CHAPTER FORTY

No one was quite sure how Face would react to Bette Lotz. The rest of the team, having met the woman earlier, were favorably impressed. But whether Face would see her as a helper or not remained to be seen. When Murdock had told Face of the "new addition", Face had had one question - why?

"She's just going to help keep the house running smooth, that's all. A little housekeeping, stuff like that. She'll help you out, too, keeping track of things. Just to make things a little more routine for all of us."

Face hadn't bought it. They were military, they knew how to keep things in order. So it wasn't to help the team. Except to keep an eye on Face. Give them more time to work on him. Make him talk. Make him take the pills. Try to 'heal' him.

Time was running out for him.

Mrs. Lotz was already at the house when the team arrived, accompanied by Maggie. She smiled warmly at them and immediately moved toward Face. He straightened, but relaxed slightly when she stopped a couple feet away.

"You must be Templeton. Or would you prefer I call you 'Face'?" He looked at her. "Well, how about I call you Templeton for now. If you feel more comfortable with Face, you let me know, okay?"

The group moved into the house and started looking around. There was a large living room with two couches, dining room, library, and a kitchen that could easily feed an army. An immense sun room was off the dining room, overlooking a meadow, the mountains in the background. Upstairs were five big bedrooms, each connecting to an open balcony. Murdock was surreptitiously removing all the keys to the balcony doors. No sense tempting fate.

"Any preference, Face? Take your pick."

Face just shrugged. He'd already seen Murdock taking the keys. What difference did it make which room he chose? They were all his prison. Complete with keeper.

"Why don't we take the two at the end, Colonel Smith?" Bette was already taking charge.

"Sounds good, Bette. That okay with you, Face?"

"Yeah."

For the next few hours they got settled in and explored the house more thoroughly. Murdock, Hannibal and BA were especially mindful of exits they couldn't readily watch, or 'hazards' that needed to be eliminated or monitored. Face found the sun room and immediately sank into a deep cushioned chair facing the meadow. Bette promptly settled into a nearby chair, declaring she had done enough stair climbing and exploring for one day. Face barely looked at her.

'You aren't fooling me.'

The rest of the day brought growing resentment from Face. He maintained a stony silence no matter how much Bette tried to talk to him. When he got too restless and walked outside toward the meadow, she 'wandered' along behind him. She would give him no opportunities. It was maddening. Time. He needed time and it was running out too quickly. She was throwing away his chances.

The final straw came that night. Bette handed him his pills and waited for him to swallow them. He took the pain killers with no problem; he knew that the dosage was getting smaller and smaller. In a few days he would not be taking them at all. He hadn't told anyone the pain was still there. He wanted that energy. The others he palmed, as usual.

"Did you swallow them all, Templeton?"

He glared at her. How dare she question him like a child?

"Did you swallow them, Templeton? You need to take them all, you know."

He hadn't intended to let the cat out of the bag, but she had pushed him too far. He calmly showed her the two pills still in his hand and deftly flicked them into the no-man's land in the corner of the long hallway. Bette was somewhat nonplused. She'd had patients refuse their meds before but never so audaciously.

"You shouldn't have done that, Templeton. You need to take them to make you feel better." Firm but reasonable.

"I need to be left alone." Just as firmly he shut the door in her face.

Bette had no choice but report this to Hannibal. He, in turn, went directly to Murdock.

"This is your bailiwick, Captain. I don't care how you do it but he's taking those pills."

"It's not that easy, Hannibal..." Murdock would have to talk to Bette. She needed to come to him first or Hannibal would be hitting the ceiling every time he turned around.

"Well, what happened at the VA if someone refused their pills? How'd they handle this?"

"They'd try to talk him into it. If that didn't work, they'd have to go to a judge and get a court order to make him take them. If he still refused, they'd restrain him and force feed him the pills. I don't think that would work very well here, Hannibal."

The picture Hannibal had was not pretty. "They don't have shots or something...?"

"Nope. It's not that easy, like I said."

"Okay. Try to talk him into it. If that doesn't work, well,...just talk him into it, Captain."

"Yessir."

Murdock trudged upstairs with more than a little trepidation. Judging from what Bette had said about Face's attitude, and what he had seen himself that day, he felt like Daniel walking into the lion's den.

He knocked at Face's door. No response. Knocked again. Still no answer. He pushed the door open, thankful these doors had no locks. Face was standing in front the glass balcony doors, staring at him defiantly.

"Hey, Face. Sorry to barge in on you."

"Bull."

'Okay, this is already going so well.'

"We, uh, we need to talk, Face. About those pills, you know."

"There's nothing to talk about. I'm not taking them."

Murdock moved further into the room. He noticed Face shift slightly. Body language. Didn't really need to watch for it this time. He knew where this was headed. He wished he'd brought BA with him.

"Look, Face, those pills are supposed to help. You know, so you don't have to feel so bad all the time."

"I feel fine."

"Hey, c'mon, remember who you're talking to, muchacho. Been there, done that, y'know? I may not know exactly what you're feeling but I can come pretty close. And it ain't 'fine'."

