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Dies Irae, Dies Spero

Title: Dies Irae, Dies Spero    Parts 1-3

By: Lark

 

 

Copyright: 2001

Disclaimer: The A-Team is owned by others, the original characters are mine.

Rating: NC-17

Warnings: Non-Consensual sexual situation with a minor, violence, language, death (not of a major character), m/m consensual sex

Summary: A case takes the Team to New Orleans, and unleashes old and new demons for them to deal with.  (Note: This story was adopted from one of Ratgirl's orphan ideas at the VA Story Orphanage.)

 

Author's Note:  I tried to be as authentic with the Voodoo information as possible.  I'll explain more at the end of the story.  I would just like to comment that I do not deal with Voodoo as an occult theme, as it is so often seen in movies.  It is primarily dealt with in this story as the religion it is, much like any other.  The title is Latin for Day of Wrath, Day of Hope

 

 I would like to thank Reckless and Fingers for their comments and help with this story.  And I would like to give a special thanks to Elizabeth Kent. She has been with this story since the beginning and has been more supportive and helpful than any beta reader should have to be.

 

 

 

PART ONE   

           

"I've waited a long time for this." The man held up his glass, toasting the deal he had just made. 

 

Across the table, a second glass was raised.  "Vengeance is a dish best served cold."   Daléus sipped his wine, peering at the other man over his glass.  He wondered again how the man had found him.  Few people of non-Haitian descent knew of this place.  Fewer still dared to come.  Yet found him he had, and Daléus had been willing to help him, for the right price.

 

Around them, the other patrons took no notice of the two men.  It was not the kind of restaurant that catered to tourists or those too interested in the affairs of others.  The people who came here did not come for the food or the atmosphere. The walls were bare, save for a few odd symbols drawn directly onto the stone in red paint.  Candles throughout the room provided the only light.  It was not a cheery light.  The shadows they cast wavered and changed constantly, giving the impression that they were living things, watching the people who came and went.  Several small tables were scattered about, and the people at them spoke in whispers. 

 

The restaurant had a reputation in the French Quarter as someplace where it was safe to discuss matters best not overheard by the wrong people.  There were rumors about the kind of deals made there.  Rumors that most people believed but thought it best to ignore.  It was never wise to meddle in the affairs of people who went there.  To those who understood the symbols on the walls, the warnings were clear.

 

"When will they arrive?" the man asked, peering at the dark eyes of the man who sat across from him.

 

"Soon," Daléus said. "My person has made contact with them.  There should not be any difficulty in her clearing their checks.  I have made sure of that."

 

The other nodded, then pulled a picture from his pocket.  "This is the one I want you to take," he said pointing at one of the figures. 

 

Daléus stared at the photo for a moment, already knowing who was chosen, but saying nothing.  Instead, he asked,  "And the others?"

 

"They will be my concern.  Once you have that one, they will come looking for him.  I'll deal with them when they do."

 

Daléus nodded.  "Chans to you, until we meet again."

 

"Luck is not necessary as long as you do your part well," the other said as he rose to leave.

 

Daléus watched as the man made his way out.  He was not fond of him.  He was not of his people, and Daléus did not trust him.  The man had paid well, although the money was of little importance to Daléus. It was the prospect of the use of the one he was to ‘detain' that held the greatest reward for him.            

 

*******

 

 

The woman stared at the four men before her in the abandoned warehouse.  She was tired and more than a little disgusted with the running around she had done for the past two weeks, but she schooled her features and let none of her annoyance show.  Instead, she smiled and said, "So you are the A-Team?"

 

"Yes, Ms. Henderson, I'm Hannibal Smith, the blond is Face, the man with the hat is Murdock, and the large man with the gold is B.A.  Sorry for all of the cloak and dagger, but we had to make sure that you were legitimate.  Now you told Mr. Lee that your father was having trouble with some men trying to run him out of business?"

 

"That's right. And please, call me Marie."  Her voice was soft and slightly accented, hinting at her Haitian background.  "My father owns a small grocery store outside of New Orleans.  It caters mostly to the people who live in Mouillé.  It's a poor town, and the store isn't much, but it is all that my father has."

 

Hannibal looked closely at the woman.  "So why would these men want to bother with the store?"

 

"It is stupid, really.  Guy Moray, the man who is causing all of the trouble, is angry because he thinks that my father dishonored his family when his son was kicked out of the store in front of people.  The young man was being obnoxious and harassing the girl who works there.  Dad forced him to leave.  Now Moray wants revenge.  Pretty foolish, but old ways die hard where I am from."

 

The woman took out a handkerchief and dabbed her eyes.  Face studied her as she did this.  She was beautiful, he thought. Black hair spilled over her shoulders, and her dark skin was smooth and clear.  She was slight, with delicate features.  But as he watched her, he couldn't help but think that there was something not quite right.

 

"Why not take this matter to the local police?" he finally asked.  "They would be better equipped to handle this."

 

"Mouillé is but a small town; we have no local police."

 

"Well how about the state police, or even the district attorney?" 

