CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

August 04, 1976

5 Years, 6 Months, 2 Days

BA and Hannibal sat in the van. Across the street was the entrance to a rather elaborate Spanish-style building, one of many within the arbor-lined property. Hannibal checked the address on the paper he held in his hand. This wasn't exactly looking like his idea of an orphanage. He wasn't expecting an Oliver Twist thing, but...

"So you going in or just gonna think your way over there?"

With an irritated glance at him, Hannibal swung the door open and stepped out. One last look at the address and he practically marched across the street, across the parking lot, and up to the door. He wasn't sure if he was supposed to just walk in or not; he looked but couldn't see any kind of doorbell. Damn. He automatically sent an apology. Not the place for that.

Taking the bull by the horns, he opened the door and walked in, finding himself, thankfully, in a large lobby of sorts. Two nuns, in full black habit, were talking by one of several doorways leading off into the wherever. Seeing him, the taller of the two came briskly over.

Within just a few minutes, he found himself in a small office, sitting in an uncomfortable chair in front of a very large desk that took up most of the floor. No matter how he tried to sit, he didn't have quite enough room for all of him. He wondered if this is where the priest dealt with reluctant contributors.

He looked around the office, noticing the strong smell of books and incense. Almost like the old library in his hometown, where the ancient librarian had smothered everyone in the scent of her jasmine perfume. Books, files, and religious knick-knacks filled the shelves and covered the top of the desk. Again, Hannibal felt his expectations betrayed. This seemed more the office of a scholar than a priest.

He looked at his watch. He and BA had arrived early, checking out the place before stopping. Not a sign of anything military. Neither had thought there would be; Face was no longer of any interest to the military, and certainly they wouldn't expect any of the team to care about this place. And Hannibal wouldn't be here, if it weren't for Murdock's...revelation after the funeral.

If Hannibal had been angry at Wiley's admissions - and angry was a very soft term for his feelings - at least he'd had the solace of believing Face had died fighting, had died that day. Learning that he'd been captured by the PL, finally dying so close to freedom months later...He still couldn't remember leaving the apartment that day, driving to the first of what was apparently several bars. At some point, he knew he'd gone back to the cemetery. Ray had found him there. Said he'd been tearing apart the flowers left on the grave. 'Destroying' was the actual word he'd used.

And, of course, Ray had found out then what really happened...

So now Hannibal was here, waiting to meet with the man who'd raised his lieutenant. Whatever their individual reasons, Hannibal, BA and Ray had agreed to help Murdock find out all they could about Face. Something Hannibal now wished they had worked harder at while he was still alive.

They owed him that much.

The door behind him opened suddenly and a sprightly, if somewhat harried priest came hustling in, apologizing profusely for his tardiness.

"No need for apology, Father Magill."

"O'Malley, Colonel, which I'm sure you already knew. But you had to be sure, didn't you? I'm sorry for asking to meet in person, but I've wanted to meet you for a long time." He smiled sadly. "I won't pretend to know what caused all of your troubles, but I know you must be innocent of those charges. Templeton would not have had anything to do with common criminals."

Murdock's last words to him rang in his ears, along with a threatening look that Hannibal hadn't liked one bit.

"O'Malley has some...ideas, Hannibal. Don't spoil them."

He understood now what he'd meant.

"Of course not, Father. He was a fine man. You did an excellent job."

O'Malley waved off the compliment. "Along with two other priests and a dozen sisters who nearly ended up insane in the process," he laughed. "Templeton was...a handful."

"Yeah, well, he kept me on my toes, that's for sure. But right now..."

"Yes, yes, time is short. I'm afraid I don't have a lot to tell you. I did make the inquiries Captain Murdock had asked me to. The Army, of course, is not exactly forthcoming on personal information, but I was able to find out that Sergeant Arnhold had received his discharge, and a very nice clerk told me he's living in northern California. Captain Green is stationed at Fort Leavenworth - you may want to have someone else contact him." He smiled with just a hint of tartness. "As for Sergeant Hanson, I was grateful to learn he was rescued from his captors, in October of 1973. Unfortunately, that's all they would tell me. I have no idea what happened to him after that. They weren't even willing to tell me if he was still in the Army." Father O'Malley sighed. "I'm afraid that's it, Colonel. But I'm hoping it at least gives you someplace to start."

