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Through a Glass, Darkly 1-8  

THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY

by Elizabeth Kent





Disclaimer: A-Team owned by Stephen J. Cannell etc. If I could make a profit doing this, do you think I'd still be teaching?
 

Rating: NC-17
 

Feedback: Lizannkent@yahoo.com

Warnings: First of all, this is a SLASH story. Second, this story includes graphic depictions of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse which some people may find upsetting. Third, the story deals with the aftermath of Dissociative Identity Disorder (known in some circles as Multiple Personality Disorder) which may be difficult for anyone whose loved ones have experienced this or who have gone through it themselves. Fourth, there is strong language that may offend some people. Both the abuse and the frank treatment of homosexuality are woven throughout the story; there is no way you will be able to "read around" the parts that may offend you. If any of the above-mentioned issues cause you problems, you should not read this story.
 



 

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
 

Chapter 1

Flames licked their way around the eaves and over the roof of the house. The air filled with thick, acrid smoke, and firefighters approached the building carefully. This fire was burning hot and fast. There wasn't much they could do here; the place would be a total loss. They best they could do was keep it contained.

Roused from sleep, some people stood in their nightclothes staring in disbelief at the burning house. Others scurried about counting heads, making sure everyone had gotten out. There were people missing. Three people, actually. But only two of them would show up on the official report.

Firefighters had carried out one body already. They tried to make their way through smoke and flame to the master bedroom only to be beaten back by intense heat. Whoever was in there, poor soul, would be dead by now. There was no help for it. They'd have to go back in to recover the body after the fire had been extinguished.

Watching from the perimeter where guards milled about discussing something in urgent tones, he watched, satisfied. Not what he had in mind, perhaps, but it had worked out anyway.

Revenge. Justice. It was a long time in coming, but oh, it tasted sweet. So sweet.
 

***************************************************************************
 

Hannibal Smith opened the front door to retrieve the newspaper and found himself nearly stumbling over a large manila envelope that had been propped up against the front door. Even in the dim porch light, he could see a large red stain covering the only word written on the envelope: Hannibal. He knew immediately who it was from and looked around, but he saw no one. He turned and went back into the kitchen, examining the envelope more closely in the light. There was no mistaking the lettering on the front of it. It was Face's script. Nor was there any mistaking the nature of the red stain that covered it.

"Murdock! B.A.!" he hollered up the stairs. "Get down here!"

With shaking hands, he tore open the envelope and pulled out its contents, quickly scanning them. There were several computer disks, neatly labeled; manila folders stuffed with documents, also labeled; and a couple of videocassettes. There was, however, no note, nothing personal, nothing to explain Face's six-month absence. And worst of all, there was no Face.

"Hannibal?"

Hannibal turned to look over his shoulder. Murdock stood there, his face white, staring at the stained envelope. Hannibal knew Murdock would recognize Face's script immediately.

"Where is he?" Murdock asked. He already knew something was terribly wrong.

Hannibal sighed heavily. "I don't know. He only left the envelope." He fingered the stain, and his hand came away red.

"He's hurt," said Murdock.

"Yeah, I think he must be. He can't have gotten far if he's hurt." He turned and led the way out of the house just as B.A. came down the stairs and followed them out.

As it was only just getting light, it was difficult to see anything at all, but they could make out red stains on the porch and on the walkway leading to the front gate. B.A. ran back in the house for a flashlight and returned momentarily to begin following the trail. It led across the street into the shadow of a huge oak that stood there. At that spot they found a much larger pool of blood.

"Oh, no," said Murdock softly when he saw how big the puddle was.

"He must've been standing here to make sure I picked up the envelope," Hannibal said.

"He went that way," B.A. announced, shining the flashlight on the trail of blood that led down the sidewalk. They followed the trail around the corner where it led to the curb and then vanished.

"He must've had a car waiting here," Murdock said. "Hannibal, we've got to find him!" He began to pace back and forth in front of the spot where the blood stains disappeared.

B.A. laid a hand on his shoulder. "This ain't gonna help, man," he said gently. "Let's go on back to the house, see if we can figure out where he's gone." Comforting Murdock wasn't his usual role, but he'd taken it on in the months since Face had left them.

In silence they returned to the house, B.A.'s arm around Murdock's shoulders, Hannibal walking in front deep in thought. On the way back into the house, B.A. scooped up the newspaper, unfolded it, and stopped dead in his tracks.

"Hannibal, you need to see this," he said, handing Hannibal the newspaper.

The headline proclaimed, "Millionaire Businessman Murdered!" Under the headline was a picture of Ted Wright's estate engulfed in flames.

Murdock went even whiter, and B.A. guided him to a chair and made him sit while Hannibal scanned the article. Face had been at Wright's estate for the last six months, though the others had no idea whether he'd even been alive. Wright ran a successful investment firm but also laundered money and financed drug dealers. And that, as it turned out, was not the worst of it. They'd only just learned the depths of his depravity when Murdock had been badly wounded. Mistakenly believing that Murdock had been killed in the drive-by shooting ordered by Ted Wright, Face had left the hospital without Hannibal's knowledge and returned to Wright's well-guarded compound, presumably to finish what he had already started: gathering evidence against Wright. Hannibal had not harbored any illusions about Face's other motive for returning to Wright. Murdock was his best friend of fifteen years and his lover of only a few weeks. Face would want revenge, and as he scanned the article, Hannibal knew he'd gotten it.

Arson investigators were still sifting through the burned-out rubble of Wright's estate. A body burned beyond recognition had been found in the master bedroom, a knife embedded in its chest. Police were assuming it was Ted Wright, but a final identification was being delayed pending a check of dental records. The fire had spread rapidly, destroying the house and everything in it, and police didn't hold out much hope of finding enough evidence to identify the killer. A second victim had been found dead in the living room, possibly overcome by smoke and heat during a rescue attempt. Wright's other employees had escaped unharmed, one of them having been wakened by someone pounding on her door and yelling, but beyond reporting that fact, none of them were talking.

B.A. fingered the manila envelopes, also stained with blood that had seeped through the envelope. "Face did this, didn't he?" he said. "Got the evidence, murdered Wright, and burned the place to cover it up."

Murdock shook his head. "Not murder," he said. "Execution, maybe, or self-defense, but not murder." He stood abruptly, nearly knocking over his chair, his fists clenched. "All I care about is finding Face. Whatever happened, Wright had it coming to him, the murdering bastard!"

Hannibal did not disagree but still shook his head in consternation. They just plain didn't work that far outside the law. And of the four of them, he'd have thought Face the least likely to be able to bring himself to do this. But the evidence was staring him right in the face.

"He's losing a lot of blood," said Murdock worriedly. "We've got to find him."

"We could call the cab companies," said B.A. "Find out if anyone picked up a fare 'round here."

"That'll take too long," said Murdock.

Hannibal puffed on his cigar and thought. What would Face do? This mission was accomplished, wasn't it? What more could there be? Suddenly, he knew. "I know where he's going," he announced. "And we have to get there before he does something stupid."
 

*****************************************************************************
 

He approached the building cautiously, keeping as much out of sight as he could, deciding to enter through the parking garage. It was still early, and he was lucky not to encounter anyone. Scanning the selections on the sign next to the elevator, he decided to start on a floor where he was not likely to run into anyone who would be asking questions about the blood spreading across his clothing from the wounds in his shoulder and side. It was easy enough to hide his condition in the dark; the taxi driver who'd dropped him off a few blocks back hadn't noticed a thing. But it was daylight now, and he'd be entering the brightly lit corridors of St. Luke's Memorial Hospital where hiding would be harder.

Selecting what he hoped would be the proper floor, he made his way undetected to the morgue. As he'd expected, it was close to deserted. He ducked into a linen closet, pulled off his soiled clothing, and rolled up some pillowcases, hissing in pain as he pressed them tightly against the wound in his side. He tore strips from a sheet to bind the makeshift bandage to his side before doing what he could to cover the wound in his shoulder. The bullet had caught him high, probably at least nicking the collarbone, and while it was not life-threatening, it hurt like hell. But at the moment, that was the least of his worries. He only had to last long enough to finish this one last job, and then it wouldn't matter what happened to him.

He crouched in a dark corner of the closet and rested for a few minutes. As he rested, he reviewed his plan, picturing a night six months ago when he'd stood in the shadows near the emergency entrance of this hospital. He'd been a different man then, weak, grieving, and broken, but even then, even in his grief, he'd known that one day he'd come back here and do this. Closing his eyes, he conjured up a vision: a man dressed in surgical scrubs. Grey hair, round eyeglasses, a bit over six feet tall, athletic build. As the vision walked toward him, he focused his attention on the name embroidered over the left breast: Benteen.

Carefully he stood, fighting the wave of dizziness that washed over him as he did so. Pulling on a pair of scrubs large enough to conceal his bandages, he discarded his bloodstained clothing in the hamper, made his way cautiously back up to the main entrance of the hospital, and scanned the signs for the location of Benteen's office. Nobody questioned him as he made his way to the office. Once there, he looked around before he pulled a set of lockpicks out of the waistband of his pants, let himself in, and waited.
 

**************************************************************************
 

Dr. Wayne Benteen whistled to himself as he walked through his receptionist's office and made his way to his own. This was a good day for him. Ted Wright was dead. Ted Wright, who had made his life a living nightmare for more than five years. Ted Wright, who had invited him to his home, drugged him, and taken incriminating photos of him with one of Wright's young male employees. Photos that had stared him in the face every time he went to the storage facility to drop off his monthly tribute. Photos that would be sent to his wife, his employer, and the AMA if he failed to follow any of Wright's orders. If there was a god, Wayne Benteen was going to thank him every day for sending someone to remove this menace from his life for good.

And thus it was that as he stepped into his darkened office, he was totally unprepared for the weight that flung itself across his back and pushed him face-down across his desk. He opened his mouth to cry out before he felt a scalpel blade pressed against his neck hard enough to draw blood. "Please," he gasped, "take what you want. There's money in my wallet."

His assailant stepped back, keeping a hand on Benteen's neck, then turned Benteen to face him and once again held the blade to his throat. Benteen thought the man looked familiar, but in his panic, he couldn't think clearly enough to place him. "Please," Benteen said again. "Don't kill me. Please, I have a wife, little kids. I'll give you as much money as I have. I'll get you all the drugs you want. Please!"

"I'm not here for money or drugs," said his assailant.

Benteen felt a rivulet of blood run down the side of his neck and soak into his shirt collar as the scalpel bit deeper. "What do you want?" he whispered.

"Nothing. Just keeping a promise to a friend. You killed someone he cared about. Now I'm going to kill you." His voice was low, soft, almost gentle.

"Don't do it, kid," came a voice from just inside the office door.

Benteen's assailant spun about, pulling the doctor in front of him and keeping the scalpel pressed to the man's neck. Benteen found himself facing another slightly familiar figure he could not place. This man held a gun, but at the moment, he was not pointing it at anyone.

Hannibal took in the situation at a glance. Face was injured; he could see the blood seeping through the surgical scrubs, spreading across his right side and over his shoulder. He held the scalpel awkwardly in his right hand. That shoulder must hurt like hell, thought Hannibal.

The doctor was terrified and kept trying to pull away from the scalpel, and Hannibal feared his struggles would only cause him further injury. "Keep still, Doc," he said, keeping his eyes on Face. "Let me handle this."

The doctor stopped struggling. Hannibal put his gun back in its holster and raised his hands, palms out. "C'mon, Face," he said gently. "Let him go. It's all over now. Let's go home."

Face only pulled the doctor closer to him. "Face is dead," he snarled. "Now get the fuck out of my way!"

Unsure how to interpret Face's words, Hannibal took a step back. "I can't let you kill him, kid," he said, moving slowly to his right, further into the office and away from the door.

"Look, I already gave you what you were after. This is none of your concern." As Hannibal had hoped, Face was moving backward toward the door, pulling Benteen with him.

"Of course it's my concern," said Hannibal. "I know you, kid. You're not a murderer."

"Cut the crap," said Face, glancing over his shoulder toward the outer office. "I don't even know who you are."

"Murdock's alive," said Hannibal. "You don't need to do this."

Face's statement never wavered. The name obviously meant nothing to him. Hannibal sighed. They'd have to do this the hard way after all. He started walking forward, keeping Face's attention focused on him. As Face stepped backward through the doorway, a hand grabbed his right wrist in a vice-like grip, pulling it away from Benteen's throat, and someone else yanked the doctor out of his grasp. He struggled to pull free, but the grip only tightened until his numbed fingers opened and the scalpel fell out of his hand.

"C'mon, man, I don't wanna hurt you!" said B.A. as he struggled to hold on to Face. Suddenly all the fight seemed to go out of Face, and he fell to his knees heavily.

"H... hurts," he gasped.

B.A. released his hold and crouched next to Face.

