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"Please, Nancy, please, please, please

Flying into a Mad Season. . . Who's Psychotic Now?

By KennaC

 

Rated:  PG-13

Summary:  After losing his jet pilot, General Stockwell requires Murdock's services, but is flying all he wants from his nephew-in-law? The General is once again throwing the Murdock household into chaos, in more ways than one - and soon things will get even weirder than usual. Murdock isn't alone in thinking that maybe the General is losing it.  Sequel to Lifetime Supply of Cabbage Rolls - will be helpful if not essential to read that first.

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

Disclaimer:  I do not own the A-Team – just like to mess with them once in a while. Nancy Clay Murdock and her associates are all mine, for better or worse. Also, many thanks to the great artists whose song lyrics I use throughout the story.  I've tried to make sure they're noted in the text. Enjoy and please, please, please review!

 

hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

 

Chapter 1: Homecoming

 

"Please, Nancy, please, please, please?"  Terra Walker, a twelve-year-old girl with long dark hair and brilliant emerald eyes looked at Nancy Murdock beseechingly, "Mom talked to Charlie, just like you said.  But he wants someone to sing, not just play jazz - he said specifically to talk to you."

 

Nancy, a petite and pregnant young woman with auburn hair and sky-blue eyes, sighed as she put a stack of plates from the dishwasher away.  Why had she sent Jasmine Walker to talk to Charlie in the first place?  She should have known better.  Charlie had been looking for a hook to get her to sing in his place for several years, "Terra, don't you think your Mom would be happier playing with someone who like the same kind of music she does, someone . . . more her age?"

 

"Mom likes all kinds of music. Besides, the only musicians she knows are druggies," Terra said distastefully, "she doesn't need that kind of temptation right now."  Jasmine had just recently finished a drug rehabilitation program, and was now trying to get back on her feet.  She'd moved back in with her mother, Blanche Walker, and had a part-time waitressing job at the diner where Blanche worked.  Jasmine, however, had other aspirations besides waiting tables.

 

"Well, can't she sing herself?" Nancy ventured, casting about for a way out of the corner she was being backed into.

 

Terra made a face, then laughed, "You've never heard Mom sing, have you?  She's terrific on the piano, guitar, synthesizer, violin - just about any other instrument you can name, but she cannot sing!"

 

Nancy was still hesitating, and Terra grabbed her arm and pleaded, "Nancy, you have to do this.  Charlie said if you came with the deal, he'd set it up so Mom and you could play regularly. She really needs this, Nan. You know how depressed she's been lately."

 

Nancy did know, that's why she'd sent Jasmine to talk to Charlie in the first place.  She also knew looking into Terra's eyes that she couldn't say 'no.' She nodded resignedly, "OK, we'll give it a try.  Have your Mom set up a practice time and place, preferably with no one around, and we'll see how it goes."

 

Terra was jumping up and down and threw her arms around Nancy's neck, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

 

Nancy extracted herself from Terra's choke hold, smiling. She turned back to emptying the dishwasher, saying gravely, "I'm not going to have much time to devote to this, Terra.  Your Mom's gonna have to handle just about everything.  All I'm promising is to show up and sing a little."

 

"No problemo!" Terra grinned, using one of HM Murdock's favorite catch phrases.  Putting her in mind of the pilot, Terra glanced around, "Where's HM?" she asked, wondering why Nancy's husband hadn't made an appearance.

 

Nancy put the last cup away and began loading the few meager dirty dishes in the sink into the now-empty dishwasher, "He's out of town," she said shortly, "The General fired his pilot about a month ago, and has had HM hauling him all over the place ever since."

 

Nancy was referring to her uncle, General Hunt Stockwell, who was her husband's employer.  Her uncle had been responsible for Nancy and her husband meeting, in a round-about way, having acquired the services of the A-Team, which included Captain HM Murdock, almost four years earlier.  The General would not have been happy at the insinuation that he had anything to do with his niece meeting or marrying the eccentric pilot, having been totally against their relationship.

 

The back door opened, and Colonel John 'Hannibal' Smith, and his wife Maggie came in calling their greetings.  Nancy finished rinsing the sink she'd just emptied, then turned to greet her new guests, "Hi Hannibal! Hi, Maggie!" She said brightly, and smiled as Maggie came and gave her a warm embrace in greeting.

 

"It's been awhile since we've seen you, so Maggie insisted we stop by and make sure you were OK," Hannibal said, grinning around his ever present cigar, "So, how's this pregnant lady doing?"

 

Nancy laughed, "Probably better than the other pregnant lady you've visited today," she said knowingly, "I'm assuming Amy's still pregnant, since I haven't heard otherwise . . ."  Amy Peck was 9 plus months pregnant. She was now over a week past her due date, and getting crankier with each passing day. 

 

Maggie nodded, "Amy goes in for an ultrasound today.  I think Dr. Phillips will schedule her for induction soon."

 

"Well that has to have Amy relieved," Nancy said.

 

Maggie chuckled, "I don't think Amy will be relieved until the baby is here.  This hot weather is miserable, especially when you're pregnant," she looked at Nancy appraisingly.  Nancy was mid-term, and her belly was starting to become noticeable, "How have you been? We haven't heard from you all week . . ."

 

"I've been busy with work, and things . . ." Nancy said noncommittally.

 

Maggie glanced at Hannibal, then turned to Terra, who had been sitting quietly at the kitchen bar, "And how are you Terra?"

 

"I'm doing fine," Terra said respectfully, "Grams dropped me off while she went to clean at Mrs. Hubbard's house down the road."

 

Maggie nodded, "And how's your Mom?"

 

"OK," Terra said, looking at Nancy, "She's working at the diner this morning.  I was just talking to Nan about singing with Mom at Charlie's," she added eagerly.

 

Hannibal looked at Nancy in surprise.  It took some persuasion to even get her to sing for family and friends, "Really?  That's great!" he said sincerely.

 

Maggie nodded in agreement, "It would be nice to get Nancy to entertain us on a more regular basis.

 

Nancy's face was turning red, "I said we'd give it a try, Terra," she said carefully, "I'm not making any promises.  I don't do real well with crowds."

 

Maggie patted Nancy's shoulder encouragingly, "It just takes practice - you'll do fine."

 

Maggie glanced about, as Terra had done just a few minutes earlier, "Where's HM - isn't he home yet?" she asked in surprise.

 

"No," Nancy said in answer, "He called last night and said he thought he'd be home this morning, but it's 11 now, so I'm guessing he won't make it.  Uncle keeps changing plans . . ."

 

Maggie looked at Hannibal, "Is the General looking for another pilot, or just planning on usurping HM's services indefinitely?"

 

Nancy jumped in, "He's already told Uncle to find another pilot."

 

Hannibal nodded agreement, but looked concerned, "That's how I understand it.  Unfortunately, I don't know how long it's going to take to find someone else.  As far as I know, Stockwell hasn't even gotten any applicants yet, let alone done any interviewing."

 

Nancy sighed dejectedly.  The two months following the Team's last mission had been wonderful.  Murdock was home on a regular schedule, and their lives had actually been almost normal.  But the loss of the jet pilot had returned at least the Murdock household topsy-turvy, again.  Nancy had seen her husband only briefly in the last month, a day here and there, and it didn't look like there was any end in sight.

 

Nancy decided to change the subject, talking about Murdock's absence just made her miss him more, "Have you seen BA yet today?" she asked.

 

Hannibal shook his head, "Mrs. B. called before we left for Face and Amy's, said that she needed some things from the grocery store and couldn't get hold of BA.  We checked at the community center and the garage, but he wasn't either place."

 

"Oh, I think you have a pretty good idea where he is," Maggie said quietly.

 

Nancy turned and looked out the window at the old Chrysler pulling in the driveway.  She turned to Terra, "I think you're ride's here, kiddo," she said and watched as Blanche got out of the car and headed towards the back door.

 

Looking at Maggie, she smiled and said, "I would think BA would just come clean about what's going on with Char - it's not like we don't all know he's been seeing her."

 

Maggie shrugged, "I don't know.  In some ways I think BA has some very traditional ideas.  He and Char have known each other for a long time, and it's taken him awhile to admit even to himself how he feels about her. It'll take him awhile longer to admit it to his family."

 

Blanche came walking in, "Well, you certainly have a busy household," she said to Nancy, "I hope Terra hasn't been too much trouble."

 

Nancy smiled, "Of course not, Blanche.  Though she can be a bit pushy," she said, looking at Terra with a stern smile.

 

Terra grinned impishly, and grabbed her grandmother's hand, steering her out of the house, "Let's get out of Nancy's hair, Gram.  She's got lots to do," Terra wanted to make sure Nancy had no opportunity to back out of her agreement.  She waved, "Thanks for the company, Nan.  I'll have Mom give you a call later."

 

Blanche looked railroaded, and waved absently, "Well, it was nice seeing you, anyways."

 

Hurried goodbyes were exchanged all around as Terra hustled Blanche out the door. 

 

Maggie turned back to Nancy, her eyes dancing, "So, exactly how did Terra convince you to sing at Charlie's?"

 

Nancy sighed, "Let's just say she can be very persuasive.  I think Charlie and I are going to have to have a little talk," Nancy related her understanding of the 'deal' Charlie had made with Jazz.

 

Maggie and Hannibal exchanged knowing looks.  Nancy had been involved in getting Jasmine out of the bad situation she'd been in a few months back, and she still seemed to feel responsible for her.

 

"Well, I think it's a terrific idea," Hannibal said, "now we'll have something to do on weekends."

 

Nancy shook her head, "I haven't made any promises yet - I just said we'd give it a try.  Jazz may still decide she's better off with someone else."

 

Maggie recalled their previously interrupted conversation, and switched gears abruptly, "Was there something you needed BA for, Nancy?"

 

"I talked to him briefly yesterday about doing the lawn for me. He said he'd come over to do it today," she replied, looking out at the overgrown yard.  The large old farmhouse sat in the middle of a fairly wide horseshoe-shaped drive.  Often too wet to mow effectively, during dry weather, when other people gave up mowing scorched grass, their lawn was green and lush and growing at an alarming rate.  Murdock hadn't been home long enough in the last month to get the mowing done, and the thought of bouncing over the uneven lawn made Nancy cringe.  So, she'd asked BA if he would take time to do it, and he had willingly agreed.

 

"If BA said he'd do it, I'm sure he'll be by eventually," Hannibal said.

 

Nancy nodded, "Oh, I don't doubt he'll show up, I was just wondering when.  I need to run out and get groceries, but I hate to leave when he's coming."

 

"We're headed into town," Maggie offered, "We can pick up whatever you need and drop it off on our way back home. We need to pick up some groceries for tonight."

 

Hannibal straightened, "Yea, we're grilling steaks tonight, and everyone's comin' over for dinner at about 5."

 

Nancy smiled, "If you don't mind picking a few things up for me I'd really appreciate it," she handed Maggie her grocery list, "Steak sounds good, but I've got some things to get done tonight . . . I'm not sure I'll be able to make it. It kinda depends if HM makes it home," she looked at the clock again.

 

"It's still early - they're probably just running a little late," Maggie said with an understanding smile.

 

Nancy walked with Maggie and Hannibal to the door, "I'll see you later. Thanks, again, for the grocery service!"

 

Hannibal nodded, "Not a problem.  We'll see you in a little bit."

 

Nancy waved until they were out the drive, then went back into the house, heading into her office in the front room. She had been doing quite a bit of her work from home lately, and had a full office set up, with computer, fax, and extra phone line.  She figured it was best to keep busy, otherwise she'd sit around feeling sorry for herself because HM hadn't made it home.

 

 

Maggie waved at Nancy as they pulled out of the drive and headed into town, then turned and looked at her husband, "That girl has been down right unsociable when Murdock's gone," she said, concern edging her voice, "It's like she retreats into her own little world."

 

Hannibal shrugged, "Nancy's always been independent," he said, "it's just her way of dealing with his absence – she throws herself into work.  I don't see where it's anything to worry about."

 

"It's more than that, John," she said, "she wasn't like this before, when you were all gone. Something is different this time. I'm worried about her . . . and Murdock."

 

"I'm tellin' you, Maggie," Hannibal said certainly, "Nancy and Murdock will get through this, just like they always have. You're worrying about nothing."

 

"I hope you're right."

 

 

About 15 minutes after everyone had left, Nancy heard tires crunching on the gravel in the drive and stood to look out the window.  She saw Murdock getting out of a black sedan with his bag.  He waved to the driver as the car backed out, then turned and walked towards the front door.  A huge smile lit her face, and she hurried out to meet him.

 

She stood at the top of the steps on the porch, her arms crossed, but a beaming smile still on her face, "Hey, I was beginning to wonder if you'd show up today or not."

 

He jogged up the steps, dropped his bag next to her and put his arms around her waist, "Sorry I'm late, Short Cake," he said, kissing her lingeringly, "I'm beginning to think that your Uncle is incapable of sticking to a schedule. Which really surprises me coming from a four star General."

 

"I'm just glad you're home," she said, looking into his warm brown eyes, "I've missed you so much . . ." she added quietly.

 

He ran a finger along her chin, "I missed you, too," they kissed again, and Murdock pulled back, his eyes dancing with mischief, "Come on, let's go inside so I can grope you properly."

 

He picked up his bag, and they walked into the house arm in arm.

 

In the house he dropped his bag once again, this time by the living room couch, and turned, gathering Nancy into a bear hug, and burying his face in her hair, "You smell delectable," he said.

 

Nancy smiled, snaking her arms around his waist and looping her thumbs through his belt loops, then groaned as her belly gave a sudden lurch. 

 

He stepped back a bit, "I even felt that one," he said in surprise.

 

Nancy chuckled, "I guess the baby's glad you're home, too!"

 

He leaned down and talked to her belly, "How're you doin', petey?" he asked playfully, then added with mock sternness, "You gotta take it easy on your mama there, little one."

 

She laughed, as her belly rolled again in response, "I think petey is saying 'hello'," she said, then looked at him hopefully, "and maybe wondering if you're gonna be stickin' around awhile?"

 

He straightened and shrugged, "I think so. Your Uncle has meetings in DC for the next few days."

 

"Good," Nancy said, "Maybe he'll find a new pilot while he's there."

 

Murdock grinned, "We can hope."

 

"Maybe we should start looking ourselves," she suggested, "I'm tired of living alone."

 

Murdock looked at her ruefully, "I talked to the General about it again.  He said he has Carla working on finding a replacement pilot.  Hopefully it won't take too much longer."

 

His face broke into a suggestive grin, "Besides, you're not alone now - and we do have a lot of catching up to do."  He leaned down, stopping her reply with a kiss, which deepened and became urgent.  It had been nearly a week since they'd seen each other, and they were both feeling the desire to be close.

 

Nancy took off his ever present baseball cap and dropped it on the end table, while he started unbuttoning her shirt.  Neither one noticed the van pulling in the drive, and only realized they had company when BA slammed through the back door, "Hey, little mama - you home?"

 

Murdock dropped his head onto Nancy's shoulder with a moan, "Doesn't anybody knock anymore?"

 

Nancy chuckled, removing his hands, and buttoning her shirt, "I think this will have to wait."

 

Murdock raised his head slightly, looking into her sky blue eyes, a broad smile on his face, "We could just keep going, even big, ugly mudsuckers can take a hint."

 

Nancy shook her head and ducked out of his embrace, "We're in here BA," she called.

 

BA came through the dining room, "Hey, man, when did you get home?"

 

Murdock sighed and followed his wife into the dining room, "About 10 minutes ago," he answered.

 

"General's got you on a short leash lately," BA commented, "When he gonna find another pilot?"

 

Murdock shrugged, "Can't be too soon," he said. A mischievous grin lit his face, "You know, BA, if you'd waited another five minutes, I'd have had my wife naked and in a very embarrassing position."

 

Nancy reached out to punch him on the arm as he walked by to go into the bathroom.

 

"I'm gonna take a shower," Murdock said, dodging her blow, "A cold one," he added with a grin, before closing the door.

 

BA looked at the closed door, shaking his head. Then he turned back to Nancy, "I'll go ahead and get started on the lawn. I just need the key to the shed."

 

"It should be on the peg board by the back door," she said, "I think it's labeled.

 

BA acknowledged with a nod, "I'll head out and get started," one of his rare grins crossed his face, "I'll be busy for awhile," he added as he walked towards the kitchen.

 

Nancy shook her head, smiling at the retreating back.  When she heard the door slam again, she slipped into the bathroom. They did have a lot of catching up to do.

 

 

Half an hour later, Nancy and Murdock were upstairs lounging in bed.  Murdock propped up on an elbow and looked out the window as BA made a pass around the front yard, and off to the side on the lawn mower.  He turned and looked at his wife with a rueful grin, "Much as I'd like to stay up here for the rest of the afternoon, I really should go down and help the big guy finish up the lawn."

 

Nancy smiled and pulled him back down onto the bed, kissing him soundly, before agreeing regretfully, "Yes, I suppose you should go help . . ."

 

He gave her another lingering kiss before he swung his legs out of bed and started pulling on his clothes, "With both of us working on it, it shouldn't take long," he turned as Nancy sat up and put her arms around his chest, leaning her head on his shoulder.  He smiled at her and kissed her nose, "Then we can pick up where we left off."

 

 

Less than an hour later, Murdock and BA had finished up the lawn, and Hannibal and Maggie were pulling in the drive with the groceries. Nancy went out to the car, where BA and Murdock were already helping Hannibal and Maggie pull bags out of the back seat. They each grabbed a bag and headed into the house. 

 

In the kitchen, Nancy dropped her bags by the pantry and indicated two glasses of milk on the counter, "Those are for you," she said to Murdock and BA.  Turning to Hannibal and Maggie, she asked, "Can I get either of you anything?"

 

Hannibal shook his head, "Nope, we've got to get headed home.  I need to get the grill started.  Remember, 1700 hours! You will be able to make it won't you?" He looked at Nancy quizzically.

 

Nancy nodded, "We'll plan to be there, Hannibal."

 

Maggie put her bags on the counter and put an arm around Murdock, "I'm glad you're home, mister," she said warmly.

 

He smiled, "It's good to be home! Just hope I get to stay for a while."

 

Nancy pinched his butt as she walked by with bread to put away, "I second that!"

 

"Hey, watch that," Murdock said, glancing back at her.

 

"Couldn't do it if I wasn't watchin'!" Nancy replied lightly.

 

Maggie turned and started to help Nancy with the groceries, but Hannibal caught her arm, "C'mon, woman, we need to get home and get dinner started.  The troops will land in just about two hours, and we've still got to unload our own groceries!"

 

BA drained his glass, "I should get goin', too," he said hastily, "I haven't checked on Mama yet today . . ."

 

Murdock looked at him quizzically, "Don't you live with your mother, big guy?" then he grinned and raised an eyebrow, "Or were you staying elsewhere last night?"

 

Nancy turned from the pantry and grinned at her husband conspiratorially, "Speaking of which, BA," she said innocently, "Are you bringing Charlotte with you tonight?"

 

BA stopped short, hesitated, and then said quietly, "She might be able to come, I'll hafta ask her."

 

Hannibal wasn't certain, but he would have sworn BA was blushing, "Bring her along," he said, clapping the big man on the back. 

 

BA looked decidedly uncomfortable, "I'm not sure she'll be able to make it, ya know, she got a lotta things goin' on."

 

"Aw, I'm sure if you ask her, she'll be there, big guy," Murdock said encouragingly, "she seems to think you're pretty special - though I'm not sure why," he added, his brow furrowing.

 

BA growled at the pilot, and Murdock judiciously stepped behind his wife.

 

Nancy shook her head, laughing, "Honestly, HM, using your wife to shield you from a large, angry man is pretty low," she chastised calmly.

 

Murdock kept his hands firmly on her shoulders, "You're not in any danger - even an irate, muscle-bound wrench-monkey wouldn't hurt a pregnant lady."

 

"I guess if I want anymore children I should protect my big-mouthed husband," she said, grinning.

