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Over The River And Through The Woods
A Thanksgiving Story
This is an early team story. I hope you enjoy and all of you get to
spend the holidays with those whose company you enjoy.
Some mornings just had a feeling of things going right and this was one of them. The morning orange juice had seemed especially sweet, the fall morning air was cool, but not chilly. Face retied his running shoes and headed out the door of his scammed third-floor
Good Morning -
Your beloved Colonel Smith has been kidnapped. You will have to follow a series of clues and perform a series of tasks before you will meet up with him again.
Face- after you have busted Murdock out of the VA, you will give him the keys to your car and then hand him this note. Don't clench your teeth, Face. Hand over the keys and scam yourself another ride.
The two of you will then split up. Face - your first task is to consider recent meals we've had and determine if you are up to the next task, or are you chicken?
Murdock - I know you love to fly, but there are no planes involved in this trip. Set your sights on the sky in the most quiet of ways and then follow your instincts.
Don't leave me hanging - hope to see you soon.
Face stared at the note and read it three times. The bold, sure hand was most definitely the Colonel's. There was no code, no terse wording to make Face believe this wasn't some wild scheme by his commander. Suddenly he thought of his car, his beautiful 1967 Ford Mustang GT Fastback bought just seven weeks ago, with only nine thousand miles on it, 289 high performance engine, spoker wheels, gloss black paint, and leather interior. The thought of handing his pride and joy over to Murdock, who had been drooling on the paint and begging for a turn behind the wheel, made him shudder.
Face fished the keys back out of his pocket and went inside the apartment. Odds were, he wouldn't be back here. Quickly, he changed his clothes and packed his bags. He dialed the phone and waited for the connection.
"Joe's Pool Hall, Joe speaking."
"Hey, Murdock - it's
"Hey, you. What's up?"
"You are about to be sprung." Face took one last look around the apartment and noticed that he needed to take out the trash.
"Far out. Is there a scam?"
Face paused and twisted the phone cord around his finger. "Let's just keep it simple. I'll just have you transferred to the VA hospital for tests."
"Seems to lack your usual flair for the dramatic."
"Oh, trust me - there will be drama in your future."
"Okay, Faceman, I'll be the one with a red carnation in my buttonhole."
"Good, I'll see you in about an hour."
True to his word, Face was at the front desk of the nurses' station, signing the release forms and flirting shamelessly with the pretty blonde. Murdock met him, and they left with a wave and a wink.
Murdock read the note and then read it again. "What the heck is this supposed to mean?"
"My only theory is that it's a training exercise. Just seems to be more mental than physical."
"Hey, I get to drive your car."
Face dug into his pocket and reluctantly handed over the keys. "Just be careful with it, will you, HM?"
"Sure, Face, not a problem." HM slid behind the wheel and adjusted the seat. With a flick of his wrist, he turned over the engine and listened to the motor rumble. "Follow my instincts, huh?"
"That's what the note says." Face squatted and peered in the window. "Go easy on the clutch and keep the rpm's under four, okay?"
"Sure." Murdock put the vehicle in neutral and then dropped it into second. The rear wheels spun and black smoke kicked out the back.
Face stumbled back as Murdock burned rubber on his way out of the parking lot. "Great," he muttered, flicking non-existent dirt off his sleeve.
A yellow cab pulled up just two minutes later, and Face sat in the back thinking of the two places in the last week where he and the colonel had had chicken for dinner.
BA crumpled the note and tossed it into the nearest trashcan. Silly games. Leave it to the Colonel to come up with a silly game. He lowered the hydraulic lift and watched as the van settled on its wheels. The new alloys were strong, and had a high chrome shine. He'd wanted to road test the new wheels. He just hadn't planned on a drive to
It wasn't a glider field like Murdock had first thought, but his second choice was dead on. There was a balloon ride at
Face stood in the parking lot of the Baker Street Restaurant and swore. He read the note again and told himself to think like Colonel Smith. He didn't notice his hand running up and down his navy blue silk tie as he thought about chicken dinners. Suddenly it came to him, and he smacked himself in the forehead.
