CHAPTER THIRTEEN

He waited until Hannibal walked out of the garage. Once he was gone, BA grabbed the shop rag and wiped his hands thoroughly. Then he moved over to the sink in the corner. Ran water as hot as he could and swept his hands through it. Grabbed the pumice and poured it over his wet hands and rubbed them together, scrubbing to get the grease off his nails, his fingers, his knuckles. Then he put his hands through the scalding water and rinsed every bit of grease and pumice off.

He turned, grabbing a towel and drying his stinging hands as he contemplated the garage doors.

So Hannibal had finally decided to take on a new client. Far from LA. Out in the boonies, some damn place he'd never heard of.

BA shook his head. Damn.

Damn.

He went back to the car he'd been working on and slammed the hood down. Wiped his hands with a clean towel. Tossed the towel into the bin and walked out the back door. Got in the sedan and started it and drove down the alley and out onto the street.

Fifteen minutes later he pulled up in front of an old freight depot. It looked like it could fall down at the slightest breeze. BA stepped cautiously out of the sedan, checking up and down the nearly deserted street. All he saw were the usual drunks and street hustlers. He moved to the side door and inserted the key in the lock, which looked practically new. With one last look around, he stepped inside and quickly shut the door. With a soft click, it locked behind him.

He stood in the near dark for several minutes, letting his eyes adjust. As they did, he could see the hulk in the middle of one of the stalls, covered with a tarp that was covered in a thick coat of dust and webs. Here and there, a shaft of light beamed down from the ceiling. BA moved slowly across the floor until he stood within reach of the tarp. He was breathing a little heavily, and he felt cotton in his mouth. His jaw tightened as he grabbed the tarp and slowly pulled it off. He kept pulling, methodically folding the tarp as it came sliding down. He looked at nothing else until it was all folded and laid neatly in the corner.

He stared at the tarp for some time before he turned finally to the thing it had protected for so many months. It stood there, waiting. To BA, it was almost like it was demanding an explanation, some reason why it had been neglected for all this time. BA shook his head. Gettin as bad as that damn fool...

He moved slowly around the van, rubbing his hand over the smooth surface, checking it carefully. He wanted to think about all the times it had eluded Lynch or Decker, all the times it had flown down the roads and highways after the bad guys, all the times it had carried the team to victory.

Instead, all he saw was Face.


*****

He tossed the old spark plugs into the barrel, and took one last look at the engine. He'd replaced every belt, all the fluids, the plugs, the filters. He'd fired up the engine and let it run, listening for anything that was off, anything that said the engine wasn't in top form. Adjusted and readjusted until it was purring like a tiger. He'd changed the tires and checked the brakes and the shocks. Oiled the hinges, wiped down the inside, and then polished the outside until it gleamed.

He grabbed a shop cloth and began wiping off his hands. There was no hot water here, and he didn't like that. It took hot water to get rid of the grease. Really hot water. Otherwise the grease and dirt stayed on his hands. Didn't want the grease and dirt on his hands. Didn't want the smell of grease and dirt on his hands. When he was done with a job, he wanted it off him. Completely. But there was no hot water here. All he could do was wipe his hands on the dry towels until he figured he'd gotten as much crap off as he possibly could. It took several towels before he was satisfied.

He opened the bay doors and pulled the old sedan in, parking it next to the van. Moments later, the van was in the drive, engine idling softly while he locked up. He settled himself back behind the wheel, sitting there for several minutes. Just sitting until he finally felt ready.

The drunks and the street hustlers paid little attention as the black van rumbled down the street and headed for the VA.


*****

BA wished Hannibal had contacted Murdock or Richter about this, instead of leaving it up to him. He wished Hannibal had given him a little warning that he was checking into this guy. Sure, he'd been pushing Hannibal to get back to work, to start taking jobs again. He figured that's what they all needed. But it had been so long, and now that it was actually happening...

He worried that they hadn't worked together in months. Hell, hadn't even been training. And to spring this on them out of the blue...Sure, he'd told Hannibal Murdock would be okay. He would. If he'd had a little warning, it would have been better, though.

