The Last Mile

When Stockwell falls the team think freedom is finally in sight. But last minute complications threaten to dash their hopes.

Rated: PG13

Words: 31,000

Chapter 1

Stockwell was trying the hard stare. The ‘stony as a granite statue’ stare. The stare daunting enough to bring a charging rhino to a halt and leave it shuffling its feet and trying to avoid eye contact

Hannibal wasn’t impressed. He met the stare and gave back as good as he got. Whoever spoke first lost.

“Is there a problem, Colonel?”

Score. An instant of smugness before Hannibal reapplied the scowl.

“Yes, there’s a problem. This mission will get a lot of people killed.”

“People on the other side.”

For the next few seconds only the ticking of a wall clock broke the silence in the room. It sounded embarrassed.

“You told me you studied our methods before you recruited us,” Hannibal said. “I think you skipped a few crucial points.”

Stockwell looked around at team, their faces even more hostile than usual. “Did you think all your missions would be milk runs?”

Hannibal held out a hand to subdue the stirring men around him. They’d been lucky to come back alive from some of those ‘milk runs’. He wasn’t going to start whining about that — they’d known the missions would be dangerous and they’d still signed up. But there were dangers other than those to life and limb.

“You wanted the A-Team, Stockwell. I’m sure you could have put together a squad of mercenary killers if that’s what you needed, but you’ve got us. You don’t get our skills and methods without everything else.”

“Do you really believe you’ve managed to avoid killing on any of your missions? Do you think nobody died in San Marcos?”

The team stirred again, this time from hearing an uncomfortable truth. They’d all tried to tell themselves any government soldiers killed in San Marcos had died at the hands of the local rebels, but they had no way to be certain. Still, that was different than taking on a mission where they’d have no option but to kill whoever stood in their way.

“Are you refusing the mission, Colonel?”

Hannibal glanced at the others and saw small nods. He turned back to Stockwell. “That’s right. This one and any more like it. You have other agents. Let them do it.”

“You realise this means the number of missions I can give you from now on will be severely restricted, which means it will take much longer to earn your pardons?”

Again Hannibal looked at the others. At Face, who would rather be back on the run than here. At BA, whose stony glare hid his feelings as usual, but who chafed at the captivity as much as any of them. At Murdock, who continued to risk his freedom helping them gain theirs. And at Frankie, whose hands had no blood on them — yet.

Could he exchange the team’s honour for the chance to get them out of here before he lost one or all of his men? He’d come close more than once.

“I need your answer now,” Stockwell said. “Will you take this mission or not?”

Hannibal turned back to him.


The door burst open. Men in dark suits piled into the room and spread out, with weapons drawn, They were strangers, not the familiar Abels. Stockwell and the team jumped up, the team drawing their weapons, moving away from the couches, looking for position.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Stockwell demanded, as the man apparently in charge of the intruders walked up to him.

“Special Agent Paul Fisher.” Fisher flipped open his wallet showing his badge. “FBI. General Hunt Stockwell, you’re under arrest.”

Hannibal had to wonder if this was some glorious dream as he watched the agents cuff Stockwell. As Fisher read him his rights and showed him the warrant, Stockwell tried the same rhino-stopping stare he’d given Hannibal only a few moments ago, but it cut no ice with Fisher either.

Aside from a “Yes” to confirm he understood his rights, Stockwell stayed silent and let them lead him away without protest. He was far too smart to give up his right to silence of course. If he’d expected the team to intervene to stop the FBI taking him away then Hannibal was happy to disappoint him.

Fisher turned to the team. They stood at bay in a circle, guns pointed at the FBI agents surrounding them. Fisher didn’t react to the sight of this five-way Mexican stand-off, a composure Hannibal had to give him credit for. Only mid-thirties and more Clark Kent than Superman, yet he met Hannibal’s eyes steadily.

“Colonel, we have to arrest you and your team, too.”

The tension in the room went up. Hammers went back.

“You think we’ll let you drag us off to a firing squad without a fight?”

“Your conviction and sentence have been set aside pending a new trial,” Fisher said quickly. “One that will run without General Stockwell’s interference.”

“Always said he set us up,” Face muttered from behind Hannibal.

“Yes, Lieutenant Peck,” Fisher said. “We’re quite sure he did. But there’s a long investigation ahead. We know Stockwell manipulated you into working for him. If you cooperate and help us convict him, it could help you at your trial.”

Hannibal looked around at the team. They could fight now but they’d probably die. If they weren’t going to be dragged off so the firing squad could finish what it started then why make a futile gesture? Maybe one day the team would go down in a hail of bullets, Butch and Sundance-style, but Hannibal really didn’t want them to do it here in the Langley house.

Face gave a small shrug, the look on his face saying, ‘Let’s see what happens next’.

Whatever happened next had to be better than dying in this gilded cage.

Hannibal reversed his pistol and presented the handle to Fisher. Frankie’s sigh of relief seemed to flush the tension from the room as the rest of the team followed Hannibal’s lead, surrendering their weapons.

“Okay, Mr Fisher,” Hannibal said. “Get us the hell out of this dump.”

Chapter 2

Hannibal missed Langley.

Okay, that wasn’t exactly true. But sometimes, as he lay on the bunk in his cell, he sure did miss his big comfortable Langley bed.

For prison, their accommodations weren’t so bad. The five of them were kept in a small cell block away from the rest of the inmates. On coming into it for the first time, nearly three months ago, Face had taken one look around and said, “Great — Death Row.” Perhaps it had been once. Now it was more like a refrigerator; keeping the team on ice.

“Morning, Colonel,” a guard called as he unlocked the cell. “Rise and shine.”

“How’s the weather, Pres?” Hannibal said, sitting up and groaning. Stiff as a board. He really did miss that bed.

“Not cold enough to keep Baracus out of the yard. Man keeps in shape.”

After a fast shower Hannibal went into the small common room where breakfast awaited. He found Face deep in conversation with Pres, apparently giving him investment advice. Murdock had a book and Frankie just had an early morning stare as he toyed with his oatmeal.

“Seen the news?” Face said to Hannibal as Pres left — presumably to call his broker. He handed the morning paper to Hannibal. “O’Neill thinks it will be at least six more months before they’re ready to go to trial.”

“Six months?” Frankie lost the thousand-yard stare and focused on Hannibal. “We gotta stay here another six months?”

“Probably longer,” Face said. “Stockwell’s trial will take months and ours won’t even start until after that’s over.”

“Aw, man. We should have shot our way out when we had the chance.” Frankie shoved his bowl of oatmeal away and laid his head on his crossed arms. Murdock didn’t speak, but he scowled hard at his book. Face drank coffee and ate a piece of toast.

Hannibal ate his breakfast quickly and walked outside, where the frosty Washington air hit him like a bucket of ice water. The chill didn’t bother BA, out there with a small rack of free weights at his side. Sweat glistening on his skin, his huffed-out breaths steamed in the air as he lifted the weight.

If they did feel like escaping, Hannibal could order him to knock down the thirty-foot concrete wall enclosing their yard. Hannibal could picture a BA-shaped hole in the wall.

The wall had a gate into the big yard where the other prisoners exercised, but it was boarded up; on their third day here BA had somehow managed to have a fight with a man on the other side. Now the only fights they got into were with each other. Though nobody had hit anybody yet. Well, not seriously hit. Murdock had walked into that punch and Frankie had apologised.

He sighed. Was that really steam rising from BA? Hannibal went back inside. He found Murdock still burning a hole in his book, and Face and Frankie diving into a box of doughnuts. Another guard, Sam, stood by the table.

“Just a little thank you,” he said, gesturing at the box. “Mr Peck here told me what to say to my wife and she’s moving back in this weekend.”

“I live to help make people happy,” Face said.

“Especially if they bring you doughnuts, huh, Face?” Hannibal took one with pink frosting and sprinkles. Face had the guards wrapped around his little finger. Stock tips here, advice to the lovelorn there. All in a day’s work for the Faceman. It kept him busy and he looked well. He’d even put weight on. Only his prison pallor spoiled the effect. But otherwise he had the air of a man making the best of his time. He’d work on the tan later.

Of all of them, he seemed the most comfortable here. Because institutional living was all he’d known for a major part of his life, Hannibal supposed. Being in their private little cell block made a difference, too. Hand picked guards. No crazy bastards looking to prove themselves by shanking one of the A-Team. Face might say he wanted freedom, but he’d settled for safety right now and a better prospect of eventual freedom than they’d had working for Stockwell.

He talked frequently about how they’d be pardoned once all the evidence came out. How Senator O’Neill, the man leading the inquiry, would make sure the team got what they deserved. Hannibal was careful never to puncture his optimism, but sometimes what Face looked forward to most was what Hannibal was afraid of.

What exactly did they deserve?

BA came in and wheeled the rack of weights into the corner. Murdock stood up, closed his book and walked out of the room.

BA glared after him, then said, “I’m gonna take a shower. You’d better save me some of those doughnuts.”

“Did I miss something?” Hannibal said when BA had gone.

“Didn’t you hear them arguing last night?” Frankie said. “Man, I thought they’d wake up the whole prison. Good thing it was after lock up so they couldn’t get at each other.”

“Must have slept through it. What was it about?”

“Who the hell knows?” Face said, losing his cheerful air. “When did those two ever need a reason?”

“Yeah,” Frankie said. “Only reason they need now is being stuck in here.”

At Langley, Murdock could just leave when he got into some dumb fight with one of them. Not now. They had their own cells, but sometimes that wasn’t far enough.

Hannibal poured two cups of coffee – he’d almost gotten used to the taste of the prison coffee from the big institutional urn – took a couple of doughnuts and went looking for Murdock. It was a short search. They had nowhere to hide.

“You didn’t eat much breakfast,” Hannibal said, standing in the door to Murdock’s cell. Murdock sat up on his bunk and nodded to invite Hannibal in.

“This getting to you?” Hannibal said, sitting on the bunk beside him.

Murdock took the offered coffee and doughnut. “It’s getting to all of us.”

“But you…”

“Oh, yeah, I’m crazier.” He had no humour in his voice. “Don’t worry about me. Worry about Frankie.”


“Colonel, for you and me, Face and BA, this,” he waved his hand, scattering powdered sugar on his blankets, “counts as five star luxury. We might get cranky, but we’ll get through it. This is Frankie’s first time locked up.”

Hannibal nodded. “Good point, Murdock. But at least there’s an end in sight.”

“Really? Just what do you think will happen when we go on trial? They’ll clear you guys about Morrison, but there’s a lot more to the case than Morrison. There’s me and Frankie and all those aiding and abetting charges just for a start.”

“We’ll all be okay.”

“You sound like Face.”


“That’s one word for it.” Murdock sighed and rolled his shoulders in his fatigues. “God, I miss my jacket. I miss my hat. I miss the sky. I wish I could see more of the sky.” The high wall of their yard left them in shadow almost the entire day, giving them direct sunshine only at noon. The small square of sky visible clearly wasn’t enough for Murdock.

“Just hold on, Murdock. We’ll make it. I’m sure of it. After all these years we’re finally in the end zone.”

“But what if the defence still has a surprise in store?”

BA walked past the cell, in clean fatigues. A moment later they heard him complaining that Face and Frankie had eaten his favourites doughnuts. Sam stopped at the open door of the cell.

“Front gate just called. Your G-man friend, Fisher, is here.”

By the time Fisher worked his way through from the front gate, the team had tidied up the rec room, poured more coffee, and now sat around the table, waiting impatiently. Any different face was welcome in their isolated little world, whether doctors, priests, lawyers, or FBI agents.

“Good morning, gentlemen,” Fisher said, smiling as he came in. They all shook hands. “Good to see you again. The weather’s turned cold, hasn’t it?”

“You must have started out while it was still dark to get here from Washington so early,” Face said, handing him a mug of coffee.

“Thank you. Yes, I had an early start. I need to get back to DC to meet with Senator O’Neill this afternoon.”

“How’s it going, being assigned to his staff?” Hannibal asked.

“Very interesting,” Fisher said. “He’s truly committed to making sure Stockwell is punished. And you, gentlemen, are a big part of that. Your evidence has been invaluable.”

“Anything to see that bastard gets what’s coming to him,” Face said.

“I think you and the senator would get along famously, Mr Peck,” Fisher said. “You certainly think alike about General Stockwell. Oh, I brought you some of those books and magazines you asked for.” He took them from his briefcase and placed them on the table. “Anything else you want, just ask me.”

“I don’t suppose…” Face shook his head. “Nah, you’d need a much bigger briefcase.” He opened up a Time magazine.

“There’s an interesting article about the case in there,” Fisher said. Face looked as if he’d prefer an interesting centrefold. Why he didn’t just ask Fisher to bring him a couple of Playboys Hannibal didn’t know.

While the team distributed the books and magazines, Fisher got up and spoke to the prison guard who stood inside the room. The man went out, closing the door behind him. Par for the course for these meetings; they talked about a lot of secret stuff. Hannibal supposed it was another reason to keep them apart from the rest of the prisoners. They knew too much.

But Fisher wore a more-than-usually serious expression when he came back to the table and sat again. “Gentlemen, I haven’t only come to ask you questions today. I have a proposal for you.”

A sudden sense of déjà-vu struck Hannibal, remembering Stockwell’s visit on the eve of their scheduled execution.

“Stockwell’s organisation was larger than we realised at the time we arrested him. We’ve discovered he had many agents working all around the world.”

“None of them are called Logan Ross, are they?” Face asked

Fisher smiled and shook his head. “No. We know all about ‘Logan Ross’ -and the others.”

“Others?” Murdock spoke for them all with his surprised exclamation

“So far we’ve come across five more, ah, fictitious agents. Two of them women.”

“Good thing you didn’t have to impersonate one of those, huh, Murdock?” Frankie said.

“You haven’t seen me in a dress. I’m a knock-out.”

Hannibal chuckled. “Gotta wonder how many people Stockwell has living in his head. Sorry, Paul, go on.”

“Some of the agents want to come in and give evidence against Stockwell in return for clemency . They need escorts to bring them home. But, as you can imagine, they are people who don’t trust easily. They won’t accept strangers.”

“But they will accept the A-Team,” Hannibal said.

“You’re a distinctive group.”

“Wait,” Face said. “Back up a second. Why exactly do they need escorts?”

“Because there are other agents out there, either still loyal to Stockwell, or who are too deeply compromised to be offered clemency. And some of them want to stop their former colleagues returning home.”

“Of course, there had to be a catch,” Murdock said.

“There are incentives too, Mr Murdock. You wouldn’t have to live here. We’d put you up in more comfortable accommodation between your assignments.”

“I find not being shot at makes up for all kinds of minor discomforts,” Face said.

Fisher looked around at the rest of them. Nobody argued with Face, but Hannibal certainly wanted to. To be out in the field again, on the Jazz again… He didn’t let the agent see that though. Fisher was trying to sell them on the plan. They’d be smart to hold out for the best price.

“I don’t believe you’re happy to just wait it out here for several more months,” Fisher went on. “Sitting idle isn’t your style.”

Hannibal glanced around at his men. His gaze rested on Frankie. Sitting idle wasn’t the team’s style. But running around getting shot at wasn’t Frankie’s style. Not if Hannibal had anything to do with it.

“Many of the agents who want to come in have evidence that could see Stockwell given even more jail time than he’s facing now,” Fisher said, like a car salesman throwing in the metallic paint and AC for free.

Hannibal smiled. “Well, when you put it like that…” He paused to sip his coffee, saw Fisher’s eyes light up. “We’ll think about it,” he finished. The light faded, and a serious look took its place.

“Of course, Colonel. How long do you need?”

“Come back tomorrow.”

“Oh, that soon?” He smiled again, looking surprised. Hannibal snorted. The guy was too used to bureaucracy.

“We’ve been called many things over the years, Mr Fisher. But nobody ever called us indecisive.”


They might not be indecisive, but Hannibal knew there’d be some…discussion.

“It’s babysitting,” he said, after Fisher left. “Fly in, grab the witness and fly back out. How hard can it be?”

“And how long will it take for those other agents to figure out that if they want to find the witnesses, the best plan is to follow us?” Face’s annoying talent for asking awkward questions had not deserted him.

“You’re wrong, Face,” BA said. When Face scowled at him, BA went on. “Following us ain’t the best plan. Killing us is the best plan.”

“Yeah, that’s a good point,” Frankie said. “We’re gonna give evidence against Stockwell, so aren’t we targets, too?”

“And it sounds like a lot of flying,” BA said.

“Yeah! Isn’t that great?” Murdock said. “I tell you, guys, if I don’t get behind the controls of a plane again soon, I’m gonna forget how to fly anything but a kite.”

“Good!” BA snapped.

“Come on, BA,” Hannibal said. “A few more flights and it will all finally be over.”

“You said that about working for Stockwell.”

“And can we trust Fisher and O’Neill?” Face asked. “I mean really?”

“My gut tells me we can,” Hannibal said. His gut hadn’t met O’Neill yet, but they’d seen him on TV talking about the investigation and the case. The man couldn’t have been more determined to nail Stockwell if he’d actually been part of the A-Team. “Yeah, we can trust them.”

“Like you trusted Stockwell to give us our pardons?”

Hannibal tensed at Face’s question, anger rising at the challenge to his ability to make the right decision. But he controlled that rage; it was a fair question. He sat back in his chair, folding his arms.

“I still believe he would have, in the end.”

The snorts and mutters told him what the others believed.

“Forget it,” Hannibal said. “We’ve had this argument before, more than once.”

And after one of those times, Face had almost walked away from the team. But that was the past. They’d stick together now, to see this through to the end.

Despite his arguments, Hannibal wasn’t ready to just grab the offer, though. He had a condition.

“There is one sticking point.” He looked at Frankie.

“Me? I’m the sticking point?”

“Taking you on missions when we had no choice was one thing, but I won’t do it voluntarily.” The crushed look on Frankie’s face made him hurry on quickly. “Don’t get me wrong, kid. You’d shown us you’ve got guts. And you’re as handy a man with explosives as I ever met. But you aren’t trained for this work.”

It wasn’t only that. He could have had as much training as them and he’d still have been a fifth wheel, throwing off their long-ago perfected group dynamic. Maybe that made them inflexible, but it was too late to change it now.

“You guys have taught me a lot,” Frankie said. “I feel like you’ve put me through Boot Camp!”

“You’ve done great. And you’ve always come through for us, but…” Hannibal stopped. He couldn’t say ‘I won’t risk seeing you killed in front of me’. “I can’t keep putting you in danger.”

Frankie looked around at their prison walls and turned back to Hannibal with fear in his eyes. He spoke quietly. “Don’t ask me to stay here alone, Johnny.”

“I won’t. I’ve decided that you get to go home.”


“We’ll work for you,” Hannibal said to Fisher the next morning. “If Frankie gets bail.”


“Well, not bail as in money,” Face said. “Because we’re all a little strapped for cash right now.”

“Released on his own recognizance,” Hannibal said.

Once he’d put this idea to the rest of the team, they’d eventually come to an agreement. Perhaps Face and BA had considered Frankie a sticking point, too.

“Is this what you want, Mr Santana?” Fisher asked.

