CHAPTER SEVENTY

June 21, 1977

6 Years, 4 Months, 19 Days

It all came down to timing. Hannibal had to count on BA and Murdock doing their part on schedule, while making sure everything he and Face did went without a hitch. The slightest delay on either side could spell disaster.

Just like the old days.

He didn't know if the others felt it or not. He wasn't sure if he hoped they did or not. Watching BA and Murdock heading out in Pereyra's 'stolen' truck, he didn't feel the misgivings he should have, knowing how well they'd been getting along. Even watching Face hide the Colt inside the coveralls they'd gotten for disguises didn't dampen the feeling. It was building as surely as it had every time they'd headed for the chopper over in Nam.

Despite everything that could go wrong, that probably would go wrong, he felt like grinning. Hell, like laughing out loud.

He was jazzed, and damn - it felt good. It had been too long...

Face glanced pointedly at his watch and Hannibal nodded. Wouldn't do to be late to the kidnapping...

*****

Murdock pulled the truck over to the side of the road, pulling a map out and holding it conspicuously against the steering wheel. Anyone passing by would assume they were lost; hopefully there would be no good Samaritans among them. BA sat with the passenger seat pushed back as far as it would go, the side mirror adjusted so he could see the road behind them.

The truck was running, in gear, Murdock keeping the brake pedal down until the right moment. He grinned. Hannibal and Face may have their own snatch-and-grab, but this was a BA-sized operation.

"What you grinnin about? Pay attention!"

Murdock sobered immediately, at least on the outside. He knew damn well BA was just as ready for action as the rest of them. Two days when all they'd done was surveillance - it was enough to drive him up a wall, despite Murdock's attempts at entertaining. He'd learned a lot of fun stuff at the VA, but BA had been noticeably unimpressed. So, okay - he might have gotten a bit carried away. But he had to do something. Idle time meant thinking time and he didn't need that. Didn't need to think about that plane, for one thing.

No map in the world could give him every detail he needed to land. It hadn't been the smoothest job he'd ever done, but he wasn't too worried. Well, yeah, he would've liked to have spent some time going over the landing gear, but they'd had to unload and camouflage the plane. Then Pereyra had shown up and they'd had to get the hell out of there before the wrong people showed up.

But that was all right. It had just been a bit bumpier than he'd have liked. No problem.

No problem at all...

"Heads up, man. Here comes the first truck."

*****

Face grimaced as he pulled the wires out. It had been a while since he'd stolen a car, but he figured it was like riding a bike - you never forgot. The fact he hadn't learned to ride one until college - or who had taught him - was the thing he did try to forget.

He heard Hannibal shuffling his feet outside and smiled grimly. Hannibal didn't like this part of the plan, but to Face it made perfect sense. They wanted to keep Pereyra out of the picture, so what better way than to have another vehicle stolen and obviously connected to the kidnapping? And this one actually couldn't be traced to Pereyra or any of his friends. A total stranger. That was the part that bothered Hannibal. Face figured an anonymous 'rental fee' after Fiedler paid them would take care of any hassle the owner had to deal with. That, of course, assuming they made it back to the States with their hostage intact.

Face hesitated for a moment. He knew the colonel had been watching him - like he knew what Face was thinking. If you wanted to disappear, why not Argentina? So his Spanish wasn't that great. Practically zero, actually. But there were English speakers around. The fact that Americans weren't exactly welcome here didn't bother him. The only open arms back in LA belonged to the military. But tempting as it was, he had other things demanding his return with the others.

Debts still to pay.

"Face?"

He blinked and got back to work. The wires sparked - once, twice - then the engine suddenly sputtered and took. He sat up, grinning, as Hannibal hopped into the passenger seat.

"Neumann Express, at your service, Colonel."

*****

"Move it, Murdock! And keep this thing steady!"

"Don't worry, BA. Just like precision flying. All you gotta do is - "

"Shut up, you damn fool, and get up there!"

Murdock shut up. He knew BA would ten times rather be doing the driving but Murdock had to this time. No way he could handle that truck driver - let alone the truck. He wasn't even sure BA could. Hell, maybe BA wasn't either.

He pulled Pereyra's truck up close behind the tanker, easing up slowly. Their goal - the ladder on the back. BA had climbed into the rear of their van, sliding the door open, hanging on with a grim look as Murdock edged into the oncoming lane. They had only moments for this - at any minute somebody could come barreling toward them, or the trucker would notice what they were attempting. Either could mean disaster.

Not to mention the very real chance BA wouldn't get a good hold before Murdock had to pull back.

Hands gripping the steering wheel for dear life, Murdock pulled fully into the oncoming lane, accelerating to move up on the tanker, slowing to match speed.

"Closer, fool!"

Jaw clenched, Murdock moved to the right, feeling like he was going under the trailer. A quick glance in the rear view mirror. BA was halfway out the door, reaching...

