CHAPTER FORTY-SIX

October 9, 1976

5 Years, 8 Months, 7 Days

They drove down several side roads before Hannibal pulled over into a small grove of trees and shut off the engine. Things with Dr Cleary had not gone the way Hannibal had expected, almost from the start. Granted, he knew the doctor wouldn't be any too happy about having his car forced off the road, or having to go with Hannibal in the van. But he proved decidedly stubborn in wanting to conduct this 'interview' in his own way rather than Hannibal's.

"So what is his name? Or am I not allowed to know that?"

Hannibal hesitated. Would the Army find out sooner, or later? Ever? All depended on who was put on the case. Someone like Lynch would never figure it out, would focus on the team, ignore Face as just another one of the fleeting strangers they'd helped out on occasion.

Someone with brains would follow the path of logic, discover that the dead had risen. Again, how long they had before that happened...

"We called him 'Face'."

Cleary nodded, knowing full well a nickname would be all he'd get. "Very well. So what proof do I get that 'Face' is really the former Kyle Hanson?"

Cleary dismissed the curtly given physical description. It could, after all, fit any of thousands of blonde, blue-eyed men in their twenties.

Hannibal thought, for a moment forgetting the man they'd hauled out of the hospital. Remembering instead the lieutenant under his command. The quick-witted soldier, the conjurer of supplies, skirter of truths...

Hannibal doubted Cleary would recognize any of those men.

"He has a scar on his shoulder. Big. C-shaped."

Cleary sat still for a moment, then sighed. "Yes, I remember that. I tried to get him to tell me about it, but his reaction was...less than pleasant. One of the few times words alone seemed to get him riled up"

"Riled up?"

"He threw a chair through my window." Cleary pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and absently lit one. "In hindsight, I realized I pushed him too hard on that. He's got a lot of anger hiding inside." He glanced over at Hannibal. "Something to bear in mind."

So Cleary had, at least, seen that side. The cold-blooded anger. But what else had he discovered? Hannibal needed to know the difference between the man in the hospital and the man he knew.

But Cleary was still in charge, and wanted to know about Kyle's physical condition, and then everything Hannibal knew about his life over that last year. Hannibal protested, claiming he didn't have time for that, but Cleary insisted. He had to know before he could even guess at what might lie ahead.

Unhappily, Hannibal conceded the point, and gave him a fast summary of what Jenny had told them, what had happened after the team's arrival. Cleary wasn't satisfied with that. He wanted details.

Hannibal, for some reason, wasn't comfortable with that.

It had been one thing to listen to Jenny talking about Kyle. He remembered his response to the tactics used against the local yokels. Admiration. Pride. Knowing it was Face didn't change that, possibly enhanced it. But the other things...

"Ron?" Cleary said the name with an acerbic touch of irony. "I need to know..."


*****

BA had awakened as soon as the door closed. He stared at it for a moment, but only a moment, and then was up. He heard the van drive away, and a quick glance told him Hannibal was the culprit. He shook his head, reading the note.

Errands. Right.

Hannibal might seem hard, cold, even, but he did what was necessary for his men. As soon as BA had seen the signs for Mobile, he knew what the colonel had in mind. He should've realized he wouldn't want anyone else with him. Hannibal would want answers now. Answers he hadn't gotten from that report. Answers that, like the report itself, he didn't want the others to know. Not yet, anyway.

BA was pretty sure he didn't want to know at all.

He turned at the stirring from the bed. Murdock was still asleep, curled up on top of the covers. Didn't surprise BA that he hadn't awakened when Hannibal left. Worn out, body and soul. That doc out in LA was going to have his hands full when Murdock got back, BA knew that for sure.

Then he looked at Face. He wasn't awake, not by a long shot, but he was moving a bit. Twitching. BA looked long and hard at him. He could see he'd been cleaned up a bit, and was glad of that. He frowned at the marks around his neck, still deep reddish purple.

He seemed to remember the LT was Catholic. Not that he'd paid much attention. He shifted uncomfortably. Lot of things he hadn't paid attention to. But he thought he'd seen Face go to Mass every now and then. Yeah. Not often, but after a close one, he'd gone. And BA did know how those folks felt about suicide.