“Yeah,” Frankie said. “We all talked about it.”

They had talked well into the night. Frankie saw the logic of the idea, but said he felt like he was abandoning them. Worse, that they were putting themselves in harm’s way to buy his freedom. Hannibal reminded him he’d done the same for them.

“I need to call the senator,” Fisher said.

While they waited for him to return, Frankie fidgeted.

“What if he won’t go for it?” Frankie said.

“Then we say no,” Hannibal said. Repeated actually. He’d said it twenty times already. But he’d say it as many times as he had to. “We won’t leave you here alone, Frankie.” They wouldn’t let him stay here, or even in the other, nicer, accommodation Fisher had mentioned. That would be just another gilded cage, like Langley. Another prison.

Fisher came back after a few minutes, all smiles. “Senator O’Neill has agreed. Mr Santana will be allowed to live in California close to his father. He isn’t allowed to work or to leave the country. He has to keep a low profile at all times.”

“Frankie?” Hannibal said.

“That’s okay,” Frankie said. “I get to be near my dad? Yeah, that’s okay with me.”

“He’ll need some protection,” Hannibal said.

“Of course. Already in hand. Does that satisfy you, Colonel?” Fisher asked.

Hannibal stood up and offered Fisher his hand. He grinned. “You know, there’ve been days when I never thought I’d be able to say this again.”

“Say what?” Fisher asked, shaking Hannibal’s hand.

“Agent Fisher, you just hired the A-Team.”

Chapter 3

Four days later the team packed their few belongings and climbed aboard a prison transport bus. Despite its poor suspension and hard seats, most of them had no complaints as it drove out of the prison gates. Only Murdock groused, about how he still couldn’t see much sky out of the sealed and grated windows.

A dozen miles down the road the bus stopped where a smaller bus and a sedan waited. Fisher, wrapped up well against the freezing air, greeted the team as they left the prison bus.

“This car will take Mr Santana to the airport,” Fisher said, gesturing at the sedan. He pulled off a glove and offered his hand to Frankie. “Good luck, Mr Santana.”

The team gave Frankie warmer goodbyes, a couple of embraces, and warnings to always check your fuses. The car drove off in the direction of Washington DC with him hanging out of the window and waving.

“He’ll be fine,” Hannibal said, seeing the team’s smiles turn to more troubled looks once they’d waved Frankie out of sight. He understood their nervousness about sending him off on his own.

“Yes, he’ll be fine,” Fisher said, backing up Hannibal’s reassurances. “He’s a crucial witness. Senator O’Neill told me personally to take good care of him and all of you.”

“Well you aren’t taking care of us right now,” Hannibal said, seeing the rest of the team shivering in their light jackets and shoes, breath freezing on the air.

“Then, please, get aboard.” Fisher waved at the small bus.

They went north, crossing the border into Maryland, leaving Virginia behind – which the team cheered about, glad to see the back of that state. As the light faded, the darkness hid any details about their location other than extensive forests and mountains beyond them.

The remote location and harsh terrain made it harder for anyone to get at them, Hannibal thought, but also made it harder for them to leave. He smiled, catching himself still on his guard. Well, he should be. He should try thinking like Face. If he’d done that a year ago, they wouldn’t be in this mess.

Of course, they’d be in some other kind of mess.

But at least they were going to get out of this one soon. They were in the end zone, as he’d said to Murdock. Though he sincerely believed Stockwell would have given them pardons eventually, it would have been after he’d made them work for him as long as possible. The man had the whole debt-slavery thing nailed. But that couldn’t happen this time. Everything was in the open. Stockwell had to come to trial and so did the team. None of them could simply disappear.

In the early hours of the morning the bus approached what looked like a small village, its glowing lights welcoming in the freezing darkness. As the team stirred and stretched the bus drove through a gate in a wire fence, past some dark, low buildings, and then on through to the source of the clustered lights. They came from lamps fixed to the sides of small cabins arranged in a picturesquely haphazard way around a central open space.

Fisher’s men took the team’s luggage off the bus and carried it to the cabins. Four different cabins.

“We each get one?” Face sighed happily. “Okay, forget any objection I had to this. One each… They look kind of small though.”

“Ignore him,” Hannibal told Fisher. “He’s from LA. He thinks Versailles could use more square footage.”

“Shall we go in?” Fisher said. “You must be ready for a hot meal.”

He led them into a cabin where they found two people in kitchen whites setting out a late supper on a square table with four chairs.

“This cabin is Colonel Smith’s, but they’re all nearly identical,” Fisher said as the team sat at the table. “Most people eat in the dining hall, but you can ask for your meals to be brought here or have the refrigerator and cupboards stocked whenever you want.”

“Room service.” Face smiled when he lifted a cover off a plate of lamb chops accompanied by risotto. “I can live with that.”

“And laundry and cleaning. I hope you find it satisfactory.”

“Mmm-mff,” Murdock said chewing lamb and rice.

“That means yes,” Hannibal translated. He dug into his food.


Breakfast was delivered to their cabins in the morning, along with messages to be ready for a briefing with Agent Fisher at ten a.m.

As Hannibal left his new home shortly before ten, he saw a woman with a cleaning cart let herself in to one of the other cabins. He made a mental note not to leave anything lying around he didn’t want seen, but then dismissed the thought as paranoia. Those days were over.

In the daylight he could now see more of their temporary home. Paths wound between the cabins, sloping gently up from a pond in the middle. A layer of ice on the surface of the pond glinted under the sun. He got an idea of the size of the place too, several acres, bordered by a seven-foot-high wire fence. The fence probably kept out deer, not intruders, Hannibal thought. He spotted the closed-circuit television cameras mounted on some fence posts and in trees. There were probably others he couldn’t see. There’d be patrols too. One night when he wasn’t so tired he’d stay awake and check out the security. He smirked. He was sure they’d be so grateful to him for testing it out.

Evergreen forests started close to the fence and rose into the foothills of distant mountains. From where he stood there was no other sign of civilisation beyond a few contrails in the sky.

“Gorgeous, isn’t it?” Murdock said behind Hannibal, who turned from looking up at the blue sky and high clouds, his eyes shaded by a hand. Murdock, walking with Face, was wearing his flying jacket and blue baseball cap and grinning wide enough to split his face.

“Beautiful,” Hannibal said.

Face made a sour expression that suggested all this fresh air didn’t suit a smog-adapted city boy like him. “Damn cold though. We definitely need some warm coats.”

“You guys complaining about the cold again?” BA stomped up to them. “What’s the matter with you? It’s spring.”

“BA, there’s snow on the ground.” Murdock bent over and scooped up a handful of the light covering that had fallen overnight. Not enough for a snowball fight, Hannibal thought, with some regret. “Look!” Murdock waved his hand under BA’s nose. “Snow! I’ve got frostbite already.”

“Only in the brain.” BA slapped the hand aside, scattering the snow, and heading off towards the building they’d been told they’d find Fisher.

Despite his professed hardiness, BA accepted a mug of hot chocolate from Fisher when they met him in conference room. The rest of the team got coffee, and Murdock and BA had a brief altercation over the only bear claw among the fresh pastries on the table.

“Time to get down to business, I’m afraid,” Fisher said with an ingratiating smile after they settled down. “I wish I could give you a few days to get established, but we have an urgent extraction.”

“We’ve been sitting on our butts long enough,” Hannibal said. “We’re ready to work.”

“Glad to hear it.” Fisher passed out folders, then started up a slide projector. The face of a dark-haired and rather exotic-looking woman appeared on the screen. Hannibal and Face exchanged a ‘not bad’ look, but Face’s nod conceded she was closer to Hannibal’s age. Hannibal gave him an eye-roll in return to say we’re picking her up, not ‘picking her up.’ Face grinned and turned his attention back to the briefing.

“This is Abigail Lewin,” Fisher said. “Formerly CIA, where she was a colleague of Stockwell’s. He brought into his organisation right at the start.”

“And she’s going to testify against Stockwell, just like that?” Hannibal said.

“Not just like that. It took many weeks of negotiations. We did fear she’d remain loyal to him. They were friends. But she agreed to cooperate eventually.”

“And where do we go to pick up the lady?”


“Rome! I haven’t been to Rome in…” Face stopped and covered his outburst, trying to appear smooth. “Yeah, a while. Be nice to see it again.”

“Right, Face,” Murdock said. “Because it’s been the city of your dreams since you were knee-high to a Catholic ladybug, hasn’t it?”

“No. Just because the sisters and the fathers used to talk about it and…never mind. Forget it. So, Rome.”

“Rome,” BA said, in a flat voice. “That would be Rome, Italy. Italy in Europe.”

“Across the Atlantic is what he’s getting at,” Hannibal said. “A place you have to fly to.”

“Ah, yes,” Fisher said, glancing down at a folder. “I have a note about that… problem.”

“It ain’t no problem,” BA said. “I just don’t fly. Get a boat. They have boats to Europe. I’ve checked.”

“Give us a minute, Paul,” Hannibal said, and Fisher nodded and stayed in his chair while the team moved over to the window across the room.

“Come on, BA,” Hannibal said. “You’ve been letting us drug you to go on Stockwell’s missions. Why change now?”

“Because I’m sick of flying with this crazy man.”

“But I’m not crazy anymore!” Murdock protested. “They let me out.”

“They never gave you your pilot’s licence back.”

“That’s a…technicality. Trust me, BA. Have I ever let you down?”


“Okay!” Murdock spread his hands. “I admit I’ve crashed a few planes with you on board.”

“Would you call it ‘a few’?” Face said. “I mean, if we’re counting, I could make a list.”

Murdock glared. “Okay, more than a few.”

“And what about the helicopters?” BA demanded. “You crashed me in helicopters too. Lots of ’em ones you scammed,” he added, wiping the smirk from Face’s lips.

“You’re still alive, aren’t you?” Murdock said. “And I’ve started to ask if it’s not me who’s the problem, but you. All of you, I mean. Like a jinx. I swear I never used to crash as often with other people as I do with you guys and…” He stopped and smiled weakly. “That isn’t helping.”

“BA,” Hannibal said, done with the nonsense, “it’s too late to start with this now. We need you and you’re coming. Don’t make us drug your milk or chase you with a needle again.”

“Yeah,” Face said. “Because, frankly, that’s getting kind of embarrassing. And if you could see some of the undignified ways we’ve dragged you aboard, you’d blush.”

“Bottom line,” Hannibal said. “The sooner we finish this work, the sooner we’re free men. After that you can spend the rest of your life on buses, boats and trains as far as I’m concerned. Until then — ”

“Okay, okay!” BA snapped. “Anything to make you guys shut up. We’ll do what we been doing. But I’d better not have to see a plane, ’cause if I do, I’ll — ”

“Panic?” Face said.

“Freak out?” Murdock suggested.

“Drive a truck through it?” Hannibal said.

BA looked as close to sheepish as he could ever look. “That was one time.”

They returned to the table. “Everything settled?” Fisher asked.

“Just fine,” Hannibal said. He’d request the sedative later.

Fisher handed them each a small leather document case. “Passports, visas, other paperwork. You can’t travel under your real names, of course, so I’ve arranged these cover identities.”

Just for a second, Hannibal had a qualm. Using a false passport was a criminal act. Fisher and O’Neill were supposed to be the good guys.

“Is there a problem, Colonel?” Fisher asked. Hannibal looked up, startled for a second by the words. Too familiar. Someone else’s gaze caught his eye. Face, looking at Hannibal, then turning away.

“False identities,” Face said. “It’s just all a little…Stockwell.”

“I understand, but if you travel under your real identities, first thing you know the press will get wind you’re out of prison, and once that happens, the hostile agents will soon guess why you’re travelling around the world.”

“And we’d lead them to the people they want to kill,” Murdock said. “Yeah, we figured that one out.”

“So the false passports are protection for those people as much as for yourselves,” Fisher said. “Your scruples do you credit though.”

Actual agents of the government must travel under false papers all the time, Hannibal supposed. And now the team truly were working for the government, unlike when they’d worked for Stockwell, a rogue with shadowy backers he still refused to name. The team were in a government facility, being briefed by a serving FBI agent, under the orders of a United States Senator.

Hannibal decided he could live with a false passport.


After lunch they got aboard their small luxury bus again, hauling their own gear this time. Hannibal had started to feel lazy with other people always carrying his bag.

“We’re heading to a small airfield nearby,” Fisher explained as the bus drove out of the gate. “There’s a private jet waiting and your cover for visiting Italy is senior executives on a business trip. We’ve put some suitable clothing in your sizes on the plane.” He glanced at the already sleeping BA, perhaps wondering if he would pass as an executive who liked to spend his downtime in the gym.

“Sounds good,” Hannibal said. “I’ll be the chairman of the board.”

“Imagine my surprise,” Face muttered from the seat behind Hannibal.

“Murdock’s my private pilot of course. BA my personal bodyguard. Face, you’re vice-president in charge of lying.”

“I’m what?”

“Wait, what’s that word they use in business?” He snapped his fingers as if it had just come to him. “Advertising!”

Murdock laughed and even Fisher smiled, though nervously, still getting used to the team’s humour. Face sighed. “I can’t tell you all how sad I am that this fun-filled period of my life may be finally coming to an end.”

“Here’s the airfield,” Fisher said as they approached the gate. “Before we get out, let me wish you luck on the extraction.”

Who needs luck? Hannibal thought. They were taking an executive jet to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, to meet a good-looking woman. He glanced at Abigail Lewin’s picture in his folder again. By this time tomorrow they might already be on their way home.

But he’d certainly take the time to buy the lady a cappuccino first.


“Someone wanna give me a hand here?” Hannibal called as he hauled the stumbling BA along the tarmac. Murdock and Face turned back to help him manoeuvre BA into the terminal.

“I think we got that last dose wrong,” Face said.

“Ya think?” Hannibal snapped.

BA’s eyes were glazed and he wore a much happier smile than he usually did at the end of a flight. When Customs asked if he had anything to declare, he declared he liked cheese. Giving him some tips on where to find some good Gorgonzola, they hurried him through, assuming he was drunk.

“It’s too early to go to the meet, and he could use a nap,” Face said, as the team stuffed BA into the back of a taxi. “I happen to know a nice quiet little hotel we could check into for tonight.”

“Fix it,” Hannibal said and left Face to it.

Face had enough phrase book Italian to give the address to the slightly dubious taxi driver, and he took the front seat, while Hannibal and Murdock kept the now snoring BA between them in the back. The taxi headed away from the airport and into the centre of the historic city and its legendary traffic jams.

The owners of the small, family-run hotel Face took them to remembered him from a long time ago and Hannibal made a note to himself to get that story out of Face one day. They took three adjoining rooms for the night – he’d put Miss Lewin in the one in the middle.

“BA’s still out,” Hannibal said, closing the door into the adjoining room behind him as he came into Face and Murdock’s. “We’ll let him sleep while we get ready for the contact.”

They got busy. Hannibal and Murdock checked and cleaned their guns while Face used a street map to work out contingency plans and the fastest routes through and out of Rome.

“Focus, guys,” Hannibal said, interrupting an argument between Face and Murdock about the fastest way to get from the Piazza del Popolo to the Coliseum using a horse-drawn dray loaded with casks of brandy.

“Remember, we’ve been sitting on our butts for three months,” he went on. “We’ve lost our edge. I’m hoping Fisher knows that too and gave us a straightforward job to ease us back into the game. But be aware we’re not at our peak.”

“Right, Colonel,” Murdock said looking serious.

Face nodded. “Right.”

“Good.” Hannibal raised his pistol, fingertips just holding the end of the grip and put on a puzzled expression. “Now, can one of you remind me how to hold this thing?”

Chapter 4

“What are you doing, Face?” Hannibal said into the microphone inside his sleeve. Face was up to something beside the fountain.

“Nothing.” Face’s voice in his ear sounded defensive.

“He threw in a coin,” Murdock said. “You know, throw a coin in the Trevi fountain so that one day you’ll come back to Rome.” Hannibal could hear the smile in his voice

“It’s called undercover for a reason,” Face said. “I’m trying to look like a tourist.”

“As long as you’re paying attention.” He glanced at his watch. “Stay alert. She’s due any minute.”

He understood Face’s dreaming. It would be nice to tour the capitals of Europe properly one day. Not dash in and out of them pursued by killers. He smiled. Yeah, and be bored stiff inside a week.

He sat back and surveyed the Trevi rione with its famous fountain. Even close to ten at night, crowds filled the space. He sat at the table outside a cafe. A very public place for a rendezvous, but was it a safe place? There were buildings all around, dark windows, many with a great line of sight to the cafe tables. They should have met during the day when there might have been parasols over the tables. A cafe parasol could be an excellent defence against snipers.

Despite that worry, Hannibal sat looking nonchalant, apparently people-watching. The time ticked closer to ten. If she didn’t come, they had some leads to pursue to go find her. He’d hate to go home empty-handed on their first assignment.

“She’s here!”

He’d barely heard BA’s voice in his ear, an edge of alarm to it, before he heard a woman’s voice right beside him.

“May I sit?”

Dammit, he should have had more warning! But he could forgive the late alert as he hadn’t spotted her either. He jumped up to greet the woman who was already reaching for the other chair at his table. She looked different from her picture, with her hair in a bun, heavy framed glasses and rather dowdy clothes.

“Miss Lewin?”

“Mr Smith.” If he had a small doubt, she apparently had none. She sat and Hannibal waved to a waiter. He’d promised himself he’d buy her a cappuccino, but he had also to make their meeting look natural. Friends, or a business meeting. Nothing cloak and dagger. Sneakiness only attracted attention.

When the waiter arrived, she ordered in perfect colloquial Italian before Hannibal could make any attempt with his carefully learned phrases. His remaining doubts receded. According to her file, she had once been a specialist in analysing intelligence data from Italy. Why the CIA spied on Italy, he didn’t want to know.

“You speak Italian like a native,” he said.

“My mother was from Genoa,” she said, an Italian accent tingeing her American one. “Where are the rest of your men?”


The waiter appeared with a cappuccino and left them again.

She sipped the coffee and put it down. “What’s the plan, Mr Smith?”

“We fly out first thing in the morning — assuming no trouble before then. Have you caught a whiff of anyone on your tail?”

“No. I’ve been moving between hotels, using different identities. I don’t know if anyone even knows I’m in Rome. I used to work out of Florence.”

“We’ll take you back to our hotel tonight.”

“Good.” She sighed. “It’s hard to believe Hunt has finally lost. Have you seen him since his arrest?”

“No. He wasn’t even in the same prison.”

“He always said it would happen one day. He just wanted to achieve as much as he could before it did.” She shrugged. “And he told me when it did happen I should look out for myself. That there’s no place for sentiment in this business.”

Her look challenged him to judge her, but he couldn’t find that in him. If Stockwell didn’t ask for loyalty, Hannibal wouldn’t judge anyone for failing to give him it.

“Finish your coffee, Miss Lewin,” he said. “I’d like to get you back where we can keep a closer guard on you.”

“Please, call me Abby.”

