Tightrope Walk

Hannibal gets a job offer that leads him into morally dangerous territory. Face learns about leadership and what it means to be in command when things go badly wrong.

Rating: PG13

Words: 26,700

Chapter 1

Hannibal checked his hair in the mirror, straightened his tie and took a couple of squirts of breath-freshener. Then he knocked on the hotel room door. A large man in a dark suit opened it.

“Hi. Hannibal Smith. I’m here for the audition.”

The large man looked at him closely then stood aside, letting Hannibal walk in. He knew right away this was no audition. Four more heavies in suits stood around the large room. Five chairs had been set up, four of them facing one across a low table. There was coffee, doughnuts and pastries on the table. The four chairs on one side of the table were occupied. These people were also wearing suits, but couldn’t be described as “heavies”. The word that sprung to Hannibal’s mind was “politicians” and he was soon proved right.

They stood up and one, a tall white haired man immaculately dressed and groomed said. “Good afternoon, Colonel Smith. I am Senator Adam Vaughan. This is Congressman Jose Alverez, Senator Jack Webster and Congresswoman Amanda Stark.” Hannibal shook hands with each of them in turn.

“Congressman? Senator? Who’s directing this picture, Dan Quayle?” They smiled at this, in some cases politely, in others with genuine amusement.

Congresswoman Stark, a handsome black woman, in her late forties, answered him. “I’m afraid, Colonel, that we have brought you here under false pretences.”

“Please sit, Colonel.” Vaughan said. Cautiously Hannibal did so. He was extremely suspicious about what was going on here, but for the moment he didn’t feel he was in any danger. He looked down at the script he carried, sighed. It had seemed like such a good role for him too. He dumped it on the table.

“Some coffee, Colonel?” Alverez offered him. Hannibal nodded and one of the heavies poured him a cup and handed it to him, offered him a doughnut, which Hannibal declined. Alverez took one himself. He was in his early forties and running to fat, looked as if he’d get winded hurrying to catch an elevator. His eyes were sharp and intelligent.

“What’s this about?” Hannibal asked. “Who are you people?” He studied Webster, who hadn’t spoken yet. A serious looking, grizzled man in his fifties. He was in charge, Hannibal decided.

“We are in fact former employers of yours,” Vaughan said, “Though we never met.” Hannibal got it at once.

“You’re Stockwell’s bosses.”

“I wouldn’t say ‘bosses’. Not exactly.” The Congresswoman said. “Thinking in corporate terms you could say we were more the board of directors while he was the CEO.” She smiled at the description.

“Whatever, you’re the backers,” Hannibal said, “You’re the ones who got the money for him.”

“Exactly,” Vaughan said. “We provided the funding and the late General Stockwell took care of the operational side.”

“Well it’s nice to meet you finally and I’d love to sit here and chat about how you all didn’t go to jail, but I’m a busy man. I have real auditions to go to, so…” He put down his coffee cup and rose.

“Really, Colonel?” Webster spoke for the first time, in a deep voice. “I believe you don’t in fact have another audition scheduled for at least a week.” Hannibal winced a little at that, but kept up his defiant stance.

“You let me worry about my career, Senator.” Hannibal said.

“In fact, it’s your career we brought you here to discuss,” Vaughan said. “Please hear us out.” Hannibal looked at them then sat down again.

“Since the death of General Stockwell,” Vaughan went on, “we have tried promoting from within the organisation. However it seems the General was good at training subordinates but not successors.”

“He didn’t like competition.” Hannibal commented. “Mind if I smoke?” He took out a cigar and started to light it without waiting for an answer.

“So it seems.” Stark agreed. “The organisation has been stagnating somewhat. What it needs is leadership.” Hannibal stared at her, his cigar forgotten, the flame on his lighter flickering out. She couldn’t mean what he thought she meant, surely…

“A strong hand on the tiller.” Alverez said, which made Hannibal’s gaze shift to him.

“Someone who isn’t afraid to make tough decisions.” Vaughan said and got Hannibal’s stare in his turn.

“You guys have got to be kidding.” Hannibal said finally.

“No, Colonel.” Webster said. “We are not kidding. Let me make it clear what my colleagues, in their roundabout ways, are trying to say. We wish to offer you the late General Stockwell’s job.”

They waited for him to stop laughing. They had to wait for some time. Finally Hannibal wiped his eyes and said. “Thanks guys, it was worth the trip just to hear that. If Stockwell is looking down…” he paused, then continued, “…or possibly up, at us, he’s probably laughing too.” He stood up. “Oh, can you validate my parking for me?”

“Please, Colonel. Don’t dismiss this so readily.” Vaughan said. “First let us explain exactly what this involves.”

“I already know what it involves,” Hannibal said. “Manipulation, blackmail, a big chance of going to jail.”

“You lived for many years with the threat of going to jail.” Webster said.

“And believe me, I prefer life without that threat.” Hannibal said.

“Really?” Alverez said. “You prefer spending your time playing character parts in b-movies to the excitement your life used to hold?”

“What about ‘the Jazz’, Colonel?” Vaughan asked.

“I’m supposed to fall for that?” Hannibal asked. You read Amy Allen’s book and think that means you know me? Thinking he knew me was Stockwell’s mistake and look where he ended up. Besides, Stockwell spent most of the time behind his desk, weaving his webs, no ‘Jazz’ there.”

“Well, we thought perhaps at your time of life…” Alverez began.

“I’ll live longer than you, pal.” Hannibal snapped hotly at the man with powdered sugar on his lapels.

“Think about all the good you can do,” Stark said, trying a different tack. “With the resources of the organisation behind you.”

“Yeah, ’cause Stockwell was doing a lot of good wasn’t he?” Hannibal retorted. He was still standing. Inside he was telling himself to leave, but couldn’t resist listening to their attempts to draw him in. They looked a little uncomfortable at what he’d said.

“Lessons have been learnt from the way Stockwell worked,” Vaughan said. “We have made changes to the way things are done.”

“Oh, now you’re a kinder, gentler, black ops unit?”

“Perhaps.” Stark said, recognising the sarcasm, but taking the comment at face value too. “And of course, you’re not Stockwell, you are a very different man.”

“Gee, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.” Hannibal snarked.

“What she means, Colonel,” Webster said, quietly. “Is that the organisation will work according to your methods, to your standards. And to your agenda.” This finally gave Hannibal pause.

“My agenda? You mean you just give me the money and I decide what to do with it?”

“Within certain parameters, yes,” Alverez said.

“What parameters?” Hannibal asked suspiciously.

“Our ultimate goal is to protect the national security of the United States,” Vaughan said, “and to make the country a better and safer place for all its citizens.”

“Very noble.” Hannibal said, with a touch of sarcasm. But not too much. Vaughan had sounded utterly sincere. “But why me? Hell, Stockwell himself admitted that he should never have recruited us, that we were wrong for the organisation. Now you want to put me in charge?”

“Leadership, Colonel Smith.” Stark said. “Your working under Stockwell may have been a mistake, but your leading the organisation would not be. In fact if I had both you and the General in front of me now and had to make the choice…”

“Okay, lady…er, ma’am, you don’t need to butter me up quite so blatantly.” He finally sat down again and took a Danish pastry. Might as well get a free snack out of this nonsense.

“We were very impressed with the way you handled the attempted coup in Qumar last year.” Alverez said, continuing the buttering up. “We’ve read the reports of Lieutenant-Colonel Langford and Lieutenant-Colonel Madari, they both spoke very highly of your methods.”

“Langford spoke highly of me?” Hannibal said, grinned. “He must have been drunk.” Mention of Langford made him think of something else. He finally understood why MI6 were interested in him and what that meant. That these people had been watching him for nearly a year at least, waiting for this day. He almost hated to disappoint them after they had put all this effort in. Hannibal stood up, wiping his hands on a napkin.

“Well this has been fascinating, really. But I’d sooner stick my hand in a bucketful of piranhas than work for you. No offence.” They rose too. Vaughan took a card from his pocket and handed it to Hannibal.

“We don’t need a final answer now, Colonel, please call this number if you wish to discuss the matter any further. It’s been very good to meet you.” They all shook hands in a friendly way as if he hadn’t just told them to take their job and stick it. “One of the, erm, Ables,” Vaughan waved a hand at the heavies, “will validate your parking for you.”

And then he was back in the hotel corridor. He glanced at the card in his hand. All it contained was a phone number. It certainly didn’t contain Senator Vaughan’s name. He suspected that if he walked into a newspaper office right now and gave them the story they would find out that none of the four politicians were in fact in LA today, they were all in far distant parts of the country and couldn’t possibly have just met with him. He couldn’t find a trash can so he put the card into his pocket. He would throw it away later.


“Here you go, BA, milk for you, beers for the rest of us.”

“Thanks, Frankie.” Hannibal said, taking the bottle. He took a bite of his burger and a swig of beer, settled back in the garden chair enjoying the sunshine. Face took his beer had a moment of indecision then put it down beside the chair, picked up his burger in his left hand. His right arm was in a cast and a sling. BA took the glass of milk with a grunt of thanks.

“C’mon, Murdock,” Frankie called, to where Murdock was crawling around on the grass with Frankie’s eighteen month old twin sons under the watchful eye of Frankie’s wife Rosita.

“In a minute.” Murdock answered, clearly having far too much fun with the kids to want to join them. Frankie went back to the barbeque, started poking the sausages around.

“How’d you break your arm this time, Face?” Frankie asked.

“Paragliding.” Face admitted. “Had kind of a tricky landing.”

“Paragliding?” Hannibal said. “When did you take that up?”

Face shrugged. “Just trying it out.” Hannibal frowned a little. Face had been “trying out” rather a lot of dangerous sports lately. He’d already broken his arm twice and sprained his ankle once. Hannibal was getting a little nervous.

Face had expected some kind of comment on the idiocy of paragliding from BA but when he looked over at him BA was gazing off into the middle distance. He’d been pretty quiet ever since they arrived at Frankie’s house earlier that afternoon.

“You okay, BA? You seem kinda down.” Face asked him. BA looked up at him, scowling, but then his expression softened.

“Yeah, ah’m okay. Just…” He stopped, they waited for a moment and he finally went on. “Ah was at a funeral this mornin’.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, BA,” Face said. “Someone close?”

“One of the kids who used to come to the youth centre.”

“What happened, BA?” Hannibal asked.

“The usual.” BA said. “Crack.” Again he paused, his face clouded with anger and grief. “His name was Lester. He was a good kid for a long time. Used to go to school, worked hard, stayed outta trouble. He was real smart, coulda gone to college. But he got in with a bad crowd, started takin’ drugs, started stealin’. Ah tried to help, to get him cleaned up, but nuthin’ worked.”

“How did he die?” Face asked quietly.

“A week ago he got shot by the cops when he tried to hold up a convenience store.”

“Man…” Frankie shook his head sadly.

“All that promise, you know, all that potential, just…wasted.” BA shook his head too. “If ah could get hold of the guys who first gave him that poison…” then his anger faded a little. “Ah shoulda done something more for him, shoulda found a way to help him.”

Face reached out with his good hand and squeezed BA’s arm. “You can’t save them all, BA. You do a lot of good work, there are kids you’ve helped who’ve gone to college, or got themselves good jobs, that might otherwise have ended up dead or in jail.”

“Sometimes ah wonder if it’s worth it. The problems are so big, and ah’m just one man. The number of people ah can help is so small.” He sounded quite dejected, clearly deeply affected.

Hannibal looked at the sadness on his friend’s face. Then he looked across at the two small children laughing and crawling around on the grass with Murdock. He thought about their potential and how easily it could be lost if they made one wrong turn. And he thought about the people out there waiting to take advantage of anyone making a wrong turn.


“Senator Vaughan? No? Yeah, yeah, I know you’ve never heard of any Senator Vaughan. Well next time you don’t talk to him tell him Smith wants another meet. Soon as it can be arranged.”


It wasn’t the same hotel room; it wasn’t even the same hotel. None of the heavies were the same. But Vaughan, Stark, Webster and Alverez were the same. Hannibal walked in and got right to the point.

“It’s for real what you said? I set the agenda? I make policy?”

“Yes.” Webster said.

“In that case my agenda is drugs. Who’s making them, who’s bringing them in, who’s distributing them.” Three of the four politicians looked at each other. Webster went on looking at Hannibal.

“There are police and federal agencies dedicated to…” Alverez began.

“And their hands are tied with red tape. Mine wouldn’t be.”

“We appreciate you have always been very anti-drugs, Colonel,” Stark said “And many of your prior missions have helped in the fight against them, but we work more on matters of national security.”

“You’re telling me this isn’t a matter of national security? Thousands of our young people, who should be fit and ready to serve their country, are being destroyed. The people poisoning them are as much our enemies as any terrorists you care to name.” He held Webster’s gaze as he spoke, knew he was the one he needed to convince. “You said you want things to be different now than they were with Stockwell. You said you want to make America a better place. Was that all just bull?” Webster looked at him closely. “Nixon declared the War on Drugs twenty years ago. I don’t know if you folks have noticed, but we don’t seem to be winning.” He saw Webster’s face flicker just a little at the mention of Nixon. Hannibal had been doing some reading on the political backgrounds and known allegiances of his four new friends. Webster and Nixon went back quite a ways.

Webster stepped close to Hannibal then and held out his hand. Hannibal shook it.

“Welcome back to the organisation, Colonel.”

Chapter 2

“I’ve heard some crazy stuff in my time,” Murdock said, “but this takes the cake. A three tiered wedding cake at that.”

Hannibal had fully expected this reaction when he told the rest of the team about his new job.

“I know it sounds nuts, guys, but I honestly believe I can do some good. And I want you all with me.”

“You’re recruiting us?” Face said. “Do we have to go through a mock execution first?” He looked angry. Murdock and BA just looked disbelieving, but Face’s eyes were dark with fury.


“No, Hannibal, I can’t believe you would even consider this. After everything we went through you want us to work for these people again?”

“It will be different this time. I’m in control now, not Stockwell. And I intend to stamp my personality all over that organisation.”

“You really think you can do that Hannibal?” Murdock asked. “That you can influence them instead of the other way around?”

“I do. They’ll do the right thing whether they want to or not. I’ll see to it.” He went on to explain what his priorities were going to be, saw BA’s expression change to cautious interest.

“Don’t you guys think that smashing drug smuggling networks comes under the heading of doing good? Look, this is a chance to make a real difference. We’ll finally have the kind of power and resources that will let us do that.” He searched their faces as he tried to sell it.

“Ah still think it’s nuts.” BA growled. Murdock nodded in agreement.

“Just think about it, please.” Hannibal said. “I’m doing this and I want my team with me.” They looked at each other. Murdock shrugged.

“I’ll think about it.”

“Yeah.” BA said. “Me too.” Face didn’t speak, had his arms folded looking at the floor.

“Face?” He got no answer. “Guys,” Hannibal said, turning to Murdock and BA, “can I talk to Face alone?”

“Well, I gotta go to work, anyway.” Murdock said. “Can you give me a ride, big guy?” They left.

“So?” Face said when they were alone.

“Face, I need you with me on this. I’m gonna be the guy back at HQ flying a desk. I need someone that I trust in command in the field. I want that to be you.”

“You? Stay behind a desk?” Face said, incredulously. “See that isn’t going to work for a start.”

“Face, look at me. I mean really look. I’m… not young any more. I can’t run around the way I used to.” It was a difficult thing for him to admit, but he knew it was true. He was slowing down. He wouldn’t wait until he was a liability in the field, he could use his experience just as well to issue orders from higher up. And he knew he could rely on Face to carry out those orders. “You’ve been a Lieutenant long enough, Face. It’s time to take the lead.” Face lost the defiant look, but he still didn’t appear convinced.

“I have a business, clients…”

“And all those thrilling lunches negotiating deals with producers are giving you the adrenaline rush you want, are they? So why have you taken to jumping out of planes and climbing sheer cliffs?”

