CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

October 8, 1976

5 Years, 8 Months, 6 Days

They stood in the shrubbery a few yards from the front door. It was obvious that most of the inhabitants would have been in bed for some time now, as it was just after eleven. They'd watched as the day shift had left, and the skeleton crew had come on for the night. Hannibal had counted less than a dozen employees.

"Okay, where was that exit you saw?"

Murdock nodded to the side. "Should be right over there, by that alcove. I don't know if there's an alarm, though. I didn't see one." He was still wearing his disguise, claiming it had brought them good luck. BA had just shaken his head at that and tried to ignore it.

"BA?"

"Got it."

BA moved quickly toward the exit, finding the door easily. Using his penlight, he ran the light around the door, seeing wires, but they were exposed and corroded. He signaled the others, and began jimmying the lock. Moments later, he was easing it open, and the three men stepped quietly inside.

They were in a short entryway, three garbage bins against one wall. They could see the front desk to the right of the door, the elevators behind it, and a stairwell to the left. At a nod from Hannibal, they slid around the corner and up the stairs, disappearing into the darkness.

One light bulb lit each landing; otherwise the stairs were completely dark. They moved cautiously up to the second floor and stopped.

"Okay, Murdock. Where to?"

"I gotta think. I came out of the elevator, not up the stairs." He looked down the hall, barely making the details. Nodded. "Follow me."

They moved down the hall. Hannibal had the urge to cover his nose. They made two turns, moved down yet another short hallway; damn place was a labyrinth. Murdock suddenly stopped.

"There's a duty nurse up ahead. Face's room is down the hall behind it. Two other hallways to the sides."

Hannibal frowned. He did not like that reference to 'Face's room'. He hadn't thought to check Murdock's meds lately. He knew they'd had enough for this trip, but he hadn't thought about making sure Murdock was taking them. Damn. He wondered again what Murdock was going to do when they walked in and there sat some stranger.

Or if Murdock would even see a stranger.

He took a deep breath. They needed a diversion. A subtle one, something that could be repeated on the way out; if they ended up taking this guy with them, he didn't want a lot of fireworks.

He looked down at his jacket. The thick wooden buttons. He yanked one off, nodded at the others, and tossed it as far as he could down the side hall. It hit the wall with a satisfying plunk, and rattled on the floor, loud in the night silence.

The duty nurse looked up, puzzled. She stood, coming around the desk and looking down the hall. Hannibal smiled as she walked away from the desk, checking doors.

The three men waited until she had moved down several doors before hurrying past her desk.

The room with the green door was midway down the hall. BA quickly started working on the lock while the others kept an eye on the desk. Just as the lock clicked open, the nurse came back to her desk, never looking in their direction. They slipped hurriedly inside.


*****

Murdock grabbed the door before BA could close it completely, again slipping off his shoe to brace it open just a hair. The two men turned to see Hannibal, standing by the bed. Eyes closed, one hand holding on to the bed frame, the other slowly rubbing his temple. He was slowly muttering, "Damn, damn, damn!"

Hannibal abruptly reached down for the restraints, but BA stepped over, taking his hands, stopping him. Hannibal was too angry. Too desperate.

"Why don't you go watch the door, Hannibal? Keep an eye on that nurse."

The colonel wanted to argue, BA could tell. But then he just nodded. As he moved away from the bed, BA thought he heard him say, 'Sorry.' He didn't know if Hannibal was talking to BA, or Face. He did notice that Hannibal hadn't looked at Face again.

BA stood for a moment, eyes closed, and then started undoing the restraints. He didn't say anything, but in his head, he was using language his mother would wash his mouth out for. He didn't understand how people could do this to others. War, that was bad enough. But these people were supposed to help.

Not do this.

The buckle was stiff, and it jerked a bit as it came undone. There was a small groan, more like a sigh. BA looked up, but Face's eyes were still closed. He looked at him for a moment longer, then spoke softly.

"It's okay, LT. We gonna have you outta here real soon."

There was no response.

Sighing, he went to work on the next buckle, the one holding the belt across his chest. There was another at his waist, the other wrist, both ankles. Murdock said he'd broken an orderly's arm. That's why the restraints, the drugs. BA smiled softly.

Way to go, LT.

The buckle came loose, and Face twisted a little. Three sets of eyes watched warily.

"Tol ya, Face. We gonna be done here in no time." Face seemed to relax. BA was sure of it.

