CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN

The private jet glided onto the runway in the early evening. Three men stepped out onto the tarmac, stretching tired muscles, looking around the deserted airfield. Two other men struggled out of the plane, carrying yet another on a stretcher. Hannibal grinned at their mumblings. How many years had they pulled BA out of a plane, grumbling at the weight? Some things never changed.

He glanced over at Murdock and Frankie. Murdock was gently playing an invisible guitar, humming tunelessly along with it. Frankie was just standing there, scowling to rival BA, staring off at the skyline in the distance. Well, each to his own. Everyone had their own way of coping. Or not coping. Hannibal pulled out a cigar, searching for his lighter. Damn. Some things you never got used to.

"Murdock!" The pilot abruptly stopped playing and hurried over.

"Yeah, Hannibal?"

"You calling Maggie tonight?"

"Gonna try to, Colonel. Figure they won't expect me to do anything so soon after getting back. Let 'em think I've sacked out and then take off."

"Good. First thing in the morning then."

"Right. I'll be over, Colonel." Murdock moved off toward the limo, where BA was being loaded in. Frankie hadn't waited for anyone, but stalked over and climbed in, watching silently as the Ables struggled with the big man. Hannibal stood for a last moment, hoping Murdock could connect with Maggie tonight, and hoping she would have something concrete for them. They needed something solid to move on. It was time to quit waiting.


*****

Daryl had read the lab report at least a half-dozen times. He knew what all the ingredients were; it was just hard to put them together in his head. And when he finally had, he wished he hadn't. It was inconceivable to him that any one could be taking this combination of crap and still be upright. Hell, still be breathing. It certainly explained aspects of Randy's behavior. But it also created a hell of a lot of questions about why and who...and what the hell were he and Kurt doing messed up in something like this?

He waited until Randy left to walk with Sam again before talking to Kurt. Then they'd have to get in touch with Carla. Not as easy as it sounded. They weren't supposed to be connected with her at all, and she didn't want any calls from here to her office. Which meant more cloak and dagger shit. He was glad Kurt had gotten that set up. He hated dealing directly with that woman.

Kurt looked at him warily as he sat down on the patio, report in hand. "Let's keep this in English, ok, Daryl?"

"Yeah, well, it's not pretty. That little pill has more drugs meshed together than Eli Lillie. Legal and illegal." Both men kept their voices low.

"What?"

"I don't know how they did it. Barbiturates, amphetamines, antipsychotics, fucking coke even. But it's not just anything thrown together. Like the bennies - they're similar, but each one in there is known for a specific effect as well. Some stuff in there works on impulse control, for instance. Other stuff is amnestic. Other stuff makes you more aggressive. Plus there's a little added something that the lab couldn't figure out - a synthetic of some kind. Maybe something to help synthesize the rest of the shit, maybe to mellow out the combined effects. Who knows?"

"How could they do that? And why, for God's sake?"

Daryl looked at Kurt, worry and anger mixed on his face. "You remember all that talk about Bluebird? Third Choice? MKSEARCH?"

"Aw, no, man, no way...Stockwell couldn't have...I mean, Carla woulda let us know if that..." Kurt's voice trailed off. This was too much. Way, way too much.

"C'mon, Kurt, look at some of the people Stockwell's had us on. Look where he came from, for God's sake. What else makes any sense whatever?" Daryl's voice was rising rapidly.

"Shhh! God, don't forget the bugs, man!" Both men abruptly shut up.

Kurt stood, looked out across the courtyard. If nightmares could come to life, this was it. More so, because they had seen the change right before their very eyes. Bluebird. The grand-daddy of CIA mind control projects. MKSEARCH. He remembered one of the techniques used there. Barbiturates injected into one arm, amphetamines into the other. Pulling information out of the babbling subject. A lot of deaths. Shit. Was this pill a new phase? A whole new project? Shit.

"Kurt?"

"Yeah."

"We can't do this any more, man. I can't."

"I know."

"What's Carla gonna do when she sees that report? Or do you think she already knew?"

"I don't know, Daryl. I don't know." He looked at his partner. "We can't just walk away, you know. We have to take them with us. We have to let them know what's going on."

"I think Sam already knows. He was so insistent about Randy getting his pills on time...but I just don't see him as being one of the bad guys here, Kurt. He just didn't act that way. I mean, it's not like he's concerned about some abstract experiment. More like he knows what could happen if Randy goes off this stuff too suddenly."

"That would be bad?"

"Real bad. I mean, shit, Kurt, he's taking coke along with other stuff almost as bad. Very small doses of each, but still..."

"Yeah, okay. I get the picture. Well, we'll have to give Sam the benefit of the doubt - for now. But we've got to get them out of here. Carla said no one else would know we were here, but we're talking Stockwell. This is his place, for chrissake. The sooner we get out, the better I'll feel. Find some place on our own to lay low and figure out what to do next."

"On our own? You mean, don't let Carla know where we are?"

"Not exactly where we are. I don't care how careful she is. I don't want anyone else involved who doesn't absolutely have to be. Not until we know for sure who's on the side of the angels here."

Daryl didn't like it, but he had to agree. Until they knew who all the players were, and whose side they were on, none of them was safe. And he'd prefer to live to a ripe old age.


*****

It didn't take much to convince the Ables that he'd gone home and gone to bed. He almost didn't wake up in time to make the call. He'd opted to muffle the alarm clock under his side instead of under his pillow. If it hadn't been for the tickling vibration, he never would have awakened. Flying across the Atlantic would do that to you.

With instincts forged on missions with the team, he'd chosen this apartment with a view to escape. Front door, back door, conveniently located windows. He knew they couldn't cover all exits effectively without a noticeable number of people. Noticeable to him, anyway. It was a strange little building. Five floors, all surrounding a small enclosed courtyard. In an effort at individuality, each apartment had a different little jog as they cornered around the courtyard. His, on the second floor, contained a wonderful little window that was absolutely unseen from the street unless you stood at one certain point and leaned to the side. It took him 10 minutes to work his way out the window, down the balcony, and crouch-crawl his way along the row of cars parked on the street below. He scuttled quickly around the first corner and took off running.

He grabbed a cab a few blocks away, and directed them to a shopping mall several miles away. He took several minutes walking around, window-shopping, before approaching the phone booth. One last glance around, then dialed Maggie's number.

She answered almost immediately.

"Hi, Doc, it's..."

"Oh, Mr. Brenner, I'm glad you called. I was afraid you'd wait until office hours tomorrow."

Ok. Trouble.

"Well, you made it sound important."

"Well, it's just that the office is being fumigated over the next few days. Insects, you know. So I thought we should reschedule your appointment. Say, Wednesday? Around 8:00AM?"

"Sure, that would be fine."

"Ok. Great. I can't wait for this fumigation to be done with. I'm having to use Hank's office temporarily. You know where that is?"

"Sure, doc. No problem."

"Ok then, I'll see you Wednesday."

They hung up. Murdock glanced at his watch. Damn, she was good. Well under the time needed for anyone to trace the call. So Stockwell was tapping her phone. Were they really that close, or was she just one of many?

It was early Tuesday morning. He had to wait until Wednesday to call her back at the sheriff's office. Hannibal would not like this. Not one little bit.

He made his way back to the apartment, sneaking back through his little window just as the sun was peaking over the horizon. Great. He'd get a couple hours sleep before heading over to the compound. At least he could sack out there for the rest of the day. Maybe.