Self-consciously Face put his right arm with its cast behind his back. Hannibal was right about that, he had been seeking excitement lately. When he’d ridden into battle with a company of Bedouin warriors he’d been reminded of how good that adrenaline surge felt and had finally admitted to himself that he missed it. But going back to work for these people may just be too high a price to get that thrill back.

“Face, all I ask is that you at least think about it,” Hannibal could see that his second was still undecided. “Doing this without you… ” He shook his head, smiled, “well, it won’t be nearly as much fun as I’d hoped.”

“Fun?” Face shook his head in disbelief. “You think this is going to be fun? Did Stockwell ever look as if he was having fun?”

“I’m not Stockwell. And sure it’s going to be fun. Kicking drug dealer ass has always been fun.”


Face had eventually promised he would think about it too, so Hannibal started his new job in a pretty good mood. They sent a car to pick him up at home and take him to the jet. His jet, he thought, grinning. The Able driving gave him a slightly odd look as he got into the car and he wondered if he should have worn a suit.

The jet was almost the same as he remembered it, with one new addition.

“Good morning, Colonel Smith. My name is Barbara, I’ll be your assistant.” Hannibal gave her an appreciative once over. About thirty, pretty with long brown hair, a nice figure and good legs. She’s a test, he thought at once. They want to know if I can keep my hands off her. He wondered briefly if Stockwell had kept his hands off Carla, but quickly stopped thinking about that before he started getting any kind of mental picture.

“Just Barbara, or do you have a last name?”

“March,” she said. “Would you like coffee?” She was brisk and efficient. After providing coffee she started introducing him to all the various gadgets and gizmos on the plane, which took up the whole of the morning. At lunchtime the driver took him to an expensive and discreet restaurant. A table was already booked for him and he found Senator Vaughan waiting. The Senator gave him the same look the Maitre-de had and Hannibal decided he would definitely have to wear a suit tomorrow.

“How was your first morning?” Vaughan asked as they studied their menus.

“Fine, just getting to know the place. When do I actually do some work?”

“When you get back Barbara will have prepared files for you to review. Personnel, facilities, other resources. It will probably take several days to fully familiarise yourself with the infrastructure of the organisation.”


“Meanwhile the information you requested on drug smuggling and distribution is being collated and will be presented to you in a few days.”

“Then we go to work?”

“Yes. As we said, things have been stagnating lately, we need some decisive action to shake everyone up and put some life back into them.”

“Looking forward to it.” Hannibal grinned.


First though he had to get through the small mountain of files Barbara had prepared for him. Vast amounts to read, videotape to watch, people to meet. Department heads mostly and all as dull as corporate drones. Hannibal longed to move on to interviewing the Ables and the other field agents. They were the people who were going to go out and get the work done.

It took a week and each night Hannibal went home with his head spinning with facts and figures. He took one afternoon off and went to buy himself some good suits. Afterwards he met the rest of the team for dinner and they made the long week worthwhile with the two words, “We’re in.”

Hannibal grinned with gratitude and relief. “Thanks, guys.”

“Someone gotta look out for you.” BA said gruffly.

“Keep you on the straight and narrow.” Murdock said, with a slight smile.

“Okay, I’ll call you in a few days once we’re ready to get to work. That should give you time to get yourselves fixed up, make any arrangements you need to…”

“Put our affairs in order, you mean?” Face muttered.


It was Friday afternoon and Hannibal had only a few more files to go through. He wondered if they would let him take them home to finish. Barbara came through from her office at exactly three-thirty, as she had every day.

“Coffee, sir?” She looked nice today, in a crisp white blouse and an above the knee skirt. But Hannibal kept his eyes on her face. So far he had passed the “keeping his hands off Barbara” test. Frankly that wasn’t really a problem. As attractive as she undoubtedly was, she had clearly studied at the Carla school of warmth and responsiveness. That had never stopped Frankie and Face trying with Carla, but Hannibal had never gone for the ice princess sort.

“Thanks, yes.” As she left the room he sighed and put down the folder he had just finished reading, reached for the next.

“Barbara!” She hurried back to Hannibal’s desk at the sound of his yell.

“Sir?” Hannibal was standing up, a folder in his hand. He looked flushed with anger.

“What the hell is this?” She looked at the folder.

“It’s a CIA file, Colonel.”

“I can see that. It’s a CIA file on Lieutenant-Colonel Madari.”

“Yes, I believe he’s a useful contact of yours,” she said, went on, “it’s been requested so you can check it for accuracy and see if there’s any information you can add.” Hannibal stared at her. Was she carved from stone?

“He is not a ‘useful contact’, Miss March,” Hannibal said, coldly. “He’s a friend. I can see that concept is unfamiliar to you. Friends are something those of us with normal human feelings have.” He regretted saying that instantly, because she did look genuinely hurt for a moment. “I’m sorry,” he said quickly, calming down a little. “But you must see, surely, that I can’t read an intelligence file on a friend of mine.”

“I quite understand,” she said briskly. “I’ll have it returned directly.”

“Good.” He put the folder down on the desk and sat down. “Could I get my coffee?” She brought it to him and went back to her office, leaving him to continue his reading. As he tossed another folder down it slid across the desk and fell to the floor, knocking the CIA file down with it. Clicking his tongue in irritation Hannibal went to pick them up, sat back down with them still in his hands.

Damn, that CIA file was practically calling his name asking him to take a look at it. Hannibal had to admit to being curious about some aspects of his friend’s life, but he knew Arabs were pretty big on privacy, Madari probably more than most.

No, he thought, if there are things Faris has chosen not to share that’s his prerogative. There’s plenty of stuff I haven’t told him about me. Anyway, he reflected, who knows how accurate the information is? Those guys at the CIA were always getting stuff wrong. He put the folder down, picked up another and opened it. But his eyes seemed to slide off the pages inside and over to the CIA file. What if the information was inaccurate? Maybe he should just skim it for any obvious mistakes.

He picked up the folder and opened it. The first thing he read was a page heading: ‘Known financial assets and income’. He flipped that page over at once. That really wasn’t his business. Hell, none of it was, he knew that, he shouldn’t be doing this. He was about to close the folder when he spotted the word ‘mistress’.

Chapter 3

Hannibal jogged through the early morning mist. It clung to him and chilled him. It was nearly six o’clock and he’d been out running since five, when he’d finally given up on getting back to sleep.

Guilt gnawed him like a dog with a bone. He’d let his curiosity overwhelm his conscience and had read the whole file. Now he wished he could wipe the knowledge from his mind. It wasn’t as if there’d been anything shocking or particularly revelatory in it, though the bit about Signora Giordano had been an eye-opener. He’d always thought Madari was the ‘married to his career’ sort who had no time for romance. No, it wasn’t the content that weighed so heavily on his mind, it was the fact of having this knowledge he knew he wasn’t entitled to have.

He stopped at a coffee house as it opened up and lingered over breakfast before heading home for a long hot shower. When the car turned up he got in wearing jeans and a denim shirt. The driver gave him that ‘no suit?’ look again and Hannibal snapped “It’s Saturday, lighten up.” The Able made no comment, drove off. Hannibal’s newspaper lay ignored on the seat as he stared moodily out of the window. Something caught his eye and he told the driver to stop. He got out and went into ‘Stephenson’s Books’. They specialised in military history and the proprietor was pleased to see Hannibal, one of his best regular customers.

“Mr Smith,” he said, smiling. “Good to see you again. Did you enjoy the Patton biography?”

“Very much, thanks. I see you’ve got that new book on Montgomery in.”

“Of course.” He took a copy from a display, handed it to Hannibal, who flicked through it. “I’m looking forward to reading it myself. Excellent reviews, I’m sure you’ll…”

“I’ll take it, could you gift wrap it?” There was a post office up the street, he walked there and stood on line for a good long time. The airmail cost to send the book to Qumar was pretty outrageous, but guilt has a way of loosening the purse strings. Hannibal walked out of the post office a lot lighter both in the wallet and in the guilt department. He knew Madari would love that book, especially as his grandfather claimed to have met Montgomery personally. Though even Madari admitted that may have been one of the old man’s many very tall tales.

Hannibal felt better for all of twenty minutes.

As he sat as his desk, drinking his coffee he started to ask himself just who he thought he was kidding. Madari didn’t know the book was really an apology. He’d think Hannibal was being generous, he would certainly send a gift in return. And that would leave Hannibal right back where he started at Number 1, First Avenue, Guilt Trip City. Throwing money at the problem wasn’t going to make it go away. That was… damn it, that was Stockwell type thinking.

He knew what he ought to do, be a man, call Madari, confess, apologise. But he dreaded the damage that would do to a friendship he’d come to value deeply. Hell, he’d already damaged it, he knew. He’d been planning on inviting Madari over when he next got some leave, take him camping and riding in Yellowstone, which he’d said he’d like to see. Hannibal had been looking forward to it, he liked the man’s company. For one thing Madari didn’t think it was boring to talk about MacArthur or Rommel for several hours at a time. But now Hannibal wasn’t sure he could face it, knew he would feel horribly uncomfortable sitting there, talking about other things while in his head he was thinking ‘I know how much you have in the bank. I know how much you get paid. I know you’re the legal owner of Jahni’s apartment. I know how much you pay your servant. I know about Sofia Giordano and that you see her several times a week. I know about Dr Fauzi, who you see once a week and I know he’s a psychiatrist. I suspect even your C.O. doesn’t know about Dr Fauzi, but I do.’

Damn! Hannibal gave his desk a good hard kick and stood up, started to pace. Okay, no use crying over spilt milk, he told himself, I did the wrong thing, I acknowledge that. And then he started to wonder if it had been a test. Had his “employers” known Madari was a friend and not a ‘contact’? Hell, of course they knew. Did they want to see if Hannibal would give in to the temptation and take advantage of his position? Possibly. Okay, he thought again. Okay, so if it was a test then I failed. Move on. He would think about it for a few days, wait until he’d calmed down before he decided how to fix it.

“Barbara!” She appeared quickly. “Where’s that information I wanted? You said it would be here today.”

“It’s just been dropped off, sir.” She started bringing in folders from her office. Hannibal sat down with them and was soon deeply engrossed in the intricacies of the smuggling networks that brought in and distributed drugs. Plans started to form. He called Barbara back in and had her fetch files on agents. Then he called Face, Murdock and BA.


“This is our target.” Hannibal handed Face a photograph. “That’s a satellite photo of it, taken three weeks ago off the coast of Santa Monica.”

“A ship?” Face passed the photograph on to BA who in turn handed it to Murdock. The team were all in Hannibal’s office on the jet, having their first briefing under Hannibal’s regime. Barbara had brought in coffee and Face had tried the usual routine on her. Hannibal had to admit he was impressed that Face had managed to break through the ice barrier a little and elicit a small smile from her.

“It comes up from Columbia once a month, anchors off the coast of California, never in the same place twice. A smaller boat, again, never the same boat twice, goes out to meet it and brings back the junk. So far no-one’s been able to catch them in the act or in possession.”

“And what are we going to do that the feds can’t?” Face asked.

“You’re going to sink it.” Hannibal said, grimly.

“The ship?” Murdock looked slightly alarmed. “What with? A torpedo? You’re not telling me we have a submarine?”

“Explosives, Murdock. You’re going to get aboard and take everyone off then blow a hole in the bottom of the hull.”

“What happens to the people we take off the ship?” Murdock asked.

“Well, if we can identify any of them as being wanted by the FBI or the DEA they’ll be handed over. The rest we’ll send home.”

“What, just let ’em go?” BA asked, sounding unhappy.

“Someone has to let the folks back home know what happened to their boat.” Hannibal grinned.

“Ah,” Face grinned back at him. “Send them a message, let them know there’s a new player in town?”

“And new rules.” Hannibal said nodding. “I’ve put together a strike force for you.” He gave Face a list. “You’ll work with them over the next few days and we’ll work out the fine details of the assault.”

“Ables?” Face said, dubiously.

“No,” Hannibal shook his head. “The Ables are fine at being heavies in suits, but they don’t have the initiative for this kind of job. The squad I’ve put together are real field agents, vets of Special Forces and CIA. The Ables will wait on shore to take the prisoners off your hands.” Face smiled, he liked the sound of it. He scanned the names on the list, noting their experience and specialties. Maybe Hannibal was right; maybe this was going to be fun after all.


It was three a.m. on Friday morning. Face’s squad lay in wait at a marina. For a long time the only sound had been the lapping of the water and the creaking and rustling of sails. Then the voices had come. Face sighed with relief. Seems the intel was right about the marina. Now they had to wait to see which boat they were going for.

BA’s voice came through Face’s earpiece.

“Eagle three to Eagle two. Ah got visual contact.” Hannibal had given them the new call signs, saying that he’d be cold in the ground before using ‘Empress’ again.

“How many?” Face asked.


“Okay. Remember everyone, we have to get them all, don’t let any of them slip away. Watch out for any of them trying to jump in the water and swim for it. And wait for my signal, we have to be sure which boat they’re going for.”

“Roger, Eagle two.” Face cringed a bit. ‘Eagle’ may be more macho than ‘Empress’, but he’d seen some of the men smirking at it. A couple of days ago when Hannibal had arrived for a briefing Face had heard a whisper of “the eagle has landed”. He’d looked round pretty sharply, but hadn’t spotted the whisperer. So he was going to assume it was Farrell.

Charles Farrell was twenty-eight, a tall, disgustingly handsome, Ivy Leaguer. Ex CIA, he had an air about him that made Face’s fists itch. His college buddy Daniel Collins, who he’d worked with at the Company before Stockwell personally recruited them, produced a similar reaction. To Face’s annoyance however much he wanted to dismiss them as over privileged types who liked playing secret agent they were very good and worked together superbly.

“Eagle four here.” Murdock liked the call sign of course. Anything with wings… “They’re boarding a boat. Cabin cruiser. Looks like about a thirty footer, at berth 16.”

“Okay, everybody go on my mark.” He heard the sound of weapons being readied, glanced over his shoulder at the black clad men behind him. Took a breath.


Chapter 4

“Hands in the air!”

“Drop your weapons!”

“On the ground now!”

Face sometimes wondered how bad guys decided which instruction to follow first when surrounded by heavily armed men yelling orders at them. The three men in the boat briefly looked as if they were thinking about fighting, or making a break for it. But they thought better of it. Face’s squad surrounded them from the boardwalk and from another boat that lay alongside theirs. They threw down their guns.

Face climbed down onto the boat with Murdock and several of the men. BA and more agents kept them covered from the boardwalk.

“Cuff them.” Face ordered. “Which of you is in charge?” He asked as his men secured the prisoners. They didn’t reply, but he got his answer from the way two of them involuntarily flicked a look at the third.

“Okay, pal. We know where you were heading for your little moonlight boat trip. We’d hate to disappoint your friends who are waiting for you. So you’re going to come with us and make sure any codes or passwords we need to transmit on approach are given just right.”

The other two were taken off the boat and marched away towards the vans that the Ables had driven up in. The leader, a hard faced man in his thirties with blond hair watched them go then turned to Face.

“I don’t have to do anything.” He growled. “I got rights. And I ain’t seen no badges yet.” Face groaned inwardly. He could almost hear Murdock smiling.

“Badges?” Murdock said. “We don’t…”

“Murdock!” Face snapped. “Not now.”

“Aw, but Face, he gave me the feed line. He’s gonna be disappointed if I don’t say it.”

“I can live with his disappointment.” Face said. “Listen to me, scumbag. Like my colleague was about to say, we don’t have no stinkin’ badges.” He heard Murdock splutter with outrage that Face had stolen his line. “What I do have is this Glock…” he pressed his handgun into the man’s temple, “…and a really short temper. So you shut the hell up about your rights and take us to the ship.” The smuggler’s eyes went wide with shock as he finally realised that this was no ordinary bust.


The boat sped across the dark water. Face stood by BA who was steering. Murdock joined them.

“That was nice, Face.” he said. “Good intimidating. Hannibal will be proud. That ‘Glock…short temper’ line could have been one of his.”

Face grinned. “I’ve obviously hung around with him way too much.”

