CHAPTER SIXTY NINE

Face sat on the bed, staring at the pillow. It was still under there. He hadn't moved it. He hadn't told anyone about it. He kept thinking about Molly. He needed to make amends. He'd changed her life, her husband's. They were in this mess because of him.

He reached over, touched the pillow. Laid his hand on it. Slowly slid his hand down the pillow and under the edge. Stopped. Closed his eyes. Slid his hand over the pistol grip. Held it there. He was starting to sweat. Slowly his finger edged over the trigger. Stopped.

The blood started rising.

He yanked his hand out from under the pillow. Hurried in to the kitchen where Murdock was fixing lunch. Sat at the table. Focused on the pilot. Concentrated on him.

Slowly the images started fading away.


*****

Murdock was in the middle of trying a new recipe. He'd decided the food fare had been getting rather bland lately and this was some kind of Cajun gumbo. Some of the spices the recipe called for he didn't have, so he was trying to figure how much more to add of the ones he did have. Gumbo, soups and stews were just a matter of volume, really. It all blended together anyway.

He noticed Face come hurrying in and sit at the table, but then he didn't say a word, just watched him. Closely. That probably wasn't good. Murdock didn't say anything either, just cast a few cautious glances his way. He looked a little pale, and his forehead was damp.

"Problems again, Face?"

He didn't answer, just kept watching Murdock. Okay. He put down the spoon, wiped his hands off and sat down at the table with Face.

"Still there?"

Face barely nodded. He was starting to relax a little. Murdock knew that was a good sign. He put his hand on Face's arm, squeezing slightly. A couple more minutes and Face relaxed into a more normal position.

They sat for a few more minutes before Murdock got up and casually started back on his gumbo. Face was still watching him but not so intensely.

"So, something in particular set this one off?"

"No..." Face started drumming his fingers on the table. If he told Murdock about the gun, what would happen? He had to tell someone. He'd have to have help with it. If he told Murdock - no, if Murdock wouldn't help him, he'd end up losing the gun. Now he had to have it. He had to help Molly. Maybe he could do it another way.

"Murdock..."

The pilot turned, looked at Face with a raised eyebrow. "Yeah, Face?"

"I need a favor. A big favor."

"If I can, I will, Face."

"I need...I need a gun."

Murdock stopped dead. "A what?"

"A...a gun." The words came rushing out now. "I need to learn how to shoot left handed. So I can get back on the team. So I can help Molly." He took a deep breath, slowing himself down. "I need a gun."

Murdock forgot about the gumbo. He sat down at the table again, looking closely at his friend. "Face, are you sure? I mean, you weren't exactly comfy with them, last I saw."

"You won't help?"

"Well, don't you think we should talk it over with Hannibal first? I mean..."

"Why? He doesn't have to know. Not right away. Maybe I can't do it. Ok? So he wouldn't have to know anything about it. But, if I can do it, then...well, we can tell him then. Ok?"

Something wasn't right here. Why wouldn't Face want Hannibal to know about this?

"Face, what's going on?"

Face swiped his hand through his hair. "Nothing, Murdock. Look, just forget it, okay? It was a dumb idea. Just forget it." He stood and strode out the door, headed, as usual, for the meadow.

Murdock looked after him. He wished Hannibal were here, instead of over at Molly's with BA. Was somebody trying for yet another comeback? Or had he already?

Murdock felt the anxiety levels rising. Gumbo. Think about the gumbo.


*****

Hannibal could kick himself. BA stood before him, holding three bugs found during the first 15 minutes he'd been in the house. How in hell had he overlooked that possibility? Out of practice. Out of sync. Relied on BA too much. BA had gone after Face that day. Hannibal hadn't thought about it. Stupidity.

"Okay, BA. Let's find out if there are any more."

They searched carefully, quietly and thoroughly. Five more were found, including a tracking device on each vehicle. BA carefully dismantled each one.

"How much d'ya spose they heard?"

"We didn't make any plans while we were here before. But they probably heard Molly and Face. I don't know what they could make of that, but it's more than I wanted them to know. Well, damn it, can't be helped now. We'll just have to let Molly and Joe know. Someone will be here from now on, so they can't replace them. Man, how could I have forgotten about that?" He yanked out a cigar, still disgusted with himself.

"Don't worry about it, Hannibal. I shoulda checked first thing. But they din't hear that much. I don't think they can use Molly's dislikin Face for anything."

"Hmm. Maybe. I still don't like it." He lit the cigar. "Well, okay, I'll head back to the farm. Keep your eyes open. I'll send Murdock over later tonight."

"No problem, Hannibal."

Hannibal drove home, keeping a sharp eye on his surroundings, trying not to beat up on himself any longer. Take your own advice, Colonel. Like you tell your men - you made a mistake, you won't make it again. And you'll be careful from now on.

Pulling up to the house, he saw Murdock waiting for him at the front door. God, he was going to nail that damn thing shut. Every time there was a problem, someone was standing at that fucking door, just waiting to lay it on him.