"B.A.," Hannibal began, but it was too late. In an instant Face had snatched up the fallen scalpel in his left hand and, leaping to his feet, swung it at B.A. B.A. raised his arms to protect himself, and the scalpel sliced deep into the underside of his forearm. Face whirled and sprinted for the door, which opened just before he got there to admit the secretary. Murdock had released Benteen and raced forward, but he stopped short when Face grabbed the secretary and pulled her in front of him.

"Back off!" Face snapped. He held up the scalpel but was careful not to touch the frightened girl with it. He had no intention of hurting her, but he wasn't going to let the others know that. He glanced over to where his intended victim sat with his head in his hands. He'd have to come back for him later. He was gratified, however, to see that the frightened man had wet himself. He'd obviously made an impression on him! He took a step backward.

"Face, please! Wait!" said Murdock, holding out a hand. Face stopped. "Leave the girl. I'll go with you."

Hannibal looked up from where he was trying to staunch the bleeding from B.A.'s badly lacerated arm. "Murdock, he doesn't know you anymore," Hannibal said, breaking the news as gently as he could. Murdock could not have imagined a worse reunion with his lover, and Hannibal knew it had to be killing him.

"It doesn't matter," said Murdock. "I know him."

Face hesitated for only an instant. "Alright, you," he said, gesturing toward Hannibal with the scalpel, "take out your gun... slowly."

Hannibal left B.A. to apply pressure to his own wound and slowly removed his gun.

"Put it on the floor," Face instructed him. "Slide it over here."

Hannibal followed Face's instructions to the letter. It would be too easy for one of the civilians to be injured if they tried anything now. Slowly Face crouched, taking the receptionist down with him. He dropped the scalpel and picked up the gun in one smooth move, then stood again. Motioning with the gun, Face waved Murdock over. "Keep your hands up," he said.

Murdock stepped over to him, not even flinching as Face placed the muzzle of the gun in the center of his back. Face glanced at the girl he still held. Tears rolled down her cheeks.

Face gave her a small smile. "I didn't hurt you, did I?" he asked softly.

The girl shook her head.

"Good. Okay, you can go," he said releasing her. "Just walk over there slowly and stay where I can see you, get your boss's car keys, and give them to this nice man here."

He watched carefully while she followed his instructions, his gun firmly pressed against Murdock's back. When she was safely across the room, he turned his full attention to Murdock. "Take off your jacket," he said, stepping back only a pace. "Give it here," he continued when Murdock had complied. He laid the jacket over his arm to conceal the gun and said, "Which car is it, and where's it parked?"

"Green Cadillac," said Benteen weakly. "Last spot on the left in the front."

The secretary brought back the keys and was rewarded with a smile. "Good girl," said Face. "Thanks. Now go on back."

Without knowing why she even did so, the receptionist smiled back before she returned to Benteen's side.

"You're not gonna get far, kid," said Hannibal. "You're bleeding like a stuck pig." He stood carefully. "Nobody here wants to hurt you," he continued soothingly. "At least let a doctor look at you before you go."

"A doctor!" Face exclaimed. "Like that one?" he asked, gesturing at Benteen. "Hey, haven't you heard? People die at this hospital!" He grabbed a handful of Murdock's shirt. "Let's go," he said again. "We're going out of here nice and slow. If anyone follows us, he buys it."

Hannibal exchanged one long look with Murdock, who nodded at him reassuringly. The agitated, frightened man Hannibal had come here with was suddenly gone. This was the capable, self-assured pilot who had always looked out for Face, who had somehow always been right there when Face was in over his head. Murdock could handle this.

"Alright," said Hannibal. "Nobody will follow you. Just take it easy. We don't want anyone to get hurt."

Without another word, Face backed to the door, pulling Murdock with him. When they were in the corridor, he moved to walk alongside Murdock, holding his arm across his body both to keep the gun trained on Murdock and to conceal the blood stain on his side that was growing larger by the minute. He couldn't do anything about the one on his shoulder, and people gave him strange looks as they walked by but didn't say anything and didn't try to stop him.

Once out of the hospital, Face herded Murdock to the car, opened the passenger door, and said, "Get in and move over. You're driving."

Without a word, Murdock complied. Face got in, closed the door awkwardly, and leaned against it heavily, keeping the gun trained on Murdock. Murdock started the car and looked at Face. "Where do you want to go?" he asked as he backed out of the parking space and pulled out of the lot.

"Just drive," Face said. "I'll let you know when to turn." Now that the adrenaline rush was wearing off, the pain of his injuries and his blood loss were catching up to him. He breathed heavily as he pressed his hand to his side.

"How bad are you hurt?" Murdock asked, glancing down at Face's side.

"Just shut up and drive," Face snapped.

With a sigh, Murdock complied. Following Face's directions, he ended up in a largely deserted industrial district near the harbor.

"Stop here," Face finally said. When Murdock pulled over, they got out of the car. "Now we walk," said Face.

"You're not in any shape to walk," said Murdock.

"What do you care?" said Face.

"I love you," Murdock answered simply.

Face rolled his eyes as he pointed the gun at Murdock. "You can't afford me," he said, "and I don't do freebies. Walk!"

Puzzling over Face's strange answer, Murdock turned and walked.
 
 

Chapter 2

As soon as the door closed behind Murdock and Face, Benteen dashed for the phone, but Hannibal quickly intercepted him.

"Hold on, Doc," he said. "You're not calling anyone."

"We need to stop him!" Benteen exclaimed.

"We're doing this my way," Hannibal said, holding Benteen by the lapels. "No cops, no security. Another man's life is at stake here."

Benteen nodded and turned away. Hannibal turned to the receptionist. "You alright, miss?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered, but Hannibal saw that she was still shaking.

"I'm sorry you walked in in the middle of all that," he said. "That young man is a Vietnam veteran. He was in a POW camp for several months. Do you know about those?" She was very young, and he figured she probably either didn't know or didn't much care. To his surprise, she nodded.

"My mother told me my father died in one," she said. "They must have been terrible places."

Hannibal's opinion of her went up several notches.

"They were," he said. "My young friend sometimes has flashbacks and thinks he's trying to escape from the camp. He was injured this morning, and we brought him to the emergency room."

"And he must've thought you were taking him back to the camp," the receptionist finished for him, "and got away from you and ended up here."

"Yes," said Hannibal. "It's important that we keep this quiet, though. Vets get a bad enough rap as it is; I'm afraid if word of this gets around, he'll lose his job and end up in an institution or something."

"But isn't he dangerous?" she asked. "He's got a hostage."

This girl was very bright. Hannibal was almost sorry he couldn't tell her the truth. "That other man is his psychiatrist," said Hannibal. "I called him after our friend got away from us, and he came right down. He'll be able to deal with him"

The receptionist looked relieved. "Well, you have my word," she said. "I won't say anything to anyone. I think my father would have wanted it that way."

"He'd have been very proud of you," said Hannibal, and he meant it. "You're going to need to cancel the doctor's surgeries today and reschedule his appointments. He's not going to be in any shape to operate. Just tell people he called in sick."

"Of course," she said, picking up the phone.

Hannibal took the doctor's arm. "C'mon, Doc," he said. "We need to talk." He turned to help B.A. to his feet. "How is it?"

"Bleedin' pretty bad," B.A. admitted.

Seeing the condition B.A.'s arm was in, Benteen roused himself. "Come into my office," he said. "I'll take a look at it. Gail, could you make us some coffee, please?"

"Sure thing, Doctor," Gail replied.

As soon as they were in his office, Benteen opened his bag to take out some bandages, reaching for B.A.'s arm. "What the hell is going on?" he asked angrily. "That man was no injured vet. He came here to kill me!"

"He had a good reason," said Hannibal.

"Why? What did I ever do to him? And who the hell are you, anyway?"

"Don't you recognize me, Doctor? Wallace Huntington? Don't you remember coming into the waiting room six months ago to tell us Paul had died on the operating table after the drive-by shooting? Don't you remember what it did to his lover to hear that?"

"He's Rich Todd? The one who disappeared?"

"Yeah, he's Rich Todd."

"I had no choice in the matter," Benteen said, applying a pressure bandage to B.A.'s wound. "Ted Wright was,"

"Blackmailing you. I know. I've seen the picture," Hannibal interrupted. "This man just spent the last six months a prisoner on Ted Wright's estate, gathering evidence to bring him down."

"That man killed Ted Wright?"

"That man was trying to escape. How Wright died, I don't know. I do know that Rich Todd is the man responsible for giving you back your career and your reputation."

"And I suppose you're going to take over for Wright," said Benteen bitterly. "What do I have to give you to get you off my back?"

"Depends," said Hannibal.

"On what?"

"On how honorable a man you are, doctor," said Hannibal. "Are you as honorable as that little girl making coffee in the next room who's willing to shield the reputation of the man who just attacked her because she believes he's a veteran of the same war that killed her father? Are you as honorable as Rich Todd, who voluntarily spent the last six months looking for a way to bring down Ted Wright and save your sorry ass even though you let him think his lover was dead?"

Benteen had the grace to look ashamed. "What do you want?"

"Your silence," said Hannibal. "And when my son brings Rich back, I'll get in touch with you if he needs medical treatment."

"And you'll return the... photo?"

Hannibal reached into the inner pocket of his jacket and produced a manila envelope. "As far as I know, this is the only copy. Everything else was destroyed in the fire."

"And you're willing to give this to me now, not knowing if I'll double cross you?"

"If you double cross me, you'll wish to God all I had to use against you was a picture," said Hannibal.

"You're not really Wallace Huntington, are you?" said Benteen. "You didn't call your son Paul, you called him Murdock. And you weren't calling the other man Rich. Who are you?"

"Trust me, it's safer for you if you don't know," said Hannibal.

"Well, whoever you are, I owe you," said Benteen. "You have my word, if you think you can still trust it. I'll do what I can to help you." He looked at B.A. "In the meantime, we need to get you to a treatment room. You're going to need a few stitches."

There was a soft knock on the door, and Gail entered with a tray of coffee and a set of fresh clothes for Benteen, which she tactfully left draped over a chair. Benteen smiled at her gratefully as she left.

They waited for Benteen to finish dressing, then B.A. stood to follow the doctor to a treatment room. "You think they gonna be okay?" he asked Hannibal.

"Murdock will take care of him," Hannibal said. "The kid's lost quite a bit of blood. If nothing else, he'll eventually pass out, and Murdock will get in touch with us."

"Hope it ain't too late by then," B.A. said.

"Me too, B.A.," said Hannibal. "Me too."
 

****************************************************************************
 

"Get in," said Face, gesturing with the gun as he leaned heavily against the side of the boxcar. "Hurry up."

"Couldn't you at least have gotten us tickets in coach?" asked Murdock as he climbed in.

"You're a funny guy," Face said. "Now walk all the way over there and stand facing the wall."

Murdock did as he was told, though he was not altogether sure Face would be able to make it into the boxcar unassisted. He heard Face struggling behind him and sneaked a peek over his shoulder as Face finally pulled himself into the car.

Face stood and slowly made his way to the back of the car. He sank into a corner and motioned Murdock into the corner opposite him just as the cars lurched and the train started moving.

"Where're we going?" Murdock asked.

"East."

"How far east? San Bernardino? Nebraska? China?" Face drew a breath. "Yeah, I know. Shut up," Murdock said for him. "Okay."

As they sat in silence, Murdock watched Face carefully, worrying. Face propped himself up in the corner and kept the gun in his hand. He made a clumsy and only partly successful effort to stop his bleeding, which slowed considerably when he stopped moving around.

"Why don't you let me take a look at that?" Murdock asked. "Maybe I can get the bleeding to stop."

Face shook his head. "Just stay where you are. I don't need any help."

"Look, I really don't want anything from you. I just want to help you. Please," Murdock pleaded.

"No! Now shut up! You're giving me a headache."

Murdock sighed in frustration. He hoped Face would pass out soon, but every time he seemed about to drift off, he jerked awake again.

Finally the train slowed. Face sat up slowly. "We're going through a town," he said with an effort. "The train will slow down enough so you can jump off. Go to the door and get ready."

"What are you gonna do?" Murdock asked, standing.

"Nothing. I'm staying. You're not. Now get over there."

"I can't," said Murdock.

"What do you mean you can't?" said Face impatiently. "We're hardly moving at all."

"I'm not leaving you. You're hurt."

"What're you, my mother? I took you hostage, you imbecile. I've got a gun! I'm giving you a chance to escape, so would you just jump off the fucking train already?"

"Too late," said Murdock as the train picked up speed again.

"Christ, I should've brought the girl after all," said Face, sinking back. "Are you insane?"

"As a matter of fact, I am," said Murdock. He moved toward Face, and Face held the gun up.

"Don't come any closer."