“Coming up on the position.” BA reported. Face leant over to call to Collins who was kneeling in the prow of the boat, scanning ahead with binoculars.

“You see anything?”

“Yeah, just now.” Collins turned to look at Face. “Lights a couple of miles ahead. Right where the satellite intel said it would be.”

“Okay, come on back from there.” Face went and brought over the captured smuggler, pushed him over to the radio to announce their approach. Face’s gun pressing into the back of his neck persuaded him to make sure he acted as if everything was normal.

“Alright. Everyone below and out of sight except Farrell, Collins and me.” Face ordered. One of the three smugglers, one of the ones currently in the custody of the Ables, was black. Face wasn’t sure if the people on the ship knew the racial make-up of the team they were expecting to pick up their cargo but best not to take chances, so he’d take Collins. And if he took Collins he might as well have Farrell. “Collins, take the wheel.”

The rest of the squad got under cover below as the cabin cruiser approached the ship. They looked for the rope ladder the smuggler had told them about.

“There.” Farrell spotted it and they pulled up under it, secured the boat. They could see movement above them at the top of the ladder.

“Keep your heads down as you climb up,” Face said. Hopefully the welcoming committee wouldn’t realise until too late that impostors were climbing aboard. The two young agents nodded. They had looks of excited anticipation. To be honest Face would prefer them to look more nervous, knew what overconfidence led to.

“Let’s go.” Face led them up the rope ladder. It was a long climb and he was sweating a bit by the time he reached the top, but he was still ready when he heard a voice say, “Hey, you’re not…” He exploded into action, piling into the three men that waited there. Farrell and Collins swarmed up the ladder after him and joined the melee. In seconds three men lay on the deck unconscious. As Farrell and Collins shook hands over their fallen foes, grinning, Face got out his radio.

“Eagle two to Eagle group. Come aboard. Have the divers start getting ready.” He turned to the agents. “Stop congratulating each other and tie these guys up.”

Grappling hooks clanged onto the sides of the ship and Face made sure they were secure. A few moments later Murdock appeared at the top of the rope ladder.

“Permission to come aboard?” He asked with a teasing smile.

“Granted.” They were soon all assembled on the deck. “Let’s do this fast. There’s likely only about a half dozen men aboard. Team one with me to the bridge, team two check the hold. Team three stay here and secure our escape.”

They split up, six men each in teams one and two, two men in team three guarding their escape route. Face’s team took the bridge easily. The men there had no notion of their approach and gave up quickly when the armed agents burst in.

“Start getting these guys onto the boat,” Face ordered. “But stay alert until team two has reported.” Murdock’s voice came through his earpiece then, whispering.

“Fa… er, Eagle two. We may have a problem.”


Crouched in cover in the hold, the rest of team two lurking around him, Murdock whispered softly to Face.

“You know we expected just to find the drugs ready for moving. It’s not like that. They’ve got a factory set up down here. They’re processing the stuff.”

“Hell. How many people?” Murdock glanced quickly at the long tables full of what looked like a very evil chemistry set.

“About thirty. Five heavies and a bunch of guys doing the work. We’ll never get them all on…” There was a yell as one of the ‘heavies’ walked around a corner and right into the squad. All hell broke loose.


Team one clattered down the stairs into the hold, weapons at the ready to join the fight, but it was already over. Murdock’s team consisted mainly of ex-Special Forces men and they had made short work of the thugs that opposed them. The workers processing the cocaine into crack had put up no fight at all and were huddled together away from their now smashed equipment. The heavies stood around nursing minor wounds, except one who lay on the deck, dead.

“Murdock?” Face said, looking at the corpse.

“Unavoidable, Face.” Murdock said, though he looked sickened about it. “Guy was about to shoot BA, Wilson there had to take him out.”

Face said nothing more about it. He looked at the prisoners.

“We’ll never get all of these on the cabin cruiser and keep them secure.” He thought for a moment, and then smiled. “Time to man the lifeboats.”


The ship had two large lifeboats, remnants of the days before automation reduced crews to almost nothing. They easily held the prisoners and were lowered into the water with agents aboard to guard them. Face held onto the captain to check one last thing.

“Captain, your ship is about to move. Straight downward.” The captain looked pretty sick. “I need to know if there’s anyone else on board. If there is you will get on your PA and tell them they have five minutes to come up here and surrender, or they’re going for a swim.”

“Three more men,” the captain admitted. Face marched him to the bridge and watched him unhook the handset of the PA.

“No tricks, I have excellent Spanish.” Face said. Or more accurately, lied. He had enough Spanish to get across the border for a trip to Tijuana and order his drinks. But there were no tricks left for the captain to pull. He made his announcement over the PA and moments later three men emerged from below decks. They were frisked and taken off the ship. The captain climbed down the rope ladder, followed by the last of the agents. Face stood alone on the deck, took a last look around at the doomed vessel then disembarked.

They pulled the cabin cruiser away from the ship, the two lifeboats towed behind it. Face turned to the men who were about to complete the final stage of the operation. Gonzales and Hassan, a couple of ex-Navy SEALs were in their scuba gear. They went backwards over the side of the boat into the water and the explosives were handed to them.

“Good luck.” Face said. He didn’t envy them the job, in the chilly water, but they were both grinning, gave him a thumbs up in response. They donned their mouthpieces and facemasks and disappeared under the water.

The excitement of taking the ship was replaced by the tension of waiting for the next half hour. Everyone was quiet. Face paced up and down in the small space of the cabin cruiser’s deck checking his watch frequently. At one point he noticed Farrell and Collins, who were sitting on the steps down into the cabin, were playing a surreptitious game of cards and enjoyed their reactions when he yelled at them to put the cards away right now.

“Take it easy, Face.” Murdock said softly as Face passed him. “Everything is going fine.” Face forced himself to appear calmer, for the sake of the men and sat on the steps that led up to the steering housing. Ten minutes later the divers reappeared. The men on the boat hauled them aboard and Face at once gave the order to move to a safe distance.

“Well?” He asked them.

Hassan nodded and grinned. In his broad Bronx accent he said, “Piece of cake, all as expected. Secured the explosives on both sides right under the lower hold.”

“She’ll go down in two minutes flat,” Gonzales predicted as he peeled off his wet suit. The two divers dressed themselves in warm clothes and took flasks of hot coffee from their bags.

Once they were far enough from the ship Gonzales took a remote control device from his equipment bag, checked the frequency, and then offered it to Face.

“Care to do the honours sir?” Face took the remote, looked at the ship, looked around at his men and then at the prisoners in the lifeboats.

“Nice work, everyone,” he said, loud enough that they could all hear. Then he pressed the button.

The explosions weren’t exactly spectacular, more like a dull boom. The water around the ship flew up in the air and the ship at once began to list to one side as the sea flooded in. Then it was clear it was going down bows first as the stern began to slowly lift out of the water. The watchers on the boats were silent, except for Gonzales who counted off the time since the explosions in ten second intervals on his watch.

“One minute forty.” The ships propellers were well out of the water now, the bows were under the surface. And gradually, as if it was sliding down a slope into a hole the ship slipped down under the water. It was eerily silent. As the water closed over the stern and it vanished from sight Gonzales said triumphantly. “One minute fifty seven seconds.”

“We do good work.” Hassan said, proudly and the two SEALs high-fived each other.

“Well done.” Face said to them and turned to call to BA who was once again at the steering wheel. “Let’s go home.”


“Wow, Stockwell never did this for us.” Murdock said as the squad trooped, back into the organisation’s LA base to find a long table full of food and drink. Hannibal waited beside it with a case of champagne at his side. “Hannibal, I think I love you,” Murdock went on. “I’m starved.” He grabbed a plate and dove straight in. Hannibal grinned as the other agents followed his example, all smiling and nodding their thanks to Hannibal.

“Don’t expect this every time.” Hannibal said. “But I thought we should mark the first mission.” He clapped a hand on Face’s shoulder. “Especially as it went so well. I’m proud of you all.” He popped a champagne cork and poured the wine.

“So tell me all about it.”

“Can’t we report later?” Face said.

“I don’t mean report,” Hannibal said, “I mean tell me all the fun parts.”


Hannibal sat in his office reading the reports of the mission. He was proud of all the men, especially Face. He’d handled being in command of the assignment beautifully, as Hannibal knew he would. The squad had all worked well together, justifying his decisions on who to place on the team. Face seemed to have some reservations about Farrell and Collins he noticed, but it seemed more a personality clash than anything else. He couldn’t fault their work. Having to kill one of the smugglers was unfortunate, but the reports from all concerned agreed it was a good call and he had no reason to take any action against Wilson.

Hannibal laid the reports aside, sat wrapped up in his thoughts. Getting that first mission out of the way was a relief. He was starting to believe this was going to work out. His “handlers” as he’d started to think of them had seen to it he had all the resources he needed. Perhaps they really were as committed to the work as they claimed.

Now he had one more thing to do. He’d been putting it off, concentrating on the mission, but it was time to put things right. He picked up the phone and dialled a long number, waited for the answer.

“Faris, it’s Hannibal…yeah, good to speak to you too…oh you got it okay, that’s great…glad you like it. Listen, there’s something important I have to talk to you about. I’m afraid you aren’t going to like it…”

Chapter 5

Three very long and very difficult phone calls to Qumar had failed to clear the air between Hannibal and Madari. After a sleepless night Hannibal turned up at the jet with a small suitcase and his passport and gave the pilot new instructions.

Nearly two days later he walked into Madari’s office, only to be told by an astonished Jahni that his C.O. had left the day before to attend an armaments trade show in Venice. Irritated Hannibal went back to the jet and ordered the pilot to take him to Venice. But he started to smile as they lifted off. Quite a chase.

The long trip was worthwhile just for the stunned look on Madari’s face when Hannibal walked up to him in front of the Heckler & Koch exhibition stand. They talked for the rest of the afternoon. It was hard work but eventually Hannibal had managed to convey his genuine remorse over reading the intelligence file and convince Madari he wanted to make things right between them. His having flown half way around the world so they could discuss it face to face seemed to be helpful in demonstrating that. Finally they shook hands and Hannibal breathed a sigh of relief as his friend smiled at him again. He suspected he still had some work to do to fully restore his trust but was prepared to put that work in.

Hannibal decided to stick around for a couple more days, enjoyed the arms show and placed a few orders, belatedly realising he had better justify this little trip officially or the organisation would probably charge him for the jet fuel.

As they said goodbye Madari gave him some advice. “Don’t do this without the rest of your team. They’re the only ones who’ll tell you when your plans are bad, too dangerous or just wrong. Without them you’ll turn into another… well I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but you know what you could become.”


It was a month now since that rather eventful week. Senator Vaughan had raised his eyebrows at the abrupt international trip, but hadn’t raised any objections. Their meetings were becoming less frequent. As Hannibal settled into the job his handlers were becoming more hands-off and leaving him to it.

His team and the agents – his agents – had carried out several missions since the sinking of the ship and all just as successful. Face was also settling into his new role and Hannibal’s confidence in him gave him the confidence in himself that he sometimes lacked when it came to command.

It was time to take things to the next level.


“So far we’ve given these guys a bloody nose and few raps over the knuckles.” Hannibal said. “It’s time to hit them where it hurts.” He clicked the control for the projector and brought up the face of a Hispanic man in a very expensive looking suit. “Eduardo Lamba. This picture was taken in a Monte Carlo casino, where he was losing a hell of a lot of money every day. But he can afford to. The money comes from growing and manufacturing cocaine.” He clicked again and brought up a map of Colombia. “He’s one of the major growers and producers. He forces farmers to grow the coca plants and drafts in their families to his factories to process the cocaine.” He looked around at his team, who were watching intently. “This sleaze ball feeds on human misery at every stage of his operation. It’s time he got his share of that misery.”

“Sounds good,” BA agreed.

“This is one of his biggest processing plants …” the screen changed to show a satellite photograph of a jungle clearing with a collection of buildings. “He’s got maybe two hundred people working there, mostly forced labour. It’s deep in the jungle, difficult to reach by anything but helicopter. The harvested coca is brought in that way and the cocaine taken out.”

“How are we gonna get in?” Face asked.

“Parachute and walk, I’m afraid,” Hannibal said. “That’s the only way you’ll get near undetected. You’ll go in, evacuate the plant and destroy it, blow it up.”

“Let’s try not to set the rainforest on fire though.” Murdock said, conscientiously.

“Parachute?” BA said.

“C’mon BA, you’re fine with flying now,” Hannibal reminded him.

“Flying yeah. Jumpin’ out of a plane with a bit of silk on ma back ah’m not so fine with.”

“You were fine with it in ‘nam.” Face reminded him.

“Yeah, and every time I parachuted into some place in ‘nam people tried to shoot me.”

“Good point,” Murdock said. Hannibal gave him a ‘don’t encourage him’ look.

“Well, BA, we could always get a chopper and you could abseil out of it. If you’d prefer.” Hannibal offered. BA looked distinctly ill.

“A parachute will be fine,” he muttered. Hannibal winked at Face who grinned back at him.

“How much opposition can we expect?” Face asked.

“Minimal, according to the intelligence. They don’t need many guards, the location is so remote it would be suicide for any of the forced labour to try and escape into the jungle with no equipment. The one’s who’ve tried it were never heard from again.” He handed some papers to Face. “That’s why you’ll be taking in a small team. I want this to be a fast, accurate strike. Get in quick and get the job done. Once you’ve secured the area and destroyed the plant we’ll send in a follow up team to deal with prisoners and workers, clear the place out.”

Face was looking over the list of agents Hannibal had chosen for the mission.

“Oh great, the country club set,” he said, seeing Farrell and Collins on the list.

“Face, you’ve personally asked for them three times for missions in the last month,” Hannibal said, amused.

“Yeah, they’re good,” Face admitted grudgingly. “Doesn’t mean I have to like them.” Hannibal shook his head. Couldn’t understand Face’s problem with the two agents. ‘Country club set’ was exactly the right way to describe them. Known by the head waiters at all the best restaurants in LA, automatically on the guest lists for the big black tie charity benefits and the best Oscar night parties. Exactly the lifestyle Face had always wanted for himself and had eventually achieved. He’d have thought Face would get along famously with them. He shrugged.

“Gonzales and Hassan. Good. They’re the best demolitions guys.” Face sounded happier with their inclusion. He read on. “Er, Hannibal, is there a mistake?”

“Where?” Hannibal asked, as he started distributing folders of the full details of the mission.

“These last two names. Rebecca Wallace and Eve Miller.”

“What about them?”

“Erm, well Rebecca and Eve are girls names.” Face said.

Murdock grinned. “Women usually have girl’s names, Face,” he said.

“They’re girls?” Face sounded extremely dubious.

“Wallace was a marine, Miller was CIA. I wouldn’t describe either of them as ‘girls’.” Hannibal said.

“A marine!” BA and Face chorused in outrage, neither being fond of marines. Face went on, “you want us to work with a marine? A female marine?”

“She’s good, Face,” Murdock said, “I saw her on a training exercise last week. She kicked ass.” Face shook his head.

“Hannibal, she’s a woman!”

“She’s an agent, Face. And like Murdock said she’s good. She was a staff sergeant in the marines. Her speciality is field communications. She qualified as Expert with rifle and pistol. What’s the problem?”

“You know damn well what the problem is, Hannibal.” Face said, sharply, “I don’t care if she is a marine, I don’t care how good a marksman she is. She’s a woman and that means she hasn’t been in combat.”

“Face, don’t be naïve.” Hannibal seemed surprised. “We both know combat doesn’t happen to a timetable. Officially, no she hasn’t been in combat. Unofficially she’s seen plenty of action.”

Face still seemed unconvinced. “What about the other one, Miller?”

“Like I said, ex-CIA. Smart as a whip. She was posted in that part of Colombia, speaks all the local dialects, and knows the country like the back of her hand. And she can take care of herself. She’s a martial arts champion.” Face snorted at that last part.

“Hannibal, how many ‘martial arts champions’ have you personally sucker punched or hit with a chair?”

“Plenty,” Hannibal admitted, “but none of them were CIA agents. Face, this team is the best one for the job.”