They took Abby back to their hotel, first stopping off at a railway station where she collected a suitcase. She said she was ready to leave any time, but the morning was soon enough for Hannibal. They’d only landed a few hours ago and he’d like their only pilot to have some rest before the long flight home. Despite Murdock’s reassurance that he could fly in his sleep, Hannibal split the night into only three watches.

Abby took the third room and emerged in the morning looking more like her photographs. She wore an elegant, understated dress, had perfect hair and donned a pair of large sunglasses as they left the hotel. She went perfectly with the team’s business suits.

“We’ll eat breakfast at the airport,” Hannibal said, opening the door of a hired car for her, while BA loaded their luggage into the trunk. After meeting her, Hannibal had decided he couldn’t ask her to squash into the back seat of a taxi with three of them, so had rented a rather nice Mercedes for the drive to the airport. He and BA stayed with her, while Face and Murdock followed as backup in a not-quite-as-splendid rental Fiat, to Face’s obvious disgust.

BA drove, growling about the traffic being ten times more insane than LA, though with fewer guns. Hannibal sat in the back with Abby. He’d hoped for some conversation, but she seemed tense and he understood why. After a mission the last mile back to camp could be the most frightening, filling you with morbid fear that, after all the dangers you’d survived, the enemy would kill you when you actually had safety in sight.

Right now Abby Lewin was walking that last mile.

Hannibal turned on the radio, hoping to distract her. What sounded like a newscaster came on the air. “Anything interesting?”

She listened for a moment and smiled at him. “That depends. Are you especially interested in AC Roma’s chances against Lazio this Saturday?”

“Who are they? Boxers?”

She chuckled, taking off her sunglasses. “Never mind. Just be glad Mr Baracus is driving and not a local or we’d be walking to the airport now.”

Hannibal glanced down to make sure she had suitable shoes on, in case it came to that and took in her legs on the way. Not at all bad for a woman her age… BA’s cough from the front brought his attention back. Damn, a few months in prison with only men for company and he’d turned into a lecher. At least back at Langley…

Hell, no, do not think about the girls at Langley. What had happened to them? How much did they even know about who they worked for? Probably very little. Just there to keep the team from getting… restless.

“We, ah…” Hannibal cleared his throat, feeling mighty restless now. “We did work out a route to walk there in fact… Just in case.”

“You like to have all the bases covered, Mr Smith?”

“Please, call me John.”

He glared at BA in the rear view mirror and silently promised he’d have a word later about a sergeant rolling his eyes at his colonel.

At the airport Murdock went off to deal with the plane, while the rest of them found some breakfast. They took up a couple of tables at a coffee shop, surrounding Abby.

Hannibal looked around the terminal. Nobody would come after her here, would they? There were few people around, business people mostly heading onto early flights. But even so, still too public for an attack.

On the other hand, unless anyone after her had ground to air missiles or fighter jets, this was their last chance to get her. The team’s plane had one refuelling stop, but he’d keep her on the plane while the rest of them watched the ground crew. After that they’d be home. So this was the last chance.

The last hundred yards with the gates in sight and an itch between your shoulder blades where you could feel the sniper’s cross-hairs lining.

Damn, he was as tense as her!

A new fear hit him. If something did happen he may not react fast enough — his edge dulled by inactivity. How could he have been so arrogant to have accepted this job the day after they got out of jail? He should have asked Fisher for more time to get back in shape and sharpen up. What if he failed here and people died?

“Another coffee, Hannibal?” Face asked.

“Do I ever say no?” Hannibal flashed him a cocky smile. Never let them see that doubt. Not even for a second.

“BA, another orange juice? Or milk this time?”


Face went to the counter for another round of coffees and BA’s milk. Murdock appeared, looking frustrated. He flopped down.

“I should have taken you with me, ma’am,” he said to Abby. “My Italian was stretched to its limits. For some reason my tourist phrase book doesn’t include the Italian for aviation fuel.”

“Carburante per aerei,” she said, passing him over a plate of muffins.

“I know that now. Take off slot in an hour, guys. I want you all on board in thirty minutes.”

“Seats upright and trays stowed,” Hannibal said. Face came back with the coffees and milk. BA slumped forward, his face landing on the paper plate that had recently held a muffin.

Abby gasped. “Mio dio! Mr Baracus!”

“The orange juice?” Hannibal asked Face.

“Yeah.” He frowned. “Took him a while to go out. We’ve gotta get a new dosage figured out. He’s gained weight with all that working out.”

“Probably getting resistant too,” Murdock said, taking a coffee and adding some of BA’s milk to it.

Face turned BA to rest on his cheek, using some napkins as a pillow. He carefully removed a chocolate chip that was stuck to BA’s forehead and brushed away muffin crumbs.

“Is he ill?” Abby said, still staring.

“No, it’s just a little farce we have to keep going through,” Hannibal said. “He’s fine.” BA started snoring. “He’s certainly the most well-rested man on the team.”

“We do still have to get him to the plane,” Face pointed out.

“Go snag us a baggage cart.”


Abby visibly relaxed when the plane’s door closed. She sat down in one of the big comfortable seats with a sigh of relief. Taking off her sunglasses, she watched Hannibal and Face heave BA into a seat and strap him in. Now Hannibal had reassured her BA was perfectly okay, she seemed to see the humour in the situation — not at BA’s expense, but rather at the heavy lifting Face and Hannibal had to do.

“Silly, I know,” Hannibal said, taking the seat next to Abby when they finished getting BA safely strapped in. “But once we get through with all this, he never has to leave the ground again, so he doesn’t mind too much.”

“Yeah,” Face said. “He only hurts us a little bit these days. And that’s only so we don’t get complacent.” He yawned as he took the last of the four chairs in the small cabin. He’d had the last watch of the night and had never been a natural early riser. “Long couple of days,” he said, rubbing his eyes.

Long days, but easy ones. If all the jobs were like this, Hannibal would… well, frankly, he’d be very surprised, because life never went that well for them for long. They’d be lucky for a while, but eventually fate would notice they’d been flying under the radar, and pull the rug out from under them. He frowned. Those were rather mixed metaphors. He must be tired himself. Once they were in the air, he’d be free to sleep. They’d all be free to sleep. Safe.

The fasten seatbelts sign began to flash and Hannibal smiled when he heard Abby give another of those relieved sighs. Another step closer to the camp gate.

“Strap in, muchachos and muchacha,” Murdock called through from the cockpit. “We are outta here. Permission for take-off is granted.” The plane began to taxi away from the terminal.

Hannibal looked out of the window. Other planes manoeuvring about, with luggage trucks, fuel trucks and motorised boarding steps driving between them. Men in overalls went about their jobs. Nothing suspicious anywhere.

In a few minutes they had their turn on the runway. The pitch of the engines rose as they roared to full power. Tarmac and airport buildings rushed past as the plane gathered itself and sprang into the air like a horse taking a fence. The ground fell away rapidly.

Face yawned again, to make his ears pop. Hannibal’s preferred method for dealing with the pressure of a fast ascent was holding his nose and trying to blow out of it at the same time. But with female company aboard he feared this spectacle wouldn’t do him any favours. So he stuck with yawning when he felt that pressure in his head as their ascent began to level off and the pitch of the engines lowered. Far below them, Rome’s ancient centre and modern surroundings spread out like a map, low clouds randomly obscuring parts of it.

The fasten seatbelts sign went out. Abby gave a last sigh. She undid her seatbelt, took off her shoes, and pulled out the clip holding her hair in place, letting it fall around her shoulders.

Hannibal began to revise his plan to get some sleep.


The plane touched down just as the sun was dipping below the horizon. Hannibal was almost disappointed there was no cheering crowd to greet them. Instead Senator O’Neill himself advanced towards Hannibal, hand outstretched.

“Congratulations, Colonel, to you and your men.”

“Just doing our job,” Hannibal said, shaking the man’s hand and standing aside to let him shake Murdock and Face’s hands. They were holding the still sleeping BA up between them. “You’ll have to wait a while to shake his hand, Senator.”

“Well, I’m in no hurry to go back to Washington. Shall we head back to your accommodations in my car?” He gestured to a huge limousine.

“Does that have a hot tub?” Face asked.

“Being installed next week,” O’Neill said. “Please make yourselves comfortable, gentlemen.”

“Abby?” Hannibal said, offering his arm with a grin as if he taking her in to dinner.

“I’m afraid Miss Lewin needs to travel back to Washington right away,” O’Neill said.

Hannibal frowned, but turned to her, as she watched her suitcase being loaded into a car. She held out her hand to him.

“Thank you again, John. Thank you for bringing me home.”

Hannibal took her hand, but instead of shaking it, he raised it to his lips and dropped a small kiss on the back of it. “It was my pleasure,” he said, gratified to see the flush in her cheeks. “I hope we’ll see each other again soon.”

Would she stay at the same facility as the team? They’d chatted on the plane about art, about life, about Italy, about anything but what put them both in this position. He’d like to talk some more.

“I hope so, too.” She said goodbye to Face and Murdock before she was driven away in a dark sedan.

“Rather taken with the lady, Colonel?” O’Neill asked, breaking into Hannibal’s thoughts as he watched the car vanish into the dusk.

“Good looking woman,” Hannibal said, voice gruff. He’d already had BA rolling his eyes, now Face and Murdock were giving him speculative looks. He didn’t want O’Neill to join in the teasing.

“Indeed. Shall we go? I’ve brought along my personal chef to make a special dinner marking your first successful extraction,” he said as they climbed into the limo. “Just to show my appreciation. I think you gentlemen are going to be very important to the success of the case against Stockwell. Between you and the people you bring in, we’ll expose all his dirty secrets.”

He spoke on the intercom to the driver and the limo moved off, smooth and quiet, while the team made themselves comfortable in the luxurious interior. BA went on sleeping, legs stretched out. O’Neill handed out cigars and poured them all brandy from crystal decanters.

“To the A-Team,” the senator said, raising his glass. “And to the fall of General Stockwell.”

“I’ll drink to that!” Face clinked his glass against O’Neill’s. Murdock and Hannibal followed more slowly.

“You’re really fired up about taking Stockwell down,” Murdock said. “Did he kill your puppy or something?”

“Not quite. Investigating this case had shown me evidence Stockwell organised the plane hijacking in Barcelona that brought you into his power.”

“He really did organise that?” Hannibal said. “The hijackers were his men?”

“Only some of them,” O’Neill said. “He had men infiltrate a terrorist cell and induce them to hijack the plane. All so he could manipulate you and get you where he wanted you.”

“On trial for our lives.” Face grimaced.

“A trial that he interfered with from start to finish. False evidence, lying witnesses. The man has no scruples, gentleman, not a single one.”

“That doesn’t tell me why you personally are so hot to take him down,” Murdock pressed, sitting forward. “Because it is personal, right?”

“Murdock!” Face slapped his arm. “Quit interrogating the man. Just be happy he is so determined.” He raised his glass to O’Neill. “I certainly am.”

“Thank you, Mr Peck. But Mr Murdock is right to ask. Yes, it is personal. I was involved with the talks leading to Spain’s recent entry into NATO — years of work as you can imagine. Then Stockwell organised an act of terrorism on their soil which could have blackened our name in Europe for years to come and weakened NATO itself — something which would help our enemies.”

There was silence in the limo, broken only by the sounds of BA’s quiet snores.

“Those are some high stakes,” Murdock said at last.

“And Stockwell had lost sight of that,” O’Neill said, leaning over to top up Murdock’s brandy. “He was so obsessed with his own projects he didn’t see the potential for damage if they went wrong. Despite his claims to patriotism, he was as big a threat to this country as any enemy agent.”

“Still,” Hannibal said. “You can’t deny intelligence work is messy. Principles can be lost.”

“They don’t have to be. I’ve studied the missions you went on for him. I think it’s safe to say that you managed to hold on to your principles.”

Had they? Perhaps, by the tips of their fingers. How much longer could they have hung on? Hell, the very day it ended Hannibal had been ready to make a choice he felt ashamed to recall. Talk about the nick of time. Fate had intervened, but if Fisher had shown up a week later would O’Neill still have been able to say they’d kept their principles? Or would he have seen men heading down the same road to perdition Stockwell had taken long ago? He’d have left them to rot in prison in that case. Instead they had this chance — to take down the man who’d brought them to the point of losing their principles.

“Help me convict Stockwell,” O’Neill said, “and you’ll do your country the greatest service of the many you’ve done it already. I promise your country will show its gratitude.”

“Is anyone else getting a strong sense of déjà vu?” Face said.

“No, Mr Peck, I promise that there’ll be nothing underhanded about it this time. No interference with your trial, everything above board. Including the best defence lawyers going.”

“Like we can afford lawyers,” Face muttered.

O’Neill smiled. “But they’re fighting to represent you pro bono, simply for the publicity.”

“Really?” Hannibal said. “So where were they last time?”

“He did just get through explaining how Stockwell manipulated our trial,” Face said.

“Indeed. But not this time. You gentlemen are going to be clients of the finest trial lawyers in the — ”

“Where are we, man?” BA sat up, rubbing his eyes. He peered groggily at O’Neill. “Who’s this?”

“BA, this is Senator O’Neill,” Face said. “Or, as I’m going to call him from now on, Santa Claus.”

Chapter 5

Hannibal stood outside his cabin, a big mug of coffee in his hand, watching the morning comings and goings of their little village. People were out and about earlier these days, the mornings warmer as spring advanced. The trees had started showing a few buds and would blossom soon.

In the springtime, they say, a young man’s fancy turns lightly to thoughts of love. And not just a young man’s. Abby walked up the path to her cabin, carrying a couple of newspapers and a book. She’d taken up residence a couple of weeks ago, shortly after the team brought her in. Kept on ice like the other witnesses they were collecting.

“Morning,” Hannibal called.

“Good morning, John.” She smiled and waved the book. “The new Velázquez biography. You can borrow it when I’m done and we can talk about it.”

“Great!” Funny how he’d started taking such an interest in art lately. Yeah, real funny that. He’d love to have a nice long chat about the book, because the way she said Velázquez with that lisping Spanish pronunciation… that was something he could listen to all day.

But he’d probably have to wait a while. Fisher would be here this morning for a briefing on their next mission. They’d had two more since Rome. Both easy enough jobs, but neither to collect as pleasant a travelling companion as Abby.

“Johnny and Abby sitting in a tree…” Murdock’s voice came from nearby and Hannibal turned to see him approaching, wearing a grin.

“Jealous, Captain?”

“Me? Nah, I’m on the verge of getting engaged to Lilith from the kitchen.”


“And Face is out right now buying a ring for Jennifer, one of the chambermaids. Sadly he doesn’t know she eloped with BA last night.”

“A love triangle on the team. Always been one of my worries.” Hannibal turned to go back into his cabin. “Come help me finish the coffee.”

Murdock followed him into the kitchen and piled three sugars into the coffee Hannibal poured him. He sat at the table while Hannibal stood by the counter.

“Seriously though, Hannibal – you’re interested?”

Hannibal shrugged, affecting nonchalance. “She’s a smart, attractive woman.”

“And you’re a man with an uncertain future.”

“What are you, her brother?”

“Just pointing it out. Could be unfair to both of you if you don’t think about that.”

Hannibal sighed. “Fair point.” Was he looking to prove he still had something more than a kiss from the fugitive passing through to offer a woman of substance like Abby Lewin. Or a woman like Maggie Sullivan. Her face was as fresh in his memory as if he’d met her yesterday. If he did indeed find himself a free man in a year or two, maybe he’d look her up. Or should he stick with new possibilities? Maggie would have moved on, but Abby’s position was as uncertain as his. They’d both be trying to figure out a new life soon.

Murdock looked just as thoughtful, gazing into the dark depths of his coffee. Searching for answers about his future, perhaps. A knock on the open door made them both look up from their thoughts to see Face and BA.

“Time for the briefing,” Face said. “I saw Fisher’s car show up ten minutes ago.”

Murdock swallowed the last of his coffee and handed the cup to Hannibal. Dumping the cups in the sink, Hannibal followed Murdock out of the door, closing but not locking it. Burglary wasn’t an issue around here. He’d even left the door standing open a few times, until one time a raccoon got in. They strolled towards the communal buildings.

“I bet this job isn’t as easy as the others,” Face said. “We can’t keep on being this lucky.”

“The jobs aren’t easy,” Hannibal said. “We’re just damn good.”

“Yeah, the assassins see us coming and run off,” Murdock said, smirking.

“Hannibal,” Face said, “if the words ‘piece of cake’ are heading for your lips, then please head them off at the epiglottis, because I’m not letting you jinx us again.”

“I’ve never jinxed us,” Hannibal protested. The others all gave him dubious looks. “Okay, the Teasdale case, I’ll concede that…”

“That case was bad mojo from the start,” Murdock said. “We never should have taken it.”

“Hey, we won didn’t we? Saved the girl — and her boyfriend — got the money, stopped the dam from being blown up, caught all the terrorists.”

Murdock snorted. “Oh yeah, the Judean People’s Front. They were real scary.”

“So if we can pull a mess like that outta the can,” Hannibal said, ignoring Murdock, “we can do anything.”


A picture flashed up on the screen in the briefing room. Hannibal choked on his coffee. Murdock shouted “What?” BA thumped a hand on the table. Face just stared.

“Are you kidding?” Hannibal said. “They worked for Stockwell?”

Fisher paused in handing out the briefing folders, disconcerted by their reaction. “You know these men?”

“Hard to forget them,” Face said. “They pushed us out of a plane over Borneo.”

“Briggs and Perry working for Stockwell.” Hannibal shook his head. “I might have guessed.” He smiled at the still baffled looking Fisher. “Must be a file your investigation hasn’t come across yet. A few years ago we were picked up by Colonel Lynch. He got lucky,” he added hastily. “Anyway these two showed up claiming to be from the State Department and talked us into going on an unofficial mission to Borneo to rescue General Ludlum and his daughter.”

“I didn’t know anything about that.” Fisher revived, looking annoyed about having to admit to not knowing something. He finished handing out the folders and picked up a pen. “Do you remember the date?” He made a note on his pad. “That may explain why they specifically requested you bring them in even before we told them you’re working for us.”

“Sound like well-informed men,” Hannibal said. He read the information in his folder. Anthony Briggs and Steven Perry. Was Briggs actually an Army officer as he’d claimed to be, or had that just been a cover?

“Surprisingly well-informed, considering where they’ve been for the last few months.” Fisher brought up the next slide, a map of Canada, with a location worryingly far north circled. “Fort Petersen. A small settlement entirely cut off during the winter. The roads to it only reopened a week ago and the weather is still too unsettled for air travel. Even radio communications have been sketchy. But they got a message out to say they’re ready to come in and talk on condition we send you to escort them.”

“I guess we made an impression,” Hannibal said.

BA pounded a fist into his palm. “I’d like to make an impression on them all right.”

“Me too,” Face said. “I mean if we’re making a list of people who helped put us in front of firing squads, those two are on mine.”

“They gave us some real bad intel,” Hannibal explained. “I hope it’s better this time.”

“We’ve checked out what they gave us,” Fisher said. “Their lives are at stake here, so I’d think they’d be extra careful.”

“Kind of interesting, isn’t it?” Murdock said. “They gave you guys bad intel for that mission, yet they’ve found out we’re working for O’Neill’s investigation even while living buried under a snowdrift for the last six months.”

