CHAPTER FORTY ONE

Hannibal made a hurried phone call from the tourist center at Eagle Lake, finding out from Nick that Cal had disappeared, and Charlie's decision not to tell the FBI about it. Hannibal was thankful for that; the last thing they needed was the FBI on their tail, along with everything else. He told Nick to check his own phone, and, unhappy as Nick was about it, that they wouldn't be in touch again until it was 'finished'.

Hannibal didn't go back immediately to the van. He wanted to think a bit, before going back to the questions he knew would be waiting. That, and the overall intensity building among his men. He had felt it, building slowly as they approached Eagle Lake. He didn't like it. This wasn't the Jazz building, that taking the tiger by the tail, seeing how long you had to hang on before the tiger gave up.

The Jazz made you feel alive. And thankful.

This was...different. Altogether different.

It was Face. Face who was setting the tone, and Face was...hell, he didn't seem to care one bit that it was his life at stake. More like they were just dealing with another client. And one he didn't seem to like all that well.

He looked over toward the van, parked away from any other vehicles, in the deep shade of the tall cedars. The side door was open just enough to let a cool breeze in. Hannibal could see Murdock, seated next to Face. BA leaned against the side of the van, next to the open door. Hannibal could only see Face's legs, one foot restlessly bobbing, the rest of him hidden behind the door. Murdock caught him watching them and frowned; Hannibal turned back toward the phone. He needed a few more minutes to himself.

He had been listening, when Murdock talked to Face about his voices. He knew there was something off about that. Something Face had said, or maybe hadn't said, that bothered Hannibal. He just couldn't put his finger on it. He knew he had been surprised at the reserve Face had in talking about them; he hadn't expected that with Murdock. Of all of them, he knew Face felt most comfortable confiding in Murdock. So why the caution this time? Hannibal had expected Face to be relieved to be able to talk openly...

What was it he had missed? What exactly were those voices telling Face?


*****

"Okay, that looks like the phone booth. Check the number. I'll see if the manager knows anything."

While his partner headed for the booth, the driver of the Jeep strolled over to the motel office. Inside, he found a rather thin, pale man sitting behind the desk, talking animatedly to a young woman who was leaning against the counter, listening raptly.

"You shoulda seen the guy, Lizzie! Man, I never seen such a sight. And that black dude that lugged him into the van - I wouldn't wanna meet him in some dark alley. Jeez Loo-eez..."

"Excuse me."

Both clerks looked up, startled at the intrusion. The man jumped up and put on a fake smile.

"Hi, can I help you, sir?"

"Yes, Agent Black with the FBI." He flashed his badge and saw the immediate effect his announcement had on the pair. "I'm looking for some men who may or may not have stayed here last night. Four of them - an older white man, a black man, muscular, and two other white men, one with, uh, a disfigurement."

"Oh, geez, yeah, they were here, alright! I was just tellin' Lizzie here about it. They cut up somethin awful early this morning. I almost had to call the cops on 'em."

"Oh, really? What kind of altercation went on?"

"Oh, they were havin some kinda argument amongst themselves. The one guy, the one was scarred up, he was yellin somethin about them breakin their word, or somethin like that. He come at me like he was gonna beat the shit outta me."

The agent looked skeptical. "Are you sure about what they were saying?"

"Oh, yeah. I heard one of 'em, that older fella, say somethin about Reno, and the other white guy, he was yellin somethin about bursting or somethin. Regular free for all, it was. Woke up most of the other guests, and I had a hell of a time calmin 'em down..."

"What time was this?"

"Oh, I dunno, maybe two, two-thirty."

"And they left immediately after? Did you call the police?"

"Well, no. I mean, they was all paid up, so I figgered good riddance, y'know?"

"Hmm, yes. Well, just as well you didn't get too involved with them. They're dangerous fugitives."

If possible, the man paled even more. "Dangerous..."

"Yes. All right, since you didn't call the police, we'll take it from here. Thank you." The agent walked quickly out of the office, leaving the clerks staring at each other in shock.

He met his partner at their vehicle. "The number matches. They made the call from here."

"Yeah, they were definitely here. Took off maybe four, five hours ago. Apparently headed for Reno."

"Reno? I thought..."

"Well, apparently they've had a falling out. C'mon, let's see if we can pick up their trail."

