CHAPTER FIFTY SEVEN

Kurt had finished with the debriefing. Laid out together, it was a depressing picture. But like it or not, he had to forge ahead. There was no time to waste.

"We have to make some hard decisions now. Decisions about both Randy and Sam. Neither one of them is in good shape. Dr. Sullivan is especially concerned about Sam. He needs to be in a hospital. Soon. There's some kind of infection going on, and it's killing him, pure and simple. Randy...well, I just don't know if he's going to make it through this withdrawal or not. The obvious problem is that we can't just take them to a hospital. Both Stockwell and Dr. Barish are going to be watching every admission for miles around here."

"What about the one over by Bad Rock? At least we'd have some cooperation from the sheriff there."

"They won't make it that far. Plus they need more than a rural hospital can supply. We have to have help. Major league help."

Hannibal had a pretty good idea where Kurt was going, and he didn't like it. Not one bit. But what it came down to was what was more important. And, like it or not, there was no contest.

"Okay, Kurt. Let's have it all. I think you know what the answer's going to be, at least from us." Hannibal looked at his remaining men. He knew they would follow his lead; he only hoped it was going to be the right decision for all of them.

Kurt was looking at Daryl. He didn't need to explain anything to him, not really. If they were lucky, he and Daryl would be able to come out of this in one piece. The question really was, were they willing to make the sacrifice for two men they barely knew. Hell, didn't know at all, when it came down to it. Two men who weren't even who they thought they were.

Daryl looked back at Kurt. He knew where this was going. And he didn't like it. But he thought of the carnage on the beach. Maybe saving these two men was enough, maybe not. But it was a start toward redemption. He would go along with Kurt.

"Okay. This is what we have to do..." Kurt began outlining his plan. And kept his fingers crossed that it would work out the way he hoped.


*****

The jet was due to land at LAX in less than an hour. It had been a long and boring flight. Except, of course, for that call. That ten minute call that had put her back in the game. Even more so than Stockwell's summons from Europe. That ten minute call gave her the upper hand one more time, and she intended to play it for all she was worth.

By the time her plane landed, Carla had all her ducks in a row. She waved off the chauffer waiting at the gate and headed for the nearest bank of phones. She had to work quickly now, before she lost the edge she had been handed on a silver platter. There was some resistance from her contacts at first; news of her 'banishment' had spread. It took not a little guile, and some threats, to convince people she was back, in more ways than one. Forty minutes later she slipped past the still-waiting chauffer and collected her rental car.


*****

Two cargo vans pulled up to the back of the motel. One of the drivers headed toward a set of rooms off to the side. He knocked, and was immediately admitted. A few moments later, he was escorted to a second room. He spent several minutes inside, before hurrying out, signaling to the other driver. Three men emerged from the vans, hauling two gurneys. They watched the area around them, alert. They hurried into the second room, all the while under the watchful eyes of several rather imposing looking men. Those men stayed behind as the two gurneys, now occupied, were pushed toward the vans, followed closely by a woman. The gurneys were carefully loaded and the vans drove off, fast. The men left behind slowly walked back into their room.

It had taken less than fifteen minutes.


*****

John Clifton moved quickly up the steps. He glanced at his watch. Good. Right on schedule. His schedule, anyway. His appointment wasn't for another 45 minutes. He would be unexpected. He smiled to himself. There was none better.

He had had a long meeting with Stockwell. They had come to an understanding. Mutual benefit. What Able 17 had said was true. Clifton's other government contacts would not bother him. He would be free to move into Stockwell's organization unhindered, unthreatened. In return, he would provide Stockwell with information and 'services'. His first assignment was on the third floor of this building.

He took the service elevator. Security was lax, but then it was only provided for the privacy of the clients, not for safety. He glanced up and down the empty hallway before proceeding to the door. Another quick check, a knock on the door. An assistant of some kind opened it. Too bad.

He moved toward the inner door, again checking the hallway before proceeding. Another knock. This time answered by the man himself.

"Good afternoon, Doctor. I'm afraid I'm a little early..."


*****

BA was watching the parking lot from the motel room window. He saw the car pull in, recognized the driver. He turned to the others in the room.

"Time, Hannibal."

Hannibal looked at his men. None of them were happy, but they would not reconsider. Not for an instant. He wouldn't even ask them.

He looked at Kurt and Daryl, standing unhappily in one corner. Kurt was chain-smoking.

"Guys..." they looked up at him. "Hey, this is not your fault. Not your problem. You two kept my man alive, at great risk to yourselves, and at great cost. I understand now what was going down on the beach, and frankly, I would've done the same damn thing. You could've walked away back in Colorado and you didn't. I owe you two. More than you know."

