CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

The stairwell from the helipad opened onto a small entryway. Other than an elevator door and security camera, it was empty. BA closed the door softly and turned back to Hannibal.

"Camera's lookin right at the door, Colonel."

"I knew it. Didn't I say..."

"Yeah, Colonel, you said he was leavin somethin out. So we gonna move or not?"

Hannibal grinned. Despite himself, he found a familiar feeling seeping into his brain. It felt good. He looked over his shoulder at Murdock, who stood on the step above him. "You ready, Murdock?"

"Shore am, Colonel." He grinned down at him, bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet.

"Don't blow it, man..." BA gave him that look again, the same look he'd given him when he'd busted him out to see Face in the hospital. Murdock quit bouncing.

BA and Hannibal stood back against the wall as Murdock stepped through the door. He looked around, looked directly up at the camera, and smiled. A cold, calculated smile. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an ID card. They were gambling that the camera couldn't detect the photocopy of Mitch's badge, with the photo from Murdock's VA ID card covering the original.

A cold metallic voice came from somewhere in the ceiling.

"Where's Mitch?"

Murdock got a disgruntled look on his face, still looking up at the camera. "Dumb ass slipped on some grease in the hangar, twisted his ankle. Ask me, he was payin too much attention to his girlie magazine."

A soft chuckle came from the hidden speaker. "Okay, I'll buzz the elevator for you. Tell Mitch to keep his mind off his crotch from now on."

The was a soft purring noise, and the elevator door slid open. Murdock stepped toward it. Once under the camera, he whipped the Polaroid from under his jacket, held it high, and snapped a picture. This was the real tricky part. Holding the elevator door with his foot, Murdock slipped the photo into the little frame BA had fashioned, and reached up toward the camera. He took a deep breath, and quickly hooked his cap over the camera. A second later, the frame was attached to the camera, the photo resting a few inches in front of it. Making a hurried adjustment to straighten the photo, Murdock whipped his cap up and off the camera.

He held his breath.

Nothing.

Whipping off his jacket, he wound it into a ball and placed it in the elevator door. Stepping quietly back into the entryway, he watched as the door slowly slid together, stopping just shy of closing as it pressed on the jacket. Seconds later, Hannibal and BA joined him back in the elevator, guns ready as it slid from floor to floor.

They stopped on the fifth floor, where Mitch had said his boss, Les, had his offices. Hannibal tapped in the security code the pilot had given them. Miraculously, the door opened, and they stepped into a long hallway.

Hannibal grinned at his team. Now all they had to do was find Face and get him the hell out of there.

Piece of cake.


*****

Charlie sat impatiently in the office, where he had been waiting for almost an hour. Every now and then he glanced behind him, looking through the glass wall at the men going over the papers he'd turned over. A half-dozen of them now, at least two talking on telephones at any one time. He had expected them to go over the papers, but hadn't expected them to study each and every one before deciding to actually do something. It seemed so obvious to him what Sinon was doing...

"Calm down, Charlie. You know how these things work. Nothing's changed." He knew, all right. Way too many years in the field, dealing with the desk jockeys who wanted to run things no matter how inexperienced. Dot every "i", cross every "t" - and, in the meantime, the bad guys ran amok. He'd run fast and hard from all that shit.

And now he was right back in the middle of it.

"Mr. Hewitt?" One of the agents was standing in the doorway.

"Yes? Are you about done with your shenanigans in there? When are you going after these guys?"

The agent smiled patiently. "We've already contacted the Department of Justice; they had agents on the way to Sinon corporate headquarters almost forty minutes ago, sir." He glanced at his watch. "They should be arriving in another ten to fifteen minutes."

Abashed, Charlie had the grace to blush. "Sorry. I'm on a bit of a short fuse. They've got a friend of mine..."

"We know, sir. That's the hitch. We can't just storm into the building, knowing that your friend may be in there as a hostage. We're going to have to do some recon first. And we need to bring in the FBI hostage negotiators..."

Charlie shook his head. He hoped to hell Smith was able to fulfill his part of their plan. If not, Ed, and possibly the entire team, would be in deep, deep shit...and it wasn't Sinon Charlie was thinking of.


*****

Face was again on the floor. The man's voice was booming in his head, but he couldn't make out the words. He couldn't see, couldn't feel, couldn't move. He was just waiting. He no longer cared how they killed him. Just that they would do it soon.


*****

Les was talking on the phone to his man in the village. He wasn't happy. The contact hadn't seen everything, but he knew that Charlie had 'lit out like a bat out of hell' a couple of hours before; the other men had left shortly before that. Les gave him a few terse orders and dropped the phone down.

