CHAPTER SIXTY FOUR

Murdock watched from the doorway, unsure whether he should intercede or not. Hannibal had already decided to observe. Let things play out as they would. Murdock didn't think that was necessarily good. One man near exhaustion, the other still under the influence, both with a nasty temper that flared easily. So Murdock waited, anticipating. And hoping he wouldn't have to get in the middle of whatever happened.

BA had barely stepped through the door when Face came out of the kitchen. He was still dressed. His right hand was casually tucked into his waistband, partially hidden. He looked BA in the eye, and there was something about it BA didn't like. It was almost like he was challenging BA.

"Hey, BA. Welcome back, bud."

The insolence in that voice was almost more than BA could take. That smirk on his face as he leaned arrogantly against the door frame. BA glared at the man before him, so unlike the Face he had left weeks before. This was the Face that had gone after Maggie. He could see it like he'd been there. He spoke low. He didn't want the others to hear before he talked to them.

"Outta my way, you little bastard. I know what you did. Don't think I don't. But now's not the time. Later."

"No problem, bud. Anytime you're ready."

BA stared at Face. What the...? Face, telling him he would take him on? Why that little...

"Your room's all ready, Big Guy." Murdock was at his side, almost in front of him, creating a barrier between him and direct contact with Face. Okay. It would wait. But not for long.

BA shoved past both men and stomped up the stairs. Face watched him go with a bemused look. Turning back to Murdock, he smiled openly. Winked at him. Stepped back into his room and closed the door.

Murdock looked at Hannibal. They both knew this was going to get ugly.


*****

What happened? Why did BA say that? Why is he so angry at me? What's going on?

Don't panic, bud. Man was just in a bad mood.

Bull! What did you do?

Nothing, man. The dude's got a problem.

A problem with me? Why?

Hey, just don't worry about it. He'll get over it, kid.

He'll get over what? Tell me!

Okay, okay. Just remember - it's not your fault, kid. Look, I overheard Hannibal talking to BA on the phone. Asking him to come back here for a client...

A client? Hannibal didn't say anything to me about a client.

I know. I'll get to that. But anyway, he's talking to BA, trying to get him to come back. But apparently he don't want to come back.

Why?

He sighed, heavily. Laying it on.

Well, I got the impression that BA had had it with you, kid. He was tired of all the problems. Apparently he blames you for Mama getting so worn out. That's why she had to leave so sudden. She was having problems. Health problems. Nothing serious, just worn out from taking care of you for so long.

No...

Yeah, well, like I said it wasn't your fault. I mean, it was her choice to stay on, right?

Why didn't Hannibal tell me?

Hey, not to rain on you parade, kid, but Hannibal doesn't tell you a lot of stuff. Like this new client.

What...what's that all about?

Some family having trouble with harassment. Nothing big. But Hannibal didn't want you to know about it.

Why not?

This was good. He could hear the total confusion in Face's voice. The hurt. It was working.

Well, kid, y'know, you're not exactly up to snuff yet. I mean, that's why I'm here, right? But Hannibal, he don't quite trust you. Afraid you'd fall apart on him, know what I mean? He didn't want to take a chance that somebody'd get hurt 'cause you couldn't hold up your end.

I...I would have understood. I mean, I know I'm not ready yet. He could have told me.

Yeah, yeah, he could have. But he didn't. Cause he's not ever gonna let you in on a job again. He doesn't think you'll ever be ready. He doesn't trust you, kid. Plain and simple. Like I said, there's a lot of things he's not telling you.

Silence.

Hey, don't worry about it, kid. I got your back. I'll always have your back.


*****

Hannibal was up bright and early the next morning, as usual. He sat in the living room, watching the door to Face's room. Walked to the stairway, waiting for BA. Walked to the kitchen. Coffee. Past Face's door. Back to the stairs. Sat in the living room. He wanted to talk to BA before the two men met up again. Whatever was bugging BA was serious. Serious enough that he'd been close to an outright fight the first time he saw Face again. It had nothing to do with the guy. It hadn't mattered.

And the guy. Getting drunk yesterday. Not even trying to hide it. Walking out when Hannibal got on his case. Giving him that look. The same look he had given the contractors. The look that said back off or else. What was going on there? Why, after so long keeping up the facade, had he chosen now to let the cat out of the bag? Because BA was coming back and he knew things would come out anyway? Or was there something else going on? Where had he been going all this time? What had he been doing?

He heard steps coming down. Murdock. He looked like hell this morning. Probably about what Hannibal looked like. He watched silently as Murdock wandered into the kitchen, came back with a cup of coffee. He sat on the couch opposite Hannibal, glancing at Face's door.

"Nobody else is up yet."

Murdock nodded. They were both tense. They needed to talk to BA before he and Face got into it again. They had to be prepared for what might happen, and why.

Face's door opened. He stood there for a moment, looking at them. Without a word, he proceeded into the kitchen, returning, like Murdock, with a cup of coffee. He didn't appear to have any afteraffects from his partying the day before. Again, without a word, he returned to his room. A few minutes later they heard the outer door open and close. They caught a glimpse of him walking casually out toward the meadow. That in itself was interesting. He never went out there any more. Murdock looked questioning at Hannibal, who shook his head. One problem at a time. This morning they needed to talk to BA.

Twenty minutes later the big guy came lumbering down the stairs, directly into the living room. He looked at Hannibal, then Murdock.

"You ready to talk?"

Both men nodded and the three of them headed for the library. Closing the doors behind them, they arranged themselves as comfortably as they could.

"Okay, BA. Let's have it."

And BA let them have it..


*****

He didn't care for the meadow that much, but he was feeling mellow toward Face this morning. He'd taken quite a hit last night, poor guy. Mama's 'health problems' laid at his door, BA angry with him because of that, Hannibal planning on kicking him off the team - a lot of shit for him to absorb. He hoped Face was up to it. Right.

Of course, that was nothing really, when he thought about what was coming. He knew BA was in there now, laying it all out for Hannibal about Maggie. Face wouldn't know what hit him. Possibly literally. He wondered what Hannibal would do, really. Would he be super-understanding and blame it on the fever, the way Maggie had, and let it go? Or more like Mama? Understanding but letting that color the way he felt about his lieutenant? Or go BA's way? Total reflex. Had to be one of the latter two. He knew Hannibal too well to think he'd just let it go. Not where Maggie was concerned.

Yeah, this was going to work out just fine. BA already on the other side. Hannibal would be close if not there by the time BA finished with him. Face himself was feeling the old abandonment blues, coupled with a lovely little streak of guilt. And when they came at him about Maggie, it would be totally out of left field. Total confusion. Yeah, it was a very good start. He just had to deal with the pilot now.

He had considered leaving Murdock out of it, thinking the loss of BA and Hannibal might be enough to force Face inside for good. But that was like leaving the last terrorist alive. You don't take that chance. Different objective, same reasoning. Take no chances, take them all out. And the pilot would know about Maggie now, too. It was a little thing, but a start. Add enough other little things, and pull Face out at the right times, and Murdock would be lost to Face as effectively as the other two. Wouldn't matter if Murdock really thought that way. All he had to do was convince Face he did. Piece of cake.

Yeah, he was feeling mellow toward Face this morning. He could be generous. He let Face out to enjoy the morning.