"Yeah. New York. Is there a problem?"
Hannibal sighed and shook his head. "Not a problem, no. But I thought we were all heading back out to LA."
"No reason you can't. I just have something I need to take care of back here first."
"Something we could help you with?"
"No. This is... personal."
Hannibal raised an eyebrow but Face didn't elaborate. He didn't look him in the eye, either.
"How long will you be gone?"
"I'm, uh, not sure. Maybe a day or two. Maybe longer. I'll let you know when I know."
Hannibal frowned as Face walked out of the room. It wasn't the first time Face had surprised him over the last few weeks. Of course, getting shot and nearly dying could do that to a man. Either make him doubly cautious or just the opposite - start doing things they normally wouldn't do. At first, Face seemed to be taking the latter route, with Hannibal the one being cautious. Probably the wrong way to handle it. Made Face think he had to prove something. Hadn't had that problem since Nam.
But the last few weeks, Face had taken a turn that had them all puzzled. A turn away from them. At least it seemed that way. Making phone calls and hanging up when one of them came in the room. Incoming calls that disconnected if anyone but Face answered. Then taking sudden trips away from the compound...
Well, they all took little excursions now and then. Once Stockwell actually put the wheels in motion to get the pardons, the Ables disappeared from the scene. Which was only logical. Why would the team take off now? And Stockwell no longer had the upper hand, so they'd only had only a couple random jobs that any of Stockwell's lackeys could've handled.
No, there was something more going on with Face. Hannibal just wished he had some idea what.
They'd barely pulled a u-turn and parked at the corner when the cab pulled up and drove through the gate. Within moments it pulled back onto the street, Face in the back. BA looked over at Hannibal, who just nodded.
BA shook his head and pulled out, keeping his distance from the cab ahead. He didn't like tailing Face like this. None of them did, all tense like they were tailing the bad guys. Even Murdock was silent. No, just wasn't right - but then a lot hadn't been right with Face. And for a long time.
They followed the cab for several miles, through the suburbs and into Langley proper. Then, instead of continuing on to Washington National, the cab turned toward Arlington.
BA glanced at Hannibal, who frowned but said nothing. Moments later BA had to pull suddenly to the shoulder, as the cab turned into a rental car agency. Less than ten minutes later a nondescript blue sedan pulled out, Face unmistakable in the driver's seat. Luckily, he headed in the opposite direction, showing no sign of having spotted the others.
"Don't look like he's goin to New York after all, Hannibal. Keep followin?"
"Yeah, BA. Just until I know he's not... "
Not what? Going to desert? Disappear without a trace? Start a new life on his own?
"Just follow him."
Outside Philadelphia the rental car pulled off and drove into the town of Cherry Hill. Traffic was lighter, and BA dropped back, almost missing the turn Face took. They stopped across the street from a small restaurant, watching as Face looked around the parking lot before stepping inside.
No one missed the hesitation before he opened the door.
"I don't think this is just a potty break, Hannibal." Murdock leaned forward between the seats. "I think he's meeting somebody."
"Yeah, but who?" BA glared at Murdock before turning his attention back to the restaurant. "Now what, Hannibal?"
Hannibal pulled a cigar from his pocket, rolling it absently between his fingers. "Now we wait."
He looked around the restaurant. It took several moments before he saw her, sitting in a corner booth. Her hair wasn't as blond as before, and she'd put on a little weight in her face - just the right amount, he thought. New York obviously agreed with her. He took a deep breath and headed across the floor.
She saw him about halfway there. Her eyes widened just a bit, her face paled a little. And then she smiled. A nervous smile, but great to see, just the same. He imagined his own smile was just as nervous.
He hesitated again, wondering if she would stand up for a hug, or... No. Not yet. He slid into the seat across from her, still smiling. This was... dumb. He hadn't felt like this since high school. Just as it seemed there would nothing but awkward silence between them, the waitress came over. Both ordered coffee. The waitress left. They smiled at each other again. He cleared his throat.
"You look great."
Fantastic opening line, Face.
She smiled, embarrassed. "Thanks. You look good, too. Very good."
"Oh, he's fine. He's in second grade now. Loves school."
"Good, that's good."
He sat back as the waitress delivered the coffee, then slowly stirred it. It had taken months to find her again, months of planning and thinking. Hoping. And now he sat here, no idea what to say. How to begin.
"Uh, Rina, I don't know if you heard, but... well, we got our pardons. No more running, no more MPs chasing after us. We can do whatever we want now. Even... even settle down..."
Rina sighed. Smiled softly. Sadly.
"Templeton, I think I'd better tell you before this goes any further. I, uh, I got married. About a month ago."
Married? A month ago? No. His source hadn't said anything about a husband.
"He's an actor, and a bit of a...," she smiled, embarrassed, "a bit of a hearthrob. We kept the marriage quiet, for his image, you know."
"Oh, yeah. Yeah, sure."
"I should have told you when you called, but I... I thought I should tell you in person. And I wanted to see you again." She reached over, stroked his hand gently. "I'm sorry. I should've - "
"No, no, that's okay. I would've wanted to see you anyway. Too. I mean... I...," he trailed off, not knowing what else to say. Try to convince her that she should run off with him, forget the husband, her son?
She took her hand away and picked up her purse. "I'm sorry, Templeton. Really. We had... well, something special." She stood abruptly and laid a hand on his shoulder. "I'm afraid I have to go. I've got an appointment back in New York, and... well, I'll just have time to make it. It was good seeing you again." She started walking, then stopped. "I wish you well, Templeton."
The three men watched as Rina came out of the restaurant and nearly ran to her car. She sat inside for several minutes before finally pulling out of the parking lot and driving away.
"That was... wasn't it?" Murdock looked over at BA, who was shaking his head, and then at Hannibal. "Wasn't it?"
"Yeah, Murdock. It was." Hannibal sighed heavily, tossing the half-smoked cigar as he opened the door and stepped out. "Wait here, guys. I'll go pick up the pieces."