CHAPTER SEVEN

He spent a lot of time staring at his hands. Not just staring, actually, but studying them. The nails, the cuticles, the wrinkles of the knuckles, the blood vessels on top, the lines of the palms. They didn't look any different. Not really. Darker, of course. But not 'different'. For some reason, that didn't seem right. They should look different. They should. Because they were. Really. They weren't his hands any more. So they should look different. They should look...dirty. They should be ugly hands. The fingers shouldn't look long and graceful. They should be stubby and ugly. Bent. Yeah. Ugly and bent. That's how they should look.

He stuck them in his pockets.

Wandering to the window, he looked over the new vista. He'd left the city within an hour of the shooting. All the paperwork, photos, everything that had to do with the job had been collected by a clean up crew while he was out. He had picked up the remainder of his effects, being careful not to touch anything and re-contaminate the site. He had gone to a produce truck and climbed into the back, legs hanging over the tailgate, and ridden silently to his new abode. They had been stopped three times on the way out of the city; being deaf and dumb, a victim of the past war, he had been dismissed by the guards. The first thing he had done on arrival was to remove the fake scar from his throat. There had been no way anyone would know he spoke little of the local language.

He had no idea how long he would be in this new place. Nabeeh, the next in line, would undoubtedly have disappeared immediately upon hearing the news. It would take some time to track him down. The new intelligence reports would start filtering through to him later, but they would be of little use to him. For the next few days they would only tell him what he already knew - Nabeeh hadn't been sighted yet. Which meant he would be left with a lot of time on his hands.

At least he was able to move about more, not stuck in the house as he had been at the apartment. His supplies would still be delivered, so he would not have to make direct contact with any of the locals. The idea was to remain isolated, avoid any possibility of being detected. Which was fine with him. He wanted no human contact.


*****

Out of desperation to keep them occupied, Hannibal had had Stockwell bring their weapons out of storage. These were each member's own personal favorites, the ones they had broken in over the years and preferred over any others. Although they were cleaned thoroughly after every mission, Hannibal had decided they needed to broken down completely and inspected. There were two problems with this diversion. One, it left Frankie without anything to do except get in the way. Two, cleaning was so automatic it left room for talk.

"It ain't right, Hannibal. We woulda heard somethin' by now."

Hannibal knew BA was right. Even if Face had decided to cut and run, he would have found some way of letting them know he was all right. He wouldn't have just disappeared without a trace. Almost three months. Stockwell had given them some so-called updates - he'd been spotted here or there with his girlfriend, but had vanished before he could be collected. But the general had said nothing for the last several weeks. Something else was going on.

"I know, BA. I know. I wish to hell there were some way of looking for him. But I can't risk one of us getting shot. That wouldn't help Face or us."

BA scowled as only he could. He knew Hannibal was wanting to go after Face, but he was stymied by Stockwell's goons. None of them could move from the house itself without being obviously followed by at least three Ables. A couple of times, guns had actually been drawn when one of them had ventured too close to the perimeter. They hadn't had any serious missions, quick side trips almost. A couple days here, a couple days there. Most of their time was spent here. Doing nothing. How many times could he strip the van down and rebuild it, anyway?

Murdock wasn't helping things any. He had been fired from his last job after snapping at the owner, almost a month after. He moved in with the Team, sleeping in Face's room, rarely talking to anyone. When he did talk, it was one wild speculation after another as to what Face could be doing, where he might be. Or making dark comments about the team not going after him. It was all BA could do to keep from literally knocking some sense into him.

Frankie was the only one who seemed unaffected by events. He was never that keen about going on their missions, so their forced inactivity suited him. Not that he didn't wonder about the wayward lieutenant. He'd voiced his own opinions about it. None showed any real knowledge of what Face was all about, but at least it showed he wasn't just forgetting about him.

'Hey, what about this one? I could clean it, right?"

Murdock damn near had a fit. It was Face's rifle. He'd had it with him since Nam and wouldn't let anyone, absolutely anyone, touch it. Murdock didn't know the significance of it; it was one thing Face would not discuss with him. But he knew Face would have exploded to see Frankie, of all people, handling it. The pilot grabbed it from Frankie's hands, scaring the bejeebers out of him.

"No, Frankie, this is Face's and nobody cleans it but him. I don't know why they brought it over..." And then Murdock stopped, and looked at the rifle, puzzled.

"Hannibal, this is clean."

Hannibal looked up. "Of course it is, Murdock."

"No, no, I mean, CLEAN. Look at your Ingram. When was the last time you used it?"

Hannibal picked up the Mac 10. It was clean, but it was obvious it had been in storage for some time.

"Last time was about four months ago. Why?"

"Look at this rifle, Hannibal. It's cleaner than the Ingram. It shouldn't be. Face hasn't used this in at least six or seven months."

Hannibal reached over and took the rifle. That was strange. He knew it hadn't been out of storage; Hannibal had to ask for specific weapons every time they went out. And he hadn't asked for this one...

BA looked over at Hannibal. That rifle was not something Face liked to use if he didn't have to. That was his sniper rifle. It brought back memories Face didn't like. He remembered Frankie talking about that terrorist getting shot by the sniper. BA had wondered at the time if that guy used the same kind of rifle. Face wouldn't have used any other. But then Face wouldn't kill anybody anyway. He'd get himself killed rather than that.