CHAPTER SIXTY

October 16, 1976

5 Years, 8 Months, 14 Days

BA had walked into the living room, surprised to find Hannibal glaring out the front window. Just a few minutes before he'd seen him heading out to the van, calm as could be. And Face had been watching out his window the whole time BA had been checking the back yard. Whatever was bothering Hannibal hadn't come from that direction.

Hannibal turned just then, the glare replaced not quite soon enough by that confident grin.

"I think this house is going to work out fine, BA - as soon as we get some furniture anyway."

"You think so, huh?" BA held Hannibal's gaze just a moment longer than necessary. He'd play along, for now, but Hannibal would know he wasn't totally blind.

"Yeah, BA. I think so. And the sooner we get that little detail taken care of, the better. I thought I saw a second-hand store on the way here. That'll be a good place to start."

"What - now?"

Hannibal frowned, and BA shrugged before moving past him to the front door. Sometimes he forgot Hannibal thought they were still in the Army. Man did not like his decisions being questioned, even now.

At least not by BA.

He shook his head at that. Still resentful, after all this time, all that had happened. That wasn't good. Wasn't the LT's fault. He knew that.

He knew that...

He'd waited in the van, drumming his fingers restlessly on the steering wheel. He didn't think it was a good idea, dragging Face into town so soon. Hell, even he wasn't feeling settled yet. But then the two of them came out of the house and Face looked calm as could be. No. Not calm.

Resigned.

BA watched out of the corner of his eye as Face pulled open the door. No more duffels back there, LT. What're you gonna do now?

He could almost see the panic flare up before the deep breath came, and Face stepped into the van, taking the seat next to the door. For a moment BA thought he would be going right back out that door, but, jaw set, he instead reached over and slid it shut.

BA glanced at Hannibal, but seeing the same set jaw, wisely said nothing. He pulled out onto the street and within a few minutes had parked behind the second-hand store. Once again, he could see Face steeling himself before getting out of the van, but he didn't say a word and followed Hannibal inside the store. BA, as had become the custom, followed behind him.

Hannibal stopped in the middle of the huge warehouse-like building, frowning, looking around almost absently. BA just knew there was something on Hannibal's mind, and it sure as hell wasn't furniture. Sure enough, Hannibal whipped out his wallet, yanked out a credit card and thrust it at Face.

"Okay, Lieutenant. Let's see if you've lost your touch." He nodded curtly at the multitude of beds, couches, chairs and tables surrounding them. "Get the house filled - and cheap."

Without another word, he strode off.

BA wasn't sure who had the more shocked expression - him or Face. Face swallowed, staring first at the card in his hand, then at BA.

"I... I can't..."

BA pursed his lips. Time to do what sergeants did.

"Sure you can, LT. You got the gift. Always did, always will." He nodded sharply. No arguments.

Face swallowed again, and started looking around. For a moment, BA almost felt sorry for him. Would have, except his thoughts were already on Hannibal and where he'd disappeared to.


*****

Hannibal knew it was a dirty trick, but he really had no choice. He'd thought and thought, but there was no way he could just take off in BA's van without having to explain. And he didn't need BA up in arms again.

They did need furniture, so that at least gave him a way to get into town. And as soon as he'd seen that telephone booth on the corner, he'd known this was his golden opportunity. So Face maybe wasn't ready for negotiating over supplies just yet, but with BA there, he'd be okay.

Yeah. He'd be okay.

Hannibal pushed those thoughts aside as he slid the door to the telephone booth shut. Deal with that later. Right now, he had to hope his cover as Murdock's uncle would still hold.

The phone on the other end seemed to ring forever. Finally, Richter's secretary answered, sounding flustered.

"Hello, this Tyrone Bradley, Captain Murdock's uncle, and I - "

"Oh, Mr Bradley! We've been trying to locate you!"

Shit.

"Is there a problem with my nephew?"

"I'm afraid so, Mr Bradley. Dr Richter definitely wants to speak with you. Is there any way you could come in to see him - today?"

Shit.

Leave Face here with BA? All day? After just moving in, the damn furniture... But Murdock and that fucking file...

"Mr Bradley?"

Face and BA. Murdock and that file. Murdock had Richter. Face...

"Mr Bradley...."

