CHAPTER TWENTY

Hannibal stared across the room at his team. Murdock was switching channels on the television set, stopping now and then on a nature or space show, not staying too long on anything. BA was tinkering with the carburetor from the van. He'd taken it apart and cleaned it at least twice today. Frankie was putting on makeup. Hannibal had set him three different disguises to come up with. So far, after three hours, he'd come up with one that was acceptable to the colonel. Every now and then, Hannibal could feel the glare coming from the man.

Things had not gone well with the team's efforts with Frankie. Oh, he was getting into shape alright. And he was putting more and more effort into his acting. But there was a deep resentment in there, barely hidden. Stockwell wasn't helping. He kept reminding them all, in front of Frankie, that Frankie's role was as an explosives expert, not as a conman. Neither Frankie nor Stockwell seemed to understand that the team didn't need an explosives man. They all knew enough to do what they needed to in that department; always had. What they needed was someone to get things done quickly, to procure the difficult, spur-of-the-moment items they had to have to succeed. What they needed was someone who was resourceful, quick-thinking, sharp-witted, adaptable even in tense situations. What they needed was Face.

He'd spoken with Murdock this morning. It was time to contact Maggie again and Hannibal wanted it done as soon as possible. She had to have some answers for them soon. She just had to. What was wrong with the team was more than just Frankie. Until they knew what had really happened to Face, none of them would feel...what? Content? Happy? Or maybe just at peace.

Yeah. What they needed was peace.


*****

Kurt had pulled into the truck stop, parking at the back of the diner. He'd driven as slowly as possible without being noticeable, hoping Daryl would catch up. When he'd finally gotten a response from him, he'd known without asking that something was seriously wrong. Just the timbre of his partner's voice had told him that.

He looked at his watch. They had about fifteen minutes before Daryl would arrive. He needed to contact Carla, let her know what had happened. He should wait until Daryl arrived, but there was that feeling again. If he didn't call her now, he may not have another chance to for quite some time. He'd never been a believer in hunches, but this was so strong he had to follow.

He looked, hesitant, at his passenger. Randy had not said a word since Kurt had taken him to his car. He just sat there, staring straight ahead. He hadn't been still, exactly. Kept scratching his fingers on his pant leg; never moved his hands, just his fingers, constantly scratching. Kurt had tried to talk to him, but had gotten silence in return. So Kurt would just keep telling him that he was there to help, and things would work out okay. Anything to calm him down. Whether Randy believed him or not, Kurt had no idea.

He shut off the engine and turned so he was facing Randy.

"Hey, kid." Kurt wasn't that much older than Randy, but somehow, 'kid' just seemed appropriate. He spoke softly, not wanting to startle him. "I have to make a phone call. I want you to wait here for me. Don't leave the car. Will you do that? Wait here in the car for me?"

Randy finally looked at him. He still had that 'deer in the headlights' look, but at least he was responding in some fashion. He locked eyes with Kurt for a moment, swallowed, and nodded his head. Kurt realized he was too scared to leave the car. He smiled, hopefully in an encouraging way, and started to get out. Randy reached over suddenly, grabbed his arm.

"You'll come back?"

Taken aback, Kurt stared back at him. "Yes, of course, I'll come back." He thought for another second. "I promise. I won't leave you."

Still suspicious, but somewhat mollified, Randy nodded and returned to staring through the windshield.


*****

Daryl and Sam drove at a steady pace. Neither wanted any unwanted attention, and the highway was busy with real patrol cars now. They passed the disabled fake car and the old bomber. Sam noted that there were two black sedans along with the official vehicles. He had a pretty good idea who they belonged to. He slouched down a little in the seat, wincing as he had to bend his leg.

