CHAPTER ELEVEN

Hannibal stepped into the tent, looking closely at his lieutenant. Face's eyes were open, but dull and seemed to roam randomly around the tent. His whole body tensed when Hannibal touched the area around the bandages, and again when he checked the foot. Hannibal was relieved to find both warm but not hot. He looked back at Face, noted that those eyes were locked on him now.

"Don't worry, Face. We'll get you out of here and back to LA in no time." He smiled, but got no response.

He turned to Murdock. "Has he said anything, done anything?"

Murdock shook his head. "Nope, in fact this is the first time he's actually looked at anything. I think that shot sent him off to Never Never Land. Like the far side of Never Never Land. Like..."

"Okay, okay, Murdock, I got the picture." Now came the hard part. "Actually, I'm glad to hear that it hit him that hard. It'll make it easier." Murdock looked up at him, confused. "I checked our stores and Richie's, Murdock, and there's no way we can keep giving Face a full dose each time. It's going to be at least five days before that plane comes back and there just isn't enough to last that long. But if we don't have to give him that much..."

"Now, wait a minute, Colonel. We can't just willy-nilly cut back on the dosage. I mean, how do we know how much it's really gonna take? And he's not totally out of it, even now. You saw how he tensed up when you touched him."

"Murdock, I know that. I also know that if we run out before we get him to a hospital, it's going to be worse. That's why I need you to keep an eye on him, make sure he's not in too much pain, but that we're not sending him off to La-La-Land either. I don't like it, and I don't want him in pain, but he's going to have to live with uncomfortable." Hannibal looked down at Face. He was still staring at him. "We don't have any other choice."

"But, Colonel..."

"Murdock, I'm sorry. More sorry than you know. But there's nothing else I can do."

Murdock looked over at Face, frowning as he realized that Face was looking at Hannibal. How much had he taken in?

Hannibal stood for a moment longer. At some point, when Face was lucid enough, he'd have to explain it to him, too, but for some reason he thought Face would take it better than Murdock. He hoped so.


*****

"Tell Murdock?"

"Yes, and you were right, he didn't take it well at all." Hannibal sighed, taking the cup of coffee BA handed him. "I tried to explain it to him, but..."

"But he thinks you're gonna pull a miracle out of the sky. I tol you, Hannibal. But he'll come around. What about Face?"

"He's still too far gone to talk to. But like I told Murdock, that's a good thing. Maybe it won't be too hard on him. It's only five days. He's strong. He can handle that."

"Who you tryin to convince, Hannibal?" BA looked up at him. He'd known the colonel longer than any of the others, and he'd never seen him this...hesitant. "Hannibal, you okay?"

"Yeah, BA. Guess seeing Face in that damn trap hit me harder than I realized. We'll stick around until after lunch, give everybody a chance to rest up, then head out. Make a little progress, anyway."

'Yeh, and get away from here, too.' BA knew that's what Hannibal really wanted to do. He shook his head as Hannibal moved away, looking through more of the supplies. Man would have the whole camp memorized if he kept it up.

BA stepped into the tent, quietly so he didn't startle Face if he was awake. He wasn't. At least, his eyes were closed. Murdock started to speak and then saw it was BA.

"Hey, man. Why don't you go get some coffee or somethin? You been in here all mornin. I'll stay a bit."

Murdock almost said no, then changed his mind. He wanted to check the medical supplies himself. Not that he didn't trust Hannibal, but he might have misjudged the amounts. He wasn't used to dealing with that stuff, not like Murdock was.

BA sat stiffly in the campstool Murdock vacated. His eyes wandered involuntarily to Face's leg. It still made him wince. At least the color seemed good. BA looked up at his face, and was startled to see Face staring at him.

"Hey, Face. Glad to see you awake."

Face's lips moved, but BA couldn't hear what he was saying. He stood and moved closer. "Say again, Face?"

"Poach..." The word was slow and slurred.

"We got 'em, Face. Don't worry." He looked at him for a moment, then added, "You scared 'em good, Face."

His eyes already closing, Face smiled.

BA smiled back. Sometimes it was so easy...


*****

Spiro watched Murdock, the crazy guy, going through their medical kit. Strange. Smith had done that, a couple of different times. Now this guy. What was going on? He watched as Smith came up to the crazy man, and he didn't look too happy. This oughta be interesting.

"What's going on, Murdock?"

"Oh, uh, nothing, Hannibal. I, uh, just wanted to check the meds. I mean, I know you checked them already, but..."

"But you don't think I know as much about this stuff as you do."

"I just wanted to make sure, Hannibal. I wasn't doubting you, honest. I just..."

"Murdock, I understand your concern. But, one, I have no intention of deliberately causing Face any more pain than absolutely necessary. And, two, I don't intend to have the people under my command questioning my decisions. Is that understood?"

"Hannibal..."

"Captain. Is that understood?"

Murdock looked down at the ground, anger spreading over his features. Finally, he looked up at Hannibal, his face a calm mask.

"Yes sir, Colonel. That's understood."

He and Hannibal stared at each for another moment before Hannibal finally walked away. Murdock mumbled something to himself before heading back to the tent.

Spiro watched all of it, and smiled.


*****

Hannibal checked one more time on Face. He was a little more awake, but didn't seem to know or care what was going on around him. Good.

He stepped outside and checked around the camp. Or what was left of it. BA and Murdock were finishing the cleanup; otherwise the only thing really left was the tent where Face lay. Once everything else was done, they would move Face out, pack up the tent, and move out.

They had talked it over, and decided on the only way to handle everyone. One of them would take point, followed by two of the poachers carrying the litter with Face. Then one of the packhorses, followed by the other three poachers and the second team member, and finally the last packhorse. The third man would 'float' along the caravan, just in case. No one was happy with two prisoners carrying Face, but they had no other way.

BA stepped up to the first two men who would be handling the litter, glaring at them. They both stepped back anxiously.

"You listen up, suckers. You pull anything, and I mean the littlest thing, while you're carryin him, and you answer to me. Got that?"

Unable to speak, they both nodded. They, too, remembered BA from Nam, and there was no way in hell they were going to cross him. But after he walked away, they looked over at Richie, staring at them.

A rock and a hard place. They were going to lose no matter what.