CHAPTER SIXTY THREE

Daryl, Kurt and Frankie had each made forays into the countryside over the course of the day. Daryl took a jeep; Kurt and Frankie had so far not been allowed that luxury, on the pretense that no one wanted them to get lost in the hills. Frankie had suggested they all go in the jeep, but Kurt vetoed that. Groups of men garnered attention, the last thing they needed right now. Frankie wasn't happy but he could see the logic in it. And naturally, he wouldn't dream of arguing with either man. After dealing with Face, and then Randy, he wanted to keep as low key as possible with all of them.

Daryl took off in a northerly direction, exactly the opposite of where he hoped to find a hiding place. He drove for nearly a half hour, making lazy circles, gradually working his way to the area he was looking for. He'd noticed the woods earlier, although as he got closer he realized it was more a stand of straggly trees than a woods. He sighed heavily. His uncle had chosen this ranch well. No hiding places meant no sneak attacks. He would have to drive further out, knowing that the further he went, the harder it would for the team to reach BA's truck safely. Cursing silently, he turned the jeep away from the ranch.

Kurt made sure to run into Mick before he stalked his way toward the east. What better reason to take a walk than to work off his frustrations with Mick and Daryl? A well-aimed and unfeigned glare made it clear that Kurt didn't want to be around certain people. He could see Mick grinning as he left the courtyard. Let him. In a few days, he'd be grinning out of the other side of his face. His 'guests' would be long gone, and if Kurt had anything to say about it, so would Mick's nephew. He grimaced. All he had to do was figure out how.

The ground this way was rough and rock-strewn. And very little in the way of decent cover. He wandered almost straight from the house for a bit, then gradually headed further south toward the road. Nothing. A few groups of scraggly trees, an outcropping of rock here and there. No place to hide a truck or van that was anywhere near the house.

It looked like it would be a long walk for the team when they left.

No one paid any attention to Frankie as he set off on his trek. He didn't let it bother him. He knew everyone, possibly even including Johnny, thought he was basically a semi-useless appendage to the team. But he also knew that, in his own element, he was damn good. One day he'd have a chance to prove it; in the meantime, he enjoyed the anonymity. In this case, it allowed him much greater freedom to find the perfect spot. And he wouldn't stop until he found it.

Hours later, having tramped his way around what he figured must be every acre of land Mick owned, he hit pay dirt. Literally. He was near the top of a hill, to the west. He wasn't even sure he was still on Mick's property, although he wasn't that far from the house. Kurt and Daryl had figured the best place would be to the east, so BA wouldn't have to drive the truck past the house, but with the two of them covering that side, he figured what the heck? He had just dropped to the ground to rest, when he heard it.

Just behind him, somewhere, he could hear running water. He looked around. No stream, no spring, just dirt. He turned a little further and saw it. A shadow in amongst a bunch of rocks and small trees. Glancing back toward the house below, he stood and hurried over, following the sound of the water. Moving around the rocks, he realized the shadow was not that at all, but a large opening in the rocks. Getting closer, he felt a cold breeze funneling out of the opening. The very large opening. A cave.

Five minutes of exploration told him it was large enough, barely, to hold a large truck. He hurried back to the house, looking for BA.


*****

BA watched carefully as the guard turned and meandered around the corner. He followed carefully, hand automatically going for his gold before he remembered he'd left it in his room. Hannibal had insisted on it, just another indication of the growing strain this whole mess was putting on the man. BA shook his head as he approached the corner where the guard had disappeared. The sooner they were all out of here, the better he'd like it.

He peered around the corner, trying to see through the shadows. No motion that he could see. He could make it to a stand of trees without problem, but after that he had a good thirty yards of completely open area to go through before reaching shelter among a group of rocks. It wasn't exactly well-lit, but enough so anyone looking that way would see his movement. Bad enough he had to go that way once; he'd also have to get back to the house after finding transportation.

He glanced at his watch, the luminous dials telling him he had to get moving. It would take him a good two hours to walk into town, then the time needed to find a decent vehicle. At least he'd be able to drive it back, but only as far as the cave Frankie had found. Then he'd have to walk again.