What made you do it now, Face? After everything you musta gone through...

Again, BA pushed himself away from those thoughts. Didn't want to think about that. About what the LT had gone through. Because of Wiley.

He moved quietly away from the door, and into the small kitchenette. He looked at the canned goods they'd brought along, found a can of broth and pulled the bread out of the bag. They could send Murdock out for something for them, but Face would probably need something easy on the stomach. He remembered how sick Wiley had been, after the chemo...

He gripped the can of broth tightly. He thought he'd put this all behind him. The feelings of betrayal. The disappointment. The anger. As long as they were just looking for Kyle Hanson, he'd been able to continue hiding that away. Now...

Every time he looked at Face, the memories of those many months in Nam, always with Wiley at his side, slammed into him like a brick wall.

Wiley, his best friend.

And Face.

The man he hadn't even liked.


*****

Cleary hadn't said anything for some time, and Hannibal, already feeling strangely irritated, was getting impatient. He looked pointedly at his watch. Cleary took the hint.

"What was he like before? When he was under your command?"

Hannibal thought a moment, then chuckled without mirth. "I quoted Mark Twain to him once. 'The man who carries a cat by the tail learns something that can be learned in no other way'. Turns out I should've heeded my own warning."

"Troublemaker?" Cleary sounded a bit surprised.

"Not in the usual sense. He made a habit of 'enhancing' his lifestyle through what he called business deals. Never really willing to give out his 'trade secrets', either. I guess that's why we never really..." Hannibal stopped.

"Never really what?"

Hannibal sighed. "We never really trusted him. Out in the boonies, yeah. He was a damn good soldier. We never had to worry about him covering our asses. And he was the best supply officer a man could ask for."

"But...?"

"But what does that have to do with the here and now, Doc? I need to know what to expect from him, how to handle it. Can I get the kid back on track, or are we just looking for a place to keep him out of more trouble?"

"If you and your men are the ones now 'in charge', I need to know what your relationship was with him. I need to know, 'Ron', why you didn't trust him. But I also need to know - did he trust you?"

Hannibal stared ahead, through the windshield.

"I think he wanted to..."


*****

Murdock woke slowly, groggily seeing first the ceiling above him, then gradually shifting his view to take in the room. It didn't look at all like his room, and he knew damn well he hadn't left the radio on. He sat up, taking in the rest of the room. Not until he saw BA, slouched in front of the television, sound asleep, that he remembered where he was. The radio was actually the low voices from the set. Then he saw Face, and realized what had awakened him.

Though clumsy and uncoordinated, Face was desperately pulling at the bandages on his wrists. Murdock slid quickly off the bed and knelt beside Face. His eyes were open, but dull and distant. Murdock wasn't sure he was even aware of what he was doing.

"Face, calm down. Gotta leave those alone, buddy. C'mon, Face." Murdock grabbed Face's hands, trying to stop any more damage, but immediately Face started struggling harder, trying to shove Murdock away.

"BA!"

BA jumped like he'd been shot, stumbling over to the bed. But instead of helping, he pulled Murdock away.

"Dammit, BA, he's trying to pull those bandages off!"

"Jus shuddup and get outta the way!" BA took his place by the bed, where Face was again fumbling at his wrists, breathing hard. "Hey, Face, you don't have to do that, man. You're free, Face. You're free. You're free..."

BA kept repeating his words, soft and low, like a mantra, and gradually, Face's frantic movements slowed. BA kept talking, and the harsh breathing calmed, his hands relaxed, dropping to the bed, and his eyes closed. Another minute and he was completely asleep once more.

Murdock, kneeling where he'd landed when BA pulled him away, hung his head for a moment before looking up at BA.

"I fucked up again, didn't I?"

BA just shrugged. "I had time to think about things, while you was asleep. He got those marks tryin to get loose; figures he'd think he was still trussed up, so..."

"Think we should try and fix that up again?" Murdock indicated the one wrist with the bit of gauze that hung over the side of the bed.

"No. Not now, anyway. Just cause more problems than anythin."

Murdock nodded, and allowed BA to pull him to his feet before plopping down in the chair BA had been sleeping in. He gazed blankly at the screen as BA stepped over to the window and glanced at the parking lot. Hannibal had been gone well over two hours now.