"Even now?" Kurt was almost glaring at him.

"Even now. Like I said, you could've walked away; you didn't. You came up with a solution. So, maybe it isn't working out completely like we would have liked. What in life does, right? All in all, we won't be any better or worse off than we were before. Just a lot smarter." Hannibal stepped over to them, held out his hand. "Thank you."

Without hesitation, first Kurt, then Daryl, shook hands with the colonel. Murdock followed suit, then Frankie. BA looked at the two men, nodded. Kurt smiled; Daryl gave an answering nod. They watched in silence as the four men left the room.

"So, now what, Kurt?"

"Well, Daryl, I think a long, leisurely drive back. We've got a few days before we'll be in contact again. Time to rest up and get our shit together."

Daryl nodded. "You think this is going to work out? Really?"

Kurt shrugged. "What other choice do we have?"


*****

They rode in silence to pick up their van. Hannibal noted the sharp look they were given as they pulled up next to it and stepped out of the car.

"Don't worry. I gave you my word."

"And I gave you mine, Colonel. We both have a lot to lose if this doesn't work. I'll keep my end up. Make sure your men do the same."

Hannibal didn't bother to answer. He settled into his seat in the van, lit a cigar, nodded to BA to follow the car. They were going to a safe house, to wait. Wait for word on Face. Wait to see if the deal brokered by Kurt would pan out. Wait to see where their lives were headed.

He looked at the men in the van. BA, unreadable, his usual scowl in place. Murdock, bouncing a ball from hand to hand, concentrating on that and only that. Frankie, sitting in Face's seat, gloomily staring at the back of Hannibal's seat. Hannibal felt bad about Frankie. The one who was really giving up the most. But who had done it willingly enough. Hannibal would have to rethink his ideas about Frankie. With the right treatment, a little more respect handed out, he would be a good man. Good for the team.

Maybe, just maybe, things would work out for the best.


*****

Maggie sat in the cafeteria, sipping idly at cold coffee. She'd been working closely with the doctors here. Now, there was nothing more to do except wait and hope. Carla had shown up earlier. Talked with Maggie and the other doctors, filling in some gaps. Maggie had been insistent that both men be treated with equal care. They were her patients, after all. It didn't matter that one was a friend, one a stranger. Carla had agreed. Maggie wasn't fooled about any altruism her part. She knew full well that Carla already had plans for the other man. If he lived.

Carla was still upstairs, waiting for the latest test results. She had a great deal riding on this. If Peck died, she lost everything. If he lived, her position was set for life. She could write her own ticket. The other man was just the icing on the cake. She would only be enhanced by his living; it wouldn't matter that much if he didn't.

She watched the doctors now, standing in the hallway, conferring. The tests must be back. When the head honcho motioned to her, she got up and walked over, looking more calm than she felt. These tests would tell if they were winning or losing.


*****

The morning sun was shining through his window. He normally enjoyed it, but he was in a bad mood today. He stood at the offending window, glaring out at the world below. He'd been outsmarted and it did not sit well with him. True, he was getting what he wanted, but the cost to his pride was tremendous.

He glanced at the clock. Another hour before she'd be calling him again, with an update. They would know for sure if Peck would live then. Of course, it would be a long haul until he was completely recovered, if that happened at all. And then there was the therapy to go through, to try and restore his memory. Again, the benefits outweighed the costs involved.

Stockwell stared out of his window once again. All in all, he could be satisfied. He allowed himself a small smile. He'd gained one other thing in all of this.

An assistant who had proved she could be much, much more. Had lived up to his expectations.


*****

Carla arrived at the safe house with Maggie. It would be far easier for the doctor to explain what had happened, what they should expect. The two women had come to an understanding of sorts. The doctor understood that what was happening was the only way to reach a positive outcome. The only way to keep everyone she cared about safe. She didn't have to like it. She just had to accept it.

The team were all in the living room, waiting. It had been a long week of anticipation, and they were more than ready to get out of the house.

"Dr. Sullivan will give you the details in a moment regarding Lieutenant Peck. As for yourselves, you will be flying back to Langley first thing in the morning. You will return to the compound, and resume your assignments for the general. As soon as Peck is able, he will join you there. As promised, he will get the psychiatric treatment needed to try and restore his memory. The rest of the deal remains the same as originally agreed to. You successfully complete the assignments, the number of which to be determined by the general, and you will all receive your pardons."

"So, back to square one, huh, Colonel?" Murdock picked at the lint on his cap.

"Yeah. With one exception. The team will be complete again."

Murdock wasn't the only one who smiled at that.