 

BA relented, looking at Nancy, his dark eyes glittering, "I don't know why you wanna let the crazy man reproduce anyway - but I'll let 'im live.  Just fo' you little mama," he turned and followed Hannibal and Maggie towards the door.

 

Murdock stepped around Nancy and followed BA, apparently feeling reckless, "So, is your girlfriend comin' or not?" he pressed.

 

BA turned suddenly and caught the pilot by the collar, lifting his feet off the ground, "Char and me're jus' friends, you got that, fool?"

 

Murdock nodded, "Yea, yea, just friends, got it." he said in a strangled voice.

 

BA dropped him to the floor and headed for the door, where Hannibal was standing with Maggie, watching the exchange with amusement.

 

Murdock rubbed his neck, then threw a look back at his wife before commenting, "You're 'just friends' like I 'just like' to fly." he said, then turned and darted behind Nancy before BA could get his hands on him again.

 

Hannibal decided to step in, and put a restraining hand on BA's shoulder, "Don't sweat it, BA, we all know you and Char are just friends," lucky for Hannibal BA still had his attention on Murdock and didn't see him roll his eyes, "You can get even with Murdock sometime tonight, when he's not looking."

 

Murdock saw it though, "You don't believe that any more than I do, Colonel," he said accusingly.

 

"We better get going," Hannibal said hastily, "We'll see you in a couple hours."  Hannibal turned and steered Maggie out the door.  BA hesitated for a moment, before following them.  Nancy and Murdock brought up the rear, walking out on the back deck and waving goodbye as the others left.

 

She turned to him when they were alone, "Why do you do that?"

 

He looked at her innocently, "You're the one who started it."

 

"No, I didn't," she corrected, "You did."

 

"Oh, yea," he said with a smile, "But you didn't hesitate to step in."

 

She sighed, "I know, but then you always have to push him 'til he wants to pound you," she pointed out, "I was content to get him to relent and ask Char to come.  Then you have to go irritate him about the whole thing."

 

Murdock leaned on the railing, "I don't see what BA's big hang-up is. So she's a white girl.  If he loves her what difference does it make?"

 

Nancy shook her head, "She's not a 'white girl'. Honestly, you're the most politically-incorrect person I know."

 

He grinned, "It's part of my charm," he said, "besides, what would you call her?"

 

"She's biracial," Nancy said, "You know that."

 

"Yea, well, she's very light, then," he said flippantly.

 

Nancy leaned on the railing next to him and looked out across the yard, "I just don't understand why people have to get so hung up on what color someone is," she said reflectively, "I guess it's just way too easy to categorize people based on how they look. Heck, every form you fill out wants to know 'what' you are. It's crazy."

 

"Naw, I'm crazy – that's just bureaucracy," he squeezed his wife's shoulders, "It'll all work out. BA just has to make up his mind that it's what he wants.  He'll come 'round, I just hope Charlotte has the patience to wait him out."

 

She turned and looked at him, "BA's worth it," she said, "I think Char will stick around until he sees the light."

 

Murdock straightened and looked at his watch. He raised an eyebrow at his wife, "We have a couple of hours before we have to be at Hannibal and Maggie's," he said suggestively.

 

Nancy laughed and began walking into the house, "I'm up for a little exercise if you are," she said, glancing over her shoulder.

 

"I'm always up for that kind of exercise," he said, grinning, "No pun intended!"

 

Nancy laughed and turned, running into the house with Murdock close behind.

 

 

Chapter 2: Eye of the Storm

 

Hannibal and Maggie had dinner well on the way when everyone began arriving.  Nancy and Murdock and Amy and Face arrived within a few minutes of each other. 

 

The two friends settled their wives on a couple of adjacent lounge chairs in the shade and got them cold drinks before taking a seat.

 

"Hey, Hannibal, you need a hand with anything," Face offered belatedly, already having sat down in a lawn chair next to Amy.

 

Hannibal was shaking his head anyway, "Nope, everything is under control.  Just take it easy, dinner will be ready soon."

 

"Good, I'm starving," Murdock said from the ground at Nancy's feet, "besides it may be my last meal.  I believe the big guy has a score to settle with me."

 

Face shook his head, "You've only been home a couple hours and you already ticked off BA, huh?"

 

Murdock grinned, "What can I say – it's a natural talent!"

 

Nancy put her hands on Murdock's shoulders, "Yes, but he promised to behave himself tonight," she said, giving him a kiss on the cheek.

 

Murdock looked surprised, and turned, leaning an arm across her lap and looking up at her quizzically, "When exactly did I agree to that?"

 

Nancy smiled at him suggestively, "This afternoon, awhile after Hannibal, Maggie, and BA left," she said raising her eyebrows.

 

"Ohhh," he said, realization dawning, "You can't hold me to a promise made in the heat of the moment!"

 

Face looked at his friend, "I wouldn't argue with a pregnant woman, Murdock - you'll never win," he said ruefully.  Amy reached out and smacked him on the back of his head.

 

Murdock considered that, "Yea, you're probably right," he said in surrender, "I promise to try to behave, Scout's honor," he held up three fingers in a Boy Scout salute.

 

"I don't believe you were ever a Boy Scout," Nancy said, giving him a look of mock severity, "And you better try hard," she added, "I don't want you scaring Char away."

 

Amy sat up, "BA's bringing Charlotte?  That's great!" she said enthusiastically.

 

"Yes," Maggie said, having come out of the house and caught Amy's exclamation, "And I expect you two," she indicated Murdock and Face, "to behave yourselves.  BA is sensitive enough about their relationship without you adding to the problem!"

 

They looked at each other, and Face said, "Maggie, I'm cut to the quick to think that you would think . . ."

 

Maggie shook her head, "Drop it, Face," she broke in, "I know you two all too well. I realize that it's an incredible temptation, but please don't tease him about Char. They need some time to get comfortable with each other before you start in on them."

 

"You tell 'em, Maggie," Amy agreed, "And Nan and I will keep them in line."

 

Nancy sighed, "Easy for you to say, Amy," she looked at Murdock through narrowed eyes, "This one is hard to keep quiet!"

 

Murdock winced, "I can keep just as quiet as Face," he said defensively.

 

"Since when?" Nancy asked teasingly.

 

"Since . . . anytime," he said, obviously having trouble finding an example, "Just watch," and he clamped his mouth shut.

 

"Yea," Nancy said, laughing, "That'll last about 5 minutes." Murdock just glared at her in stubborn silence.

 

BA drove in with the van a few minutes later.  He and Char got out, and Char opened the side door, while BA got out the wheelchair.  He brought it around and lifted his mother into it, while Char closed the van door.  They headed up to the deck, using the ramp the guys had added the previous summer, when Mama B had started using the wheelchair full time because of the severe arthritis in her knees.

 

Greetings were made all around, except Murdock who remained quiet. Mama B waved towards Amy and Nancy, "Wheel me over next to the girls, I need to check and make sure they're being properly taken care of."

 

Char obliged, pushing her over into the shade. Mama B smiled at Amy and Nancy, "You girls know Charlotte Lincoln, don't ya?"

 

Nancy and Amy both nodded and said hello as Face stood and let Char have his seat. Charlotte was a tall and willowy woman with long black hair that she kept up in a braid almost all the time.  She managed the local community center, having been instrumental in setting up many of the programs aimed at helping keep troubled youth off the streets, and out of the gangs. BA had always encouraged all of them to volunteer in various capacities with the kids, so they had all met and worked with Charlotte at one time or another over the last three years.

 

The four women sat in the shade and chatted idly.  Murdock and Face wandered over to the grill, where BA was helping Hannibal pull the steaks off. 

 

BA looked at Murdock as he walked over, "I don't want to hear a word outta you, fool," he said threateningly.

 

Murdock made a zipping motion across his face and just smiled. Face looked at him and laughed, "Nancy said he had a big mouth, so he's taking it as a challenge and not saying anything.  It's been about 10 minutes now," he added, looking at his watch, "I'm taking bets on how long it'll last."

 

Murdock scowled at Face.  He made a dismissive gesture and went into the house to see if he could help Maggie with the rest of the dinner preparations.

 

Hannibal laughed, "I'll take that bet.  Murdock can be pretty stubborn when he wants.  I'd bet we'll have a quiet evening!"

 

Nancy was watching as her husband headed into the house, and sighed.  Charlotte looked at her curiously, "What's up with Murdock? I don't think I've ever seen him so quiet."

 

"He's fine," Nancy said, "if we're lucky the silent treatment will last at least through dinner."

 

Amy chuckled, "Nan kind of shamed him into it.  We're trying to keep him and Face off your back for at least a little while."

 

Char looked amused, "Don't worry about me - I don't have a problem with inter-racial couples – I grew up with it.  It's BA that seems to be having trouble coming to grips with it," she added conspiratorially, "My Mom says Dad was the same way when they first met.  She told me to give it time."

 

Mama B shook her head in consternation, "Scooter just needs to stop worryin' 'bout what other people think. He looks unconventional, but he got some very old-fashioned ideas."

 

"Dinner is served," Hannibal called, "And I recommend you ladies get up here and get your plates before Murdock comes back out."

 

Face motioned Amy back to her seat, "You tell me what you want, babe - I'll get your plate."

 

Amy settled back in her seat with a content smile, "He certainly does have some redeeming qualities," she said.

 

They filled their plates, and all but Amy and Face sat at the picnic table to eat.  Conversation was light and cheerful.  Murdock remained unusually quiet, answering any questions directed at him in monosyllables. Half way through the meal, Nancy put an arm around his waist, and leaned in to his ear, "I didn't mean you couldn't be sociable, just don't tease," she whispered.

 

He turned and looked at her ruefully, "It's safer this way," he confided quietly, "it is way too tempting."

 

Nancy smiled, leaning her head against his shoulder.  At least he was honest.

 

Amy and Face filled them in on their appointment with Dr. Phillips.  Everything was fine and Amy was now scheduled for induction on Thursday of the coming week, which would be almost two weeks past her original due date. Dr. Phillips estimated that the baby was about eight pounds, and didn't anticipate Amy having any difficulties giving birth.

 

After dinner, they broke up into loose groups, visiting around the deck.  Nancy, Hannibal and Murdock ended up in a corner, discussing work.  Conversation had turned to the development of the new team. That had been Hannibal's pitch to the General for their retirement – they develop and implement a new team training program in exchange for being taken off the mission roster.  The development hadn't been a problem, but the implementation wasn't going as planned. Hannibal was still trying to convince a group of Abel Agents to go through the team training regimen they had developed over the last couple months, "Most of the Abels got their training at the CIA or FBI," Hannibal said, "and they've had 5-10 years of working in that mind set.  They're a little reluctant to change now."

 

"Well, I can certainly understand that. I know the FBI, particularly is pretty set by standard procedures, and a stringent hierarchy.  It's part of what turned me off," Nancy said thoughtfully, "By comparison, your way of operating is very . . . unconventional. "

 

Murdock chuckled, "That's a nice way of saying that we don't play by the rules."

 

Hannibal grinned, "We make our own rules – that's part of the beauty of the whole thing."

 

"Like I said . . ." Nancy chuckled, "You guys are little too outside-the-box for the Abels. Have you thought about going outside of Stockwell Enterprises for applicants for the new team? It might be worthwhile to consider some candidates that aren't quite so set in their ways."

 

Hannibal shrugged noncommittally, "It's an option, though we'd need to set some stringent criteria for acceptance.  The nice thing about the Abels is that they're all suited to this type of work - the weed-out is already done. Your Uncle only hires the cream of the crop."

 

Nancy laughed, "You're starting to sound like Uncle," she said raising an eyebrow, "You know there are people who don't work for the CIA or FBI, who might be more suited, particularly for what you want to do."

 

Hannibal was shaking his head, "There are a lot of problems with that, though," he argued, "not the least of which is that my time frame for implementation is going to move out.  That won't satisfy the General."

 

Nancy sat forward, "I disagree," she said earnestly, "Look at it this way, with less-experienced people from outside Agency you won't have to break all the habits they've learned to be independent field operatives.  You're starting with a clean slate, so to speak.  It may actually shorten your training period."

 

Murdock had been listening silently, enjoying the debate between his wife and commander, but now he broke in, "That may be the case, Nan, but the General is the boss, and if it doesn't fit his plan, than it's not gonna fly," he looked at her with a knowing smile, "You should recognize that better than anyone else."

 

She shrugged, and threw out a barb, "I always thought you guys were willing to go against the grain.  Uncle just needs to be shown the light. Just because he's got an idea about how things should be doesn't mean it's right."

 

"Now you're getting personal," Hannibal said, but he was grinning, "You make it sound like a challenge."

 

"Maybe it is," Nancy said tersely, "I understand Uncle has always done things this way, and been successful, but I think that if he really, truly wants to put together the next A-Team, his usual methodology just isn't gonna cut it. I would think you, of all people, would realize that, Hannibal."

 

Hannibal laughed, "You know, Nan, you're probably right. But I think first we'll try it the General's way."

 

"And move your time frame out that much more . . ." Nancy pressed stubbornly, suggesting, "Why not go on a parallel path.  At least start putting out feelers for outside candidates and developing your acceptance criteria."

 

Hannibal considered that, "Might not be a bad idea.  I could put Face on that front, while I'm working on the internal program. My biggest problem right now is being short-handed," he looked at Murdock, "What with you gallivanting around with the General and BA busy coordinating all the improvements at the Compound, I'm getting strapped for manpower."

 

Murdock looked at Hannibal hopefully, "So tell the General you need me here. Maybe then I could spend time at home instead of cloud hopping!"

 

Hannibal raised an eyebrow at his pilot, "I thought you liked the cloud hopping . . ."

 

"It wouldn't be so bad except for two things," Murdock said, holding up two fingers, "First, I am tired of never being home.  And second, I hate wearing my dress uniform - the General isn't content to just let me fly the jet, he's gotta drag me to all these boring meetings, and introduce me to all his stuffy contacts." he finished with a grimace.

 

Nancy laughed, "Come on, HM," she said, "I know you actually find that stuff kind of interesting."

 

"Maybe a little," he admitted, "But it really isn't my scene.  Besides, hasn't your Uncle ever heard of teleconferencing?"

 

Nancy smiled, "Uncle always has believed in the face to face approach."

 

Hannibal nodded, "It works best for him - intimidation is less effective over the telephone!"

 

 

After awhile, Murdock went out to the truck, and brought back Nancy's guitar, "You're gonna hafta practice, Short Cake.  And now's as good a time as any," he smiled, laying the guitar in her lap.

 

Nancy picked it up, "I cannot believe I agreed to this whole Charlie's thing.  It's not me."

 

Murdock laughed, "I disagree - it's totally like you. You feel responsible for Jazz, and you have to do this to help keep her out of trouble."

 

Nancy scowled at him, "I thought you were going to keep quiet," she said.

 

"This is a safe subject," he said grinning, "Just don't let me get started on BA." He looked at BA apprehensively, and zipped his mouth shut, throwing away the invisible key.

 

Nancy looked at him reflectively, "Well, since this was you're idea, you could sing with me . . ."

 

Murdock shook his head, "You're the one that needs the practice, not me."

 

"I think it's a great idea," Face chimed in, to Murdock's dismay, "You haven't serenaded us in a while."

 

Hannibal agreed, "Yea, guess we haven't been up in a plane lately. . ."

 

". . . with people shooting at us . . ." Face added, "Murdock always does his best singing under fire!"

 

Murdock looked at Hannibal and Face in disbelief, then turned to BA for support, "Come on, big guy, you'd rather just hear Nan – right?"

 

But BA shook his head, "They right, man, it's a good idea, you and Nan singin' together. I'd like to hear that."

 

Murdock dropped into a chair next to Nancy, "What do you have in mind?" he asked moodily.

 

Nancy shrugged, "I was thinking maybe 'A' or 'Life in a Nutshell' one of your Barenaked Ladies tunes."

 

"Not 'A'," Murdock said, and Nancy laughed at his expression, "Nutshell's a good one."

 

Nancy grinned, "I was hoping you'd pick that one!"

 

She began playing, and Murdock sang the song with Nancy joining him on the chorus.

 

When she was three
Her barbies always did it on the first date
Now she's with me,
There's never any need for them to demonstrate
She's like a baby, I'm like a cat;
When we are happy, we both get fat and still
it's never enough, it's never enough,
it's never enough

But I don't tend to worry about the things that other people say,
And I'm learning that I wouldn't want it any other way
Call me crazy, but it really doesn't matter
All that matters to me is she

Her life, in a nutshell
No way would she want it to change me
it's not that easy 'cause
My time is often decided for me
For me

She memorized every pencil crayon colour in the box
Her sky-blue eyes complement the burnt sienna in her locks
She's at the movies, I'm on the phone;
When we're separated, we're never alone, but still
it's never enough, it's never enough,
No it's never enough

But I don't tend to worry about the things that other people say,
And I'm learning that I wouldn't want it any other way
Call me crazy, but it really doesn't matter
All that matters to me is she

Her life, in a nutshell
No way would she want it to change me
it's not that easy 'cause
My time is often decided for me
For me
For me


I fell down
With no one there to catch me from falling
Then she came 'round
And only her tenderness stopped me from bawling my eyes out
I'm OK
And that's why

Her life, in a nutshell
No way would she want it to change me
it's not that easy 'cause
My time is often decided for me

 

But I don't tend to worry about the things that other people say,
And I'm learning that I wouldn't want it any other way
Call me crazy, but it really doesn't matter
All that matters to me is she

 

"That wasn't so bad, was it?" Nancy asked as they finished up, then smile mischievously, "I'd still like to do 'A'."

 

Murdock smiled, giving her a firm kiss on the lips before saying flatly, "No way."

 

"Who did you say sang that?" Face asked.

 

"Barenaked Ladies," Nancy said, "HM discovered them recently, and I don't think he's listened to anything else!"

 

"Now it's my turn to make a request," Murdock said, "I want to hear a Shawn Colvin song – I don't really care which one . . ."

 

Nancy smiled, "Alright . . . how about this one . . ."

 

Over by the wild wood, it was a hot summer night

We lay in the tall grass, 'til the morning light come shinin'.

 

If I had my way, I'd never, get the urge to roam.

But sometimes I serve my country, sometimes I stay at home.

 

Just don't put me in a frame upon a mantel, where memories grow dusty, old, and gray.

Don't leave me alone in the twilight, for twilight is the loneliest time of day.

 

And I never gave it a second thought, it never crossed my mind.

As to what is right, and what is wrong, I'm not the judging kind.

 

But I would steal your darkness and the storms from your skies.

We all have certain trials, burning up inside.

 

Just don't send me no distant salutations, or silly souvenirs from far away.

Don't leave me alone in the twilight, 'cause twilight is the loneliest time of day.

 

So don't put me in a frame upon a mantle, where memories grow dusty, old, and gray.

 

Don't leave me alone in the twilight, for twilight is the loneliest time of day.

 

"Good choice," Hannibal said appreciatively.

 

"While I do like that song," Murdock said in his best English professor voice, "Technically it does not meet my criteria . . . Robertson of the Band wrote it, not Shawn Colvin!"

 

"I've heard her sing it," Nancy argued, "You didn't say she had to write the song."

                                                                     

Amy laughed, "Well, I really like it, and I don't care who wrote it," she said, then looked at Nancy curiously, "So, are you really gonna sing at Charlie's with Jasmine?"

 

Nancy set the guitar aside, "I'm not so sure about that whole thing, but I promised Terra I'd give it a try."

 

Char sat forward, "You know, if you need a practice audience, the kids would love to hear, and we've got all the necessary equipment at the Community Center. Maybe, if it goes over well, we could even set up a benefit concert."

 

Nancy raised an eyebrow, "Sounds like good penance for Charlie," she said speculatively, "Maybe I'll talk to him about a cover charge to benefit the Community Center.  That would hit Charlie where he lives."

 

Murdock looked at Nancy reprovingly, "This isn't a ploy to get you out of the whole thing, is it?"

