CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

They had been traveling for just over a week. Sam assumed Barish would have the bloodhounds out now. They would have to get rid of the car soon. In the next day or so.

Sam was tired. Bone tired. The days following their flight from the hospital had drained almost all energy from him. Randy had come to that following day, late afternoon. Sick as a dog. In pain from his shoulder. Confused. Scared. Sam had had to find a place to camp out much earlier than he had planned, earlier than he had wanted to. Had to fight through Randy's confusion to give him his pills and the pain killers. Almost a physical fight, Randy had been so far out in left field. When he'd finally calmed down, fallen into an exhausted sleep, Sam wondered if he'd made a mistake. A colossal mistake.

The next day had been better. Randy's shoulder was still causing him problems, but Sam could give him the pain killers without a hassle. Sam was able to talk to Randy, explain what had happened. That he'd been afraid the social worker would interfere with their plans, so they'd left early. They were on their way west. Whatever else Randy took in, or didn't, he heard that loud and clear. Sam got the idea Randy would step off the Empire State building if Sam told him it would get him west.

The days after that became somewhat of a routine. They would get up in the morning, break camp, Randy hindering more than he helped but trying. Eventually they would get everything packed up and head out. Sam had mapped up a circuitous route, weaving in different directions, but generally heading northwest. A week after they left, Sam started Randy on the exercises from the physical therapist. It was hard on him, but he did what he was told. The only time Randy expressed anything other than cooperation was if Sam suggested staying anywhere longer than overnight. He became quite 'animated' then.

Those were the times when Sam started thinking there might be something wrong.


*****

Carla had received the report from Barish's group the day before. Nothing she didn't already know, or guess. He had people "checking into" the disappearance. At this point, the doctor apparently didn't know that the men's absence was deliberate. Which was good. It gave them all a little extra time. Of course, Stockwell, via Carla, had offered assistance, which had, of course, been turned down. Barish was still playing things close to the cuff. Which was fine with Carla. She didn't need Stockwell's Ables discovering her Ables. That was a little too much cat and mouse for her.

Thinking of her Ables, she glanced over their latest report. She chuckled slightly. Seems her men did not appreciate camping out in their cars every night. It seemed their quarry was determined not to leave a very easy trail. Smart move. Camping out in any field or woods they happened to be near when night fell. She wondered when they would switch to running at night. It would make it tougher for her people in one respect, easier in another. She wasn't worried. They were up to it.

Carla had also heard from Dr. Sullivan. She had spoken with the pilot, given him exactly the information she had been told to. She'd also had some questions. Very intelligent woman, Dr. Sullivan. Had a few things all figured out. Unfortunately, she'd wanted answers to some questions that Carla was not prepared to give out; not just yet, anyway. She did give the doctor some additional information. That Peck was no longer under Stockwell's control, but Carla did know where he was, what he was doing. She did not tell Maggie that, at this precise moment, Peck was really under no one's control. That information would have to wait a great deal longer. It wouldn't do to have Maggie let the team know that Face was not only alive, but free.

Now her only concern was at what point Barish would send out the dogs, and how vicious those dogs would be.


*****

"That's the wrong city, Sam."

"Huh?"

"It's the wrong city, Sam." Randy spoke with exaggerated patience. He'd been studying the map. Usually things like that just made him dizzy, but he was determined to know how much further they had to go, so he just worked things out a little at a time. Now he knew they were going north, not west. And had been, for a long time.

"We don't go there, Sam. That's not going west. We're going west."

"Not directly, Randy. We have to kinda skirt around things a bit. Make sure that social worker can't track us down."

Randy looked at Sam. That kinda made sense. But they'd been driving for days now. Why would she still be after them? He wasn't that important. Randy looked back at the map. Something wasn't right. He glanced at Sam, deciding to keep quiet until he could figure things out.

