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Introduction

A Lifetime Supply of Cabbage Rolls

By KennaC

 

Rated:  PG-13

Summary:  The Team is in southeast Asia, working to shut down General Chang's smuggling operation, but there is trouble brewing at home, particularly for Murdock's PI wife, Nancy.  Sequel to Angels Shooting Fire, in which Nancy and Murdock meet, though this one has a lot more action and a lot less romance.  It is helpful to read that first, but not absolutely necessary.

Warnings:  Mild language, suggestion of sex (M/F), violence, death of character (not main)

Please review this fanfic . . . and my previous one if you have time.  Constructive criticisms encouraged!

Disclaimer:  Nope, don't own the A-Team, but I love 'em!  I do, however, lay claim to Nancy Clay Murdock and her life and associates.  They're all from my tiny little head, for good or bad.

 

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Reflections

 

Nancy woke up late on a Monday morning wishing that she didn't have to get up and go in to work.  She had been feeling uncharacteristically tired lately, which she blamed on the weather.  Snow was fine, but this sleet was for the birds. Spring should have sprung by now, and the cold weather was getting tiresome. She forced herself out of bed and went to the bathroom – maybe a shower would help get her moving.

 

As she entered the bathroom, she saw Murdock's robe, where it had been hanging untouched for the last six weeks.  She missed him terribly, and that was only adding to her foul mood lately.  The Team had been gone since the beginning of March.  It was now mid-April and there was no word of when they were going to be home.

 

Nancy stepped into the shower and let the scalding water cascade down her body, rinsing some of her tension down the drain.  It was coming up on their two year anniversary, and she was beginning to wonder if Murdock was going to be home to celebrate.  She never slept well when he was gone, and the past few weeks had been getting progressively worse.  Not only wasn't she sleeping, but she had absolutely no appetite.

 

She gave herself a mental shake, and began washing.  She had less to be upset about than Amy.  Amy was now entering her third trimester and had no husband at home to help.  Nancy, Maggie, and Mama B had been trying to fill the void, but they couldn't take Face's place, no matter how hard the tried.  Then two weeks previous, Amy had ended up at the hospital with some spotty bleeding, which had scared them all.  Dr. Phillips had done a thorough exam, including ultrasound, and it appeared that everything was alright, but she put Amy on bed rest as a precaution.  That made Face's absence even more difficult.

 

Nancy stepped out of the shower and dried off.  She pulled her pants on, but they were too tight to button, so instead she looped a pony tail holder through the button hole and over the button. Then she pulled on a blue long-sleeved button down, and left the tails out.  As she dried her hair and finished getting ready she remembered back to Christmas when Amy and Face had announced the pregnancy. There had been quite a celebration of the first A-Team baby.  Face had passed around a box of Hannibal's favorite cigars, and they had broken out champaign.

 

Later, Nancy had overheard Maggie and Hannibal talking in the kitchen, both surprised that Amy and Face had been the first – they had figured it would be Nancy and Murdock.  Nancy knew that Murdock was thinking the same thing. 

 

Nancy smiled to herself as she walked downstairs.  When she and Murdock had first been married he had always teased her about "practicing" so they could get it right when the time came.  After a year, he'd begun raising the issue more seriously, asking when they were going to start their family.  Nancy had told to Murdock that his long absences from home made her reluctant to start a family right now.  After some discussion, they had both agreed to wait, at least for a while.

 

But to herself Nancy had to admit that this wasn't the only reason.  She knew Murdock would make a great father, but she wasn't so sure about her own capabilities as a mother.  She had been an only child, with no extended family, and had never spent much time around children, let alone babies.  How was she going to know what to do?

 

Amy was the one who had finally changed her mind about starting a family.  Amy had told her then that there was never a "good" time to start a family.   When Nancy had tentatively raised her personal concerns about not knowing what to do with a baby, Amy had laughed and told her, "You can learn the mechanics of child-rearing from a book, the trick is having enough love in the home to get you through the tough times – somehow I don't think that you and Murdock have anything to worry about there!"

 

So this time Nancy had brought up the subject of starting a family, and Murdock had been elated.  He told her that with the baby announcement, they had all been discussing the possibility of approaching the General about modifying their mission duty somehow.  Hannibal was already working on a plan.

 

Nancy stopped at the door to the kitchen and sighed, once again she didn't feel very hungry.  She decided to skip breakfast and head straight over to Amy's.  Maggie and Mama B had been staying with her since she'd been put on bed rest, and Nancy had been doing all the running for them, so that they didn't have to go out on the icy roads.  She wanted to see for herself how everyone was faring, and find out if they needed anything before heading in to town.

 

 

Homebound

 

When Nancy arrived at Amy's, Maggie met her at the door, "We got a call from Hannibal last night.  They weren't able to talk long, but it looks like they'll be home in just a couple of weeks," Maggie said as Nancy removed her coat and they walked into the kitchen, "That's the good news. . ."

 

"The bad news is that Face is ready to walk out," Maggie said shaking her head, "and Hannibal isn't sure he can stop him.  He's frantic about Amy, even though Amy and  I both assured him that she was doing fine." Maggie offered Nancy a cup of coffee, which Nancy refused with a shake of her head, getting herself a glass of orange juice instead.

 

"How is Amy feeling?" Nancy asked, turning from the refrigerator.

 

Maggie shrugged, "As well as can be expected.  I've done several loads of baby clothes and set her to work organizing the baby's room.  At least that keeps her busy, without having to be on her feet too much," Maggie chuckled, "but I have to watch her like a hawk, or before I know it she's rearranging furniture.  Honestly, she just doesn't know when to take it easy."

 

Nancy smile and said, "Well, I'm going to go up and distract her for a few minutes, but I do have to get in to the office.  I thought I'd pick up some meals to go from Charlie's for supper, I'll find out what the pregnant lady wants.  If you get me a list of what you need, I'll pick things up on my way home tonight."

 

As Nancy passed through the living room, Mama B came out of the back room, where they had set up a make-shift bedroom for her while she was staying with Amy.  Mama B was now wheelchair bound, but still full of energy.  She looked at Nancy appraisingly, "You look all in, girl – aren't you getting' enough sleep?"

 

Nancy put on a bright smile for Mama B's, and Amy's, sake and said easily, "I'm fine, just haven't had my morning cup of java yet!" she stopped briefly and leaned down to give Mama B a kiss on the cheek, "I'll see you when I come back down – be thinking about what you want for dinner from Charlie's tonight, my treat."  Then Nancy headed upstairs.

 

Mama B shook her head and turned to Maggie, who was standing in the kitchen doorway, "What we gonna do with those girls, Maggie," she asked ruefully, "They twice as stubborn as those men of theirs, and unwilling to stop and rest when they need it.  You see the shadows under Nancy's eyes.  The girl's not gettin' enough sleep – somethin' is wrong."

 

Maggie nodded in agreement, "Maybe tonight we can get her to talk about it.  She's been pretty focused on Amy lately, just like the rest of us.  I'm sure it's nothing to be too concerned about."

 

 

Work – a Distraction

 

Nancy arrived at the office around nine, and set to work on the paperwork that had been piling up on her desk.  Riley came in about 15 minutes after she arrived, and they discussed the case load for the week and set assignments for the two operatives they had hired in the last year.  With the operatives on staff, Nancy found herself working much less in the field, acting more in a consulting role on cases for the operatives and Riley. 

 

Nancy found the arrangement stifling at times, and sometimes longed to be back in the field full time.  But she had to admit that from the standpoint of preparing for a family, this working arrangement made much more sense.  It also seemed to set Murdock's mind at ease – he still wasn't overly enamored of his wife's gun-toting profession.

 

At 12:15, there was a tentative knock on Nancy's office door, and she looked up from the diminishing pile of paperwork to see who would be coming in at lunch time. Blanche Walker pushed slowly into the office, "I'm sorry to bother you Nancy, I wasn't sure if I should come in or not, there weren't nobody in the outer office . . ." Blanche let the sentence trail off.

 

Nancy stood with a broad smile and motioned Blanche in to her office, "Come on in Blanche – Stephie only works half days on filing, so she won't be in 'til probably 1.  Other than that, there's never anybody in the outer office." 

 

Nancy took in Blanche's pale face, and tight lips, and her smile faded.  She took the woman's elbow and sat her down in one of the worn overstuffed chairs in front of her desk, "Can I get you something to drink, water or coffee?"

 

"A glass of water would be much appreciated," Blanche said quietly, and Nancy quickly obliged with a coffee cup full of water from the cooler just outside her office.  Then she moved around her desk and sat down.

 

"What's wrong, Blanche?" she asked simply.

 

"I hate to bother you with this . . ."

 

Nancy leaned forward, "Blanche you're a good friend, it is no bother," she said earnestly.

 

Blanche's eyes glistened with tears that were being held in check, and Nancy instinctively pushed the tissue box towards her, she knew a woman on the verge when she saw one. Blanche took a tissue and blew her nose before finally speaking, "Terra's gone, Nancy.  She's been gone for two days, and I'm worried sick.  I didn't know where else to go, who else to turn to . . ."

 

Nancy felt her heart constrict, Terra was Blanche's granddaughter, who had been living with her since she was just a baby.  Nancy knew Terra was Blanche's world, and if anything happened to her, it would be devastating, "What do you mean 'gone?'" Nancy asked, "Did she run away, or did someone take her?"  Child kidnappings were certainly nothing new, Nancy had worked several of those types of cases during the last few years.

 

Blanche looked at Nancy uncertainly, and didn't offer any more information right away.  Nancy considered waiting, and letting Blanche continue on her own, but something was off here.  If Terra was kidnapped, or even a runaway, as a minor, Blanche could certainly go to the authorities about the disappearance, "Have you talked to the police, Blanche?"

 

Blanche took a deep shuddering breath, "I can't talk to the police, I don't want them involved . . . you see Jasmine came home Thursday, and Terra left with her."

 

Understanding began to dawn in Nancy's mind.  Jasmine was Blanche's daughter, Terra's mother, and she had problems.  That was why Blanche had custody of Terra in the first place.  But if Jasmine had taken Terra, that would explain why Blanche was reluctant to get the authorities involved.  Chances were good that Jasmine was involved in something illegal, and may have somehow gotten Terra mixed up in it, intentionally or not.

 

"How long ago did Jasmine and Terra leave?"

 

"They left Friday afternoon, right after I left for work," Blanche said, her face beginning to crumple again, "I got home 'bout midnight Friday and found this note," Blanche handed over an envelope with a note scratched on the back:

 

"Ma, Terra and me are going somewhere safe.  Don't worry."

 

It was signed "Jazz."

 

Nancy looked up from the note, "And you haven't heard anything from either of them since?" Blanche shook her head negative and Nancy sat back in her chair as the wheels in her head started turning.

 

"Blanche, I need to know everything you know about Jasmine – where she lives, where she hangs out, who she associates with – anything that might give me a lead on her, and Terra's whereabouts.  I assume you've been to her apartment . . ."

 

Blanche nodded miserably, "I went there Saturday morning, and again yesterday, hoping they'd show up there, but they haven't. In fact, there's a very unpleasant man there.  I just don't understand what's going on."

 

Nancy passed a pad of paper and a pen over to Blanche, "Start writing down anything you can think of about Jazz, what she likes to do, what kind of music she likes, what's her favorite color – everything, no matter how irrelevant it might seem.  We've got to get a lead and the sooner the better," hopefully it's not already too late, Nancy thought to herself.

 

 

About an hour later, Blanche had only filled a couple pages with information about Jasmine, even with prompting.  She was able to give Nancy a recent picture of Terra, along with an older picture of Jasmine, "Sorry, I don't have anything more recent," Blanche said regretfully.

 

Nancy smiled encouragingly, "It's a start Blanche.  Keep thinking about it and if anything else comes to mind write it down, and I'll get it from you next time we talk."

 

Nancy encouraged Blanche to head home and stick by the phone, "If you hear from either one of them, listen carefully, background noises, every word.  Keep a note pad and pen by the phone and take detailed notes.  Try to find out where they are, and if possible have them hold tight," Nancy passed Blanche a card with her office number and pager number, "Then call my pager, I'll get back to you as soon as I can get to phone."

 

Nancy looked at Blanche, her expression serious, "Blanche, I know it's hard, but please don't run out after them.  Let me handle that, if you page me I will get back to you right away. Understand?"

 

Blanche nodded, "Thank you, Nancy.  You have no idea how much I appreciate this.  I'll pay you just as soon as I can, just get Terra and Jasmine home OK."

 

Nancy smiled, "You make me a batch of your cabbage rolls, and we'll call it even," she put a comforting arm around Blanche's shoulders and steered her towards the door, "We'll find them, and before you know it they'll be home safe and sound," Nancy said with more confidence then she felt.  She knew the kind of people that Jasmine associated with.  Mentally Nancy crossed her fingers and said a tiny prayer, she hoped she wasn't telling Blanche a big fat lie.

 

 

Dead Ends

 

Nancy sat at the desk for the next half hour, finishing up her categorization of the information that Blanche had provided and laying out a plan of attack.  She left a note for Riley, including a copy of the sheets that Blanche had completed, and sketched out briefly what was going on.  She promised that she'd check in later that afternoon.

 

Then she strapped on her shoulder holster and opened the gun safe in her office, pulling out her Glock 32, the compact .357 model.  She had gotten the gun from her father as a graduation present of sorts, after she had finished her training at the FBI Academy.  She owned other weapons, but the Glock was her favorite, and her usual preference.  She pulled her jeans jacket on over the holster and buttoned the bottom couple of buttons, shrugging to get the holster into a comfortable resting position.  Then she pulled on her winter coat and headed out the door.

 

Nancy's first stop was Jasmine's apartment, which was in a seedy Washington suburb, with rundown duplexes and 1950's vintage apartment buildings.  She pulled into a parking spot in front of the dilapidated apartment building and checked her notes to make sure of the apartment number.  She stepped out of her old VW bug and locked it before heading into the building.

 

On the third floor she carefully surveyed the hall before stopping in front of apartment 305 and knocking.  She heard footsteps inside, then the sound of a dead bolt being slid back.  The door opened about four inches, catching on the chain, still left in place.

 

Nancy smile brightly, "Hi, is Jazz home?" she asked.

 

"I ain't seen Jazz in several days," the man at the door practically snarled, as he pushed his greasy dark hair out of his eyes, "and if you find her, remind the bitch she still owes me money!"

 

"And who are you?" Nancy asked innocently, "I can't very well remind her if I don't have a name."

 

"Name's Claus," he said, "she knows who I am.  And she better pay up if she wants her apartment back."

 

Nancy kept the smile plastered in place, pulling out the picture of Terra, "You haven't seen this girl around, have you?" she asked, thinking that Jasmine would be better off anywhere other than this rat trap, anyway.

 

"I told ya, I haven't seen Jazz or her brat in days – now get lost!" the door would have slammed, but Nancy's boot prevented that from happening.

 

Still smiling she said, "If you hear from Jasmine, would you give me at call," Nancy held out her card, "Her Mom's real worried about her."

 

The man took Nancy's card and looked at it, then looked up at her, a sneer crossing his face, "What's in it for me?"

 

Nancy shrugged, "If you call me with information that's helpful, I'll give you whatever Jazz owes you," she offered.  She held out a twenty dollar bill, "Here's an advance, just to show you I'm serious."

 

A lewd smile crossed the man's face, "I'd settle for a roll in the hay, sweet cheeks."

 

Nancy smiled sweetly, "Sorry, I'm married, and my husband would frown on that.  The offer of money stands, though." She waved the 20 just out of his reach.

 

Nancy's foot was still wedged in the door.  He shrugged, "You don't know what you're missin, baby," he said, running a hand down Nancy's thigh.  Nancy caught his hand and twisted, bending it backwards until the man grunted in pain.

 

"Don't ever touch me again," Nancy said with a tight smile, "Now are you going to take the money or not?"

 

"She owes me a hell of lot more money than that," he said irritably, pulling his hand inside the door, and rubbing along the knuckles, "How do I know you'll pay up?"

 

"You have my word – and my address," Nancy said, "Trust me, if you show up on my doorstep I'll pay you to get rid of you." Nancy held the 20 within reach.

 

He reached out and snatched the bill from Nancy's hand, slamming the door shut, "Sucker!" and she could hear him laughing as he shot the dead bolt back in place.

 

She then proceeded to knock on every other door in the apartment building, showing Jasmine's and Terra's pictures and asking if anyone had seen them.  To a person, everyone denied having seen Jazz for at least four days, and no one appeared to recognize Terra.

 

Nancy headed back out to the car, and put a check mark next to the apartment address.  She pulled a small bound notebook out, and made detailed notes about her conversation with Claus, while it was still fresh in her mind, and then headed down the street to her next destination, the Wild Boar. 

 

While it was unlikely that anyone at the Boar had seen Jasmine, since she hadn't been seen at her apartment, Nancy didn't want to take a chance on missing something.  "Follow every lead" was Riley's motto and she was a firm believer, because sometimes a break in a case came from the least likely source. She parked across the street from the bar and just watched for a few minutes before heading in.  The place seemed to be deserted, but then it was only mid-afternoon. 

 

At the entrance, she waited for a minute for her eyes to adjust to the dim interior.  The bar ran the length of the building, with a mirror behind it and shelf after shelf of hard liquor.  In the center was an extended platform with a huge stuffed boar – hence the name of the bar. 

 

The bar wasn't exactly hopping this time of day, with only a few patrons besides the bartender. The patrons were in various states of drunkenness, most looking as if they'd been there since early morning. The bartender was a big, bald man wearing almost as much jewelry as BA.  He had several tattoos and a large nose ring, similar to the one on the stuffed boar behind him.

 

Nancy approached the bar, and he moved down to serve her, "What'll ya have?"

 

Nancy pushed the two pictures across the bar, "Do you know either of these people?"

 

He glanced down at the pictures, then back up at Nancy, "You a cop?"

 

Nancy shook her head, "Just a concerned friend."

 

He indicated Jasmine's picture, "She's in here pretty regular, name's Jazz," He set down the glass he'd been drying and tossed the towel over his shoulder, "but then you know that, huh?"

 

"Don't know the kid," he looked at Nancy and leaned forward, "Is Jazz in trouble?"

