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Flying into a Mad Season. . . Who's Psychotic Now?
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!
Chapter 1: Homecoming
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?"
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!"
Terra was jumping up and down and threw her arms around
"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 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."
The back door opened, and Colonel John '
"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,"
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
"I've been busy with work,
and things . . ."
Maggie glanced at
"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
Maggie nodded in agreement, "It would be nice to
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
"Oh, I think you have a pretty good idea where he is," Maggie said quietly.
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
Terra grinned impishly, and grabbed her grandmother's
hand, steering her out of the house, "Let's get out of
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
Maggie and Hannibal exchanged knowing looks.
"Well, I think it's a terrific idea,"
Maggie recalled their previously interrupted
conversation, and switched gears abruptly, "Was there something you needed
"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
"If BA said he'd do it, I'm sure he'll be by
"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."
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.
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."
"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,"
"I hope you're right."
About 15 minutes after everyone had left,
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
He stepped back a bit, "I even felt that one," he said in surprise.
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."
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.
Murdock dropped his head onto
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."
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."
"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
"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.
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."
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.
In the kitchen,
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."
"Hey, watch that," Murdock said, glancing back at her.
"Couldn't do it if I wasn't watchin'!"
Maggie turned and started to help
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?"
BA stopped short, hesitated, and then said quietly, "She might be able to come, I'll hafta ask her."
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.
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
Murdock stepped around
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,
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,"
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?"
He grinned, "It's part of my charm," he said, "besides, what would you call her?"
"Yea, well, she's very light, then," he said flippantly.
"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
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.
"I'm always up for that kind of exercise," he said, grinning, "No pun intended!"
Chapter 2: Eye of the Storm
Hannibal and Maggie had dinner well on the way when
everyone began arriving.
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.
"Good, I'm starving,"
Murdock said from the ground at
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!"
Murdock looked surprised, and turned, leaning an arm across her lap and looking up at her quizzically, "When exactly did I agree to that?"
"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,"
Amy sat up, "BA's bringing
"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."
Murdock winced, "I can keep just as quiet as Face," he said defensively.
"Since . . . anytime," he said, obviously having trouble finding an example, "Just watch," and he clamped his mouth shut.
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.
The four women sat in the shade and chatted idly. Murdock and Face wandered over to the grill,
where BA was helping
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, "
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.
Amy chuckled, "
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,"
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,
He turned and looked at her ruefully, "It's safer this way," he confided quietly, "it is way too tempting."
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
"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
Murdock chuckled, "That's a nice way of saying that we don't play by the rules."
"Like I said . . ."
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,"
"Maybe it is,"
"And move your time frame out that much more . . ."
Murdock looked at
"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.
"Maybe a little," he admitted, "But it really isn't my scene. Besides, hasn't your Uncle ever heard of teleconferencing?"
After awhile, Murdock went out to the truck, and brought
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."
"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.
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."
". . . with people shooting at us . . ." Face added, "Murdock always does his best singing under fire!"
Murdock looked at
But BA shook his head, "They right, man, it's a
good idea, you and
Murdock dropped into a chair next to
"Not 'A'," Murdock said, and
She began playing, and Murdock sang the song with
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
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
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
And that's why
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
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?"
Murdock smiled, giving her a firm kiss on the lips before saying flatly, "No way."
"Who did you say sang that?" Face asked.
"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 . . ."
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.
"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,"
Amy laughed, "Well, I really like it, and I don't
care who wrote it," she said, then looked at
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."
Murdock looked at
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.
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
"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.
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
At home, Murdock threw clothes into a bag, while
"He had an emergency meeting come up in
"But you just got home!"
Murdock's shoulders slumped and he looked at her
wearily, "This isn't my idea,
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."
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."
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.
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
"How's she doing?"
"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."
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.
Adam's Investigations was a small private investigation
firm located in a second floor suite of offices in downtown
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.
"I heard from a rather unlikely source, actually,"
Riley admitted, "Your Uncle called last night, said he was on his way to
"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."
Riley shook his head, "Not 'our' help,
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."
"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."
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.
"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 . . .,
"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?"
"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 , remember?"
"Oh, yeah," he said, "I'll tell your Uncle. That might be something he'll actually accommodate."
"I don't know about that,"
"I really don't think the punishment theory holds
"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,"
"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 . . ."
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."
"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
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,"
He hung up as Jeff came walking up, "Talking to
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.
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
"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
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.
Riley shrugged, "You knew there had to be a reason he'd take you on."
"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,"
"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."
