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Prisoner of Fate
R (For later violence)
Summary: Someone from Face’s past reappears, turning his life upside down and forcing him to face a past he thought he’d forgotten.
(Part 1 of 8)
Spoiler for ‘Without Reservation’.
This story also conveniently forgets about ‘Family Reunion’ and Frankie.
Disclaimer: Apparently I don't own the A Team and I've certainly not made a penny or cent from this story.
“Gentlemen, we have a situation, which we need to resolve without delay. Our arrangement has met with a problem, namely Irwin. As you know, we’ve ensured our involvement has been kept anonymous and that any investigation would lead to false bank accounts and non-existent people or if worse came to worse, Irwin. But it seems that somehow the police have caught on to Irwin’s’ involvement. His word alone wouldn’t be sufficient to send us to prison, but the ensuing scandal would be enough to ruin our reputations and careers. We know there to be documents substantiating Irwin’s claims. We know one such document was intercepted and seen by Sergeant Deakin, which he ‘helpfully’ passed to Jackson here, who immediately destroyed it. However we know from you Senator that there was at least one more document which was sent to the base and passed on before either of you could get your hands on it. At the time we believed General Thompson possessed this document, however as we know, on searching his apartment, office and post room, you found no such document, which means he must have passed it to someone within the base to retain. We know they couldn’t have posted it, as it would have come to light before now. Jackson, McLean, you were on the base, you need to think back to anyone who could have seen this document. I don’t have to remind you that all of our livelihoods depend on us locating it, before Irwin or the police do.”
“Abe, we looked into this 35 years ago! There were only two people Thompson would have trusted with the document. You know we’ve looked for both of them and can find no information on them since before the 1960‘s.” Cale Jackson replied, annoyed at the repetition of events.
“Jackson, I thought the idea of you working within the Interception department was to stop these types of documents slipping through the net? Now I helped out when it came to Thompson, but you need to take some responsibility for this.” Senator McLean stated, aggravated.
“I thought you two had contacts in the Government?” Jackson snapped back. “Surely you’d be best placed to find and locate two missing people.”
“I’m trying to run an election campaign Jackson. I can’t be seen delving into the mysterious disappearance of anybody. The press would be onto it quicker than you could say corrupt government official.” McLean stated.
“And you know I’ve looked Jackson, but there’s only so much digging one can do without raising suspicion. Anyway most of my contacts have retired.” Abe Gregory added.
“We need to look further a field, to people they knew, had relations with etc.” McLean stated. “We’ve let this ride for too long. You should have sorted it out years ago, but you were too busy resting on your laurels. We need to leave no stone unturned in order to find these people and get this document.”
Part 1 - Chapter 1
Father Maghill had received the letter two days ago and still didn’t know what to do. He did know he’d have to do something and soon. Sister Maria had brought the letter to him just after morning-prayer. She’d wanted to know if he remembered anything about a Richard Bancroft. Most of their records had been destroyed in a fire years ago, but she’d found a record of him being placed under the Father’s guardianship in 1953. The nun had gone on to explain that someone claiming to be Richard’s uncle had written to them enquiring after information on his nephew’s whereabouts. The Priest had taken the letter and promised to look into it.
He took the envelope from his desk drawer and studied the letter for the hundredth time, hoping to find something that would guide him as to the right course of action. He’d wondered if the military had found out about him knowing the whereabouts of the A-Team, or more specifically Templeton Peck. He knew this could be a trap. He had been warned many times by the Team of the militaries underhand tactics. Yet he couldn’t see how they would know that Templeton was born Richard Bancroft. Most information had been destroyed in the fire and he knew that Templeton had obtained a forged birth certificate to get into the army, against his advice, as he recalled. The only people that would have known him as Richard Bancroft would be those who knew him before he arrived at the orphanage or those that knew him for the first few years at the orphanage. That was until he regularly changed his name to confuse the Nun’s or try and fool the children he’d conned out of something. Richard had decided to change his name to Templeton Peck when he was around 8 or 9 and as no one had an original birth certificate for him, very few people had ever known him as anything else.
