CHAPTER FIFTY FOUR

Kurt stood on the veranda outside Sam's room. Daryl had given him the key, still unable to locate anyone who could get extras for the team. They had tried leaving the door unlocked, but every time they left and returned, it would once more be closed against them. Finally, Randy had insisted that 'one of us' stay in the room at all times.

It was Kurt's turn.

Every now and then he would check the machines, make sure they were plugged in. Otherwise, he manually checked Sam's pulse, listened for any breathing problems. Made sure he wasn't coming out of the deep haze they had him in. That done, he'd wander out to the veranda and stand.

Had he been privy to the plans made in that stateside hospital room, he would have put the kibosh on the whole thing, right then and there. No way in hell would he have allowed Daryl to go back to his uncle.

Daryl had told him about Mick Marucchi a long time ago. Stakeout, late night, no action. Bored out of his mind, Kurt was getting more and more irritated. Daryl was his new partner, only a few months out of Stockwell's training program. Sopping wet behind the ears, but sharp. Very sharp. Knew he was too green yet, let Kurt take the lead and keep it. After all this time, he still did that. Never pushed forward unless Kurt gave the go-ahead.

Until now.

How it got started, Kurt couldn't remember. Some innocuous comment, probably, got them talking about their families. Daryl had a way of drawing him out. Daryl knew more about Kurt's parents and siblings after one night's stakeout than anyone else had learned in the entire time Kurt had been in the organization.

And then it was Daryl's turn, and Kurt had learned that his new partner was the nephew of one of the most notorious gunrunners in the country. When Daryl had told him that Mick didn't think it wise for them to keep in touch with each other, Kurt agreed, wholeheartedly. Insisted that Daryl give his word he would stay as far from Marucchi as he possibly could.

And now they were staying at his villa, in the middle of a godforsaken part of Mexico. Cut off. No backup. With a man down.

Shit.


*****

Daryl sat in the passenger seat, bumping cross country in Leandro's beat up pickup, wishing he hadn't eaten quite so big a lunch. They were going to the sister's, who lived in a small bungalow on the edge of Mick's property. Leandro was angry. While he considered it a source of pride that his sister had been chosen to be Mick's 'special friend', he could see the disgust in this man's eyes. He became embarrassed, not by his sister, but because of the nephew's attitude. As if he had any right to judge...

Daryl had had to argue forcibly with Mick's right hand man about this whole trip. Daryl knew Leandro had his truck somewhere around here, and he knew the man would know where the nearest working phone was. They had ended up walking nearly a mile to reach the truck. And Daryl was not at all happy being informed of his uncle's 'preferences'. Some things he just didn't need to know. Unfortunately, Leandro had misunderstood his distaste. Well, he'd mend that fence when they reached the sister's. A more gallant greeting the woman would never know. He gritted his teeth, but prepared his smile as they pulled into the yard.

After receiving what Daryl considered a positively predatory reception from the sister, he was left alone in the small house to make his call. Through the window, he watched Leandro berating his sister as they walked away. Apparently it was one thing to be Mick's mistress; one didn't try for a double-header. Shaking his head, he turned away and waited for his connection to go through.

It took nearly ten minutes before he was speaking with Dr. Sullivan. He made it short and sweet, giving her the code word from before, but not bothering to introduce himself. She was to hang up, go to a phone booth, make her reservations under a name he gave her, then go back to the motel room. He would call back in exactly forty-five minutes. He hung up while she was still asking questions.

Daryl didn't go outside. He'd already told Leandro it could take some time, and knew they would wait until he was ready, without interference. It was one thing his uncle insisted on from the people who worked for him. Do as you're told, no questions, no interference. Well, the second thing he insisted on. Number one rule: No talking.

Those rules had served the man well for close to forty years.

Daryl made himself at home. He made a pot of coffee, rummaged through the girl's desk. Bills, lots of bills, expensive stores in Monterrey. All the bills addressed to her, but Mick, of course, would be taking care of the payments. From the look of her expenditures, his uncle must be doing quite well, despite his remote locale. Daryl didn't know if he should be pleased or disgusted.

He spent some more time checking out the premises; he felt no guilt in it. It was, after all, Mick's property. It never hurt to make sure the hired help wasn't taking in a little on the side, and from the senorita's advances toward Daryl, it wasn't a stretch to imagine there had been others. Daryl never even considered whether he would tell Mick if he found any such evidence. That went without saying.

Leandro's sister was either more faithful than she appeared, or very, very careful. Lucky girl.