Hannibal looked out the door, then stepped into the room. BA noticed he didn't get too close to the bed.

"Can you hurry it up, BA? If he starts coming to, or that nurse does a bed check..."

BA just glared at him before going back to work.

Murdock stood at the head of the bed, leaning against the wall, hands shoved deep into his pockets. Once Hannibal had seen Face, had to admit that it was Face, Murdock had gotten very calm. Like his job was done, and now it was up to Hannibal and BA to get them all out in one piece.

Or maybe he just knew he needed to step back, get his own head back on straight. BA had had to. He'd been open to the chance it really was Face, just because Murdock was so damn sure. Still...

BA had one more to go when Hannibal stepped suddenly back from the door. He pushed Murdock's shoe out of the way, letting the door close but holding the handle so it didn't latch. BA and Murdock immediately stepped over to the wall behind the door. Hopefully the nurse would only try the handle, make sure it was locked, and not come in.

BA sighed as they all heard the key in the lock. Hannibal shook his head, running his finger across his neck, and stepped back.

The door swung open, and the nurse took a couple steps into the room before she saw the restraints.

"What the..."

She didn't have time to say any more. BA's hand went over her mouth, his arm around her waist. She tried to scream, but nothing came out other than a muffled moan.

"Shhh. You don't want to make no more noise, lady. I mean that."

Eyes wide, she nodded. BA held on to her while Hannibal hurried out. He returned a moment later with a roll of medical tape. He ripped off a section and placed it over the unfortunate woman's mouth. Tossing the tape to Murdock, he took her arm and pulled her, none too gently off to the side. BA had never seen him that rough with a woman, but he said nothing. She knew what was going on and hadn't done anything about it. He couldn't feel too sorry for her.

"Okay, BA, let's get this finished."

Murdock disappeared from the room, coming back just as BA finished, pushing a wheelchair. Hannibal nodded in approval, and Murdock and BA got Face situated in it as gently as they could. Hannibal pulled the woman over to the filthy bed and sat her down, hard. He made no bones about putting the restraints on her wrists, keeping her hands far apart.

He smiled at her as they walked out. "Have a nice night."

He headed directly for the elevator, pulling his jacket off as they walked and draping it over Face.

"Hannibal?"

"We're not taking him down those stairs. We're going out the front door."

BA shook his head, and Murdock grinned. But into the elevator they went, and when it opened, pushed full steam ahead into the lobby. The night clerk, a muscular looking guy, came rushing around the corner of the desk, to be met full on by BA's fist. They hurried down the steps in front, BA gripping the back of the wheelchair while Hannibal and Murdock held up the front.

Moments later, Face was half-laying, half-sitting on the back bench of the van, Murdock holding on for dear life, as the van raced down the driveway.

Hannibal turned to look at his guys, grinning with the old familiar jazz. Murdock regarded him with an uncertain smile before looking back down at Face. Hannibal's grin faded, he turned soberly back to the front.

"Take Route 43, BA. We've got a long ride ahead."

He sounded as weary as he looked.


*****

They headed almost straight south. Why, BA didn't know, didn't ask. His only concern was getting as far from that hospital as possible. He kept to the speed limit, stayed on secondary roads, took side roads to stay out of any towns.

Invisible.

They made one stop, at a small, dirt water town some twenty miles from the hospital. The kind that rolled up the sidewalks after dark. BA pulled up a block away from the back entrance to the general store. While Murdock stayed with Face, now wrapped in blankets to try to stop the incessant shaking, Hannibal and BA made their way to the back of the store.

BA took one look at the padlock, and moved to the window next to the door. He grabbed a piece of metal from the alley, and in a moment had slipped the old-fashioned catch. The window opened with some protest, but enough so both men could climb through. Hannibal closed the window carefully, in case local law enforcement should drive by.

They stayed away from the large front windows as much as possible, using penlights for the back portion of the store. They grabbed a few cans of foodstuffs, mostly soups. Mainly they searched the medical supplies. Ointments, gauze, aspirin, anything else they thought they might need. Hannibal practically laughed out loud when they discovered the store also carried clothing, though limited. Three pair of men's pajamas, some sweatpants and shirts. Hannibal grabbed a large box of cigars. They did a quick estimate, and left money to cover their 'purchases' on the counter.

Hannibal climbed out of the window, and BA handed out the bags of supplies before climbing out himself, and pulling the window shut. Five minutes later they were again on the road.

