CHAPTER TWENTY TWO

"Hannibal?"

"Yes, Murdock?"

"You want to tell us what's going on?"

"What do you mean?"

Murdock leaned over the back of the front seat, his cap pushed forward. "Well, for starters, where are we going? We should have been at the safe house a long time ago."

"We aren't going to the safe house. We're going to do a little traveling."

"Uh, why?"

"Because I want to frazzle a few nerves back there."

"Back there, meaning Randy and Face? You think that's wise?"

"I think it's the only way they're going to make a mistake."

"Okay...uh, can I ask another question?"

"Of course, Murdock." Despite his words, there was a long-suffering tone to Hannibal's voice.

"How did you know Face and Randy had been at the house?"

"That was simple. They - or, maybe, just 'he' - left my bedroom door open. Enough so I would notice it."

"Face was in your room?" BA nearly drove off the road, staring at Hannibal. "What the..."

"He didn't do anything. Just left the door open so I would know he'd been there. That, and he took his rosary from the dresser."

"Rosary?" Frankie looked confused. "I mean, I know Face was Catholic, but I didn't think he was, well, religious-like."

"I don't know if religion had anything to do with it, Frankie. I think it was just something Face wanted to have."

"Face? Or Sam? I thought he was through being Face, Johnny. I mean, that's the idea I got from him."

Hannibal smiled softly. "I think Face is going to have something to say about who's who, Frankie."


*****

Clifton had been dozing; at least, letting them think he was dozing. But he was listening closely to the conversation. At first it didn't mean much to him, until he heard the name 'Randy', and then 'Sam'. And that made him smile to himself. Well, well...the two that got away, huh? And now they were trying to take down Stockwell. Ironic kind of justice, there. When it was Stockwell that wanted them alive to begin with. Well, no one got everything their way...


*****

Sam was getting tired. The adrenaline flood of earlier, when the chase was new and the territory open, had drawn down to nothing as they had moved onto the highways crowded with enough cars to easily keep them out of sight. He and Randy kept trading places, but the last few times they'd glanced at each other in passing, and the boredom was clear to both. For a while, just to pass the time, Sam had started a discreet game of tag with Randy, coming up next to him, making a face, and then passing. Shortly after, Randy would take his turn. They continued until they started getting dirty looks from other motorists. Their day wound down to dullness.

Sam had realized what Smith was doing some time ago. They'd been driving much too long to be going to any safe house. Stockwell would never allow them to get this far from Langley if they were going to be staying anywhere for the duration. No, Smith intended to wear them down. Wait for them to get impatient, get frustrated, make mistakes. Like a moving siege. He was sure Randy knew it, too. Well, there were a few things the two of them could teach the colonel about being on the road.

They would wait until the team stopped for lunch, and dump the rental car. No point in both of them getting exhausted, and there was little chance of anything weird happening on these highways. Smith knew they were being followed anyway.

In fact, as long as Smith knew...

This might not work out the way the colonel expected, after all.


*****

Hannibal had BA pull over at the truck stop in Wheeling Creek, Ohio. Clifton had been awake for the last two hours, and complaining ever since. He was cramped, he was hot, he was cold...Hannibal was about ready to stuff him in the trunk. Clifton had just made a remark about who was getting frazzled when Hannibal saw the truck stop. It probably saved their passenger a very uncomfortable ride.

Hannibal had the others go in to eat. He stayed with the car, smoking his cigar in the first peace he'd had since the airfield. He was keeping an eagle eye out for any cars that looked familiar, but he knew it was an impossible task. He was looking more at the drivers getting out of the cars. Again, nearly impossible, since the truck stop had multiple entrances and what seemed like hundreds of trucks moving in and out.

After a while he gave up, knowing that BA and Murdock would be watching the door anyway. He needed to think over this brilliant plan of his. Sure, it was going to wear down Randy and Face. Especially Face, who hated driving anything except his 'vette, and hated even more driving at the sedate speed Hannibal was making BA maintain. He had a feeling Randy felt much the same way.

Unfortunately, although Hannibal and the rest of the team could manage to amuse themselves during trips like this, no one had counted on Clifton or his attitude. Obviously the rental car was way beneath him, as were his traveling companions. The man was insufferable. He kept claiming he was perfectly capable of protecting himself, and Hannibal had no doubt of that. He knew who had capped Barish. Along with an innocent lab assistant. And that was precisely why Stockwell had the team babysitting the guy. It was as much to keep an eye on Clifton as it was to keep him safe.

Glancing around the truck stop one more time, Hannibal decided their trip was coming to an end, at least for that day. They could be in Indianapolis in just under four hours, and he intended to find a very classy hotel to spend the night in. And if Clifton was lucky, the closets would be large enough for him to lay down in.


*****

Randy left the rental car at the fast food joint where they ate, hurrying to make sure they didn't miss the team leaving the truck stop. Things were better now. As they drove along, they talked about what they'd like to do when this was finished, the places they wanted to visit, the things they'd like to try.

They had settled into a comfortable silence, radio playing, when they first started seeing the signs for Indianapolis. They decided to move up on the team's rental. Sam knew BA could drive circles around even the best drivers, and he wasn't about to lose them now. He needn't have worried. Apparently the team was more anxious to get to a good hotel than worrying about the two men following them. That, plus Randy seeming to have x-ray vision to see through the traffic, made it seem easy. Sam allowed himself to relax and start planning.

By the time the team arrived at the Canterbury Hotel, Sam was smiling. He had a plan so great and yet so simple...and there was just no way the team could ignore it. Randy glanced over and saw the smile and knew there was something going on. He was just tired enough to wonder if he really wanted to get in on yet another of Sam's wild schemes. The next second he knew he would go along. He always did. That was just another of Sam's skills. Getting people to do what they didn't want to, and enjoy it.

"So?" Randy waited, knowing he would regret this.

"So, let's give them a chance to get settled in and then we'll get ourselves a room. I must say, Smith's choice surprised me. I didn't think he had that much taste. Of course, it could be Mr. Clifton exerting his influence."

"You want a room at the same hotel?"

"Sure. Maybe we can even get on the same floor." He looked innocently at Randy. "Easier to keep an eye on things."

"Right..."

Randy sighed, and settled in for the wait. Ninety minutes later Sam had charmed his way into a suite, one of four on the same floor as the team. Stockwell would be paying for Smith's suite; Sam and Randy were staying gratis, as only befitted AAA inspectors. They had barely closed the door on the smiling bellhop when Sam sat on the bed and reached for the phone.

"Now what are you up to?" Randy was so tired, he wondered how Sam could still have any energy left.

"Just calling on an old friend. At least, that's what I was told, so why not?" Sam grinned, but it was definitely not a nice grin. He held up his hand as the person on the other end of the line picked up.

"Yes, I'd like a number in Chicago, Illinois, please...Baracus..."