CHAPTER SIXTY-SEVEN

June 7, 1977

6 Years, 4 Months, 5 Days

"I don't think we have to worry about Lynch this time, BA."

BA nodded, silent. Despite himself, he was impressed. He knew Mulholland Drive was high-class, but he'd had no idea how high-class. And Hannibal was right - no way Lynch would dare try anything here. At the same time, somebody living up here had to have big bucks. And anybody with that kind of money - what kind of problem could they have that the authorities or politicians wouldn't clamor to fix?

He glanced at Hannibal and knew he was thinking the same thing. Whatever it was either involved a scandal or a crime, and that didn't exactly leave a good taste in his mouth.

"We ain't gonna be spying on the guy's wife or nothin, right?"

"We aren't private eyes, BA. We don't dig up dirt - we haul it away." Hannibal returned the glance. "And we don't cover up for people, either."

BA just shook his head and went back to watching the road. They should be getting close to the guy's house. Another two curves and BA spotted the very discreet sign marking the driveway. He pulled over to the side and parked.

"So?"

Hannibal looked around, scanning the terrain. Not that he could see much. Mostly trees and a couple signs marking other driveways.

"So, I guess we go see what Mr Fiedler has to say." He grinned at BA, who shook his head and pulled into the drive.

The house wasn't that far from the street, but the winding drive made it seem so. And it made it real easy to ambush, real hard to escape. BA didn't like it and he could tell Hannibal was unsettled as well, though he was trying to hide it. Not for the first time, BA was having second thoughts about this whole venture. Only this time, the mercenary part didn't bother him.

He just didn't know if they could handle it.

*****

Murdock had hurried through supper. He knew it was stupid, but every time he looked up and saw people talking, he was quite sure he was the subject of their conversation. It was all Joe's fault, putting those thoughts in his head. About his head.

Richter wouldn't like that. Said it was Murdock's way of not dealing with reality, fixating on some inconsequential thing, making that the focus of his attention. Which Murdock only half-accepted. What if Murdock said something about Richter having a big nose? Don't think for one minute the doc wouldn't be looking in the mirror a little more closely for the next few days.

Come to think of it, that might be kinda fun...

Murdock sighed as he pushed his tray over the counter to the attendant. He knew it wasn't any fixation problem. Nothing that complex.

He was bored.

It had been a couple months since Hannibal's last visit, and that had been short-lived. Not the first time Hannibal had seemed in a hurry to leave, either. Ever since they'd moved back to LA. Murdock frowned. Ever since Hannibal slipped and told him they'd moved 'back to LA'.

Okay, he didn't really care that they'd gone someplace else to hide out. That made sense. He wouldn't have minded if they hadn't told him where, either. That made sense. A lot of shit in-country had been 'need to know'. And Hannibal had done it stateside, too, but that was just because Murdock was in the loony-bin. That made sense.

But Hannibal had told him specifically they'd be staying in LA. Specifically.

Hannibal had lied to him.

"Watch it, man!"

Murdock practically jumped to the side. Damn it. Too many people around here to have any sentient thoughts. How was a person supposed to get their head straight with all these people milling about? The paradox of a mental hospital - they want you to figure things out but never give you space to do it. Too busy keeping you "social"...

His mood was reflected in the violent shove he gave the door to his room. He was so tired of everything. Tired of dancing around Hannibal and Richter. Tired of wondering what was going on with Face, not able to ask. Tired of the thoughts that popped up in his mind when he least expected them, and definitely didn't want them.

Like now. Seeing Face, sitting there on Murdock's bed. That's the last thing he needed right now. Sure, Face had helped him sort through things after talking to Richter, but that was when he wanted to sort things out. When he needed someone, well, sympathetic to ask the hard questions. Right now he didn't want hard questions. He wanted only to read his comics and forget the rest of the world.

"I'm not in the mood, Face, so disappear. Go back in my head where you belong."