 

Nancy smiled, he seemed like a pretty nice guy, considering the environment, "I hope not, but she and the kid disappeared a couple of days ago and her Mom's worried."

 

Nancy held out her card, "If you see or hear anything that might help, please give me a call, my name's Nancy."

 

He took the card and nodded, "Nice to meet you Nancy. I'm Justin.  If I hear anything, I'll let ya know."

 

Nancy approached the other occupants of the bar, and passed out several more cards before exiting with a final wave to Justin, who smiled and waved back.  As expected, the Wild Boar had been a bust.  But, it always helped to have the bartender in your corner, they heard things that other people didn't.

 

Nancy headed back out to the car, starting it up and letting it warm.  She picked up the list, put a check mark next to the bar, and again pulled out her notebook making detailed notes about what she'd learned, which unfortunately wasn't much.

 

Next on the list was a shelter located several blocks away, but still in the same basic neighborhood.  She parked about a block away and watched with interest the steady stream of people that moved in and out of the shelter.  Maybe she'd get lucky here. 

 

She locked the car up and walked to the front door.  She held the door open for a man who had been struggling to get his shopping cart full of possessions in through the door, with people passing and cussing at him.  He thanked Nancy profusely before moving in to find a parking space inside, for what Nancy suspected were the only worldly possessions the man had.

 

She moved up to the kitchen area, where several people, including a priest (identified by the collar) and several volunteers were bustling about filling plates and preparing more food.    The priest was in is late fifties, and appeared very energetic.  She approached him with a smile and he finished dumping canned tomato sauce into a roaster and came towards her with an outstretched hand.

 

"Hello," his smile was broad, and his blue eyes danced with an insuppressible happiness, "is there something that you can do for me today?"

 

Nancy smiled, he was both observant and straightforward, having picked her out as a potential volunteer, and not a customer, "I was hoping there was something you could do for me Father," Nancy said shaking his hand, "My name's Nancy Murdock, and I was wondering if you knew either of these people," Once again she held out the pictures of Jasmine and Terra.

 

The priest took the pictures and motioned Nancy to a nearby table, "Can I at least offer you a cup of coffee?" He asked, setting the pictures on the table, in the place opposite her.

 

The smell of the food reminded Nancy that she hadn't eaten all day, "Actually I am thirsty . . . a glass of water would be wonderful."

 

The priest looked at her with discerning eyes, "I'll be right back, with a glass of juice and some food."

 

Nancy didn't protest, and five minutes later she was sitting at the table with juice, soup and bread and butter.  The priest had introduced himself as Father Jebediah, and he was once again looking at the pictures that Nancy had brought in.

 

He put Jasmine's picture down, facing Nancy as she ate, and said, "Jasmine comes in here periodically.  Such a beautiful girl, but so far she has been unwilling to face her demons." He was shaking his head, "She lives not far from here, I imagine you've checked her residence?" Nancy nodded.

 

He looked at Terra's picture and smiled, "Though I've never met her, the resemblance is striking, this must be Jasmine's sister or daughter."

 

Nancy nodded, again, "Her daughter, her name is Terra.  Jazz and Terra disappeared a couple of days ago, and Jasmine's Mom is very worried about them."

 

Father Jebediah looked at Nancy and said regretfully, "I wish I could help you.  Let's see, the last time I saw Jasmine was just a few days ago . . ." he turned to one of the volunteers, and asked loudly, "Lauren, do you remember when Jasmine was in last, I think you were working with me that night."

 

Lauren smiled at the priest warmly, "Of course Father, that was last Wednesday night, you were running about like a maniac trying to find a replacement for Liz, 'cause she had the flu, and you needin' to get to bingo." 

 

Lauren stopped, and thought for a moment, "Jazz came in actin' kinda nervous," she leaned forward conspiratorially, "You know, like she needed a fix. She wanted to talk to you but you was awful busy.  I think she left without even eatin' her chili."

 

Father Jebediah was nodding his head earnestly, "Yes, I remember now," he said, looking ashamed, "She was acting terribly nervous, but I was honestly so spun up about needing a replacement and being late for bingo, that I wasn't terribly attentive. And then when I had a moment to talk, she was gone."

 

He turned serious eyes towards Nancy, "You don't think that that could have something to do with her disappearance, do you?  I'd never forgive myself." He looked stricken at the thought.

 

Nancy had finished her meal while they were talking, and put a comforting hand on his arm, "It's doubtful that it had anything to do with her disappearance, Father," she said, "But, do you remember anything that she told you that night, or did she say anything to any of the other volunteers that might help out?"

 

Father Jebediah looked at Nancy and straightened up, "Lauren is the only one here now that was there that night, but I'll check the roster, and contact the others and see if they recall anything, if that would help."

 

Nancy nodded, and handed him her card, "Please call me and let me know what you find out. I'd really like to talk with the other volunteers that were here last Wednesday night, if you can arrange it, or let me know when they're working next."

 

He took the card and nodded, the smile returning to his face, "I'll do what I can.  I'll even nose around a bit, and see if I can come up with any leads.  I always fancied myself as a bit of a sleuth."

 

Nancy thanked him and cleared her dishes.  She stopped and talked with Lauren briefly, but the woman couldn't remember anything else helpful.  Then she went around and showed the pictures to people scattered around the shelter eating, passing out several cards once again. 

 

Before leaving she stopped Father Jebadiah once again, "Father, did Jasmine have any friends that you recall, anyone who might be able to give me some help?"

 

"Jasmine was always kind of a loner, I don't ever recall her even speaking with anyone else here at the shelter besides the volunteers . . .," he appeared lost in thought as he considered the question, then he looked at Nancy, his eyes sad, "She really didn't belong here – she is such a lovely young woman.  But drugs do terrible things to the best of us.  If I had my way . . . but then I'm not a violent man," he smiled ruefully.

 

"Oh, by the way, here is a list of the volunteers who were working that night, and when they are scheduled in next.  If you can make it in to talk to them personally, please feel free.  But I will make a point to ask them myself, and I'll call if I learn anything useful."

 

Nancy thanked him once again, "Please do call me and let me know what you find out – even if it seems irrelevant."

 

 

A Lead

 

Nancy opened the car door and dropped in, starting the car and once again pulling her notes into her lap while the car warmed up.  She put a check next to the shelter, and made detailed notes in the book regarding the information she'd gleaned there.  It had been the most promising stop so far, and could lead to additional information.  She certainly hoped so, because the list of leads she'd gotten from the information Blanche had given her was short, and she was quickly reaching the end.  She glanced at the clock, it was now 5:30pm, and she still needed to stop at the grocery store and get dinner at Charlie's before heading back to Amy's place.

 

As she started to put the car in gear, she noted a skinny woman in a pink tube top, with a long pink fake fur coat, leopard skin stirrups, and spike heels in the alley just ahead of her.  The woman appeared to be motioning for Nancy to come, though it wasn't obvious, and Nancy wasn't sure she trusted her.  "No stone unturned," Nancy thought and turned the car off, getting out and locking it again.

 

She moved towards the woman who looked nervously up and down the street, before grabbing Nancy's arm and pulling her into the shadows of the alley.

 

She introduced herself as Clare, and told Nancy she usually worked the corner by the Wild Boar.  That triggered Nancy's memory, she had seen her standing on the corner when she'd gone into the bar earlier.  Clare had come in while Nancy was talking to Justin and listened in.  She had snuck out before Nancy had begun her questioning of the bar patrons, not wanting anyone to see them talking.

 

"Listen, Jazz is a good friend, the best," Clare said, "She's helped me out, and I wanna do the same.  I think she's in big trouble."

 

Nancy shoved her hands in her pocket, "What kind of trouble?"

 

"You ain't a cop, right?" Clare asked.

 

"No, I'm just a friend of her Mom's, trying to help out." Nancy assured her.

 

Clare looked around nervously again, and shivered visibly as the wind whipped around them.  At least it wasn't sleeting, at the moment.

 

After a couple minutes Nancy sighed, "Listen, I've gotta get going, is there something you wanted to tell me?"

 

Clare looked at Nancy, almost desperately, then started haltingly, gaining momentum as she talked, "To get her fixes Jazz has been doing some local drug couriering for Trigger McGill.  I heard through the grapevine that she "misplaced" a parcel, and ended up on the Trigger's bad side, if ya know what I mean. That's a bad thing, but you know, Jazz is a pretty girl, and could always talk her way outta things.  I don't know what went down, but I heard Mr. President got involved, and that can't be good for Jazz."

 

Nancy agreed, "What would Grant Kennedy have to do with one lost parcel – I'd think it would be below him to even get involved."

 

Clare shrugged, "Like I said, I don't know what went down, I just heard that he was involved somehow."

 

"So who told you?" Nancy asked.

 

Clare shook her head, "No way, lady, I ain't telling you who I talk to.  I'd never get the skinny on anything goin' down if they found out I was a nark."

 

Nancy sighed, "Fine, if you find out anything else, please give me a call." Nancy handed her a card.

 

Nancy got a description of Trigger McGill from Clare, and then asked one more time for her source of information.  Clare steadfastly refused,

 

"Please make sure you call me if you hear from Jazz or hear anything else that might be helpful," Nancy said, "Her daughter is only 12, and way too young to be mixed up in this kind of shit."

 

Clare nodded, "I can't believe that she even brought Terra out here, she loved the kid, even if she couldn't take care of her. She wouldnta done anything to hurt her, not on purpose, I'm sure of it."

 

Nancy looked at Clare, "That may be true, but intentional or not, I'm afraid they could both be in grave danger."

 

Clare stomped her feet, "If I didn't think the same, I wouldn't be standing here talking to ya. It's not good for my health, if ya know what I mean.  Even if you are only a private dick – to the company, the laws the law, however you cut it."

 

 

Nancy sat down in the car and considered what she had just learned as the car heated up once again.  Grant Kennedy, otherwise know as Mr. Presidnet, was a well-known crime boss in the area who had always managed to elude prosecution, even though everyone knew that he was up to his eyeballs in just about every shady venture going down in the greater DC area.  If he was involved in Jasmine and Terra's disappearance, this could be very bad.

 

She made quick stop at Charlie's to drop off the dinner order then headed down the street to the grocery store.  She made a marathon run through, picking up everything that Maggie had on the list, and then headed back to Charlie's.

 

The dinners weren't ready yet, so Nancy headed down the back hall to Charlie's office and knocked.

 

"Who's there-ere?" Charlie's voice was coaxing and almost playful, and Nancy knew he was expecting someone else.

 

"Not who you think?" she asked.

 

Charlie opened the door and reddened, "What the hell are you doing here?"

 

"Nice to see you too, Charlie," Nancy said with a smile.

 

"Yea, great, now get lost, I'm expecting a business associate."

 

"A business associate," Nancy said, nodding knowingly, "You know Charlie, you really are an ass – and you better watch out.  One of these days your 'business associates' are going to start suing you for sexual harassment."

 

Charlie turned from the door miserably and Nancy walked in behind him and closed it, "I would really appreciate the use of your phone, if it's not too much trouble."

 

Charlie shrugged, and indicated the phone, "Be my guest, just promise me you won't start counseling my girls on the finer points of the employment laws."

 

Nancy smiled as Charlie walked out of the office and then picked up the phone.  First she called Riley, who was still at the office.  She filled him in on where she was with the case.

 

"Nancy, it can't really be considered a 'case' since we are not getting paid for it," Riley said irritably.

 

"Bite me, Riley." Nancy said and hung up.

 

Her next call was to Joe, her best friend Trixie's husband, who was a detective with the local police force.  She knew Joe would have the connections to find out where to find Trigger McGill.

 

Joe worked in homicide, but they often ended up on cases with vice, and Trigger McGill was no stranger to the local police.  Joe told Nancy he would find out what she wanted to know, but it would take him a little time.  Nancy told him she'd stop by in a couple hours

 

By the time she finished her two phone calls, the dinner order was ready.  She paid the tab, and headed to Amy's.

 

 

The Inquisition

 

Maggie came out to the car and helped Nancy haul the groceries and dinner into the house.  Nancy and Maggie worked in comfortable silence, getting Nancy's and Amy's dinners arranged on trays, so Nancy could sit with Amy while they ate.  Maggie and Mama B would eat together in the dining room.

 

Nancy settled at a TV tray in Amy's bedroom and looked at her friend with concern, "You look pale – have you been overdoing it again?" Nancy sounded severe even to her own ears.

 

"Maggie is like a mother hen, so no, I haven't been overdoing it," Amy said irritably, "I'm just bored to death."

 

Nancy smiled in relief, some color seemed to return to Amy's cheeks with the exchange, "Good to know you still have some spunk in you." She teased.

 

Amy looked at Nancy and stuck out her tongue, then the two dug into their dinners. "So what have you been up to today," Amy asked, "It had to be more interesting than my day."

 

Nancy smiled, "I spent the morning doing paperwork – doesn't that sound exciting?"

 

"And the afternoon?" Amy asked hopefully.

 

"Was actually pretty interesting, if a bit worrisome," Nancy said smiling.  She related what she had done that afternoon, trying to alleviate Amy's boredom.  Besides, she'd always found it helpful to talk to someone about a case, even if only as a sounding board, and Riley was apparently unwilling since they weren't getting paid.

 

Amy knew Blanche, and was aware of the family history.  She listened with interest, "Nancy, I have heard a lot about this Mr. President.  He's not someone to be messing with.  Promise me you'll be careful."

 

"I'm always careful," Nancy said.

 

 

An hour later, Nancy piled all the dirty dishes on one tray and headed downstairs to help clean up.  Mama B and Maggie were already in the kitchen and loading the dishwasher.  Maggie took the tray from Nancy, and Mama motioned for her to sit at the kitchen table with her.

 

Nancy sat down obediently and waited.  It was obvious that the two older women wanted to talk to her about something, and it made her unaccountably nervous.  She was certain that if something was wrong with Murdock or one of the Team, they would have told her right away, at least she hoped.

 

Mama broke the silence, "Nancy, Maggie and I've been worried sick about you.  You look peaked, girl.  Now what seems to be the problem?"

 

This hadn't been what Nancy had expected, "There's no problem," Nancy said, shaking her head, "I'm fine.  I never sleep real good when HM is gone, that's all."

 

Maggie turned and looked at Nancy critically, "I don't believe that's all," she said, "HM has been gone before.  I've never seen you looking so worn out.  Are you sure there's nothing else bothering you?"

 

Nancy sighed, "It's just that our anniversary is coming up, and it doesn't look like he'll be home to celebrate," she admitted.  It sounded so lame, especially with Amy upstairs in her condition, after all it was Amy and Face's anniversary, too.

 

She shrugged, "I've just been feeling kind of sorry for myself, which makes me feel guilty when I think about what Amy's going through right now," Nancy looked from Maggie to Mama B and finally smiled, "Listen, I'm just suffering from acute PMS, please don't worry about me.  I'll be fine!" Her tone was insistent.

 

Maggie turned back and finished putting the dishes in the dishwasher.  Mama B covered Nancy's hand with her own, "You know, Nancy, it's OK to feel sorry for yourself every once in a while, as long as you don't let it affect your health.  It's awful hard on you girls when the Team is gone," she added reflectively, "That uncle of yours needs a good talkin' to, and I think I'm just the person to do it."

 

Maggie smiled as she came over and sat down on Nancy's other side, "Hannibal plans to talk to the General about a 'retirement plan' as he calls it when they get back from this mission. I think it would probably be best if you let him handle Stockwell, Mama."

 

 

Meanwhile, Away from the Ranch . . .

 

Hannibal walked up to the cock pit, ostensibly to check ETA.  The trip had been anything but smooth, and Hannibal wasn't thinking just of the turbulent ride they were getting in the cargo plane right this moment. The cockpit had been unusually silent and that meant that Murdock was in a contemplative mood.  Normally, he wouldn't have thought much of it, but right now Hannibal took it as a bad sign given the current mood of his second in command, and Murdock's best friend.

 

Hannibal dropped into the copilot's seat, "What's our ETA, Captain?" he asked formally.

 

"Be at least another hour in the air, Colonel.  This head wind is a killer." Murdock looked down to check wind speed and direction, making a course correction, and adjusting the flaps, "Sorry for the rough ride," he added apologetically.

 

Hannibal smiled, "I'd take a rough ride with you over a smooth ride with most other pilots, Murdock." Hannibal looked at his pilot appraisingly, "You've been a lot quieter then usual – why aren't we being regaled with the Pirates of Pinzance or some Led Zeppelin?"

 

"Sorry, Hannibal," Murdock apologized again, "Guess I'm not in the mood.  Thinking about home . . ." he looked sideways at his commanding officer to check his reaction.

 

Hannibal nodded, looking out the window reflectively, "I know, we all are, especially Face.  We'd all like to be there for Amy. Sometimes things just don't work out that way."

 

"When will they work out, Hannibal?" Murdock was uncharacteristically serious, and Hannibal turned to look the pilot in the face, "I want to know when we're going to be able to set our own priorities and not have them shoved down our throats?"

 

"I'm worried, Hannibal," Murdock confided, "Nancy finally agreed to give the family thing a try and the next thing I know we're off on a two-month mission.  I'm going to head home to a wife that's not going to let me touch her for fear of getting pregnant and being left to deal with it on her own. Family has to become the priority and I'm just not sure the General is ever going to understand that."

 

Hannibal nodded in agreement, "I know Murdock, and you're not alone.  You understand probably better than any of us what Face is going though right now.  BA's worried about his Mama, and honestly, I'm just getting too damned old for it."

 

"Not to mention that Maggie wouldn't mind having you home more," Murdock added, "You're always making like you're not affected by this life style – I know that's not true."

 

Hannibal nodded and silently considered their discussion. Murdock always had been the group's barometer, sensitive to the people around him.  If Hannibal wanted to know what anyone was feeling, and couldn't get the person to talk, Murdock could usually point him in the right direction.  A talent he'd taken advantage of over the years, in more ways than one.

 

In this instance, though, Hannibal didn't need Murdock's assessment to know where his Team stood on this issue.  The mission had been particularly difficult and long, and they weren't home free yet. 

 

They were now headed to a remote landing strip in Cambodia, in an effort to shut down one more outpost of an illegal smuggling ring that the General had been after for quite some time.  The main outlet was in Vietnam, the Team's old stomping ground, and was controlled by their old nemesis, General Chang.  That would be their last port of call, and Hannibal knew it had all of them stressed to be heading back in country.