“What are you getting at, Murdock?” Hannibal asked.

“Oh, nothing. Just noting an inconsistency. Just…” He shook his head, frowning and muttered so Hannibal barely heard him. “Bad mojo.”


It seemed word that it was officially spring had not yet reached northern Canada. In the late afternoon the team’s plane landed on a runway which had been swept only hours before but already had a fresh covering of snow.

“Murdock, find out what time they’ll clear the runway tomorrow morning,” Hannibal ordered. He wanted to turn this around fast — they were already hours behind schedule due to the weather. He feared winter might have a last burst of enthusiasm and cut Fort Petersen off again, delaying them for days. Couldn’t Briggs and Perry have hidden out in Tahiti?

Murdock went off to find out about the runway clearance and arrange refuelling and the others headed over to the Land Rover Fisher had arranged for them.

“BA, since you’re our snow expert, you’re driving,” Hannibal said as they piled into the Land Rover to get out of the cold. BA turned on the engine and Face turned on the heat.

“I don’t like the look of that sky,” BA said of the low, heavy clouds, bulging with a fresh load of snow to dump on the team. Even his usual Chicago-bred hardiness in the face of snow was challenged by this climate. “I can see us getting stuck out there with those two guys.”

“Cheer up, BA,” Hannibal said. “We’d be able to have a detailed discussion about how they drugged your milk and pushed you out of a plane while you were unconscious.”

“Yeah, I’d like to discuss that with ’em real hard.”

The door opened and Murdock jumped in, slamming the door shut, but still bringing in a swirl of snow. The wind had started to pick up.

“They clear the runway at first light,” he told Hannibal. “They have to keep it open because this town has the only hospital for a thousand miles or something. And I paid a little extra to make sure our plane will be ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

“Excellent work, Captain. Okay, BA, let’s go.”

Though he grumbled about having the driving duty, probably wanting to sleep off his sedative, BA manoeuvred slowly out of the airfield and through the streets of the town. Grubby snow lay in heaps several feet high at the side of the road.

They were through the small town in a few minutes and onto the highway heading to Fort Petersen. Though only about a hundred miles away, it might take hours to reach, as the snow swirled in their headlights and the road surface began to turn white. Soon only heaps of snow pushed there by plows marked the sides of the road. Hannibal glanced back to see Face and Murdock both sunk up to their noses in their coats, knit caps on and hoods up, hands big and clumsy in thick gloves.

“Got a cigar, Face?” Hannibal asked, grinning. Face’s reply was lost in the fur trim of his coat.


It was close to ten p.m. when they reached Fort Petersen, its lights a welcome sight after the long journey. The snow hadn’t come down too heavily, not enough to block the road with drifts, but it made the surface slippery and reduced visibility so much BA had to slow to a crawl. When Face suggested it would be quicker to walk BA had invited him to alight from the car and attempt to do so. Or words to that effect anyway.

Even getting to Fort Petersen wasn’t the end of their journey. Briggs and Perry lived in a cabin outside the small settlement. The trail leading there was choked with snowdrifts even the rugged Land Rover couldn’t get through. They had no choice but to hike.

“We’re really going to walk up there in the dark?” Face’s dubious expression showed what he thought of the idea. Hannibal didn’t like it much either. Snow was not his milieu. He didn’t have the training or the experience for it. But he wouldn’t risk a delay.

“There’s plenty of moonlight,” Hannibal said. The night was clear and the moon nearly full, reflecting off the snow.

Face didn’t appear convinced. He glanced around and then smiled. Hannibal followed his gaze and saw a couple of guys standing outside a utilitarian building, watching the team curiously. The building was well lit and music came from inside.

“Give me a minute,” Face said and headed over to what must be the town’s pub. Hannibal let him go. Allowing Face do his own thing usually paid off.

“Should we radio to let them know we’re coming?” Murdock asked as they unpacked their gear from the Land Rover. “Fisher said they have a CB.”

“I’d prefer not to break radio silence,” Hannibal said. “In case anyone is listening in who shouldn’t be.” He grinned. “We’ll surprise them.”

“Yeah,” Murdock said. “Let’s show up and tell them they’ve won an all-expenses-paid trip to Borneo.”

Ten minutes later a continuous-track vehicle pulling a trailer on runners drove up slowly and parked beside the team’s Land Rover. Face dropped down from the high driver’s cab, leaving the engine running. Affecting a cool expression, he rejoined the team who were standing around drinking from a Thermos and eating protein bars.

“I thought this might be handy,” Face said, pouring himself a coffee from the Thermos. “Borrowed it from a fella in the bar.”

Hannibal kept his expression as cool as Face’s. “What’s its top speed? Five miles an hour?”

“You’re a big hurry tonight, aren’t you? You have a date or something?”

“Sure he has,” Murdock said, grinning.

“Ah, well, yeah, that’s fine,” Hannibal said. No time to let his mind wander. He finished his coffee and tossed the cup back into the Land Rover. “Let’s go. BA — ”

“Oh no,” Face said. “I’m responsible for it, so I’m driving. The rest of you, in the trailer.”

“Let me guess,” Hannibal said. “The driver’s cab has a heater, right?”

Face climbed up into the cab and looked down with a grin. “You can read me like a book, Hannibal.”

Hannibal climbed into the trailer with no heater, no shelter and no suspension. He decided that whatever book Face was like it was not ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’


The drag up the trail took nearly an hour, but at last the small cabin came into view. It stood at the edge of a forest, almost under the shelter of the trees. Not sheltered enough that it didn’t have a thick layer of snow on the roof though. A radio antenna stuck up, fixed to the chimney where smoke drifted up. A light showed in the windows.

“Well, I guess they’re home,” Face said, jumping down from the cab. He smiled sheepishly at his nearly frozen team-mates in the trailer, all glaring at him. “You guys okay?”

“Ask me again when I regain feeling in my limbs,” Murdock said.

“Spread out,” Hannibal said, as they climbed out of the trailer, moaning and groaning at stiff and cold limbs. “I’ll go knock.” He retrieved his pistol from a pocket and hurried to the door. Flattening himself by the wall beside the door, he rapped on it with the handle of his pistol.

“Pizza man!” he called. It wasn’t whimsy; they’d been given that to use as a code. Though he suspected whimsy was involved somewhere. No doubt Briggs and Perry had dreamt of sending for takeout many times over the last few months,

The door opened cautiously and the barrel of a rifle poked out, followed slowly by Briggs, frowning as he levelled it. The instant he saw Hannibal’s face he checked the rifle and sighed.

“Sorry, Smith. Cautious, you understand.”

Hannibal did. “You guys ready to go?”

“More than ready. Come inside.”

Hannibal followed him in. Aside from a small bathroom, the whole place was one room, warmed by a pot-bellied stove in the middle of the floor. The kitchen was at one end, bunk beds at the other and a living area between. It was a cosy set-up but a hell of a small space for two men to share for months at a time. He’d hate to imagine what it would be like to be stuck some place for the winter with only the rest of the team for company. There’d be no survivors. Hannibal hadn’t seen Perry yet and hoped Briggs hadn’t gone nuts and killed him. Two steaming mugs of coffee sitting beside a cheap plastic chess set on the table reassured him.

“Where’s Perry?”

“Outside,” Briggs said.

Hannibal left the warm cabin reluctantly. It had at least stopped snowing now. The clouds had broken up and the snow began to twinkle in the moonlight, its top layer becoming a brittle icy crust. Near to the cabin a heavily bundled up man carrying a rifle was talking to Face. Murdock and BA, their rifles out, were checking out the sides and back of the cabin.

“Get this place shut down and grab your stuff,” Hannibal said. He jerked a thumb back at their strange transport. “Your carriage awaits.”

While BA and Murdock stayed outside on guard, Hannibal and Face went back inside with Briggs and Perry. Their bags were already packed, but they added a few last items into them. Perry picked up a small notebook from the table beside the chess board.

“Call that one a draw?” he said to Briggs, before putting the notebook in his pocket.

“Okay,” Briggs said, dousing the fire in the stove. “Light a lantern – I’m going to turn off the generator.” He waited until Hannibal lit an electric lantern, then clicked a switch on a wire that ran out through the wall to the generator outside. The overhead lights went off and the noise of the generator clattered to a stop.

Hannibal raised the lantern over the table. “So who’s in the lead?”

“What?” Perry said, then glanced down at the chess board and the game they would never finish now. “Oh, I am. Fifteen games ahead.”

“He cheats,” Briggs said. “Okay, Colonel Smith, we’re ready.”

“Then let’s go.”

“By the way,” Face said. “Did we mention we’re going to make you parachute out of the plane?”

Grinning at that, Hannibal led the way from the cabin, Briggs and Perry following, lugging big backpacks. Face brought up the rear, and pulled the door closed tightly behind them.

“I’m still driving,” Face said, hurrying ahead of them to swing back up into the cab. Hannibal suddenly wished Face hadn’t turned the engine off when they arrived, fearing it wouldn’t restart. But it coughed back into life and Face let it idle, warming up, while the others climbed into the trailer.

“Maybe we should bring some blankets from the cabin,” Perry suggested, voice loud to make himself heard over the noisy engine. “Might make it more comfortable.”

Hannibal suspected “slightly less uncomfortable” was the best they could hope for, but he liked the idea. He stood up to climb out again and stopped. Was that movement? A light? Somewhere behind the trees? Or had it been in the sky? The Aurora?

“Face!” He shouted. “Turn off the engine!”

“What?” Face stared back at him, twisted around on his seat in the cab.

“Turn off the damn engine!”

Face turned away and the engine cut out.

There should have been silence. Instead every man there grabbed for a weapon as the roar of several engines replaced the sound of theirs. A second later dark shapes and dazzling lights burst into view around the side of the cabin.

Chapter 6

Snowmobiles! Hannibal tried to count them — eight, maybe ten, hard to tell. His gun already out, he tracked one of them and fired. The rider threw up his hands, falling off the back as the snowmobile buried itself in a snow bank.

“Take cover!” Hannibal yelled as bullets began to hit the side of the trailer. Several punched right through, luckily without hitting any of the men. The five of them dove out and scrambled underneath the trailer.

“Face!” Hannibal called, just as Face dropped flat into the snow. Had he been hit? But Face scrambled over on his belly to roll under the trailer, bullets chasing him. He landed on his face, coming up spitting out snow.

“What – ow!” He ducked down again rubbing his head which he’d just bumped on the bottom of the trailer. “What now?” he demanded, keeping his head down as he started returning fire.

“What about the cabin?” Perry said. “If we can get inside, we can hold them off.”

“No,” Hannibal said. He hated sieges. All they’d have to do was set it on fire or toss in a grenade. This was like being attacked by some kind of strange modern cavalry. And Hannibal knew from military history what happened to infantry when they run from cavalry in the open. They had one chance. “Head for the trees. They can’t maneuver those damn buggies in there.”

“Why not stay here?” Face asked. He fired at a passing snowmobile and nailed the rider. “Pick them off one by one.” But a rattling sound above them answered his question. They couldn’t see what it was, but none of them had any doubts.

“Out!” Hannibal ordered, even as the six men scrambled out of the shelter of the trailer. “Scatter!” He ran for the darkness of the trees, counting down in his head. Three, two, one. The grenade exploded, destroying the trailer.

Hannibal glanced back at it, trying to see if any of his people had been caught by shrapnel. No sign, everyone still on their feet…Hannibal’s foot caught on something under the snow and he sprawled out. His pistol, jarred from his hand, vanished into the snow. A snowmobile stopped in front of him as he tried to scramble up. His other gun…he had no time to reach it. He charged the snowmobile when he saw the rider raising a gun. Hannibal either made it in time or he didn’t. He could only pray for the former.

A gun roared, the shot deafening him, the muzzle flash dazzling him, but no impact, no pain. Hannibal attacked, not letting anything slow him. He smashed into his attacker and they both tumbled over the snowmobile to the ground, Hannibal on top, punching even as they fell.

The bulky coat the man wore cushioned him from the blows, but Hannibal heard his breath whoosh out as they landed heavily. He jammed his elbow into his opponents chest, stopping him from taking a deep breath. The man struggled hard, desperation in his movements, trying to throw Hannibal off. If he managed to free himself he might regain the advantage. Hannibal had to find something to hit!

Goggles! The bastard wore goggles. Hannibal ripped them off and tossed them away. He jabbed a hard, sharp punch right between the eyes, the only exposed bit of flesh. The man went limp under him.

Hannibal rolled off the man and sat up. He reached down inside his boot for spare gun number one, looking around while he did. The snowmobiles were pursuing his people into the trees, the men on foot zigzagging and dodging. He couldn’t tell who was who, too dark, all in bulky parkas and hoods.

Nobody was looking at Hannibal, he realised. He was behind everyone else, and the only man who’d been after him lay unconscious. Hannibal raised his gun and brought down one snowmobile rider who was closing on a figure he thought was BA.

Two of them turned back towards him, leaving only three pursuing the others. Hannibal ran around the side of the cabin. At the back he found a store of firewood, grabbed a log. As the first snowmobile came around the corner Hannibal stood his ground, waiting as it bore down on him. At the last second he dodged and swung the log. It smashed into the rider’s chest and he fell backwards, right into the path of his friend coming up behind. The riderless snowmobile hurtled on by sheer momentum into a load of plastic barrels stored beside the firewood. They split and burst and blue liquid poured out, the stink of the kerosene making Hannibal’s eyes water. He ran.

Shots were coming from the tree line, holding back the snowmobilers. None of Hannibal’s group were visible. He kept running, hit the tree line and kept going deep in the shadows, until the adrenaline ebbed. He stopped, panting, hand on a tree trunk, trying to catch his breath and orient himself.

A light glowed and he headed for that. It was either his people or the enemy — he’d soon find out. When Hannibal got close enough he saw it was a bobbing flashlight, held by one man as he struggled to support and pull along another man. Hannibal recognised the coat — Face was the man with the flashlight. He ran and grabbed the other man’s arm as he began to fall.

“Hannibal!” Face shone the flashlight, letting Hannibal see the supported man was Perry. He felt a flash of relief that it wasn’t Murdock or BA, followed up with a flash of guilt. He dismissed both. No time for either.

“Put him down,” Hannibal ordered and they lowered Perry to the ground. Blood covered his coat, high on the right side. Hannibal knelt by him.

“You had the first aid kit in your pack,” he said to Face. Hannibal’s pack had been in the trailer along with extra ammo and his spare spare gun. By some miracle, Face did still have his pack on his back. He found the first aid kit and dropped it beside Hannibal.

“Plan B, Colonel?”

“Go help the others finish those bastards off. I’ll take care of Perry.” He unzipped Perry’s coat, looking for the wound as Face took off.

The noise of the snowmobiles had stopped. The attackers had either given up, or dismounted and followed them into the trees. Hannibal grinned, suddenly happier. A dismounted cavalryman was just so much dead meat to an infantryman. An evergreen forest in the snow might not be the natural habitat of his team, but sneaking around in the dark taking out bad guys was their specialty.

Perry groaned as Hannibal pressed a bandage to the bullet hole in his shoulder. Not bleeding too heavily, but there was no exit wound.

“Take it easy,” Hannibal said, seeing Perry’s eyes were open, but hazy and dazed with pain.

“Tony?” Perry’s voice was weak, barely above a whisper. He must mean Briggs.

“It’s Smith. Briggs is safe.”

Gunfire in the woods made him hope he wasn’t a liar. But Perry had enough to deal with without worrying about his friend too. Hannibal had to get this wound dressed, get the coat zipped back up again fast and get Perry up off the snow before he added hypothermia to his troubles.

Hannibal used a lot of surgical tape, hoping Perry’s bulky coat would help to hold the dressing in place. He didn’t dare strip Perry any further out of to put a bandage around his chest.

Perry stayed quiet through Hannibal’s work. Though he winced and gasped a few times, he bit back any cries. Even semi-conscious with pain, he had enough awareness of their situation not to draw attention to their position.

“Good man,” Hannibal said, his voice taking on a gentleness displayed only when he dealt with the wounded. “We have morphine. Tell me if you need some.” He hated giving anyone the stuff, always scared he’d give too much. But Perry shook his head.

“Okay for now.” His eyes widened suddenly. “I smell smoke.”

Hannibal did too. The cabin? Had the enemy set it alight deliberately, or had something ignited the kerosene barrels? Nothing he could do about it but wait.

It had gone quiet in the woods, and a moment later Hannibal saw two figures emerge from the shadows. He raised his gun, then lowered it with a sigh. Murdock and Briggs.

“Steven!” Briggs ran the last few yards to kneel down by Perry.

“Report,” Hannibal ordered Murdock.

“The ones that were left withdrew. I think they realised it was dumb trying to find us in the trees. They were getting close to being outnumbered, especially with Face and BA on the case.”

Those two men were standing there suddenly, coming from the right and left of Hannibal, more effectively invisible than Murdock could ever have hoped to achieve.

“They’re gone,” Face said. “They set the cabin and the tractor on fire, torched the extra snowmobiles, and left. ”

“Morons,” Hannibal said. “They probably think they’re stranding us out here with no shelter or transport. They’ve actually done us a favour.”

“How come?” BA asked.

“Because the people in town will see the fire and come check it out.”

“We can’t just wait!” Briggs said. “We have to get him to a hospital.”

Hannibal had no intention of waiting. Though he hoped people would come from town they had no radio to confirm it. They had to at least set out. Moving Perry would be dangerous, but they had no choice.

“Guys,” he said to his team, “get back out there and make sure they’ve gone. Then salvage what you can to build a stretcher.”

As they hurried off, Hannibal glanced at the two men they were here to bring in. Briggs and Perry probably both had the same information. The team and Briggs could walk to town easily enough. The temptation to leave Perry behind crossed his mind like a duck at a sideshow shooting gallery. He blasted it mercilessly. While Perry was still breathing the six of them had to get out of here together. No other option.


“Okay, Perry,” Hannibal said, leaning over the man on the stretcher. “The morphine just became compulsory.”

Perry didn’t protest, already pale and sweating from being lifted onto the stretcher. “Whatever you say, Colonel.”

Damn, how to get it into him? Getting one arm of his coat off would be painful and would make sure he ended up even more chilled. But the sleeve wouldn’t push up far enough. He took out his pocket knife and slit Perry’s pants leg and gave the injection. Murdock used a bandage to wrap the cut pants leg back up. They could easily unwrap it again when he needed more.

Briggs watched anxiously as they worked. How long had they worked together? They must be friends as well as partners. That could be a weakness, but one Hannibal couldn’t condemn. He’d been in this situation with his men and doubted his expression had been any less concerned.

“Let’s go,” he called. “Face, lead on.”

The stretcher, built of wood and cloth scrounged from the burnt out cabin, took four of them to carry, Hannibal would rotate the bearers and put the remaining man on point to find the easiest way through the snow.

Face set off, carrying Perry’s rifle, checking the ground ahead. The others came after him, following in his tracks, anything to make the trip faster, and smoother for the sake of the injured man. But whatever they did it was going to be a long walk to town.