 

"They are not interested in the goings on of a poor Haitian grocer."

 

"Well, Marie, I'm not sure that you can afford us.  A job this far away from our base will be costly. If your father is poor, how can he pay our fee?" 

 

"I have a small inheritance from my late husband, so there should be no problem covering your fee. He was a partner in a law firm in New Orleans and was very particular about making sure I would be well taken care of should anything happen to him. I have $30,000 in cash with me now.  Anything else that is needed I will give to you once you arrive." 

 

Face was undaunted.  "Perhaps the money would be better spent on getting a good lawyer to deal with this.  It sounds pretty cut and dried." 

 

Hannibal shot Face a look, not sure why his lieutenant was hedging.  Usually the sight of a beautiful woman would be enough reason for Face to want the case.  The fact that the woman could pay should have made him ecstatic.  Instead, he seemed to be trying to dissuade her from hiring them.  He glanced at Murdock and B.A., both of whom merely shrugged.

 

Marie's composure cracked for just a second.  She glared at the blond man.  "If you are not interested in helping me, simply say so.  I have spent two weeks chasing you down and do not wish to waste anymore time." 

 

Hannibal quickly spoke.  "What the lieutenant here is trying to do is just make sure that you understand there are other options."  He hoped that she would accept his explanation.

 

"I'm sorry, I did not mean to get angry; it's just that there are no other alternatives.  If there were, I would not be here now."  She looked at the other men with eyes that glittered with tears.

 

"I understand.  Well, if you will give us some time to discuss this, we should have an answer for you shortly.  Will you be available at the number you left with Mr. Lee?"

 

"Yes, I will be there until later this evening, when my flight leaves for New Orleans."

 

"Fine.  We'll be in touch."

 

The men watched as the woman made her way out of the old warehouse.  Hannibal pulled out a cigar and lit it, not speaking until he was sure that she had left.           

 

"All right, Face, what's the problem?"

 

"What do you mean?"

 

B.A. growled at him. "If you was any ruder, I would have hit you."

 

"Yeah, Faceman, and you didn't even try to pick her up.  You sick?" Murdock added.

 

"No, I'm not sick.  And I wasn't rude.  I just wanted to make sure that we would get paid." 

 

"I get the feeling that there's more to it than that."

 

Face shook his head.  "I don't know, Hannibal.  This just doesn't have a good feel to it."

 

"Would you care to elaborate?"

 

"I can't.  It's only a feeling.  But maybe we should dig a little deeper into Ms. Henderson's story."

 

"Face, she cleared all of our checks.  She can even pay us.  What could possibly be wrong?"

 

"I just think that we ought to pass on this one."

 

This surprised Smith.  He looked more closely at the young man.  Face met his gaze for a moment then dropped his eyes.

 

Smith sighed.  "Listen, kid, she's a paying client, and as far as I can tell, she's legit.  So, unless there's something you're not telling me..."

 

"No."

 

"Murdock, B.A., any objections?"  Both shook their heads no.  "Then it's settled."

 

Face followed the others out to the van.  He sat staring out of the window as B.A. made his way through traffic.  Maybe he should have told Hannibal about the dreams.  As quickly as the thought came, he dismissed it.  The colonel was not the kind of man who would have put much stock in that kind of thing.  For that matter, Face normally would not have, either.  But if he were to be honest with himself, the dreams scared him.  For the past week he had woken up every night from them. At first there was only a sense of unease, but as the week wore on, he found that he was waking up in a cold sweat, and he was sure that he had screamed a couple of times.  The problem was that he couldn't quite remember what they were about.  The memories always remained just out of reach.  He also didn't know why he thought that their new case was somehow related to the problem.  It made no rational sense, but still the feeling was there. 

 

He tried to shake the sense of foreboding that was growing inside of him.

 

*******

 

When they arrived back at Face's apartment, Smith turned and looked at Peck.  "Murdock can spend the night with you.  Make the travel arrangements and then call me with the details."

 

"Sure, Hannibal."

 

B.A. glared at Face. "I ain't flying, man, so don't book no flight.  We'll take the van!"

 

"Big guy, would we ever make you fly when you didn't want to?" Murdock jumped out of the van before B.A. could grab him.

 

"Face," Hannibal stopped him before he closed the door.  "Are you sure there isn't something you're not telling me?"

 

"No, there's nothing."

 

Hannibal nodded and watched as Face and Murdock walked away.  He hoped that Murdock would be able to help the young man work out whatever was troubling him. 

 

"Home, B.A."

 

*******

           

Murdock had been keeping an eye on Face all evening.  Face had been uncharacteristically quiet, and Murdock's attempts at drawing him out had met with little success.  He finally decided that the straightforward approach might be the best.

 

"So, Face, are you gonna tell me what's bothering you, or do we have to play twenty questions some more?"

 

"I'm fine.  Nothing's bothering me."

 

 "Sure, and I've been declared legally sane.  Why don't you want to take this case?  Doesn't sound like it will be all that difficult."

