CHAPTER EIGHTY

Father Magill had talked until he was hoarse, and still he kept talking. As long as Templeton would listen, he would talk. Occasionally, there would be a question; sometimes, there would be a denial. On a couple of occasions, anger. But mainly, Templeton had listened, silently.

It had worried Magill, for a while. He had begun to wonder if what he was saying was actually being believed, or if the man seated next to him was merely taking on yet another past, something to fill the void. Although, it was hard to dispute the photos. The truth was there. Not that Templeton hadn't tried to show how they could have been faked; in the end, it wasn't so much the boy growing up in them that had defeated his arguments. It had been the other people. Father Magill, himself, showing up in many of them, aging gradually. The nuns. The other kids. Kids, who appeared for a few pictures, then suddenly disappeared; who grew up with him for a couple of months, a couple of years, and then just weren't there any more.

He remembered the kids. Every one of them.

Templeton hesitantly started telling Magill what had happened to each of them. In detail. Unerringly. He knew exactly when they had been adopted, every date that another one had left. It was when the tone of voice had changed that Magill had decided it was time to stop for a bit. At first, it had been an almost mechanical response to the photos, as if something just clicked inside his mind and he could recite the details as if by rote. Then he'd started turning the pages, going back to first one photo, then another, repeating the details, adding to them. But there was something new in the voice. He was no longer reciting facts. He was telling Magill when his friends had abandoned him, betrayed him, left him for the family he would never have. The voice became a mix of anger, sadness, bewilderment.

The words gradually became more and more jumbled; it was obvious Templeton was at the end of his rope. In the space of less than twelve hours, he'd gone from a calculating, angry and dangerous man to a confused, befuddled and exhausted one. Magill finally convinced him to move from the floor to the bed, and left him sitting there, staring off, while he went hurriedly to the kitchen. It was time to let the mind rest, and take care of the body.

The sister smiled at him encouragingly when he entered the small kitchen. Silently he blessed her for her foresight, as several sandwiches were already made up, wrapped to keep them fresh, and soup had been kept warm on the stove. Within minutes, she had helped him carry the lunch to Templeton's room, although she waited outside while he took the small feast inside. She understood where she was needed - in the background, supporting them both invisibly.

Templeton ate without enthusiasm, but he did eat. Magill talked calmly about nothing, the weather, the garden in the courtyard, a bit about the history of the building they were in. Nothing that had anything to do with Templeton's past. When the meal was finished, he quietly picked up everything from the box and packed it away. He suggested Templeton rest, or walk around the garden; they would talk again later. Then he took the dishes and the box and left.

The box went into his own room, on the floor at the foot of his bed. He sighed deeply; he felt nearly as exhausted as he knew Templeton was. But he had one more thing to do before he would rest.

He shut his door quietly behind him, and headed for the chapel.


*****

"Anything, Hannibal?"

"Nothing yet, Murdock. He'll let us know if he needs us. Or if Face..." Hannibal chewed hard on his cigar, stared out of the window toward the street below. "He'll let us know."

Murdock frowned at the response. He'd expected something more along the lines of, "I'll send one of you over there in a while to check things out.", or "I've arranged to meet with Father Magill later this afternoon.". Maybe even, "BA bugged the priest; here's what's happened so far." He didn't like this idea of waiting for someone else to call the shots, and he liked Hannibal's calm acceptance of it even less. That wasn't Hannibal. But then, none of them was acting like normal any more. Hadn't in a long, long time.

He'd relinquished his spot in the alley to BA a short while ago. No one had come into the alley who didn't look like they belonged there. No strange vehicles. He'd caught movement through Face's window a couple of times, nothing clear; just...movement.

He looked over at Kurt, who was idly clicking on the remote. BA still hadn't gotten it fixed, another thing that was out of kilter. But then, maybe BA hadn't really been that interested in fixing it. Murdock looked harder at Kurt. He was tense, as they all were, but there was something else, too. Both he and Daryl were acting strange. Distant. And Murdock had noticed they kept looking at each other, when they thought no one was watching.

Like they were waiting for something.

Hell, weren't they all?

A sudden clatter from the kitchen brought his attention to the last person in the apartment. Frankie. The only one who was still acting halfway normal. Which actually could be odd, all things considered. Murdock had to wonder what Frankie was really thinking about all of this. He'd been caught in a maelstrom from the git-go. First being blamed for killing Face, then having everyone trying to make him into something he clearly wasn't. Then the hunt, the killings...now this. Except for a few rough spots, Frankie had somehow managed to hang on to his normalcy. Maybe he'd finally found his niche. To help the rest of them keep their balance, a reminder that there was something else.