"I am not chicken!" Face said to the empty parking lot, and immediately knew where he needed to go. There was a restaurant in
Four stops later, Face pulled into the parking lot of a Denny's in
"Hey," Face called, as he jogged over to the van.
"I was just thinking maybe I was in the wrong place," BA grumbled as he got out of the van, slamming the door. "Nice ride, could you have picked something a little less, I don't know."
"I was thinking more like, gaudy."
Face narrowed his eyes, but ignored the jibe. "Well, we're all here together." Face scanned the parking lot, looking for any sign of the commander. "And if the Colonel doesn't want me to drive a flash car, he shouldn't give my ride to Murdock."
"Let's eat." BA strode off across the parking lot and pulled open the first set of doors that led to the restaurant. Face held open the interior doors, and the cold blast of air-conditioning assaulted them.
Murdock was sitting at a booth in the back corner, where he could observe the parking lot and the street through the windows, and he waved a hand as they came through the door.
BA slid in on one side, onto the yellow bench seat next to Murdock, and Face sat on the other side.
"I wasn't sure you two were coming, except the waitress brought over three iced teas." Murdock pushed the sweetener toward BA. Face sipped at his after taking out the lemon slice and setting it on the table.
A bleached blonde waitress, meeting most of the requirements for the stereotype for her profession, walked over. She didn't bother with menus, instead setting green salads in front of each of them.
"How ya' doin', boys?" She turned to head back to the kitchen.
"We haven't ordered, yet." Face unwrapped his silverware and placed the paper napkin in his lap.
"I know, honey. He ordered for you."
BA and Face both turned to look at Murdock. "Not me."
"No, honey." She smiled again and pulled three envelopes from her apron pocket. "He said to give you these."
Face picked up the envelopes and handed off the other two. "For the love of Pete," he sighed, as he ripped open his envelope. Inside was a map with no names.
Murdock's note was names with nothing else.
BA's had the names of stores and a list of items after each one.
"So, looks like we do the next leg together." Murdock looked at the three lists side by side. "And looks like we need the Thomas Guide and a phone book."
"Question is, do we take all three cars or
one?" BA inquired before shoveling a forkful of the salad into his mouth.
Face carefully picked the croutons off his plate and dropped them on Murdock's. "I'd say to take all three, at least for this next one. If his next move is to split us up, we'd lose time coming back here."
"What's he doing with all this?" BA asked.
Face waited to answer until after the waitress put three plates of food on the table. He shook his head as they moved the plates where they belonged.
"I don't know. At first I thought it was some kind of training exercise. I guess it still is. Can we think like him, or plan what he's going to do, but still, I just wish I could figure out what his plan was."
"I'd like to get the jump on a few of these and cut to the end, but if we don't follow every clue, we'll show up missing something." Murdock unscrewed the top on the catsup bottle and liberally coated his French fries.
"What has he got you getting?" BA added mustard to his hamburger.
"Two cans of cranberry sauce, one jellied one not. A bag of potatoes and candlesticks." Face pulled the tomatoes off his club sandwich and set them aside.
"Green beans, three decks of cards, and a basketball." Murdock added.
"I got a couple of jigsaw puzzles, eight ears of corn and a sack of flour," BA joined in.
Face pushed half his sandwich away, and dragged the three notes in front of him and studied them. It was still obvious that they were written in the Colonel's strong handwriting. But he noticed for the first time that there was a number at the bottom of each note. 2, 17, and 31. Face fished the other notes from his pocket and saw that each had a number. "Let me have your notes."
Murdock had set his jacket beside him on the bench, and he reached into the inside pocket to pass his across. Numbers were written at the bottom of each of Murdock's notes. BA's were in the van, but he admitted that he remembered there were words at the bottom of his.
Face grinned. "
They finished eating and paid the bill. In the back of the van, Face smoothed each note that BA had balled up and tossed onto the floor. "I'm missing one." Face laid out the notes.
"I threw the first one away." BA shifted in the seat and glared into the back.
Face looked over the notes and knew it didn't matter. "It's the title of a book."
On, road, jack, Kerouac.
"Do you have a copy, Murdock?"
