CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN

It had taken John Clifton some time to line up transportation for Barish and his team. While following the men's trail by road had worked well before, not having air transport close at hand was proving a distinct problem. The nearest airfield, in Rangely, was not exactly well known to their pilots, and took some time to pinpoint. It was nearly two hours before the men were finally taxiing down the runway. They had arrived in Bad Rock at close to eight that evening. To Barish, the delay had been untenable. Had he known that Clifton had made a sudden, rash, and hurried call to Able 17 just before they left for the airport, he would have been apoplectic.

Clifton had not liked leaving Stockwell's man in the dark. He had worked well with the man, and had seen nothing less than the high professionalism he himself took pride in. One didn't just stab someone like that in the back. In fact, had it not been for Able 17, Clifton would not have found the laundromat owner. So, taking some license with Barish's decision to notify Stockwell 'in due time', he made his own decision as to when the 'due time' was. He wasn't sure what the ramifications would be when Barish found out; he did know he probably wouldn't like them.

The small caravan of four vehicles had stopped on the outskirts of Bad Rock. During the flight, Barish had made some inquiries and they knew exactly where Dr. Sullivan's office/home was. It was decided that Clifton and two other men would check it out first, to determine if the quarry had arrived yet. Others would make a surreptitious look around the rest of Bad Rock, particularly the sheriff's office. They needed to know what kind of 'opposition' they might run into. They would meet back at the staging area to compare notes, and subsequently make their plans for the retrieval and disposal from there.

Dr. Barish was somewhat mollified to discover they had beaten their quarry to the target. He was not unduly concerned with the local authorities, either. There were no regular patrols, as such. Depending on when Randy and Sam showed up, they would either be taken that very night, or the next. That was the only real contingency to their plan. The men would have to be taken at night, after the town rolled up the sidewalks and went to bed. They could not afford any witnesses.

Unfortunately, that also included Dr. Sullivan.


*****

They had arrived outside Bad Rock just before nine that night, having had to make several short stops along the way to accommodate Sam. It had not been a good trip for him. Around mid-afternoon he had once again come to, this time nauseous, and neither pills, water, nor food remained down. He was obviously suffering, and could not hold back frequent grunts of pain from the rough road. Everyoneís nerves were on edge by the time they came to Bad Rock, especially Randyís.

Kurt, remembering that conversation while theyíd waited for Sam to arrive, watched Randy very carefully. While it was true that Randy had done everything he could to make Sam comfortable, and when he spoke to him it was always in a soft voice, Kurt could see the irritation and tension building. Randy may not get rid of Sam because of delays, but how long would he put up with the problems Sam was having?

Now they sat, on a narrow gravel road, looking down on Bad Rock. It didnít look very big, more of a village than a town. Randy had no idea where this doctorís house was located and apparently, neither did Sam. They had each tried to ask him, and he just kept saying, "Bad Rock." Whether he really didnít know, or was just so far out of it that he couldnít tell them, they had no idea. So here they were, within visual sighting of the place that would offer them some sort of safety and relief, and no idea how to get there. It was not playing well with Randy.

"Shit! I knew we shouldíve just gone for San Francisco. Talk about fucking wild goose chases..."

"Címon, Randy, itís not that bad. A little recon and we should be able to find it. Itís not like thereís a lot of places to look." Darylís voice in the darkness was silky smooth. He had always been much better at calm than Kurt.

Randy stood, ramrod stiff, looking down at the town. "Okay, you and Kurt get your asses down there and see what you can find out. And for chrissake donít let anyone see you."

Daryl started down the road, but Kurt hesitated. He wasnít really sure he wanted to leave Randy alone with Sam.

"Problem, Kurt?"

"No, Iím just, uh..."

"Worrying about Sam?"

"Well..."

"Kurt, if I wanted to get rid of him, it wouldnít make a damn bit of difference if you were here or not. Iím not irritated enough to go there, all right? Just donít push me. Now get down there and find that fucking doctor."

If Randy had meant to reassure Kurt, it hadnít worked.


