CHAPTER SIXTY-THREE

October 17, 1976

5 Years, 8 Months, 15 Days

Hannibal did not like offices. During his career he'd been in many - had many himself, but spent as little time in them as possible. Even in Nam, he went out of his way to make his office more of a meeting room because he hated sitting behind the desk. Now, settling into the chair in Richter's office, he realized he hated sitting in front of a desk even more.

He also realized Richter was staring somewhat suspiciously at him

Damn. Well, a lot of men dyed their hair. He forced himself to match Richter's stare with a hint of belligerence. Richter had the grace to look embarrassed.

"I'm glad you were able to come so quickly, Mr Bradley, although I was surprised." A gentle reminder that Hannibal should have called first.

"Yeah, well, I had a chance to get away and took it. Guess I was too worried about Murdock to even think about calling."

"That's something I'd like to clarify first." Richter casually put on a pair of glasses and picked up a file folder. Hannibal tensed before realizing this one was in much better shape than the one he was looking for. "The last time you visited Murdock was September twenty-fifth. Three days later, he, uh, left the facility."

Hannibal started tensing up again. The thought floated by that Richter had had more than enough time to call Lynch while Hannibal was waiting to be shown in.

"Murdock returned the day before yesterday, and yesterday you called. In that entire three weeks between, we didn't hear from either of you." Richter was looking at Hannibal now. How could he stay so expressionless? "Coincidence, Mr Bradley?"

Best defense is a good offense. "Look, I don't know what tall tales my nephew has been spinning, but - "

"Actually, he's been spinning some skyscrapers, Mr Bradley. And they've tended to crash into each other. One moment he says you were with him during those three weeks..."

Hannibal could almost feel his heart sinking.

"... and the next, that you weren't within a hundred miles of him."

Hannibal sighed - it might sound like resignation to Richter, but it was pure relief.

Richter sat up straighter. "I'd appreciate knowing which it was."

Hannibal hesitated only a moment. There was no way he could admit being with Murdock. Richter would want details, reasons for Murdock's slide into hell. Hannibal couldn't tell him those details. With a small prayer that it wouldn't hurt Murdock's recovery, he pulled out his most regretful voice.

"I was nowhere near my nephew, Doc. I had told him - and it was my fault for not making sure you knew as well - that I was going on a movie shoot for three weeks. On location. Very remote area. He was a bit upset about that - he likes to be able to call if I can't come visit - but I never thought..." Hannibal shook his head, staring at the floor.

Waited.

"Movie shoot?"

"Uh, yeah." Hannibal chuckled, hoping he sounded convincingly embarrassed. "I've done a little acting here and there, and this buddy of mine set it up. It was a decent sized role, and I'm not getting any younger, you know. Uh, that's why the dye job." Hannibal got serious again when Richter just kept looking at him. "Well, anyway, I took the chance, and like I said, I thought Murdock had let you know."

"And you say he was upset about this?"

"Well, maybe more like disappointed." Tread carefully now. Don't make matters worse.

Richter was looking at his file again. Hannibal glanced at the clock, the soft ticking sounding like a damn rifle going off.

God, he hated offices.

Richter looked up. "I'm not sure what to tell you, Mr Bradley. I don't want you to feel any responsibility for this, but I'm afraid the timing of your 'shoot', coming so soon after the death of..." he glanced down at his notes, "Mr Parish..."

"That was... unfortunate, I agree. But - "

"Well, based on the things Murdock said during my interview with him, I'm afraid it may go deeper than you might realize. There's his 'investigation' into that friend of his. Lieutenant Peck?"

Hannibal could smell the skunk coming a mile away.

"I understood that was taken care of."

"Oh, the letters stopped. But I don't think his... obsession did." Richter suddenly slid the file away, the frustration clear on his face. "I don't know where Murdock went during those three weeks. Not physically. But I think, up here," Richter jabbed a finger toward his head, "up here, he went looking for this lieutenant. And he found him."

Hannibal hoped his reaction wasn't showing, because he was in freefall. Not from Richter's words - but from what Murdock must have told him to make him believe that.

"So, uh, what... what makes you say that, Doc?"