"It does, Father. It's not much, but it's enough to get started. Now, I'd best be on my way..."

"Would you like to see where Templeton grew up, before you go? It's just across the property a short ways..."

"This isn't the orphanage?"

"Oh, heaven's no. The children would have this place in a shambles in no time."

With a quick glance around the cluttered room, Hannibal wondered if anyone would notice, but tactfully said nothing.

"This is our administrative area. I thought it might be...safer, for the children, you understand? In case the military followed you."

Hannibal smiled. This guy wasn't a total innocent. "Good thinking, Father. And yes, I would like to see where...Templeton grew up."


*****

August 27, 1976

5 Years, 6 Months, 25 Days

Jenny sat at the piano. She'd been drifting over the keys, playing little bits of first this song, then another. She knew, just from the way he'd kept glancing at her at supper, that Mr B had something he wanted to talk to her about. Something he didn't want to discuss in front of Bobby. Now, long after her son was in bed, he still hadn't gotten to it. Kept clearing his throat, taking a breath - and then saying nothing. Finally she could take it no longer, although she had an idea what it was about.

Who it was about.

She turned on the piano bench, facing him. "Why don't you just say it, Dad, and we'll go from there?" Smiled, to soften the words.

Mr Bellows coughed softly, uncomfortably, and shook his head.

"I was talking to the sheriff today, Jenny. He's started getting some questions about Kyle, from other towns, a couple from other counties."

"Questions?"

"Seems there've been some...incidents. A lot of them, as a matter of fact. Fights. Car thefts. A house that got broken into to."

"What does that have to do with Kyle?"

"Well, it seems he's been seen in the areas where these things happened. But the men involved in the fights won't say who the man was. They can't prove he was involved in those other things either, but..."

"But he's different, so he must be guilty."

"No, nobody's saying that. But you have to admit, Jenny, he's...well, he's not like other folks. And that difference seems to be getting bigger all the time. There are a lot of people saying he's...dangerous."

"People like Dave and Cece?"

"Other people, Jenny. Folks that have seen him prowling around the countryside, people that meet him in town. And you have to admit even you're careful about what you say to him, and how you say it."

Jenny looked quickly at the sheet music on the piano, nervously straightening it. She'd always felt a little...cautious around him, but Mr Bellows was right. The last few weeks she'd noticed that Kyle seemed more volatile than before. Quicker to show that spark of anger.

It scared her, sometimes.

But she also saw the other side. The sweet smiles. The infrequent but wonderful laughter. That wry glance when something she said hit home, but not too hard. He had a lot of things to work through; this...phase was just one of them.

Jenny straightened, realizing Mr B had still been talking.

"I'm sorry, what was that?"

"I said, maybe it's time to rethink some of the decisions we've made."

"I don't understand..."

Mr Bellows sighed. "I know I said he could stay on that island as long as he wanted, but now I'm wondering if that wasn't a disservice to him. I think maybe allowing him to hide away out there...well, maybe it's time we started encouraging him to get some help. Before things get too out of hand. I'm sure I could find a good doctor...maybe a hospital..."

"He won't go. You know that."

"Not willingly. But..." he actually squirmed in his seat, "there are ways to make him get help. If he is becoming dangerous..."

"He's not dangerous, Dad. He only defends himself. If people would just leave him alone..."

"I think that's part of the problem, Jenny. He wants people to leave him alone. Everyone...except you."

"Is that what this is all about? Me?"

"Jenny, I know you've wanted to help him since the day you met him. And I applaud that, I really do. But there's a point where...well, you have to be realistic. You've built a bridge to him, gained his trust, but now, well, just what the heck are you going to do with him? He's gotten way too...dependent on you. And I'm not sure you realize the implications of that yet." He sighed at the look on her face, and put down the paper. "I'm sorry, honey. I guess that's enough talk for tonight. But you think about what I've said, and we'll talk again tomorrow."

