CHAPTER THIRTY SIX

Murdock saw that at least Face was starting to notice what was going on in the room. He was watching BA set up the tree. Murdock turned, checking out the tree and wondering how long it would take to decorate it. Possibly all afternoon if he had to coax Face on every action. He turned back to his friend; Face had turned deadly pale.

"Face, what's the matter? What's going on?"

BA came hurrying over. "Whassa matter?"

"I don't know. He was watching you and he just got all white, all of a sudden."

BA looked at Face, who was slowly getting his color back. He looked at Murdock. "He was looking at the tree?"

"Yeah, he was watching you real close, and then he got all pale...It's okay, BA. I got it. I'll take care of it."

BA looked at him, puzzled, but went back to the tree.

Looking at the tree, the tree they were supposed to have gotten this morning. Maybe Face had remembered something. Something about the fight. If he had, Murdock needed to get him to talk about it. At least, acknowledge it.

"Hey, Face. It's okay now. That's all over with. You didn't do anything you shouldn't have, okay?"

Face looked at him. His eyes were as clear as Murdock had seen since they'd found him. And they were filled with a mixture of anxiety and fear.

"You remember what happened this morning, huh?"

Still holding his gaze, Face nodded.

"Pretty scary, huh? Losing control like that."

Face swallowed. He didn't want to do this, but... "Yeah."

"But Hannibal helped you get that back, didn't he? He got the gloves for you."

"Yeah. He...he fixed it."

Murdock wanted to do a somersault. Face was talking to him! Okay, stay cool, now, don't spook him.

"Yeah, Hannibal's good at that, isn't he?"

"Yeah."

"You wanted to hurt that guy, huh?"

"Yeah."

"Really hurt him?"

Hesitation. "Yeah."

Careful, Murdock. "Kill him, maybe."

Nothing.

"Face? You wanted to kill him, didn't you?"

Face's right hand twitched. Just a little.

"Yeah."

BA had stopped messing with the tree. He stood still, listening to the soft voices by the window.

"Why would you want to do that, Face?"

Another twitch.

"Face?"

"Go away." Face was closing down, fast. He looked out the window.

"Just tell me, Face. Tell me why. That's all."

Twitch.

"Go away."

"Face, talk to me. We need to talk about it."

Twitch.

"Face."

Murdock up against the wall, Face's hand on his throat, tight.

"Leave me alone!"

Murdock had never heard that voice before. It was feral. It matched the look on the owner's face.

Before BA could reach them, Face shoved Murdock to the floor and stalked off. As BA helped the pilot up, they heard the front door slam. Hannibal came running in.

"What the hell?"

"Face - out the front - get him - hurry!"

Hannibal was out the door. There was no sign of Face. Both vehicles were there. Where the hell did he go?

Hannibal made a quick circuit of the house and yard. Nothing. How the hell did he disappear so quickly? There was absolutely no sign of him.

He reached the front door as Maggie, BA and Murdock came hurrying out. He shook his head.

"What the hell happened, Captain?"

Murdock sighed, still holding his neck. "I guess I pushed too far, Hannibal. He was starting to talk, answer questions about that guy this morning. But when I tried to find out why he wanted to kill him, he didn't want to answer. The next thing I knew, he had me up against the wall. Then he took off." Murdock sagged. "I'm sorry."

"Not your fault, Murdock. Nobody could've expected that."

"So now what?"

"Spread out. But be careful. No telling who we're gonna find. Maggie, I want you to stay here, in case he comes back on his own. But for God's sake be careful."

Hannibal found him. Kneeling on the ground, the gloves a few feet from him, his right hand spread out on a rock. In his left hand, another rock, the size of a grapefruit. Hannibal froze in horror as Face raised his left hand, and brought the rock crashing down.


*****

Hannibal reached him before he could bring the rock down a second time. Face had not made a sound when the rock crushed his hand. When Hannibal grabbed his wrist, he dropped the rock and sagged.

"Face, my God, what are you doing?"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry..."

Hannibal pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and gingerly maneuvered the smashed hand so he could wrap it loosely, trying to staunch the flow of blood. He looked wildly around for the others.

"BA! Murdock! Over here! Hurry!"

Face was beginning to shiver.

"Hang on, Face. We'll get you home, just hang on."

BA arrived first. It took him a moment to take in what was going on. He reached down and maneuvered Face to a stand, carefully so Hannibal could hold his hand still. Murdock got there just as they started back to the house.

"Oh God, Face, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to..."

"Never mind that now, Murdock. Go let Maggie know we're coming."

They were in the hospital waiting room less than an hour later. Maggie had taken one look at Face's hand and herded them to the emergency room. There had been too much damage for her to fix in her small surgery. It was small comfort to the men that Maggie was observing in the operating room.

"What the hell was he trying to do, Hannibal?" BA just kept shaking his head in disbelief. He had reached the point where he didn't know if he could keep going like this. It was one thing after another, and he felt they were fast losing control.

"He felt guilty about attacking Murdock. Losing control yet again. Guilt, desperation - he wanted to destroy that violence in him. I guess he thought this was the way to do it."

"It's my fault. I pushed too hard. I should have let it go..." Murdock was beside himself with guilt.

"It's not your fault, Murdock, so knock it off. We all let our guard down. We should have realized things were still volatile. That fight was too much for him to handle."

The men lapsed into silence. Hannibal would agree with BA. Things were out of control. They were lost at sea. And Face was paying for it. And yet what other choice did they have? Only one. Hannibal had thought about it every time there was a new problem. It was distasteful to him and he knew the others would never go along with it. But maybe it would be a necessary alternative, at least for the short term. Until they could regroup. A private hospital. Not a treatment facility, where they'd ask a lot of questions the team couldn't answer. Just a place where Face would be safe. A human warehouse, damn it. He knew they were around. Places where families put loved ones they couldn't deal with any more. Where they were 'medicated' and maintained until whatever situation landed them there was settled. Or the families decided to allow them back. Very discreet, very private. Very cold.

No, the guys would never go along with it.

They lost track of time. It was three sets of defeated eyes that greeted Maggie as she finally joined them in the waiting room, still in her scrubs.

She sat down, exhausted. She had not bargained for this.

"He came through surgery fine. The fingers were pretty bad. There's nerve damage. He'll need therapy, but we don't know how much use he's going to have left in it. We'll just have to wait and see what happens after it's healed up."

It was not what they wanted to hear.

"I've spoken with the doctor in charge of his case. We're friends so he'll be discreet. He's going to start him on a combination of antidepressants and anti-psychotics tomorrow, after the anesthesia has worn off completely. He'll be here for at least 5-6 days. Then..." she shrugged.

"I'm sorry about all of this, Maggie. I didn't think it would be this big a mess. I hate putting you in the middle of it all."

"Oh, John, don't. I want to help however I can, you should know that. This isn't your fault any more than it is his. We've got a few days now to get things straightened out. I'm going to talk to some people who know more about this kind of thing than I do. It would help if I knew more about how he got this way, Hannibal. I know you don't want me to, but after all, I was dealing with you as fugitives before the pardons. My legal status surely can't get more tenuous than that."

"I don't really think you want to know, Maggie. It's not pretty."

"Hannibal, nothing you tell me would change my view of Face. I already figured it must be pretty bad for it to end like this. Now I need to know everything."