His thoughts turned to how he’d found Templeton in the orphanage grounds one morning. He couldn’t have been more than 5. He’d found him sitting on the grass, under a tree, crying. Although the young boy refused to speak to anyone to begin with, the Nuns had taken to this lost soul immediately. They’d contacted the local police to try and locate his parents, but no trace could be found of them. A Psychologist tried to elicit information from the young boy but he would barely say a word and when he did speak it was only to say that he couldn’t remember anything. The Psychologist believed that being abandoned by his parents had left him traumatized and unable to deal with what was happening, so he was blocking it out in order to protect himself from any further pain. As he now appeared to be settling into his new surroundings and beginning to talk more, especially to the Priest, he’d advised against any further treatment in order to bring these memories forward, for fear of setting him back again. The Psychologist believed that he would deal with it in his own time and speak about it when he was ready. He never did.
“You must admit it gets the old adrenaline pumping and we did get the money back from those Triads for the Buddhist temple fund and got the military off our tails in the process.” Hannibal cheerfully stated to the others, a large grin on his face.
“Man, we almost got drowned and eaten by sharks because of those lunatics.” BA bemoaned as he drove his van through downtown LA with Hannibal and Face. “I can do without adrenaline rushes like that. If Murdock hadn’t arrived with the yacht Face scammed, we would all be eating dinner with Davy Jones tonight.”
“Yer, but instead I’m dining with Catrina Sinclair, who with any luck will be giving me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation later.” Face sighed wistfully. Hannibal and BA groaned.
“Face, we’ve had the military on our backs for the last three weeks thanks to a girl you picked up. How do you know this one isn’t a set up too?” Hannibal demanded.
“What? You don’t get a figure like hers by hanging around the military. No, she’s definitely been hanging out at the gym or dance club or ….” Face trailed away. “Anyway, we got rid of the military days ago, they can’t have caught up with us that quickly, not even with BA’s driving.”
BA turned and scowled at Face.
“BA if you wouldn’t mind dropping me off at the Royal Plaza apartments, I need to collect my Vette so I can go pick up Cat.”
“Don’t make it too late a night Lieutenant, we’re meeting a client tomorrow. Possible protection racquet at a dozen or so charities in Sacramento, and don’t forget you’ve got to pick up Murdock, I need his input into possible air support.”
“Come on guys, can’t you collect Murdock and fill me in on the details of the case later? You know they’re going to start recognizing me at the VA soon, I only picked him up from there a week ago.”
“Lieutenant .” Hannibal turned and barked at Face.
“Okay, okay, I’ll pick Murdock up tomorrow and meet you guys at 11.00 at Mr. Lee’s.” Face said as the van pulled up outside the Royal Plaza and he got out.
“Make that 10.00 Lieutenant and watch out for the military, they could still be hanging around the VA.” Hannibal shouted out the window to Face, as he walked away. Face waved his acknowledgement as they drove off.
The Priest had been considering his predicament for some time. He knew Face had shown little bitterness towards his situation, neither from being abandoned nor from what happened to him during and after the war, but the Priest knew that he longed for a family, to find out where he came from. He also believed that he was scared of being rejected again, so he chose to live in ignorance and protect himself. It was strange considering how brave he was in other ways, but the Priest knew that with affairs of the heart, even the strongest man can turn into the weakest child.
He hoped it really was from Face’s uncle. He was the closest thing Face had to a father and he took his responsibilities seriously. He cared for Face and didn’t want to cause him any more pain and certainly didn’t want to be the one responsible for his re-capture or that of the rest of the Team. However he also didn’t want to withhold the information and deny him the chance of finding his family.
He finally made up his mind. In the end, it was not his decision and he knew had had to step away from trying to protect him. It was Face’s life and Face’s decision. The Priest immediately rang him and arranged to meet the day after next at Trails Café in Griffiths Park, Northeast of Hollywood.
The Priest set out earlier than needed. He intended to take a gentle stroll to the park. It was a beautiful autumnal day and it would be a pleasant couple of miles walk. It also meant that he could more easily check whether he was being followed. He walked into the busy café and found Face sitting in one of the window seats, overlooking the tranquil lake. He was reading the LA Times and drinking a Cappuccino. Face looked up and smiled warmly when he saw the Priest. Returning the smile, the priest went over to where his former charge was seated.