 

"It's nothing, Murdock." Face sighed.  He really didn't want to talk about it.  He was slightly embarrassed by the whole thing and had almost convinced himself that he was being foolish.  "I guess I'm just tired.  Would have liked to have had a break after that last case."  He hoped that Murdock would accept this excuse.

 

Murdock nodded.  The last case had been rough on Face, and he could believe that he needed a rest.  The cover Face had been using to infiltrate a real-estate company had been blown when one of the men recognized him.  The team had arrived in time to save him, but not before he had been beaten badly and nearly shot.  But Murdock sensed that it was more than just fatigue that was bothering his friend.  He could also tell that Face did not want to talk about whatever it was that was really troubling him.  He decided to let it go for now; there would be time later to try and ferret it out.

 

"Yeah, it was a toughie.  But this one should be a quick and then maybe we can talk Hannibal into a little R & R before the next job.  And think of all of the fun that you can have in New Orleans.  Supposed to be a wild town!  Besides, I've wanted to brush up on my knowledge of voodoo anyway.  Maybe get a love potion to help Billy attract..."

 

Murdock's voice trailed off as he saw the look of horror on Peck's face.  It was there for only a moment and then gone.

 

"Hey, Face, what's really wrong here?"

 

"I told you, nothing.  Look, I'm tired, and we have to get up early.  I'm going to bed."  Without another word, Face turned and went into his room, closing the door behind him.

 

Murdock stared after him for a moment.  He made a mental note to talk to the colonel as soon as the chance came up. 

 

 

Face lay in bed listening to Murdock moving around, putting dishes away and then checking the locks.  It wasn't long before the pilot had turned off the lights and headed into the other bedroom.  The apartment was silent.  He thought about what Murdock had said.  Face had never given voodoo a second thought and wasn't at all sure why he reacted the way he did.  He only knew that when Murdock said the word, he felt chilled.  This whole thing was getting out of hand.  Laughing nervously to himself, he thought that if he wasn't careful, he was going to find himself sharing a room with Murdock at the VA.  He leaned over and flipped on the radio next to the bed.  He hoped that the music would help to distract his thoughts and lull him to sleep. 

 

 

Murdock jerked awake, unsure of what had woken him up.  He listened intently for a moment but heard nothing unusual.  He had just decided to lie back down when the sound of a muffled yell reached him. 

 

"Face!" he said as he reached his friend's bed.  "Wake up, it's just a dream!"

 

Murdock gently shook Face, who was mumbling and trembling.  "That's it Face, come on, it's only a dream," Murdock said as he saw his friend's eyes slowly open.

 

"Murdock?"

 

"Yeah, it's me.  You were having a bad dream."

 

Face sat up in bed, wiping a trembling hand over his eyes. 

 

"Want to talk about?"

 

"Just a bad dream, that's all."  Face refused to meet the pilot's eyes.

 

"Nam?"

 

The blond shook his head no.

 

"Then what?  Please, talk to me."

 

Running a hand through his hair, Face slowly answered.  "I don't know, Murdock." He looked at Murdock, and suddenly felt too tired to try and come up with a plausible excuse. Softly, Face said, "I've been having some pretty bad dreams for a week now.  I never remember them when I wake up.  I try, but I just can't seem to get a hold of them."

 

Murdock thought about Face's reactions to Marie. "Do they have something to do with this next case?" he asked.

 

"I don't know, but I think, well, maybe they do.  Pretty stupid, huh?"

 

Murdock solemnly shook his head.  "No.  Dreams can sometimes be a...a kind of window.  Maybe you're just ‘sensing' something that's going to happen."  He paused for a moment.  "Have you told Hannibal?"

 

"No.  And you can't either.  He would just think that I was losing my nerve."

 

"You aren't giving him enough credit, Face."

 

Face was adamant.  "It's nothing.  They're just dreams, that's all.  I don't want him to know about them."

 

"But what if there's more to it than that?  He should know."

 

"Murdock, dreams aren't real.  There is no reason to make a big deal out of this.  Please, can we just forget it?"

 

Murdock knew that he shouldn't, but he slowly nodded his head.  "Okay, but I have to tell you, Faceman, that I don't like this.  Not at all."

 

"It'll be all right.  Like you said, the case shouldn't take long, and then we can all have a break."

 

"Yeah, I guess.  Are you going to be able to get back to sleep?  Hannibal will be mad if we're late."

 

"I'll be fine.  Really."  He flashed Murdock a smile.  "But you're right.  Hannibal will have a fit if we aren't ready on time, so we both better get some sleep."

 

"Okay, but if you need me, I'm right next door."

 

"Thanks, Murdock." 

 

Murdock slowly rose and returned to his room, purposely leaving Face's door ajar as he left.  As he climbed back into his bed, he wasn't at all sure that he was doing the right thing.  Face had a way of keeping things bottled up and away from the others.  He hated for people, even the Team, to see his vulnerable side.  Murdock just hoped that Face was right in thinking that the dreams meant nothing, but somehow he couldn't help but feel uneasy about the whole thing. 