"That interview." Richter shook his head. "It was very hard to follow. He seemed to be mixing up events from Vietnam with things that had occurred stateside. When or where - or even if - any of it actually happened, I have no way of knowing. But what he described - I can't believe anyone could make that up. Not with the amount of detail he had. No, what he was describing happened - to someone. He claims it was a fellow named Phil Johnson."

From the look on Richter's face, Hannibal knew what some of those details must have been. He almost hated to ask the next question.

"And now what do we do?"

"Obviously this delusion has to be addressed. Murdock carries some deep guilt feelings about Peck; why, I don't know. But that's going to be the root of his problems, I'm sure. But the immediate problem is his behavior this morning."

"What happened this morning?" Nothing good, obviously.

"He woke up this morning, raising a fit because he wasn't in his old room. Demanding to know why he'd been moved and accusing the nurses of having drugged him to 'sneak' him into the secure ward." Richter looked directly at Hannibal now, and the sympathy in his eyes only made Hannibal more nervous. "He doesn't seem to have any memory of the last three weeks. Oh, bits and pieces, but he swears that he's been here the entire time."

Thankfully, Richter allowed Hannibal time to digest that information, because Hannibal was having a hard time not grinning with relief. He should've known Murdock would come up with something 'special' to cover his ass. Hell, maybe that whole breakdown was just a cover. Maybe he hadn't even read that file...

"Mr Bradley?"

"He really doesn't remember?" Sound suitably concerned now.

"The anger and frustration he exhibited this morning - I've seen his 'displays', Mr Bradley, as I'm sure you have. I'm satisfied that the memory loss is genuine. Something traumatic definitely occurred during his absence. People simply do not choose to forget ordinary or pleasant events."

Hannibal's relief faded; Richter wasn't a fool. What if Murdock wasn't pulling an act?

"The things he said happened during this time he was missing - could any of it be true?" Walking on fucking eggshells here. Just what had Murdock told him?

"As I said, there are bits and pieces he remembers, and they do match some of the things he said before the memory loss. Then again, that could be a continuation of his delusion, rather than actual memories. But it's obvious that he went somewhere for some reason, and that he had help doing it. He's mentioned at least two men. Unfortunately, not by name."

Thank you, God.

"That's where I'm hoping you can help me. We keep a visitor's log, and I was wondering if you could look at the names of the people who came to see Murdock, see if any of them are familiar to you. Also, if you could think of any old Army buddies he might have been keeping in touch with - people who would be willing to help take him out of here. If we can locate these men, we'd get at least some answers."

"I'm sure you would, Doc."

"Of course, we'd keep their involvement confidential - as long as no laws were broken." Richter suddenly looked directly at him, and Hannibal had the disquieting feeling Richter wasn't totally buying anybody's story.

"I'll see what I can come up with, Doc."

"I'd appreciate that. The other thing I'd like to ask - and I don't know if you could do anything or not - is to see if you can find out any more about this thing in Alabama."

Hannibal swore his heart stopped.

"Alabama?"

"Yes, those Army officers who were here kept saying something about some mess in Alabama. Supposedly to do with those fugitives again. I thought that had been laid to rest as well, but apparently not. They wouldn't tell me any details, and I'm quite sure as long as Murdock is my patient, they won't. But if you could use some of your military contacts..."

"You think Murdock was in Alabama?"

"Of course not. But he may have heard something about it through these other men, or from someone he met while he was gone, and the news triggered something. I know, it's clutching at straws, but - "

"No problem, Doc. I'll see if I can find out anything. Can't guarantee it - you know how the Army's been about that bunch."

"Yes, well... At any rate, I can have you shown to Murdock's room. No more than a half-hour, I'm afraid; he's too unstable yet. But if you can get any more information out of him - anything at all - it could help bring back his memory."

"Sure, Doc. At the least, he'll know I'm here for him again."


*****

He shut the door carefully, deliberately, and locked it. He resisted the urge to unlock it, to check it, lock it again. He had to quit doing that. It was stupid. Like a lot of things he'd been doing.

Stupid.

He backed away from the door, jamming his hands into his pockets, and turned to look out his window. The porch roof to his right, to the grassy stretch of yard, to the woods beyond... This was his world now and he had to get used to it. Couldn't let things get to him. Had to focus. No more letting his guard down.