"What do you think I'm gonna do?" Murdock asked. "I don't want to escape, I don't want to turn you over to the cops. I just want to take a look at you."

"No!" Face hissed. "Leave me alone!"

"Look, you got about another five minutes before you pass out anyway. Now, you can either shoot me or put the gun down, because either way I'm coming over there."

For several seconds the two men stared at each other. Finally, Face let his arm drop to his side, wondering just exactly when he'd lost control of this situation. Murdock knelt by his side and lifted the shirt, pulling out the wad of blood-soaked pillowcases. He examined the wound, then turned Face onto his side and looked at the back.

"Looks like the bullet entered in the back and came out the front," said Murdock.

"Oh, you're brilliant," Face returned sarcastically. "I hope you're not sending me a bill for this."

"Another inch to the right and it would've missed you altogether," Murdock continued as if he hadn't heard him. "It couldn't've hit anything vital or you'd probably be dead by now, but you've still lost quite a bit of blood." He tore up the least soiled bits of pillowcases and part of his flannel shirt to create bandages. "I'm afraid this is gonna hurt," he said as he applied pressure to stop the bleeding.

Face gasped once, then his eyes rolled back in his head, and he passed out. Murdock checked his pulse then pulled him down to lie flat when he had finished bandaging the wound. That done, he used his knife to slit the scrubs up the front so he could see the shoulder wound. As he pulled open the shirt, he nearly gagged at the sight of Face's torso. From collarbone to waist, he was a mass of bruises, cuts, and abrasions, with raised red welts crisscrossing the white scars of older injuries. Murdock had no doubt the injuries extended well below the waistband of the surgical scrubs and that he'd find identical injuries on Face's back. "Dear God, Face," he whispered, blinking back tears, "what has he been doing to you?"

The wound on Face's shoulder was not as serious as the one in his side, but Murdock could see white bone showing where the bullet had gouged the collarbone as it creased the top of his shoulder. He used the rest of the pillowcases and more of his shirt to bandage that and tried to make a plan. Looking out the door of the boxcar, he could see they were well out in the desert by now. Wherever the next town was, they were going to have to get off as the train slowed. He was pretty sure he wasn't going to be able to hold Face as they jumped. He'd probably have to toss Face out before he jumped, though he didn't like to think what that was going to do to Face's injuries.

With a sigh, he returned to the end of the car and sat by Face's side, laying a hand on his forehead. As he had feared, Face's temperature was rising. He'd done all he could for him, now he could only sit and wait until they could get off the train. As he sat, he ran gentle fingers through Face's hair and rubbed his cold hand gently between his own. As they traveled on, day became night, and a crescent moon rose over the desert. Face grew warmer and warmer and sometimes moaned as Murdock checked his bandages, but he did not waken. Murdock lay down beside him, confident that he'd feel it when the train began to brake, and slept.

Just past midnight, Murdock felt the train begin to slow and woke quickly, moving to the doorway to look out. Ahead he could see lights and hoped it was a decent sized town and that there'd be a safe place to jump. He sat Face up and carefully dragged him to the doorway. Face had lost a lot of weight in the last six months, and Murdock was glad for that only because it would make it easier to toss him clear of the tracks when he had to throw him out. Finally the train slowed to a crawl as it rounded a tight curve, and Murdock could just make out a gentle slope below. Hoping it was true that being relaxed helped prevent injuries, he lifted Face in his arms, stood, and threw him as far clear of the train as he could before he jumped himself.

Murdock rolled several times before he landed at the bottom of the slope, winded and sore but in one piece. Thankfully, he hadn't jumped off in the middle of a cactus patch. Standing, he stumbled through the dark, hoping he'd be able to find Face. All he had for a light was the tiny flashlight attached to Benteen's keychain. Designed to illuminate locks, not the landscape, it would be little help, but Murdock used it anyway. He found Face more by chance than by skill. He was lying in a heap at the bottom of the slope, still unconscious. Murdock ran his hands over Face's arms and legs, and nothing seemed to be broken, but a quick check with the tiny flashlight showed him that the tumble down the slope had opened both wounds again, and the one on Face's side was bleeding freely.

Murdock dragged Face back up the slope, lifted him into his arms, and crossed the tracks to the small town on the other side. The track seemed to run through the seedier part of town, though as far as Murdock knew, the whole town could be seedy. He knew he couldn't look for a hospital; there'd be too many questions to answer. He'd have to try to find a motel and take care of Face himself until he could contact Hannibal and get some help. Luckily, there were very few people around, and by keeping to the shadows, he was able to avoid the few people there were. Finally he found a motel with a blinking vacancy sign. It was a run-down, single story affair with torn screen doors and noisy air conditioning and the pretentious name Winchester Arms. There were very few customers, probably for a good reason. Murdock couldn't walk into the lobby carrying a bleeding man in his arms, so he carefully made his way around the back and temporarily deposited Face behind the dumpster, pulling a couple of empty cardboard cartons around him to shield him from passersby. He zipped up his jacket to hide the bloodstains on his own shirt and walked into the lobby, whistling tunelessly.

He was greeted at the counter by a purple-haired, bespectacled teen with a nose ring.

"Want a room?" the teen asked.

"Yes," answered Murdock, looking around the lobby to try to get some clue where he was.

"For how many?"

"Two."

The teen looked around for the second person as he pushed a clipboard in front of Murdock.

"He's waiting outside with our stuff," Murdock said. He finished filling out the form and pushed it back to the young man.

The young man pushed it right back. "Don't got your car on here," said the teen. "Gotta have your license number."

"I don't have a car," said Murdock, returning the clipboard. "We hitchhiked into town. In fact, we're not even sure what town this is."

"Winchester," the teen answered. "Like in Winchester Arms, Winchester Cathedral, Winchester rifle..."

"Okay, I get it," said Murdock. "Are we still in California?"

The teen looked at him as if he'd grown a second head. "Don't you look at nothin' while you're in the car, man?" he asked.

"We were sleeping most of the time," Murdock answered, wondering if he'd been this rude when he was a teenager. "By the way, we've both got lots of blisters, and my friend fell and skinned up his knees pretty badly. You got a first aid kit around here I could use?"

"Nope," replied the teen. "Don't got one. It's a good idea, though. I'll talk to the boss about it. Welcome to Nevada."

Murdock sighed as he pulled out some money to pay for the room. This wasn't his forte at all. Face would have scammed them a first aid kit, a suite of rooms, and a hot meal by now and would probably have won some money at a slot machine. "Is there someplace I can buy some supplies, then? And some food? We haven't eaten all day."

"Convenience store a couple of blocks down the street. But they're not open."

"Well, then, what's convenient about it?" Murdock asked.

"It's the only one in town," said the teen. "And it's got a toilet anyone can use."

"Oh, well, that's different," Murdock said.

"Room twelve," the teen said, handing him a key. "How long you staying?"

"Two or three days, maybe," said Murdock. "We're pretty tired of walking. Listen, do you suppose I could have a couple of extra sheets?"

"I guess." The boy disappeared and returned shortly with two sheets.

"Thanks," Murdock said as he headed for the door.

"Hey, you ain't gonna cut them up or nothin' are you?" the teen asked, remembering Murdock's desire for a first aid kit.

"No, of course not," said Murdock as he stepped through the door and let it shut behind him. "I'm gonna tear them."
 
 

Chapter 3

Having heard the phone ring, B.A. entered the living room as Hannibal answered it. It was well past midnight, but neither of them had even pretended they wanted to sleep. B.A. could hear the relief in Hannibal's voice as he said, "Are you alright? How's Face?"

B.A. went into the kitchen and picked up the extension in time to hear Murdock say, "...still bleeding, and I can't get my hands on any first aid supplies. Right now I'm tearing up the sheets. He's got a fever, and it's going up. We really need some help here, Hannibal."

"Okay, we'll be there as soon as we can, and we'll bring a doctor with us. Where are you?"

"Some little town called Winchester in Nevada. I'm not sure exactly where it is, but we've been on the train since about ten this morning and didn't get here until just after midnight. We're at the Winchester Arms, room twelve."

"We'll find it," Hannibal assured him. "Sit tight. Do the best you can for him until we get there."

Knowing what he needed to do, B.A. headed to the door to get the van ready. They'd be driving to Nevada. They might have been able to scam a plane without Face, but they didn't have a pilot. It was almost a shame because this time, he'd almost been ready to consent to flying. He readied the van and waited for Hannibal outside, studying a map of the western states to plot the shortest route.

Hannibal came out carrying a bag that B.A. knew held Murdock's spare clothing and another for Face. B.A. couldn't remember how many times he'd tripped over Face's overnight bag moving around in Murdock's room after they'd brought him home, but none of them had the heart to move it. To put it away would have been a sign they accepted his loss, and they had never been ready to do that.

"Let's get a move on, B.A.," said Hannibal. "We're meeting Benteen at the hospital."

"Route's a little shorter by car than by train," said B.A. " We should be able to get there in about eight hours."

"The faster, the better," said Hannibal, climbing in. "Let's go."
 

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Murdock hung up the phone just as there was a knock at the door. His hand hovered over the gun Face had taken from Hannibal. "Who is it?" he called.

"Night clerk," the purple-haired boy on the other side of the door answered.

Murdock put the gun in the back of his pants, stuffed the torn sheets under the bed, and pulled a blanket up over Face to hide his bloodstained clothing before he went to the door and opened it.

The night clerk held out a plate with several peanut butter sandwiches on it. In his other hand were a couple of soft drinks. "I felt kind of bad you couldn't get a meal or nothin'," said the young man. "Thought I'd bring you something."

Murdock was touched. Maybe purple hair and nose rings weren't a hallmark of depraved youth after all. "Thanks," he said gratefully. "We're starving."

"You, uh, doing okay with the sheets?" the boy asked.

"Yeah, we just like to keep an extra set on top of the beds," Murdock said. "It helps keep the bedspreads clean when we're eating chips in bed. Thanks, really. I appreciate it."

The young man left as another car pulled up in front of the office. Murdock locked the door, set the sandwiches down, and retrieved the sheets. Sitting on the side of the bed, he pulled back the blanket and started to carefully pull off Face's clothes. He cursed vehemently and continuously as he saw the extent of the damage Wright had done to Face but managed to efficiently bandage Face's side and shoulder, stemming the bleeding once again.

He woke as Murdock tied off the bandage around his shoulder. He opened his eyes and looked around blearily, trying to remember where he was. He didn't recognize the room or the person leaning over him. Maybe Wright really had followed through on his threat and decided to share him with someone else. That's what he did just before he killed you. That much, he remembered. Was it his turn to die? He closed his eyes again, not really wanting to know.

"Face?" said a voice. "Hey, how are you feeling?"

Fingers combed gently through his hair, and a cool hand was laid on his forehead. In actual fact, he felt like hell. His shoulder and side were on fire, his head ached fiercely, and his stomach was queasy. But he couldn't manage to say that much. "Thirsty," he whispered.

A hand lifted his head and a glass of water was held against his lips but pulled away quickly when he began to gulp it. "Just sip," the voice instructed. He obeyed automatically, having become quite used to following directions to the letter, even when he was on the verge of unconsciousness. When he'd managed to get enough to slake his thirst, the hand carefully lowered his head and a cool, damp cloth was laid on his forehead. He was so tired, but he didn't dare drift off now. That was never allowed, either, not until Wright was done. But he had to be close. Knowing the usual drill, he struggled to find the energy to spread his legs. The other man stopped him with a hand on his knee. "No, don't try to move," said the voice. "Sleep now. Hannibal and B.A. will be here before long, and they're bringing a doctor. They'll fix you up good as new."

He heard the words indistinctly, unable to completely process them. He made out the words, "fix you up." Yeah, he'd get fixed up, like he always did. He'd feel okay again. He allowed himself to relax and drift back into the darkness where he didn't have to think, didn't have to remember, didn't have to hurt.

Murdock pulled the covers up over Face's battered body and turned off all but one small light before he ate a few of the sandwiches, drank a soda, and then settled down on a chair next to the bed and watched Face sleep. Over the last six months he'd imagined dozens of scenarios for his reunion with Face. He'd imagined Face might be fearful, angry, embarrassed, joyful, or even casually sarcastic, the way he usually was. But no matter what initial emotion his daydreams had featured, they'd all ended with him holding Face in his arms, whispering endearments, making love to him, making him forget whatever had happened to him. Murdock had known at the time those dreams were entirely unrealistic, but he hadn't been able to help it. His own need for closure on this was so great, his ability to patiently endure stretched almost to the breaking point, and his need for the comfort of his lover's touch so overwhelming that he had never been able to allow himself to envision a future where Face didn't come back to him.

It would have been bad enough if Face had simply died on one of their earlier missions or in Vietnam. God knew, he'd been close to death any number of times. And Murdock knew Face's death would have devastated him then, would have devastated them all. But to lose him now, when he'd finally, finally had the courage to admit to Face that he loved him and to see that love miraculously returned would be unbearable. He would never survive the loss. He wouldn't want to.
 

