CHAPTER THIRTY TWO

The first explosion, toward the perimeter of the compound, sent a gaggle of Ables rushing after the team members, herding them unceremoniously into the house. Once they were contained, all but a handful of Ables hurried to join the others checking out the explosion. They had barely gotten out of the house when the next explosion, followed by intense gunshots, came from an area just to the east of the original. The Ables split their forces, trying to cover both scenes while at the same time eluding the gunfire.

Inside, seated in the living room, the team members pretended to be as surprised as the Ables. They could hear the various exchanges between groups over the Ables' radios. As explosion followed explosion, coupled with gunfire and scattered around the compound, their `anxiety' grew to match that of the Ables in the room with them. Finally, as the ruckus spread over an ever-growing area, they heard the order they'd been waiting for -- the call for reinforcements. Hannibal barked at their guards.

"For god's sake, either get out there and get this stopped or hand over some weapons so we can at least protect ourselves!"

It took only seconds for the lead Able to decide. The team was quickly ushered into the first bedroom and locked in. Murdock counted as the Ables rushed out the front door.

"That's it, Colonel! Time to fly!"

BA took the door out with one shove. Each man raced for his own room, grabbing the weapons hidden under the mattresses the day before. They met at the van, where BA gunned it and raced down the drive, firing as they went. They were almost to the street before any of the Ables realized what was actually happening. Amid shouts and more gunfire, the van bounced off the curb in its race to the street. A few Ables ran to their own vehicles, not realizing their tires had been the first victims of the team's weapons. In moments, the compound was silent, except for the disgusted swearing of the Ables.


*****

"I'm sorry, sir. I spoke with the Chief of Security himself. Gave me access to all the records. There's nothing here to indicate these men were ever here. I even checked with the doctors - including the one who called Barish. He's the only one who insists they were here."

Stockwell slammed down the phone. Carla was getting far too good at outmaneuvering him. He wondered which one she'd gotten to. Probably the Chief, but that would be hard to prove. He knew the man; one of his best, in his time. Apparently hadn't lost his touch. Stockwell sighed. Carla was on her way to the Ukraine by now. He allowed himself a bitter smile at that. It would give them both time to reassess their positions. In the meantime...

He grabbed the phone again and punched in a number. Stockwell's only real concern now was the team. He was quite sure they knew almost as much about Peck's whereabouts as he did. And that meant he needed to get to Peck first. Barish would be an excellent partner in this. Stockwell had no doubt that some of the doctor's retrieval team were already in Colorado. He would arrange for his own men to join them. Barish undoubtedly had plans for the lieutenant and that partner of his; it would just have to be another disappointment. Stockwell needed the team back, and the lost teammate was the way to accomplish that. Barish would have to live with it. After all, Peck shouldn't have gotten away in the first place.


*****

Randy paced the hotel room, checking the window every couple of minutes.

"Randy, relax. He'll be here soon."

They had taken a pair of rooms at the seedy little hotel, Kurt and Daryl in one, Randy in the other. Daryl had gone out to scrounge something to eat, while the other two men waited in Randy's room for Sam's arrival.

Randy shook his head doubtfully. "That would be poor procedure. Sloppy."

Kurt looked quizzically at him.

"For the three of us, it was easier to let us go. Not so many bodies to dispose of afterward. But Sam's too much trouble. He can't walk very well yet, plus his other medical problems. All of which will make him very noticeable outside the hospital. Especially here. Easier to just kill him and pass it off as an injury-related death, or just dispose of the body and records. If that security chief had any brains, that's what he'd do. I would."

"You would?"

"The Chief's objective - running a safe, secure and inconspicuous hospital - could be seriously compromised, dealing with Sam. Tactically, he's better off getting rid of him. One does not allow interference with the objective. We never would have risked it, in-country."

"We didn't kill the wounded, Randy. C'mon..."

"Apparently you fought a different war than I did."

"This isn't a war, Randy."

"Isn't it? Maybe you just don't realize it yet, Kurt." The nervous pacing had stopped as they talked, and Randy exuded calm intelligence. Kurt almost felt like he was looking at his commander, preparing to take green troops into battle. He remembered Sam's worries about Randy. Maybe he hadn't been exaggerating, after all.

"Is that what you're planning when Sam gets here? Get rid of him, because he's too much trouble?"

"What? No, of course not! That's different. I owe Sam. Besides..." he stared out the window again, "he's on the mend. It's not as if he were going to delay us for long..."


*****

"How long before they have someone on our tail, Johnnie?" Frankie was watching the road ahead nervously, as if expecting a road block to pop up at any moment.

"I doubt very much if he'll have any one after us, Frankie. He knows where we're going. He'll just wait for us there."

"Ha, great kidder, Johnnie...you are kidding, right? I mean, we're not just gonna drive out there knowing Stockwell's already gonna be there, right?"

"Sure, Frankie." Murdock was lounging in his seat, studying the road map. "Stockwell knows we want Face, and he knows if he gets him first, he's got us again. I imagine there's more people after Face right now than even Decker could've asked for. We just gotta beat `em all to the punch, that's all."

"Oh, right, and how we gonna do that, driving out there when the rest of `em probably flew?"

"Getting there isn't the problem, Frankie. It's finding him once we do. Stockwell doesn't know Face like we do. And despite what he thinks, the general doesn't really know how we operate, either."

Hannibal lit up, feeling happier than he had for months. Finally, some action of the right kind.

"Yeah, Frankie, don't worry about the other guys. We'll find Face first; then it's just a matter of keeping ahead of Stockwell. And we've had plenty of practice at that, thanks to the military."

"Yeah, man, don't worry so much. We git out there, find Face, git out, and then we start doing what we always done. Things'll be just like they were." BA glanced back at Frankie. "Well, almost. Now we gonna have a real explosives expert, too."

Frankie sat back in his seat, stunned. Had he really heard BA correctly? No more scamming? No more trying to be someone he wasn't? The explosives expert. Man, that sounded so good. He looked over at the pilot.

Murdock smiled at him. Now Frankie would find out what it was really like to be a member of this team, when they worked on their own terms.