Murdock watched as the lady Hannibal had introduced as Susan left the table and made her way to the ladies room, Colonel Smith's eyes following her every move.
"Well, well Colonel, I think you have found yourself someone special."
"Yes Murdock , it might just be..."
Something in his voice told Murdock that there was more than the usual interest in a beautiful women. Now he knew where the Colonel had gone to almost every night during the last three weeks. Just like Face had said a few days ago ‚ "there must be someone very special taking all of Hannibal's time." He exchanged glances with BA who gave a knowing smile
Susan returned and Murdock checked the time. Face had still not shown up. The lieutenant had called him in the afternoon, telling him that he had an important meeting and had no idea if he would be able to join them tonight. Murdock hoped he could make it.
Things were still not completely right between the Colonel and his lieutenant. Hannibal was still angry about the fact that Face had been so quick to leave the team after getting his pardon. The pardon had turned out to be a trap, and Face had returned to the team feeling guilty about his actions. Murdock knew that was why Face had been so quiet during the past few weeks. The fact that Hannibal was away most of the time had not helped. Maybe Hannibal was too hard on him. Face had been given the chance to have a normal life, something he had never had before.
And Murdock was sure he would have stayed if they had tried just a little harder; he had seen the hurt and disappointment in Face's eyes at how easily they were letting him go. He checked the time again, giving a sigh...it was getting late already.
It took two more hours for Templeton Peck to arrive. By this time most of them had had a little bit too much to drink, except BA. Murdock looked at the late arrival and noticed that he still wore a dark suit and looked tired. Murdock did not know what his new business was about, but he thought it had something to do with one of those monster movies Hannibal loved so much.
The elegant lieutenant greeted them all, giving one of his special smiles to Susan, and sat down next to Murdock. He had been there for half an hour when Susan got tired and decided to leave.
Hannibal got up and offered to drive her home.
"I don't think that is such a good idea," she answered with a smile, "We do not want to get you arrested for driving drunk."
Hannibal tried to find BA and spotted him talking to a girl. He was ready to go over and disturb him when Face got up.
"I was thinking about leaving myself. I could give you a ride home."
Hannibal stopped and gave him a questioning look.
"I did not drink, Hannibal."
"Well, that's settled..."
Susan gave Hannibal a last kiss and said softly.
"See you tomorrow."
Face led her to his car, asked her address and drove her home, keeping a light conversation going. Stopping in front of her house he got out of his car and the door for her. She gave him a smile.
"You look tired. You want to come in for coffee?"
He was not hard to persuade; he really was tired, and he had enjoyed talking with her. Not to mention, she was a beautiful woman.
She brought two cups of coffee in the living room where he was sitting on the couch.
They talked and time went by. When the conversation stopped, she suddenly bent over and kissed him softly. He enjoyed it for a few moments, then he pulled away.
"I don't know, uhhm, I have seen you with Hannibal and you two looked rather close..."
She laughed "John? Well, we had some fun, but nothing serious; nothing to worry about."
When she kissed him again he did not hesitate.
He woke up with a start, realizing he was not at home. Susan was still lying next to him, her dark hair covering her face. He could hear someone moving in the apartment and got quietly out of bed. The moment he had managed to get his pants on, the door was opened. He turned around, ready to fight, when he saw the man standing in the doorway.
Hannibal's face was white with anger and his eyes blazed their fury at Face.
"You son of a bitch!"
Face did not know what to say, completely shocked at the expression on Hannibal's face.
"Get out of here."
Numb with shock and fear he gathered his clothes, but did not dare to step nearer to the door.
"I said get out of here."
He moved out of the room, trying to stay away from Hannibal as far as possible.
"I... I'd like to explain."
"I guess there is nothing to explain. I hope you got what you wanted...another score on your list. No matter how anyone else feels about it!"
Hannibal turned away. Face tried to stop him, grabbing him at his arm.
"Wait, I want to..."
The other man turned around, his face twisted in fury, driving his fist into Face's stomach.
The younger man stumbled back, doubling over in pain.
"That is the thanks I get for putting up with you! Well, you proved more than once that I cannot trust you! Guess I should have known better...maybe we should have just let you leave. "
His pleading made the older man even more furious. He was hurt and wanted to hurt back as deep as possible. Grabbing Face by the shoulder, he pushed him in the direction of the exit. When the younger man tried to resist he hit him again, this time splitting his lip and sending him to the floor.
He did not follow this order quick enough and was grabbed by his hair and pulled upright. Hannibal's voice was low and dangerous.
"You get out of here and out of my life. I do not need someone like you on my team, and I don't think the others do either."
Face could see the hurt and betrayal in Hannibal's eyes and realizing how much he must have hurt the other man he just stumbled backwards when the hands released him. Without another word Hannibal turned around and left.
The whole incident had only taken a few minutes and Susan did not seem to have been disturbed. Face collected his clothes, got dressed and left the apartment, feeling like he was in a bad dream. His corvette was still standing in front of the house, he got in and drove to his apartment.
It was after he entered his apartment and sat down that the full impact of what had happened hit him. Seldom before had he seen Hannibal so furious, and never had it been directed at him. And never before had he hit him. How could he have been so stupid? He had known there was someone special in Hannibal's life for quite a time now. He had ruined it and with that he had ruined the friendship with one of the most important people in his life. No, with all of them. BA would never understand how he could have done this, and nor would Murdock.
He had betrayed the trust Hannibal had in him.
He had lost everything.
Hannibal was still furious when he arrived at the house he currently shared with BA.
Stepping into the kitchen, he made himself a cup of coffee.
"Already back, Colonel?"
Murdock gave him a grin that quickly faded when he saw the expression on his face.
"I guess everything since I found our little lieutenant in my girl's bedroom."
"Oh yes he did."
The cold fury in Hannibal's voice made Murdock cringe.
"I do not know how or why. I don't even want to know. He knows what he did ‚ I trusted him and he betrayed me. There is nothing more to say about it."
He left the kitchen, entered the living room and sat down heavily on the couch. He felt tired and hurt and did not want to think about it.
Murdock decided to leave him alone. <Damn it Face, you fucked up big this time.> He thought about calling him, but decided against it. <Let him think about what he has done on his own.>
Face sat on the couch in his living room and starred into a glass of whiskey he had poured himself.
Hannibal's words had been clear.
...get out of my life...
...I don't need someone like you on my team...
He could hear him shouting this words over and over again.
It hurt. It hurt so much he could not stand it.
Face got to his feet and started pacing his apartment. Moving around seemed to ease the pain a little.
<What am I going to do now?>
He had finally managed to lose the only people in his life who cared for him. They had had put up with him for so long no matter what and he had destroyed it all.
Face finished his whiskey feeling the liquid burning down his throat and hitting his stomach. He usually did not drink a lot, especially not before noon but now the alcohol had a soothing effect, dulling the pain.
Taking a look through his apartment he suddenly decided to leave LA. There was nothing left here, only memories and the possibility of meeting the team again. And he would not be able to look them in the eye.
He didn't know where he was going to go. He just knew he couldn't stay here.
He started packing all his belongings. He tried not to notice that everything he owned didn't even fill two suitcases. That done, he started cleaning the apartment, determined to leave nothing of himself behind. As long as he had something to do, he could hardly feel the pain deep inside of him.
Putting his suitcases in the trunk of his car he realized something else. He could not keep the corvette. On the run on his own, he could not afford to keep something that would give him away. Decker knew this car far too well.
Face opened the drivers door and sat down in his seat. Memories welled up of racing through the streets of LA, of Murdock never using the door but simply hopping in, of BA...
The pain became unbearable and he quickly got out again and walked back to his apartment. On his way back he managed to get a hold on his emotions, forcing them back deep inside of him.
Having decided where he would go to next, he checked his rooms a last time, left the keys to the apartment on the table and closed the door without locking it.
Taking the suitcases out of the car again, he called a cab.
At night Hannibal's anger had cooled enough that he came out of his room.
Murdock had stayed inside the house the whole day, watching television and waiting for the colonel to cool down.
He had tried to call Face twice, but he had not answered the phone. Now he took a look at the colonel and noted with relief that the fury seemed to have gone.
"Susan has called three times. She asks you to call back." he told Hannibal.
The Colonel gave a small nod, not feeling like talking to her.
Murdock felt uneasy. Face had not shown up The pilot had not really expected him to do so, but Face did not answer the phone either. Murdock was thinking about going over and check on him when he heard the doorbell ring. Murdock leapt to his feet, hoping that it was Face at the door with an apology.
BA open the door, and a few seconds later Susan stepped in.
She was not really sure what to expect. She had overheard the argument in her apartment, but decided to stay out of it. Finally, she decided she had to tell John a few things.
Hannibal looked at her, surprised to feel nothing. He had thought he loved her, but suddenly he was not so sure about it anymore. She sat down next to him.
"I think we have to talk."
He just kept looking at her.
"I overheard your little fight this morning." Still no reaction.
"I want to ask you what gives you the right to act like that in my apartment?"
"I had every right to act like that."
"No you did not. It is my life and I do what I want. " Anger blazed in his eyes, but she met them steadily with her own cool gaze. No one was going to intimidate her and tell her how to behave.
"I thought we had something special..." Hannibal's voice was calm, but the anger and a trace of hurt could be heard through.
"Yes we had. But not entirely by your rules. I never said I want somebody who throws people out of my apartment."
"If I find them in your bedroom..."
"Who do you think you are? We have known each other for three weeks and we have had a lot of fun. But there is no reason to act like a madman if I want to spend a night with someone else. I never realized we had a commitment...and I do not want one. I want to have my fun whenever and with whomever I want. I am sorry if that is not what you want." She could see the hurt in his eyes and her voice softened. "I am sorry, If I hurt you. I did not realize that you wanted more than that."
He did not answer and she added.
"That's what I told Templeton yesterday. That we do not have a close relationship. I did not think you..."
She stopped when she saw his expression.
Getting up she said "I better leave now." He gave a nod and leaning over she kissed him one last time.
"Take care," she said simply.
And she was gone.
By ten in the evening, Murdock was really worried. Hannibal was getting more and more drunk, and Face was nowhere to be found. He had called few times at his apartment and even his car phone but received no response. From what he had heard of the conversation between Susan and Hannibal, the colonel had thrown the lieutenant out of her apartment. The evidence that it had not been a friendly scene could be seen on the swollen knuckles of Hannibal's right hand.
His try to talk to the colonel about Face had been quite short.
Murdock finally decided enough was enough.
He went over to BA and whispered, "BA I need the keys to you van. I am going to check on Face."
For once the big man gave him the keys without hesitation. BA was angry at Face for what he had done, but he had a bad feeling. A really furious Hannibal was capable of doing almost anything and BA had also recognized the swollen knuckles.
A few minutes later Murdock stopped in front of Face's house. He felt relief when he saw the corvette parked there.
He ran up the stairs, rang the bell, and waited impatiently. No-one answered so he tried the doorknob. The door opened and he entered, almost immediately sure that nobody was there. He switched on the light and went through the rooms, feeling a knot forming in his stomach. He rushed into the bathroom and found his suspicion confirmed. The whole apartment was cleaned out.
Face was gone.
Murdock called BA.
"He is gone."
"What are you talking about, fool?"
"Face; he is gone."
There was a pause on the other end of the line. Then, "You are sure?"
"The whole apartment is cleaned out, not even a toothbrush left. He is gone."
The anxious captain was trying to stay calm, not to get hysterical.
"I will be back in a few minutes. Try to get Hannibal sobered up."
He stormed into the house ten minutes later to find an angry Hannibal shouting at an equally angry BA.
"Stop it!!!!!" the overwrought pilot shouted.
They looked at him.
"What is going on here?"
The anger suddenly seemed to disappear from Hannibal. He sat down, covering his face with his hands. After a few seconds he looked up at Murdock.
"He is really gone?"
He closed his eyes, leaning back. Murdock got a really bad feeling. He sat down himself staring at Hannibal.