************************************************************************
 

He sat alone in the back of the smoky bar and tossed back the last of his drink. A pretty waitress eventually appeared at his table, inquired whether he wanted another, and smiled in his direction without ever meeting his eyes. Without looking at his face. He was invisible because everyone wanted him to be invisible. Invisibility had worked for him for many years, had made it possible for him observe others who hadn't realized he was there, hadn't realized he was listening or even cared.

Only one person, one very sharp person, had ever realized or appreciated that he was listening all the time, that he knew so much more than he ever let on. That person had seen and appreciated the fact that he was in a position of power and had willingly put themselves at his disposal to enjoy the protection and privilege of that power. It was a power he'd exercised without any regrets whatsoever, even where that other person was concerned. Especially where that person was concerned.

How very clever he had been, moving incrementally from serving that person to being served by them. He had never had another person so completely dependent upon him, so completely in his power physically and emotionally, and he was surprised to discover how much he liked it. How arousing he found it. But sex was, after all, all about power. And having been so long without it had made it all the more satisfying when he was once again able to exert that kind of control over another person.

He missed it now. But he would have it again. He only needed to wait a little longer for his plan to work. For the moment, he would exercise the iron self-control he'd always exercised. He could take anyone he wanted. He could wait until closing time and take the little waitress who was carrying his drink across the bar. But he wouldn't do it. She wasn't the one he wanted. He stood up as she approached, dropped onto her tray the money to pay for the drink he was not going to finish, and walked away. He wasn't worried that she or any of the others in the bar would notice his arousal as he made his way to the door. They wouldn't. Because he was invisible.
 

************************************************************************
 

"This is it," Hannibal announced as he studied the map. "Turn here."

B.A. made the turn and glanced around at the signs. Spotting the correct one, he turned into the driveway and pulled up in front of room twelve.

"We're here, Doc," Hannibal announced.

Wayne Benteen opened his eyes and glanced at his watch. It was almost ten a.m. They'd made good time, but he wasn't sure it was good enough. The man he was here to treat might already be dead. He climbed out of the van, bag in hand, and followed Hannibal to the door.

"Who is it?" came a voice from inside.

"It's me, Murdock. Open up," said Hannibal.

Murdock pulled open the door and returned his gun to his waistband as the others entered the room.

"How is he?" Hannibal asked at once, walking to Face's bedside with the doctor. The doctor immediately sat on the side of the bed and began an examination, relieved to see that though the patient looked like hell, he was still breathing.

"Fever's been going up all night. He's in a lot of pain, can't sleep comfortably. He's pretty disoriented, too. He's taken a little water, but that's all he's had since night before last. He keeps waking up, but I can't get him to talk to me."

Without having to be asked, B.A. brought in the boxes of medical supplies the doctor had brought along with him. B.A. was still distrustful of the man who'd caused Face such pain and was responsible for Face having returned to Ted Wright's compound, but he knew that right now Benteen was Face's best chance.

Benteen checked Face's vitals then quickly set up an IV.

"What's that for?" B.A. asked.

"To replace the volume of blood he's lost and help him recover from the dehydration." He pulled back the blankets a bit and carefully cut the bandages away from Face's shoulder and side, examining the wounds. "Yeah, these are infected, alright," he said. "But other than that, he's damned lucky. The bullet wound in his side is shallow enough to have missed any vital organs. I'll start him on some antibiotics to fight the infection, and beyond that, he'll need to rest and rehydrate."

"Can you give him something for the pain?" Murdock asked. "He's really hurting."

"Sure," the doctor replied, removing a syringe and a vial from his bag. "You look kind of beat up, too. Are you hurt?"

"Only a few bruises," Murdock answered shortly. "You just focus on him." Murdock was finding he was not in a very forgiving mood, either. Perhaps the doctor had stood to lose a lot if that photograph had been published, but it was nothing compared to what Face had lost as a result of the doctor's treachery.

After the pain medication took effect and Face seemed to be resting more comfortably, the doctor cleaned, stitched, and bandaged the bullet wounds then continued his examination. "This collarbone is probably cracked," he said, carefully palpating the area around the injury. The bruising was already spreading over Face's shoulder and onto his chest. "He'll need to keep this arm in a sling for awhile." He winced as he pulled back the covers and saw the extent of Face's other injuries.

On a chair on the other side of the bed, Hannibal narrowed his eyes, and his teeth tightened around his cigar, but otherwise he gave no outward sign of his distress. He'd suspected the kind of abuse Face was suffering in Wright's compound; the pictures and other evidence he'd gathered in the last six months had provided plenty of examples of the kinds of sick fantasies Wright played out with his victims. He and B.A. had taken pains to hide the worst of the evidence from Murdock, worried that he might try to storm Wright's compound and really get himself killed. He suspected that the visible scars were only the tip of the iceberg and couldn't blame Face if he retreated permanently from the situation, hiding his fear and pain behind the hostile personality currently residing in this tortured body.

Some time later the doctor finished his examination, and drew a few vials of blood, carefully depositing them in a cooler. "I'm going to have an AIDS test done," he said quietly. "No matter how careful he's tried to be, Wright's saliva could still have infected him through those bites. And there's no telling how many other partners he may have had in the last six months or whether he was allowed to use condoms every time."

Hannibal nodded his understanding as the doctor covered Face again. "How is he otherwise?"

"Well, better than I would have expected, physically. He'll be weak for awhile, but once he's replaced the blood he's lost and recovered from the infection, he'll be on the road to recovery. He seems pretty run down, which isn't too surprising considering where he's been. Beyond that, I can't say until we get the results of the tests I'm ordering. Psychologically, I think he's in pretty sorry shape if he doesn't even recognize you guys. Under normal circumstances, I'd recommend hospitalization and then lots of counseling both for him and for...," he glanced at Murdock, "for anyone who loves him."

"I'm afraid we can't really do that, Doc," said Hannibal.

"Even with professional help, there's no guarantee he'll ever recover from this," Benteen said. "I wouldn't like to speculate at all on his chances without help."

Hannibal sighed. He'd considered this possibility already. He could drop Face off at a hospital, even send him back with Benteen if they could pacify him enough, and let Decker know where he was and what had happened to him. Even Decker wouldn't deny him treatment, but he'd be incarcerated and never get out again. If he ever remembered the others at all, he'd know he'd been betrayed once again. And Murdock would never get over it, either. The separation would be permanent once Decker got Face; none of them would ever see him again, and Murdock would simply curl up and die. Hannibal's head told him that surrendering Face was the only logical choice; his heart told him it would be the worst mistake he could ever make.

"We can't do it, Doc. We'll have to find another way."

"Well, I'll look into it and see if I can find some way to help you. I feel responsible for this," said Benteen.

"You are responsible for this," Murdock said coldly. "And so are we." He turned to Hannibal. "We let him believe the success or failure of this plan was in his hands, even when we could see that it was falling apart. For years he's seen you pull off the impossible with your plans and felt like he had to do the same thing. We never told him your plans only work because he's a part of them, because you know how to delegate and he doesn't. We thought if we just played along, let him run the scam his way, he'd somehow pull it off. We never realized that he'd take a hundred percent of the responsibility for it when it failed. We'd hardly even allow ourselves to believe it could fail. We should have called the whole thing off after that first night in Wright's house before anything ever happened to him." Angrily he turned his back on the others and busied himself with Face's bedcovers.

Hannibal said nothing. Murdock had been patient and uncomplaining throughout his own recovery from wounds more serious even than Face's. He'd obviously felt guilty about what had happened to Face, but it had been easier to keep themselves busy looking into Wright's associates than to draw Murdock out and let him vent. This had been building for a long time, and Hannibal supposed he had it coming. He was the leader after all, and he hadn't done a very good job of it lately. He knew he should have sat Face down before he had gone back to work and explained to him that the success or failure of the mission was not the sole responsibility of the person who planned it and that it would not diminish Face in his eyes if it became necessary to let go of the plan. He stood and motioned to B.A. "Let's go get a room," he said. "As long as Face is sleeping, there's nothing more we can do for him. We need to get some rest."

The doctor remained behind when B.A. and Hannibal left. "You need to get some rest, too," he said to Murdock. "He'll be asleep for a long time yet. You won't be any help to him if you're dead on your feet." He gestured to the other bed. "Go over there and sleep. If there's any change in his condition, I'll wake you."

Murdock knew the doctor was right, though he was loath to give up his place at Face's side. But he was still sometimes short on stamina himself as he recovered from his own shooting, and the last twenty-four hours had taxed his endurance to its limit. He had a killer headache as well. With a sigh, he undressed and got into the other bed, dropping off quickly in spite of his worry.
 

Chapter 4

Several hours later Benteen stood beside his patient's bed and wrapped a blood pressure cuff around his arm. As he bent to place the stethoscope on the inside of the elbow, a hand suddenly closed around his throat with crushing strength. Choking, he looked up into a pair of cold blue eyes. He tried unsuccessfully to pry the hand away but finally had to settle for flailing about and knocking something off the nightstand before the man in the other bed startled awake, took in the situation, and vaulted out of his bed to help.

The whore struggled as Murdock pried his fingers from the other man's throat and pinned him to the bed. The man he was supposed to kill was standing right over him, and he wanted to finish the job. It was nothing personal; he didn't even know the guy. But he'd made a promise to Face, and he intended to keep it. Eventually, though, he gave up the struggle. He was growing dizzy, and black spots obscured his vision. Finally defeated, he lay quietly, eyes closed.

Not moving, Murdock looked up at the doctor, who had retreated to the far side of the room, rubbing his throat. "Okay, Doc, do what you have to do while I've got him pinned," said Murdock.

Benteen shook his head, unable to move. "He tried to kill me again!" he croaked. "I'm not touching him again until you restrain him!"

"Look, Doc," Murdock snapped, "I'm laying right on top of him, and he's just about to pass out. Even I can see that. Now come on!"

Benteen shook his head, and Murdock cursed angrily under his breath. A knock on the door signaled the arrival of B.A. and Hannibal with food and coffee. "What's going on?" Hannibal asked as he entered and took in the situation.

"He tried to kill me again!" the doctor exclaimed. "I can't work like this. What if I hadn't been able to knock something over and wake you up!" he said, directing his words at Murdock.

"You shouldn't have tried to get close to him when one of us wasn't here," said Hannibal. "You knew he wanted to kill you when you came here. I warned you about it while we were still on the road."

"Well, I thought he was too sick to be a threat," Benteen answered. "He should barely be able to move with the drugs I've been giving him."

For the moment Face was lying quietly, eyes closed. Hannibal observed the blood that was slowly welling from the site where the IV needle had been torn out during Face's struggle. "Shouldn't you be doing something about that?"

"When you restrain him!"

Hannibal looked at B.A. and nodded. Murdock stood and took an angry step toward him. "That isn't necessary!" he exclaimed.

"It is if you want me to treat him!" said Benteen. He knew he had the other men over a barrel, and even though he owed them, he wasn't going to risk his life again when he'd come so close to losing it yesterday. Combative patients were restrained, and he had a combative patient. "Besides, it'll keep him from thrashing around and opening his wounds again."

"He's right," said Hannibal. "For the time being, we restrain him."

"Great," said Murdock, disgusted. "This is a great way to reward him for his six months in hell. You think he didn't go through that with Wright?" He turned to Benteen. "Why don't you just beat him up and rape him while you're at it!"

"That's enough, Murdock!" Hannibal snapped as B.A. returned with some lengths of cord from the van. "Help B.A."

Angrily, Murdock turned away from the others and back to the bed as B.A. approached it from the other side. He could see from the look on B.A.'s face that he wasn't any happier about this than Murdock was.

"Get me a couple of them hand towels, Hannibal," B.A. said softly. "Don't wanna hurt him."

As Murdock sat on the side of the bed, Face opened his eyes and looked around, watching as Hannibal brought out the towels. B.A. accepted them and folded one, carefully wrapping it around Face's wrist before he tied one end of the cord securely around it and then bent to throw the rest under the bed to the other side. Reluctantly, Murdock took the other towel and wrapped it around the other wrist. Face looked up at him steadily, seeming unsurprised at this betrayal. "I'm really sorry, Face," he said. "We just don't want you to hurt yourself." He bent and picked up the cord and started wrapping it around the towel-covered wrist, trying not to think about what Face must be anticipating. "I'll leave you enough slack to move your arms a little bit, okay? Nobody's going to hurt you." He looked at Face, trying to make eye contact, but Face was staring resolutely at the ceiling, his statement unreadable. "You let me know if this is too tight." He sighed heavily as he finished knotting the cord. He'd left Face enough slack to bring his hands together but not enough to allow him to raise them high enough to attack anyone. "Is that okay?" he asked.

