Face rested on the stone wall in front of Trish's home. The last four days had been like none he could remember. He felt so totally relaxed, it was like he was someone else. Someone who had never had a problem in his life. Ray's son, now a strapping six-year-old, sat next to him, 'jabbering' on about t-ball and first grade and all the animals he'd 'collected' this summer. The boy had spent every moment he could with his newly found 'Uncle Tem', and Face found himself just as eager for these times with the talkative little dynamo.
Face had worried about Trish on the flight back to Barlow Creek. He didn't know what Hannibal had told her, what she might have guessed, what she expected. He needn't have worried. Trish welcomed him warmly and the only reference she made to his 'troubles' were a quick, sincere, "If you want to talk, I'll listen." He hadn't yet taken her up on it, and she had not pushed it. They relaxed together, talking about Ray, about the team, about everything (else) and nothing. Not once had the visions interrupted.
This was just what he had needed. Not the anonymity of LA, nor the near-claustrophobic circle of friends at the farm. Here he had room to breathe, a friend who would listen if he wanted to talk, talk when he wanted to listen, and was quiet when he needed that. Not to mention a little boy who was so full of life and love it made Face grateful to be alive himself.
He began to think he had found a place to stay.
Murdock watched as Hannibal stepped to the front window for what had to be the fiftieth time that day. He was trying to be very casual about it, but his apprehension was obvious to everyone. Murdock glanced over at BA, who was watching the football game. Supposedly. But Murdock had seen him stealing glances at the window, almost as often as Hannibal's side trips. The only real activity was in the kitchen, where Maggie and Mrs. B. were busy preparing the Thanksgiving feast. Hannibal had given up his usual duties as cook for this year, graciously surrendering to the ladies. Murdock was starting to wish the ladies hadn't insisted so strongly. At least cooking would have given the colonel something to do besides waiting for the last member to arrive.
It had been agreed before they all left that they would get together at the farm for Thanksgiving. Face had known this, and everyone was waiting, hoping, that he would show up. But as the day came closer, there was still no word. Thanksgiving Day arrived with no sign of him. Maggie and Mama had deliberately planned for a late afternoon meal, hoping that would give Face time to arrive. As the morning hours passed into afternoon, Hannibal became more and more agitated. Everyone was trying hard to stay calm for him, but it was getting harder and harder.
Murdock was starting to get too restless. He couldn't keep from tapping his foot impatiently. Soon followed by his hand tapping gently on the chair. He wanted to do something, anything. He wanted to run out the front door, down the road and know exactly where Face was and go get him and drag him back home where he belonged.
Mainly he just wanted to know where his best friend was.
He wasn't sure what happened. One minute he was working the hook loose from the boy's just-caught fish; the next, his world was filled with fish heads, hooks, body parts, all swirling in a bloody froth. How long he stayed in the maelstrom, he didn't know. He was brought back by Trish calling his name, pulling at his arm. He closed his eyes, mentally shaking himself, opened them to find Trish pale and worried, the boy crying and frightened. He let Trish take the fish, now thoroughly mutilated by the hook, absently wiped his hands on his jeans. He looked down at Ray's son, started to say something to him, but the boy ran. Didn't stop running until he had slammed into the house.
"Don't worry, Face, he'll be okay. I'll talk to him. He just got scared when you...wouldn't answer him."
"I'm sorry, Trish. I don't know what happened."
"I said, don't worry about it. Little boys have very short memories. He'll be fine in a little while." She turned, picking up the boy's tackle box and pole. "C'mon back to the house, we'll get something to drink, okay?"
"Yeah, I'll be there in a minute, Trish."
She looked at him for just a moment, nodded, smiled and headed back to the house. Face watched her walk away. She was wrong, of course. Little boys had very good memories. Especially of things that frightened them.
"Are you worried about seeing him again, Mama?" Maggie watched the other woman as she rolled the last biscuit into shape, ready for the oven. Neither had mentioned Face yet, not all day.
Mama laid the biscuit carefully on the pan. She stared at it for quite some time before answering.
"I don't know as I'd call it worried, Maggie. When Scooter and I first went back home, I didn't feel good about him. I'd seen a part of him I didn't never think I would. It took a long time to git over that. Then Scooter had to come back here to help that lady and her husband. He told me a few things about Face when he came back, and I felt bad, real bad, for leavin him the way I did." She turned and looked at Maggie, sorrow in her eyes. "I shoulda listened to you, Maggie, 'stead'a gettin on my high horse. I know that boy, and I shoulda remembered that. So, no, I'm not worried. I'm anxious. 'Cause I owe him an apology. I hope he comes back so I can give it to him. I hope he'll accept it."
Maggie reached over and hugged the older woman. "I wouldn't worry about that, Mama. He loves you, you know. And he understands about mistakes."
Don't know, kid. Guess I let my guard down too much, too early.
So now what?
So now I gotta work a little harder. Gotta give me a little more elbow room, kid.
Just a little.
Yeah, kid. Just a little.
"Face, is someone here?" Trish stepped out to the porch, looking quizzically around. "Oh, I thought I heard voices."
