CHAPTER FIFTY-ONE

October 12, 1976

5 Years, 8 Months, 10 Days

It was hard to think with the television on, but Face let it ride. He knew BA had expected some kind of reaction, some sign of sadness or regret at Wiley's death. But Wiley was only a memory. But then, so much was.

He was more concerned with how Wiley died. BA said cancer, but Face didn't know. And he didn't like the idea that Hannibal had been the only one there when he died. He knew he shouldn't be thinking along those lines, but cancer cost a lot of money. Maybe more than Wiley's share. Maybe Wiley was going to die anyway; it would only make sense to put him out of his misery sooner than later. Before it started eating into the others' share.

Face sighed, frowning. He shouldn't be thinking that. He shouldn't. Before the robbery, before they walked out on him, he wouldn't have. Damn.

No one had mentioned that. No one had said one word about that. Oh, by the way, 'kid', sorry about leaving you in the jungle like that. But, hey, look - we came back for you. Took five years but we found you again. So no big deal, right? Never mind why we left you in the first place. And don't worry about the future - we've got that all figured out.

He opened his eyes, looking around the room.

The room was so damn small. Two windows in the front, nothing else. Just walls. Walls, and that damn television. And BA, sitting there, staring at him.

They were always staring at him.

Why the hell was he here? Why hadn't they just gotten rid of him? That would've solved all their problems.

Why the hell had they come after him in the first place? Why hadn't they just left him alone? They hadn't wanted him in the first place. Smith hadn't asked for him; Face had tricked him into that. Challenged him. If he hadn't kept poking Smith's ego, and feathering their nest with all the things he could get for them, they'd have gotten rid of him long before they did.

Why the hell would they want him now?

Damn. The room was so small. So dark. So loud. That damn television. And BA. Just sitting there. Silent. Glaring. Like he always glared at Face. Glaring even more now. Now he'd lost Wiley, and ended up with Face instead. Yeah, that was an even trade, all right. Why wouldn't BA be happy with that?

BA wouldn't be happy until this was done. None of them would be. Once Face was out of the way, their secrets safe...

He closed his eyes. If only he knew what their secrets were...at least then he'd know why...


*****

Hannibal stopped just outside the door, gathering his thoughts. He'd been trying to think this through as he and Murdock walked slowly back to the room. He wasn't comfortable at all with what he had to do. And he knew Face wouldn't be. He had to take away the...sex part of it. That just complicated things. It really wasn't any different than getting beaten up. Not really. And Face had gone through enough fights. The only real difference was this time he hadn't been able to fight back. If he hadn't been trussed up like that, it never would've happened. He had to make Face see it that way. And then put it aside and move on.

Yeah. Just another fight that he lost, through no fault of his own.

He tried the door, finding it locked. Damn. Was even BA getting paranoid? Like a locked door would stop a gang of MPs...

The door suddenly opened and Hannibal frowned at BA.

"He locked it." BA nodded back toward the room and Hannibal saw Face, sitting in the corner, watching.

Defensive positioning again.

"Everything okay otherwise?"

"Yeah. He checked every inch of both rooms a couple times, but he been sittin there mostly. Uh," BA glanced back at Face, "he asked about Wiley. Finally."

Hannibal didn't miss the bitterness. One more thing to think about. Deal with. But not now. "What did you tell him?"

"Just that he's gone. Didn't seem to bother him none. Mostly he wanted to know who was with him when...it happened."

"And?"

"And nothin. I tol him you was with Wiley, and he just sat back and went to sleep. Didn't say a damn word about it."

"Nothing about...?"

"No. Nothin bout that. Just where he was, then went to sleep, like..."

"Okay, BA, okay. He doesn't see things the way we do yet. Try to remember that."

From the look he got, Hannibal knew BA wasn't buying it, but there was nothing he could do about it right now.

"I want you and Murdock bunking in the other room tonight. I need to talk to Face."

Murdock started for the door, but BA hung back. "You gonna talk to him bout Wiley?"

"No. Not tonight. I have to talk to him about that dream."

BA shook his head, moving toward the door. "He probly don't even remember it, or that Harry..."

There was a sudden crash from the corner. The three men jerked around, to see Face standing, fists clenched, chair on its side. He was staring at them, pale, eyes wide.

