CHAPTER NINE

After Stockwell had announced their pardons, Hannibal knew without doubt it had something to do with Face. Something that required him to renew his training, brush up on his marksmanship. Something that was big, big enough to warrant the pardons. And he knew it wasn't anything good.

Keeping his fears to himself, he'd started combing through the newspapers. He wasn't sure what he was looking for, but he'd know it when he found it. It took him several days, but he finally found something. An article about two terrorists who had been shot while at a supposedly secret meeting. It was a very short article, just a blip really. Apparently they were fairly important guys.

Hannibal had thought back. There had been another terrorist...shortly after Face left. And no clues as to the shooter in that one, either. A real smooth operation.

He hadn't wanted to go where logic had taken him.

Hannibal had had no doubt that if Face had set out to kill those guys, he would have managed just as smoothly as this man - or men - had. The only thing was, Face would never do it. He'd never kill anyone except in self-defense, certainly not in cold blood. And the planning that had to have been involved - well, that would have been about as cold as you could get. And that just wasn't Face.

And yet...there had been something about the timing. It would take a couple of months to gather the kind of intelligence one would need to set up an assassination like that. Maybe longer. Face disappears, and a couple months later, the first one gets taken out. More time goes by, say more planning time, and then its the other two. Suddenly the team gets pardoned. If Face were involved in that nightmare, it would all fit, time-wise. And it would certainly explain why he had disappeared like he had.

'Bullshit. Face would never do it. It was just coincidence. Strictly coincidence.'

'So why hasn't Face contacted you, smart guy? There's no reason not to now. He has to know about the pardons. They included his pardon in the notices.'

'Maybe he's out of the country. Maybe he still doesn't know about them. It's only been a few weeks, after all.'

'Face wouldn't contact you if he'd been involved in those deaths. Even if he hadn't directly pulled the trigger. And especially if he had.'

'Bullshit. I know Face. There's no way he would do anything like that. Just no way. Not unless...'

That was when it had hit Hannibal like a bomb. Not unless the team was threatened. Seriously threatened. Things had come together in crystal clarity. The sudden appearance of the extra Ables just before those 'vacations' - vacations where Stockwell knew exactly where they'd be. Face's behavior that last couple of days, starting practically the same day the Ables came on board. The talk of Face being at the training camp, shooting the sniper rifle. The heightened surveillance around them. The forced down time. And then the pardons. Announced shortly after the double killing. No explanation why. And then no word from Face even after he had to have known that he and the others were free.

'Aw, Face, what did you do?'


*****

Face was in another hotel room. Where didn't really matter to him. He knew about the pardons - Stockwell had sent him his via courier the day after...well, after. Along with newspaper clippings about the rest of his team. He knew they had gone back to LA and he knew they would need money. He made a few calls to 'his' people and got the name of the attorney handling their affairs. A few more phone calls and everything they would need to access the team's money would be in the lawyer's hands in just a few days. Once that was taken care of, he relaxed a little. The guys didn't know how much money they actually had, how many investments he had made on their behalf. Scamming and killing weren't his only talents. They would be well taken care of.