CHAPTER SIXTY-NINE

June 17, 1977

6 Years, 4 Months, 15 Days

"So..." Murdock looked over at Hannibal, who paced slowly across the room. "Now what?"

"We're fucked - that's 'now what'."

Face spat out the words before turning to stare out the small window. Hannibal frowned, noting the stiff back, the hands shoved deep in his pockets.

"You did mention Mr Amon when you contacted the tower, right, Murdock?"

"Yeah, Hannibal. And the guy seemed to know what I was talking about."

"So why we locked up in here then? Hell, we ain't even done nothin yet! Where's those friends of Fiedler's s'posed to be here to meet us?" BA leaned against the wall of the small room, arms crossed. His eyes were on Face, as well.

"Well, we did get here a couple hours ahead of schedule, guys."

"Yeah, and why was that? Because you didn't trust the client!"

"Face, take it easy. I'm sure these guys called Amon and he'll be here very shortly to get us out. We just have to stay calm until then."

The look Face threw at him was not reassuring. Hannibal could sympathize - it had been a long time since Face had had to endure being locked up. That he hadn't exploded already was a credit to how far he'd come - but Hannibal held no illusions. The fuse was burning and there was no way of knowing how short it was.

So - diversion.

"Face, pull those maps out. Might as well get Murdock caught up while we're waiting."

Face hesitated a moment before stepping over to the duffel and pulling out the roll of maps. He spread them out on the table, sorting through them before pulling one and laying it on top. Hannibal stepped over and pointed to a spot on the map.

"Okay. We'll be landing somewhere near the Cardenal Antonio Samoré Pass, in Chile. Where exactly is up to you, Murdock, just so it's close to this road. Fiedler's contact - uh, Pereyra - will let him know when we're ready to move, and he'll have a fuel truck waiting in Chile." Hannibal allowed himself a smile. "Pays to have connections."

Murdock frowned, but said nothing, staring at the map.

"Once we land, we'll travel on foot to the border, crossing here, by the 231 highway. That's where the only tricky part is - we'll have to wait for Pereyra to show, maybe overnight. He runs a grocery store near Bariloche, and will pick us up in that. I figure three, four days, and we should be able to find Neumann, snatch him, and get the hell out."

"This buddy of Fiedler's going to get us back to the border and the fuel truck?" Murdock was still frowning, but thoughtfully. A good sign.

Hannibal sighed. "No. He can't be anywhere near Bariloche when we make the actual grab. He has to live there, after all. He's taking one hell of a chance picking us up. If we're found, without passports, carrying weapons - either the guerillas or the Argentine army is going to make us into arms dealers. Which means being paraded around for the papers and then disappearing. Anybody connected with us would be dog meat. Worse if they catch us after we grab Neumann."

The room was quiet. During all the earlier planning, the consequences had been alluded to, but never spelled out. Murdock was looking a little sick and Hannibal stared at Face, who glanced calmly back as he rolled up the maps. Hannibal hadn't had a chance to talk to him about Murdock on the way down here - Face had taken the co-pilot's seat and stayed there the whole flight. Had he even mentioned the dangers to Murdock? Had he even given him the option of not coming along to begin with?

Did he even care?

The door opened and the airport security chief stepped inside, followed by another man in a business suit, who smiled nervously at them.

"Gentlemen, my apologies for the delay. I am Santiago. Mr Amon sent me to... collect you. Please..." He gestured toward the door.

"Don't worry about your plane." The security chief looked at Santiago, not Hannibal. "My men will see no one disturbs it."

Silently they gathered their belongings and followed their escort to a sedan parked outside.

*****

Hannibal declined, on behalf of the team, when Santiago extended Mr Amon's offer to share dinner with him. Not only because he wanted the team rested before tomorrow's travels, but also because he was embarrassed. Mr Amon, and apparently Santiago, thought they'd arrived early deliberately; in fact, in all their planning, Hannibal had forgotten all about the Jewish sabbath.

He sent BA to the nearest market for their own dinner, and after they ate, sat down with Murdock to go over the maps one more time. Murdock's concentration seemed solid, and he'd certainly had no noticeable problems with the plane thus far. But there remained a simmering anger that Face had dragged the pilot into this without giving him the whole story, and Hannibal wasn't sure what to do about that.

Other than making sure Face would never pull something like that again.

"Hannibal?"

"What?"

