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Break-in in Belmont


“Colonel, I’m in trouble.”

As if the phone call waking him up at 1:30 in the morning wasn’t enough to get the adrenaline flowing, the words made his heart pound. “Face? What’s wrong?” Hannibal Smith sat up in bed and fumbled for the switch on the bedside lamp. The light brought the room into bright relief, but caused him to squeeze his eyes shut.

A shuddering breath came through the phone. “I’m in jail.”

“What?” Hannibal asked with an emotion that was close to panic in his voice. He blinked the room fully into focus.

The tone of voice changed and a whine came through the line. “I’m really sorry, Dad, could you come bail me out?”

“What?” This time it wasn’t panic, it was mysticism.

“Me and some of the guys were out goofing around, and I guess I stayed out too late, and we got picked up for curfew.”

This time Hannibal had to laugh. “Face, are you pulling my leg?”

“No, sir. They said that if our parents came to pick us up, they’d let us go.” Face said with a guilty tone in his voice. “I’m really sorry, Dad.”

Hannibal was very quiet on his end of the phone for a moment as he realized a scam was being played out. “Care to explain this a little further?”

“No, Dad, really. Just come down to the 17th precinct on Madison Ave and ask for Sargent Duncan and tell him your Lance Smiths’ father and they said they’d release me into your custody.”


“Yes, sir.” Face’s voice had taken on a contrite tone. Someone must have been listening at the other end.

“You know you’re in hot water.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll be right down.”

Face let out a huge sigh, one that was not contrived, assuredly. “Yes sir, thank you sir.”

Hannibal had to laugh. This was one he’d be sure not to let ‘his son’ forget anytime soon.

It was hard to believe that just 30 minutes later Hannibal Smith was volunteering to walk into a police department. He took a deep breath and swallowed hard and with as much calm as he could muster he went up to the front desk and spoke to the officer at the counter.

“Excuse me, I’m here to see Sargent Duncan.”

The officer gave a smirk, nodded and placed a call. Hannibal put an unlit cigar between his teeth and tried to look nonchalant. He looked around the clean but old building. He took in the drab décor and the posters on the wall with the latest slogan to fight crime. He looked at some unimaginative prints of paintings that made him think of cheap hotel rooms. He wondered idly if there was a wanted poster of him anywhere around.

A short middle aged man came out from behind a glass door and extended his hand. He was balding and clean-shaven and oddly made Hannibal think of Jack Webb, not the look but the same dedication to doing a good job, the same directness of speech. “Hi, I’m Sargent Duncan, and you are?”

“Smith, John Smith, I think you have my boy here?” Hannibal replied and returned the handshake.

“Yes, come on over and have a seat.” Sargent Duncan led him to a long bench in the entryway. “This precinct has been having some minor problems with juvenile crime. Nothing major, just rowdies and graffiti and T.P.-ing and stupid kid stunts like that, but our mayor has decided that this stuff needs to be cracked down on. So, this evening we made a little raid, and we rounded up a group of boys, and yours happened to be one of them.”

Hannibal nodded seriously. “And was Lance doing any of these things?” Hannibal had to dig his fingernails into the palm of the hand he had shoved into his jacket pocket to keep from laughing. ‘Lance?’

“No, just curfew. About 15 boys were spotted in the parking lot of the UltaMart, some of them were drinking, some were smoking, but most were just out socializing.”

Hannibal gave a nod as if he was seriously listening to the officer. “Your son promises me he’s never been in this kind of trouble before, and he does seem to be sincere.” It took all Hannibal’s talents as an actor not to grin at this moment, and continue to listen in fatherly concern. “We’ve been trying to get the parents involved, you know…”

“Have us, kind of, put the fear into them?” Hannibal finished.

The Sargent smiled. “Exactly. Lance mentioned that you had just moved to Connecticut and that the curfew in Los Angeles is later then it is here.”

Again Hannibal nodded. “Still…” He started.

“So if you could…” The Sargent spoke over him.

“Yes of course, Sargent I want to thank you for giving Lance this chance. Something like this wouldn’t look good on his college applications. Thank you. I’ll make sure that my boy never gets into this kind of trouble again.”

The Sargent rose to his feet and offered his hand again. “If more parents took a firmer stand with their kids, maybe we wouldn’t be having all these problems.”

“You are so right, Sargent. Thank you again.” Hannibal again took the offered hand and they headed off down the hall. In a quick decision Hannibal decided that he liked the man, it was just too bad he was a cop.

“Lance seems like a really nice kid.”

Wisely, Hannibal didn’t say anything and followed Sgt. Duncan into a holding area. There sitting at a long table sat Lance Smith.

“So, what do you have to say for yourself?” Hannibal said in a very authoritative voice.

“I’m so sorry, Dad, we were just hanging out.” It was an amazing sight to see. Before him sat for all appearances a 18 year old young man, with clean cut blond hair, just slightly out of place, a little long in back, but not too long for today’s styles, wearing a white button down shirt, open at the neck, blue jeans and black cowboy boots. The clear blue eyes looked just slightly worried.

“Em hum. We’ll talk about this when we get home.” Hannibal said sternly.

“Now, I won’t see you here again will I, Lance?” Sgt. Duncan said looking at a sheet of paper as if it held a death sentence.

“Oh no sir, I promise. I just didn’t know, honest.” The young man said earnestly.

“Okay, then, you go on with your Dad.”

Face looked down at his boots as he rose to his feet. “I’m really sorry, Dad.”

Hannibal came over and stood next to his ‘son’. He put one hand on the back of Face’s neck and gave a small squeeze. “Yes, well…Is there any thing else, Sargent?”

“No, you’re free to go.” A glance was made between both older men.

“Not one word out of you, boy.” Hannibal said sternly and gave Face a small shove to the door. “Thank you again, Sargent”

“No thanks Mr. Smith. Just keep him out of trouble.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that.”

Hannibal and Face walked swiftly out of the police station, down the front steps, and into Hannibal’s waiting car. Neither said anything until the car was safely down the street.

About a block away Hannibal could no longer contain himself, he just burst out laughing.

“You are in some serious trouble, son.

Face had to give a sheepish grin. “Man, as soon as I realized they were just busting kids for curfew, I junked my ID and played along.” Face sighed. “I know Murdock says I still have a baby face, but come on, do I really look 18?’

Lance Smith also known as Templeton Peck or “Face” to his friends was 24 years old and a veteran of the Viet Nam war. He was also a very good conman.

“I don’t know about looking 18, but you were sure using all the right words.” Hannibal snorted. “I’m sooo sorry Dad,” he mocked.

“I just listened in on the other guys calling their parents. By the way, thanks for coming down.”

“Oh that would have looked really good in the papers. ‘Military fugitive caught in curfew raid.’ Lynch would never let any of us live that one down.” Hannibal leaned over and pushed in the cigarette lighter in the car’s dashboard. “So, just what were you doing in the parking lot of the UltaMart at midnight with a bunch of teenagers?”

“Well, believe it or not, I was interviewing for a job.”

“Pardon?” Hannibal blinked as if he hadn’t heard correctly.

“Yeah, some guy locally, some ex-con, is hiring kids, to learn safecracking. I thought maybe I could brush up.”

“Face!” Hannibal had to jerk the car back into the correct lane as he had taken his eyes off the road too long to stare at his junior officer.

“What?” Face sounded indigent. “You think I just read a book and know how to open safes, or pick locks? They don’t explain this stuff in “Popular Mechanic’s”. You have to learn it somewhere.”

Hannibal had been talking about going in to the ‘Gun For Hire’ business. There were trades they would all have to learn, things that the military had not prepared them for, if they were going to succeed. One trade that Face had felt would be quite necessary was to be able to open safes. Hannibal had never been quite convinced.

“But still…” Hannibal started.

“Look, I just figured I’d take the job, learn a few things and then take off before I actually had to steal anything.” Face turned away from Hannibal and stared out the window at the dark streets. Silently he was counting the street lamps.

Hannibal frowned. He knew that Face had spent his youth doing some shady things, but honestly he didn’t dwell on how he’d learned them.

“Well, it’s all shot now. Why didn’t you tell the cops what was going on…Never mind.” Hannibal finished for himself. Face nodded his head. Face would never willingly volunteer information to the local police department. Hannibal frowned again, Face shouldn’t have been in the police station in the first place. Unknown to the kind and helpful Sgt. Duncan was that he had been holding one of the Army’s 10 most wanted.

Hannibal pulled into the parking lot at the apartment building they were staying at and pulled into a spot under an overhang. They both got out and locked the car doors. “Thanks again for playing along.” Hannibal gave a big grin and raised his eyebrows across the roof of the car. “What’s a Da…” He cleared his throat, “commanding officer for?”

Face was contemplating the way his day had gone from bad to worse. Finding himself in a holding cell in the local police station had been the icing on an already terrible day. He closed his eyes and then walked up to the apartment building.

Hannibal Smith had come to this small town of Belmont in Connecticut to film a movie. It was called “SwapThing” and he was staring as the monster in this low budget independent film. The director/producer was using a large pond in his parent’s backyard as the site for the monster to make its appearance. He was to be here shooting the film for about a month.

Hannibal had been uncomfortable in the “housing” that the film crew was provided. It was a small trailer in the parking lot of the local K-Mart, so when Face had decided to come along, Hannibal was happy to have him scam up a two-bedroom apartment for them to share.

BA was in Detroit taking a class. Face had forged the background documents to get him into it. It was an interesting experience for BA, in that you brought your own vehicle and the course was in customizing the engine. BA had bought a two-year-old van that had been totaled and had driven it up to Michigan.

The team had been on the run for about 8 months, now. The first couple of months they had been actively pursued from Florida to California. But then interest had died off. Until Colonel Lynch, the then commander at Ft. Bragg, where they had escaped from, had taken it on as his personal crusade to capture the team. In the last two months, the interest in recapturing them had increased, although it was no longer news worthy.

So, Hannibal was only slowly feeling comfortable letting the members of his team out of his sight. He felt very responsible for these two men, who had decided to follow him over the wall in that North Carolina jailbreak. They both had their own reasons.

Sgt. Boscoe “BA” Baracus was not a man to sit quietly in a jail cell for 20 days let alone 20 years. His personal freedom was very important to him. He also wasn’t very good at being told what to do, by anyone. BA had managed to learn to follow the orders of Col. Smith, but only because he respected the man so much. In a prison, where everything would be against him, it would have been a very bad situation.

Lt. Templeton Peck had similar problems. He was known to fly in the face of authority. His quick wit and wry sense of humor were often lost on those attempting to make him toe the line. And he was young, only 23 when convicted of military crimes. He had no intention of spending the rest of his youth behind bars.

When Hannibal decided to go over the wall and escape back into the real world, both men had been eager to go along. None of them had quite known what to expect. They hadn’t expected to be living out of suitcases or being unable to see their families and friends, or any of the other things that went along with life on the run. But together they were figuring it out.

Hannibal had given up a 20-year military career and become what he had dreamed of as a boy, an actor. Face had provided him with the necessary documents to get the Screen Actors Guild card. Then on his resume he became a small time actor in local theater groups and a few commercials, nothing that would be easily verified. Slowly he had done a few character parts and had now graduated to star. Hannibal was “SwapThing.” And the best part was, his face would never be shown, and Colonel Lynch and the rest of the military intelligence group would never be the wiser. Even if, much to Face’s dismay, he was currently using his real name with the SAG.

As they approached the apartment building Hannibal stuck his cigar firmly in his teeth and spoke softly to Face. “We have an audience.” Squelching his first instincts to look around Face only muttered back. “Cops?”

