CHAPTER FIFTY

Maggie closed the door tightly, then stole a quick look around. She hadn't seen anyone, but she knew there had to be someone. Those clicks had been back on her telephone line, and she had seen a couple of strange cars in town the last couple of weeks. Sighing with the knowledge that there was nothing she could do about it anyway, she placed her small suitcase to the car and pulled out of the driveway.

The call had come late last night. It had spooked her at first, being a stranger's voice, but they knew the code word. She and Hannibal arranged a new word each time, and he would never give that out to someone he didn't trust implicitly. And somehow, she thought she recognized that voice, from somewhere.

The caller had told her to say hi to Hank, so she knew there would be a more detailed message waiting for her at his office. He really didn't like acting as their go-between, but he would do whatever Maggie or Hannibal asked him to. It worried her, because, maybe out of some perceived guilt, Hannibal only used Hank when time was short. The sheriff still moved slower than usual after dealing with Barish's people so many months ago.

She drove as quickly as possible without attracting attention. Her cover story was another family emergency. She smiled wryly to herself; based on these 'occurrences' since meeting the team, Maggie's family was the unluckiest bunch she'd ever heard of.

Hank shook his head as she came hurrying in. He handed her the notes he'd taken from his phone call. She apologetically smiled her thanks as she perused the notes. That turned to a frown as she read further.

"I already called your backup, Maggie. Another family emergency, two to three weeks, right?"

She shook her head. "I don't know what I'd do without you, Hank."

"Probably spend a lot of time behind bars." He looked sternly at her, all but shaking his finger in her face. "You be careful this time, Maggie. Something about this one is off."

"I know, Hank. I'll be careful. Promise." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek before heading out the door.

She drove straight out of town, and connected with the northbound freeway a half hour later. She knew by the dust cloud that had appeared some distance behind her that she was, indeed, being followed. She wasn't too worried; John would have known she'd be followed, and would have various diversions set up for them along the way.

Over the next five hours, Maggie made seven different stops. At each one, she called the number she'd been given at the last one and got the new directions. By the time she made the last call, her patience was growing thin. This was much too much cloak and dagger stuff. Not like John at all. It did nothing to ease her feeling that something major was wrong.

At least now she was on her way to the final destination. The caller had warned her it was off the beaten path, and it was no exaggeration. With every turn of the steep road, her car complained about the potholes and ruts and rocks. She had no idea if anyone was still trying to follow her, and at this point, didn't really care. John would just have to come up with something if they had. She found herself thinking that this whole thing had better be worth it, then ashamedly realized what that really meant. She took a deep breath and gripped the steering wheel tighter.

Eventually, Maggie rounded a final curve and spied a decrepit mobile home situated in a small clearing. Settling uncertainly against it was an old two-door garage. One door hung crookedly open a foot or so, and she could see the back end of a black van parked inside. It struck her that BA had been very careless to leave it like that, and her anxiety quickened.

She parked on the far side of the trailer, and looked cautiously around as she rounded the front and stepped up to the front door. All quiet, as far as she could see. No one opened the door, and she again thought that odd. She pulled at the handle, and after a momentary stubbornness, the door swung outward. She stepped inside, expecting to see the team, expecting to find at least one wounded man.

The trailer was completely empty. No person, no furniture, no appliances. Not even carpet on the floor. An empty shell.

What the heck?

She took a couple more steps into the trailer, and caught a movement outside. Before she could get to the window, the door burst open and the trailer filled with armed men. It took only seconds for the mobile home to be searched.

"Where are they, Dr. Sullivan?"

"I..."

Another man stepped angrily through the door. "The van's a rental, sir. We've been set up!"


*****

"This is not going to work."

"Of course it's going to work, Kurt. These things always work."

Kurt looked across the fence one more time.

"This is not going to work."

Murdock rolled his eyes, and moved forward with his wire cutters. Kurt shook his head, followed.

Moments later they were seated in a military cargo van, Kurt working the wires under the dash.

"I still think we should have just hijacked one that was already out."

"And then we would have had to deal with the guys in it. Trust me, this is better."

"Sure." Kurt connected the last wires, heard the engine cough to life. "We steal a van, drive it past the guards, then a couple hours later, drive it right back past them. What happens if someone notices that they're missing a van in the meantime?"

"They won't."

"How do you know?" They were moving toward the gate, Kurt waiting for the wail of sirens behind them.

"Because no one in their right mind would be checking the motor pool at one o'clock in the morning. Besides..."

