CHAPTER THIRTY ONE

BA finished his ministrations and leaned back, stretching his back and neck muscles. It had taken a long time, but then he'd been very careful, too. Careful to clean everything thoroughly, careful so it wouldn't hurt any more than necessary. He thought Face had come out of it, sometimes, and then gone back under. He wasn't sure, though. Hard to tell, when the one eye was so swollen, and the other...

BA swallowed. Back in Nam, he'd once held a fellow grunt's entrails in his bare hands, trying to keep the man alive long enough for evac. That had shaken him badly, but when he'd had to clean up that eye today...he still felt sick. Maybe it wasn't the injury; maybe it was the man. He glanced over at the clean white gauze taped carefully over it, to protect from further abuse.

He swallowed again, wanting a distraction. He looked at the clothes Face wore. Filthy with blood, dirt, grass stains of some kind. Like he'd been dragged through the brush. BA stood, stretched one more time, and started rummaging through an old bureau next to the couch, picking out clean clothes. He didn't see one silk shirt, not one tie. Not even a nice sweater. Just t-shirts, jeans, a couple sweatshirts. He took a t-shirt off the top and grabbed a pair of jeans.

It wasn't until BA was pulling off the filthy jeans that he realized something was seriously wrong. Face suddenly sat half-way up, yelling in pain, grabbing for his leg. BA was horrified to find the pant leg caught by a tied cloth of some kind, which had pulled away from a gunshot wound in the left thigh. He couldn't believe he hadn't seen it before. The wound was through and through, and was now starting to seep blood again. Face tried desperately to fight him off while protecting his leg, and BA had a hell of time holding him on the couch.

"Hannibal!"


*****

Murdock's ride cruised across the sky, Sinon's private airfield just visible on the horizon. They had parked the van a few blocks from the facility. Murdock wanted to land as close as possible to it, but at the same time, didn't want to be too close to the airfield. He glanced at his watch, staring at it unbelieving for a moment. Had it really been less than an hour since their escape from Sinon's headquarters? It seemed like they had been trying to lose the FBI for hours, and then the flight to the village, and...

Man.

He looked closely as he flew past the airfield, high enough so the chopper wouldn't be recognized, low enough to see any activity below. As far as he could tell, nothing had changed. He saw no sign of the FBI, but that didn't mean they weren't on their way. Or maybe Charlie had forgotten to tell them about the airfield. The more he thought about it, the more he knew Charlie wouldn't have told the FBI. If he had, he would've had to tell them about the team and their plans.

Nope, Charlie would've kept his mouth shut.

Which posed another problem for Murdock. Even if the FBI wasn't there, Les still had men at the airfield. Men that could come after Face and the others. And no way Murdock could let that happen.

He flew for a few more minutes, slowly circling the airfield before moving on toward the van. He'd thought things out very carefully.

He had a plan...


*****

Hannibal rushed in at BA's call, and found BA struggling to keep Face from scrambling away from him. Face was panicky, hitting ineffectively at BA while simultaneously trying to protect his leg.

What the hell?

He ran over, taking Face's wrists in his hands, surprised at the strength of the struggle. BA quickly stepped around him, dropping down on the couch behind Face, wrapping his arms around the man's shoulders. Hannibal relinquished the wrists and BA quickly grabbed them, pulling Face's arms up to his chest and holding him firmly.

"Face! Face, it's all right. It's us, Face." Hannibal tried to get Face's attention, while holding onto the kicking legs.

"He's been shot, Hannibal. Thigh."

Hannibal shot a quick glance at the wound. He let go with one hand and gently took his lieutenant's face, trying to avoid the new injuries.

"Face, it's Hannibal. Hannibal. C'mon, kid, stop it, now." The words were commanding, the voice soft but firm. "Face, look at me."

Face slowly stopped his frantic attempts to get away, but the look he gave Hannibal was not one of recognition, but instead, defeat.

"I just want to clean up that leg a bit, okay? Just until the doctor gets here."

Face looked at him, clearly not believing him. "Doctor?"

"Yeah, Face. I'm going to have Charlie bring a doctor for you."

Face said nothing more, but he didn't make any further attempt to escape. Just the same, BA kept a firm hold of him, knowing the cleanup was going to hurt, regardless of how gentle Hannibal was.