The next 30 minutes were spent pleasantly catching up on each other’s news, in Face’s case, a censored version of his news. He didn’t think the Father would appreciate knowing all the sordid details of his love life. Although Father Maghill was listening, Face thought he appeared a little preoccupied. He stood up and went to buy himself and the Father another coffee. When he returned he noticed the Fathers face suddenly serious.
“I have a confession to make Templeton.” The Father stated earnestly.
Face handed him the coffee before returning to his chair opposite.
“Well that makes a change.” Face joked nervously. “Although I’m not sure I exactly have the right connections to offer you absolution.”
The Fathers face however remained serious.
“I won’t put this off any longer.” The Priest stated.
Face looked worriedly at the Father, concerned that something was wrong with the Priest. The Father pulled a folded letter from his inside jacket pocket.
“The reason I so urgently wanted to see you was that I received this letter a couple of days ago from someone claiming to be your uncle.”
The Priest handed the letter to Face who took it from him but didn’t look at it, instead focusing intently on what the Priest was saying.
“He claims that he had recently received some information that has allowed him to narrow down his search to orphanages in LA. He’s written to them all seeking information on your whereabouts.”
The Priest looked at Face trying to assess how he had taken the news. Face’s expression was a mix of intrigue and bewilderment. The Priest continued. “I’d have thought it a con, but for the fact that he was asking after Richard Bancroft and not Templeton Peck.” The Priest could see that Face was still bemused. “Maybe you should take a look at the letter, see what you think.” The Father continued, trying to force Face out of his reverie.
Face looked down at the letter and slowly opened it up. He began reading. The Priest kept his eyes on Face the whole time, searching for any flicker of emotion, but Face had been taught by experience and training to hide his true feelings and so anyone passing by the café at that particular moment, wouldn’t have been able to tell if he was reading a love letter or a bank statement. After several silent minutes Face looked up.
“Samantha.” He said.
“Sorry?” The Priest replied.
“My mothers’ name was Samantha.” Face expanded, his voice barely above a whisper. “I never even knew her name.”
The priest sensed the raw emotion in Face’s words, although his expression remained indifferent.
“Templeton, please be careful. I would hate for you to get hurt. You know it may not be genuine.”
Face was once again lost in his revere, seemingly absorbed in the shock of the information he had received.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have told you.” The priest said anxiously. “I should have done my own research first to make sure it was genuine. It’s just that I thought you should know, in case the military or someone else was after you. Templeton, promise me you’ll be careful, that you’ll look into this before taking it further.”
Face realized he’d let himself get carried away and chastised himself.
“You were right to let me know Father, it’s all come as a bit of a shock, that’s all. You’re right, it probably is a set-up. The military are capable of anything when it comes to recapturing us. I promise I’ll check it out before I do anything.”
Face eventually returned to his apartment, still unsure as to what to make of Father Maghill’s revelation. He knew he’d let his emotions get the better of him at the café. Experience should have taught him what the military were capable of. But there was something gnawing away at him, something making him believe it might possibly be true. He decided he needed to speak to the others about it as soon as possible. He was due to meet them in an hour to discuss the plan for their latest case. He’d mention it to them after that.
The Team met at the rented warehouse by the docks and for the next couple of hours discussed the case. They planned on heading to Sacramento in ten days time, after they’d done further research and had an update from their clients. Face was tasked with organizing accommodation and air support and setting up a fake-charity. BA with researching the charity industry and funding sources. Murdock with speaking to Amy to get more information on known protection racquets in California and Hannibal with planning the actual scam and subsequent attack.
“Right, I think that’s it guys. We’ll meet same time tomorrow to discuss what we’ve got so far. Phone in time is 6pm tonight as I’ve got an audition later this evening with a Producer for the role of Kingzilla, ‘King of the sea’. It’s got my name written all over it.” Hannibal said cheerfully.
“It’s got ‘straight to video’ written all over it.” BA replied.