 

 

PART TWO

 

Daléus made his through the woods, a shadow among shadows.  The light from the not-quite-full moon shown dimly through the covering of trees, but the darkness did not hinder or disturb him; he relished it.  For with the darkness came things which were not as easily summoned during the day. 

 

The trees eventually gave way to a clearing in which stood a large plantation house.  With the moon now free to cast its light, it was easy to see that it was abandoned.  Large columns supported porches on both the ground and second levels of the building.  Little light made its way to the recesses of these porches, where darkened windows stared blankly at the man who stood before them.  

 

In its time, the house had been grand, alive with parties and the comings and goings of the people who had inhabited it.  Now the only ones who came were Daléus and his followers.  And while there were still ceremonies held here, they were not of the sort that most would care to attend. 

 

The wind rustled the moss that hung from the trees behind Daléus, whispering in a language long forgotten.  He listened for a moment and then slowly made his way to the house and up the stairs.  From a small box near the front door he removed a candle and matches, which he lit before pushing open the heavy door.  With a moan of protest, it opened to reveal a wide, long hall.  Towards the end of the hall, and off to the left, large double doors stood open leading to what had once been the salon.  It was this room that Daléus entered. 

 

None of the furniture that had once graced the room remained, save for one table situated against a back wall.  The table was the pé, or altar.  A dark tablecloth with intricate patterns covered it.  On top were placed wine bottles containing various drinks as offerings to the patron spirit.  Along with these were small head pots that held body hair and nail-pairings of those who followed Daléus.  Candles and offerings of food and drink were stacked on the table, each there to help appease and entice the spirits.  On the wall behind the altar were symbols representing the spirits who were regularly called upon for help. 

 

Daléus lit the candles on the altar and then went about preparing for the job at hand.  Normally he would have his followers, hunsi, with him, but tonight he would work alone.  They would all be able to join in once the ‘sacrifice' had arrived. 

 

At one time Daléus was a well-respected Vodou priest with a large following.  He had helped many and confined his service to the rada, gentle, spirits.  But he was also an ambitious man, seeking greater power and wealth.  Rumors began to spread that Daléus had begun to serve the petro, or dark spirits.  Fewer and fewer people attended his services, but it made no difference to him.  Others with similar motivations began to seek out his help, and slowly he built a small following of devoted people.  As his power grew, so did his reputation as a powerful bokor.  Those who needed deeds accomplished that ordinary priests would not do sought out his services.  Daléus' wealth grew, for such help did not come cheaply.  The risks were greater and the ‘obligations' demanded by the spirits high.  But for Daléus, the rewards were worth it.

 

Finishing his preparations, he left the sanctuary and made his way to the back of the house where pens held several chickens and goats.  He selected one of the birds and brought it back through the dark house.

 

The ceremony was quick, the offering made to help ensure the effectiveness of the spell he needed.  From the altar, he removed a walking stick that he had placed there earlier.  He held it, gazing at it in the flickering light.  Who would suspect the power that it held? 

 

Saying his thanks to the spirits, he reverently blew out the candles, leaving the house once again in darkness.

 

*******

 

"Oh when the saints, go marching in..."

 

"Murdock, do you have to keep singing that all the way through the airport?  People are staring at us!" Face said after Murdock had begun the song for the third time.

 

"Gee, Face, don't ya think they'd stare at us anyway?  I mean, it's not every day you see a guy with this much gold being pushed in a wheelchair."

 

"This is New Orleans. I don't think B.A. will stand out all that much."

 

Hannibal spoke before the captain had a chance to respond.  "Okay, guys, let's just find the rental window and get out of here before B.A. wakes up.  If we don't, then people really will be staring at us."

 

"It's over there." Face pointed to where they could pick up the rental car that he had arranged.  "Why don't you wait here while I go and do the paperwork?"  He was hoping not to draw any more attention to them.

 

"If I didn't know better, lieutenant, I'd think that you were trying to get rid of us."  Hannibal chuckled as the blond tried to look offended.

 

As he walked towards the rental counter, Face had the unnerving feeling that he was being watched.  He glanced around at the other people making their way through the airport.  No one seemed out of place.  Men and women in business attire, people obviously on vacation, and a few who may have been returning home from their own trips, it all looked perfectly natural.  And yet the feeling persisted.  ‘Come on, get a grip,' he thought to himself.  He couldn't believe that he was letting a few bad dreams spook him this much.  After all, he had lived through things that would make most people's nightmares look like a walk in the park.  Bad dreams were nothing new to him.  But no matter how rational he tried to be, his unease had continued to grow.  From the moment they had stepped off the plane he had wanted nothing more than to turn around and head back to L.A.  And now the feeling was even stronger.

 

Taking one more quick look behind him, Face tried to focus on the task at hand.  He turned and faced the rental window, where a bored receptionist stood looking through a magazine.

 

"Excuse me, I'm here to pick up a rental for Thompson."

 

The young man looked up at Face and then shoved a paper across the counter.  "Fill that out.  Says you're responsible for any damage."