Face pulled back from the window as Mr Bellows left the room. He'd come to the house, needing to see Jenny, needing to talk, to be with her so the buzzing would stop. So he'd stop feeling that suffocating mist around him. If he could talk to her, before it got too bad, sometimes it would go away. And then he could feel...normal. Almost. He was going to wait until Bellows went to bed, and had watched from the window, as he had that first night so many months ago.

He stepped quietly away from the house, heading at a trot out into the fields. They wanted to put him away again. Lock him up.

He felt the buzzing getting stronger.

He let it.


*****

September 19, 1976

5 Years, 7 Months, 17 Days

Ray looked around the motel room. It had been a long time since he'd been in one of these. Hourly rates. Vibrating bed. He hadn't even looked at the bathroom. A long time. He sighed, reminding himself that all he needed was a phone that he knew hadn't been bugged.

He dialed the number and waited. He didn't like this, going through third parties, but so far it worked. As long as no one realized that John Smith's agent was really John "Hannibal" Smith's agent. He allowed himself a small grin. Colonel Smith, aka Kira-tori, monster extraordinaire. At least, that was the current role. Who knew what the next movie would conjure up?

The secretary answered, and Ray left the number of the motel and room number, and the name they'd chosen for the occasion. Emphasizing that it was extremely important that Mr Smith get the message right away, family emergency, Ray hung up and waited.

He wouldn't be telling Hannibal all of what he knew. Just the main facts. The rest he would be forwarding to whatever safe address Hannibal had at the moment. But Hannibal wanted a starting point. Typical. Get the salient information, start the job, deal with the details as they came. Sometimes got them in a hell of a bind, but always accomplished the mission.

Eventually.

He shook his head. He was glad, frankly, that he wouldn't have time to give Hannibal all the details. After talking to Arnhold, he'd felt...dirty. The guy did not want to talk about the camp, the escape. Most especially he didn't want to talk about Face. Ray had had to resort to emotional blackmail, bringing up Murdock. Playing on Arnhold's gratitude to the pilot who'd saved his life.

But that wasn't nearly as bad as actually reading the report that Arnhold had sent him. Handwritten, barely legible at times, detailing everything. With the note at the bottom to please not contact him again. Ray didn't blame him.

He wondered what Hannibal would think, feel, when he read the report. Found out the man everyone thought was so self-centered, looking out only for the old number one, had gone through all that hell to keep two other men safe, two men he barely knew. And in the end, was willing to stay behind to make sure they could make it.

The fact that Kyle Hanson had lost his own bid for freedom because he wouldn't abandon Face only made Ray more determined to help Hannibal find him, and make sure he was thanked. Properly.

Although, after talking to Ben Green, Ray wasn't sure if that was possible. Ray knew the PL were barbaric in their treatment of prisoners, but after hearing how Ben had described Kyle's condition that night, he could hardly believe it. When he described how the sergeant had reacted, trying to hide from Ben, being dragged away by the guards...Ray had a pretty good idea of where a man like that would end up.

Hell, he could be right there at Westwood with Murdock for all they knew.

The last bits of information had been the hardest to get, and Ray knew he would be unable to do more digging for Hannibal. He'd taken it as far as he could, and then the brass had started noticing. He'd been thinking of getting out of the Army for some time now, go back home and do something...sedate. His name being bandied about in certain circles made that even more appealing. And less a matter of choice.

The phone rang, loudly, startling him out of his reverie. He grabbed it, hand actually shaking a bit.

Yeah, it was time to get out. Before his own memories came back too strong.


*****

September 23, 1976

5 Years, 7 Months, 21 Days

"You want me to go?"

She didn't want to say yes, but she didn't see any other way. She and Mr Bellows had actually argued about it. But he held the upper hand, and they both knew it. She had to convince Kyle to try this; the alternative was untenable. All it would take was one phone call from Mr B to an old friend, Judge Naismith, and Kyle would be taken away, for his own good. Nothing she said could convince her father-in-law that it would be the worst thing they could do. She didn't dare explain to Kyle. He would take off, and she'd never see him again. So she had no choice

She looked at his somber face, the question in his eyes.