 

Nancy looked at him guiltily, and Maggie chuckled, saying in a motherly tone, "I would bet that Charlie will agree to donate at least part of the cover charge to the LCC, but I do think you need to consider Jazz's part in all of this.  It's good for her.  And it will be good for you, too, Nancy."

 

Nancy smiled, "OK, Maggie," she said in surrender, "I'll do it for Jazz - but it can't hurt to get something out of it for the LCC."

 

Maggie agreed, "Of course not - and you're right.  It'll be good for Charlie!"

 

As they were talking, Murdock had pulled something out of his pocket, and was looking at it in dismay.  Nancy saw and asked, "What's that?"

 

He looked at her grimacing, "Your uncle wanted to be able to get a hold of me if he needed something, so he gave me a pager. I'm way too connected to him at the moment."

 

"What does he want now?  I thought he had meetings in DC for the next few days?" Nancy said irritably.

 

"Well, I don't know without calling him back, but I'd guess his plans have changed. They always do." Murdock stood and headed into the house.

 

Nancy stood, too, "Where are you going?"

 

He glanced back over his shoulder, "To call and see what he wants, it'll just take a minute," he said, disappearing into the house.

 

She was on his heels, "He better just be calling to make sure you're enjoying your time off," she said impatiently.

 

Five minutes later, Nancy and Murdock were saying their goodbyes and getting into the truck.  Neither one of them looked very happy.

 

Maggie looked at Hannibal, "The General better find another pilot soon, or we're gonna have a mutiny on our hands."

 

Hannibal nodded thoughtfully, "Problem is, I don't think it's just a pilot that the General is looking for."

 

 

At home, Murdock threw clothes into a bag, while Nancy brooded by the bedroom door, "You just got home 8 hours ago," she said angrily, "What is so urgent that you have to go now?"

 

"He had an emergency meeting come up in Houston," he said shortly.

 

"But you just got home!" Nancy said adamantly.

 

Murdock's shoulders slumped and he looked at her wearily, "This isn't my idea, Nancy.  I work for your Uncle, and he calls the shots.  It's not like I have a real choice in the matter. I have to work under the terms of the contract."

 

Nancy crossed her arms, she knew why Murdock, and the others, had agreed to the contract, and it didn't make her feel any better, "You didn't have to sign the contract," she said quietly, "We could have worked it out."

 

Murdock took his cap off, ran an agitated hand back through his hair, before jamming the cap back on his head, "I really don't want to get into that discussion, again," he said irritably, "it doesn't matter anyways.  What's done is done."

 

Nancy bridled at his tone, "You could have walked away," she said, venting her anger, "it wasn't like I held a gun to your head . . ."

 

Murdock turned hurt eyes on her, "You know I couldn't walk away," he said quietly, "I asked you to marry me, remember?  Not your family.  They, in particular your uncle, just came with the deal."

 

Nancy realized she'd pushed too far, their arguments concerning her uncle always ended with her feeling guilty about what she'd said in the heat of the moment, "Is he always going to come between us, HM?" she asked.

 

He sighed, he knew he shouldn't have brought up the contract; it was a sore spot with both of them, "Only if we let him, Short Cake."

 

"I'll talk to him, tell him you need to be home," she offered.

 

He rubbed a hand across his eyes, "This isn't your fight, and I have talked to him.  It's going to take him time to find a replacement.  Until then, I'm it."

 

Nancy felt tears spill down her cheeks, and turned to hide them, wiping angrily at her face.  Murdock caught the movement out of the corner of his eye and moved to her side putting his arms around her, "Come on, Short Cake, don't cry.  I'll be back before you know it," he said soothingly.

 

She was in no mood to be comforted, and pushed him away, "Just go," she said irritably.

 

He stepped back and looked at her unhappily, "You're just tired," he said, almost to himself.  He picked up his bag, "I'll call you as soon as I know what our travel schedule is," he said stopping next to her, in the doorway.

 

"Fine" she said flatly, looking up at him.  Her expression softened as she looked into his brown eyes.  She leaned into him, putting her arms around his waist, and he put his free arm around her shoulders, pulling her close.  They both turned their heads as headlights flashed in the window.

 

"My ride's here," he held her tightly for a moment, murmuring against her hair, "I love you, Short Cake."

 

She closed her eyes, her head against his chest, "I love you, too," she said miserably, "get home safe . . . and soon."

 

He leaned down and gave her a lingering kiss, until a horn blew out in the drive.  Reluctantly, he let her go, "I'll call you soon," he promised, then headed down the stairs and out the door.

 

Nancy walked to the window and watched the car carrying her husband away back out of the drive, and head down the road out of sight.  She turned and flopped down on the bed, staring at the ceiling.  There were times when she really hated her Uncle, and this was one of them. Sometimes she felt certain he was determined to punish her for defying him and marrying Murdock.

 

She didn't even bother to get undressed.  She turned the light out and lay in the dark for some time, mulling over her argument with Murdock and feeling guilty, until she finally fell asleep.

 

 

Chapter 3: Getting Hooked

 

Nancy was eating cereal the next morning when Maggie called to tell her that Face had taken Amy to the hospital, "Her water broke early this morning, so she'll probably have the baby sometime today," Maggie said, and added, "hopefully."

 

"How's she doing?" Nancy asked.

 

"Better than Face," Maggie said, laughing, "Mr. Calm, cool and collected sounded pretty stressed when he called this morning. Amy, on the other hand sounded very matter of fact."

 

Nancy chuckled, "Amy's just relieved to see the light at the end of the tunnel!"

 

Maggie told her there was probably no hurry, though Amy's water had broken she hadn't started laboring in earnest.  It would be awhile before the baby came.  Nancy promised she'd stop at the hospital that afternoon, after work, and made Maggie promise to call if there were any developments before then.

 

Nancy finished her cereal, rinsed her dishes, and put them in the dishwasher. She went to her home office and loaded the invoicing she'd completed into her briefcase and then headed out the door for work at Adam's Investigations.

 

Adam's Investigations was a small private investigation firm located in a second floor suite of offices in downtown Langley.  Riley Adams had started the company ten years before, after retiring from New York City Vice. A middle-aged, rough-looking character with a lopsided grin, that looked more like a grimace, Riley was really a soft touch, and had taken Nancy on as a protιgι several years before, training her as a private investigator.  They worked well together, and Riley had been content in the past year, having made Nancy a full partner, to allow her to take over the business end of things, while he handled field operations.  She remained involved in many of the cases, primarily on a consulting basis. But with the pregnancy, she was spending very little time in the field, personally.

 

She knocked on the door to his office, which was ajar, pushing it open and poking her head in, "Hey, Riley - what's going on today?"

 

Riley motioned her to a chair, "I understand HM left again last night," he said as she came in.

 

Nancy dropped into a chair, "Good news travels fast, huh?  Who told you?"

 

"I heard from a rather unlikely source, actually," Riley admitted, "Your Uncle called last night, said he was on his way to Houston."

 

"Since when does Uncle keep you informed of his whereabouts?"

 

Riley shrugged, "He actually was making a business proposition, he wants to acquire your services for an investigation."

 

Nancy looked surprised, "What does he want our help for?"

 

Riley shook his head, "Not 'our' help, Nan, yours."

 

Now she was beginning to get irritated, "So why didn't he talk to me, then?"

 

Riley tried a soothing tone, "Because he didn't think you'd listen.  He said you tend to shut him off before he gets to finish what he has to say."

 

"Darn right," Nancy said grumpily, "That's 'cause every time he opens his mouth my life ends up in chaos."

 

"Well, at least hear it out," Riley suggested, "it's actually a good case for you right now, mostly research.  Shouldn't be impacted by your delicate condition."

 

"I don't know why I should listen," she said stubbornly, "He's just trying to get control of me, like he has control of my husband."

 

"Nancy, it's one case, and it's right up your alley," Riley reasoned, "besides, he was offering a hefty fee."

 

She sighed, "OK, give me the basics, but I'm not saying I'll do it."

 

Riley was just getting started telling her about the case which involved a CIA operative that had run into some trouble recently, when the phone rang.  Riley picked up, "Adams Investigations."

 

"You really should change the name to Murdock and Adams Investigations," Murdock said smoothly.

 

Riley shook his head with a smile, "If anything, it would Adams and Murdock Investigations . . . just a sec, HM, she's right here," he held the phone out to Nancy, "It's for you," he said unnecessarily, getting up and leaving the office without being asked.

 

Nancy watched him leave before saying, "Hi."

 

"Hey, Short Cake, how's it goin'?"

 

"I'm sorry about last night, HM," she said quietly.

 

"Me too, guess we were both kinda tired and frustrated."

 

"Yea . . ., Nancy said reflectively, then remembered, "Oh, Amy's in the hospital, her water broke this morning."

 

"How're they doing?" he asked.

 

"Amy's OK as far as I know . . ."

 

"How's Facey handlin' things?"

 

"Maggie said not so good, but I'm sure they'll be fine."

 

Murdock chuckled, "Face always does well under pressure, he'll come through."

 

"How long will you be gone?" Nancy almost dreaded the answer.

 

"Just a couple days - the General has a meeting in DC on Thursday, so we'll have to be back by then."

 

"See if you can get back by Wednesday morning, the ultrasound is at 1:30, remember?"

 

"Oh, yeah," he said, "I'll tell your Uncle. That might be something he'll actually accommodate."

 

"I don't know about that," Nancy said uncertainly, "it may make him more likely to keep you out of town."

 

"I really don't think the punishment theory holds water, Nan," Murdock said, "I may not be wild about your uncle, but he cares about you. I just don't think that family matters enter into his consideration priority-wise"

 

"I suppose you're right," she admitted, "but I still think he's got way too much control over our lives right now.  Did you know he talked to Riley about hiring me for a case?"

 

"Absolutely not," Murdock said adamantly, "you shouldn't be working in the field."

 

"It's just a research job, nothing chancy," Nancy countered.

 

"I don't care," Murdock said quietly, "you can find trouble in the most unlikely places."

 

She stood up and began pacing, "I do not," she said defensively.

 

"OK," Murdock conceded, "so trouble finds you, either way you end up in the middle of it."

 

"Is this about Kennedy, again?"

 

"You bet," he said, "If we hadn't gotten home when we did you would have been dead.  I don't want to go through that again. I thought I'd lost you."

 

"I would have been fine, Joe was working on the search warrant.  He'd have made it," she said, adding, "Besides, messing around with Kennedy was hardly an unlikely place to find trouble."

 

"Joe wouldn't even have been working on the warrant yet - and Riley would still have been tied up on our couch," Murdock argued relentlessly, "You don't know when to back off. Joe and Riley – heck, even Brett Katt had warned you . . ."

 

Nancy broke in, "Why are we arguing about this?"

 

Murdock leaned his head against the wall by the phone, and took a deep breath, "I don't know . . . seems like we end up arguing an awful lot lately."

 

Nancy sat back down, "I think we need to get some control over our life and stop taking our frustrations out on each other," she said thoughtfully.

 

"You're right," he agreed, "we've got to start making some permanent changes."

 

"Sounds good," she said, "wish I knew how to make it happen."

 

"Start by saying 'no' to your Uncle."

 

"I'll make that decision based on the case details - he can't hold me to anything but results."

 

"Just think hard about it before you do it, OK?" Murdock asked hopefully

 

"I will."

 

Murdock turned to see Jeff Kent getting off the elevator and glancing around.  He knew Jeff was probably looking for him, "I've gotta go," he said hesitantly, "I love you, Short Cake, just promise me you'll be careful."

 

"I'm always careful."

 

"For some reason that doesn't make me feel any better," Murdock said uncertainly.

 

"I love you HM," Nancy said, a smile curving her lips, "I'll be fine - don't worry about anything . . . And be home by Wednesday!"

 

"Will do."

 

 

He hung up as Jeff came walking up, "Talking to Nancy?"

 

Murdock nodded, "Just letting her know when I might be home.  Is the General done with his meeting?"

 

"Yes, and looking for you," Jeff said, "He was not too happy when he came out and you were gone."

 

Murdock shrugged, leaning against the wall, "I've never been real good at sitting still and waiting – drives me nuts," he smiled self-deprecatingly at the reference.

 

"The may be, Murdock, but he came out to bring you into the meeting and you weren't there.  It made him look kinda foolish," Jeff said quietly, "That is not a good thing."

 

Murdock's eyes had been on Jeff, but when he focused behind him, he saw the General walking purposely towards them.  He straightened up as Stockwell approached, "What the hell were you thinking walking out like that?" he asked tersely.

 

"Sorry, General," Murdock said sincerely, "I didn't realize you still needed me. I'd been waiting in the hall for 45 minutes.  I figured that since you were busy, I'd take the chance to call Nan."

 

"There would have been ample time for that later.  When I tell you to wait somewhere I expect you to be there when I come back."

 

"Just like an obedient puppy," he said irritably.

 

"Captain, I wanted you to meet some very important people," Stockwell said, ignoring the sarcastic comment, "and because you wandered off, that will not be possible now.  Next time, stay put." He turned and stalked off towards the door.

 

Murdock's eyes flashed, and he said under his breath "Then get me a leash," before following the General out the door and to the waiting car.

 

 

Riley came back in as Nancy was hanging up the phone, and sat down, "So, how's the hubby?"

 

"Not here," Nancy said touchily, "Now how about this case Uncle has for us."

 

Riley decided not to ask any more about Murdock since it seemed to be a sore spot.  Instead he launched into an explanation about the case.  He told her that the General wanted to meet with her to discuss the details, but basically, a CIA associate of his, Phillipe LaSalle, was facing a reprimand and possible dismissal, having to do with a mission that went under internal review.  Her Uncle wanted her to look into it and see if the allegations held any water.

 

Nancy laughed dryly, "No wonder Uncle wants me to handle this, he does work for the CIA, he certainly wouldn't want to tick them off by personally getting involved in an investigation questioning their judgment."

 

Riley shrugged, "You knew there had to be a reason he'd take you on."

 

Nancy looked at Riley, "You make it sound like he's stooping to hire his own niece."

 

"I didn't mean it that way, exactly," Riley said, "It's just that if your Uncle was so interested in your career, why didn't he hire you himself.  Being an Able agent has a certain prestige these days, he could have given your career a boost."

 

"Who says my career needed a boost," Nancy replied petulantly.  She shrugged the irritation off, and asked, "When did he want to meet?"

 

"He said he'd be back in town by the end of the week.  He did have these files dropped off," Riley handed her personnel files for Phillipe LaSalle and a Tristan Caswell, "And said that you could talk to LaSalle yourself, and get his side of the story. His contact information is in there. He did say to steer clear of Caswell, he thinks he may be the real perp."

 

Nancy took the files and flipped idly through them, "But if Uncle already knows who the real perp is why's he want me involved?"

 

"He said that there isn't any corroborative evidence – he wants you to find it."

 

"Oh," she said reflectively, getting up from the chair, "Well, there can't be any harm in looking through the files and talking to LaSalle."  She turned and headed to her office absently, leaving Riley smiling after her.

 

Riley knew how to get Nancy hooked.  Her Uncle was presenting a challenge, and Riley was sweetening the pot a little by goading her about him not hiring her.  She'd want to prove herself, she always did.  She was predictable when it came to her dealings with Hunt Stockwell.

 

 

Chapter 4: The Newest Member

 

That afternoon around 3 pm, Nancy had finished her second detailed review of the files.  She wrapped up a few clerical items around the office and checked in with Stephanie Loucks, their office manager, before heading to the hospital to see how Amy was doing.  Once there, she went straight up to the maternity ward and found Maggie and Hannibal in the waiting room.

 

"How's she doing?" Nancy asked.

 

Maggie shrugged, "She didn't start labor on her own, so they applied some topical oxytocin, to try and get the labor going.  So far, she's still not progressing very rapidly."

 

Nancy grimaced, "So, that light at the end of the tunnel is kinda dim, huh?"

 

"'Fraid so," Maggie said regretfully, "They've got a fetal monitor on the baby, and so far there isn't any stress.  But they're watching closely.  If there's any change in the baby's vitals they'll take her in and do an emergency C-section."

 

"Can we go in and see her?" Nancy asked.

 

"Yes, she's in room 212, just down the hall," Maggie said, "We were just heading out to grab some dinner.  We haven't been able to get Face to leave, but if you can, send him out and we'll make sure he eats."

 

Nancy went down the hall, and knocked on the door to room 212.

 

Face poked his head out, "Nan, good to see you, come on in," his voice was cheerful, but his face reflected his worry and concern about his wife.

 

She walked in, and looked around, Amy was sitting up in the bed, with a strap across her belly, a blood pressure cuff on her arm, and various monitors ticking all around her.  She looked very tired.

 

Nancy smiled at Amy, and she smiled wearily back, "Hi Nan - this isn't going quite as smoothly as I thought it would.  This little stinker just doesn't seem to want to come out and play."

 

Face looked at her, the lines of worry showing plainly, "You want some more ice chips, sweetheart?" he asked.

 

"Not right now," Amy said, "You should go get something to eat.  Nancy will sit with me for a little while, won't you, Nan?"

 

Nancy nodded, "Amy's right, Face.  Maggie and Hannibal were just heading out, why don't you join them for some dinner?"

 

Amy pushed, "Go on Face, we'll be fine."

 

Face hesitated, then said, "I'll only be gone for a few minutes, I'll just grab a sandwich out of the vending machines and come right back."

 

"Don't even think about eating in front of me," Amy said, "Just go with Hannibal and Maggie.  Come back when you're done.  I'm not going anywhere."

 

Face relented, "OK, I won't be long."

 

"Go." Amy said irritably, and Face retreated out of the room, looking to Nancy who gave him a reassuring smile.

 

Nancy walked by the bed, "So what are all these monitors for?" she asked, hoping to distract her friend.

 

Amy indicated the strap across her belly, "That one monitors my contractions, which they tell me are still pretty weak.  Doesn't feel that way though," she muttered, shifting uncomfortably.

 

She then indicated another cord, "They also hooked an intrauterine fetal monitor to the baby's head."

 

She pointed to the strip chart, "They're both recorded on the strip chart so the nurses and Dr. Phillips can monitor how my labor is progressing and how the baby is doing."

 

"Uh-oh, here comes one," Amy said.  Nancy reached over and took her hand, watching the strip chart in fascination, as the contraction occurred.  Another monitor beeped in time to the baby's heart beat, which increased in rate as the contraction reached a peak and slowed as the contraction ended.

 

Amy let out a relieved sigh and closed her eyes, "I'm getting tired," she admitted, "I didn't think it would take this long."

 

Nancy squeezed her hand, "It'll be over before you know it," she said encouragingly, "And when it's over you'll have a beautiful little baby to make you forget all about this."

 

Amy opened her eyes and looked at Nancy, "Thanks, Nan, I know this has to be scaring the hell out of you."

 

Nancy looked at the monitors and recorders ruefully, "Yea, it kinda does," she admitted with a small smile, "But I plan to make sure HM feels good and guilty about the whole labor thing.  Should get me a few months of leverage."

 

Amy smiled weakly, then winked at her conspiratorially, "Trust me, it's good for a few years of their best behavior." Both women laughed, they knew they needed every advantage they could get with Face and Murdock.

 

A few widely-spaced contractions later Face came back into the room, and Nancy stayed for a few more minutes, until Dr. Phillips came in to examine Amy.  Then she backed out and wandered back down to the waiting room to join Hannibal and Maggie.

 

Hannibal walked over by her, his arms crossed.  Nancy thought he looked strange without the ever-present cigar, "Holding up OK, Hannibal?" she asked with a smile.

 

"I'm fine," he said, " How about you - have you heard from Murdock?"

 

Nancy nodded and filled Hannibal in on the basics of her conversation with her husband, "Hopefully he'll be back by Wednesday, but I'm not holding my breath."

 

Maggie patted her shoulder, "I'll go with you for the ultrasound if HM isn't home," she offered.