"Do you know where he is?" he finally asked the older man.
"He will be back?"
"I don't know."
The bad feeling intensified.
Murdock asked tentatively, "What happened? What made him go away?" But he knew the answer without needing to hear Hannibal's words.
Hannibal's eyes went to BA, who still stood there his fists clenched.
"I do not remember exactly what I said. Just that he betrayed me." Hannibal's voice got lower. "And that he should get out of there and out of my life. That I did not want him on my team."
It was even worse than the pilot had feared. He turned to his leader, "How could you do this?"
"I was angry. He knew what that woman meant to me, but he had to sleep with her. He betrayed me."
Some of the anger was back in his voice.
"He didn't know nothing. He was not with us for longer than half an hour and you didn't talk to him at all." BA sounded angry.
"He is right Hannibal. I do not think he knew. He would never have done it if he knew. And you should know that."
"Ever since that false pardon you have treated him like...like nothing. Like he was not there at all. "
Murdock was surprised at the anger in BA's voice.
Hannibal just stared at them, realizing slowly the truth in their words. Despite what he had said he had always been able to trust his lieutenant. He closed his eyes, the pain he felt about losing Susan slowly being replaced by the realization of what he had done.
"He should have known better than to run away."
Murdock gave a snort, picked up Hannibal's hand and held it in front of his eyes.
"You see that? I do not want to know what HE looks like right now. You beat him up, you tell him to leave and you expect him to know what to do? With his past experiences? All his life he has been left alone. Remember Nam? How long it took him to finally believe he really was a member of our team? That we would not replace him with somebody else as soon as possible?"
He let go of Hannibal's hand with an angry move. His words hit the colonel right on the mark. He remembered Nam only too well. The blond kid that under a faÁade of bravado had been scared and confused and completely out of place there. He had taken him on his team and never regretted it.
It was BA who asked the question.
"Where did he go?"
No one answered. Hannibal and BA looked at Murdock, as if he could give the answer but he only shook his head.
"I do not know. We sometimes talked about what we would do if we were not on the run. But always us, never him on his own. I have no idea where he could be"
The night went by without any news and the morning found three very worried men sitting in the kitchen. They had spent half of the night checking out all the places where Face might have gone, but they had not found a clue to the lieutenant's whereabouts. None of them had had very much sleep and all three of them jumped at the ringing of the bell.
Murdock was the first to open the door, the hopeful expression on is face fading as he looked at a stranger.
"A package for Mr. Murdock ?"
After scribbling his signature on the form he took the small package and turned to the two men waiting behind him. He knew the neat handwriting on the cover and opened it quickly. A bunch of keys fell into his hands and a small note with only three words on it. "I am sorry." He did not feel anything as Hannibal took the keys from his hands, recognizing them and laying a comforting hand on his arm.
"He is not coming back," Murdock whispered.
"We don't know that Capt'n. We don't know anything, but that he cleaned out his apartment."
"...and sent me his car keys. You know very well he would never do that, unless..."
Murdock's voice broke. He had to take a deep breath before continuing.
"...unless he knows he is not going to use them anymore."
They knew he was right. Face loved his car far too much to even give it away for a few hours without protesting fiercely. He would never give away the keys if he was not sure he would not be able to use them any more. And that meant he had left LA.
But where too?
Hannibal's head shot up.
He could see the reaction the name had on the others. Why had no one thought about the priest before? It only took a few minutes to find the number and call.
"Father Magill? This is Hannibal Smith."
BA and Murdock watched as Hannibal listened to the old priest, his expression turning from hopeful to disappointed.
"When did he leave?"
Murdock let out the breath he had been holding.
The conversation went on for a few minutes, then Hannibal slowly put the phone down.
"He has been there, but he left. The father has no idea where to."
Father Magill was not surprised to see them. He had expected they would try to find Templeton Peck no matter what the young man himself thought. They did looked tired and altogether not any better than Face had, except from a black eye and a swollen lip that the young man had refused to explain, but the priest had a good idea who was responsible for that. Nevertheless there was nothing he could do to help them.
"I am sorry, Colonel, but I don't think I will be able to help you."
They were seated around the table in the Father's kitchen. He had offered coffee and they had gladly accepted.
"Templeton came here yesterday afternoon and he left again after two hours. And as I told you, I don't know where to."
Murdock stared into his cup, a strong feeling of unreality overcoming him. This could not be true, how could they have lost Face so easily?
"He did not say anything, not even a small clue?" Hannibal asked again, still not able to believe they had lost Face again.
The Father shook his head and looked at the three man, each of them clearly disappointed. He could see the fear in their eyes and asked himself if maybe he could have tried harder to persuade Templeton to stay. But he remembered the pain in Face's eyes as he came into his house the day before.
Father Magill had been surprised but very happy to see him again. The happiness faded quickly as he realized how unhappy Face was. The whole situation reminded him painfully of another day almost fifteen years ago when the same young man had stepped into his house. He had the same expression in his eyes he had now and that day Templeton had told him that his relationship with Leslie was over and that he was leaving for Vietnam.
And he was right. Face had got hurt again and he was running away again. The priest had tried to talk to him.
"You are sure? Hannibal was angry, maybe he is already sorry for what he said."
"No, Father, this time I really did it. I betrayed him, and I disappointed him. There is one thing Hannibal Smith never accepts and that is dishonesty."
The priest looked at the young man, seeing the pain but could not believe he was right.
"I do not believe he really wanted you to go."
"I know it Father. I have seen the expression in his eyes and on his face. I have disappointed him one time too many. I did the worst thing I could do. I betrayed his trust in me. I just wanted to say good bye. Without the team I have to be more careful, there is no one here anymore to pull me out of trouble."
And like so many years ago, nothing he said could convince Templeton Peck to stay.
The priest's eyes met Hannibal's and he could see the regret there. It calmed the anger he had felt since he heard Face's story. The father could understand Hannibal's anger, but he could not understand the way he had acted. How he could have said what he did when he should have known how deeply it would hurt Templeton.
"What are we going to do now?"
Murdock's voice sounded calm but the priest could almost feel the emotional turmoil inside the pilot.
"We have to find out where he went to. Father, did he come here with a car?"
The priest shook his head.
"I don't know how he came here, but he took a cab when he left."
"You don't know where to?"
"No, but Templeton ordered the cab. Maybe you can find out from the cab company?"
Hannibal had left to get the information from the cab company. BA and Murdock had wanted to go with him, but he had ordered them to stay at the Father's place and get some rest. Neither of them felt like sleeping and both of them reappeared in the kitchen after a short while.
"How could things get so out of hand?" the Father asked.
"I don't know" Murdock answered. "Since Face tried to leave us Hannibal was kind of angry at him. Not really angry, but hurt and...I don't know, they just did not talk to each other anymore. Not the way they used to. And then Hannibal found him in bed..." his voice trailed off. He took a tentative look at the priest, not knowing how much Face had told him. He received an encouraging nod and continued "...in bed with a women the colonel thought he was in love with. I think he just lost it. And Face thought he wasn't wanted anymore."
The pilot took a shaky breath and asked, "What did he tell you?"
Before the priest could answer his question the sound of the van stopping in front of the house brought them to their feet. Hannibal entered the room a few moments later, and it was obvious that he had found out something.
"He went to the airport. We have to check if someone remembers him there. We know the approximate time. There aren't that many flights he could have taken if he stayed in the States."
"And if he didn't?" BA asked.
"I don't think he left the country," Hannibal's voice held conviction. No-one argued with his opinion. They knew if Face really had left the country, they would never be able to find him.
The three men rode in silence to the airport, every one of them lost in his own thoughts.
Before they left the van, Hannibal took something from the glove compartment. He went directly to the counter of an American airline Face had always preferred. The young man working there gave him a professional smile. "Can I help you, sir?"
Hannibal flashed an ID at him. "I am Detective Mathows."
He slapped a picture on the counter and took a look at the man's name badge.
"Mr. Diel, we are looking for this man."
The clerk took a look at the picture that showed a smiling Face and asked hesitantly "I don't know if I can help you..."
"This man most likely bought a ticket yesterday for a destination somewhere inside the USA. We need to find out where to and under which name."
The young man still looked unconvinced. Hannibal leaned closer to him and said in a low voice, "This man is a very dangerous man. If we lose him... I don't want to be responsible for what he might do next. And I don't think you want to, either."
The man's eyes darted from Hannibal to Murdock and then to BA. Their serious expression finally convinced him.
"I didn't work yesterday, but I can get you my colleagues who were here. Maybe one of them remembers him."
Hannibal gave a nod and the young man hurried away.
He returned a few minutes later with two young women and an older man. They all took a look at the picture and one of the women nodded.
"Yes, I remember him. He came here yesterday and he bought a ticket."
A sparkle came to Hannibal's eyes. "You remember where to?"
"Yes. I think he went to San Francisco. I can check it if you want me to. "
"You remember the name he used?"
All eyes went to Murdock who had said something for the first time.
"Marcus." she answered promptly. "Marcus Doncan or Duncan."
"Can you check it for us? We need to know his exact name and if he had a connection flight somewhere else."
She nodded and went to the terminal behind the counter. It took only a few minutes for her to get the information. "Marcus Donncan. And he had no connecting flight to somewhere else."
Hannibal gave a brief smile to the four people. "Thank you very much. Maybe your help will enable us to get him this time."
He took back the picture and turned to leave, followed by the rest of his team.
Back in the van the colonel wanted to put the ID back into the glove compartment. Murdock stopped him and took a good look at it. "Nice work," he said, a sad tone in his voice.
"We'll find him, Captain. Now we know where he went to. And we know his name. The rest is a piece of cake."
This brought a tiny smile to Murdock's face.
"How do we get there, Hannibal?" BA asked, fearing the answer.
"We take the van."
At the surprised look from the others he explained. "It was risky enough to go in there once." He pointed at the airport. "Remember, we don't have anyone to get us false IDs. We can't risk it to be recognized. And it's only a few hours drive to San Francisco. We can make it till tomorrow. But first, we go back to the Father's place and take a rest. It might be our last chance for some while."
No-one argued this and BA drove the van back to the priest's house.
It was quiet in the house. BA and Murdock had followed his order to try and get some rest. Hannibal had returned to the living room and was sitting on the couch. He was far from sleeping through trying to get his emotions under control. How could things get so out of control? He asked himself this question over and over again. For over seventeen years now this team had been together through good and bad times, always sticking together. He was the leader, the one to take care of his men. Hannibal closed his eyes and leaned back, remembering the many times one of his men had got hurt; the feeling of anger, of failure and fear he always felt in such occasions. The fear of losing one of them especially Face who had always been the one who seemed to need him the most; And now it had been him, Hannibal Smith who had hurt him deep enough to drive him away.
Everything in him cried to go out and find him, but for the first time in all this years he felt doubt whether Face would really come back. He had already tried to leave the team once; maybe he didn't want to come back after all?
But then he remembered the expression on the young man's face during their fight - the fear, the pain and the shock about the words Hannibal had thrown at him so carelessly. The memory made his insides ache.
"Maybe you should follow your own orders and rest a bit?"
Hannibal had not heard the old priest come in. He turned his face in his direction. "I don't think I will be able to sleep. There's too much on my mind right now."
He did not realize that he used almost the same words Murdock had spoken in protest when being ordered to rest.
Father Magill sat down next to him.
"Feeling guilty won't help. You can't change what happened. But, you need to be rested to go and find Templeton. Those were your own words."
The priest's voice was soft, the anger Hannibal expected not there. He looked into the old man's eyes and could only see concern there.
"I am going to find him." It sounded like a promise. "I just wish I knew..." Hannibal could not look the priest in the eyes any longer. He turned his head and stared out of the window. "...I wish I knew if he even wants to come back."
The priest looked at him in surprise. Maybe things were even worse than he had suspected.
"What makes you think something like that?" He tried to sound calm, but the surprise and even a little bit of anger came through.
