CHAPTER SEVENTY EIGHT

The two men stood, watching each other, for several minutes. He could almost hear the seconds clicking away in his head. Sounds from the alley behind him were muffled, miles away, even through the window. His attention was on the priest. He looked at his eyes, soft, yet unflinching. Strong with conviction.

And something else.

He finally had to look away. He tried to bring back the hatred for this man. Remember what he had to do. Had to. It was the only way to end this nightmare. Make sure it never happened again.

Don't let him do it again. Not to you. Not to anyone.

His glance settled on the bed. The forms, documents, medals. It was all so neat, so perfect.

No. Not perfect. There were gaps. There were things missing that should have been there, to make it perfect. To make him believe. He'd gone over everything again last night. After looking at the photos. Sorted everything, read everything. Compared it, in his mind, to what Smith had shown him, back at Stockwell's. Between the two sets of forgeries, some of those gaps had been filled. But not all.

There shouldn't have been any gaps. Not if they wanted him to accept their version of his life. It should have all been there.

His life as Sam...they'd given him everything. He knew everything about that life. No gaps. None. If he asked a question, they had an answer.

They had all the answers.

That wasn't right. Logically, he knew it wasn't right. No one could know everything about him.

Smith hadn't known everything. There were questions he'd asked the colonel that there had been no answers for. He remembered Smith shrugging his shoulders, almost apologetic, shaking his head.

"I don't know about that, Face. I wish I did..."

Barish's people had all the answers. Barish's people knew everything.

Smith hadn't. Did Magill? Would Magill have the answers Smith didn't?

He looked down to the floor beneath the bed. Where he'd thrown the album. He could just see the corner of it. The very first picture. A kid, about five, maybe six. No pictures of him younger than that. But each additional picture was the same kid, a little older in each one, but the same kid. Some by himself, some with other kids, some with Magill. Picture after picture of that same kid growing up, holidays, church events, grade school, high school, graduation. And then the last picture in the album.

The kid in uniform. Pretending to smile. Trying to look cocky, confident. Standing next to Magill. Magill's hand on the kid's shoulder. Smiling, too, but a sad, resigned smile.

Magill's hand on the kid's shoulder. On...his...shoulder...


*****

Kurt pulled a cold beer from the refrigerator and wearily popped the cap off. He took a long swallow and stood, staring at the stained wall over the sink. He waited for a few minutes, knowing Daryl would find his way in soon. They had to talk.

Kurt knew Daryl was no happier about the situation than he was, but he could think of no way out of it. If the scheme was to work, the colonel couldn't know anything about it. None of the team could. If they found out, it would change the dynamics. Smith would insist on interfering. Well, he wouldn't consider it interference, of course. That was the problem.

Daryl came sauntering casually in, poured a cup of coffee. He frowned slightly at the beer in Kurt's hand. Kurt frowned in return.

"Don't start getting paranoid about it, okay?"

"Sorry, you're right." He sipped the hot coffee, looking out into the living room. The only other person in the apartment was BA, and he was napping on the couch. "So what's up? Anything?"

"He's moved. Across the alley. Cleaned out the other place."

"Is that wise? What about Stockwell?"

"He's not worried, so I'm not going to. He knows what he's doing. I hope."

"What about the Ables?"

"He didn't say anything about them. I was going to check the papers today."

"You really think...?"

"I don't know, Daryl. It all depends on whether or not they gave him any trouble. He's not the most patient person in the world."

"It would give him more clout with Stockwell if he kept them alive."

"I think he's got all the clout he needs. And then some. I tell you, Daryl, for once I actually feel sorry for the general. He's got some big surprises coming."

Daryl shook his head and went back into the living room.

"He's not the only one..."


*****

Father Magill didn't ask Templeton again about breakfast. He'd watched him carefully, those first few minutes. When he'd fixated on something under the bed, Magill had stepped over, reached under and pulled the album out. He didn't ask how it had gotten there. He could guess. He dusted it off, lay it carefully on the bed with the other items from the box.

Templeton's eyes followed the book until Magill stepped back from the bed once again. Then he looked up at Magill, and there was such confusion in his eyes, it made Magill want to grab him and hold him tight, the way he had when he'd been just a boy. But before he could make a move, determination replaced the confusion.

"You have some explaining to do."

"That's why we're here, Templeton."

"You can start with the photos."

"What would you like to know about them, Templeton?"

"Where did you get them? Who made them up for you? Stockwell?"

"Is that what you believe, Templeton?"

"Stop calling me that!"

Magill sighed, patiently. "I believe we went over this last night. You didn't give me another name to use."

"That's because I don't know what my name is. Thanks to Stockwell. And Barish." The blue eyes glared at him. "And you."

That caught the priest by surprise. "Me? I don't understand..."

"I didn't recognize you until I actually saw you yesterday. On the street. Then I knew. I remembered you. You were with Barish."

"No, Templeton..."

"Don't lie to me! How else would I know who you were?"

"If you remembered me, Templeton, you know I had nothing to do with Stockwell or that other person. You know me from the orphanage. Where you grew up."

"No! I had a family! A mother and a father! I lived in a house, just like all the other kids! All that shit about the orphanage is a lie!"

"I wish that were true, Templeton, I really do. But the truth is there on the bed. That's all the history we have for you."

In two strides, Templeton was at the bed, sweeping everything off the bed and onto the floor. Magill grabbed the photo album, clasping it to his chest. He stared at the angry, anguished man who stood at the foot of the bed, breath coming out in gasps.

"I...had...a...family..."

"You saw the pictures, Templeton. You studied those documents. You know the truth, my boy. You know I wouldn't lie to you." Magill looked right into Templeton's eyes. "You know I never lied to you, don't you?"

"I don't know any such thing!"

Magill stayed quiet. He watched, outwardly calm, as Templeton paced the room before suddenly leaning against the wall, staring back the priest.

"Why are you doing this?"

"I want to help you, Templeton."

The harsh laughter made Magill wince, in spite of himself. Templeton slid down to sit on the floor, his head back, eyes closed.

"Help me? Is that what you call this? Throwing all these lies at me, trying to confuse me? I should've killed you last night and been done with it."

Magill stepped back then, chilled at the calm utterance of those words. Colonel Smith had told him that Templeton could be dangerous, but he hadn't really understood - or accepted - the reality behind the words. Templeton had wanted to kill him?

He stared down at the man he'd raised from childhood, watching until it became apparent that he was not going to speak again. Magill suddenly felt the album pressing against his chest. His fingers were stiff from holding it tightly. He looked down at the book, then over at Templeton.

Taking a deep breath, he stepped slowly across the room until he stood next to the sitting man. Quietly, stiffly, he settled himself down beside him, and opened the album. He looked at the first picture in the book, waiting to see if there would be any reaction from Templeton. When he remained quiet, eyes still closed, Magill realized he was too mentally exhausted to react any more. The priest looked back at the photo, and his mind traveled back over the decades.

"I remember the day they brought you to me," he began, gently. "Two police women, and a social worker. You were so scared, but you weren't about to let anyone know it..."

The two men sat against the wall, the soft voice murmuring on...