Hannibal looked at BA and jerked his head angrily toward the door. Abashed, BA shoved Murdock ahead of him and shut the door behind them.

Hannibal turned back to Face and sighed.

"Yeah, I guess you do remember..."


*****

Murdock glared at BA from across the room.

"Way to go, BA!"

"I didn't do nothin!"

"No, just shout that name to world!"

"How was I sposed to know he was gonna go all nuts again? Damn, Murdock, one minute he's just sittin there, next minute he's..."

"What do you expect him to do, BA?" Murdock dropped down on the bed, looking bleakly up at him. "One minute he's in that shithole nuthouse, the next minute he's here with us, running from place to place..."

"I know that, fool. Don't mean I gotta like it."

Murdock narrowed his eyes. "You didn't like watching Wiley die, either, but you stuck by him."

"Don't you bring Wiley into this!"

"Why not? Why the hell not? He's the whole reason we're in this mess!"

"He was my best friend, damn it."

" 'Was' being the operative term, BA. He lied to you. He lied to Hannibal, left Face out there to die! And you get pissed off because Face doesn't care that he's dead? Now who's nuts?!"

BA looked toward the ceiling, blinking fast. "I know what he did. And I know it ain't Face's fault he's the way he is. I just...I just get tired sometimes. Y'know?"

Murdock sighed. "Yeah. Yeah, I know. But we have to see this through." He hesitated, taking a deep breath. "We have to make it right, so Wiley can rest in peace."

BA scowled down at him. "That's just dumb, Murdock." He glanced at the door leading to the other room. "I'm gonna go check the van. You holler if...if anybody needs me."

The door didn't quite slam as he left.

Murdock gave a small smile; BA would come around again. He just had to decompress. Murdock knew about that. Then he frowned. He could hear, barely, Hannibal's voice. He shouldn't listen. He didn't want to hear that.

He really didn't.


*****

He felt like he was drowning. He started breathing harder, faster. He couldn't get any air. He needed to get outside. Where there was air. There was no air in here. No air at all.

He started moving toward the door, but he felt so...lightheaded. Tingling all over. He had to stop, brace himself against the wall.

"Face..."

He looked quickly at Hannibal. Too quickly. The room started swimming, and he slid down the wall, closing his eyes.

"Face?"

The voice was closer now. He looked up, tensing. Hannibal moved back.

How did they know about Harry? How the hell did he find out? No one knew. No one. He looked up as Hannibal sat slowly on the edge of the bed. He was frowning. God, how much did he know?

"Face, I know this isn't going to be easy. But we need to talk about this. About Harry. And what he did."

No, no, no...

"I-I don't know what you're talking about. I don't know any...Harry."

"Face, you don't have to deny it. It's okay. I know it's been...bothering you. I just wish I'd found out earlier."

He could feel his heart pounding, pounding like it was going to explode. He had to stop this...

"No. I don't know..."

"You can't let it get to you, kid. You have to see it for what it was..."

See it? He saw it. He saw it every day. Every day, Harry showed up, standing on the street corner, across the field...disappearing before he could stop him...

"...not your fault. You would've fought him off..."

If I hadn't been such a coward. If I hadn't been so...

"But now it's time to put it behind you. It's over, done, and brooding over it won't change that."

He looked up at Hannibal. He looked so far away. So...stern. Unforgiving...

I tried...I did, Hannibal...

"It's okay, Face. I understand. If you'd had a chance to protect yourself, you would have. But now, you just have to accept it like a man and move on."

"But...I had chances." He looked down, felt the shame wash over him. "l...I didn't take them. I..."

He heard the bed creak as Hannibal stood. "Them? This happened more than once?"

God, the anger in his voice. The disgust...

"I wanted to fight back, Colonel, I did, but...I was..."

"How many times, Face? How many times did Harry..."

Face slumped against the wall. He felt so cold.

"Face?"

"I...I don't know. Sometimes...every day...sometimes...he'd leave me alone for...a few days. If we were moving..."

Hannibal didn't say anything. Face looked up, hating the tears he felt forming. Falling apart like a child. Hannibal was still standing over him, like Harry used to do. Standing over him, grinning. Just before he...

"I should have...I know. I know. But I was..." His voice was cracking. It hurt so much to breathe, to talk, to think. "God, I was so...scared..."