They walked for almost two hours. There was a hint of dawn light on the horizon when a continuous tracked vehicle, rather like the one they’d borrowed and lost, appeared on the trail ahead. BA was walking ahead at that moment and he pulled the rifle off his back, settling it into his shoulder, ready for another attack. But a man leaned out of the cab of the tractor and shouted in a Canadian accent.

“Hey, what’s burning back there?”


“Sorry to commandeer your vehicle,” Hannibal said to the driver as the tractor and trailer arrived back in town. Hannibal has ridden in the cab with the driver, Perry and the others in the enclosed trailer behind.

“That’s okay, friend,” the driver said. “Medical emergency. But you owe those other fellas a drink.” Four men who’d come with the driver to investigate the blaze had been left behind on the trail to walk home.

“Never mind ‘a’ drink.” Hannibal took some cash from the money belt around his waist and slapped a wad of it on the dash. “You guys have a party, on me.”

He moved to get out, but the door handle was pulled out of his hand as Face wrenched open the door from the outside.

“Give me the cash.”

“Face, if this is a stick up, it’s hardly the time.” Hannibal climbed down.

“I have to go pay off the guy I borrowed the tractor from. I’ll be lucky if I don’t get my ass kicked.”

“Okay, you’ve got ten minutes, while we get Perry in the car,” Hannibal said, giving Face the money belt. “After that, we’re leaving you behind.”

“Right.” Face sped off.

Leave him behind, Hannibal thought. Hah, like that would be a problem for Face. Man landed on his feet better than a cat. They’d come back to collect him in six months and he’d have become the mayor.

Face was back in five minutes, with no sign he’d had his ass kicked.

“I hope you at least managed to hold onto some gas money.”

“What, you think I didn’t negotiate a good deal?” He dropped the money belt back into Hannibal’s hand. From the weight Hannibal gauged he’d used only half what they’d had.

“Nice work.” If Face had had ten minutes more he’d have come back with a profit. But they had no time for that. Perry had stirred when they transferred him from the trailer to the Land Rover, but the morphine kept him under. Face and Hannibal climbed in and BA set off as soon as the doors closed.

It was a grim journey. BA drove as fast as he dared, but the snow started falling again, reducing visibility to almost nothing. Perry weakened steadily. His wound wasn’t bleeding heavily, but the slow loss still took its toll. Hannibal wondered briefly if he’d been better off being cold, which might have slowed the blood loss. But he couldn’t risk messing around with experiments like that.

It was almost dawn when they arrived in town and headed straight for the hospital. Hannibal leapt from the car before it stopped in front of the entrance to the emergency room. He slammed back the doors and yelled in his battlefield voice.

“Gurney outside right now! Or sooner!”


Hannibal got two cups of coffee from the vending machine and took one to Briggs, who sat in a waiting room chair, looking pale and exhausted. He gave Hannibal a weak smile when he took the coffee.


“He’ll be okay,” Hannibal said, wondering how many times he’d said that. Perry had been in surgery for over an hour. “Seems strong. Bet you guys have had worse, right?”

Briggs snorted. “True. There was this incident in Tunis in 1976… Long story.” He sipped the coffee.

“So you’ve worked together a long time.”

“Yes. Not as long as you and your men, but a long time. Shouldn’t get so close that way, I know. It’s not professional. But we’re a good team.”

“You ran some circles around us.”

“It was certainly interesting to watch you work.”

“That was your job, right? To assess us for the organisation?” Something occurred to him. “Is that why the intel was so bad? And the timing all wrong? To make the test harder?”

“It wouldn’t have been much of a test if it was easy.”

“What if we’d been killed?”

“Then we’d have known you weren’t good enough.”

Hannibal stared at him, at the calm way he said it. Hell of a price to pay for failing a test.

“But we passed. So how come Stockwell didn’t recruit us then?”

Briggs got an embarrassed look on his face. “Technically, you didn’t pass. Oh, you succeeded at the mission,” he said hastily. “But the test was also to see if you’d fit the organisation and we didn’t think you would. You’re too… memorable. Steven and me, we’re faces in a crowd. But you’re the A-Team. Nobody can forget you.”

“We do have our own style,” Hannibal admitted.

“So we recommended against recruiting you. Of course, General Stockwell chose to ignore that.”

“And he’s in prison and you and Perry have the A-Team protecting you, so who turned out to be right?”


“Mr Perry,” the doctor said, “I must warn you again — if you leave against medical advice you’re risking your life.”

“Noted. Give me the form.” The scowling doctor held out a clipboard and Perry signed the form, the pen shaking in his hand.

Hannibal hated asking him to do this, but after a long, tense night, alternating watches with uneasy sleep, he’d told Perry if he felt strong enough, he’d be safer back in Washington. Perry had asked for the AMA form immediately.

At the airport, Murdock was no happier than the doctor had been. He marched out of the cockpit into the cabin, a grim scowl on his face.

“If I wasn’t insane I’d refuse to fly in this weather.”

“We could go by road,” Face suggested from where he was securing BA, already unconscious, into a seat. Briggs was doing the same for Perry.

“No.” Hannibal watched Briggs wrap a blanket around Perry, who was paper white, head slumped forward. “I won’t risk our friends from the woods catching up to us. We’re flying. Now.”

“Then you’d better hang on to your eagles, Colonel, because it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.” Murdock spun around and stomped back into the cockpit.

Perry and BA probably had the best flight, both unconscious. Meanwhile Hannibal, Face and Briggs spent the journey with their seatbelts on, gripping the armrests and going white at yet another wild ride through a storm. They had no chance of getting up for a bathroom break, a cup of coffee or a snack.

Murdock insisted on flying low to allow him to follow highways below, fearing being forced into an emergency landing. But at last, after many hellish hours, they descended to their airfield.

An ambulance drove right onto the tarmac to meet them and Fisher came with it. He eyed the exhausted team with concern.

“Mr Perry and Mr Briggs will go straight to the hospital,” he said. “Do any of the rest of you need medical attention?”

“Just rest,” Hannibal said. He thought about adding ‘food’, since right now he could eat a horse. But thinking of food only made him think of one of his favourite expressions and after all the blood and cold, he’d lost heart for it.

“Colonel Smith,” Briggs said, running over. “All of you. Thank you for getting us out.”

What was the gratitude of a man who’d worked for Stockwell for so long worth? But Hannibal saw the sincerity in Brigg’s eyes. Just as he’d seen the real concern for Perry in them.

“Just tell them everything you know about Stockwell,” Face said. “That’s all the thanks I want.”

“I will. I have to go — I hope I see you all soon.”

Hannibal suspected that Briggs and Perry would become neighbours of theirs, once Perry left the hospital. So yeah, he’d see them again soon. Briggs got into the ambulance and Hannibal watched it drive out of the gate.

“I’m very impressed you got Mr Perry back alive,” Fisher said.

“That’s what we promised.” Hannibal hoped Fisher wasn’t thinking one of the two men would have been enough. That’s what Stockwell would have thought. Stockwell who never underestimated their abilities and always underestimated their principles.

“It was…” He almost quipped about it having been a piece of cake. But he would do his team a disservice if he said that. “It was tough.”

Chapter 7

“Get away from me with that thing!” BA sat up abruptly, dislodging Murdock and Face who were leaning against him, snoozing. He stared at the interior of the car, puzzled. “Where are we, man?” he demanded of Hannibal, who sat in the front passenger seat. “What happened to Nairobi?”

“We’re home,” Hannibal said. “Nairobi was yesterday.”

“Oh.” BA rubbed his eyes. “Getting tired of this. What time is it anyway?”

“After midnight.” Hannibal frowned as they drove through the gates of the compound. A lot of light came from the little circle of cabins. Surely everyone should be in bed by now. “Something going on?” Hannibal asked their driver.

“It’s a party, sir.”

Face and Murdock perked up at that.

“A party?” Murdock said, affecting a high-pitched tone. “And I don’t have a thing to wear!”

“Senator O’Neill is expected soon,” the driver told them, stopping the car. “I’ll have your gear taken to your cabins, if you want to go straight to the party.”

They did. Hannibal was tired, but he knew O’Neill wouldn’t be coming all the way out here at this time of night just to party with his star witnesses. He must have something to say.

The light, a mix of paper lanterns and small flood lamps, came from the terrace in front of the adjacent cabins where Briggs and Perry lived. When the team appeared a cheer went up from their neighbours.

“Welcome back!” Briggs called from the barbecue grill he was manning. “Burgers? Steven, give them some beers.”

Perry, sitting near the grill with a cooler at his side, handed out beers and a soda for BA. The team sat at a folding table and Hannibal glanced around. Looked like everyone was here, including Abby. Maybe he’d go…no, she was talking to the unexpected wife one of their previous extractions had shown up with. He’d eat first.

“All the fixings,” Briggs said, handing over well-filled buns to the team a few minutes later. Hannibal had only eaten snacks for the last day or so as they flew back from Africa, so Hannibal attacked the burger ravenously. When he came up for air, he pulled a bowl of potato chips toward him and began to empty it.

“Have we missed anything interesting?”

“You bet,” Perry said. He leaned forward, conspiratorially. “We’ve heard that they may have tracked her down.”

“Who are we calling ‘her’ again?” Briggs and Perry knew more rumours than a Hollywood tabloid. Hannibal zoned out sometimes.

“You know,” Face said. “The ice queen herself.”

“Oh, Carla.”

“There’s a possible sighting in Berlin,” Perry said. “Which has Washington very nervous. They’re afraid she’s about to defect. And she knows more about the organisation than anyone except Stockwell himself.”

“Maybe you guys will be sent to get her,” Briggs suggested. But Hannibal shook his head.

“We’re only being sent after people willing to come in. Escorting, not kidnapping. That’s what we agreed to.”

Perry and Briggs exchanged smiles.

“Yes,” Briggs said. “We told Stockwell you had principles, which could be a big problem. He thought he knew better.”

“And look who turned out to be right,” Hannibal said.

“I’ll drink to that!” Briggs said and he and Perry downed their beers.

The two of them had taken to being on ice like they’d been waiting for it all their lives, Hannibal thought. They enjoyed the long lazy days and stirred themselves only for the regular meetings with Fisher. They had more meetings than any of the other witnesses, and their debriefing had gone on about three times as long as anyone else’s. Either the convalescing Perry had to take a lot of breaks or they knew a whole hell of a lot about… well, everything.

“How do you guys know about her anyway?” Murdock asked. But he was smiling as he spoke. Every time someone asked them that question, Briggs and Perry gave the same answer as Perry did now.

“Professional secret.”

They had to have some contact in Washington. Hannibal didn’t mind that they wouldn’t tell. They passed on choice nuggets of information to the team, giving them advance warnings about upcoming extractions they might be sent on. They even had snippets of gossip about Stockwell himself sometimes. There wasn’t much to say. He had meetings with his lawyer and otherwise did the same as the witnesses massing against him – waited. Except he wasn’t talking the way they were. He talked to his lawyer, but nobody else.

A stirring in the crowd and some shouted greetings made them look up to see O’Neill stepping onto the terrace, Fisher at his heels. He stopped to talk to a couple of people then walked over to the team, who rose to meet him.

“Well done on another successful extraction,” O’Neill said, shaking the hand of each man.

“I’ll write my report tomorrow,” Hannibal said. It was like being back in the Army, writing reports again. But O’Neill wanted everything above board. Though the team worked under conditions of secrecy right now, O’Neill wanted the truth to come out once the trials started. Hannibal liked it.

“No trouble?” O’Neill asked.

After the Briggs and Perry extraction the team had been extra vigilant. They were sure they’d seen hostiles at least watching them during a couple of the jobs since, but they hadn’t been attacked again.

“Nothing,” Hannibal said. He glanced around to see the rest of the team had spread out and startled to mingle with the party guests. Murdock was talking to a studious looking man they’d brought back from London three weeks ago. He was Stockwell’s cryptography expert. Face was sharing a joke with Briggs and Perry, all three of them laughing. He spotted Abby, talking to a woman he recognised as another of O’Neill’s staff. It was hard to turn his attention back to O’Neill, but he needed to ask something.

“You aren’t just here for burgers and beer, are you, Senator?”

“No. I have some news for you all. And there’s no reason to delay telling it.”

He turned away from Hannibal, raising his voice over the chattering of the crowd.

“Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention? I have an announcement.” They all quieted down. O’Neill held their futures in his hands – they’d hang on every word he said.

“You’ll read this in the newspapers tomorrow, but I thought you deserved to hear it from me first. Stockwell’s trial is about to begin. A preliminary hearing is set for only a few days from now on the 16th.” A brief cheer interrupted him and he smiled, then raised his hand.

“It’s only the preliminary phase. You all understand it’s going to take a very long time and I know you’ll all cooperate fully to help win the case. This will take a team effort to bring about the best result and I see quite a team here.” He raised his beer bottle. “Quite a team!”

The audience raised glasses and bottles in return, and they all cheered and laughed again. No, not all of them. Hannibal noticed Abby turn away and walk down the path from the terrace. He dumped his beer bottle and hurried off after her.

She looked over her shoulder when she heard him coming, and didn’t smile in greeting, just looked away again, a pained expression on her face.

“You okay?” Hannibal asked, falling into step beside her.

“I wanted to get away before they broke out the champagne.”

Her bitter tone sobered Hannibal from his glee at hearing of the imminent trial date. “Abby, not all of them were Stockwell’s friends. To most of them he was just the boss, the man who gave them their orders.”

“‘I was just following orders’ isn’t generally considered a good defence anymore.”

Hannibal sighed. “I know. I know. Look, we all did things we’re ashamed of, working for him.”

“But I enjoyed it! All my years at the CIA translating intercepts and dreaming about being a field agent, thinking I’d never make it… Hunt Stockwell was the man who gave me the chance to prove myself. And I loved my work, John. I loved it.”

“Come on, Abby, you can’t say it was all fun. You’ve told me you had reservations at times.”

“At times, yes,” she said. She stumbled on the path and took his arm to steady herself. “Usually because of the people I had to deal with.”

“You haven’t explained exactly what you did for him,” Hannibal said. “I know you were undercover as an art dealer. I just don’t know why Stockwell needed an art dealer.”

“To act as a go-between for transactions involving stolen art. Stockwell wasn’t interested in the artworks themselves, but he was very interested in the people who bought and sold them.”

“Ah,” Hannibal said. “Rich and crooked. ”

“Crooked and worse.” He felt her shiver at his side. Her arm was still crooked through his. “That’s when I had reservations. When I had to take tea with some ex-Nazi while negotiating the best price for a painting he’d stolen from a family he’d sent to the gas chambers.” Her face twisted in disgust. “Living in hiding in South America can get quite expensive, you know? Then there are the corrupt politicians who sell their country’s artistic treasures to line their pockets. Or gangsters and drug lords, who think an art collection makes them civilised or — ”

“Abby,” Hannibal said quietly, as her voice rose. She stopped and was quiet for a moment, then spoke in a more level tone.

“I’m sorry. Sometimes it just hits me, the kind of people I had to work with. I wasn’t there to bring them to justice you see, just gather intel about who was raising money and why. But I can’t deny I liked the work. I can’t deny I was grateful for the chance Stockwell gave me. And now I’m going to betray him.”

“You have to think about yourself now, Abby. Stockwell is the past. His time is over. You’ve served your country and, yeah, you haven’t been whiter than white while doing it. Speaking as a bank robber, I can’t say much about that, can I? But we all have to look to the future now.”

“I suppose.” She sighed. “It’s just at times, it seems unfair that he’ll take the fall alone. And the rest of us — ”

“Are lucky. And we’d best not forget it.”

They reached her cabin. The light above the door bathed them in a soft glow that took years off her. Her dark hair was loose to her shoulders and framed her face. No wonder Stockwell had thought she’d be good in the field. Beautiful and exotic, she could pass for Italian, Spanish, Greek, or French easily. She had the language skills to match. Stockwell’s judgement may have let him down when he decided to recruit the A-Team, but not when he picked Abby out.

The thoughtful look she wore worried him though. He hoped she wasn’t thinking of being a martyr. “Abby, you don’t have to fall on your sword out of loyalty to Stockwell. You said yourself he didn’t expect that.”

“I know. Just hearing everyone cheering seemed too much like… gloating.”

Hannibal felt a twinge of guilt at some of the definite gloating he’d done for the fall of Stockwell. No “seemed” about it. Be more careful, he told himself. He’d cheered tonight because everyone else was cheering and he wasn’t a man who followed crowds. He led them.

“Anyway,” she said, summoning up a smile again. “It’s good to see you back safely again. Thank you for walking me… home. Goodnight.”

She stretched up and kissed him on the cheek. Seizing the moment, he took her in his arms and made it a real kiss, lips pressed to hers, catching her by surprise, but feeling an instant response from her. It lasted only a few seconds, then she pulled back. Hard to see in the dim light, but she looked flushed. And she was smiling.

“Perhaps you’d like to come in for coffee, John?”

Chapter 8

Hannibal stirred at the sound of the phone ringing. He groaned and raised his head, instinctively reaching towards the phone in the dark. But the ringing stopped and he heard Abby’s voice.


Fully awake now, Hannibal recalled where he was. Ah, yes, of course. She turned on the lamp on her nightstand and he glanced down at his watch. Not even five yet. Who the hell was calling Abby at five in the morning?

Nobody. Abby turned to Hannibal and passed him the receiver.

“It’s for you.”

Of course the security system would have recorded him going into her cabin and not coming out. So who the hell was calling him at five in the morning?

“Colonel, it’s Paul Fisher. I’m sorry to…wake you so early. Would you please come to your cabin right away? Thank you.”

Fisher hung up before Hannibal could reply. He handed the receiver back to Abby and slipped out of bed. He found his clothes where he’d left them, draped on a chair.

“I have to go. I’m not sure what’s up, but I have to go anyway.” Fisher wouldn’t be calling a meeting at such a ridiculous hour without a good reason.

“Of course.” She had the bedcovers pulled up almost to her chin and her voice sounded tight and upset. Then she sighed. “I’m sorry, John. I just thought life might be different now. More normal.”

“Not quite yet.” Hannibal buttoned his shirt and tucked it in. He sat on the chair to tie his shoelaces. “We’re close though. Once the trial’s over maybe.” What then for him and the team. Freedom? Did he even know how to be free after all this time? Did any of them? What the hell would they even do?

“And then?”

Then? Did she mean for him and her? What did she expect or want from him?

“Then we have the chance to at least try out being normal. If you want to try being normal with me for a while, I’d like that.”

Of course, he had no idea what Fisher had in store for him this morning. It might be something he’d never come back from. But if he did…

“Don’t answer now,” he said, interrupting her as she started to speak. “I’m not someone to take on lightly, so think about it. I expect I’ll be flying off someplace, so I should say good-bye. You can think about it while I’m gone.”

“I…I will. John, be careful, wherever they’re sending you now.”

He grinned. “I’m always careful.”

She’d only known him a few weeks, but even so she gave a sharp laugh at those words. She knew Face, Murdock, and BA too. They must have told her stories.

She came to the door with him, wearing a silk robe, and he kissed her goodbye with the door firmly closed, thinking about the security cameras he’d forgotten about the night before.

