CHAPTER FORTY TWO

Maggie slipped the needle in quickly and precisely. She didn't like doing this sort of thing, under any circumstances, but recognized the necessity right now for sedation. If they were going to be moving him, he would need as much pain relief as possible. The next injection was also necessary but for a much more important reason - there was obviously some sort of infection working through his system, and antibiotics had to be started as quickly as possible, before things got critical. She hoped she wasn't already too late. She looked down at him, watching as the pain killers worked their magic and his face slowly relaxed.

Sam. And Randy. She had to remember the names. Had to keep them straight. No more slipups. She'd seen the look Randy had given her when she blurted out 'Face'. The confusion, the suspicion. Whatever was going on with these men, Face, as he had been, was not part of it. Had that hospital had something to do with that? Had it happened before that, after the fake execution? Was it only more cloak and dagger crap? Maggie wished she knew more, that Carla had told her more. Now she was right in the middle of it, not just a peripheral player, and saying the wrong thing could be disastrous.

God, she wished she could talk to him. But just from looking at him it was obvious that Face was lost to her, at least for the foreseeable future. She had no idea if he would - or could - come back. So she faced a dangerous quandary. Randy wanted to know if Maggie knew Sam. How she answered could determine if he would trust her or not. When she didn't know if she could trust him. She was in totally uncharted territory here.

Maggie sighed. She hated to admit it, but this Randy scared her. Not because of the gun. She'd gotten used to those. It was his very demeanor, the intensity, the coldness. So unlike anyone she'd known before. Even those bikers had not been so cold. Brutal, yes, but not like this man. Beneath that exterior calm and control, there was something...explosive. His reactions were almost too quick. Too vehement. Instinctively, Maggie knew Randy was on the very edge of self control. She'd seen Face lose his self control only once. The team had come to her to lick their wounds after a very hard job. And she'd seen it coming, just like this. He'd been pushed and pushed and finally pushed too far. Randy was very close to that same point. It would take very little to shove him over. And she didn't like to think what that could mean.

With that in mind, how would she answer Randy's questions about Sam? Tell the truth? Lie? Which would make him trust her? Which would set him off? Either way, it was bound to lead to more and more questions, and how to answer those? Would what she said match what he expected? What he knew? What if it didn't? What if it did?

And what about Sam? What part had he really played in this whole thing? Obviously he had a great deal of influence over Randy, even when ill. Had he had any real control over him, or was he just someone Randy respected enough to listen to? Maggie could tell Sam was important to Randy, very important, or he wouldn't have gone to all of this trouble for him. Randy didn't seem like he would go to a lot of trouble for anyone. If only Face were 'here' for her; she knew Face and what he would do. She didn't know either of these men. They were both strangers to her.

And then those other two - Kurt, she thought, and Daryl. The only two she really felt she had a handle on, although a very thin one. She was sure they were the ones working for Carla. Or that had worked for her. Carla had washed her hands of the whole affair - or so she said. So why were these two sticking around? Was there something Carla wanted them to do before they, too, abandoned this pair? Or was there something else going on? She remembered that smile on Kurt's face when he met her at the door. That was definitely no machine following orders. There was something protective in his manner. Thinking about Randy, she thought maybe Kurt and Daryl were staying because of that. Because they, too, knew the detonation was coming, and wanted to be there to pick up the pieces. Or maybe stop it from happening altogether. If they could...

So many questions buzzing around in her head she felt it spinning. If only John were here. He would know what to do, what she should do.


*****

Hannibal listened as Jennings told the men what Hank had reported. His mind was whirling with possibilities. It was obvious to him that Maggie had walked into something. And now Hank right along with her. As he quickly looked at and discarded the various scenarios, he knew suddenly who was behind this. Who else needed to reach Maggie and couldn't? Who could come up with something so normal, so natural? No one would think anything strange about Maggie going on a house call. She might be followed, sure, but once she arrived at a farm where the family had lived there for years...it was a classic Mohammed/mountain scenario. He kicked himself mentally for not thinking about it earlier. He'd been so worried about how Face would get to Maggie's without being caught. Face hadn't even tried. He'd just done what any good tactician would do.

Hannibal grinned at the other men. Murdock and BA stared at him only for a moment before it dawned on them. Murdock twirled around, laughing out loud. BA actually smiled. Frankie and Jennings stared at them as if they'd gone nuts.

"Face! It's Face, Frankie!" Murdock chortled. "He's scammed himself a place where Maggie could come without anyone thinking twice about it. Man, he hasn't lost his touch!" Murdock laughed out loud. They were going to find Face now, they knew where he was. All they had to do was go and collect him. After all this time, they would have him back where he belonged! "So when do we leave, Hannibal?"

"Well, that's a problem." Immediately the elation died. "If we take off right now, we could lead Stockwell and these other goons right to him. And we don't know what the circumstances are that made Maggie necessary."

"So we aren't going out there?" Murdock was devastated. To be so close...

"I didn't say that. I don't intend to leave him on his own any longer than necessary. We had the advantage with Hank knowing the Potter's so well. I don't think it's going to take much longer before other people want to know what's going on out there. Simply because it's a loose end. So we need to get out there - we just have to be very careful how we do it.

