CHAPTER ELEVEN

Hannibal stood at the window, looking down at the busy streets below. Without realizing it, he was looking for him. As if he would be able to make him out among all those ants scurrying around.

Murdock had hurried to the elevators, Frankie had taken the stairwell, trying to get to the lobby and find him. It was a waste of time. Hannibal knew that. But he let them go anyway. It got them out of the room. The only one who remained was BA, who was calmly checking their weapons, waiting for Hannibal to get it together again. Ready to listen when Hannibal was ready to talk.

But Hannibal was definitely not ready to talk. There were just too many thoughts running rampant through his mind.

"I know I'm not just an experiment to him, Smith."

In one simple sentence, Face had spelled out everything. The way Face felt he was being treated; the way he felt toward Hannibal, probably the whole team. Worse, that Face knew the extortionist. And, together with everything else that had happened, Hannibal knew who it had to be, too, now. All the pieces fell into place. And it scared the hell out of him.

He heard the door open, Murdock's voice talking to BA. A moment later, Frankie returned. The murmur of voices continued for another few moments, and then it was quiet as they all waited for Hannibal to decide what to do.

He turned and faced his men, and was startled to see how unsure they all looked.

"Okay, guys, let's go meet this guy."

Murdock's uncertainty turned to disbelief. "Hannibal, we gotta find Face..."

"Exactly, Captain. And the only one that can find him now is our thief."


*****

He sat comfortably on the catwalk, casually looking around the small theater. He'd gone over every inch of the place, knew exactly where he could go, where he could get trapped. There was plenty of time before the Team arrived. Even if they came early, which they probably would. He looked at his watch; they could be outside right now, 'casing the joint'. He liked the phrase. Sounded 'tough', like gangsters. He smiled. Thinking back to playing cops and robbers as a kid. He figured that memory could be true. He'd seen pictures, family pictures, himself and two brothers. Wondered, briefly, if they really were dead now. So many things he didn't know. So many things he'd been told, but didn't know if he could believe. That was something he could work on, when this was all over and done with.

Something the two of them could do. Find out what was truth, what was lie. Or maybe they'd just say the hell with it, and move on, make their own future, the hell with the past. Could it really be that easy? For himself, probably. If he ever did check on his past, he wasn't sure he'd believe anything he found. So many things that could be faked.

He thought, again, about those first few months up here, just the two of them. It was a little foggy, here and there, but he remembered most of it. There were parts of it he didn't like, naturally. Things he would have done differently. But what he remembered, and held on to, was being happy. Content. At peace.

Would he feel that way again, when this was all over with? Could he? Could either of them?

He heard the door below opening. Show time...


*****

Carla shut the door to her hotel room and leaned against it. This was definitely not going the way it was supposed to. Peck had not reacted at all the way she had expected. Once he knew about the consequences to the team, Carla had expected him to fully cooperate. It was a matter of loyalty, after all. One didn't turn one's back on years and years of friendship just to protect someone you'd known for a few months.

But instead of a promise of cooperation, Peck had just gone silent. Anything she said to him after dropping her bombshell had been ignored. Finally, she had given up and dropped him back at the hotel. He had not said one word to her.

Now all she could do was wait and see what he did. Stockwell had sent her here after the fiasco with the Senator. To 'keep an eye on things'. She was thankful that he had no idea what was really going on here. He had not concerned himself with Barish until the end, and had had little interest in Peck afterward, once Smith made it clear he would be staying with the team. If Carla didn't know better, she would have sworn being around Peck made him feel guilty. Or at least, uncomfortable.

The problem was, of course, that the longer it took for Peck to wake up and smell the coffee, the more damage was done, and the harder it would be to explain things to Stockwell. Like why she hadn't told him immediately who the extortionist was. Which she couldn't do without explaining how he'd managed to slip from her grasp in the first place.

Not for the first time, she wished Barish had taken Santana. It would have been so much easier...


*****

He watched the men enter and fan out across the floor of the theater. He knew immediately that something was wrong. Face wasn't with them. They could have left him outside, he supposed, to watch the exits, but he had made it clear they were all to come inside.

"You're short, Smith. Where's pretty boy?" He cringed when he said that, even knowing Face would understand.

Smith looked up, searching the upper reaches of the theater for the source of the voice.

"I thought you could tell me."

Uh oh.

"Sloppy, Smith. Can't keep track of your own people?"

"Cut the crap, buddy. I know who you are. And I know Face does, too. He left, about an hour ago."

Damn.

"What do you mean, left?"

"I mean, walked out. Left the team. I gotta say, you did a damn good job on him."

"I'm not the one you should blame for that, Smith. I'm not the one who made him deny who he was. ALL of who he was."

There was silence for a moment. He couldn't see Smith's face clearly, but he knew the shot had hit home.

"All right. I'm not going to get into a blame game here. But if you know where he is, you'll convince him to come back. He needs help. He won't get it on the run with you."

"Help, huh? Like he's been getting? I don't think so, Smith."

He crept carefully toward his escape door. Smith was still talking, trying to convince him to turn Face over to them. Let him talk. He regretted that he wouldn't be able to make this part of the plan work, but he had more important things to take care of now.

He had to find Face.


*****

"I know what you're trying to do. And I can understand it, believe me. But it's not going to change anything. Not for you. Not for him. And Face can't help you like he is now. It's time to give it up."

The theater remained silent. Hannibal looked around, trying to detect any movement, any sound. Nothing.

"I think our goose has flown the coop, Hannibal." Murdock, too, was looking around, squinting against the lights.

"BA, Frankie - check outside." The two men hurried to the exit, but Hannibal didn't hold out much hope. This guy was too good.

Murdock moved up next to him. "This could be a good thing, Hannibal. I mean, for him to leave like that, he must have gone after him. And no matter what he's been doing to Stockwell, he's not going to let anything happen to Face. You know that."

"That doesn't mean he's going to come home, Murdock. It may mean they go underground. And if they do that, we may never see him again."


*****

He walked up slowly, but making sure Face heard him. His friend was sitting on the bench, not far from the pavilion, looking out at the small lake.

"How did the meeting go?" He didn't turn around, just kept staring out at the water.

"It didn't. Smith told me you'd left them, so I came here."

"He knows who you are, then."

"Yeah. He would've found out soon anyway. Doesn't matter."

He sat down on the bench, close but not too close.

"Face, I..."

"Don't call me that." There was no anger in the command, merely resignation. He looked up at the sky, then back to the lake. "I remember the day I was adopted. A family I'd lived with for a while, I don't know how long exactly. The day the adoption was finalized, my new dad brought out this brand new two-wheeler. He taught me how to ride it. My dad, pushing me along from behind, letting go, but running along beside me in case I got into trouble. And he had this big grin on his face when I finally made it up and down the block without tipping over...He had this soft, rumbly kind of voice. That's what I remember."

Face picked up a stick from the ground, tapped it absently against the bench. "The truth is I never got adopted, I never had a dad and I don't know how I learned to ride a bike." He threw the stick in the water, disturbing the ducks. "Dumb. Sitting here trying to remember how I learned to ride a fucking bicycle."

They sat quietly for a few more moments. Then Face felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked over at his friend, who stood up then. Looking down at him, smiling.

"C'mon, Sam. Let's go home."