Hannibal got up and walked to the window.
"He was ready to leave us only a few weeks ago. I know, he was offered a chance he had been hoping for the last fifteen years. But he has been forced to come back. Maybe now he wants to try it his own way."
Father Magill followed Hannibal to the window and laid a hand on his arm. "After so many years you still don't know what's going on in Templeton's head? Do you have any idea what he went through when he got this false pardon?"
The Colonel looked at him in genuine surprise.
"He called me that night he received his pardon." the priest continued. "He was happy, and he was at a total loss what to do. He wanted this chance, no doubt about that, but he didn't want to leave the team."
"Then why did he?"
"He thought...I don't know what he really thought. But I know he was surprised and a little bit hurt that you didn't ask him to stay. Maybe he thought you didn't need or want him anymore. "
He could see the impact his words had on the Colonel.
" guess he was kind of relieved when everything turned out the way it did," he added, "But he knew you were angry at him and he was not sure if it was only because of his behavior or because he was back."
Hannibal shook his head. "Yes, I was angry with him. Maybe I am still, but never because he came back, never. And we do need him and we want him. I want him."
"That is something you need to tell him." The Father gave a sigh. "I don't know what Templeton was expecting to find when he went to Vietnam, but what he found was a place where he felt he belonged. But he was always afraid of losing it again. After his pardon he was not so sure any more that you really wanted him, and that fight with you..."
"I told him I did not want him on my team any more," Hannibal said covering his face with his hand. "I said something about just putting up with him and getting no thanks for it." He took a deep breath and said slowly, "I am going to find him and I am going to bring him back."
The Father gave him a smile.
"WE are going to find him," Murdock's voice came from the door. They turned around and saw the Captain and BA standing there.
Hannibal gave a nod and a small smile and for the first time since this whole thing started they felt like a team again.
Rita McCallum glanced over at the table in the corner of her small cafe. The young man sitting there was still reading in his newspaper. He had hardly touched his meal just like the days before. Every afternoon since three weeks now he came in, ordered some food and coffee and studied his newspaper. Sometimes it seemed to her he was not really reading it but looking for something, something he obviously did not find.
She did not like the looks of him. Oh yes, he was an extremely handsome man, always dressed well. And, he gave the impression of being a very nice man, too. If she had been a few years younger, maybe... Then, she had noticed the changes in him. The first day he came in he looked tired and worn out. Her thought then had been that he was just an overworked businessman who dropped in by accident. This was not exactly the area where businessmen came to have dinner.
Then he came again every day after that and each day he seemed to look even more tired. He had dark circles under his eyes, and an aura of tiredness and depression seemed to hang around him. She was sure he had lost weight, too. No wonder, since he always ordered something to eat, but never finished even half of it. Usually he left after he had finished his newspaper, but today she decided to interfere in his little ritual.
She took the plate she had prepared and walked over to his table.
"This is a special for our special guests," she said, giving him her best smile.
"Don't you even try to tell me you don't like apple pie, I know you do."
He looked at her a little confused, then a smile formed on his face.
"And I am going to be very disappointed if you don't eat it."
"I guess I have no choice?" The smile on his face was worth trying everything to see it again.
"No, honey, no choice."
She returned to the counter and cast a few glances in his direction. He obediently ate the pie and threw her a shy smile when he had finished. Rita walked over to him again.
"That's a good boy."
"I just wish you would always eat what I bring you. You could need it, you know."
He wanted to protest but she did not give him the chance.
"My name is Rita."
"Mine is Thomas."
She took his hand and looked into his eyes. For the first time the sadness she got used to seeing there seemed to lessen a little bit.
<All this boy needs is someone to talk to> she thought.
Three weeks had gone by and they had found no trace of Marcus Donncan, not to mention Templeton Peck. They did not even know for sure if he was still in San Francisco, but none of them was ready to admit it. It would have meant that they had lost his trace completely. Father Magill had not heard anything new either.
Hannibal had finally given up trying to convince Murdock to go back to LA.. The last three weeks had been hell for the sensitive pilot. He hardly slept and ate even less but he was determined to stay with them.
<Three weeks and not a trace of you. Where are you, kid?> Hannibal stared out of the window. They had found an apartment they all shared but it was only used for sleeping. During the day and part of the night they searched the city for their missing friend. Knowing him and the places he liked to go, they had thought it would not be too hard to track him down - a very wrong thought as it turned out to be.
<I only hope you are still in this city> A sound behind him made Hannibal turn his head.
"Yeah Colonel. I couldn't sleep. I'm not the only one it seems."
Hannibal gave a sigh and finally turned away from the window.
"I just wished I knew he was alright. " Murdock's voice sounded forlorn and sad. "Not knowing anything makes me crazy."
He frowned at that and shook his head, "No, I am crazy...maybe it makes me normal. I don't know."
"I know, Murdock. The same here, and I don't think BA feels any different. The kid really managed to do a Houdini act. The only good thing about that is, if we can't find him, Decker won't either."
This voiced the Colonel's worst fear. That Decker might get Face while he was on his own. The expression in Murdock's eyes told him he wasn't the only one thinking about this danger. Face had more than once managed to draw the MP's attention to himself without even realizing it. Every time Hannibal had managed to warn him on time, but in the current situation, Face was on his own. If Decker got him, the odds were high that the team would not even know it until it was too late.
Rita felt a wave of joy and relief as she saw the young man who called himself Thomas enter her small cafe. She had not been sure if he would come again. He looked the same as always - tired and sad, but as their glances met a smile crossed his face.
<I don't know what you are going through, honey, but there should be something I can do to see you smile more often.>
She put the coffee he always ordered in front of him. The smile was still there.
"What do you want to eat today?"
"The salad with chicken breast."
"No, you are going to order something proper to eat, and you are going to eat it, honey."
He opened his mouth in protest but she did not give him a chance.
"I suggest a good steak with baked potatoes, that's something for a skinny boy like you."
With those words she turned around and walked away.
Ten minutes later she put a laden plate in front of him.
"Eat," she ordered.
"You don't even have steak on your menu."
"Since today I have."
He just stared at her, then at his plate then back at her. Suddenly a wide grin appeared on his face.
"I guess I have no choice?" He repeated the words he had used the day before.
He shrugged, took knife and fork and started digging into his food.
Murdock crumbled the coffee cup and threw it into the wastebasket. Frustration was visible in every one of his movements. BA watched as he turned around and left the small fast-food restaurant. The strain was visible on each of them. Hannibal was cool and controlled, hiding his guilt and fear behind a mask. Murdock was acting alarmingly normal, no invisible dogs, no talking bugs, none of his usual crazy behaviors. That was something that BA worried even more than the craziest behavior could have.
BA himself felt helpless and angry: angry at Face for running away, angry at Hannibal for making him go, and angry at himself for letting it happen. And he felt fear; not knowing where the youngest of his team-mates had disappeared to and not knowing if they would ever find him again made him almost feel sick.
Forcing himself to stop thinking about what could be, he followed Murdock to the van.
After finished half of the steak, Face had to give up. He could hear Rita coming to his table and flashed her a charming smile.
"It really was delicious..."
"You didn't finish it." She gave him a stern look she could not keep for long. The look he gave her made her smile.
"I'm glad you liked it. It's about time you started eating like a grown man."
A little bit of warmth filled the hole deep inside of Face. The same hole he had tried to ignore the past three weeks since he left LA. He had found himself a small apartment and Rita's cafe was right around the corner. He had come here the second day he spent in San Francisco when even his small apartment seemed too empty and had found it a nice place to be. Face did not know anyone here, which was one reason why he had decided to come to San Francisco. No-one here had ever known Templeton Peck so there would be no-one to remember him as someone he no longer was.
Rita was the first person with whom he had made friends. He did not feel like socializing very much and had stayed in his apartment most of the time until the walls started closing in on him. Cooking was not really one of his hobbies and so he came here to eat something every afternoon.
Rita had taken away his plate and reappeared with two fresh cups of coffee. Sitting down next to him she studied his face, noticing again the signs of lack of sleep and sadness.
"What's going on with you, honey?" she asked in a soft voice, following an impulse.
It took Face by surprise. He had not expected a question like this. Staring into her kind face and seeing the concern and compassion in her eyes, he almost told her everything. Then the memory of what had happened was too painful and he turned his head away trying to get a hold on his emotions.
A hand grasped his and a soft voice said "I'm sorry, I didn't want to pry. I just want to help you. I don't know what it is that's bothering you, but sometimes just talking about it helps. "
Face had got his control back and managed a smile in her direction.
"It's nothing worth talking about. Just a few problems I have right now, nothing really important."
He met her eyes and used all his con man abilities to convince her. Rita watched with astonishment as the young man in front of her managed to hide away any trace of emotion she had seen just moments before. If she had not seen the pain in his eyes, he might have convinced her. She shook her head deciding to beat him at his own game.
"Don't you try lying to me," she said in a hurt tone. "If you don't want to talk, that's fine, but you don't need to lie to me to get me off your back. I am old, but I'm not dumb."
The old lady got up and turned to leave when a hand shot up and caught her wrist.
"Please - don't go. I didn't want to hurt you."
Hiding a smile Rita turned around and studied his face as if she wanted to find out he meant what he said. Face let go of her wrist, surprised by his own action.
"Really, I'm sorry I lied to you, but I just didn't want to talk about it. But I don't want you to be hurt. "
Face felt relieved at the understanding nod she gave him and the small smile in her eyes as she sat down again.
"No more lies," Rita said. "And I won't ask any more questions. But I am here, whenever you need me."
This time his smile was genuine.
"I'll remember that."
Hannibal closed his eyes, feeling the pounding in his head. He had slept poorly and felt even worse. A soft murmur came from the kitchen. BA and Murdock were having a quiet conversation. Something he would have never thought possible.
They were probably discussing how to act. It was his birthday today. It was the first birthday for almost eighteen years that the team would not spend together and the first one without Face.
The colonel got up and went into the kitchen. The two other members of his team were clearly surprised to see him awake.
"Morning Colonel," Murdock said with forced cheerfulness.
Hannibal's tone did not leave any doubt that there was no reason to be cheerful. He received a nod from BA who refused to even try and act as if nothing was missing. Or better nobody. Four weeks had gone by now. Four weeks and they did not know any more than the day they came here.
<Maybe today. Maybe he calls, maybe he sends a card, maybe anything. If not today, he never will.>
Rita's eyes went over to Face who was talking to a guest, telling her today's special. He looked worse today and he was awfully quiet. During the last days he had improved. The day after their first real talk he had found out that she had some troubles with her supplier and offered his help. Rita had no idea how he did it, but within twenty-four hours he got rid of the old one and found a new supplier who had a better price, and all her troubles were over. For the first time in years it looked as if she would finally be able to make some money after all. She had offered him a job, not knowing if he wanted or needed one and he said yes. He refused to take money.
"I don't need the money, but I have to confess your cooking is far better then mine ‚ you cook for me, and I help you out if you need someone."
"Helping out" turned out to "doing anything and everything". He showed up in the morning, carried in her supplies, waited on the customers, cleaned the floors and counters, and walked her home at night.
Having something to do seemed to help him a lot, and her cafe had a new attraction. A recognizable number of females of every age started to come in regularly. Some secretaries from the offices around, some high school girls and even two older ladies. The reason for their sudden interest in a particular small cafe in the middle of San Francisco surely was not the quality of Rita's coffee and cakes.
Rita watched as Face gave a dazzling smile to the elderly lady who had finally decided what she was going to eat. Face came to the counter not recognizing the admiring look that followed him. Rita could not help but smile. He always did this, but he never seemed to realize what impression he made. Or maybe he just did not want to.
"Chocolate cake," he said with a grin.
"Chocolate cake? That lady never had more then coffee and water in the last three years. She always told me she had to take care of her figure."
He gave her a knowing smile and shrugged.
Rita shook her head. "Well, maybe it's her birthday today..."