Face nodded, resigned to his fate. He felt the other men passing a cord over the top of the bed both above and below his knees. He knew this was just another of their games. He'd played it with Wright often enough. Naked and bound, he'd lie uncomplaining while Wright bit him and cut him.

"How's that feel, my pet?" Wright would ask, watching a thin line of blood well up out of razor cuts. "Does that hurt?"

"No," Face would laugh, trying not to flinch as Wright's tongue traced the cuts, lapping blood.

"You want more?"

"Yes," Face would gasp in reply. "Yes."

And Wright would continue until he'd had enough or until he couldn't wait any longer to get Face into position and take him. Face had learned that the more enthusiastically he greeted the beatings and bloodshed, the quicker Wright would finish, and sometimes he didn't get hurt too badly. Usually Wright would untie him then, unless he was displeased with Face's performance, and then he sometimes just left him tied up all night. Those were the nights Face dreaded, as Wright would take him violently several times during the night, usually with little or no preparation. He couldn't resist a bound and helpless body, he said.

Murdock finished with the last of the knots and checked them carefully. "How's that feel?" he asked. "Does it hurt?"

With a sigh, Face shook his head.

"It's safe now," Murdock said scornfully to Benteen. "Finish your job."

Finally, the doctor approached the bed. To his credit, he checked the bindings and Face's fingers to make sure the cords weren't cutting off the circulation. Face's eyes never left the ceiling as the doctor completed his examination, though he stiffened involuntarily when the doctor pulled back the covers to check his bandages. Benteen reinserted the IV needle and injected something into the line, and soon Face gratefully felt himself slipping into darkness.

"That should keep him under for awhile," Benteen remarked. He bent to pull the bedclothes back over Face, but Murdock batted his hand away and did it himself. Benteen stood back and watched the young man tenderly smooth his friend's hair. He didn't know who these people were or how much of the identities they maintained was actually true, but it was obvious to him that these two really were lovers.

Hannibal had stood back and watched the proceedings, trying to gauge Murdock's mental status. There hadn't been time to pay him much attention yet. The strain was beginning to tell. His short-tempered replies bordered on insubordination, and Murdock was usually the least ill-tempered of the four of them, growing angry only when very provoked or very troubled. Right now, he was both. Hannibal laid a hand on Murdock's shoulder. "C'mon, Murdock," he said. "Get something to eat and go get cleaned up. We'll keep an eye on him."

Murdock shrugged off his hand. "I'm not hungry," he replied.

"I need you in top shape," Hannibal said, "and so does Face. Go eat, take a shower, and get some more sleep if you need to. I don't need two of you down."

Without a word, Murdock stood and walked to the bathroom, glaring at the doctor as he passed by him.

"C'mon, Doc," said Hannibal, passing him a hamburger and some coffee. "Eat."

"Did you drop off the blood samples and turn in the paperwork I asked you to?" asked the doctor. While the others had slept, Benteen had made some phone calls to a local hospital that served several towns in the area and made arrangements for the blood tests to be handled from there. Benteen was a well-known and well-respected surgeon whose reputation had preceded him even to this sleepy town, and the locals were only too happy to oblige him and make his request a priority.

"It's done," Hannibal answered, unwrapping his own food. He heard the shower in the bathroom. If the results of this blood test were bad, Hannibal knew Murdock would be as good as lost to them. He'd hold it together as long as he could, take care of Face until the end, but it would destroy him. "How soon will we know the results?"

"They'll rush it through for me," said Benteen. "We can know within a few hours if he tests positive, but you understand he could still be infected even if he tests negative. He'll have to have the test repeated at intervals for awhile. If he tests negative now and still tests negative in six months, the chances are good he's clean."

Hannibal sighed heavily as he took a bite of his hamburger.

"His friend was covered in his blood when we got here," said Benteen. He didn't need to add the obvious... if Face were HIV positive, he could already have infected Murdock.

Another six months to wait. How much more could either of them take?
 

************************************************************************
 

Detective Henry Parker shook out the contents of the large envelope onto his desk: several crisp manila folders, a couple of videotapes, some computer disks, and a short note addressed to him.

"Hey, what's that?" asked his partner, leaning over the desk and sifting through the papers.

"Don't know, Shelley," he answered, glancing up at the blonde woman. "But it was addressed to me personally." He sat down and started looking through the folders, pushing a few across his desk toward her. "Here, you take a look at some of these."

As Shelley started sorting through the papers, Parker picked up the note that had come with the papers. "Sergeant Parker," it read, "this should be everything the state needs to prove its case against Ted Wright. The drug running and money laundering were only a small part of what he was up to, as you'll see when you go through the computer disks and videotapes. It's a moot point now, I know, but maybe it will help some of the families of Ted Wright's victims get some closure. Make good use of it if you can. One of his victims was someone I care about. As always, keep your head down. J.S."

Sergeant Parker. He hadn't been called that in years. It wasn't his rank in the police department, but it had been his rank in the military. Keep your head down. And those initials. He knew who the package was from and shook his head, wondering how Hannibal Smith had managed to come up with the evidence that he and his partner had been trying to find for years. He pocketed the note, feeling only slightly guilty. The team had helped him out of a tight spot a few years ago, and Smith had saved his life in Vietnam. He owed them, so he'd keep their secret. He knew without thinking very deeply about it that it had been one of the team that had been Wright's victim, just as he knew without thinking very hard which one it would have been. Only one of them would have caught Wright's eye. He must also have been the one who gathered this information for them. He hoped that meant Peck was still alive

He glanced across the desk and saw his partner eyeing him speculatively. Detective Mary Shelley, a six-foot, two-inch bombshell, was tolerant of everything except being asked how Frank was doing. They had worked together for six years, and she knew Parker well enough to know when he was hiding something. She raised an eyebrow, but she didn't say anything, and he knew she wouldn't. She trusted him, and he trusted her, just like he trusted Hannibal Smith. "Let's take a look at these videos," he said.

An hour later, they sat shaking their heads. "Sick bastard!" Shelley spat viciously. "Whoever killed him was doing us a favor!" She felt ill, but as she looked around the room at the other detectives who had just finished watching Ted Wright rape, murder, and mutilate one of the young men who'd been an unsolved missing persons case for several years, she knew they felt the same way.

"Well, it's too much of a coincidence for this not to be related to his murder," said one of the other detectives. "And this had to have taken awhile to gather. Where the hell did this come from?"

"I got it in the mail," Parker said. He pulled his latex gloves back on and reached for the files, handling them carefully. "We'd better get this stuff worked up," he said, going exactly by the book. He knew he had nothing to fear. Smith was way too smart to have left any clues. They had a San Bernardino postmark, and that would be the only clue they'd find.

After spending a long day carefully going through the rest of the evidence and letting the arson investigators know he had something that pertained to their case, he went home and burned Hannibal's note. "Good luck, Smith," he said as he flushed the remains of the burned note down his garbage disposal. He stared into the swirling water, seeing again the terror on the young man's face when he realized that this time, Wright really was going to kill him. "Good luck, Peck," he whispered.
 

Chapter 5

Murdock sat quietly on the side of Face's bed. As ordered, he had showered and shaved, eaten, and slept. Now he had returned to his vigil. Face had not wakened since Wright had sedated him again. Murdock had listened patiently while Benteen explained to him the risk that he might have contracted HIV by coming into contact with Face's blood and cautioned him about coming into contact again with Face's blood or body fluids for the next six months. He would not, could not let himself think about what it might mean for them if Face contracted HIV. It was still a relatively new and not very well understood ailment, and he knew it was a death sentence. For himself he had very little fear. If Face died, nothing else would matter.

Hannibal came back into the room with the day's newspaper. Wright's death was still making headlines. The police were still saying there weren't many clues, but Hannibal didn't really know how much of that was Face's careful preparation and how much of it would be the misinformation police routinely fed the press. He'd have liked to get in touch with Parker and find out what the police really had, but he knew that to do that would jeopardize them both. If there was anything Parker knew that Hannibal needed to know, Parker would find a way to let him know. It would ease his mind to know that Face had successfully obliterated all traces of his presence. He knew how to do it. The question was, had he decided to kill Wright on the spur of the moment, or had he planned it out and taken the time to clean up after himself? Face was thorough, and he was familiar with the kinds of evidence-gathering procedures the police used. Under normal circumstances, he'd have been able to make a clean getaway and leave not a single clue behind. But he had no idea how much of the real Face existed anymore. Sighing, he turned the page and tried to concentrate on something else for awhile.

Benteen cautiously approached the bed, blood pressure cuff in hand. He felt a little better, a little braver, now that the patient had been restrained, but he still unconsciously rubbed at the bruises on his throat. He just wasn't cut out for this sort of thing. He was a pacifist, for God's sake, a liberal! He didn't believe in violence. He believed in equal rights, openly championed causes he thought were good and right. That's how he'd been lured into Wright's fucking trap in the first place. Intellectually, he knew the man on the bed was as much a victim as he'd been. More of a victim, in fact. And really, his heart went out to him. The poor kid had obviously been through an extended ordeal, one he couldn't possibly come through unscathed physically or emotionally. But his own heart raced every time he had to get near the bed. He couldn't get past the memory of the scalpel biting into his throat or the strong fingers cutting off his air. His hands shook a little as he wrapped the cuff around the man's upper arm.

"If you think you're scared of him," came Murdock's soft voice, "think what it must be doing to him to be tied to the bed and surrounded by strange men. You must know what he's going to think we've been doing to him while he was unconscious."

Benteen said nothing as he moved through his examination. "His temperature is down some," he reported. "He should start feeling a little better soon. Rest is the best thing for him right now."

"Well, he doesn't have much choice about that right now, does he?" said Murdock.

Benteen sighed. "Even if he were in the hospital, I'd have had him restrained," he said. "Any doctor would have. He's dangerous both to others and to himself right now. It seems cruel, but it's for the best. Surely you can understand that."

"It's easy to understand when you've never been on the receiving end of it," Murdock said flatly. He remembered waking up more than once at the VA screaming, disoriented, and restrained. He'd been frightened, trapped, and utterly helpless, surrounded by a sea of strange faces, not one of whom he could trust. All the logic in the world didn't make it any easier to live with.

"He's lucky to have you," said Benteen, trying to establish some rapport.

Murdock shook his head. "I'm the lucky one," he murmured.

"He'll be okay," said Benteen.

"No, he won't," said Murdock. "Don't patronize me, Doc. I probably know more about this than you do. He's not gonna be okay for a long, long time. Maybe never."

Benteen nodded. "Alright, granted. But he does have you on his side. That may be more helpful than you think. You... are planning on sticking around, aren't you?"

Hannibal looked up sharply from his paper and met B.A.'s eyes across the room. That was a stupid question. Murdock was going to let him have it now.

Murdock's voice was hard. "I'm not like you, Doc. I don't stick a knife in someone and then just walk away."

Benteen winced as Murdock looked away and returned his attention to Face. "It's partly my fault that he's in the shape he's in. I wouldn't leave him now even if I wanted to. And I don't want to."

"How long have you been together?"

"Together?" echoed Murdock. "Depends on what you mean by together. We've been together and apart for more than fifteen years, almost half our lives." His pain was evident in his voice.

"How long have you loved him?" Benteen asked gently.

Murdock shook his head. "As long as I've known him. Since we met in Vietnam."

"But you didn't tell him?" Benteen guessed.

"No. Too many things happened. We were captured, tortured, held prisoner for months. And I don't even remember all of what happened after that for a long time." He smiled sadly. "I've got some... holes... in my memory. But he stuck by me, no matter what. Always did. No matter how crazy I acted."

"Then why didn't you tell him?"

"Look at him, Doc. He's so beautiful, it almost hurts to look at him. Women fall at his feet. I had no idea he could ever return my feelings."

Benteen studied his patient's face. Yeah, he was a good-looking kid. He could see people being drawn to that face.

"By the time I was well enough to function again, well, our lives got complicated. And I was just afraid to say anything. It was enough that he stuck by me, stayed my friend no matter what. I wasn't gonna say anything to drive him off. I thought just being friends would be enough, you know?"

Benteen nodded. Listening to the conversation, Hannibal felt a sudden pang of guilt. 'I should've been the one doing this,' he thought to himself. But for the moment, he stayed out of it. Murdock was talking, and that's what was important right now.

"So it wasn't until we... until we started sharing an apartment several months ago that I got up the nerve to tell him." Well, that was close to the truth. As close as he could get without giving away who they all were.

When Face had told him they were going to impersonate a gay couple, share an apartment, be seen together in public, he'd been ecstatic. Even if it were pretend, Face was going to be all his for awhile. When they were together, he wouldn't have to sit back quietly and burn with jealousy as Face flirted shamelessly with every pretty woman that walked by. And as the weeks went by, all the feelings he'd managed to keep buried for so long had begun to bubble to the surface. The glimpses of vulnerability and loneliness, the clever wit and sharp intellect he'd seen when they'd chatted together over a glass of wine or a sink full of dirty dishes had caused him to fall in love with Face all over again.

