CHAPTER FIFTY THREE

Maggie sat on the bed in the motel room, waiting. Worrying. Just like she had most of the night. The last thing she'd been told, during that final phone call, was to go to this motel if anything went wrong, and wait. Well, something had certainly gone wrong, at least to her way of thinking

The Able in charge at the trailer had not been happy. Not with the team, and definitely not with her. He'd been positively rude. Insisted that she knew exactly where John and the 'rest of them' were. She'd eventually quit denying everything and just shut up. He finally got the point and had taken his men away. She'd waited for quite some time before leaving. And she had watched carefully for any cars that stayed behind her, regardless for how long or where they had come from. The motel was only forty-five minutes away from the mobile home. It had taken almost three hours before she felt safe to go there.

The caller hadn't told her to use any particular name, so she just signed in as herself. After the long and tense drive, and the mess at the trailer, she was definitely in no mood for any more spy crap. If John was worried about surveillance, he would have to figure out some way around it.

In the meantime, she'd had nothing but time to wonder about what was going on. Obviously, this whole trip was some kind of elaborate plan to get Stockwell off her back. And there was no reason to do that unless John needed her for something 'unofficial'. And that one of the team was injured in some way that they didn't want Stockwell to know about. Much as she would prefer to flatter herself, Hannibal wouldn't go through all this just because he was lonely.

So one of them was injured, they needed a doctor they could trust, and yet, time did not seem to be as important as she had first assumed. Okay. Her time was not as important. But John had been under the gun. That's why they'd used Hank. She thought about the additional calls she'd made. Not the phone in the van. And as soon as the call was answered, the voice had started issuing instructions. As soon as the instructions were given, the call had disconnected. Automatic.

A recording.

Wherever John was, he couldn't answer a phone. So they were on the move, but didn't have the van. And they had at least one other person with them. A friend, or he wouldn't have had the code word. But who?

Finally, the question that had worried her the most. Why didn't Stockwell know where they were?


*****

Hannibal was not happy. Not one damn bit.

The first thing, earlier that morning, had been BA's discovery that there was not one vehicle left on the ranch. Not one. They were stranded.

Then Hannibal had gone to Face's room and found it locked. That was the second thing. Having Randy point that damn gun in his face - the third thing.

He couldn't wait to see what happened next. It didn't take long at all.

Randy was just explaining to Hannibal what had happened with the guard the night before when Murdock came bursting through the now unlocked door. He was not happy, either.

"No one, other than us, seems to speak English. They act like they don't even understand my Spanish!"

Hannibal had some reservations about the last observation, but he didn't like the idea of being unable to communicate with Mick's staff. He also had to wonder how suddenly this inability to speak English had happened.

"All right, Murdock. We'll just have to do for ourselves as much as possible. I'm sure they'll let us know if we try something we're not supposed to."

"I don't like this, Colonel. Locking Sam in here, no vehicles, the staff...Daryl may trust this guy, but..." Randy was getting more and more angry. And while Hannibal agreed with his worries, he was also concerned about Randy's state of mind. He seemed more tense than usual, if that were possible. Hannibal had to wonder how much sleep he'd gotten last night, knowing he'd stayed with Face. Getting on the band wagon at this particular moment didn't seem prudent.

"We all need to calm down here. From what Daryl said, Uncle Mick is not exactly running on the straight and narrow. These things may all be standard procedure for him. And I can understand the reasoning behind the lock. It does make sense."

Randy glared at Hannibal, but said nothing more.

"Okay, Maggie should be at the motel Kurt set up. We'll give her a call, get her down here ASAP. Murdock, you want to take care of that?" Hannibal had a feeling having Maggie down here would benefit everyone, not only because she was a doctor they could all trust, but because she was just naturally calm and level-headed.

"Sure, Hannibal. Cell phones won't work down here, but I'm sure 'Uncle Mick' won't mind a few extra bucks on his phone bill. But how are we going to pick her up?"

"We'll let Daryl figure that out. After all, this was his idea." And his uncle.

"Will do. I'll have her down here faster than a dog bites fleas. Faster than a speeding bullet. Quick as a wink..." Murdock loped out of the room, spouting more platitudes as he disappeared down the hall.

"We need to get out of here, Colonel." Randy's voice was quiet, firm, and obviously not wanting an argument.

"I know that, Randy. Eventually. And the sooner, the better," he added, hastily, seeing Randy was about to protest. "But we can't just take off. First, Face needs a day or two to rest up. Mick was right about that - his shoulder did take a bit of a beating getting here.

"Second, we don't have any place to go just yet. We need to find someplace secure before we leave here, so we don't end up dragging Face all over hell. That won't do him any good, or any of the rest of us, either.