“Probably.” Hannibal said as he used the key to the front gate. His voice resumed its normal tone. “We are going to have a serious talk about this, young man.” He said as he put his hand on Face’s back and ‘escorted’ him into the building. Hannibal made sure the gate locked behind him and pushed the button for the elevator.

“I think you can cut it out now.” Face said with a grimace. How long was he going to have to hear about this?

Hannibal just chuckled. “I can’t wait to tell BA about bailing ‘my son’ out of jail.”

“Oh man, do you have to tell BA? The man has the memory of an elephant, he’ll never let me live it down.” Face whined as they got into the elevator and went up to the second floor.

Hannibal didn’t like to stay in any building above the second floor if he could help it. If boxed in, a man could jump from the second floor to the ground without too much fear of breaking something on the way down.

It was a nice, modest apartment. It was for all outward appearances as if it were the apartment of a struggling actor and his son, as that was the cover that Hannibal had constructed. As they entered #206, Hannibal went to the window and looked out, before turning on the lights. Whoever had been watching the building was either gone, or well out of sight.

After Hannibal’s signal to turn on the lights, Face went to the kitchen and began to rummage in the refrigerator. The pickings were slim, but he pulled out the orange juice and began to get a glass. “Want some?”

“No thanks, kid. I’ve got a 6:30 call in make up in the morning.”

“Oh, ok.” Face took the container and the glass and went into the living room. He flopped down on a large orange couch and picked up the remote, and with the volume off he began to flip threw the channels.

Hannibal had started to cross to his bedroom, but turned back to look at his second in command. “You okay, kid?” Face was turned half way away from him, so it made examining the younger man easier.

“Yeah.” Face said with a little smile. “I guess I’m just a little keyed up, you know. It got the old heart racing, sitting in that police holding cell, wondering if they were gonna figure it out.” Face grabbed a throw pillow and clutched it to his chest. “I was afraid to take a drink, you know, in case they ran my prints.”

Hannibal nodded. He had felt more than anxious just entering the police station. But he had been in and out in under a half-hour. Face had been sitting there for almost 2 hours while each boy was processed. “You wanna talk about it?”

Face made a breathless sound that was half laugh and half sigh and dropped his chin down to rest on the top of the pillow. “No, that’s okay. I just want to relax for a minute before I go to bed. You go on, I know you have to get up early.”

“Alright, then.” Hannibal gave him an intense look, as if trying to read Face’s mind. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Night, Colonel”

“Night, kid.” Hannibal went into his room, and came back out a few minutes later, changed into his pajamas and robe. “Oh, by the way, did I tell you you were grounded? No son of mine is going to be out…” He ducked back into his room, laughing, and shut the door as the pillow was thrown in his direction.


Hannibal was surprised that he wasn’t the first one up the next morning. But was he went out to the living room, Face was in the kitchen making breakfast. “You’re up early.”

“We’ll actually, I haven’t made it to bed yet.” Face responded as he handed out a cup of coffee.


“I guess I was more anxious then I thought. So I wrote a few letters, cleaned up a little, started to read a book and the next thing I knew the sun was coming up.”

“So, what are your plans for today?”

“Well, I thought I’d go for a run this morning and then come back here and crash for a couple of hours. Maybe do some grocery shopping; we have nothing in the fridge at all.

Just stuff like that.”

Hannibal sipped his coffee. “Don’t we sound so Ozzie and Harriet.”

“Huh?” Face put a plate of food on the table before Hannibal and went back to get his own.

“You know, the perfect family.”

“This a TV show, right?” Face asked puzzled.

“Oh come on, you know Ozzie, Harriet, Dave and little Ricky?”

“Sure, okay, what ever.” Face sat down and focused on his plate. “Can I have the financial page?” He pointed with his knife to the paper beside Hannibal’s plate.

Hannibal had to stare at Face as he put ketchup on his eggs. “You’re kidding me, right?”

Face sipped his coffee and decided it needed a little milk. “We didn’t get to watch much TV at the orphanage,” he gave a little grin, “and you had to be good. I guess I missed out on some of that stuff.”

“Well, actually, I don’t think you missed anything of much importance.” That explained why Face read so much, he’d never caught the television bug. They split the newspaper and conversed about the headlines before Hannibal had to go to the movie site.

“Watch your back, Lieutenant I don’t know if anyone is still tailing us.” Hannibal said as he headed out the door.

“I’ll be careful.”

Face changed into his shorts and sneakers to go for a run and as he opened the door he almost bumped into a man who was about to knock.

“Oh, sorry, may I help you?” Face asked.

“Are you Lance Smith?” The man in the doorway was dark. He had dark hair and deep-set dark eyes. His mouth was set in a stern line, his body was held in a tense posture.

“Who wants to know?” Face replied, stepping halfway back into the apartment in case he needed to slam the door shut.

“I’m Frank Manning, I believe you were looking for a job?” For some reason Face could only think of a rat when he looked at this high strung man.

Face let out his breath. “You’re the guy from last night?” Face looked up and down the hall and then stepped further back to let the man in. “We never actually met.” Or maybe a snake.

Manning came into the apartment and scanned its simple contents. “You’re new to the area?”

“Yeah, we just moved here, me and my old man. Why?” Face watched the man very carefully, it looked as if the man was casing the place, checking out where the valuable were. Maybe a mole, with those beady little eyes, no, mole’s eyes were pink weren’t they. He’d have to ask Murdock, he’d know.

“Just wondered. Where you from?”

Face realized the man was trying to gather information so he started in on the story he’d prepared last night. He was from Los Angeles, his parents were divorced, and his mother had sent him to come live with his father, just because he had gotten in a little trouble back home.

The patter went on, Face telling him how he’d done a couple of burglaries, how Jimmy the Hawk had taught him to pick a lock, how Eddie Long had taught him to hot wire a car. Just enough information to sound like he was bragging a little, but not enough that any of it could be verified.

“So now you want to move up the ladder, huh kid?”

“We’ll, um, I guess. I mean what do I have to do?” Face asked. He hadn’t invited the man to sit down, so Manning was wandering around the apartment, picking up the few items they had laid out. When Manning put his hands on Hannibal’s humidor Face cleared his throat.

“What do you mean?” Manning asked turning to look at Face, the humidor forgotten.

“You’re not going to teach me this stuff and pat me on the head and say ‘there you go’.

You must want something to share this information with me.” Face was leaning against the back of the couch, and now he crossed his arms across his chest.

“I like you, kid. You’re smart. Not one of the other kids asked me that. Yeah, I’ll teach you, and you pull a few jobs for me. We spilt the take. 60-40.”

Face dropped his arms, realizing the position was too defensive, and scratched his cheek instead. He looked very relaxed “I do all the jobs and you get 60%?” He sounded more then a little skeptical.

“I’m gonna teach you some of the most high-tech techniques for safe cracking. I’ll also provide you with the location of the jobs, and the fence for the stuff. You do the job, take the risk and take the fall if you get caught.” Manning stared at Face, leaning in, it was meant to be intimidating.

“I want the know-how, and you want to stay out of jail. I’d say 50/50 sounds a whole lot better.” Face didn’t back down; he stared right back at Manning.

Manning narrowed his beady little eyes at Face. Yeah, it was a rat. “You got balls kid. I could walk out of here and then what’ll you do?”

Face grinned. “You think you’re the only game in this one horse town? I’ll find somebody else. Somebody always wants hot cars or something. I’ll find the action. I found you.”

Manning considered this for a moment. “What about your old man?”

“Don’t worry, I can take care of him. He didn’t even know I was gone last night until I called him to pick me up.”

Manning gave him a business card for a television repair shop. “Come here at 3pm today. You can tell your old man you got a job learning to fix TV’s.”

Face grinned, “Great. I’ll be there.” Face walked Manning to the door. “By the way, how did you get up here?”

“You don’t think that puny lock on the front gate could stop me, did you?”

“No, I guess not.” Face let him out and closed the door, leaning up against the inside he let out a big breath. Manning must have been the one watching in the parking lot last night. It was times like these he truly wished he could call Murdock and talk things over with him. Then, realizing that he was still dressed to go out and run, he picked up his house key and went out to do just that.


If Face was surprised to see three other young men in the back of Frank Mannings’ TV repair shop his expression didn’t show it. ‘Boys’, Face told himself, ‘these are boys’. Not a one of them was over 18 years old, ‘and I have to remember to be like them’, he kept telling himself over and over. The four of them introduced themselves and took seats around a long table. Frank Manning started class.

The more Manning talked the less Face liked him. He kept circling the table like a lion searching for a soft spot. Each time he came behind Face he’d run his hand over Face’s shoulder or just barely brush up against him. It made Face shudder and shift in his chair, trying to hide his dismay. ‘Get away from me, jerkface.’ He’d scream in his mind, but he kept his face impassive, as if nothing were happening.

Face kept an eye on each of the other boys to see if Manning was doing anything to them. Bobby Davidson jumped once when Manning leaned in too close to point out something on a lock. Joey Rockman would shift to the far side of his chair each time Manning leaned between him and Danny Hastings. Face contemplated the situation and it was with little relief to know that he wasn’t alone in his dislike for this new boss.

The boys left at 6:30 each night. The idea was that these kids would show up as if they were learning to repair TV’s when they were really learning about burglary. Manning taught about casing a house, opening windows, picking locks, and then finally safecracking. Face was an adept student, far ahead of his classmates. It wasn’t long before Manning wanted to send Face out on his first job. This prompted Face’s dilemma.

Face paced through the apartment. Back and forth he covered the distance between the front door and the kitchen. His hands toying with his hair or plucking at his shirt collar or wiping the sweat off his palms onto his jeans. He checked his watch again, where the devil was Hannibal?

When Face heard the key in the lock he forced himself to look calm, leaning against the back of the couch. No, that wouldn’t do, he leaped over it and sat on the cushion and reached for his book and let it flop open to any page and pretended to read.

Hannibal let his eyes flick over his second in command and dropped his jacket and script on the chair by the door. “Hey, kid, you’re home early.”

“Hi Colonel. How was your day?”

Hannibal narrowed his eyes and took a hard look. “Fine, yours?”

“Em, ok, just wanted to talk something over with you. You got a minute?” Face ran a hand through his hair again.

“Sure, let me get something to drink.” Hannibal went out to the kitchen. Face had stocked the refrigerator recently and he pulled out some lemonade. He filled a glass and came back and sat in the big chair. “Okay, shoot.”

“Only if you promise not to.” Face said with a sigh. “Ok, here goes. I took this job…”

“Did you tell ’em we were out of here in just a week or so?”

“No, wait, listen. I took this job…” Face started again.

“I’m almost done with this film, kid, then its back to LA.”

“I know, I know, let me finish. I took this job…” He tried again.

“I don’t want to hang around here too long.”

“AAAggghhh.” Face leapt to his feet. “Let me finish!” He held his hands at his sides and made fists that he opened and released. He took a deep breath. His jaw worked as if preparing to speak then stopped and started again. ” I…” He stopped and reconsidered his words. “I need your help.”

“Say again?” Good, that got his attention. Hannibal gave a little grin, it wasn’t often that Face got rattled.

“There’s this guy. A guy that seems to have gotten in over his head, he started to do something for one reason, and now wants to do it for another reason and I want you to help him.”

“A guy.” Hannibal sipped the lemonade. “This guy gotta a name?”

“Yes, but that’s not important yet. He’s being asked to do something he doesn’t really want to do, and he wants your help to do this something, well not really do it, but to help him help the other guys who are also being asked to do it, but that shouldn’t do it.”

Hannibal blinked trying to follow the conversation. “Let’s start at the beginning. Who’s the guy?”

After a long pause and a sigh Face finally answered, “Me.” He flopped bonelessly onto the couch and plucked at the cushion. ‘What a hideous color, who would want an orange couch?’