“Good luck, John. Come back soon. I’ll have an answer for you.”

He stepped out into the cool morning air. The sky was only just lightening in the east and the lights in the compound were still on. Aside from Abby’s cabin and his, all the others were dark. He glanced at Briggs’ and Perry’s cabins as he passed.

Those two were like a pair of curtain-twitching village gossips; they knew as much about the goings on at the compound as they knew about the build up to Stockwell’s trial. Were either of them at one of those dark windows right now, watching Hannibal walking from Abby’s cabin back to his own?

Let them watch.

A man opened the door for Hannibal as he approached his cabin and He recognised him as one of O’Neill’s bodyguards, so it came as no surprise to find O’Neill in there with Fisher and the rest of the team, all squashed around Hannibal’s kitchen table.

They’d been talking softly before Hannibal arrived, but stopped when he came in. Hannibal felt the tension in the room increas. O’Neill and Fisher greeted him with apologies for the earliness of the hour and didn’t seem to even notice they’d had to summon him from someone else’s bed. The team on the other hand all gave him intensely speculative looks. He doubted they had any kind of prurient interest in his love life, but they had to wonder what this said about Hannibal’s thoughts for the future.

“I apologise again for such an early summons, gentlemen,” O’Neill said, once Hannibal joined them at the table. “But events are moving quickly and I need you in the air in an hour.”

“Going where?” Face asked, barely stifling a yawn.

“West Berlin,” O’Neill said.

The team stirred, glanced at each other. After what Briggs and Perry told them last night, this could only mean one thing.


Hannibal gave them a frown to play it cool, but O’Neill and Fisher picked up the reaction.

“Is something wrong?” Fisher asked.

“Stockwell sent us to Berlin once,” Hannibal said. “Though that was the wrong side of the wall.”

“Yes,” O’Neill said. “We’ve read the reports. The football game.” He shook his head. “I sometimes wonder if Stockwell is actually delusional.”

“Ah, that was our idea,” Face said.

“Oh, I beg your pardon. Well, this time it’s West Berlin you’ll be going to.”

“And that definitely means flying,” BA said with a groan.

“Your own personal Berlin airlift, big guy,” Murdock said.

“So, who are we collecting this time?” Hannibal said, his tone elaborately casual.

“Her name is Charlotte Bell.”

Hannibal didn’t react, and only his knowledge of his friends let him detect the tiny signs of surprise in them. But O’Neill went on, as Fisher started handing out folders.

“You know her better simply as ‘Carla’.”

“That was a code name?” Murdock shrugged. “Shoulda known. I’m still calling her Carla.”

Hannibal hadn’t looked at his folder yet. He’d study that later. He had an important point to raise.

“The last we heard, Carla wasn’t willing to come in. She was on the run from you. And we only agreed to be escorts, not kidnappers.”

“Yes, of course,” O’Neill said. “It’s true, she was initially unwilling to come in. But she made contact a month ago and asked for a deal. We’ve been negotiating with her ever since.”

“I’ll bet they’ve been tricky negotiations,” Face said. He smiled. “I’d never want to play poker with that woman.”

“The negotiations have indeed been ‘tricky’,” O’Neill said. “She started out by asking for some things I wasn’t prepared to give. In fact only a week ago it appeared we’d lost her entirely. She broke off contact and vanished again.”

“Then she showed up in Berlin?” Hannibal said. “That had to make you nervous.”

“Indeed. We feared the worst. But a few hours ago she made contact and said she’d agree to the most recent offer, but she wants pickup by midnight Berlin time tonight. And only by you.”

“And if she doesn’t get that… Checkpoint Charlie, right?”

“That’s her threat, yes.” O’Neill grimaced. “I don’t like having my hand forced this way. But the risk is too great. You must secure her by the deadline. Even if she changes her mind again.”

“I just said we’re not kidnappers,” Hannibal said.

“Hannibal,” Face said. “If she’s gonna defect…well, I’d personally be happy to bring her back against her will.”

“That would be in the best interests of national security,” O’Neill said, nodding his thanks at Face for the support.

Hannibal stroked his chin, feeling the bristles there. Would Face really be happy to kidnap her? Hannibal’s thoughts last night about leading the crowd, not following it, came back to him. He made his own choices. He’d make this choice when he got to Berlin and spoke to Carla. He wouldn’t worry about it until then. No sense in buying trouble. They might find her ready to get straight onto their plane without a word of protest.

“Okay,” he said. “Let’s go get her.”


They all cleared out of Hannibal’s cabin, giving him time to clean up and pack a bag. Face hesitated at the door as if he’d maybe like to have a chat about where Hannibal spent the night, but they had no time. He left.

He’d probably ask about it on the plane, Hannibal thought. He was grateful Murdock would be busy flying,as he’d already shown himself willing to stick his nose into the situation with Abby. As far as Hannibal was concerned they could all mind their own business. He had his own thoughts to deal with first. He didn’t need anyone else’s.

To that end, once they were on the plane and in the air, he reclined his seat at the first sign of an opening gambit from Face and declared he was going to get some sleep.

He slept until they stopped to refuel and then spent the rest of the flight reading the briefing materials. Face lapsed into a frustrated silence.


They made the deadline. Midnight Berlin time she’d said and the team made it with plenty of time to spare. They left the plane being refuelled for a fast turnaround, and headed into the city, to a cafe where they were to rendezvous.

It was quiet when they arrived around eleven o’clock at cafe bar. There were just a few people there and two bored-looking waiters who clearly wanted to get closed up and go home. They gave the team unwelcoming looks when they came in.

With their limited German, they managed to order, then sat at two tables which gave them views of the front door, the fire exit, and the doors to the bathrooms and kitchens. Hannibal sat with his back to the cafe’s door, but able to see it in a mirror. He drank coffee and wished it was beer – imagine coming to Germany and not having a beer!

“Hannibal,” Face said, at the same time as he kicked Hannibal in the shin under the table. He was staring over Hannibal’s shoulder at the door. Hannibal turned. Through the mirror he’d seen a woman coming in, but had glanced away again. Not her.

Except it was her. Of course he hadn’t been expecting her to wear a power suit and spike heels or have her elaborate permed hair style. But he had expected her to be blonde.

She wasn’t. The woman who’d come in had dark hair in a short and slightly outgrown bob. She wore jeans, a leather jacket and a striped scarf and carried a satchel over her shoulder. She looked like a student, but it was Carla all right.

She didn’t sit down, but stood by their table as Hannibal and Face stood to greet her. BA and Murdock kept watching the front and rear of the cafe.

“Can’t say I’m loving the new look,” Face said. “What is it, dissident chic?”

“I don’t have time for that,” she said, giving him a freezing glare. “We have to get out of here now.”

“You think you’re being followed?” Hannibal’s hand moved instinctively towards his gun.

“No, but I’ll bet you are. Come on. This way.” She led them to the back of the bar and opened a door, to darkness beyond it. Face shoved past her at once and flicked on a light.

“Cellar,” he reported.

“No way are we going into a basement,” Hannibal said.

“It’s just to get out without being seen,” she said. “We’ll be through it in two minutes.”

“And if there’s someone waiting for us? We’ll be fighting in a goddamn basement. Think again, Miss Bell.”

He liked the startled reaction to her real name, and took her arm, steering her away from the door to the cellar. “Let’s go. Out the front. If anyone is out there we can handle them.”

“I see you haven’t lost any of your arrogance.” She strained against his hold, but had no chance of escaping unless she actually fought him.

“Just move. Our car is right out here. We’ll have you on the plane in twenty minutes.”

“No. I don’t want to get on the plane.”

“Too late to change your mind now, sweetheart,” Face said from behind as they hustled her out of the cafe and into their rental car.

“Let’s get out of here,” Hannibal said. “Before someone in that cafe calls the cops.”

Carla sat between him and Face in the back seat. BA drove and Murdock had shotgun. Carla was going wherever they wanted to take her.

“Look,” Carla said, rubbing her arm where Hannibal had been holding her. “Will you please stop running around showing off and listen to me?”

“If you’ve changed your mind –” Hannibal began.

“I never wanted to surrender myself in the first place. I only pretended to accept the deal so that you’d come for me.”

“Couldn’t stand to be away from us any longer, huh?” Face said.

“I need your help. But first I have to talk to you. Tell you what this whole thing is really about.”

“What whole thing?” Hannibal asked.

“Everything! Stockwell’s arrest, burning the organisation, all the agents, the trial. I know what O’Neill really wants.”

“Oh yeah?” Face’s voice dripped cynicism. “And what would that be?”

“The Bancroft diaries.”

Chapter 9

“What the hell do they have to do with it?” Face demanded, with more vehemence than Hannibal would have expected.

“O’Neill wants them, he wants control of them. To use them.”

“O’Neill has everything Stockwell had,” Hannibal said.

“No.” She shook her head. “Stockwell knew O’Neill was after them, so he concealed them. Now I’ve got them. I’ve been dragging the damn things around the world for months.”

“Wait a second,” Murdock said. “We gave the diary to Ellen. She took it to that committee.”

“Please,” Carla said, almost sneered. “Do you think that was the entire thing? My mother’s diary for a year is thicker than what you were running around with then, and the only conspiracies she’s part of involve her flower arranging club.”

“A sample,” Hannibal said. Of course. The whole thing would be huge, many volumes. “So, where are they?”

“I’m hardly going to tell you that until you agree to help me.”

“If you want us to help you then you’re going to have to tell us.” Hannibal smirked. “Were you not paying attention to Stockwell’s lessons?”

“I’ll tell you what I did learn from him. That you can be trusted to do the right thing.” She smiled. “He found it quite infuriating at times.”

“And what do you think the right thing is here, Carla?”

“We get those diaries into the public domain, where nobody can use them.”

“Suddenly you have principles too? Or is it for revenge on O’Neill?”

“Does it matter what my motivation is? Doesn’t it matter more what the effect is?”

“I know what the effect would be on us! If we go against the senator now, we’re screwed. And Frankie is screwed.” If O’Neill was what she said, then leaving Frankie at his mercy would give him a hostage. Not that he actually believed Carla…

“So, you’re O’Neill’s men now are you? You’d take him the diaries? You’d hand him that kind of power?”

“O’Neill isn’t Stockwell. How do you know what he wants to do with the diaries?”

“Oh, come on, Colonel. You think he’s the good guy? There are no good guys in Washington. Just men with varying degrees of power. You know that. And this would give him the power to smooth a path right to the White House!”

Hannibal shut up, his head almost spinning with it all. He couldn’t believe her. It had to be just more manipulation. She’d learned from the expert.

“We’re nearly at the airport,” BA said. The car slowed for a red light.

“Colonel!” Carla snapped. “I’ve put myself in your hands. Prove to me you aren’t just in this for yourselves. Prove to me that you’re the same men I watched choose the narrow path over and over.”

“Sorry, Carla. You made your bed. You’re going to have to lie in it.”

“Hah! That’s rich for a man who’s spent so long running away from the consequences of his actions.”

“Running away…” Hannibal did not like those words. None of the team did. BA had on a fierce scowl, Murdock too. And Face… Face was very quiet, he realised suddenly, frowning at Carla not in anger but as if assessing her, the veracity of her words. “We ran because we were framed.”

“Really? Did you rob the bank of Hanoi or not?”

“Under orders.”

“But you knew they were illegal orders, didn’t you? Even if the orders had survived you’d still have committed a war crime, wouldn’t you?”

“To shorten the war –” Hannibal began, but she cut him off.

“Please, I’ve heard it too many times. It’s an excuse.”

“You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, lady,” BA said, stepping on the gas again as the lights changed.

“I did so much research about you for Stockwell and I was actually impressed. Until I met you. I never expected you to be such whiners.”

The tires squealed as BA hit the brakes. Car horns sounded angrily behind them.


“BA, keep moving,” Hannibal said. BA growled incoherently and set off again.

“Whiners, Carla?” Hannibal kept his voice level, despite the anger bubbling inside him. The rest of the team wore furious expressions…no, Face still had that assessing look. Good. He was staying calm, watching her for any sign of a lie. “Rather a harsh characterisation.”

“I don’t think so. Everything is someone else’s fault for you, isn’t it? Orders lost, frame job, manipulation. Everyone is down on you. Everyone paints you in a bad light. You’ve never faced up to the consequences of your actions. You’ve never even admitted your responsibility.”

“You’re really not helping your case here, Carla,” Murdock said. “I mean if you’re trying to get us on your side.”

She sighed and rubbed her hand over her eyes. “I guess I’m not. I guess I’m just tired and sick of running. And I’m not happy that you’re my only hope of bringing it to an end. Whiners you might be, but I still think you’re honest men. I still think you’ll do the right thing.” She turned to look at Face. Hannibal frowned, puzzled why she suddenly picked him out when she’d been talking to Hannibal so far.

“I think you’ll do the right thing when it comes to those diaries. I think that when it comes to them, you will take responsibility.”

“What the hell are you talking about now?” Hannibal said. “We have no responsibility for Bancroft’s diaries.” She didn’t respond, but continued looking at Face. Face looked from her to Hannibal, and the assessing expression had gone, replaced by one of determination.

“She’s right.”

“What?” Hannibal gaped at him. Face, of all people. Face, who’d been the biggest supporter of O’Neill from the start, ready to do anything to bring Stockwell down. He wanted to help her? “Are you joking? We do that and we’re burned for good this time, and so is Frankie.”

“I can’t believe you were dumb enough to give O’Neill a hostage,” Carla said, shaking her head. “I can’t believe you trusted him. I’d have thought you’d learned better by now.”

“Hannibal,” Face said, “we can’t talk about it here. There are…things you don’t know. Reasons.”


“Face,” Murdock said, “that doesn’t put you under any obligation.”

Hannibal frowned at him. “What doesn’t? What are you talking about?”

“BA,” Face said. “Stop the car.”

“We’re nearly there,” BA said.

“Stop it now.” Face opened his door and the roar of traffic filled their car.

“Face!” BA protested and slammed on the brakes. The instant the car stopped Face grabbed Carla’s hand and jumped out.

Horns screeched and BA had to move again as Hannibal almost fell out of the back door. He ran to the sidewalk where Face stood in front of Carla. She clung to the back of his jacket, looking around wildly. BA pulled into the curb and Murdock scrambled out and joined them on the sidewalk.

“The cops will be here any second,” he said. He waved his hand at the looming airport terminal just a few hundred yards away. The road was a direct approach to the airport terminal. “There’s absolutely no stopping.”

“Face, get back in the car,” Hannibal ordered, raising his voice over the traffic noise. “We have to go.”

“No. We have to talk. I’m not going to the airport.”

“If we don’t take off within the next hour we’ll have to wait until morning,” Murdock said. “No night flying allowed.”

“I know a hotel where we’ll be safe,” Carla called peeking out from behind Face. She glanced at him. “You never told him?”

“Shut up,” Face told her.

“Told me what?” Hannibal asked.

“Not something I’m going to yell at you here,” Face said. “Hotel. Anywhere. But not the airport.”

Hannibal groaned. He wanted to hold his head in his hands. He needed to know what the hell was going on here. He could plan nothing until he understood what was going on with Face.

“No reason for O’Neill to be suspicious if we don’t fly right back out,” Murdock said with a shrug. “Take off delayed, had to wait till morning.”

“Okay,” Hannibal said. “But there’d better be a damn good explanation for this, Face.”

“You could say that.”

“Then let’s go.”

Face grabbed Carla’s hand and pulled her back towards the car. She tried to pull away, dragged her feet. Hannibal could see the lights of a police car heading for them.

“Wait!” Carla yelled. “It’s a trick! He’ll take us to the plane anyway.”

Face shook his head. “Carla, he’d do that to you. But he sure as hell wouldn’t do that to me.” He didn’t add “would you?”, but the look he gave Hannibal, the challenge in it, asked the question. And hinted at the consequences if he tried.

“Are you kidding?” Carla yelled. “How many times has he done it to Baracus?”

Hannibal grinned. “That’s different.”

“How?” she demanded

He gave her no answer. Different because the consequences of that were short term – threats and sometimes some minor violence from BA. It kept them on their toes. Do that now, to Face, and he’d never see him again.


Twenty minutes later they checked into a hotel so grim and grubby Hannibal felt like they’d wandered to the wrong side of the wall.

“Charming place,” Murdock said of their room, which had faded brown wallpaper and bright orange bedspreads. As a further feast for the senses it also held a suspicious smell, a mixture of mouse droppings, stale air and damp.

Hannibal recognised it as a no questions asked kind of place. Berlin must have plenty of them, for people with highly dubious business to transact. He had a momentary picture of every room in the hotel holding someone making a secret radio transmission with a code book at their side.

“Stay by the door, BA,” Hannibal ordered as they closed the door behind them. The chain on the inside of it was broken, but BA would keep out unwelcome visitors more effectively than any chain.

Murdock was already checking out the window. “Fire escape,” he reported. Hannibal nodded. Of course, if the place was full of spies, they’d all appreciate a good escape route. “Looks like it would rip right off the wall if we all got on it together. Rust city.”

“We’ll draw lots for who goes first,” Hannibal said. “Stay by the window, Murdock.” If they could get out via the fire escape someone else could get in. “Okay, Carla.” He turned to her. She’d taken the chance of catching fleas and sat on the bed. “Talk.”

“It’s not me who needs to talk now,” she said and looked at Face. “Is it?”

Face swept his hair off his forehead, looking away from Hannibal. He looked at Carla with an agonised expression. “I guess she has to be here. We can’t lock her in the trunk of the car until we’re done?”

“It’s not as if I don’t know what you’re going to tell him,” she said. Then she smiled, almost sympathetic looking. “I’m sorry. If I could be elsewhere I would. Just…ignore me. I’m not here. When I worked for Stockwell I spent a lot of my working hours not being there either.”

The perfect discreet aide, Hannibal thought. Fading from notice. One who could act as if they weren’t seeing or hearing anything happening in the room. Face nodded to her and turned to Hannibal.

Hannibal would like to say he was waiting patiently, but he wasn’t. He scowled at Face.

“Okay, Face, spit it out. And whatever you’re about to tell me better be good, if you expect me to risk Frankie’s life and ours for it.”

Face ran a hand through his hair, sweeping it back, avoiding Hannibal’s gaze for a second. Then he took a deep breath and looked up.

“Bancroft was my father.”

Chapter 10

Hannibal froze. He didn’t just not move – he felt as if his brain had locked.

“What?” he managed after a few seconds, and winced at the blunt stupidity of the word.

“He was my father.”

“That’s ridiculous. Who the hell told you this?”

“Murdock did.”

Murdock winced when Hannibal’s glare pinned him to the wall. “To keep a long story short, Bancroft told me. I had Stockwell confirm it. Then Bancroft died before he told Face himself, so I had to tell him.” He looked at Face, then back to Hannibal. “That’s it.”

That’s it? That’s it? Face had finally found out about his family and Hannibal didn’t know? Face hadn’t told him? A sick feeling washed over him. He felt like a man who’d been walking in the dark all night, and the sun had come up to show him he’d been on the edge of a cliff the whole time. A danger he hadn’t known about had been at his side for months. Hearing that news could have pushed Face to do almost anything, and Hannibal would never have known why.