"I can't make it today, ma'am. I'm sorry. Really sorry. But I'm nowhere near LA. Can't I talk to the doc now?"

"I'm afraid not, Mr Bradley." There was a long pause, and Hannibal could hear voices in the background. Voices that were not happy or calm. When the secretary spoke next, her voice was low. "Sir, there are some Army officers here. They're demanding to see Captain Murdock. But he's had a major setback, Mr Bradley. We really need you here to help straighten this out."

Shit. Shit. Shit.

"I promise I will get there just as quickly as I can, but there are... complications on this end. I'll have to try calling Dr Richter later."

"Well, is there a number we can reach you - "

Hannibal hung up the phone, but remained in the booth, door closed, the sounds from the street muffled through the glass. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, slowly exhaling.

Murdock had read the file. That much was obvious. But had he told Richter about it? Shown it to him? Told him about Face? About Hannibal and BA?

And what about the damn Army officers? Who were they? Had they connected Murdock with the rest of the team? Or did they still think Wiley had been with them? What would Richter tell them about Murdock's absence? Which just happened to coincide with that circus in Alabama.

Hannibal looked bleakly out to the street, watching the cars, anonymous people driving them. People walked by the phone booth, unaware or unconcerned about the man standing inside. Caught up in their own day to day worries and concerns.

Hannibal shook his head, clearing his mind. He had to get back to the store, see what problems he'd have to deal with in there. Figure out some way of contacting Richter. Some way of getting back to LA without causing a furor down here, or getting caught in the Army's snare up there.

Some way of salvaging his team.


*****

"May I help you... gentlemen?" A middle-aged woman came striding briskly up, glasses perched firmly on a patrician nose, a slight frown on her face. Face took a step back, almost bumping into BA, who shook his head. He took another look at Face and quickly changed his mind. Quickest way out of this mess was to let this gal handle things.

"Yeah, we need furniture."

Raising an eyebrow, the woman gazed calmly at him for a moment.

"What kind of furniture?"

"All of it."

The woman cocked her head slightly, giving him a sardonic smile. "The whole store?"

BA glared at the woman, but what he was going to do to a certain colonel flashed through his mind.

"We need three beds. And mattresses. And a couch. And a table and chairs." He threw a glare at Face for good measure. "That's to start with."

Neither BA nor Face missed the quick but doubtful glance at their rumpled fatigues. Before BA could say a word, Face's shoulders straightened - if only slightly - and he held out the credit card Hannibal had given him. The saleslady smiled frostily, said, "One moment, please.", and stepped toward the registers.

While she was calling in to verify the card, BA watched Face out of the corner of his eye. Staring straight ahead, lips moving ever so slightly. Not good, man. Not good. He looked over as the saleslady started back toward them, a friendlier smile on her face now.

"Well now, that's all straightened out. Here's your card, Mr Hefley."

Face started as she thrust the card toward him. "I'm... I'm not Mr Hefley..."

BA almost groaned aloud. Face was gonna blow it before they even got started.

"That's... that's my father." Face smiled, but even BA could see it was forced. "He'll be back... to sign for... everything." Face glanced at BA, who nodded very slightly. Keep goin, LT. "Uh, in the meantime, let's, uh, let's see what you have for beds. I hope they aren't too... used."

BA sighed at the sidelong look the saleslady gave them, but then she smiled, somewhat uncertainly, and led the way toward the bedroom furnishings. Face hesitated, moving only when BA came up beside him.

Hannibal better get here and damn quick.


*****

Hannibal was slowly pacing, circling the phone booth. Where was that world famous plan when he needed it? He looked around, ridiculously hoping for some kind of miraculous inspiration. And then he saw it. Slowly a grin grew, and he hurried across the street.

Only minutes later he was back at the booth, flipping through the phonebook, road map stuffed into his pocket. Still grinning, he dialed and waited. Several minutes later he was through the last transfer, and he heard a gruff and thoroughly soldierly voice on the other end. He dropped the smile, forcing his own voice to sound anxious and hesitant.

"Yessir, say, uh, I hate to do this, Captain, but I feel it's my duty, y'know?"

"What is your duty, sir? And to whom am I speaking?"

"D'ya need to know my name? I mean, I don't need no trouble. And it's not me yer lookin for anyways. It's that colonel - Colonel Smith? Ain't that right?"

