CHAPTER SIXTY TWO

"No, don't worry about a thing, Molly. It'll take a couple of days, but we'll be there...No, not a problem. I'll call you and let you know...Okay...okay. Talk to you then."

Hannibal hung up the phone, stared off into space. He hadn't intended to take on any clients yet. Not for some time. Too many complications. He looked toward the barn. Face was engaged in an animated discussion with one of the subcontractors. Almost too animated. Hannibal sighed. Face had made gargantuan steps in his recovery, but there were things he just couldn't quite manage yet. Keeping his temper was one of them. Hannibal tried to be casual as he hurried over.

"What's going on, fellas? Problem?"

"No, no problem, Colonel. Except this jerk thinks he can charge us for lumber he hasn't used and has no intention of using." Face was clenching his left hand hard, a sure sign he was ready to blow.

"Hey, I tol you it was on order. Soon as it gets here I'll be usin it, okay?"

"Yeah, just not on this job, right, bud?"

"Okay, okay." Hannibal stepped quickly between the two men. "Face, why don't you take a look at the bills that came in this morning, huh? Just double-check the figures. They're on the desk." Face gave both men a dangerous glare, but stalked off toward the house. Hannibal turned to the contractor. "My guy doesn't make mistakes, fella. You try ripping us off, I'm going to put that lumber where you'll never use it again - got it?"

"Uh, yeah, yeah, sure, I, uh, I coulda made a mistake there, lots of jobs going on. I'll take care of it, no problem." He rushed off to his truck and tore down the drive. Hannibal grinned. Until he remembered the phone call.

Someone had been calling Molly and her husband, Joe, making threats against their home and lives. Told them not to go to the police. During the last call, the person - Molly couldn't tell if it was male or female - told her she shouldn't pick up hitchhikers. Which made no sense to her. Only once had she ever stopped for someone on the road. Grasping at straws, she had called Hannibal.

Obviously, there was a problem. Not just the threats. The reason for them. Why would anyone threaten a lower-level administrative assistant? Or her husband, the dock supervisor at a local warehouse? This couple had nothing of significant value, had no 'in' to corporate secrets, no enemies of the caliber to warrant such action. No, there was obviously some other reason. And Hannibal figured it was called 'bait'.

Now all he had to do was get BA out here, settle Murdock down - who for some reason had gotten back into some of his old behaviors - figure out what to do with Face, and then chase down the bad guys.

Piece of cake.


*****

"You sure you want to take on a client now, Hannibal? I mean, what you gonna do about Face? You even told him he ain't on the team any more?"

"BA, I never said he was off the team. I just said he can't go on any jobs with us. There are other things he can handle for us. And no, I haven't talked it over with him yet. I'm going to do that tonight. As far as the client, I don't think she's the real target. I think we are. Carla's got her hand in this, BA."

"Man, Hannibal, are you sure? What's she want to keep comin after us for, anyway?"

"Well, I guess she's still mad at Face, BA. Some people just hold a grudge. We need to show her the error of her ways. So can you get out here right away?"

"Yeah, gimme a couple days." There was a long pause on the other end. "You still ain't said what your gonna do about Face."

"Well, he doesn't really need anyone to take care of him any more, just needs someone around, just in case. He can stay at Maggie's."

"He can't stay with Maggie. No way. You gonna have to think of somethin else."

"What? Why can't he stay with Maggie? She won't mind."

"No, Hannibal. He can't. Look, we can talk about it when I git out there. I'll be there in a couple days." BA abruptly hung up.

Hannibal stared at the phone. What the hell was that about?


*****

Murdock was no happier about the prospect when Hannibal told him.

"Hannibal, we canít do this now. We just canít."

"We hardly have a choice, Murdock. We canít leave Molly and her husband hanging out to dry. You know as well as I do that Carlaís involved in this. Who else would know about her and Face? Or would go after them without any reason? We got her involved in this, we have to get her out of it."

"I know that, Colonel, but we canít up and leave Face here. Heís not...stable enough yet."

"Not stable enough? What the hell are you talking about, Captain? I havenít seen him doing this well since the whole damn thing started. Yeah, heís got a few problems yet, but if he stays at Maggieís, she can keep an eye on things so they donít get out of hand."

"I donít think thatís such a good idea, Hannibal. Heís, well, heís...just not predictable. And youíve seen his temper. Iíd hate to put Maggie in front of that."

Hannibal knew Murdock had a point there. Face had gone from complacent and relatively easy to manage to volatile and sometimes nearly violent. It didn't take a genius to hook that up with the way he had suddenly started dealing with the flashbacks. He looked Murdock in the eye.

"That why you've been a bit on the 'wild side', Murdock? Molly's guy is back, isn't he? Since when?"

Murdock sighed. "Since that last really bad flashback. I tried to talk to him, to let us help him. Instead I think he gave up and turned to this other guy. Mr. Tough Guy. I thought if I started acting like I used to, it would irritate him to the point of doing something. And then Face - our Face - would have to come back."

"Or you'd get yourself killed. That was a dumb thing to do, Captain. Especially without telling me." Hannibal chewed on his cigar. "Does BA know about this?"

Murdock shook his head.

"Then there's something else going on as well. BA insisted that Face couldn't stay with Maggie while we were on this job. Immovable. Wouldn't say why, said we'd talk when he got out here. Know what that might be about?"

"No, but something's wrong between those two. Been that way ever since Face hit Maggie. I didn't think he really blamed Face for it, but he really turned cold toward him after that."

Hannibal shook his head. "Well, he'll be here day after tomorrow. We'll keep an eye on our friend out there for now. Maybe BA's coming is just what we need to get things back in kilter around here." He grinned wickedly. "It could be a very interesting homecoming."


*****

He'd been a bit surprised when Hannibal had agreed to letting him use the car to get to 'church'. Apparently the colonel was more than satisfied with his progress the last few weeks. He was now more or less free to come and go as he pleased, as long as he 'checked in' first. Just in case, as Hannibal put it. Hmm.

Life was good now. He had the freedom to go out and practice without questions. And it was doing wonders. Hannibal had brought him in on the renovations; he'd basically taken over that operation. A few confrontations with the hired help but that was all straightened out now. No more problems there. He grinned. Hannibal was so naive sometimes. He'd let those guys walk all over him. Funny. But then Hannibal had asked if he'd look over the bills, too. He was no good at that. So he'd had to let Face come out for a while. Let him do his little bookkeeper crap. Then back in the box. He chuckled. Yeah, he had him well trained now.

Is that what you call it?

Hey, just a turn of phrase, bud. Don't worry about it.

Right.

Sometimes Face actually came close to his own brand of sarcasm. Sometimes, Face actually sounded like him. Gave him a headache. He reminded himself not to get sloppy. Face had things he could still use - if he remembered them.

Have to make sure he didn't. Definitely.