“I figured that part. Next, what is it that you want, or don’t want to do?” Hannibal was searching his pockets for a cigar. Face, a bundle of energy, moved over to the humidor on the shelf and brought back a cigar and the lighter and gave them to Hannibal and flopped down, again. It was an unusual movement for the young man usually so careful of the impression he made to others. Hannibal noticed it, but didn’t comment on it.

“A second story job.” Face reluctantly offered.

Hannibal paused before biting off the end of the cigar and stared hard at the young man sitting across from him. “Excuse me?”

“It’s a … I mean… Rob a safe. A break in.” Face couldn’t think of any other way to say it, so he stopped.

Hannibal bit off the end of the cigar and put it in the ashtray. He didn’t say anything as he held the lighter up and got the end glowing nicely. He stared at the glowing embers before returning the cigar to his mouth and his gaze to Face.

“I thought we’d talked about this and you weren’t going to do it?” The words were condemning, but the tone was neutral.

Face shook his head, “No, we never talked about it.”

“The night you were arrested, didn’t we discuss this in the car and decided that you were done?” He was just a little more forceful, but by no means upset.

“No, I don’t remember any thing like that. I just told you about it, but that was it.” Face was actually sincere; there was no scam here.

Hannibal narrowed his eyes. Face was purposely being thick, but since he hadn’t actually said that Face couldn’t do it, there was no way around it now. “So, now you don’t want to do the job, and you don’t think you can get away from this joker?”

“No, that’s not it at all. I could get away with it, or away from Manning that’s not the problem at all.”

“So what is the problem?” Hannibal queried his interest piqued.

“See there are these three other guys. They’re boys really, they’re very young, and Manning, he’s the lowlife con that teaching these kids, he really pushing them. I don’t want them to go through with this, I don’t want them to mess up their lives.”

Hannibal thought about it. “What do you want to do?”

“Maybe if I did the job, but we could pin it on Manning, and show these kids that this crime stuff isn’t as glamorous as Manning is making it sound. You know, he just talks about the easy money and the excitement, but not the jail time or how it haunts you forever.”

“Let me think about it.” He rose to his feet and wandered to the window. “I don’t want you to go anywhere near this guy for a couple of days.”

“But Colonel I need to go in, to keep up with what’s going on.”

“No, it’s too risky.”

“I’ll be fine, I need to be sure that he uses me, and not one of the other kids. Come on, Hannibal, I can take care of myself.” There was more then a hint of a whine in his voice.

Hannibal pondered it for a moment. “Okay, but you don’t do any kind of break in, understand? Not without checking with me first.”

“Gotcha.” Hannibal then realized that most of these mannerisms must come from the other ‘kids’ that Face had been hanging around with. Hell, they had commanded men they same age as these ‘boys’.

Hannibal placed a call to BA at his mother’s house. BA had finished at the General Motors plant in Detroit just a few days earlier and after finishing the engine work on his van he had spent the last few days in Chicago prowling through the car parts stores. With only a short grumble regarding cutting his visit with his Mama short he agreed to drive over the next day.

Hannibal’s mind worked at an amazingly fast pace trying to determine all the angles of this hair-brained situation that Face had gotten them into. “This is crap, Face,” was the only thing he said as Face moved into the kitchen to make dinner while Hannibal continued to stare out the window and smoke his cigar.

For a practiced con man Face was amazingly naive. He saw the good in people, although it was often used to lure them into a con, it was what Face looked for first. And one of the traits that Hannibal liked most about the younger man.

But, now he had gone and gotten involved with these scumbags and Hannibal was working out a plan to end this stupid charade.

The best plans were simple. Unfortunately, this was not one of his best plans. Actually, it was sort of a convoluted mess, but it was the best he had at the moment.

Three days later Face brought back the information for the break in. A beautiful mansion on Delano St. was the target. Face was to go in, open the safe, and return to the TV repair shop with the cash and jewels. It was set up for 2am that night.

BA had arrived earlier that day driving a 1972 GMC van. The gray primered vehicle sat on top of 4 oversized tires and the engine softly purred.

“Wow, BA, it sounds great.” Hannibal admired the vehicle as BA puffed slightly with pride.

“Love the paint job.” Face retorted sarcastically running his hands over the ugly gray primered doors.

“It ain’t done, yet.” BA snarled. Face pulled open the sliding door and peered in. “Love what you’ve done with the décor.” The inside was stripped down to the framework with only a dreadful thick red carpet on the floor, two gray captains chairs up front and the bench seat in the back, upholstered in a gray and black vinyl.

“I ain’t done with it, either.”

Face gave a grimace and pulled the door shut. “So what did you do to it?”

It was probably the wrong question to ask as now Face was subjected to a 45-minute lecture on the inner workings of the combustion engine. Fuel injection, dampers, headers, blowers and more technical jargon then he could ever possibly care about was discussed over his head. For the most part Hannibal not only followed along, but also even asked some insightful questions. Face only grunted an ‘Oh really’ or ‘good’ at what seemed an appropriate time. He had learned long ago never to ask ‘what’s that’ or ‘what does that do’ as it only made the lectures go on that much longer. After BA bragged about his baby and what was still left to be done, Hannibal moved the party upstairs to discuss the plan.

“I’m still not happy with you doing this job, Face. I’d rather you say you couldn’t do it.” Hannibal said after filling BA in on what had been going on with the two of them for the last month. BA’s daily check in calls had been very brief to keep down his mother’s phone bill.

“But if we need evidence, wouldn’t it be better if I got it? You don’t want those kids to do it, do you?”

“No, Face, I don’t want a bunch of kids to go to jail. But they’re not exactly innocents. They’re old enough to know that what they’re doing is wrong.” Hannibal sighed. He and Face had been having this same argument for the past few days.

“I know. But they’re not really guilty either. They just don’t understand what this could mean to their futures. They still think nothing bad could happen to them.” Face was frustrated, too.

BA had sat quietly on the couch and listed to the two other men hash out the plan and what was obviously an old argument. He felt he now needed to make his opinion known. “You know Hannibal, sometimes kids can be sucked into something that sounds good, before they even think about the end result. And by the time they think of the bad results, they’re too far in to help themselves. It’s how street gangs work.”

BA paused and finished off the glass of milk he had been drinking before he continued. “They tell you that doing this crime will solve everything. Make your parents notice you, or get you away from your parents. What ever it is you want, then they tell you that only the gang wants you, respects you, loves you, understands you, whatever, until your in so deep you can’t see up.” BA shook his head and looked at the other two men. “It ain’t right to prey on kids, even kids that should know better. It ain’t right and we need to stop this guy.” His words were soft, but forceful.

“Alright, you do the job, but you bring the stuff back here, understand? I don’t want you to go to the TV repair shop, you come here and then we negotiate with Manning. Now go get some sleep, you’re gonna be up late tonight.”

“Right.” Face brightened up. “And what are you guys gonna do?”

“Just tinker around.” Hannibal said with a grin

The house on Delano St was not just a nice home, it was an Estate. The house was made of brick and surrounded by well-manicured lawns. Face crawled over a tall wrought iron fence and jogged up the expansive driveway and made entry into the house after bypassing the alarm, climbing the trellis and softly raising the window. He maneuvered himself through the window and onto the floor. He waited quietly letting his eyes adjust to the gloom and using his hearing to determine if he had been discovered. After a few moments he rose and stepped away from the window.

All was quiet as he proceeded down the hall to the master bedroom over extremely thick, plush carpet. He slipped through the room noiselessly even though the house was supposed to be empty.

He found the safe behind a copy of a Renoir and with very little effort opened it. He removed the contents and slipped them into a zippered pouch and shoved it inside his shirt. After carefully locking the safe he retraced his steps. He was just about to slip out the window, when a car pulled up the drive.

He hunched down, holding the curtains so they wouldn’t blow out and draw attention. He could hear two people softly talking as they made their way to the front door. As they opened the door, he slipped out the window. As they came up the stairs, he climbed down the trellis. As they got ready for bed, he reactivated the alarm, then took off at a jog down the drive and over the fence to the street. He waited until he was around the corner to let out a long shuddering breath.

Too close, that was way too close. He took off his gloves, and wiped his sweaty palms on his pants legs and headed back to the apartment.

He tossed the little pouch onto the dinning room table and went to the kitchen sink. He turned on the cold water tap, letting in run over his fingers and then splashed water over his face. He hadn’t heard Hannibal come up behind him, so when he was handed the towel he jumped and gasped. “Jeez, you scared me.”

“Are you okay?” Hannibal was amused by Face’s nervousness. It took a lot to fluster his Lieutenant

“Yeah, they came home early. I almost got caught.”

“Did they come home early, or where you set up?” Hannibal inquired.

“Why would he want me caught? I’m the best he’s got?” Face asked.

Hannibal considered it for a moment. “Maybe he wanted to see what you’d do in a tight spot? Or that you’d come back all high on adrenaline and inspire the class?”

“Maybe, but all he did was piss me off, right? Now I have my bargaining chip.”

Hannibal grinned. “What ever will Mr. Manning do when his star pupil doesn’t show up?”

“Maybe nothing if he doesn’t expect him to show up.” BA stated grimly.

“He’ll either call here looking for you, or check with the police to see if you got picked up. When you’re not under arrest, he’ll come here looking for you.” Hannibal frowned.

Face nodded to the pouch, “So what did I lift, anyway?”

Hannibal opened the pouch and spilled the contents out onto the table. “Some documents,” he passed those over to Face to read, “about two thousand in cash, and this little baby.” He handed a little black box over to BA. In recent years, BA had become the teams jewel expert, ever since Face had convinced him to carry his bank account wrapped around his neck.

BA opened the box and whistled softly. A beautiful necklace was lying against the black velvet. “Set like this, maybe 50-60 thousand. Break up the stones, you could easily get 35-40 grand.”

“Well, isn’t that pretty.” Hannibal took the jewelry case back and slipped it back in the pouch. There were a few other items, earrings that BA said were good, but not great, some coins, and a few WW2 war medals, they each went back into the pouch. “We need to put this in a safe place. I don’t want Manning to break in here and find it.” Hannibal tossed the pouch over in his hand. “All right gentlemen, I suggest we get some sleep while we can, tomorrow is going to be a busy day.”

Face was positive that he wouldn’t be able to sleep. The only thing he wanted to do now was talk to Murdock, but his best friend was in the psychiatric ward at the VA hospital in California and wasn’t allowed calls this time of night.

‘Maybe I should get him his own phone?’ Face thought as he made up the spare bed in his room while BA cleaned up in the bathroom. He and BA had gotten closer in the last few months, but BA was so sober and rigid. It was hard to talk to him about adrenaline highs and the intricacies of a scam. He always felt that BA didn’t really approve of what he did. He was always amazed that he seemed to want BA’s approval so much.

BA came out and Face went in to clean up. By the time Face came out, BA was already asleep and Face lay down on the bed, his mind racing over the day’s events.

He had started to have a long talk with Murdock in his mind, but it was only a matter of minutes before the excitement of the day caught up to him, and along with the comforting sounds of BA’s even breathing Face fell into a deep sleep.

And awoke with a start. “Come on, Kid, up and at ’em.” The voice of his commander came in the room from the hall. BA was already gone, the bed made.

Face got up and dressed and drug himself down the hall looking for the cup of coffee that he could already smell.

“Any sign of Manning?” He asked as he blew on the coffee in his mug.

“Not yet. Are you ready to make the call?” Hannibal asked.

“It’s still early, I think I’ll wait until after breakfast.”

Hannibal gave a grin. “You like making this joker squirm, don’t you?”

“The guys an a…” Face paused knowing that Hannibal didn’t like it when the used foul language “low-life sleaze, and he thinks he’s smarter then everybody else. He just makes my stomach knot, the way he says my name and he’s always running his hands over me.” Face gave a shudder.