“Wait,” he said, “Stockwell confirmed it? Stockwell knew?” A surge of what he could only call jealousy swept over him. That Stockwell of all people should know something so important to Face, while Hannibal didn’t. It was unacceptable, it was infuriating. And Stockwell wasn’t here to feel his wrath. He couldn’t start screaming at Face or Murdock in front of Carla. Carla… he turned on Carla.

“You knew about this, didn’t you?”

To her credit she’d lost her usual smug and cool expression; in fact she looked rather embarrassed to see the team air their laundry in front of her.

“When Murdock called to ask for confirmation, the general had me check it out. I found out Bancroft had hired a detective to find his children and all the evidence pointed to Templeton Peck being his son.”

“How the hell did he know we were with Stockwell?”

She shook her head. “I’ve no idea. But once he found out, he used the diaries as an inducement to get Stockwell’s help. By then, they were all the power he had left, the only thing he could use as a bargaining chip to gain that last chance to see his children before he died.”

“Hell of a bargaining chip,” Hannibal said. “If the rest of the diaries contain stuff as explosive as the sample we had.” What a hand to play, for the chance to make peace with the children he’d abandoned. The imminent prospect of death must have made the man desperate.

He looked back at Face and knew they still had a lot of talking to do about this. Why hadn’t Face told him? When had he stopped trusting Hannibal? But there were some things he wouldn’t say in front of Carla. He had to concentrate on what they did now.

“That still doesn’t give you any obligation for the diaries, Face. The man never took responsibility for you — why should you take responsibility for him?”

“For Ellen,” Face said. “She…she doesn’t know about me. I didn’t tell her. All I could bring her is trouble. But if those diaries are out there, both of us are pawns to anyone who wants to find them. That’s not fair to her.”

“It ain’t fair to you either, Faceman,” BA said from his position by the door.

“Maybe not, but I’m more used to it. So I’m going after the diaries, Hannibal. You come with me or not. Your choice.”

“What about Frankie? We can’t abandon him. If she’s telling the truth…”

“We call him. Tell him to vanish.”

“He’s being watched.”

“Frankie’s a sharp guy and we taught him plenty. Not to mention spending so much time around Stockwell will have heightened his natural paranoia. A word from you on the phone is all it will take and he’ll disappear.”

Hannibal shook his head, not in negation, but more exasperation. “Don’t try to con me, Face.”

“Have some faith in him. Have some faith in yourself and how well you trained him.”

Hannibal grimaced. “Right now I’m thinking about how well I trained you into talking your way into anything you want.”

“Which only proves my point. Well, Colonel?”

Dammit, Face had him over a barrel here. What could Hannibal do but help him? Any alternative would result in worse consequences. “I can hardly go back to O’Neill without you and Carla, can I? What do I tell him – you eloped?”

His thoughts turned to Abby Lewin. He’d give her up for Face’s sake of course. He just didn’t have to be happy about the idea.

“Face, are you absolutely sure you want to do this? Think about what you might be giving up.”

“I have thought about it. I’m going after the diaries. I’m sorry if you think I’m forcing you to help me. It’s the way it has to be.” He looked at BA and Murdock in turn, and they both nodded. Just as Hannibal had taken a vote before they went to Spain to get Curtis. And look how well that turned out.

“Okay,” Hannibal said. “Why the hell not? We were so close to being free that of course we had to find some way to screw it up at the last minute.”


Hannibal went downstairs, found the payphone in an alcove and called Frankie. He got the answering machine and groaned. Did he leave a message? Was Frankie’s phone monitored? If Carla was telling the truth then there was a good chance it was. And what if Frankie had gone out of town? He might not get the message for days. Or he might never get it, if O’Neill’s people grabbed him before then. The beep forced Hannibal into a choice.

“Hi, Kid, Johnny here. Just calling to check out how you’re doing. Guess you’re out someplace. Okay, I’ll call later.” He hung up.

“Think he’ll get the message?”

Face was behind him. Hannibal stiffened and turned slowly.

“You’d better hope so.”

Face grimaced. “I meant the code.”

They’d had codes they’d used on missions, phrases they could use on unscrambled radio transmissions without drawing suspicion. ‘Check out’ was one of them, meaning get the hell out of there and keep your head down.

“You’d better hope so,” Hannibal repeated.

“Hannibal –”

“I’m not interested, Face. You’ve made the choice, you live with the consequences. If anything happens to Frankie, it’s on you.”

Face scowled. “Something else that isn’t your fault, huh? Like the rest? Like Carla said?”

“Oh, like Carla said?” he asked, heavy sarcasm lacing his voice, wanting to provoke Face, make him as angry as Hannibal felt right now. He shouldn’t be doing that, he knew, but the rage surged in him, eroding his control. Too full of fear for Frankie and for them, of frustration that Face was pushing him into this, of grief for the life he’d thought he was about to regain and now was about to lose. And under it all, an emotion he couldn’t even classify, about Face not telling him about Bancroft. Nothing could quiet that one.

“You don’t think she might have had a point, about us blaming everyone else for our problems?”

“She’s trying to manipulate us. Seems like she did a damn good job with you at least. I guess I have to give her credit for learning her lessons well from Stockwell.”

“Stockwell? If she wanted to learn how to manipulate me it isn’t Stockwell she should have been watching.”

“Now who’s denying responsibility?”

Face’s scowl deepened, but then he shook his head, looking down.

“Damn. She’s right, we really are a bunch of whiners.”

“I think that’s a little harsh,” Hannibal said, losing some of his own rage, the tension broken. They’d come too close to a nuclear level argument there, and Face had been the one smart enough to stop it. That kind of argument needed enough time for recovery afterwards, which they didn’t have.

“I feel like whining right now.” Face grimaced and rubbed his neck. “I feel like I’ve been up for days.”

They hadn’t had a proper night’s rest for a week, Hannibal remembered — up early this morning, right after returning from the last pickup. And they weren’t about to get any sleep soon.

“Has Carla told you where the diaries are yet?”

“She’s got them some place safe. She said she’s ready to lead us to them.”

“Then let’s go get ’em.”

Chapter 11

“This had better be worth it, Carla,” Hannibal said quietly as they climbed the stairs of another dingy hotel, only an hour away. He kept a tight hold on her arm. Face was ahead of them, Murdock and BA behind, strung out in a line.

“Face clearly thinks it is.”

“How very lucky for you that you had that connection to use.”

“I’m not going to apologise – not to a man who’ll use whatever is lying around to gain an advantage.”

“Face is not a goddamn…tractor to be turned into a tank.” Now he was mad. Sure, he wound Face up sometimes, to get the best work from him. But to shamelessly manipulate his emotions about something so important to him? No, Hannibal had never sunk that low.

Before she could answer, they caught up to Face listening at the door to Carla’s room. It had a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign hanging on the doorknob. Face held out his hand.


Taking it, he unlocked the door, pushing it open slowly. He stepped back.

“The lights are on.”

“I left them on,” she said. Good basic precaution, not wanting to come back to a dark room.

“Face, Murdock – case it.” Hannibal stood back with Carla as Face and Murdock drew their guns. BA kept watch down the corridor, covering their escape.

“Don’t touch the trunk,” Carla said.

“Trunk?” Face asked.

“The diaries are in it, but don’t touch it. It’s wired to an outlet.”

They stared at her, then went inside. A moment later Murdock came back to the door.

“Clear. Come on in.”

The trunk sat against the wall. Red leather with brass trims, it showed the evidence of having been dragged around the world, as Carla had claimed, scratched and dinged up and sporting numerous country stickers. Face stood looking at it, but obeying Carla’s order not to touch it.

Hannibal let her pull away and she hurried over to pull aside the nightstand, revealing an electrical outlet. A wire ran from a plug, under the carpet. The other end must connect to the trunk, making all the metal trimmings and the lock live.

“Pity the poor maid,” Hannibal said.

“That’s why I have the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign out there.” She pulled out the plug. “It’s safe now.” When none of the team moved, she sighed and grabbed the trunk’s padlock. Nothing happened.

“Okay,” Hannibal said, “Give me the keys.”

She drew a key out from under her shirt and handed it over. Face grabbed it before Hannibal could and dropped to one knee by the trunk.

“Where’s the other one?” Hannibal asked. Carla looked up at him questioningly. “Every time I’ve bought a padlock, it came with two keys.”

“Stockwell has it.” She shrugged. “Or maybe O’Neill has it now. I don’t know.”

“And you didn’t get another one made?” He saw the answer flash across her face and smirked. “The other one, Carla. Now.”

Face had the trunk open, lifting out a shallow tray of small items on top, revealing a larger compartment beneath, full of leather-bound journals. Hannibal forgot about the other key, as he stared at the books.

Face picked one out at random. Its brown binding had been battered and faded by years and unknown adventures. Closing the lid, he used the trunk like a desk, opening the book on it.

“This is from October 1967. ‘Bull session at CD with LBJ’.” He looked up. “I…hell… President Johnson.”

“CD?” BA said. There was silence for a moment, then Murdock spoke.

“Camp David?”

Face read on, silently. After a moment he looked up at Hannibal. “They’re the real thing. The names…”

“Okay,” Hannibal said, seeing a flush appearing in Face’s cheeks. His father. The words were bitter even in Hannibal’s mind, but he dismissed them. He had to stay focused and see to it Face did the same. “Put it away for now. Secure the trunk. We have to concentrate on getting out of here.” He turned to Carla. “So where’s that other key?”

She sighed and reached down, making him tense for a second. Although she’d been searched they could have missed a concealed weapon. But she straightened up after fiddling with her shoe and held up another key, pulling off the piece of tape which had secured it inside her shoe.

“Try it,” Hannibal ordered Face. She handed it to him and he confirmed it unlocked the padlock. “Okay, give them to me.”

Face hesitated. “Both of them?” He made no move to hand the keys over, held them tight in his fist.

“You’re right – you’d better keep one.” Face shouldn’t need to tell him to keep the two keys split up. A basic precaution. Face handed up one key and slipped the other into his pocket. He snapped the padlock closed and stood.

“What now?” Murdock asked.

“Plane,” Hannibal said. “Even if we can’t fly out until morning, I’ll feel more secure there.”

“Checking out, or down the fire escape?” Face asked. They’d left far too many hotels by the latter route in their time. He turned to Carla. “I assume –”

Hannibal never found out what he assumed, as BA yelled a warning, slammed the door shut, and leaned on it. But he was thrown back as it burst open sending him crashing to the floor. Men piled into the room, which erupted in a melee. Hannibal grabbed Carla and shoved her to the floor, behind the shelter of the bed.

“Stay down and –” He didn’t get a chance to finish, his hands suddenly full fighting off two big guys dressed all in black. BA was still on the floor, dammit. Hannibal counted eight — no ten — opponents. A lot even for the team to handle.

Hannibal knocked down one of his sparring partners. Murdock stepped on the guy, stumbled, as two men drove him towards a corner. Was BA out for the count? No, he rose with a roar, tossing away two guys. One of them crashed into and knocked down half of the tag team fighting Face. But as he fell he shoved Face into the arms of the largest of their opponents. The big man grabbed him in a chokehold and Face struggled for only seconds before going limp. The man tossed him aside and headed for BA.

“Colonel!” Murdock yelled, right in the corner now, at bay and losing. Too many of them and all good. Pro agents at the top of their game. Even BA was having trouble. Hannibal doubled over as the man he was fighting landed a hard gut punch. He dropped to one knee.

“Get the trunk!” someone yelled. “Get the trunk!” Hannibal’s opponent backed away towards the trunk, drawing a pistol with a silencer on it. The moment he glanced away to find the handle, Hannibal sprang towards him. He never made it. Someone grabbed his jacket and hauled him back.

“No! Don’t touch him!” Carla cried. She and Hannibal fell into a heap as the man with the gun grabbed the metal handle of the trunk… and screamed loud enough to be heard in East Germany. His gun discharged over and over, making everyone hit the floor to avoid the wildly spraying shots. The lights flickered in an almost strobing effect until the bulbs exploded, plunging the room and the corridor outside into darkness. The scream cut off as the man collapsed to the floor and a vile stink of burned flesh and hair filled the room.

“Get off me!” Carla pushed out from under Hannibal and scrambled away from him.

“Sound off!” Hannibal shouted, thinking of those wild gunshots. There was a lot of racket in the dark, men scrambling away, the bad guys heading out to regroup, or get away before the cops came. Hannibal dug in his pocket for his flashlight.

“Okay,” BA called.

“Okay,” Murdock said, nearby.

“Face ?” Hannibal clicked on his flashlight. He saw Face sitting up, one hand to his head, hair mussed and almost white in the direct beam of the flashlight.

“Okay,” he managed in a shaky voice. He’d be dizzy from the chokehold for a few minutes, but at least he wasn’t shot.

“The trunk’s safe now,” Carla said. “I’ve unplugged it, but I think we blew the fuses to the whole building anyway.”

“Let’s go!” Hannibal ordered. There were a lot of voices outside in the dark corridor, coming closer. BA grabbed the dresser and shoved it in front of the door to slow down anyone wanting to come in and restart the party. “Fire escape. Murdock, lead the way. BA, grab the trunk.”

Damn, Face would need some help or he’d be in danger of falling on the fire escape. Hannibal couldn’t help him and hang onto Carla at the same time. BA had the trunk and Murdock needed his hands free.

“Carla.” He grabbed her arm. “If you try to run I swear I will shoot you down and tell O’Neill it was the only way to keep you from defecting.” He might be bluffing. Sometimes he couldn’t tell himself. She stared at him and nodded.

“I won’t run, Colonel.”

“Then help me with Face.”

They made it to the bottom of the fire escape, BA with the trunk on his back. The fresh air revived Face and he was back to normal by the time they reached the alley where their car waited. Hannibal had BA heave the trunk into the back seat, despite protests from Face, Carla and Murdock about being crushed. Hannibal had no time to argue. Faster in and out than putting it in the car’s trunk.

He jumped into the passenger seat. “Go, BA!”

BA gunned the engine and the car roared up the alley. Water sprayed as they hit a large puddle, the spray turned orange by the streetlights.

The front of the hotel was already crowded with police cars but as the team’s car moved off, it wasn’t the cops that followed them. A Volvo pulled away and came after them.

Options. They couldn’t know the team was going to the airport, otherwise they’d have gone there themselves and waited in ambush. So the team had to outrun them. But a high speed chase would bring the cops down on them and they couldn’t get out of the airport fast enough to avoid the hassle.

“BA,” he said. “Let’s lose them. But discreetly.”

Carla’s snorting laugh made him look back at her. “You have a problem?”

“Not at all. I just find the idea of you doing anything “discreetly” rather funny.”

Hannibal turned away to keep her from seeing his smile. Okay, she had a point. And Hannibal had an idea as they began driving alongside an area of small industrial buildings.

“Left here.” Hannibal snapped. Almost too late, but BA made the turn, cutting across other cars and starting a chorus of screeching tyres and blasting horns. “See that?” Hannibal said, pointing. BA saw it and grinned. Yeah, he saw the plan. “Face, compound on the left.” It was a fenced-in parking lot filled with rows of vans, a company logo painted on their sides. “Jump out and get the gate open.”

“Wait, we can’t go in there!” Carla protested.

“Trust me. Now, Face!”

BA slowed enough for Face to jump out and roll behind a car parked at the side of the road. Behind them the Volvo appeared around a corner. They didn’t appear to have spotted Face jumping out. They didn’t stop at any rate, kept on following the team’s car. BA hurtled around a corner.

“Not too fast, BA. We’ve gotta give Face time to get the gate open.”

“But, we can’t go into that compound!” Carla cried again. “We’ll be trapped!”

“Oh, I think Hannibal has a plan,” Murdock said. “You, ah, do have a plan, right, Colonel?”

“Sure.” BA made another turn. The Volvo kept coming. “And I’m pretty sure it will work. Of course, if Face hasn’t got that gate open yet…” Another turn. Almost back where they started. “…we’re all dead.” He smirked at Carla, who just gave him a disgusted look.

Face had done his job. They approached the compound and the gate stood open, Face crouched near it. He gave them a thumbs up as the car hurtled in. The Volvo followed. They might be so intent on the team’s car they hadn’t seen Face or didn’t consider him a threat.

They were wrong about the latter. He was the key.

BA tore through the parking lot, along the ranks of identical vans. The turn at the end was tight at this speed and he fought with the steering wheel to keep him from spinning off. Carla and Murdock both yelled as the trunk was thrown harder against them.

The Volvo had more trouble, being longer and heavier, and its back wheels skidded away as it tried to make the turn. BA put his foot down and hurtled back up the other way, the rear doors of the identical vans flashing past. Hannibal twisted around, to see the Volvo straightening out, following them. Accelerating

“He’s coming,” Hannibal said.

“And we’re going.”

The car flew out of the open gate and screeched to a halt. Face pushed the gate closed with a crash, relocked it with a huge padlock and ran.

The Volvo skidded to a halt, ending up broadside to the locked gate. Several men leapt out, even as Face was still running for the team’s car. Carla threw open the back door and the sound of gunshots became very clear.

Face was in and pulling the door closed before Hannibal could think of getting out and trying to cover him. Unlikely to work, he was well outgunned.

“Go!” Face yelled.

BA stamped on the accelerator and the car made a horrible roar, but didn’t go far.

“It’s a stick shift, Sergeant,” Hannibal reminded him mildly, as BA threw the car into first and they hurtled away.

“Yeah, yeah,” BA growled. “Fool European car.”

The headlights of the trapped Volvo faded rapidly. BA turned back onto the road that led to the main road.

“Nice manoeuvre,” Carla said, sounding genuinely impressed.

“Yeah, not bad,” BA said.

“Don’t relax yet,” Hannibal said. “They could be out of there in two minutes if they have some bolt cutters. We have to get well ahead of them.”

BA got back into the traffic on the main road and resumed course to the airport.

“Hannibal,” Face said. “They were shooting at me.” He ran a hand through his hair, trying to put it back into place.

“You’re not hit?” Hannibal said, alarmed suddenly.

“No. I just wanted it on the record.”


Hannibal came back from checking on Murdock in the cockpit to find BA and Carla both asleep in their seats. Face was awake and reading one of the diaries. Several more were stacked beside his seat. The trunk stood with its lid open, more books jumbled up inside.

“Looking for some juicy political gossip?” Hannibal asked quietly, and then cursed himself inwardly for the flippant question.

Face looked up at him and closed the diary he held. “They don’t just have that stuff in them. They have…personal things too.” His voice went quiet. “I wanted to see if he said anything about my mother.”

Hannibal wanted to turn around and take refuge in the cockpit again. But that would make him a coward. By saying something so personal the usually reticent Face was giving him an invitation to the kind of talk Hannibal didn’t exactly find comfortable. He still felt ashamed of the time he’d bailed when Face wanted to talk about Leslie Becktall on the way to Ecuador. He’d decided he really needed to be elsewhere and had left Amy holding the bag, telling himself women were better at that kind of thing. He didn’t have that option here. He could hardly wake Carla and tell her to talk to Face about his parents. Carla wasn’t Amy. And Hannibal Smith wasn’t a coward. He sat down.