 

Nancy looked at Maggie gratefully, but declined, "Actually, Dad's flying out tomorrow anyway, so I won't be going alone, even if HM isn't home."

 

"Has to be difficult for your Dad, being so far away," Hannibal said, "He still thinking about moving out this way from Chicago?"

 

Nancy nodded, "Yea, in fact, he's gonna be in town for a couple weeks.  He has appointments with a couple realtors, to help him find a house. Says he's too old to move back in with his daughter, or into an apartment."

 

Hannibal agreed, "Can't blame him there.  Is he retiring?"

 

Nancy's father was in his late fifties, and still a very active partner in his law firm, "No, I think he's talking with the other partners about starting a branch office of sorts in Langley."

 

"Ought to be a lot of opportunities for work in this area," Hannibal said.

 

Nancy shifted uncomfortably in the straight-backed chair, "Guess they don't really care if the guests are overly comfortable," she said grimacing.

 

Maggie chuckled, "You should head home and get your feet up.  We'll call you as soon as we know anything."

 

Nancy smiled gratefully, "I think I'll do that," she agreed, "But call if there's anything I can do."

 

 

The General arrived back at the jet in the early evening. Murdock stopped him on his way back to his office, "I've got the flight plans ready for the trip back to Langley – when do you want to leave?" he asked restlessly.

 

"I should be ready to go in about an hour," Stockwell said absently, heading on back to his office without another word.

 

Murdock shrugged and looked at Jeff, "Guess that means I can file the flight plans?"

 

"I guess. . ." Jeff agreed uncertainly.

 

Murdock turned and headed out of the jet, "Well, that's what I'm gonna go do. If the General's lookin' for me, I'm in the 'port."

 

Murdock walked into the flight office and leaned on the desk, looking at the young woman behind the desk, with a glance at her name plate, he said with a grin, "Hey, Jennifer, I'm not sure when we'll get goin', but  I've got my flight plans ready for when the General says go," he held the paperwork out.

 

She came over, taking the papers from him, she asked, "You got an east Texas accent that's been northernified – where ya from?"

 

"I was born here, but grew up in Oakland," he offered in his usual friendly manner, "with my grandparents.  But I lived in LA for quite a few years before moving to Langley, Virginia. That's where we're headed home to – and the sooner the better," he added with a hopeful glance out towards the jet.

 

"Whatcha in a hurry to go for," Her Texas drawl was flirtatious. Leaning forward on the desk she smiled warmly, "you haven't even gotten to sample the night life around here. I could show you around, I'm off in 10 minutes."

 

Murdock stood up in surprise, "Well, I'm kinda anxious to get back home, to my wife," he said pointedly, shoving his hands uneasily in his pockets.

 

She turned with a regretful smile, "Too, bad . . ." she said, "you're wife is a lucky lady."

 

He grinned self-consciously, "Thanks – I think for the most part she'd probably agree with you."

 

He glanced around, "Is there a pay phone around here somewhere that I could use to make a credit card call?"

 

"Just down the hall, there's an AT&T phone that'll take a calling card," she indicated the door, "Gonna call your wife?"

 

Murdock nodded, "Yea, let her know I'm headed home."

 

 

Nancy stopped at Subway on her way home and grabbed some food.  At home, she ate in front of the TV.  Once she finished, she went into the office and emptied her brief case onto the desk.  She looked at the personnel files, wondering how her Uncle got his hands on confidential things like these.  In some ways, it really disturbed her to think about how well-connected he was.

 

She decided she'd call Mr. LaSalle and set up an appointment for the next day. She found the cordless phone in the living room and dialed the phone number, "Hello, Mr. LaSalle?  This is Nancy Murdock.  General Hunt Stockwell asked me to contact you."

 

The man on the other end of the line sounded very cautious in his response, "You work for Hunt Stockwell?"

 

"In a manner of speaking, he's contracted with me to look into your current problem and see if I can come up with anything that will help your case."

 

"How do you relate to Stockwell Enterprises if you're not an agent?"

 

Nancy gave mental shrug, "I guess you could say I'm related, literally," she said, "Hunt Stockwell is my Uncle."

 

This seemed to amuse LaSalle, "Hunt Stockwell, an Uncle.  That's hard to imagine."

 

"Yea, well believe me," she said ruefully, "It's no picnic living the reality."

 

LaSalle laughed out loud, "The Stockwell wit - you have me convinced."

 

"I'd like to meet with you tomorrow to discuss your case, if you have the time," Nancy said.

 

"Tomorrow would be fine, how about lunch at the Colvin Run Tavern in Vienna," he suggested.

 

"I'll see you then," Nancy said, then rang off.

 

She went into the kitchen to clean up, but realized that there wasn't anything to do.  She didn't do much cooking to begin with, Murdock handled most of that when he was home.  And when he wasn't, she found she didn't eat much at home anyway - it was too lonely.

 

She was considering going back to the hospital to see how Amy was doing, dreading the thought of spending any time sitting in the uncomfortable waiting room chairs, when the phone rang. It was Jasmine, calling to let her know that she had a rehearsal time set up for the next day, at the Langley Community Center at five. 

 

Nancy agreed, "What are we going to play?" she asked curiously.

 

"Well, Terra said you like folk and gospel," Jasmine said tentatively, "So I thought we'd stick with that basic genre, though we should probably steer clear of the gospel at a bar. Are there any popular artists you're particularly comfortable playing?"

 

Nancy didn't have to think too hard, "I'm a big Shawn Colvin fan, and I like America, Bonnie Raitt, the Eagles, that kind of music," she offered.

 

"I can work with that - I like Shawn Colvin myself.  What about Mary Chapin Carpenter?"

 

"I like what I've heard from her, but I don't think I know any of her music personally."

 

Nancy could hear the smile in Jazz's voice, "Well, we'll just have to add to your repertoire!"

 

Nancy chuckled, "That shouldn't be hard for you, Jazz.  I haven't learned nany new songs lately.  So it probably won't take much to expand my horizons."

 

"Do you prefer playing piano or guitar?" Jazz asked.

 

"Guitar, definitely," Nancy said, "but I don't mind either."

 

"That's OK, I like piano and synthesizer, personally, so that should work out well. We can work out the specifics for each song as we go, but I'll plan on you for the guitar."

 

"Sounds good, I'll see you at LCC tomorrow afternoon," Nancy said.

 

"Yea, see ya then," Jasmine said, "and Nancy, thanks a lot.  This really does mean a lot to me."

 

Nancy smiled, "No problem, Jazz, just don't expect too much from me.  I'm a hack when it comes to the music thing. I do it for myself, no one else."

 

Jasmine chuckled, "Once you get used to it, you'll enjoy it.  There's nothin' like having an audience appreciate your talent."

 

Nancy laughed, "I'm not worried about them appreciating my talent, I'm worried about them lamenting the lack of it!"

 

Jasmine reasoned, "Well, Charlie seems to think we'll be able to draw a crowd.  And he wanted you specifically."

 

Good old Charlie, Nancy made a mental note to remember to talk to him about the cover charge donation. To Jazz she said, "Well, I'll see you tomorrow, and you can make your final decision from there."

 

Nancy and Jazz said goodbye.  The phone rang almost immediately after she had put down the phone.  It was Maggie, "I've been trying to get through to you for the last half hour," she sounded frustrated.

 

"Sorry, Mags, I was talking to Jazz.  What's up?" Nancy felt a tingling of concern.

 

Maggie sounded excited, though and not upset, "Well, half an hour ago, I called to tell you they were taking Amy in for an emergency C-section.  But now the baby's here.  It's a healthy baby boy!"

 

Nancy sighed in relief, "Is Amy OK?"

 

"Mother and baby are fine, and we'll be able to go in in a little bit.  BA, Char, and Mrs. B. are already here."

 

"I'll be over as soon as I can," Nancy said and rang off, heading straight out the door.

 

 

Murdock picked up the phone and dialed the home phone number, it was after 8, and Nancy should be home.  But he got the answering machine, "Hey Short Cake – I'll give you a call later.  Hope everything's OK."

 

He hung up and dialed the office phone number.  Riley answered, "Adams Investigations."

 

"Hey Riley," Murdock said, "Is Nan there?"

 

"Nope," Riley said, "she left a couple hours ago."

 

"She wasn't home," Murdock said reflectively, "Do you have any idea where she might be?"

 

Riley had to smile, the pilot worried inordinately about his wife since the incident with Kennedy, not that he could blame him, "My bet would be on the hospital . . ."

 

"What's wrong?" Alarm was evident in his voice.

 

Riley laughed, "Nothing – Amy went in this morning.  I'm not sure, but she's probably there for moral support if nothin' else."

 

Murdock sighed in relief, "Oh, yea – I forgot about that. Thanks, Riley," he said sincerely, "I'll talk to you later."

 

He hung up the phone again, and considered trying the hospital, but decided against it.  He'd wait and give her a call in a little while. Hopefully she'd get home before they had to leave.  He wandered over to a coffee vending machine and got himself a cup and sat down to read one of the aviation magazines in the little sitting room to while away the time.

 

Jeff came walking in carrying a bunch of paperwork a short while later, "Hey, Murdock, General said we're gonna be staying at the Hilton tonight, and we'll have to refile for an early morning flight to LA," he held out the paperwork, most of which he had completed, "He wants to leave at 6am."

 

Murdock took it with a sigh, "Damn, I'd fly all night if it meant we were goin' home."

 

Jeff shrugged, "Sorry.  If it's any consolation, he did say we'd probably be headed back to Langley tomorrow afternoon . . . depending on how things go in LA."

 

"We better be," Murdock said, standing and stretching, "We might as well head over to the hotel and get some shut eye.  I'll finish the paperwork in the morning before we go."

 

 

At the hospital, they went in to see Amy in shifts, with Maggie and Hannibal going in first.  Nancy let BA, his mom, and Char go next, and then she went in about 8:30.

 

Amy was lying on the bed, looking tired but happy.  Jonathan Francis Peck was a pudgy newborn with blue- black eyes and a shock of dark hair. Face was holding him, sitting on the edge of Amy's bed, when Nancy came in.

 

Amy grinned at her friend, "You were right, Nan - as soon as he was here, it erased the last 12 hours from my mind.  I think I understand now why people have another one."

 

"How are you feeling?" Nancy asked.

 

"Tired, sore," Amy looked at her husband and child, "just wonderful," she added sincerely.

 

Nancy moved next to Face, who held the baby out, "Would you like to hold him?"

 

Nancy smiled, "I'd love to," she took the little bundle and sat in the chair against the wall.

 

The baby was wide-eyed, and instinctively wrapped a tiny fist around Nancy's finger, "Hey there little Jonny," she cooed.  She looked up at Face and Amy, "He's absolutely beautiful, guys."

 

Nancy sat for a few more minutes with the new little family then stood and handed Jonathan back to Amy, "You need your rest," she said, "I'll see you tomorrow."  She ducked out of the room and down to the waiting room.

 

Nancy walked up to Hannibal and put an arm around his waist, "Well, Grampa, what do you think of your namesake?" she asked teasingly.

 

Hannibal looked like he might burst with pride.  He had a cigar that said 'It's a boy!', still in the wrapper, clenched in his teeth.  Putting an arm around Nancy's shoulders, he squeezed, "He's perfect," he said, "And I definitely saw the glow of the jazz in his eyes!"

 

Maggie heaved an exaggerated sigh, "God help us all!"

 

 

Nancy got home at 9:30, and the message light was flashing on her answering machine.  She had missed a call from Murdock. The other call was from her father.  She'd have to wait for Murdock to call her back, but she dialed her Dad.

 

"Hey, Dad - still coming to Langley tomorrow?"

 

"Yep," Carl Clay sounded cheerful, "I'll land in Dulles at 3pm, can you or HM still pick me up at the airport?"

 

"HM's out of town, again," Nancy said quietly, "But I'll be there to get you."

 

"OK, be waiting at the pickup area about 3:30, that should give me enough time to pick up my luggage."

 

"I'm looking forward to seeing you, Dad," Nancy said, "Oh, by the way - Amy had a little boy, Jonathan Francis."

 

"Wonderful," Carl said, "How are they doing?"

 

"They're both fine.  They'll probably be coming home in a couple days."

 

"I'll bet Hannibal and Maggie are bursting at the seams," Carl said, "I know I will be."

 

Nancy smiled, "Just a few more months," she said, "and Wednesday you'll get your first glimpse of the newest member of the family."

 

Carl and Nancy said their goodbyes, and Nancy went upstairs and got ready for bed.  She was dozing, with the lights still on, when Murdock called, "Hey, Short Cake, how're you doing."

 

"I'm fine," she said sleepily, "You need to get home soon and meet Jonathan Francis Peck - he finally joined us this evening."

 

Murdock laid back in the hotel room, "I'm guessin' Amy and little Jonny are doin' good."

 

"They're both fine.  They had to do an emergency C-section, but Amy came through it OK," she said, "I got to hold him - he was so tiny."

 

Murdock smiled, "Just think we'll have one just like that in a few months," he said warmly, aching to put his arms around her, "One all our own."

 

Nancy rolled on her side and looked out the window, "Where are you?"

 

He sighed, "We're in Houston, again, though I am starting to loose track."

 

"I thought this was just a quick trip to Houston and back, where else did you go?"

 

"So did I," he said quietly, "I think we're headed to LA from here, then hopefully home.  I should be back tomorrow, but it might be late."

 

"As long as you're home by Wednesday, for the ultrasound," she said hopefully.

 

"I will be," he said, "I told your Uncle, and he said we should be back in Langley by Wednesday morning at the latest. I'll hold him to that."

 

They talked for awhile about nothing in particular.  Nancy told him about the first scheduled rehearsal with Jazz and discussed her reservations about the whole thing. He told her that when they had talked this morning they'd been in Houston.  They'd flown from there to Denver then back to Houston, and were headed to LA early in the morning. He told about getting in trouble after talking to her earlier in the day, and they both laughed.

 

Murdock finally looked over at the clock, "I don't want to say goodbye, but you need your sleep."

 

Nancy yawned, "I'm fine," she asserted, "I've been dozing since I got home, waiting for you to call."

 

"I'm picking Dad up tomorrow afternoon at the airport," she continued, unwilling to break the connection with her husband.

 

"He'll be staying for awhile won't he?"

 

"Yea, he's house hunting for the next couple weeks.  He's hoping to make his move from Chicago before winter, so he needs to get moving," Nancy confirmed.

 

"Well, I'm going to say goodnight, Short Cake," Murdock said regretfully, "I love you, and I'll see you soon."

 

"I love you too, HM, 'night."

 

She put the phone down reluctantly and turned off the light, staring out at the starry sky, and thinking about her sky-bound husband, wishing he were home.

 

 

Chapter 5: Where to Now?

 

The next morning was rainy, gloomy and muggy, and Nancy rolled out of bed late, feeling like she hadn't slept at all. She skipped breakfast and headed into town.  She stopped at the hospital first, hoping that seeing Amy and Jonny would cheer her up. She knocked at the door to Amy's room tentatively, and Amy called cheerfully, "Come on in!"

 

Amy was sitting up in the bed, eating breakfast, "Hi Nancy," she said, "How are you this morning?"

 

Nancy shrugged, taking a seat in one of the visitor's chairs, "Not too bad – how about you? You're the one that had a long day yesterday."

 

"I'm sore, but otherwise OK," Amy said, looking at Nancy critically, "You know, you suck at lying," she added, "Missing HM?"

 

"I talked to him last night," she said, "he thinks he'll be home before the end of the week.  Of course it could be for only 8 hours again."

 

"Where are they?" Amy asked curiously.

 

"Probably winging their way to LA right about now," Nancy said, "Apparently they swung between Houston and Denver yesterday and were due to be heading to LA this morning."

 

Amy looked at Nancy sympathetically, "I wish I could help.  It's been so nice since the guys have been home – I know how I'd feel if I lost that right now."

 

Nancy stood and walked to the window, "I'm just tired of having my life on permanent hold because of my Uncle."

 

"Well, if it's any consolation, Murdock would probably give up flying permanently if it meant he could be home with you," Amy said, getting up out of the bed, she walked over and put an arm around Nancy's shoulders, "And that is really saying something for the human fly."

 

Amy turned her towards the door, "I know how to cheer you up, let's go see Jonny. You can't stay depressed with a baby around!"

 

 

When she got to the office, her mood was significantly lighter than when she'd rolled out of bed. Amy was right, it was hard to stay depressed when there was a gurgling little baby around.

 

"Hi, Riley," she said cheerfully, "How're you doing today?"

 

Riley raised an eyebrow at her, "You're in a good mood this morning."

 

"Amy had the baby yesterday," Nancy said, "A healthy baby boy."

 

Riley smiled, "That's great to hear," he said sincerely, "how are they doing?"

 

"They're both fine," she said, "they should be coming home in a couple days, maybe even tomorrow."

 

Riley switched right to business, "So did you review the files?"

 

Nancy dropped into a chair, "I did better than that," she said with a smile, "I'm meeting LaSalle today for lunch.  We'll see what he has to say for himself."

 

 

Murdock walked out of the dressing room on the jet, and heaved a sigh of relief to be out of his uniform.  The General had dismissed him with a disgruntled lecture about not fidgeting during meetings, because it gave the impression he wasn't paying attention.  Murdock had let it go, he hadn't been paying attention.  It was noon, and they were showing no signs of breaking for lunch. He walked to the front of the jet, and found Jeff lounging on the couch reading a book.

 

"You up for some lunch?" Murdock asked.

 

Jeff snapped the book closed, "Sounds good to me – whatcha got in mind?"

 

"I could use some good, greasy, comfort food – how about Captain Bellybuster's Burger Heaven?"

 

Jeff laughed, "I can hear my arteries clogging, just at the thought – let's go!"

 

Jeff and Murdock grabbed a cab, and headed to Captain Bellybuster's for a late lunch. They found a booth and ate with relish, "Captain Bellybuster always makes me feel better," Murdock said, grinning broadly with his new Captain Bellybuster baseball cap.

 

"I feel like I'm goin' to dinner with my kids!" Jeff said, shaking his head, "It always amazes me when I see you like this.  How can a guy be so intelligent and so . . . naive, all at the same time."

 

"Don't mistake eccentricity for naivetι," he said with a wide grin, "besides a little whacky behavior can be a great disarming tactic."

 

Jeff looked at the pilot appraisingly, "So, you were back early today.  Is the General giving you time off for good behavior or what?"

 

Murdock put his half-eaten burger down and wiped his hands and mouth, "Actually, I think this is a time out for fidgeting during class," he said ruefully, "I'm really not sure what the General expects from me. Why is he makin' me wear my monkey suit and draggin' me to all these meetings, anyways?"

 

"Come on, Murdock," Jeff said with a mischievous smile, "You know it's 'cause he likes you."

 

Murdock raised his eyebrows, "Yea, like a dog likes a bone, he likes me," he said caustically, "What planet did you just land from?"

 

"Hey, don't take it out on me," Jeff said raising his hands in surrender, "I'm not the one that married the General's niece.  What were you thinking, anyways?"

 

Murdock was eating again, and chewed thoughtfully, "Well, when I asked her to marry me I didn't know she was Stockwell's niece – though I'm not sure it would have made any difference."

 

Jeff shook his head in wonder, "If I had been you, I'd have run screaming as soon as I found out . . ."

 

"Couldn't," he said simply, "I was head over heels by then.  She coulda been Atilla the Hun's daughter, I still woulda married her."

 

"Like I said, you made your bed, you get to lie in it," Jeff said.

 

"I just wish I got to actually lie in the bed more often," Murdock said, grinning.

 

"I'd watch making that kind of comment around the General," Jeff said, laughing.

 

"I think the General knows I sleep with his niece," Murdock said calmly, "either that or she's gettin' might chubby for no apparent reason."

 

"This is your first kid, right?" Jeff asked conversationally.

 

"Yea, Nan wasn't so sure about the family thing.  It's not like she had a lot of good experience with it.  Her Dad's great – but I don't think I woulda wanted to grow up with Hunt Stockwell for an Uncle."