The object of Murdock's thoughts suddenly looked up from the clutter of pots and pans in front of him. He'd promised to make the gang a "monumental" dinner, using an old family recipe, but it was proving a little more complicated than he'd remembered. He wiped his hands on the towel and wandered out to the living room, flopping down on the couch, discouraged.

"Hey, guys, maybe we should just get take-out tonight, whaddya think?"

Hannibal turned from the window, a small smile on his face. "Trouble in kitchen paradise, Frankie?"

"Yeah, well, it never looked that hard when my mom made it, but..."

"Don't worry about it, Frankie." Hannibal's smile faded as he turned back to the window, the moment of levity almost making him feel guilty.

Frankie looked around at the morose group of men. Something had been worrying him, and, even though they all knew things were coming to a head, no one had mentioned it yet. He might get his head bitten off, but maybe now was the time to bring it up.

"Uh, Johnny..."

"Yeah, Frankie?" Hannibal wasn't really paying attention; his thoughts were on the man who had just turned the corner and was walking down the street toward the retreat.

"I was just wondering, you know, uh, what your plans are?"

Hannibal turned and looked curiously at Frankie. "Plans?"

"Well, yeah. I mean, for after. I mean, after we know what Face is going to do, what are we going to do?"

"That kinda depends on Face, Frankie."

"Well, what if he's okay again? What then? Are we going back to Stockwell?"

"I'm not going back to the general. No way. The farther I am from that bastard, the longer he lives!" Murdock spoke up, angrily.

"That's enough of that kind of talk, Captain." There was no arguing with Hannibal's tone of voice. He looked sternly at everyone in the room. "I can't speak for you, Kurt, Daryl, but as much as I hate the idea, we don't have much choice but to go back to Langley." He shook his head, cutting off Murdock's protest. "I know, Murdock, but he's still holding all the cards. If we don't go back, we won't have just the military to worry about. And there's still a chance we can get those pardons."

"After all this? And I thought I was the insane one!" Murdock threw his hands up in exasperation.

"The colonel's right, Murdock." Kurt spoke up, quietly. "Until now, the general's been playing it loose, probably hoping you could still come up with those files. But if you try to disappear, well, it just won't happen. He can make it so hot, you'll wish you'd stayed in the VA. He's got the connections, believe me. But if you go back of your own accord, he'll deal. He won't make it easy, but he'll deal."

"And what if Magill can't pull Face back? What if he decides to hit the road?"

"All the more reason to go back to Stockwell. You can protect him that way, make it part of the deal. Otherwise, I wouldn't give two cents for his chances."

"You don't know Face very well, then."

"And you don't know Stockwell. Look, I know you guys managed great against the military - but you were a team, then, too. The general is very different from the MP's, and Sam would be on his own, with questionable stability. You really want to pit the two of them against each other under those circumstances?"

Murdock was silent. What Kurt was saying was true. He had no doubt Face could last quite some time on his own, but eventually...Stockwell would win. Face was too much a team player; they all were. There would come a time when Face would make a mistake, and then Stockwell would be all over him. And if Face were still in the mindset he had been, there would be no way he would let Stockwell take him alive. If the team didn't go back, didn't make a deal to protect him, Face would be dead.

One way or another, they would end up with Stockwell. They had to.


*****

The Preacher moved casually up the street. He knew he was being watched, and from where. Smith would undoubtedly recognize him from the other day; that was all right. After all, he was 'renting' office space here. It wouldn't be that unusual for him to be interested in meeting some of the neighbors.

He stopped in front of the Church property, hesitated a moment. He didn't want to appear too sure of himself; more like simple curiosity about a building with the rather curious name of Sunrise House posted on it. Seemingly making up his mind, he stepped up to the door and rang the bell. A nun answered his summons moments later.

"Good evening, Sister. I'd like to speak with Father Magill. I was told he was staying here."

"I'm not sure he's taking visitors. He's on retreat..."

"I think he'll see me, Sister. If you would tell him Colonel Smith sent me." He smiled, reassuring. The nun frowned, still hesitating. Normal practice said no visitors, but she knew Father was here for a special reason.

"Very well, sir. If you don't mind waiting..."

He smiled as he stepped inside.