CHAPTER SIXTY FOUR

BA was beginning to get a feel for what Face had gone through since hooking up with Hannibal. "Go get a van, BA." Sure, like something big enough to hold eight people would just be sitting on the street, waiting for him in perfect running order. And nobody would notice it was missing in the morning.

Sure.

He wandered through the streets, trying to find the car lots he'd seen in the telephone book that afternoon. He usually was very good at directions, but the streets seemed to begin and end without warning, starting up again a couple blocks away. It didn't take long and he was totally lost. He glanced at his watch again. Time was getting short. If he didn't find something soon, he'd have to give up and try again the next night. And he knew Hannibal wouldn't be happy about the delay. The colonel didn't trust Mick and wanted to be ready to move at a moment's notice.

He found himself in yet another dead end street, and was just starting back when someone hissed at him. He looked quickly toward the sound, saw a man standing at the entrance to an alley. The man motioned at him with a nod of his head. BA was about to wave him off, when he saw it.

Dimly lit by the streetlight, an old cargo van sat in the alley, a few yards behind the man. It looked to be in rough shape, but that didn't mean it didn't run. He didn't like the man's general attitude, but he needed to find out about that van. Tensing slightly, he moved toward him.

"¡Eh!, hombre. ¿Usted quiere un poco de acción, ¡eh!?" The man grinned, rubbing his thumb and forefinger together. "¿Una pequeña apuesta, quizás, sobre algunos enfrentamientos amartilla?"

"Speak English?" BA stopped, glaring at the man. He had an idea what the guy wanted, and it wasn't anything BA was interested in.

"Si, amigo. A little. You like cock fights, señor? A little bet, huh?" The man grinned, and BA saw he was missing more than a few teeth.

"No, I ain't interested in no cock fights!" BA shook his head, disgusted. "I wanna know 'bout that van. You know who owns it?"

The man glanced back at the van, looked at BA with greed in his eyes. "Si, I know that man, señor. He won't sell, maybe. But, I could talk to him, maybe..."

"Don't know that I wanna buy, either, fool. Don't even know if it runs yet. Forget it..." BA turned and started walking away.

The man behind him, startled, followed quickly. "Wait, señor, wait. That van runs good, real good. Maybe the owner, he want to sell after all. You let me help, we work something out, eh?"

BA grinned to himself. Yeah, they'd work somethin out...


*****

Hannibal had given up any pretense of sleeping. He was now worrying - unnecessarily, he knew - about BA. Would he be able to find something suitable? Would he have to steal it? Would that bring more unwanted attention to the ranch, to Mick, to them? Would he get back to the house without being seen?

Damn.

This was not the way he operated. He was never concerned about his men succeeding at the tasks he set for them. He knew they would do the job. Always. Knew they could handle anything that cropped up. Especially now. They all wanted the same thing. They all wanted to get the hell off this ranch and back to LA. Back to familiar territory.

Except maybe one.

Damn.

He left his room, deciding it wouldn't do any harm if anyone did see him out and about at this late hour. He would go out on the patio, have a slow cigar and try to relax. No one would find anything suspicious about that. Not after everything that had happened.

He met a couple of Mick's people on the way. Guns up until they realized who it was. On their guard, even now. Strictly against outsiders? He wondered. An apologetic nod from them and he was allowed on his way. He breathed a little easier. Good. Still allowing him to move around, unfettered. Would make it easier to leave the house, when the time came.

It would have to come soon, too. Mick, while still cordial, was getting a little more distant. And Hannibal did not like the fact that it was Mick's people who were working with Face. Jealousy, again. He freely admitted it now. He learned from the past. But there was more to it than that. Mick didn't help anyone unless there was something in it for him. Hannibal thought about that for a while. Maybe they shouldn't have been so free in talking about their escape; not with Face in the room. No. One thing Face would not do is side with Mick against the team. Not even Sam would do that.

He lit a second cigar, stared up at the stars. Almost didn't hear it. Turned, saw him standing in the doorway. How long he'd been there, Hannibal had no idea.

Taking a deep breath, he tried for a natural smile. Non-threatening.

"Hello, kid. Want to join me?"


*****

He moved quietly through the house, checking. Met up with a couple of Mick's men along the way. They would stare at him, but say, do, nothing. He would return their stare and move on. He wanted them to see him. Wanted them to wonder about him. Wanted them spooked. So far it was working. He smiled to himself.

As he moved along the halls, he was quietly checking each of the doors as he came to them. No one could open a door as quietly as he could, locked or not. Whether that came from Face or from Sam, he neither knew nor cared. One or the other of them had learned that and so much more, and he appreciated their diligence in perfecting the art of stealth.