 

Jeff nodded in agreement, "I can't even imagine – it's bad enough working for the guy. At least he pays good!  Maybe it's better if you're related . . ."

 

"No," Murdock said certainly, "Stockwell is harder on Nan than I've ever seen him on anyone else.  She can't seem to do anything right.  It's kinda weird, really.  I mean I know he cares about her, but when it comes to her career, he does nothin' but cut her down."

 

"That's too bad," Jeff said, "I've heard some pretty good things about her through the grape vine.  She's done pretty well for herself."

 

"Speaking of careers," Murdock said, sitting forward, "have you thought any more about the team?"

 

"Don't start on me again, Murdock," Jeff said warningly, "I told you I'm not interested. I like the independence and variation with what I'm doing.  I don't think that a team setting is for me."

 

"Come on, Jeff," he said persuasively, "It's great to be part of a team, there's nothing like it. It's definitely a case of the whole being stronger than its parts.  It's great to excel on your own, but when you share those talents to make it part of something bigger, it's a satisfaction you can't find in independent field work."

 

Jeff looked at him with a slight smile, "When was the last time you worked as an independent field operative? I like it, and I answer for myself, and nobody else."

 

Murdock sat back, "OK, it's been awhile since I worked on my own," quite a while, he thought ruefully, "but I'm telling you, it's worth the rewards to compromise your independence to a team."

 

"Listen, Murdock," Jeff said quietly, "I've seen you guys work together, and it's impressive.  I'd love to work in that kind of setting, but I've heard who you've got fingered for this team, and quite frankly, there's no way in hell I want to be stuck working with those guys on any kind of regular basis."

 

Murdock sighed, "Alright, if I can't convince you otherwise . . ."

 

"You can't," Jeff said emphatically.

 

 

Nancy arrived at Colvin Run Tavern a little before noon and asked for reservations for LaSalle. She was shown to a booth at the back of the restaurant, and opened the menu, though her attention wandered around the interior of the tavern, while she waited for Phillipe LaSalle.

 

He arrived at 12:00 sharp, and was shown to the table.  He moved with the same self-assuredness that her Uncle always exuded.  Nancy knew from his file that he was 68, but he didn't look it.  His wavy brown hair was just beginning to gray at the temples, giving him an aristocratic look that many aging men hoped for.  He had sharp intelligent eyes, set in a handsome face.  The only thing that hinted at his age were the deep laugh wrinkles around his eyes.

 

He shook Nancy's hand firmly when he arrived at the table, "It's nice to meet you Mr. LaSalle," Nancy said formally.

 

He smiled, "Phillipe, please," he sat down and looked at her piercingly, "So, Hunt Stockwell's niece, such an unexpected pleasure, I have to admit."

 

Nancy smiled tightly, "My name," she said stiffly, "is Nancy Murdock."

 

He gave her a disarming smile, "Of course, I'm sorry about that.  It's just that I'm still trying to get used to the fact that Hunt has a family, and isn't the result of Immaculate Conception!"

 

Nancy had to laugh, this man obviously had known her Uncle for some time, "I'm not so sure that having a family discounts the theory of Immaculate Conception," she countered, "Even Jesus had brothers and sisters."

 

"Too true," he agreed, picking up the menu, he turned to an innocuous subject "I hear that the Chicken Marsala here is wonderful, though I have to admit I'm more of a red meat kind of person myself."

 

The waitress came by and they placed their orders. They discussed the weather and local news until their meals were served.

 

Nancy looked up, "So, what exactly are you under investigation for?"

 

Serious gray eyes considered her for a moment, "You don't waste much time, do you?" he asked.

 

"With all due respect Mr. LaSalle . . . " Nancy began.

 

"Phillipe," he corrected.

 

"Very well, with all due respect, Phillipe, we've wasted," she consulted her wrist watch, "half an hour already on banalities.  I have other work to do, and I'm really only here as a courtesy to my Uncle."

 

LaSalle sat back and wiped his mouth on his napkin, before replying, "What I am being investigated for is less important than why I am being investigated."

 

"Let's take this one step at a time," Nancy said matter-of-factly, "I want to know what you are being investigated for.  After that you can offer your theories as to why."

 

He shook his head with a rueful smile, "You know the family resemblance is really quite uncanny," he said, after a slight pause he offered, "I am being investigated for supposedly giving up a network of informants and undercover agents to a Columbian Cartel for money."

 

"And did you?" Nancy asked.

 

"I am not so stupid as to take a payoff, give up a group of very good men and women, and then stick around to be convicted of it," he said smoothly, a slight smile curving his lips.

 

Nancy shrugged, "Perhaps not . . .  I take it that even if you didn't do it, someone did."

 

LaSalle looked pained, "Yes, it was a group of men and women who have worked for three years to get into a position where they could make a dent in the drug imports from Columbia.  It was a joint effort between the CIA and DEA.  Someone fairly high up in our organization had to have leaked the info, because there are only a few of us who knew the entire network."

 

"Who were the individuals that could have given the network up?" she asked.

 

LaSalle seemed to hesitate, then said quietly, "Me, Leo Santini with the DEA, his boss, Reagan Landon, my boss, Frank Ester, and our division manager, Tristan Caswell."

 

"And you think you know which one of those people orchestrated this setup?" Based on the files her Uncle had provided, Nancy could make a pretty good guess as to which one.

 

"Yes," LaSalle said simply, offering nothing further.

 

Nancy allowed the silence to last for a couple minutes, before conceding, "OK, we'll play it your way, let's talk about the why," Nancy suggested, "Why would someone, assumedly one of the people you just mentioned, go to such great lengths to set you up for a fall like this."

 

Lasalle sat forward, "This is an elaborate scheme to discredit me because of some snooping I've been doing, on your Uncle's behalf."

 

"Snooping?" Nancy said uncertainly, "Seems like an awful lot of trouble . . ."

 

"Stockwell has some very powerful allies," LaSalle interrupted, "And even more powerful enemies.  He's no different than any other man in his position.  He's always looking for ways to strengthen his allies and cripple his enemies.  Fortunately or not, in many cases your Uncle and I have similar camps, and we end up work together frequently."

 

"And who was the target in this instance?"

 

"My divisional manager at the CIA has been involved in various shady deals over the years. He's very good at covering his tracks, but I've been trying to get the goods on him. Hunt has some kind of vendetta against him, though you'll have to ask him if you want to know what the specifics are.  I have my own issues with the man.  He's a real slime, and how he ended up in his position is beyond me.  That's why I agreed to helping your Uncle."

 

"And that would be Tristan Caswell?"

 

LaSalle looked at her through narrowed eyes, "Yes," he said bitterly, "he's head of the InterAgency Cooperation division. He was put in that position about two years ago, over a year after this particular operation was underway.  He leap-frogged over some very capable people to be promoted to division manager.  Supposedly he got the position because of his excellent skills in developing cross-functional teams.  Personally, I think it's just because he's a good butt-kisser."

 

They ate in silence for a few minutes, while Nancy digested what she had been told.  She set down her fork and knife, "Was Stockwell Enterprises involved in the Columbia mission?"

 

LaSalle nodded, "Three Abels were killed as a result of the betrayal," he said smoothly, "and as you are likely well aware, your Uncle isn't the kind of man who turns the other cheek."

 

"Well you must have gotten something on Caswell that was pretty damning to make him take such drastic measures to discredit you.  What did you find out?"

 

"I had some promising leads . . ." he said evasively.

 

Nancy caught and held LaSalle's gaze, "You know, Phillipe, for a man looking for help, you aren't very forthcoming with information.  I feel like a dentist at the moment, dealing with a very difficult extraction."

 

LaSalle reached into his jacket pocket, while Nancy watched him warily.  He pulled out a computer diskette and held it out to her, "Here's the information I've been able to gather.  There is nothing here that is definitive, and there are still a lot of loose ends to tie up.  Like I said, Caswell is good at covering his tracks."

 

Nancy took the disk and stuck it in her purse, "I trust this is my copy of the disk to keep."

 

"Yes.  Hunt has a copy as well."

 

The waitress came by with the check, which Nancy picked up and paid, with her company credit card.  LaSalle didn't protest, just smiled, "Make sure you put that on Hunt's bill," he said.

 

Nancy smiled, "I was planning on it."

 

They stood in preparation to leave, and LaSalle looked at her in surprise, "How far along are you?"

 

Nancy patted her protruding belly, "About 4 and a half months," she said.

 

"And you're working? Shouldn't you be tending the home fires?" he sounded condescending, and Nancy felt herself become defensive.

 

"I'm quite capable of working," she said stiffly, "I'm pregnant, not an invalid."

 

They walked out together. Nancy stopped just outside the restaurant and held out her hand, which LaSalle shook once again, "Phillipe, if you think of anything that might help me out, please give me a call," she handed him a card, "I'm going to be seeing my Uncle in a couple days - meanwhile, I'll start looking through the materials you've given me and see where to start."

 

LaSalle nodded, "Just watch your step. There are some high-profile careers on the line here, and many of these men are unscrupulous.  To be honest, I'm surprised your Uncle is involving you, especially . . .," he hesitate, unsure of her reaction, "well, especially in your condition."

 

Nancy smiled thinly and said, "Well, I'm sure the General has his reasons. Take care." Nancy turned and headed down the street. LaSalle fell in step beside her, "I'll walk you to your car," he offered, turning left at the end of the building into the tavern parking area.

 

Nancy declined, "I parked at the parking garage down the block, thanks anyway."  She continued down to the next building.  Glancing over her shoulder, she saw LaSalle shrug and head on into the lot to his car. 

 

She stopped and leaned against the building nonchalantly, watching to see what Phillipe LaSalle drove.  He drove out in a blue Porsche with a sunroof.  She stepped back into the lot, and let herself into her VW Bug, steering out of the lot and heading down the street in the direction that LaSalle had taken.

 

She caught up with LaSalle at the next traffic light, and kept a couple cars behind him. Almost out of habit, she was following him.  He drove out of Vienna, hit the highway, and headed back towards DC.  Nancy followed as far as Langley, where she exited the highway and headed back to the office.

 

At least she knew what he drove.  While he had no idea what her vehicle was, which gratified her for some reason.  She felt very reluctant to trust Phillipe LaSalle, something about him just wasn't sitting quite right.

 

When she got back to the office, she pulled out the disk that LaSalle had given her and stuck it in her disk drive, downloading the files to a subdirectory on her hard drive. Having a back up was always a good idea.

 

While the files were transferring, she pulled out a clean notebook, making notes about her meeting with LaSalle.  Her gut instinct was to distrust LaSalle.  He was smooth, but he didn't come across sincere.  She had the distinct impression that she was only getting part of the story, and even that had been difficult to get out of him.

 

She ejected the disk, and stuck it into a disk carrier with several other disks that she used to transport files back and forth from home. She then threw the entire carrier back into her brief case.

 

Checking the clock, she saw that it was almost 2 pm.  She'd have to get headed out soon to get her father at Dulles, so she decided not to start on the file review.  She tended to loose track of time, and it wouldn't do to leave her father sitting at the airport. Instead she worked through her inbox, writing up replies to a few requests from the field operatives on active cases they were working.  By the time she'd finished these few items, it was time to go, and she headed to Dulles to pick up her father.

 

 

When Stockwell returned to the jet mid-afternoon, he was curt, "File plans for Houston, Captain."

 

Murdock looked at him in surprise, "I thought we were headed back to Langley?"

 

Stockwell stopped mid-stride, "We will be going to Houston, Captain.  Do I need to repeat myself again?"

 

Murdock pursed his lips, "You said we would be heading back to Langley this afternoon, not Houston."

 

"That was dependent on what transpired at the meeting in LA," he said evenly, looking more than a little impatient, "As it turns out we will need to make another stop in Houston before heading to Langley."

 

Murdock looked at him narrowly, "We've been in Houston twice in the last two days already . . . I need to be home by Wednesday morning . . ."

 

Stockwell made a dismissive gesture, "I will not debate this with you, Captain. I have a great deal of work to do on the way to Houston. Once we are done there, we should be headed back to Langley this evening. Are you quite satisfied?"

 

The General didn't wait for an answer, but proceeded down the hall to his office and closed the door.

Murdock turned and walked up to the cockpit, where Jeff was setting up for a pre-flight check, "We've got to file for Houston," he told Jeff shortly.

 

Jeff looked up, "But we just came from there."

 

"Yea – well we're going back," Murdock said irritably.

 

 

Chapter 6: Comin' Home

 

Traffic into the airport was worse than she'd expected, and Nancy didn't get to the pickup until 3:40.  Her father was waiting at the curb, when she pulled up.  They greeted each other warmly, then loaded his luggage into the back seat of the bug and headed back towards Langley.

 

"So, how've you been feeling, sweetheart?" Carl asked.

 

"Physically, I'm feeling fine," she replied truthfully.

 

Her father looked at her closely, "And mentally . . ."

 

Nancy shrugged, "I've had better weeks . . . better months," she admitted, "Hopefully HM will make it home by tomorrow morning so he can be at the ultrasound."

 

"Hunt never changes," Carl said, shaking his head, "the man doesn't understand that work is not a priority in everyone's life. Is he looking for another pilot?"

 

"I've not seen any evidence of it," she admitted, frustration evident in her voice, "I'm starting to think I should put out my own ads and find one myself."

 

Her father laughed, "I doubt you could do so to Hunt's satisfaction, dear," he said resignedly, "I'm afraid it's an exercise in futility."

 

They talked off and on for the rest of the drive.  Nancy stopped at the house, and her father took his bags up to the spare room Nancy had prepared for him. When he came back downstairs, Nancy was getting ready to leave again.

 

"I've got to head to the Community Center for rehearsal with Jasmine," Nancy said, "You don't need to come, I should be home in a couple hours."

 

"Are you kidding," her father said, "I wouldn't miss your first rehearsal for anything.  I still can't believe Terra convinced you to do this.  I'll come along, then maybe we could go out for supper afterwards."

 

At the Community Center, Char came out of the office when Nancy and Carl arrived, "I've got you and Jazz set up in one of the smaller rehearsal rooms," she said, looking at Nancy with a knowing smile, "she thought it might make you more comfortable for the first practice - she said you sounded nervous."

 

Nancy smiled, "That's just as well - I'd like to see how it goes before we have too many people in the room listening."

 

Char squeezed Nancy's shoulders as she led them back to the practice room, "It'll be fine - I'm really looking forward to hearing you two perform."

 

"Me too," Carl agreed, "It'll sure beat 2am!"

 

Nancy elbowed her father, and Char looked at him curiously, "2am?"

 

"When Nancy was a kid, she used to wake up in the middle of the night and serenade me, though usually it was classical piano."

 

The rehearsal room Char had them set up in was a 8' x 8' room with an upright piano along one wall, and a couple folding chairs and a high stool.  Jazz had set up her own synthesizer, and had it sitting on top of the piano.  She had pushed the piano bench along the wall, and was trying to adjust the sound level on the keyboard so it wasn't overwhelming in the small room. 

 

She turned when Char, Nancy and Carl came into the room and greeted them sheepishly. Nancy glanced around the room, before opening her guitar case, "Where's Terra?" she asked.

 

Jazz nodded out the door, "She has dance until 6 - I figure she'll be down after that."

 

Char had closed the door and was leaning by the door jam, "I hope you don't mind if I listen in for a little while," she ventured tentatively.

 

Jazz looked at Nancy, who smiled, and answered, "No, Char, you can stay if you like."

 

Nancy's father had taken a seat in one of the folding chairs.  Nancy pulled the stool over next to the piano bench, and sat on the edge of it with one foot up on the bench.  She strummed a few times, then asked Jazz for a tuning chord, and tuned the guitar to the piano.

 

She leaned on her guitar, "So, how do you want to start?"

 

Jazz smiled, and pulled out a play list she'd worked on that afternoon, holding it out to Nancy, "This is a tentative plan - take a look and make adjustments how you see fit.  I took heavily from Shawn Colvin to begin with, since you said you knew her stuff.  I've added some material from America, Bonnie Raitt, the Eagles, Billy Joel - whatever was adaptable for a couple chicks," she added ruefully, "then I listed some possible songs that you can check out and see if you feel comfortable with . . . they're not exactly in keeping with the folk theme, but I think you might like them. I even made you a tape of some I think we could try . . .," she handed Nancy a cassette, that Nancy put in her guitar case.

 

Nancy glanced through the list.  Jazz had really done her homework.  Nancy knew most of the songs on the first page, which meant, with a little work together, they should be able to play a pretty respectable program of songs.  Jasmine was looking at Nancy expectantly.

 

"Looks doable. I'll listen to the tape later," Nancy said, laying the list in her guitar case with the cassette, "What do you want to start with?"

 

Jasmine smiled, "Why don't you pick?" she suggested.

 

Nancy considered the list for a moment, "How about Round of Blues - it fits my mood."

 

She and Jazz checked their tuning again, before beginning.  Jazz played the set up chords on the keyboard, and decided on a good backup percussion rhythm.  After a couple false starts, they hit their stride, and Nancy began singing:

 

Here we go again

Another round of blues

Several miles ago

I set down my angel shoes

On a lost highway

For a better view

Now in my mind's eye

All roads lead to you

 

So wherever you go

You better take care of me

This time

If you're gonna go

Remember me and all

This time

 

We had our bitter cheer

And sweet sorrow

We lost a lot today

We'll get it back tomorrow

I hear the sound of wheels

I know the rainbow's end

I see lights in a fat city

I feel love again

 

So wherever you go

You better take care of me

This time

If you're gonna go

Remember me and all

This time

 

All this time

I been makin' deals

Shades of black and white

On a Hollywood reel

All this time

I been missing

Something so real, so real

All this time

I been a face in the crowd

Now I'm living in color

And laughing out loud

All these names

For just foolin' around

It's a new breakthrough

It's an old break down

 

We smoked a lot of hope

We did our cryin', too

We're finally waking up

To what real love can do

Down a lost highway

Under the twilight moon

A chorus in your eyes

Another round of blues

 

So wherever you go

You better take care of me

This time

If you're gonna go

Remember me and all

This time

 

We had all this time

We had all this time

 

Finishing up, Nancy and Jasmine both looked at Carl and Char, gauging their reactions.  Char had a broad smile on her face, "You can tell you haven't played together much, but it still sounded good,"  she said sincerely, "A little bit of practice and you'll be bringin' down the house."

 

Carl agreed, but offered some constructive criticism, "You need some backup vocals.  The music actually sounds pretty good, but Nancy's voice, alone isn't holding up to the keyboard and guitar both."

 

Char nodded, "Carl's right, though I think that might have to do more with the acoustics in the room.  If Nancy's miked it may work out better.  We can play with that on stage."

 

Nancy looked at Jasmine, "I do think back up vocals on the chorus would help add some interest to the song," she suggested tentatively, "Do you think you could give it a try - I'm sure you can carry a tune."

 

Jazz smiled, "I don't much like my voice, it's not at all strong, but it's probably good enough for backup.  Why don't we give that song another try."

 

They actually played the song a couple more times, making improvements each time, and getting more comfortable playing together.  They then tried several more songs together, with Char and Carl making suggestions for improvements as they went along. Two hours later, both Nancy and Jasmine were getting tired and hoarse.

 

Nancy sighed, "I'm just not used to singing that long - I'm definitely going to have to work on my stamina."

 

Jasmine nodded in agreement, "Me too."

 

Nancy put her guitar away and straightened, looking at Jasmine, "When do you want to get together again?" she asked.

 

Jazz looked at Char quizzically, "Can we have the rehearsal room same time tomorrow?"

 

Char smiled, "Of course," she said, "as long as I'm invited to listen in."

 

Jasmine looked at Nancy, "Is that OK with you?  We really need to get enough songs in shape to be able to play at Charlie's in a couple weeks.  The more we practice, the better," seeing Nancy's hesitation, Jazz rushed on, "We'll only have to rehearse a lot to begin with.  Once we have a bunch of songs worked up, we should be able to drop our rehearsal schedule back, just working up new stuff to add to the play list."