"I should have told him sooner," he finished quietly.

Benteen reached across and squeezed his arm. "But you did tell him," he said. "Somewhere inside him, I believe he still knows."

"I hope so," Murdock whispered. "I hope so."
 

************************************************************************
 

There were voices. No, a voice. Familiar. He knew it from... somewhere... sometime. It was soft, soothing. Wrapped comfortably in a warm blanket, tucked up in the dark corner, he kept his eyes closed and tried to think. He knew it. How did he know it?

He opened his eyes and prepared to sit up.

'No!' This voice, a new voice, was sharp. 'It's not safe. Stay where you are. Don't come out.'

Quickly he shut his eyes again. That voice, the one in his head, was always right. It's not safe, he thought. Not safe. He'd stay here where it was warm. Pulling the blanket more closely around himself, he huddled into the corner and curled up.

'That's better,' said another voice, this one gentle. 'That's better. Stay there.'
 

************************************************************************
 

The ringing phone startled them all out of the light doze they'd fallen into as the evening progressed. Murdock answered then handed the phone across to Benteen.

"It's the hospital," he said.

As Benteen talked, the others waited tensely, knowing what the conversation was about. When he hung up, Benteen turned first to Murdock. "The AIDS test came back negative," he reported.

Murdock closed his eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. "That doesn't mean he's not infected," Benteen cautioned him, "but it's still a good sign for the moment."

"It's the only news we've had in a year that hasn't been bad," Murdock said softly. Maybe their luck was finally beginning to turn around. He knew Face wouldn't agree. He'd say that their little bit of luck was just a trick to lure them into complacence so that when disaster struck again, they'd be unprepared. Face had an unswerving belief that the cosmos was out to get him. They'd argued good-naturedly about it sometimes. It was one of the many huge differences in their basic personalities. Murdock was the eternal optimist, always believing things would eventually turn out. Even his mental illness hadn't been able to change that. But Face had never been anything but suspicious of good fortune; what little he'd had had never brought him any lasting happiness, only gotten him out of one scrape so he could get into another. "Call it divine retribution, cosmic justice, anything you want," he'd said once. "In the end, some people just always get screwed. It's just the way it is. I'm one of those people. I always have been." So he'd lived life to the fullest while he could, fully expecting every bit of happiness he experienced to be snatched away at any minute. Interestingly, he'd seldom been disappointed in his prediction. Had he been conscious to discuss it, his current situation would not have surprised him in the least.
 

************************************************************************
 

He drifted back to consciousness, hearing voices around him. He lay with his eyes closed, trying to figure out the situation before letting the others know he was awake. His body felt heavy but not particularly painful at the moment. They must have drugged him, though he couldn't understand why they would. He was always cooperative. You made a better impression that way, got hurt less. But Wright had never shared him before. Not really. He kept threatening to, but so far, he'd kept Face's talented, willing body to himself. But it had only been a matter of time. And Face wouldn't have been able to handle that... not after his previous experiences. And Richie wouldn't either. He was a nice kid, but weak. But a whore... a whore was good at being shared around. No big deal. He tried to move his arms and realized he was bound. Christ, these bastards were into bondage, too. Well, whatever he had to do, he had to do. For now, he'd play along. Later, he'd kill them all.

He opened his eyes and blinked a few times, trying to focus. As his vision cleared, he saw a large black man come to sit on the side of his bed. A grey-haired man stood behind the other, looking over his shoulder. Who were these people? Friends of Wright's? Had he been captured after all? Only dreamed his escape? He couldn't remember.

"How you doin', Faceman?" asked the black man.

He opened his mouth to answer, but he couldn't get anything to come out. The man lifted his head and helped him sip some water. As the other man settled him back on the bed, he looked around. There were two more men asleep on the next bed, and that side of the room was dark. Was one of them Wright? He couldn't tell. He was still so tired, so disoriented. He tested his bonds experimentally. They were uncomfortable, not that he was about to admit that to the others. They'd just tighten them if he did. So he lay quietly and waited for his instructions.

The silver-haired man brought over something in a dish and then propped him up with a couple of pillows behind his head. The movement pulled at his injured shoulder, and he moaned a bit in spite of himself.

"Sorry," the other man apologized. "Let's see if we can get some of this down you, okay?"

Feeding him while he was tied in bed? That was weird. Even Wright never did that. They dressed for dinner every night and ate at the dining room table downstairs with candles, linens, fine china, and good wine. Well, what the hell. When in Rome... he opened his mouth cooperatively as the man dished up a spoonful of Jello. He ate what he was fed, drank something, then was allowed to lie flat again. The black man slipped his little finger between the rope and the padding around Face's wrist. "These ain't hurtin' you none, are they?" he asked.

"No," the whore whispered. It was the first time the others had heard him speak since they'd arrived.

"Think you can sleep?"

The whore nodded and closed his eyes. They wanted him to sleep. Weird. Well, he could do that. Maybe when he woke up, he could think more clearly, figure out what was going on. He felt the bed move as the other man stood up and walked away. Left alone, he could relax, and he drifted back into sleep.
 
 

Chapter 6

Henry Parker glanced up as Shelley came into the office carrying coffee for both of them. He accepted his mug with a nod of thanks. It was early, and they were the only ones in the office so far.

"The arson investigators want to meet with us this afternoon," Shelley announced. Looking around to see that they were alone, she sat on a chair next to his desk and used his notepad as a coaster for her coffee cup. "Before they get here, is there anything you'd like to tell me?"

Parker sighed and rubbed his eyes. He'd been up late the night before debating how much to tell his partner. They couldn't work together without complete trust, but he also owed Smith and the others. And given that he was about to withhold information he knew might lead right to who he suspected might be the killer, he wasn't sure how much he should say. If he were eventually found out, he didn't want to drag his partner down with him.

"C'mon, Parker," Shelley said as he hesitated. "How long have we been working together now? Six years? If you can't trust me by now, you'll never be able to. So spill it."

She was right. He owed her an explanation. "That envelope yesterday came from a guy I was in the army with. He saved my life over there, got me back more or less in one piece. Now he heads up a... a little group that uh..." he wasn't sure how to phrase it. "That helps people out when they're in trouble and can't get help from regular law enforcement."

"Ah, I see," she said. "I think."

"They helped me out several years back, before you and I were partnered up."

"When you were with Jack Barnes?"

"Yeah."

"They're the ones who helped you find the guy that killed him?"

"Not only find him," Parker answered, "but collect the evidence to make sure the charges stuck."

"So why haven't they come forward to take credit for finding this information?" Shelley asked.

"Uh, well, they can't. They're not exactly... friendly... with law enforcement."

"Not exactly... oh shit, Parker. Tell me they're not fugitives." Seeing the look on his face, she knew that they were. And she knew who they were. "The A-Team," she hissed. "Jesus Christ, Parker, you're getting mail from the A-Team?"

Parker nodded. "They didn't commit the crime they went to jail for," he said. "I know them, and they just weren't the type."

"Parker," Shelley said, "one of them just stuck a knife between Ted Wright's ribs. Do you really know what they were and weren't the type to do?"

Parker shook his head. "I can't explain it all to you, Shelley. I don't know the whole story myself. All I know is one of them was being abused by Wright just like all the other young guys we saw in the videos."

"And you know which one it was? Because I'd bet he's the one that killed Wright."

"I've got a good idea," Parker answered. "And if he did it, I'd say it was because he either had to do it to get away or else he snapped. Could you have blamed any of Wright's victims for finally losing it and killing him?"

Shelley shook her head. "I don't suppose I would," she said. "Sounds so cynical coming from someone who's supposed to uphold the principles of law and order, but I wouldn't. But if I'm going to help you protect this guy, I'd sure like to know for my own peace of mind that he had a good reason... personally, I mean. I'd like to know for sure he really was one of Wright's toys."

"I don't know if I can do that for you," Parker said. "I suspect they're in hiding. Even if I try to contact them, I don't know they'll get back to me. They've already done enough for us."

Shelley shrugged. "We're breaking a law, here, partner," she said quietly. "If we're gonna do that, don't you think it'd be nice to know we had a good excuse for it?"

Parker smiled. "Partners in law enforcement, partners in crime. Kind of catchy, don't you think?"

"So's the flu," she answered, taking a sip of her coffee.

"Shel, if I had any suspicion at all that any of these men were really murderers, that they stood to gain anything by Wright's death, I'd turn them in myself. But they're good men, they're moral. And the one that Wright was messing with, he's not much more than a kid." He settled back in his chair, remembering. "When we were in Vietnam, we were all captured and ended up in one of the most God-awful POW camps you'd ever want to see. We were starved, tortured, exposed to the elements. You name it, it happened to us. Peck was barely twenty-one years old. He was singled out for... special attention. After we finally escaped, he never was the same. Anybody'd touch him, he'd bolt, hide in a corner. Used to have nightmares so bad we'd have to hold him down and put a hand over his mouth to keep him from waking up the whole camp. He was a wreck for a long time. When I asked Smith about it seven years ago, he said Peck was getting better. Still had nightmares sometimes, but didn't wake up screaming anymore. Didn't hide in corners. God knows what that bastard Wright did to him, but I'd bet he went through hell all over again. He had to have been there awhile to get this much information gathered."

"So what's our plan?" Shelley asked. "They're not going to find anything on any of the evidence we sent in to be examined yesterday, are they?"

"No, I'm sure they're not, but that doesn't have anything to do with me," Parker answered. "Smith's too smart to leave anything behind. Whether Peck got away from Wright's estate without leaving any clues, I don't know."

"And if they start finding clues that point to him?" Shelley asked.

Parker shook his head. "If he left clues, there's nothing I can do about it. I'm not going to destroy any evidence, and Smith wouldn't want me to. He sent me this stuff so I'd have something to go on, something to tell the families of the kids Wright carved up. He didn't send it because he wants my protection. I'm not going to tell anyone that I know it was he who sent it to me, and I'm not going to implicate the team in the murder investigation if I don't have to, but if Peck left evidence behind, I can't do anything to help him. Smith knows that, and he wouldn't ask me to do anything more than what I'm doing."

"You're sure of that?" Shelley asked. "I don't want to end up getting blackmailed by this guy a few years down the road."

"I'm sure of it," Parker said. "The team takes care of its own. It's always been that way. If Peck's name ends up connected with the killing, they'll disappear. Smith's smart, and he cares about his men."

"Okay, Henry, I'm in," said Shelley. "My lips are sealed."

Parker reached over and laid a hand on her arm, squeezing it gently. "Thanks, Shel," he said.

Shelley smiled then glanced up as another detective entered, his arms full of case files. "There's Stan with the missing persons case files. Bet we're gonna get a bundle of them cleared up today," she said, standing. "Let's get a move on, partner."

Parker returned her smile. She was the best. She really was.
 

************************************************************************
 

Murdock sat on the side of the bed and spooned ice cream into Face's mouth, hoping to get in a few more spoonfuls this time before Face fell asleep again. Benteen was keeping him heavily sedated, though Murdock didn't really know if it was as much for Face's benefit as it was for Benteen's.

Not much more was required of the doctor now. Physically, Face was recovering. The antibiotics were helping the infection. Time, rest, and fluids would take care of the blood loss. Once the last bag of IV fluid and the medications that were in it had dripped through, Benteen would remove the IV, and B.A. would take the doctor home. He'd left careful instructions on how the others were to care for Face, cautioning them again about coming into contact with his blood or body fluids until they were sure of his condition, and he'd left prescriptions for more medications.

Face had woken a few times during the night, each time for only a few minutes, and he'd been quiet and passive each time, doing as he was told, asking for nothing, and making no further moves to attack Benteen. Murdock was pretty sure he didn't even know where he was and probably had no memory of how he'd gotten there. But he needed to keep up his strength, so they'd fed him every chance they got, seldom getting in more than a few spoonfuls before his eyes closed and he fell asleep again.

This time was no exception. Murdock put the bowl aside, straightened the covers, and checked Face's hands again to make sure the restraints weren't too tight. As soon as Benteen was out the door, he was going to be taking them off. It was bad enough when Face was almost too groggy to notice, but when the IV was out and the meds wore off, Murdock knew Face would completely lose it if he woke up and realized he was tied down.

When the time came for Benteen to leave, he pulled out a notebook and scribbled some directions. "I have a friend who has a cabin up in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. It's a pretty little place. There's a town nearby, but the house itself is at the end of a long dirt road in the forest, and there aren't very many people around. He doesn't get up there too often anymore. Once I explain the situation to him, he'll let you have the use of it for as long as you need it."

"You can't tell anyone about us, Doc," said Hannibal.