 

Face filled out the necessary paperwork as the man checked the reservation on the computer.  After showing his false I.D. and handing over a credit card, Face was given the keys and directions to the lot.  As he was about to turn from the counter, an elderly man suddenly banged into him, catching Face in the stomach with the top of his walking stick. 

 

Startled, Face stepped back, instinctively reaching for a gun that was not there, but before he could finish the move the man grabbed him by the arm, pressing his cane even harder into Face's midsection.  "Sorry, sonny, my eyes aren't as good as they used to be.  Hope I didn't hurt you."

 

Peck relaxed and smiled, taking a step back.  "No, not at all.  Are you all right?"

 

"Just fine, fine.  Well, let me get out of your way so you can go about your business."  With that, the old man tottered away, nodding almost imperceptibly to a man on a nearby bench who had been watching the whole scene.

 

Face watched the old man for a moment, absently rubbing his stomach as he did.  Then he picked up the keys he had dropped and walked back over to where the team waited.

 

"What was that?" Hannibal asked as Face drew up next to them.

 

"Nothing, just an old man who accidentally banged into me."

 

Hannibal nodded.  "All right.  Let's get the car and find the hotel.  I'd like to catch a few hours sleep before we have to meet Marie in the morning."

 

Murdock picked up his song where he had left off, pushing B.A. and doing a soft shoe all at the same time.  None of them noticed the man on the bench watching them.

 

 

 Daléus watched as the men left the airport.  Once they were out of view, he rose and went to a nearby payphone. 

 

"Kale?"

 

"Yes."

 

"They are here and contact has been made."

 

"Very good.  How long?"

 

"The visions have already been plaguing his sleep.  This new...inconvenience should weaken him still more.  I see no reason why he should not be mine tomorrow."

 

"Excellent.  Stay in touch."  With that the phone went dead.

 

 

Kale leaned back in his chair and swirled the brandy in his glass around slowly.  He smiled as he thought about the events which would soon be unfolding.

 

Placing his glass on the desk in front of him, he picked up a thick file and pulled one of the clippings out.  It was an article, one of many, that told of how the A-Team had helped yet another sob case.  To the right of the text was a picture of Face, taken sometime during the war.

 

"You're mine, Peck," Kale said out loud to the empty room.  "If it hadn't been for you, no one would ever have known.  Just couldn't keep your nose out of other people's business, could you?  Well, payback's a bitch, as you and your friends will soon find out."  

 

 

PART THREE

 

Face maneuvered the silver Buick through the streets of New Orleans.  He was amazed that even at one in the morning there were still many people out in the streets.

 

"The V.A. has nothing on this town," Murdock said as he looked out the window.  Besides the typical tourists, there were some very oddly dressed people walking the streets.  As they drove, they passed several people dressed as vampires and a few who defied description. Murdock thought that perhaps the circus was in town. The man dressed up as hand grenade brought B.A. out of his snit. He had woken up earlier, loudly expressing his anger over having been drugged and made to fly again.  Face had been glad that he had not been sitting next to the big man at the time.

 

Murdock continued to gaze out of the window in awe. He was sure that a few of the women, as well as some of the men, that he saw were working in the world's oldest profession. They displayed their ‘wares' with abandon, and Murdock was glad that the team could not see him blushing at what he saw.

 

As they turned down the street that the hotel was on, Face asked Hannibal to double-check the address.  "Maison de Nuit," Hannibal read.  "Doesn't that mean house of night?  Odd name for a hotel."

 

Face nodded.  "Yeah, I thought so too."  They found the address easily and Face pulled the car around to the back of the hotel and parked in the lot.  Even in the dark, the hot pink-painted structure glowed. 

 

"House of Night? It looks more like a square Flamingo. Are you sure this is the right place, Face?" Hannibal looked again at the building.  It wasn't that the building looked run down, it was just very pink. The singular color was broken only by the black, wrought iron balconies off of the second floor rooms.  But, although old, it did look well kept. And least they certainly would have no trouble locating it, even in the dark. 

 

"I ain't stayin' in no pink hotel." Some of B.A.'s anger had returned, only adding to Face's discomfort.

 

"Why are we staying in New Orleans, anyway?" Murdock asked.  "I thought that Marie's father lived in some small town.  You just trying to be close to the nightlife, Faceman?" 

 

Face felt as if they were ganging up on him. His voice was a bit edgy as he explained that their client had suggested this hotel.

"Ms. Henderson told me that the town where her father lives doesn't have any hotels.  Not much of a tourist spot.  She recommended this one, said that it was owned by a friend of her family.  She also thought that we would have easier access to any supplies that we might need if we stayed here."

 

Hannibal had not missed the tension in Face's voice.  "Well, kid, if she thought that this was the place to stay, then we stay.  Maybe it's not pink inside. And I'm sure that we can extend our reservations once the job is done. Take in some of the sights."

 

Face shook his head.  "When we're done with this job, I'm heading back to L.A."

 

Hannibal let the subject drop as he sent Face and Murdock in to register them.