 

 "OK, but I'm going to hold you to that," Nancy said, "I don't mind rehearsing, but I also don't want this to take over my life.  I've got enough other commitments to worry about."

 

Jazz nodded, "It went way better today than I thought it would.  I think we'll be in good shape pretty quick.  I'll see you tomorrow, though right?"

 

"I'll be here," Nancy said, "I promise."

 

Char smiled slyly, "You know, if you two rehearse every night this week, I bet you could be ready for a small exhibition concert for the kids on Saturday evening.  It would give you a chance to see how you do in front of a crowd."

 

Jasmine was excited, "That's a great idea, Char!"

 

Nancy was much less enthusiastic, "Let's see how the next couple practice sessions go," she said uncertainly, "I 'don't mind practicing each night this week, but I'm not convinced I'll be ready to sing in front of a bunch of people by Saturday."

 

Jasmine smiled, "We've got to play in front of a bunch of people at some point in time, Nan."

 

She smiled, "I know, but give me some time - I'm gonna have to work myself up to it!"

 

 

When they arrived in Houston this time, the General left Murdock at the jet, "This is a sensitive matter, Captain," he said in explanation, as if Murdock would feel left out for not being invited along, "I'll return this evening.  You and Mr. Kent are on your own until then."

 

Murdock sighed in relief, adding as a reminder, "I'll prepare the flight plan for Langley while you're gone."

 

The General nodded curtly, "Very well, I'm not sure what time I'll be back. But we should be able to head back to Langley sometime this evening – barring anything unforeseen."

 

After the General had left, Murdock turned to Jeff, "Looks like we're on our own for a few hours," he said.

 

Jeff nodded, "Let's go grab a bite to eat in the 'port and relax."

 

Murdock nodded, "OK, but I want to get back in plenty of time to get the flight plans filed and be ready to go when the General gets back."

 

Jeff grinned, "Anxious to get home, Murdock?"

 

"You know it!"

 

 

Nancy and Carl decided to go to Mabel's Diner for dinner.  As they walked in several people greeted Nancy, including Blanche, who led them to their table.

 

As she poured them each a cup of coffee, Blanche began talking eagerly, "I can't tell you how excited Jasmine is about this concert you're gonna play at Charlie's," she said effusively, "she's practicing all the time when she's not working here.  It's so good to see her throw herself into something so whole-heartedly. Thank you, Nancy – really!"

 

"It's no problem, Blanche," Nancy said self-consciously.

 

Blanche continued, "Well, it's meant the world to us.  We've got Jasmine back, and she's happier than I've seen her in years," she turned as another waitress came up, "Oh this is Laney, she'll be your waitress . . . I gotta get back to work, but I'll stop by later.  Enjoy!"

 

Nancy and her father placed their orders with Laney, both electing to get the lasagna special without looking at the menu. As soon as Laney left, Brett Katt came walking up to the table, "Hey, Nan – how're ya doin'?" he asked warmly.

 

She looked up, "Hi Brett," catching her father's curious look, she took up introductions, "Dad, this is Detective Brett Katt, he works Vice. Brett, this is my father, Carl Clay."

 

The two men shook hands.  Brett looked at Nancy hopefully, "Mind if I join you . . ."

 

"Sure," she said, "Eating alone tonight?"

 

Brett slipped into the booth next to Nancy, and Carl cocked an eyebrow at his daughter, but she didn't notice.

 

"Not now," Brett said, grinning, "If ya gotta go out alone, Mabel's is the best place to go – you can usually find someone friendly to eat with."

 

Laney came by the table, "What can I getcha Brett?"

 

He turned on a charming smile, "I'll take the lasagna, Laney, thanks."

 

"Sounds like you're a regular here," Nancy said.

 

"Yea, I eat here couple nights a week," he said, "that's kinda the life of a bachelor. Used to see your husband here quite a bit . . . of course that was before he was your husband."

 

"Actually, now that you mention it, HM brought me here on our first date," Nancy said, smiling at the memory, "I remember when we left I commented on the fact that he must eat here a lot – Blanchey treated him like an old friend."

 

"Where is the flyboy, anyway?" Brett asked curiously, "I've seen you around, but it's been awhile since I saw him."

 

"He's been piloting for Stockwell Enterprises and out of town a lot lately," Nancy said regretfully.

 

"But he'll be home by tomorrow," Carl said certainly, "He won't want to miss the ultrasound."

 

Brett's brow furrowed, "Is something wrong?" he asked, looking at Nancy solicitously.

 

"I'm measuring ahead of my due date – so the Doctor wants to check the baby's development.  Truth is I, uh," she hesitated, "Well we weren't too sure about the conception date – it came as kind of a surprise."

 

"Weren't quite ready for kids, huh?" Brett asked.

 

"Well, we were planning on kids," she said, "We just didn't think it would happen so quick . . ."

 

Carl chuckled, "You and HM never have messed around once you've made a decision," he said, "You were engaged after dating for what . . . three or four weeks?"

 

"Yea," Nancy said with a thoughtful smile, "he kinda swept me off my feet."

 

Brett was looking at her, "Some guys have all the luck."

 

Nancy elbowed him disbelievingly, "You just feel sorry for him," she said teasingly, "He's gonna have to put up with my moodiness for a long time to come . . . not to mention my Uncle."

 

Laney came with their salads, and bread, and they started eating. Carl looked at the young man sitting across from him thoughtfully, "So, Brett, how long have you known Nancy?" he asked in what his daughter always referred to as his lawyer tone.

 

Brett looked up from his salad, "Known her for, what," he looked at Nancy quizzically, "atbout 8, 9 years – ever since she moved to Langley. Joe introduced us."

 

Carl noticed that his daughter looked decidedly uncomfortable with the turn of topics, "Joe Martin, Trixie's husband, you remember him don't you, Dad? He and Brett work together on the force," she rushed on, "that reminds me – did I tell you Trixie's working on a new class at the college . . . a practical field op class."

 

Carl nodded, "I think you mentioned it, dear," he said smoothly. Looking back a Brett, he asked, "So Brett, you're a bachelor – anyone special in your life at the moment?"

 

"I'm not seeing anyone right now," Brett admitted, looking at Carl curiously. Laney arrived with their meals, and conversation stopped for a few minutes as plates were exchanged.

 

Nancy could tell her father was winding up for another question, and decided to head him off at the pass, saying the first thing that came to mind, "Brett was involved in the Kennedy bust at the beginning of the year, Dad," she said, "He helped me out with a couple leads . . ."

 

"Not very good ones," Brett said, "Though I do wish you'd let me in on your hunch about Penny Turner."

 

Nancy's look turned self-recriminating, "I wish I had, too," she said quietly, "Maybe then she'd still be working the corner by the Boar."

 

Brett looked at Nancy and shook his head, "You didn't know – you shouldn't blame yourself for what happened.  Penny was running in some pretty rough circles Nan, it was bound to happen sooner or later."

 

"Maybe, but I contributed to the sooner," Nancy said ruefully, beginning to wonder why she had brought this particular subject up, "I can't believe I was so naοve with Kennedy breathing down my neck."

 

"You did what no one else had been able to do, Nancy," Brett said forcefully, "You got Kennedy to show his hand." He looked at Carl, "Kennedy was one cagey player, but he just couldn't resist a woman with the guts to stand up to him."

 

"Guts or just plain stupidity," Nancy said dismissively, "I'm just lucky that HM and the guys got home when they did – I have never been so happy to see anyone in my life, as when I looked up and saw Hannibal and BA!"

 

Carl nodded knowingly, he'd heard the story from several different angles, including Hannibal's and Murdock's, "Well, from what Hannibal said, it's a damn good thing he found you before Murdock – he didn't think that HM would have been quite so . . . lenient with Kennedy."

 

Brett nodded, "Murdock wouldn't have been alone – most of the force thinks of Nan like a kid sister.  Kennedy's lucky he didn't do anything worse than give her a black eye.  He might not have made it to jail."

 

Nancy shrugged, "I guess if you're gonna get yourself in those kind of pickles, it's good to have the right kind of friends!" she said ruefully, "I just wish I could have gotten out of that little scrape with a lot less fanfare."

 

"You know you got yourself in that predicament because you didn't listen to sound advice," Brett said, "If you'd take the police protection Joe offered you would have been fine."

 

"And Jazz and Terra might be dead now," Nancy said argumentatively, "It didn't happen like I thought it would, but it worked out . . ."

 

"Why can't you admit that you miscalculated," Brett asked, "You thought you could handle Kennedy yourself, and got in trouble, it's as simple as that. If you'd let us help, we could have gotten Jazz and Terra out without compromising your safety."

 

"You know, Brett, that's always been your problem. You think you can control everyone and everything.  What happened, happened – and I dealt with it the only way I could.  Police protection was not an option – hell, I didn't even think Kennedy would give me a second thought.  But I sure didn't want the cops hanging around and scaring him off if he did make a move."

 

Brett pushed his empty plate away, "You are one cussed independent and infuriating woman," he said wonderingly, "How did this turn into my problem? I'm not the one that got kidnapped . . . given you're history, I'm surprised flyboy hasn't locked you up to keep you out of trouble."

 

"HM isn't like that," Nancy said evenly, her blue eyes sparking with anger, "he knows I can take care of myself – unlike some other people."

 

"You know, you need to learn not to mistake caring with controlling," Brett said sullenly.

 

"With you, it's a matter of semantics," Nancy retorted.

 

Brett was shaking his head, and stood, dropping a couple bills on the table to cover his tab and tip, "I guess I know when I've outworn my welcome," he turned to Carl and shook his hand, "Nice meeting you Carl." Looking back at Nancy, he smiled, "It was good to see you too, Nan.  Even if we did end up in an argument." He turned and walked out of the diner without a backward glance.

 

Carl looked at his daughter expectantly, "Care to explain that?"

 

Nancy looked at him, her eyes still flashing in anger, "No, I don't."

 

 

After dinner, Nancy and her father headed back to the house.  They listened to the tape Jazz had made, which helped Nancy relax after her little confrontation with Brett.  They talked until about 10, then went to bed.  Nancy was expecting at least a call from Murdock, so she followed basically the same routine as the night before, getting ready for bed. This time she was dozing, listening to Jazz's tape with her portable player, with headphones, until he called – this time after midnight.

 

She grabbed the phone, snatching the headphones off her head in annoyance after she knocked them with the telephone handset, "Hello?"

 

"Hi Short Cake," Murdock said warmly.

 

She laid back on the bed looking at the clock, "You're working some awful long days."

 

"Yea," he agreed, "your Uncle doesn't waste a minute of the day on these little trips. Mercifully, I didn't have to go with him today!"

 

"When will you be home?" Nancy asked, stifling a yawn.

 

"The General just got back from his last meeting of the day - we've been waiting for him to see what our schedule is.  We're in Houston, again.  I just filed flight plans for our trip back to Langley.  We should be taking off soon."

 

Nancy smiled, "So you'll be home sometime this morning?"

 

"Told ya I would be, didn't I?" he said cheerfully.

 

"Well," she said uncertainly, "when you weren't here tonight, I started to worry that maybe you weren't gonna make it home after all."

 

"I'll be there," Murdock said certainly, adding playfully, "I'll be chasing you around the house before ya know it!"

 

Nancy could hear someone calling for Murdock in the background, "Sounds like they're ready to go - Have a safe trip back," she said.

 

"Yea - guess the General's finally ready to take off.  I'll see you in a few hours, Short Cake.  Love ya!"  They said their goodbyes and hung up. 

 

Nancy looked at the clock.  She was wide awake now, and knew she'd have trouble getting to sleep knowing HM would be home soon.  She put the headphones back on, flipping the tape over and pushing play. Then she headed downstairs to start reviewing the LaSalle and Caswell files, might as well make constructive use of the time.

 

 

Chapter 7: Who Says?

 

When Murdock put the phone down, Jeff was at his elbow, "The General said there's been a change of plans - you need to refile the flight plan, for LA."

 

Murdock looked at Jeff disbelievingly, "You must be mistaken - we're supposed to be headed back to Langley."

 

 "The General needs to make another stop in LA first, that's why he wants you to refile . . ." he let the sentence trail off, stepping back involuntarily from the fury he saw in Murdock's face.

 

Murdock brushed by him, "We'll see about that."

 

In the jet, Stockwell was reviewing some materials at his desk when Murdock stormed in, "What's this about a new flight plan?"

 

The General was unperturbed, "We'll be going to LA - I have an early meeting there, then we'll head back to Langley in the afternoon."

 

Murdock shook his head, "Nancy's ultrasound is right after lunch - if we go to LA, I won't make it back in time for the appointment."

 

"And this impacts me, how?"

 

"You do remember Nancy, right?" He asked caustically, "You know, your niece, my wife - I promised her I'd be home.  You said we'd be back in Langley by Wednesday morning."

 

"I said we should be back, not we would be back," Stockwell said matter-of-factly, "Plans have changed and we have an important meeting in LA.  You'll make it home for the next ultrasound."

 

Murdock crossed his arms and glared down at his Uncle-in-law, "I refuse to fly this jet to LA," he said flatly.

 

Stockwell stood and placed both hands flat on his desk, looking at Murdock sternly, "If you wish to continue in my employ," he said threateningly, "you will fly this jet to LA."

 

The two men glared at each other for a full minute in a silent battle of wills before Murdock finally said, "Fine, have it your way," through clenched teeth.  He turned and walked out, leaving the General looking after him smugly.

 

Fifteen minutes later, Murdock's voice came over the jet intercom, "Please take your seats and prepare for takeoff."  Stockwell nodded in satisfaction, and bent back to his work.

 

 

An hour later, Murdock was sitting back in the pilot's seat, relaxing and listening to music, when Jeff came up to the cockpit and dropped into the copilot's seat, automatically checking instruments.

 

He looked at the pilot quizzically, "This heading is off, Murdock," he said uncertainly, "We seem to be headed northeast - shouldn't we be headed northwest?"

 

Murdock was whistling a song.  He sat forward, an earnest expression on his face as he, too checked the instruments, "Yep, definitely headed northeast - you are absolutely right," he sat back and resumed his whistling.

 

Jeff looked at him, obviously not sure what to make of the situation, "Shouldn't we adjust course, and check our position."

 

"I know where we are," Murdock said calmly, "We should be passing over the lovely state of Alabama right about now."

 

"Alabama," Jeff exclaimed, "Murdock, that's the wrong way!"

 

He shook his head, "Not for goin' home it's not."

 

"Shit," Jeff said in realization, "You know the General is going to kill you, don't you?"

 

"Ya think?" Murdock asked, his expression serious, "When we talked earlier, he told me, and I quote, 'If you want to remain in my employ, you will fly this jet to LA'," he sounded eerily like Stockwell.

 

"That's what I mean, Murdock," Jeff was beginning to think maybe the pilot was nuts.

 

Murdock sat forward, looking like a professor trying to correct an errant student, "Ahhh, but you make the same erroneous assumption that the General made."

 

Jeff raised an eyebrow, "And that would be . . ."

 

Murdock shrugged, "That I want to stay in his employ. That is not, nor has it ever been my goal, ergo it does not matter whether I fly this jet to LA, or to Langley. I personally want to go to Langley, and since I'm flyin' that's where we're goin'."

 

"So we are seriously going to Langley?" Jeff asked incredulously.

 

"Isn't that what we just discussed in some detail," Murdock asked impatiently.

 

Jeff started to get up, and Murdock stopped him with a hand on his arm, "Let it go, Jeff - the General will find out soon enough where we're going.  And I'm not turning around."

 

Jeff had never seen the pilot look so serious, or determined.  He stopped, "OK, but I don't know how I'm going to explain this to him."

 

Murdock smiled, "Temporary insanity?" He offered, then shrugged, sitting back, "Don't worry, Stockwell's gonna be so busy being ticked at me, he probably won't have anything left over for you!"

 

Jeff sat back down, nodding in agreement.  There was no doubt that the General was going to be furious with Murdock. He wasn't used to being defied.  Jeff couldn't believe the pilot was sitting there so calmly.  He had to know what was coming when they landed in Langley.  It was not going to be pleasant.

 

 

"Hey, Murdock you made it home!" Doc's voice came over the headset an hour and a half later, "you're clear to land."

 

"Copy," Murdock said, "Thanks, Doc."

 

Jeff looked at him apprehensively, "So how long do you think it'll take for him to notice we're not in LA?"

 

Murdock flipped on the intercom, "Prepare for landing," flipping the com back off, he answered, "not long."

 

They landed without incident and taxied to their assigned space. They were just starting the post-flight check when the General stepped into the cockpit, "What in the hell are we doing in Langley?" He enunciated each word, sounding quite calm, which was probably more disturbing than if he'd come in ranting.

 

Jeff turned to Murdock, who looked up from the checklist, "I told you I wasn't flying to LA," he said matter-of-factly, then turned his attention back to the checklist.

 

Stockwell looked at Murdock in disbelief, then turned to Jeff and asked accusingly, "What did you think you were doing, letting him fly to Langley?"

 

Jeff opened his mouth to reply, but Murdock interrupted him, "I told him you changed your mind," he lied easily, "Your gripe is with me."

 

The General was showing definite signs of loosing his temper, "In my office, Captain."

 

Murdock glanced back at him, and said casually, "In a few minutes, we just need to finish up the post-flight check."

 

Stockwell snapped, "You are finished, Captain - in my office now!" He turned and exited the cockpit.

 

Murdock looked at Jeff with a tight smile, and handed him the clipboard, "Guess that means you get to finish up - wish me luck."

 

Jeff grimaced, "You're gonna need more than luck, Murdock. He's livid."

 

Murdock nodded, "Yep, he is," he agreed.  He stood up and squared his shoulders, then looked at Jeff with a cocky grin, "Think he'll fire me?"

 

Jeff shook his head in wonder as Murdock ducked out after the General.

 

 

Stockwell was pacing the width of the jet when Murdock walked in with his hands shoved in his pockets, "What is it, General," he asked innocently, "I've got a lot of paperwork to wrap up before I head home."

 

Stockwell stopped and looked at Murdock sharply, "This is not a joke, Captain," his voice was low and menacing.

 

Murdock took his hands out of his pockets and crossed his arms, "No, General, it isn't a joke.  I told you I wasn't flying to LA, and I didn't.  If you want to go to LA, get yourself another pilot. I quit."

 

Stockwell took a deep breath, obviously trying to get a reign on his temper before replying, "You have a contract, you can't quit," he said through clenched teeth, "I expect you to follow orders."

 

"Or what?" Murdock asked, sarcastically, throwing his arms out, "Are you gonna fire me? Please do. I could use one less Stockwell in my life!"

 

The General was caught off guard.  He stood quietly considering the situation, "Captain, I know that I can be demanding . . ." he started slowly and calmly.

 

Murdock grunted, "Just a little . . ."

 

Stockwell looked at him sharply, and he subsided into a sullen silence, "I know that I can be demanding, but I work in very delicate political circles, and it is extremely important that I keep my commitments. I thought you were coming to understand that over the past month.  Your actions this morning have put a very protracted negotiation in jeopardy."

 

Murdock shook his head, rolling his eyes up at the ceiling with a humorless laugh, "You really don't get it, do you?" he asked incredulously, "I have an incredibly important personal commitment, to your niece. A commitment that two and a half years ago you didn't trust me to keep.  Now you're the one making it impossible for me to honor it!"

 

Stockwell's eyes flashed, "Let's talk about commitment for a moment, Captain," he said angrily, "Our history together has been wrought with broken commitments, this being the latest in a long line of betrayal on your part. I had no reason to believe that you would behave any differently towards Nancy."

 

Murdock turned away, "I cannot believe this," he said, shaking his head, "Fifteen years ago I made a mistake - I'm sorry.  I fail to see how that constitutes some sort of pathological history of betrayal."