She did not expect the sudden flash of pain that crossed his face before he turned around and went to the back.
<That hit a mark. > She thought. < I just wished I knew what's going on with you. > She wondered if it was his birthday or someone else's. And she decided to give it one more try to find out what the matter was with that young man she had come to be quite fond of.
It was past nine at night until the last guest had left the cafe. Face had offered to take Rita home just like he had done for the past few days. As they stopped in front of her house, she asked him to come in. Like all the days before, he said no, but this time she did not let him get away with it.
"You are not going to disappoint an old lady like me, are you?"
She could feel his uncertainty and added, "There is nothing to be afraid of... if I were thirty years younger, then maybe..."
Face had to laugh. Maybe a nice evening with a nice lady was the right thing to do. Definitely better than the alternative ‚ going home to his small and empty apartment and trying not to think. Before he knew it, he was sitting on a very comfortable couch in a very nice decorated living room.
"Something to drink?"
It was a rhetorical question. Only seconds later a glass filled with a brown liquid was put into his hand.
Face took a sip, It turned out to be an excellent Whiskey, one of the best he had ever tasted.
"That's a fine one. What's the occasion?"
He found Rita looking at him with a strange expression on her face.
"No occasion. Just a little pampering for someone who seems to need it."
She watched as guarded look came to his face.
"No, I promised not to ask. I just want you to relax and enjoy this evening. "
For the first time in weeks Face felt a warmness seep through him. This day had been one of the hardest since he left LA. Hannibal's birthday. The memory of this day's celebration in the past years, the planning of the celebration this year and the realization that he had no part in that any more. It hurt. The last days he had concentrated on working, on checking things for Rita to block out his memories and feelings. Today nothing had worked. More then once Face had been on the edge of calling them, to say how sorry he was, that he wanted to come home. Then the memory of that expression on Hannibal's face when he told him to go made him stop. He could not bring himself to take the risk of being rejected. And there was no reason they would want him back. None at all. Who would want a conman who even cheated on his best friends? Who could not be trusted?
Face took another sip from his glass feeling the mild taste on his tongue and running down his throat.
Rita watched him, seeing the turmoil of emotion in his blue eyes. She wanted to help but knew one wrong word would make him run away.
"Do you want something to eat?"
Face shook his head and Rita gave a nod and refilled their glasses. She had not expected anything else. They spent an hour with quiet conversation. Rita filled their glasses a third time but Face already felt the effect of the first two drinks.
"I have to drive home."
"You can take a cab or you can stay here. But I want to have one more drink and you are not going to leave an old lady drinking on her own?"
<Well, I don't feel like going home anyway...> Face took the glass offered to him .
Rita raised her own and said, "To good friends. They are the most important thing in the world."
She had wanted to express her feelings for him, tell him that she cared. She was surprised to see tears forming in his eyes. Without a word he clinked his glass to hers and drained his drink in one gulp. In one second the mood had completely changed. Rita watched him stare into the distance for a few moments until his eyes turned and met hers.
"Today is the birthday of one of the best friends I ever had."
Rita did not know what to say. After weeks of waiting she had not expected him to open up so suddenly. Not today, maybe never. Face did not go on, and finally she asked.
"What happened to this friend?"
"I happened." He gave a bitter laugh that made her hurt inside. "I betrayed him and he finally found out who I really am."
"And who are you?"
"Just a liar and thief. A conman not worth trusting. Not someone who deserved his friendship."
Rita could not help but stare at him. That did not sound like the man she had come to know and like.
"How long have you been friends?"
"Almost eighteen years."
She could not believe it.
"Eighteen years? You want to tell me it took him eighteen years to figure you out?"
"Na. I guess it just took him so long to get rid of me. He felt responsible for me and so he put up with me. Until I went too far. That's when he told me to leave."
"Nice friend." Rita could not keep the sarcasm out of her voice.
"Not his fault. Not at all. As I said he put up with me for long enough."
The pain in his voice was clearly audible and so was the guilt.
"I've only known you for some weeks and I don't think you are a liar or thief. And I think I can trust you... well I do."
"You don't know me. Not really."
"Oh, yes I think I do. More than you think. I know that you can get almost everything out of everyone. I know that smile of yours makes people wax in your hands. I know that could convince Bush himself that you were the president of the USA. But I also know that if you care about someone, you do everything for him. If that friend of yours does not see that then I am sorry for him."
Silence followed her words. Face did not know what to say, how to make her understand without telling too much. Suddenly the ringing of the telephone cut through the quiet apartment. Rita hesitated for a few seconds not wanting to leave him alone, but worried who would call her so late at night. Finally she went over to her small desk in one corner of the room and picked up the phone.
A long silence followed. Face turned his head to watch her and registered her strained posture. Her hand was grabbing for the chair and she sat down heavily. Whatever it was, it was no good news. The conversation went on for a few more minutes, Rita only saying a few words. After she hung up she remained where she was.
Face got up and went over to her and kneeled down in front of her.
She looked at him and he could see tears running down her face.
"That was my brother. His son Dave, my nephew has been attacked this afternoon."
A sob escaped her. "He is in hospital now and they don't know if he will make it."
She stood and a determined expression came to her face.
"I have to go there."
Face did not hesitate for a second, "I'll take you there. Just tell me where it is."
She nodded and gave him a thankful but shaky smile.
The doctors at the hospital could not tell them anything new. Face met Rita's brother and his wife. Both were in tears.
"That's Jim Delgardo's fault. I'm sure he has something to do with it," Dave's father said.
Face's questions got him the whole story, a story he knew only too well. Jim Delgardo was a high member of the local mob and for some unknown reason he wanted to have something that belonged to Rita's family, a house that they did not want sell. The terror had started a week ago and Dave had decided to fight back. Now he was fighting for his life in an ICU after being severely beaten up.
"I don't even know why they want that house. But we have been living there for so long... we don't want to sell it. But maybe we don't have a choice."
As it turned out they did not have a choice any more. During a brief moment of consciousness Dave managed to tell his mother that he had been forced to sign a contract. The house was lost.
That was the moment Face decided to offer his help.
"If I can get that contract back and contact a few people to take care of you afterwards there might be a chance to get that slimeball off your back."
They stared at him in amazement. Rita could hardly believe the change in his behavior and the glint in his eyes. She laid a hand on his arm and led him away.
"What are you talking about?"
He gave a sigh, "I might be able to help you and your family."
"That is a gangster you are talking about!"
"I know. Believe me, I know the likes of him better than I wished. But like I said, I can help you."
She took a long look at him, noticing the sudden change in him and realizing that if what he said was true it might be the only chance her family had left.
"I'll take care of everything. I'll get that contract and as soon as I have it, there will be some people to take care of you. They will help you against Delgardo, they have done it before."
His face became sad and he added.
"But I'll have to leave this city."
"I am not who I pretended to be. Like I told you I am a liar. And I am a wanted man."
She should have felt shock and maybe anger but she didn't. Somehow it made perfect sense.
"So what is your real name?" Maybe it was absurd but she wanted to know.
"And why are you a wanted man?"
"It would take too long to explain that ‚ but I am innocent. If you want me to help you, I need some more information and there is not much time left."
She led him back to her family not thinking why she would trust someone who was on the run and who had lied to her before.
The sun was warm and for a few seconds HM Murdock enjoyed the feeling of sunrays on his face. Two high school girls were sitting on the bench next to him, talking about a certain male person who seemed to have captured at least one of their hearts.
"He's got the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen. Blue with a little bit of green..."
It was like a stab as he remembered eyes of exactly that color. If only he knew where to find them. Murdock's feet were hurting from walking the streets and asking around if anyone had seen his missing friend. No-one had so far.
"...his hair is blond, it looks like gold..."
The girl gave a sigh and Murdock had to smile. A teenager in love.
"...but isn't he too old? I've heard he is definitely older than thirty."
"I know, but that smile he gave me... you have to see him, then you know what I am talking about. .."
The description of that stranger made Murdock's heart almost burst. Although he knew it was impossible he turned to the girls and taking a picture of Face out of his jacket he asked, "Excuse me, ladies, but I am looking for someone and I wondered if maybe you have seen him?"
He held the picture in front of their eyes and almost lost it when one of them got big eyes and nodded.
"Yeah, that's Thomas. You see, Debbie, that's him!"
"Where do you know him from?"
"He works at Rita's cafe. Just around the corner." The girl's enthusiasm would have made him smile if he did not have something else in mind.
"Thank you!" He turned around but before he could start away a hand tugged at his leather jacket.
"Would you mind, I mean..." her eyes were glued to the picture he still held in his hand and without a second thought he handed it to her.
"But your friend is right...he is too old for you."
With that he ran away, wanting to find that cafe and Face as quickly as possible. He thought about calling Hannibal first, but decided against it. Maybe every second counted, and maybe seeing Hannibal would scare Face away.
Only a few minutes later he had found the cafe in question and after taking a look through the window without seeing anyone familiar, he entered. The cafe was almost empty, an old lady smiled at him and gave him a friendly greeting. He forced himself to sit down and take in his surroundings. Why Face would work at a place like this puzzled him. The lady came to his table asking him what he wanted to order. She was over sixty he assumed and made a very nice impression. The reason for Face working here seemed a little bit clearer. He had always had a weakness for older ladies with a motherly behavior.
He ordered coffee and when she returned he showed her a picture of Face.
"I have been told he works here. I have been looking for him for some time now."
Rita gave him a measuring look. Since she knew that Thomas was not Thomas but Templeton Peck and a wanted man she decided to be careful.
"No, your information is wrong. I don't think I have seen him before."
Murdock was sure it was a lie.
"Please. I'm a friend of his."
He searched his pockets, finding another picture that showed the whole team.
"You see: here we are together. I need to find him, please."
The picture was convincing and so were the pleading eyes and the desperate tone. But Rita was still not sure. Then she remembered something.
"If you are his friend then you should be able to tell me what special day was last week?"
Murdock stared at her. What was she talking about? It took a few moments until he realized what she meant. By then she had already started to turn away.
"Wait, I know what you mean ‚ the day before yesterday. It was Hannibal's birthday."
At the expression on her face he added.
"Hannibal is a very close friend of both of us. We have been friends for eighteen years now, and we need to find Face."
"That's our nickname for him. Please, if you know him..."
She stopped his pleading with a nod and a gentle smile.
"So you have been looking for him, you and Hannibal?"
"Yes, for almost five weeks now."
She nodded again and said "I am afraid you are too late."
Murdock's face fell. All the hope destroyed in one moment was more than he could take. He sat down and buried his face in his hands.
"I'm sorry. But he said he was going to leave town after..."
Her voice trailed away and that made Murdock look up.
Rita sat down in front of him trying to find a way to start.
"My family and I have some troubles with the local mob. He offered his help, but he said after that was over he would have to leave. That was two days ago and I have not heard anything from him since then."
"The local mob?" <Oh shit, Face what have you got yourself into? Against the mob on your own? Sounds like you have a death wish.>
"I have to make a call."
Rita showed him the phone and he dialed the van's number.
"I have found a lead. "
He gave a short summary of the events and the address of Rita's cafe. Twenty minutes later, Hannibal and BA arrived. It took almost an hour to get the complete story from Rita. She had no idea what Face had planned to do, nor where he was at the moment.
"Count on the kid to get himself in trouble," Hannibal murmured.
That got him an angry glare from Rita.
"I guess some friends who sent him packing have something to do with that, too."
Silence followed her words. It took Hannibal a few moments until he was able to answer. His voice was quiet and soft.
"Did he tell you the whole story?"
"No, no details. But I have never before seen someone so unhappy and lonely. And he thought it was entirely his own fault."
It hurt to hear that, although he had known it before.
"But you are here now, and I guess you didn't come to tell him you don't want to put up with him anymore, did you?"
"No, I want him back. I never wanted him to leave in the first place. None of us wanted that."
"You don't think he is just a liar and a thief and not worth your friendship?"
