CHAPTER SIXTY TWO

Dr. Feist stood very, very still. He could feel the tip of the needle close to his jugular. He could also feel the very slight tremble in the hand that held the needle.

"Ed. Put the needle down, Ed. You know I'm not going to hurt you."

"No, you're right about that, Doc. And you're not going to keep me locked up, either."

Dr. Feist closed his eyes, understanding now, knowing he had to remain calm, even if he felt far from it.

"I only locked the doors because I was afraid you might wander off and get hurt, Ed."

"You mean get away before you could call that hospital, don't you? You were going to lock me away for good."

"I wasn't going to lock you away, Ed. I was worried, because you were...so ill. That note was only as a last resort. The very last resort."

"I don't believe you. Where's Charlie?"

"At his cabin. I believe the others are there, as well."

"Planning what to do with me, I suppose. Making decisions about me. Well, they're going to have a little surprise there. Let's go."

"Where, Ed? Where do you want to go?"

"I'm going to go away, Doc. And you're going to help me. Now move!"

Dr. Feist felt the push, and the needle punctured the skin. Not deep, but enough to make him realize how serious Ed was, and how dangerous. He had never, ever seen Ed in that light, but he knew now that this was not the time to talk. He would have to do exactly what Ed wanted, and wait for an opportunity to talk his way out of this. He only hoped he would have that opportunity.


*****

Murdock heard the dog long before he saw him or the cabin. His whines echoed through the otherwise silent coulee. Murdock hurried his steps, moving faster and faster as the dog's whines became more and more anxious. There was a sudden, harsh voice - he couldn't make out whose - and the whining suddenly stopped. He was coming up on the cabin when he saw a sight that made him stop dead in his tracks.

Dr. Feist was coming around the corner, almost staggering. Petey walked beside him, not his usual bouncy self, but almost cowering, tail and ears down, looking up at him as they moved slowly along. For a moment, Murdock thought Dr. Feist was ill, and was ready to call out to him when he saw Face directly behind him.

Arm around the doctor's chest, hand up to the man's throat. Murdock couldn't see what he held, but he definitely had something and it wasn't anything nice. The two men moved around the building in a slow, agonized waltz, and Murdock realized they were heading for the doctor's van. Whatever was going on, Murdock knew he had to put a stop to it, and quickly. Taking a deep breath, he stepped forward.

"Hey, Ed."

The two men stopped abruptly, and Face looked over Dr. Feist's shoulder at Murdock. His hand moved closer to Feist's neck, and the doctor's head angled up. Face stared impassively at Murdock.

"Go away, Murdock. No one's interfering any more. Not even you."

"I can't let you hurt the doctor, Ed. You know that."

"Then walk away, Murdock. As long as no one interferes, nobody gets hurt."

Murdock sighed, shaking his head sadly. "I can't do that, Ed. I could never do that. I'll never walk out on you."

For the first time, Face showed some emotion. Derision.

"That's good, Murdock. You mean you'd never walk out on Face. Neither would Hannibal or BA. But Ed...Ed's a different story, isn't he? Isn't he!"

"No, he's not. I mean, you're not. I mean...oh, dammit, Ed. If anyone knows anything about what's going on with you, it's me, right? I mean, talk about not knowing who you are - you haven't forgotten the Range Rider, have you? Or Captain Cab, or Dick Nash, Tommy Danger? Hell, I've even been a horse and a dog and..."

"Not funny, Captain!"

"I'm not trying to be funny, honest. I'm just saying I know how hard it is for you. It was hard for me to come back from being all those people. And I know it's been hard for you for all these years, going from one person to another and another. But this...this isn't the way you want to do things, Ed. You don't want to hurt anyone."

"Like I said, you back off and no one gets hurt." Face gave the doctor a little shove, and they once again started for the van. Murdock was getting desperate.

"Ed, wait. Leave the doc. I'll go with you, wherever you want to go. I'll make sure no one tries to stop you. Okay? But let the doc go. He's not part of this."

"You think I'm stupid enough to fall for that? No, the doc is as much a part of this life as anyone. A lot more than you are." Murdock couldn't believe the anger in Ed's voice.

He watched, not daring to move closer, as Face pushed the doctor next to the van and pulled the driver's door open. Moving the doctor so he stood between Murdock and himself, Face looked back at Murdock one more time. There was something there, but in the half light of the early morning, Murdock couldn't be sure. Face looked down at the dog, who was now starting to paw gingerly at his pant leg.

"Petey, go find Charlie. Find Charlie, Petey!"

The dog looked up for one moment longer before turning and running through the village, heading for Charlie's cabin. Murdock felt deep bitterness welling up inside. Face wanted Charlie, not Murdock.

"Go home, Murdock. You, and Hannibal, and BA. Just...go home."

With a sudden shove, the doctor was propelled away from the van. Face stepped quickly in, gunned the engine and roared past Murdock, heading out of the village and toward the desert.

Murdock stood in shocked surprise for only seconds, before running to help Dr. Feist. Assured that the doctor was only shaken, he looked toward the cloud of dust racing into the desert.

Then he, too, started running for Charlie's cabin.


*****

Hannibal hadn't been able to sleep, and had watched, silently, as Murdock slipped outside. He knew where the pilot was going, and he felt a little easier, knowing one of the team was watching Ed. Face. Templeton.

From what Charlie had said, Ed was about as far out as he could be and still make a claim to sanity. And Hannibal couldn't help think he'd played a big role in pushing him down that road. He'd tried, tried so hard to accept Ed, to let Face go. But he'd had Face for so damn many years...it was like telling the doctors to pull the plug on life support.

But that's exactly what he had to do. He had to let Face die. It was the only way Ed could live. The only way the man he knew could live. BA was right. It wasn't the facade that was "Face" that he knew. It was the man. The man, no matter what name he went by. And Hannibal had to let that man know it was okay to move on.

That it was time for them all to move on.

Hannibal sighed. He didn't feel good now, but he felt...satisfied. It was the right decision, and now that he'd made it, accepted it, he wouldn't falter. Not again. Right was right, and this was right for his friend.

He heard the dog's barking just before the front door banged open, Murdock rushing in like he'd lost his sense completely.

"Hannibal! We gotta go! Now!"