 

Thousands of hours of intelligence gathering, not to mention planning time, had gone in to this mission.  The Team was only one cog in the wheel, though in the General Stockwell's opinion a very important cog, placing a great deal of psychological pressure in just the right places.

 

The plan was to squeeze General Chang, steadily cutting off his trading outlets until he was vulnerable in his stronghold.  A grand idea, but one that required the coordination of several teams, all working under tight time schedules.  The A-Team had been given the higher profile outlets, just to make sure that General Chang knew they were coming.

 

They had known, when they'd taken on the mission that they'd be gone for an extended period of time for this one.  Face had been particularly hard to sell on the mission, not that BA or Murdock had been a piece of cake.  None of them wanted to be gone from home for that long.

 

In the end Hannibal and General Stockwell had convinced them that their inclusion in the mission, as the lead Team that would take down Chang's extensive arms- and drug-dealing network, was a carriage of ultimate justice.  Chang was the one who had set them up, through Morrison, to take the fall for the Bank of Hanoi job.  He'd then knocked off his then business partner, Morrison, and ultimately, the Team had taken the fall for that as well.  Taking Chang down on his own turf was going to be a bittersweet victory after all these years, and Hannibal had been eager to get his Team on board for the job.

 

Up until last week, they'd been cut off from their home life entirely, moving rapidly from outpost to outpost, taking each out methodically, and having little time to think beyond the mission.  But Hannibal knew as they got closer to their ultimate goal, that the tension was mounting and had hoped by breaking protocol for a quick call home he could ease things up some.  That had been his first miscalculation.  When they had called Amy, Maggie had answered, their first clue that something wasn't quite right.  Once Face had gotten the whole story, he had been beside himself, ready to jump ship and catch the next commercial flight home.

 

That crisis had passed, uneasily, but still hovered in the air.  Hannibal's promise that they'd be home in two weeks, had helped some, as had Maggie's assurance that there was nothing that Face could do for Amy right this moment that Maggie couldn't handle.  Amy had even put on a brave voice for Face, and told him not to worry, that everything would be fine. Unfortunately, Face wasn't that easily convinced, he wanted to see Amy for himself and make sure that everything was really OK.  Hannibal couldn't argue, he agreed that Face belonged at home right now.  The problem was that the Team needed him here and now, more than ever.  The integrity of the whole mission was at stake.

 

"Colonel?" Murdock's voice shook Hannibal out of his reverie, "Listen, I'm OK – you really need to be focusing on Face.  He's the one with real issues right now. Tell you what, I'm in a singing mood again, got any requests?"

 

Hannibal stood, grinning around the stub of a cigar, "How about, 'Take me home, country roads?'" he quipped and headed back to the belly of the cargo plane.  'This is the last mission this Team is going on, whether Stockwell likes it or not,' he thought resolutely, as the words of the John Denver tune floated back from the cock pit.

 

 

Help from Friends

 

Nancy managed to assuage Maggie's and Mama's concerns before heading out to Joe's and Trixie's house. It was almost 8:00 and Nancy hoped she didn't interrupt bedtime preparations in the Martin household.

 

When she arrived, Joe opened the door and led her into the living room.  Trixie came out of the bathroom with her sleeves pushed up to her elbows and soap suds still lingering on her arms where she'd missed wiping them off with the towel.

 

"So, the only time I get to see you anymore is when you need something from my husband, huh?" Trixie asked scathingly.

 

Nancy shrugged the cut off with a smile, "It's been kind of hectic lately.  I told you about Amy going to the hospital a couple weeks ago, well she's on bed rest now," Nancy gave her best friend a quick run down on the events of the past couple of weeks.

 

"Anyways, the guys aren't expected back for a couple more weeks, which means I'll be running courier service for the Peck household for a while yet."

 

Trixie shook her head, "I don't know how you do it, it would drive me nuts if Joe was gone for weeks at a time." She snagged a naked, soapy three-year-old as she ran by giggling, "Well I'll let you and Joe get down to business while I try to quiet the natives.  Stop by later when you have more time to talk." With that Trixie took her giggling package and headed back to the bathroom.

 

Joe smiled fondly as his wife went back down the hall, "You know she just misses you when you aren't around, Nan." He said, as if an explanation was needed.

 

"No apology necessary, I haven't been a very good friend lately."

 

Joe motioned Nancy into the dining room, where he had a notepad with some chicken scratching on it, "You remember Brett Katt, I think I set you up on date with him a few years ago . . ." Joe grimaced as he recalled that fact.

 

Nancy laughed, "I remember Brett, he was a nice guy.  Why do you ask?"

 

"Well, I know he's had several run-ins with this Trigger McGill character.  If you want to talk to him in more detail about the guy's record, just give him a call.  I told him you were interested, though I don't know why . . ." Joe looked at her askently.

 

"Sorry, Joe, I can't talk about it with you, or Brett.  Client privilege.  What do you have for me?"

 

Joe handed her a piece of paper, "Here's his address and phone number, along with a couple common hangouts," Joe looked at her and his voice took on a severe tone, "Listen Nan, this guy is serious trouble.  I don't know what your interest is in him, but whatever you do, promise me you'll be careful."

 

For the second time in as many hours, Nancy asserted, "I'm always careful."

 

 

Invite Yourself In

 

Nancy decided to at least drive by Trigger McGill's place.  She pulled up outside the small, neglected row house and sat for awhile, just watching.  The house showed no sign of life, and she seriously doubted anyone was home. 

 

'Well, only one way to find out,' she thought, so she went up and knocked on the door.  Sure enough no one answered, and looking through the front window, she could see that the interior was pitch black, even though the shades were drawn.  She headed back to the car and drove a couple blocks away, pulling down a small deserted side street.  She grabbed her black baseball cap out of the back seat and shoved all her hair up inside it and also traded her worn jean jacket for the black zip up sweat shirt she kept in the back of her car for just such occasions, along with a couple other essentials for breaking and entering.  Then she headed back to the house along the back street, keeping to the shadows. An empty house just invites a snoop.

 

Nancy checked her watch and gave herself 20 minutes, pulling on a pair of latex gloves. The lock was easy to pick and once inside, Nancy pulled out her pen light and began a methodical search of the house to see if there was anything of interest.  She wasn't terribly hopeful of finding anything useful, but again, no stone unturned.

 

She came up empty-handed until she came to a locked inner room.  She managed to get it open and found a small room (probably a bedroom in the home's former life) that had a desk, a chair, a couple filing cabinets and a large antique safe in one corner.

 

Nancy eyed the safe speculatively. She only has 5 minutes left on her self-imposed time limit, and it had been awhile since she'd cracked a safe, not to mention that she never was very good at it – Riley said she just didn't have the ear for it.  But it was a clunky old one, probably with big, loud tumblers.  Might be worth a try, but the files were simple locks and wouldn't require any finesse to open. She decided to make a quick run through the files then head out. 

 

Three minutes later, after a quick skim of the meager contents of the files, Nancy was eyeing the safe again.  If she didn't try, then the whole breaking and entering thing would have been for nothing.  'What the hell,' she set to work on the safe and had it open in fairly short order.  Inside she found a considerable stash of money, a few kilos of cocaine and a ledger showing Trigger's business network transactions, meticulously laid out, with every ounce of cocaine accounted for, with a notation on payments and markups, along with payouts to dealers and couriers. The ledger was number 10, and had a start date in November of the previous year.  Nancy found Jasmine's name listed periodically throughout the ledger, her payment for services almost always made in drugs.  She closed the ledger and put everything back as she found it, quickly and quietly exiting the house and heading back to her car.

 

 Back at the car Nancy sat and considered what she'd learned.  Really nothing more than she already knew, it just confirmed that Clare was on the up and up.  It did appear that Jasmine had been working for Trigger for some time, at least since November, and Nancy suspected even earlier than that.  So Trigger was pissed because she'd lost a parcel, what did that have to do with Terra?  Nancy decided to sit and watch the house for awhile, and see if Trigger returned home, maybe with company. She pulled back down the street, parking in a dark spot between two street lamps, and hunkered down to wait.

 

 

Trigger McGill

 

About an hour later an old Cadillac pulled into Trigger's drive, and a man fitting his description got out, followed by two young women.  All three appear to be drunk, and stumbled, giggling and falling all over one another up to the front door and inside.

 

Nancy decided to take a chance and get in closer to see if she could hear anything of interest.  She silently crossed the street, and moved up to the side of the house, hiding in the shadows of the bushes, under the front window.

 

Nancy could hear Trigger, whose voice was loud and boastful, "You girls'll have to prove to me that you're worthy for one of mah movies. First I want to inspect your equipment." More giggling from the women, and it didn't take much imagination for Nancy to visualize the strip show going on, as Trigger provided a running commentary.

 

After a thorough inspection Trigger declared, "Well you ladies are obviously equipped for the movie business, but do you have the on-screen talent that we're looking for . . ." Again, giggling and grunting, and Nancy moved away from the house, certain she wasn't going to learn any more useful that night.

Nancy headed back to the car.  Was Trigger really involved in the porn movie market or was it just a pick up line?  As thorough as his records were regarding his drug business she found it difficult to believe he wouldn't have similar records for a porn business, unless it wasn't his business?  Could Kennedy be involved in a porn business that Trigger helped find 'talent' for?  And again, did any of it have anything at all to do with the disappearance of Jasmine and her daughter?

 

Her energy was definitely starting to flag, and her thoughts were beginning to run in circles.  She finished making notes about what she had seen and heard during the course of the evening, and then decided it was time to head home and get some sleep.

 

 

At home, Nancy walked in without bothering to turn on the overhead lights, locking the door behind her as was her habit.  She dropped her coats on the peg board by the back door, and shrugged out of her shoulder holster.  She grabbed a key off the key rack and locked her gun, holster in all in the gun safe sitting in the mud room off the kitchen.  Then she headed straight to bed.

 

She stripped down to her underwear in the bedroom, then went and grabbed one of Murdock's crazy t-shirts out of the drawer, pulling it on over her head. This was when she missed him the worst.  She lay down in bed and reached a hand over, resting it on his pillow.  If she closed her eyes she could almost see him, his laughing eyes teasing her.  She sighed as she opened her eyes and looked at the empty pillow where her hand lay – it was going to be another long night.

 

 

Cambodia

 

This was the stop on their whirlwind tour that had Hannibal nervous.  The intelligence was sketchy at best, and there was a lot of thick jungle between the landing strip and their target.  That could be good and bad, the bad was that the target location was only loosely defined.

 

Hannibal had Murdock do a high fly over, to see if they could get a pinpoint on the smuggler camp, "The old cargo plane doesn't exactly have the instrumentation of a recon plane, Colonel," Murdock said doubtfully, as he gained some altitude for the requested fly over.

 

Hannibal grinned at Murdock, "Yea, but it also doesn't have your eyes, Captain.  Go just high enough to be casual, but low enough so you can get a good overview – I want to know where that camp is."

 

"Not asking much . . ." Murdock mumbled under his breath, holding the plane at altitude and banking so he could get a good view of the ground.

 

"What was that, Captain?"

 

"No problemo, herr Colonel!" Murdock quipped, and turned to scanning the ground.

 

About 10 minutes later, Murdock called back, "Got it, Colonel, it's about 5 clicks north-northeast of the landing field. Want me to take her down?"

 

"The sooner the better, we were high, but that doesn't mean the camp isn't already on the alert.  The faster we move, the better."

 

 

At the landing strip, they unloaded their gear, and packed up in preparation for the jungle treck.

 

"BA, Face, let's get moving," Hannibal said brusquely, "Murdock, are you all set?"

 

Murdock leaned against the plane, with an automatic rifle over his shoulder, "Yea, I've got enough ammo to hold off a small army, if I need to.  You got the flare gun?"

 

"Yes, but we'll only flare if things get desperate, which shouldn't happen." Hannibal said confidently, "If all goes as planned, we'll be back by night fall."

 

"We all know Hannibal's plans always go perfectly," Face said, grimacing.

 

"Let's move out!" Hannibal said, "You know what to do, Captain."

 

 

They made good time through the jungle. Once at the smugglers camp, Hannibal, BA and Face did a quick recon.  Only a couple guards, though heavily armed. The rest of the group was holed up in what looked like a makeshift lodge.

 

"Looks like they left the front door wide open," Hannibal said, his eyes sparkling, "Piece of cake."

 

BA and Face just groaned.  They took the guards soundlessly and tied them up, then moved in to get a closer look in the lodge. They had just gotten across the clearing when the front door opened, and a man stepped out, lighting a cigar and stretching.  The Team flattened against the wall and stood motionless, hoping the gathering dusk would hide them.

 

The man didn't seem to notice much of anything, until he looked out where the guards should have been standing.  He snatched his cigar out of his mouth, but before he could sound the alarm, BA reached up and with a hand over his mouth and pulled him down off the step.

 

Hannibal pushed the door shut the rest of the way with the butt of his gun, and motioned for Face, who was on the other side of the steps to join them, "Did you get a count?"

 

"There are eight more inside," Face said, "And there isn't one who doesn't have a weapon.  What's the plan, Colonel?"

 

"Like I said, the front door is wide open," Hannibal motioned them forward and on his cue all three moved through the front door.  Hannibal shot his gun at the ceiling, "Alright, I want to see 16 hands in the air gentlemen."

 

Blank faces stared back at him, so he repeated his request in the native language.  Face and BA moved around the room, relieving the men of their weapons, with only a couple of minor skirmishes. 

 

As BA and Face began to tie the men up, a shadowy figure came in the door behind Hannibal and put a gun to his temple, "I think you better tell your friends there to let my friends loose."

 

BA and Face both straightened at the sound of the voice.  Hannibal's eyes flicked to Face, who covertly flashed three fingers to indicate the number of men that had now entered the lodge.

 

Hannibal flashed a winning smile and began raising his arms, with his weapon held in one hand, "Now can't we all be friends . . ." In one swift motion Hannibal swung his weapon up so he held it in both hands and brought in back into his assailant's gut with considerable force, doubling him over.  BA and Face were ready, and while Hannibal was bent over they brought their weapons up and laid heavy fire over the other two mens' heads, both of whom immediately hit the floor.

 

Hannibal came up with his weapon, "Nice move, huh guys?"

 

Hannibal toed the ring leader, "Are there any more scumbags under the rock you came from?"

 

"You're dead men – you have no idea who you're dealing with."

 

"Oh, we know exactly who we're dealing with – it's you guys who are in trouble," Hannibal's eyes gleamed.

 

They gathered the men in a central location, and BA kept watch while Hannibal and Face recon'd the camp and found where the goods and money were stashed.  They had built several small bunkers that the lodge sat directly over.

 

"We'll torch the whole thing," Hannibal said, "BA, move our guests out here."

 

While BA hustled the smugglers outside, Hannibal and Face set explosive at strategic places around the lodge.  Hannibal also drove the two transport vehicles, once of which was loaded with a large supply of arms, next to the lodge, and they wired those in too.  They moved well away from the lodge and blew the whole thing.

 

They got their captives into a couple of circles around two big trees and trussed them in place, checking the bonds to be sure they were secure, "Don't worry, the authorities should be here in a day or two to pick you up." Hannibal said as they moved off into the jungle towards the airfield.

 

 

When Murdock heard the blast, he knew the Team had reached their target. He was just finishing up setting explosives along the air strip.  Enough damage would be done to make the strip unusable once they blew it.  He went back to the plane to await the rest of the Team.

 

Hannibal, Face and BA made good time back to the strip and were greeted by a grinning Murdock, "Nice fire works, guys – I'm disappointed you had the party without me!"

 

Hannibal looked around the field, "Are we all set here, Murdock?"

 

"Ready to blow, Colonel."

 

"Well, then, let's go."

 

As they lifted off the short strip, Face hit the radio transmitter, and several loud explosions sounded.  Murdock banked and flew over to check his handiwork, then set course for their next pit stop, in Laos, where they'd get some rest for a few days before heading to Vietnam.

 

Hannibal leaned back in the copilot's seat and closed his eyes, "How long to Pakse?"

 

"Not long, Colonel, we've got a good tail wind, should be there in well under an hour." Murdock was glad, he wasn't sure fuel reserves would have held up to another head wind.

 

"Wake me up when we get there." Hannibal said.  This last stop had gone much better than he could have hoped.  He had planned on two days in Cambodia.  He decided he would call the General, it might be worthwhile to consider moving up the time table, if the guys were up to it.  It could help provide an additional element of surprise.  The selling point to the Team would be that they could be home almost a week earlier. That would make everyone happy.

 

 

Wake Up Call

 

Nancy woke late the next morning to the phone ringing.  She looked at the clock and practically sprang out of bed, 10 am!  She never slept that late.  She reached over and picked up the phone, "Hello?"

 

"Nancy, thank goodness you're alright," Maggie's voice sounded concerned.

 

"Of course I'm alright, why wouldn't I be?" Nancy asked distractedly, looking again at the clock and going over her plan for the day in her head.

 

"Amy told us about the case you're working on, it sounds dangerous Nancy," Maggie's tone was admonishing, which just served to irritate Nancy, "I've even heard of Grant Kennedy, the man is trouble with a capital 'T.'"

 

"Thank you for your astute assessment, Professor Hill," Nancy said irritably, then immediately felt sorry, Maggie was just expressing concern about her safety, no reason to take her bad mood out on her.

 

"Listen Maggie, I promise, I'll be careful, and I'm keeping Riley appraised of what I'm doing.  Honestly, it's no different than any other case."  Nancy tone was now conciliatory and she hoped she hadn't hurt Maggie's feelings.

 

Maggie sighed, "Have I told you lately how much I dislike your profession, Nancy?"

 

Nancy smiled, Maggie never changed, "Yes, I believe you mentioned it a few short days ago," Nancy was thinking of a time about three weeks earlier when a not very flattering picture of her had ended up on the front page of  the Langley Gazette.

 

Truth be told, she'd just gotten caught in the middle of a brawl between her operative and a suspect.  Besides, the guy had ended up being guilty, and had looked a lot worse than her in the end.  Unfortunately, she had gotten a black eye out of the deal, which had only finally totally disappeared a few days ago.  Maggie hadn't let a day of that black eye go by without 'mentioning' how much she disliked Nancy's chosen profession.

