CHAPTER THIRTY

Hannibal had been very happy with Maggie's success that morning. And yet, it had been a shock to see just how gaunt and pale Face actually was. He seemed to have aged 10 years, at least. Watching him at lunch, he realized how stressful the morning had been for his friend. He barely touched his meal, and seemed on the verge of falling asleep right at the table. It took only a word from BA for Face to go upstairs to sleep. But, BA reported when he came down, he had been alert enough to lock the bedroom door. Two steps forward, one step back.

They briefly talked about removing the lock. BA vetoed it immediately.

"You take the lock off now and you can forget about him ever trusting you again, Hannibal. You'd be taking away his security. Can't do that, man."

"He is safe up there, isn't he? I mean..." Hannibal hesitated to say it out loud.

"You don't have to worry about him hurting himself. Not yet." Maggie looked solemn. "Right now he doesn't have the energy to do anything, and he doesn't really care one way or the other. Once he's on medication, then you need to keep a close watch on him."

"That doesn't make sense, Maggie. The antidepressants are supposed to bring him out of it, aren't they? So why..."

Maggie looked at Hannibal sympathetically. They had discussed Face openly with her earlier. Well, almost openly. Hannibal had made it clear that Maggie was not to be told any details as to how Face got into this condition. Hannibal did not want to put her in a compromising position with the authorities. She had seen enough to know what kind of help Face would need from her. But there were so many things to try to understand, and so many were contradictory. Part of her job would be helping Murdock make them understand.

"The meds will help him, John. But there's a time frame where the depression isn't really lifted, but his energy level is. And it's when he's got that energy that's he's most likely to try something. He's going to recognize how depressed he is, basically. And have more clear thoughts about what got him there. And he's going to want to put an end to all of that pain. If we get him past that, then suicide's not so much of a worry."

"What d'ya mean, if we get him past that? You think we're gonna let him kill hisself? No way, Maggie!" BA was furious just at the thought.

"BA, I know we'll all do what we can. But people in that situation can be very devious. They know what they want to do, and they will do whatever they can to accomplish it. And we are talking about Face. He's not going to be easy to outwit, if he decides that's what he wants. I believe we can do it, but it's going to be very hard.

"However, we don't have to worry about that right now. We haven't even talked to him about taking meds. And it takes time for them to build up enough in the system to have any kind of effect. So we have plenty of time to deal with possibilities. In the meantime, we need to get him involved in as many so-called normal pursuits as possible. It shouldn't be too difficult. He seems to do whatever he's told, unless he feels threatened by it."

"Yeah, he's like a robot most of the time. Either does what he's told, or just sits there. It ain't like him at all."

"That's 'cause he doesn't want to think for himself, BA." Murdock was thinking back to his own dark days. "If you make yourself think, about anything, your mind starts going places you don't want it to. Places you aren't ready to deal with. So it's kind of a self-preservation thing. If you put your mind on hold, you don't go to those dark places. And then you're safe. So Face is keeping himself safe. A robot doesn't feel things. Can't feel, can't hurt. The only time Face acts on his own is when he feels threatened. And that's just basic survival instinct kicking in."

"He thinks we're out to hurt him, Murdock. Isn't that thinking for himself?" Hannibal sounded almost angry.

"No, that's just an idea he's got planted in there. How I don't know. But he's not really thinking about it - if he did, I don't think it would last. But because he doesn't think about it, it just sits there and festers and clouds everything for him."

"So what do we do for now?" Hannibal, the action guy, was getting impatient. He wanted to know what was going on with Face, but it was sounding like there wasn't a lot to actually 'do'.

"For today, we let him sleep. He's pretty stressed out. For tomorrow - you're going to take him out and get us a tree."

Maggie smiled at the startled looks her newest plan received.