He tried to remember what was at the warehouse. He hoped they'd have everything they needed. He should've gone over there and checked out their supplies, but there wasn't time now. Maybe, if Murdock didn't cause much of a problem, they'd have some extra time. BA had no idea, really, how he would react. He might jump at the chance, be ready to go in minutes, like he used to. Or, like BA, he might have some doubts.

BA pulled up on the street in back of the VA. After that trip to Curaguay, they'd all figured Murdock had a free "get out of jail" card, that they could just call Richter and have Murdock walk out the front door. If they had left it up to the doc, they would have. It was Face said they couldn't do that, that if Richter didn't know when or where Murdock was going, he didn't have to lie if the MP's showed up. That it was for Richter's protection, as well as theirs, that he didn't know.

It was another thing Face was good at. He caught the things Hannibal missed.

Mostly.

BA abruptly stepped out of the van and headed across the grounds. He was careful, but not quite as careful as he could have been.

If he was spotted, he wouldn't have to break Murdock out, wouldn't have to tell him about no mission.

Maybe they'd have to scrub the whole thing...

BA stopped under a tall tree, just a few yards from Murdock's window. He looked around. No one in sight. He rubbed his hands on his jeans.

He could still feel the damn grease.


*****

Murdock slumped against the headboard. He'd gotten killed again. He used to be so good at this; now he got killed every time he turned around.

Stupid game.

He tossed the controller on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. Watched Spidey wending his way across the web to his latest victim, a hapless fly. Murdock had given a half-hearted try at keeping the fly away, but it had been useless. Well, that's the way life was.

Short.

He slid off the bed and wandered to the door. He could go down and shoot some pool; he could play the arcade games. There were always two or three card games going.

He stood in front of his door. He could read that new book Richter had given him. He had a couple paperbacks BA had brought, too, that he hadn't gotten to yet.

He had his hand on the doorknob, thinking. He could go see what was on the television in the day room. Sometimes they had a good channel on. All depended on who got to it first.

He leaned his head against the door.

Or he could just go back and lay on the bed until he fell asleep.

Didn't much matter.

He moved back to the bed and sat on the edge. Every day was like every day. He'd tried to keep occupied, tried taking the crafts and the arts and the groups. Didn't matter. There was no point to it.

No point at all.

"Psst. Murdock. Open the window, Fool!"

Murdock spun toward the window.

BA!

He sprang over and slid the well-greased sash open, stood back waiting for BA to climb in. Instead, BA just motioned for him to climb out. A moment's hesitation and he was standing beside him, watching as BA reached in and slid the window back down.

"What's up, Big Guy?" Usually BA would give him a call before he broke him out.

"We got a job. Hannibal wants us at the warehouse. Let's go."

Murdock stood still, watching as BA headed for the street.

A job?

A job.

Since when?

Why?

They couldn't take on a job. They didn't have Face. How could they take on a job without Face?

BA had turned, was watching him.

"You comin?"

Murdock looked back through the window. Games, crafts and television in there. He looked back at BA.

"Murdock? Comin or not? Ain't got all day."

Murdock swallowed. Nodded. Followed BA to the street.


*****

BA and Murdock sat, wordlessly, cleaning and wiping down the armaments. BA wasn't happy with the condition they were in, although anyone looking at them would have said they'd been stored quite properly. He just didn't like that they weren't perfect. The team always took great care of their weapons. They were part of the team. An essential part.

He rubbed furiously along the barrel of the AK-47.

Murdock would glance at him occasionally. Not wanting BA to notice. Something was wrong here. Something was wrong with BA. Usually, when he was working on something, BA wouldn't say a word, except to tell one of them what to do next. But today...today he was mumbling to himself, almost nonstop. And working on the weapons like he was possessed.

And, every time he finished with one, he'd stop everything and go to the washroom. Murdock would watch him, scrubbing his hands, and then he'd come back out and grab the next gun.

They were almost through with the job when they heard a car pull up in front. Immediately, both men grabbed their sidearms and stepped to the door, one on each side.

"It's me, guys." Hannibal's low voice sounded on the other side of the door, and then he stepped through. He looked at BA, then Murdock. Noted the guns and their ready stance. The look on their faces. Looked over and saw the van. Nodded, as if he'd expected it.

"Okay, guys, let's get to work."