 

"I just think that you need to be reminded periodically that your presence in the office is just as important, perhaps more important, then in the field."

 

"But, Maggie," Nancy said innocently, "There's no jazz in the office!"

 

"Hannibal and I are going to have a talk when he gets home!" Maggie said severely.

 

Nancy laughed, "Never fear, Mags, I'm always careful." Boy was that becoming a litany or what, Nancy thought.

 

"I've got a bunch of stuff on my plate today, is there anything you girls desperately need while I'm out?" Nancy asked, changing the subject abruptly.

 

"No, you stocked us up pretty well yesterday, we should be good," Maggie said, "But we'll be looking forward to seeing you for supper this evening.  I won't take no for an answer, Mama says we've got to make sure you eat."

 

"No promises, Maggie, I'm not sure when I'll get home," Nancy said, "I'll call if it's too late to come over."

 

 

Another Round

 

Nancy showered and dressed in record time, and then made two phone calls.  First she called Riley, to check on the office schedule for the day, and tell him that if she came in it would only be briefly, and it would be later in the day.

 

Then she called to check on Blanche, and see if she had heard or remembered anything.  No such luck.  Nancy assured her, once again with more confidence than she felt, that she was making steady progress and they would find them soon.

 

She grabbed a quick breakfast at the golden arches on her way over to Jasmine's apartment. She decided to try pressing Claus for more information.  Something had to be up there, how had he known that Terra was Jasmine's kid?  He knew more than he was letting on, and Nancy intended to find out what.

 

She parked in front of the apartment and headed up the stairs, walking straight to 305 and pounding on the door.  It was the same routine as the previous day, and soon Claus was looking out at her around the chain, with Nancy's boot wedged in the gap to ensure unimpeded conversation.

 

"Well if it isn't sweet cheeks, decided to take me up on my offer, huh?" He leered at her.

 

Nancy tried a conciliatory tactic, "Listen, I haven't had any luck finding Jazz, you wouldn't happen to have names of any friends that I could check with or any other information that would help?" she gave him her most dazzling smile.

 

"You wouldn't happen to have another 20 to grease the wheels in my head, would you?" His smile was mocking.

 

Nancy pulled a 20 out, and held it out of reach. His hand shot out to grab it, but Nancy shook her head, "Uh-uh, information first, then you can have the money."

 

"Well, if you're gonna be that way, the price just went up to 50 bucks."

 

Nancy pulled out another 20, "That's all the grease I've got." She said.

 

He considered for a moment, then relented, "Alright, you wanna know what I heard.  I heard Jazz owed a lot of people a lot of money – and if what she owes me is any indication I'm bettin' she dug herself a deep hole."

 

"Like what people did she owe money?"

 

"Like drug dealers, ring leaders, crime bosses, like them kind of people – you know, the dangerous kind."

 

"People like Trigger McGill and Grant Kennedy?" Nancy coaxed.

 

"Man, you gotta death wish snooping 'round after those guys.  I ain't givin' any names, but I bet Jazz owed all kinds of people money."

 

"What was the money for?"

 

"How the hell should I know, she didn't tell me," He held out his hand, "Now give me my grease, that's all you're gettin'."

 

Nancy handed him the money and allowed the door to close.  Not terribly helpful, though it could be another piece of the puzzle.  If Jazz owed a lot of people a lot of money, she might have gotten desperate.  Desperate enough for what, though.  Desperate enough to star in a nudey film?  And it still got back to, what did it have to do with Terra? Hopefully not what Nancy was thinking.

 

Her next stop was the Wild Boar.  She saw Clare outside and decided to touch base with her, to see if she had learned anything new since they had last talked.  Clare looked scared when she saw Nancy, and waved her away, "Lady, get lost, I ain't interested in no queer whoring," Out of the side of her mouth she whispered, "Take off, I don't want nobody knowin' I'm talking to you." 

 

Nancy relented, and veered back to head into the Wild Boar.

 

 

Presidential Meeting

 

Nancy wandered in and sat on a stool at the far end of the bar.  It was late morning, and there were only a few people scattered around the tables.  Justin came over with a smile, "Gonna become a regular?" he asked, his tone friendly.

 

"Just until I find Jazz and Terra," Nancy said, "I don't usually spend a lot of time hanging out in bars."

 

Justin leaned on the bar across from her, "Too bad, you sure do brighten up the scenery around here.  Can I get you something to drink?"

 

"Sure, I'll take a coke." Nancy said.

 

"Anything in it?" He coaxed.

 

"Oh alright, I'll be daring and take a lemon wedge in it," Nancy grinned.

 

"Ladies choice – you got it."  He returned a moment later with her coke and resumed leaning on the bar.

 

"So, have you heard anything that might give me a line on Jazz or her daughter?" Nancy asked hopefully.

 

"Well, I asked around, quiet like, last night . . ." Justin's voice trailed off and he straightened as the door to the bar opened.

 

Grant Kennedy was not physically remarkable, but his presence was palpable.  He walked up to the bar, two stools down from Nancy, "Justin, get me a vodka tonic," he turned and looked at Nancy, indicating her glass, "And get the lady another of whatever she's drinking," he added off-handedly.

 

Nancy smiled, "No thank you, I believe I've had enough." She said pointedly.

 

Kennedy turned and leaned on the bar, facing Nancy, a smug smile firmly in place, "Nancy Murdock, it is such a pleasure to meet you."

 

Nancy smiled, "If you think I'm impressed that you know my name, think again.  I've left cards everywhere I've gone in the last 24 hours – here you want one of your own," she offered a card, which he took.

 

"Yes, you have been making a bit of a nuisance of yourself.  Who is it you're looking for?" He feigned ignorance, though Nancy had no doubt that he knew perfectly well who she was looking for.

 

"She's been askin' after Jazz, Mr. President," Justin said deferentially.  Nancy sighed mentally, he'd obviously be no help where Kennedy was concerned.  The bar was beginning to feel decidedly closed in.

 

"Jazz's Mom is worried about her," Nancy said, deliberately neglecting to mention Terra.

 

"She's worried about Jazz, well isn't that nice, a Mother worried about her long lost daughter.  Blanche hasn't given a damn about her daughter in the last 4 years, why should she start now." He was baiting her, but Nancy didn't rise.

 

"You know, Ms. Murdock, it would be a shame if something were to happen to a pretty young woman such as yourself.  This is a very dangerous neighborhood." Kennedy drained his drink and stepped away from the bar.

 

"Is that a threat, Mr. Kennedy?" Nancy asked, raising an eyebrow.

 

"Why of course not, simply a concerned citizen providing a general warning about a dangerous neighborhood to an apparently naοve young woman." He smiled like a barracuda.

 

"Oh, I just wanted to be clear on that," Nancy smiled innocently, "Just for the record, I'm not nearly as naοve as I appear.  It never pays to underestimate your opponent."

 

His smile disappeared, and when Kennedy spoke his voice was low and dangerous, "You're playing in the big boy's playground now little girl, make sure you aren't in over your head." He turned and stalked out of the bar.

 

Nancy let out her breath, which she had just realized she was holding.  Well, Kennedy was obviously involved.  That made things very interesting, and very tricky.

 

She turned back to Justin, "So, you were saying that you talked to a few people last night, what did you find out."

 

Justin looked at her and shook his head, "No way, sweety.  If Mr. President doesn't want you finding Jazz, I ain't helping.  That would be just asking for trouble."

 

Nancy stood and threw a couple of dollars on the bar, "Guess you left your backbone in your other t-shirt. Thanks for the coke, anyway."

 

Justin just glared at Nancy's retreating back.

 

 

Help from Friends

 

Nancy decided she needed the comfort of a familiar face, and a nice secure location, so she went to see Joe at the station. At the front desk the officer told her he was out - apparently gone home for lunch.  So she headed over to the Martin house.

 

Trixie and Joe were eating when Nancy arrived and invited her in to join them.  They visited for awhile about nothing in particular.  Then, as Trixie began to clean up the lunch dishes, Nancy gave Joe a rundown on what she'd managed to find out about Trigger and asked if he was aware of any porn being made in the area, or who she could talk to to find out about it. 

 

"Legit porn, or black market stuff?" Joe asked, only half-jokingly.

 

"Probably the black market, but I'll take what I can get at this point.  Who should I talk to?"

 

"Brett Katt is still your man, he'll be on top of the most recent news, especially if it involves Trigger McGill."

 

Joe looked at Nancy, his expression very sober, "Does this involve McGill and Kennedy?" he asked.

 

Nancy nodded, "Yea, I'm certain now that they're both involved, I'm just not sure how all the pieces fit together yet."

 

Truth was, Nancy was getting a fuzzy picture of what was going on, and she didn't like the look of it at all, especially not if Terra had been sucked into it.

 

 

Kid Stuff

 

Nancy used Joe's phone to call Brett and make an appointment to meet him.  He wasn't available until 3, so Nancy decided to take another drive past Trigger's house, just to while away the time.  Trigger's car was still in the drive, and the house looked pretty dead.  Trigger and his girlfriends were probably sleeping off a killer hangover. Nancy did a once around the block to confirm that there was no action, then headed over to Kennedy's estate, which was in a decidedly nicer section of town.

 

Kennedy lived in a gated community with several guarded entrances, requiring a key card or special identification to get in.  Nancy drove around the exterior of the community, checking each of the entrances and making notes on their locations before heading back to the station for her 3 o'clock meeting with Brett.

 

 

At the station, Nancy talked to the officer at the main desk said she was there to see  Detective Katt in Vice.  She was signed in, given a visitor badge and directed to his desk on the second floor, he was expecting her.  When she arrived on the second floor, she entered a large room, and saw Brett motioning to her from the far corner.

 

"Hey, there," He said as Nancy walked up to his desk, "Have a seat here for a minute, I have a call to finish up, then we'll find an empty interview room and talk."

 

Nancy noticed the phone in his hand and obediently sat, waiting for him to finish his call.

 

His telephone call was obviously business, and he finished it up in short order.  Hanging up, Brett turned to her with a more formal greeting, "Hello, Nancy, long time, no see.  Can I get you something to drink?"

 

Nancy smiled, "Nothing for me, thanks.  How have you been Brett?"

 

"Fine, fine – well if I can't get you anything, why don't we find a quieter place where we can talk," he turned and looked through a stack of files on his desk, muttering to himself about not being able to find anything.  He pulled out one thick file then turned to a detective at an adjacent desk, "Hey Carlisle, where's the KP file I had out – did you take it?"

 

Carlisle lifted a stack of files, sifting through much as Brett had just done then held out another fat file, "Here it is, ended up on my desk with the Parsons file.  Sorry."

 

Brett took the two files and stood, "Right this way, there should be an interview room open somewhere down the hall."

 

Once in the interview room, they took seats at a bare wooden table, and Nancy pulled out her notebook and pen.  Brett dropped the two thick files on the table and closed the door before taking his seat.

 

"So, Joe says your interested in Trigger McGill and black market porn – lovely combo, I must say," he was speaking off-handedly, but his eyes were sharp, and he was watching Nancy intently.

 

"I have a hunch that there might be a link between McGill, the porn market, and a missing persons case I'm working on," Nancy said, then as if in afterthought, "Grant Kennedy may be involved, too."

 

Brett raised his eyebrows, "And who's the missing person?"

 

Nancy shook her head, "Can't say, Brett – I was just hoping for a line to follow.  I'm hitting dead ends everywhere I look."

 

Brett sighed, "Well, if McGill and Mr. President are involved, I'd place my bets on kiddie porn – which is why I brought this file.  I'm not sure there's anything here that can help you, and I can't really show you the file.  But, I can drop a few names of people that might have more information . . ."

 

He opened the KP file and flipped through, providing some general background information as he searched, "Kennedy has never been directly connected to the kiddie porn market, but I have reliable sources that tell me he's really in to it. Ahhh, here we go . . . this lady has starred in some pretty hard core stuff herself, though she tells me she never does anything illegal," Brett snorted, "Of course none of them do.  Names Brandy Bush, here's her last known address. Sorry, no phone number."

 

Nancy took note of the name and address, "Has she been helpful in the past?"

 

Brett looked at Nancy with a grin, "Not exactly, but then I've always gotten the impression she doesn't like men.  I was hoping you might have more luck with her."

 

Nancy chuckled, shaking her head, "In other words, 'good luck.'  Anything better to offer?"

 

Brett shuffled some more papers, "This guy, Randy James, has been known to do some filming, though I've never heard him working with Trigger.  Anyways, he might be able to give you an idea where to start.  He likes to talk, may not have anything direct, but he's an easy mark and can give you some good general information on the porn market itself."

 

Nancy obediently marked down the name and address, again no phone number, so far all Brett had given her looked like duds. 

 

"What about people directly involved with Trigger – I'm pretty certain this trail starts with him, I just can't seem to get any further."

 

Brett opened the second file, flipping pages slowly, "Trigger's been in to a little of everything, though, here again, he's never been brought up on porn charges.  He's almost as slippery as Kennedy, though with a lot less style."

 

He stopped and appeared to scrutinize a sheet, then flipped back to the KP file, turning a few pages before a grim smile appeared on his face. He turned the two top sheets around for Nancy to look at, "I thought I remembered a connection, though I have to admit, it's been awhile since I perused Trigger's file.  Penny Turner has turned up in a couple of black market films just recently, and I've been meaning to go back and see where I'd heard that name before.  Here it is," he indicated the page from Trigger's file, "Apparently an old flame of Trigger's. No contact information, I think she's wanted for questioning, but you know with the lack of warm bodies to chase things down, she's probably pretty safe from us."

 

The sheet from Trigger's file had a poor quality black and white photo of Penny Turner attached to it.  Nancy didn't react, but her heart rate went up several bpm – she couldn't be sure, but that sure did look like Clare.

 

Nancy dutifully wrote down Penny Turner's name and asked if she could have a copy of the picture, which Brett provided.

 

Nancy stood when Brett returned from making the copy, "Thanks for the help Brett, I don't want to take anymore of your time.  I know you're busy."

 

"Nancy, I'm sure Joe's already warned you, but I don't think you can hear it too often, 'be careful.' McGill by himself is bad enough, but if Kennedy is directly involved, that's bad news."

 

Nancy smiled and took his hand, shaking it formally, "Thanks for the warning – I'll be fine.  I'm always careful!"

 

Brett held her hand a bit longer than professional courtesy dictated, his smile warm, as he let go he said teasingly, "You know if you ever get tired of that fly boy husband of yours . . ."

 

Nancy felt the color rise in her cheeks, "It's not nice to hit on a married lady . . . besides, I'm pretty attached to the fly boy."

 

Brett opened the door for her, and sighed exaggeratedly, "Some guys have all the luck."

 

"You know me better than that, Brett – I'd think you'd be feeling sorry for him!" Nancy chuckled and waved at him as she moved down the hall.  She practically skipped out to the car after dropping her visitor badge at the front desk, this was the most promising lead yet.  Time to find Clare and have a heart to heart!

 

 

Pakse and Beyond

 

When they landed outside of Pakse, at a small military base, Hannibal ordered the Team to flake.  He needed to check in with General Stockwell, and make a pitch for moving up the schedule. It was very early morning, though with the schedule they'd been keeping, the days were pretty much running together, making it a challenge to keep track of the time zone, let alone the actual time.

 

About 4 hours later, Hannibal headed in to the barracks-style building where the Team had been bedded down.  All three members of his Team were flaked out as ordered, and Hannibal dropped onto an empty bunk to get a couple of hours of shut eye before they headed in to the final leg of the mission.

 

Two hours later, as ordered, the Team received a wake up call.  As they all rolled out of bed, Hannibal lit a cigar, "Let's go get some breakfast, and then I'll fill you in on my conversation with the General."

 

Breakfast was a silent affair.  Afterwards, they all followed Hannibal into a make-shift briefing room, "I've talked to the General, and he's agreed, we're going to move up the schedule."

 

Face looked at Hannibal in surprise, "By how much?"

 

"We strike this afternoon," Hannibal said, looking for his men's reactions.

 

"In broad daylight, Hannibal?  That's suicide!" BA looked incredulous.

 

Murdock was less quick to jump to conclusions, "What exactly do you and Stockwell have in store for us?" he sounded very skeptical.

 

Hannibal's eye gleamed, which made all three of them groan, "We're the bait – Chang is royally ticked off, and if he gets us in his sights, he'll get reckless.  The sooner we show our faces in 'Nam the better – while he's still stinging over the Cambodia deal."

 

"Stockwell will have three Abel Teams here by late morning.  We go in wired, so they know when we've got Chang in sight, and then we close the door on General Chang and his operation once and for all."

 

Hannibal looked around the room at his men, Face was the first to break the silence, "The BAIT?  Why do we have to be the BAIT?  Let the Abels play that game!

 

Hannibal sighed, "Now Face, be reasonable, we've been the high profile group all along.  Chang thinks we're orchestrating the whole thing.  We've been the planned bait from the beginning."

 

"Sounds great, Colonel, except for one thing.  If Chang gets his hands on us, he's gonna kill us!" Murdock didn't look any happier than Face about the plan.

 

"Naw," Hannibal said dismissively, "The bad guys always wanna gloat when they catch the good guys.  That's their undoing.  Besides, the Abels will be right behind us.  Come on guys, it's the only way we're gonna get Chang himself.  Otherwise he gets away, and the past two months were for nothing."

 

"So we're s'posed to trust Stockwell's men to get us out?" BA was shaking his head.

 

Hannibal took his cigar out of his mouth and stood with his arms crossed, looking at them sternly, "I don't know if you've noticed, but we're Stockwell's men, and 'yes', the Abels will have our backside.  They have throughout this operation.  Who do you think has been laying all the ground work?  This plan will work."

 

Face, BA, and Murdock stood looking anywhere but at the Hannibal.  They were uncomfortably aware that their commanding officer was not very happy with them at the moment.

 

This time Murdock broke the silence, "When do we leave?"

 

Hannibal looked at each man in turn, and when he saw acceptance on all three faces, he stuck the cigar between his teeth and grinned, "1300 sharp.  We'll be going by chopper from here, supposedly in stealth mode.  The plan is to be seen in Hanoi.  We'll be wired before we leave."