He wasn't sure how much longer he would last. The initial burning sensation in his leg had turned to a throbbing ache, and he felt like he was floating in the car. Daryl's silhouette had started blurring some time ago. He no longer felt cold; that was something. Now it was all numb, except for the leg. He would like nothing more than to close his eyes and disappear in the blackness that was closing in, but he couldn't. Not yet. Not until he got to Randy, made sure he was safe. Found out what these guys wanted. Why they were here. Who they worked for.

So damn many questions...


*****

Carla was definitely not happy. It hadn't helped when a chagrined Kurt had almost desperately reminded her that she'd told them to help the pair find a different vehicle no matter what. It was bad enough that Randy was now with Kurt. Not knowing where Sam was, was infuriating. Those two had to stay together. She could not operate with one blind eye. Tersely, she told Kurt to wait for Daryl and then find Sam. He was to report back to her the moment they found him. She would decide what to do then.

She drummed her fingers on the desk angrily. Unpredictable. One was bad enough; the two together had now proven they could wreak havoc on even the most seasoned of Stockwell's agents. She had intended to ensure Barish didn't interfere with them; she most certainly had not intended her own people to be actively involved. It created complications. A myriad of complications that she didn't want to deal with.

She glanced at her calendar. Damn. Still had to deal with Sullivan, too. The team, probably the pilot, would be getting in touch with her in the next day or two. She had to have something to tell them. Carla hadn't intended to let them know too much, too soon, but now...Well, maybe it was time to move things up a bit. Sullivan could let them know about the real autopsy, that there was a possibility Peck was still alive. But she would have to stress the danger to him if they confronted Stockwell. It was a real danger, after all. And not only to Peck. If they went after Stockwell now, he would know that Carla had been playing fast and loose in her reports to him. And she wasn't yet strong enough to play that hand.

Not yet. But soon.


*****

Kurt was walking back to the car when he saw Daryl arriving. Glancing around to make sure no one was looking their way, he waved him over. It was then he saw the other man, slumped down in the passenger seat.

Daryl pulled up next to Kurt's car and Kurt saw him look at the other man, say something. Kurt couldn't tell if the man answered or not. He stepped up to the driver's door cautiously, looking over at Randy. Randy hadn't noticed anything yet. Daryl rolled down the window.

"Kurt, I'd like you to meet Sam. We need to get him to a hospital stat, but he won't go until he talks to Randy."

"What happened?"

"I hit him. With the car. It's a long story. Right now, he needs to talk to Randy, privately. Then he's agreed to go to the hospital."

Kurt nodded and hurried to get his passenger. Things were getting stranger and stranger, out of control. He opened the passenger door, startling Randy.

"Easy, kid. Your friend, Sam, is in the other car, with my partner. He's been hurt but he wants to talk to you before he'll go to the doctor."

Randy bolted out of the car, looking wildly around. Kurt directed him to the other car. Daryl was already out, opening his passenger door. As Randy knelt down to talk to Sam, Daryl stepped over to Kurt and gave a quick synopsis of his morning.

A few minutes later, Randy joined them, obviously rattled.

"You gotta take him to the doctor right away. He's hurting really bad. Please. He said he'll go if you guys stick around." He looked at the two men. "He said I wasn't to go anywhere with you except the hospital. So don't try to make me."

"Don't worry, kid. We'll get him to the hospital and Daryl will stay with the two of you. I've got some things to take care of and then I'll join you there." He saw that look of rising panic on Randy's face again. "I promise. I'll come back. Daryl and I are going to help you, both of you."

Making a quick decision, Kurt pulled all their gear from his car and stowed it in Daryl's. He told Daryl he had to make one quick phone call.

"We don't have time to report to her right now, Kurt. Wait till we get to the hospital."

"I'm not calling Carla." Both men were speaking low so they wouldn't be overheard. "I have to call the state patrol."

"What?"

"Hey, I've got our fake cop on ice in the trunk. I can't leave him there but we can't take him with us. He doesn't know about you or your car. It'll dead-end them for a while."

Ten minutes later the four men were racing down the interstate, watching for signs for the nearest hospital.