CHAPTER TWENTY

Sam added a few finishing touches to the van, smiling to himself when he thought about Baracus' reaction to them. He wondered, idly, which one of the team the guy would take it out on. He stopped for a moment, considering. Probably Murdock. BA seemed to prefer going after him.

Sam would actually prefer it be Santana. He wasn't sure why he had a dislike for that kid, he was generally less offensive than the rest of them. Except for that cockiness. Somehow the guy seemed to think he had some sort of special relationship with Smith, just because they made a couple movies together. Like that counted for anything. Face had been with Smith for a hell of a lot...

Shit. Face didn't even exist. Gotta remember that. Oh, that's funny, Sam. Real funny.

"Ready?" Randy stepped up, looking closely at him. Sam knew his slips back into that funny farm world of the team had been noticed, and that it bothered Randy. Well, he was working on it. It was getting easier not to.

"Yeah. You ready to do the Ables?"

"Any time. Got the stuff?" Sam could just barely see Randy's face in the dark, but he could hear the eager grin in his voice.

"Let's go, partner."

The two men started their hunt. They'd counted six Ables outside. It was possible there were more in the house, but Sam doubted Smith would have put up with that. He went left again, Randy right. They had to be quick and quiet for this gag to work. Anyone putting up an alarm would ruin everything.

Sam found his first almost immediately. Again listening to the status of security - ha ha - and then watching as the Able turned away to continued his rounds. A quick chop to the back of the neck and the first was taken out. He'd pulled his hit, so the guy would just have a tremendous headache when he woke up. He hoped Randy remembered to. Randy sometimes got carried away. But this was all for fun, not to get Stockwell on a complete rampage.

He quickly dragged his victim out of sight and went looking for the next. He kept watching the windows for any tell-tale sign of the occupants being awake, but saw nothing.

It took them less than a half-hour to incapacitate the Ables. Gleefully, the two men tied them up, and settled them against the van. Novelty glasses and springy antenna caps made up the final insult. Stepping back, Randy and Sam grinned crazily at each other.

"Well done, ol' chap!"

"Why, thank you, kind sir. Not bad yourself."

"Now, shall we get out of here before any one else joins the party?" Randy headed for their car.

"I'll meet you there in a minute. I've got one last thing to take care of." Sam looked toward the house, fun and games gone from his thoughts.

"Sam? I think we've done enough now. Anything else can wait."

Sam turned back to him, and Randy was surprised at the look on his face. "I said I'll be there in a minute, Randy."

Raising his hands in surrender, Randy backed up. "Okay, buddy. Just don't do anything foolish. We've still got the big fish to fry yet." There was just a hint of warning in his voice.

Sam relaxed, and winked at him. "Don't worry. I'm keeping the big picture in mind. Always."

Randy wasn't so sure, but he turned and headed back to the car. He didn't know what his friend had in mind, but he hoped it was Sam doing it, and not Face. He didn't need any messes to clean up.


*****

"What's the ETA?" He was tired of the long flight. He didn't like small planes, regardless of how expensive or well-equipped. On a normal airliner he could just sleep away the Atlantic crossing. He hadn't been able to relax enough to do so on this thing.

"About an hour, sir. We'll be going below radar shortly."

Great. Nothing like flying just above an ocean in a small plane. He should have taken matters into his own hands when Stockwell first contacted him about this. He could have disappeared in Europe and enjoyed himself until this was all settled. Or gone after these people himself. But Stockwell, as always, had to do things the hard way. His way. It got very tiresome. Worse than working for those autocratic government jerks ever were.

He checked his sidearm one more time. Stockwell's men hadn't been happy that he'd insisted on keeping it, but he refused to go anywhere unarmed. One of the men had mentioned that Colonel Smith would not allow it, but he wasn't worried. He'd dealt with military types before. Often. They usually backed down when faced with civilians who refused to take orders. This Smith had no control over him, not if he didn't let him.

He looked out the small window, watching as the moon reflected on the ever closer water of the Atlantic. If he ever got off this plane in one piece, he and Stockwell would definitely be having a serious discussion.