Murdock closed his eyes, trying to keep the tears inside. BA turned away and stared out of the window. Hannibal just stood there not able to answer. What had he done to the kid to make him think something like this?
The shock on his face and the undisguised pain in his eyes were answer enough for Rita.
"You will have time enough to make it up to him," she said softly.
Hannibal gave her a nod, his eyes meeting hers with a silent promise. Then he turned to the other two members of his team.
"Ok, we have to find out what his plan was and where he is right now. For that, we need to know as much as possible about Delgardo."
Murdock managed to get his emotions under control. Wiping the tears from his eyes he cast a glance to BA. The big man was still staring out of the window, his fists tightly clenched. The pilot laid a hand on his shoulder, feeling the tightness in the strong body.
"Come on BA, we have a lot of work to do if we want to find the Faceman before he gets himself into trouble."
The big man gave a nod and turned around. He did not know why but deep inside he felt a sudden fear that had not been there during the past five weeks. A fear he could not explain but that made him grow cold.
Half an hour later the team cautiously entered Face's apartment. It was a surprise to see that the small flat was completely cleaned out, only one suitcase standing in the bedroom. Hannibal picked it up and laid it on the bed. He opened it and felt a small stab of pain and fear as he realized that it contained all of Face's personal belongings; neatly packed and left behind. On top was an envelope addressed to Father Magill.
Face checked himself one last time in the mirror. Finding nothing to criticize he left the room he had taken in one of the most expensive hotels in San Francisco. He had rented a small sports car and drove it to one of the most popular night clubs, knowing that Jeannie Delgardo was a regular guest there. It was past eleven when he entered the exclusive club.
Face made his way to the bar, attracting attention from most of the ladies in the room. The woman he was looking for was not here. He had done some research during the last twenty-four hours, finding out that Delgardo had a daughter. She was a beautiful woman but a spoiled kid; her only interest in life so far had beennow was wait for the right moment and make his move.
At two in the morning, Jeannie Delgardo lead him through the big house into her room. Giggling she closed the door behind them and threw her arms around Face's neck.
"My father doesn't like me to take strange men in my bedroom," she explained.
"I am sorry but I share my hotel room with my uncle and I don't think he would appreciate it if we disturbed him right now."
She giggled again and started to unbutton his shirt. Face's finger found the zip on the back of her dress and slowly pushed it down. Letting the dress glide down from her shoulders, she grabbed his hand and led him to her bed.
Face gently brushed a strand of dark hair from Jeannie's face. She did not stir and he slowly made his way out of bed. Slipping into his clothes without making a sound he only left his shoes behind as he slipped out of the room. It was four o'clock and no sound was heard. The big house was quiet. Straining his eyes to see something without using a light he slowly started to search the house.
It took him half an hour to find Delgardo's office and another ten minutes to find the safe. Now he took out a small pocket light and his lock pick kit; he could feel the Jazz pulsing through him as he started to work on the safe. Face did not need long to open it and using the small pocket light he started looking for the contract. He found it and some more. From the looks of it, Delgardo had kept papers that contained information about some of his illegal transactions. These papers also incriminated some other well known people. It took Face only seconds to decide to take all. After closing the safe again he retreated silently back to Jeannie's bedroom. She was still fast asleep and Face decided to leave without waking her. The guards had seen him coming in with her, he was sure they would be happy to see him leaving before Mr. Delgardo heard about it.
Face stuffed the papers into his pockets checking in the mirror if they showed. Then he put on his shoes and silently left the room again. He gave the guard at the door a nod, relieved they did not search him. Getting into his car he left the property of the Delgardos.
It took him ten minutes to realize he was followed. The Jazz went high and his mind started racing. He had to get rid of the contract and he had to hide the rest of the papers. If Delgardo got him and found out that Rita's family was involved they would be in deep trouble. If he hid everything Delgardo would have no idea who was to blame.
That meant he had to lose his followers. He gave the best he could and after a while he was sure he had lost them. Returning to his hotel, the first thing he did was burn the contract.
Then he sat down, staring at the rest of the papers lying in front of him. These papers had to get to someone who could use them. But who could he trust?
Hannibal put the receiver down and turned to his men, "The Father says it's ok with him to open the letter." Then he turned to Murdock, "He got a call from Dr Richter. Someone left a message for you at the VA."
A frown appeared on Murdock's face and Hannibal made a gesture towards the phone. Listening to Murdock's request to talk to Dr Richter, Hannibal opened the envelope and read the letter.
BA watched both men, seeing their expressions change and the fear he had felt earlier was back. Murdock put down the phone at almost the same moment Hannibal finished reading.
"A message from Alvin Brenner," Murdock said, "He left the name and address of Rita and her family, pleading for us to take care of them."
Hannibal nodded. After reading the letter he knew a lot more.
"Face has a room at the Hilton under the name Markus Tompson. Let's check if he is there."
Colonel Roderick Decker was not in a good mood. For seven weeks, since that false pardon Peck had received, there had been no sign of the A-Team anywhere.
The phone on his desk rang. Irritably, he answered it. The San Francisco police station wanted to let him know that a room in the Hotel Hilton had been broken in and turned upside down. The man living in there had disappeared and after taking finger prints the police found that some of them belonged to a Lieutenant Templeton Peck, wanted by the United States Army.
In minutes, Decker was on his feet and on his way to San Francisco. His day just got a bit brighter.
It took only a few minutes for the team to get to the hotel and only a few seconds to spot the army cars parked in front.
"Shit. Decker," Hannibal cursed.
Staying as near as possible without being recognized, they watched for any signs of what was going on. Some time later Decker followed by Crane and three MPs left the hotel got into the cars and drove away.
"What now, Hannibal?"
"You think they got him?"
Hannibal turned to his two men, seeing the fear in their eyes.
"No, Decker did not look too happy. I don't think they have Face, but we need to know what happened. Murdock, go in and try to find out what Decker did in there. Be careful."
Murdock slipped out of the car, crossed the street and disappeared into the hotel. A few minutes later he returned.
"Seems like there was a fight in one of the rooms last night. The man living in this room has obviously disappeared. If he got kidnapped or just escaped is not sure. But there was some blood found and the whole room was searched." Murdock's voice was serious as he added. "The girl who told me that had no idea what the army did there."
"You think it was Faceman's room?" BA looked at Hannibal whose expression had darkened.
"Sure. That's why Decker came here. Face left fingerprints or someone recognized him. He did not come back to Rita which means Delgardo probably got him."
"What did he write in this letter, Hannibal? What did he do?"
Wordlessly, Hannibal handed the letter to Murdock, his brain already in high gear. Murdock read it and handed it to BA.
"So we know the plan Face had, we know what he did. But what happened?" the pilot asked Hannibal who had lit a cigar and was staring out of the car window."
"I think his plan worked and he came back to the hotel, but he was followed and forced to go with them."
Hannibal turned to BA, "Let's get away from here. Take us to Rita's cafe. We need a plan."
Face looked up at the man standing in front of him. He was about fifty years old, of average height with black hair that already started to thin. His dark brown eyes blazed at Face with a mixture of anger and contempt. Face turned his eyes away and stared at the wall behind him.
Jim Delgardo sized up the man in front of him. He looked like a playboy, exactly the type of man Jeannie liked to go out with. But, this one was a thief, and he had stolen something that was very important from Jim Delgardo. His first thought as he opened his safe and found the papers missing had been - police? This pretty boy here definitely did not look like the police. He was just a playboy who had found something important and maybe would have tried his hand at blackmail.
"So, Mr. ... Tempson, if that's your real name. I think you have something that belongs to me. I really would like to have it back."
"I am sorry I have no idea what you are talking about. I don't know you. I am only in Frisco on a vacation, I swear!" Face responded pleasantly, endeavoring to give the impression of polite confusion.
"You were at my house last night."
A confused look from blue eyes made Delgardo unsure for a second. Then he made a sign to one of his men. He left the room and returned moments later with Jeannie.
"You do remember her, don't you?"
Face looked at her. She looked at him for a second turned around and left the room without saying a word.
"Well, mister...," Face "I did not know she was your... your..."
"She is my daughter. But that is of no question here. I only want to know one thing: where are my papers?"
Face blinked and flashed his most innocent smile at him.
"No idea. Maybe you just misplaced them?"
Delgardo looked at him. Cool blue eyes held his stare and for the first time he had the feeling there was more to the man in front of him than his good looks.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"I am Mark Tempson."
Delgardo gave a nod, "Ok, who do you work for?" His voice took on a dangerous overtone.
Face shook his head trying to look confused, "I'm working for a small company in Washington. I am here for a vacation. I am afraid you've mistaken me for someone else."
"You have two choices," Delgardo said slowly, "Number one: You tell me where the papers you took from my safe are and I let you go. Number two: You don't and I tell my friends here to persuade you to do it nevertheless. I'm afraid you won't be in any shape to go anywhere when they are finished with you. Your choice. Think about it."
Delgardo turned and left the room, his men following him. The door closed behind them and the sound of a key being turned in the lock told Face that they weren't taking any chances that he'd sneak out. He was left alone in a room with nothing in it but a few chairs and a small table. No windows and only one door securely locked now. Face gave a sigh and leaned his head against the wall. He could feel the pain in his arm where a piece of broken glass had left a deep cut during that short struggle in his hotel room. He closed his eyes as he remembered that he had managed to hide the papers only moments before Delgardo's men broke into his suite. He guessed that they had not found them or he would be dead by now. A smile crossed the young man's face as he remembered the feeling of the Jazz pulsing through his veins during this last adventure. It had been like being with the team again. The smile vanished as he realized that he had never been on his own then, there had always been someone to watch his back and to get him out of hairy situations like this one.
Face looked down at his arm. The cut had stopped bleeding but was still hurting. His shirt clung to the wound and with his hands cuffed behind his back he was not able to take a better look at it. Resting his head against the wall again he closed his eyes and tried to think of a way out of this situation. The team would have received his message by now and be on their way to Frisco. They should be here tomorrow and take care of Rita's family. All that Face had to do now was withhold the information Delgardo wanted. Face could feel his insides turning cold at the thought what lay before him. He had no illusions. The VC hat taken care of that.
Two hours had passed and Jim Delgardo was sure his prisoner would be co-operative. Ordering two of his men to follow him he went down to the basement waiting for the door to be unlocked.
To his surprise his prisoner sat his back to the wall and was obviously asleep.
Anger boiled up. How could that bastard be so calm? Didn't he know what situation he was in?
The man followed the unspoken order, walked over to the prisoner and kicked him in the ribs. Face jerked awake. Delgardo stood before him, his anger clearly evident in his face.
Jeannie Delgardo stood at the window staring out at the beach without seeing it. Her mind was still at the scene she had witnessed down in the cellar. It had not been the first time that she caught a glimpse of her father's world. But she had always managed to convince herself it was something she had nothing to do with. Now for the first time someone she knew was involved.
That blond man she had seen, bound and with blood on his shirt, had been her lover only a few hours ago. Yes, he had used her to get into the house, she knew that now. But, he had been the gentlest lover she had had in a long time, making her feel like someone special. And although it had been a lie, a trick, it still made it impossible to her to hate him.
She closed her eyes, trying to figure out what seemed wrong about the story her father had told her. He had stormed into her room in the middle of the night, woke her and told her that someone had opened the safe. She had told him Mark's name then and the name of his hotel. Her father had brought her here to identify him.
"To make sure that we teach the right man a lesson," he had told her.
Suddenly a thought struck her. If Mark wanted money why did he go to the extra effort of walking through the whole house, searching for a safe and opening it? Why didn't he take her jewelry? She always had it lying around in her bedroom, he must have seen it.
It would have been much easier and a lot less risky.
If he was not interested in money, what else? Slowly it dawned on her; she had heard her father mention papers. Mark had not taken money, but some important papers.