He opened each door only a few inches. That was all he needed. He closed his eyes, listened, and smelled. Smell was an amazing sense. Too few people made full use of it. Each person had their own scent. Not body odor, per se. But the commingling of their own smell, with the cologne, aftershave, even the clothing they wore. If one closed off the other senses, sight, touch, hearing, one could hone in on that unique scent and know who was where.

So far, he had identified each of the team members' rooms, and several of the upper echelon of Mick's group. He had yet to find Mick's. That was of utmost importance. He had to know where the man slept. Where he was most vulnerable.

He owed Daryl that much. For California.

He still hadn't found Mick's room when he saw the colonel, heading out onto the patio. He hesitated. He could feel the near automatic reaction in his limbs. He had to curb that. He would have to be in close quarters with Smith, with all of them, when they made their escape. And he had to make them think he was harmless, regardless of Baracus.

Swallowing hard, forcing control of his rebellious body, he moved toward the patio door. He stood there for some moments, gathering himself together. Finally, steeled for the next move, he deliberately scraped his bare foot on the stones of the patio.

The colonel turned, startled. A second's hesitation; a smile.

"Hello, kid. Want to join me?"

He hesitated, deliberately, before moving out to the patio. He came as close as he dared, as close as his self-control would let him, and sat, slowly, cautiously, into the waiting chair. And waited for the colonel to make the next move.


*****

BA was losing his patience. He'd already waited for the guy to wake up the owner, who was none too happy about it. He gotten the keys, started the van and listened and watched as it sat in the alley and ran. It would need some adjustments, but nothing major. He was satisfied it would do the job. Then came the hard part. Negotiating a price from the weak side of the bargaining table. The more problems he pointed out with the van, the more impatient the owner became. He really didn't need to sell it, and wanted more than anything to go back to bed. The price kept going higher, instead of lower, and the original price had been too high for the team's purse. For the first time since the trial, BA was actually wishing he had Stockwell backing them up. At least financially.

But maybe he had something better, at least in this neck of the woods. If he worded things just right, he would have a done deal within minutes. He motioned to Alley Guy and stepped to one side.

"Listen, 'amigo', I wasn't s'posed to say anything but this van is not for me. You heard about the guy Mr. Mick was lookin for the other day?"

At the mention of Mick, Alley Guy went pale. "Si, I had heard of it."

"Well, Mr. Mick has some things to take care of, with that guy, and he needs a van for that. And he sent me, as kind of a test, y'know, to get him one. Now, if I can't do that, and within reason, Mr. Mick's not gonna be too happy. Not with me, and not with whoever I get the van from. We understand each other, here?"

Alley Guy nodded his head, a worried frown appearing on his face. "Un momento, por favor, señor. Me dirigiré a él. Él entrará en la razón, prometo." He hurried back, completely ignoring the fact that BA had no idea what he'd said.

Ten minutes later, BA was driving the van back toward the ranch. He'd paid the equivalent of $100 American dollars and didn't feel the least bit guilty about it.

He began to understand that glint in the eye that Face used to get. It did feel good. Real good.


*****

Hannibal watched his lieutenant carefully. He could tell he wasn't really comfortable, sitting out here, alone, with him. But he was keeping the discomfort carefully under control. BA was right in one respect; there was more going on inside that head than just fog.

"I'd offer you a cigar, Face, but Maggie would have my head." He chuckled softly, waiting for the other man's reaction. He could hardly believe it when, after a moment's hesitation, he was rewarded with a very small smile.

Encouraged, Hannibal decided if he wanted Face to trust him, he had to trust Face. At least, to a certain point.

"We'll be leaving here soon, Face. Going back to LA. There's someone we would like you to...meet. Someone I think you'll like."

The smile disappeared, but otherwise there was no reaction. Well, at least he hadn't taken off.

"It'll be your choice, Face, naturally." Okay, a small lie. Hannibal wasn't averse to that. It answered the short term needs. "But I think it would be a good thing to meet him. If you decide you don't want any more to do with him, then that would be it. What do you think?" He waited, patiently, anxiously.

Face looked at him. Looked right in his eyes. He stood, and Hannibal was afraid he would just walk off. Instead, he looked off into the distance, and slowly nodded his head. Without a word or gesture more, he walked deliberately back into the house.

Hannibal sat back in his chair. Lit another cigar. Smiled.

Maybe he really had been worrying for nothing.


*****

As soon as he was out of sight of the patio, he increased his pace to his room. He had accomplished a great deal tonight. Smith now thought he was coming around. Was willing to meet them halfway. Was starting to trust them more. And Smith was starting to trust him. Yes, indeed, he'd accomplished a great deal.

He locked his door behind him. Hurried into the bathroom. Bent over the toilet and was violently sick.

Accomplishments paid for at a great price.