CHAPTER EIGHTY THREE

"You're quite positive?"

"Yes, sir. Nothing amiss; simply a coincidence. Able 40 just happened to be the one who made the reports. Smith isn't here, nor are any of the men who were with him."

Stockwell sighed. He didn't like it. There should have been some word of Smith's whereabouts. He had too many feelers out; no way he could've disappeared that completely.

"All right. You may as well return to Langley..."

"If it's all right with you, sir, I'd like to stick around a few days yet."

"May I ask why? You said it was quiet."

"Yes, sir, but there's something about the priest that bears watching. He didn't seem to know anything about Smith's location, and yet..."

"Yes?"

"Well, he is a priest, sir. Of the old school. They make terrible liars. There's something he wasn't telling me. I'd like to keep an eye on things, just in case."

"Hmm. Very well. I'll expect a report immediately should there be anything - and, I mean anything - unusual."

"Definitely, sir. You'll be the first to know..."


*****

He stared out of the window, out into the alley. He'd seen him almost immediately, but no longer felt threatened. As he watched him now, he felt only...sadness.

He heard the soft knock on the door before it slowly opened. He turned, looked at the priest, who hesitated, smiling softly.

"Good morning, Templeton. Did you sleep well?"

He had. At first. It wasn't until sometime around three in the morning that he'd first awakened, anxious, disoriented. The same type of dreams he'd had...before. All the characters from his lives jumbled together in a nonsensical kaleidoscope of events.

He'd stayed awake after that, trying to sort through things. He thought he had finally made that connection, made the breakthrough. That he knew what was real, what wasn't. But it wasn't that simple. It wasn't that easy.

Because of Sam.

Sam kept coming back, in one way, shape or form. Kept inserting memories into his own, where they no longer belonged. He knew they didn't. But it was hard to pull them out, distinguish them from his own. Sometimes he couldn't. So he had to choose. He wasn't sure if he always chose correctly. But he figured he had a gauge, of sorts.

Whatever didn't cause a headache was false.

"Templeton?"

He'd completely forgotten about the priest, standing there, starting to look concerned.

"Yes...yes, Father. I slept very well."


*****

"Well?"

"I think he's close. Another couple of days and we'll know for sure. If it works out, you can make your pitch."

"This better work."

"It will. Stockwell knows where his vulnerabilities are. And who else knows them. He'll cooperate. He won't have any choice."

The two men sat, silent now, listening to the voices in the building across the street. The Preacher was still not sure about this enterprise, but was gaining confidence as the other man gave him more and more details. He knew he would never know all of it, but that didn't matter. He was being told enough. He glanced over at his 'partner', speculating.

"Is your reputation earned, or just legend?"

A momentary look of surprise, followed by amusement.

"You're direct. I like that." He stood, looked absently out of the window. Spoke to the glass. "As to my reputation, well, everyone's is a bit overblown." He glanced at the Preacher. "But there has to be a modicum of truth behind every legend, right? I've never just dismissed what I've heard about other men. A smart man doesn't."

The Preacher thought about that for a few minutes. A warning? Or just a reminder?

"What about Smith? Think he's everything he's made out to be?"

"Oh, yeah. Everything and more. But there's one very important thing to remember when you talk to him."

"What's that?"

"He's most dangerous when he's angry. And he's most angry when one or more of his men is threatened." He moved to the door, picking up both coffee cups as he passed. He looked back at the Preacher. "Don't make him angry, Preacher. Give him what he wants - a guarantee that his men - all of his men - will be safe. He'll agree to almost anything for that."

The Preacher sat quietly, the murmur of the voices like white noise. All great leaders looked out for their people. It was their biggest strength.

And their biggest weakness.


*****

"You trust him?"

"He was your selection, Carla. You tell me."

Carla sighed. She had known, right from the start, that getting involved with Smith and the team was a mistake. Everything they touched got complicated. Especially for her.

"He's loyal, General. He will do whatever is best for the organization."

"Is that a yes, Carla?"

Time to bite the bullet and hope for the best...

"Yes, General. You can trust him."


*****

They sat in the garden. It was quiet; now and then they could catch a glimpse of one of the nuns moving about, but they themselves were undisturbed. Magill knew Templeton wanted to discuss something with him, but, as always, was having a difficult time getting started. It was always that way when it was something important. So he waited patiently, knowing that eventually the fountainhead would eventually burst. Even so, he was taken by surprise.

"Did Smith...Colonel Smith...Hannibal...did he tell you everything?"

"I'm not sure what..."

"Did he tell you about Randy?"

"Ah, yes. Yes, he did, Templeton. And about...Sam. And Dr. Barish."

"Forget them. What did he tell you about Randy?"

"Well, he..."

"Did he tell you he took care of me? That I took care of him? That he was the closest thing to a family I can remember having? Closer even than Smith? Or BA? Or Murdock? Or even you? Did he tell you that?"

Magill was taken aback, not only by the words, rushed and loud, but by the anger in them.

"I don't think he knew..."

"No, he didn't know. He doesn't yet. He doesn't want to know about Randy, about what he was to me. He wants me to forget he even existed. But I can't do that! Why won't he understand that? Especially now..."

"Now?"

"Randy's dead, Father. Didn't Smith tell you that? He died. He was blown up. In Mexico. And we were in Mexico because of me. Because I turned on him. I turned on Randy. But he didn't walk away, even then. He didn't. He died trying to protect me. Even after I..."

Magill remained silent, waiting for Templeton to continue. For several minutes, Templeton sat with his head down, hands clasped tightly. When he spoke next, his voice was so low Magill could barely hear it.

"I want to go back, Father. I want things to be the way they used to be, with them...but how can they? Everything's different now. I can't just forget Randy. I can't wipe all of that out."

"I don't think Colonel Smith will expect you to, Templeton. Not any more. He's learned a few things. He knows how important Randy was to you. They all know that."

"Do they? Really?" Templeton stood, ran his hand through his hair. It was obvious to the priest that there was something more. Something his friend wasn't sure he wanted to say.

"What else, son? Something else is troubling you."

He watched as Templeton straightened, looking off into space. For a moment, Magill expected another rush of words, confusion, anger.

"No, Father. There's nothing more." He smiled, mechanically, and said he was tired. Magill watched as he headed back to his rooms.

There was definitely something else going on.