"Damn. Reno. We could lose them easy there."

"Not unless they can hide Baracus and Mordake. And somehow, I don't think that's going to be so easy."


*****

BA wasn't happy. Things weren't going nearly as smoothly as they had earlier in the day. For one thing, Hannibal had taken way too long making that phone call. Face had gotten more and more tense, waiting. BA knew those damn voices were talking at him again, the way he sat there, his head turned to the side, frowning. Murdock tried to talk to him, get him to tell him what they were saying, but Face just frowned harder and ignored him. Then Hannibal had finally come back to the van, and things just got worse.

When Hannibal told them that Cal had taken off during the night, the others had been angry, but Face had looked absolutely shocked.

"Are you sure? I mean, maybe there was some emergency, or something..." BA couldn't understand why Face seemed so desperate for another explanation.

"Face, why else would he leave like that, without telling anyone? No, he's the spy. No question about it."

"But, he was...he was Charlie's friend. And he...I..."

"What, Face? What about you and Cal?"

"I met him, once. Out in the desert."

Hannibal frowned. He hadn't thought Face had known anyone other than Charlie, Doc Feist, and Nick.

"And...?"

"And...he was nice. He wasn't..." Face was floundering for words, embarrassed and dismayed at the same time. Finally, in a quiet voice, almost inaudible, he said, "He didn't look away..."

Hannibal cleared his throat. "Did he know who you were?"

"Yeah. Everybody in the village knows...I guess that's why he was...prepared for me."

"Did you tell Charlie?"

"No."

Hannibal looked at him, puzzled. "Why not?"

"I couldn't. Charlie would've made me go into the village if he'd known. Would've said I should meet the others."

"What makes you think that?"

Face's silence made it obvious who made him think that.

"So, what did you two talk about?"

Face shrugged. "We didn't really talk that much. He said he was looking at all the old gold mines. Was interested in their history. We talked about..." Face frowned, and suddenly shook his head, angrily. "I know I was stupid!"

"Stupid? No way, man! How was you to know?" BA was angry at Face now. How could it be stupid to finally reach out to someone, especially someone who pretended to be a friend? But Face wasn't listening, not to BA.

"I know, I know..." He looked over at Murdock, but even BA could see he was looking right through him. "I should've known. I know..."

"Face! Hey, buddy, hey - you couldn't." Murdock was getting a little nervous. He didn't want Face going off in the wrong direction, and he knew that's exactly where the voices were pushing him. "I don't care what your voices think, Face. They don't know what...they're mistaken, Face."

Face's eye focused, steely.

"Hey, it happens to everybody, right? So maybe you misjudged Cal, it's understandable. He fooled Charlie, too, right?"

Face looked uncertainly at Murdock, then at the others.

"Exactly, Face. Look, if you had had time to get to know Cal better, you'd have seen through him. I know you would have." Hannibal smiled, reassuringly.

"Yeah, man. You'd'a spotted him soon enough, if he'd been around you more."

"But...no, they're right, I should've known. Nobody would..." Face looked down, shaking his head.

"No, Face, this time they aren't right. I know, I know, they can tell you a lot of things, but, like I said, everybody makes mistakes. Everybody. This time, they did. No big deal. Okay?"

"But..."

"Hey, look, man. You sayin nobody could like you, lookin like you do? That's just bull, man! What about Charlie? He's your friend, right? He don't care what you look like. Or you think he's not really your friend, either? Or what about us, huh? D'you think we care what you look like?"

Face didn't answer. He stared down at the floor for several minutes, as the others looked at each other, unsure. Finally, Face looked out the open door, and there was that set to his jaw again.

"We'd better get going. Those guys aren't going to wait forever."

Hannibal looked at the others, shaking his head before they could try to continue the discussion. Face was right, they probably didn't have a lot of time left. It didn't mean the conversation was over. Far from it.

At least he knew what those voices were now, and the kinds of things they were telling Face. His fears and vulnerabilities, literally voicing themselves, telling him things to make him suspicious of everyone, even Charlie. Things that would make him turn away from people more and more, turn to "them" more and more, make him spiral down into his own little hell where they would try to keep him. Well, the hell with that! He would make sure, the very next opportunity they had, that this discussion would be finished. Once and for all. And he'd put those damn voices in their place.