Exactly forty-five minutes after he had first hung up on Dr. Sullivan, his return call was put through. He got the necessary flight information, told her she would be picked up, and again hung up abruptly.

Leaving the bungalow, he signaled Leandro, who immediately interrupted his conversation with his sister and headed for the truck. Daryl chuckled to himself. One could get used to this kind of treatment very easily.

Too easily.


*****

Hannibal was watching Kurt. Kurt was watching Daryl. Daryl was staring off into space, a slight frown on his face. BA was taking his turn with Face. Randy, Murdock and Frankie were playing a very slow paced game of poker a few feet away from Hannibal's chair in the large library. The colonel could hear the betting; Murdock, as usual, was playing just for the fun of it. He didn't really care how many matchsticks he had. Frankie was, as usual, smugly boasting of his prowess at the game. He seemed to ignore his ever dwindling stack. And Randy was, unfortunately, playing with a grim determination, watching every card, every play. Hannibal thought it too bad the man didn't smoke. He wouldn't want for a light for a very long time.

They were all waiting for Maggie to arrive. Leandro had disappeared some time ago, and Hannibal had been assured that Maggie would be picked up safely and brought directly to the villa. Daryl's feigned ignorance of the location of the transportation for said pick up irritated Hannibal, but he decided there was no point in pushing the matter. When the time came - if the time came - he trusted Daryl to come up with whatever they would need from the ranch. He was willing to wait.

Tired of watching half of his team watching each other, and listening to the other half trying to cheat each other, Hannibal pushed himself out of the overstuffed chair and headed for Face's room. If he knew BA, the man would be chomping at the bit at the forced inactivity. Or worse, he may have decided to tweak the machinery monitoring his teammate. No, surely BA wouldn't mess with that. Not medical equipment. Of course, working or not, it wouldn't affect Face. Hannibal hurried his steps just a bit.

BA was neither pacing nor tinkering when Hannibal stepped into the bedroom. Instead, he stood over the bed, scowling down at Face.

"Problem, BA?" Hannibal moved quickly to the bedside, carefully checking his lieutenant.

"I don't know. He's movin around a bit. Should he be doin that?"

"Well, Daryl did cut back on the sedative a bit. He seems to think it's better if Face is weaned off it slowly, even if he does get a little restless." Hannibal checked his watch. "Maggie will be here soon. She'll have to decide if that's the right course or not."

"Hmph. I don't know as I'd let Daryl be makin decisions like that, Hannibal. He ain't no doctor."

"Close enough to one, BA. And I trust his judgment. He wouldn't do anything that would hurt Face. Now, if you'd like to take a break, I'll stay with him until Maggie gets here."

BA didn't say any more, just gave another long look at the patient, and rumbled out. Hannibal pulled a chair up beside the bed.

Face was indeed 'movin around a bit'. Nothing like had happened before; apparently Daryl hadn't cut back quite as much as Dr. Garr had attempted. But his hands would jerk, just a little, now and again, and his mouth would twitch, as if he were trying to talk. Otherwise he was still.

Hannibal had to wonder what was going on in that mind now.


*****

Maggie struggled to maintain her dignity, but it wasn't easy, being bounced nearly to the roof of the cab every minute. She had asked the man driving several times to please slow down, but he just glared ahead to the road. If one could call it a road. More like a cow path. She was quite sure it was not the main road; as they jarred over the hills, she would occasionally catch a glimpse of other traffic down below them. Obviously, the man driving didn't want them to be seen.

She had no idea where she was being taken. She had disembarked from the plane and gone to collect her luggage, only to find the driver of this so called truck had already collected it and was waiting impatiently for her. He held a small sign with her assumed name on it, but only by chance did she even see it, as he only occasionally held it up from his side. He hadn't said one word to her, just looked at her as she approached him. He'd then picked up her two cases and strode outside to his truck. The drive had so far taken almost an hour and he was still mute.

The truck suddenly slowed, and took a sharp turn, which almost landed her in the driver's lap. Grabbing the door handle, she pulled herself upright as gracefully as possible and glared over at him. She could swear he was wiping a smile from his face.

Bastard.

They turned onto a semi-smooth path and rounded a curve. Almost immediately she saw the villa ahead of them, lit up like a Christmas tree. As they pulled up in front of the massive door, she saw with relief that BA and Murdock were waiting for her. She caught her breath when she realized who the other three men behind them were.

She had never thought to see any of them again. And wasn't all that sure she wanted to now.