Ignoring BA’s comment, Hannibal turned to Face, who seemed miles away.
“Face, wasn’t there something you wanted to discuss with us?”
Face was immediately brought out of his distraction. “Yer, I just wanted your opinion on how I should deal with something.” He replied. “You know I met up with Father Maghill this morning, well he gave me a letter, allegedly from my maternal uncle, wanting to get in touch with me. He knew I was born Richard Bancroft and that I was left at the orphanage when I was five. I’m not sure what to make of it.”
“Wow, that’s great Face.” Murdock said gleefully.
“Yer Man. Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted?” BA added.
Hannibal remained silent.
“The thing is, I don’t know if it’s a set-up or for real. No one really knew me as Richard, but I guess if they did enough research the military could have put two and two together.”
“I think you’re right to be wary Face.” Hannibal finally said. “We know the military have stepped up their efforts to find us after the murder charge and our escape from Stockwell, even now that he’s dead. They could be attempting more subtle ways to get us than chasing us around the country.”
“Yes, I know.” Face answered disappointedly. Deep down he was hoping they would all counter his concerns and reason with him that it must be genuine, but he knew realistically that it was likely to be a set-up. He also knew that he had to find out for certain. If there was even the slightest chance it really was from his uncle, he couldn’t let the opportunity go, not after all these years of knowing nothing.
Hannibal pulled him away from his thoughts.
“Why don’t you pass the details to Amy, see if she can do some research into your uncle. What’s his name?”
“Alan Hardcastle.” Face replied.
“Into Alan Hardcastle. If it all checks out maybe you can arrange to meet him. We can be there as back-up.”
“Sounds like a sensible plan.” Face said stoically.
Hannibal sensed Face’s disappointment.
“Face, if it’s for real, I couldn’t be more pleased for you, but I can’t let you walk straight into a trap. If they capture you, that’s it, you’ve been sentenced to death. They’re not going to allow you even the slightest opportunity to escape and they’re not going to let us within 100 miles of you.”
“I know Hannibal.” Face replied. “I just wish it wasn’t so difficult sometimes.”
The two men joined Gregory in his study. McLean shut the sturdy oak door to ensure none of the household staff would overhear their conversation. The room was wood paneled, with an antique Victorian Mahogany desk and chair in the far corner and three leather chairs in the middle of the room. The two visitors made their way to the armchairs whilst Gregory remained standing.
“My contacts indicate that Irwin will be making a statement to reporters in the next few days. How close are we to locating Sergeant Deakin or Thompson’s secretary?” Gregory asked in his haughty southern accent.
“We’ve checked out Deakin‘s relatives. His parents died years ago and he had no siblings. We know he must have changed his name, so we can’t get to his wife or kids, if he has any. My men think they may have a lead for him in Pennsylvania and are checking it out. As for the secretary, I have my best man working on it now. No trace of her but he thinks he’s near to getting someone close to her. It’s not the best source, may even be a dead end, but it’s as much as we’ve got at the moment.” Jackson replied.
“Good work Jackson. And there’s no sign of the police or Irwin being close to locating these people or the document, McLean?” Gregory asked the third gentleman in the room.
“No. Luckily the FBI don’t seem to be putting their top resources into it. They’ve put two no-hopers on the case. A Lieutenant Heath who’s been with them since the time of the dinosaur and who’s managed to have an extraordinarily undistinguished career. They always put him on the ‘not really bothered if solved or not’ investigations. He’s working alongside a Sergeant Austin, who was demoted last year for nearly getting his partner killed and who, according to my sources, they’re just waiting for an excuse to kick out.”
“Well this is looking far more promising gentleman. Report back to me when you have an update from your end Jackson.” Gregory stated before dismissing Jackson from the room.
The two other gentlemen remained.
“What do you think McLean? Do you think we can trust Jackson to sort this out?” Gregory asked.
“He’s hired Joseph Jenkins. I know Jenkins’ work. He’s a good choice. He’ll do what ever it takes to get the job done and make sure nothing is left behind afterwards. We can’t afford for there to be any link with us Abe and if it means a few people have to ‘disappear’ along the way, then that’s just an unfortunate consequence.”