“Are you sure he’s just interested in your safecracking abilities?” Hannibal asked with a little concern. It wasn’t that Face wasn’t able to handle himself, it was that this was piece of information that he wished he’d had yesterday.

“Yes, no, I mean, maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m too sensitive to that kind of stuff. I just wish he’d keep his hands to himself.”

“He touch the other guys that way, Face.” BA asked worried for not only the other boys in the gang, but for Face as well.

“I don’t think so, he did at first, but now it’s just me. I guess that’s why I don’t think he’d set me up. He wants me around.”

“This changes everything Face.” Hannibal frowned he hadn’t met the knuckle-dragger, but he didn’t like him one bit. ” I don’t want you to meet this mouth-breather alone, no matter how close we are. I want to go in with you.” Hannibal was firm on this point.

“No, it’s okay, we can still follow the plan.”

“No, we’ll change the plan. It’s good to be flexible on a job. We all go to the TV repair shop- together.” Hannibal leaned against the breakfast nook and crossed his arms over his chest.

“It won’t work Hannibal and you know it. Let’s just stick to the original idea. I’ll be fine.” Face seemed unconcerned and finally Hannibal relented.

A little after nine the team had just finished breakfast and Face was about to put in the call to Manning when the phone rang. Face answered it, “Hello?”

“Where the hell were you, you were supposed to be here last night after the job?” Mannings’ thin voice came through the line.

“I couldn’t make it, sorry.” Face didn’t seem the least bit sorry.

“Get your ass over here, now.” Manning snarled, it was supposed to be a snarl, but compared to one of BA’s it did little to concern Face.

“I can’t, my Dad’s home. I’ll be in at the regular time.” Face leaned against the counter.

“You get your ass in here now, or I’ll call the cops and turn you in.” Manning fumed.

“Go ahead, the stuff’s not here. I put it in a safe place, and my Dad will swear I was here last night. Tucked safe and sound in bed. Don’t push me, Manning, or you won’t see the stuff. Things didn’t go exactly as planned last night. I’ll be there at the usual time.” Face kept his voice low, as if not letting someone else hear him. It also added to the threatening tone he was using.

There was a long pause on the other end of the phone. Manning wanted to intimidate his young apprentice, but it wasn’t working. “I have a buyer, I need you here by 2:00”

Face paused this time. “Let me check.” He put his hand half over the receiver and called out. “Dad, I need to go to work at 2:00 is that okay?”

Hannibal grimaced, it meant moving up all the plans. “Yeah,” he finally agreed, “Do you need a ride?” It was a last ditch effort to get Face to let him come along.

“No, thanks.” Face turned back to the phone certain that Manning knew that his ‘father’ was home so he would not be come to the apartment. “I’ll be there, you just make sure you have my share, understand?”

“Don’t tell me what to do, punk, you’ll get what’s coming to you.” Manning slammed down the phone.

“That went well.” Face replied to the room as he hung up.

“Do you think he’ll have the other kids there?” Hannibal queried.

“I don’t know, but the fence will be there.” Face ran a hand through his hair and tugged down on his polo shirt.

“You fine with this? I could still go in with you.” As Hannibal lit a cigar he had an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach, but as their leader he couldn’t let it show.

“No, I’m good.” Face only paced a little. “I just wish we could have set it up for earlier, I hate having to wait.”

Hannibal grinned. “It’s the anticipation that makes it all worth while.”

BA groaned, “He’s on the jazz.”

Face could only shake his head.

Face paused just outside the door to the TV repair store. He looked at his watch; it was 2:05. He wanted to look over his shoulder to insure that Hannibal and BA were in position, but he knew it was a bad idea. He took a deep breath to calm his nerves and reached for the door handle. He pushed open the door and heard the little bell that chimed his entrance.

“You’re late.” He heard Manning snap from his left.

Face turned toward the voice with as much unconcern as he could muster. “Really? Sorry.” It was the tone of voice that made Manning fume, he could tell that his star pupil wasn’t sorry in the least.

Manning lashed out with a backhand blow that landed on Face’s cheek. A pink spot appeared on the cheekbone. Normally, Face wouldn’t have acknowledged the blow, but he had to remind himself he was supposed to be an 18-year-old kid with no experience, not the war vet that he truly was. He let a whine into his voice, “What was that for?” he asked as he brought a hand up to rub his face.

“Listen up, punk, you do what I tell you, when I tell you. Nothing less, nothing more, understand?” They had moved into the back of the shop, and Face could see the three other boys sitting at the low table where they had spent the last month learning their trade.

Face nodded to his classmates, “Nice, huh?” They were all watching the exchange closely. Manning turned back to Face.

“If you do what I tell you, then I don’t have to hurt you. What happened last night? You were supposed to come right here with the stuff?”

Face crossed his arms over his chest and half sat, half leaned on the long table, his back to the three other wanna be safe crackers. “They came home while I was still doing the job.”

“Did you get caught?” Manning fumed at him, “No, you didn’t, so you should have stuck to the plan. Give me the stuff.”

Face was still trying to appear as the arrogant teen; with out looking like his real age, it was an interesting challenge. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the pouch and handed it over.

Manning unzipped it and poured the contents out on to the table. The tree other students all leaned in. Their eyes widened appreciatively as the box with the necklace was opened.

“Wow.” Joey whispered. “How much is that worth?”

“10-12 Grand.” Manning informed them. “You see, in one night our friend Lance made himself 5 grand.”

Face snorted. “What planet do you live on? That thing’s worth a whole heap more then 12 thousand. Like maybe three times that.” Manning replied with another backhanded blow. Face was expecting it this time, so he turned his head and went with the slap and rolled to the floor, allowing most of the force from the hit to dissipate.

“I don’t know who your fence is, but mine says 12 grand.” Manning glared down at the young man on the floor.

“Maybe you need a new fence.” Face rose to his feet, brushed off his hands and again tried for a mix between nonchalance and arrogance as he leaned against the table. Manning raised his hand again, but this time Face stood up, “Hit me again, and I’ll hit back.” Face growled. He hoped it sounded teenage cocky and not as angry as he felt.

Manning stepped closer; the two men were only a few inches apart. Manning was trying to intimidate the younger boy, but the boy wasn’t having it. “Sit down.” Manning finally growled.

Face turned and made his way over to the table trying to make it look like it was his idea to sit and had to use all his skills to keep a grin off his face.

“All right, gentlemen,” Manning started to use the voice he used when instructing his little class of felons. “Lance, here is about to tell us all about the job last night.”

Face knew that Manning expected him to give an exciting rendition of what occurred. It was supposed to be a thrilling tale of adventure and intrigue, instead he painted a picture of cold, dreary, sweaty work. He explained how nothing was right, the alarm system, the window, the safe wasn’t even where it was supposed to be. That he had tripped in the dark and hurt his leg, that it took much longer to open he safe then expected. Over and over he described the pitfalls and errors.

Manning got angrier and angrier as each of the other boys became less and less enthused about what had gone on. After all, Lance was the best, so it would be even more difficult for them. Finally, Face ended his story with the people coming home early, how he’d had to escape barely undetected. The fear, the adrenaline, the anxiety as he made his way home, only to barely get in past his father and avoiding an explanation of where he had been and what he was doing.

All in all Face did tell a spellbinding story. It just wasn’t the one that Manning had wanted him to tell. Face kept it just interesting and as long as he could while he watched Manning become more and more impatient.

Manning had finally had enough. “All of you get out of here. I’ll see you, here, tomorrow.” The bark in is voice made the other three rise.

“Not till I get paid” Face started, then addressed his audience. “That’s part of the class he forgot about, making sure you get your part of the loot.”

Manning clenched a fist, but Face was too far away to reach. “Don’t worry, Lance,” he said the name in a sickly sweet voice, “don’t worry, you’ll get yours.”

Face leaned back in the chair and stretched his legs out before him. “I’m only leaving with my payoff or my stuff, one or the other.”

“Get out of my sight, you little jerk.” Manning yelled.

Face only shook his head and again addressed the other three. “Gotta watch out for yourself, I mean he could take my stuff and I’d never get paid.”

One of the three faltered, Danny Hastings was the brightest of the three boys. “Yeah, man, you said we bring the stuff and we get paid. You didn’t say anything about turning it over and then waiting to be paid.” Danny said. “And if you do it to Lance, you’ll do it to us.”

The other two paused, what happened here would be the way it would go for all of them in the future. Face didn’t say anymore, but put his hand up to his bruised cheek.

Just then a car pulled up out front. A tall man in an overcoat came in. He didn’t have a TV with him to be repaired. Manning came out front and talked to him. Then they both came into the back.

“What seems to be the problem?” The man asked.

“Who are you?” Face asked with all the cockiness of the young.

“None of your damned business.” Manning snapped.

Face got up from his chair and came closer, still staying out of arms reach of Manning. “No problem as long as you brought my money and your appraisal is better then his.”

The tall man made a sound half way between a snort and a laugh. “I think this kid is smarter then you are, Manning.”

“Brick’s are smarter then he is.” Face said with contempt and gave the man a long look. “Maybe I shouldn’t be dealing with a middle man.”

The tall man made another laughing sound. “No, this is a one time deal for me. All future jobs are out of my hands.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out an envelope and held it up. “The agreed on fee.”

Manning picked up the pouch and passed it over to the man. They made the exchange and the tall man looked in the pouch. “Where’s the papers?”

“What papers?” Manning asked.

“The deal was for everything in the safe, where’s the papers?”

Face did all he could not to go as pasty white as Manning was going. He had taken the papers from the safe; they were still on the kitchen table this morning.

Manning rounded on him, “Where the hell’s the papers? I told you to empty the safe!”

“I got ’em. I just wanted to be sure you paid me. I didn’t think they were important.” This time Manning used his fists against Face’s ribs in two quick jabs.

“I don’t pay you to think, you stupid little twerp. I pay you to rob a safe. Hand over the papers.”

“I don’t have ’em with me.” Face gasped as another blow came to his stomach. Hastings was looking green and Bobby was starting to cry. Face was getting his wish, these boys were learning that safe cracking was not glamorous, he just hoped he lived long enough to gloat over the lesson well taught.

The tall man grabbed back the envelope, “I want those papers today, understand?” He said in a harsh whisper. “Call me when you have them. Then we deal, not before.”

He put the envelope in his pocket, never gave back the pouch, and headed for the door. Just then a voice came through a bullhorn. “This is the police, come out with your hands up, we have the place surrounded.”

Manning let go of Face and let the younger man drop to the floor. Manning didn’t realize the sigh of relief was not from being let go, but from hearing Hannibal’s voice. The tall man and Manning were exchanging glances when a large man in camouflage came to the front door and tossed in a hand grenade.

Everyone hit the floor, but in seconds it went off, not with a loud bang, but with a pop and the room filling with smoke.

A smoke bomb could be a very intimidating thing. It not only makes it hard to see, but it makes it hard to breathe. As the smoke spreads it stays close to the floor making it difficult to get away from, unless you’ve been in one before.

Templeton Peck had been through much worse then a smoke bomb before, on more then one occasion. He knew to breath shallowly at first while the air was still good and then hold his breath through the worst of the cloud. Keeping his eyes open he watched the cloud flow along hidden air currents and angled around it and toward the door. The others followed him, coughing and gasping and groping blindly. As each man exited the building they were all taken off to one side and tied up.

It had been Face’s intention to be the first one out the door, but Manning caught up to him in the front office and slammed into him from behind knocking him flat to the ground. The two struggled for a moment in the thinning oxygen until Manning in a rage slammed Face’s head against the floor and he blacked out. Manning took the younger man’s arms and dragged him through the back of the store and out side to his where his car was parked. He sped out of the lot past the two startled ‘policemen’ posted to guard the alley.