Shaking his head one more time, he hurried to the trees. He waited there for the guard to make the next round. As soon as the man's back was turned, BA raced across the open area, hoping the guard's own footsteps would mask his. It seemed to take years to before he dropped down among the rocks, waiting for the alarm to sound. He glanced cautiously up; the guard had disappeared. He breathed a deep sigh of relief, counting to ten to catch his breath before beginning the next leg of his journey.

Within a few minutes, he was trotting beside the drive toward the main road. He didn't look back again.


*****

He watched as Baracus slipped out of the house. Followed behind, silently, to be sure he got away safely. He couldn't follow him into town; he didn't have the stamina for that. But he would make sure no alarm was sounded while he was on the grounds. It was too important that the man complete his mission.

When Baracus made the break for the rocks, he was watching from the shadows of the trees. Sure footed and stealthy the man might be, he wasn't totally silent, and he'd started out just a moment too early. While the sergeant was still running, the guard stopped, started turning.

That wasn't allowed.

Seconds later, he was dragging the guard behind the shrubbery beside the house, trying to control his ragged breathing. He wasn't ready for this. Not yet. He desperately hoped no other obstacles came along. Cautiously he looked over at Baracus' position. There. Watched him move out, heading away from the house, toward the main road. He watched until he could see him no more.

Now he just had to hide the body.


*****

Although Hannibal had 'retired' for the night, he hadn't gone to sleep. Instead, he paced. He knew that wasn't a good sign. Even in Nam, he hadn't been the kind to worry. Not like this, anyway. But this wasn't like anything they'd gone through before. He hadn't felt the Jazz for a long, long time. He missed it. Missed the joy of taking on the bad guys and beating the shit out of them. Missed planning the attack, talking it over with the guys. With Face.

He shook his head. BA would find a truck, or a van. Something that would get them the hell out of here. And then they'd take Face to Father Magill. Hannibal held onto Maggie's belief that the priest could help where no one else could. Whether it was because of some hope for divine interference or just because they had run out of options, he didn't know. Mainly he wanted to believe because he hadn't an idea in hell what they would do with Face if it didn't work.

They couldn't take him back to Stockwell the way he was. They'd lose him again, just like that. He'd either end up in one of Stockwell's high security 'hospitals' or the general would make him into another Randy. Worse, another Clifton. No, no way they could let Stockwell get his hands on Face like he was now.

Going back on the run wouldn't be much better. If BA was right, and Hannibal thought he was, they would have to watch their backs constantly. Always on guard, either against Stockwell, the military, or Face. That would never work. Never.

If Father Magill couldn't get through to him, what would they do then? Just let him go, as he wanted? Let him make up a new life, without a history, without a past, without them? Knowing there was a damn good chance he would follow a path that would destroy his future as surely as he'd tried to destroy his past? Or put him away themselves, in the same kind of 'secure facility' that Stockwell would and hope his memory would come back on its own?

No. No, Hannibal would never do that.

He sat heavily on the edge of the bed. No, he had to put his faith in Father Magill. It was his only option.


*****

He stepped carefully now. Everyone was supposed to be in bed, asleep, but he knew better than to accept that as a certainty. Most of the people in the house wouldn't find it strange that he was wandering around in the middle of the night; they were used to him showing up in odd places at odd times. But he didn't want to run into Mick. Not now.

He quietly turned the doorknob. Locked, as expected. Glancing around quickly. Halls empty. Listened. Quiet. A moment later, he'd picked the lock, slid through the doorway, relocked it.

He stood for a few minutes, not moving, letting his eyes adjust to the semi-darkness. He made out Mick's desk on the far side of the room, and the huge bookcase off to the side. Moving slowly, he headed for the bookcase. Started feeling around the edges, looking for the spring. He knew it was there, somewhere. The bookcase was way too thick. Ah. There it was. He smiled.

The bookcase slid silently open, like a huge door. Just the front of it, where the books sat unread on the shelves. Behind that was the prize he was looking for. A soft light filtered down from the top. He smiled again. Looked slowly at the collection in front of him. There. Just what he needed.

Almost reverently, he released the catch on the Beretta hanging on the wall.