“I’m the one who has to lead them on the ground, Hannibal. I don’t want to have to carry passengers.”

“Look, I understand your reservations, I felt the same way at first, but give them a chance to show you what they can do. You have a week to prepare for the mission; I’ve scheduled several training sessions. You’ll see I’m right.”


As the plane approached the jump zone Face was still not convinced Hannibal was right. He looked at his squad, all dressed in dark camouflage gear. To his mind the two women stuck out like sore thumbs and were a weakness he didn’t feel they could afford.

Wallace, a tall blonde, in her early thirties, certainly looked tough, but Face felt she was too touchy. Several times during the week she’d reacted to him with a certain amount of resentment, for no good reason that he could see.

“Becky,” he called out. “Check your ‘chute, those straps don’t look right.” There it was again, that look. Maybe it was PMS, he thought.

Miller inspired even less confidence in him, frankly. She was a small, almost delicate looking black woman of twenty-eight. Her large eyes gave her a vulnerable, almost child-like look. She seemed as smart as Hannibal had said and during the training sessions that week she’d shown off her impressive martial arts skills, but Face still had doubts. Throwing someone in a training session was a whole other thing than taking on an opponent in the real world. And how much fighting had she really done in the CIA, he wondered? They were more for the sneaking up behind people than for direct confrontation. So long as she had the element of surprise he supposed she would be okay. He hoped.

Currently she was talking to Farrell and Collins, the three ex-CIA agents sitting with their heads close. Wallace sat without speaking to anyone, gazing off into the distance. Gonzales and Hassan were talking explosives. BA and Murdock were in one of their circular arguments, that weren’t really arguments. The atmosphere was generally tense.

“Hey, Gonzales, Hassan,” Face said, attempting to lighten the mood. “How big a bang are you guys going to make?”

“God himself will ask ‘what the hell was that noise?’, sir.” Gonzales promised.

“Just so long as we don’t get to answer him face to face, Gonz.” Murdock quipped.

“Please, Murdock,” Hassan protested. “We can blow up that factory and leave the heads on the flowers half a yard from it.”

“I may hold you to that, fellas.” Face smiled at his demolitions men. He looked up as the co-pilot came through from the cabin.

“We’re over the drop zone, sir.”

“Okay, people, let’s move it.” The first thing out of the plane was the padded up crate that held their supplies, rifles and explosives. “The transmitter is activated?” Face asked Wallace as they manhandled it to the door.

“Yes, sir. We’ll find it easily once we land.”

“The backup too?”

“Of course.” Her voice was snappy. Definitely PMS, Face decided.

“Right, let it go!” Face ordered and the equipment crate was pushed out. Its parachute deployed then it was lost to sight in the darkness. “Okay, move it, everybody out. ” He gave each man, correction, each person, a slap on the back as they went out of the door. His heart was pounding with excitement. Adrenaline coursed through him. This was the real thing, just like ‘nam, parachuting into hostile territory with a target to destroy. He felt like he was twenty again.

Face was the last to go. He gave the co-pilot a thumbs-up and jumped. For a few seconds he revelled in the exhilaration of freefall, then almost reluctantly opened his chute and began the slow descent through the darkness. In the moonlight he got occasional glimpses of the other black parachutes as they drifted down. It felt almost peaceful and in his excitement he wanted to yell to shatter that peace. But he kept a hold of himself, pulled back the excitement. He had to keep a cool head for the mission.

His feet met the ground after a certain amount of interference from the trees. They’d chosen a less thickly forested area to parachute into, but there were still plenty of branches to slap and poke him and tangle in his lines. Face rolled as he landed, then got to his feet. Nice landing, he congratulated himself with a grin. He bundled up his chute and buried it deep in the undergrowth, then pulled out his radio.

“Eagle two calling Eagle squad. Sound off.” One by one they called in. No injuries from landing, thankfully.

“Everybody got a fix on the equipment? Good. Rendezvous there ASAP. Eagle two out.” Face looked at the tracker that was tuned to the frequency of the transmitters buried deep in the equipment. The needle pointed due north of his position. He set off through the jungle.

Chapter 6

Face found the equipment crate with no problem. Wallace, Murdock and Miller were already there, unpacking the crate and laying things out on plastic sheeting on the ground.

“I think this little toy is yours, Becky.” Murdock said, handing her the short-wave radio.

“Thanks, Murdock.” She put it down and started to unpack it carefully.

“Hiya, Face.” Murdock said, seeing him. Pick a gun, any gun,” he waved a hand at the rifles lined up on the ground. Farrell appeared from the trees. “Hey, Chuck,” Murdock said, grinning at him. Farrell grimaced in disgust at being called ‘Chuck’. He joined Miller hauling the packs out of the crate.

Within a few minutes everyone was there. Face was relieved to see his squad all together and he enjoyed listening to Wallace reporting in to the plane that they had all landed safely and the mission was still a go. They made a makeshift camp and settled down to wait for the dawn. It started to rain.


Hannibal smiled contentedly as he read the message Barbara brought him. The team were down and safe. Everything was going according to plan so far. He tried to settle down to do some work, but his mind kept being drawn back to his people, out there in the jungle. It must be just like Vietnam, he thought, the heat and the damp. Not a pleasant thought.

Barbara brought him some coffee. He was going to have to start cutting down on the coffee.


Face’s excitement had diminished somewhat as they trudged through the forest. Even when it wasn’t raining, which wasn’t often, water dripped from the steaming canopy high above them. At times the undergrowth was thick enough that they needed to clear a path with machetes. The humidity was unbearable, but the squad were mostly uncomplaining about it, which pleased Face. He wasn’t going to put up with anybody whining.

At the end of a long, miserable day they set up camp as darkness began to fall. A fire wasn’t just unwise it was impossible in the dampness, so it was a pretty cheerless little group that sat around eating packaged rations. As it became fully dark their lanterns, turned low, painted their faces in a slightly eerie blue glow.

Murdock had had enough of the gloom. From his pack he took out several candy bars and handed them out, followed by a hip flask of brandy, which was passed around gratefully. Murdock took out his flashlight and shone it upwards under his chin.

“I think it’s time to tell a few ghost stories.”


“General Stockwell was a great man.” Farrell said. Collins nodded in agreement.

They had moved on from ghost stories to the much more horrifying subject of Stockwell. Farrell glared defiantly at the A-Team, who were staring at him incredulously.

“He was. I know you don’t think so. And I know it’s not a fashionable point to view, but history will see him for what he really was. He was a patriot. ” His voice went a little quiet. “He didn’t deserve to die that way…” Face looked down, closed his eyes. “In prison. It wasn’t right.” Face looked up again, eyes wide.

“Er, Chuck,” Murdock said. “What do you mean, ‘in prison’?” Farrell looked at him baffled.

“Well, you know, he died in jail, of a stroke. Erm, it was in all the newspapers, Murdock.” BA made a rumbling sound that may have been a laugh. The younger agents were all looking at the A-Team members now, puzzled.

“My god,” Murdock said, “they didn’t tell you.” He shook his head, astonished. “They even covered the story up from his own people.”

“What story?” Miller asked, “What are you talking about?” Murdock took a breath, gathered his thoughts.

“You know he was still running the organisation from in jail?”

“Of course.” Collins said.

“Have any of you ever heard of a man named Victor Svidler?”


Murdock had rarely had such an utterly rapt audience as the one he had as he told the real story of Stockwell’s death, the culmination of Victor Svidler’s campaign of vengeance that had nearly cost them all their lives. As he reached the climax everyone turned to look at Face, who looked down again.

“He sacrificed himself to save your life?” Wallace asked Face, quietly.

“Yes,” Face remembered that moment that Stockwell’s dead weight had fallen onto him, crushing him. Sometimes he could still feel that weight crushing him now.

“That’s why you came to the funeral.” Farrell said. “People thought it was in poor taste, you know. I mean you’d given evidence against him, sent him to jail. People thought you were there to gloat, frankly.”

“We don’t gloat,” BA said. Farrell looked at the three A-Team members for quite a long time, a thoughtful look on his face.

“Alright!” Murdock broke the silence. “I’m for my bed.” The rest started scrambling about, getting ready to turn in.

“Murdock,” Face said, quietly. “Thanks for that. The ghost stories I mean and the candy…”

“No problem, mon commandant. Things seemed to be getting a little gloomy you know, thought I’d cheer them up. In fact if you don’t mind, I’d like you to appoint me morale officer.” Face grinned at the idea.

“Sounds good, Murdock. Consider yourself appointed.” Murdock looked inordinately pleased.

“Great. Sorry things got onto Stockwell, I know, not your favourite subject. Can you believe they kept the kids on the ground in the dark about how he died, though?”

“Frankly, yes, Murdock, I can.” He turned to the others. “We’ll set two hour watches, two on watch at a time. BA and Hassan, you’re first. Rest of you get some sleep.”


Face woke at every changeover of watch. Not that the others were noisy, but his nerves were stretched. The jungle was full of sounds that he knew were just birds and animals, but even so all the instincts honed in Vietnam were being re-awoken and given some brisk exercise. As Farrell and Collins came back into camp after their hitch, waking and sending out Wallace and Murdock he saw Farrell cosying up pretty close to Wallace. She didn’t seem to respond, went off with her gun without a word.

Face wasn’t the only one to notice. As Farrell went to his sleeping bag Collins was grinning at him.

“Not a chance, Charlie boy,” Collins said quietly, “she’d eat you for breakfast.”

“Hey, she could eat me for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Farrell said, smirking. “Maybe get afternoon tea in there too.”

“In your dreams.” Collins threw a boot at his friend and the two men settled down to sleep. Face shook his head. He was stuck in the jungle with a couple of damn Frat boys.


Face woke to rain, cold rations and a complaining squad, who moaned about their stiff bodies and damp clothes. Even getting changed into fresh clothes didn’t help, they were quickly soaked through again with sweat and rain. The complaining stopped after they broke camp and set out again. Face had indulged them over breakfast, but was clear it wasn’t going to continue all day. He assigned the squad their positions and they moved out.

As they trudged through the soaking undergrowth Face had to admit he was impressed with the women. Neither seemed to have any trouble keeping up with the men. They didn’t complain about the discomfort as he’d expected them to. In fact Wallace hardly spoke at all. Miller kept up a fairly steady stream of banter with the men, especially with Collins and Farrell, but Wallace just moved quietly and spoke only when someone asked her a question. She wasn’t surly, just quiet.

They stopped for lunch early in the afternoon and then carried on. They were more spread out now. As they approached the target area Face was wary of possible patrols, didn’t want them all bunched up together. He walked up and down the line, checking everyone was okay. He came across Gonzales and Hassan walking together.

“Didn’t I put you on point, Hassan?” Face said.

“Yes, sir,” Hassan answered. “I swapped for a few minutes, wanted to talk to Gonz about something I thought of for destroying that factory.”

“Alright, but in future ask permission first.”

“Yessir,” Hassan looked chagrined. “Sorry, sir.”

“It’s okay, I just like to know where everyone is.” He looked ahead. “Who’d you swap with?”

“Wallace, sir. I’ll go and swap back…”

“No, I’ll go. Go and relieve BA on rear guard.”

“Yessir.” He gave Gonzales a wry look, that Face probably wasn’t meant to see and moved off.

“Wallace is good, sir.” Gonzales said. Face looked at him, wondering why he’d offered that little observation.

“Yes, I know.” Face said.

“Abid wouldn’t do anything to put us in danger. He knew Wallace could handle point.” Ah, he was sticking up for his friend. Well, Face liked to see that. “I mean, he wouldn’t have put one of the ‘spies’ up there.” Gonzales added. He sounded dismissive of their intelligence agency colleagues.

“I know, Jorge. I’m not mad at Hassan.” Gonzales looked relieved.

“Of course, I hate to admit that a marine is good…” The ex-SEAL said with a grin.

“Any more than you hate to admit a green beret is good, huh?” Gonzales grinned some more. Face slapped him on the shoulder and picked up the pace moved ahead, following the trail Wallace had left with her machete. He came across her moving quietly about a hundred yards ahead.

“Any problems?” He asked.

“Nothing, all quiet ahead.” They walked on together for a while. There was something about her quiet intensity that rather intimidated Face. He’d known men like that, but not women, it made him nervous.

“Becky, please don’t swap positions in line without asking me first,” Face said eventually, dismissing his feeling of intimidation as ridiculous, he was in command here. She looked at him briefly, then away again, eyes on the jungle ahead.

“My apologies, sir. I’ll remember that.”

Face cast around for something else to say, hating the silence.

“You okay carrying that radio?” The short-wave set, wrapped in plastic was strapped to her pack. “I could get one of the others to spell you.”

“It’s not heavy, sir,” she said. They walked on, again in silence.

“Permission to speak freely, sir.” Oh, that couldn’t be good.

“Of course.” Face said.

“Could you please not call me Becky, sir?” He looked at her surprised.

“I’m sorry?” Face frowned. “You prefer Rebecca?”

“No sir, I’d prefer Wallace or Agent Wallace, or Sergeant. Or even just marine.” Her tone was carefully neutral, but Face could detect an air of tension behind it.

“The other agents call you Becky, so does Murdock.”

“That’s different, sir. The other agents are my equals, you’re my superior. It’s just not… appropriate.”

“And Murdock?”

She actually smiled a little. “Well, Murdock is just, you know, Murdock.”

“True.” Face smiled, the usual rules never quite applied to Murdock.

“And you don’t call the men by their first names, sir. At least not when you’re giving orders.” Ah, thought Face, was that what this was about?

“I call Miller Eve, it doesn’t seem to bother her.” Face pointed out.

“Actually it does, sir.” Wallace told him. “She just didn’t want to say anything about it. Said she didn’t want to rock the boat.”

“And you do?”

“No, sir, I don’t think that’s what I’m doing.” They were silent for a few moments.

“Alright,” Face said, in a rather formal tone. “You’re right, I have been addressing you in a different manner to the rest of the squad. I apologise. Thank you for drawing it to my attention, sergeant.” She smiled a little. “In exchange, could you do something for me? Could you not call me ‘sir’ quite so much?” He was starting to feel like he was back in the army with the number of ‘sirs’ that had been coming his way the last few days. She raised her eyebrows at him.

“I’m sorry, sir… Lieutenant. Force of habit. You are an officer.”

“Not technically, not any more. Do you think you could call me Face?” Wallace looked uncomfortable at that.

“Er, no, I don’t think I could,” she said.

“Alright, intersperse the ‘sirs’ with a few ‘lieutenants’ and ‘Mr Pecks’. That way I won’t keep getting the urge to order you all to clean things with your toothbrushes.” She actually laughed this time, and he smiled back at her.

“Will do, Mr Peck,” she said.

“Okay, drop back, marine. I’ll take point for a while.” She handed him the machete and moved back letting him get ahead. Face smiled to himself. He thought he’d handled that pretty well, potentially tricky situation, sorted with minimal fall out.

He was still feeling pleased with himself when he heard the yelling from behind him. He spun, grabbing his radio.

“What’s going on?”

“A patrol!” That was Murdock’s voice. “Must be from the compound! We’ve got him!”

“Damn, this far out?” Face started to run back towards the rest of the squad.

The sound of the shot sent the wildlife around them screaming away into the trees. More shots followed. Face’s radio exploded back into life, voices babbling, but the only one Face could hear was Hassan’s, it was edged with panic.

“Gonzales is hit! He’s down! Gonzales is down!”

Chapter 7

No! No! No! Please god, don’t let him be dead! Face crashed back down the trail. About fifty yards back he found Wallace, on her hands and knees.

“Wallace! Are you hit?”

“No, sir, bullet hit my pack, knocked me down, I’m not hurt.” Face shuddered, remembered all too well having that experience himself. He left Wallace getting slightly shakily to her feet, ran on.

He found Gonzales on the ground, curled up on his side, groaning, arms wrapped tight around his abdomen. Belly wound, damn, damn, damn!