"Third, and this is maybe the most important, I'm not so sure Mick is going to be willing to let us go. So far, he's playing the helpful host. That may or may not change if we suddenly decide to leave. I just don't know. All I do know is we cannot force anything right now. If Mick's staff is as loyal, and as numerous, as they appear to be, we're outnumbered about four to one. And while that normally wouldn't stop me, we also have to deal with Face."

Randy looked down at Sam for a long moment before speaking.

"All right. We'll give Sam a couple more days here. If I find a place for us to go and stay put, then we'll decide how to deal with Mick's possible objections. But don't forget, Daryl is on our side. That's got to pull some weight with Mick."

"It probably will. But somehow, I don't think he got where he is by being overly sentimental."

Before Randy could reply, the door flew open once again, Murdock, Frankie and BA storming in.

"The phones are dead, Hannibal!"


*****

Clifton was at the Monterrey - Escobedo International Airport, talking with the chief of security. He hadn't expected to learn anything new about the hijacked airplane, and he didn't. The main reason for coming here was to gossip. Drop a few names - perfectly respectable ones - and impress the hell out of the chief. Establish camaraderie. An us-against-them attitude. Move on to the less than stellar residents of the area. And then start reeling him in.

So far the plan was working like a charm.

"You must have your hands full with some of these people. Coming and going with their entourages, causing no end of security problems. Crowd control. Pickpockets. And photographers. They must drive you nuts."

"Oh, yes, the photographers are terrible. No respect for the other passengers, parking restrictions, nothing! Only the photos are important."

"If only those guys knew..."

"Senor?"

"Why, what these people are really like! Where that fabulous money of theirs really came from."

"Oh, why...why, yes. Of course. If they knew that, they wouldn't be so eager."

"Exactly my point. Why, you must see all kinds of people parade through here like they were celebrities, and all they really are, are crooks."

The security chief shook his head wisely. "Oh, yes, I hate to admit it, but...What can one do? Especially one like myself? My authority is only here at the airport."

"And some of these guys get a little, shall we say, help? Not from the authorities here, of course, but perhaps a mayor or police chief in some small village? Where the guy spreads a little cash around, improves the area, improves some bank accounts...You probably know of some villages where this has happened." Treading carefully here.

"There are several around here where we have found them, yes. It is difficult to catch them, because the villagers like the jobs, or the money, and so they protect them. But usually our state police are able to capture them in short order."

"Usually. Not always?"

"No, not always."

"Anyone in particular?"

The chief looked straight at Clifton. "Senor, you are not here about the plane alone, are you?"

Clifton smiled. Smart man. "The man I'm looking for could be involved with the men who stole the plane."

"And that would be?"

"Alberto Marucchi."

The security chief frowned, looked out of his window at the planes landing, taking off, or just waiting to move. He sat still for several moments before speaking.

"I'm afraid I have not heard of this man. Besides, someone like that could not come here, not unless he had many friends in this country. Many friends." He raised an eyebrow at Clifton.

Clifton understood very well. Marucchi was around, all right. But protected. He nodded sympathetically.

The chief continued, his voice casual. "Well, unfortunately, I have duties to attend to. If you have time, there is a very nice little place south of here. La Ventana. I'm sure you would find it very...scenic."

"Thank you, Chief. I could use a little vacation..."


*****

"I...I don't understand it, Colonel. Really. It must be just some temporary thing..." Daryl was pale before Hannibal's formidable stare.

"Temporary or not, Daryl, we need a phone. And a vehicle." Hannibal was trying very hard not to take out his anger on Daryl. He deliberately softened his tone. "We need to get in touch with Dr. Sullivan, and get her down here as soon as possible. Your uncle is making that...extremely difficult."

"I know, Colonel, but you have to understand his point of view. I mean, you guys have a reputation..."

Hannibal paused. He hadn't considered that perspective. Interesting. "You're right, Daryl. I guess it would be prudent for your uncle to take some precautions, all things considered. But, that doesn't change the fact that we have a dilemma here."

"Okay, Colonel. Don't worry. I'll talk to Leandro. I'll fix it, Hannibal. I'll have Dr. Sullivan here as soon as possible, I swear."

"Thanks, Daryl. I'm sorry if I came on a little strong."

"No problem. I'm used to it." At Hannibal's quizzical look, Daryl just shrugged. "I know you know who Mick really is, Hannibal. And your reaction is something I've lived with for a long, long time. I'll take care of the problem; all I ask is that you give him the benefit of the doubt. He's not all bad."

"With a nephew like he's got, how could he be?" Hannibal grinned.

Chuckling with embarrassment, Daryl walked off, intent on fixing things. And keeping them fixed.

Neither man saw Randy, listening just outside the door, a dark frown on his face.