CHAPTER SEVEN

They knew time was short, but still they walked. Neither had said much at all; just walked and every now and then looked at each other and grinned. Just like the old days. Didn't have to say anything, just walk along and enjoy each other's company. There were things they needed to talk about, and things they wouldn't talk about, but they needed to get back in each other's rhythm first. And then they felt ready.

"How much do they know?"

"Some, but not enough. Not yet. We haven't much time."

"No. Your colonel is pretty quick. It won't take him long now. Although I doubt dear Carla is helping him out any."

Face laughed. "No, Carla is being...well, Carla." He hesitated. "She's using me to get to you, you know. I had to slip the cabby an extra twenty bucks just to zig zag around before coming here. Just in case. He wasn't too happy having a fare giving him directions." He chuckled, thinking of the cabby's total confusion at the circuitous route they'd taken. That made it worthwhile, even though Face hadn't seen anyone on their tail.

His companion chuckled with him. It was good to hear that sound again. "I wouldn't worry about Carla too much. Her people know who she's after." His voice took on a grim tone.

Face stopped and looked him in the eye. "And who is she after?"

"A ghost. A nightmare. Someone that should have died a long time ago. At least, that's who they think they're after. Not who I am. Although, it's nice to have some of the skills of that ghost. For now, anyway." He looked at Face. "And who is she using to find me?"

"I wish I knew." Face kicked at a nonexistent stone. He was not going to waste their time being maudlin. He glanced at his watch. He had to be getting back, and soon.

"What's next?"

"I have a deadline coming up for the general this morning. He's not going to make it, of course."

"The colonel already has a plan set up. A very good plan, actually. Too good for one man to outwit."

"Good thing there's two of us then."

They looked at each other and laughed.

God, it was good to really laugh again.


*****

Hannibal awoke that morning with a headache. Looking at the sun filtering through the curtains, he knew they'd been had. Damn. He got up hurriedly, pulling on a pair of pants before heading into the other bedroom.

He stared suspiciously at the bed where Face was sleeping. Quietly, he stepped over and picked up the shoes from the floor beside the bed and stepped back out of the room. Going to the kitchenette, he switched on the light and looked at the bottoms. Dry. No cleaner, no dirtier than they should be. Hannibal sighed, and just as quietly replaced them.

Wandering back to kitchenette, he started a pot of coffee. Looked at the glasses in the sink. Rinsed out, of course. But Hannibal knew Face hadn't doctored the drinks. Murdock had been right there with him. He watched the coffee pot for a moment, thinking. He stepped over to the refrigerator, opening the freezer compartment. Shook his head. The ice cube tray had been refilled already.

He knew they'd been drugged. He knew it. He just couldn't prove it. Any more than he could prove Face had left the hotel last night. But Hannibal knew he had.

What he didn't know was why.


*****

Murdock shuffled into the living room and flopped down on the couch. He looked at Hannibal and shook his head.

"You, too?"

Hannibal nodded his head. Under other circumstances, he would have been chuckling over the lieutenant's outfoxing them. There was nothing to laugh about today.

"So now what, Hannibal? You going to call him on it?"

"Like that would do any good." BA stalked out of his room and headed for the refrigerator. He joined them in the living room with a large glass of milk. "He'd just look innocent and deny everything."

"The problem is, I can't prove he did anything. Including leaving the room last night."

"Did he?"

"Damn it, Murdock, I don't know. I even checked his shoes and there was nothing to say he'd left."

"Man, what was in those drinks last night, Johnny? I can't believe the hangover I've got!" Frankie stumbled out of his room and made for the coffee pot. BA just shook his head.

"Well, Murdock? You and he put them together last night."

"I swear, Hannibal, he didn't put anything in them. He dropped a glass, but was right there helping me clean it up and he never got near those drinks when I wasn't watching."

"Who made up the ice cubes?"

"Uh, Face did, yesterday afternoon. But I was watching him, Johnny. Nada. Absolutely nada."

"Anybody check the bottles?"

"He never had his hands on them. Not when I was around him."

"Nope, never did, Hannibal."

Frankie shook his head. "We never had 'em out."

They sat silently for a moment. How the hell had he done it?


*****

Face woke up, feeling groggy. He wouldn't have to fake a headache this morning. He was feeling every second of his early morning activities.

After leaving the park, he'd had a hard time finding another cab. Then he'd had to sneak into the hotel, and into the men's room, where he'd carefully rinsed and dried the bottoms of his shoes. Then back out of the hotel for a quick walk around the block and back up to the room. Everyone had been sound asleep yet. Dropping into bed, he'd been unable to fall asleep right away. Going over every moment again in his mind, going over their plans.

It would be easier now, knowing what the goal was. There was an element of disappointment, of course. It could be weeks before he could extricate himself from his current situation. Or days. That all depended on the colonel.

On one hand, he wanted Smith to figure things out quickly. Face wanted out. Soon. On the other hand, the longer he could keep them guessing, the easier it would be to complete the plan. Their plan. And that was more important.

He crawled out of bed and immediately popped some aspirin. Throwing on his robe, not bothering to get dressed, he headed out to beard the lion. As expected, the men were all congregated in the living room, all looking much as he felt. Eight eyes bored into him.

"What?"

"Sleep well, Face?"

"I don't know if you'd call it sleeping or not. Feels like someone slipped me a Mickie."

He could feel Hannibal scrutinizing him. A look of uncertainty crept over the man's face. "We were just saying the same thing."

Face stopped and stared at them. Okay, play it cool. Puzzlement, then suspicion.

"You guys, too? All of you?"

They nodded. He could see the colonel's doubt spreading to the others. Excellent.

"The bottle? Anybody check it yet?"

"Uh, yes, we did, Face." Hannibal made a note to check it as soon as Face was occupied. If Face hadn't done it, then who...? "What we're trying to figure out is why...and who, of course."

Nice cover up, Colonel. Face had to admire how quickly he was able to switch to this new avenue.

"Our friend, the thief? But how? And why last night? Stockwell's deadline isn't until later this morning."

"I don't know the answers, Face. But I'm going to find out." Hannibal sighed. This just was not making any sense. Face was the only one who could have done anything, and yet, he looked as bad as the rest of them. And, damn it, Hannibal had no proof. Maybe he needed to step back and re-think his doubts about his second. Maybe.

"All right, guys, this is getting us nowhere. That deadline is coming up. We need to be in position well before hand."

Despite his headache, Face smiled to himself. You were right, Colonel. Some things you never forget.