Face didn't disappear. Murdock cocked an eyebrow. Face always disappeared when he was told to. That's why Murdock let him out. The others he fought to keep in because they never wanted to go back. Face... obeyed. But apparently not this time. This time he remained sitting on the bed, frowning at Murdock.

"Fine. Stay. But I'm not going to talk. Not about Hannibal, not about you, and not about my hair, okay? Nothing. Nada. Silencio!"

"I can't do that, Murdock. I don't have time."

Murdock stared.

Oh shit.

*****

William Fiedler was a nervous man. That made Hannibal nervous. Not outwardly, of course; he wasn't stupid. Just kept reminding himself that this was nothing more than watching for the hidden agenda behind new orders.

Hopefully he'd do better with Fiedler than he had Morrison...

"I'm not exactly sure about this, of course. I've always believed in the law, and following the rules." Fiedler stopped in front of the massive fireplace and stared hard at Hannibal. "I believe in the law, Colonel Smith."

"You won't get any arguments from me, Mr Fiedler."

"I have my doubts about that, Colonel. You didn't exactly wait around for your trial, did you?"

"Only because we knew where it was headed. I believe in the law, but I believe in justice even more."

Fiedler narrowed his eyes, but Hannibal realized it wasn't skepticism. Fiedler was assessing him as much as the other way around. It almost made Hannibal laugh. This was an audition! And apparently Fiedler decided Hannibal had passed.

"My family immigrated to the US just after World War II. I was born here. I grew up listening to the stories of the camps, the whole... well..."

"You had family members in the camps?"

"Yes. 'Had' being the operative word." Fiedler walked slowly over to the huge picture window, stared down at the drive where BA sat in the van. "I grew up with all the advantages this country had to offer. Made a good living. Never really had to deal with... adversity. Enjoyed the good life. But then I'd go to visit my parents, and I'd see that... sadness in my mother's eyes when she'd look at me. Because I look so much like her father. That's what she always said, anyway. And her father was among those who went into the left line. The line to the gas chamber.

"Anyway, about a month ago, a friend of my father's from the camps came to see me with some... disturbing news. And a request. After much deliberation, I decided to do as he asked. And that's why I contacted you."

"Your father's friend is in trouble?"

"No. Nothing like that. No, he made a discovery. Unfortunately, he's too old to do anything about it, and frankly, doesn't have the funds either. But it's something that needs to be dealt with, for the sake of justice."

"All right. You have me intrigued, Mr Fiedler. What was this discovery?"

Fiedler sat heavily on the sofa across from Hannibal, and remained silent for some time. Hannibal suddenly realized that this was something much bigger than local hoods or protection rackets.

"How much do you know about Nazi hunting, Colonel Smith?"

*****

Murdock hadn't moved. Hadn't stopped staring.

"You - you shouldn't be here."

"Probably not. Seems to be a pattern of mine - being where I shouldn't be."

He hadn't meant any animosity in the statement, but he caught Murdock's flinch.

"Is there... is there a problem? Are Hannibal and BA okay?"

He should've anticipated that. He didn't remember much of that brawl at the truck stop, but Murdock obviously did.

"Don't worry, Murdock. I haven't done anything to either one of them. They're both just find and dandy."

"I didn't mean - "

"Skip it." Suddenly, Face knew this had been a mistake. Murdock wasn't ready. Maybe Face wasn't either. He stood and moved toward the door. Murdock stepped back, again with that flinch.

"Damn it, Murdock, I didn't come all the way out here to beat the shit out of you."

"I know! I... know. I'm sorry. I just... I'm just not used to you... being here and being...you."

"That makes no sense."

"Well, what do you expect from a crazy man? You oughta know - " Murdock paled. "I mean, I meant..."

"Forget it." The last thing he wanted was a discussion about how he wasn't 'quite right'. Like he didn't know.

"So, uh, why did you come now, Face?"

"Hannibal said you think I'm dead. Thought maybe it was time to correct that... I'm getting a bit tired of it, you know? Getting to be a habit with you people."