 

"And what did you do today?" the General asked evenly.

 

Murdock looked at him intently, "Today, I took you up on an offer - if I didn't fly to LA, I didn't remain in your employ.  Simple as that."

 

Stockwell was taken aback, "You knew what I meant when I said that."

 

"Oh, I knew alright," Murdock said angrily, "It was an intimidation tactic - you've always been real good at those.  Well, General, it's not gonna work with me.  Your threats are empty.  You wanna fire me, go ahead.  But I am not going to LA today."  With that, he turned and left the jet.

 

 

Murdock let himself into the house quietly, checking the clock on the microwave - 6am - he'd talked to Doc longer than he'd thought. He noticed the light in the living room was on and went in to see who was up. He found Nancy propped up in a corner of the couch sound asleep and smiled. He turned the light off, took her headphones off, and pulled an afghan over her, kissing her forehead before heading back into the kitchen to start some breakfast.

 

Nancy woke up, sat up and stretched.  Then she smelled bacon and knew her husband had made it home.  She jumped up and hurried into the kitchen.  Murdock was standing at the stove, and turned when she came in, "Hey, Short Cake," he said with a broad grin.

 

She ran into his arms, "It is so good to see you," she said eagerly.  She looked up, taking in the weariness in his eyes, "Did you get any sleep last night?" her voice reflected concern.

 

He leaned down and kissed her, then turned back to the bacon, one arm still around her shoulders, "A little . . . Though we flew most of the night. I wouldn't have missed the ultrasound for anything." He said solemnly, flipping the bacon, "Besides, it looks like I'll be home for a while . . ."

 

Nancy looked up at him happily, "Did Uncle finally find another pilot?"

 

Murdock grimaced, "Not exactly . . ." he admitted, and gave a summary of the events since he'd talked to her last night. 

 

Carl came in part way through the story, and nearly doubled over when he heard his son-in-law had brought his brother-in-law to Langley instead of LA, "I would have given anything to be a fly on the wall!"

 

Murdock had finished the bacon and eggs while he was talking and brought them to the table, "Well, needless to say, I don't think the General is very happy with me right now," he said ruefully, then shrugged, "But then I guess the feeling is mutual."

 

Nancy sat at the kitchen table, and started filling her plate, "He'll get over it, he always does," she said certainly, "I remember when I quit Law School, I thought he'd never speak to me again.  It was even worse after the FBI Academy . . ."

 

Murdock sighed, "I don't think that you can gauge how your Uncle will react to me, by how he's reacted to you in the past . . . he likes you a whole lot more than he likes me!"

 

Nancy shook her head, "Uncle likes you, he just feels the need to exert control."

 

Murdock looked uncomfortable, "Short Cake, I know you'd like to think that everything is going to be peachy between your Uncle and me - I just don't think that's ever gonna be the case.  He doesn't like me."

 

"Sure he does . . ." Nancy asserted.

 

Carl broke in, "HM has a point, sweetheart," he said, "though I don't really think it has anything to do with liking or disliking him.  Hunt has a hard time dealing with men coming into his limited family unit and upsetting the balance of power."

 

Murdock was nodding intently, "I agree, and he's never gonna forgive me for marrying you."

 

Carl laughed, "You can bet on that.  Hell, Ruby's been dead for over 20 years, and Hunt still holds a grudge against me for marrying her.  You're doomed, son!"

 

Murdock was still nodding in agreement when he glanced at Nancy and saw the look of dismay on her face, "Short Cake . . .?"

 

Nancy looked at him, "Based on what you're saying, I'm going to live in the midst of a battle field for the rest of my life.  Do you at least think Uncle will mellow with age?" she asked hopefully.

 

Carl and Murdock answered in unison, "No."  Carl laughed and added, "I fear, if anything, he'll just get more cantankerous as he ages.  And unfortunately, Stockwell men are notoriously long-lived.  You've got a least another 20 years of his meddling."

 

Nancy grimaced, "Thanks for cheering me up, Dad."

 

Her father smiled and patted her hand, "You'll live, sweetheart," he said encouragingly, "what do you think all these years of conditioning have been for?  You've had plenty of practice at dealing with your Uncle - now you'll have to teach the next generation."

 

"Enough of that subject, it's depressing me," Nancy said. Turning to Murdock she asked teasingly, "So what is my unemployed husband going to do with all his free time?"

 

Murdock shrugged, "I stopped and talked to a rather sleepy Doc this morning, told him I'd be by to talk to him after I stopped by home."

 

Nancy looked at him through narrowed eyes, "Tell me the truth, have you had any sleep at all?" she asked.

 

"Well, I couldn't sleep after my what happened," Murdock admitted, "I'm really not tired anyways.  I'll get to bed early tonight and catch up on my sleep."

 

Nancy sighed, "You could get some rest this morning . . ."

 

"No, I'm gonna go see Doc.  Why don't you come with me?" He suggested.

 

Nancy considered the offer.  She wanted to finish looking through the LaSalle files, but she really wanted to spend some time with her husband, "OK, I'll give Riley a call and tell him I won't be in the office this morning.  When do you want to go?"

 

"An hour or so," he said, "I thought I'd make a couple phone calls and get a shower before I head out.  I should really give Hannibal a heads up.  The General'll probably be bending his ear about our little confrontation this morning."

 

Carl stood, "Well, I've got to get headed out, myself - I've got an early appointment with the first realtor," he put his dishes in the sink, "When is the ultrasound?"

 

"It's scheduled for 1:30," Nancy said, "I thought maybe we'd head to the hospital right after lunch, say around 12:30 and stop and see Amy and Jonny before my appointment."

 

"Sounds like a plan," Carl said, "I'll see you back here around 11:30," he took the keys for Nancy's bug and headed out the door.

 

 

 

Chapter 8: Standing Together

 

Murdock unpacked his bag, then called Hannibal, to warn him about what had happened that morning.

 

"Good morning Hannibal," Murdock said, when he came on the line, "I wanted to let you know . . ."

 

"Not necessary, Captain," Hannibal interrupted, "The General called already this morning."

 

"Oh," Murdock said quietly, "And what did he have to say?"

 

"He said lots of things, Murdock," Hannibal said, "And most of them weren't very complimentary.  I am surprised that you disobeyed a direct order . . ."

 

"Not technically," Murdock disagreed, weakly.

 

"You should come over so we can discuss what happened," Hannibal said, his tone severe, "And Captain, next time you do something like this . . ."

 

"Yes Colonel," Murdock said miserably.

 

"Make sure I'm around – the General's expression had to be priceless!" Hannibal couldn't restrain his laughter any longer.

 

"Priceless isn't the word I'd choose," Murdock said uncertainly, "He was pretty calm at first, but that didn't last long."

 

"We can talk about that later," Hannibal said, still chuckling, "When can you be over?"

 

Murdock considered, the morning was pretty well booked, "Well, I could probably swing by after the ultrasound – around 2:30?"

 

"I'll be here at home, so just come on by," Hannibal said, "How's Nancy taking it?"

 

Murdock grunted, "She thinks it'll blow over, but I think she has a slightly warped view of life with Uncle. Did you see her yesterday?"

 

"Actually, I saw her last night at the Diner, but I didn't talk to her . . ." Hannibal let the sentence trail off.

 

"Musta been after her first practice with Jazz," Murdock said, "Was Carl with her?"

 

"Yea, Carl," Hannibal said haltingly, "and Katt."

 

"Brett Katt," Murdock could feel his blood pressure rising.

 

"They must have run into Katt there," Hannibal said hurriedly.

 

"Yea, I'm sure," Murdock said flatly, "Listen, Hannibal, I'll see ya later."

 

"Murdock," Hannibal said, "are you alright?"

 

"I'm fine, Colonel," Murdock said quietly, "I gotta get a shower and get ready to go . . . I'll be by around 2:30."

 

He put the phone down after saying goodbye and looked reflectively out the window.  He didn't know what Nancy and Brett's history was, but he knew they had one.  He couldn't put his finger on it, but every time Brett was around Nancy he felt defensive. He had never been anything but polite, but Murdock just didn't like his attitude.  He straightened up, and stretched, his mind was wandering with fatigue.  He decided that a shower should help stave off the worst of the weariness, and grabbed some clean clothes and headed down to the bathroom.

 

 

Meanwhile, after loading the dishwasher, Nancy headed back into her office to start work. She picked up where she'd left off the night before with the LaSalle files.  She had discovered that LaSalle's assessment of the information had been fairly accurate, if a little overstated.  There was a lot of innuendo, but nothing concrete.  Certainly nothing that could be used against Caswell.  She had developed a timeline of Caswell's career, and was now trying to match that up to the various documents related to shady deals and missions gone bad. 

 

LaSalle had developed quite a database of information on various screw ups in the CIA, and seemed to be trying to tie all of them to Caswell.  Some Nancy threw out without even adding them to her timeline - Caswell was in the wrong place at the wrong time to be involved, and they didn't seem to warrant any further consideration, at least at the moment.  Others she noted on a timeline parallel to Caswell's career, thinking that they at least deserved some additional research.

 

One thing that Nancy noticed was that Caswell's career path appeared to parallel her Uncle's recent travels.  He'd started out in the Houston area, moving to LA, with a brief stop in Denver, before being promoted from field operations to headquarters in DC.  She had a sneaking suspicion that she and her Uncle were on the same basic trail. Angry as she was at him at the moment, she really wanted to find out where he was going with this, her curiosity was peaked. The timeline did suggest some connection between Caswell and an interesting array of CIA SNAFUs.  It might be interesting to talk to someone at the field offices that could shed some light on Caswell's history.

 

She picked up the phone and dialed Herman Case, better known as Casey, at the CIA.  She'd met him when she'd first moved to the Langley area.  He had been one of her interviewers at CIA, when she was still considering her options in the federal spy business.  They had hit it off, and though she hadn't gone to work at the Agency, she had maintained a distant friendship with Casey, that came in handy at times. 

 

Casey answered on the first ring, "Case, Internal Affairs," he said tersely.

 

"Hey Casey," Nancy said lightly, "How's the old man doin'?"

 

Nancy could almost picture him leaning back in his chair in his little cube, "Well if it isn't that little tart of a PI - how the hell are ya, Nan?"

 

Nancy smiled, "Pregnant and cranky as all get out, how are you?"

 

"Pregnant," he said explosively, "I don't think I even realized you were married . . . you are married right?  I know I'm not with the modern way of doin' things . . ."

 

"I'm married," she confirmed, "happily, for almost three years now.  This is our first child."

 

"Well, congrats - who's the lucky guy?" Casey asked.

 

"My husband's name is HM Murdock - he works, um, worked for my Uncle," she provided, haltingly, "how is Fiona?"

 

"Oh, OK, I guess," he said, "she doesn't seem to have any trouble spending her alimony check, so I suppose she's alright."

 

Nancy winced, "Guess we haven't talked for awhile . . . when did you two split?"

 

Casey's voice was rueful, "Just last year - she just couldn't take the job anymore.  You know, the usual.  We parted on pretty good terms, all things considered."

 

Casey changed the subject, "I don't imagine you called just to catch up - what's on your mind, Nan?"

 

Nancy was vague, "I'm working on something for my Uncle," she said, "And I was wondering if you could point me to someone to talk to, possibly in the Denver, Houston or LA field offices . . ."

 

"Who're you interested in finding out about?" he asked curiously

 

"Tristan Caswell - he's division manager for InterAgency Cooperation."

 

Casey grunted, "Yea, I know who he is," he said disgustedly, "Guy's a schmoozer, hasn't taken him long to rise to the top.  But then you know what they say, you rise to the level of your incompetence."

 

Nancy's brow furrowed, if Caswell was incompetent, then he shouldn't be too difficult to ferret out, "Not the brightest bulb in the box?"

 

"Oh, he's not stupid, just better at politicking than he is at any sort of actual work," Casey said, "I don't think he could find his way out of a shoebox without directions.  He was a lousy field op, so he got promoted.  You know the story.  Most of our managers suck when it comes to actual field operations."

 

"Do you know anything about his early career, before he was promoted to headquarters?"

 

"Not really, but you could talk to Dave Wolstein at the Denver office," Casey offered, "He's been there forever, great field op, but a little rough around the edges, so you know, he'll never make it anywhere.  Which seems to suit him just fine."

 

"He wouldn't mind talking to me?"

 

Casey laughed, "If it means talking dirt about one of the managers, Dave's your man.  He's been around the block," he gave her Wolstein's contact information.  They talked for a few more minutes about nothing in particular before saying their goodbyes, with a promise for lunch at some unspecified time in the future.

 

Nancy was just hanging up when Murdock came into the office to see what she was up to.  She was sitting in her office chair Indian style, with a strip of perforated printer paper spread across the desk and the keyboard.  Lying across her belly was a note pad with notes on it.  She tore the top sheet off and folded it, sticking it in the pocket of her shorts.  She then dropped the notebook on top of the mess on the desk. 

 

She turned and looked at him warmly.  He was still damp from his shower and looked somewhat more relaxed than he had earlier, "Hey," she said smiling, "Feel better?"

 

Murdock shrugged, "OK, I guess," he said moving into the room and sitting on a step stool next to her.  He wasn't as agitated as he had been, but something appeared to be bothering him.  Nancy waited, knowing he would spit it out when he was ready.

 

He looked at her uneasily, "I'm real sorry about your Uncle, Nan," he said regretfully.  He was beginning to regret having raised Stockwell's ire quite so high. It hurt Nancy when they didn't get along. Not that they ever got along all that well, but now they really weren't getting along, "I know you care about your Uncle - I wasn't really thinking about the family peace.  I just wanted to get home."

 

Nancy smiled at him affectionately, "Honey, I don't blame you for the lack of family peace," she said reaching out and squeezing his hand, "I know Uncle is difficult.  Maybe this is for the best.  If you don't work for him, then there'll be less chance for the two of you to butt heads."

 

Murdock looked doubtful, "We can hope . . .," he looked at the materials spread around the desk, "What's that you're working on?"

 

Nancy glanced back, "It's that case that Uncle threw my way," she said reflectively, "You know it's the first time he's ever asked for my help on anything."

 

He looked at her through narrowed eyes.  She disparaged her Uncle's influence over her, but the truth was that Nancy had always tried to please him on some level.  When she had discovered three years ago what Stockwell Enterprises business was, she had been hurt - hurt that her Uncle had never thought she was good enough to hire for his own company.

 

"How's it going?" he asked.

 

She shrugged, "It's not, really. Quite honestly, I'm not sure what I'm looking for.  I suppose Uncle will shed some light on it when we talk."

 

"And the headphones . . ." he ask curiously.

 

She smiled, "Homework of sorts from Jazz . . .," she dropped her feet to the floor, "So, are you ready to head out to the air field?"

 

He nodded, "But I did want to ask you one more thing before we go," he said tentatively, pausing again.

 

"Go on . . ."

 

"Well . . . what do you think about taking some of our savings and buying into the airfield?  Doc could show me the ropes, and then take that retirement he keeps talking about.  And it would give me something constructive to do, seeing as how I'm now unemployed," he ended with a hopeful if tentative grin.

 

"And how much of this have you already talked to Doc about?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

 

"Well, like I said, I knew I'd never get to sleep last night," he admitted, "So I kinda kept Doc awake, too."

 

Nancy stood and put her arms around her husband, kissing his cheek, "It's what you've always dreamed about, HM.  Did you really think I'd say 'no'?" she asked quietly.

 

He pulled her onto his lap, and kissed her soundly before saying, "Thanks, Short Cake." He set her on her feet as he stood up, suddenly a bundle of barely-contained energy, "Let's go tell Doc he's got a new partner!"

 

 

When they arrived at the airfield, Doc already had the partnership papers ready for review.  Nancy looked at Murdock and Doc sternly, "Exactly how long have you two been cooking this up?" she asked accusingly, though her smile belied the severity of her tone.

 

Doc laughed, "I've been trying to convince this husband of yours to buy in for over a year," he said, "He kept sayin' he couldn't 'cause he already had one full time job."

 

"Not any more," Murdock said, grinning.

 

Doc pushed the papers over to Murdock, "Take 'em home and review 'em," he smiled knowingly at Nancy, "have that lawyer father-in-law of yours check 'em over good and make sure everything's in order. I've already signed, so whenever you're ready we can make this official."

 

Nancy chuckled, "Knowing you, Doc, every 'i' is dotted and every 't' is crossed," then she glanced at both of them, "Though after this little con I will be more cautious where the two of you are concerned."

 

Murdock and Doc started skimming through the contract together, and talking about plans for the airfield. Nancy decided to leave them to their discussion and walked out to where Aunt Bea was tied down, opening the hood. She began absently tinkering with the engine while her thoughts wandered.  She couldn't remember the last time she'd seen her husband this excited about anything.  Of course, ever since they'd known each other he'd worked for her Uncle.  The Team worked for Stockwell, under a fairly restrictive contract that they had signed shortly after Nancy and Murdock had announced their engagement.  The General had been less than happy about their relationship, and Nancy suspected that he had hoped he could drive them apart.  He had certainly tried on more than one occasion over the past three years.

 

Maybe now, with Murdock out from under the General's control, they really could start living a more normal life.  Nancy knew that life with her oddball husband was never going to be totally ordinary, and she would have been disappointed if it were.  But it would be nice to have him home regularly.

 

 

After about 15 minutes, Murdock glanced around, noticing that his wife had disappeared, "Where did Nan go?"

 

Doc nodded towards the field behind the hangar, "She headed out to check on Aunt Bea," he said, "they've been spending an awful lot of time together the last month.  Especially since you've been gone so much."

 

"So, this is where she's been hiding out, huh?" Murdock said thoughtfully, "Hannibal said that she had kinda dropped out of sight since I'd been on the road again."

 

"She's been here quite a bit," Doc said, then chuckled, "I'd bet Aunt Bea looks about brand new under that hood – Nan's spent enough time here in the last month to have rebuilt her twice!"

 

Murdock smiled reflectively, then folded the papers up and stuck them in his jacket pocket, "I'll take a look at these later, Doc – I'm gonna go find Nan."

 

"Wondered what you were doing spendin' time with an old fart like me . . ." Doc said with a smile.

 

 

When Murdock got out to the plane, Nancy was elbow deep under the hood and seemed oblivious to his approach.  He looked at the engine and shook his head in wonder – Doc had been right, Aunt Bea's engine looked brand new, "You know, Short Cake, those engines don't work so good if they're too clean . . ."

 

Nancy looked up and grinned, "Nonsense, I've got her running like a top," she said happily, "We should take her up sometime soon . . . go on a picnic where no one can find us!"

 

"That sound like a really good idea," Murdock said.

 

Nancy straightened and dropped the hood back in place, wiping her hands absently on a shop rag.  Murdock watched her, "Doc said you been spending a lot of time here."

 

She shrugged, "Guess so," she agreed, "Nothing better to do since you haven't been around."

 

"You know Hannibal and Maggie have been kinda worried about you," he continued, "Said you'd dropped out of sight since I've been gone. You know I don't have to be around for you to spend time with them – they care about you – they'd keep you company while I'm away."

 

Nancy smiled self-consciously, "I know . . it's just that . . .," she looked up at him and shrugged, "It's hard to be around them when you're not here – it makes me miss you even more.  It seems silly, but when you're not home, I feel less lonely if I'm just . . . alone."

 

He brushed the hair out of her face, "I don't think I realized how hard this whole thing has been on you," he said, allowing his fingers to brush her cheek gently, "I miss being home, but honestly, I'm so busy when I'm gone that the time goes by fast . . ."

 

"I keep busy, too," she said, "I'm alright. It's just easier if I live like I did before you came along," she smiled self-deprecatingly, "and I spent a lot of time with Aunt Bea then, too."

 

His smile faded, "Just with Aunt Bea . . . ?" he asked tentatively.

 

Nancy looked at him quizzically, "Aunt Bea . . . and Dad," she said.

