CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN

Time passed slowly and awkwardly. Face spoke to no one and responded only as absolutely required. BA just took it as it happened; he made no demands on Face, appeared to have no expectations other than he didn't try anything "stupid". Hannibal was definitely having problems. Murdock understood that. Hannibal had expected some kind of emotional scene, anger, sorrow, fear - something. But the total shut down he was confronted with left him clueless as to what to do. And Hannibal liked to "do" things. With Murdock, he could play along or bring him back down to earth, depending on the circumstances. With Face, there was just nothing there to work with.

BA had gone to the other cabin. He'd slept on and off since coming to the motel, but hadn't really had a good sleep, waking every time Face had stirred. He'd given them one last look before going - a reminder about the sedatives.

Face certainly gave no indication he might tempt them to drug him. He sat on the bed, back against the headboard, hands in his pockets, and either watched the opposite wall or just closed his eyes. He wasn't sleeping; he was just closing the doors. Murdock noticed, with a little concern, that every time Hannibal moved, Face would jerk, just a little, and watch him. Once Hannibal settled again, so did Face. As to himself, Face seemed to almost consciously ignore the pilot. Murdock would make a comment or joke, looking right at him, and Face would just look back at him for a moment and then close the doors again.

It seemed that Face was only comfortable around BA. And Murdock found that interesting. Was it that BA had continually promised to keep Face safe throughout all those hours? If that were the case, did that mean he didn't feel safe with either Murdock or Hannibal? That thought was unnerving.

He was tempted to try and talk to Face about 'things' that afternoon, but decided, especially considering his thoughts about Face's feelings toward him, that it was too early for that. He would try to draw him out, get him to at least respond to questions, but that was all. From the way things were going, that might be miracle enough for today.


*****

Hannibal had read the local rag four times so far. He kept trying to find little odds and ends in it to tell Face about, trying to engage him in some kind of conversation. But no matter how funny, or odd, or just plain dumb the articles were, Face had no response at all. In fact, the only time Face even moved was when Hannibal would shift in his chair, or get up for yet more coffee - in fact, any time Hannibal moved, Face was watching him. It was unsettling and certainly didn't help Hannibal's restlessness. Finally he'd had enough.

"Murdock, Face, I think we need to get out of this cabin for a while. Get your coats, we're going for a hike."

Murdock was immediately up for it. It would do them all good to move around, get some fresh air. Maybe they'd even get Face to open up a little, looking at the new sights of the small town.

Face looked at the two of them, almost suspiciously. What was that about? They were going for a walk, for chrissake. Hannibal looked at him again.

"Coming, Face?"

"Ok." Without another word or look, Face slowly took the coat Murdock held out for him and headed for the door. Hannibal scribbled a quick note for BA and followed.

The motel was right on the edge of the little town, which was your typical little farming community. While Hannibal had said 'hike', it was really just a leisurely stroll down the main street. Which was all of five blocks long. As one would expect, there was a drug store, a small grocery, two hardware stores, a bakery, a bank, and various small tourist traps. At the opposite end of the street were rival implement dealers. Turning out of the business district, they wandered through street after street of large older houses. The further out they moved, the smaller and more modern the houses became. Then it ended abruptly in farm fields. Here they stopped, watching a small herd of beef cattle grazing among the corn stalks.

"This could be a good kind of life," Hannibal mused. Murdock looked at him, surprised. He got a smile in return.

"I grew up in a place like this. You knew who everybody was, what they did, why they did it. If you looked far enough, you could find a family connection of some sort among damn near every resident. It wasn't Joe Blow - it was Ed Blow's kid, Joe. You knew who someone was by who their family was."

Face shifted slightly, watching the cows.

Damn.

Hannibal was beginning to think he was going to be the biggest problem in Face's recovery. He couldn't seem to do or say anything right any more. No matter how innocent or well meaning, it got screwed up.

"I'll bet you had the ol' swimming hole, and tipped over outhouses and everything, huh, Hannibal?" Murdock, God bless you, coming to the rescue.

"Yeah, we had the swimming hole. No outhouses - I'm not that ancient." Hannibal grinned. "But things were a lot simpler. Not just the times. The people. Small towns are like that. Oh, sure, there are your little battles and scandals, but everyone knows about them and it doesn't really mean anything. People don't take that stuff seriously. They aren't running around trying to beat out the other guy. I don't know; they just seem to enjoy life more."

It was getting cold again. The afternoon had drifted by without them really noticing. BA would probably be having a fit; Hannibal's note said they'd be back in a couple of hours. They'd already been gone nearly twice that. Murdock and Hannibal tried to hurry, but Face just shuffled along at the same pace, hands shoved deep into his pockets, head down, watching his feet move, one after the other. He hadn't looked around the whole afternoon except when they had actually come to a full stop. He might just as well have paced in the cabin.

By the time they reached the cabin, they were all chilled. Except BA. He was steamed. Once they got past his murderous glare, Hannibal and Murdock almost laughed at the solicitous way the big man hovered over Face. He had immediately asked Face if he was okay, and surprisingly, Face had responded with "I'm fine." After that, BA relaxed but still kept an eye on his charge.

Murdock and Hannibal had exchanged glances at Face's sudden fit of speech. What was it with him and BA? What was it about themselves that Face didn't trust? And how were they going to breach that gap?