 

Hannibal passed each of them a file of information, "Murdock, the flight maps are in the next room.  The file contains all of the information that we currently have on General Chang's compound – memorize it.  We meet with the other three teams that will be backing us up at 1100, here. You're dismissed until then."

 

1100 came around quickly.  The briefing took almost an hour, after which the Team were wired with sophisticated tracking and signaling devices, including backups. Before they knew it they were packing up to go.  Murdock ran his last pre-flight and they were lifting off.  The other three teams had left approximately 30 minutes earlier, to get into position. Once the Team sent the signal that Chang was in sight, the Abels should be able to respond in fairly short order.  Now they just had to get captured.

 

 

Penny Turner

 

Nancy decided to drop by the shelter on her way to the Boar, on the off chance that Clare might be there.  She had had a message from Father Jebadiah, and this would give her a chance to pick up whatever tidbits of information he might have to offer.

 

At the shelter she parked about a block away and walked up the street.  The sleet had given way to some scattered snow flurries, though nothing had really accumulated. Absolutely no sign of spring, yet. Nancy was just glad it wasn't sleeting anymore.

 

Father Jebadiah waved at Nancy as soon as she walked through the door, and handed his ladle to the volunteer standing next to him.  Wiping his hands on his apron, he walked up to Nancy like an old friend and steered her to a back room that served as the shelter office.

 

"Well, I'm afraid that the other volunteers that night weren't much help.  Most of them don't even remember seeing Jasmine.  However, Jeremy, one of the younger members of our volunteer group, whom I suspect is rather sweet on Jasmine, said he also remembered her coming in, and that she had seemed nervous.  He felt that her nervousness stemmed from something other than needing a fix."

 

Father Jebadiah took a deep breath, "Of course, Jeremy may just have been wishful thinking, but he said he thought, from what Jasmine said to him that she was afraid that someone was going to hurt her and her daughter.  He mentioned, hmm, let me see, was it Roy Rogers? That doesn't sound right.  I had him make a note of it here somewhere," he began shuffling through piles of bills and receipts on the desk.

 

"Might it have been Trigger?" Nancy prompted.

 

Father snapped his fingers, "That was it – Roy Roger's horse.  Does that mean anything to you?"

 

Nancy nodded, "It confirms some other information that I received.  Jazz was doing some work for a man named Trigger McGill, and I've heard that she misplaced a package and he became angry with her.  Sounds like he may have threatened not only her, but also Terra.  That would explain why she showed up at Blanche's and took Terra with her – maybe trying to protect her, though I don't see how."

 

"Can you give me Jeremy's phone number – I'd really like to talk to him some more about what Jazz said to him that night."

 

As they'd been talking, Father had continued to sift through the contents of the desk, and came up with an "Ah-hah, here it is. Jeremy wrote down everything he could remember about his conversation with Jasmine.  And at the bottom he put his name and phone number in case you needed anything else.  I also believe he'll be working tomorrow, if you have a chance to stop by" He handed the paper over to Nancy and she tucked it into her purse.

 

Next she pulled out the picture of Penny Turner, "Father, do you know this woman?"

 

Father Jebadiah looked at the picture and nodded, handing it back, "Of course, that's Penelope.  A member of the oldest profession, if you know what I mean," he said with a knowing nod, that Nancy found rather comical.

 

"She comes in periodically to warm up between, ummm, clients.  And of course to get sustenance.  She's really quite a nice girl," Nancy had a feeling that Father Jebadiah would have said Medusa was 'really a nice girl once you get to know her.'

 

"I believe she was in here yesterday when you were here," Father added, looking at Nancy quizzically, "didn't you get to talk to her?"

 

Nancy shook her head, "No, was she wearing a pink tube top with leopard skin stirrups and a long pink fur coat?"

 

"So you did see her," he nodded appreciatively, "I'll bet it pays to be observant in your line of work.  I bet you remember what everyone was wearing."  He looked at her like the kid waiting for the magician to pull a rabbit out of his hat.

 

Nancy smiled, "No, but you have to admit that Cl-uh Penelope's attire was pretty distinctive."

 

She stood and held out her hand, "Thank you so much for all of your help Father.  I really should be going.  It's getting late, and I still have a couple stops to make."

 

He smiled warmly, "Any time.  And if you need anything else at all, please don't hesitate to ask."

 

 

Out at the car, Nancy started it warming up then pulled the sheet from Jeremy out and read through it.  It provided little more detail than the Father had given her, with a couple of exceptions.  Jasmine had told Jeremy that she owed Trigger a lot of money, which was in keeping with what Claus had said.  Jasmine had also told Jeremy that there was someone who had offered to help, and she was going to take him up on it.  She hadn't told him who her benefactor was, but now Nancy had to wonder if Jasmine and Terra were in trouble, or just in hiding.  But if just in hiding, why not contact Blanche and tell her they were alright?  Things still didn't add up.

 

She made a few notes in her notebook, and then headed down the street to the Wild Boar.

 

 

At the Boar, sure enough, Clare, aka Penny, was standing outside in the cold.  Nancy drove by slowly, catching Clare's eye and nodding to indicate that she should meet her around the corner.  Nancy pulled up a block and into a deserted alley and sat to wait.

 

Clare pulled open the door about five minutes later, "Crank up the heat on this baby, I'm freezing."

 

Nancy obliged then turned in her seat so she was facing Clare, "So, Penny," she said pointedly, "Is there anything that you'd like to tell me?"

 

Clare/Penny looked at her, and shrugged, "I figgered you was a smart girl.  How'd you figure out who I was?"

 

Nancy sighed, "Did you know you're wanted for questioning in connection with a black market porn scam?"

 

"Really? Now that would explain why I didn't give you my real name wouldn't it?" she asked scathingly, "Listen sweet heart, don't act all high and mighty with me.  I was just trying to help out a friend."

 

"Help out a friend, or get an old boyfriend in trouble?" Nancy asked, "I don't know whether to believe a word you've told me about Trigger and Jasmine." That was a lie, but Nancy was hoping it would loosen Penny's tongue.

 

"Everything I tol' you was the honest god's truth. Jazz is a friend.  I'm the one set her up working with Trigger in the firs' place," Penny rubbed her hands together and hunkered into her coat, looking small and pitiful.

 

"Alright, so you set Jazz up with this sweet deal.  I have information that says he threatened not only Jazz, but Terra, too. Something besides just a lost package went wrong for him to be so hot on both of them. There's something you're not telling me."

 

Penny stared out the window blindly for a few minutes, and Nancy let her sit and stew while she warmed up.  Finally she looked at Nancy and tears were glistening in her eyes, "It was all a set up," she said miserably, "I was hoping that if I fed you enough information you'd figure it out and get them out of there."  She began sobbing and Nancy reached into the back seat and held a beaten tissue box out for Penny.

 

"Out of where, Penny," Nancy asked gently.

 

"Kennedy has them," Penny said after blowing her nose, "You see that was the plan all along.  Trigger threatens Jazz and Terra, then Kennedy is there to 'protect' them from Trigger.  Once he has both, he planned to get Jazz torqued on coke then use both of them in some movie."

 

Nancy sat back against the door of the car, the window crank digging into her back, "Jasmine would never allow him to use Terra that way, no matter how bad a mother she is," Nancy said quietly.

 

"Oh, I don't know about that," Penny said, "Kennedy is very charming and he can be real persuasive, trust me I know."

 

"The films that you were in recently, did Kennedy produce those, too?"

 

"Yea, like I said, he's real persuasive.  He's also a real pervert.  You see the ones he releases on the market are tame compared to the private ones he makes for personal use.  I think he gets off on seeing himself on film."

 

Penny's tongue had definitely loosened, "I 'member when I was with Trig, he used to say that Kennedy's sexual kinks were going to get him in trouble some day.  But he's real careful about who he chooses for his personal movies.  I think he's had his eye on Jazz for some time, she's an awful pretty girl.  And when he found out she had a daughter, well that clinched it.  Mr. President always gets what he wants."

 

"I don't suppose you'd be willing to repeat this for the police?" Nancy asked hopefully.

 

"Do I look like I have a death wish – hell no!  Why do you think I told you, so you could take care of it."

 

"Do you know where Kennedy has them?"

 

"Probably in that fancy estate o' his.  The cops cried wolf so many times, no judge'll grant a search warrant for the place.  'Sides, he's got all kinds of hidden rooms and shit like that.  Even if the cops got in, they'd never find anything."

 

Nancy sighed heavily, this was sounding rather hopeless.  She couldn't even get in the gated community without a security card, let alone into Kennedy's estate.  And even then, it sounded like even finding Jasmine and Terra on the estate could be a major challenge.

 

Penny started to fidget, "Listen, I gotta get back on my corner before anyone notices I'm gone.  Please, get Jazz and Terra away from that nut." And with that she jumped out of the car and headed back down the street.

 

'Just get them away from the nut, no problem,' Nancy thought as she put the car in reverse and backed out onto the street five minutes later.

 

She headed away from the Boar.  It was almost 5:30, and she did want to stop by the office before heading to Amy's for supper.

 

 

At the office, Nancy was relieved to find Riley still in.  She brought him up to speed on Jazz and Terra's case and asked if he had any ideas.

 

"Yea, forget it.  You're asking for trouble getting involved in this, Nan.  Tell the cops what you know and let them handle it."

 

"If the cops get involved, Jazz and Terra are as good as dead," Nancy said, shaking her head, "You know how Kennedy operates, no witnesses.  He hasn't stayed out of jail this long by being sloppy."

 

"He's been sloppy enough that you're on to him," Riley countered.

 

"Maybe, but he doesn't see me as a real threat," Nancy said, "The cops are another matter entirely."

 

"He sees you as enough of a threat to try and scare you off."

 

Nancy wrinkled her nose, "That was really old school crap, too.  Seemed out of character.  I wonder why he bothered with me at all, especially personally. I'd have thought he'd send one of his thugs, like Trigger.  Why dirty his own hands?"

 

"Maybe he likes you," Riley said snidely.

 

"Maybe," Nancy said thoughtfully, "I could use that to my advantage.  He obviously doesn't see me as much of a threat, maybe I could get him to invite me into his home." She looked at Riley with a suggestive smile.

 

Riley's expression was turning to alarm, "Now you're starting to scare me.  That's just plain stupid.  What are you going to do once you're inside, stick your finger in your pocket and say 'Stick 'em up and hand over the woman and child'?"

 

Nancy sat back, deflated.  Riley was right, what would she do once she was inside.  She'd have to work on that part of the plan.

 

 

Vietnam

 

They landed without incident just outside of Hanoi, proper, and headed into town, dressed in native clothing to make it look like they were trying to blend in.  They headed straight for the Bank of Hanoi.  Hannibal ranged his men around the bank and then headed inside to transact some business.

 

One by one, the Team was picked off and hauled into the back of a waiting truck.  When Hannibal came out, he scanned up and down the street, looking for Face and BA, who were supposed to be covering the front.  As he stood there, the truck pulled to the curb and hands reached out and pulled Hannibal in. No one on the street seemed to notice.

 

At Chang's compound, they were split up, each locked into a separate cell. 

 

 

Face sat down on the floor and began to draw haphazard circle in the dirt.  All there was to do now was wait, and he'd had lots of practice at that.  He looked up and scanned the interior of the cell.  Things hadn't changed much in the intervening years.  'Still no amenities.  You'd think by now they'd have valet service.' Face thought with a grim smile, then went back to drawing pictures in the dirt . . . and listening.

 

BA slammed himself against the closed door and growled at the guard that looked in through the grate over the window.  He crossed his arms and paced like a caged cat.  He'd never been good at the waiting game, had no patience for it.  He hoped Chang showed up soon – he'd personally rip his head off with his bear hands.

 

Murdock slouched against the wall of his cell hugging himself.  This was way to close to the past, and he was starting to feel a little unglued.  Damn Hannibal and his plans, anyway.  He wanted to be home with Nancy. So he used a trick that had always helped him hold it together, though this time the wife at least was real.  He closed his eyes and imagined he was home with Nancy and a new baby. Playing fetch with the dogs off the back porch.  A nice, sunny, relaxing day at home.  He felt himself relax.

 

Hannibal paced agitatedly.  If he was any judge of human nature, Chang would be headed to the compound right now to gloat over the capture of the A-team.  Then they could spring the trap.  He walked to the door and looked out in the hall.  He couldn't see the rest of his team, but he was sure they were nearby.  Hopefully the rest of the teams were in place and ready to move.  He didn't want to take any chances.  Murdock was right, Chang was going to want them dead.  The window of opportunity to spring the trap without anyone getting hurt was going to be narrow.  He'd known this going in, they all had.  But it was a risk that could have a big payoff.

 

Besides, they would get through this.  They always did.

 

 

An Evening Off

 

Nancy got to Amy's for supper around 6:30.  She judiciously decided to leave her gun in the car while she went in.  No need to alarm Maggie or Mama needlessly.

 

Dinner was uneventful, and Nancy managed to keep the conversation away from the subject of Jasmine and Terra. Amy was feeling well enough to come down to the table to eat, and seemed grateful just to get out of the bedroom.  There still was no word from the Team, and Nancy made a mental note to slap her Uncle the next time she saw him.  She hated not know what was going on – especially for this long.

 

After dinner they sat down in the living room and Amy coaxed Nancy into playing a few songs on the piano.  Nancy obliged, and soon had them joining her in some old favorites.

 

Then Nancy helped Maggie make some hot chocolate and popcorn, and they sat around and watched the late classics on TV, laughing and giggling like a bunch of school girls.  At about 11, Nancy begged out, but promised to stop by the next morning.

 

The evening had been relaxing, and Nancy decided that maybe that had been what she needed to clear her head. She decided to get a good night's sleep and start fresh in the morning.  Maybe an idea of how to resolve this situation would come to her.

 

 

A Different Perspective

 

Paul Baldwin walked into Kennedy's office with some trepidation.  Mr. President was not going to be happy about this latest development, and he hated being the bearer of bad news.

 

Without looking up, Kennedy acknowledged Baldwin's presence, "What is it, Paul – I'm very busy."

 

"We have a bit of a problem, sir," Paul said nervously, "Penny Turner was seen talking with Nancy Murdock late this afternoon."

 

Kennedy looked up, his eyes flashing, "She has been nothing but a liability since McGill brought her into the picture," he made a dismissive gesture, "Tell him it's his problem, and I expect him to make it go away – tonight."

 

"Yes, sir," Paul hesitated.

 

"Is there something more?" Kennedy looked up, clearly he thought the matter was settled.

 

"It's about Ms. Murdock . . . she's been all over asking about Jasmine and Terra."

 

"I know that, Paul, you're wasting my time . . ." Kennedy looked at his assistant impatiently.

 

"Well, she talked to that Father at the shelter, and one of the volunteers that Jazz was friendly with.  I don't know what she found out, but between them and Penny, she must have gotten wind of where Jasmine and Terra are.  She's been seen snooping around the community perimeter.  I think she may suspect that Jasmine and Terra are here.  We really need to finish that particular little project, sir." Paul hated Kennedy's pet projects, particularly where women and girls were concerned.  They tended to be perverted.  The killing and drugs were one thing, but the kinky stuff really turned his stomach.

 

Kennedy looked impatient, "So . . ."

 

"She's getting too close, sir.  And she has connections at the police, the Bureau.  She makes me nervous."

 

Kennedy sat back in his chair, an amused look on his face as he considered his assistant, "Ms. Murdock does present a rather fascinating quandary, doesn't she. What did you find out about her that has you so antsy, Paul."

 

Kennedy knew his assistant could dig up information on anyone.  He had been an early entrant into the computer revolution, as well as having connections at several information bureaus.  Well connected to dig up dirt on people, that was why Kennedy kept him around.

 

Paul pulled out his notepad and began in a clinical tone, "Born Nancy Clay, raised in the Chicago area.  Undergrad in human psych.  Started Law School but dropped out after three semesters," he stopped and looked up at Kennedy, "which is odd because she was at the top of her class . . ."

 

Kennedy nodded, "Go on."

 

Paul looked back down at his notes, found his place, and continued, "Attended the FBI Academy.  Again, top marks, but she didn't join the Bureau.  She started working for Adams Investigations about six years ago – offices located just off 4th and Broad.  Met and married her husband two years ago. They live just outside of Langley."

 

"And the husband?" Kennedy pressed.

 

Paul shrugged, "I only just started checking him out," he admitted, "Name's HM Murdock.  Moved to the area about three years ago.  He's a Vietnam vet, a pilot, decorated.  Works part time at the local airfield as a mechanic, but seems to be out of town quite a bit – in fact he's not around right now.  I haven't found anything else out about his employment, he might be working for her uncle, that would probably explain the absences from home."

 

Paul stopped and took a breath.  Kennedy was nodding his head, "Anything on him before he moved to the area?"

 

"Last place of residence I could find was the VA Hospital in Brentwood, just outside of LA.  He was in the psychiatric ward."

 

"Interesting twist, what's his military record look like?"

 

"Didn't get too far there yet.  He was in Air Command, then Special Forces. I didn't find a lot of detail, but then, with those special forces guys you often have to get hold of the higher security files to really get to the meat."

 

"Fine, back to Nancy – any family? You mentioned an uncle . . ."

 

Paul flipped another page, "Father, Carl Clay, lawyer, still lives and works in Chicago. Mother, Ruby Stockwell Clay, killed when Nancy was quite young. Uncle, Hunt Stockwell, owns and operates Stockwell Enterprises, a foreign affairs think tank.  No other immediate family for either of them, though Nancy has been spending quite a bit of time at a friend's home lately.  Name's Peck, Amy Peck.  Her husband and Nancy's husband apparently served together in 'Nam – again, I haven't really dug into the military records."

 

Kennedy steepled his hands and swiveled in his chair, looking out across the estate lawn reflectively. Nancy Murdock had been a bit of a distraction lately.  Normally, he would have dismissed her meddling without a second thought, but something about the woman made him take a second look.  She didn't scare easily that much was certain.  She knew who he was, but didn't seem impressed, and that in itself he found intriguing.  Perhaps she was worth moving up the time table on his little project with Jasmine and Terra.  She'd make an interesting addition to the mix.

 

Kennedy nodded his head, as if coming to a decision, "I'll take care of Ms. Murdock, personally." 