 

Murdock looked down at the ground, shoving his hands in his pockets and toeing invisible stones, thinking about what Hannibal had told him.  He decided he had stewed about it enough, it was time to get it out in the open, "What about Brett?" he asked quietly.

 

She looked at him in surprise, "What about Brett?" she repeated in confusion.

 

He looked uncomfortable, but he pushed, "Brett Katt – Hannibal said he saw you having dinner with him last night . . ."

 

"As a matter of fact, we did have dinner with Brett last night – Dad and I, both," she said firmly, "He happened to be at Mabel's alone, and asked if he could join us."

 

 "Wasn't that convenient . . ." Murdock said sarcastically.

 

"HM, what are you driving at?" Nancy asked, her blue eyes flashing, "Brett is a friend, and he was at the diner alone – he joined us. It was as simple, and as innocent, as that."

 

Murdock shook his head, "Nothing is innocent where that guy is concerned," he said irritably.

 

"Do you honestly think he'd give me a second look? For goodness sake, I'm married, and pregnant! Not exactly the most attractive combination . . ."

 

"Oh, I think he'd give you a second look . . . and a third, and a fourth – hell he hasn't stopped lookin' since I've been around," Murdock said certainly, "And for your information, even married and pregnant, you're a damned attractive woman – I know I think so, and I have a feeling Katt does, too!"

 

Nancy had put a hand up over her mouth during his outburst, trying very hard not to start laughing, "You're jealous . . . I can't believe you're jealous of Brett Katt!" she choked out.

 

"Why is that so unbelievable?" he asked irritably, not too sure what to make of her reaction, "He's around, and I'm gone – and all of a sudden he's having dinner with you? How am I supposed to feel?"

 

She got her laughter under control, "HM, it was one dinner, that's it.  And even supposing that Brett was interested in me . . . which I really don't think he is . . . I'm not interested in him.  At least not that way."

 

Murdock rocked back and forth uncertainly, and Nancy walked up to him, deciding to try another tactic, she crossed her arms, "What if I were to ask you about one of your old girl friends . . . say Kelly?" her eyebrows were raised, as she looked directly into his eyes.

 

"It's not the same thing . . .," he argued, "Kelly's not here . . . and that was a long time ago."

 

"But if she showed up on our doorstep, would you leave me and go with her?"

 

"Of course not," Murdock said impatiently.

 

"But you cared about her," Nancy pressed, "loved her once – don't you think that you would feel that way again?"

 

"I care about Kelly, but I love you, Short Cake," he said insistently, "nothing would make me abandon what we've built together. You're my life, now."

 

Nancy moved into his arms, and looked intently into his eyes, "That is exactly how I feel about you," she said, "I can't imagine my life without you. I thought that you understood that. What Brett feels, thinks, or doesn't think is totally irrelevant to that fact."

 

He put his arms around her, hugging her close, "I'm sorry, Short Cake," he murmured against her hair, "You know how my imagination is – I guess being away is making me a little crazy."

 

Nancy pulled pack, and put her hands on his cheeks, "You aren't crazy," she said, smiling, "And, it makes me feel kinda good that you're jealous. Even if it is totally ridiculous!" She kissed him, slipping her arms around his neck.

 

A few minutes later, they separated reluctantly. Nancy glanced at her watch, "We better get going, Dad said he'd meet us at the house at 11:30 and it's almost that now."

 

They walked back through the hangar, where Doc was finishing up with a customer, "You two taking off?" Doc asked.

 

"Yea," Murdock said, "We gotta get some lunch before we head to the hospital for the unltrasound."

 

"Well, good luck today," Doc said, "are you going to find out if it's a boy or girl?"

 

"No," Nancy and Murdock said in unison, then laughed.  They had both agreed that finding out the sex was part of the anticipation, and they didn't want to spoil it.

 

"See ya later, Doc," Murdock said, and they waved as they headed out to the truck.

 

 

Nancy glanced at her husband, as they started down the road, "You seem really happy. . . ," she commented.

 

He grinned at her, "Of course I am - I'm home, got a beautiful wife that loves me . . ."

 

"I mean you seem really happy . . . about the airfield - why have you waited so long to buy in? I didn't realize Doc had been asking for a year."

 

He shrugged, "I didn't see how I could swing working for your Uncle and working the airfield full time.  It would have been too much. I've had a hard enough time keeping your Uncle happy, and still making time to be home.  Especially lately," he added quietly, looking broodingly out the window.

 

"The airfield's what you've always wanted," Nancy said, sounding discouraged, "Why didn't you tell Uncle to take a hike awhile ago?  Follow your dream."

 

Murdock sighed, "You've read the contract, Nan," he sounded tired, "Not exactly wrought with loop holes.  How was I supposed to get out of it?"

 

 "It always comes back to that damn contract," she said irritably, "you and the guys only signed it because Uncle blackmailed you with the pardons.  All because of me."

 

He shook his head, they'd had this conversation so many times he could predict the next line.  Nancy had beat herself up over the Team's employment situation for the last three years, "Nancy, we'd have been in that situation regardless - what were we gonna do? Go back to being civilians?  It never would have worked.  Sometimes I think we were fated to be Stockwell's men from the beginning."

 

"No," she disagreed, predictably, "It wouldn't have been the same.  If you'd fulfilled the original agreement, without the complication of Uncle's anger over our relationship, you would have had a much stronger negotiating position for the employment contract."

 

"Nancy, please stop this," he said beseechingly, "It doesn't matter, anymore.  I've said it before, there's no point rehashing what happened three years ago - it's done.  And last night your Uncle finally gave me an out. Not intentionally, mind you . . ." he shrugged, his tone turning reflective, "Unfortunately, as much as I want the airfield; and as much as I want to believe that your Uncle is just gonna let me walk away; after talking with Hannibal this morning, I know that the issues with him aren't resolved. He's ticked, but he's not willing to just let go. We're just gonna have to see what happens when he gets back from LA."

 

She turned so she could face him, "You're always so worried about making everyone else happy, Hannibal, the General . . . me," she said quietly, then added more forcefully, "You have to promise me one thing from now on - promise me you'll do what's right for you.  You're far more important to me than anyone else, HM.  It tears me apart to think that I'm the cause of a situation that is making you so miserable.  You are not ever going to make Uncle happy, so why try? It's just not worth the grief it causes. Promise me you'll do what makes you happy!"

 

Murdock had pulled into their driveway, and put the truck in park.  He turned and looked at her seriously, "It's not that easy, Nan . . ."

 

"Promise me," she pressed.

 

He looked at her face, seeing the stubborn set of her jaw, and the determination in her eyes, and relented, "OK.  I promise . . . to try."

 

 

 

 

Chapter 9: Twice the Fun

 

They had beat Carl back to the house, and had a lunch of soup and sandwiches ready when he arrived.  Murdock chattered enthusiastically about the airfield, and he and Carl discussed the partnership agreement while they ate and cleaned up. 

 

Nancy drank a quart of water as instructed, then they headed out for the hospital, taking Nancy's car, with Carl folded in the back seat, "You two really need to get a bigger vehicle," Carl chided, as they left, "How are you ever gonna fit a kid in this car?"

 

Murdock laughed, "A kid is a lot smaller than you, Carl," he said, "A car seat will work pretty well in either the bug or the truck, we'll be OK for awhile yet."

 

Carl grimaced, "Good thing I'll have my own transportation out here soon."

 

 

At the hospital, they went up to the maternity ward to see Amy.  She was dressed, and had Jonathan in the room with her.  She was waiting for Dr. Phillips to come and give her the OK to go home, "Face is supposed to be on his way, but he was going to the grocery store first. Hopefully by the time he gets here, Jonny and I will be ready to head home."

 

Murdock was sitting in one of the chairs, holding Jonny, and talking to him quietly.  He looked up at his pregnant wife, who was standing by the door, "I can't wait 'til we bring ours home," he said, sounding like a little kid with a new toy.

 

Nancy smiled at him affectionately, "I'm looking forward to that myself," then shifting uncomfortably she said, "I swear this kid is sitting right on my bladder."

 

Amy looked at her sympathetically, "You've gotta have a full bladder for the ultrasound," she said, "don't worry, they're pretty quick about it."

 

Murdock looked at his watch, "Speaking of which, we probably ought to get down there," he stood and handed Jonny back to his mother, giving each a kiss on the cheek, "We'll see you at home later, little buddy."

 

 

Down at Outpatient Services, Nancy signed in and sat down to wait.  It was only a few minutes before a technician came and took them to another waiting room.  The technician, who introduced herself as Mandy, told Carl and Murdock to sit and wait, that she would come get them in a few minutes.  She took Nancy back to the examining room and had her change into a dressing gown.  She then got her situated on a bed, with a sheet over her legs, and her swollen belly exposed.

 

Mandy smiled as she got Nancy situated on the bed, "I hope you're not too uncomfortable.  I'll try and make this quick," she said soothingly, "Let's see, what's your due date?"

 

"December 21," Nancy answered.

 

"And you're here because . . ."

 

"Dr. Phillips said I was measuring big for my due date so she wants to double check it," Nancy said, adding, "I wasn't real sure about the date of my last period."

 

Mandy made some entries into the computer, then gooped up the ultrasound wand, and turned to Nancy, "This shouldn't be too cold.  I'm going to take a quick look before I bring your husband and . . ." she looked at Nancy quizzically.

 

"Father . . ." Nancy supplied.

 

"Before I bring your husband and father back." Mandy placed the wand on Nancy's belly and began moving it around to spread the gel out, then she turned and looked at a screen, and broad smile crossed her face. She took some quick measurements, telling Nancy, "Everything looks normal, and I'm pretty certain I know why your measurements are off." 

 

A short while later she set the wand aside, "I think I should go get your husband and father now."

 

She came back just a couple minutes later with Murdock and Carl in tow. Murdock stopped by Nancy's side and held her hand, "How ya doin', Short Cake," he asked gently.

 

Nancy smiled at him, "Other than really needing to go pee, I'm OK."

 

Mandy chuckled, "We'll get you out of here real quick," she promised.

 

She turned the monitor so that they could all see, "First, just let me say, that on first glance it looks like everything is fine, and there's nothing to worry about. Of course I'll be sending the images to the radiologist, for analysis, and a report will be forwarded to Dr. Phillips.  She'll discuss the particulars with you at your next appointment.  However, I do think that we've discovered why you're measuring big for your due date," she positioned the wand and moved it slowly over Nancy's belly, pointing at the screen, she said, "Here's a perfect little hand, and another," she moved the wand again, "And another . . ."

 

Murdock interrupted, "I may be wrong, but shouldn't there only be two hands?" he asked.

 

Mandy smiled at him, "Not if there are two babies," she answered.

 

Carl was beaming, and clapped his speechless son-in-law on the shoulder, "You're definitely gonna have to get a bigger vehicle!"

 

 

Nancy walked out to the waiting room after getting dressed. Murdock was leaning against the wall outside the waiting room with his hands dug in his pockets, a quirky smile frozen on his face.  Nancy walked straight to him and they stood with their arms around each other, both still trying to absorb the fact that they were having twins.

 

Carl came out of the waiting room, still grinning from ear to ear, "Carrying on the Stockwell tradition," he said enthusiastically, "Your Uncle will be thrilled, Nancy."

 

"Twins are a common occurrence in the Stockwell family, huh?" Murdock asked in surprise.

 

Nancy looked up at him, "I don't suppose I ever told you, but Mom and Uncle were twins," she said, "I guess I just never thought about it being a possibility."

 

Carl clapped his hands together, "Well, where to now?  I assume we're done here."

 

Nancy looked at her watch, "I've got practice at the Community Center with Jazz at 5," she said, "it's only a little after 2 now, I should stop by the office and check my in box and messages."

 

Carl looked pensive, then said, "Maybe you could drop me off at the house and give me the keys to the truck.  I've got a couple leads on houses I want to check out."

 

"Tell you what, we'll drop Nan off at the office, and then I'll drive you home, Carl," Murdock said, "I've gotta stop by and see Hannibal, then I'll pick Nan back up at the office and take her to the LCC for practice."

 

Carl nodded, "That'll work," he said, "I'm really sorry about the run-around.  I never realized how difficult it could be to have three adults and only two vehicles."

 

 

 

Chapter 10: What's Next?

 

Nancy walked into the office, and greeted Stephanie, who was at the front desk.  They had recently converted her to full time, deciding they needed someone in the front office all day, with Nancy spending more of her work day at home.

 

"Is Riley here?" Nancy asked.

 

Steph shook her head, "He had a case meeting with Pete this afternoon, and I haven't seen him since," she said, "I wasn't expecting to see you today."

 

"I had a couple hours to kill after my ultrasound, so I thought I'd come check in."

 

"How did the ultrasound go?" Stephanie sounded concerned.

 

Nancy smiled reflectively, "Good.  We found out we're having twins."

 

Stephanie's eyes widened, "Cool - I've never known anyone who had twins before."

 

Nancy chuckled, "Me neither!"

 

She went into her office and checked the clock, it was only 2:30, which meant that it was lunch time in Denver.  She was itching to call Wolstein but it would probably be better to wait until after 3:00. She listened to her messages, returned some phone calls, then started through the requests in her in box.

 

At 3:30, she pulled the folded sheet of paper out of her pocket, and flattened it on her desk.  She picked up the phone and dialed the number that Casey had given her that morning.  The phone was picked up promptly on the other end, "Wolstein, what can ya do for me?"

 

Nancy paused for a moment, before replying, "Probably not much, but I'm hoping you might be able to help me."

 

The laugh on the other end of the line was hearty and honest, "Fair enough," he said, "who is this, and what can I do for you?"

 

"My name is Nancy Murdock, Casey Case recommended that I talk to you," she said.

 

"How is old Casey? Still got that money-pit of a wife?"

 

Nancy smiled, "Casey and Fiona split about a year ago, apparently - but I think he might still think of her as a money pit."

 

"Casey never was too smart where women were concerned," Wolstein said.

 

"Casey said you might be able to help me with an inquiry I'm following.  It involves a man named Tristan Caswell - do you know him?"

 

"Yea, I know Caswell," Wolstein said, "What do you want to know about him?"

 

"I'm trying to pin down a few things in his career, I know he worked in the Denver field office before he was promoted to headquarters," Nancy said leadingly.

 

"Yea, he was here for maybe two years," Wolstein said, "I don't really recall anything outstanding about the guy.  He was pretty useless in the field.  General consensus when he was promoted was that headquarters could have him."

 

"There was an operation that went awry while he was there," Nancy said, "It involved an international security leak at Rocky Flats, was Caswell involved in that op?"

 

Wolstein seemed to consider the question for a minute, "I recall the op - it had to do with our international monitoring group.  They had intercepted several communiquιs between one of the brains at Rocky Flats, and someone in the Chinese government.  Somehow, the pattern of communication wasn't identified as something requiring additional scrutiny - until it was too late.  Some very sensitive material ended up being compromised."

 

Nancy nodded, "That's the one - was Caswell involved in any way?"

 

"I don't believe so," Wolstein said, "though he was working in that group at the time.  There was a huge internal investigation of course.  But Caswell was never implicated in anything."

 

On a whim, Nancy asked, "How about Phillipe LaSalle?"

 

Wolstein snorted, "LaSalle is one smooth operator.  Yea, he was working in the same group, in fact I think he and Caswell started here in Denver together, they'd both transferred from the LA office about the same time. I wouldn't trust LaSalle as far as I could throw him personally -  he talks way too pretty to be on the up and up."

 

"Was LaSalle implicated in the screw up?"

 

"Sorry, again, no.  Truth is IA was never able to find out who the responsible individual was.  The Agency brass retired a couple managers in the group and said the problem was solved," he laughed bitterly, "One good reason not to become a manager in this place - you're way too likely to end up playing scape goat."

 

Nancy sighed, this wasn't getting her anywhere, not that she really knew where she wanted to get. Wolstein broke into her thoughts, "Not helping much, am I?"

 

"I'm not sure, to be quite honest," Nancy said quietly, "Is there anyone from that group that might be able to give me more insight into what happened, and what involvement Caswell or LaSalle might have had?"

 

"Maybe," Nancy could hear Wolstein opening and shutting drawers and finally he came back on line, "I thought I might have a number for him, Sam Germaine - he was one of the managers that got the sack after the Rocky Flats incident.  He was living in LA, last I knew," he gave her a phone number, "He might be able to shed more light on this than I can. Germaine was a good man, he got a really bum wrap."

 

Nancy thanked Wolstein, and rang off.  She looked at the notes she'd taken during her conversation with Wolstein, didn't seem very helpful.  But then, she wasn't too sure what she was looking for. She did find it interesting that LaSalle seemed to have been in Denver at the same time as Caswell, and in the same group.  She made a mental note to go back to her time line, and add LaSalle's career to it.  It couldn't hurt.

 

She tried the number in LA, but there was no answer.  She hung up, she'd have to try later. She decided to finish up the work in her in box.

 

 

Murdock drove into Hannibal's drive a little before 3.  Maggie wasn't home, having gone to help get Amy settled in at home. Hannibal led him into the living room, and they sat down, "So, how did the ultrasound go?" Hannibal asked, "Everything OK?"

 

Murdock couldn't stop smiling, "Yea, we found out why Nancy's been measuring ahead of her due date . . ."

 

"So when is the baby coming?" Hannibal asked, assuming the due date had been revised.

 

"Oh, as far as we know, the babies are still coming around Christmas time," Murdock said casually.

 

Hannibal looked confused, "The babies are still coming around Christmas . . ." he realized what he'd said, and grinned, "Twins, huh?"

 

Murdock laughed, "Yea, can you believe it?" he still was having trouble with the concept himself, "Apparently Stockwell and Nan's Mom were fraternal twins, and they aren't uncommon in the Stockwell family."

 

Hannibal raised an eyebrow at the mention of the General, "Speaking of Stockwell - he wants to meet with you and me tonight, when he gets back from LA."

 

Murdock's smile disappeared, "Did he say what he wants?"

 

Hannibal looked at him appraisingly, "He said that we need to discuss your duties with Stockwell Enterprises."

 

Murdock rolled his eyes, "I don't have any duties with Stockwell Enterprises - I quit."

 

"Well, the General said he's not accepting your resignation.  He's willing to negotiate, but he said resignation was not an option."

 

Murdock closed his eyes and leaned his head back on the couch.  He knew it had been wishful thinking that walking away would be easy "When is he going to be back?"

 

"He said he had to move his meeting back to late morning, so he won't be back in Langley until early evening.  Probably around 7 or 8."

 

Murdock sighed, "I'm sorry about this, Hannibal," he said regretfully, "I really didn't think the whole thing through when I did it.  I just wanted to get home to Nan.  The General gave me an out of sorts and I took advantage of it.  I should have known it wouldn't be that easy. Nothing with him ever is."

 

Hannibal chuckled, "No doubt you keep the General on his toes," Hannibal said, "truth is I think Stockwell's intentions will surprise you.  He may not show it, but he respects you.  He just doesn't understand what motivates you.  It's a little beyond him.  Besides, we're gonna need you when it comes time to train the new teams.  I don't think that quitting outright is really an option, either from the General's standpoint, or mine."

 

Murdock nodded, "I'll do whatever you need, Colonel," he said earnestly, "You know that.  I just can't go back to globe-hopping.  It's tearing me and Nancy apart.  It's just like we talked about before, my priority has to be at home," a smile returned to his face, "especially now."

 

 

TBC

 


Flying Into A Mad Season: Who's Psychotic Now? by KennaC
Simple Dreams And Flying Machines by KennaC
Flying Into A Mad Season: Who's Psychotic Now? 11-20 by KennaC
Flying Into A Mad Season: Who's Psychotic Now? 21-32 by KennaC
Simple Dreams And Flying Machines 2 by KennaC
Simple Dreams And Flying Machines 3 by KennaC
Simple Dreams And Flying Machines 4 by KennaC
Simple Dreams And Flying Machines 5 by KennaC
Simple Dreams And Flying Machines 6 by KennaC

 

 


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