"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
Chapter 4: The Newest Member
That afternoon around ,
"How's she doing?"
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."
"'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?"
"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."
Face poked his head out, "
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
Amy opened her eyes and looked at
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.
"I'm fine," he said, " How about you - have you heard from Murdock?"
Maggie patted her shoulder, "I'll go with you for the ultrasound if HM isn't home," she offered.
"Has to be difficult for your Dad, being so far
"Ought to be a lot of opportunities for work in
Maggie chuckled, "You should head home and get your feet up. We'll call you as soon as we know anything."
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
"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
"I was born here, but grew up in
"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."
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?"
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,"
"Tomorrow would be fine, how about lunch at the
Colvin Run Tavern in
"I'll see you then,"
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
"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?"
"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."
"Do you prefer playing piano or guitar?" Jazz asked.
"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
"Yea, see ya then,"
Jasmine said, "and
Jasmine chuckled, "Once you get used to it, you'll enjoy it. There's nothin' like having an audience appreciate your talent."
Jasmine reasoned, "Well, Charlie seems to think we'll be able to draw a crowd. And he wanted you specifically."
Good old Charlie,
"Sorry, Mags, I was
talking to Jazz. What's up?"
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!"
"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,"
Murdock picked up the phone and dialed the home phone
number, it was after 8, and
He hung up and dialed the office phone number. Riley answered, "Adams Investigations."
"Hey Riley," Murdock said, "Is
"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
"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.
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
Amy grinned at her friend, "You were right,
"How are you feeling?"
"Tired, sore," Amy looked at her husband and child, "just wonderful," she added sincerely.
The baby was wide-eyed, and instinctively wrapped a tiny
Maggie heaved an exaggerated sigh, "God help us all!"
"Hey, Dad - still coming to
"Yep," Carl Clay sounded cheerful, "I'll land in Dulles at , can you or HM still pick me up at the airport?"
"HM's out of town, again,"
"OK, be waiting at the pickup area about , that should give me enough time to pick up my luggage."
"I'm looking forward to seeing you, Dad,"
"Wonderful," Carl said, "How are they doing?"
"They're both fine. They'll probably be coming home in a couple days."
Carl and Nancy said their goodbyes, and
"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."
He sighed, "We're in
"I thought this was just a quick trip to
"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
They talked for awhile about nothing in particular.
Murdock finally looked over at the clock, "I don't want to say goodbye, but you need your sleep."
"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
"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
Amy was sitting up in the bed, eating breakfast, "Hi Nancy," she said, "How are you this morning?"
"I'm sore, but otherwise OK," Amy said,
"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
"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,"
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?"
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 , 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.
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
"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.
He arrived at sharp, and
was shown to the table. He moved with
the same self-assuredness that her Uncle always exuded.
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."
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!"
"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.
Serious gray eyes considered her for a moment, "You don't waste much time, do you?" he asked.
"With all due respect Mr. LaSalle . . . "
"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,"
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?"
"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.
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
"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,
"Yes," LaSalle said simply, offering nothing further.
Lasalle sat forward, "This is an elaborate scheme to discredit me because of some snooping I've been doing, on your Uncle's behalf."
"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
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.
LaSalle reached into his jacket pocket, while
"Yes. Hunt has a copy as well."
The waitress came by with the check, which
They stood in preparation to leave, and LaSalle looked at her in surprise, "How far along are you?"
"And you're working? Shouldn't you be tending the
home fires?" he sounded condescending, and
"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."
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
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 . 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
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
"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
Murdock looked at him narrowly, "We've been in
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
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
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,
"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.
"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
"Me too," Carl agreed, "It'll sure beat !"
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.
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."
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
"Looks doable. I'll listen
to the tape later,"
Jasmine smiled, "Why don't you pick?" she suggested.
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
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
If you're gonna go
Remember me and all
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
If you're gonna go
Remember me and all
All this time
I been makin' deals
Shades of black and white
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
If you're gonna go
Remember me and all
We had all this time
We had all this time
Carl agreed, but offered some constructive criticism, "You
need some backup vocals. The music
actually sounds pretty good, but
Char nodded, "Carl's right, though I think that
might have to do more with the acoustics in the room. If
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
Jasmine nodded in agreement, "Me too."
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
"OK, but I'm
going to hold you to that,"
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,"
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,
She smiled, "I know, but give me some time - I'm gonna have to work myself up to it!"
When they arrived in
Murdock sighed in relief, adding as a reminder, "I'll
prepare the flight plan for
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
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
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,"
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,
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
"Sure," she said, "Eating alone tonight?"