Jeannie turned away from the window and sat down on her bed. If what she thought was true, her father would never let Mark go. Suddenly, Jeannie had the strong desire to get away from here, away from her father and his world. She left the house almost in a run, glad to find her small sportscar parked in front of the house.
The colonel turned around. Murdock silently sat down next to him. Hannibal watched him, seeing the strain the last weeks and especially the last hours had had on the pilot. He turned his eyes back to the house he was observing.
"You should take a rest," Hannibal said.
"Iëve tried. I can't sleep. No sign from Delgardo, yet?"
Hannibal shook his head.
"Do you think he will be back? We've been watching his house for three hours now. It's obvious he is not here. We should be looking for Face!"
The pilot's voice had risen in panic. A sharp look from Hannibal made him go quiet.
"He has had Face for almost twenty-four hours, now," Murdock whispered.
"I know, Murdock. But we checked everything else out. This is our only chance to find out where Delgardo is hiding."
Murdock did not answer. The two men sat and watched the house, each one deep in thought.
<I only hope you're still alive, kid> Hannibal thought. He could not imagine Face gone. These last weeks without his lieutenant had been the worst he could remember since they escaped from Bragg. If the kid had died just because he had lost his temper, because he had driven him away... Hannibal felt a tightening in his throat. Face dead? No, not possible. It simply could not be.
<Delgardo will not kill him. He needs the contract and Face is not going to tell him where it is.> But that thought brought the realization what Delgardo would do to Face to make him talk. And that made Hannibal grow cold inside.
Murdock's thoughts were heading in the same direction. He tried not to think about what Delgardo could do to Face while they where sitting here and watching an empty house. He wanted to scream and shake Hannibal for causing all this, but he knew how much the guilt was eating the colonel. If Face got hurt or even... no, no way. The image of Face hurt was pushed back to the back of his mind. He could not deal with that now.
Face woke with a terrible headache. Trying to move told him that the rest of his body hurt as much and that he was bound. Opening his eyes did not make any difference to the darkness around him. Sitting up he felt a searing pain in his chest and collapsed back to the ground.
<Great> he thought <Feels like a broken rib, but at least I'm still alive.>
He knew why. The only reason Delgardo kept him alive were those papers he had taken.
Remembering the last night Face felt a wave of fear and resignation. They had tried to get him to tell them where the papers were. They had offered money in the beginning and after his refusal they had tried to beat it out of him. Face had not given in and the beating had continued until he lost consciousness. But the game was not over yet and Face knew they would not give up He was realist enough to know that he would not be able to resist forever. His only hope was that the team received his message and took care of Rita's family.
He heard footsteps and a door being unlocked. Light fell into the room and three men entered turning on the light. Face had to close his eyes against the sudden brightness.
"Well, well, sleeping beauty is finally awake. You have something to tell us?"
Face opened his eyes and gave the three men a measuring look.
"No princess here? No, only three court jesters. Well, I guess I better go back to sleep until..."
A brutal kick to his ribs made him scream. Hands pushed him upright and into a chair. He could feel the throbbing in his arm and a stickiness that told him that the cut had started bleeding again.
"Mr. Delgardo wants to know who you are and who you are working for."
"I am nobody and I work for nobody," Face answered between clenched teeth trying to fight the pain.
He waited for a blow that did not come. Instead the oldest of the three men leaned closer to him. Face remembered that he had been called Manny. Manny's hand came up and his fingers traced Face's cheek.
"It's a pity you don't co-operate, pretty boy. But maybe this way I get a chance to have some fun with you."
Face shrunk away from the fingers, a feeling of sheer panic washing through him. His eyes searched for the other two men in the room. One of them only seemed bored, the other one, a young man who had been called Tony looked shocked and disgusted. Manny's fingers where in his hair now, pulling his head around and forcing him to look at him.
"What about a trip to the toilet?" he said with a smile that made Face's skin crawl. Before he had a chance to reply he was pulled upright and pushed into the direction of the door. Losing his balance he went down, his head connecting with the floor, the pain in his ribs and his arm almost making him black out. Dazed he felt hands on his body and tried to get away. His attempt was stopped by someone who grabbed him and pulled him upright. It was Tony who pushed him out of the door and into a bathroom, closing the door behind them.
They could hear Manny cursing.
"Thank you," Face whispered.
The young man did not react. He opened Face's cuffs and waited until Face had relieved himself. He did not stop him as he went to the wash basin to wash his hands and drink some water. Then he cuffed Face again and led him back to the room.
Manny face was calm, not showing any anger about that missed opportunity. But his eyes blazed as he said, "We'll have some fun later. Now, I want to know where these papers are."
Cold blue eyes that betrayed nothing of the fear Face was feeling stared back at him.
The blow was hard and the pain in his ribs intensified, but Face managed not to scream out again.
Decker turned around, looking questioningly at Crane who had run after him.
"We found something. On the balcony of the room next to Peck's room. It couldn't be seen from Peck's balcony. "
Decker took the big envelope held out to him. He frowned as he noticed the word written on it: "To be sent to Colonel Roderick Decker, United States Army"
The sound of a car got BA to his feet. Someone was coming up the way to Delgardo's house. He raised the radio to his lips.
"Hannibal. Someone's coming."
"Heard it. You see who?"
"Not yet. A sportscar."
"Get whoever it is. We'll be there in a few moments."
BA let the radio drop and watched the car stopping in front of the house.
Jeannie felt relief as she looked at the house she had grown up in, the house where her mother had lived until her death a few years ago. Now the time had come to leave it and everything her father meant behind.
She left her car and felt strong arms wrapping around her and a hand covering her mouth. She struggled but had no chance. A few moments later a silver-haired man stepped in front of her.
"OK, BA let her go."
The arms dropped away and she stumbled a few steps away. Another man wearing a worn leather jacket blocked her way and she turned around to face her first attacker. He was a big black man who scowled at her.
"You are Jeannie Delgardo?" the silver haired man asked her.
"We are looking for Mark Tempson. Any idea where we can find him?"
Jeannie looked from one man to the other. They did not look like the men that used to work for her father. She felt herself relaxing without knowing why.
"You are friends of his?" she heard herself ask.
They stared at her, waiting for her answer. Suddenly she felt immense relief. Maybe it was not too late to save him.
"My father took him to the beachhouse."
Face slowly opened his eyes. This time the light was still on in the room. He was alone again. He tried to sit up and felt the pain in his arm was worse than before. His head was pounding and he felt thirsty and cold. Pushing himself in a sitting position he leaned against the wall. There was no part in his body that did not hurt. For the first time since fifteen years ago he wished he could just close his eyes and die. Last time there had been friends that kept him alive. This time he was alone.
Face heard someone open the door and looked up and felt immense relief to see it was Tony. The young man walked over to him.
"Toilet?" he asked.
Face nodded and tried to get up. He had no idea how long it had been since his last visit to the bathroom but his bladder told him it must have been a few hours.
Tony watched as he struggled to get to his feet. He did not understand how someone could endure such treatment without breaking. He had been working for Delgardo for almost a year now and this was the first time he really got involved in one of the dirtier jobs. Until now he had only done a few small jobs for Delgardo, nothing were he had to brutalize or kill someone. This time it was different.
Face managed to get to his feet and made a few steps towards the door. He was swaying and Tony grabbed his arm to support him. He frowned as he felt how warm the skin was.
Face let himself being led to the bathroom. He had seen the revolver Tony carried and a thought occurred to him. Tony freed him from the cuffs again and took a step back. Face could hardly move his right arm and needed a little bit longer to get finished; then he moved the basin and took a few sips of water, after that he turned back to Tony. The young man stepped nearer to cuff him again. Collecting all his strength, Face whirled around and launched himself onto Tony. Both went down and Tony's head crashed against the door and he slumped to the floor. Taking advantage of his dazed state Face snatched Tony's gun out of its holster with his left hand and stumbled to his feet ignoring the pain in his chest. He opened the door and ran out of the small room. He stopped dead as he heard footsteps coming down the stairs. Realizing the only way out was blocked Face raised the gun.
A body bumped into his, Face lost his balance and went down. He fell on his right arm and cried out in pain. He felt the revolver being removed from his hand and then hands forced him up and back into the room. It was Manny who gave Face a push that threw him against the wall. The pain let him black out.
Tony put his gun back into its holster. He could still not believe what he had just seen. He hardly heard Manny shout at him before leaving the room. He stayed a few more minutes and watched the unconscious form. Then he turned around and left the room, locking the door behind him.
Decker watched his men searching the whole house.
It was empty, Delgardo had obviously left some hours ago. There was no sign of Peck or the A-team anywhere. Decker sighed. He had no idea what was going on here. Why had Peck had a lot of material that could be used against Delgardo and some other interesting men? Why would he send that material to him, Decker? Why had no-one had seen Smith or Baracus anywhere?
He was surprised to find himself hoping that this young man he had been hunting for so long now, was alive, not murdered by some cold-blooded Mafia killers.
Tony left the house still in thought to take a walk on the beach. He had not come far when someone attacked him from behind, wrestled him down, bound him and dragged him away. Only minutes later he found himself facing a silver-haired man with a cigar in his mouth and a very unfriendly look on his face.
"I want to know where the prisoner is held and how many people are in there."
Tony looked at him, seeing the determination in his ice blue eyes and decided that this man was even more dangerous than Delgardo.
"The prisoner is in the cellar. In the house are Delgardo and three men without me."
"How many guards on the outside?"
"One is watching the street, another one the beach."
Hannibal gave the young man in front of him a stern look. He was not sure why he was so co-operative.
"If you're lying you'll be sorry."
Tony shook his head. "I told the truth."
Hannibal gave a short nod and turned to BA. "We go in there. Is everything ready?"
The two man walked away talking, only Murdock stayed behind. He looked at the bound man in front of him, finally gathering all his courage to ask "That prisoner ‚ he is alive?" He had managed to keep his voice calm, not betraying the fear he felt.
"Yes, the last time I saw him he was still alive, but he is in bad shape."
Relief flooded Murdock. Face was alive.
BA had heard Tony's words and turned towards the young man an angry scowl on his face.
"What did you do to him?" he snarled.
Tony looked up at the angry big man suddenly towering over him.
"Nothing," he stammered, "I swear, I didn't touch him. But Manny, he is a little bit crazy, he loves to hurt..."
BA grabbed him by his shirt and started to shake him. Tony started to panic.
"I swear, I didn't do anything!"
Hannibal grabbed BA's arm. "Calm down, BA. We'll get Face out of there. He'll be fine."
BA suddenly let go of Tony, turned and walked a few steps away. There he sat down, trying to get himself back under control. Hannibal watched him for a few seconds then he turned his stare on Tony who had fallen back on the ground, still shaking in fear.
"How bad is he?" he asked the frightened man.
Tony did not know who to fear more. The big man that showed his anger so clearly or this man who seemed so cool but whose eyes betrayed his burning rage.
"I don't really know," he whispered, afraid of rousing BA again. "He made an attempt to escape, but it failed." He looked up at Hannibal expecting some reaction. When there was none he continued "I don't know what happened to him after that. "
Hannibal's eyes went over to Murdock who had watched without interfering. He could see the concern and fear written on his pale face.
"We go in," the colonel announced. They could not wait any longer, Face had to get out of there. Murdock and BA were on their feet immediately.
"Sergeant, the van is ready?"
"OK, let's move."
It was over quickly. The two guards on the outside were overpowered before they even knew what was happening. Going inside they found Delgardo in his room, one of his men with him. Staring into the barrels of three guns they did not try to fight but dropped their weapons. Hannibal watched as BA and Murdock tied them up, then he motioned to BA to follow him. Murdock started to follow but a head shake from Hannibal told him to stay behind. He turned his attention to the bound man while his heart went with his friends, knowing very well where they were heading.
Hannibal silently went down the stairs. He knew after searching the rest of the house that the last one had to be down here. BA was right behind him. They had reached the bottom of the stairs as they heard a weak cry of pain. Hannibal's finger tightened around his gun. With two quick steps he was at the door to the room where the sound had come from. Taking a look inside he felt his insides turn to ice. He could see a man sitting on a chair, barely managing not to fall. Another man was standing in front of him, driving his fist into his helpless victim's stomach evoking another cry.
