CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR

They had left The Meadows sometime in the early early hours of the morning.; since then they'd sedated Face twice and driven nearly 600 miles over 2 lane highways and back roads. When they passed through yet another sleepy little farm town and saw the whimsical sign "Y'All Come Inn", Hannibal decided they'd gone far enough.

The inn consisted of a regular little strip motel, coupled with a half dozen small cabins set back in the woods. The cabins themselves consisted of two double beds and a kitchenette. It would be a bit cramped for four men, but it would also be secluded and quiet.

"You can have your pick of the litter, mister. It's way past the end of the season, y'know. Most folks just take a room for the night and move on."

Hannibal glanced at the calendar as he checked them in. He was shocked to discover it was December 15. He couldn't even remember where they had been at Thanksgiving. LA, or Langley? No, he thought, it had been Houston. God, between hotels and airports, they hadn't even realized...

They pulled up to the farthest cabin. Hannibal and Murdock carried their few belongings in while BA brought Face, still in a drug induced sleep. After settling him on one of the two beds, his three teammates quietly discussed their next course of action.

"I don't like havin' to keep him drugged, Hannibal. If he's gonna keep fightin' us..." BA began.

"I don't think he will, Big Guy." Murdock finally decided he had to speak up. "After watching him last night, I don't think we're gonna have any trouble with him once he really wakes up. I don't think he'll have any fight left in him. I don't think he'll have much of anything left in him."

"Wha'd'ya mean, fool? He's back with us now. He's gonna be okay."

"Murdock's probably right, BA. Face thinks we hate him. He thinks we joined Stockwell. And he doesn't believe we'd forgive him. If he had really believed anything we told him last night, he wouldn't have given up to Stockwell." Hannibal puffed on his cigar, thinking deeply. "We'll stay here a day or so, see how he does. If he doesn't get violent, we'll start back to LA. I'll call Maggie, see if she can find someplace quiet for us to stay. But I think we'll plan on a light sedative, just the same." He was thinking of Houston.

"He's gonna need help, Hannibal. Not just us, I mean. Professional help."

This was going to be the really hard part.

"I know, Murdock. But he's not going to get it."

"What?! Hannibal..."

"Murdock, what do you suppose would happen if we took Face to say, Dr.. Richter, and told him, 'hey, doc, Face went overseas, killed three people, came back here, took hostages, wounded another one, tried to kill yet a fourth, and now he wants to die. Think you can help him?' How do you think that's gonna play, Captain?"

There was dead silence.

"God, Hannibal. I...I just don't know if we can do this on our own. There's so much at stake..."

"I know. Unfortunately, thanks to Stockwell, Face is no better off now than he was before the pardon. We're right back where we used to be - it's us, or nothing."

They had moved into the cabin in the late evening. Hannibal called Maggie, telling her only what he had to for now. They made coffee, settled in, tried to relax. Face started waking up around midnight. Having learned their lesson, the three men sat quietly, waiting for him.


*****

It was like trying to unravel himself from a tangled bed sheet, wrapped around and around and never ending. He felt he had almost broken free once, but the sheet had fought back, rebinding him. Now, he felt it giving way, grudgingly. The more it loosened, the more light was allowed in, the easier it was for him to breathe. Finally, the sheet was gone, he was free, and he slowly opened his eyes.

He was looking at white. White pebbles. White pebbles? A ceiling. Okay. He was in a room, then. On a bed. Where? He couldn't remember...A man on a street...his head exploded...no, that wasn't right...that was somewhere else...someone stepping on him...in tall grass...when...a knife...no...somewhere else again...some time else...white pebbles...a white haired man...Hannibal?...Hannibal...Stockwell.

He eyes snapped wide open. He bolted upright, glancing wildly around - where was he? Where was Stockwell? Hannibal?

"Take it easy, Face. You're okay. You're safe. We're here with you."

He heard Murdock's voice - there, next to the bed. Looking at him, eyes worried. Murdock had come from the curtains. Like a ghost. Materialized beside him.

He looked around - BA, too, at the foot. BA. BA had knocked him down. Stockwell. Stockwell going to shoot him. He'd waited for it. BA had knocked him down. BA had stopped him.

Where was Hannibal? Hannibal had forgiven him. Hadn't he? Where was he? Only the other two... Where are you, Hannibal? He had...hadn't he? Had he? Hannibal? Hannibal!

"I'm here, kid." Hannibal moved out of the glare of the lamp, closer to the bed. He held out his hand, tentatively.

Face grabbed the hand, the arm, the shoulder. He felt Hannibal pull him in, and he held on for his life. Forgive me...please...please...please...