Brett slipped into the booth next to
"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,"
"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,"
"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,"
"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
"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?"
Brett was looking at her, "Some guys have all the luck."
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
Brett looked up from his salad, "Known her for,
what," he looked at
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."
Brett looked at
"Maybe, but I contributed to the sooner,"
"You did what no one else had been able to do,
"Guts or just plain stupidity,"
Carl nodded knowingly, he'd heard the story from several
different angles, including Hannibal's and Murdock's, "Well, from what
Brett nodded, "Murdock wouldn't have been alone
most of the force thinks of
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,"
"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,"
"You know, you need to learn not to mistake caring with controlling," Brett said sullenly.
"With you, it's a matter of semantics,"
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
Carl looked at his daughter expectantly, "Care to explain that?"
After dinner, Nancy and her father headed back to the
house. They listened to the tape Jazz
had made, which helped
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?"
"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
"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!"
"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.
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
"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
Murdock shook his head, "
"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
"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
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
"So we are seriously going to
"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
"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
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
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!"
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
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 - - 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
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 . . ."
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
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."
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!"
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 . . ."
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
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."
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,"
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."
"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."
"No, I'm gonna go see Doc. Why don't you come with me?" He suggested.
"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
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 ," he
took the keys for
Chapter 8: Standing Together
Murdock unpacked his bag, then
"Not necessary, Captain,"
"Oh," Murdock said quietly, "And what did he have to say?"
"He said lots of things, Murdock,"
"Not technically," Murdock disagreed, weakly.
"You should come over so we can discuss what
"Yes Colonel," Murdock said miserably.
"Make sure I'm around the General's expression
had to be priceless!"
"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,"
Murdock considered, the morning was pretty well booked, "Well, I could probably swing by after the ultrasound around ?"
"I'll be here at home, so just come on by,"
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 . . ."
"Musta been after her first practice with Jazz," Murdock said, "Was Carl with her?"
"Brett Katt," Murdock could feel his blood pressure rising.
"They must have run into Katt
"Yea, I'm sure," Murdock said flatly, "Listen,
"I'm fine, Colonel," Murdock said quietly, "I gotta get a shower and get ready to go . . . I'll be by around ."
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
Meanwhile, after loading the dishwasher,
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
One thing that
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
Casey answered on the first ring, "Case, Internal Affairs," he said tersely.
"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."
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,
"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."
"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
"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.
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.
He looked at her uneasily, "I'm real sorry about
Murdock looked doubtful, "We can hope . . .," he looked at the materials spread around the desk, "What's that you're working on?"
He looked at her through narrowed eyes. She disparaged her Uncle's influence over
her, but the truth was that
"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."
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.
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
Murdock and Doc started skimming through the contract
together, and talking about plans for the airfield.
Maybe now, with Murdock out from under the General's
control, they really could start living a more normal life.
After about 15 minutes, Murdock glanced around, noticing
that his wife had disappeared, "Where did
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, "
"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
"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,
"That sound like a really good idea," Murdock said.
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."
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.
Murdock looked down at the ground, shoving his hands in
his pockets and toeing invisible stones, thinking about what
She looked at him in surprise, "What about Brett?" she repeated in confusion.
He looked uncomfortable, but he pushed, "Brett Katt
"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?"
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!"
"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,"
"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."
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."
A few minutes later, they separated reluctantly.
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.
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,"
Murdock sighed, "You've read the contract,
"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.
"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."
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,
"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.
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,
Mandy smiled as she got
"And you're here because . . ."
"Dr. Phillips said I was measuring big for my due
date so she wants to double check it,"
Mandy made some entries into the computer, then gooped up the ultrasound wand, and turned to
"Father . . ."
"Before I bring your husband and father back."
Mandy placed the wand on
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
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!"
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.
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
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?
"Is Riley here?"
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.
Stephanie's eyes widened, "Cool - I've never known anyone who had twins before."
She went into her office and checked the clock, it was only , which meant
that it was lunch time in
At , 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?"
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?"
"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
"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
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."
"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,
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
"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."
"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?"
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
Murdock couldn't stop smiling, "Yea, we found out
"So when is the baby coming?"
"Oh, as far as we know, the babies are still coming around Christmas time," Murdock said casually.
Murdock laughed, "Yea, can you believe it?" he
still was having trouble with the concept himself, "Apparently Stockwell
Murdock's smile disappeared, "Did he say what he wants?"
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
Murdock sighed, "I'm sorry about this,
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."
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