CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

"Working?"

"Of course."

"Funny Baracus didn't find it."

"I told you that casing would hide it. That, and a tank full of gas." He chuckled.

Randy shook his head. What Sam didn't know about up to the minute technology wasn't worth knowing. He'd never seen anyone who could get so engrossed in electronic journals the way he could. Anything new, anything weird, Sam wanted to know about it. All about it.

He glanced down at the little gadget Sam held. A bright red light was blinking steadily. It would waver now and then, going to one side or another depending on how the gas in the tank swept it around, but generally held steadily in a northerly direction. Sam hadn't bothered to turn it on when the Cutlass swung out of the compound. He'd waited, having a pretty good idea they were headed for the small, private airfield Stockwell used. Once the old car was out of sight, the two men had followed at a leisurely pace. Only when Sam was sure the team had arrived at the airfield had he switched on the remote tracker. After that, it was just a matter of following the little red dot.

Randy kept his eye on the road, letting Sam direct him. They had the radio on, music they both liked. Other than that, it was silent in the car for some time. Finally Randy had to ask.

"So, what was it you went back for, Sam?"

Sam could feel his face getting hot. It was embarrassing, for some reason.

"Sam?"

"Oh, just a...a rosary. Don't ask me why I wanted it. It just seemed important to have it. Dumb."

Randy didn't say anything for a few minutes, thinking. "I didn't know you were religious, Sam."

"I'm not."

"Then why...?"

"I don't know, I said! I don't even know where the thing came from. I just...didn't want to leave it there."

"Okay."

Randy was thinking, hard. When they were finished with Clifton, they might just hold off a little on the next target. Not only would it make Stockwell sweat some - if he were still functioning at all - but he and Sam could use a little down time. A little vacation.

Maybe go back out to LA.


*****

The pickup went smoothly, for the most part. Clifton objected strenuously to being searched, but while Hannibal distracted him, BA took care of that little problem. Their guest now slumped in the back seat, not quite comfortably between Murdock and Frankie. Hannibal was smoking a cigar, wondering how far they would get before Randy made his first move. The tracker on the van bothered him. It was clever, and had taken some time to find, but something wasn't quite right about it. At least the Cutlass was clean, but it left Hannibal wondering just what was coming next.

He was looking at this wrong, again. Get back on track. What would he do in this case? How would he find his target, knowing the team would be in charge...he thought back to the van. He wouldn't want them to have access to that, not with the cache of weapons it could carry. He'd want them to be handicapped that way. So the tracker was supposed to be found, but not so easily that they would know it was a ruse. The real trick was the brake line.

So far, the plan was working. They were without most of their weapons and communications systems. Only what the Cutlass carried, which was next to nothing. Sure, they could go back and get the van repaired and take it to the safe house, but it left them a man short when they were undermanned to begin with, plus opened more chances for the target to be found. So they were stuck with what they had.

That left the Cutlass. There had to be a tracker on it, somewhere. He wouldn't sabotage the van, force them to use the car unless he could follow it without being seen. It made no sense otherwise. But BA had gone over every inch and hadn't found anything. Where would he put it that BA couldn't find it? Where the detector wouldn't 'see' it?

He looked over at BA. If anyone knew about this stuff, it was BA. Time to start picking his brain. Before they got too close to the safe house.


*****

"They've stopped. Pull over."

Randy immediately pulled off on the shoulder and waited.

"Think they've figured it out?"

"I think Smith knows there's something wrong. Probably talking it over with Baracus; he's the only one who might know how we did it." Sam pulled the map out of the glove compartment, made some quick marks on it. "There's a small town about fifteen miles from their current location. If they stop there for longer than it would take for a quick breakfast, we'll know they've figured it out." He closed his eyes, thinking. "Okay, we need to get there before they do. They'll switch cars. Smith won't want to take time to look for the bug. We'll pick up a second car, switch to close-up two man surveillance. But we have to hurry so we don't lose them completely." He looked at the map again. "Turn right up ahead. We can burn a little rubber and get there first."

Randy nodded and pulled back onto the road. This was good. This was Sam. All Sam.


*****

Hannibal and BA had taken several minutes to discuss the problem. At first, BA was adamant that he hadn't missed anything. But after Hannibal told him his reasoning, BA sat and thought hard. He had to agree, then, that there were ways of concealing a tracker, confusing the detector. But it was really high-tech stuff. Hard to get a hold of.

"Except for someone who can be anyone at any time. Someone who could forge the proper paperwork, the authorizations, the requisitions."

"Yeah, someone like that could get anything they wanted. And quick, too."

Hannibal pulled out the map from the glove compartment. "Okay, about twelve miles from here there's a town that ought to be big enough to have rental cars. We'll ditch the Cutlass. Murdock, you find a restaurant and get a takeout breakfast. Frankie, you keep an eye on sleeping beauty. I want us back on the road before they catch on to us." Folding the map back up, he lit yet another cigar. "Let's go, BA."


*****

Randy had stuck on a moustache and cap before going into the rental place. Enough to draw attention from his real features, not enough to look odd or be remembered. It took only a few minutes to fill out the paperwork with his fake ID and take possession of the mom-and-pop sedan. He met Sam on the edge of town.

"All set?"

Randy nodded.

"They haven't pulled in yet." Sam glanced at his watch. "Should be any time now."

"Okay. See you on the flip side." Randy smiled and slid back into the rental. He would wait at the other end of the one main street. If they took any other route out of town, Sam would alert him in plenty of time.

Sam watched as Randy pulled away and drove out of sight. He could feel the adrenaline starting to pump faster now. This wouldn't be as easy as following the tracker. But it would be a hell of a lot more fun.


*****

The team were all on guard as they pulled into the town. They saw the restaurant first, and dropped Murdock off. They spotted the rental agency a few blocks from there. Hannibal took care of the paperwork, using the ID's Stockwell had provided them with. He also asked about a place to store the Cutlass; Frankie was already complaining about leaving it here.

When he returned, their guest had fully awakened, and was not happy.

"I want my sidearm back, now."

"You'll get it back when I decide you'll need it. And right now, you don't need it. We're all the protection you have to have."

"Why doesn't that make me feel better? Listen, Smith, I know you've been trying to catch up with these guys for some time now. And I know they've been making fools of you and your team. So don't tell me how protected I should feel."

Hannibal looked at him, wanting to put him back in slumber land but not wanting to make a scene out here on the street. "Just what do you know about these guys?"

"Only that they're determined to bring Stockwell down. And they want me to be the next tree crashing in his forest. That, and what I already mentioned is all Stockwell would tell me."

"Okay, then you don't know enough to make any decisions. You will keep your mouth shut, and do what I tell you, or you will be tied and gagged like any other sleazeball we've dealt with." Hannibal stepped up in the man's face. "I don't like what you do, I don't like you, and I don't like being the one supposed to keep you from these guys. For two cents, I'd turn you over to them with my blessing. So you give me any trouble and I'll let Stockwell go down another notch. Got it?"

"Anything you say, Smith." Clifton glared at him, but knew it wasn't his time yet. Later. He'd have plenty of time later to deal with Smith and company.

Silently, the men drove the Cutlass to the storage garage, and then took the rental to pick up Murdock. Forty minutes after entering the town, they were once again on their way to the safe house.

They paid no attention as one car after another pulled into the beginning of the rush hour traffic around them.