“What do you boys have to say for yourselves?” Hannibal glared down at each one of them. It was an intimidating thing to have the full anger of Hannibal Smith rained down on you from above. They all began talking at once about how sorry they were, that it wouldn’t happen again.

“Are you gonna testify against this scumbag?” Hannibal frowned down on them and waived his gun in their direction.

Oh, yes, they replied heartily.

Hannibal came over and stood next to BA and lit a cigar. “What do you think?”

“I think they’ve learned, Hannibal.” BA growled at the young boys again just to insure they got the message. Hannibal went back over to the three boys and began to untie them. “All right, here’s how it goes. You boys come clean with the cops. You spill everything you know, saw and did, and you beg the courts forgiveness, understand?” The three boy’s heads bobbed up and down in unison. Then he went over and the tall man and gave him a kick against his bound feet. “It’s not nice to try and corrupt minors.”

“I had nothing to do with this, it’s a mistake, I’m just a business man.” Hannibal frowned down on the man. “You Manning?” and continued to look at the milling crowd of his “police force”. They were the crew of “SwapThing” while the man at his feet shook his head vehemently.

“He’s the one that paid Manning to do the job.” Joey said helpfully. Hannibal reached into the mans pocket and pulled out the pouch and an envelope of what felt like cash.

Hannibal’s eyes began to take a serious look at the small crowd gathered. He took a quick inventory. 3 stupid kids, 1 director, 2 gaffers, 2 lighting guys, 2 camera men, 2 sounds guys, 1 slime ball…BA… Where the hell were Face and the other slimeball?

“Where’s Face?” Hannibal shouted at BA. BA looked around at the men just as Hannibal had done only moments before.

“Shit.” Hannibal said with a frown as sirens could be heard in the distance. “That will be the ‘real’ local constabulary and we need to head out.” He went over to the young director who had been using a 35mm camera to film the whole process. “OK, Chuck, just remember, you and the gang did all this.” He handed Chuck the pouch with all the jewels, the money and a written explanation of all that had happened. “Just remember to leave the three of us out of it, we need to go find Face. Tell the cops one of ’em got away. I’ll see you in LA next week.”

Chuck nodded his head enthusiastically. Although his could only film Hannibal and BA from the back the rest of the footage was some great film stock that he was sure he could get into one of his next films and he didn’t even have to pay for it. Maybe he’d come in under budget.

Just as the police arrived Hannibal and BA climbed into the van and pulled out leaving behind the film crew, three confused young men and one very angry businessman.

When Face awoke again it was dark. His lungs hurt from breathing in the smoke, his side hurt from the jab to his ribs and his head hurt from where it had met the concrete floor. He reached up to rub the spot behind his ear only to find that his hands had been tied together in front of him.

He sat up and tried to see around in the dark room. He could tell he was in a room by the feel of the carpet under him and that bigger spaces tended to sound hollow. This had a definite feeling of a room about it. He pushed himself up to his feet and felt his way slowly around the room. He found a chair and a small table only by nearly crashing over them. He inched his way over to the window and pulled aside the curtain. He looked out at the view and realized that he was in an apartment complex on the third or forth floor by the height to the ground. He could just barely see a fire escape, but it was down at the end of the building. He’d have to make it out of the apartment and down to the end of the hall to make it down that way. He tried the window, but under careful review he found it not only locked but also nailed shut. Unless he crashed through the window, and that was not his first choice, he wouldn’t be getting out that way. He’d leave that option for the very last.

He looked around the room more now that his eyes had adjusted to the half-light. There was a bed in the corner of the room. Briefly he wondered why he’d been laying on the floor if there was a bed nearby, but then reminded himself, that his captor probably wasn’t much interested in his comfort.

He strained his ears to hear any sounds that might give him a clue as to where he was, or what was going on. He also gave thought to what he’d do if he managed to get out of this mess. He swallowed down his first feelings of regret that Hannibal was going to be furious with him. As long as he got back safe, all the push-ups and K.P. that Hannibal might assign him would be fine with him. The question was where to find Hannibal. By this time the apartment would be empty and vacated. The plan was to head back to LA right after ‘arresting’ this band of villains. So, where would Hannibal go, and how to catch up with him?

Usually they made a fall back position, but there hadn’t seemed like a need this time. Face ran the events of the last few days over in his mind. If they were split up where would Hannibal go to look for Face? Apartment – no, they’d packed up and given up the keys. TV repair shop- no, the place would be crawling with cops. (Real cops, not “SwapThing” cast and crew.) Where, oh where should I go? Face gave the question serious thought as he used his perfect white teeth to loosen the bindings on his wrists.

BA stood back and watched his commanding officer with more amusement then anxiety. He knew he should be more worried for Face, but at this moment he really wasn’t. Hannibal was standing in a field throwing rocks at cows. He wasn’t trying to hit the cows, he wasn’t even coming close, Hannibal was just trying to vent his anger. BA leaned back against the hood of the van and ate the sandwich he had picked up at the deli 20 minutes ago. Hannibal had made him drive around town for 2 hours just on the off chance that they might see Face.

“Face ain’t gonna be standing on a street corner like a five dollar hooker, Hannibal. You better think of something better then this.” BA had eventually grumbled. “This ain’t getting us anything but dizzy from driving in circles.”

So Hannibal had made him drive to the outskirts of town where he could take a minute and think. And so far the best thing he could come up with was to throw rocks at cows.

BA waited patiently, leaning up against the van. Normally, he would have been a help in the process to determine where Face would have been, but this time he had been out of town. He couldn’t suggest any favorite spots, or regular hangouts that Face might have frequented. When he had asked, Hannibal only angrily commented that he hadn’t been paying enough attention. BA wisely kept his own council after that.

Hannibal threw one last rock at the poor unsuspecting cows and stared up at the starry sky. Over and over he rebuked himself. He should have been paying more attention. He hadn’t noticed that Face had been going to the TV repair shop 5 days a week for 3 weeks. He hasn’t learned the names of the three boys that Face had been ‘hanging out with’, either. He hadn’t noticed until now a lot of other things, like Face keeping the apartment clean, or that he’d done all the cooking and shopping. That Face had kept him supplied with cigars and newspapers and clean clothes. “Shit, shit, shit.” Hannibal groaned to the sky.

His circular thinking was getting him nowhere. He needed to stop thinking about what he didn’t know. What did he know, what did he know for sure? He needed to think what Face would be thinking right now. Face had to know that he was on his own. That Hannibal would not go back to the apartment, or the TV repair shop. Hannibal would not ask the police for help. Hannibal had checked Manning’s apartment, but no luck there, and the cops were all over it. Hannibal started to turn back to the van; his shoulder slumped as if he carried the weight of the world, his head down in defeat. “Shit, I’d drown that slime-ball Manning if I could just get my hands…”

Hannibal paused in mid step. A grin lit his face and he searched his pockets for a cigar.

“If I can’t find Face, I need to let Face find me.” He said out loud as he strode with purpose back to the van. “BA, lets go.”

“We got a plan, Hannibal?” BA asked getting behind the wheel.

“The start of one, BA.” Hannibal pushed in the lighter in the dash and gave directions.


Face had loosened the rope around his wrists when he heard footsteps behind the door. Quickly he reviewed his choices. Feign unconsciousness on the floor, or go for a surprise attack as the door opened. He didn’t like the idea of someone coming up on him while he kept his eyes closed, and felt that even if they were expecting it, he go for the surprise. After all, he had the jazz going for him.

He checked for the hinges on the door, determined which way it would open and lined himself up for the best attack. Manning was prepared, however, and threw the door open with out coming in himself. Slowly he came around the corner, gun first, pointed directly at Face’s middle.

Face leaned back against the wall and raised his ‘bound’ hands in defeat.

Manning gave a soft malicious chuckle. “Not so smart now, are you, boy?”

“Smart enough.” Face responded. “I knew enough not to trust you.”

“Are you a cop? Undercover agent?” Manning had only stepped a few feet into the room, not coming anywhere close to Face.

“Me? No, I’m not a cop. Unless of course that would make you reconsider, and let me go, then, Yes, I am a cop. Undercover for… two years now.”

Manning snorted. “No, you’re too good a safe cracker to be a real cop.”

“Oh, yeah, that… I just contacted my chief, and he contacted the mark, and they opened the safe for me. You know, let me have the goods.” Face was not trying very hard to make Manning believe him and Manning wasn’t buying the story.

“No.” A second voice came from behind Manning. “You didn’t contact The Bennet’s.” The tall man from the shop came to stand in the doorway. “If you had, I don’t think I’d have made bail as easily as I did.”

“All part of the plan.” Face said with a grin. “Trying to get you to show your hand.”

“Bullshit.” Manning said. “That’s all this has been from the beginning. Who the hell are you?”

“Really, I’m fed. A G-man, so you better let me go. It’s a criminal offence to even detain an federal officer in the performance of his duties.” Face waived both bound hands before him and pointed a finger at Manning. “Maybe you should untie me now. You could be adding an additional 2-5 on your sentence.”

“Maybe I should just kill you now.” Manning snarled.

“No.” The tall man snapped. Face agreed.

“He’s no more a FBI man then I’m J. Edgar Hoover.” Manning thrust the gun in Face’s direction.

“You know, it’s rude to talk about someone as if they weren’t there when they are.” Face said calmly.

“Shut up.” Manning glared at Face.

“Just hand over the papers from the safe, and then Frank here will let you go.” Tall man said with a half smile.

“Remember me, I’m the smart one in Frank’s little group. Frank has no intention of letting me go. He’d rather shoot me then look at me.”

The tall man gave a grin. “You’re probably right, but if you give me those papers, now, I won’t let Frank do anything other then kill you.”

Face swallowed hard, in an instant he knew what the tall man was talking about. Manning wanted to get his hands on Face, and not just to kill him.

“Look, I don’t have the papers here. I gave them to my dad for safe keeping.”

“More Bullshit, Jerry.” Manning blurted out. “The old guy’s not your Dad, is he? How old are you? You’re not 18.”

Face gave a grin to that, too. “Maybe I am. You know, molesting a minor is a pretty serious thing. The other inmates won’t like that in the slam.”

“I don’t care if your 14 or 40.” Jerry finally snapped. “I just want the damn papers.”

“Look, Jer, I want you to have the papers, I just want my money. I did the job, fair and square.” Face gave a smile, “I’ll go get them, and I’ll meet you back here, in say, an hour.”

“Do I look stupid?”

If Face had grown up in a normal family he may have learned at a young age that this was not a question that authority figures truly expected an answer to, but growing up as he did, he sometimes answered first with out thinking something all the way through.

In an instant Jerry had flown across the room, getting between Manning with the gun, and Face. “You stupid little…” The sentence was left unfinished as Jerry slammed Face against the wall and began to hit Face in the ribs.

Face was hoping for a distraction, he just wished his ribs didn’t have to take such a pounding to get what he wanted. When Jerry stepped back, he did the unexpected. Face unwound the rope from his wrist, slipped it over Jerry’s neck and pulled the taller man against him, as a shield from Manning’s gun.

“Move to the door, or I’ll kill you now and use your lifeless body as a shield.” The soft, cold tones were more frightening then all the yelling that either man had done. Jerry felt a sweat breakout down his spine.

“Who the hell are you?” Jerry whispered, one of his hands going up the rope that was tightening around his throat, pulling his head back and down toward Face’s shoulder.

“Nobody you want to mess with.” Face said as he inched around the room, keeping Jerry between himself and Manning. “Tell Manning to move to the window.” Face whispered in Jerry’s ear and pulled the rope a little tighter.