 

Paul looked visibly alarmed, "Sir, with all due respect, she's got connection at the FBI, the police, her husband was special forces – don't you think it would be better to distance yourself from this little, er, problem." Paul understood the necessity of getting rid of Nancy Murdock, he just couldn't see why Kennedy wanted to handle it himself, "Let McGill take care of it." He recommended.

 

Kennedy looked at him, his eyes narrowed, "Are you questioning my judgment, Paul?"

 

Paul ran his tongue over suddenly dry lips, "Certainly not, it just seems risky to get involved yourself if it isn't necessary."

 

"This young woman deserves special attention, Paul.  And I intend to give it to her.  Don't worry, we won't move until it's safe.  I have plans for Ms. Murdock – she's so anxious to find Jasmine and Terra, then let's oblige her.

 

"In preparation, make sure that we have evidence of Trigger's involvement in Ms. Turner's untimely death this evening.  I believe it may be time for McGill to make the ultimate sacrifice for his leader." Kennedy smiled smugly, then bent back to his work, Paul was obviously dismissed.

 

Paul nodded to the top of Kennedy's head and went out the door to take care of business.  He hoped he never was called to make that sacrifice, but then with Kennedy, nothing was sacred.

 

 

No More Chang

 

Hannibal heard the order, bellowed across the compound in Vietnamese, and recognized the voice immediately, Chang, "I want all the American pigs out here, now!"

 

Hannibal hit the signal device on his watch, and knew that right now each of his men were probably doing the same.  From the sounds of it, that window of opportunity was going to be very narrow, Chang sounded really ticked off.  Steps pounded down the hallway, and Hannibal's cell door was yanked open.

 

He looked brightly at the soldiers standing there, "What took you guys so long?" he quipped, before being doubled over by the butt of a gun to his gut.  His hands were bound roughly behind him.  Then a soldier came on either side and dragged him out of the cell bodily.

 

Hannibal looked around surreptitiously as he was dragged out into the yard, and shoved to the ground on his knees, the muzzle of a gun held roughly along the side of his face.  Chang was standing by a jeep, conferring with two other, lower ranking officers, and he looked livid.  BA, Face and Murdock, were each dragged out, as he had been, and lined up with him.

 

Murdock looked decidedly cheerful considering the current situation, which worried Hannibal a bit.  He had been concerned about exposing Murdock to the POW camp again, that was when they had lost him last time.  But Murdock turned and looked at Hannibal and winked, "Looks like we're the guests of honor, Colonel, and I think the rest of the party's here." He said brightly. Hannibal allowed his eyes to rove around, wondering what Murdock had seen.

 

Chang stalked over and backhanded Murdock across the face, "Perhaps you do not recall prisoner protocol here, Captain.  Let me remind you – speak only when spoken to."

 

Murdock licked his cracked lip, "Ahhh, and here I thought we were having a happy reunion."

 

Chang snapped his head at the soldier behind Murdock, and the butt of the gun came down heavily on his shoulder, knocking him to the ground.

 

"You never did play fair, Chang," Hannibal said.

 

Chang walked over, looking very smug, "Colonel Smith, this time, you and your men will not get away," Chang leaned down and got in Hannibal's face, "You will watch, as I kill each one of your men – and then I will kill you."

 

Hannibal grinned at him, "Give it your best shot."

 

Chang stepped in front of Hannibal a few feet and motioned to one of the soldiers.  Murdock was hauled to his feet and dragged over to where General Chang stood. Chang looked at Hannibal and said with a sickly grin, "Say goodbye to your pilot, Colonel."

 

With ceremony, Chang pulled out his revolver and cocked it, lifting it over his head.  At that point, a shot rang out, and the revolver flew out of his hand. Chang pulled his hand into his chest, as blood began pouring out of a fresh wound.

 

It took him only a few seconds to realize what was happening, "Kill them, kill them all!" he shouted frantically, only to watch as each of the soldiers standing over the Team went down. Chang turned to flee towards the jeep, but Hannibal saw and yelled, "Murdock!"

 

Murdock swung his legs around and caught Chang right at the knees, bringing him down with a thud.  The place was pandemonium for a few minutes, with the Team pretty much helpless in the center of it still bound.

 

Finally, Jeff Kent, Abel 9, came over with a knife and proceeded to cut the Team's bonds, "Waited long enough, didn't you Jeff?" Hannibal asked acidly, "I was beginning to think I was going to be short a pilot."

 

Jeff grinned, "We wouldn't let anything happen to Murdock," he said lightly, "We're all afraid of Nancy."

 

Soon they had the entire compound rounded up, Hannibal turned to Face, who held out a cigar. Hannibal took it and Face lit it for him with a flourish.  Hannibal turned and surveyed Chang and his men, all bound and ready for the authorities.  His eyes twinkled, "I love it when a plan comes together."

 

 

Unpleasant Surprise

 

Nancy woke to the sound of the phone ringing again – only this time it was only 6am.  She answered shortly, "Hello?"

 

"Nan, it's Joe, sorry to call so early . . ." he sounded exhausted, and the combination of that and the early phone call had Nancy a little alarmed.

 

"It's OK, Joe. What's up?"

 

"Well, I wouldn't have even bothered you, but Brett thought you should know . . . Penny Turner was found dead in her apartment early this morning. Her room mate found her."

 

"Damn," Nancy took a slow breath.

 

"You didn't happen to see her yesterday, did you?" Joe asked tentatively.

 

"Yes, I talked to her about 5 or 5:30," Nancy said, knowing what would come next.

 

"Based on the coroner preliminary evaluation, you may have been one of the last people to speak to her.  I'll need you to come down to the station and give a statement." Joe sounded official.

 

"Is an hour soon enough?" Nancy asked.

 

"Yes, just ask for me when you arrive – you know the drill." Joe rang off.

 

Nancy swung her legs out of bed and sat staring out the window.  Penny's death could be totally unrelated to their meeting yesterday, but Nancy's gut was telling her that wasn't the case.

 

She took a quick shower, cursing when she couldn't get the second pair of jeans buttoned either.  She gave in and looped a pony tail holder thru the button hole and over the button – this was really becoming annoying.

 

She made several quick phone calls.  The first was to Blanche, to tell her she was still on the trail and make sure she hadn't heard from Jasmine or Terra.  No such luck.

 

Next she called Maggie and assured her that she'd be by that evening for dinner.  Maggie told her that they were fine, and if they decided they needed anything, they'd page her.

 

Finally, she called Riley and brought him up to date on the latest development.  He was less than pleased, and told her to check in after she got done at the station.  She promised she would.

 

She stared into the refrigerator for a few minutes, before deciding that the cupboards were definitely bare.  It didn't matter, she wasn't all that hungry anyway.  She pulled on her jeans jacket and overcoat, grabbing her gun and holster out of the gun safe – these she stuck in the trunk, and then climbed into the car and headed in to the police station.

 

 

At the station, she signed in and headed to Joe's desk.  Brett was there, and the two appeared to be having a heated discussion.  Brett looked up as she approached, "You knew right where to find her, didn't you," he said accusingly.

 

There was no point in denying it, "She was working the corner by the Wild Boar and was supposedly friends with my missing person.  I thought it might be her when I saw the picture, but I didn't know her real name."

 

Brett looked at Joe triumphantly, "I told you . . . " turning back to Nancy he said, "I have half a mind to bring you up on obstruction of justice charges – you knew we wanted her for questioning."

 

Joe raised a hand, "Hang on, Brett, Nancy just said she wasn't sure it was the same person, she didn't have the name.  Besides, you aren't going to be bringing any charges against her, or the Captain would want to know where she got the picture and file information from." Joe looked at Brett pointedly, and he backed down, sulking against the adjacent desk.

 

Nancy had bit her tongue, and she was glad.  She didn't want to alienate Brett any further, and the reply she'd bit back probably would have.  She turned her attention to Joe, "You wanted a statement, but first I want to know if you have a suspect?"

 

Joe shook his head, "It was made to look like a john did it, but the killer was definitely wearing gloves, and we haven't yet found any physical evidence at the scene."

"Doesn't exactly sound like a crime of passion,"
Nancy slumped into the chair by Joe's desk.  She felt miserable, "Why would she be killed?" Nancy said quietly, more to herself than the Joe or Brett.

 

Brett crossed his arms, "We were hoping you could shed some light on that." He said.

 

Joe pulled out a tape recorder, "Let's go to an interview room, and get your statement," he looked at Brett, "I'll talk to you later."

 

In the interview room, Joe shut the door and sat down heavily in the chair across from Nancy, "I should probably be having one of the other officers take your statement," he said wearily.

 

"Come on, Joe, it's not like I'm a suspect.  Let's just get this over with." Nancy sat back in the chair and stuck her hands in her pockets.

 

"Alright," he sat forward and pressed the start button on the tape recorder, "First, for the record, state your name and occupation."

 

"Nancy Murdock, Private Investigator," Nancy supplied her license number.

 

"When was the last time you saw Penny Turner?"

 

"I saw her yesterday, at approximately 5:15 pm, only at the time I didn't know that her name was Penny Turner, I thought her name was Clare."

 

"And why were you going to see Ms. Turner?"

 

"The previous day, that would be Monday, she had given me information regarding a missing persons case I'm working on.  I was following up on that conversation."

 

"So you had seen Ms. Turner the day before the murder."

 

"Yes, for the first time.  She approached me with some information about the woman I'm looking for."

 

"Who is it you're looking for?"

 

Nancy hesitated, "My client has requested that I not involve the police."

Joe looked at her sternly, "
Nancy, we're involved."

 

Nancy sighed, "I spoke with my client this morning, and she is steadfast in her request that I not mention the names to the police."  Nancy looked at Joe and shrugged. If he really wanted to know, all he had to do was retrace her steps for the past two days.  Someone would tell him who she'd been asking around about.  But Nancy was not going to be the one to tell him.

 

"OK, back to Penny Turner, what was the information that she provided you?"

 

"At our first meeting, she told me that my client had been working for Trigger McGill as a drug courier when she misplaced a parcel.  McGill was apparently upset about this and Penny said she suspected that my client was in trouble.  She said she had also heard through the grapevine that Grant Kennedy was involved, but at the time, she didn't indicate how."

 

"And yesterday when you talked to her, what did she tell you?" Joe prodded.

 

"She admitted that she'd lied to me about her name, that's when I found out she was Penny Turner and not Clare, as she had told me before.  She said that she and Trigger had been together, and that she had gotten my client the job with McGill."

 

Nancy stopped and took a deep breath, "She also said that the whole lost parcel thing was a set up.  Grant Kennedy wanted to get control over my client.  McGill went on a rampage, threatening her, and Kennedy waltzed in as the knight in shining armor to the rescue."

 

"So you suspect that your missing person is with Grant Kennedy right now."

 

"Yes, and I think she may be there voluntarily, at least at the moment."

 

Joe looked at Nancy, the only sound in the room was the sound of the tape recorder running.  He reached out and shut off the recorder, "OK, off the record, Nancy.  What else is going on.  This isn't adding up."

 

"Nancy, I can't help you if you aren't straight with me, so your missing person is with Kennedy, possibly voluntarily.  You still look worried."

 

Nancy turned and looked out the window, contemplating, "Off the record?" she asked.

"Off the record," Joe confirmed.

 

Nancy sighed, "My client's daughter is with her."

 

Joe sat back, "We're back to the kiddie porn."

 

Nancy stood and started pacing, "Are we still off the record?"

 

"Sure."

 

"Kennedy threatened me.  He's definitely involved, and if he's killed Penny to cover this up there's no telling who might be next."

 

"But what's he covering up?" Joe said, "Black market porn?  Drugs?  Kennedy has so many layers between him and the dirty deals we've never been able to prosecute."

 

Nancy shook her head, "Not in this case, Joe.  Kennedy's a pervert, and I think with the porn he likes to be close to the action.  He's definitely gotten his hands dirty on this one, and he's not going to care who he kills to cover it up. Unfortunately, my client is smack dab in the middle of the mess, and so is her 12-year-old daughter."

 

 

Half an hour later Joe walked Nancy out to her car, and watched as she strapped on her gun, "I could put you under police protection," Joe said.

 

"No way, Joe – I'm not the one in danger."

 

"I disagree, you're in as much danger as Penny Turner was."

 

"C'mon, I don't have any first hand knowledge of Kennedy's dealings. Penny did – Brett said she had starred in a couple of the films that came out recently.  They were Kennedy productions, and my guess is Kennedy decided she was a liability." Nancy had shrugged back into her coat and slammed her trunk shut, stepping back to the driver's side door.

 

"I'll be fine, Joe.  I just don't know how to get my client and her daughter out of the predicament they're in.  If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears."

 

"I'll see what I can do about getting a search warrant, but I've gotta get some hard evidence that Kennedy is involved to swing that."

 

"I know you'll do your best, and I really appreciate it, Joe.  Tell Trix and the kids I said 'hi'."

 

 

Heading Home

 

General Stockwell had made arrangement with the local authorities to put Chang and his gang under arrest.  The Vietnamese government was more than happy to put a feather in their cap and garner some favor with the Americans.  Chang had been losing popularity anyway, and the powers that be were just as happy to see him out of the picture.

 

Stockwell strode towards where the Team was waiting in the hangar, "We're all set, gentlemen.  Job well done – we've just shut down one of the largest drugs and arms smuggling rings in Southeast Asia."

 

"Are you ready to go home?" Hannibal couldn't be certain, but he thought he saw Stockwell smile.

 

"I was ready to go home over a month ago," Face said irritably, "When does our flight leave?"

 

Now Stockwell did smile, "You will be riding in the comfort of the jet for your trip home – you've earned it.  Besides, Colonel Smith tells me he has some important business to discuss, and I'm on my way to DC for a meeting anyway."

 

"Your chariot awaits, gentlemen."

 

 

Justified Concern

 

Nancy headed straight to the office from the station.  Riley was waiting for her, and looked agitated, "Alright, what did the cops say?"

 

Nancy filled him in on what she had discussed with Joe, "They can't get a warrant without concrete evidence that Kennedy is involved in the whole business. Joe's going to see what he could do, but so far the police are empty-handed."

 

Riley stood and began pacing, "I don't care what you think – you're in danger.  Kennedy threatened you once and you haven't backed off.  He's going to do more than threaten the next time."

 

"If I thought I could get away with it, I'd lock you up in a jail cell.  Where is that husband of yours anyway?" Riley looked perturbed.

 

"If you're thinking that HM can make me do something I don't want to, then you are sorely mistaken," Nancy said, bridling at the insinuation.

 

"No, but at least if he and his friends were around, I'd feel better about your safety."

 

"Well, they aren't, and my safety is not your concern.  I can take care of myself."

 

Riley turned and put his hands on her shoulders, "Nancy, please reconsider Joe's offer of protective custody.  I have a real bad feeling about this."

 

Nancy smiled and patted one of Riley's hands, "You worry too much, Riley.  If Kennedy wanted me out of the way, he could have had me taken out of the picture at the same time as Penny."

 

Riley straightened, "OK, then here's what I want you to do," he raised a conciliatory hand as Nancy started to protest, "For my peace of mind – call me on my pager every two hours.  At least then I know you're OK.  And if I don't hear from you, I'll page you, and you'd better answer."

 

Nancy couldn't argue that the check in wasn't a good precautionary measure, so she agreed to it.

 

"I'm going to the library for some late morning research right now," Nancy said.  She checked her watch, almost 11:00, "I'll page you around 1:00. And Riley, thanks a lot for worrying about me." She grinned at him as she left.

 

Riley sat down at his desk and shook his head, Nancy was always getting in over their heads.  He'd never had any problems like these before she'd come into his practice.  She was nothing but trouble.  But then Riley had to admit, he'd always liked trouble.

 

 

Just as Nancy walked in to the library, her pager went off, 'Geez, Riley, I just left you 15 minutes ago.'  She pulled the pager up and checked the number, it wasn't Riley, it was Maggie.  She went to the pay phone and called.

 

"Hey Mags," Nancy said when she got through, "You girls need something?"

 

"What's wrong, Nancy?" Maggie asked, her young friend sounded tired and tense.

 

Nancy allowed a smile to cross her face, hoping it sounded in her voice, "It's just been a long morning, but I'm fine.  Why did you call?"

 

Maggie sighed exaggeratedly, "You're a terrible liar.  But maybe this will cheer you up - the guys are on their way home.  They'll be here sometime tomorrow."

 

Nancy felt like a great weight was lifted off her shoulders, HM was coming home.  He and the others were all safe!

 

"Maggie, that is the best news I've had in some time," Nancy said sincerely.

 

Maggie smiled at the relief in Nancy's voice, "Are you still coming over for dinner tonight?"

 

"Planning on it," Nancy said, "I'm at the library right now, and I have a couple other errands to run, but I think I may make it an early day, I'm whooped. Is there anything you need me to pick up?"

 

"We don't need anything," Maggie said, "Just take care of yourself, and get over here as soon as you can.  You sound like you could use some good company."

 

"I'll see you soon," Nancy said, before ringing off.

 

Nancy headed to the reference section.  She wanted to see what she could find out about the gated community that Kennedy lived in.  She started by pulling out a city map, and going to the desk to have a copy made of the section in which she was interested.  Then she pulled out the street index, and began making notes on the people that lived within the community.  She didn't personally recognize any of them.  She starred Kennedy's neighbors.

 

Next she checked the quadrant map, and requested the last aerial photo of the section with Kennedy's estate.  The aerial wasn't very much help, but did give Nancy an idea of the extent of Kennedy's holdings.  He could hide a small army on that place, let alone a single woman and child.

 

Nancy pulled all her notes out and went over them again.  She sat back and caught sight of the clock, it was almost 1:00.  She gathered up all the papers she had scattered and shoved them into her purse.  Then she returned all of the reference materials she had out.  Finally, she went to the phone and called Riley's pager.

 

After grabbing a quick lunch she decided to stop by the shelter.  When she walked in Father Jebadiah greeted her with his usual joviality, and motioned a skinny youth over, "Nancy, I'd like you to meet Jeremy."

 

Nancy smiled and shook the young man's hand.  He couldn't have even been 20, and his hands were sweaty.  He was very self conscious, and seemed to have difficulty looking anyone in the eye.