No more telling... things.

A flash - the smoke, the smell, the scream - then gone. He swallowed, hard, fighting back the shudders. No. No more. He'd given them an opening, allowed them to come out. He couldn't do that again. No. He needed to stay here, needed to stay with Hannibal and BA. Couldn't do that if he said things like that. If he told them...

They knew too much already. Things they never should have known. He didn't know how they found out, but they knew. They knew...

A door shut downstairs. BA. All that furniture, waiting. Waiting where those men had left it.

Those men...

Why would they say that? Had they known, somehow? Was there something about him? Was that why Harry -

No.

It wasn't him. It was the war. It was Harry. He knew that. He knew that. Anything else didn't matter.

So why had he told BA he wasn't... wasn't a...

To make sure.

Make sure BA knew.

That's all.

Make sure BA knew.


*****

If he closed his eyes, he could be in another place. Another time. Different, yet the same. A man, one on each side, their steps unconsciously in cadence, softly echoing on the hard linoleum floors. No expression on their faces; just doing their job. If he slowed, they slowed. If he sped up, just a little, they sped up. A soft cough. Reminding him. Not too fast. Too fast made them nervous. And then they arrived. The sound of the keys, jangling gently against each other, one fitting neatly into the lock. A click. The door swinging open. The man with the keys stepping back, the other - he could see it even though the man was behind him - looking cautiously to either side.

And then he was inside.

Not a cell. Not Fort Bragg. Not the Army.

Not him.

No. Not him.

"Murdock."

No response. Not at first. Hannibal waited. He was about to speak again when Murdock slowly turned around on the cot, and looked over his shoulder, frowning. Not angry. Thoughtful.

"Hannibal?"

Hannibal stiffened, then relaxed, just a little. He didn't think these rooms were bugged, and at least Murdock was talking. That was, apparently, an improvement.

"Yeah, Murdock." He stepped closer, spoke softly. "You better call me Tyrone, okay?" He nodded toward the door.

Murdock frowned again, then straightened. Nodded. Hannibal relaxed a bit more. Maybe Richter was wrong. Maybe... Then Murdock spoke again.

"What're you doing here?"

Hannibal sighed, sitting on the cot beside Murdock.

"I spoke with Doctor Richter. He said you're having... difficulties."

Murdock flushed, and looked away. "I don't know what happened, Han - Tyrone. I haven't... I mean... I've been good for a long time. I don't know why..." he turned and looked, deadly serious, at Hannibal. "It's not that big a deal. He didn't have to call you. I'm okay now."

An act? Playing to whoever might be outside the door?

"It is a big deal, Murdock. And we - you and I - have to figure out some way to help you work through this." He leaned closer, speaking softly. "Without Richter finding out about the team. About... Face."

This time when Murdock frowned, there was no confusion or thoughtfulness. He was angry.

"I would never tell Richter about you guys! And why should I tell him about Face? Face is... he's..." Murdock turned his back to Hannibal. "It doesn't matter. It's over. I'm okay now."

Hannibal sat very still. Murdock thought Face was dead now? Didn't know they'd found him? Surely he wouldn't block that out? Just how much had he forgotten?

"Murdock, what's the last thing you remember? Clearly?"

Murdock looked down, one hand rubbing back and forth, back and forth over his knee.

"Murdock?"

"I remember having lunch. Lasagna. They used fake cheese in it, though."

"When was that, Murdock?"

His hand never stopped moving. Back and forth.

"I don't know. Musta been yesterday. Haven't had lunch today yet."

"What about before that?"

The hand was moving a little faster now.

"That was..." He stopped and glared at Hannibal. "So I can't remember exactly. Okay?"

"Do you remember Wiley's funeral?"

"Hell, yes, I remember Wiley's funeral!" Murdock suddenly stood, pacing the small room. "You think I'd forget something like that?"

"What happened after the funeral, Murdock?"

"Oh, lots happened." His tone was derisive, angry. "We sat around and had a few beers and then... and then I came back here. No!" He turned, waving his arms. "I came back to my room. My room! Not this place! I want my room back!"

"We'll talk about that later. Now, who was at that little get together after the funeral?"

"You know who was there." His voice was still sullen, but softer.

