CHAPTER FIFTY ONE

Hannibal woke with the sun full in his face. He squinted at the window, trying to get his bearings. Down below, he could see a large river passing by. The Rio Grande? So it wouldn't be long now. He stretched his back, stood and moved carefully through the plane to where Face was situated. Not surprising, Randy and Daryl were flanking the gurney.

"How's he doing?"

"So far, so good. Hasn't stirred since I gave him the last injection." Daryl glanced at his watch. "He should be good until we get to La Ventana."

Hannibal sat down next to Daryl, unconsciously watching for any movement from Face. "Where exactly is this place, anyway?"

"It's southeast of Monterrey, about an hour's drive. Don't worry. I contacted my uncle before we left. He'll have someone waiting for us at the airport. I should go let Murdock know what to do."

"What do you mean?" Randy looked suspicious. From the looks of him, Hannibal knew he hadn't caught any sleep on the way.

"Well, by this time, the National Guard's probably realized we didn't take the plane to Chicago. And it won't take long for the Mexican authorities to realize a United States military transport shouldn't be landing at their airport without any notice. So we'll have to take a little evasive action." Daryl looked from one frowning face to the other. "I was going to let you guys know after I talked to Murdock. We're going to have to be ready to move, and fast."

Randy and Hannibal looked at each other. They should have known...


*****

"You find them, he's yours. The rest come back to me."

"I want both of them."

"You'll take what I give you. Any change in plans without my authorization, and you'll wish you'd never heard of me."

The two men glared at each other for several more moments. It was the younger man who finally backed down. The other had expected just that.

"Now that we understand each other, I suggest you get started. Get in touch with this Dr. Garr, and the National Guard in Duluth. I want this finished. Once and for all."

"Yessir."


*****

The plane taxied to the far end of the airfield and off into the grass, as the men inside fought to keep their footing. As soon as it came to a stop, BA and Randy undid the restraints holding the gurney in place. A truck rolled up to the back, having come in from a side road and breaking through the fence. The six men surrounded the gurney protectively, pushing it out of the plane's cargo doors and hoisting it into the truck. There were no restraints for it in the truck, so twelve hands held on tightly. Only minutes later the truck roared off, going back through the newly created opening in the fence, and disappeared.


*****

Clifton walked out of the airport manager's office late that morning, the report in his briefcase. Not much to go on. There would, of course, be nothing in the airplane. His interview with the MP's at Duluth had confirmed who had taken the plane. No surprises there.

It hadn't taken long to track the missing airplane. One didn't drop an Air National Guard plane at a Mexican airport and walk away without attracting notice. He would just be chasing his tail trying to trace the truck they had used to escape. No real description of it. Everyone's attention had been on the plane, and the rather spectacular exit from the airport had been too quick for more than a cursory look at the truck itself.

Now he had to figure out why they had come to Mexico. They could have gone anywhere in the States. Why here?

He stopped, thinking. The truck. Somebody had to be driving that truck, someone had to arrange for their pickup at the airport. Someone who was willing to take that chance for them. That was why they had come to Mexico. They had a benefactor here. So now the question was, which one of them was the benefactor really helping?

Time to put in a call to Stockwell. He needed the personnel files. All of them.


*****

Face had been whisked away, accompanied by Hannibal and two people he assumed were servants in the household. The foursome were met in a distant bedroom by a man who introduced himself as Dr. Perea. He immediately performed a quick examination of his new patient. The trip from the airport had been a little rough on the shoulder, but the doctor assured him it was nothing to worry about. Reluctantly, Hannibal allowed himself to be escorted out of the room. He joined the rest of his men on the large stone patio.

There was also another man present on the patio, an older, harder version of Daryl. He hadn't been seen when they first arrived in Las Ventana, but now sat in a lounge chair, talking quietly with Daryl, while the rest of the men sat around the perimeter, or wandered aimlessly along the balustrade. Hannibal's arrival got everyone's attention. Daryl hurried over.

"Colonel Smith, I'd like you to meet my Uncle Mick."

Hannibal shook hands. "I appreciate your hospitality, Mr..."

"Just call me Mick." He smiled smoothly. "And it's no problem. Any friends of my nephew are friends of mine. I'm sorry our patient had such a rough ride here, however. The roads do leave something to be desired. Dr. Perea has assured me there will be no aftereffects, thankfully." Ignoring the look from Hannibal at the 'our patient', he turned to Daryl, who was looking very uncomfortable. "I'll see you later, Daryl. You will all join me for dinner, of course. I'm afraid I have to leave later this evening, take care of some business. I'll be gone for a few days, but in the meantime, mi casa es su casa." Smiling benevolently once more, he sauntered into the house.