"I think we could make this whole thing a lot easier. And safer for this guy in Bariloche, too."

"Oh? How?"

"Well, I can land right here - see? Just a few miles west of Bariloche. Just gotta fly low through these valleys - might rile up a few locals, but not likely anyone would realize the plane's from the States. 'Specially if we do a little paint job here and there before we leave. We can get picked up here." Murdock pointed to a highway on the map.

"Okay, but can you take off again?"

"Yeah, either over this village or the mountains. A little tricky, but there's no hoping this Fiedler guy can really come up with the truck. The airport's just over on the other side of town. Fix ourselves some phony work orders," he glanced over at Face, "and we can drive a fuel truck right out of there."

"All right. We'll plan on going over the mountain - the fewer people see us, the better. I'll have Mr Amon let Pereyra know." He clapped Murdock on the shoulder, grinning. "Good work, Captain."

"Well, that's why I'm here."

Hannibal looked at him for a moment, frowning. Glancing to see Face on the other side of the room, staring out the window, he leaned toward Murdock.

"What exactly did Face tell you about this job, Captain?"

"He told me you needed a pilot. That's all I needed to know, Hannibal. That's all I'll ever need to know."

For a moment, the two men locked eyes, then Hannibal nodded. If Murdock did have a problem with Face, he would deal with it himself.

The next morning, Santiago showed up at the small hotel to collect the team, explaining Mr Amon was still observing the sabbath. Hannibal was beginning to think perhaps Amon simply wanted nothing to do with this venture - not that he blamed him. Hannibal told Santiago of their new plans; the man apparently agreed with Murdock's assessment. After dropping the team at the airport, he immediately left to inform Mr Amon, who would, in turn, let Pereyra know.

Once at the airport, Murdock inspected the plane while the rest double-checked their supplies. Pay-off or not, Hannibal was being cautious. The security chief stopped by the hangar, frowning but saying nothing as the men painted over the tail-number. Only when the team was on-board, ready to taxi out of the hangar, were they left alone, and Hannibal could almost feel the collective sigh of relief.

The night before had been restless for all. It was finally hitting them - within hours they would actually be getting back into action none of them had really dealt with since Nam. Even that little stint with the mercenaries hadn't been like this. The team, and only the team, going into unknown territory... the surveillance... the hit and run tactics... If this were the same team he'd had back in Nam, Hannibal wouldn't have a single qualm. Now?

Now he could feel his fingers crossing.

*****

Senor Pereyra sat across the supper table from Hannibal, explaining, in only slightly hesitant English, the layout of the city and where the quarry lived. To Hannibal, it seemed like a fairly easy job. Neumann was a man of habit; every morning he went for a walk along the lake. Always at the same time, always for the same distance. He always ended up at a small cafe, where he had his breakfast. After breakfast, he walked back to his house and spent the remainder of the morning inside. Probably working on his damn memoirs - the glory of the Third Reich and his oh-so important role in the Grand Scheme.

Something Hannibal would take great pleasure burning.

Neumann's day continued with its predictability. For lunch, he went to a fashionable restaurant on the far side of the city, joined by friends. The lunch was always leisurely, lasting precisely two hours. Then he would go to a small print shop he owned. He would stay there until exactly five o'clock.

That's where the routine ended. Neumann was apparently a social animal, well-known and well-liked. Pereyra said he very seldom spent an evening alone at home. He either was attending a party or giving one, and they could last well into the night.

"Well, that's pretty cut and dried, then. We'll take him as soon as he gets back from breakfast. Nobody's going to miss him until lunch time."

"Right. Piece of cake." Face frowned, looking at the hand-drawn map. "You did notice he lives in the middle of the block, with plenty of neighbors. Not exactly easy to get in and out without being noticed - especially dragging a body with us."

"A body?" Pereyra's face paled. "I was told you would be taking him alive! I cannot - "

"Just a figure of speech, Senor. We'll more than likely have to knock him out, but we certainly have no intention of killing him."

Hannibal glared at Face, who shrugged it off. He'd been entirely too casual about this whole thing, to Hannibal's mind. And he had to admit, he wasn't sure he trusted Face. Or at least trusted how Face would react when the adrenalin started pumping. He hadn't forgotten what had happened to those guys in Alabama, or that orderly at Southern Life. Sure, the circumstances were a hell of a lot different, but there remained that chance.

Face hadn't gotten into any fights in a long, long time...

