He raised his head, eyes bleary, head pounding. Early sunlight was filtering through the trees, sliding in through the car windows. He was momentarily confused. He was lying on the back seat of the rental, out in the country. Trish. He was supposed to fly out to see Trish. Stay with her. Until it was safe for him again.
Safe. It should be, now. He'd done it. He'd saved the team. Himself. Molly and Joe. He should be feeling proud, at least satisfied. Vindicated. He could still help the team. He could still keep them safe. So why did his mouth taste like vomit? Why was everything tinged with red? Why did he feel like he'd done something terribly wrong?
The gun. Where was it? He tried to think, to remember. Last night. He couldn't remember all the details. Just holding the gun to Carla's head. He remembered that. Vividly. He wiped the perspiration from his face. His hand came away red. No. No. Don't do that now. It's over. The hell with the gun. He didn't have it in his hand, that's all that mattered. The blood could go away now.
"I don't like it, Hannibal. It was quiet all night. They just left, and nobody come back. Ain't right."
"I know, BA, I know. That's not like Carla. That's not how she operates. She wouldn't have brought all those people in, planned this out like she did, just to prove a point. She was out for blood last night. So what made her quit?"
Murdock sat quietly, watching out the window. They had all stayed up the rest of the night, watching. Waiting for the return attack that never came. Wondering why.
"She'd only quit if she figured she had what she wanted. But what did she get? None of us got hurt, 'cept BA's arm got stung. And Face is with Trish." Murdock kicked at the wall with his toe. "Doesn't make any sense."
Hannibal stared at Murdock. Without a word, he went swiftly to the phone. Waiting for a pick up on the other end, he chewed angrily on his cigar. BA and Murdock watched uneasily from their positions.
"Trish? Hannibal. Just checking on Face. I...what?" Hannibal closed his eyes. No, no, no... "Okay, Trish, no, don't worry. It was pretty hectic here yesterday, he probably just forgot to tell me...no problem. We'll be there in a few days, don't worry...yeah, looking forward to it, too. Bye, Trish."
Hannibal looked at his two remaining men, who really didn't need him to say anything.
"Face called her yesterday, said he wouldn't be there for a couple days. Said he was going to see Father Magill first." Hannibal quickly dialed again. "May I speak with Father Magill, please? It's important... Father? John Smith. Have you seen Fa...Templeton?...Okay, no, I thought he was headed your way...no, Father, nothing to worry about. Just a little mix-up...no, no, he's fine. Really...Yeah, I'll have him call you when he gets back. Bye, Father.
"I think I know why Carla called off the attack..."
Face slammed his fists against the steering wheel. Damn these rentals! No matter what trick he tried, it would not start. He'd even looked under the hood - fat lot of good that did. He knew the basics but there were too many wires and gizmos under there for him to understand what might be wrong. If BA were here...Well, now what?
He was practically on the farm's front doorstep. He could just walk in and try to weather the storm that would inevitably hit. Or he could hope he'd catch a ride to the airport, hope there was a flight, hope to get to Trish before anyone contacted her, hope for world peace...
He wasn't ready to face the team. He had no idea what he would tell them. It had been stupid, going up against Carla like that with no backup. But it had to be done. If only Hannibal wouldn't have been so damn protective. If he'd just backed up his words with deeds, let Face be a part of the team, like he'd promised. He'd said Face didn't have to do anything he wasn't ready for; Hannibal hadn't said he'd be prevented from trying.
He could feel the resentment building. Twenty-four hours ago he'd felt grateful to still be on the team. Now he felt betrayal. Hannibal had pushed him into doing what he hadn't wanted to. He hadn't made it Face's choice. If only Hannibal had...well, it didn't matter now. What had to be done was done. Now he'd have to accept the consequences.
In the meantime, he had to decide where he was going. He looked down the road, toward the farm gate. No, he couldn't go back there just yet. That left Maggie's or the airport. No way he'd go to Maggie's. It sounded bad, but he was not going to run to her for protection like a scared kid. No, he was supposed to be going to Barlow Creek, so he would. He wanted to see Trish again. He really did. Maybe seeing somebody that had no clue about the past months would give him a chance to get straightened out. Really think clearly about things.
He looked one last time for the damn gun but still couldn't find it. He didn't like leaving it laying around somewhere, for anybody to find, but he had no clue where he'd left it. It was getting late. The sun had been up for a couple hours, at least. He had to get going, get to the airport. Get to Barlow Creek. Get to Trish. Trish was always so level headed, a strong person but not a stubborn one. Like Mama B. That's what he needed right now.