Hannibal looked over at Daryl. "Your uncle seems very accommodating, but I get the feeling there's something we should know about."

"Oh, uh, well, Mick had a few troubles in the States. He's kind of a persona non grata..."

"Troubles that could affect our stay here?"

"No, oh, no, not at all. The government doesn't even know he's here..." Daryl trailed off, thoroughly ill at ease.

"Then we don't need to discuss it further." Hannibal smiled at him. There were times you probed, times you kept your eyes shut. Daryl nodded, grateful. "Now, we need to make some plans. I want to get Maggie down here if at all possible. Not that I don't trust your uncle's doctor, but..."

"Not a problem, Colonel. Dr. Perea was just doing Mick a favor. We can make whatever arrangements you wish. I've basically been given carte blanche."

Hannibal grinned at Daryl's eagerness, but Randy didn't seem quite so enthusiastic. He was of the firm opinion that most people weren't that helpful for nothing. He would have to do some checking on 'Uncle Mick'. He wanted to know exactly who's 'casa' they were in.


*****

The courier had delivered the files to Clifton's hotel room late that evening. It had taken some time to gather the detailed information he had required, and had solicited yet another dire warning from Stockwell about his expectations. Clifton blew it off. After hanging up, of course.

He set the files on the A-Team and Randy to one side. He'd already gone over those months ago, and didn't really think he'd forgotten any mentions of Mexico. He would go over them again, just in case, but for the moment he needed to look at the gruesome twosome - Daryl and Kurt. He'd seen their service records, and their files from their work for Stockwell, but he needed to go in-depth with both of them now.

One way or the other, he would find out why they had come here, and who was protecting them. And then he'd lay out his own plans.


*****

Dinner was a long affair, designed to relax. It wasn't working for Randy. He was somewhat disappointed in his companions, as they seemed to be enjoying themselves a great deal. He tried to give them the benefit of the doubt; it was an old habit, from the war, taking any chance to step back from a mission and enjoy life while one could. All the same, Randy's mind kept going to that distant bedroom, where Sam was, alone. Granted, he was unconscious; still...

He caught Smith looking at him. Well, perhaps one other was not quite as relaxed as he pretended to be. He mustn't take the colonel for granted. He may have made some serious mistakes in the past, but Randy knew where his loyalties were. And loyalty was a fierce element in the man. Nor was he easily fooled. Randy had caught him watching Mick carefully, surreptitiously. Listening as carefully to what he didn't say, as to what he did. Randy also knew they were both considering the possible implications for Daryl. They would have to tread very, very carefully.

Finally, Randy had had enough. Mick was an old-fashioned type of guy. Dinner was followed by drinks on the patio. Getting Hannibal's attention, Randy nodded toward Sam's room. Hannibal nodded back and moved over toward Mick. Good. Smith would make sure he wasn't missed.

For some reason, Randy knew Mick would not like any of his 'guests' wandering about.

It took him a few minutes to reach his destination. The house was more of a mansion, long and sprawling. Once he took a wrong turn and had the devil of a time finding his way back through the darkened hallways again. Finally, he came up on the door and turned the knob.

Locked.

Randy could feel his distrust rising rapidly. Why the hell would Mick have the door locked? They were supposed to be guests, not prisoners. Impatiently he knocked loudly on the door. He heard shuffling from inside, the lock being manipulated, and the door slid open a few inches.

"I'm sorry, senor, but he is not allowed visitors just now."

"I'm sorry, too." Randy shoved the door inward, knocking the man flat on his ass. Ignoring him, Randy stepped over to the bed. He had no idea what all the lights and numbers on the machines were supposed to say, but he could tell that Sam's heartbeat was steady, and he seemed to breathing without difficulty. He turned when he heard the guard - for that was the only way he could think of the man - getting up off the floor.

"You can go now. I'll stay with the patient."

"But..."

"Go. Now." Randy's cold glare sent the man scuttling out of the room. Randy followed him to the door, and locked it behind him. Small comfort, as obviously the regular occupants of the house would have a key, but at least it would give him warning of their entrance.

He sat down by the bed, thinking. He doubted Mick would hear of this; at least not until he returned from his business trip. That would give Randy a few days to figure out what the hell was going on, and what to do about it. One thing he knew for sure.

He would have Sam out of here before Mick got back. Team or no team.