapped from his own sources. He knew a few of them had been found and effectively closed to him. There were others that no one would know about. He would spend the afternoon taking care of the practicalities. Quietly, though. Very quietly.

The last complication was in a hospital bed. Randy was becoming more and more unmanageable. His excitement at going west was almost without bounds, and it took all of Sam's wits and guile to keep the man from telling everyone he saw about it. Luckily, the few Randy had managed to tell hadn't taken it seriously. After all, Randy was...special. No one paid a lot of attention to his ramblings. Sam did nothing to dissuade this overall picture. It had worked well up until now. Up until the social worker showed up.

Sam sighed. Sometimes, even the best of plans had a way of backfiring on him...