“Get his pack off and get him on his back!” Face snapped at Hassan and Miller who were kneeling beside the injured man. Hassan, his hands visibly trembling, pulled out his knife and cut the straps of Gonzales’ pack, lifted it away. Face tried to move Gonzales, provoking a cry of pain.

“Jorge, let me get you on your back,” Face said as gently as he could, trying hard to keep any tremor out of his voice. Gonzales gritted his teeth and let them roll him onto his back. A gasp of pain escaped him. Murdock dropped to his knees beside them, the first aid kit in his hands, his eyes wide.

“What happened?” Face asked as he lifted Gonzales’ hands away from his belly, and then peeled back his shirt. It was BA who answered.

“Patrol. The point guard walked right into our line. Gonzales grabbed him, but there was another guy right behind. He started shootin’, hit Gonz. We returned fire.” He waved a hand and for the first time Face noticed the two bodies on the ground. The rest of the squad had gathered around now, their faces tense. Wallace still looked a little shaken, understandably enough, Face thought, a bullet hitting your pack when you were carrying several pounds of plastic explosive was no-one’s idea of fun.

Face took a bandage from the first aid kit and cleaned away as much of the blood as he could, looking for the wound. Found it low on the right. It wasn’t that big, wasn’t even bleeding all that much, but Face felt sick at the thought of the damage it had done inside. They had to get Gonzales out of here fast.

“Wallace, get on the radio, call for emergency med-evac from the pre-arranged pick up co-ordinates.”

Miller folded a bandage into a pad and pressed it over the wound. Gonzales groaned and Face saw Miller flinch at the sound, but she kept up the pressure. Murdock was preparing a painkiller shot. As he watched them Face felt the nightmarish fear that had been gripping his heart start to abate a little. Things were bad, but Gonzales was alive and if they got him evacuated quickly he had a chance of survival. The pick up point was about five miles from where they were. They could improvise a stretcher and there were enough of them to carry him. The mission was dead, but he would get his people out of here alive…

A voice in Spanish made the people standing watching jump and go for their guns, looking for the intruder. Then their eyes fixed on the radios carried by the dead men. Miller’s head was up, she listened intently. Quietly she translated, to Face, “…asking where they are… what’s happening…”

“From the compound?”

“Shh!” Her eyes went wide. “No! One of their patrol! There’s another man out there!” Even before Face yelled, “Find him!” the others were dropping their packs and moving out fast. Wallace started to do the same, but Face said, “No! You stay, get that message out, that’s top priority.” He turned back to Gonzales, Miller and Murdock were still working on him. He’d been given the painkiller and had slipped into a semi conscious state. Face fought the urge to join the others searching for the enemy, he knew his place was here.

“Oh, shit! Shit! Shit!” Wallace’s highly agitated voice chilled Face’s blood. He turned to her.

“What’s wrong?”

“The bullet didn’t hit my pack! It hit the goddamn radio!” Face’s blood didn’t just chill it seemed to turn to ice.

“Repairable?” He asked, shocking himself with how calm he managed to keep his voice, when he actually wanted to scream and howl with rage and frustration.

“I can try.” Wallace said, pulling herself together. She bent over the short-wave set to assess the damage.


Face was pacing back and forth. It was a bad habit he’d never managed to break. He resisted the urge to go and stand over Wallace as she worked on the radio. That wouldn’t help her. Murdock and Miller continued to monitor Gonzales; there was nothing Face could do to help them either.

The others had been gone for nearly fifteen minutes. Face had already made himself useful emptying all their packs of the explosives they were no longer going to have a chance to use. No point in carrying any extra weight they didn’t need. Then he’d hacked down a couple of long, strong tree branches ready to make a stretcher. With nothing left to do he paced.

At last the rest of the squad came back, BA leading them. One look at BA’s expression told Face all he needed to know.

“He got away.” Face said, flatly.

“Ah’m sorry, Face.” BA said.

“God dammit,” Face snapped, “there were four of you and one of him, how the hell did you lose him?” Collins and Farrell looked away with sulky expressions. Hassan took on the blank stare that soldiers learned to adopt when an officer started shouting unanswerable questions at them.

“Weren’t no-body’s fault, Lieutenant.” BA said, a warning tone in his voice that probably only Face and Murdock would pick up on. Face took a deep breath, got himself calm again.

“Alright, then we have to move, soon. You three make a stretcher. BA, see if you can help Wallace with the radio.”

Damn. They had to clear this area before the survivor of the patrol brought his friends back. But Wallace couldn’t work on the radio while they were on the move. If it was repairable at all. And it was starting to rain again. And it would be getting dark soon. Face started to pace again, watching Hassan, Farrell and Collins making the stretcher.


As soon as the stretcher was ready they moved Gonzales onto it. Wallace packed up the still broken radio. She and BA both shook their heads when Face looked at them questioningly.

BA and Hassan took the first turn at carrying the stretcher. Murdock was on point, Wallace rearguard. The rest of them stayed close together. It was slow progress as they tried to avoid jarring Gonzales as much as possible, fearing to aggravate his injury. Face walked right beside the injured man, hoping his presence would be reassuring. This meant he could hear every moan and gasp that escaped Gonzales, and see the pain and fear in his eyes that the agent tried to mask whenever Face looked at him. Miller walked on the other side, waving a large leaf over Gonzales, to keep the bugs away from him. She kept up a stream of reassuring chatter to him, but Face could detect the false note behind it, the forced cheerfulness.

Three miles from their start point Face called a temporary halt. Wallace at once started unwrapping the radio to continue repairs and BA joined her. Face told them they had an hour, then they were moving on. Once they missed their scheduled check in then their backup would eventually send a chopper to the pick up point. But that would be in twelve hours. Face wasn’t sure Gonzales had that long.

Murdock was directing the other agents in setting up a lean-to shelter to keep the rain off Gonzales. Once they were finished Face set them to do the same to cover Wallace and BA as they worked. Then he deployed them to patrol, sat by the stretcher and waited.


“Face!” Face looked over at BA, who was beckoning him. He scrambled to his feet and hurried over, praying it was good news. The short wave set was basically gutted, its damaged components laid out across a sheet of plastic. Parts from a walkie-talkie had been added to the mix.

“Okay, Face, this is what we can give you.” BA said. “One message only and it better be short, ’cause after that this sucker is fried.”

“And no voice,” Wallace said, “only Morse. And we can only transmit, not receive. I’m sorry, sir, it’s the best we can do.”

“Sergeants, it’s more than I dared hope. Well done both of you.” They both tried to look modest. Face pulled out a pencil and Wallace handed him a notepad. He thought for a while, wrote, crossed out, wrote again and finally handed it to Wallace. “Send this, seems to cover everything. Short as you can make it.”

“Okay, give me a second to get it coded.” She bent over the pad with her code book for a couple of minutes, then started to send, tapping out the message with the Morse key they had improvised. She did it fast and sure, her lips moving distractedly as she worked. Then there was a flash and a fizzing sound from the equipment and she pulled her hand back.

“That’s it.” BA said, “It’s toast.”

“I got the whole message out twice and one partial,” Wallace reported. “But there’s no way to know if it was received.”

“We’ll just have to pray, then.” Face answered. “Okay, let’s get moving again.” Wallace started to pack up the radio. “Just dump that.” Face told her.

“Dump the radio?”

“It’s scrap. No unnecessary weight, sergeant. Hide the pieces.” She still looked reluctant. It went against all her instincts as a communications specialist, she’d been trained to treat the radio like it was her baby, but she saw the sense. She stopped carefully picking up components, and instead bundled them up roughly in the radio’s plastic cover.

As they were preparing to move Face’s walkie-talkie crackled and Collins’ voice came through.

“Lieutenant, I’m about four hundred yards back. I can just make out hostiles. Two dozen at least. They’re following our trail, maybe half a mile behind your position.”

“Hell, there’s not even supposed to be a dozen guards at the compound!”

“I know, sir. These guys are heavily armed, automatic rifles.”

“Okay get back here on the double, Collins.”

“Yessir. Out.”

Pursuit a half-mile back and they had two miles to go and would be moving slowly. They could fight, but were outnumbered more than two to one, would certainly take more casualties. Face had to start considering the very real possibility that they were going to be caught.

He ordered the others to move out, waited until Collins appeared. The two of them followed and soon caught up with the squad. If they could just get to the pick up point, Face thought. There they could dig in, set up a defensible position and hold off the pursuers if they had to, or simply stay out of sight for as long as possible. Just so long as they could get to where help would come. They had to make it that far.

They had to.

Chapter 8

“Code 5a 1 E6 GSW Code 3. Repeated twice and one partial receipt sir.” Barbara handed Hannibal the sheet of paper. Hannibal didn’t need her to decode it.

“5a is emergency med-evac from pre-arranged co-ordinates. One casualty, Eagle 6, that’s Gonzales. Gunshot wound. And code 3 is the mission abort signal.” He shook his head. “What the hell happened?” He asked rhetorically. He looked at Barbara. “And we’re still unable to make contact?”

“Communications are still trying, but no success so far.” Hannibal started pacing the cabin.

“The med-evac team should be taking off about now,” Barbara said, glancing at the clock on the wall.

“Good. Have the backup team follow them, to pull the rest of the squad out.”

“Yes, sir.” She started to move back to her office.

“Wait. How old are the satellite photos we’re working from?”

“Nearly seventy-two hours now, sir.”

“Then get me some fresh ones. Quickly. I want to know what the hell is going on down there.”

“Yes, sir. That will take a couple of hours.”

“Okay. And get the pilot out of the bar and make sure we have a full load of fuel on board.” She raised an eyebrow at him. “And call Senator Vaughan to report what I just said, thinking that I don’t know what you’re doing.” Her expression of shock would have been funny if he’d been in the mood to laugh.

“Sir.” She looked a little shaken and left the room. Hannibal sat down at his desk again and drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair.


“Put the stretcher down.” Face said quietly.

He spoke quietly because the pursuers were so close behind them now they could hear them calling to each other.

They weren’t going to make it. There was still a mile to go and they just couldn’t move fast enough to cover that mile before they were caught. Face had to make a choice. They could fight and would very likely all be killed. They could all surrender and that made Face feel sick. Mainly because of the women. Because he wouldn’t be able to protect them from what their captors would do to them. What could he do? Have them cut off their hair, strap down their chests and stick rolled up socks down their pants? That would work for about ten minutes.

There was only one thing he could do. Still hated it, but couldn’t think of anything else.

“I want all of you to get out of here. I’m staying here with Gonzales.” They stared at him as if he’d spoken in an alien language.

“Are you nuts?” Murdock said, eventually.

“No.” Face said, forcefully. “Move out. Get to the pick-up point. They’ll take Gonzales and me to the compound. You can come in and rescue us from there once you meet the backup. There’s no sense in us all being taken.” He had no idea if they would take them to the compound or just shoot them on the spot, but he tried to sound as if it was obvious that they would take them back. He looked around at the squad, none of them had moved.

“You’re still here. Which part of ‘move out’ didn’t you understand?” The agents looked at each other, unsure what to do.

“We ain’t leaving you, Face.” BA said.

“I’m in command here and I’m telling you to get the hell out of here now.” He made his voice as harsh as he could. “Wallace, Miller, you want to be dragged back to their base and have them take turns at you?” Wallace looked defiant, Miller tried to hide a look of fear.

“I think he’s right.” Farrell said.

“Fuck you, Farrell,” Hassan snapped at him. “I’m not leaving Gonz.”

“Do as he says.” The voice, weak and croaky, came from Gonzales. They looked down at him. He looked back, looked directly at Hassan. “Please, Abid, I’m finished. Get out of here.”

“I can see them.” Collins was watching their back trail. “They’re two hundred yards back.” He looked around at the others, at Farrell. “Are we going or staying?”

“You’re going. Now.” Face ordered. He sat down beside Gonzales, who was still holding Hassan’s gaze. Face’s back was to the rest of the squad.

“Go.” Gonzales gasped out. Face heard rustling sounds behind him.

“We’ll be back for you.” Wallace said and then it went quiet. Gonzales closed his eyes, exhausted. Face took his hand.

“It’s okay, Jorge,” he said. “They’ll bring back help. And I’ll look after you until then.”

“We’ll look after you.” Murdock knelt down on the other side of the stretcher. “Think, Face,” Murdock said, raising a hand to cut off Face’s protest. “If they find you alone with the stretcher, well they’re gonna know you didn’t carry it yourself. They’d still go looking for the others.” Face looked up to see BA standing behind him.

“Shut up,” BA said sternly as Face opened his mouth to speak. Face closed his mouth.

Gonzales opened his eyes again and saw the three of them. “No,” he moaned, “please, all of you go. I’m done for, just leave me.”

“You shut up too,” BA said, though more gently.

Then Face looked up as a man came out of the trees and pointed his gun at them.


“Any word?” Hannibal asked.

“The med-evac team are approaching the pick-up point now. They should report in soon.” She cleared several coffee cups from his desk onto a tray. “The pilot reports we are fully fuelled, sir.”


The phone rang in Barbara’s office and she went to pick it up, then came back in and switched on one of the monitors.

“The latest satellite pictures sir.”

“Let’s see the pick-up point.”

Several nearly indistinguishable pictures of the jungle came up one after another, leaving Hannibal no wiser.

“Okay, let’s see the factory compound.” A new picture came up on screen. Hannibal stared.

“Oh my god.”


“Jeez, it looks like these guys are preparing for a war.” Murdock said as they were led through the gates into the yard of Lamba’s compound. The place was full of men in camouflage gear, unloading crates of weapons, automatic rifles, and rocket launchers. There were several large tents set up.

“This isn’t just security for the factory,” Face said quietly. “What the hell have we walked into?”

It was almost dawn now. The team had walked through the night at gunpoint, taking shifts carrying Gonzales’ stretcher. Face had had to work hard to persuade their captors even to allow them to do that and not just leave him. All three of them were exhausted.

They were ordered to halt in the middle of the yard and they set the stretcher down. Murdock sat down beside it, checking Gonzales. The man was unconscious. His skin looked grey, he was sweating.

“He’s got a fever.” Murdock reported. They had given him an anti-biotic shot earlier to try to ward off infection. It didn’t seem to be working.

A man came over from one of the wooden buildings. He was bulky, strong looking, with a well-cultivated moustache. He looked the captives over in an assessing way.

“Americans?” He asked, in a heavily accented voice.

“Well we ain’t from Mars, sucka.” BA said.

“Do you work for Cardenas?” The A-Team looked at each other, baffled.

“Who?” Face asked.

The man looked down at Gonzales. “Why did you drag this corpse here?” He asked.

“He’s not dead!” Face said angrily.

“He is dead, senor. He just hasn’t got enough sense to stop breathing.” Face glowered at him, but calmed himself, trying to think straight, despite the anger, fatigue and fear.

“Do you…” He addressed the man in charge, swallowed, trying to keep his voice steady. “Do you have a doctor, a medic of any kind? Please, if you have, let him look at my man.”

“We have no doctor.” He turned to his men, started giving them orders in Spanish. They grabbed the team, picked up the stretcher.

“All these men, you’re going into some kind of fight.” Face cried, struggling against the men dragging him away. “You must have a medic! Please!”

“A doctor will arrive with Senor Lamba. If your man is still alive then Senor Lamba may let the doctor look at him.” They were dragged off and taken to a small wooden building. It had some barrels and sacks outside that looked as if they had been hastily removed to turn a storage hut into a prison. The team were pushed inside. The stretcher was dumped with little regard for the injured man on it.

“Hey, watch it!” BA said as Gonzales groaned. “You hurt him, ah’ll kill ya.” The guards didn’t seem to understand his words, but his tone and posture made it pretty clear that they should get out fast. They retreated and the door was closed. The prisoners were left in near darkness. The air was stifling. Flies buzzed around. Rainwater dripped through gaps in the roof. Face made his way over to the stretcher. He could just make out Gonzales’ pale, sweating face in the darkness. His eyes were open, but unfocussed. He muttered something incoherent.

“So Lamba’s coming here.” Murdock said. “Think he’s going to lead the troops himself or just give them an inspirational speech?”