*****

He stood in the hallway, listening. This was crazy, stupid, foolhardy. Necessary. There was something here in the house that he needed, but he didn't know what it was. Not yet. That was what made it so crazy. But he'd know it when he saw it. He moved down the hallway, slowly, quietly. No one would hear him. He knew that. He came to Face's bedroom door and turned the knob, carefully, and opened it only enough to slide through. He knew it squeaked if opened too far. Quickly he closed the door behind him, and turned on his flashlight, darting the beam quickly around the room.

He saw it on the dresser. A small redwood box. Eyes fixed on it, he moved automatically toward it, opening it carefully, as if it would break at his touch. The object inside glittered in the light before he reverently picked it up and carefully stowed it in his pants pocket.

His mission accomplished, he moved back toward the door, turning off the flashlight and listening carefully before opening it and again sliding through to the hallway. He was about to leave, when something made him turn and head further along in the darkness. He came to another door, and again carefully opened it. This one didn't squeak, so he was able to open it more fully.

He stood in the doorway, breathing lightly, quietly, watching the man asleep in the bed. He stared hard at the face, desperately trying to pull a real and true memory into his mind. All he could do was bring up the memories they had forced on him. Nothing spontaneous, no warmth, no feeling of friendship, nothing. It just wasn't there.

He stepped back, pulling the door back with him. He left it open, just a bit. He wanted to let Smith know he'd been close. Very close.

Leave him with something to think about...


*****

Hannibal's alarm went off at two in the morning, but he'd been awake for a while before. He'd had the strangest dream. About Face, of course. They were in a mausoleum, of all places. Face was accusing him of betraying him, trying to kill him. He looked straight at Hannibal, and said, "I don't need you any more, Colonel." He turned and walked away. Hannibal couldn't move. He just watched, silent, as Face disappeared in the fog. He awakened shortly after and didn't even try to go back to sleep.

He heard the rest of the men starting to move around in their rooms, and pushed himself out of bed. He took a quick shower, taking the time to ground himself. He couldn't let something like a stupid dream bother him. They had a job to do and he would need his wits about him.

It was as he came out of the bathroom that he noticed the door. He knew he'd closed it last night. He always closed it, tight. Frowning, he stepped into the hallway. Murdock and BA were already heading for the kitchen.

"Hey, guys, either of you open my door last night or this morning?"

They stopped and looked at him, mildly puzzled. Both shook their heads.

"Problem, Hannibal?"

"No, forget it." He'd check with Frankie but he knew he'd get a negative there, too. He looked around his room. Nothing out of place. And yet...

He finished dressing quickly and headed for the kitchen himself. He met Frankie coming out of his room, and got the expected answer about the door. He stood for a minute, letting Frankie continue on without him. Pursing his lips, he turned back and headed for Face's room.

It took him a moment to see it. The box on the dresser, sitting open, empty. Hannibal turned on his heel and hurried to get the others.

"C'mon guys, we had company last night. BA, check the van. Murdock, you and Frankie check for the Ables. Now!"

Ten minutes later, the Ables were untied and sheepishly standing alongside the van. BA was checking every inch of it for bugs. When he finally located it, he was not happy.

"Hannibal, it's stuck up there by the brake line. They had to scrape away some oil and gunk; cut the brake line doin it. Gonna take some time to fix."

"And we don't have time for that. Damn it!" He thought for a moment. He didn't like it. Sure, the bug had been hidden well, but still... He glanced at his watch. "Do a quick check of Frankie's Cutlass, BA. We'll have to take that. The 'vette isn't big enough."

BA headed for the garage, shaking his head angrily.

"All right, Murdock, you and Frankie get the gear out of the van, put as much as you can in the trunk. We don't have any time to waste."

"What do you suppose they'll do now that they don't have the tracker, Hannibal?"

"They'll find a way. Don't worry about that."


*****

"Want to tell me why you had to go in the house like that, Sam?" Randy spoke quietly, but there was an obvious tenseness in his voice.

"Just something I left behind."

Randy looked at him, curiously. "Must have been important."

"It seemed like it..."

Sam closed his eyes, feigning sleep, gently fingering the rosary in his pocket.