"Yes," she said. "I think you should go..."


*****

September 24, 1976

5 Years, 7 Months, 22 Days

"Hey, boy..."

He jerked back to the real world. Heard the soft chuckle, and looked sheepishly over at the old man, Ralph.

"S'okay, boy. Little woolgatherin never hurt nobody, 'slong as you ain't on that tractor." Ralph winked at him, and handed him another sandwich.

The sun was high overhead now, and they sat in the warm shade of the tractors, eating the lunch Ralph had packed that morning in the coolers. Face looked around as he slowly chewed on the sandwich. Of all the places he'd thought he could end up, driving a tractor harvesting peanuts was definitely not on the list. Amazingly, he found he liked it. Or maybe it was Ralph he liked; he found that just as strange.

Mr Bellows had driven him to the cabin that first day. It was on the opposite end of the county, and Face figured that was a calculated decision. He'd ignored any attempts by the "Bossman" to make conversation. He knew who his enemies were. They'd pulled up in front of an old cabin, more of a shanty, and there was Ralph, sitting on the porch.

Mr Bellows had gotten out of the pickup and waited until Face finally got out and came around the front. Then the two of them had walked up to the cabin, where Mr Bellows introduced Face as "the fella I told you about.". Ralph had just nodded, and smiled at Face. Face wouldn't look at him. Looking at them made them angry. That much he knew. He didn't say anything either. He knew what happened if you talked, as well.

And then Mr Bellows was gone, driving off in a cloud of dust. Ralph pointed to a couch on the porch, and Face sat on the edge. Waiting.

Ralph didn't say anything for a long time. Looked at Face, with his head cocked, for a moment, then calmly pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit up. Took a couple puffs and casually offered the pack to Face. He looked at the pack, but didn't move.

"My arm ain't gonna hang up there all day, boy." Soft voice, with a smile in it.

Face took the pack slowly, and caught the book of matches deftly. For several minutes they sat and smoked in silence. Face found himself relaxing, little by little.

Ralph tossed the butt on the ground and stood, stiffly. Stretched his back, then looked out over the fields, spat on the ground.

"I was in the Big One, then Korea. In Korea, I was a guest of the Chinese." He looked soberly at Face. "So I know."

He started walking toward a large shed some yards away, then turned and looked back at Face, who was staring at him from the porch. He chuckled. "Well, c'mon, boy. Ain't got all day to sit around listenin to you chatter."

And so began Face's new job.


*****

September 25, 1976

5 Years, 7 Months, 23 Days

"Excuse me, I wonder if you could help me."

The corporal frowned up at the dark-haired man in the cheap business suit. He hated dealing with civilians, and wondered what excuse this guy had given at the gate. Not that it mattered. He had to be polite, regardless.

"Yes, sir?"

"I'm trying to locate my son. I'm afraid I lost contact with him several years ago. I know he joined the Army, uh, the Green Berets, and..."

"Army Special Forces are located at Fort Bragg, sir, in North Carolina."

"I know that, son, but I'm out here. And I...well, I travel a lot, so it's kinda hard for me to give a permanent address for any letters. I'm only in LA for a couple of days. I just wondered if someone could contact them, maybe a phone call, and let me know where he is now. I would take it from there."

"I'd like to help, sir, but..."

"Look, I know this is an imposition, but, you see, I just have to know if he's...well, I know he went over there to Vietnam, and I just found out that he...well, that...he might not have...I..."

The corporal immediately got the man a chair, noting the obvious tremor to his voice, and the sudden swaying. He understood now. Getting that kind of news would make anyone desperate to find out what had really happened, even if it was years too late.

"Look, Mr..."

"Hanson, Ronald Hanson."

"Mr Hanson. I can't promise anything, but if you give me whatever information you have, I can see what I can come up with."

"I'd appreciate that, son, more than you could know." Hannibal smiled broadly. "His name was Kyle Hanson, and he was a sergeant..."