"I did fuck up, BA."

"Huh? Whaddya mean? He didn't do no real damage..."

"No. Before. Back...there."

BA looked over at him, confusion clearly showing on his face. "What are you talkin about, man?"

"When I went to get Arnhold. He wanted to go back for...the body. And I wouldn't. Said it was too dangerous. But if I had, we'd have known Face hadn't died there. And we woulda known he was close. I could've saved him months of..." Murdock looked bleakly up at BA. "I could've saved him from this."

"That's just crazy, Fool." BA almost spat in disgust. "Even if you'd gone back, there's no sayin anybody woulda gone lookin for him. Or found him. Hell, man, you know well as I do what Laos was like. He coulda been two feet from you and you wouldn't'a seen him." BA shook his head. "That's just crazy."

"But I could've tried!"

"So could we! But we didn't. And we all had damn good reasons not to. We coulda gone lookin, and ended up caught jus like he was. And what good would that'a done, huh? What good woulda come of that?"

BA pointedly turned back to the window, his shoulders tense and stiff. Murdock looked at him for a moment, then turned toward the bed. Face was twitching again, disturbed by the raised voices. The pilot crept over to the side of the bed, sitting on the floor beside it.

"At least he wouldn't have been alone..."


*****

The van was stopped by the side of the road. Up ahead, near the doctor's car, they could see the flashing lights of at least two patrol cars.

"I'll walk from here. I'll tell them I lost control of the car, then went looking for a phone."

"I'd appreciate that, Doc."

"It's not for your benefit. I just happen to think that you're the lesser of two evils where Kyle is concerned."

Kyle. They'd fallen into calling him that again. For Cleary, it was just natural; Hannibal felt somehow more comfortable with it.

Cleary opened the door and stepped out, then leaned in, glaring at Hannibal. "Don't try to be a hero, Ron. Don't let guilt lead the way. If you can't handle him, contact me. Like I told you, I know of some good hospitals out west that can deal with his type of problem. Between us, we should be able to figure out a way of getting him into one. I really wish you'd consider that option more...honestly."

Hannibal regretfully shook his head. They'd argued this point already. Once the Army learned who Face really was, no hospital in the country would be safe. They'd track him down, if only to make up for the rest of the team getting away. And no way Hannibal would let him end up in Leavenworth's psych ward.

Cleary had stepped away, and Hannibal pulled a sharp U-turn, heading away from the patrol cars. He'd have to take a different route back to the hotel. He didn't think the locals would put two and two together, but he would be cautious, just the same. He worried a bit about the length of time he'd already been gone, but he had some things to consider before he was ready to talk to BA and Murdock.

For one thing, he'd already made the decision to keep Face with them. He knew it was his only choice, but what the other two would think was something else. Murdock, of course, was basically out of the equation. Not only because he was stuck in the VA, but because there was a reason he was stuck there. A man who was finally getting a handle on his own problems didn't need to be around someone who hadn't even started.

That left BA, and Hannibal knew he was going to be a tough nut to crack. While BA didn't dispute that Murdock had problems, he was less than patient with them, and definitely didn't like dealing with them on a day to day basis. This trip had proven that on more than one occasion. The almost constant idiosyncrasies drove BA up a wall, and he made no bones about it. Murdock was at a stage where he could deal with that.

Face wasn't. And from what Cleary had told him, any attempts to interfere with his 'habits' led to massive blowups. If that were to happen with BA, it would definitely not be pretty.

Would Hannibal be able to convince BA that his decision was for the best? That BA would have to learn patience? Would Murdock accept that his part in this was over, that for his own good he couldn't be involved until much later? If at all?

Which brought up the major problem. How long would they be taking care of Face? How long before he was to a point where he could function normally? Even semi-normally? What if he never got to that point?

And just how would they take care of him? Not just his head problems. That was something they would have to deal with a day at a time, trying to get him to trust, open up, accept what had happened and then put it behind him. But in the meantime, they had to earn a living. What did they do with Face when Hannibal was on the set, or BA at the day care center? They couldn't very well take him along. And with his habit of taking off, seeking, or at least, finding trouble, there was no way they could leave him alone.