Something was different now. He wasn't sure what, exactly. Like the map. Yeah, it still confused him, but not as much as it used to. And he didn't feel so...fuzzy all the time. Maybe it was because he had something he wanted now. A goal. Yeah. He had a goal now. A goal he wanted really, really bad.

Sam didn't seem to understand that.


*****

Hannibal watched as Frankie ran the obstacle course yet one more time. The kid was finally getting into shape. He knew Frankie hated it; so had Face. Hannibal smiled at the thought of how Face used to complain every time Hannibal had taken them on training exercises. But he'd always given it his best shot. Always. Hannibal sighed. They'd been putting a lot of energy into Frankie. Demanding a lot from him, physically, mentally. Maybe too much. He'd actually blown up at Hannibal yesterday.

"Look, I am not Face, okay? I'm ME. Give me explosives, special effects, I'll make you a blockbuster. But don't expect me to be Face. Have Stockwell get you somebody else to do the lying and cheating!"

Well, that had ended it, not unexpectedly. Hannibal had just been surprised that it was he who'd knocked Frankie on his ass instead of BA or Murdock. A commanding officer shouldn't do that. But at least Frankie had quit bitching about the training.

They were all on edge. Murdock's call to Maggie while they were on that mission had not satisfied anyone. He was due to call her again in a few days. Hopefully she would have something more to tell them.

He'd thought about Maggie's questions about Face. The condition of the body. And Hannibal's condition when he'd looked at it. Who else had seen the body. Those questions ate at Hannibal. Why would she want to know about all of that? Because she already knew there was something wrong with Face's death. Even without the autopsy report. But what? It was almost as if she thought...no. No, that was Face.

He knew it.


*****

Sam pulled the car over into a wooded area, watching the rear view mirror carefully. Maybe it was just that Colorado had a lot of highway patrol. Or maybe someone was keeping an eye on them. He just knew that there had been way too many patrol cars in the last few hours. He had waited until he saw the last one's taillights disappear over the hill, and immediately took the next exit. He drove into the boonies like a rabbit in front of a fox, until he'd found the perfect spot.

He watched Randy as they were unloading the gear. He wanted to make sure he wasn't trying to lift with his bad arm, but Sam also was concerned about the way he'd been acting. He knew the medications had been adjusted, to try to relieve some of the foggy thinking. And that seemed to be kicking in just fine. But there was something else there, too. An edginess. Anything Sam said or did that gave the slightest hint of not getting Randy where he wanted to go, as soon as possible, seemed to trigger an antagonism. Nothing overt. Just the way Randy would look at him. Or like this morning, when he'd been looking at the map.

Sam knew Randy thought they should just go straight to San Francisco. The first few times he'd questioned their travels, he'd accepted the social worker story. But Sam knew that was fading. In fact, it almost seemed that Randy's faith in Sam himself was going downhill. And fast. That wasn't good. Not good at all.

Sam sighed. Why had things gone so smoothly when he was on the wrong side?


*****

"We may have a problem, ma'am. We've had a lot of activity from the local authorities in the last several hours."

"Any attempt to stop the targets?"

"No, ma'am. But there's a lot of noise on the radio. They're definitely reporting to someone on the location."

Carla did not like that one bit. Barish. Carla may just have underestimated the doctor. Well, she had a few tricks up her sleeve as well. She didn't like to use Stockwell's name too often, but she could if she had to. But not yet. Her men should be able to handle things at this point.

"Where's Peck now?"

"They pulled off the highway, took the back roads. They're setting up camp now."

"Okay. Listen, I don't want them having any more problems with the locals. Obviously they know, or at least suspect, that they're being watched." Chalk up one flaw for Barish - the patrol hadn't been told to keep a low profile. "They're going to try to ditch the car and get new wheels. I want you to make it very easy for them, understand? Whatever you have to do, make sure they have different transport. ASAP."

"Yes, ma'am."

The two men looked at each other. This had to be one of the strangest assignments they'd ever had.