"Is that supposed to be funny? 'Cause it's not."

Face turned, walking to the window. The room was getting smaller again, and having Murdock between him and the door didn't set well. He stared out across the wide lawn, forcing his breathing to slow.

Stay with it now. Stay with it.

"I'm sorry, Murdock. I just... I just wanted to make sure you were okay. That you knew - "

He stopped suddenly. Murdock had been surprised to see him, but not shocked. Like it was just an unexpected visit, not a return from the dead.

"How long?"

"What?"

"How long since you remembered?"

Murdock sighed. "A while now. A few months."

"So why did Hannibal tell me you still thought - "

"Because I didn't tell him."

"Why?"

Murdock shrugged. " 'Cause there were still things I didn't remember. Still don't remember." He looked up at Face. "And Hannibal would've... well, he would've been Hannibal."

"Pushy."

"Well, trying to help, but... yeah."

"And you weren't ready to be pushed."

Murdock shook his head, looking away.

"And now?"

Murdock didn't answer right away, and the longer he took, the more uncomfortable Face became. Just being here, in this hospital... Not like the others, but... Just as well Hannibal hadn't let him stay here. It wouldn't have worked. Pipe dreams.

"You okay, Face?"

Murdock was looking at him; maybe had been for a while, Face didn't know. Spaced out again. He had to get out of here.

"I have to go."

Murdock nodded, and moved away from the door, leaving plenty of room for Face to pass by. The relief he felt when the doorknob turned told Face he'd stayed too long.

"Face?"

He stopped, not turning back.

"Some things are best left forgotten, Face. For both of us."

He swallowed, nodded, and hurried down the hall.

*****

BA sat on the couch and waited. Hannibal hadn't said a word all the way back to the apartment, merely sat, staring out the window and holding that briefcase. Whatever this Fiedler guy wanted, it was something big. Something Hannibal hadn't yet agreed to. BA knew that just by the fact there'd been no big grin when he got in the van. He also hadn't reacted to Face actually being at the apartment when they returned, or coming into the livingroom willingly for the briefing. For the first time in months, Face and his problems seemed to be secondary.

Hannibal pulled a cigar and lit it, taking a couple puffs before starting. He told them about Fiedler, about the family, the camps, the information the family friend had brought.

"This friend of his father's has good intel. I just glanced through it, but it's solid. And I tell you, I'm itching to get this guy. Bad enough what they did to the people over there - this guy made a profit from it."

"Why didn't Fiedler go to that Jewish group - they hunt these bastards down all the time."

"I think if it was anyone else, he would have. But this guy - Oskar Neumann - beat Fiedler's grandfather, stole his watch, wedding ring, then sent him on to the gas chambers. This is personal for Fiedler."

"He don't want us to kill the guy, right?"

"No. He wants the bastard alive."

"Okay. So we gonna do it, right?"

Hannibal glanced over at Face. So far he'd seemed entirely uninterested in the whole affair. BA caught Hannibal's soft sigh before he continued.

"There's a couple problems. A couple of big problems. One, the guy's in this little town in Argentina. Two, things are not exactly tourist-friendly down there right now."

BA grunted. "Ain't exactly friendly for us anywhere, is it?"

"Yeah, well, it's going to take some planning. Transportation, weapons... can't just waltz in there armed to the teeth and haul away one of their citizens."

"Just where are we hauling him to, Hannibal?"

It was the first time Face had spoken and, quiet as it was, BA still jumped a little.

"Fiedler wants him brought to his home. He'll have people waiting there, friends of his, to take this guy to Israel."

"You sure that's what his plans are?"

"I told you - he wants this guy alive. He wants justice for his family. And believe me, Fiedler is not a killer."

Face shrugged. BA figured he would've had other plans for this guy, but wasn't about to say so. He glanced over at Hannibal, who only shook his head.

The three men continued with their plans, tossing out some, keeping others, working on the logistics. But throughout it all, BA kept glancing at Face.

He was getting a really, really bad feeling about this.