Slamming the door shut, he walked wearily up to the pilot. "Okay, Captain, what now?"

Murdock straightened, eyebrows going up almost to his hairline. "Whoa, Colonel. Problems at Molly's?"

"Sorry, Murdock. Carla bugged Molly's house and I missed it. So she knows a few things I'd just as soon she didn't. Doesn't matter now." He looked up at the pilot, who hadn't moved from the doorway. "You do have a problem, though, don't you?"

"Well, yes and no. I mean, I don't know if we do or not."

"What'd Face do now?"

Murdock looked at the colonel. Maybe now wasn't the time to bring this up. In fact, he knew it wasn't the time. Backpedaling fast, Murdock tried to think of something mundane that wouldn't bug the man too badly. "Uh, oh, I just, uh, well, Face is spending a lot of time out in the meadow. Uh, not sure that's a good thing, y'know?"

Hannibal looked back at Murdock, exasperation on his face. "Murdock, if he's happy out there and not having those damn visions, leave him alone. Ok? Now what's for lunch?" He moved past Murdock and headed into the kitchen, smelling gumbo. Murdock relaxed.

"MURDOCK!!"

Oops...

****

It was dark. Face thought he might be sleeping yet, dreaming. He hoped so. He didn't want to be awake if this was happening.

C'mon, man...

No, no, no...

Hey, don't get all uptight on me. I wanna make a deal. We'll just talk, okay?

No.

I swear. Just talk. I know you can dump me anytime you want. You found it again, man. Your secret weapon. I can't fight you and them. Not together like that. I admit it, okay?

Ok...

So maybe we could get back the way we used to be. Y'know?

The way we used to be?

I can help you, man. With the gun.

NO!

Hey, hey, just hear me out, okay? Just listen. You got the power now, man, not me. You know that.

Ok...I'll listen. That's all.

That's all I ask, man. That's all I ask...


*****

BA thought he'd heard something. Downstairs. The alarms hadn't gone off, so it wasn't someone coming in. Face. Another nightmare? He'd been having more of them lately. Not so many of the visions. Now they were coming at him at night, when he couldn't fight them off as well.

BA moved quietly down the stairs, opened Face's door. Heard mumbling. He moved into the room, trying not to disturb him. Listened. God, no.

"Face! You awake, man? Face?"

Silence. "BA?"

"Yeah. You was talkin in yer sleep." He waited to see if Face would tell him the truth.

"Oh. Sorry, BA. Sorry."

BA sighed. Damn. "Okay, Face. No problem." He hesitated. "You okay now?"

"Sure, BA. I'm fine."

BA pursed his lips. Call him on it or not? Knowing Face, it wouldn't do any good. He'd have to talk to Hannibal.

"G'night, Face."

"Night, BA."

BA sat up the rest of the night in the kitchen. Just in case.


*****

Face looked at the pillow one last time. Picked it up, setting to one side. The gun lay there. Waiting. He wished Murdock would've helped him. But he couldn't tell Hannibal. He didn't want Hannibal to know if he couldn't do it. That would finish off any chance of coming back to the team. If he couldn't do it now, he'd just wait until he could.

Don't worry. You can do it, man. We can do it. Then we can help Molly. We can help the team. Together.

Face reached for the gun. Took it in his left hand. Picked it up. Sweating. It didn't feel awkward. Felt... natural. He took a deep breath. Put his finger on the trigger. His hand was shaking.

It's okay, man. This ain't nothin we haven't done before. We're not gonna kill anybody. I promised. You got the power, man. You got control. Just like before. Like it's supposed to be.

Face took the gun, tucked into the back of his jeans. Adjusted his shirt over it. Walked out to the meadow.

We're okay, man. This is right.

Yeah. Like it's supposed to be.


*****

"Are you sure, BA?"

"Yeah, I'm sure, Hannibal. He was talking to him again. And when I said he was talkin in his sleep, he let it pass. He didn't want to admit it. We got trouble, Hannibal."

Hannibal put his head in his hands, rubbing his face hard. He shouldn't have taken Face to Molly's. He should have found some other way. It was too much, too soon. Another thought came to him. Murdock, yesterday. Now that he thought about it, Murdock's concern about Face going to the meadow was pretty flimsy. There must've been something else, but Murdock had decided not to tell him. Well, he couldn't blame him. He hadn't exactly been receptive. Damn.

"Okay, BA. I need to talk to Murdock first. He had something he wanted to tell me yesterday. Might have something to do with this. Why don't you go relieve him? It's a little early but I want to get at the bottom of this."

"Got it, Hannibal."

As BA drove off, Hannibal wandered back to Face's room. He'd seen him heading off to the meadow earlier in the morning, just after dawn. If he'd known about BA's news, he might have followed him. He decided to wait now, until he talked to Murdock. He wanted to know exactly what he'd be walking into.