There was the slightest of pauses on the other end, and Hannibal could picture some hurried hand signals.

"Yes, sir, that's correct. Do you know where Colonel Smith is?"

"Well, no, sir, not right now I don't. But I do know where he's gonna be. He and them other men of his are sposed to meet my son over by Shoshone, sometime in the early afternoon tomorra. They's comin from Nevada way. I hate to turn 'em in, but I don't want my son gettin inta trouble over it neither."

He knew he was pouring it on a little thick, but he wanted to make damn sure they bought the story without suspicions. And it seemed to be working - the captain he was speaking to asked a few more questions before handing him over to his CO.

Hannibal finally hung up the phone, glancing nervously at his watch. He'd been gone much longer than he'd wanted to be, but he had to make sure. He wanted the Army scouring the desert, hours away from LA, when Uncle Tyrone showed up at the VA tomorrow.

Heading back to the second-hand store, Hannibal couldn't help but grin.


*****

BA quietly sighed with relief as the last item, a small kitchen table, was tagged with the name "Hefley". It hadn't been a sterling performance for the 'silver-tongued lieutenant', but BA wasn't unhappy with the results. It was amazing how quickly prices went down a notch or two, just because Face remained silent. The saleslady took it for disapproval; BA wasn't about to tell her Face was too nervous to open his yap.

And nervous was putting it mildly. BA wondered if the woman had noticed the little tremor in Face's hand as he kept pushing his hair back, or how he kept shifting position while she waited for each decision. Although it was BA that made the final choices, really. Once the price was as low as the store would go, he'd look over the piece for damage or wear. If he nodded an okay, that was it.

Now they stood at the counter, toting up the final bill.

"Now, as far as pickup... "

"We want it delivered." BA deliberately tried not to scowl at her, but no way he was gonna make a dozen trips with the van.

"I see. Well, that will be extra, you know."

"How much?"

"We'll have to use the big truck, so... three hundred."

"No."

BA looked, surprised, at Face. He hadn't heard that tone for a couple days, and didn't know if he liked hearing it now of all times.

"No? Well, I'm afraid that's our standard charge, and - "

"And you're using your own truck, your own employees, and you didn't exactly pay top dollar for that furniture to begin with." Face's jaw was tight, one hand in his jacket pocket, the other tightly clenched at his side. "Free delivery or we go down the road for our stuff."

"Well, I - "

"Fine. C'mon, BA." Face turned and started stalking toward the door.

"Wait! Wait, Mr Hefley." Face stopped and waited. "Fine. No charge for the delivery. But we won't be able to do it until tomorrow."

"Tomorrow's just fine, ma'am."

Both BA and Face jumped at Hannibal's voice. The colonel came striding up to the counter, grinning like a Cheshire cat. "So, I believe you have some papers for me to sign?"

BA noted the grin faltered a bit at the cost, but Hannibal just nodded and signed. One more nod at the saleswoman and he was leading the way outside.

Once outside, Hannibal stopped to light a cigar, letting Face move ahead of him and stepping in front of BA.

"So?"

BA shook his head. He knew Hannibal would want to know all the details later; right now, he just wanted the base line. Hannibal sighed, then both men looked at Face.

He was standing a few feet from the van, head down, fists jammed in his jacket pockets. He just... stood there. Hannibal started forward, but BA held him back. He knew, because of what had happened in the store, that Face shouldn't be approached. Not yet. But even he wasn't prepared when Face suddenly took off around the corner of the building. Sharing an alarmed glance, Hannibal and BA raced after him.

BA stopped short, Hannibal shoving into his back. A few feet away, one arm propped against the side of the building, Face was throwing up, his whole body jerking with each upheaval.

It seemed to take forever before it finally ended, and Face, breathing heavily, rested his head on the arm, still braced against the building. After a moment, he coughed and spit, then slowly straightened up.

Hannibal stepped over then, laying a hand on Face's shoulder. It was immediately shrugged violently away, and BA saw the angry look Face threw at the colonel. Wiping his mouth with his sleeve, Face stalked toward BA, shoving past and heading for the van.

The two men walked slowly back to the van. Just before getting in, Hannibal started to say something to BA, but BA was having none of it. The look he gave Hannibal said it all.

For the first time ever, BA realized that now he was on Face's side.