 

"It's nice to meet you Jeremy.  I understand you saw Jasmine last Wednesday evening." Father led them to the shelter office as they spoke, "I'd really appreciate anything that you can remember about your conversation.  I think she may be in big trouble."

 

Jeremy nodded, as they sat down in the office, "Jazz was nervous about the threats from Trigger, she came to talk to Father Jebadiah, to see what he thought of the offer she had for protection."

 

"Who offered her the protection, Jeremy?" Nancy asked.

 

Jeremy looked at Nancy uncertainly, "She said 'Mr. President'," he said, "but I can't imagine that the President would get involved."

 

Father was watching intently, "You know who she was talking about, don't you?"

 

Nancy stood, "I'm afraid so, it confirms what I had heard from another source. Jeremy, did Jazz say where Mr. President was going to hide her and Terra."

 

"She said that it would be safer if no one knew where they were.  That's all I remember. I hope it helps.  Jazz is great, I'd hate to see her hurt."

 

Nancy agreed, "So would I."

 

Nancy thanked Father Jebediah and Jeremy for their time, "Please be very careful who you talk to about this – McGill and Mr. President are very powerful men , who aren't afraid to do whatever they feel is necessary to protect themselves."

 

Nancy asked if she could use the phone and called to talk to Joe, "Joe, you know that protective custody you talked about, I have a couple of candidates that could use some extra attention."

 

Nancy gave Joe Father Jebediah's and Jeremy's names and explained that they could link Kennedy to Jasmine, "I don't think they're in any immediate danger, but it might be worthwhile to keep an eye on them.  I don't want to take any chances – I already screwed up with one person."

 

"Nan, Penny Turner's death was not your fault.  Don't beat yourself up over it.  But I will put a couple officers on your friends, they'll be over in about half an hour."

 

Nancy hung out at the shelter, just in case, until the officers arrived.  She made introductions, and then headed out.  It was now about 3:00, and she was feeling dead tired, and with HM coming home, she had to pick up groceries.  She stopped by the office and saw Riley, instead of paging him.  She told him she would be at Amy's for the rest of the afternoon and early evening.

 

Then she called Maggie from the office, and asked once more if they needed anything.  Maggie gave her a short list of grocery items.

 

Nancy stopped by the grocery store and picked up everything for Maggie, along with a whole load of groceries for home.  She loaded everything into the car and headed over to Amy's place.

 

Riley called Amy's at 5:00 and cussed Nancy out for not keeping with her check in schedule.  Nancy was rapidly tiring of the check in – she told Riley she'd be fine, she was staying at Amy's until later that evening.

 

"Fine," Riley said stubbornly, "Then call me when you get ready to head home, I'll meet you there."

 

"Fine." Nancy said peevishly.

 

"Fine, I'll see you then." With that Riley hung up.

 

"What was that all about?" Maggie asked.

 

Nancy came into the living room and dropped into an overstuffed chair, "Oh, Riley's showing his paternal side.  He's been making me check in with him every two hours, to make sure I'm OK."

 

Maggie, Amy and Mama B all looked at her in surprise, Mama was the first to find her voice, "That doesn't sound like Riley – what have you gotten yourself into, girl?"

 

Nancy sighed; she'd said way too much, now she'd have a whole flock of mother hens chasing after her, "Honestly, I will be fine.  I'm not the one I'm worried about."

 

"Did you find Jasmine and Terra?" Amy asked.

 

"No, but I think I know where they are, and it isn't a good place."

 

Maggie shook her head, "You're staying here tonight, where we can keep an eye on you."

 

"I can't Maggie, I have a boat load of groceries in the car, and I need to get the house straightened up before HM gets home."

 

"HM could care less whether the house is clean," Maggie said dismissively.

 

"Maybe so, but he will definitely notice that there is no food in it." Nancy said with a chuckle.

 

They had dinner and sat around visiting afterwards, with Maggie, Amy and Mama trying to convince Nancy to stay.  Finally, at 9:00, Nancy said she was going home.  She called Riley, who said he'd meet her there, which allayed the other women's fears somewhat.

 

"Please listen to Riley, and stay safe." Maggie entreated.

 

"I'll be fine.  See you tomorrow."  Nancy headed out and down the road.

 

When she arrived at home, Riley was already there, so Nancy put him to work hauling in groceries, "This is ignominious work for such a noble professional." Riley whined.

 

Nancy laughed, "You don't even know what 'ignominious' means, Riley."

 

"Do so."

 

Riley helped Nancy put the groceries away, and then Nancy set to work dusting and sweeping and straightening up, "What's the occasion?" Riley asked after an hour of maid work.

 

Nancy's grin was broad, "HM is going to be home tomorrow."

 

"Thank goodness – then I can give up the 'I care' routine and go back to being the disgruntled boss."

 

Nancy threw a pillow at him, "You can give up the routine now.  I'm going to bed," she pointed to the door, "Go on home, Riley, I'll lock up after you and won't let anybody in, cross my heart . . ."

 

"Don't say it," Riley interjected, "It's OK, I'll just bed down here on the couch."

 

Nancy sighed, "Suit yourself, Riley. Goodnight."  She went upstairs to bed.

 

 

Now You See Her

 

Riley woke with a start and laid very still listening.  He sat up slowly and scanned the dark room, catching a glimpse of a face out of the corner of his eye.  This was just before a hand came across his face with a rag.  Riley struggled briefly before going limp, "Good night Mr. Adams," McGill said with a laugh.

 

He trussed Riley up, checking that the bonds were firm, then turned to the man that he'd brought with him and hissed, "Let's go get the bitch and get outta here before we're seen."

 

Upstairs, the same scenario played out again, only Nancy was caught out of a deep sleep. McGill picked her up over his shoulder and the two men exited the house without a sound.

 

 

A few hours later, Nancy woke disoriented, and with a raging headache.  She lay very still, trying to remember what had happened.  She had had dinner at Amy's then gone home and Riley had come over to stay, to keep an eye on her. Then . . .

 

She sat up suddenly, "Riley."

 

"I assure you, Mr. Adams is just fine. Probably kicking himself right now, but nonetheless, unharmed." Kennedy was sitting in a chair a few feet from the couch Nancy was laying on.  She was glad that she had decided to put on a pair of sweats with Murdock's t-shirt – mainly in consideration of her house guest. 

 

She swung her feet to the floor and turned to face Kennedy, "I really didn't think you'd be this stupid." She said derisively, "Joe Martin and Brett Katt are going to be all over you when they realize I'm gone."

 

"What was it you said to me when we first met, 'Don't underestimate your opponent' – well Ms. Murdock you are guilty of gross underestimation." Kennedy's smile was smug, "It will take Marin and Katt at least 24 hours to get a search warrant.  I assure you, they will find nothing here to link me to your disappearance."

 

Nancy stood up and walked around the room, "So, what do you have in mind?"

 

His eyes raked up and down her body, "A little private performance – before the finale."

 

"You really are a pervert aren't you," Nancy said looking down at him, "Jazz was an easy mark, but you had to have her daughter, too.  So what's the attraction here," Nancy  put a hand to her chest, "I'm not a looker like Jazz and I'm a little older than 12."

 

Kennedy stood, and walked up to Nancy, until she could feel his breath on her face. She stood her ground rebelliously.  Kennedy laughed and moved back to his seat, "That – the defiance.  All the women that I've had recently have been much too acquiescent.  I'm ready for a challenge."

 

Nancy didn't like the sound of that at all.  To hide her nervousness, she started talking.

 

"Where are we?" she asked conversationally.

 

"You know where we are. Paul said you've been snooping around the community lately."

 

"How big is this place – I saw some aerials, it looked huge."

 

"It's over 4 acreas." He offered.

 

"When do I get to see Jasmine and Terra – are they still here?"

 

"Jasmine and Terra are perfectly safe in their little haven from Mr. McGill.  Really, you put yourself in this position to come after someone who was here willingly."

 

"Perhaps Jazz came willingly, but Terra had no choice in the matter." Nancy's eyes flashed, "You haven't touched Terra?"

 

Kennedy shook his head, "Not yet.  Paul is making the arrangements for the filming now.  You'll see Jasmine and Terra shortly."

 

Nancy walked to a window and looked out.  They were on the second floor, and the window overlooked the grounds behind the mansion.  Without trying, she counted three men with submachine guns guarding the area.

 

Kennedy was watching her with interest, "Planning your escape? Trust me it's quite hopeless.  You would never make it out."

 

Nancy turned and smiled ingenuously, "I was just admiring the lovely gardens. You must have quite a gardening staff to keep this place up." She looked back out, memorizing everything she could see, it could come in handy.

 

Kennedy walked up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders.  Nancy steeled herself to keep from flinching.  He moved his hands down her arms.  Nancy made her move, stomping back on his instep and bringing her elbow into his solar plexus.  Then she took her doubled fist and round-housed him on the side of the head.  He dropped to his knees.

 

Nancy picked up the nearest heavy object she could find and hit him over the head as he tried to rise, effectively knocking him out, "Who underestimated whom?" Nancy asked aloud, before stepping over Kennedy's motionless body and heading towards the door

 

She opened the door, and looked warily up and down the hall before stepping out.  There weren't any surveillance cameras evident, but Nancy had a feeling that that was deceptive.  It was very quiet, with no one apparently around, which made her nervous.  This was almost too easy.  She started down the hall, glancing into each open doorway before cautiously moving by.

 

Jasmine and Terra had to be somewhere nearby.  She had to find them and get the hell out, which she knew was going to be easier said than done.  When she reached the stairway, she looked down, then up.  Hearing male voices down she decided up was her best bet.

 

On the third floor, she went through the same routine, moving quietly down the hall.  The house seemed to be totally empty, and the uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach was getting worse.  Something wasn't right, she should have come upon at least a couple of gun-toting guards by now.  The fourth door on the right was closed, and Nancy walked over to it and put an ear to the door.  She thought she heard a girl's voice, though only briefly.  There couldn't be that many girls here.

 

She moved to the next room, which was empty, and entered, closing the door quietly behind her. She did a quick recon of the room, again no surveillance cameras were evident.  Maybe Kennedy felt secure within his four acre estate, and didn't feel the need, but Nancy found that hard to believe.  But, there really was nothing else to do than to go with it.  She headed out to the balcony to see if she could get a view into the adjacent room, where she'd heard the voices.

 

The sun was just starting to rise, but the light was still faint.  She went out onto the balcony quietly and looked into the grounds below.  She saw one of the many armed guards walking a path about a hundred feet out from the house.  She watched him for about 5 minutes, and he never once looked up towards the house.

 

There was only a gap of about 2 feet between the balcony Nancy was on and the adjacent balcony.  She climbed up on the railing, and leaned over, trying to get a view into the next room without actually climbing onto its balcony.  She found that this was impossible with the doors into the room closed, and had to give in and climb on over.

 

Looking into the room, she saw Jasmine and Terra, both apparently unharmed.  Jasmine seemed to still be asleep, but Terra was awake, and laying across the end of the bed reading a book.  There was no one else in the room.  Nancy pulled the door open and walked in.

 

Terra sat up abruptly, "Nancy, what are you doing here?"

 

Terra's outburst had awakened Jasmine, kind of.  She rolled over and sat up rubbing her eyes.  She looked first at Terra then at Nancy, "Who are you?"

 

Terra turned to her mother, "This is Nancy Murdock, she's a friend of Gram's."

 

Nancy looked at the two appraisingly, "Well, as much as I'd love to chat, we really need to get out of here."

 

Jasmine's face turned to stone, "We're not going anywhere.  We're safe here."

 

Nancy sighed, she had hoped this would be easy, but obviously Jasmine was going to take some convincing, "So, you're safe here, huh? From whom, McGill?" Nancy couldn't keep the contempt out of her voice, "The person you really need to worry about is Kennedy.  The guy's a nut."

 

"Grant Kennedy took us in and protected us when no one else could," Jasmine countered stubbornly.

 

"Out of the goodness of his heart? What have you been doing for him Jasmine?" Nancy looked at Terra, considering her next words carefully, "Protection from one of his own men, in return for certain personal favors? Sounds like quite a scam to me."

 

"You don't know what you're talking about.  Grant loves me – he'll take care of me and my daughter."

 

"It was a set up from the beginning – Grant Kennedy wanted one thing," Nancy said, becoming angry, "Well maybe two.  I cannot believe you would expose your 12-year-old daughter to such a man."

 

"Grant thinks of Terra as a daughter," Jasmine said, standing up and putting her hands on her hips, "He wants to take care of her.  And me."

 

"I don't think you have a full picture of just how Kennedy wants to 'take care' of you," Nancy countered, trying to calm down and be reasonable.  This discussion was wasting time. She decided it was time for a different tact, "Why do you think he brought me here?"

 

"He didn't bring you here," Jasmine said dismissively, "You broke in – you are nothing but a common burglar."

 

Nancy laughed humorlessly, "Sure, I broke in here past a dozen armed guards and a sophisticated security system.  Kennedy had McGill kidnap me out of my home this morning and bring me here.  He's planning on doing some filming, and I know you understand what kind of filming I mean, before disposing of all of us."

 

Jasmine was starting to look frightened, Nancy got the distinct impression she'd already been the subject of some of Kennedy's films.  Nancy was getting an eerie feeling, as she watched Jasmine's eyes roving around the room, apparently searching for something.  She walked over to a decorative sconce on the wall opposite and said, "Son of a bitch – he's been filming us the whole time. That fucking pervert!" The words practically exploded from her mouth. 

 

She turned and looked at Nancy, "I thought he was just interested in me – Terra was along for the ride.  I thought I could keep her safe . . ." her voice trailed off.

 

"That's not important now," Nancy said consolingly, "What's important now is that we get the hell out of here."

 

Jasmine dropped into a chair, disconsolately, "It's no use – he's watching us right now.  He's probably been watching the whole time.  We wouldn't make it to the front door."

 

Nancy raised an eyebrow, "While I don't disagree with you, I also don't plan to just sit here and take whatever Kennedy has planned.  I'm going to try and get out of here, and for your daughter's sake, I'd think you would, too."

 

Jasmine stood, "Terra, get dressed. I guess there's no harm in seeing how far we can get."

 

 

Homecoming

 

The jet landed at the airfield at about 6am.  Hannibal and General Stockwell had been in intense discussion for a good portion of the trip, but had finally come to an agreement.  The Team could go into a retirement of sorts, as long as they trained other teams in the organization in their methods.  Hannibal told the General that half of the battle was going to be developing cohesive Teams that worked together as one.  That wasn't going to happen overnight.

 

They disembarked the plane immediately upon landing.  It had been a long mission, and they were all relieved to be home. Hannibal, BA, and Face were all headed to the same place, and piled into BA's van.  Murdock climbed into his truck and waved goodbye, heading the other direction.

 

At home Murdock parked behind a Buick, wondering idly whose vehicle it was.  Grabbing his duffle out of the back of the truck, he jogged up to the house and let himself in.  He dropped the bag by the back door, put his jacket on the peg board, and headed quietly upstairs.

 

In the bedroom, he found an empty bed, and started towards the bathroom, "Nan, where are you?"  He called quietly.  A quick search of the upstairs didn't reveal her anywhere, so he headed back downstairs, puzzled.  Maybe she stayed at Amy's last night.

 

He started towards the kitchen to call Amy and Face, when he heard a strangled noise coming from the living room.  He walked cautiously into the room, until he saw Riley.  Leaning down over Riley, Murdock pulled the gag off his mouth.  A burst of expletives greeted him, followed by, "Murdock, thank God you're home.  They've got Nancy."

 

Murdock had pulled out his pocket knife and after getting Riley to a sitting position, cut off the ropes binding his hands, "Who has Nancy?" He asked, alarm evident in his voice.

 

"I can't be sure, but I think McGill and some thug were the ones that took her last night.  But if I had to place bets, I'd bet Kennedy's behind it."

 

Murdock considered this for a split second before standing and making for the kitchen phone.  He called the Peck house, and Maggie answered the phone, her voice cheerful.

 

Murdock didn't waste any words, "Maggie, I need to talk to Hannibal."

 

Maggies felt her heart drop into her toes.  She turned and held the phone to Hannibal, "Nancy's in trouble," her voice was barely above a whisper.

 

Hannibal strode forward and took the phone, "Yea?"

 

"Hannibal, Nancy's been kidnapped.  I came home to find Riley trussed up on my couch and no wife in sight."

 

"We'll be right over."

 

Riley came walking into the kitchen as Murdock hung up the phone, "Do you know where they'd be holding her?"

 

Riley nodded, "Probably at Kennedy's estate in Langley Woods." Riley spied Nancy's purse, sitting on the kitchen counter and walked over to it.  He pulled her notebook and a stack of papers out, spreading them on the counter.

 

"Nancy was doing some research on the place yesterday at the Library, here are her notes.  Not much, but I'd bet that's where she is." Riley said.

 

"What do you know about the layout and security?"

 

Riley shook his, but then smiled, "I don't know anything, but I know someone who could probably help."

Riley went to the phone and dialed Joe Martin at home, "Joe, we've got a problem.  McGill snatched
Nan sometime early this morning."

 

Joe had been groggy when he picked up the phone, but he was wide awake by the time Riley finished his sentence, "Shit, I knew I should have locked her in a cell – whether she liked it or not."

 

Riley chuckled, but then turned serious again, "Murdock wants to know about the estate, I told him that was probably where they had her."

 

"Murdock's home? Thank goodness," Joe felt slightly relieved, though not much, "Put him on."

 

Murdock took the phone, "Hey, Joe, what can you tell me about this place?"

 

Joe sighed, "Unfortunately, not a lot, but I do know that there are at least a dozen armed guards that patrol the grounds at any one time.  He has a sophisticated security system, with cameras and motion detectors, so getting in undetected could be tricky.  The one thing you might have going for you is the vegetation – the grounds are practically a jungle, and should provide good cover."

 

"You're going to have to go in quiet," Joe warned, "If he gets wind that you're coming, he'll dispose of Nancy and any evidence, without a second thought."

 

Murdock was nodding, "Thanks, Joe.  It's better than going in totally blind."

 

"I'll head to the court house now, I may be able to swing an emergency search warrant and get you some backup.  But it's gonna take time, as Kennedy well knows."