There. He'd admitted it. Admitted his cowardice to the one man...

Face pushed up to his hands and knees, feeling sick, forced himself to stand, holding onto the wall. Harry took a step toward him, and he staggered for the door. Had to get away. Away from Harry. Away from Hannibal. But the room kept moving, sliding from one side to the other.

He felt the iron grip on his arm. He closed his eyes. Not again. Please not again. He tried to push away, but his other arm was grabbed. He heard Harry's voice, angry, loud. Smelled the foul breath, the rough fabric of his uniform. His hands...He fell to his knees, knowing what was coming. Knowing he couldn't stop it now, any more than he could before. Hating his weakness. Hating his cowardice.

Hating himself for letting it happen. Again.

"Face!"

Hannibal. Oh, God, Hannibal...

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm...sorry..."


*****

He shouldn't have been listening. He knew that. He'd known from the first that he wanted nothing to do with this, he'd seen and heard more than he wanted to, that first day. And yet nothing could keep him from creeping over to the door, opening it just a hair, just a hair...

He could hear Hannibal talking, but he was facing away from Murdock and he couldn't make out everything. He could just see the top of Face's head on the other side of the bed. Sitting on the floor. He wasn't saying anything. Not at first. When he did start talking, Murdock couldn't make it out, the voice so soft and jumbled.

And then Hannibal suddenly stood up.

"Them? This happened more than once?"

Murdock nearly fell through the door. Hannibal paid no attention. Murdock heard the anger and shock in his voice, knew that was bad. Face wouldn't hear the words, he'd hear the tone. Hell, Murdock felt cowed by it. He had to calm Hannibal down, ignore what they were saying. He just wouldn't listen. He'd heard more than enough already. He moved cautiously into the room.

"...he'd leave me alone for...a few days. If we were moving..."

Murdock stopped. What did he mean? A few days? Face hadn't been there only a few days. And moving...

He stopped as suddenly as Face started up, tight, jerking motions as he struggled to his feet. Hannibal reached for him, grabbed his arm. Face fought back, pushing, twisting, stumbling toward the door, until Hannibal got hold of both arms, calling Face, trying to calm him down, bring him back.

And then Face just dropped.

Murdock started forward, but Hannibal had him, holding him tightly around the shoulders, talking. But Face was gone, limp in Hannibal's arms. Eyes crunched shut, mumbling fast, frantically.

Murdock backed away. He couldn't see this. Didn't want to see this. Didn't want to know what he knew. Didn't want it. Couldn't see it.

Hannibal turned, looking over his shoulder. "Get out of here, Murdock. Get BA. Now." Voice calm, but commanding.

Murdock nodded, practically ran through the door, out into the parking lot. He saw BA at the van, and did run this time. Grabbed his arm, pointing to the rooms. He couldn't speak. His throat was tight and it hurt to breathe. BA took one look and shook him off, hurrying for the room.

Murdock leaned against the van. He swallowed, then swallowed again. Closed his eyes and forced himself to breathe slowly, deeply. This was going all wrong. All wrong. Big time wrong. They were just supposed to find Kyle. That's all. Just find Kyle, and he would tell them that Face didn't blame them, that Face didn't blame him, and then they'd go home and it would all be over. That's all that was supposed to happen. That's all. Not...

Not this shit.

Not this...


*****

October 13, 1976

5 Years, 8 Months, 11 Days

Hannibal stepped out of the door, taking one last look into the room before closing it softly behind him. He rolled his shoulders, trying to work the kinks out, then looked to the east, where the sun was just coming over the horizon. With another glance at the door, he walked heavily toward the van.

He didn't know if he really wasn't surprised, or if emotion of any kind was just beyond him this morning, but he didn't bat an eye when he saw BA seated inside, dozing. Both men had had a frantic night, between Face and Murdock. He shook his head. Another night like that and all four of them would be in the nuthouse.

He slid the side door open as quietly as he could, but of course, BA woke up anyway. They looked at each for a moment.

"Problem?" BA's voice was tired, resigned.

"No. Not yet. I was looking for those pills Cleary gave me. I think it's time to get Face started on them."

"If it ain't too late."