Jerry gave a gasp. “Move to the window, Frank.” Manning moved, reluctantly and Face edged closer to the door. “Those papers aren’t worth anything to you.” Jerry finally gasped.

“Then you should have made a deal with me before.” Face whispered into Jerry’s ear again. “I can be very reasonable, but once you started beating on my ribs, you just pissed me off.” Face had reached the door and shoved Jerry into the room, causing him to stumble into Manning. Face pulled the door shut and locked it.

Praying there was no once else in the apartment, he sprinted for the front door. Even as he pulled the door open, he heard Manning firing at the lock.

Face glanced quickly up and down the hall. Waiting for the elevator would be a mistake, so he headed for the stairs. He ran down them as fast as he could, through the foyer and out to the parking lot. He’d never get a cab, so he started to look for a car he could hot wire. He ran around the corner of the building to be out of site of the front door and then began pulling on the handle of each car he came to until he found one unlocked.

It was a blue 68 Impala. BA liked this car and Face hoped that he would, too. Face lay down on the front seat and pulled the wires out from under the dash. It took a few minutes to locate the two wires he needed and he heard voices near by. As quick as he could he started the engine, and with a gasp from the pain in his ribs, he sat up, threw the car into reverse and burned rubber out of the parking lot.

Manning only saw a flash of blond hair, and let fly with two shots at the car, one lodged in the trunk, the other only hitting the pavement. Jerry had apparently gone to get the car and pulled up along side Manning and they gave chase.

It was only a little past 10pm, but Face was feeling every minute of that long day. He was short on sleep, he had been nervous and edgy all afternoon, and then had spent a good portion of the evening having someone pound on his ribs. He was tired, and if Hannibal and BA weren’t where they were supposed to be, he’d have to come up with a new plan and quick if he didn’t want to find himself dead.

He drove like a man possessed through the streets of the sleepy little town. He really didn’t much care if he garnered the attention of the local police, after all he was the one being chased by gunmen and he could always bust out of jail again later. What he really wanted to do was catch up to Hannibal and BA before they headed back to LA.

In less then 15 minutes he found himself in an affluent neighborhood. Large brick houses with manicured lawns lined both sides of the street. Face checked the rearview mirror and started to study the houses. No, too big, no, wrong color, no, no, no. Each house was eliminated one by one. He’d only been here two other times and he wished now he’d paid a little more attention to the details then to the one with all the film crew cars parked in front.

There it was. Set back from the street with a long driveway flanked on both sides with trees. Face slowed and turned into the drive and slammed the car into park. He ran from the car to the back of the house just as Manning’s car followed into the driveway.

Jerry and Manning followed after Face only a minute behind. Face dodged bushes and lawn chairs to get where he was going. A pond. A large pond, that had so recently been the scene for the emergence of “SwapThing”. Face stopped at the edge of the pond and regained his breath. He tried to take in the surrounding area and realized for the first time, just how cold the night air was. He could see his own breath.

Then he could see Frank and Jerry’s, too.

They all just stood there for a moment, breathing hard. Both Frank and Jerry had revolvers pointed at Face. “I want those papers.” Jerry said through clenched teeth.

“I want you to have those papers. But I don’t have them.” Face replied while slowly raising his hands, palm up in the traditional position of surrender.

“Where are they?” Jerry took a step forward, raising the handgun to point directly at Face’s heart.

“I wish I knew.” Face said, “I was hoping they’d be here.”

Just then the lights from BA’s van came on and blinded Jerry and Frank. Face turned, took three running steps and dove into the pond. Hannibal opened fire with a semi-automatic machine gun across the space that Face had just been standing.

“That’s about far enough.” He shouted at the two men, now crouching at the other end of the pond. “Drop those weapons.”

Both men did as they were told and BA came from the back of the van with rope and crossing behind Hannibal made his way around the pond to tie the two men up. Out of the corner of his eye Hannibal could see the lights coming on in the surrounding houses, out at the front of the house he could hear sirens. “Face?”

Face swam the length of the pond and slogged his way up the bank. “I’m here.”

Hannibal only let his eyes flick briefly over the younger man before returning to BA as he completed his task. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” Face’s voice was thin and crisp in the cold night air.

Hannibal narrowed his eyes, but didn’t say anything. BA jogged back around the pond just as the police came around the side of the house.

“Everybody freeze.” The uniformed patrolman shouted.

“I already am.” Face muttered under his breath, shivering.

“BA get the van started,” Hannibal said softly, then raised his voice, “sorry officer, no can do. Face – get in the back.” Hannibal had changed his aim of the machine gun from Frank and Jerry to the police officer and the ones approaching. “The dark weasily one is the guy that got away from the TV store today, the tall ugly one was conspiring with him to murder my soggy friend here.” Face slid open the door of the van and crawled in the back, he left it open so Hannibal could join him. Hannibal backed toward the van.

“You better freeze, mister.” The police officer shouted again and held his weapon in a two handed grip pointed in the direction of the van.

Hannibal gave a chuckle. “Nope, don’t think so.” BA rev-ed the engine. Hannibal sat down on the floor of the van and tucked his legs in. He let loose a quick barrage of bullets into the air and the cops hit the ground. BA gunned the engine and the van tore through the underbrush and back out onto the driveway beside the house. Hannibal had scrambled up to the front seat while Face pulled the door shut.

The officers at the front of the house opened fire, hitting the side of the van. One shot came through the window of the van raining glass down on Face and ricocheted in the interior to lodge in the back of the seat Face would have been siting on, if he hadn’t thrown himself to the floor.

“Shit.” Face exclaimed from under the arms he had put up to cover his head, as the glass showered down on him.

“Step on it BA. Let’s get the hell outta here.” Hannibal checked the clip of his weapon, while BA steered the van toward the nearest interstate. For some unknown reason, not a single squad car was following them.

BA gave all his concentration to the road. Hannibal had fished a map out of the glove compartment and was giving directions. “That was fun.” He said to no one in particular, and no one answered him. Face curled up in a shivering ball on the floor and just tried to stay warm and out of the way.

About 10 minutes later BA spoke up. ” We lost ’em Colonel”

Hannibal let out a huge sigh. “Good. We better find a place to crash for the night, and then get that window fixed first thing in the morning. It does tend to stand out.”

“There’s a motel up ahead, want me to pull in there?”

Hannibal looked the place over, a little seedy, but not too bad. And the parking lot was not that well lit. “Yeah, that looks pretty good. Face, you up to scammin’?” When there was no answer from the back Hannibal turned around in the seat. “Face?”

Face was curled up in a ball behind Hannibal’s seat trying to stay out of the wind coming in through the missing glass. His clothes were still wet, but his hair had blown dry in the breeze. Even in the poor lighting Hannibal could see the dark circles under his eyes, and the pale tone of his skin. “Shit.” Hannibal swore under his breath and climbed over the seat. “Get us in fast, BA.”

Hannibal pulled off his own jacket and laid it over Face’s still body. He took one of Face’s hands between both of his and began to rub it to increase circulation. Then moved his hands up and down Face’s damp arms.

“He hit?” BA asked with concern in his voice.

“I don’t think so, but he’s cold. We need to get him warm.”

BA pulled slowly into the parking lot and got out of the van. He walked slowly up to the manager’s window as if he had been behind the wheel way too long. He rented only one room, as the other two occupants of the van could not be seen and then took the key and returned to drive to the room. Every movement calm and calculated belying the anxiety and nervous energy that pounded through his veins. He wanted to hurry, to rush to Face’s aid, but instead his had to insure that no one noticed anything unusual in his manner.

The room itself was plain with all the usual furnishings. Two beds, a closet with no door, a bathroom, a dresser with a TV bolted to it and a nightstand between the beds with a phone. BA unloaded the three duffel bags that held all their belongings. He moved to the back of the van to make sure the strong box that held their weapons was locked securely, and then checked to be sure no one was watching while Hannibal dragged Face to his feet and helped him into the room.

BA had started a hot bath when he entered the room for the first time and Hannibal went in to check the temperature of the water. Steam filled the little room and Hannibal set Face on the closed lid of the toilet and began to pull off the soggy shoes and socks.

“I really wish you’d talk to somebody when you’re hurt.” Hannibal chided in a soft tone. Face’s eyes were vacant, the dark smudges under his eyes more apparent in the bright light. His lips held a hint of a blue tinge. Hannibal unbuttoned the white dress shirt and noticed a few spots of blood, and a large bruise on his ribs. The cuts and scrapes were from his dash through the underbrush, and maybe a few more from the flying glass of the van window. “Doesn’t look like anything serious, but would it kill you to let me know?”

Hannibal was talking as much to hear himself speak as he was trying to get a response from the man before him. The light fixture had a heater in it to burn off steam, and Hannibal was beginning to sweat, but Face was still clammy under his hands. “Come on, stand up for me.” He put his hands under Face’s arms and pulled him to his feet. Face stood compliantly without a sound.


When Hannibal let him go to unbutton the blue jeans Face swayed a little, but remained standing. Hannibal pulled down the drenched jeans and underwear and then set Face back on the toilet while Hannibal pulled the clothes the rest of the way off. He left the younger man to put his hands in the bath water to insure it wasn’t too hot and then went back to Face.

“Ok, here we go. Can you get in the tub?” Face still wasn’t talking, but he was beginning to tremble. From head to toe small shudders coursed over his body bringing a gasp to his lips. “It’s ok, it’s ok.” Hannibal kept repeating as he eased the younger man down into the warm water.

BA came in with two cups of coffee. “How’s he doin’?”

“It’s not hypothermia, but it’s close. He’s cold to the touch, and unresponsive.” Hannibal ran a hand over his face to clear his eyes and wipe off some of the sweat.

“What can I do?”

“Stay with him a minute and see if you can get some of that coffee in him. I’ll go get him some dry clothes.” Hannibal and BA squeezed past each other as the big man knelt next to the tub.

“Hey, how ya’ doin’?” BA said as he held the cup of coffee up to the younger man’s lips. “Come on, drink a little for me, huh?” Face made no response as he sat shivering in the water.

Face was noticing that his world had taken on a very odd feeling. He was standing in a meadow, but the colors were all wrong. Everything around him seemed to be in sepia colors of different shades of brown, like those old time photo’s you could have taken at county fairs and boardwalk photo galleries. The sun was out and he could feel a breeze, but he felt cold. He knew he should recognize this meadow, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

He turned in a circle and looked all around him, up and down until he realized he was very much alone. It was so very still and quiet here. No birds singing, not bugs humming or making little bug noises. Even the tree branches stirring in the breeze made no sound. He felt himself moving he was walking through the meadow, but he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. The meadow was an endless expanse with trees at the far end, but he didn’t get any closer to them no matter how fast he walked.

He knew he should be doing something. He closed his eyes to block out the site of the confusing images and just tried to remember what it was he was supposed to do. Hannibal had been talking to him. Hannibal was in his ear, but he couldn’t make out what he was saying. He opened his eyes to look around and find his Colonel, but he was no longer in the meadow.

He knew where he was, he was in Vietnam. It was hot and muggy here. He could feel the dampness in the air, it made him feel heavy and… and something else. What… what else did he feel? He didn’t even feel cold anymore, he just felt…Maybe that was the problem, he didn’t feel anything.

Hannibal had to get out of the hot little bathroom. He stood over Face’s duffel bag and held it up to dump out its contents, but had to stop and collect himself. A long breath shuddered threw him. This was bad, they – he- hadn’t even been paying enough attention to notice that Face was in trouble.

That had been part of the problem with this whole blasted month. He hadn’t been paying attention. He had assumed that doing things here was like doing them in ‘Nam. But he had to remember that things were different here. Here they needed to try very hard not to hurt civilians and innocents. The ‘enemies’ were still Americans. They didn’t have the kind of back up that they’d had over there either. And they were down a man.