*****

Murdock landed the chopper with a flourish on the outskirts of the airfield. He left it running, rotors slowly turning, waiting for the response to his sudden appearance. It didn't take long. He saw three vehicles suddenly race away from the main building, heading his direction. Quickly he shut off the chopper, pulled a few specially chosen wires loose, and dropped down to the ground. Waiting until the first car was close enough to see him, Murdock sprinted across the blacktop toward the chain link fence ringing the airfield. He took a huge leap, landing halfway up, and climbed quickly over the top. He dropped to the hard ground on the other side, watching as the cars slowed cautiously several yards from the chopper. As soon as he saw the first man step out, he took off. Again, he made damn sure they saw him.

He figured he had maybe ten or fifteen minutes to get to the van and make his preparations. He only hoped BA had left the key to the locker in its usual place. It could get a little hairy if he hadn't.

He had.

"God protects fools and little children," he muttered, as he grabbed the key and hurried to the back of the van. Moments later, he had his little arsenal on Hannibal's seat, and was furiously trying to remember where the hell BA kept the spare ignition key. He fleetingly thought he should have made sure God was watching before he got too confident, but then his mind sparked and he pulled the ashtray out. Taped securely to the bottom of the tray was his prize, and just in time, as he spotted the first of his pursuers run around the corner. With a mental apology to BA, he swung the van in a sharp u-turn, racing past Sinon's men and heading back toward the airfield.

He chuckled as he watched men scramble out of his way. In the rearview mirror, he saw them race back around the corner. He figured he would beat them back to the airfield by a few minutes. Long enough to get in position. Precision timing. That's what the key was. Precision timing. Give or take a minute here and there.

He grinned as he rammed his way through the gates and past the startled security guard. The guy may or may not call the police. Didn't matter, though. Murdock intended them to show up, one way or another. But he wanted his 'fun' first.

The hangar doors were wide open, just waiting for him. A couple maintenance guys stared at the van racing across the tarmac and into the building. As he slammed the brakes on the van, hopped out and ran for the doors, he could hear their voices shouting in the distance. He giggled as he slid the doors almost closed.

Party time...


*****

BA had been right. Cleaning the wound had hurt. It had been downright painful, and Face now leaned heavily against BA's chest, breathing hard and sweating. Hannibal stood up stiffly, the look on his face showing clearly how badly he felt for adding to Face's misery. He reached down, intending to give Face a reassuring touch on the shoulder.

Face jumped as if he'd been struck, and feebly tried to escape yet again, but BA hadn't let down his guard. Face strained for another moment before slumping down, the tension never leaving his body.

"Face, I'm sorry. But it had to be done." Hannibal sat back down, trying to get Face to look at him. "Face?"

One swollen eye turned toward him, dull. Again, there was absolutely no sign of recognition.

"Face, do you know who I am?" BA could almost swear there was a note of pleading in the colonel's voice. "It's Hannibal, Face. Hannibal. Do you understand?"

There was long, suffocating silence.

"No...you're not...Hannibal went away. He's not coming back. He's...gone."

Hannibal sat back abruptly. "What?"

"Hannibal's gone. He...he knew. He knew what I was...what I would do."

The colonel was stunned. Guilt flooded through him. He looked up at BA, but BA just shook his head, clueless. "Face, I was angry, I said some things I shouldn't have, but..."

"No, he was right. He was right. I was...I was a coward. I...told. I told them everything..."

"Face, it's all right. You couldn't help it. My God, look what they did to you. Anyone would have..."

"No, no, he wouldn't have told them." Failure shouted in the quiet voice. "None of them would have. He was right to leave..."

"Face, I didn't leave you. Not really. I'm here. We all are."

For a moment, the resolve in Face's expression faltered. He turned his head, scanning the small room. "Murdock?"

"Murdock's taken the chopper to hide it, but he'll be back."

Hannibal could almost swear there was a flash of smile from Face. A bitter smile.

"Murdock's flying...flyyyying awaaayyy...." A definite chuckle, followed by a grimace. "Flying far from me. He knows, too, doesn't he?"

"He don't know nothin, Face. 'Cause you ain't no coward."

Face tried to look up, frowning. That voice, back again. To taunt him with its lies.

"BA?"

"Yeah, man, I'm here and I ain't leavin. Nobody's leavin you."

"Liar. You're not BA."

Startled, BA almost loosened his grip, tightening immediately when Face tried to push free before sagging back down again.

"Why do you think he's lying, Face?" Hannibal glanced at BA, silently signaling him not to react.

"Because BA's dead."

Hannibal and BA looked at each other, stunned.

"Dead? What makes you say that, kid?"

"He has to be. He's with me."