Hannibal hung his head, trying not to lose his temper. It wasn't an unreasonable assumption. He just didn't want to hear it first thing this morning.

"How's Murdock?" Switch the subject. From frying pan to fire, or was it the other way around?

BA shrugged. "He fell asleep about three, I think. After he counted the ceiling tiles bout a hundred times. At least he didn't keep namin the furniture."

"Just distractions, BA. That's all."

BA just grunted. Hannibal rummaged in the bags in the back until he found the one he was looking for. He sat down on the back seat, holding it loosely in his hand. BA looked at him in the mirror.

"You get any sleep?"

"I don't know. I think so. Maybe." Probably not. Even after he and BA had gotten Face up off the floor and into bed, he hadn't calmed down. He'd stayed somewhere between reality and memories for a long time. After that, Hannibal knew he'd gotten completely lost in the past. The things he'd been saying...living his nightmares. Making Hannibal live them right along with him.

He sighed. "I think we should stay put today. See how things go."

BA stared silently at the dash. "Murdock needs to get back. Quicker the better."

"I know. But I think we all need a day to settle down first. I don't need either of them going off track in the van."

"Yeah. Guess you're right." He twisted in the seat, looking at Hannibal directly. "Murdock goes back to the VA. But what about Face?"

"Do we have a choice? He has to stay with us."

That wasn't what BA wanted to hear. "Didn't you say that doc back in Mobile could get him into a hospital?"

"Yeah, and I vetoed it. Too much chance of his being found. And now that they know who he is..."

"We don't know..."

"Yeah, we do, BA. They know who he is, and they'll be watching the hospitals, you can count on it. So unless you want him locked up in some Army psych ward..."

BA snorted angrily. "You know I don't. I just don't know if we can do this, Hannibal."

"We can because we have to. This is no different than anything else we've done, BA. We do our research, check our resources, and then engage the enemy."

"The enemy?" BA looked at him as if he'd gone nuts as well.

"Yeah, BA. The enemy that's inside that kid's head. I can call Cleary, and once Murdock's back on track, he can do some recon through that doctor of his."

"Yeah, and what about those damn pills? Whaddya gonna do - knock off a drugstore?"

"If I have to, yeah. But I think Murdock can..."

"You ain't gonna have him stealin no pills, Hannibal! You get him into as big a trouble as the rest of us."

Again, Hannibal stopped to quell his temper. "I mean, Murdock can give us the layout of the place, the schedules...and I'll take care of the rest."

"You'll do all that, huh? And what happens if you get caught? What then? And whose gonna keep an eye on him when we're at work? You gonna lock him in the bathroom?"

"You worried about him - or that you'll get stuck with him?"

This time Hannibal got BA's fullest glare. "I'm worried about you goin off half-cocked, and if things blow up in your damn face, he's the one that's gonna pay." He gripped the steering wheel, tight. "I'll do whatever I can for him, Hannibal. But if somethin happens to you, I don't think I could do for him. Not the way he should be done for. And we've fucked him up enough already."

Hannibal winced involuntarily at the term. It reminded him he had one more talk to have.

"How much of what he said last night did you catch, BA?"

BA didn't say anything, but kept his tight grip on the wheel.

"BA?"

"I heard enough to know they did things to him. Nasty things. That's all I need to know. That's all I want to know." He suddenly got out of the van, slamming the door, then glaring through the window at Hannibal. "And I mean it. You talk to him all you want about it, but I ain't gonna. Ever."

With that, BA turned on his heel and headed for his room.

Hannibal sat for a moment, eyes closed, listening to the soft morning sounds. Peaceful sounds.

Regretfully, he brought himself back to reality. The reality that he was going to be on his own. BA would do what he could, but only to a point. Hannibal felt a surge of anger. So what if it made BA 'uncomfortable'? People shouldn't just pick and choose what difficulties they were going to deal with, which ones they were going to dump on others.

He took a deep breath, let it out slowly. He knew he wasn't being fair to BA. This wasn't something the Army trained you for. He could've just walked away, washed his hands of the whole thing. It wasn't his responsibility. Not really. But Hannibal was still Face's CO. Responsible for his well-being. He'd screwed that up once already. Now he'd have to bite the bullet and get his man through this.

He sighed, slowly climbing out of the van and heading back to his room.