CHAPTER FIFTY NINE

He watched the plaza. Everyone who came in, walked out, passed by. He knew this was the place. It had taken all day to find it. But he had found it, just as he'd known he would.

It hadn't taken Randy long to find where the jeep had been hidden, out at the ranch. Just looked for the type of place he himself would've hidden it, the place he would have chosen had he been coming down the road toward the ranch. Once he'd determined what kind of vehicle Clifton was driving from the tracks, the rest was just a matter of keeping his eyes open. He'd hitched a ride into town and began walking the streets.

The man wasn't infallible. He'd parked the jeep just a little too close to the hotel. Hadn't washed it first. Left enough evidence on it to confirm who had had it, where it had been. There were four small hotels within escaping distance, all tourist traps, all with enough traffic to keep people anonymous. A few American dollars to each desk clerk earned him access to the hotel records. Looked for a single male checking in during a certain time frame.

Randy hit pay dirt on the third one. Room on the second floor, with a balcony. Another few dollars confirmed that the man was still in his room. Randy wandered outside, around the building, found the room. Looked from the balcony to where the jeep was parked.

Perfect.

Moved to the small cantina across the street from the hotel. Eventually Clifton would have to come out. To put his next move into action.

And Randy would be waiting.


*****

Mick had sent some men into town to check around. He had a lot of friends in La Venata and a lot of people who would sell their own brother if Mick told them to. Unfortunately, some of the local workers had been to town first, told about the shooting. The strange men at the ranch. It was one thing to help out the man who had invested so much money into the local economy, who had such 'influential' friends; it was another to get caught in the middle of a war between foreigners. People apologetically shook their heads. They hadn't seen anyone. They wouldn't in the future.

Mick knew his people were being lied to. Nothing he could do about it; not now, anyway. There would be an object lesson, later on. Once this business was taken care of. Once the man who had dared to attack a Marucchi was taken care of.

In the meantime, he had his nephew to worry about. Daryl hadn't left his partner's side since they'd found him. That wasn't the problem. The problem was that Mick knew Kurt didn't approve of him. And Kurt had a great deal of influence over his nephew. Mick wanted Daryl working for him. That wouldn't happen with Kurt around. Or these other men. Colonel Smith was someone else Daryl admired. And Smith didn't approve of Mick, either.

This man, this man who had such audacity and such cunning to attack him and get away, was not after Mick. Would not be after Daryl if he hadn't been with Colonel Smith. And Smith was wanted by General Stockwell.

Mick had been truthful with Smith when he'd said he hadn't decided what to do with them. He still hadn't decided.

But he was close.


*****

Hannibal listened carefully to Maggie. He wasn't liking what she was saying, but it made sense. But there were problems with it. Major problems.

"Stockwell will have people watching him. Not to mention the military. We might be able to get Face in, but then what? The number of people involved - we couldn't possibly guarantee that no one would talk."

"John, these are..."

"I know that, but there are others. Maintenance people, volunteers, temporary workers. Visitors. A spy could be sent in and we'd never know it. And then we'd lose him."

Maggie sighed. Here we go again. Strategy. "I know there will be obstacles, John. But I don't see that we have any other choice. We need to at least contact him, see if he's willing to help. Maybe he has some ideas on logistics."

"What would he know about..."

"John, Face is not going to trust you. Not now. He's not going to trust me, or Murdock, or BA or even Randy. He doesn't know who's going to tell him the truth. But he will trust one person. Whether he wants to or not. Because it's part of him. More than any false memories. Even more than the team is. No matter what his conscious mind tells him, regardless of what he wants to believe, Face will listen to him. He might fight it, but eventually he will believe it's the truth, because he knows, deep down, that Father Magill would never, ever lie to him."

Hannibal looked at Maggie, his mind on all the problems her scheme involved. Getting Face back to LA in itself could be tricky, especially if he was as paranoid as he had been. How could they get him to stay at the orphanage? How could they keep anyone from finding out he was there? What would they do if someone did find out? What if it was Stockwell? What if it were the military? What if Father Magill couldn't make him remember? What if...

Hannibal stood, stepped toward the bed. Face was awake, impassive other than his right hand clenching the quilt. Tightly. He remained calm until Hannibal got within a couple feet of the bed; although his face remained calm, his whole body went rigid, began trembling. Hannibal sighed, moved toward the door.

"I'll call him this afternoon."


*****

Randy didn't move. He kept his head bent over the newspaper, eyes looking just over the edge. Watched as Clifton sauntered out of the hotel and stood, casually glancing over the crowd. As Clifton turned toward him, Randy looked down, not moving his head, just hiding his eyes. People always felt when they were being watched. He counted to three, looked up again. Clifton was moving down the street, away from the jeep. Randy waited until he turned the corner before he stood and maneuvered to the other side of the street. He stayed on the opposite side from Clifton, moving at a steady pace, matching that of the people around him. Sometimes he would be behind his quarry, sometimes just ahead, always people, cars, trucks between them.