“Who they gonna fight?” BA asked.

“Cardenas.” Murdock said. “Whoever that is. Moustache boy out there thought we were working for him.” He paused. “Face, what do you think?”

“I think we need water.” Face said. “Preferably iced, but that’s not likely to happen. We have to try and keep his fever down.”

He got up and went to the door, which had a small grill in it. And he started shouting. He shouted until they finally brought the boss to him and he kept shouting until they gave him the water he asked for. And several times during the shouting men pointed their guns at him and threatened to kill him if he didn’t shut up. Face didn’t even notice. He just shouted until he got what he wanted.

He sat down again by the stretcher and tore a strip of cloth from his own shirt, soaked it in water and started to wipe Gonzales’ forehead with it. When the agent murmured or cried out Face spoke soothingly to him. BA and Murdock looked at each other. Face was on a mission of his own now. And he wouldn’t think about anything else until it was over. It was up to them to watch his back until then.

Chapter 9

“What are you doing, Smith?” Not ‘Colonel Smith’ Hannibal noted. For once Senator Vaughan seemed a little ruffled.

“I’m getting my people out of there, Vaughan. Since they walked into the middle of a battlefield, thanks to your so-called intelligence.”

“I have no problem with that, Colonel. But did you really need to pull every single agent and Able off their jobs to go down there? That’s nearly two hundred people.”

“I didn’t pull all of them, there’s a guy, Rogers I think his name is, still on his current assignment.”

“He’s in Alaska!” Now Vaughan really did sound rattled.

“Oh yeah. That was the reason.” Hannibal smiled grimly. He paused as the jet hit a little turbulence.

“What was that?” Vaughan asked suspiciously.

“The pilot says it’s the warm air from the ocean. Causes turbulence.”

“Turbulence… you’re in flight?” Vaughan paused. “You’re going to Colombia.”

“Little tired of being an armchair warrior, Senator.” He heard Vaughan sigh.

“Smith, it really isn’t necessary for you to go down there.” The senator paused, then said. “You’re not thinking of leading the rescue yourself are you?”

“Er, sorry, Senator, I can’t hear you, the connection is breaking up.”

“You are aren’t you? Dammit Smith, you’re too valuable to…”

“Sorry, Vaughan, can’t hear you. Thanks for your support, I’ll tell the troops you wished them good luck.” He hung up, then sat back, lit a cigar and put his feet on the desk. Barbara was looking at him disapprovingly.

“Cheer up, Barb. Did I ever tell you about something I like to call ‘The Jazz’?”


“Do you think the others made contact with the backup yet?” Murdock asked BA quietly. BA shrugged.

“We’ll know soon enough, if they attack.” BA said.

“That won’t be till nightfall though, at the earliest.” Murdock said. He looked over at Face, who still bent over Gonzales. “I’m not sure he has that much time.” BA followed Murdock’s gaze. He agreed.

It was around noon, Murdock figured from the hellish heat of their cell. The morning had seen more rain of course, plenty of it leaking through the roof. He’d managed to catch a couple of hours sleep, while BA stood guard. Then they had swapped over and BA had taken a little rest. Face refused to leave Gonzales’ side, even for an hour’s rest.

Murdock went over to Face, handed him a cup of water. Face drank it mechanically.

“How’s he doing?” Murdock asked.

“He’s still lucid sometimes.” Face said. “If he can just hang on until nightfall…”

“Yeah.” Murdock said. He stroked Gonzales hair gently. It was damp with sweat. Heat radiated from him. He’s not going to make it, Murdock thought. Even if he stays alive till nightfall he’ll be too far gone. He looked at Face, at the determined expression. “Face…” Face looked at him. The fear in his eyes broke Murdock’s heart. “He’s strong. He’ll make it.” Murdock said, trying to make his voice as convincing as possible. Face nodded, turned back to the unconscious agent, and bathed his forehead with water again. Murdock went back over to sit beside BA. BA looked at him, raising an eyebrow. Murdock just shook his head.


Hannibal looked at the large group of agents and Ables in front of him. Then he looked again at the message he’d been handed when his jet had touched down.

“They found this at the evacuation site?” He asked an Able.

“Yes sir. And the frequency given shows they are approaching the compound.”

“Okay, well we can’t wait for them.” He turned to the group. “The choppers are on the way. We go in at nightfall. Everybody be ready. Remember there’s a wounded man, the priority is to get him out fast. Assemble in two hours. Dismiss.”

They scattered to continue their preparations. Hannibal watched in approval as they distributed and prepared the equipment. It was a long time since he’d led a force of this size. The prospect excited him. For once he’d be going in with superior numbers. Lamba’s people wouldn’t know what had hit them.


Gonzales opened his eyes, looking up at Face. His eyes were unnaturally bright with fever.

“Hey, Jorge.” Face said gently. “Don’t try to talk. Save your strength.” Face held a cup to Gonzales’ lips and he managed to sip a little water, before falling back, exhausted.

“P…priest,” Gonzales gasped out. Though his voice was very weak, barely a whisper Murdock and BA heard it too, in the grim silence. “Mama said… shouldn’t die without… priest.” Face almost groaned aloud.

“Jorge, I’m sorry. There isn’t one.” He had already asked, a few hours ago. Just in case. They had laughed at him.

BA knelt down on the other side of the stretcher. He had taken off one of his gold necklaces, a crucifix. The gold caught the light and glinted as it spun. Gonzales looked at it transfixed.

“Here ya go, little brother. You can hang on ta this.” BA took Gonzales’ hands and wrapped them around the cross, set them down again, so it was held against his chest. BA looked at Face. “You wanna pray?” BA asked. Face nodded unable to speak. “Ah don’t know any of your Catholic prayers.” BA said. “But ah guess the Lord’s Prayer is okay.” He looked across the room at Murdock. A thin beam of light from the grill on the door showed the Captain’s face. And the tears on his cheeks. He turned his head, hiding his face in shadow. BA looked back at Face, who reached out. BA took his hand and they each put a hand on Gonzales’ hands. And they prayed.


After that Face sat with Gonzales’ head on his knees, his arms around him, bending close to hear Gonzales whispering feverishly, just barely audibly. Sometimes Face answered softly, mostly he listened.

Across the room Murdock and BA couldn’t hear, but they’d both comforted enough dying men to be able to guess what he was saying. As they watched Face straightened up. He put a hand against Gonzales’ neck, held it there for a while. Then he moved his hand over Gonzales face. Closed his eyes. Murdock put his head down. BA put his arm around Murdock. He sat holding Murdock, watching Face holding Gonzales’ body.

After about fifteen minutes BA and Murdock gently took the body from an unresisting Face and laid it on the stretcher again. BA took the crucifix from Gonzales’ hands, put the chain around the dead man’s neck and tucked it inside his shirt. He made a silent vow to kill any of their captors who tried to steal it. Finally they covered Gonzales’ face with a jacket. Face just sat, unresponsive.

He didn’t even move when a commotion outside sent BA and Murdock hurrying over to the grill in the door to see what was happening. They watched for a few minutes.

“Er, Face.” Murdock said. “You’d better see this.” Face didn’t move for a moment, then, as if Murdock’s words had only got through to him slowly he stood up, came over to join them. Murdock and BA stood aside to allow him to see outside.

In the yard a patrol had apparently just returned. There was a lot of excitement and yelling, because they had prisoners. The moustachioed man in charge hurried out and the patrol threw the two prisoners at his feet.

It was Farrell and Collins.


“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Face yelled at the two agents, who had been thrown into the cell with them. “Why didn’t you wait for the back up?”

“This wasn’t my idea, sir.” Farrell snapped back. Collins wasn’t looking at Face. He was staring down at the body on the stretcher.

“Then whose was it?” Face demanded.

“Wallace and Hassan. They wouldn’t leave you behind, they said. Sentimental fucking grunts.” He muttered. Murdock grabbed Face’s arm to stop Face killing Farrell on the spot. “I wanted to wait for the backup, like you said, but they had a better idea,” Farrell went on, sarcastically, not apparently noticing Face’s murderous rage. “We went to the pick up point and left a message for the backup, telling them you were captured and we were going to follow you back to the compound. We gave them a homing frequency so they could track us with our walkie-talkies, see where we were.”

“Is this how is was, Collins?” Face asked. Collins looked at him, nodded. Of course he’d back up Farrell, Face thought. “And then you two idiots got yourself caught.”

“Sorry, sir.” Collins said. We didn’t realise just how many men they had here. Any idea what’s going on?”

“Well you’re the intelligence men, you tell me!” Face snapped.

“We think they’re going to fight someone called Cardenas.” Murdock said.

“Cardenas?” Collins said, apparently recognising the name. “Evie talked about him, he’s a rival grower, got a similar processing plant to this one across the valley.”

“So Lamba is presumably sending troops to take that plant over.” Murdock said.

“I don’t care.” Face snapped. “I don’t care what these bastards are doing to each other, I hope they wipe each other out. All I care about now is getting out of here.”

“We’ll have to wait till dark for that,” Farrell said. He looked down at the stretcher. “Gonzales is dead?”

“Nice of you to finally notice.” Face snarled at him.

“Well that makes it easier.” Farrell said. This time it took BA to stop Face going for him. Collins dragged Farrell away into a corner as he protested he hadn’t meant that the way it sounded.

“Shut up!” Murdock yelled, from by the door, which he’d rushed over to as he heard a very familiar sound. “Shut up all of you, there’s a chopper approaching!”

They crowded around the door, all trying to see out of the grill, wondering if this was their rescue coming. It wasn’t. The small helicopter landed in the yard and three men got out. One of them they all recognised right away. Lamba had arrived.

Moustache Boy, as Murdock had dubbed him hurried over to greet his boss. He spoke urgently to Lamba and pointed towards the building the prisoners were in. Lamba gave him some orders and he came towards the building, several guards with him.

“Move back.” Face told his people. When the guards opened the door Face stood in the middle of the room, the others were spread out behind him. Keeping the prisoners restrained at gunpoint the guards came in and dragged Face out into the yard, took him over to Lamba. Lamba, looking ridiculous to Face, was wearing combat fatigues. He thinks he’s a soldier. Face thought. Thinks he’s about to lead his army to a glorious victory.

“My man tells me he thinks you have more people out there.” Lamba said, “That we captured two more of your people sneaking around after they brought the rest of you here.” He took out a handgun. A SIG Face noted, almost unconsciously, as the gun was pressed against his chest. He showed no reaction. “Tell me, how many more are out there?”

“What makes you think there’s more?” Face said.

“How many?” Lamba persisted. Face took on a look of concentration, as if trying to work something out.

“Let’s see. Obviously excluding us, there’s… I think that would be… yes, three hundred and seventy two.” Lamba hit him in the face with the gun, knocking him to the ground.

“You think this is a time for jokes, senor?” He snarled, angrily. “Tell me now how many more of your mercenaries there are. And does Cardenas know we are coming? Tell me now, or I kill you.” Face was vaguely aware of BA shouting from their cell, ignored it. He wiped blood from his lip.

“We don’t work for Cardenas.” Face said. “And there’s no-one else out there.”

“You are a liar!” Lamba yelled furiously. His face was flushed with rage. He turned suddenly and gave some orders to his men. They ran over to the cell. Oh no, Face thought. He could stand up to Lamba threatening to kill him. Right now he didn’t much care if he actually did it. But not one of the others, please.

They dragged out Collins. He struggled against them, but was too heavily out-numbered. Face could hear Farrell yelling from the cell now. Collins was dragged over to Lamba and pushed to his knees. His eyes, round and scared in his dark face, fixed on his commander. Face stared back at him.

Lamba placed the muzzle of his gun against Collins’ temple.

“Now, senor. You will tell me now how many more people you have out there, or this man is dead.” He cocked the gun. Collins gasped at the sound.

“Alright.” Face said, “Alright. There’s three more people. But we don’t work for Cardenas; we work for a US covert ops unit. As far as I know Cardenas doesn’t know about your attack.”

“Thank you, Senor.” Lamba turned and gave orders to his men. They started moving out to look for the other three. Face couldn’t relax; the gun was still at Collins’ head. Lamba turned back. He looked Face in the eyes.

And pulled the trigger.

Chapter 10

The guards threw the severely battered Face back into the cell. Beating him senseless had been the only way to stop him from trying to attack Lamba. Trying to kill Lamba. Pointing guns at him had no effect; he didn’t even seem to see them. Only repeated blows from fists, gun butts and boots had eventually managed to subdue him.

Murdock was at Face’s side in an instant, helping him to sit up, checking how badly he was hurt.

“Face,” Murdock said, gently, “Face can you hear me?” Slowly Face turned his head to look at Murdock. Murdock flinched. He didn’t know if it was down to shock or concussion, but whatever looked back at him from Face’s eyes was something he hadn’t seen since Vietnam. Since the camps.

Face seemed to suddenly become aware of the noise that was coming from the corner of the room. He turned to see BA pinning Farrell to the ground. The younger man was screaming, swearing, kicking and biting to try to get free.

“What?” Face asked, in a hoarse whisper. The one word question seemed to be all he could manage.

“He went nuts when… when he saw… they were yelling at him to shut up. We were scared they would kill him too.” Murdock shuddered at the memory of the animalistic screams of the hysterical Farrell. He would never hear the name ‘Dan’ again without hearing Farrell shrieking it. “He tried to tear the door off with his bare hands. My god, couldn’t you hear him?”

Face shook his head. All he’d heard was the shot, over and over, an infinite echo that he would never stop hearing. And as the sound echoed around his head his mind had become an arrowhead of hate aimed at Lamba’s throat.

Face sat listening to Farrell’s cries and BA’s attempts to quiet him while Murdock cleaned the blood from his face and hands. They were all going to die. He knew that now. Rescue, Hannibal, wasn’t going to get here in time. The others would be found and dragged in here. Then they would all be killed. He thought about Wallace, Hassan and Miller, out there somewhere. Wondered if they’d been watching, if they’d seen…

Lamba had sent out several search parties. The last of Face’s squad didn’t stand a chance.


Murdock was watching the night shift workers going into the factory as the day shift streamed out. Pale faces, down-turned eyes, too afraid to look at the men assembling to fight. Too exhausted to care. Murdock looked around the cell. BA sat with his back to the wall. He was watching Face, who hadn’t moved for some time now. Farrell was sitting in a corner alone, hugging his knees to his chest. He’d calmed down eventually and now, like Face, was virtually catatonic. Murdock turned his attention back to outside. The light was fading.

“Search parties coming back!” Murdock hissed suddenly. Then BA heard a catch in his voice. “They’re… they’re carrying bodies.” BA rose quickly and joined him by the door, Face got to his feet too, much more slowly. Farrell didn’t react at all. Murdock, BA and Face watched the search parties put the bodies on the ground.

Lamba came out of a tent and stared down in shock at the corpses of five of his men. Then he looked across at the prisoner’s hut, narrowed his eyes at the sound he could hear from inside.

It was Face. He was laughing.


Hannibal sat among the agents and Ables in the helicopter. There were thirty of them. They were carrying enough weapons to start a medium sized war. Grenades hung on them like Christmas tree decorations. Four more helicopters similarly laden followed them.

The estimates were that Lamba had about one hundred men at the compound. They were most likely mercenaries and bandits. No match for Hannibal’s people. Hannibal’s army. It would be over in minutes. He checked his watch. Getting close now.

Hannibal lit a cigar.

Lamba didn’t have a chance.


“You lied to me!” Lamba snarled at Face, carefully avoiding standing too near to him. Face was in the middle of the yard, surrounded by at least a dozen gun-toting men.

“You have more than three men out there.” They both looked at the bodies of Lamba’s men. Two of them seemed to have broken necks, two had been stabbed, and one had had his throat cut. Oh yes, Wallace, Hassan and Miller had seen Collins being murdered, Face was certain of that now.

“Actually,” Face said, entirely truthfully, “there’s only one man.” Lamba nodded at a guard who drove his rifle butt into Face’s gut.