"Andy, take the men over to the village and gather everybody together. I'm pretty sure we're fucked, but I want some insurance. We may need a ticket out of the country; a whole village of hostages ought to pay for the ticket quite nicely."

"What about Sinon?"

"What about them? They knew the costs when they hired us. They're on their own now."

"And him?" Andy toed Face in the shoulder. There was no response at all.

"I'll call Mitch; we'll dump him over the desert on the way, and then meet you at Hewitt's."

Andy nodded and headed out the door. Les looked down at Face, disgusted. The guy had held out longer than he'd expected, but guys like him would always fold. No intestinal fortitude. He picked up the phone to call his pilot.

Andy came back into the office just as he was dialing.

"What the...? I told you..."

"I know, boss, but..."

"But he ran into a little interference." Hannibal stepped out from behind Andy, gun pointed directly at Les' head. BA and Murdock came in right behind them, guns ready, faces grim.

Les smiled, unfazed. He still held the trump card. A small pistol slid down his sleeve into his hand. He only had to move his arm slightly to point it at Face.

"Looks like he's not the only one..."


*****

Charlie was once again on the road, once again accompanied by a police escort. This time, he rode in the back of the unmarked vehicle, while an FBI agent drove his jeep. Until the people at Sinon were in custody, he was considered a witness, and a valuable one. Only he knew that there were three others who knew just as much as he did. He didn't know if letting the government in on that little secret would be helpful or harmful to the team, and he wasn't about to find out. Not without giving Smith and his men some say in the matter.

The agent in charge, Wells, hadn't told him anything other than the basic facts as to what was going down, and his anxiety level was at a place it hadn't been for years. By the time they got back to his cabin, the FBI and DOJ would have been at Sinon's headquarters for well over an hour. Had they gone in, despite what Wells had said about Ed? Were they trying to negotiate his release? What about Smith and the other two? Were they prisoners? Were they caught in the middle, between the "bad guys", as Smith liked to call them, and the government agents? Were they already in federal custody? What would happen to Ed then? He'd never survive prison...

Charlie shook his head, which was threatening to pound itself into his chest. If only Ed had confided in him sooner...


*****

BA hadn't even noticed the body on the floor. Not until that shiny little pistol pointed it out to him, shriveled up in the corner, facing the wall.

Something washed through BA. A feeling, so strong, so overpowering, he almost physically felt it swell up inside him. An anger that was so much more than anger, a fury that went beyond all reason and sanity. Something he thought he had buried so deep it would never surface again, something he knew he could no longer control.

Nor did he want to.

With a swiftness that caught everyone by surprise, BA grabbed Andy and shoved him ahead of him as he shot across the room. He rammed Andy into Les with enough force to knock him several feet into the wall, Andy landing on top of him. The pistol flew out of Les' hand, sliding harmlessly off to the side. Immediately, Hannibal and Murdock were there, guns pointing at the fallen men, as BA continued his rush to the corner.

Kneeling beside the prostrate body, he reached out, hesitating before gently touching the shoulder, looking at the bloodied face, the bruises already growing dark and angry. At his touch, a shudder ran through the body, and it seemed to BA that it shrank even more into itself. He looked up, to where the others had dragged the new prisoners to their feet. Hannibal and Murdock were looking murderously at the two, on edge, almost inviting them to make a move. The prisoners glared, first at the team, then at each other.

"How is he, BA?" Hannibal's eyes never left Les.

BA's eyes moved first to Les, then settled on Andy.

"Who did this?" His voice was quiet, calm.

"BA, how is he?" Hannibal hazarded a glance at him, somehow not liking what he'd heard. BA ignored him.

"I said, who did this?"

Les smiled, innocently. He raised his hands in the air, fingers splayed. "My hands are clean."

Andy shot him an angry, disgusted look before turning to face BA, who was slowly standing up. Hannibal again glanced over at him.

"BA..."

"Outta my way, Hannibal." Still the calm, quiet voice, reflecting the look on his face as he stepped toward Andy.

"BA, you can't..."

"I said, outta my way, Colonel." BA firmly but gently pushed Hannibal to one side.

Andy stepped back abruptly, causing Murdock to straighten, while fixing his weapon more firmly on his prisoner. BA kept walking toward Andy, and the other three men moved out of his way.

"It was his orders, man! He's the one in charge!" Andy was angry, but also unnerved. He was about the same size as BA, but he'd never seen that look on any man's face before. He would have been more anxious if he knew that neither Hannibal nor Murdock had ever seen BA like this, either.

"Don't matter. You hit him."

And then BA returned the favor. And again, and again, and again...