CHAPTER SIXTY ONE

They knew someone was coming long before the front door opened. Petey's tail started wagging first, then he began bouncing off the door, whining and barking. When Charlie opened it, there was a white flash and the dog was gone into the darkness. Charlie looked after him, shoulders slumped. He turned back and found four pair of eyes boring into him. Almost as one, those same four sets of eyes turned to the doorway behind him, waiting.

"He's with Dr. Feist. There was...a problem." He raised his arms, waving the men back as they stood. "No, don't bother. Doc's not letting anyone see him until morning. Later morning," he added, glancing at the clock on the desk.

"What happened?" Hannibal voice was calm but weary.

Charlie shook his head as he made his way to the bar. Pouring himself a long shot, he leaned against the edge. "I don't know, exactly. He was doing okay at first, but the longer we were on the road, the more he started decompensating. Then we ran into the roadblocks..." Charlie described the run through the streets, and the train ride. By the time he'd finished, all five men were discouraged and bone-tired.

"So now what, Charlie? What's Feist want to do?"

"Doc wants to put him in the hospital. It may be the best place for him."

"No way!" Murdock stood, anger radiating. "He'd never pull himself out then! Colonel..."

"Don't worry, Murdock. He's not going to any hospital." Hannibal put up his hand to still Charlie's protest. "Look, nobody's going anywhere right now. What we all need is to get some sleep. In the morning, we'll go see the doc and figure out what is going to be done. Hell, Ed may be wide awake by then." He ignored the look of doubt on Charlie's face.

"There's still the matter of the Jeep. I have to come up with some kind of story to explain it's being abandoned like that."

"Easy enough. It was stolen, presumably by someone who came here looking for Ed. Leave it to the FBI to figure out how they knew Ed was in Glendale. Drop a hint that it was loose lips in Decker's command. You won't notice it's missing until morning."

Charlie looked dubiously at Hannibal.

"Hey, just make the report in the morning and act innocent. Nobody's going to question the FBI's star witness." Hannibal looked around at the group of worn down men. "Now, it's time to get some sleep. Everybody."

No one argued. In a matter of minutes, there were sleeping men scattered throughout the cabin.

Down at Dr. Feist's, a small white dog lay outside the infirmary door.


*****

He wasn't moving any more. He didn't know if that was good or not. He vaguely remembered getting on the train, and the voices, talking to him, arguing with him. He'd finally shut them up. He didn't do that often, couldn't do it often. But they were interfering; he couldn't think with them babbling constantly.

His head no longer felt like it was exploding; instead there was a distinct tingling sensation, as if his entire brain had gone to sleep and was just starting to wake up again. Except the tingling didn't go away. It was annoying, yet energizing. And he needed energy.

He slowly sat up, dizziness passing over him. He sat still for a moment, getting his bearings. He looked around, not quite able to focus. There was a dim light in the corner, enough so he could make out furnishings of some kind, and cabinets, shelves. He squinted, trying to see more clearly.

A doctor's office.

He looked quickly around him, looking for any sign of a white coat, a doctor, nurse, anyone who might try to stop him, sighing in relief when he knew he was alone. Where the hell had Charlie brought him? He was supposed to go home. Not... wherever the hell this was. He looked around again, not recognizing anything. Then he remembered.

Decker. Decker had been after them. He couldn't believe Decker could've caught them, but then, Charlie had been dealing with a liability, too. A big liability. He felt his face burning with shame.

He grabbed the rail at the edge of the bed, and slowly pulled himself out of the bed, leaning heavily on the rail until the next wave of dizziness passed. He moved carefully to a cabinet near the bed, using it to keep his balance. He couldn't stumble around now; he had to be careful, quiet. He didn't know who might be around, or how badly they would want to stop him.

And he couldn't let anyone stop him. Not now.

He moved slowly along the wall, holding onto cabinets, tables, until he found his way to the corner where the lamp was. It hurt to look at, but he noticed a pile of papers on the desk there, with his name on them. He didn't bother reading all of it; he'd seen all he needed to. A handwritten note with the name of a hospital and some doctor's name.

That kind of hospital.

He felt anger building in him. Someone else trying to take over his life. Someone else trying to decide what was best for him.

The hell with them. The hell with them all. He knew what was best. Finally.

BA had been right. He'd been right from the very first...


*****

Murdock had closed his eyes and waited for sleep, but, of course, it wouldn't come, no matter how long he waited. He kept thinking about Face, down at the doctor's cabin. Alone. Murdock could imagine what was going through his head. Lord knows, he'd had enough alone nights himself. Didn't matter if the staff was wandering the halls at the VA, he was still alone in his head, alone with those wild thoughts, those dark thoughts. The thoughts he wouldn't even talk to Richter about. The thoughts that only came when he was all alone. But he knew how to get past those.

Face didn't.