 

"What do ya think is the matter with Faceman?" B.A. asked as he pulled their things from the trunk.  "He's been down on this case from the start."

 

"I don't know.  I've asked him, but the most I get is that he's just tired.  I haven't had a chance to talk to Murdock yet to see if he got anything out of him."

 

Smith wasn't at all convinced by Face's assertions that there was nothing wrong.  He had seen his lieutenant get this way before, and it usually meant that there was something personal bothering him that he wasn't willing to speak of with the others.  Rarely did the young man share intimate details of his life with them.  Over time, as Peck's trust in the team grew, bits and pieces of his past had come out, but there were still a lot of blank spots.  And Smith knew that Face was loath to show any signs of weakness in front of them, hiding his insecurities behind a façade of self-assurance.  This worked to his, and the team's, advantage.  It made him an excellent conman.  But it also worked against Face.  It didn't allow him to seek out the help and support he needed.  Everything was kept inside, hidden, but not gone.  They had all heard him scream while in the throes of nightmares, not all of which had anything to do with Nam. 

 

B.A. had been watching Hannibal as the grey-haired man leaned against the car, smoking a cigar.  As if reading his thoughts, he said quietly, "Faceman don't like to talk about a lot of things.  Don't worry, the fool will help him."

 

Hannibal nodded, hoping that B.A. was right.

 

 

"Ah, welcome, gentlemen.  You need a room?"  A tall, thin man, his voice heavy with a thick Haitian accent, smiled at Face and Murdock as they entered the lobby.

 

"We have reservations," Face said, returning the smile.  "The name is Thompson."

 

"Ah, yes, the friends of Marie.  My name is Jean, and I will help you in any way that I can. We have two rooms ready for you.  It will only take a moment."  Murdock looked around the lobby while the man busied himself with locating the keys and having Face sign in.

 

The lobby was small.  The walls were painted a pale shade of red and the floor was covered in a plain, slightly threadbare, carpet. Besides the check-in counter, the room held only a couple of old, slightly worn-looking wingback chairs and a few tropical plants.  Murdock walked over to a wall where a few pictures of the French Quarter in older times hung.  He was just about to turn away when one of the pictures caught his eye.  Unlike the others, it was not a photograph.  It was a symbol of some kind and had obviously been hand drawn.  He thought that the center part of it looked like an owl, but he wasn't sure. Around it were several geometric shapes, well balanced, but having no meaning to him.  For some reason, it made him uneasy.

 

He turned back to the counter just as Face was being handed the keys.  "What's this?" he asked the clerk.

 

Jean glanced over at the picture Murdock was pointing at.  His eyes darkened and he paused for just a heartbeat before answering. "Oh, that is a picture that my young nephew drew for me.  I do not know what it is but he was very proud to have it hung here in the hotel.  He is always drawing the strangest things." 

 

"Well, you should be all set," Jean said, dismissing Murdock and turning back to Face.  "Please let me know if there is anything that I can do for you."

 

Face thanked Jean before turning to where Murdock stood, still looking at the picture. "Are you coming?" He wandered over to the other man, who was still looking at the picture. He paused, his eyes following Murdock's gaze, and for a moment his world narrowed. He felt an inexplicable need to turn away, to run.  But his eyes refused to leave the picture. They widened, and he felt his breath catch in his throat.  The spell was broken when he heard Jean's voice from behind him.

 

"Gentlemen, is there anything else you need? It is quite late, and I am sure that your companions would like to go their rooms and sleep."

 

Face shook himself. Murdock turned in time to see a fleeting look, of what he wasn't sure, leave his friend's face. It was gone so quickly that Murdock was not sure that he hadn't imagined it.

 

"No, nothing, thank you. You ready, Murdock?"

 

"Yeah, I'm right behind you." 

 

Jean's smile disappeared as he watched the two men leave.  He waited until they were out of sight and then picked up the phone.

 

 

"Hey, Facey," Murdock said as they headed for the exit, "you ever wonder why hotels don't label the thirteenth floor as the thirteenth floor?  I mean, it's still the thirteenth floor, even if they call it the fourteenth.  Do they think that they're fooling anybody?"

 

When Murdock received no response, he turned to find a very pale Face standing behind him.

 

"You okay?"

 

Peck looked about to say something when he suddenly let out a moan and grabbed his stomach, doubling over.

 

"Hey, what's the matter?"  Murdock instinctively put a supporting arm around his friend.

 

For a moment Face didn't answer.  He was having enough trouble just breathing past the pain he felt.  Sweat broke out on his forehead and he thought that he might be sick. 

 

"Face?"

 

"Yeah," was all of a response that he could manage. Eventually the pain began to subside and he was slowly able to stand upright again.  He pulled slightly away from Murdock, trying to compose himself.

 

"It's okay.  Just a cramp."  His voice sounded husky.

 

"For a conman, you lie badly.  What the hell happened?"

 

Face shook his head.  "I don't know.  It just hurt all of a sudden, but it's almost gone now. Must have been some of the airline food," he tried to joke.