Hannibal shook his head and mentally kicked himself. That was the real problem. Usually, Murdock and Face looked out for each other just as Hannibal and BA did. They all kept and eye out, but somewhere along the way there had become an unconscious pairing.

He mulled over the last three weeks. Face had a habit of being what was expected of him. For Murdock he was a friend, a confidant and confessor. For BA he was a procurement officer, a ready source of cash, and a good listener. For Hannibal he was so much more.

Hannibal sat on the edge of the bed. Face was so much to him. He was his second in command, his aide, his friend, his listening post, his right hand, hell, his left hand, too. But more then that, he was a rudder for the team. Kept them all from going off the deep end in any one direction. BA with his anger, Murdock with his crazy antics and him with the ‘jazz’.

And they had almost lost him tonight, not from the hypothermia, but because of a lack of planning, and that was all because Hannibal had not been paying attention. Not just today, but for the past three weeks. He could still feel the cold, clammy skin under the palms of his hands. If he closed his eyes he could see the vacant look in the deep blue-green eyes.

Hannibal dug through the duffel bag and pulled out a pair of sweat pants and a tee shirt and laid them on the bed. He took another deep breath and got his fear of losing Face under control, and found under his fear he was a little angry. ‘Why couldn’t he just tell somebody if he’s hurt or sick?’ Hannibal kept asking himself over and over. ‘Stupid, kid, stupid and irresponsible.’ He shuddered again at almost losing one of the team and reminded himself that as their leader he had to be strong. He just didn’t want to be strong right now.

BA kept trying to coax the younger man to drink, but after having no luck he gave up. He kept one hand on Face’s chest to insure he didn’t slide under the water and with the other he soaked a wash cloth and began running it over the arm and shoulder closest to him. He kept murmuring nonsense words of encouragement over and over. “It’s okay, you’re gonna be okay” not knowing if Face could even hear him. The blue eye remained open, unblinking, and vacant.


In a haze he looked down at himself, he couldn’t feel his arms or legs, but he could see them. He could see his feet and his hands. Why couldn’t he feel them? He was moving again. But this time he was flying, flying over the ocean. But not in a plane, just he alone in the big blue sky, with the sun on his back and the small white caps of waves below him. No wonder Murdock loved to fly if this is what it felt like. He flew over an island and could look down on the white sand and the lush, green foliage and into the volcano.

He gasped, the volcano was erupting and his skin was on fire.

BA felt Face shudder under the hand he had firmly pressed against the tan chest. Then Face let out a gasp and began to thrash. “Hannibal?” BA shouted in alarm.

Face had closed his eyes, but was still struggling to get away from his burning skin and the tight pressure against his chest. Hannibal dashed in and took in the scene. Face was going to hurt himself thrashing around like that. “Get him out of there.” Face’s lips were back to beginning pink and his skin had lost the waxy gray color.

BA pulled Face up and out of the tub and kept him in a firm grip while Hannibal rubbed him down efficiently with two of the towels. “Let’s get him into bed.” Hannibal said as he backed out of the tiny bathroom. BA didn’t wait to let the younger man walk on his own; he just lifted Face into his arms and carried him out to the bed.

Hannibal pulled down the blankets and BA sat against the headboard with Face pulled tightly against his chest. Hannibal had picked up the sweat pants and tee shirt and together they wrestled Face into the dry clothes. BA didn’t relinquish his position on the bed. He held Face between his legs, Face’s back pressed against his big chest, his large arms wrapped around the still trembling body before him willing his strength and warmth into the smaller man.

“He’s scarin’ the crap outta me, Hannibal. Is he gonna be ok?”

Hannibal pulled the blankets up and over both sets of legs and tucked them around Face’s shoulders. He put his hand on Face’s forehead as if checking for fever, but this time he was checking how cold the man was. Face was getting warmer. His body temperature was coming up, and his breathing was better.

“Yeah, BA, I think he’ll be okay.” Hannibal said letting out the breath he didn’t even realize he was holding. This time when Hannibal pressed the cup of coffee to Face’s lips he took a sip. “Come on, kid, drink for me.” The vacant look was gone and Face took another sip and then tried to bring his shaking hands up to hold the cup. “Let me help hold it, okay?” Hannibal put his hands around Face’s and helped to steady the cup and it raised up and down a few inches while Face tried to drink down the hot, sugary liquid.

After getting down about half the cup Face licked his lips and relinquished the cup back in to Hannibal’s hands. “And you say I make a terrible cup of coffee?” His voice was soft, but strong.

Both Hannibal and BA chuckled at that and Face decided it was a very strange sensation indeed to have BA laugh while you were pressed up against his chest. He could feel BA laughing against his spine. “‘M tired, can I sleep now?” Face struggled to keep his eyes open.

“Sure.” Hannibal replied and motioned for BA to climb out from behind Face. In a matter of minutes Face was sleeping.

“That was scary.” BA muttered.

“We aren’t out of the woods, yet.” Hannibal muttered back. Then after getting ready for bed himself he climbed in on one side of Face and BA climbed in on the other and together they kept the youngest member of the team warm and were there to calm him through an entire night of bad dreams.

BA awoke hours later in a sweat. He was tired and stiff from lying too long in one position. Face had started out flat on his back and in order to fit all three of them in the bed in meant that BA and Hannibal had to sleep on their sides. But during the course of the night, Face had turned onto his side and BA took advantage of the move to turn onto his back. Face had then pressed his lean body up against BA side and Hannibal had moved further into the bed to keep Face warm. Then none of the them could move.

Face may have been cold, but he generated heat. In the past, Face would bury himself under layers of covers, complaining of the cold and still radiating enough warmth to grow hot house flowers. It wasn’t the first time that they had been forced to share small spaces, but it still made BA uncomfortable, and being that close to Face made him perspire. BA checked his watch and rolled out of bed and watched as Face, missing the body heat, rolled over to his other side, and curled up next to Hannibal.

BA went into the bathroom and cleaned up. It was only 6:30 in the morning, but there were things he needed to do before they headed out for the day. He dressed and went to sit on the other bed to lace up his combat boots.

“Hannibal?” He whispered.

Hannibal’s eyes popped open quickly and as BA looked into the bloodshot blue eyes he felt a little pang of guilt. “BA?”

“Everything’s fine.” BA whispered again. “I got some stuff I want to do this morning. I’ll be back in a few hours. I just didn’t want you to wake up and find me missing.”

Hannibal could feel Face plastered up against his back and gave BA a grin. “Well, at least he feels much warmer.”

BA giggled, it was a high, silly sound that seemed so out of character for the large, muscle bound man that sat across from him. “If you could harness that energy we could heat a small country.”

Hannibal grinned back at BA and rolled his eyes. “It’s one of the wonders of the world.”

“I’ll be back as quick as I can. Check out is at 11.” BA got to his feet and rifled through Face’s duffel until he came up with Face’s wallet and took some of the bills out and put them in his pocket.

“Watch your back, BA.”

“Yessir.” BA said and made sure the door was locked behind him.

Hannibal stretched and then shoved Face back into the middle of the bed so that he could lie flat on his back. Face stayed in the middle for a few moments then headed back to Hannibal’s side. Hannibal took a moment to turn on the light in the dim room and check Face over. His breathing seemed good, his color was a little flushed, but not unusual since he’d just spent the night crushed between the two other men. His shivering had stopped about an hour after they had gotten into bed with him.

Hannibal reached over and turned the light back off and decided that they could both use the extra sleep and settled back down with a sigh.

About two hours later Hannibal awoke again. The room was quiet; Face was lying on his back on his own side of the bed. He could hear the maid service cleaning the rooms further down the hallway, so he got up and made sure the “Do Not Disturb” sign was out and the door was deadbolted before going in and taking a shower.

He reached down and shook Face lightly. “Hmm?”

“Face, I’m gonna leave for a little bit. You go back to sleep, but don’t let anybody in the room except me or BA, got it?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” He mumbled never having opened his eyes.

Hannibal shook his head. “Fine! I’m not sure you and I have the same definition for that word. I’ll be back soon.”


Hannibal checked his 9mm and put it in the waistband of his slacks, took some more of the cash from Face’s wallet and headed out.

Two hours later when Hannibal came back in, Face woke up and blinked his blue-green eyes. Hannibal noticed they were clear of the glassy look they had held the night before.

“How are you feeling, Lieutenant?” Hannibal asked as he set his purchases down.

“Fine.” Face said while at the same time trying to judge just how he really did feel.

Hannibal let out a frustrated sigh and sat on the dresser next to the TV and fixed the younger man with his cool blue eyes. “Truth, Face.” He said as he crossed his arms over his chest.

Face closed his eyes and did a mental inventory, “Truth?”


“Truth is, my head aches, my skin feels like it’s on too tight, every muscle in my body is sore, there is this huge pressure on my chest and everything from my hair to my toenails hurts.” Then Face opened his eyes and gave a grin. “But other then that I feel terrific.”

Hannibal chuckled. “Well, good, as long as that’s all.”

“So what hit me?” Face said as he swung his legs over the side of the bed and had to stop as the room swayed before maneuvering into the bathroom.

“You don’t remember?”

Face pulled out his toothbrush and put paste on it. “I remember going to the TV repair store, I remember you yelling out “it’s the police” and BA tossing in the smoke grenade. After that, just weird images.” He stood against the door jam to the bathroom and began brushing his teeth waiting for Hannibal to fill in the rest.

“You don’t remember Manning snatching you, or the firefight, or you diving into the pond?”

Face frowned and shook his head. “Nope.” He said around the paste and brush.

“I’m gonna make a phone call while you finish cleaning up. BA should be here any minute and we’ll need to get out of here.”

“K” was all he heard as Face turned on the shower.

After Face had his shower and changed into clean clothes he came out of the bathroom. BA had returned and they were loading up the duffel bags into the van. “Ready to go, Lieutenant?” Hannibal asked.

Face made a quick search of the room. “Yes, it’s just that I feel like I’m forgetting something.”

BA decided to make another sweep of the room, and finding nothing they all loaded into the van and headed out.

Face leaned back against the bench seat in the back. “I remember more.” He said as he tried to find a comfortable position. “I remember getting grabbed by Manning and then Jerry showing up and running down the stairs at the apartment. I remember being at to the pond, but I’m not too clear how I got there, and I’m not at all clear on what happened after.”

During his little speech, Hannibal had turned his chair around to look at the younger man. Face’s hair was still damp and hung limply around his face. He had dressed in blue jeans but had put a sweater on over his shirt and was wearing his leather jacket.

“Are you cold?” Hannibal asked raking Face with his eyes.

“No, I just thought I’d better dress warm. Hey!”

“What?” Hannibal was startled by the exclamation.

“The window.” Face was pointing to where the shot out window was, or rather should have been. In its place was a whole new door. This door did not have a window at all, and was covered in an extra layer of sheet metal.

“I didn’t want no more bullets coming through the window.” BA explained. “The side of the van is one of our greatest points of weakness, so I figured to strengthen it.”

Face gave a grin. BA was looking out for him again. “Thanks, BA.”

“No problem.” BA shyly turned his head away from the gratitude that he heard in Face’s voice.

“I talked to Jack Hastings, remember him?” Hannibal jumped in before the silence between Face and BA got too loud.

“Wasn’t he a medic with the 112th?” BA put in.

“Yes. He’s the head of a paramedic team with a fire department in Albany, NY. And he says from your symptoms you are probably suffering from exposure and not hypothermia. He says there is sometimes temporary memory loss but you should get it all back.” Hannibal fumbled around in his pockets until he found a half-smoked cigar. “Does that work?” He asked pointing to the cigarette lighter in the dash.