*****

Able 17 had checked his messages shortly after Barish and his group had taken off from the airport. While not happy at the turn of events, he felt some degree of satisfaction that his plan of cooperation had worked on Clifton. He immediately assembled his own team and headed for the airfield. They had a distinct advantage over Barish, in that Stockwell had flown his people directly to the area from Langley. It had taken only a quick call to the pilot, and the plane took off within the hour.

Once in the air, Able 17 had contacted Stockwell to apprise him of developments. Stockwell's response had taken him somewhat by surprise. He'd laughed.

"I'm sorry, sir, am I missing something?"

"Only that the population of Bad Rock is probably going to double within the next few hours, Able 17. Barish's group, ourselves, Peck and Company, and undoubtedly the rest of the team...I wouldn't be surprised if you found yourselves camping next to each other."

The laughter left his voice. "Just remember - Barish intends to dispose of Peck and any and all witnesses. That will, of course, include your counterparts traveling with these two, and quite possibly Dr. Sullivan. God help any other civilians that get involved. And don't forget - you and your team could also be considered liabilities. I don't think Barish would be brazen enough for a direct assault against me, but he's getting desperate. It is imperative, Able 17, that you get to Peck first. Once he's securely in your custody, Barish will be at a distinct disadvantage.

"If Barish should get Peck first, your next objective is to retrieve him alive, and ensure the safety of any civilians. If possible, secure Ables 9 and 12. They have some explaining to do.

"Of course, the ideal objective is the A-Team. You're more likely to run into them after you get Peck, and they aren't going to be happy that you have him. However, I'm quite sure you'll at least be able to elude them, if capture isn't possible. Once we have Peck back in Langley, the team will come back. And under my terms. So don't worry too much about them in that regard."

"Understood, sir. We may have some help from Barish's man, Clifton. I know he's not happy with the way things are being handled. I doubt it would be anything overt, but some slight impediment might be expected."

"Very well, Able 17. Just don't count too heavily on that. Barish is not a man to be crossed, and this Clifton undoubtedly knows that very well. Let me know when this is taken care of."

Able 17 closed the connection and tried to relax. They should reach Bad Rock just after nine.


*****

"How much further, BA?"

It seemed like he had just answered that question not five minutes before, but BA was studiously trying to be patient. He knew they were all in the same boat, all anxious and worried about what they would find at Maggie's. Like Hannibal, he was almost 100% certain that Face would be there; what condition he would be in was anybody's guess. Which of the four men had needed the hospital, they didn't know. Why they had needed the hospital, they didn't know. All they really knew is that Stockwell and at least one other group was after Face, and they had to find him first.

They hadn't known about this second group until yesterday. At first, when Murdock had heard of other people asking questions about strangers in town, and the hospital, they had assumed it was Stockwell. Gradually, they had discovered that, for many of the people he had spoken with, this was actually the third 'interview'. From the descriptions they had gotten, they knew some of the questioners had been Ables. The others were totally unknown players to them. All it had really done was add to their impatience.

"BA? How much..."

"I already tol you, fool. We'll git in around eleven. Now be quiet and let me drive."

Murdock subsided for a few moments. Then he turned to Hannibal.

"Think it would do any good to get hold of Carla?"

Frankie looked up, puzzled. "Why Carla?"

"Because Carla is, or was, Maggie's contact person." Seeing Frankie was still puzzled, he explained patiently, "She's the only female with enough smarts, and enough balls, to go up against Stockwell. And that's basically what this contact person was doing in helping Face." Hannibal puffed on his cigar, thinking. "I just don't know if it would be wise to try and reach her. The timing of her pull-out, this other bunch showing up in Dinosaur...I don't like it. Sounds more like things were unraveling for her than a planned thing. Contacting her now could just make things worse."

Murdock slumped back in his seat. When they were just going up against the general in this, he'd felt more than confident they would prevail. But now...well, none of them liked dealing with unknowns. And with the three men traveling with Face, and now this other group, there were far too many in this game.