At around four that morning, after driving for over three solid hours, the van pulled into a large motel on the very edge of Mobile. BA ducked into the back with Face while Hannibal explained to the manager that he and his nephew had been traveling non-stop for the last three days, and wanted a room that would let them sleep undisturbed. After noting their license plate on his forms, the manager made small talk about California weather as he got them signed in.

Hannibal smiled as they drove up to their room. In the manager's mind, they were now established as two tourists just arrived from sunny California.

Perfect.


*****

October 9, 1976

5 Years, 8 Months, 7 Days

Major Longway was not happy. At all. This whole case had been a burr in his side since the beginning, and this morning, things had gotten decidedly worse.

He'd sent four MPs down to that nut house to pick up their new prisoner. A prisoner Longway wasn't convinced was really theirs, but his voice was lost in the politics. All going back to Sergeant Kyle Hanson having been captured and held in a country he wasn't supposed to be in.

Shit.

Now, even the simple chore of picking up this imposter had turned into a fucking circus. He'd gotten the call - three men had broken into the hospital and kidnapped the guy. Kidnapped! Assaulted a couple of the employees along the way.

Longway didn't understand why anyone would kidnap a guy that no one knew, and to his mind, that meant the real target had been Hanson. So either these guys still thought the wacko was Hanson, or they figured he knew what had happened to him.

So what did these guys want with Hanson?

He looked at the sketchy reports he'd gotten from his men. At least they had a description of the kidnappers. Older white male, dark haired, seemed to be in charge. Younger black male, muscular. Another younger man, white, mustache and glasses. All 'obvious military types', according to the witnesses. And around here, they'd know.

Longway sat back in his chair. Three men. Military types. Connected somehow to Kyle Hanson.

"Captain!"

His XO came hurrying in to his office.

"Get a list of every goddamned soldier Kyle Hanson served with or associated with, from boot camp right up to discharge. Look for anyone matching the descriptions of these three hot shots. Crosscheck that list with any open cases we've got as well. Start from the discharge and work your way back. And Captain, when I say 'every', I mean exactly that."


*****

Hannibal had ordered BA to bed as soon as they got Face settled in the room, and the man didn't argue. All the driving he'd been doing the last couple of days, last night's adventures, and, despite his stoic demeanor, the stress of finding Face...he was weaving as he headed for the other bed.

Murdock knew he was next for those orders, just as he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep. He was way too wound up. Hannibal surprised him by handing him the bag with the medical supplies, and suggested, quietly, that they get to work before Face woke up too much.

Not that Murdock expected that to happen very soon. The hospital had obviously shot him into oblivion over the last day or so. From what he'd seen of the other patients, it was standard practice to keep pretty much everyone...manageable. He gritted his teeth, forcing himself to relax.

Hannibal was carefully sitting Face up now, and Murdock helped him get the pajama top off. Face's chest and stomach each had a raw band across them from fighting the restraints, and the start of bedsores on his back. Murdock didn't think Hannibal could ignore the old scars any more than he could. Hannibal closed his eyes for a moment but that was the only outward reaction. Murdock wished he still had that calm detachment. Sometimes. Being able to put aside the emotions, just do the job. It had been easy, in Nam, knowing that you had to.

At first, anyway. Until...

He realized Hannibal was looking at him, waiting. He smiled, apologetically, and wrung out the washcloth before handing it to him. Hannibal started at the top, cradling Face against his shoulder as he worked his way methodically down, gently cleaning off the accumulated grime. Murdock knew he was just trying to make Face more comfortable, not be that thorough. He once again felt that twinge of anger at the hospital staff. And looking at the scars, faded as most of them were, he felt ashamed.

Hannibal snapped his fingers, impatiently, and Murdock snapped out of his thoughts. Detachment. Distance. Concentrate on the job at hand. He squeezed some ointment on Hannibal's fingers, watched as it was spread, oh so lightly, over the abrasions, then covered with gauze. He quickly grabbed the new pajama top, and between them they soon had Face in the soft, warm fabric. Murdock smiled softly when he noticed the shaking was already lessening.

The smile dropped like a rock when they began removing the pajama bottoms. Face was definitely more conscious than before. He couldn't exactly fight them off, but his distress was obvious. Hannibal seemed dubious, almost embarrassed, but Murdock knew. Eddie. He hadn't told Hannibal or BA about that yet, not in detail. And he wasn't sure he would. Seeing him that way - Face would never want anyone to have seen that. Or know what had happened. Holding Face, trying unsuccessfully to calm him, Murdock grimaced. At some point, he would have to get Face to "tell" him. Something like that could screw him up for a long time.