Amy had been in touch with some of her contacts to research Alan Hardcastle. The information she’d got back was limited, but she’d found out that he was a retired airline pilot who’d worked in Western Europe for 5 years and Africa for the last 30 years. He’d returned home to Maine about 9 months ago with his South African Doctor wife and his sixteen year old son. He also had a married daughter, who still lived abroad. Nothing strange came out of the research and there didn’t appear to be any connection with the military. Amy also looked through the archives of local newspapers in Maine, to see if she could find anything else. She found just one article with Alan’s name mentioned.
She met up with Face at a diner in the center of LA a couple of days later.
“It all looks pretty normal Face. According to the data he’s just your average, if well-traveled, Joe. There’s no obvious connection with the military and being out the country for the last 35 years would account for why he’s only just tried to get in touch, but it also means that we’ve got a lot of missing history for him. My contacts in Africa won’t be able to look into it in any depth for a few weeks as there’s a civil war kicking off over there again.”
“Thanks for all your help Amy. I owe you dinner.” Face replied.
“I really hope this works out for you Face. Let me know if you need anything else.”
She got up to leave.
“Oh, I almost forgot. There’s one more thing. I looked through the archives of a few local newspaper to see if there was anymore information. I only found one article. I thought you should see it.” Amy opened her bag and pulled out a folded copy of the article, handing it to Face. “I’ve got to rush. I’ve got a story to cover in Washington, but if you want to talk, call me.” She said before leaving.
Face opened up the paper to read the article, dated 1 September 1953:
Local college student, Alan Hardcastle (19) is trying to locate his sister, Samantha Bancroft, who disappeared 2 months ago. He would like to hear from any friends who may have heard from her recently or anyone who may have information on her whereabouts. Samantha is 24 years old, 164cm, of slender build with long light brown hair. She also has a 5 year old son called Richard who also hasn’t been seen since her disappearance. If you have any information on the whereabouts of either Samantha or Richard, please contact the paper.
More confused than ever, Face folded the paper and placed it in his jacket pocket, before paying the bill and leaving.
Amy was mid-way over America on her way to Washington DC, reading over the research notes she’d made on the case she was covering. Sometimes she wished she were back in the hustle and bustle of being a lowly reporter. Having to get out and find the stories. Obviously being involved in the A-Team had helped and had led to her achieving the position of Chief Political Editor for the LA Times, but covering stories like this, involving illegal gold mining, just didn’t get her going. Maybe it was because every newspaper and TV station in the country was covering it. To her, being a Reporter was about uncovering your own stories, finding and breaking the news, not just reporting on someone else’s. She just hoped she could find a unique angle to make the trip worthwhile.
Face met up with the others at his apartment later that day and updated them with the information Amy had managed to obtain on Alan.
Murdock studied Face for a few moments. “Well it sounds plausible. So why you looking like you’ve just heard his the love child of Charles Manson?”
“She also gave me a news article which states that my mother disappeared shortly before leaving me at the orphanage. Alan put a notice in the local paper asking for information on our whereabouts.” Face handed Murdock the paper. “It makes no sense. Why would she just disappear and if she was going to disappear, why didn’t she leave me with Alan or other family or friends? Why take me with her and then leave me at a random orphanage in LA, thousands of miles from her family and friends, where no one would ever find me?”
“It does sound odd, but there must be an explanation.” Hannibal reasoned.
“Maybe she was mad like Murdock.” BA unhelpfully added.
“Yes, thanks BA.” Face responded sarcastically. “I’m sure that if she was mad, as you so tactfully put it, the authorities would have been involved. They’re not likely to let an insane women wander the streets with a five year old boy in tow.”
“Well I guess there’s one way to find out.” Hannibal stated, pointing at the phone.
Face had sent the others from his apartment while he made the call. He was nervous enough as it was without the three of them listening in. He’d allowed BA to set up the phone so that it couldn’t be traced back to the apartment, before ordering them all out.