 

Murdock wasn't fooled.  "I ate the same stuff as you and I'm fine."

 

"Then maybe it was something I had for breakfast."

 

"I was with you at..."

 

"Forget about it, Murdock! I said it was nothing," Face said more harshly than he had meant to.  "I'm sorry.  It's nothing, really.  I'm already feeling better."

 

"Maybe you ought to sit this one out.  The three of us can handle it.  I'm sure Hannibal..."

 

"No!  Murdock, I'm fine.  It was just a cramp.  There's no reason to say anything."

 

The pilot shook his head.  "You've been hiding a lot from the colonel lately.  First the dreams and now this.  It isn't good, Face.  He needs to know what's going on. What are you so afraid of?"

 

"I'm not afraid of anything!" Face spat. "I just don't think that this is as big of a deal as you do.  So I had some bad dreams and a stomach cramp.  So what?  The world won't come to an end.  And the sooner we get started with this case, the sooner we can leave. Could you just lay off?"

 

"Fine!" Murdock turned away from Face.

 

Face sighed.  "Murdock, hey, I'm sorry.  I didn't mean that. I know you're worried, but honestly, I'm fine.  Please, can we just let this drop? I promise, if I have any more problems, I'll talk to Hannibal.  Okay?"

 

"There are too many secrets here, Face."

 

"No secrets, just things that aren't important."

 

For the second time in twenty-four hours, Murdock agreed to keep Face's ‘non-secret'. "But one more ‘nothing' and I go to Hannibal, with or without you.  I'm not kidding, Face.  And I really think that you're making a mistake by not saying anything."

 

"Thanks, Murdock."

 

"Don't thank me.  I just hope that you're right about this."

 

Face flashed him a smile. "Have I ever misled you?"

 

"Is Billy a dog?" They both laughed, the tension easing slightly.  As they left, neither noticed Jean behind them, nodding with satisfaction.

 

*******

 

Hot, so hot.  Where was he? He tried to move, but for some reason his body refused to obey.  He could feel hard wood beneath him and knew that he was on a table of some kind.  From all around him he could hear people, noises, but none of it made any sense.  Everything was hazy, as if his mind were shrouded in gauze, filtering and distorting his senses.  He saw shadows and flickering lights.  Silhouettes moved around him, their images indistinct in the shifting light.  They wavered in and out of his line of vision. 

 

Hands began to touch him. Oh God, no! Please, stop! Again he tried to move, to scream.  His panic rose with the realization that he was helpless. 

 

He sensed someone leaning over him, whispering words in his ear that he did not understand.  Drums in the background beat a frenzied rhythm, and the beating of his heart followed it.  He thought that it might burst from his chest at any moment.  The man kept whispering, and the crescendo of sounds continued.  

 

The hands were there again, but this time they lingered, spreading something warm and sticky over his chest.  Please, no more, he begged silently.  A hand grabbed him under the chin, forcing him to arch his neck.  He felt cold steel on his bared throat.  It rested there for a moment, a moment that lasted forever in his mind.  Then the pressure increased, and this time he did scream.

 

 

Face swung wildly at the hands that gripped.  He felt them lose their hold, and he scrambled away, falling to the floor as he did.  Without thought, he crawled until he came up against a wall, and then turned to face his attackers.

 

"What the hell is going on?"  Hannibal said from the doorway. He had only been asleep a couple of hours when the screams from the next room had woken him.

 

He took in the scene before him. Murdock sat on the floor nursing his jaw, and Face was crouched with his back against the wall, his expression a mixture of fear and rage.  Smith didn't need to guess at what had happened before he had entered the room. 

 

Without taking his eyes off of Face, he asked, "Murdock, are you okay?"

 

"Yeah, just bruised."

 

"You ready, B.A., just in case?"

 

"Yeah." B.A. said quietly.  He hoped that Hannibal could get through to Face without needing him.  If it got to the point where he had to step in, B.A. knew that Face would fight with everything he had.  They had all been through this before, and sometimes it got ugly.

 

Hannibal walked slowly towards the man on the floor.  He kept his voice low and unthreatening as he spoke.  "Face, it's Hannibal. You're safe.  It was just a dream."  He waited for a reaction.  Face's eyes shifted to him, but they did not lose their fear.

 

Smith took another step and then crouched down in front of Peck, just out of reach.  "Listen, kid, it's okay. We're at the hotel. B.A. and Murdock are here, too. You've got nothing to be afraid of." 

 

For just a minute Hannibal thought that Face was going to lunge forward, then something that surprised even him happened.  Peck began to tremble and then simply fell over, unconscious.

 

B.A. was there before Hannibal had a chance to move.  He gently picked Face up and laid him on the bed. 

 

"He feels warm. Probably got a fever."

 

Hannibal touched the younger man's forward. "Yeah, maybe that's what brought on his nightmare."

 

Murdock said as he moved to sit on the other side of Face's bed, "Colonel, there's something I need to tell you."

 

"Well?"

