CHAPTER SIXTY ONE

Hannibal watched anxiously as Face went through yet another flashback. He'd come out to the barn, where Hannibal had just finished talking with the contractor, going over plans. Everything had been fine for a while. Face seemed to be taking a real interest in the renovations. Which was good, and bad. Good, because any time he took an interest in anything besides sitting in the meadow it was a positive step. Bad, because Hannibal had not yet figured out how to tell him he was going to be a part-time member of the team, if that. He didn't want to get him all enthused about something only to pull the rug out from under him.

Then the flashback started. Hannibal immediately knew something was different. Face wasn't letting it drag him down this time. He got that faraway look in his eye, and he started sweating, but the terror wasn't there. Not at all. Instead, there was almost an anger present. He got stiff, his body started trembling - again, not with fear but with what seemed to be effort. And then it was over. Hannibal grabbed Face's arm as the force of the sudden relaxation made him stagger. He looked at Hannibal, smiled tiredly.

"Okay, Face?"

"Never better, Hannibal." He carefully disengaged Hannibal's hand. "I'm fine, really." He ran his hand through his hair, collecting himself. "So, what's going over here, then?" he asked as he moved further into the barn. Flashback dismissed.

Hannibal watched after him. Whatever Murdock had said to Face, it was working. Almost too well...


*****

"What'cha doin', Face?"

He shuddered. If he heard that cheerful chirpiness any more today he'd probably shoot himself. The man would not leave him alone. Always around, always wanting to help, always so fuckin cheerful! The only time he left him alone was if Hannibal was around.

He had intended to sneak off to the far end of the meadow and start a real workout. None of that namby-pamby shit Hannibal and Murdock had 'allowed' Face. Afraid of overdoing. Good God. At any rate, that was out now that the pilot had shown up yet again.

"Hello, Murdock. I was just going to go for a walk. Not too far."

"Okey-dokey. Great day for some fresh air. Billy could use a run, anyway."

Shit. Now he was bringing the damn dog, too. Why Murdock suddenly decided to resurrect Billy he had no idea, but it drove him nuts. Standing around petting the air like it was a real fucking fur ball. Maybe he oughta take an imaginary Magnum to it. See how Murdock liked his version of 'let's pretend'. He almost laughed at the imagined look on the pilot's face.

Murdock grinned at him. "Something funny, muchacho? Or just in a good mood?"

"Just a good mood, Murdock."

"Oh, good. Well, let's go! C'mon, Billy..."

How the hell had Face put up with this guy all these years? Not with any help from him...

****

Murdock hoped he was doing the right thing. If this were ‘their’ Face, no harm done. Face had almost always gone along with Murdock’s flights of fancy. And he’d liked Billy. But if this wasn’t Face, Murdock was playing with fire. Who knew what would happen if he pushed this guy too far? And how far was too far? But it was the only way Murdock knew of flushing him out.

He hadn’t said anything yet to Hannibal. Which could be a problem if he had to work Face in front of him. He’d want to know why Murdock was suddenly acting nuts again. Either that, or he’d just start worrying about him and Murdock didn’t want that either. He wanted Hannibal to think things were going smoothly for a change. So he'd tried to steer clear of Hannibal. If it looked like his ‘cover’ was going to be blown, he’d take Hannibal aside and explain things. Otherwise, he’d see how far he could get without getting the shit kicked out of him.

He loped ahead of Face, letting Billy run full out on his leash. If he were going to make Face think Billy was back, he’d better start thinking that way himself. Besides, it was kinda fun having a dog again...


*****

It had been over a week and he was ready to kill them all just to get some peace and quiet. Murdock had been on some kind of manic rampage. Constantly with the damn dog. Then it was the pastry chef. What a mess. Face had actually played along with this shit all these years. The guy had more guts than he’d given him credit for.

Today he was going to get away from that madman. For at least a few hours. He was going to have Hannibal drop him at the church for some ‘private’ time. No way the pilot would get involved in that. And once Hannibal had dropped him off, he had his own plans.

He’d found where they’d stashed the weapons in the basement. He’d had to pick the locks on more than one chest before finding his. He couldn’t take the rifle, of course, but the Sig Sauer P210 was easily concealed. Maybe Face couldn’t handle guns anymore, but he could. Could, would. Loved the feel of it in his hand. His left hand, unfortunately. Not as comfortable, not as accurate. That would change. Oh yeah. That would definitely change.

Why do you need that?

I told you, bud. Protection. For you. For us.

No.

What, you want me to have to break their necks every time? How often will I get that close?

How often are you planning to kill?

He sighed. He knew this was going to be a problem. Face was really pushing him now. Really pushing. Much harder than even he had expected. He pushed back.

Don’t make this a contest between us, bud. You’ll lose. Big time. Guaranteed.

You promised.

Yeah, I promised to protect you.

From the visions. That’s all.

Listen, bud, consider this a tradeoff. I get something I want, you get something you want. I don’t feel comfortable walking around without something. I feel naked, you know? Give me a break.

No. I...

No! No more argument, bud. You gave up, remember? Came running back to me like a sniveling little kid. 'Help me, help me'. S’okay, now I’m runnin the show and this is the way it is. Unless you want your little blood filled dreams back.

Silence. Good. Back to business. He shoved the Sig under his shirt in his waistband and snapped the lock back in place. No one would know the difference. No one would look in that chest. That was all Face’s stuff. Good as gone. He quietly made his way back upstairs. He had to find Hannibal and get a ride to the church.


*****

"He wants to go where?"

"To church. I'm going to run him over there and he'll call when he's ready to come back."

Murdock gulped. This was not good. For a number of reasons. One, the Face he thought he'd been targeting wouldn't go near a church. So either Murdock was wrong, or this was a ruse. Two, whether it was or wasn't the real Face, Carla was still out there. No telling if she'd accepted defeat or not. This was the argument Murdock used to try and convince Hannibal not to allow it.

"Look, Murdock, I know it's taking a chance. I already talked to him about that. He promised not to leave the church and to call when he was done. He won't be anywhere she could get at him, if that's what she's planning. Even Carla wouldn't pull anything in a church. He'll be fine."

"What if he has another flashback? Who's gonna take care of him then?"

"I've watched him with those lately, Murdock. So have you. He doesn't need 'taking care of'. He's learned how to handle them. And the priest and staff will be there if he does need help. Look, I know you want to make sure he's okay, Murdock. I do, too. But we gotta give him some space, too. Give him a chance to be a little independent now and then. And the Church is important to him. We can't deny him that - or the privacy he needs for it." Hannibal looked closely at the pilot, waiting for something else. "Okay?"

Reluctantly, Murdock agreed. He didn't like it. Not one bit. But you didn't argue with Hannibal when he'd made up his mind.


*****

He gave Hannibal a quick wave as he headed up the steps into the church, stepped inside and waited. Seconds later he heard the car pull away. Immediately he was back out the door, headed at a fast walk for the surrounding hills. He had to be a little careful; he still wasn't 100 percent, but his secret workouts were doing the trick. It wouldn't be long.

Within minutes he'd come to a thick grove of trees. He quickly checked the perimeter. Good. Completely isolated. He scrounged around for various materials to use, setting them up in a line along an embankment on the far side. Standing a good 50 yards from them, he pulled out the Sig. It was definitely awkward holding it in his left hand, and the first few shots went into the dirt, either behind or below the targets. Damn. This was going to take some time. A lot of time.

But then, what else did he have?