CHAPTER FORTY FOUR

Face realized now that he had become too complacent. He thought the only danger was from the team. He knew better now. He had almost forgotten Stockwell. Stockwell was not finished with him; therefore, he was not finished with Stockwell. He had to regroup. Make plans. Get out of here.

Okay. Okay. One thing at a time. He had to come out. He had to stay out. He would just have to deal with the nightmare out there as best he could. Just until Stockwell was out of the picture. Then he knew the team would truly be safe. After that, well, after that he knew what he needed to do. No point in dwelling on that. Damn damn damn. Face just wanted to rest.

You knew it was a mistake, bud, letting Mama in. Letting her give you those pills. And Murdock. You got weak there, too.

Face had thought maybe there was a chance, just a chance he could have something back. Just a little something. The sunshine. That had been nice. He really had thought, for just a little while, that he could have at least those things back.

Foolish, foolish boy. You don't deserve those things, bud. You should have known. The price, bud. Remember the price.


*****

Hannibal, BA and Murdock had their hands full setting up the perimeter equipment. Hannibal wasn't sure if it would do any good, or if it was even necessary now. He didn't think Carla would come back to the farm. She would know their defenses would be up now. No, it was more for peace of mind than actual security that they were installing the cameras and other devices. Carla would hit them somewhere else the next time. He worried about Maggie. Maybe she should stay with them on the farm. At least Mama was here, out of her reach, at least now. Who else could she go after? Father Magill? No, he didn't think even Carla would go that far. That would mean involving the Church. He didn't think she'd want that kind of complication. That only left Dr.. Richter. Again, that would involve the wrong people. No, Maggie was the only weak link right now.

Periodically one of them would make a quick run back to the house to check on things. Mama seemed to have recovered from the attack. She was tough, just like her son. She was more angry now than anything. Face...Face had gone back into his shell. Deep this time. Even Mama hadn't been able to bring him out yet. Hannibal hoped it hadn't set him back too far. He cursed the day he'd ever met Stockwell and his bunch.

Murdock was having a hard time, too. He had finally broken through to Face and now he'd lost him again. He was torn between helping set up their defenses and wanting to be with Face. He knew Hannibal didn't really think the precautions they were taking were really needed now, but they couldn't be sure. He kept his fingers crossed that Mama would be able to get to Face, somehow.

BA was working like a madman. He would have his mama protected before the day was done. Wasn't no one gonna get to her again. He'd tried to send her packing to Chicago, but she wouldn't hear of it. She was staying with her 'boys'. And Hannibal had reminded him that Carla would know where she lived; she was safer here with them than back east. So he was going to make sure she was as safe as she could possibly be. And God help that Carla when he caught up with her...


*****

He was ready. He'd been working up to this all day. He wouldn't let Mama know it was happening. He couldn't. She would try to force things and he wasn't ready for that. This had to be on his terms. The images were there again. He thought of Stockwell. Concentrated on him. The images started fading. Okay. So that's the way it had to be. Focus on the mission. It wasn't finished yet. Focus on that. Focus. Keep everything else at bay.

Okay. Things were coming back now. Sights. Sounds. Even smells. That was new. He hadn't noticed them before. Good. He saw Mama, sitting off to the side. Every now and then she would glance over at him. He pretended not to see her. At some point she would leave him. He hoped he would be ready. He looked down at his body, sitting in that damn chair. It would be a problem. Too long immobile. He would have to use all his resources. All of them. Like with the gun. He didn't know exactly where that strength had come from. Well, he'd use it now, to his advantage. Control. He'd had it once, he'd bring it back again.

He very carefully tried moving his left arm. It still hurt from the glass but he could move it. Enough anyway. Right arm. Okay. He looked at his hand. He regretted that now. Had he remembered Stockwell was still out there...didn't matter now. His left hand would just have to take care of things now.

Another glance at Mama. Damn. Had she seen something? No, she went back to her reading. Good. Now the tough part. Legs. Could he even move them, let alone walk? He tried the left leg. Nothing. Try harder, damn it. Harder.

His leg jerked. Too much. Mama looked up, startled.

"Face?" She came hurrying over.

Keep quiet. Quiet. Don't look at her. Not in the eye. See through her.

"Face?"

She looked closely at him, shook her head in puzzlement, and went back to her chair. She sat, watching him for a few more moments. Went back to her reading. Finally.

Okay. He could move the left leg. Not well, but he could. He would need to wait a bit to try the other one. That was okay. He would keep working. He had time. Not a lot. But enough.


*****

What time was it? Late, he knew that. It was dark out. There wasn't another sound in the house. Good. No prying eyes. He went through the maneuvers again for what seemed like the thousandth time in the last week; arms, legs. Right leg still moved better than the left. Not much better but a little. Now, could he sit up again? Barely. Man, that hurt. No muscles left. Nada. He could at least get in the wheelchair. He hoped. He hadn't dared try it before now. Then out the sun room door, across the yard. He'd have to break into the van. BA always, always locked it. He hoped he wouldn't be too rusty for that. Then he'd have to hot-wire it. And get out of Dodge before the others could get downstairs. Great. Piece of cake.

Hey, don't worry about, bud. We'll get there. We'll get the job done. We always do.

Right. He moved to the edge of the bed. How could he be so out of breath already? He could feel his arm muscles trembling, just from the effort of holding him upright. Great, just great. Stockwell would laugh himself to death if he could see his adversary right now.