“Yeah, but don’t get used to it. I’m gonna use the outlet to hook up a CB.” BA responded and pushed the lighter with out waiting for Hannibal to turn around and do it.

“I think we should put in a car phone.” Face said leaning forward in the seat. “When I got separated yesterday it would have been nice to call you.”

“How we gonna arrange to pay the bill?” Hannibal said thoughtfully. “I like the idea, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t want to get it traced back to any one of us.”

“Let me worry about that. I was also thinking of getting a phone put in at Murdock’s”

“That crazy fool, what does he need a phone for? He’ll try to make long distance calls to Batman.” BA was shaking his head.

“No, I mean we can use him as a back up, and I like to keep in touch with him when I can, and there are only so many times I can have him called to the phone.” Face turned pleading eyes to his commander. “What do you say?”

Hannibal heard the lighter pop on the dash and took a few seconds to get his cigar lit. “Have you talked to his shrink? What does he say?”

“Em, well, I can’t say I actually cleared it with him, but Murdock likes the idea.” Face leaned back against the seat and crossed his arms against his chest again. “I’m gonna do it.”

Hannibal raised an eyebrow at his second in command. They’re eyes locked for a moment. The message was clear in Hannibal’s unspoken countenance. ‘I am still in command here.’ Face stared back for a few heartbeats before dropping his eyes in defeat. BA silently watched the exchange in the review mirror.

“Do you know what you’ll be getting yourself in for?” Hannibal spoke softly. “He’ll be calling you all the time, whether you have a girlfriend over or not. You’ll have to keep him informed of wherever your living at all times. He’ll call you for bad dreams and pizza cravings. He takes up a lot of your time, now, as it is.”

“I know. It’ll be fine. Murdock and I get along very well. And his shrink does say he does better after a visit from me. Come on, Hannibal, it’ll be okay.”

Hannibal gave a frown as he stared at the end of his cigar. “BA find us someplace to eat.” BA continued to drive with out saying anything, but his eyes continued to flick back and forth between the two other men.

Hannibal took a great deal of pride in taking care of his men, and like it or not Murdock was one of the team.

BA was convinced that Murdock was stark raving loony. Of course the fact that he liked to fly was probably the biggest factor in that decision.

Hannibal felt that Murdock wasn’t really crazy, only playing the system for what he could get out of it. Murdock did have problems; there was not doubt about that. The structured life at the VA had been helping, and Murdock did suffer from what they were now calling “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder”, and there did seem to be some memory loss. It was a hard thing to reconcile yourself to coming home when so many of your friend didn’t.

What Face felt about Murdock being locked up was anyone’s guess. Usually he made a crack about if he was crazy it was good crazy so what’s the harm. But Face was the one most distressed by Murdock’s commitment. For the first few months after their escape Face floundered. His scams weren’t as smooth; his smiles became more rare. He and Murdock had worked as team in ‘Nam and Face felt something was missing when he had first started to work alone again. So he kept in contact with Murdock as much as he could.

Face had dated a girl that had a friend that was married to a guy who had helped Face arrange for Murdock’s transfer from the facility in Raleigh to Westwood. Face even came to visit regularly, posing as an aide to a General’s staff. So far, Lynch hadn’t gotten wise.

Now, he waited for Hannibal’s decision. “It’s not the sort of thing you can change your mind about, Face. If it becomes a problem, you can’t just shut it off and drop him. It will become another tool to his recovery.” Hannibal was concerned not only for Murdock and the impact it would make on his life, but for Face as well.

“I know, I’ve given it a lot of thought, really.” Face squirmed on the bench seat. “BA this seat is really not going to be very comfortable for any kind of long trip.”

“Let me think about it,” was all BA said as he pulled off the interstate and towards a family style restaurant next to a gas station.

“Okay, I’ll agree that the phone in the van is a good idea. I have my reservations about the one in Murdock’s room, but if you can pull it off, go ahead and do it. If we ever need a pilot it’ll be nice being able to get ahold of him.” BA had parked the van and they all got out. Face noticed that it took quite a tug to shut the sliding door.

“Just don’t expect me to fly with that crazy fool as a pilot.” BA muttered, but no one seemed to be listening.

“I don’t want him calling the van playing phone pranks or ordering take out Chinese food. Understand?” Hannibal used his smoldering cigar to point at Face’s chest to make his point.

“I’ll make sure he understands.” Face said solemnly.

“Be sure you do, Lieutenant” That was one command that both Face and Murdock would have to be very sure to follow.

They ordered lunch and Hannibal got a local paper. A front-page photo showed Chuck and his film crew in front of the TV repair store. The headline read “Local Film Shoot stops Crime Spree.”

“Chuck’s gonna milk this for all it’s worth back home.” Hannibal said with a chuckle, thinking about the free publicity for the “SwapThing” film.

“Does it say anything about the guys?” Face asked trying to read over Hannibal’s shoulder.

Hannibal scanned the paper quickly, “The only reference says 3 underage boys were being used to perform the robberies.” He read some more and said “Says they are cooperating with authorities.”

“So why did Manning go after Face? And why that Jerry guy? Knowing they were caught, why didn’t they just high-tail it out of town?” BA asked.

“Good question.” Hannibal said as the waitress brought their order and food was put in front of them. “One I have been asking myself all morning.”

Face squirmed on the bench seat. “I’m hot.” He said as he tried to get out of his leather jacket while pinned between Hannibal and the wall.

“That’s nice to hear.” BA said with a chuckle. Face only gave him a disparaging glance. Hannibal shifted half way out of the booth to give Face a chance to get out of the jacket and then hand it across to BA.

Face looked down at the plate of food before him. “First meal I haven’t cooked in three weeks and suddenly I’m not hungry.”

Hannibal shot him a sidelong glance. “Eat up. Jack said you should eat often to help maintain your internal body temperature.”

“My internal body temperature seems to be fine.” Face said sarcastically as he picked up his fork. “It seems to be on overdrive.” Face pulled on the front of his sweater.

“You’re just overdressed. Eat up.” Hannibal said as he and BA dug into their respective meals.

Face played with his food. It didn’t escape Hannibal’s attention that Face ate most of his vegetables, but left most of his chicken fried steak on the plate. “You gonna finish that?” BA asked after watching Face push the steak around the plate.

“No, go ahead.” Face said with relief as he traded plates with BA.

Hannibal frowned. “Is that how you cleaned your plate as a kid? Gave it to someone else?”

Face gave a grin, and leaned back into the corner of the booth and sipped his iced tea. “There was always someone to finish it for you. And the sisters didn’t let anybody leave until we had all finished. So we all got pretty good at swapping food around. You had to be careful, getting caught got the whole table in trouble.”

Hannibal shook his head. “Well, at least you ate the veggies.”

“I just couldn’t take the grease of the steak…sorry BA.” Face ducked his head, after all BA was still eating. “So, are we going home now?”

Hannibal signaled the waitress to bring more coffee. “Something about this still bugs me.”

“Jerry.” BA said.

“Exactly.” Hannibal stirred a little sugar into his coffee. “He just seemed to be risking a lot to come after you.”

“The papers.” Face said with a gasp.

“Papers?” Hannibal asked.

“I remember, the ones from the safe. He wanted the papers. He was willing to kill me to get them.” Face put down his glass. “I don’t remember where they are.”

Hannibal smiled, “Maybe because I packed them up. They’re in my humidor. Let’s just take a look at those papers and see what makes them so all fired special, shall we?”

After getting back into the van Face dug out the papers and read them over and then passed them forward to Hannibal. “These are proof that Jerry was embezzling from the Bennet’s. There is also proxy ballots to vote him off the board of their company, and copy’s of a partnership life insurance policy on Mr. Bennet with Jerry Teeter as the beneficiary.”

Hannibal reviewed the papers. “No wonder he was so desperate to have these. Bennet was about to boot him out of the company, and maybe have him arrested as well.”

“What do we do now?” BA asked.

“We have to get these back to the police.” Face said. “Teeter may try to have Bennet killed to collect the insurance.”

“It’s a nice idea, kid, but I’m not thrilled about heading back there to save this guy Bennet’s butt just to get ours tossed in the slam.”

“Isn’t there something we can do?” Face looked at his commander with huge blue eyes.

Even BA wanted to insure that Manning and Jerry stayed in jail and away from those kids. “Yeah, Colonel there’s gotta be something.”

Hannibal lit a cigar and stared out the front window. “Head back toward town and let me think.”

BA half turned in his seat and gave a grin to Face, and then started the motor and headed back down the interstate.

At a little diner down the street from the 17th precinct Hannibal put in a call to Sargent Duncan and a few minutes later the man slid into the chair across the table from him.

“Thanks for coming down, Sargent” Hannibal extended a hand which the Sargent shook amiably.

“So, Mr. Smith is our boy in trouble again?”

“Well, that’s a long story.” Hannibal asked the waiter for coffee.

“Let me shorten it for you.” The Sargent started. “He’s not your son.”

“No.” Hannibal didn’t even shift in his chair despite how nervous he was.

“And he’s not 18, or even close.”


“And you’re both wanted men.”

Hannibal flicked his eyes toward both the front and rear doors. “Well, there is that.” Hannibal finally said. He leaned back in his chair and lit a cigar.

“So, just what is it you want from me?” Dugan waived to the waiter to have cream brought over.

“We have some information on that Bennet burglary.” Hannibal pulled out the envelope, but kept it in his hand.

“Did your boy get this from Bennet’s safe? Is he the one that did the job?” Sargent Duncan leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. When Hannibal didn’t say anything, Duncan snorted. “Shit, I never should have let him go. If anybody ever finds out, I’ll be a laughing stock.” Dugan relaxed and sipped his coffee, made a face and added sugar.

“How did you find out?” Hannibal puffed on his cigar.

“That he was in on the robbery? I didn’t until you called. But I was having trouble making the stories jive. There seemed to be someone missing, but I couldn’t get those kids to confirm it. They just said they didn’t do the job. Now, how I found out that you and he were part of the A-Team? That was a lucky accident, I saw a 60 minutes broadcast on war crimes, and they showed your pictures. Mike Wallace thinks you got the shaft, by the way.”

“What do you think?”

“I think that kid is a hell of a con artist, and if he sets foot in my town again, I’ll have his ass in jail so fast his head will swim”

“Understood.” Hannibal gave a grin. “He’s very good.”

“Yeah, well… what about Bennet?”

“Bennett was going to get Jerry Teeter fired, and maybe jailed. Old Jer took out a life insurance policy against Bennet and…”

Sargent Duncan frowned and rubbed his eyes. “Shit, we let him go, once, too.”

“You guys do have a habit of letting people go early. You know you can hang on to a suspect for 48 hours.”

“I’m sure we’ll be doing a lot more of that in the future.”

“So we give you these papers, and get out of town, and you forget where you saw us for…24 hours?”

The two men stared across the table at each other, Sargent Duncan with a resigned expression, Hannibal with a big grin. ” Sure, I don’t want anyone to know I got information from felons anyway.”

Hannibal passed the package across the table.

Sargent Duncan smiled ruefully as he accepted them. “Just keep that kid away from me, understand? I can’t believe I busted a member of the A-Team and then just let him go.”

“You also arrested him for a curfew violation. We don’t much like to think about that, either.” Hannibal rose. “I hope this is good for your career, Duncan, we like you. Come on, kid.”

Face put the check on the table in front of the Sargent “Don’t bother to tip, I just quit.”

Then Face and Hannibal left together out the front door. “I told you, kid, nobody ever looks at the waiter.” Hannibal said with a snort as they heard Sargent Duncan sputter out threats behind them.

The End

By Tee Fischer September 2000

The next chapter “New Beginnings” to follow shortly.