"Jennings, I think you've been here longer than is wise, considering Maggie's not home. When you leave, make a show of checking all the entrances and buildings carefully. Don't take a long time, but be thorough. Gives an excuse for your being here. Then I want you to head out to Potter's. But don't go to the house. Find a place you can keep an eye on things without being conspicuous. And if any vehicles are behind you for any length of time, don't go. Circle around a bit, and then head out there. Just remember these guys are real pro's - and we don't know what they're willing to do."

Jennings nodded his head. This was serious business. Despite Smith's confidence, he wasn't willing to accept his theories on the Potter mess. He was worried not only about Maggie, but about Hank. But he also realized that Smith was better equipped to run this show than he was. He would do what he was told, and keep his fingers crossed.

After the deputy left, Hannibal started pacing, cigar smoke following him like steam from an old train. Not for the first time, he wished BA's van wasn't quite so conspicuous. They needed to get out to that farm. For some reason, Hannibal felt a sense of urgency in that. Well, there was no other way. It would mean a delay, but that's why he'd sent Jennings out there first.

"Okay, guys, we're gonna have to create just a small stir among our friends out there. We don't want to be too obvious, but we want them to see us and follow us - in the opposite direction from the Potter's. We'll lead them out a few miles, then lose them. Swing around the perimeter and then head for the farm. With luck, they'll think we've gotten a lead on Face. With phenomenal luck, they'll send all their people after us. In reality, I figure they'll send a couple cars each and see where we're going. Enough to keep them away from Potter's."

He looked at his men, eyes sparkling. "So, shall we go collect our lieutenant?"


*****

Maggie watched out of the upstairs window as the gray van pulled up to the house. It wasn't exactly the kind of vehicle she expected to see Face using. But then, most of what she'd seen this day was not exactly Face. A few moments later, the door was unlocked and Randy stepped in.

"He ready?"

"Yes, but I want to look at that van before we go."

"Why? What's wrong with it?" There was that hint of anger again. Actually, a bit more than a hint, and a bit more than just anger.

"I just want to see the kind of ride he's going to have. I don't want any more damage done." She dared to challenge him. It wasn't just for show - no way she would have her patient injured further.

Randy wavered for just a moment. "Okay, fine. Just make it quick. We don't have much time."

Kurt and Daryl were in the upstairs hallway, waiting to take Sam downstairs. Maggie took one look at their empty hands and stopped dead.

"You have a stretcher?"

"No, we..."

"Get one. Somewhere. You can't just drag him around like a sack of flour." She stalked down the stairs. Randy glared after her. He turned to the two men.

"You heard the doctor. Find something. Now."

Kurt and Daryl watched Randy follow Maggie down the stairs. She was pushing things; they could tell by the way Randy's shoulders were stiffening. They hurried downstairs to find something to use as a stretcher.

Outside, Maggie had swung the van's side door open. She looked at the large cushions covering the back floor. That would not do.

"We need something stiffer, something that gives his body more support. Those cushions just amplify every bump in the road. I think that mattress from his bed will fit. It's firm enough."

"You want us to haul the mattress from upstairs and put it in this van?"

"That's right. You have a problem with that?" Maggie stared him down. "I thought you wanted him taken care of."

For a moment, Maggie was afraid she'd pushed too far. Randy was visibly trembling, his face pale, eyes like ice. She watched the visual effort it took for him to regain his calm facade.

"Ok. We'll get the mattress in there. And then you'd better make damn sure he's comfortable for the ride, lady. Because if he isn't..." He turned and practically marched into the house, shouting for Kurt and Daryl.

He'd left her alone. With her car keys. For a split second, Maggie was tempted to flee. Then she thought about Sam. No way. There was just no way she could desert him. She stood by the van, waiting, keeping quiet as the mattress was dragged down and forced into the van. She kept quiet as Sam was carried down on a camp cot, and lifted carefully into back. And she maintained her silence as they all climbed in and the van pulled away from the house. She would not push Randy any further that day. Not if she could help it. But she would also remember that he had made a mistake...


*****

The black van was moving somewhat cautiously along the outskirts of Bad Rock. They'd already picked up one vehicle, nondescript, staying back, almost out of sight. BA picked up the pace just a little, hoping to draw at least a couple more. They had to get these dudes thinking that Face had fled, or not even come here. That the team knew where he really was and was heading there.

They reached the very edge of town and gained some speed. They picked up another car. BA noted they were working the surveillance together. Could be Stockwell, could be the other guys.

The phone in the van sounded off. Hannibal picked it up quickly, expecting a report from Jennings.

"We got a problem, Smith."

"Hank? What the...?" A third vehicle pulled onto the road. All keeping a discreet distance. A little jockeying among them, then dropping into a coordinated, cautious pursuit.

"They've gone, Smith. Jennings just got here and cut us loose. They had the whole family tied up, and me, in the basement while they packed up and left. Took Maggie with them. Jennings saw them, came down to the house to see what was up."

"Tied up! Face did that?"

"Not himself, no. But who else would set something like this up? And why else take Maggie? I don't think we're talking about some random kidnappers here."

Hank had finally reached the same conclusion Hannibal had. "How long ago did they leave?"

"Maybe 10, 15 minutes. Headed west on 76."

Damn it to hell!

Hannibal was leading the enemy right to their quarry.