"Maybe the TV?" Face didn't look at her.
"Hmm, maybe. Anyway, supper will be ready soon. Don't go anywhere."
"I'll be right here, Trish. Don't worry." He turned then, smiled at her. She returned the smile as she went back inside the house.
Get it under control.
Don't worry, kid. Piece of cake.
The little boy stayed away from Face that first night. Trish looked apologetically at him, but he just shook his head. He understood. Not a problem. But it was, really. It hurt that he had frightened the boy so badly. It wasn't right. The next morning the boy was almost like he had been before. A little hesitant to come close to Face, but he did eventually go to him. Face hadn't lost him completely. As long as he could keep control. And things were under control again. There were no more incidents in the next few days.
But it was hard to maintain that tight control when you were asleep.
It started innocently enough. He was back in the meadow, walking alongside the boy and Hannibal. The little boy was laughing, running back and forth, bringing Face different things he'd found to look at. Hannibal grinned along with Face at some of the strange flowers and bugs brought proudly for their perusal. And then the little boy brought Face a hand. No blood left in it, just a dismembered hand. Face looked at the boy, then Hannibal, in horror. The boy giggled, Hannibal chuckled.
"See if you can find the rest, kid." Hannibal sent the boy running off for more 'treasure'.
"No, no, don't, come back here!" Face was frantic. He didn't want the little boy finding such things. But he did. Faster and faster, the little cherub-like figure came rushing back with more and more bits and pieces of human bodies, Hannibal laughing harder and louder each time, encouraging the boy. Face threw the pieces as far as he could, but they were piling up. Soon fresher parts were brought, blood still dripping from them.
Face started running, first trying to catch the boy, stop him. The boy just laughed harder, making it a game to find more pieces before Uncle Tem could catch him. Finally, Face started running away, running for the edge of the field, running to get away. But there were too many body parts, too much blood. He fell, sliding into the muck, covered with it...
He woke screaming.
BA stepped up to the window, stood quietly next to Hannibal. The cigar smoke was coming fast and furious, the only outward sign Hannibal was anything but relaxed.
"He'll come, Hannibal. You know that."
"Do I, BA? We didn't exactly part company on the best of terms."
"Yeah, I know. He told us. But he also told us he didn't like leavin you like that, either. If he can git here, he'll be here."
"If he can. That's the thing, BA. We don't know where he is, what he's doing, if he's okay...it's the not knowing..."
BA sighed. There was nothing he could say to that. All he could do was be there for his colonel. So he stood beside him as they watched through the window.
He let himself out of the front door quietly, careful not to make any noise. He'd left a note, not wanting to worry Trish and yet not wanting to let her know too much, either. He couldn't leave a number or address because he had no idea where he would be. He told her Los Angeles, mainly because she would believe that. He had no idea where he was going. He just knew he had to leave here, before he caused the same kinds of problems he'd caused at the farm. It would be far worse here. There was the boy to consider.
He walked quickly away from the house, from the town. Remembering how the team had been able to trace his financial trail before, he would not use those funds again. It made him severely short of ready cash, but it wasn't as if he couldn't work. Well, being one-handed made the market a little more narrow, but that was okay. He didn't need that much anyway.
He got to the edge of town and caught a ride with a young farmer. That took him almost 30 miles. The next ride was a middle-aged insurance agent. That took him out of the state. He never asked where his rides were taking him. Wherever they wanted to go, he went. When the ride was over, he thanked them and looked for the next one. Sometimes they bought him lunch or dinner. Sometimes he delved into his meager cash. He always looked for work wherever he ended up; sometimes he got some, sometimes not. Usually it was some menial job; white collar, higher paying jobs required a resume, references. He could have come up with something but that was okay. It didn't matter. He didn't need that much. Enough for a few meals along the way. And it was always along the way.
To live this way would have shocked his teammates, would have shocked anyone who knew him. But it suited him now. He was tired of scams. He was tired of missions. He was tired of the toll that way of life had taken. As long as he was without possessions, without a lot of money, without any ties, he could feel free. And as long as he felt free, he had no more visions. No more nightmares. He locked away Face, and Templeton Peck, and Alvin Brenner. "Hey you" was as much of a name as he needed now.
Hannibal thought about Trish's phone call a little over a week after Face had arrived. She had told him things seemed to go very well at first. There were times when Face would appear distant or preoccupied, but nothing she worried about. And Face and her son had taken to each other immediately. About the fifth day Trish thought he'd had one of what Hannibal had referred to as a "spell". Within a couple more days he began to have nightmares. Bad ones. After three nights of these, she'd awakened one morning to find him gone. He'd left a short note, thanking her, and stating he was going back to Los Angeles. He hadn't left an address or phone number.
He'd called BA, hoping Face had shown up in Chicago. No luck. Likewise with Father Magill. When Hannibal had called Murdock, he knew the stress must have come through in his voice. Murdock had immediately flown down. That was good; Hannibal had started taking his frustrations out on Maggie. He was also glad that the pilot would be on the spot if any news came. BA had called every day, sometimes twice, to find out if anyone had heard from Face. That had been three weeks ago. No one had heard from him since then.