Hannibal raised his gun. His voice was cold and deadly as he said, "You do that one more time and you are a dead man."
Manny whirled around, completely taken by surprise. He looked into two pair of eyes, each of them full of anger and hate. He backed away. Face slowly slumped out of the chair. BA was at his side, catching him only moments before his head hit the ground. Manny tried to use this distraction and lunged at Hannibal. A single shot rang out and Manny collapsed to the ground. Hannibal stared at the lifeless form in front of him. He had not killed anybody since the war, but the soft groans that he could hear and the expression of fear and anguish on BA's face prevented any guilt rising in him. He heard Murdock's voice calling out for them.
"We're fine!" The colonel yelled back, "We've got Face!"
Then he walked over to BA, kneeling down next to him. Face was a mess.
"He's running a fever." BA mumbled while he carefully lifted Face's shirt. The young man did not react, having finally lost consciousness.
"There's a cut on his arm. Looks bad."
Hannibal's hands checked Face over, noting some broken ribs.
"He need's a doc, Hannibal."
"Yeah. We take him to Maggie. I talked to her earlier, she's prepared that we might need her."
Hannibal wanted to lay his arms around his lieutenant to lift him off the ground, but BA beat him to that. Gently picking the young man up, he carried him up the stairs and out of the house.
He caught a glimpse of the expression on Murdock's face as he watched BA carrying the lieutenant out of the house. Than the captain ran after them, passed them and ran towards the place they had hidden the van. Jumping in it, he started the engine and slowly drove backwards until he stopped a few meters away from the sergeant.
Then, he climbed to the back of the van and opened the door. BA carefully laid Face down and quickly got into the van. Only seconds later he heard Hannibal say, "Go!"
As they reached the highway they could hear sirens coming nearer. Turning around Hannibal saw two MPs and a few police cars heading in the direction from which they had just come. A grin appeared on his face. Delgardo would not be able to escape after all. His grin faded quickly. The colonel went over to Murdock who sat on the floor next to Face, stroking his hair.
"You're safe now," the captain whispered to his unmoving friend.
Hannibal briefly touched his shoulder. The captain looked up and he could see the tears in his eyes.
"I want to take look at his arm," Hannibal told him.
Murdock nodded and moved away, allowing Hannibal to reach Face. The colonel carefully removed Face's bloodstained shirt feeling the extreme warmness of Face's body. BA had been right, the kid was running a fever. The wound on Face's arm started to bleed again. The sight of the cut made Hannibal frown. It looked infected, the flesh swollen and red. He took the first aid kit Murdock held out to him and looked for something to clean the wound. Removing the shirt had revealed a terrible collection of bruises covering Face's chest and abdomen. His arms showed some spots that looked like brand marks. Hannibal's fingers were shaking as he gently cleaned the cut and put a dressing on it.
The team was already halfway to Bad Rock when they realized that the MP was behind them. A short stop in a small town to get some food and drinks must have betrayed the way they where heading. BA managed to lose them with a sudden change of direction, but Hannibal knew Decker would stay on their heels.
He checked on Face again. The kid was unconscious, his temperature still above normal. He needed a doctor and a place to rest. They could take him to Maggie, but the danger of Decker finding them there was high.
"What do we do now, Hannibal?" Murdock asked him. He was sitting next to Face, his eyes hardly ever leaving the still figure.
"We take him to Maggie as planned," Hannibal decided. There was no other place where he knew the kid would be safe.
"We'll take care of that problem. First Face needs to be checked over."
BA turned the van again heading into the direction of Bad Rock. He did not like the fact that Decker was so near, but he knew Hannibal was right.
Maggie put down the phone feeling immense relief. Hannibal had called her, telling her they would arrive soon bringing Face with them. Although the young man's condition seemed to be far from well, at least he was back with the team. Maggie did not know what had happened to make him leave in the first place. All she knew was that the team had been desperately searching for him. She went to the treatment room to prepare the things she would most probably need.
It was almost dark as the van reached Bad Rock. BA had taken some small roads, avoiding the highways whenever possible. Face had woken once moaning and trying to sit up. Murdock gently pushed him back down. Face had no idea where he was; he only felt someone pushing him back to the ground and started to panic. He struggled against Murdock's hands, trying to get away.
"Shhh, Face. It's me, Murdock. You're safe now." Murdock whispered as he gripped Face's flailing hand".
Face's continued to struggle for a few seconds, and then he calmed, recognizing the voice.
"Yup, Face, it's me," the pilot said a big grin starting to form on his face.
"Wh... where are we?"
"We're on the way to Maggie's. How do you feel?" Hannibal said softly.
Face turned to the direction the voice came from.
"Hannibal?" he whispered. Tears started to form in his eyes. The last thing he could remember was pain and the searing knowledge that he would die alone. He could still feel the pain, but he was not alone anymore. The team was here.
A hand stroke his hair. "It's alright Face. You're safe and you'll be alright. Maggie will take care of that."
"Hannibal...," Face tried to form the words he needed to say, "I'm so sorry...," he whispered with a shaky voice, barely audible.
"Shh, Face. Don't. We talk about everything later. How do you feel?"
"Everything... hurts...," He closed his eyes, exhausted from the pain. Every breath hurt and he felt dizzy.
Murdock's hand went to Face's forehead feeling the temperature. His eyes met Hannibal's seeing the concern there.
"We're almost there. Just hold on a little bit longer," they heard BA say.
A weak smile crossed the lieutenant's face. His team was here to take care of him. He allowed himself to drift away.
Hannibal watched as Face fell asleep. The lieutenant looked bad, pale and drawn. <My fault,> he thought, <I'm responsible for you and I let you down.> He could see it in Murdock's eyes, although the pilot had never accused him, he still somehow blamed Hannibal for what had happened to Face. And he knew BA felt the same. He had let his team down, instead of leading them he had almost destroyed them.
Maggie heard a car stopping in front of her house and ran to open the door. She watched BA get out of the van and walk to the back. The door was opened and Hannibal emerged, carrying a still figure in his arms. Without hesitation BA took over, gently taking Face out of the colonel's arms who reluctantly let go. BA turned and carefully made his way to Maggie's house. Maggie could see the expression of hurt flitting across Hannibal's face. She wondered what had happened between them, why BA would not allow the colonel to take care of Face.
She pushed the thought aside quickly as she got a look at the lieutenant. Following BA to the treatment room she started to check the still figure over the second he was placed on the bed.
"God, what happened?" she asked no-one in particular.
The three man stood there watching as she checked their injured friend. After a few minutes, Maggie had enough of bumping into one of them with every movement she made.
"Why don't you go and have some coffee and something to eat?" she said with a voice that made it clear that it was not a question but an order. Reluctantly the three men left the room.
It was an endless waiting time for the team. They did not speak, each one lost in his own thoughts.
Finally, Maggie came out of the treatment room. She found three pairs of eyes filled with concern staring at her. Maggie sat down, feeling tired and drained. It had been a long time since she had seen someone in a similar state as the man in the next room.
"He's in bad shape," she said, not trying to hide anything. "The cut on his arm is inflamed, but not too bad. A few ribs are broken, his whole body covered with bruises and brand marks. He needs antibiotics to fight the infection, and a lot of rest to heal."
"He can't be moved" It did not sound like a question. Hannibal had already been sure of that.
"No. He needs rest. There doesn't seem to be any internal bleeding, but he needs to be monitored."
Hannibal nodded. He did not like what he had to do now, but there did not seem to be another way.
"He can stay with you?"
Maggie simply nodded.
The colonel turned to his men, knowing they would not like what he was going to say.
"Decker is after us. We can't stay here."
"But Face... Maggie said he can't be moved," Murdock protested.
"I know. He stays here. We'll go and try to lead Decker somewhere else and return when it's safe." He turned to Maggie, "If that's ok with you?"
She nodded again.
"I want to stay with Face," Murdock stated.
"No, Murdock. Decker is looking for three men. We need to be three, so he doesn't suspect anything."
It was clear to Maggie how hard it was for them to leave their friend behind. She followed them out to the van, promising Murdock several times to take care of Face and to call if anything happened. BA didn't say a word, just giving her a hug that showed her how deeply he cared. Hannibal kissed her good-bye and then they were gone.
Maggie went back into her house to take care of her patient.
Maggie sat down at the kitchen table and took a sip from her coffee. She felt tired and weary like she had never been before. The last two days had taken a lot out of her, but now the worst seemed to be over. Face had been under heavy medication to fight the infection and to ease his pain. The few times he woke he was dazed and confused, not knowing where he was. Every time she tried to touch him he would flinch away or fight her, only calming down when he recognized who she was. Maggie had to reset his IV lines several times and seeing the fear and confusion on his face made her wish his friends were here.
Now the fever was finally down and for the first time Face seemed to sleep peacefully. Maggie had left him alone, needing some time for her own sleep after two days and nights of fighting his demons. Hannibal had called, telling her they would be back soon. Giving in to her need the doctor left her cup behind and went to her bedroom. She was asleep as soon as she lay down.
Face woke slowly, still feeling a little bit dazed. He did not remember where he was but as he moved his head the pain was back and with it the memory of what had happened. He recalled his last encounter with Manny but could not remember how it had ended. He only knew that suddenly Hannibal and Murdock, even BA had been there. It slowly dawned on him where he was. Looking around he noticed he was alone. No-one was here with him, no-one was waiting for him to wake up. Something that had not happened in eighteen years. Whenever he was sick or hurt someone, Hannibal, Murdock or BA always sat at his bedside, watching over him.
The meaning hit him like a slap to the face. They had left him behind. Yes, the team had rescued him, and they had brought him here, but they had left him. They didn't want him back. He remembered Murdock holding him, but he was not sure anymore if it had been real or just a dream.
Face slowly pushed himself into a sitting position. From there he could take a look out of the window and what he saw confirmed his conviction. Only Maggie's car was parked there, no sign of the van. It hurt more, than he had ever thought possible. The little bit of hope that had still been there, deep inside of him, that maybe, just maybe they would want him to come back was finally destroyed. Disconnecting himself from the IV that was still stuck to his right hand he slowly left the bed. Every movement hurt, even breathing but it was a welcome distraction from the hurt deep inside of him.
In one corner of the room he found the suitcase he had left behind in his little apartment in San Francisco. He found some of his clothes in there and managed to get into a pair of jeans and a pullover. It took him some time but finally he was dressed. A look at his shoes and he dismissed the thought, there was no way he would be able to bend down and tie them.
Silently he left the room and walked through the quiet house and slipped through the front door. The sun was shining but it did nothing to lighten the dark mood that had settled over the lieutenant. Face just wanted to get out of the house, he could not handle meeting Maggie right now. Despite the pain, he started to slowly walk, following a way he knew from one of his former visits here. It took him a long time to get there, and he needed to stop twice. When he reached the place, he lowered himself to the ground. It took some minutes to get the pain and his breath back under control.
He let his eyes wander, drinking in the sight in front of him. Usually it calmed him and he was able to think more clearly.
It took only ten minutes from the moment Maggie woke to the realization that Face was gone. She checked every room but she found no trace of the lieutenant. Finally she forced herself to calm down and think. Face could not have gone far, he was still too weak and in too much pain. The team should be here soon so she decided to leave a message and go out to look for her patient.
The fact that Maggie knew the lieutenant quite well by now and that she had been right about his weakened condition helped her to locate him. She stopped as she spotted him, relieved at finding him. Face was sitting in the grass with his back to her and seemed to be lost in the sight before him. The place where he was sitting was easy to reach from Maggie's house but ended in a cliff that went down almost thirty feet. The team had used it as a look out because it allowed a clear view of the whole area. It was a beautiful sight, one that Maggie herself had come to see more than once when she had something to think about. Her eyes went from the sight to the still form in front of her. He looked small and lost, something she was not used to. Nothing of the charming and sarcastic young man showed in the slumped shoulders and the slightly bowed head.