Murdock looked over Face's shoulder and then dug under the seat he used when he traveled with the team. It was a well-worn copy with a few dog-eared pages and an old business card being used as a bookmark.
"This yours?" Face fingered the card that came from a disco in
"Yeah, I left it there."
"Hmm." Face flipped through the pages and then shook the book to see if anything fell out. "I think the first note might have had the page number on it."
"Page number?" BA twisted a ring on his finger, knowing he'd thrown away a clue.
"Don't worry about it BA, we'll figure it out. I can't believe he wouldn't plan for this eventuality." Face looked at the notes again. "You throw away everything. He'd have to have a back up, knowing you might toss one or more of the notes."
"But why are you looking for a page number?" BA looked from Murdock to Face.
"It's a kids' code game. You go to the page in a book, then you use the numbers - 2, 4, 17, 39, et cetera, and they spell out the message."
"So we've got the book, now we just need the page number."
"I think from here on out, he's probably planning for all of us to have all the clues. Maybe next time, I'll get the names or a list instead of the map. I think the idea is, that even if we aren't together, we would all have all the clues."
"So, the next step?" Murdock thumbed through the pages of his battered paperback, looking for some clue that Face might have missed.
"Next step is the same as the last one. Follow the Colonel's clues and see where they lead." Face dug the Thomas Guide Map Book out from under the front seat and he let Murdock put the map together, while he and BA unloaded what they had each accumulated so far into the back of the van. The van had more room to carry all the assorted things they'd gathered, and heaven knew what they'd be asked to get next.
Murdock transferred the information onto the back of each of their notes, and handed one to Face and one to BA. "Seems we are headed for
"I'm betting I ain't gonna
see the Raiders play."
"Nope, based on this note, you are headed for Woolworth's." Murdock passed a clue to Face. "Guess where you get to go?"
"You are really getting into the spirit of this, aren't you?"
Murdock waved his copy of "On the Road."
"Why am I thinking this trip will not take us to
"You, my son, are going to church."
"Golly, I just have all the luck, don't I?" Face snatched his note and read the instructions. "And you?"
"I'm going back for Driver's Ed."
They split up again, each in their own direction to gather more seemingly obscure items. Their paths met up one last time at a Marie Calendar's restaurant in
"Sorry, guys. I can give you drinks to go, but I'm not supposed to let you eat." She gently slid the menu from BA's hand.
"Who says?" BA grumbled looking down the length of the counter.
"The guy with the note." She passed them each one sealed envelope.
BA glared at the hostess and snatched his envelope. "If you don't bring me a piece a pie, I'll make a scene like you never saw."
Murdock nodded in agreement. "He's not kidding. Big ugly mudsucker of a scene."
Face smiled at her to soften BA's words. "I don't think the note guy would begrudge us all a piece of pie. Three pieces of apple, please. And three large milks."
She gave Face a leery look, but after all, the note guy wasn't paying or tipping, so she trotted off to fill their order.
"I'm getting mighty tired of all this running around. You realize we've driven over half the state."
"We all realize, BA. This would have all gone a lot faster if we could have gone together. For heaven's sake, we ended up in the same place." He used a napkin to wipe off his hands, not sure if it was his imagination or if the menu had been sticky.
Murdock ripped open his envelope. "End of the line," he said as he read. "Buy your favorite pie and show up here." This time he had the map with no names.
Face opened his and found the street names. BA's had the house number.
"Jeeze, if he'd a just given us this in the first place."
Face laughed, but unfolded the map he'd used to get here. He traced the best way across the bridge to
"We was "ocean-side" at 730 this morning," BA grumbled as he skewered a glazed apple slice from his pie plate.
"What ya' think the Colonel's up to, Face?"
"If I had to guess?" Face ran the napkin over his lips and then set it back in his lap. "I think this is a very elaborate game of over the river and through the woods."
"Huh?" BA and Murdock echoed each other.
"We're going to Grandma's house for dinner."
"I don't get it - whose Grandma. Nobody's got a grandma." BA put his fork down and shifted on the stool to look at Face.
"I get it," Murdock nodded with a grin. "He's set all this up for Thanksgiving."
"Yes, indeed. The long trip, the groceries and games, all if it."