Hannibal finished the cleanup in record time, and finally Face was dressed and resting under the covers, the sores cleaned, covered in ointment and wrapped in gauze. Murdock suddenly felt his own exhaustion hit. But it was a good exhaustion.

Face was home.


*****

Hannibal watched as his men slept. He noticed, not without concern, that when Murdock had lain on top of the bed next to Face, there had been the same reaction as before - not quite panic, but damn close to it. He hadn't wanted to interfere before when Murdock was trying to calm him down, but he'd seen it was only making things worse. It had made him hurry even more.

He took one more glance around the room before stepping out, softly closing the door and making sure it locked. He knew both BA and Murdock would wake immediately if Face started stirring. He'd left a note, telling them he had a couple errands to run.

He took the van, and drove carefully through the streets of suburban Mobile, moving away from the city, toward the Army base. By the time he parked the van, in almost the same spot they had parked before, the base was awake and active. He walked deliberately over to the phone booth on the corner.

He waited patiently as he worked his way through the base telephone system. He was making plans already for the trip back to LA. But he had to do it right. He wasn't blind to the problems ahead, and that's why this little errand. He had to know what to expect, how to deal with it. No more fuck-ups.

That was essential.

"Hello?"

"Hello, Dr Cleary? This is Ronald Hanson."

"Is it now? I've seen the news, Mr, uh, Hanson."

"Ah, well, that's good. Saves a lot of explanations."

"What do you want, Mr...what the hell do I call you?"

"Ron will work for now. That's not important. What is important is your patient."

"Whoever he is."

"That doesn't matter, either, does it? You know the man. Names are..."

"Inconsequential. Is he all right?"

"At this point, he's still under the spell of the hospital's magic drugs. What happens when that wears off is why I'm calling."

He heard a long sigh over the phone line. Silence.

"Dr Cleary?"

"This isn't something to discuss over the phone. Is there someplace we can meet?"

Hannibal smiled. Exactly what he had in mind.

"Yeah, doc. Let me give you directions."

Some fifteen minutes later, a dark Chevy pulled out of the gate. Hannibal followed in the van. He'd found the perfect spot to waylay the doctor on his way to their "meeting". He felt bad, kidnapping a man who only wanted to help, but he wasn't taking any chances. He couldn't be sure the MPs wouldn't be racing ahead to their rendezvous. And it wasn't as if the good doctor would be under any threat or danger. Nor would he be gone that long.

Just long enough to discuss things privately. And thoroughly.


*****

"I think we may have found something, Major, but it's tenuous."

Longway looked up from his desk, impatient. "Well, let's have it."

The captain laid a folder on his desk. "As you know, Sir, Sergeant Hanson was in a POW camp, along with two other prisoners. At least for a while. One of them was a Captain Arnhold and the other was identified as a Lieutenant Peck." The captain cleared his throat. "The lieutenant was apparently captured after he took part in the robbery of the Bank of Hanoi. He died during an escape attempt with Hanson and Arnhold."

Longway sat up straight. He wasn't sure if he was happy or not with the direction this was going.

"The other personnel involved in the robbery were Colonel Smith and Sergeants Baracus and Parish."

"I know who they were, Captain. And I know they escaped." He stared at the wall, absently tapping on the desk. "The descriptions don't quite match. You're aware of that."

"Well, begging your pardon, Sir, but that could be explained. Colonel Smith could've colored his hair, as a disguise. And it doesn't take long to grow a moustache, or fake one."

"So you honestly believe that Hannibal Smith and his men would go to all this trouble, just because Sergeant Hanson was in the same POW camp as his lieutenant?"

The captain hesitated. "It just seemed a little too coincidental, Sir."

Longway sat silently. It was too coincidental. And it was the type of connection he'd been looking for. But what could they possibly want Hanson so badly for? That's what didn't make any sense. He knew vets liked to exchange stories, but most preferred to forget experiences like that. Hanson was definitely not into discussing it. If they were looking for information, they'd gone to the wrong source. But what else was there?

Did they know this guy they kidnapped wasn't Hanson?

He frowned. Too coincidental. Too...bizarre. There was something he was missing. Something...

"Captain, I want the full dossier on Peck. Including the autopsy report."