CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Tired of rebuilding it over and over, BA angrily shoved the alarm clock away; in the process he nearly knocked Murdock's pop bottle off the table. Murdock grabbed it angrily, shoving away from the table and stalking into the living room. Frankie, who had been trying to watch television, wisely decided to check out the view from the balcony. As he stepped out into the cooler air, he hoped Hannibal would get back soon. Very soon.

It was their fourth day in D.C., and so far there hadn't been a sign of either Randy or Face. None of the people they and the Ables had been watching had been approached by anything other than normal methods. And yet they all knew that there would be ramifications from the missed deadline. The members of the team had been alternating with various Ables in the surveillance, meeting back at the hotel room that was their base of operations to compare notes; it was time-consuming, boring and stressful. Nerves were at the straining point.

The door to their hotel room literally slammed open. Even Frankie heard it from the balcony. That couldn't be good. He stepped cautiously back inside. One look at Hannibal's face said it all. They'd been had, once again.

"They didn't even go after our Committee members. They side-stepped us. Gave the information to a Senator Kerry. Stockwell got the news this morning - friend of a friend of a friend. Otherwise we'd have never known."

"How does that fit with Stockwell's finances? I don't understand..."

"They're hitting him in a different arena this time." The use of the plural wasn't missed by anyone. "The information, in the hands of this Senator, is going to cause repercussions internationally. And since this particular information could only have come from Stockwell..."

"Shit." Murdock threw his pop bottle into the garbage. "And I suppose he's long gone, too. Who knows where..."

"Not exactly. Carla got a photo by courier this morning." Hannibal pulled the picture from his pocket, tossing it angrily on the table. The others gathered around and stared at it.

Randy and Face, in front of the Jefferson Memorial, smiling and waving at the camera, typical tourists. Murdock picked it up, glanced at the back. Saw the note, with yesterday's date on it.

"Long time, no see..."


*****

They had planned on staying in the D.C. area for a few days, sight-seeing, but by the third day it was obvious Sam was not comfortable being that close to Langley. His laughter was becoming forced and infrequent, and the dreams at night were taking on a more nightmarish quality. He began letting Randy make all the decisions without a murmur. Randy got tickets for the first flight back to Minneapolis that morning.

Sam relaxed noticeably when Randy told him they were leaving. It only took a short time for them to pack and get to the airport. It wasn't until they arrived at the ticket desk that things started falling apart.

Sam stopped short, looking confused.

"What's the matter, Sam? Forget something?"

"No...that's...Beller Airline?"

"Yeah. It was the only one that had seats available. Something wrong?"

"No. No, nothing. Just...it sounds familiar." Sam shook his head, smiling ruefully. "Never mind. Deja vue all over again."

Randy smiled back, but watched him. There was something odd there.

Sam seemed to relax again as the plane taxied down the runway and took off. He watched out the window as they gained altitude. They soon moved in heavy clouds, and Sam leaned back in his seat to sleep. Randy picked up a magazine and lazily started browsing. Soon he nodded off.

It must have been about half-way through the flight when he woke up. He wasn't sure what it was, at first. Then he heard someone speaking, whispering, next to him. Sam. He looked over in alarm.

Sam was scrunched down in his seat, a brows furrowed, staring ahead as if trying to make out something just out of his vision. Randy couldn't make out the fast, staccato whisperings. Taking a quick look around him, he reached over and gently squeezed Sam's arm.

"Sam? Sam. What's going on?" He spoke low, but firmly.

The whispering stopped, but Sam continued to stare ahead. Louder, but still quietly, he answered. "We're being hijacked."

"What!?"

"Hijacked. A man named Jackson. He's the leader. They're posing as crew members."

Randy glanced around him. No one seemed edgy, or on guard. He hadn't seen any crew other than the stewardesses, but they certainly hadn't seemed nervous. Sam must have seen something that tipped him off.

"How do you know, Sam?"

"They made demands. We traded Smith for the passengers."

"Smith!"

"He posed as Beller. And I...I was the accountant..."

Suddenly Sam didn't seem so sure of himself. Randy looked closer at him. Aw, no. Sam's eyes were unfocused and he seemed to be looking much farther ahead than the seat in front of him. Randy knew immediately what was happening.

"No, Sam, that's not now. That happened...a long time ago." Randy didn't know if it had or not, but he had to play by Sam's rules right now.

For a moment, he didn't think the other man had accepted it, or even understood it. But gradually, Sam began to focus, his eyes darting around nervously. He stopped when he saw Randy beside him. He suddenly went pale, and Randy could see he was starting to panic.

"Randy, what the hell's going on? I saw...so clearly...like it was happening right now. Are you sure...?"

"I'm sure, Sam. Nothing's going on right now except a routine flight. It must have been another dream. That's all.'

"But it seemed so real, Randy. How could it be so real, when it never happened?"

"You know it never happened? Are you sure?"

"Damn it, yes, I'm sure! None of that crap happened! I was never with those guys! Never!" Sam's voice was rising, and nearby passengers were starting to look at them.

"Okay, okay, calm down, Sam. Just calm down." He looked at the other passengers, smiling reassuringly. "Look, let's just not talk about it right now. When we land, we'll get home and we can talk it all out, okay? But we have to be cool right now, not draw attention. We don't want any problems with our plans, right?"

Sam immediately quieted. No, we can't jeopardize the plans. No way. He nodded at Randy, picked up a magazine and studiously started turning the pages.

Randy sighed in relief. Flashback or not, this was not good. Nor was it good that Sam was denying his involvement with the team. Randy knew he'd been a part of it; if Sam didn't want to be any more, that was one thing. But to convince himself it never happened, well, that was another.

Their plans may take some reworking...


*****

The team moved back into the Langley compound later that day. There was nothing to do now until the next deadline approached, and that was nearly a week away. Hannibal didn't even look at the details. There was no point. He'd wait until a day or two before, and then he'd grill the hell out of Stockwell. No more letting the general give them only his conclusions. This time Hannibal would determine the possibilities himself.

Not that he would admit it to any one else, especially the rest of his team, but Hannibal was getting discouraged. This was liking fighting shadows. Between Randy and Face, they could come up with damn near any scenario to accomplish their goals. Randy had his own specialized training, which was difficult enough to predict. But Face...not only did Face have SF training, he'd had years of tutelage under Hannibal himself. And no one could forget things that had become second nature. No way.

And that was when it hit him. Maybe he was fighting shadows. But most of those were his own. He'd had much the same training as Randy, and he'd taught Face practically everything he knew. Shadow boxing. Just look in the mirror and see what was coming next. He chuckled, lighting a cigar.

All he had to do was outwit himself.