BA shook his head, but a slow smile spread across his features. "All this for Thanksgiving?"
As they left the restaurant, Murdock stopped dead in his tracks and Face had to take a half step to the side to keep from crashing into the back of the pilot.
"Face, just where did you get that ride?"
Face looked out into the parking lot, only to see a black and white patrol car parked behind the red Porsche.
"Jeeze, Face," BA sighed.
"I just took it out for a test ride. How did I know I'd be gone for ten hours?"
"Jeeze, Face," BA shook his head, but started out for the van. "Well, we'll just go in the van from here."
"No." Face passed the three pies they'd just bought to Murdock. "I've got stuff in that car for
"I'm not sure this is a good idea." Murdock took a step to follow after Face, but BA grabbed his arm.
Face turned back and flashed a smile. "Murdock, you go with BA, and I'll get rid of the Porsche. Then I'll pick up my car and meet you."
"Are you sure, Face?"
BA jerked a little harder on Murdock's arm, anxious to move on before the police turned their attention his way. "Come on, man. Face knows what he's doing." BA stopped and stared hard at the Lieutenant. "Don't you?"
Face turned his back to the parking lot and smiled at Murdock and BA, taking a second to get his tie out of his pocket and quickly tied a half-Windsor. Without need of a mirror, Face straightened his hair and jacket. "You go on ahead, I'll catch up. Oh, I'll need my keys back." Murdock handed them over and Face slipped the keys to the mustang into his pocket and then with a smile and a toss of the Porsche keys, Face set off across the parking lot.
"He's on the jazz, man." BA jerked a little harder on Murdock's sleeve and the two of them sauntered slowly to the van. They kept watching Face and the patrol officer while trying to look like they were merely curious bystanders. Even from across the parking lot, they could see the fast patter that Face was lavishing on the police officer.
BA backed slowly out of the parking slot and drove two aisles over from the police car. Murdock, who had slumped into the front seat, his sneakered feet up on the dash, was staring out the window watching. "Here we go."
Seconds later there was a squeal of tires and the Porsche zipped in front of the van. There were two quick taps to the brakes and then it shot off down the driveway, sliding around the corner. BA slowed as the police car, blue lights flashing, came up behind him. It wasn't much, but it slowed the patrol car for at least half a minute. BA turned the opposite way and merged smoothly with traffic.
Face checked his rearview mirror just to be sure the patrol car was following. He saw the blue lights in the distance. Pressing down on the gas, he saw the speedometer slide up over 80. The adrenalin sang in his veins. He didn't get to drive often, and if it was the van, there was always the persistent worry of BA taking any damage to his precious vehicle out in Face's hide. But this time, there was no such threat. His foot fell a little more heavily on the gas and the blue lights slipped a little further back.
Hannibal was standing on the front step of the rented beach house, his arms crossed over his chest and a grin plastered to his face.
Murdock bounded out of the van, a pie in each hand, and crunched up the seashell driveway. "Hey, we brought stuff."
"Yes, you did."
"Long story, but Face got spotted and I left him his car and he's leading the cops on a merry chase and then he'll be here. Soon I hope."
BA came around from the back of the van, holding a duffle bag in one hand and a sack of groceries in the other. "Had some fun gettin' us all up here, didn't you?"
"I sure did."
"Well, have some fun helping us unpack all this junk you wanted."
Jamming his cigar between his teeth, his humor in no way dampened,
Murdock came back from having put the pie in the kitchen and took back the pie he'd given the Colonel.
"Looks nice, doesn't it, Captain?"
"The new carpet and the new seats."
"Oh, yes, you haven't seen the new and improved van before have you?"
"Van ain't gonna unload itself," BA called over his shoulder, as he maneuvered up the steps.
"I like the new door, too."
"BA's done a good job on it."
Murdock lowered his voice and whispered conspiratorially. "Mention the new alloy wheels."
Coming out of the van with a box,
"He wants them to be noticed."
They carried their cargo into the house. The dining room table was set with crystal and real silverware. The floor-to-ceiling windows overlooked the sparkling lights across the
Murdock stood in the front hall, his mouth open. It wasn't that the house was beautiful and tastefully decorated; it was all the other things that showed the Colonel had been thinking of his men. Board games were stacked against one wall, a lime green Frisbee on the top. The stereo in the corner was on, jazz music playing softly. A pair of tennis rackets leaned against the side.