“Face…” How to say it without it sounding a little like an accusation? “Why did you feel you couldn’t tell me about Bancroft being your father?” Not bad. Quite diplomatic.

Face looked down, at the book he still held. “Maybe that would have made it too real. Made it something I had to deal with. And I wasn’t ready. I don’t know if I am yet.”

“I think you are. We went after the diaries because you asked us to, Face. Even with…” He didn’t want to mention Frankie right now. That would sound like an accusation and might make Face close down entirely. “…all the risks, you still wanted to do this. Even if you don’t have any obligation to Bancroft.”

“It’s not about obligation,” Face said, looking back at Hannibal now. “You want all of this to be over, don’t you? Well this is the quickest way.”

“I don’t know about that. We’re hardly going to walk away free men. We’ll go back to jail for a while at least.” Face didn’t argue. He didn’t say anything. “So, how do you want to play it when we get back? Take them to a newspaper? Or TV station?”

“No. Remember how someone killed Sally Vogel’s story about us? Journalists, newspapers, even TV networks can be silenced. We have to get these into the public domain and give them to someone who can’t be silenced.”

Hannibal frowned suddenly. “What date is it?”

“Um, the 15th. Why?”

“Because I think I know the best possible venue for our little show.”

Chapter 12

“C’mon, let’s move it!” Hannibal called, hurrying his team and Carla out of the plane.

They hustled. Murdock ran into a hanger, carrying several backpacks. Face pulled along the stumbling and muttering BA, and carried a couple of duffels in his other hand. Everyone but Carla had a rifle. Hannibal grabbed one end of the trunk of diaries and hauled it along on its wheels. Carla, carrying more duffels, fell into stride with Hannibal as they followed the others into the hanger.

“What’s the rush?” she said. “We could get some rest and do this tomorrow.”

“Nope. It has to be today.”

She rolled her eyes. “Of course. Theatricality.”

“You know us.”

“Don’t I though.”

She dropped the duffels when they arrived in the hanger. A helicopter stood there, Murdock already inside, running checks. BA was sitting on a chair, head in his hands, recovering from his sedative and still too woozy to start his usual protests about helicopters. Face was emptying the backpacks and duffels

“We’re definitely taking her?” he said, looking at Carla.

“Yes.” Hannibal knelt down to unlock the trunk. “Bring those backpacks over here, Carla.”

“Won’t she slow us down?”

“Maybe.” Hannibal ignored Carla’s glare. “But I don’t trust her enough to leave her behind. Don’t worry. She survived in the big bad world all these months. There’s more to her than lip gloss and heels, isn’t there, ‘Carla’?”

She smiled at him. “Thank you, Colonel.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean it in a good way.”

The glare came back, and Face laughed.

“Distribute the diaries into these packs,” Hannibal ordered her.

“Four packs. Don’t I get one?”

“You do remember what I said a couple minutes ago about not trusting you.”


Hannibal had heard women say “fine” in that tone before. But she started stuffing the diaries in the packs as Hannibal and Face joined BA and Murdock standing behind the helicopter, preparing their gear.

“I suppose about now is when I should give a stirring pep talk,” Hannibal said. “But since being here was not my idea I think maybe someone else can take a turn at it.”

Face frowned, seeing the dig that Hannibal definitely intended.

“I’ll do it,” Murdock said. He cleared his throat, stood up straight and doffed his ball cap to lay it over his heart. He began to recite. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”

“Oh good grief,” Face said. Hannibal just grinned as he loaded his rifle.

“…for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile…”

“You looked at me when you said ‘vile’,” BA said. “I saw that.”

“…this day shall gentle his condition,” Murdock went on, ignoring the interruptions. “And gentlemen in England now a-bed…”

“England’s ahead of us,” Face pointed out. “They’ll have been out of bed for hours.”

“…shall think themselves accursed they were not here…”

“They’re suckers if they do.” Face slotted grenades into a bandolier.

“…and hold their manhoods cheap…”

“Murdock, ladies present,” Hannibal said, grinning and gesturing at Carla, busily stuffing backpacks.

“…while any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.” Murdock beamed around. “Are you all feeling inspired then?”

“I’m inspired to knock you out,” BA growled. He stomped off.

But Hannibal smiled. Face wore a mildly irritated expression, BA was growling like a bear. The tension was gone. Murdock had his own methods, but they worked.

“Good work, Captain,” he said. “Get the chopper outside, please.” Murdock hurried off and Face followed to help him out.

Once the helicopter was outside they made their final preparations.

“We definitely have everything?” Hannibal said.

“I checked the list twice,” Face said.

“Just like Santa Claus,” Murdock said from the pilot’s seat.

“Then we’re ready.” They were hung with grenades and spare clips like very dangerous rifle-toting Christmas trees. Even Carla, not easily rattled, looked intimidated. She met Hannibal’s eye but when she spoke her voice was more polite than he normally got from her.

“Do I get a weapon?” she asked. “I might have to defend myself.”

Hannibal looked at her narrowly, then shook his head. “No. Just stay close to BA or me, and you’ll be fine.”

She sighed, but didn’t argue.

“Colonel, it’s 8:45,” Face said.

Hannibal nodded. “All aboard then. I’ll go get BA.” He found BA standing in the doorway of the hanger, looking the most terrifying of all of them — and the most terrified.

“Helicopter,” he said as Hannibal approached. “Don’t know if I can do it, man.”

“BA, you’re not going to wuss out in front of a girl, are you?”

BA snorted at the characterisation of Carla as a ‘girl’. But he looked more uneasy than ever.

“Could be the last time,” Hannibal said. “For real this time. I know, I’ve said it before. But this time…I think we’re in the end zone. It’s nearly over.”

“But it’s a helicopter,” BA said, his voice unusually quiet. He normally got angrily defensive about the whole flying thing, but here, so close to the end, perhaps fearing he’d let them all down, he was showing the real fear that lay behind what the team sometimes treated as a joke.

“I know. But if we try to drive to Washington we might as well save ourselves time by shooting each other right here. If O’Neill’s figured out what we’re up to –”

“And what’s to stop him sending a coupla fighter jets to shoot us down?”

“He couldn’t order that quickly enough to intercept us. And I don’t think he’d risk it if he suspects we’ve got Carla and the diaries aboard.”

“That’s why we bringing her, ain’t it? Not just ’cause you don’t trust her.”

Hannibal nodded. Hard to admit to something so dishonourable, but they were in deep shit here. “She’s our last bargaining chip. If I have to exchange her and the diaries for Frankie, I’ll do it.”

“Face won’t like that.”

“It’s just a contingency. Now, you coming, BA?”

He tensed again after relaxing for a moment as they argued. Then he nodded. “It better be the last time. I mean it. Next time I’m gonna kill you for real.”

“Good, BA. Get mad. We’re gonna need that when we get to the courthouse.”


“Ten minutes to target,” Murdock called.

“Okay.” Hannibal unzipped a bag and started handing out gas masks. “Sorry,” he said to Carla. “I couldn’t find one to match your shoes.”

“Hannibal, this is Carla, not Tawnia,” Face said.

“Face, same apology.” He handed the mask to Face, who muttered something the microphone didn’t pick up. Hannibal dumped a mask on Murdock’s lap.

“Five minutes,” Murdock said. “Descending now.”

They all went into their final checks of rifles, of what they had where, touching the bandoliers they wore that held grenades. Too easy to lose a fatal second in battle when you reached for something on your left that was actually on the right. A tiny glitch could get you killed. Face Hannibal and BA had their backpacks already on, but Murdock would have to wait until they landed.

“Carla,” Hannibal said, handing her the pack. “Help Murdock on with this when we land.” It might save a vital second or two. She nodded her understanding.

“Two minutes!” Murdock called.

Hannibal gripped his rifle. The blood pounded in his ears. How long since he’d bailed out of a chopper, rifle in hand, straight into battle? A long time. Different this time, only aiming to sow confusion and chaos, not death. But the risk was the same. Once they hit the building, spraying gunfire and tossing grenades, they were all targets for the throngs of cops, MPs, FBI agents, and security the place would be crammed with.

The helicopter was descending rapidly now, onto the grass outside the courthouse, sending bystanders scurrying away. The rotors’ backwash flattened grass and small bushes and whipped up the perfect hair of the news anchors reporting live on the first day of the trial of General Hunt Stockwell. They’d have an even bigger story to report on once the team got inside.

Only seconds to go. Hannibal pulled his gasmask down. BA, Face and Carla took his cue and did the same. They had to get inside in seconds, before the building was locked down. They’d be trapped in there after that happened, but Hannibal never expected them to escape. The best he could hope for today was not being shot dead.

The skids touched the grass.

“Go!” Hannibal yelled! He, BA and Face were out fastest. Murdock was a few seconds behind as he stopped the engine, donned his mask and retrieved his rifle. Carla held up the pack for him to shove his arms into.

By the time she’d done that, Hannibal, Face and BA had sent the oncoming cops and security guards rushing back into cover with automatic fire spitting up clods of grass. Face tossed a couple of flashbangs way out in front of them, near the doors. It sent the people there reeling back from the noise and the flash, clearing the path. They ran. Hannibal grabbed Carla’s arm to pull her along. She kept pace well though, staying calm.

Face and BA reached the doors first, shoving them back from their half closed position, and Hannibal, Murdock and Carla ran up the steps and inside. The doors slammed behind them.

Now the smoke and tear gas grenades came into their own. Hannibal and Murdock pulled pins and tossed the cylinders at groups of cops or guards, hiding them in the choking smoke. Face used the stun grenades to clear a path ahead. The smoke they left behind as they went concealed them from the men following. Nobody fired at them, the police and security trying to fire with eyes blinded with tear gas, dazzled by the flashbangs, coughing on the smoke. With all the civilians around, only a fool would start shooting so blindly.

It was no use yelling — between the noise of the stun grenades, the gunfire and the screaming alarm, none of them could hear each other. But they knew the plan. Face glanced back as they approached a T junction. He pointed left, and Hannibal nodded and gestured to confirm it was the right way.

Face tossed a stun grenade around the corner and the rest of the team followed him as he raced around it, rifle at the ready, to the courtroom doors. Behind there lay Stockwell, a judge and probably a hundred other people too powerful for O’Neill to silence. The doors were locked.

Hannibal pointed at Face and mimed the action of pulling a grenade pin, then pulled the others away down the corridor. Face grabbed two of his flashbangs, dropped then right by the door and ran.

They weren’t explosive like frag grenades, but the sonic shock of the boom they gave out shook the doors, which quivered like paper, but held. Face, shaking his head, perhaps a little too close to the blast, ran back to the doors, raised his rifle and gave the lock a long burst.

People inside probably screamed, but Hannibal couldn’t hear them. He could barely hear Face’s rifle. Murdock ran forward to help force the doors. They almost gave. BA charged in to lend his weight to the effort, just as a hoard of cops and court security came pouring out of the smoke. Still staggering, coughing, or half-blinded and running into each other, they reached the team as the doors finally gave way. Everyone fell into the courtroom. Hannibal dragged off his gas mask as he hit the floor and yelled out in his battlefield voice.

“We’ve got the Bancroft diaries!”

He was yelling to Stockwell. If fear of the diaries not being safe was keeping him quiet, then he had to know now they were right here.

Hannibal shook off two police officers who were hanging onto his back and legs, trying to cuff him, and missing by a long way, still blinded by tear gas. He tore free of their grasp, dropping his rifle and slipping the pack from his back. It would be dumb to make straight for the judge, he thought as he ran up the aisle. There were armed guards in here, who hadn’t been exposed to tear gas and might well shoot him dead. Instead he veered to the table where Stockwell sat with his lawyer. The lawyer stared at Hannibal in horror, but Stockwell looked as imperturbable as usual — impressive for a man wearing an orange jumpsuit.

With a flourish Hannibal emptied his pack, the books scattering the contents of the table. Carla was right. He loved his theatrics. That’s why it had to be today, the first day of the trial. If he’d missed it he’d have had to wait until the last day. His sense of drama would allow for nothing less.

Stockwell didn’t even pick one of the diaries up, though he got a gleam in his eyes at the sight of them. He nodded to Hannibal.

“Thank you, Colonel.” He turned to his lawyer. “Richard, you’d better ask the judge for a continuance. I have some new evidence I need to apprise you of. Oh and, Colonel…” He gestured over his shoulder, confirming Hannibal’s suspicion he did indeed have eyes in the back of his head.

O’Neill was hurrying, one might say running, towards the doors, trying to get past the men still fighting the rest of the team, all too busy to grab him. Hannibal moved to run after O’Neill when two bailiffs finally got the nerve to grab him.

“No! Wait!” he yelled struggling, just as Carla stepped through the doors. She’d stayed out of the fight and on her feet, and raced towards O’Neill tackling him around the waist and bringing him down in a heap. Girl must have played football at school. O’Neill’s guards, cops, and a couple of feds all piled onto the struggling pair.

The judge banged his gavel so hard it broke and he roared out to the bailiffs to just arrest everybody.


Twenty minutes later, the team, Carla, and Stockwell, were in the most peaceful place in the whole courthouse. The holding cells. The cops had put them there until they felt ready to take them elsewhere. Presumably they were fetching big nets and long cattle prods.

“You enjoyed that, didn’t you?” Face said, from the bench opposite him. Like Hannibal he was cuffed, his clothes torn up, his hair mussed, and his face and hands bruised and bloody.

“Didn’t you?” Hannibal couldn’t deny he lived for this. The adrenaline, the drama, the theatre of it all. “You know I like to make an entrance.”

“Can you keep it down?” Murdock called from the adjacent cell where he was lying on the fold-out bunk. “Some of us are trying to sleep.”

“Quit it, fool,” BA said from the cell’s other bunk. “You ain’t sleeping.”

“Some of us didn’t spend the entire flight across the Atlantic in the land of dreams,” Murdock said.

“Yeah, he only sleeps part of the time,” Face said.

BA looked alarmed. “He sleeps while he’s flying?”

“Auto-pilot, baby, auto-pilot.” Murdock lay back with an arm across his eyes, then sat up looking puzzled. “Wait, did that plane have auto-pilot?”

BA proceeded to fold the bunk back up against the wall with Murdock still on it.

“How come she gets her own cell?” Face asked, looking at Carla across the way from them. She smiled sweetly at him and started inspecting her fingernails.

Stockwell was in a cell of his own too, on the other side of Hannibal and Face’s. The cops were probably still trying to figure out if the team had busted in there to kill him. He beckoned Hannibal to come closer to him. When Hannibal did, he spoke quietly.

“Thank you again, Colonel. You’ve helped me, so when your trial comes, I’ll do what I can to help you. I’ll make sure it’s clear I manipulated and blackmailed you and Frankie Santana into working for me. I’ll tell them how much detail about your missions I withheld from you in advance, knowing there were some you wouldn’t have agreed to go on if you’d had full information.”

Hannibal caught Face’s eye. He was watching the two of them intently.

“You know what, Stockwell,” Hannibal said. “Don’t sweat it. Tell the truth, no more, no less. That’s all I expect. We’ll take what’s coming to us as long as it’s fair.”

Stockwell looked surprised, but nodded his head. “Of course.” He glanced over at Carla. The two of them hadn’t spoken much since they were all brought down here, but Hannibal supposed that was normal with these “need to know” types. They’d hardly discuss anything important where anyone might overhear. “So Carla had you help her get the diaries here? Smart move. You were the only ones who could be trusted.”

“And she had a way to make us — or rather one of us — cooperate. What did you know about Bancroft and Face?”

“Nothing until Murdock called me. I was as surprised as anyone. Annoyed in fact.”

“Just hate not knowing something important huh?”

Stockwell must have heard the accusation in the question. “It was Peck’s choice to tell you or not, Smith. Not mine. As far as I’m concerned it’s a personal matter.”

“Don’t give me that. You could have used the knowledge to manipulate Face or Bancroft himself if he hadn’t up and died on us.”

“But I didn’t.”

Yeah, that was undeniable. Even Carla only had once she ran out of options.

“You could have kept them,” Stockwell said. “There’s enough information in them to make you very powerful and very rich men. And marked for death of course.” He smiled. “Though that’s hardly a new experience for you. Did it even occur to you?”

“No. Can’t say it did.”

A clanking sound made Hannibal look up to see a janitor in overalls and a baseball cap shoving a wheeled bucket by the mop standing up in it. He turned back to Stockwell, then gasped and stared at the janitor.


“Johnny! I’d say how’s it going, but you’re in a jail cell, so I’ll skip that.”

The team all sprang to the front of their cells as Frankie grinned at them.

“What, you guys were worried about me? You underestimate the Frank Man.”

“You got the message,” Face said, relief the most obvious on his face.

“I got it and I was outta there.”

“Thank God.” Face rested his forehead on the bars.

“Didn’t know you cared so much,” Frankie said with a grin. He glanced around at the other cells. “Carla? Is that you? Gotta say, that new look – really not working for you.”

“Go jump in a lake, Santana.”

“Frankie,” Hannibal said, “What’s happening upstairs?”

“O’Neill’s been detained for questioning I don’t think they actually arrested him, but well, he isn’t exactly going to the White House for dinner. Stockwell’s trial’s been stopped to take the new evidence into account.”

“Looks like you and O’Neill might end up sharing a cell,” Hannibal said, grinning at Stockwell.

“I hope not,” Stockwell said, fervently.

“What I still don’t get,” Murdock said, “is why you’re so happy, Stockwell. It’s not like this clears you of anything.”

“I know. I’m just happy to have the chance to tell the truth at last.”

“You?” Murdock boggled. “Well, that will be an awfully big adventure.”

Stockwell almost smiled. “Perhaps I spent too much time with you. You’ve been a terrible influence on me.”

For too long, Hannibal had feared it being the other way around. He turned back to Frankie.

“What do you need, guys? I…well, I don’t know if I can organise an escape, just by myself. Getting in here as a janitor was tough enough.”

“Why did you get in as a janitor?” Murdock said. “You can’t have known we were coming.”

“Hey, I know you guys. I asked myself, ‘what’s the most ridiculous and dangerous place for you to show up?’ And here you are.”

Hannibal laughed. “Nice, Frankie, nice.” It didn’t matter what the real reason was. Maybe something similar to their own, to get to the judge, or even to talk to Stockwell for advice. But he’d done it. “No, kid, no escape, not this time. You get out of here now and call our lawyer. He’ll tell you what to do next.”

“Okay, yeah, I guess that’s the smart thing to do. I’ll see you guys later. Stay cool.” He shook hands with each of the team, winked at Carla, who rolled her eyes, and gave Stockwell a mocking salute.

As his footsteps and the rattle of his bucket faded away, Face lay back on the bench with a sigh.

“You realise that this whole thing is going to drag on for another year at least,” he said. “Maybe two. And I’ll bet this time they don’t let us stay in our nice little retirement village.”

“No,” Hannibal said, thinking with a pang of his little cabin, and Briggs and Perry’s barbecues, and especially of course, about Abby Lewin. Tentative that might have been, but promising. Very promising. He sighed too, but then shrugged. “No,” he said again. “But we made our beds a long time ago. Time to lie in them.”