BA would never agree to this. Not without knowing what Hannibal knew. Once he read Cleary's report, once he knew...

Hannibal pulled the van to the side of the road, and rubbed his hands over his eyes before staring bleakly through the windshield. No way he could show that report to BA. Definitely not to Murdock. Face would be horrified to think they knew what he'd been like when he showed up at the Embassy. And after. Hell, the man hadn't wanted them to know about the orphanage, or Dao Quy...no way he could live with the pity that report would generate.

Somehow, Hannibal had to convince them of the wisdom of his decision without that report, without giving them all the facts.

If he couldn't, he would have to deal with Face on his own. He started the van and pulled out into traffic, heading for the motel.

One way or the other, he would not leave Face behind again.


*****

"He's back." Murdock moved from the window to the door, opening it just as Hannibal reached for the knob.

BA moved back, out of sight of the door. He took one look at Hannibal's face and started grumbling, "Man's runnin all over hell when he can't even see straight..."

"I just need a couple hours sleep. How's Face?"

"He tried to pull of the bandages, but BA got him settled down again. Otherwise he's been pretty quiet." Murdock didn't mention the argument that had disturbed him. "I think he's starting to wake up, but it's slow."

Hannibal nodded. "Yeah, the doc said to expect that. And he's probably going to be pretty confused when he does come to, so we'll have to careful not to confuse him any more." Hannibal sighed, knowing a report was expected, and too tired to care. "I'm going to take a nap. If he comes to, wake me, otherwise holler when lunch is ready."

Murdock and BA looked at each other as Hannibal proceeded to lie down on the other bed, ignoring them. BA shook his head and plopped down in front of the television set. Murdock scowled, sliding down the wall to the floor.

More waiting was not what he was expecting. And it wasn't what he got.

Hannibal's entrance, while quiet, hadn't been quiet enough.


*****

The brief flash of light woke him immediately. He lay still, though, not wanting to let Harry know he'd seen it. Slowly he opened his eyes and, still without moving, looked around. He could see one guard sitting a few feet from him, another a few feet further yet. Neither was paying attention to him. Not yet.

He looked to the other side. Someone was asleep on the other bed. For a moment he was confused, until he realized he, too, was on a bed. Then it all made sense. It also made it more dangerous. Barry was a nice kid, but clumsy. He'd have to be extra careful if he was to get them both out without the sisters knowing.

He kept his eyes almost closed, open only enough to keep an eye on the guards, and slowly started moving toward the edge of the bed. It was frustrating, as his body didn't seem to want to move where he wanted it to go. And he kept having to stop, pretend to still be asleep, when the guards looked his way.

If only Barry weren't here. It would be so easy then. Let the gooks see him - he'd learned his lesson. Look what he'd done to those rednecks. And he wasn't even trying. For a moment he was tempted. He could take out one before they even knew what had happened. The one thing he hadn't done, had held back from, because of Jenny. But she wasn't here now. He didn't have to hold back. He could kill them all and no one would blame him.

He glanced over at the other bed. Kyle was still asleep. Kyle would blame him. Face had already let him down, let him die over there. After all Kyle had done to save him, Face had betrayed him.

Just like the colonel.

His foot hit the ground and he sat up, slowly, his body still not working the way it should. He stood, grasping the rocks, pushing himself up, swaying. He looked at the guards, stepping toward him now. He looked around, quickly, looking for a weapon. Grabbed the lamp, surprisingly heavy, holding it up, ready to throw. Threw a glance at Barry, who was finally waking up. He had to protect him. He wouldn't let another one die.

He felt himself swaying again. His damn body, betraying him. He should be stronger than this. Should've been. Should've fought them off. Never should have let Harry do that. Never.

He looked at the orderlies, coming ever closer. Looked for Barry, but he was gone. Kyle was gone. They were all...all gone. Only more and more gooks, in their dirty white uniforms, coming at him, trying to confuse him, ready to stick that needle in him again, ready to...pretending to be his friends. He knew better. He wasn't stupid. Or weak. Not any more.

He straightened, pulling all the hatred together, using it, building it.

They'd never touch him again...