"BA, cool wheels,"
"You like 'em?" BA came out and took the box from
Murdock handed his bag of goodies to BA and moved past him to the back French doors. He flipped a switch and flood of lights lit the back yard. Opening the doors revealed the cool evening air filled with the chirp of crickets. From the wide redwood deck, Murdock could see the tennis courts, a pool, and a basketball court.
Face's high-speed chase was over pretty much before it began. He made a quick left and the squad car fell behind. Another quick left, and he was able to slow his speed. He made some turns in a residential neighborhood and then went back out to the main drag. Driving the speed limit, Face watched as the squad cars flew past him in the opposite lane.
He returned to the parking lot at the Marie Calendar's and pulled next to his Mustang. He used his handkerchief to swiftly wipe down the Porsche's steering wheel, the console and the doorjamb. Seconds later, he tossed the keys on the front seat, and as he got out of the car, came face to face with a Vallejo Police Officer. It was only practice, and perhaps the fact that he was tired, that kept the surprise off his face. He looked over her shoulder. Women police officers usually traveled in pairs, but this one seemed to be alone.
"What are you doing with that car, sir?"
"Just looking at it. I've never been this close to a Porsche before." He tried his best to sound innocent, but as he gave her an appraising eye, he decided he didn't want to look too innocent. She was tall, just a few inches shorter than he was, and she'd spent a few days in the gym. Her hair was a dark brown, pulled back from her face in a severe bun, but her green eyes were pretty and sharp, and were currently appraising him as much as he was appraising her.
Twenty minutes later, he left in the Mustang, her phone number in his pocket and a smile on his face. He drove through the parking lot and then merged into traffic, headed for the address on the paper Murdock had handed him. He took a circuitous route, checking his rearview mirrors, but as he crossed the bridge, he knew he was home free. He decided he liked the laid back attitudes of
Face navigated the narrow streets, stopping a few times to verify street names as he made his way down toward the beach. The houses here started getting bigger, more expensive, with better kept yards and newer paint. He turned into a driveway lit with small lights tripped by motion detectors. The sprawling, Spanish style ranch house rose up before him, strategically lit by small flood lamps that made the white walls shine in the darkness.
The motion detectors on the driveway must have signaled the house, because before he could park the car, the front door was flung open. Face backed the Mustang into the open space in the two-car garage and then got out and stretched his back.
"Is this a cool place, or what?" Murdock grabbed Face in a spontaneous hug.
Face gave him a quick slap on the back and then shoved him away. "Help me take this stuff in the house." Face passed the pie and a small bag to Murdock, then picked up a box of supplies, and the two headed up to the house.
"Me? There was no time on the note. You're lucky I didn't stop in
"As if you didn't know." Face grinned a response. "This is one heck of a place you got here. How'd you scam it?"
"How'd you scam it,
"You should see the pool and the hot tub."
Face followed the Colonel up the stairs, but he didn't stop grinning. "
"Face, is this the biggest TV you ever saw?" BA shouted from the front room.
Face took in the high ceilings, the thick carpets, and the lavish appointments. This was indeed a high-class home. The smell of steaks and sautéed onions filled the air, making Face realize he was hungry. He set the box down on the entryway table and moved further into the house.
"Face, dinner's ready.
"Ah, so how "late" was I?"
"So, how much did this place set you back?"
"So, why were you late?"
Face decided to let the question drop for the time being, not willing to share just yet about Felicia and the Vallejo PD.
The rest of the evening was spent in friendly fun. After dinner, they cleared the table, cleaned up the dishes, and played a cutthroat game of Hearts. BA won three out of five games, giving him control of the remote for the next day.
Face groaned at the thought of an unending day of football on TV and was grateful that there were other things to do here.
Murdock watched the clock and as soon as the second hand inched past the twelve at the stroke of , he jumped to his feet and wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Face had been dozing in a chair, pretending to read the financial page, and was startled enough to scatter the paper when he was forcibly hugged from behind. Murdock wrapped his arms around the chair and Face, and squeezed. "Happy
"Yeah, same back at you, Murdock."