Clifton, for his part, was doing everything right. Stopping abruptly to look in shop windows, seeing who was behind him. Darting into a store. Randy didn't let that spook him. He just slowed his pace, ever so slightly, knowing that Clifton would come back out when no one came in after him. Randy was in no hurry to take care of him right away. He knew he could keep him from hurting any of the team. That's all that mattered for the immediate future.

Otherwise, Randy had all the time in the world.


*****

He watched, impassively, as the two spoke in the corner. They seemed to be arguing. About him? Maybe. Didn't matter. There was nothing he could do about it. Nothing much he could do about anything. He'd tried earlier, when she had stepped out for a moment, to get out of bed. His shoulder told him he was going nowhere. He'd only managed to get resettled when she returned. He must have been pale, because she had frowned and come over immediately, checking his pulse and forehead. And the minute she'd touched him, he'd felt himself start shaking, his whole body going stiff. He didn't understand why; he just did. As soon as she moved away, his heart slowed down and he felt himself relax. The same thing happened when any of them came near him.

His body was trying to warn him. As if he would have trusted them anyway. Although, so far, they had done nothing to him. In fact, they had been quite solicitous. Maybe they knew he was no threat to them. He would let them keep thinking that. Until he was better. Until he could manage on his own.

Until he could figure out what the hell they wanted.


*****

Kurt had managed to make it out to the patio with a little help from Daryl. He was still stiff and sore, but he was more angry than anything. His humor hadn't been improved when he'd heard of the second attack, and the word 'incompetence' was heard clearly, when he was told Clifton had not been found yet.

Mick only managed to hold his temper at that. He was walking a thin line now, but one he was used to. In his business, dissolving loyalties was a frequent endeavor. The more aggressive and even rude his opponent became, the more polite and reasonable he became. It usually didn't take long for the one he wanted on his side to see the disparity, and gradually come to see Mick's side of things. With Kurt physically hurting and angry already, it shouldn't be all that difficult to win his nephew back.

"I would hardly call it incompetence," he said, mildly. "This man is very clever, and working alone. It's very easy to disappear in a town the size of La Venata. We'll find him. And make him pay for his tricking you."

"He didn't 'trick' me; he ambushed me! And if your men hadn't been so blind, they would have seen him sneaking into the compound." Kurt flushed, angry not only at Mick's insult, but at his own laxness.

"True. And I have dealt with my men's deficiencies. My apologies to you for your injuries."

Kurt said nothing, just looked angrily away. Daryl looked from his friend to his uncle and back. "Come on, Kurt, you know how Clifton operates. Mick hasn't dealt with him before; we have."

"If I had known we were dealing with Clifton..."

"Exactly. No one knew what to expect. Now we do, and we won't be caught short again. Any of us."

Kurt scowled and tried to settle more comfortably in the lounge. Mick smiled as he headed into the house, giving Daryl a pat on the back as he passed. Daryl gave him a small smile in return, before going over to Kurt.

Mick kept his smile as he headed for the library, and yet another meeting with Smith.


*****

Hannibal had just hung up the phone when Mick came in. He wasn't surprised that service had suddenly been restored on the Don's return to the ranch. He was only glad he had completed his business before Mick had overheard anything. If Mick wondered about the call, he said nothing. Hannibal knew he would find out who he'd called eventually. That didn't matter. Hannibal just wasn't prepared to let him in on their latest plans just yet.

Before Mick could make any comment, Leandro came hurrying in, looking angry. Murdock was right behind him. There was a flurry of Spanish between Mick and Leandro that Hannibal didn't even try to follow.

"One of your men is missing, Colonel. Randy. Leandro says no one has seen him for several hours."

Damn it! Hannibal couldn't believe Clifton had acted again so quickly, and was even more incredulous that he'd taken out Randy.

"He left on his own, Colonel." Murdock had the grace to blush, unable to look at Hannibal directly.

"What do you mean, Captain? When? Why?"

"A few hours ago. I saw him leave. And you know why. I figured it was best to just let him go."

"Without telling me?"

"You would have tried to stop him, and that wouldn't have done anyone any good. He'd have just gone later. I figured the sooner he was gone, the better." Murdock looked straight at Hannibal then, and both men knew what he was talking about.

"All right, Murdock. We won't worry about him. If any one can take care of themselves, it's Randy." He turned to Mick. "We won't need to find the man who attacked us. We need only worry about the security out here. Just in case he gets away from Randy."

"You're that confident of your man?"

"Unfortunately, Mick, I am."