“One man, senor? One man did all this?” Lamba waved a hand at the corpses. “What is he, some kind of… of Rambo?” He laughed harshly. Face straightened up as much as he could, holding his stomach.

“Yeah,” Face said, “Rambo. That’s right. Rambo is out there.” Lamba gave some orders and the rest of the prisoners were dragged out to join Face.

“I am tired of your jokes,” Lamba told Face, angrily. He produced one of the walkie-talkies his men had taken from Farrell and Collins. “You are going to call your men on this radio now and order them to surrender, or I will kill all of you.”

“You’re going to kill us all anyway,” Face said. “You’ve demonstrated that.”

“Ah, but it will not be so quick as it was for your other man.” At another word from Lamba the guards grabbed Farrell, forced him struggling to his knees. One of them pulled a large hunting knife, held it to Farrell’s throat. “It will not be quick. If he is cut in the right place it will take him thirty minutes to die. Do you want to watch that?”

“Give me the radio.” Face said. Lamba smiled triumphantly, he held out the walkie-talkie, thumbed the switch to transmit,

“Speak.” He ordered Face.

“If you can hear me,” Face said, hoping they could, “this is a direct order.” He looked Lamba in the eyes. “Run. Run now. Whatever you hear, keep running…” Lamba howled with rage and tossed the walkie-talkie away.

“Kill them all, now!”

The guards raised their rifles, and then a shout went up from near the gate, automatic fire stuttered. Face turned to see a dark figure running, disappearing back into the trees. The guards were in confusion by the gates, some were running away, some were going to open the gates, while others tried to stop them.

“Get down.” Face snapped to his team. They ducked to the ground at the same moment the explosions went off. One very big one at the gates, several smaller ones around the perimeter wire. The man holding the knife to Farrell’s throat let his attention be distracted for a second by the explosions. It was the last mistake he ever made. A moment later he was dead on the ground and Farrell was kneeling over him, holding the knife.

“Sounds like Hassan went back to retrieve the explosives we dumped,” Murdock said. Face looked up at Lamba. He had drawn his handgun and was shouting orders at his men, who were rushing about frantically. Then Face gasped as Lamba spun around, blood spurting from his shoulder, toppled backwards.

“Nice shot, marine.” Face said, to himself.

Something sailed over the fence, descending out of the darkness to land between Face’s group and Lamba.

“Grenade!” BA yelled. He grabbed Farrell, who had started to move towards Lamba, pulled him back. The grenade went off spewing thick white smoke. Several more flew over the fence into the yard. The compound descended into total chaos. Continual and deadly accurate rifle fire from outside added to the panic.

“Move!” Face ordered. “Stay low. Get to the gates.” To where the gates used to be. The explosion had demolished them. Escape, that was the aim. Wallace, Miller and Hassan couldn’t very well storm the compound, but they could create enough panic and confusion to let the prisoners escape.

The four men headed towards the gate, coughing on the smoke. They were almost there when out of the smoke the big man with the moustache appeared. He pointed his machine gun at them and went to squeeze the trigger. Then the noise came, filling the world, he looked up and stared.

It began to rain commandos. Black clad men slid down ropes. Face looked up too, to see the dark shapes of helicopters hovering low above them, dozens of men abseiling out of them.

Rescue. Hannibal.

“Farrell!” Face heard BA yell, as the young agent took off like a rabbit, back into the compound.

“He’s going after Lamba!” Murdock yelled. Face ran after him, but Farrell was swallowed up in the dark and smoke and the crowd. Because suddenly the yard was a mass of people. Rescuers and enemy were near indistinguishable in the confusion. Face heard the rattle of automatic fire, and then explosions from fragmentation grenades. He saw fires start up all around the compound.

He couldn’t find Farrell. A man rushed past Face, knocking into him and sending him spinning to the ground. He was dazed for a moment, looked up only when he heard someone calling out to him.

“Lieutenant Peck! Lieutenant Peck!” Face looked up to see a tall, lean figure in combats emerging from the smoke. Hassan. Two Ables grabbed him as he moved towards Face, whether over-enthusiastically trying to rescue or arrest him Face couldn’t tell.

“Get off me, you idiots!” Hassan pulled away from them, ran to Face, who was getting to his feet. Face wanted to hug Hassan just for being alive, but then saw the almost panicked look on his face.

“The factory!” Hassan yelled, over the noise of the choppers and grenades and gunfire. “The factory is on fire!” Face looked past him, saw the flames crawling up the wall of the factory building, spreading to the roof.

“Oh, Christ. We have to get the people out. Start organising…”

“No, sir, you don’t understand!” Hassan grabbed his arm, pulling him back. “The chemicals…”

He was cut off by an explosion that was quite simply the loudest noise Face had ever heard.

Chapter 11

Hannibal looked up at the sound of a chopper. Not one of theirs. Looked like Colombian army. Now it was light they would be coming to investigate the explosion. It would have been seen and heard for tens of miles. The chopper circled the pall of smoke that hung over the compound then banked right and moved off fast. They’d be back and when they were Hannibal’s people needed to be gone.

He was exhausted, they all were, after a night he never wanted to see the like of again. After the factory had exploded, scattering burning debris, pretty much everything in the compound had caught fire. Hannibal’s people and even some of Lamba’s had fought the fires as best they could, helped the workers escape their living quarters, pulled injured from the wrecked factory. The wooden buildings were consumed quickly and collapsed. The rain dampened the last of the embers until only blackened ruins remained.

Hannibal surveyed the scene in the early morning light. No buildings were standing. All the tents Lamba’s soldiers had been staying in were also destroyed. By the ruins of the factory Ables laid out and covered up bodies. At least fifty bodies had come out of the factory, another fourteen people were dead from being too near to the blast. There were a similar number of injured, many of whom had already been lifted out of there in their choppers. A few injured remained, prisoners mostly, with minor wounds. Hannibal estimated about half of Lamba’s men had escaped into the jungle in the chaos. He didn’t much care now. Uninjured, but frightened workers sat around, in a state of shock and terror at what their future held.

Hannibal’s eyes were drawn to a lone figure, sitting beside the ruins of a small building. Face sat with his head down, looking utterly defeated. Hannibal had had no chance to talk to him so far, beyond a few snapped out orders. As he watched Face seemed to sense he was being looked at and lifted his head. He stared blankly back at Hannibal, then looked away without acknowledging him.


Face looked back at Hannibal. He didn’t even give a sign of recognising who he was looking at. All he wanted now was for the whole world to go away and leave him alone. And he wanted to close his eyes and sleep… well forever. He looked away from Hannibal, looked around the rest of the compound.

Wallace and Hassan were sitting on the ground, side by side, both looking beaten down. Hassan’s arm was in a sling. The explosion had thrown him and Face nearly twenty feet, slamming them onto the ground. When Face had turned to see Hassan lying still beside him, eyes closed, he had lost what semblance of control he was clinging on to. He’d knelt over the agent shaking him yelling, “You’re not dead! You’re not dead!” When Hassan had moaned, opened his eyes and started swearing about having a broken arm Face had been ready to break down and sob with relief.

Miller was still on her feet and being harried as she did translation duty. Murdock and BA were helping the wounded that remained, getting them ready to transport. Farrell was… what was he doing? Face watched him, frowning. Farrell looked like a wild man, with his smoke blackened face and hair, his clothes ripped, covered in soot and blood. He was moving among the prisoners. Didn’t seem to find what he was looking for there, went over to the wounded. Face noticed he was carrying a handgun. And suddenly he knew exactly what Farrell was doing.

Hannibal was on his radio, giving orders to base, telling them to get the choppers back out here quickly to complete the evacuation. He was watching the compound. People were moving slowly, painfully, exhaustion and injury slowing them to a crawl. But one person moved decisively through the huddled figures. Agent Farrell. Hannibal saw him go up to the wounded, to a group of wounded prisoners. He pushed one of them aside, moved fast suddenly, very fast, to a man who was huddled in the centre of the group. The man’s face was as blackened with soot as everyone else but Hannibal recognised him when he turned his eyes up to Farrell standing over him. Hannibal started to run, but knew he wasn’t going to make it.

Farrell raised his gun and emptied it into Lamba.

The prisoners exploded into yells, scrambling away, fearing they would be next. The workers started to scream and cry. Hannibal reached Farrell, who was still pulling the trigger of the now empty gun he still pointed at Lamba’s dead body. He grabbed the gun and pushed Farrell away, knocking him to the ground. Farrell quickly scrambled to his feet, unconsciously, ridiculously, brushing mud from his already ruined clothes.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Hannibal yelled at him.

“Execution.” Farrell said, coldly.

“Don’t you think enough people have died already?” Hannibal asked him.

Farrell looked slowly around at the terrified prisoners, then back at Hannibal. “No.”

Hannibal would have punched him back to the ground, but BA and Murdock grabbed his arms to restrain him. Farrell didn’t even flinch back from the threat.

“Arrest him!” Hannibal snapped at the Ables that had surrounded them. They grabbed the unresisting Farrell and pulled him away. Hannibal looked around. Miller, Wallace and Hassan all stood together, looks of shock on their faces. Murdock and BA had let Hannibal go and were looking at each other. One person hadn’t moved throughout the whole incident. Hannibal stared at Face. Face looked back at him with an utterly blank expression, and then put his head down.


Hannibal had been on the phone in his office since they boarded the jet. The others were in the cabin. They had been able to bathe and had fresh clothes, but were still bone weary. Despite their tiredness Face, Murdock and BA were unable to rest. They all waited for Hannibal to get off the phone.

Murdock looked around at the others in the cabin. Wallace was curled up, in what looked like an uncomfortable position on a seat, but like most soldiers she was apparently able to sleep anywhere she had the opportunity and seemed be resting peacefully. On two seats facing Wallace Hassan and Miller sat, Hassan’s good arm around Miller’s shoulder, hers around his waist, she leaned against him, sleeping. Hassan had his eyes closed but they opened when he sensed Murdock looking at him. Murdock nodded slightly. Hassan nodded back and closed his eyes again. Murdock realised he hadn’t yet thanked the agents for coming back to help them. Sentimental grunts indeed. Murdock looked over at the remaining agent, watched Farrell for a while. Farrell was awake but didn’t seem to notice Murdock’s scrutiny. An Able stood nearby, watching Farrell.

Needing to do something besides wait Murdock poured a cup of coffee and took it to Farrell.

“Charles,” he said quietly, not wanting to disturb the others. “You want some coffee?” He gave Farrell a second as the agent turned away and scrubbed his eyes dry with a shirtsleeve. He had to raise both hands to do so, as he was in handcuffs.

“Thanks.” Farrell said, turning to him, taking the cup in both hands. Murdock sat down beside him.

“You okay?” Murdock asked him.

“Fine.” Farrell said, shortly. He took a sip of coffee, and then looked at Murdock. “If you’re here to tell me that what I did was wrong then I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care what anyone thinks.”

“Okay.” Murdock said. But he didn’t leave. Farrell looked at him narrowly. “Do you want to talk about him?” Murdock asked.

“Lamba?” Farrell said, puzzled.

“Collins. Dan.” Murdock said. “You should talk about him.”

“Thanks, Murdock, but that’s not really my thing.” Farrell said.

“When did you meet him?” Murdock asked, ignoring that. Farrell sighed, but he answered.

“Our first week at Yale.”

“And you became friends right away?”

“Yeah,” Farrell got quite a far-away look in his eyes, an expression Murdock hadn’t seen on him before, it softened his features. “Have you ever… well, ever met someone and it’s like you realised you’d been waiting your whole life to meet this person?” He seemed to shake out of the nostalgia suddenly. “God, that sounds so gay.” He muttered.

“No.” Murdock said, softly. “I know exactly what you mean.” Farrell turned to look at him, gave a slight smile. Then he looked away again.

“He was a better man than me, Murdock. He was smarter, he was… he was just better.” He paused. “And now he’s gone.” He looked back at Murdock and his eyes had hardened again. “That’s why I had to do it. He’d have done it for me. And you can’t tell me that Lamba didn’t deserve to die. I don’t care if they put me in jail. I’d do it again in a second.”

“I don’t think you’ll go to jail,” Murdock said. “I don’t think you’ll be able to go on working for the organisation though. At least not while Hannibal is in charge.”

Farrell shook his head. “I don’t care about that either. We were partners. Without him I’ve not got the heart for it.”

“What will you do?”

“Oh my father will find something to put me in charge of. Perhaps I’ll even do well. He’s always telling me that to do really well in business a man needs the killer instinct, so I’m ahead of the game there.” His voice went hard and grim at that last part and Murdock felt suddenly cold.

“Murdock.” BA called, softly to avoid disturbing those who were sleeping. Murdock looked over, saw BA beckon him. He nodded and turned back to Farrell briefly.

“Try to get some rest,” he advised. “Things may be pretty bumpy for a while when we get home.” Then Murdock went back to join BA and Face.

“He just got off the phone.” BA said.

“Let’s go.” Murdock said.

The three of them walked into Hannibal’s office. He had his elbows resting on the desk, his head in his hands. Barbara hovered, looking nervous.

“Hannibal.” Murdock said. Hannibal looked up at them. He was pale and had dark circles under his eyes.

“Miss March.” Face said, his voice preternaturally calm. “Would you go and see the others have everything they need. I think they could use some blankets, it’s rather cold.” Barbara flashed him a look of gratitude for giving her something to do and she hurried out. Face closed the door after her. The door and the dividing wall were thin, offered only a token amount of privacy, but it would have to do. This wouldn’t wait.

“Hannibal, we have to talk.”

Chapter 12

“I want Farrell out of those cuffs.” Face demanded. Hannibal looked up at him surprised.

“You can’t think what he did was right.” Hannibal said.

“You didn’t have to see…” Collins’ head blown off. “What they did to Collins.” The blood. Face felt bile rise in his throat at the memory.

“I’m sorry about that, Face.” Hannibal said quietly. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

“Never mind about me, ” Face snapped, “I’m talking about Farrell. You will let him go.”

“Alright.” Hannibal said, seeing the determination in Face’s eyes. “But he can’t work for me any more.”

“He knows.” Murdock said. “He doesn’t want to.” He paused, looking for the right words. “Neither do I.” He looked away from Hannibal’s face. “I’m sorry, Hannibal. I can’t… see things like that, not any more. It’s too much like… the camps.” His voice went very quiet.

“Ah’m resigning too.” BA said, “This ain’t what I signed up for. Like the fool says, too much like Nam, Colonel. I didn’t have no choice then. Now I got a choice.”

“Guys, I know it was horrible.” Hannibal said. “Losing Gonzales and Collins. The fire, all those bodies. But you know it wasn’t meant to be that way. Yes, this was a disaster and I hate that you all went through it. But you know I wouldn’t be doing this job if that’s the way I expected things to happen all the time.” He looked at them. “Face?”

“No.” Face said simply. “It’s over.” Hannibal didn’t try to hide his anguished expression.

“I can’t do this without you, guys.”

“Then don’t do it.” Face said.

“Look, I take full responsibility for the way things turned out…”

“No-one’s saying it was your fault Hannibal,” Murdock protested, “Bad intelligence and bad timing…”

“No, Murdock.” Hannibal said. “I came in too heavy handed. I had two hundred men at my command and I thought that meant I had to use them all. If I’d come in with fifty, everything would have been fine, they wouldn’t have been tripping over each other and things wouldn’t have gotten out of control.”

He hated to admit it but that’s the way Stockwell would have done it. He wouldn’t have let emotions, cloud his judgement, he’d have sent in exactly the right number of men to rescue the prisoners. And he wouldn’t have led them himself. Wouldn’t have put on combat boots and gone strutting around looking for glory. Damn. Hannibal tried to shake himself out of the self-disgust he was currently up to his neck in.

“We can still do good,” he said quietly. “Yes, people died, but people are dying every day from the poison those people were manufacturing.”

“That doesn’t make it okay!” Murdock protested, shouting suddenly. “Dammit, Hannibal, are you saying the lives of those Colombians are worth less than the lives of Americans?”

“That’s not what I meant, Murdock,” Hannibal said sharply.

