CHAPTER TWELVE

Hannibal slammed the phone down. He knew it. He just knew it. Carla was out of the office. Her secretary would have her call him back. Right.

He yanked a cigar out of his pocket, and just stood there, staring at it. For the first time he realized how many times he would just stand there, waiting for Face to light his cigars for him, forgetting that it was no longer a habit for his XO. Just another one of those little things that he and the team hadn't even thought about, but were totally foreign to Face. The little things he wouldn't want to bother Hannibal about. And that just distanced him more and more from the team.

An experiment. Face had been closer to the truth than anyone had realized. The whole idea of bringing him back to the team had, in reality, been an experiment. To see if they could get him back. To make him come back. And they had all thought the only way to do that was make him push away the life he 'knew'. That life was a lie, so forget it. Dump it. Even that damn psychologist Stockwell had set up. Whose only goal was to make Face remember.

Murdock stood at the doorway. "Well?"

"She's out of the office."

"Out of the office, or out of town?"

"I'll give you two guesses." He looked at the cigar again, and shoved it angrily back in his pocket.

"So, now what?"

"Wait until that...woman...calls back. We have to come up with something to tell Stockwell, and, like it or not, she's going to help. She oughta be pretty adept at lying to him by now."

"You really think she'll go along with us?"

"I think she's going to realize that things have gone too damn far not to. If she doesn't help, she knows we'll have no choice but to go Stockwell with everything. He's the only other way we have to get the resources we're going to need."


*****

"So who's this?" Face bent down, examining Ernie's lair.

"Oh," Randy chuckled, "Sam, meet Ernie. Ernie, this is Sam."

"Hello, Ernie. Nice to meet you." He straightened and looked around the apartment. "So, this is home now? Bit different from a freezer box."

"Yeah, but it'll do." He opened the refrigerator, frowning. "Well, looks like we'll have to order in pizza tonight. That okay by you?"

"Sure." Sam wandered over to the couch, looking out the window, eye level with the sidewalk. He could see disembodied legs walking by out front. There seemed to be an adequate number of young women in the neighborhood. "Nice view."

"You ain't seen nothin yet." Grinning broadly, Randy walked over to join him. "If you're up early enough, all the joggers go by here to get to the park."

"I can live with that," he chuckled. "Hannibal always said..." He stopped.

Randy shook his head. "C'mon, don't do that here, okay? Here, we know there's another life we have to deal with. It's not 'either or'. The only way to get through this is to recognize that."

"What if I don't want that other life?"

Randy shrugged. "I liked you without it, y'know. The point is, it's up to you. Not me, not Hannibal, not Stockwell." He grinned at Sam again. "You know, we're really two of the luckiest people in the world. Because from here on out, we can be whoever we want to be. What's in the past, any past, doesn't mean a thing. The only thing we have to worry about is the future. Now, you ready for pizza or you want to burn your brain a little more?"

Sam chuckled. "I think we need an extra large. I haven't eaten since breakfast."


*****

"The general won't know Peck is missing unless one of us tells him. And I certainly have no intention of doing so."

Carla stood calmly in the team's hotel room. She hadn't bothered to call, or pretend to be in Langley. There was a point where subterfuge just wasn't worth it.

"So we just go along like everything's fine and dandy, huh?" Murdock glared at her from the couch.

"As far as Stockwell is concerned, yes."

"And what about finding Face?"

"As Colonel Smith has already figured out, you find the extortionist, you'll find Face. Consider it an additional incentive."

"Lady, you've already pushed your luck as far as it's going to go, so I'd watch the flippancy." Hannibal straightened up from the wall he'd been leaning against. "You've got resources at your disposal. You're going to start using them."

"Colonel, be reasonable. If it were that simple, we would've found Randy a long time ago. Long before he was able to inflict any damage. All I can really do is get you the full list that General Stockwell received, along with the likely financial interests they represent."

"You can also explain a few things. Like why you felt the need to talk to Face this morning, and tell him things he really didn't need to know yet."

"Colonel, the whole point in bringing in the team was to get Peck on the trail. He knows Randy better than anyone. He should have been able to find him almost immediately. Which he did, but for some reason, he chose not to let anyone in on that little fact. Not knowing that, of course, I felt it necessary to give him a little added push. I meant it only as a reminder, not realizing that you, Colonel, had chosen not to tell him something of such a serious nature."

"You didn't think you should check with me, first? No, because you didn't think it necessary to tell me who the quarry was. Just let us find our way in the dark."

Carla had the grace to blush, a little. "There were reasons for that, Colonel. Mainly because Randy should not have escaped in the first place. Not that I had any control over that, but, you know how the general can be."

"In other words, you were trying to save your sorry ass."

Carla drew herself up. "Recriminations are really counter-productive at this point, Colonel Smith. There is one other thing I can provide you with, and that is a copy of all the reports I received from Dr. Barish. Since Randy seems to be going back to more familiar territory, they might prove of some value to you." She moved suddenly and quickly toward the door. "I'll have them dropped off later tonight."

"One last thing, Carla." She stopped and looked back, irritated. "What happens when we catch up with them?"

"Randy will go back with me. He's still of some value to the organization, and the general won't care who was behind it as long as the extortion stops. I'll come up with a plausible story."

"And Face?"

"Well, unless you want to explain to the general why you're suddenly short one man, I suggest you keep him. And hopefully do a better job containing him than you have so far."

With that, Carla swept out of the room.