"Who was there?"

Murdock sighed, closing his eyes tight. "You, me, Ray and the big guy." He looked at Hannibal, defiance practically radiating from him. "Satisfied?"

"What did we talk about?"

"We talked about Wiley! What else?"

"That was my next question."

Murdock opened his mouth, but no words came out. He whirled around, began pacing again.

"I want my old room back."

Hannibal sighed. "I'll talk to the doc. If - " he cut off Murdock's sudden grin - "if you try, really hard, to answer my questions."

For a moment, Hannibal thought he'd lost the bluff, as Murdock abruptly sat on the cot, sweeping his cap off and tossing it across the room.

"Fine. Ask away."

Not the greatest attitude, but Hannibal was willing to settle. He had to.

"You remember telling us about Face after the funeral?"

"Yeah."

"And you remember we started checking around, trying to find Kyle Hanson?"

"Yeah."

"And then what happened, Murdock?"

Murdock looked straight ahead, a small frown forming.

"We... we went looking for him. For Kyle."

"Did we find him, Murdock?"

Murdock once again stood and paced. But more slowly.

"Murdock? Did we find Kyle Hanson?"

"Well, hell, yeah! 'Cause I'm back here, right?" Murdock looked over his shoulder at Hannibal. The words were angry, his face was bleak. "Right?"

Hannibal stood, slowly, and stepped close. Spoke softly.

"We didn't find Kyle Hanson, Murdock. Who did we find?"

Murdock shook his head, slowly.

"Do you remember anything about that trip? Anything at all?"

"I remember... running for the van... and thinking... I'd blown it, 'cause I wasn't supposed to draw attention, but I wanted to get going and so, I ran. And I jumped in the van, and BA peeled out - he likes to do that, y'know." Murdock smiled. "He really likes that."

"Yeah, he does." Hannibal smiled briefly. "What do you remember next? What else happened on our trip?"

Murdock closed his eyes, head back. Then his shoulders slumped, and he shook his head again.

"I don't know, Hannibal. There's all kinds of pictures running around in there, but they just... they just don't make any sense."

"What kind of pictures? People? Places?"

"I don't... yes. No. They're... they're just all jumbled up. They don't make any sense!"

Hannibal glanced at his watch. Richter had given him a half-hour. It was almost up.

"Murdock - "

"No more, Hannibal." Murdock shrugged away, flopping down on the bed. "I'm tired. I don't want to talk about it any more. Forget my room. I don't care. I just want to sleep for a while."

Hannibal stood for a moment. He was tired himself. God, how he was tired. Nothing he would like more than to walk out, leave Murdock to his nap, let Richter take it from here. But there were still things he had to deal with.

Had to.


*****

The door closed behind BA a little louder than he'd intended. Despite his words to Face, he couldn't just let go. He'd wanted to throttle that son of a bitch within an inch of his life. Maybe, if the LT hadn't been there, he would have. He looked around at the furniture, piled high and wide around the room. Picked up a chair, set it down again.

If that had been Wiley, BA wouldn't have stopped him. He'd have gone right along with him. All the way to the brig.

If that had been the LT from Nam - if that had been the Face BA knew, he would've been pulling BA out of the fight. Hell, there wouldn't have been a fight 'cause Face woulda had those guys eating out of his hands.

The Face BA knew didn't like fights. Didn't like violence. Sounded stupid, a Special Forces soldier in Nam who didn't like violence. Even Hannibal liked a good fight now and then. Take that edge off. Not the LT. Almost nobody BA would rather have at his back in a fight, but Face didn't get off on it.

He looked up at the stairs and shook his head, picking up the chair again, looking absently for a place to put it. No, Faceman didn't like the violence. He liked out-thinking the other guy, doing the job better than the next guy. Liked proving he was better than the other guy.

He set the chair down again. That Face was gone now. Those bastards had taken all that away. Took away everything he was. Everything he thought he was.

Nothing worse than that.


*****

Hannibal waited, watching as Murdock very deliberately got comfortable on the bed, his back toward the colonel. He would have gladly let Murdock have his nap. His escape.

