CHAPTER FOUR

When Face joined them at the restaurant, Hannibal noticed that Face seemed less tense, more... cheerful? Definitely upbeat. He actually joined in freely with discussions about what the thief would be asking for next. Of course, it was all wild speculation, since the guy seemed to be working on some agenda of his own, and not working for any particular country.

It would help, of course, if they knew just what was in those files. But Stockwell steadfastly refused to divulge that. "Need to know", again. Hannibal really got tired of hearing that crap. He would have to push the general on that. If they had no idea what the files were, they had no idea just how far this guy was willing to go, what his ultimate goal might be.

Meanwhile, the speculations were getting totally out of this world, and the wilder they got, the more everyone was laughing. Hannibal hated to bring them down, but it seemed there was one thing they were forgetting.

"It's okay to relax, guys, but let's remember. This guy killed the courier. He's not to be taken lightly."

Face sobered immediately. "How do you know he's the killer, Colonel? All Stockwell said was that the courier turned up dead. He could have been killed by any one of the apparently many people who are after those files."

"And not take the files? C'mon, Face, that doesn't make any sense."

"Maybe the killer turned them over to our guy, and our guy had nothing to do with the murder. He didn't even have to know about it. Or maybe the killer couldn't find them, and our guy did."

"That's pretty far-fetched, Face."

"I'm just saying you can't hang a guy when you don't know the facts. You of all people should understand that much."

For a moment, Hannibal could only stare at his lieutenant. He couldn't believe it. Face was actually angry with them.

"Okay, Face, what the hell is going on here?"

Face immediately put on the innocent expression that fooled most people. Not Hannibal.

"I don't know what you mean, Colonel. I'm simply pointing out that you and the others seem to be guilty of doing much the same thing that was done to you. Convicting a man of something when you have no proof."

"Okay, Face, I'll concede that maybe, maybe, this guy is not a cold-blooded killer. Don't let that blind you to the fact that he is a thief and an extortionist. Possibly - note, I said, possibly - a traitor. I would think that would be enough to make you less sympathetic toward him."

"Who said I was sympathetic? I'm only pointing out a bit of hypocrisy when I see it."

"I think that's enough, Lieutenant."

"Actually, more than enough, Colonel. If you'll excuse me, I'll see you back at the hotel." With that, Face calmly dropped his napkin and stood, heading for the door before anyone could say anything.

"What the hell?" Frankie couldn't believe what had just happened. He'd never seen any of the team get in Hannibal's face like that before. Looking at the rest of the team, he knew none of them ever had, either.


*****

"I need to speak to Carla. Now."

"I'm afraid she's not at her desk right now. Could I take a message?"

"No, you cannot take a message. I know she's there. You put her through or you can kiss Able 7 goodbye."

"Just a moment, please."

Hannibal grinned. He had no idea where Able 7 was, or who he or she was, but it didn't matter. It got their attention.

"Good evening, Colonel Smith. I know Able 7 is in Cincinnati, so let's not bother with any more games. What do you want?"

Hannibal liked Carla's chutzpah. She knew damn well he would be calling her at some point during this job, and she knew why. If she had any kind of personality besides robot, and worked for anyone except Stockwell, he'd like her a lot more.

"I want to know what you haven't told us about this job. Specifically what it has to do with my lieutenant."

"I have no idea what you're talking about, Colonel. Are you telling me that there's a problem with Peck?"

"Yes, there's a problem. And you know what and why. Now I want you to tell me."

"I already told you, Colonel, I have no idea..."

"Okay, okay. Maybe I should talk to Stockwell instead. He might be interested in your little games. And then he might a little more helpful."

"Perhaps you should, Colonel. I'm sure he'd be interested in knowing how the lieutenant is doing. Now if you'll excuse me, I have work to do." She hung up abruptly.

Damn it! Hannibal slammed the phone down. Carla knew damn well he wouldn't call Stockwell. The general hadn't wanted to put Face back with the team to begin with, not until he was "normal" again, but Hannibal had insisted. Stockwell was just waiting for a reason to pull him out and stick him somewhere "useful".

"No luck, Hannibal?" BA was standing by the door, Murdock and Frankie just behind him.

"No, she called my bluff. She has 'no idea' what the problem is."

"So now what?"

Hannibal sighed, rubbed his face with his hands. "So we know Face is having a big problem with this case. Carla probably knows what it is but isn't saying."

"Which means it probably has something do to with his time away from us." Murdock was fiddling with his cap. "Any way of getting hold of the records they kept?"

"No chance. Classified. Which means they're either locked up tighter than Fort Knox, or were destroyed when Barish bought it. Either way we're not going to see them."

"So back to the question - now what?"

"So now we try to get through this job as fast as possible, before Face does something...inadvisable. And guys..."

The three men looked at him, waiting.

"Let's take it easy with this. Keep in mind he's learned a few tricks over the last year or so, plus he still hasn't reconnected...we may have to watch our own backs."

"Aww, c'mon, Hannibal...he wouldn't..."

"How do we know what he would do now, Murdock? We haven't got him back yet, you know that. And you saw how he was at dinner. That's not Face."

"But he's trying..." Hannibal could hear the pleading in Murdock's voice.

"He was trying, Murdock. But I don't think he is any more."


*****

Face stepped into the hotel room. The entry light was on, otherwise it was dark. He made his way carefully to his bedroom, slid out of his clothes and into bed. Murdock, in the next bed, never moved.

He'd walked for a long time, retracing the steps from before. Had actually walked as far as the edge of town, down that highway. He'd wandered aimlessly after that. The euphoria he'd felt after getting the note had died with the argument at dinner. He shouldn't have done that. He really, really shouldn't have done that. They would know something was wrong now. Unless he could come up with some kind of story, something to explain away the anger. Headache, maybe? Yeah, like they'd buy that.

In the end, he said the hell with it, and walked back to the hotel. He would be Face to the hilt from now on. If they asked about the outburst, he'd just apologize, say he didn't know what had gotten into him. Otherwise, he was strictly a team player. Until he heard from him again, and knew what he had to do next.

He shifted in bed, trying to get comfortable. He should've grabbed a sleeping pill. Hannibal would frown on that, of course. But what Hannibal didn't know, wouldn't hurt him. He thought about the colonel for a few minutes, before he finally drifted off to sleep. He'd been surprised he wasn't up when Face got back, ready for a confrontation. Maybe they were going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Again.

He hadn't seen Hannibal, sitting in a corner of the living room, in the dark, waiting to see if he came back.