He started walking.
BA was the first to spot it. It was ingrained in him, after all these years, to look for the oddities as he drove, the things that didn't fit, the things that could be dangerous for the team. And so the steady glint just off the roadbed caught his attention almost immediately. Without a word he pulled the van to the side of the road. Hannibal and Murdock followed as he got out and headed for the glinting object.
Face's gun. Lying in the dirt. Quickly BA popped the cartridge. Empty. Sniffed the barrel. Nothing. It had not been fired recently. What the hell did that mean? Why was it here? Where was Face? Silently he shoved the gun into Hannibal's hand and moved purposely back to the van. Barely waiting for the other two men, he started the van and moved down the road.
Face was here somewhere. And Carla did not have him. Carla would not have left his gun. Carla would not have left anything.
He had been walking forever. Didn't anyone ever come down this road? No, of course not. One of the prerequisites Maggie had looked for. Solitude. No friendly neighbors stopping by at the wrong time. No one coming by, seeing Face at his worst. No disturbances. That was why no one had called the authorities last night. No one had been close enough to hear anything more than distant rumbling, possibly some firecrackers shot off by kids. Isolated. That's the way the team wanted it. So Face kept walking.
The feelings of dread were still there. He kept reminding himself that what he had done had been necessary. He'd seen beyond the Jazz. He knew Carla was playing for keeps this time, that she would hit with a fury the team had not witnessed since Nam. That's how Carla was. He'd known that for a long time. Long before his overseas trip. He was a good judge of character. He was good at reading people. That's what made him a good conman. And he'd seen how Carla had watched Stockwell. On many occasions. He'd known her loyalties were not with the man but with the organization. And the team - and Face in particular - had come dangerously close to destroying that organization. The only way to stop her revenge mode was to pose a deeper threat to that god of hers if she continued. It had been necessary.
But would Hannibal accept that? Would Hannibal accept that Face was the only one who could stop her? Would Hannibal accept that Face did not intend to be shut out when he was needed?
The hell with him if he couldn't. Face was going to hold him to his words.
The van had only gone a short distance when the abandoned rental car was found. Hidden very well behind a billboard. No sign of whoever had had it, but it didn't take much guessing. Who else would be out here, in hiding?
BA didn't bother trying to unlock it, just wrapped his elbow with his shirt and busted the driver's window. He turned the key - nothing. Opened the hood. Immediately saw the loose wire. Sabotage? Maybe, maybe not. Those things happened.
"Nothin that means anythin, Hannibal. How 'bout inside?"
"Nothing. Had to be Face, though."
They piled back in the van and headed out once more.
"He come out here on his own, Hannibal."
"Yeah. Damn him. I told him..."
"You told him he was still a part of the team, Hannibal. And then you sent him away. What did you think he was going to do?"
"You might have mentioned that little insight yesterday, Captain."
"If I'd'a had it yesterday, I would've, Colonel." He smiled at Hannibal's glare. "He hoodwinked us all with that complacent act. Don't blame yourself. And don't blame him, either. He just did what comes naturally. Protected the team."
"He could've told me."
"Yeah, right." Murdock mumbled those words, knowing Hannibal heard him but would pretend not to. He knew Hannibal had been stewing over the way he'd talked to Face. Murdock intended to keep that simmering until they found him. It would be easier for Face that way.
By the time he heard the van coming up behind him, he didn't care. He didn't know how many miles he'd walked. The sun was hot, he'd had nothing to drink or eat since yesterday afternoon. He knew he was in trouble. Not from Hannibal. Even that he would gladly take now. It was the other. The visions, images, those hellish things he kept seeing. The hotter the sun, the higher the blood rose.
I didn't do anything wrong. I didn't! I didn't kill any one. I didn't even load the damn gun. I was saving my team. I didn't hurt her. I just scared her a little. Woman has ice water in her veins. Doesn't matter. I didn't kill her.
The van pulled up beside him, slowing down, matched his pace. He ignored it as long as he could. Stopped. The side door opened.
"Get in, Lieutenant."
He stood for a moment, staring at the ground. The blood was seeping away. He sighed. It took a couple tries and finally Murdock's hand to get into the van. He sank into his seat, took the water bottle Murdock handed him with shaky hands. No one said a word. He handed the bottle back, laid his head on the back of the seat, closed his eyes. Slept.
The van turned around slowly, headed back to the farm.