"Don't worry, I won't give anything away," said Benteen. "I'll tell him you're old friends of mine with a son who's recuperating from a long illness. I'll send you prescription refills and come up occasionally to do more blood tests. I think it'd be best if you got him as far from L.A. as you can for awhile just in case any of Wright's people decide to talk and identify your friend."

Hannibal nodded, accepting the directions and looking them over. Benteen turned to Murdock. "I suspect you're going to be going down a long, hard road with him," he said. "If you decide you can't handle it, I'll do what I can to pull some strings and get him admitted somewhere... maybe somewhere on the other side of the country. It'd be a risk. They check backgrounds pretty carefully these days, but it may be you won't have any choice if he doesn't make some progress."

Murdock looked down at Face. "I'll get him through," he said. "He's gonna make it."

"Stuff's loaded," B.A. announced, coming back in. "You ready to go?"

"Just about," said Benteen.

He took one last look at his patient before he left. Face's temperature was almost back to normal, the inflammation of his wounds was decreasing, and his vital signs were normal. "Keep him quiet for awhile, but let him get up and use the bathroom now, and get him walking around the room a little if you can. When you're ready, go on up to Tom's cabin. I'll tell him today that you're going to use it."

"Good luck, gentlemen," he said, picking up his bag. "You've got my pager number. Call me if you need anything."

The minute Benteen was out the door, Murdock turned to the bed and began untying the restraints. He tossed the rope under the bed, unwrapped the towels around Face's arms, and rubbed his wrists. There was no real reason for it; the ropes hadn't been that tight, but it made Murdock feel better to do something.

"What're we gonna do, Colonel?" Murdock asked.

"After he takes Benteen back, B.A.'s going back to Bel Air to pick up our stuff and get rid of the house. He'll be back in a couple of days. In the meantime, we do what we can for Face."

"I'm not a doctor," Murdock said quietly. "Once we're at that cabin, we're on our own. I don't really know what to do to help him."

"We'll have to play it by ear," Hannibal said. "If there's a close second to a psychiatrist around here, it's you. And you've been there yourself. Who else would be more qualified to understand what he's going through?"

"Understanding it and treating it are two different things. If he needs medicine, how are we going to get it for him?"

"If we can't help him, if you can't help him, then we'll talk to Benteen about the place back east. But let's give it a try on our own first."

Murdock looked up at Hannibal, and Hannibal could still see the strain of the last two days reflected in his eyes. "If I do the wrong thing, it could make him worse instead of better. I'm just not qualified for this."

"Murdock, we don't have any other real choice. We're fugitives. We're not like other people. We can't go get help when we need it. It's the price we pay for being who we are. I don't like it either, but if he goes to a hospital now and they see these wounds, they're going to connect him to Wright. From there, neither option is acceptable. He either goes to jail or he goes to an institution. He might get psychiatric help in the institution, but what do you think it'd really do to him to be locked up like that?"

Murdock shook his head. "It'd kill him," he said.

Hannibal rested a hand on Murdock's shoulder. "Yeah, it would. I know we're only a second-best option, but just like always, we're all he's got."

"That's not saying much," Murdock answered glumly.

"Don't discount it, Murdock," said Hannibal. "One way or another, you've been connected with him longer than anyone else he's ever known. Those fifteen years of friendship have got to count for something, don't you think?"

"I hope so," Murdock said. "I hope so. But I've got a feeling that if Face is going to get better, it's going to be because of him, not because of me. It'll be because he's in there somewhere trying to find his way back."

"But you're giving him someone to come back to," Hannibal said. "If he'd find his way back to anybody, it would be to you." Giving Murdock's shoulder one last squeeze, he walked out.
 

Chapter 7

"Hey, Parker, how are you?"

Henry looked up from the case file he was reading and smiled. "Greg! Things are going fine for me. I'm clearing up some missing persons files here. They're about to become murder investigations. Hope you didn't have plans for a leisurely evening in front of the t.v."

"Yeah, I heard about that." Greg Cochran dropped into the chair next to Parker's desk and slouched, stretching long legs out in front of him. "I'm beat," he confessed. "Been gathering evidence from Wright's place since yesterday. Heard you've collected more evidence sitting here on your ass than I got in more than twenty-four hours sucking in ash and smoke."

"Some of us just live right," Parker said with a laugh.

Shelley entered the office then and took a seat at her own desk just across from Parker's. "Christ, you smell like a bonfire, Cochran!" she exclaimed.

"Good to see you too, Shelley," Greg answered. "I've been working for a living while you two sit around and have evidence fall into your laps."

"Poor guy," Shelley said unsympathetically. "You should be thanking us for helping you keep your job. With budget cuts and all, you should be grateful we're providing you some job security by getting these new murder cases on your desk."

"Yeah, the murder business is always a little slow in L.A.," Greg said.

"So what have you got?" Shelley asked. Knowing Greg's penchant for overblown scientific explanations, she added, "The condensed version, please."

Greg answered, "I can tell you in a word what we've found. Nada. Nothing. Zero. Zilch."

"You're kidding!" Parker exclaimed.

Greg shook his head. "No, I'm not."

"You trying to tell us Wright accidentally rolled over on a knife while he was smoking in bed or something and killed himself?" Shelley asked.

Greg smiled. "I wish he had," he said. "I wish he'd done that years ago."

"You're going to wish he'd died in childhood when you see what's on the videotapes we've got," Parker said.

"That I have no trouble believing," said Greg. "To make a long story short, we have two ignition points, and a different method for each. One fire started in the bedroom. It would probably eventually have burned itself out. The other started in the living room, and it's the one that spread and burned the whole house."

"Strange," Shelley said. "You think whoever started the first one realized they hadn't done a very good job and tried again in the living room on their way out?"

"Could be two different people, too," Greg said. "Maybe a team."

"A mob hit, you think?" Parker asked.

"Could be, I suppose," Greg said. "So far, the only prints we've got belong to Wright or his staff, and they're not talking."

"I wouldn't either if I thought the mob had offed my boss," said Shelley.

"What I can't figure out is why the mob would send you evidence," said Greg.

"Maybe Wright got too friendly with one of their kids," Shelley answered. "I'd be willing to bet he carved up a lot more guys than are accounted for in the evidence we got. If he picked the wrong victim and word got out, his days were already numbered."

"Yeah, I thought of that," Greg said. "It's a possibility. So far, though, I haven't come up with any real connection between Wright and the mob."

"We never did either, but we know there must have been one. Maybe that's where he made his mistake," Parker offered.

"Well, there are plenty of motives for lots of people to want Wright dead," Shelley said. "If nobody had killed him yet, his life wouldn't be worth a plugged nickel once this evidence became public. We've been trying to pin some of these murder cases and missing persons cases on him for years with no success. Now that we have proof he was responsible for these murders plus assorted other crimes this evidence points to, I can think of any number of people who'd like to get at him."

"Yeah, I'll bet," said Greg. "Just between you, me, and the lamp post, I don't think we're going to come up with anything at the crime scene. Whoever did it cleaned up after themselves pretty carefully. Unless one of the staff gives us a description, we won't have anything to go on."

Parker nodded sympathetically, but inside he was cheering. 'Good for you, Peck,' he thought.

"You think you'll get anyone on the staff to talk?"

"I don't know. They all seem to have amnesia."

"Given the number of young men they've seen come and go over the years, they'd have a hard time saying anything and coming out completely blameless," Shelley said. "And once one of them started talking and implicating the others, they'd be a target. I'd have a complete memory failure too if I were one of them."

"Yeah, me too," admitted Greg. "We'll keep looking, and I'm sure we'll keep browbeating Wright's people, but I doubt we'll end up with anything. Wright chose his employees carefully. They're used to keeping secrets. And I imagine they're going to keep this one, too."
 

************************************************************************

The old man woke slowly. His room at the convalescent home was dimly lit. He could hear the voices of the nurses conversing quietly at their station down the hall. He glanced toward the brighter light of the doorway, but the light was suddenly blocked by a large, dark shape that slipped noiselessly into his room and approached his bed. Funny, he knew he was dying, but he hadn't thought the angel of death would be quite so large. Without fear and with only one major regret, he watched the angel approach.

"Mr. Rudman?"

Odd that the angel of death should have to ask his name.

"Yes," he answered weakly. "Have you come for me?"

"I've come to give you some news, Mr. Rudman. From Hannibal Smith."

Rudman focused on the man next to him. It was one of Smith's men, the one he'd called B.A. It had been a long time since he'd hired them. There'd been no word from them since, and he had feared they'd forgotten him or left with his money. But he'd waited stubbornly. He should have died long ago. With the oddly alert sense of hearing he'd developed as he neared death, he'd heard the nurses whispering, wondering what he was waiting for. "What have you found?" he asked.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Rudman. Your son is dead."

Rudman closed his eyes and nodded. "I knew it already, I suppose," he said, his voice not much more than a whisper. B.A. had to lean close to hear him. "I've felt so much closer to him recently, almost like he's here. Sometimes I can almost hear his voice. Silly." His hand fluttered in the air as if grasping for something. B.A. clasped the man's hand and squeezed it.

"Ain't silly," he said softly. "He's waitin' for you. Gonna take you home."

Rudman smiled. "And Wright?" he asked.

"He's dead. He ain't going to hurt anybody anymore," B.A. assured him.

"Tell Smith... thanks," Rudman whispered. His voice was so soft, B.A. had to lean closer to hear him. "Had to know." He paused to draw another slow breath. "Missed him so much," he said. "So much to be sorry for, so much I never said."

"You can say it to him now, Mr. Rudman," B.A. whispered. "You got a good long time now to tell him all of it."

"I do!" Rudman said with a soft sigh of relief. "I do."

B.A. stayed with the old man and held his hand a few minutes more until Rudman had drawn his last shuddering breath, then he quietly slipped out of the room and went on his way.
 

************************************************************************
 

Face woke to sun shining in through the gap between the drawn curtains. He blinked a few times, trying to remember what was going on, where he was. This wasn't Wright's house. He moved to sit up and gasped as the movement caused pain in his side and shoulder.

"Face?"

Face started. He looked in the direction of the voice and saw a man that he thought he ought to know. He thought furiously. Moving his hands over his side, he tried to find the source of the pain. As his fingers encountered bandages, he began to recollect what had happened. This was the man he'd kidnapped when he was trying to kill Benteen. And Benteen had been here. So had the other men from the hospital. They'd had him... they'd... He held his hands up and looked at his wrists. He was not bound. Had he imagined it?

"You're safe," Murdock said gently. "Nobody here is going to hurt you. You need to rest and get better."

He was thoroughly confused. They could have killed him. Why hadn't they? He looked down at his chest and ribs but found no new bruising or welts. He concentrated and could detect no new pain anywhere. There were only the stiffness and pain in his side and arm from the bullet wounds and an overwhelming fatigue that threatened to pull him down into sleep again. He fought the feeling, trying to stay awake and figure out what to do. He had to get away.

"Face, just relax," Murdock said, taking a couple of steps toward him. "Do you remember what happened?"

"Stay away from me!" Face snarled, scrambling backward. Pulled up short by the headboard, he had nowhere else to go, so he huddled there.

Murdock stopped moving. "I'm not going to hurt you," he said. "I won't let anyone else hurt you, either. You're perfectly safe."

Face regarded him with open hostility. "I'm not stupid!" he spat. "I know what you've been doing."

Murdock shook his head. "No, you don't," he answered. "All we did was patch you up. You were hurt. Don't you remember? You were shot trying to escape from Ted Wright."

Face thought for a minute. He was still hazy, his mind clouded by the medicine, but as its effects wore off, his memory was returning. He remembered getting out of Wright's compound, his failed attempt to kill Benteen, ending up on a train traveling east. After that things were harder to recall. He remembered being surrounded by men, being tied down, another attempt to kill Benteen. That was all. "Where am I? How long have I been here?" he asked.

Murdock took a step sideways and sat on a chair near the foot of the other bed. "We're in a motel in Nevada. We've been here since the night before last," he answered. With his head he motioned to a bag on the table across the room. "There's some food in there. Would you like something to eat?"

Face shook his head and looked around the room. "Who else is here?"

"At the moment, nobody," Murdock answered. "Hannibal will be back later today, and B.A. will come back in a day or so."

Face was unsure what to do now. There was nothing handy to use as a weapon, and he was still too weak to do anything that required him to get close to his enemy.

"You want to use the bathroom?" Murdock asked. "The doc said you could get up and move around a little as long as you were careful. There's a robe there at the foot of your bed."

Face eyed the robe, the door, and the distance from the bed to the bathroom as if judging how fast he'd be able to escape into the other room. Slowly, wincing at the pull on his stitches, he moved away from the headboard and reached for the robe.

"You want some help with that?" Murdock asked.