Damn! Too close. He jerked to the left, heard BA's cussing, moved back to the right. Precision flying like hell!

Then a slight lurch to the van. Another glance in the mirror - BA was gone. Not knowing if they'd succeeded or if BA was splattered along the pavement, Murdock pulled left away from the truck, braking sharply, getting back behind the tanker, only then seeing BA climbing up the ladder. The truck hadn't slowed - so far so good. Murdock backed off, following at a more discreet distance.

He watched as BA slowly made his way along the catwalk on top, fighting the wind and swaying of the truck. After what seemed like an hour, he reached the front of the trailer and disappeared. Almost immediately the truck swayed wildly before suddenly swinging to the side of the road, coming to a halt in a cloud of dust.

Minutes later, Pereyra's van was parked off in a field. Unless someone were actually looking for it, it wouldn't be noticed for quite some time. Long enough for the team to make their getaway, at least. The tanker's driver was tied up in the back, waiting for rescue.

Murdock leaned back in the passenger seat of the tanker's cab, closing his eyes. He could relax now until they reached the plane. Then it would be all business again. And, God willing, within a couple hours they'd all be on their way home.

"Hey, Murdock."

Oh yeah - his 'precision driving'. He opened his eyes, waiting for the tongue-lashing.

"You did good, man."

*****

Hannibal checked the clock on the wall as they left the garage. Neumann should be arriving home after his breakfast; BA and Murdock should be on their way to the plane with the fuel truck. He and Face were finishing up the last errands before their part of the plan began.

The mundane task took a little of Hannibal's excitement away. He wouldn't even consider the lack of sleep. Last night - or early morning, depending on how one looked at it - he, Face, and Pereyra had taken the team's gear to this garage (another friend of a friend) and stored it. Their duffels were now in the stolen truck next to the refrigerator that was key to their success.

Just large enough for a man to fit in - uncomfortably, perhaps, but he would fit. He frowned. Face had suggested, only half-joking, that Neumann spend the entire trip in there, but Hannibal had nixed that idea. He didn't know which bothered him more - that Face would be that cruel, or that Hannibal had actually considered going along with it.

The slamming of the back doors brought Hannibal out of his thoughts and he climbed quickly into the truck. Face pulled slowly out into the light traffic and headed toward the outskirts of Bariloche. They followed the side streets as much as possible, keeping an eye on the clock, watching for any signs of the police. Hopefully, the truck hadn't been missed yet.

Hannibal knew that was another reason for the damper on his mood. He figured they might have trouble with Neumann. He figured they might have trouble with the local authorities; maybe even the guerillas. After all, that plane would be worth a lot to them. But the last thing he'd expected was a stubborn delivery man.

It should've been simple. They'd called the appliance store, placed an order for the refrigerator, and gave an address that Pereyra said was all new construction and not well-travelled. The truck arrived on schedule, and Hannibal expected to tie the driver up, grab the truck with the fridge, and that would be that. But the delivery man had other ideas. He ran. Not only that, but when they caught up and cornered him, he defiantly threw the keys away.

Face had given Hannibal that look he knew so well from Nam - the "I told you it wouldn't be that easy" look. Hannibal hadn't said anything, but he added it to his list of things to talk to Face about when this was all over. They tied the driver up - maybe a little too tightly, just to teach him a lesson about being a hero over a damn refrigerator - and took off only slightly behind schedule.

Hopefully Murdock and BA had had smoother sailing.

*****

It didn't look right. He didn't know why exactly, but it just didn't look right. Of course, it would help if he knew more about the plane. Or if he'd been flying more the last few years. Hell, if he'd been flying, period. But what would help the most would be if his head wasn't so foggy. He was zoned out, and he knew he had to come back. Had to.

He shouldn't have let himself relax. That was the problem. If he'd kept that heady rush going, he would've been okay. But he'd relaxed, and let his brain slow down, and now he just couldn't get it going again. There just wasn't enough spark left up there...

Didn't use to be that way. Used to be he could ebb and flow and jump right back into things without any buildup at all. But then, a lot of things were different now. Too many things. That just wasn't right. Not right at all. Like the -

"Hey, man! Get in there and check those gauges. Don't want fuel running all over the place."

Murdock nodded quickly and climbed aboard, practically running to the cockpit. He knew they weren't nearly full yet, but he wasn't going to argue. BA was in no mood for any of Murdock's 'messing around' after that trip through the city. They'd tried to map out a route that would be the least conspicuous, but that didn't stop people from looking. Probably not every day a fuel truck went roaring through their neighborhood. It wasn't until they'd passed Villa Catedral without anyone giving chase that BA had relaxed at all.

So now was not a good time for an argument. Definitely not a good time to ask the master mechanic if he saw something wrong with the landing gear.

Maybe Murdock shouldn't have suggested landing here instead of in Chile...

