CHAPTER FIFTY TWO

Hannibal was standing on the balcony outside his room when Mick left for his business trip. He watched the black limousine slither down the long driveway, disappearing around one of the many curves. He sighed, absently lighting a cigar. He had a bad feeling about this. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but there was definitely something 'off' about Daryl's uncle.

That in itself was a dilemma. Obviously, Daryl knew his uncle was a crook. Just as obviously, he cared about the man anyway. And the feeling was mutual. No one would go out of their way like this otherwise. And yet...

Just what kind of crook was this guy? White collar? Somehow Hannibal didn't think so, although tax evasion came to mind. But there was something oily about this guy, and cold. A man who was used to making things happen. Pleasant on the outside, accommodating. But cold as ice inside. Exactly the kind of guy the team would go after under normal circumstances.

Hannibal had a pretty good idea that Mick knew exactly who they were, too. Daryl hadn't told him; the machinations involved in setting this whole thing up were so convoluted, no real details had ever been discussed. Daryl had had to be careful, not only to not give away their own situation, but to make sure his uncle was protected. Hannibal had thought the Able was being over-cautious; now he understood.

And, of course, there was Stockwell. He had to know about Mick. Stockwell was very, very thorough in his background checks. He must have felt confident enough in Daryl to accommodate the black sheep in his family. Plus, it was yet another hold on the man. Another way of making him toe the mark.

So would Stockwell make the connection now? Unlikely. Daryl said he hadn't had any contact with his uncle for years, by mutual agreement. Hannibal had thought it was a family thing. Another misconception corrected.

Damn. Hannibal tossed the cigar butt down on the expensive Italian tiles. He wished he'd taken the time to learn more about Mick before agreeing to this. He may have just pulled his expanded team out of the frying pan and into the fire.

The question now was, how badly were they going to get burned?


*****

The limousine purred through the Mexican countryside, the driver well acquainted with the maneuvering needed to avoid the deepest potholes. Mick sat in the back, carefully sipping a bourbon as he thought about his guests. An interesting situation his nephew had handed him.

Mick cared a great deal for Daryl. Always had. His late brother's son, he'd watched out for him from the sidelines since he was a child. Helped get him into medical school (although it hadn't taken that much effort; Daryl was brilliant in research). Followed his career over the years.

And then that debacle at the pharmaceutical company. Not Daryl's fault; he'd been given only partial information. A setup. That's where Mick had come to the rescue with all his influence. Daryl's career in the medical field was ruined, but it was a small price to pay, considering what could have happened.

If only he hadn't gotten involved with General Stockwell. Mick hadn't seen that coming at all. Hadn't realized Stockwell had been watching Daryl almost as actively as Mick himself had. Wouldn't surprise him if Stockwell had been behind the whole setup, using Daryl to stake a claim on Mick. He shook his head. No amount of talking could change Daryl's mind. He wanted to get back into medical research, do something to make amends. Too damn Catholic, that was his problem. And then he hadn't been able to fulfill his dream after all. The promised position had disappeared, and Daryl had found himself nothing more than a common spy.

Daryl was well aware of Mick's 'career'. The family had been close; no secrets. Just no indiscretions. Once Daryl joined Stockwell, he and Mick had agreed it wouldn't be prudent to stay in too close contact. But Mick had watched out for him. From a distance. And when Daryl had called him, there was never any question that he would receive the help he asked for.

After all, what were families for?

But Mick hadn't known until they arrived just who Daryl's friends were. The pragmatist in Mick had come barreling out. That part of him that had put him in the position of power he had enjoyed for decades. Knowing who these men were had changed things.

There was a wealth of possibilities to consider now.


*****

Daryl unlocked the door and stepped into the bedroom. He was shocked to find the barrel of a very nasty looking gun poking into his chest. A second's hesitation and it was removed. Randy stepped back, looking at him with suspicion.

"What are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same thing, Daryl. I see one of us, at least, was given a key to the dungeon."

"What? Oh, hey, that's not...no, the lock is for Sam's protection. Honestly, Randy. Mick thought, as long as he was incapacitated, it would be better to have some extra safeguards in place. That's all."

"Hmm. So why didn't anyone tell the rest of us?"

"Just an oversight, I'm sure, Randy. C'mon, this is my uncle. It's family, for chrissake."

"Right. Family." Randy finally put away the Beretta and sat back down by the bed. Sam hadn't stirred.

"Look, I'll make sure everyone gets a key, okay?" When Randy didn't respond, Daryl sighed and stepped over to the monitors. Everything looked good.

"Hannibal's going to try and get Maggie down here in the next few days, but I'm going to try lessening the dose tomorrow. See how he responds."

"Okay. The sooner he's back with the living, the better I'll like it."

Okay, touchy subject warning. "Randy, uh, you know, sometimes there are after-effects. From the withdrawal."

"For instance?"

"Well, memory problems..."

Randy actually laughed out loud at that. In fact, Daryl thought he laughed a little too loud, a little too long.

"Look, I know it's ironic, under the circumstances, but I'm talking short term memory as well. And, well, he may not come back quite the way we think he should. Or the way we want him to."

Randy sobered. "You mean he might come back as Face, instead of Sam. Right?"

"Yeah."

"Or he might come back so totally fucked up nobody will know who he is, including him, right?"

"It's a possibility. Hannibal said he was pretty screwed up even before he started drinking."

"That's putting it mildly." Randy scowled down at Sam. "It doesn't matter. If he comes back as Face, then Smith can have him. No arguments. If Sam comes back, he's mine."

It bothered Daryl to hear Sam talked about as if he were a commodity, but he let it go. "What if he's just..."

"Fucked up? Then we'll take care of him the best we can." Randy's scowl softened. "He won't be abandoned, if that's what you're worried about, Daryl. We take care of our own. That's how Smith operates, that's how I operate. One way or another, he'll be taken care of."

Daryl nodded, relieved somewhat. He knew Smith would feel the same way. Daryl just wondered what Sam, or Face, would have to say about it.


*****

Clifton watched the dawn breaking from his hotel window. He'd been up all night, pouring over the personnel files. He thought he'd found what he was looking for, although it wasn't all that helpful. He was no closer to locating the men, but he had a pretty good idea who the benefactor was.

Alberto "The Mick" Marucchi. Earned his nickname from his ties to the IRA. Tended to be involved in king making rather than drugs, gambling or prostitution. Probably had as many prominent friends and acquaintances as Stockwell did. To Clifton's way of thinking, the only difference between the two men was the fact that the Feds wanted to get their hands on Marucchi because of his gun running and terrorist connections. That, and a few counts of murder here and there. Not a man to be crossed. Which made it even more interesting to find out that Stockwell had actively recruited the nephew.

Not that it had done him any good. Clifton knew for a fact that Marucchi had cut ties with Daryl as soon as he joined up with the general. As 'punishment', Daryl had been switched to surveillance, instead of going into a newly opened branch of Stockwell's organization, headed by a certain Dr. Barish. Had Stockwell kept that branch going instead of sweeping it over to the Feds, and had Marucchi been less shy about his nephew, it might easily have been Daryl who worked on Randy and Peck. Clifton chuckled at that irony. The chuckle died as he thought about the fact that instead, Daryl had become part of the gaggle of men who had made Clifton's reputation less than sterling.

Well, that was about to change.

If Marucchi was in Mexico, and Clifton thought that was obvious now, he could be found. Find him, find Daryl and the others.

Find Randy and Peck.

And maybe let Stockwell have his prize.