 

Murdock sighed. "This isn't the first one.  He had a bad dream last night, and I finally got him to admit that he'd been having them for at least a week.  Said he didn't remember what they were about. And earlier, downstairs after we had checked in, he had some kind of stomach cramp. It was pretty bad but he insisted that he was alright, just something he ate." 

 

"And neither of you felt the need to tell me about this?" Hannibal was furious.  The welfare of the team was his responsibility, but he could not do his job if he wasn't given all of the facts.

 

"It's my fault. Face kept saying that it was nothing.  I let him talk me into not telling you. You know how he is, not wanting us to see when things are bothering him.  I really thought that after this case, when he got some R & R, he'd be back to his old self."

 

"That's no excuse, Murdock.  Both of you know better than that.  What affects one of us can affect us all.  We can't function..."

 

"Stop." Face's voice, although quiet, startled them into silence. "It's my fault, not Murdock's.  He was only doing what I asked.  I'm sorry."

 

Hannibal, still angry, tried to keep his voice level. "So would you care to explain to me just what has been going on?"

 

Face glanced over at Murdock, who shrugged. "I've just been having some dreams, that's all.  Nothing new for me. And I haven't been feeling all that hot for the last week.  I think that I might be coming down with the flu. I didn't want to tell you because I knew how much you wanted to take this case. I thought that I could make it through it and then have a good rest afterwards. I didn't even mention it to Murdock.  I'm sorry, I should have told you."  Face held his breath, hoping that the colonel would buy his excuse. 

 

Smith nodded. "Well, that makes sense. Your dreams always do increase when you're getting sick. But, Face, you could have jeopardized the mission by not saying anything. I can't have that happening."

 

"I know."

 

Hannibal softened a bit. "All right. Murdock, why don't you see if you can dig up some aspirin. Face, we'll discuss this more later. As far as the mission, we'll see how you feel later this morning before we make any decisions.  For now, let's all get a little more sleep."

 

Hannibal and B.A. left as Murdock came back from the bathroom with a glass of water and two aspirin. 

 

"Call us if you need anything," Hannibal said softly as he closed the door.

 

The captain nodded, then walked over to Face, handing him the water and tablets, returning to his bed without speaking. 

 

Face took the pills and then placed the glass on the bedside stand.  He looked over at where Murdock sat.  "What's the matter?"

 

"You're lying," was all the captain said.

 

"Murdock..."

 

"Don't, just don't, Face.  I've known you too long.  Maybe the colonel is willing to buy that flu story for now, but don't try and push it off on me. We both know that it's more than that." Murdock turned away from Face, hurt that the man had not been honest.

 

Face started to speak, but then stopped. Any excuse would just make matters worse.  He had lied. But how was he going to explain to them that the dreams terrified him?  And now they were not only plaguing his sleep, but his body as well.  He honestly did not feel well.  The ache in his stomach had returned, and his head felt as if it might explode. 

 

Maybe it really was the flu, he tried to convince himself. That would account for why he felt so bad. Even the dreams could be the result of a physical illness.  Heck, it had happened before, why not this time?  But, no matter how hard he tried to convince himself, he knew as well as Murdock did that there was something more wrong. 

 

"I remember parts of the dream," he said softly.  "There are people, but I never really see them clearly, and noises, drums, and it's hot. Someone is speaking to me, but I can't understand him. I feel them touching me but I can't make it stop. Mostly I just remember being scared."  He stopped talking, ashamed of the dreams, but also relieved that he had finally voiced his fears. 

 

Murdock had turned back to watch Face as he spoke. He could see what it had cost the younger man to reveal even this little bit. Face kept his head bowed as he spoke, refusing to look at him. 

 

"Maybe I'm finally cracking," Face said with a small laugh, but it held no humor.

 

"No, you're not." Murdock moved to sit next to Face, resting a hand on the other man's knee. "But something is wrong. I think that those dreams mean something. They aren't like your usual ones. They're some kind of a warning."

 

"That's not possible." Face wanted to believe the words, but deep down he knew that Murdock was right.  When the pilot didn't respond, Face said, "So what do we do?"

 

"I don't know. Maybe we can convince Hannibal to give Marie her money back and drop this case."

 

"I don't think he'll go for that. Besides, we don't know that my problems have anything to do with this."

 

Murdock had to agree with Face. They didn't have any proof that the dreams were connected, and Hannibal was a man of the concrete. Face was probably right in thinking that the colonel would have a hard time believing that there was any relationship between the case and the dreams.

 

"Then you sit this one out. You really do look like shit, so Hannibal won't have any trouble with your staying in the background.  You can scam any supplies that we need then come back here to rest."

 

"Yeah, maybe that wouldn't be such a bad idea."  The fact that Face had acquiesced so easily told Murdock just how much the other man was troubled.

 

"You need me to sleep with you?"

 

"No, I'll be fine."

 

Murdock nodded and rose to return to his bed.

 

"Murdock?"

 

"Yes?"

 

"Let's leave the light on. Okay?"

 

"Sure."

 

 

Next


Dies Irae, Dies Spero by Lark

 

 


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