A few steps brought her to his side and she sat down next to him. Face did not show any reaction to her presence and Maggie did not really know what to say. The silence lasted for a few minutes, then she decided to say something.
"Do you really think you're in the condition to go for a walk?"
He did not react to this either and Maggie started to get really disturbed. She wanted to know what was wrong. She wanted to help, but he simply shut her out.
"Hannibal won't be very happy about your little adventure here."
His head snapped around and blue eyes searched her face.
"Yeah, Hannibal, like in Colonel Smith. I don't think he will be very happy to find you disobeying your doctor's orders."
The blue eyes dropped away from her face and he shook his head. She did not clearly understand what he mumbled but it sounded like "Who cares?". That made her angry, all the concern and worry of the last days finally finding a way out.
"You know damn well who cares," she shouted at him, getting to her feet. "Don't play that game with me...," Maggie stopped herself as she saw the expression on his face. Taking a deep breath she calmed herself and dropped back next to him. "Sorry. But don't give me that crap..."
Face turned away from her and said softly, "You don't understand. They won't be back."
Voicing it hurt, made it real somehow. Face felt himself start to tremble and for an instant that feeling was back, that he had felt for a brief moment down in that basement when he realized there was no way out.
Maggie was sure she had heard him wrong. But she could see the sadness on his face and suddenly she realized he really believed it. She noticed him trembling and wrapped both her arms around him.
"You're wrong," she whispered, "They are on their way already and they will be here soon. They had Decker on their heels. That's why they had to leave. But they will be back."
She had no idea what could make Face believe his team would desert him, something was definitely wrong here. For a few seconds he allowed her to hold him, then he carefully moved away. A look into his eyes showed her he did not fully believe her.
It was BA who found the note Maggie had left and he handed it to Hannibal. A frown appeared on the colonel's face. Murdock had peered at the paper over his shoulder and started towards the door.
"I think I know where he is!" he shouted.
The three men left the doctor's house and followed Murdock. It only took them minutes to get to the place Face had needed almost an hour to reach. Murdock wanted to run to his friend but a hand on his arm stopped him. He looked around at BA who only shook his head and pointed at Hannibal. Murdock nodded in agreement and they stayed behind, watching the colonel slowly making his way to the two people sitting in the grass.
Maggie heard him coming and turned around. She could see the expression on his face and the two men staying behind. Realizing that whatever was going on here needed to be resolved she quietly got to her feet. She threw Face a last look, noticing that he had not recognized Hannibal yet and walked over to where BA and Murdock were waiting. Passing Hannibal she gave him an encouraging smile, hoping he would know how to handle his lieutenant.
Hannibal silently sat down next to Face. The kid still looked like hell, the bruises on his face still vivid.
The lieutenant had heard Hannibal coming, but he was afraid to turn and face him. Afraid that he was wrong and Hannibal was not here at all. The softly spoken word and a hand touching his shoulder finally made him turn around.
Hannibal could see the fear in his eyes, the same fear he felt himself. Following an impulse he simply held out his arms and to his immense relief the man allowed him to hug him. Hannibal held him for a few moments, feeling the trembling in Face's body and pulled back.
"What are you doing out here? You should be in your bed, I don't think your doctor will be very happy with you."
Face simply stared at him, trying to find the words to tell him how he felt.
"Hannibal... I don't know... I'm sorry, I never wanted..."
"We talk about it later. You need to go back and get some rest. "
The lieutenant nodded and Hannibal pulled him to his feet, noticing the pain he was still in.
"And Face... "
Hannibal smiled at the young man, trying to take the fear from his eyes.
"... stop running away, ok?"
A weak smile was the answer.
Hannibal laid an arm around the lieutenant's waist and slowly they started back.
The pain was bad by now, Face's chest and arm were hurting and he had trouble breathing. But Hannibal was here, and he was dimly aware of Murdock and BA joining them. The sudden change from deep depression to immense relief and joy made Face dizzy. He reached out a hand to his friends, both of them grabbed it and squeezed it. Then the light around Face seemed to become darker and he felt arms going around him, catching him before he could fall to the ground.
Hannibal carried Face back to Maggie's house and placed him back on his bed. They helped Maggie to take off Face's clothes and the sight of his injuries dampened the mood. Maggie reset the IV and covered Face with a blanket. Turning around she took a good look at the three men standing there. They looked tired and worn out and the concern on their faces told her they would not rest easily.
"He's fine," she told them, "His little trip might cost him a day or two, his fainting now was caused by dehydration and pain. All he needs now is rest, just like all of you."
She ushered them out of the room, got them something to eat and finally told them to go to sleep. They all refused, just like she had expected, but she was too tired to fight.
"That's fine with me. But I need some sleep and I'll go and get some. Wake me if you need me."
She left the room and headed towards her bedroom as she heard someone follow her. She turned to face Hannibal.
"Maggie, thank you," he said softly, "I don't know what we would have done without you."
He looked tired, but she could hear the emotion in his voice and she could see it in his eyes. Not for the first time she asked herself if she had made a mistake when she broke up their relationship, telling him she couldn't wait for him forever. Maybe waiting was not such a bad thing after all. Maggie stepped closer to him, feeling his arms embracing her, holding her close.
Hannibal held her, feeling his emotions go high. When he had seen her again, the first time since she had ended their relationship he had realised how much Susan had been like her, a strong, stubborn woman with her own head and her own life. But he had never loved her the way he loved Maggie. He was not even sure if he had loved her at all or if Susan had only been a substitute for what he had had with Maggie.
Hannibal felt Maggie move away and reluctantly let go. Looking down into her eyes he was surprised to see her feelings so openly reflected. She smiled at him before she turned away and disappeared into her bedroom.
Murdock silently opened the door and sneaked into Face's room. The room was lit by a small light. It was just enough to make out the still figure in the bed. Murdock silently sat down on the chair next to the bed. It was not until he was settled that he recognised the bulky figure sitting next to the window. Giving BA a short nod he focused his attention on his sleeping friend. In the dim light the bruises were hardly visible but Murdock knew only too well how bad Face looked. And he knew that the brutal treatment had probably caused more than the visible injuries. They all still had their nightmares from their time in a Vietnamese prison camp. Experiences like the one Face had gone through now used to bring back old memories. Murdock tried to get as comfortable as possible in his seat, knowing he would stay there all night.
He must have fallen asleep because he could not tell how much time had passed when he heard someone enter the room. Lifting his head he saw Hannibal.
The colonel smiled as he realised that both of his men were already in the room with Face. Murdock curled up on a chair next to his friend, BA seated next to the window, his back resting against the wall, silently watching over them. He could feel both of them watching him as he stepped to the bed, checking on the still form lying in there. Face seemed to be peacefully asleep. Hannibal sat down joining the silent watch.
Maggie could not believe her eyes as she entered her patient's room the next morning to find the three men sleeping there in the most awkward positions and Face wide awake. Her questioning look he gave a shrug that was followed by a wince of pain.
"I guess they wanted to make sure you don't get away again," the doctor sighed.
"The party is over," she addressed the waking men. "Time to go to bed now."
It took her several minutes to get them out of the room, then she started to check on Face.
"You look worse than my patient," Maggie told Hannibal half an hour later, watching as he drowned his second cup of coffee.
"Some justice," he mumbled. Face had shown signs of having nightmares twice that night, but had calmed easily. Nevertheless Hannibal had not got much sleep, worrying over his lieutenant and how to make things right again.
"How's he doing, Maggie?" Murdock asked.
"The fever is down, but he's still in a lot of pain. "
Taking a deep breath Hannibal asked, "He is awake now?"
Nodding Hannibal put down his cup and slowly made his way towards Face's room. The others watched him as he hesitated a second before knocking and opening the door. He closed it silently behind him, shutting everybody else out.
Face looked up seeing Hannibal standing there and felt an uncontrolled urge of fear. So the moment had finally come to talk. Fighting down his feelings he turned on a smile.
Hannibal watched him, seeing the fear that was there for the split second to be hidden behind a smile. It hurt to know that he had caused that fear. He walked up to the bed, sitting down on the chair in which Murdock had spent the night. Blue eyes followed him and watched him carefully, trying to read his expression. Despite what had happened during the last hours Face was still not completely sure of what to expect. There was still a nagging fear left of being finally rejected.
The colonel looked at him, trying to find a beginning.
"How do you feel?"
It was definitely not the best beginning.
"I'm fine, a lot better."
Silence again and the struggle for words to say. It was Face who asked the next question.
"Do you know anything about Rita and her family?"
"I talked to her yesterday, before we came here. Delgardo is no danger to them anymore. Her nephew is better."
The relief was visible on the lieutenant's face.
"I also talked to Father Magill. He couldn't come here, it was too dangerous. Decker might have followed him."
Face nodded. "Yeah, Maggie told me you had troubles with Decker, and that's why you left me here with her."
There was a question in there and Hannibal was quick to answer it.
"We had to get rid of him. Believe me, we didn't like to leave you behind."
Hannibal's voice got soft as he continued, "But we were happy to have you back and to know where you are."
Face just looked at him and he quickly added, "I'm sorry for what happened and for what I said and did. I never wanted you to leave and I'm proud to have you in my team, always have been."
Face blinked a few times, fighting a suspicious glint in his eyes.
"I'm sorry for what I did, I didn't want to cheat on you. I don't know what I was thinking, how this could happen. I just didn't think at all, I didn't realise... I thought you and Maggie... and then Susan... "
"It's ok, Face, it's ok," Hannibal stopped him.
"No, it isn't and I know it. The way I behaved before, how I handled my pardon and that stupid book... "
He took a deep breath and looked Hannibal straight in the eye, "I just want to apologise. I'm sorry for all that."
Hannibal nodded, silently accepting the apology.
"There's only one thing I want you to know Face." he finally said. "I trust you, no matter what I said. I was angry and hurt, I couldn't keep control of what I said and did. I just wanted to hurt you back. You aren't and you were never just a conman or a thief and liar to us. You're a valuable member of our team and we all need you and trust you."
Silence followed his words but he could see the impression they made on his lieutenant clearly on the emotions written on his face.
A few minutes passed then Face hesitantly asked, "What's the plan Hannibal? When are we going home?"
A grin came over the colonel's face, "As soon as you're up to it, kid."
Rita looked up as she heard someone enter her cafe. Her eyes locked on a pair of laughing, blue ones in a smiling face that she had not been sure she would ever see again. In an instant she was at the other side of the counter, hugging him.
Pulling back after a few minutes she got a good look at him, noticing the fading bruises on his face. Remembering what Hannibal had told her she pushed him towards a chair.
"Sit down, I'll get you some coffee and pie."
Face held her back, "I'm sorry Rita, I have no time for that. I just dropped in for a minute to say good bye and thank you."
Feeling a slight twinge of disappointment she asked, "So, you're going back home?"
"Yes, back to LA."
She could not ignore the joy in those words. He looked better than she had ever seen him, the air of depression and loneliness gone, replaced with confidence and happiness. There was a light sparkling in the blue eyes and the smile on his face was genuine and making her feel warm. So he finally was back where he belonged.
Face took her hand, squeezing it softly. "I don't know how to thank you. If there's something you need you just let me know. I'll always be there for you and so are my friends."
She returned the squeeze, "There's nothing to thank me for. Let's say you brightened the days for an old lady. And if you ever need someone, if those friends of you don't treat you right you're always welcome here."
Face grinned at that, "They'll take good care of me. They always have, I was just too stupid to see it."
He let go of her hand and gestured towards the door.
"I have to leave, they're waiting for me."
Rita nodded and reached out to hug him one more time. Then she had to let go and watch as he left her cafe and got into a car waiting on the outside. Seeing him wave to her as the car passed the window she knew he was right, they would take good care of him.