"No!" Face sounded panicked. He struggled to get the robe on, every movement painful.

Murdock looked on sympathetically but made no move to assist Face. Face was jumpy, and Murdock wasn't at all sure he was completely aware of what was going on. Above all, he wanted Face to realize he was safe with them, that he could trust them. "You don't want to move too fast when you get up," he offered. "Stand up slowly and take your time. I won't move from here unless you ask for my help."

"I don't need any help," Face ground out through gritted teeth as he tried to stand. Clutching the robe around him, he made it three steps before he swayed and fell to his knees.

With a supreme effort, Murdock stayed where he was. Face struggled again to his feet and made it a few more steps before he had to stop and lean against the wall to regain his balance. "Face, are you sure you don't want some help?" Murdock asked.

"Stop calling me that!" Face snapped. "Face is dead!"

Murdock shook his head. "No, he's not," he said gently. "I don't believe that. He's too strong to die. He might be hiding in there somewhere, but he's not dead."

Face only glared at him and then stumbled into the bathroom. Shutting the door behind him, he slid down to the floor and sat there, leaning against the door. At last he was alone. He considered his options. There was no window, the door didn't lock, and nothing that he could use as a weapon had been left in the bathroom. He had no clothes, and he knew that at the moment he didn't have the strength to get very far even if he could get out.

Finally he pulled himself to his feet, used the toilet, then splashed some water on his face. He considered himself in the mirror. A grey, gaunt face stared back at him, its eyes rimmed by dark circles. Under the three-days growth of stubble there were lines on the face that hadn't been there six months ago.

He didn't want to go back out into the other room, so he sat on the floor again, leaned against the wall, and closed his eyes for a few moments, realizing how tired he still was. Perhaps he was a prisoner, perhaps not. Something about the man in the other room was so familiar. He wasn't sure, though, and he wasn't ready to chance it. But he wouldn't be going anywhere today. Today he just needed to rest. They all needed to rest awhile. Then he'd make a decision.
 
 

Chapter 8

Hannibal knocked softly and waited until Murdock opened the door.

"Come on in," Murdock said as he opened the door. "He's in the bathroom."

"How is he?" Hannibal asked, setting a bag of groceries and supplies on the table.

Murdock sighed. "Like he was at the hospital," he answered. "But I think he feels a little better, overall. I hope so, anyway, because he won't let me get anywhere near him when he's awake."

"I don't hear anything," said Hannibal, looking at the closed door.

"He's asleep," Murdock answered.

"On the bathroom floor?"

"Yeah. I checked on him awhile ago and covered him. He just needs to be alone, I think. He hasn't been for days, and he thinks we've been molesting him while he's been unconscious. I think he just feels a little safer in there for now. But it does kinda tie the room up." He shifted uncomfortably, and Hannibal handed him his own room key. Murdock accepted it gratefully. "Thanks," he said. "I'll be back in a minute."

After Murdock slipped out, Hannibal busied himself straightening the room. He opened a window to let in some fresh air and get rid of the stale, medicinal odor of the sick room. He unloaded the grocery bag and stacked what he'd bought on a counter across the room. As he worked, he considered their next move.

They'd have to leave L.A. for awhile until the investigation into Wright's death had stopped being front page news. He knew he'd taken a bit of a chance sending the evidence Face had gathered to Parker, but he trusted Parker to keep their secret. Even so, there was a chance that Face had been too disturbed or in too much of a hurry to cover his tracks, in which case the police would soon find the evidence and eventually work out who had been the killer. If that were the case, there would have to be a major change in their lifestyle. They'd probably have to leave the country altogether. It was not something he particularly wanted to do, but he'd be willing to for Face's sake. So would the others.

For now, they'd take Benteen up on his offer of the cabin in Oregon. B.A. would be returning soon with the stuff they'd had at the Bel Air house. When Face was well enough to travel, somehow they'd have to coerce him into accompanying them. That could be the hardest part of all. Face had never been a particularly trusting person, not even where the team was concerned. True, he trusted them with his life when they were on the job, and he trusted that they'd follow through with the commitment they'd all made to each other so many years ago. But on a strictly personal level, he seemed to trust nobody. Except for sarcastic comments and general complaints, he kept his feelings about their assignments pretty much to himself. If the circumstances of a case took a toll on him emotionally, he never let them see it. Only when he was ill or injured did a chink appear in his armor that allowed the others a glimpse of raw emotion, and that chink was repaired as soon as possible. Generally, others saw what Face wanted them to see; the ability to do that was one of Face's greatest talents, and it was both a blessing and a curse. He seldom talked about his past. It was interesting, Hannibal thought, that even though they'd known Face for fifteen years, even though they'd shared almost every conceivable kind of danger and relied upon only each other since Vietnam, there were whole parts of his life they knew nothing about, and as he hadn't volunteered the information, they'd never pressed for details. Murdock knew him better than Hannibal and B.A. did, but there were parts of Face's past that he hadn't shared even with Murdock. Hannibal wondered how much that was going to work against them now.
 

************************************************************************

The whore opened his eyes and found himself looking at a toilet. He glanced around and realized that he was alone, though the bathroom door was cracked open just a bit. He was covered with a blanket. Lying still, he took stock of the situation. He'd fallen asleep in here and been allowed to remain. The light was off, and someone had covered him. Parts of him still hurt fiercely; it was the pain that had awakened him. But he was an expert in pain, and he realized this was the pain of the bullet wounds. Once again, he'd slept without being bothered. He shifted slightly so he could look out into the brightly lit main room. He could just see the man he'd kidnapped sitting cross-legged on one of the beds. The man balanced a sketchpad on his knees and was intent on drawing something. Something about the way he held himself, the statement of intense concentration as he drew, was so terribly familiar, more familiar than it should be for the short time the whore had known him.

'It's Paul!' The voice was soft, and it broke as it spoke.

'Don't be stupid,' the whore answered. 'Paul is dead.'

'But... but it has to be. It's him!'

'Wishful thinking, kid,' said the whore. 'Don't believe everything you see.'

'I... I don't understand. They said he died. What about Benteen? Is he gone?'

The whore grimaced, remembering his failure. 'I told you I'd get him, and I will. He was here. This is just a trick, just to make us think we're safe. He'll be back.'

'Paul...' the other voice whispered. 'Please, please let me talk to him. Let me find out.'

'It isn't him!' the whore snapped. 'Stop being stupid. You can't trust anybody. Not anybody! Now shut up. I have to think.'

'Please,' the other voice began.

'No! Now listen, Rich, haven't I been taking care of you? Didn't I get you out of Wright's compound like I told you I would? Didn't I execute the plan perfectly? You think you're smarter than I am?'

'Alright,' Rich whispered, backing down. 'God, you're such an asshole.'

The whore laughed bitterly. 'Yeah, I am,' he said. 'I'm a professional asshole. It's the best-exercised part of me, after all.'

'That's not what I meant. We were hurt, too, you know.'

'Yeah, but you're not hurting now, are you? You want to go out there and get tied down again like Wright used to do to me? There's four of them now. You want to go out there and entertain them, go right ahead. I could use a nap. But don't come crying to me when you've got one of them inside you and the others are carving their initials on your chest.'

Rich cringed and shrank back. The whore laughed again. 'Don't worry,' he said. 'I'll take care of you just like I always do. Just do what I say and everything will be alright.'

'Okay.'

Face shifted in his dark, comfortable corner. There was an argument going on, and it was bothering him. He didn't like conflict, didn't like arguments, and he didn't want to get involved. Let the others settle it, he decided. He turned his face to the wall and tried to shut it out.

Rich sat next to Face in the corner. Maybe the whore was right. Maybe it wasn't Paul. Maybe it was a trick. God, he'd wanted so much for it to be Paul. He'd wanted it so much, he'd imagined it. He rested his arms on his bent knees and lowered his forehead to his arms. It was still so hard sometimes to remember Paul, to remember those strong, gentle hands moving over his body, making love to him then soothing him to sleep. He sighed heavily and closed his eyes against the pain.

Face whimpered. He wanted to sleep, wanted to go back to his little bed where it was dark and warm, but he couldn't get there. He hurt. His side ached, his head ached, his arm throbbed.

'Shhh, it's alright. I'm here.' Rich patted Face's leg reassuringly.

'Hurts,' Face whispered.

'I know,' Rich answered. 'I know. It hurts me, too.' He lay down beside Face and pulled him into his arms.

'Sissies,' the whore taunted them softly. 'Go back to sleep, then. As usual, I'll take care of it.'

Face sleepily registered the fact that he didn't like this person much, but the pain began to fade as he slipped into darkness again, so he made no protest. Rich sat up, pulling Face into his embrace and rocking him gently to sleep.

The whore sighed and got up stiffly from the bathroom floor.
 

************************************************************************
 

Murdock looked up from his sketchpad to find Face standing in the bathroom doorway with the blanket clutched around his shoulders. His face was pinched with pain. It must be time for the painkillers.

"Face? You hurting?"

"Don't call me that!" Face said tiredly as if it were something he was simply weary of repeating. He took two steps and sank shakily into an armchair, his left hand pressed against his right side.

"What do you want me to call you?"

"Don't call me anything."

"Everyone's got a name," Murdock said. "What's yours?"

"I don't have a name, okay?" said Face defensively. "I'm just a whore. I'm nobody."

Murdock accepted that at face value and didn't try to argue. "Well, I have to call you something. What if I make up a name?"

"No!"

The vehemence of the reply took Murdock by surprise. The whore seemed to fight some sort of internal battle, his attention turned inward. Murdock moved to set the sketchpad on the bed beside him, and the movement caused the whore to return his full attention to Murdock.

"You hurting?" Murdock asked again.

Reluctantly, the whore nodded.

"There are some pain pills you can take for that. I'm going to get up and get them for you. They're right over there across the room. I'll bring you a couple and a glass of water, okay?"

The whore nodded again. Murdock took his time getting off the bed and moving to the counter for the water and pills. Slowly he turned and approached Face. Face watched him warily, his body tense. "I promise I won't touch you," Murdock said reassuringly. "I'm just going to put these pills and this water on the table there in front of you so you can take them. Then I'm going to come back and sit on my bed. Okay?"

The whore watched him like a hawk, and Murdock did exactly as he'd said he would, moving carefully to avoid startling the other man. He returned to his bed and sat cross-legged again, watching as Face stared at the pills suspiciously.

"They'll make you sleepy," Murdock said, "and they'll ease the pain. That's all."

Face swallowed the pills, gulped a couple of mouthfuls of water, and sat back. "Where are your friends?" he asked. "They get bored?"

"B.A.'s gone back to Bel Air for a couple of days. Hannibal's still here. He's in his own room. The doc's gone back to L.A." Murdock could tell from Face's skeptical statement that he didn't believe him. "I wish I could make you believe what I'm telling you. None of us wants to hurt you. We know what you went through with Wright. We just want to help you get better. Nobody will touch you without your permission."

"Why didn't you just jump off the train when I told you to?" Face asked. "I don't want any help."

"Face is my friend. My lover," Murdock replied. "I want him back."

"Face had lots of lovers. It never worked out. It never would have worked out for him. He's better off where he is."

"Where is he?" Murdock asked softly.

"He's dead. I already told you that. He's not coming back."

Murdock let the subject drop. He picked up the sketch pad and drew a bit more while keeping one eye on Face. Face sat stiffly in the chair, radiating hostility and distrust. Eventually the medication took effect, and Face began to sag a bit in the chair as his body relaxed and he grew sleepy. Murdock closed the pad and set it aside.

"Pain any better?" he asked.

Face nodded.

"Why don't you go back to bed, then," Murdock suggested. "You're going to fall asleep pretty soon."

"What're you drawing?" Face asked.

Murdock blinked, taken aback for a moment by the change of subject. "Um, clothing designs," he answered. Flipping open the pad, he showed Face one of the pictures. Face's eyes widened as he looked at the drawing. Murdock glanced down at the drawing to see which one it was. It was one of the jackets he'd designed for Face while they were living in the apartment together.

'I told you! It's Paul!' whispered Rich. 'He's not dead!'

'So what if it is?' the whore returned. 'So what if he's not dead? Why didn't he come for you? He left you to die.'

'He wouldn't,' Rich whispered again. 'I'm going to talk to him.'

'No!'

'You can't stop me!' Rich hissed angrily.

'He'll hurt you,' the whore warned him. 'You're staying here!'

'Fuck you!' Rich exclaimed angrily. He shoved the whore out of his way and studied the picture.

As Murdock watched, Face seemed to change before his eyes. The closed, hostile statement he'd worn was replaced by a wide-eyed look of incredulity. Even the way he held himself changed, the defensiveness of his previous posture gone. He leaned forward in his chair and looked up at Murdock as his eyes filled with tears.

"Paul?"

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Through a Glass, Darkly by Elizabeth Kent

 

 


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