*****

Hannibal sauntered up the street, nodding occasionally to passers-by, never speaking. Just another elderly gentleman taking his morning constitutional. Pereyra had told him that, with the fedora pulled jauntily down and dark sunglasses, no one would take a second look. But if he spoke - it would all be over. The entire neighborhood, if not the entire town, would know in hours that there was an American in town. That could cause problems itself. Only a few months before, a group of Americans had been jailed, beaten and tortured before finally being released. All because they'd had some pamphlets the government didn't like.

The bigger danger was to Pereyra and any other Argentinians who might be connected with the team. Thousands had already disappeared in the government's attempts to eradicate leftist opponents. Hannibal was under no illusions what would happen if there was the slightest hitch in their plans, if there was any hint that Pereyra had anything to do with this kidnapping.

He wasn't about to let that happen.

As he passed Neumann's front gate, noting carefully the houses on either side, the traffic on the street, the doors and windows, he once again felt that tug of anxiety. He knew his guys could pull this off. He knew it.

And he would keep telling himself that.

*****

"Can't do it."

BA scowled. He'd figured as much when he saw the guard shack, but the finality in Face's voice irritated him anyway.

"Maybe they wouldn't notice."

"Right. We could just waltz right in - inspectors without official uniforms, official car, official paperwork - grab a few blank work orders, glide on out... Piece of cake."

BA scowled even deeper. He'd never liked Face's sarcasm. Never.

"So what now?"

Face sighed, looked over at Pereyra, who shrugged.

"Only thing we can do. We'll have to come out here tonight and steal a truck. Refuel and haul ass with it as far from the plane as we can and still get ourselves back in time for the snatch."

"And hope none of them people out there report us? If they ain't already."

"I told you - even if they found the plane, they won't say anything. They're too afraid of who you might be." Pereyra spoke from the driver's seat.

BA quirked an eyebrow at him. "You got a lot of people scared down here, don't you?"

Pereyra looked at him. "Senor?"

"Guerillas blowing up everybody, government dumping people out of airplanes... Hell, man, you live in the same town with Nazis!"

Pereyra smiled bitterly. "What would you have us do? Shoot them?" He pulled a cigarette, handing another to Face. "Peron let many Nazis in after the war, but he also recognized Israel. He let us hold public office for the first time. It is no different here than anywhere else - we take what we are given, try to make it prosper, and hope we can keep it for a while."

"Well, at least we'll get rid of one of them for you."

Pereyra gave a bitter chuckle. "Yes, and after you leave, we will board up our windows and lock our doors and prepare for another Eichmann. But your boss in America - he will be happy."

Face stared, clearly puzzled. "If you know that's going to happen, why help?"

Pereyra tossed his cigarette and started the car.

"Because he is a Nazi - and I am a Jew."

*****

"That won't work, Face. You steal a truck from the airport, you'll have the authorities on your ass within minutes. No way you could lose them with a truck that size."

"Well, we can't go back to the original plan, unless you want to fly out of here, drop down in Chile, wait for the truck - "

"Okay, Lieutenant. I get the picture." Hannibal glared, but Face just shrugged. "How long will it take to refuel, Murdock?"

"At least an hour, Colonel. A lot depends on the pump that truck has."

Hannibal paced the small terrace. Despite the chill, he'd elected to talk out here, away from Pereyra's family. He could feel the anger every time the man's wife looked at them, and was under no illusions about who she would turn on if push came to shove. Not that he blamed her - her husband's participation was out of obligation, not fervor.

"Pereyra, those trucks come in every day, right?"

"Yes, from the depot to the north. There are at least two or three trucks every morning."

"Do they travel in a convoy or separately?"

Pereyra shrugged. "Not together, not apart."

"Okay, staggered. That'll work." Hannibal grinned. Things were starting to look up. "BA, the next two mornings you and Murdock will be checking out those trucks. Pick your spot - and make sure you've got a quick and quiet way to get to the plane. Understood?"

BA glanced at Pereyra and nodded. Murdock opened his mouth, quickly shutting it and nodding as well.

"And I suppose you and I are going to deal with Neumann?" Face straightened, rolling his shoulders. The picture of boredom.

"Yeah, you and I get the dull part. If you think you can handle it."

Face looked at him and for a moment, Hannibal thought he might have pushed the wrong button. Then Face grinned insolently and sauntered toward the door.

"I can handle it, Colonel - just hope you can."