"Just go away, Murdock. Tell Hannibal and BA you guys don't have to screw around any more. You're off the hook. Send Brunhilde there home and we'll just go our separate ways."

"What? What are you talking about?"

"Just what I said. No more obligation. You guys are off the hook. I resign. Quit. Off the team, 'muchacho'."

"Obligation? Face, we aren't here because of some obligation. God, man, we're trying to help you because you're our friend and teammate. You got here saving our asses, man! You'll never be off the team."

"C'mon, Murdock. The killer, remember? How the hell are you going to help that? That's pushing friendship a bit far and even I'm smart enough to know that!"

"Face, I..."

"Enough, Murdock! Okay? Enough! There's no fixing this! None. I've tried. Remember?" He held up the bandaged hand. "It didn't work. He's still in there, just screaming to get out. Waiting. And no pills or talking or damn near anything else is going to stop him. He'll just keep coming back!"

"So what's your solution, Face?" Murdock's own voice was hard as a rock.

Face hesitated just an instant too long.

"I'll go away. Someplace where he won't matter. Maybe back overseas. Where he can be more productive."

"I can't believe you're saying that, Face. No way you'd do something like that."

"Fuck it, Murdock, I already have! Accept it! I shot three people! Three people! Dead! By my hand!"

"You didn't have a choice!"

"There's always a choice! I could've figured out some other way. I could've taken out Stockwell. I could've taken his 'weapon' out of the picture right off the bat. I didn't have to kill them!"

Murdock had unconsciously been moving closer to Face. Face, in turn, had been tensing into 'combat ready'. Neither was aware that they were, in fact, slowly circling each other.

"Face, geez, c'mon, just relax, man, okay? Just...we don't have to talk about this any more tonight."

Bette, standing on the lower landing, had been listening with increasing concern. She couldn't make out the words but she could easily discern the anger in one voice, the desperation in the other. As the voices increased in volume, Bette decided it was time for help. She hurried downstairs and found Hannibal and BA already moving in from the yard.

Murdock was still trying to reason with Face. No, no, all he wanted to do now was calm things down. He was seriously worried that Face would try to hurt one or both of them. Murdock knew he would be no match for Face in either case. He berated himself again for not bringing BA along for this, as Maggie had instructed.

"C'mon, Face, we don't have to do this any more tonight. We can just relax and sleep on it. Tomorrow we can talk about the pills and maybe find some other way to work this out, okay? Just calm down."

"Shut up! Shut the fuck up and go away! I mean it! Get out!" Anger mixed with...desperation?

"Face, I can't walk out when you're this upset, man. C'mon, let's just ease off a little, okay?"

The next second, Murdock knew he was in big trouble. Face's voice became sardonic, nearly patronizing.

"You want to help your friend, Captain? Leave him alone. Let him go. We'll go overseas all right. You know why? Remember that truck driver, Captain? I was going to kill him, all right. And I was enjoying every last second of that insect's life!"

"Face, you don't mean that. I know you don't. Just relax."

"I don't need to relax, Captain. I'm just exactly the way I need to be. Exactly the way I want to be. Don't like it? Leave. Leave now."

Murdock realized he was way too close to Face. How had that happened? One second he was out of reach, the next...

"Face, I can't..."

Even one-handed, Face took Murdock down with ease. Right hand held up, his left covering Murdock's face. He pushed down on his nose, his mouth, he was smothering...

BA crashed into the room. One glance told him the story. He grabbed Face around the waist in a bear hug, exactly like the unhappy truck driver.

"BA his feet!" Hannibal shouted from the door.

Before Face could maneuver, BA pushed down, forcing Face's upper body toward the floor. Face yelled and fell still as BA's weight carried him down on his injured hand.

The near silence that ensued was as tense as the destruction before had been chaotic. Murdock groaned as Hannibal helped him up. Bette hurried in and checked his pulse and breathing.

"He'll be all right. Just needs to get some air into him."

"What about Face, Colonel?" Murdock was still gasping.

"What about him?" Hannibal started out the door. "I'm going to call Maggie."

BA put Face on the bed, Bette holding the reinjured hand carefully. It was already swelling badly.

"This isn't good, not at all," she told BA.

"Neither's Murdock." BA strode away to the pilot, and helped him out the door. He got him into his own room and disappeared downstairs. Moments later he returned with a padlock which he quickly affixed to Face's door.

"Is that really necessary?" Bette stood in the hallway, disapproval in her voice.

"For now, yeah. Enough is enough." BA glowered at the woman, who returned it anger for anger. BA snapped the lock and stomped downstairs, leaving Bette staring sadly at the locked door.


*****

Murdock had recovered without problem. Face was once again in the hospital, doctors trying to repair the new damage, with orders he be kept under heavy sedation. Bette alone had gone with him in the ambulance. Hannibal had announced his plans for Face after the ambulance left. Murdock and Maggie had both argued vehemently against him, but Hannibal overruled them both. He would not endanger the rest of the team for Face. Three days later Face was transferred to a private hospital up the coast, a place where they would ask no questions and report to no one except the person who placed him there - the patient's anxious 'father'.