"...but it's perfectly normal to go out on a pickup."

Murdock sighed. Sometimes Kurt was more like Face than Face was. "Just listen and learn, muchacho. Listen and learn."

They pulled up to the gate, and Murdock leaned out the passenger window as the guard stepped up.

"What's up, guys?" The guard looked curiously at the two men, dressed in street clothes.

"Hey, sarge, we're kinda pullin' a fast one here." Murdock winked at him. "Scuttlebutt has it there's gonna be a surprise inspection first thing this morning. By the Old Man himself. I got a friend, who has a friend...know what I mean?"

"Yeah, but what do you need the van for?"

"Well, my buddy, he didn't get the last set of requisitions processed in a timely manner, so to speak, and I told him I'd take care of it."

"I don't know, sir. This is highly irregular."

"Hey, man, c'mon. One weekend warrior for another, huh? I gave you a heads up on the inspection, man. The Old Man's gonna be looking at everybody, know what I mean?"

The sergeant grimaced. He hated inspections. Especially when the CO himself showed up.

"Okay, guys, but be careful. It's my watch, y'know."

"Noooo problem, sarge. Be back in a couple hours, tops."

Kurt started laughing a block later.

*****

"What about the IV?"

"Pull the line, it's too obvious. We're going to have a hard enough time slipping him past the guards."

"Sedation?"

"I'll have to inject it until we get there. Don't worry; I'll keep him under."

"Okay, guys. Watch his shoulder."

"Got it."

"Okay, get the blanket. Colder than a witch's tit out there."

"Yeah, yeah, I know..."

Daryl stuck his head out into the hallway. The nurse at the desk was watching for him; she glanced around quickly and nodded. Drawing back into the room, he waved the men forward with their cargo. Quickly the gurney was wheeled down the hall to the staff elevator. With a quick 'thank you' to the nurse, Daryl jabbed the button for the basement level. A few minutes later, they were loading the gurney into the back of a steel gray van.

"What did you tell that nurse?" Hannibal stood outside the van, supervising the detail.

"Oh, that we'd received word that the bad guys might know where he was, so we had to move him out quickly. And that we weren't sure where the leak was, so she had to keep quiet about it."

Hannibal smiled. "Nice."

"Yes, she was..." Daryl smiled back and climbed into the van.

Chuckling, Hannibal shut the van door and hurried around to the front.

BA was already in the driver's seat, impatient to get going. They had a two and a half hour drive ahead of them, and he worried about keeping Face comfortable for that long. Guiltily, he admitted he was more worried about keeping him under for that long. The last thing he wanted was that thing from the cabin making an appearance in the back of the van.

He pulled the van out of the parking space and carefully maneuvered around the other vehicles in the cramped space. A few minutes later they were rolling down the highway. BA didn't think about their destination. It wasn't someplace he really wanted to be going. The Duluth International Airport.

Specifically, the Air National Guard unit based there.


*****

He was running through the undergrowth, sweat streaming into his eyes so he could hardly see where he was going. He could hear the Huey's overhead, coming down. He sprinted ahead, knowing he had only minutes.

He saw his CO a few yards away, one hand on the Huey, the other waving the soldiers toward the chopper. He ran faster. Tripped. Yelled to Hannibal. Got up, stumbled forward again.

The Huey was lifting off. He made a wild leap, felt someone grab his arm. His fingers locked on, his other hand coming up. Felt himself being pulled in. Fell onto the floor. Looked up.

Randy. Grinning at him.

Safe.


*****

Daryl gently inserted the needle into the tube still in Sam's arm. Watched as the fluid slowly emptied. A few minutes later the man's mumblings stopped.

"Okay. Let's go."

BA, Kurt, Murdock and Frankie quickly slid the gurney out of their van and into the confiscated vehicle. They pushed the supply boxes around it. Anyone taking more than a cursory glance would see him, but they were hoping the sergeant at the gate would be more interested in getting them out of sight before his own complicity was discovered.

Twenty minutes later Murdock was filing the forged flight plans. He'd looked them over quickly. Kurt was nearly as good as Face at this. He smiled at the clerk, sauntered out of the office and toward the hangar. The guys had moved the fake supply boxes into the plane first, while the MP was still watching. Frankie managed to engage the guy in some fast talk about getting into the military police while Face was loaded. By the time Murdock arrived, they were all set.

The sun was just breaking over the horizon as the plane lifted off, heading due south.