“I know exactly what you meant.” Murdock answered, more quietly, but no less angry. He turned and walked out of the office, slamming the door behind him. It bounced and didn’t catch, stayed half open.

“Ah’m sorry, Hannibal.” BA said. “They were so young, you know. The people in the factory I mean. Just teenagers some of ’em. And Gonzales and Collins, they weren’t much more’n kids either. Ah’m supposed to help kids. That’s what I do. I can’t be involved in something that gets them killed. Sorry.” He followed Murdock out of the room. Pulled the door closed behind him, leaving Hannibal and Face alone.

“Face.” Hannibal said. He felt terrible guilt for what Face had gone through. And he felt responsible. He’d known Face could handle command but he’d forgotten that he hadn’t taught Face how to cope when you lost your men.

Hannibal had gone through it in Vietnam. Held men as they died. Watched men get their brains blown out. Listened to wounded men calling for their mothers. And Face had seen all that too, but it had been different. Face hadn’t been in command then. And it was different. It was different when they weren’t your buddies, but instead were your men, whose lives you were responsible for. When you were the one who was going to have to write the letters to their parents or their wives. He’d put that so far out of his mind, not wanting to remember those emotions, that he’d forgotten to try and prepare Face to deal with them.

“Face.” He said again and Face finally looked up at him. The haunted look in his eyes made Hannibal’s soul shrivel inside him. He knew it was pointless to argue with him, to ask him to stay. “If you want to talk about it. I know what you went through. You know that. You can talk to me.”

“Hannibal.” Face paused, and then said, “Right now I don’t even want to see you. Not for a very long time. So, no, I don’t want to talk to you about it.” His voice went cold and he didn’t react to the way Hannibal’s expression seemed to freeze then collapse at his words. “Where are the keys for the cuffs?”

“Cuffs?” Hannibal said, his voice sounding far away.

“Farrell’s handcuffs. Where are the keys?”

“Oh. The Able…”

“Right.” Face walked out without another word. Hannibal sat down at his desk, stared off into space. Had he done what Stockwell and the army had never managed to do? Had his own actions finally destroyed the A-Team?


Face watched the Able free Farrell from the cuffs. Farrell started to thank Face but Face turned away without acknowledging him and went to sit down. The only free seat was beside Wallace. She was awake now. Miller and Hassan were still in the same positions as before, eyes closed. Face knew the agents must have been able to hear some of what went on in the office, knew that Hannibal’s men had resigned.

After a horribly awkward and silent ten minutes Wallace finally spoke to Face.

“I’m sorry you’ll be leaving, sir.” Face didn’t answer. “It’s been a privilege to work with you.”

Face turned his head to look at her. “Surely you think I’m a jerk?”

She looked rather shocked. “No, sir,” she protested.

“What have I told you about the ‘sirs? Anyway, I’m not in command of you any more, so it’s not… appropriate, is it?” He hated the sarcastic tone he was using. She looked down.

“Will Colonel Smith also be leaving?”

“I don’t know.” Face said. “Right now I don’t much care.”

“It would be a shame. I like him better than General Stockwell. The way he works. He’s a real soldier.” Face looked at her, the admiration in her voice and on her face was sincere. She looked away from his scrutiny. Face watched her for a while. Finally he spoke again.

“Becky, if you’re smart you’ll go back to the Marines. You’re a real soldier too and this isn’t the outfit for a real soldier.” She looked back at him. “I know you think that you have more opportunities here, but believe me, the main opportunity this organisation gives you is to end up disgusted with yourself. Go back to where you can serve with honour, even if they don’t let you do the fighting you know you’re capable of. And when those two finish pretending to be asleep…” he nodded at Hassan and Miller, “They should do the same. You’re better than this. All of you.” Wallace looked at him for a while.

“Thanks for the advice. I will be thinking about that.” Face moved to get up. “Sir… Face, I did mean it, it has been a privilege to serve with you.” She stood up too and offered him her hand. “Maybe we can stay in touch?”

“I’d like that.” He shook her hand, and then went to get himself some coffee. When he came back she had curled up in the seat and was asleep again.


When the plane touched down Hannibal stayed in his office. He listened to the others disembarking. After a few minutes he heard the sound of the hydraulics of the cargo hold doors. They were taking out the bodies of Gonzales and Collins.

There was a knock at the office door. Hannibal prayed it was one of the team, but it was only Barbara. She looked pale and exhausted.

“Is there anything you need, Colonel?”

“No. Go home and get some rest, Barbara.”

“Yes sir. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She left.

Would she? Hannibal wondered. Would he still be here tomorrow? He’d had a difficult phone conversation with Vaughan earlier, got the clear impression they were not happy with him. Vaughan had talked a lot about “diplomatic ramifications” and “discretion”. Well Hannibal didn’t care too much about that, they’d known he wasn’t a discreet man. He’d have preferred if they’d questioned his strategic competence, because right now that’s what he was doing himself. He knew he’d let his fear for the people he loved overwhelm his good sense.

So maybe it was better that his team wouldn’t be working for him any more. He wouldn’t worry about other agents in the same way he worried about Face, Murdock and BA. Yes, it was for the best. It would be much easier to send people he didn’t know well…

Hannibal suddenly felt as if he were looking at himself from outside his body. And he didn’t recognise himself. He wasn’t wearing a dark suit, or yellow tinted sunglasses, but that was just packaging. What he had just been doing was thinking like Stockwell and that was so much worse. Easier? Easier to send in men and women he hardly knew, because it would be easier to accept their deaths? He felt sick at the thought. Knew what that sort of thinking led to. To using people like pawns, like pieces on a board, which sometimes had to be sacrificed to win the game. To not really thinking of them as human. To becoming just exactly like Stockwell.

Had Stockwell started out with good intentions, like Hannibal himself? Had he just lost his balance somewhere and fallen into the darkness? Hannibal had never believed that he could be drawn into that same darkness, whatever the temptations. Because he believed, he had to believe, that he was fundamentally a different type of man than Stockwell. And Stockwell had been CIA of course, a man had to have a certain hardness, a certain coldness to do well in that game. Hannibal was different, he was a soldier, he was… oh hell, he was Special Forces, and people might say you had to have that same hardness and coldness to do well in that game too. And even if he was starting from a higher place than Stockwell that just meant he had further to fall.

But he’d believed he could resist, that he could stay true to himself if he had his team with him, because they wouldn’t let him change into… into that kind of person. They’d kick his ass when he needed it. And he’d been sitting here seriously contemplating doing this without them. Madari’s words came back to him. “Don’t do this without the rest of your team… you know what you could become.” He’d forgotten for a moment just exactly what he could become. And forgetting had meant he’d very nearly taken the first step to becoming it.

There was only one thing to do, to save himself from turning into the type of man he most despised.

“Barbara!” He called, and then remembered he had sent her home. He opened a drawer, found a pad and pen, sat for a few minutes, writing. When he was done he ripped the sheet off the pad, put it in an envelope and left it on the desk. Then he got off the jet and walked away.

Chapter 13

The large office was dark, table lamps beside chairs illuminated the people in the room, except for the man at the desk, whose chair was turned away from the others.

Senator Vaughan handed on Hannibal’s letter of resignation to Congresswoman Stark.

“A pity.” Congressman Alverez said. “He had such potential.”

“But an inconvenient amount of conscience,” Vaughan said. “It seems we were wrong, he just didn’t have the instinct for this work.”

“What is this word?” Stark asked, frowning at the letter. Alverez bent over, looked at the word she was pointing to. He blushed a little.

“Erm, I can’t make it out. His handwriting is terrible.”

“He seems to have been somewhat upset when he wrote it.” Senator Webster said, dryly. He glanced at the desk, at the turned away chair.

“If only it hadn’t been for the regrettable incident in Colombia,” Vaughan said. “Obviously it unsettled his people.”

“The word you want is ‘disaster’, Senator.” The voice from behind the desk was quiet. “It was not a ‘regrettable incident’.” Vaughan blushed.

“Yes of course.”

They sat in silence for a few moments.

“So,” Vaughan said, eventually. “How do we proceed now? Do we have any other likely candidates?” No one answered.

“We could de-centralise.” Stark said eventually. “Give executive decisions to department heads, have them report directly.”

“Too inefficient.” Alverez said. “They’ll spend more time fighting each other for resources than doing any work.” More glum silence.

“I’m wondering if this whole thing hasn’t perhaps run its course.” Webster said. The other three looked at him.

“It is getting harder every year to get the money,” Stark admitted. “And avoid scrutiny.”

“True.” Alverez said, looking thoughtful.

Vaughan looked disappointed. “Perhaps we shouldn’t make any hasty decisions. Everyone is upset by the in… disaster in Colombia. We need time for reflection.”

“No. Mr Webster is right,” the man behind the desk said. “Fold it up. Reassign the personnel.” Alvarez started scribbling notes on a pad.

“If there’s any money left in the budgets after the expenses are covered?” He asked.

“I think some appropriate compensation for Smith and his men…” Webster said. Stark and Alvarez nodded their approval, Alvarez writing a note.

The man behind the desk turned his chair around and stood up. The other four stood too.

“Congresswoman, gentlemen, thank you for your work. Please send me your final reports as soon as possible.” He shook hands with each of them and they took their leave. “Jack,” he said as Webster was making his way to the door, the last one to leave. “This has to stay out of the newspapers. You’ll see to that.”

“Of course, sir.” The senator said.


“Maybe some good came out of it all somewhere.” Murdock said. He traced a finger down the side of his beer glass.

“Maybe.” BA said, grudgingly.

“I mean we took out a few smugglers and pushers in that first month. That’s a few less bloodsuckers pushing poison on kids.” He sighed and took a swig of beer. Across the table from him BA drank some of his milk.

The two of them were sitting in a roadside bar outside Los Angeles that the team had found a few months ago on their way back from a weekend in the mountains. Their first visit had been eventful and, in terms of broken furniture, expensive for the bar owner. Their subsequent visits had been uniformly peaceful and the clientele, mostly bikers and truck drivers, left them alone; except for occasionally sending drinks their way.

The door opened and Face walked in. He was wearing a very good suit and carrying a briefcase. He joined Murdock and BA at their table and when the waitress came up he ordered a beer.

“Why are we out here?” Face asked his friends.

Murdock shrugged. “The beer’s good.”

“Ah like the ambience.” BA said. Face looked around. There were only a small number of people in there, most drinking themselves into a state of total oblivion. Two leather-clad men with Hell’s Angels symbols on their jackets were kicking and swearing at a Space Invaders game. The waitress, who had fresh stitches in her eyebrow, brought Face his beer and left again.

“Yeah, it’s a real classy place.” Face said. He took a drink. The beer was good though.

“How’s work?” Murdock asked.

“Fine.” Face said, shortly. Murdock watched him steadily. It had been a week now since they had all resigned from the organisation. Face had gone straight back to his agency and thrown himself into his work. Murdock and BA had both given themselves a few days off to process what they had been through. None of them had seen Hannibal.

“Anybody heard anything?” Murdock asked. The other two shook their heads.

“I called Maggie.” Murdock said. “And Frankie. Even Faris, ‘case Hannibal maybe went over there. No joy.”

“He didn’t come to the funerals.” Face said, quietly. They sat in silence for a few minutes, thinking about the funerals of Gonzales and Collins. Face remembered shaking the hands of their families, thought about the contrast between Gonzales’ father in his police officer’s uniform and Collins’ father in his dark, expensive suit. And remembered the same pride and grief in both men’s eyes.

The waitress brought them a fresh round of drinks, told them they were from the Hell’s Angels by the video game. They waved their thanks to the men. Then they raised their glasses and touched them together. They didn’t have to speak, they all knew who they were drinking to.

At five minutes to midnight Hannibal walked through the door. He seemed taken aback to see the rest of the team sitting there. He went to the bar and then came to their table with a beer in his hand. He didn’t sit straight away, looked at them questioningly for a moment.

“You gonna stand there all night?” BA said. Hannibal sat. Then stood again for a moment, took off the leather jacket he was wearing, hung it on the back of the chair.

“Fellas,” he said. Murdock and BA nodded back at him, but it was Face he was watching. Face looked at him, then looked away, suddenly absorbed in the TV that was playing silently above the bar.

“Big guy, you wanna play Pool? Looks like they repaired the table,” Murdock said to BA.

BA was terrible at Pool and Murdock was more interested in trick shots than in winning a game, but BA, looking for a moment at Face and Hannibal said. “Okay. But don’t be messing around none or ah’ll take that eight ball and…”

“Now, BA,” Murdock said, as they stood up. “You know that’s against the rules.” They went off still bickering good-naturedly.

Hannibal and Face sat in silence. Face still watching the TV. Hannibal watching Face.

“You back at work?” Hannibal said, noticing the suit Face wore. Face looked at him.

“Yes,” he answered after a moment.

“You should take some time off, to… well, to think about it all.” Hannibal said.

“I can’t live on fresh air.” Face said. “And that damn Mercedes just drinks gas.”

“I told you to buy American.” Hannibal said, smiling. Face didn’t smile back, just looked at him impassively.

“Where did you go?” Face asked after a long silence.

“You care?” Hannibal said.

“Just curious. You were out of touch. That’s breaking your own rule.” Hannibal flinched a little inwardly at that. He’d broken a lot of his own rules lately.

“Just went for a drive.” Hannibal said, took a sip of beer.

“For a week?”

Hannibal shrugged. “Stuff to think about.”

“Yeah.” Face said. They were quiet again for a while, listening to BA and Murdock.

“Three ball in the side pocket and the cue ball into that big guy’s beer.” Murdock announced, as he was about to take a shot.

“If you do I ain’t stopping him from killin’ ya.” BA warned. Hannibal and Face couldn’t help smiling, though Face quickly changed the expression when Hannibal looked at him.

“You checked your bank account lately?” Face asked.

“No,” Hannibal frowned. “Should I?”

“If you want to see how much blood money they’ve given you, yes you should.” Hannibal raised his eyebrows.

“Blood money?”

“Or hush money. Whatever. Some kind of pay-off. I went to the ATM and found there was twenty thousand dollars in my checking account.”

“That should pay for quite a lot of gas for the Merc.” Hannibal said.

“You don’t think I kept it?” Face said, angrily. “Gave it to BA for the centre.”

“Oh, that’s good. Yeah, I’ll do the same. BA and Murdock got money too?”

“Yeah. We all donated it to the youth centre. BA doesn’t much like the source, but the place needs the cash.”

“Yeah.” They fell silent again. Hannibal watched Face drink his beer. He knew he had a lot of work to do with Face. Bridges to build. Face wasn’t suddenly going to open up, here in this flea-bag road-house, and confide in Hannibal; but Hannibal could at least try to re-establish diplomatic relations.

“So anything come up for me? Acting wise?” Hannibal asked. Face looked at him.

“Actually yes, could be. A TV pilot, the show’s about a cop from LA who takes over as sheriff in a small town after the old sheriff retires.”

“And I’d be…?” Hannibal prompted, a slightly teasing look in his eyes.

“Sorry, Hannibal,” Face actually smiled a little. “I wasn’t thinking of you for the lead. You’d be the old sheriff. It’s a good part. The new sheriff keeps going to the… older guy for advice about the town. The older guy is always trying to interfere and be back on the job, but of course their ideas of how to do things are pretty different.”

“Sounds good.” Hannibal said. “Lots of scenes with the lead?”

Face nodded at that. “You could steal the show.” He said, with a sly smile. Then he sobered a little. “It’s a pilot. If you got the part and it went to a series you’d have to be available to sign on long term.” He looked at Hannibal, a question in his eyes, not just about signing on for a TV series.

“Yeah,” Hannibal said, his answer also not just about the series. “I’m going to be available for the long haul.” He looked up realising Murdock and BA had come back over and had heard them talking.

As they sat down Murdock smiled and said, “Welcome back, Hannibal.”


Stockwell’s Men

Face and Hannibal talk through some issues and think about their future. This is a short follow up to Tightrope Walk.

Rated: PG13

Words: 3,082