"What's tomorrow, Colonel?" Murdock asked, as he headed for the stairs.
"A big day tomorrow,"
BA followed Murdock, a big hand on the pilot's back, helping him up the stairs. "Good night," he called over his shoulder, even as he stretched and yawned.
Face stopped at the bottom of the wide, carpeted staircase. "What's all this about,
Realizing that he wasn't going to get the answer he wanted, Face started up the stairs. "How much did this place set you back?"
An open-handed slap shook the door on its hinges. "Up and at 'em, Murdock."
It was repeated at the next door. "BA, on your feet."
Face had just turned on the shower, so he'd be down soon.
The owner of the bellow didn't bother to stop and see the reaction to his wake-up call. Instead, he bounded down the stairs, headed for the kitchen. He put the coffeepot on and set up a rasher of bacon to fry. He slid four pieces of bread in the toaster, and then started cracking eggs in a large bowl.
His team dragged down the stairs in different stages of readiness. Murdock slumped into a chair at the breakfast nook, his T-shirt proudly saying, "Support Bacteria - it's the only culture some people have." His hair was sticking up at odd angles, and he shuffled directly to the coffeepot. Face was down a minute later, casually, but immaculately, dressed in freshly pressed blue jeans and a buttoned-down white shirt cotton. Having already shaved and showered, he was awake, but never said a word until after his first cup of coffee. BA was much more of a morning person than the other two. He was dressed in cammos and proudly showing off his new haircut, only a week old -- hair shaved down both sides and sticking up in the middle.
"Eat up, gentlemen, we have a big day ahead of us. Today is the first day of the First Annual Hannibal Smith Four Day Thanksgiving Extravaganza."
"Extravaganza?" Face looked up at his commander and couldn't miss the grin.
"Four day?" Murdock smiled and ran a hand through his wild hair.
"Annual? We're gonna do this every year?" BA spooned some strawberry jam onto his toast. "Next year, can we do it without the treasure hunt?"
They each did as instructed.
"Eggs." Murdock read his.
"Potatoes." BA held the paper by the edges as if it might bite.
"These are your holiday tasks. Face, you get to help with the turkey. Murdock, you get the deviled eggs. BA, you're on mashed potatoes."
They looked at each other, and in seconds, were switching the papers around between them.
By three in the afternoon, the kitchen was a wreck, but the food was almost done. The pies were laid out, the table was set, and the turkey was cooling on the sideboard. Face had found a high-priced, restaurant-quality mixer to whip the potatoes, and Murdock had found an espresso machine and was busily reading the instructions. It had turned out to be a nice day and they had the French doors open to the deck, a gentle breeze circulating the hot air from the kitchen. There was calmness to the atmosphere, despite the football game on loud enough to be heard from the living room. They had had fun preparing the meal.
Face dished up the potatoes, and BA poured the gravy into a blue china gravy boat. Murdock carried in the yams, and they sat down to eat.
"I'm not big on prayer,"
Murdock saved him by standing up, as if reciting before the class. "I'm glad you guys all stuck by me, in my..." he gestured with his hands while searching for the right word.
"Crazy moments," BA helped.
Murdock smirked. "I was going to say dark days, but crazy works for me." He sat down in his chair and wiped a hand across his chest, leaving a streak of flour.
"Well, I'm just glad we ain't in jail." BA straightened his silverware, not meeting any of their eyes.
"I'm glad we're not in jail, too,"
"I'm glad I'm not in jail, especially considering my little run-in with the local cops." Face upwrapped this napkin folded as an origami swan.
"And I want to say that I'm glad
"And I'm glad you started this tradition, despite how you made us drive all over creation. You couldn't have made it just a little easier?"
"BA!" Murdock gasped in horror and used a backhanded slap at BA's big shoulder. BA growled and started to reach for the mashed potatoes.
Face started again, "I just want to say I really like this house, no matter how much
Face groaned and rested his head in his hands.
"Sorry, kid, but you walked into that one. And besides - I love it when a plan comes together."
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