*****

Hannibal glanced at Face, trying to read his expression and failing. He hadn't liked the way Face had been acting this whole trip. Way too casual. The only time he hadn't seemed bored with the whole affair was when they were locked up in that room in Costa Rica, and Hannibal preferred the boredom act to that. Maybe now, while they were alone, would be a good time to try and get him to open up. Just get an idea of what he was thinking...

"Does this whole thing strike you as ironic, Colonel?"

Hannibal frowned. Not exactly what he'd had in mind. "Ironic?"

"Yeah. Here we are, fugitives from justice, chasing down this guy to hand over to the authorities. I'd call that ironic."

"Yeah, but we're innocent."

"We robbed that bank."

"Under orders."

"Yeah. That's what the Germans said."

Hannibal cut off his curt answer, though Face's comment angered him. As if what they had done compared at all to these bastards. Okay, he had to concede they might have been on the edge of legal, but...

Damn. How did he do it? How did Face always find the way to get under Hannibal's skin? And why did it always seem deliberate?

They finished the drive in silence, the tension - excitement? - building with each block. Turned the last corner - the house was visible now. Some foot traffic, a few cars parked along the narrow street. Their luck was holding - there were three open spaces in front of Neumann's. Face pulled the truck up in front. Was there a slight hesitation before he stepped out, heading for the front door? Wishing he had a cigar, Hannibal got out and headed for the back of the truck. Something was off; he didn't know what exactly, but there was more to that irony thing than Face had said. No time for thinking about it now. He saw Face reaching for his Colt as he climbed the steps.

Showtime.

*****

Face walked up the steps to the front door, his right hand casually tucked inside his coveralls, holding the revolver ready. He knew Hannibal thought he was too calm, but inside...

His finger hovered in front of the doorbell as he clamped his eyes shut. He should've kept his mouth shut. That damn irony bullshit. Thinking about the robbery and... and afterward. Should've stopped those thoughts before they even got started. Should have fought it back. Fought that image. Refused to see Harry. That grin...

Get thee behind me...

His finger jabbed the doorbell even as the buzzing in his head began. Keep it down. Down. Do the job. Neumann.

The door opened. An older man stood there, questioning.

"Herr Neumann?"

Obviously puzzled, the man nodded. Face pulled the Colt quickly and stepped inside, the barrel in Neumann's stomach forcing him back, fear and resignation immediately appearing on his face. Face shoved the door shut with his foot before moving through the foyer into the dining room, Neumann backing up the entire way. Jerking his head toward a straight chair by a marble fireplace, Face pulled the rope from his pocket. Quick glances showed him an opulent room, filled with expensive furniture and trinkets. He thought about the things Neumann had done to those poor bastards in the camps. Thought about him living here in the lap of luxury all these years.

Was Harry living well these days? A wife, kids? Nice home in the Laotian countryside?

Or was he really in the States, and not just a figment of Face's imagination? Following. Waiting. Grinning as he disappeared into the mist of Face's mind, knowing what he'd gotten away with. Knowing no one would be coming after him.

Hannibal didn't know what the real irony was.

*****

Hannibal casually unlocked the back of the truck, surreptitiously watching the street. No one seemed to take notice of the delivery truck, and he grinned to himself as he headed up the steps. The door swung open without surprises, and with one last look around, Hannibal quickly entered, closing the door and making sure it was locked. Nothing in the surveillance said Neumann ever had morning visitors, but he was taking no chances. He heard movement in an adjoining room and headed there, pulling his own pistol.

No chances.

He found Face tying Neumann up - and none too gently. The calm seemed to have deserted his lieutenant.

"Face - take it easy. He's not going anywhere."

"Damn right he's not."

"Face."

"Fine! You finish it." Without another word, Face dropped the rope and pushed past Hannibal.

Frowning, Hannibal went over to Neumann, loosening the ropes around his wrists slightly before starting on his ankles.

"Bitte... please... I have money - "

"Money won't help you this time, buddy. We have some friends in America who are very eager to meet you."

Neumann strangely seemed calmer at that.

"America, then? Not Israel?"

Hannibal straightened, glaring down at him. "America first, bud. I have no doubt you'll be seeing the Star of David before too long."

Neumann sighed, looking down at the floor.

Yeah, you bastard - you wondered when this day would come, didn't you?

He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket, winding it into a gag. Neumann's resignation changed immediately.

"No! No! I go quietly. Please - don't - "

"Sorry, pal, but I don't think I'll trust your word."

Neumann shoved himself up from the chair, vainly attempting to hobble away, tumbling awkwardly to the floor. Hannibal shook his head, straddling the man and forcing the cloth into his mouth, tying it firmly behind his head. Neumann continued to struggle as Hannibal dragged him back onto the chair, tying him to the back of it with another length of rope.

"Now just do as you're told, like a good little storm trooper, or it'll be that much harder on you."

Shaking his head, Hannibal left the room, searching for Face.