 

"If what you say is true, a bunch of cop cars screaming in could be the wrong tact anyway."

 

"Call my pager when you get in," Joe gave him the number, "I'll be ready with backup just in case.  I can justify entering the grounds without a warrant if I know that there are people in immediate danger."

 

"Thanks, again, Joe."

 

Murdock hung up, and returned to the notes and copies that Nancy had collected over the last three days.  He skimmed the notes, his alarm mounting, "According to this, it looks like Jasmine and Terra may be in there, too."

 

"Nancy's suspected that for a couple days.  Joe's aware of the situation, but there was no evidence to justify a search warrant."

 

They heard the sound of gravel crunching under tires, and a few minutes later, Hannibal, BA, and Face came trooping in. 

 

Hannibal was jazzed, "What's the situation?"

 

Murdock filled him in on what he knew, "First we need to get into the gated community, then we need to get into the estate.  I don't think this is going to be a walk in the park."

 

Hannibal nodded, the wheels starting to turn, "Murdock, call the General.  I'd bet he can get us in the gate.  After that, I think we can handle a few thugs with submachine guns."

 

Murdock headed to the phone to call his Uncle-in-law, and quickly filled him in.  Stockwell was walking in the door within 10 minutes, the codes necessary to get into the gates in hand.  Hannibal laid out a simple plan, they'd go in, stealth mode, taking out the guards one at a time, then make their way into the house, "We don't have much on the security system, so it's going to be slow.  Just like looking for booby traps in the jungle."

 

Stockwell was listening quietly, "I'm going into the courthouse, to give Detective Martin some backup on getting a search warrant.  Mr. Riley, you should come with me, your testimony to the judge could be helpful in securing the warrant," he turned to Hannibal, "I'll have a backup team waiting in the wings, ready to move in on your order Colonel Smith."  With that he turned and left, with Riley reluctantly trailing behind.

 

Hannibal turned to his Team, "Let's saddle up – the sooner we get Nancy and the others out of there, the better."

 

 

Just Playing

 

Terra and Jasmine were dressed in no time.  Nancy turned to Jasmine, "Do you know anywhere that we could find some weapons of some sort?"

 

Jasmine shook her head. But Terra jumped in, "The library downstairs has a bunch of antique armor and weapons that we might be able to use."

 

Nancy smiled at her appreciatively, "That's a great idea. Where's the library?"

 

"First floor, at the other end of the house.  I've been spending a lot of time there." She added.

 

Nancy led the way out of the room and down the hall.  Once again, they didn't meet anyone in the hallway, giving Nancy that eerie feeling of being watched again.  She was becoming more and more certain that this was all an elaborate set up for Kennedy's amusement, but she really didn't see any other recourse.  They just had to try and get as far as possible; maybe Kennedy would slip up and give them a window of opportunity for escape.

 

Once on the first floor, Nancy let Terra lead the way.  She mimicked what she had seen Nancy doing in the upstairs hallway, checking each corner and entry before moving across it.  Nancy had to smile; she was definitely a quick study.

 

The doors to the library were open, and they entered unimpeded.  Nancy looked around the room, taking inventory, maces, fencing swords, heavy fighting swords, and lances.  Most of the weapons in the room were too weighty and unwieldy to be of any use to them, except maybe the maces, and the fencing sword were fairly useless as a weapon.

 

Terra went straight over to the set of maces, and pulled them down off the wall, handing one to her mother.  They found that even the maces were too heavy for them to handle them with any effectiveness.  Nancy walked around the room.  Back behind a big oversize antique desk was a glass display cabinet with old revolvers in it.  Under the display was a locked cabinet.

 

Nancy turned to the desk and rifled through the drawers quickly. Not finding a key, she pulled out a paper clip and set to work jimmying the cabinet lock open.  Under the cabinet she found several types of ammunition, but was most happy to find a small, modern hand gun. 

 

She pulled it out and checked the chamber, it was only a 6+1 shot, but there was extra ammo in the cabinet.  Better than nothing.  She shoved the gun into the back of her waist band thinking that at this point it was a good thing all of her pants were tight, or she'd be losing it in her underwear.  Then she dumped the extra ammo into her pocket.

 

"Have either of you ever handled fire arms?" both shook their heads no, and Nancy decided that it would probably be pointless to give them guns.  The models left were antique, and required some skill to handle.  Besides they would be on the move, and in inexperienced hands the guns could be more dangerous to them then Kennedy's men.

 

"Well, might as well see how far we can get.  Are you ready?"

 

They moved to the door that led onto the porch from the library.  Nancy cracked the door and looked out.  The light was rapidly increasing, which was going to be to their disadvantage.  She didn't see anyone on the porch, so she moved on out and motioned for Terra and Jasmine to follow.

 

They had just started moving into the garden off the porch, with Nancy in the lead, followed by Jasmine, with Terra taking up the rear, when a strangled cry brought Nancy up short.

 

Turning back she felt her heart drop, she'd known this was too good to be true.  But she had hoped that Kennedy would let them get far enough where they might have a chance of escape.

 

"I think that is just about far enough," Kennedy had Terra's arm and was holding a gun to her head, "I'd hate to underestimate my opponent." His tone was mocking.

 

He motioned with the gun, indicating that Jasmine and Nancy should come back into the house.  Jasmine was seething, "You filthy pervert, take your hands off of my daughter."

 

Kennedy's smile was pure evil, "Oh I plan to have my hands all over your daughter, Jasmine, just as I've had them all over you," he reached out and stroked Jasmine's cheek, and she flinched.

 

When they entered the library again, a young sandy-haired man in professor glasses came in, looking distastefully at the scene.  Kennedy regarded him with amusement, "Paul, please relieve Ms. Murdock of the gun.  I'd hate to give her any opportunities, as I seriously doubt she'd waste them."

 

McGill came striding in as well, "Martin was seen headed to the court house early this morning.  We need to get this over with before the cops manage to get a search warrant." Nancy felt a slight surge of elation, maybe there was some hope.

 

Kennedy smiled smugly, "They don't have any hard evidence that Ms. Murdock is here – it will take Martin some fast talking to get a judge to grant a search warrant."

 

"Just the same, this is risky." McGill growled, obviously not happy with the way things were going down.

 

"Boy are you gullible, McGill," Nancy said derisively, "He's setting you up to take the fall, you know."

 

One look at Paul showed that Nancy was right on target – well sometimes a girl got lucky, she just hoped McGill had seen the panic cross the young man's face and realized what it meant.  She had a bad feeling that he wasn't that smart.

 

"McGill looked at her warily, "Shut up, bitch.  You aren't going to get to me with some stupid mind game."

 

Nancy shrugged, "Suit yourself. It just seems obvious to me that there's going to have to be a fall guy to take the rap for four murders, and you are in a prime position to play that role."

 

McGill looked at Nancy, and she could practically see the wheels turning in his head, "Why do you think Kennedy sent you to kill Penny?  Why did you have to personally handle my kidnapping? Who was Jasmine running from?  You, in all cases, and the police are going to figure that out, probably with some skillfully placed evidence."

 

McGill turned to Kennedy angrily, "You been settin' me up all along." He advanced on Kennedy who nodded to Paul.  Paul was still standing next to Nancy.  He took the gun that he'd just pulled from Nancy's waist band, and standing behind her, raised his arm at her shoulder height, and shot McGill right between the eyes.

 

Nancy was stunned.  Of course, they wanted it to look like she had killed McGill.  Her fingerprints were all over the gun.  She was starting to feel like she was in a very bad dream, where she was powerless to move the way she wanted.

 

 

Neutralizing Maneuvers

 

Hannibal and the Team, along with their backup got into the community using the key code that the General had obtained.  They moved a panel van, advertising carpet cleaning into place just down the street from the main gate into Kennedy's estate.  The backup team would wait here for Hannibal's signal.  The Team ranged silently along the walls surrounding the estate, getting a general feel for the layout and looking for a good entry point.  They reconvened near the van, and compared notes.

 

After hearing everyone's report, Hannibal made a decision, "We'll go over the wall at the southeast corner.  There's a lot of heavy vegetation there that will hopefully provide some good cover for our entry.  Be on the look out for motion sensors.  Let's move out."

 

They made it over the wall without incident. Face was the first over, and pointed out the motion sensors to each of his team mates in turn as they joined him.  Once they were all over, Hannibal nodded, and they split up, ranging out into the grounds to take out the guards and make their way to the house.

 

Murdock moved through the foliage, catching site of an unwary guard.  He slung his weapon over his shoulder and pulled himself up into a small maple tree by the side of the path.  As the guard walked underneath, Murdock swung down, sprawling him unconscious across the path.  He dropped down and checked to make sure the man was out of action.

 

 

He dragged the man off the path and cuffed him to a tree, out of sight.  When he went to tie a gag on, he noticed the small head set and receiver the guard was wearing. He pulled them off, looking curiously at the receiver which was labeled 'SE2', then clipped them on himself.  There was only occasional traffic, and it appeared to be regularly timed check ins.  They were going to have to hurry before central security realized that their guards were disappearing.

 

 

Face rose from his second guard, pulling the same kind of receiver and head set off.  He checked the label 'NE1'.  He already had one strapped to himself, so he tossed this one in the bushes, away from his most recent captive.  A voice crackled over his head set, "NE2, radio check?"

 

That was the label on the receiver Face was wearing.  He flicked a switch up on the ear piece, "Uh, NE2, all clear."

 

"Base clear," came the reply.  Face let out a relieved breath, and headed further in towards the house.

 

 

BA pulled his second capture into the foliage and cuffed him to a tree, gagging him and throwing his head set and receiver into the bushes.  He'd heard Face's voice on the last radio check, and checked the tag on the receiver before tossing it.  They had to keep the base operator in the dark as long as possible.  He moved in towards his next target, repeating the numbers for his guards in his head so he wouldn't miss a radio check.

 

 

Hannibal neutralized a third guard, pulling him some distance to get him out of site.  Nearer the house, the vegetation wasn't as thick or tall, and it was getting more difficult to move without being seen.  It was also getting increasingly light, which was definitely to their disadvantage.  As he stood from securing the guard, he heard a muffled sound, that he could have sworn was a gun shot.  He headed toward the house, keeping low, and moving quickly.

 

As Hannibal neared the porch, he scanned the surrounding landscape. BA, Face, and Murdock were all moving in as he was and there wasn't a guard in site.  The radio checks were infrequent, only occurring about every 10 minutes.  Hannibal checked his watch, it had taken them 25 minutes to get this far, and they were close enough to their target that they could afford to be a little bolder.  He waved his gun towards the house, running in towards the porch in a crouch, followed closed by the rest of the Team.

 

Up on the porch, they conferred quietly behind a screen of climbing roses, "Alright, BA you're with me, we're going in the front.  Murdock and Face, circle around back.  Case the house, we need to find where they're being held and we need to neutralize central security."

 

 

Surprise Party

 

Nancy found her tongue quickly after the shooting, "You never do your own dirty work, do you Kennedy?" she said caustically.

 

Kennedy didn't reply, but nodded his head at Paul, who nudged Nancy in the back with the gun, "Have a seat, Ms. Murdock."  Nancy sat in a straight back chair and Paul tied her hands tightly behind her and tied her legs roughly to the chair legs, effectively immobilizing her.  He then moved over and took the gun from Kennedy, sitting Terra in another chair, and motioning Jasmine to another.  Jasmine sat reluctantly, obviously wanting to get Paul and the gun away from her daughter.

 

Kennedy moved in front of Nancy and crouched so that his face was level with hers, "I've really enjoyed our little play, Nancy, but I fear McGill was right about one thing, we will have to hurry."

 

He ran a finger along her jaw line, down her neck and between her breasts, "Such a pity, too, I was hoping to take my time with you – break you properly."

 

He leaned in a kissed her roughly, his hands closing around her neck in a strangle hold.  Nancy couldn't move and she couldn't breath.  She could feel consciousness slipping away, when he suddenly released her.  His eyes were bright, as he looked at her, "I'm afraid it will be much more enjoyable for me than for you." He said.

 

"Go to hell," Nancy choked out, just before he backhanded her across the face.

 

Kennedy's hand was caught mid-air, as he swung back to slap her again.  Hannibal bent it back and forced Kennedy to his knees, placing the muzzle of his revolver between Kennedy's eyes, "You're lucky I got here first, or I'd guarantee you'd be dead right now," Hannibal said through gritted teeth.

 

Kennedy looked for Paul, only to see him hanging from BA's jeweled fist like a rag doll.  There would be no help from that corner.

 

Hannibal got him to his feet and pushed him over to the fireplace, with BA and his parcel close behind, "Secure them, I'm going to get Nancy loose." Jasmine had rushed to Terra's side, and was standing protectively with her.

 

Hannibal noticed Kennedy looking expectantly at the door, as he moved back towards Nancy.  He laughed, "If you're looking for help from your security personnel, forget it.  They're out of commission."

 

Hannibal spoke into the headset he was wearing, "Face, Murdock front northwest corner of the house. We've got 'em." 

 

Face responded immediately "We're at security central, Colonel.  Signal the backup in, we've got the front gate open. Oh, and Murdock is on his way down."

 

Hannibal signaled the back up team.  BA secured Paul and Kennedy, cuffing each to the fire place iron work, while Hannibal worked to get Nancy loose.  As soon as her arms were free she threw them around him in relief, "I have never been so happy to see anyone in my life," she admitted.

 

She stood on shaky legs as Murdock came running through from the front hall.  He was at her side in an instant and gathered her into a bear hug, "Are you alright?" he looked at her critically, noting the bloody lip, and blackening eye.

 

Nancy reached up and touched the eye gingerly, "Not another one," she moaned, her usual assuredness returning, "Maggie's never going to let me live this down."

 

In the yard, police cars were pulling in with sirens blaring – Joe had obviously gotten his search warrant.  Nancy turned to Kennedy, her jaw set, "Hear that, Kennedy, that's the sound of your future rushing to meet you."

 

Kennedy laughed, "Don't count me out yet, my dear.  Rest assured that I will make you pay . . . eventually."

 

Murdock's eyes flashed, and he turned towards Kennedy, but Hannibal's voice stopped him, "At ease, Captain.  He's not worth it."

 

Nancy had a restraining hand on his arm.  Murdock glanced at the Colonel who motioned for him to take Nancy outside.  Murdock obliged.  Turning back to Nancy, he put an arm around her shoulders and steered her out of the library and into the yard.

 

He put his hands on her shoulders and leaned down to look directly in her eyes, his own still reflecting tension and worry, "Are you sure you're OK?"

 

Nancy smiled, "I am now." She put her arms around his waist and they held on to each other like they'd never let go.

 

 

Reunion

 

It took the police awhile to round up all of the men scattered across the yard.  Nancy, Jasmine and Terra were all checked out by paramedics, and deemed healthy, if a bit worse for the wear.

 

During the entire ordeal, Jasmine never left her daughter's side, keeping a protective arm around her.  The last few hours had brought home just how off her judgment had been, and she seemed to be determined to make sure Terra was never put in harms way again.

 

Nancy walked over and looked at the two with some concern.  Brett had just finished questioning them, and they looked exhausted.

 

"Are you two alright?" Nancy asked.

 

Jasmine looked at Nancy, and shook her head, "I think it's gonna be awhile before I'm really alright.  I can't believe I was so stupid.  It has to be the drugs – they have to stop.  Here and now."

 

Terra gave her mother a squeeze around the waist, "Gram always said if you gave up the drugs you could come home," her young voice sounded hopeful, she'd obviously missed her mother.

 

Jasmine looked at her daughter lovingly, "I'll be home, but not until I'm clean.  There's a clinic in DC.  I'll go there for rehab, and be home when the drugs are out of my system," she smiled warmly at Terra's disappointed look, and kissed her forehead, "It's for the best sweet heart.  Trust me, the rehab isn't going to be pretty."

 

A police car pulled up nearby, and Blanche jumped out of the back of it when the officer opened the door.  She came running up to her daughter and granddaughter, and caught both of them in a strangling hug, "Oh thank God, you're both OK," she sobbed, kissing both and refusing to let go, "I thought I'd never see you again."

 

A few minutes later, after convincing herself that Jasmine and Terra were both alright, Blanche turned to Nancy, "I'll never be able to thank you enough," she said, coming forward and giving Nancy a warm embrace and kiss on the cheek.  She looked in Nancy's eyes, and a glimmer of humor lit her face, "I'll start with a life-time supply of cabbage rolls!"

 

Murdock came up as if on cue, "Did you say cabbage rolls? Yummy, I'm starving."

 

Nancy laughed, "You have no idea what you're getting yourself into, Blanche!"

 

 

Epilogue

 

The day following Kennedy's arrest passed in a blur, with detectives coming and going, and reporters calling to get information.  Nancy got to the point where she refused to answer the phone.  She just wanted to enjoy the peace and quiet of home.  She and HM had a lot of catching up to do. 

 

The next day, things finally seemed to be returning to some semblance of normalcy, and she was standing in the kitchen, gazing out the window over the sink.  She was actually up before Murdock which was unusual, but not really surprising.  He was still trying to catch up from time zone hopping for the last two months. 

 

Murdock came down the stairs, whistling cheerfully.  He came up behind her and put his arms around her waist, and was leaning to kiss her neck, when he stopped short. 

 

He spun her around and lifted her shirt, "What's this?" he asked, indicating the pony tail elastic, holding her jeans closed.

 

Nancy looked down with a knowing little grin, "Looks like I'm retaining a little water."

 

Murdock unhooked the elastic and ran an exploratory hand along her stomach, feeling a definite swell.

 

"Feeling frisky, Captain?" she asked teasingly.

 

"Nancy, this is more than a little water retention," he said excitedly.

 

Nancy nodded, "Yes, it definitely is," she reached behind her, picking something up off the counter. She held out a plastic stick him.

 

He took it, "What's this . . .," he stopped looking closer at the pregnancy test, "Does this mean what I think it means?"  Nancy nodded.

 

Murdock was practically bursting with excitement. He scooped her up and swung her around the kitchen, singing, "We're gonna have a baby, we're gonna have a baby!"

 

Nancy's smile was broad.  This was definitely going to change their life - all for the better.

 

 

The End

 


A Lifetime Supply Of Cabbage Rolls by KennaC

 

 


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