Shut up and get moving, bud.

Right. He grabbed his sweatshirt. That hadn't taken much practice at all. Pants. Those he still couldn't handle easily. He had to stop for a few minutes, catch his breath yet again.

Move it, bud.

He reached over, pulling himself into the wheelchair. He fell into it, one leg hanging up on the arm rest. He sat there for a few moments, not only trying to gather himself together but trying to determine if anyone had heard his graceless moves. Nothing. Okay. He pulled his leg off the arm and settled himself into the seat more comfortably. He slipped his feet into tennis shoes. He couldn't tie them but it was better than nothing. Taking a deep breath, he started pushing himself toward the door. It wasn't easy, one-handed. He had to try and guide the chair with his feet, which weren't cooperating. He hadn't thought it would be that hard to move a wheelchair, for God's sake. By the time he finally reached the door, he was afraid he wouldn't be able to go any further that night. Hell, that year. His whole body was running with sweat and trembling with the exertion.

C'mon, wimp, get going. You gotta be outa here before anyone wakes up.

I know, I know. I'm going.

He fumbled with the lock on the door. It was old and stuck a bit. Damn, was anything going to be easy tonight? Well, yeah. At least the sun room opened directly onto the lawn - no steps. That would've been a real treat. As it was, the ground was wet with dew and slippery. It seemed like if the wheels weren't slipping, his feet were. And it was cold out here, too, despite his sweat clothes.

Any more complaints, hero? Want to give up, go back to bed? Wait for Stockwell to kill them all off?

Shut up.

He was near the corner of the house when he saw him. BA. Damn. What was he doing out at this time of night? Patrolling. He hadn't known about that. No one had talked about those kinds of things around him. Had he heard anything? Seen anything? No. No, he kept walking, around the front of the house. Okay. He had to move. Now. Quickly. If he could get around the corner of the garage, BA couldn't see him from the house.

Move it, bud.

After what felt like an eternity, he reached the garage. He sat for a few more precious minutes, trying desperately to catch his breath. Waited for BA to come around the house again. Waited. There. Would he notice anything? No. Too dark. He was looking around the perimeter, not at the ground. Face held his breath as BA came within a few yards of the garage. Cursory patrol. They must have other security measures in place. BA just being paranoid.

A few more minutes, just a few more minutes and he'd be in the van. He could hot-wire it in a few seconds. BA moved around the front of the house again. Face started pushing again. Almost there. Almost.

Face sagged in defeat. His picks. He didn't have his picks. Think, Peck, damn it. He looked at the chair. Anything there he could use? Not really. Purely mechanical. No small wires. Wait a minute. He looked up at the van. Antenna. The very end of it was pretty small. It'd be a butcher job but it might work. He reached up, just barely reached it. Grabbing hold, he took a deep breath and pulled with all his strength. The antenna jerked but didn't come off. Shit. Taking a firmer grip, he pulled himself upright. One more time. He jerked again, falling heavily back into the chair. Triumphantly holding the freed antenna.

Funny what you can do when you have to.

It was definitely a butcher job on the lock. But he got it open. Where was BA? He should be coming around the house again. Nothing. Where was he? Face couldn't wait much longer. He had to get going. Take the chance. More sweating and cursing under his breath getting up out of the chair and into the driver's seat. Rest a minute. Okay. Dashboard. Wires. Which ones? Which ones?

You idiot. This is child's play, bud. Just do it.

The engine suddenly roared to life. Face pulled the door shut, wrapped his right wrist around the shift and yanked it into reverse. Hitting the gas, the tires spun. He almost lost control of it but managed to get his foot on the brake pedal, slammed the brakes on. Pushing into first gear, he again spun out, straightened the wheel and roared down the drive, running right over the wheelchair.


*****

"What the hell?"

Hannibal jerked awake at the roaring engine outside. He raced to the window, wondering how the hell anyone had gotten past their alarms. He saw the taillights swerving down the drive. Damn! He raced out and met Murdock and Mama on the stairway.

"Check Face!" he shouted, running out the front door.

BA was already there. He was staring in disbelief at the driveway - no van, the remains of the wheelchair - when Murdock came racing out of the house.

"Face is gone, Colonel! Someone must have grabbed him..." he stopped, seeing the chair.

"Call Maggie, Murdock. We need her car, fast."

"Right." Murdock galloped back into the house.

BA was looking down the drive, watching the dust settle in the early rays of the sun. He shook his head. The alarms had been going off in the house for a good five minutes, set off by his precious van's departure through the gate.

"Hannibal, there ain't no way anyone got through the perimeter without settin those alarms off. No Way."

"Obviously someone did, BA. We must have missed an area."

BA shook his head. No. They hadn't missed anything. He knew. He had checked every inch of that line. He headed back to the sun room, watching the ground. He only went a few feet before he knew. The marks of the wheelchair in the wet grass showed easily in the early morning light. So did the scuff marks between them.

"Hannibal!" He scowled at the marks on the ground.

Wearily Hannibal joined BA at the corner of the house.

"Look at those marks. You see any leading up to the house?"

The colonel looked closely. Puzzled. None.

"Now look at those footprints between the wheel marks. Notice?"

"They're backwards." He looked closer.

"Yeah."

They looked at each other, not wanting to believe what their eyes were telling them. A quick check of the sun room door confirmed their suspicions. No one had broken in. Someone had broken out.