CHAPTER SIXTEEN

"Very well, gentlemen. You know what to do. Don't worry about him just yet; he's not going anywhere." Carla handed over an 8x10 photo of Randy. "This is the one to watch, and carefully." A photo of Sam was also turned over to the two Ables. "You'll fly down immediately. This is to be a two-team surveillance. I want no slip-ups. General Stockwell has no wish to be bothered with this, so I've been saddled with it. You'll report directly to me." She grimaced convincingly.

"If it appears they're trying to leave?"

"Let them. Just make sure you don't lose them. This is strictly a surveillance mission. If that changes, I'll let you know."

The two men nodded and left the office. Carla smiled. That was so easy. A few clicks on the company computer, and the two men had disappeared. They were good. No way Peck or his partner would know they were being followed. And simply mentioning that Stockwell didn't want to be bothered would ensure the two would keep quiet even if he stepped right in front of them. Such were the consequences of power.


*****

Sam had spent the last three hours moving from one telephone booth to another. Each time, a different account was accessed, funds transferred to the local bank, where he had hastily set up an account this morning under a fictitious name. He was now on his way to said bank to withdraw the funds and get started on the rest of his preparations. He already had a car picked out; he would pick that up immediately after the bank visit. An older, non-descript boat of a car, but it had a large enough trunk to carry their gear and supplies without problem. He would fill the trunk before going to visit Randy later that evening.

He'd thought about the timing of the whole operation. Once he had their supplies, there was really no reason to wait any longer. And he had a really bad feeling about that social worker. He wouldn't put it past her to move up the hearing date. He knew about social workers. His thoughts about them in general were not pleasant. Yeah, the sooner they got out of there, the better.

He'd put the plan into motion tonight.


*****

Randy was waiting for Sam to come. He was worried. More than worried. That woman had been here again. The social worker. Asking him a bunch of questions he couldn't answer. Questions about his past. About his family, friends, what he'd done for a job, where he'd lived. He kept having to say he didn't know. The more he said it, the angrier she'd gotten. Kept telling him he must remember something, that he had to quit lying to her. When he told her he wasn't lying, she started saying that Sam made him say he didn't remember. That Sam was making him lie to her.

Then she'd smiled at him. Patted his hand like he was some sort of little kid.

"Randy, we're only trying to help you. Really help you. We'll find you a place to live, make sure you have food and clothes, help you find a job. We'll make sure you're properly taken care of. Sam can't do that, Randy. I know he's your friend, but, well, if he could take care of you like you say, you wouldn't have been out by yourself and gotten beaten up like this."

He almost told her that it was his fault for dropping his pill that day, but he didn't. He remembered Sam was really stubborn about that. He wasn't supposed to tell anyone about those. Ever. He wanted to defend Sam, though. It wasn't true what she was saying. Sam was going to take him out west. To the ocean. She couldn't do that. She wouldn't. She wanted to stick him in some half-way house, like that one in Minneapolis. He glared at her.

Fat chance.


*****

Sam moved quickly and quietly down the stairs. The staff might be used to seeing him, but even they would question his being in the hospital in the middle of the night. He was about to pull off a Houdini act. He had to be nuts to be doing this. How the hell do you move a patient out of a hospital without anyone seeing it happen? Well, you have to be familiar with some of the darker aspects of a hospital, for one.

His destination was the morgue. He'd grabbed the appropriate attire from the locker room before heading down. He gave the woman in the office some cock and bull story about being new and having to transport a body, and she gave him the full procedure and helped him wheel out the cadaver carrier. He thanked her as the elevator doors closed.

He left the cadaver carrier just outside the elevator on the floor below Randy's, off to the side so the nurse at the desk wouldn't see it. He couldn't use it on Randy's floor, naturally, but he had to move through several other locations after he had him. He continued up one floor. Now, he just had to get rid of the nurse.

He slipped into the first room past the elevator. Quietly. Listened. Normal breathing, hospital noises. He moved over to the bed, quickly pressed the call button. A moment later he was across the hall in the opposite room, the door open a crack to watch.

It took less than two minutes for the nurse to arrive and enter the 'bait' room. Immediately Sam was out of his room, racing down the hall to Randy's room in soft soled shoes. He stopped abruptly in front of it, and eased the door open, not wanting to wake Randy unexpectedly. The door shut behind him, and he stood, catching his breath.

His own breathing slowed, and he listened for Randy. He was still asleep, thank God. There was a dim light above the bed, enough so Sam could see the man and the equipment around the bed. He was still being fed an IV of mild painkillers, but not enough for Sam's needs. Randy had to be out, period. He pulled the syringe from his jacket pocket. This was the really bad part. He knew enough about tranquilizers to make an educated guess as to dosage. He'd lessened it some, because of the meds Randy was already getting, but not much. Still, he worried.

Quickly, quietly, he slid the needle into the IV tube, depressed the plunger. Stood back, out of the light, listening, watching. Within a few minutes, Randy's face relaxed completely, his breathing slowed and deepened. Sam waited a few more minutes to make sure Randy was okay, then pulled the wheelchair over to the bed.

Damn. The monitors. He'd completely forgotten them. How could he be so stupid! If those were disconnected, the nurse would be in here in a flash. He could take her out, but what if one of the other patients needed her? Damn. Okay. Think.

He needed the other diversion. He'd planned on using it for the actual getaway. Now, he'd have to adjust it slightly, give him time to disconnect everything and make the getaway. He moved to the door, peeking out. He could see the nurse's shoulder and head behind the counter; she was looking down at some paperwork. Good. He took three long steps across the hall to yet another room. This time he didn't reach for the call button. Instead, he moved behind the patient's monitors. A few moments later, he again stepped across the hall into Randy's room, the monitors minus a couple wires. Again, it took only a moment before the nurse came hurrying into the room.

Sam paid only minimal attention to the other room now. The nurse would be busy, checking the patient, contacting a repairman. He had work to do. Getting Randy out of bed, into the wheelchair, disconnecting the wires and IV. He checked the door. He had to wait a few moments, lucking out when he saw the repairman arrive, the nurse opening the door for him. The second it closed, he and Randy, sprawled unconscious in the wheelchair, were out in the hall, racing for the elevator.

He shoved the wheelchair in unceremoniously, pushed the button for the next floor. The elevator doors closed just as the nurse was coming out of the patient's room. On the next floor, looking anxiously for anyone in the hallway, he pulled the cadaver carrier in, next to the wheelchair.

Sam had no time to relax. He lifted the canopy and pulled Randy up out of the wheelchair, laying him carefully inside. The canopy was laid over the top. Discreet. Very discreet. Sam felt a moment's unease. Stupid. Things like this always freaked him out. Too close for comfort. He mentally shook himself, waited for the elevator to reach its destination.


*****

"Team One here. I've got the car. Over."

"Team Two here. Roger that. He's gone up to the room now. Had some kind of gurney with him. I think this is it."

"Roger, Team Two. I'll be waiting."

Team Two moved toward the exit. No point in going upstairs. He knew where the target was going. It would be too difficult to follow whatever route the man took when he left without being seen in the nearly empty halls. He would take his position in the second car, ready for his part of the tail. He was glad they had come directly to the hospital that evening, instead of checking into a motel. It would appear they wouldn't be staying in Clewiston after all.