He knew what he should do. He should march right back to Richter's office and tell him the truth. Tell him where Murdock had been, what they'd done. About Face. It would mean never being able to see Murdock openly again. Maybe not at all. It was also the quickest way to end up in Leavenworth. Maybe have Murdock right there with him. With them all.

But that was the only way Richter could really help Murdock.

On the other hand, did Murdock have to remember everything? If Richter thought a lot of this was delusion, why not let Murdock think so as well? He would know that some of what he remembered was true, even if he couldn't admit it to Richter. But anything in that file would remain a delusion. It never happened. Not as far as Murdock was concerned. And Hannibal would lie through his teeth assuring him he'd never read it.

All he had to remember was that Face was alive. Hopefully before the two got together again.

"You still here, Colonel?" Murdock's voice was muffled in his sleeve, but the weariness in it was loud and clear.

"Captain, I need you to focus now. This is important."

A moment's stillness, then Murdock rolled over and sat up. Both men as serious as if they were discussing a mission in Nam.

"We have a problem, Captain. Not a new one. Balancing your treatment with the safety of the team. There are things that happened over the last three weeks that you need to deal with. But to do that, it could mean revealing things about me, about... the team."

"I would never - "

"I know you would never knowingly or willingly put us in jeopardy, Murdock. But you're going to need to focus very carefully when you're talking to Richter. He may or may not believe what you're telling him. I'll tell you quite frankly," and Hannibal hoped to hell he was doing the right thing now, "that Richter thinks a lot of what you've already told him is a delusion."

"But - "

"Listen, Captain. Listen. We can use that. Go with it. Because delusion or not, he's going to take what you tell him and see past it to the real issues. So let him. Understand, Captain? Let him think this Phil character is a delusion. You use Phil as a substitute for... for other people. He's your decoy, okay, Murdock? Whatever you're thinking, feeling about other people - you put that all on Phil. Can you do that?"

Murdock frowned, puzzled. "You mean, like... pretend?"

"Sometimes its okay to use someone or something imaginary when the real things are... confusing. Just for a little bit. Until you can handle the real things. Until you know how to handle the real things."

"So, like hating Wiley? Hate Phil instead."

Hannibal sat up, startled. Hate? Well, he'd felt that himself once. Now? Now didn't matter.

"Yeah, Murdock. Hate Phil instead. Until you're ready to put the hate aside."

Hannibal wasn't sure this would work. Murdock didn't look convinced, but finally he nodded.

"Okay, Colonel. Stick with my story - stick with Phil."

Hannibal relaxed, but only for a moment. One final hurdle. He glanced again at his watch. Had to hurry.

"Now, there's one other thing I need before I go, Murdock. When we dropped you off here, you had a file with you."

Murdock looked totally blank. "A file? What was in it?"

Hannibal at least had an answer ready for that. "Documents that could hurt the team, Murdock. Things we collected during our trip. Now I need to get that file so Richter doesn't find it."

Frustration filled Murdock's face. "How can I give you something I don't even remember having?"

"Just take it easy. You don't have to remember the file - just stop and think. Where do you put the things you don't want the staff to find?"

Murdock glanced around the room, shaking his head. "I know where I'd put it in my own room..."

"Okay, well, you weren't in your own room. So - you're in a different room. You know that at some point, you're going back to your old room. You need to hide this, but still be able to get at it without anyone seeing you." Hannibal looked around. No bathroom here. No closet. Murdock's duffel on top of a small bureau. "Would you have been able to sneak it out when they took you to the bathroom? Hide it there?"

"No way. No..." Murdock was closed his eyes, frowning. Hannibal realized he was trying to remember. Okay - remember where you put it, Captain - not what was in it. Please. Murdock's eyes snapped open. He practically leaped off the bed, grabbing Hannibal's arm and pulling him off as well. Smiling grimly, he raised the two mattresses, sliding his arm underneath. A little more groping and Murdock pulled out the battered folder, grinning triumphantly.

Hannibal could've cried.

"Good one, Murdock." He reached for it quickly as Murdock started to open it, immediately hiding it under his jacket.

Murdock looked at him, suspicion creeping into his eyes.

"Can't I look at it?"

Hannibal made a show of checking his watch. "No time now, Murdock. But believe me, there's nothing in there you need to see."

Nothing you need to remember.