Worse, from what Charlie described, Face wasn't responding to those voices, either. That wasn't good. Murdock knew about those, too. Knew that, much as Hannibal and the others didn't like them, those voices kept Face safe. Not in the way the team did, or even Charlie. But Face used those voices as his safety valve, his point of reason. His survival instinct verbalized. If he quit listening to them...

Murdock sat up, slowly and quietly. He wasn't worried about waking Charlie or Nick, but Hannibal and BA woke at the drop of a hat. Luckily, Nick and Hannibal had left the back door open for the breeze when they came in, and Murdock had taken a spot within a few feet of it. Two long steps and he was outside. He listened for a moment, making sure no one was stirring inside, and then backed carefully away from the door.

When he was several yards from the door, he turned and loped down the hill. He didn't know which cabin was the doc's, but he knew what to look for.

A little white dog that hadn't come back yet.


*****

He was locked in. He knew immediately Charlie hadn't taken him back to the village. No one locked their doors there. And this wasn't dead-bolted to keep anyone out. It was locked with a key, to keep him in. Keep him prisoner. It had to be Decker. Only Decker would want to lock him up. Only Decker had the stupidity to think this place could hold him.

He smiled grimly to himself. He hadn't forgotten everything, even if Decker had. He just had to find something small and thin. He looked around the darkened room. Damn. It was too dark to see clearly. He rubbed his eye, but it didn't help. Damn.

He was starting to breathe hard. He didn't like being locked up. Didn't like being under somebody's control. He had to get out of here. He gave an ineffectual pull at the door handle, heard a whine outside the door.

Petey?

What the hell was Petey doing here? Petey was supposed to be with Hannibal and the guys. But that was definitely his dog outside the door. He knew that. So that meant Hannibal was here, too. Had Decker caught them all? No. Decker couldn't catch a fly with a baseball mitt. But that didn't make sense either.

Face leaned against the door. Charlie had brought him here, wherever 'here' was. And Hannibal was here, too. And some bozo had locked Face up, waiting to throw him in some loony bin. But Charlie wouldn't let anyone do that. Neither would Hannibal. They wouldn't.

Would they?

He gave the doorknob another yank. Nothing.

He knew he hadn't done what Hannibal wanted him to. He hadn't become Face again. And he knew that made Hannibal angry. Maybe Charlie had finally had it with him, too. Maybe he was mad because Face had stayed with Hannibal instead of coming home. Maybe they were going to teach him a lesson. So he'd do what he was supposed to. But Charlie didn't want him to be Face again. Or maybe he did, so he wouldn't have to deal with this crap any more. So he'd go back to Hannibal. But Hannibal didn't want him, not now. They were going to lock him up. They had locked him up.

Face looked around the office again. He wouldn't panic. He would not. He had to think. They would be coming for him, sooner, later. He had to be ready.

He stopped. Swallowed. Ready? He couldn't take Hannibal. Or BA. Charlie would have Nick. He couldn't take any one of them, let alone all four. He moved stiffly toward one of the cabinets, staring at the locks.

He had to have a weapon.

He turned the handle on the first cabinet. It opened easily. He squinted, trying to see what was inside. Cotton swabs, tongue depressors, band aids. He closed the door, leaned his head against the door. breathing hard.

He had to have a weapon. He had to. He couldn't let them put him away.

He moved to the next cabinet. Locked. He looked over at the desk. A bit of a smile showed. The paperweight. He'd given it to Feist a few days ago.

No. A few weeks ago. Months?

He frowned. Didn't matter now. He'd found the large piece of Fool's Gold out in the desert. Cleaned it up, smoothed it a down a bit. Perfect paperweight.

Perfect for breaking cabinet locks.

It took four hard knocks before the door swung open. He didn't care if anyone heard now. He'd found what he needed. He picked it up gingerly. Noticed his hand was trembling. Hell, his whole body was vibrating. He wasn't sure he could do this. But he had to. He couldn't let them...

He began pounding on the door. He didn't care if they knew he was awake, knew he was trying to escape. Someone would come. Someone would unlock the door, try to shut him up. And then he'd have them. They'd find out what happened when anyone tried to lock him up!

"Just a minute, Ed! Please! Don't worry, I'm coming." The voice came from the other side of the room. Another door? Damn. He hadn't seen that. But the voice. It sounded familiar. Dr. Feist? He was in on it, too? He was the one who wanted to shove him in the loony bin?

Face stepped over to the other door, one hand grasping the empty syringe. He heard the door being unlocked, saw it swing open in the dim light, caught a glimpse of a kitchen. He stepped back a little further, braced himself.

Dr. Feist stepped inside, his arm coming up, going for the light switch. Face grabbed the outstretched arm, pulled the doctor around, twisting the arm behind the doctor's back. His other hand came up to the doctor's neck, the syringe nearly piercing the skin. He put his mouth close to the doctor's ear.

"One wrong move, doc, and you're talking to the angels."