Face nervously rang the number at the top of the letter. This was his fourth attempt at calling, he’d lost his nerve the previous times. He pressed the last digit down and held his breath. The phone rang out several times before eventually being picked up.
“Hello.” A man answered, in a mild American accent.
“Hi, I was hoping to speak with Alan Hardcastle.” Face said nervously, barely able to get his words out.
“Yes, this is Alan. How can I help you?”
Face’s mouth went dry, he couldn’t think of anything to say. ‘Great Con Man I am’ he thought.
“Can I help you?” The man asked again.
“Yes, sorry.” Face was in two minds as to whether to put the phone down. He’d done without his family so far, why did he need them now?
“Are you still there?” The man on the other end of the phone asked.
Face remained silent, cursing himself for being so stupid. He was about to put the phone down, when the other man spoke again.
“Richard, is that you?” Excitement creeping into his voice.
Face took a sip of water and finally found his voice, relieved that he wouldn’t have to explain who he was.
“Yes, it’s Richard.”
“Richard. Oh God, you don’t know how happy I am you’ve called.”
Face felt his cheeks flush at the enthusiasm of his uncle.
“I thought I’d never find you. I can’t believe it’s you. How are you?”
“Good.” Was all Face had chance to say, before his uncle spoke again.
“I can’t believe you’ve rung. You must have so many questions.”
Face remained silent. He couldn’t think of one question. He felt out of his depth. What could he possibly offer them? They had their own lives, knowing him wouldn’t do them any good, in fact it would probably do the opposite.
“I’m sorry Alan, I’ve made a mistake. I should never have contacted you.” Face suddenly said.
“Please Richard, don’t put the phone down.” His uncle implored. “I know this must be difficult after all these years and I really don’t want to cause you any distress. Please just give me a chance. If nothing else you deserve an explanation as to what happened when you were a child. If you decide after that, that you don’t want to see me again, I’ll understand.”
Face wondered whether he could pass up the opportunity to know why his parents and family deserted him. Even if he didn’t like what he heard, at least he’d know and could start dealing with it. At the moment it was a complete blank. Knowing anything must be better than knowing nothing, didn’t it?
“Please Richard.” Alan pleaded again.
“Okay.” Face hesitantly replied.
Alan hastily made plans with Face, before he had chance to change his mind. He would fly to LA in a few day’s time to meet up with him. When Face eventually put the phone down, he collapsed into the seat next to the phone, thinking through the conversation. Alan had certainly seemed pleased to hear from him and knew exactly what to say to pique his interest. He supposed that it would do no harm to meet up with him. It wasn’t like he had any attachment to him. If he didn’t like him after the meeting or changed his mind, he could just walk away, no worse off than before.
Amy was standing in a huddle of reporters outside the Metropolitan Police Headquarters all trying to get their dictaphone’s and microphones as close as possible to the retired General. A reporter from ABC was the first to ask a question.
“General Irwin. You’ve accused the Government and army of some very serious crimes. What evidence have you got to substantiate these claims?”
“I will not be providing any statements at this stage, except to say that I know evidence exists which will prove that I acted with the full support of the Government of the time. There are people working 24/7 to uncover the evidence which will fully support me, but, as I am sure you’ll appreciate, other people would wish the information to remain hidden from public view.”
“Can you provide us with the names of anyone in the Government involved in this scandal?” A second reporter asked.
“I have no further comment at this time.” The General replied, before being ushered into a waiting car.
Jackson had arrived at Gregory’s office in the early afternoon to update him and McLean on the progress of their search.
“He should be with us next week gentlemen. And then my men should be able to get the information within a few days. I have my top man working on it and he’s never failed me before.” Jackson stated enthusiastically.
Jackson wanted, no needed, to get these documents. It was also imperative that he pleased the Senator if he was to have any chance in keeping the lifestyle he and his family had become so accustomed to. Gregory’s days of having influence and power in US society were coming to an end, McLean’s were just beginning.
“Well done Jackson.” Gregory stated, raising his glass to him.
“Yes, well done.” McLean echoed. If things went to plan, McLean thought, this could kill two birds with one stone. And he wouldn’t even need to get his hands dirty.
Three Days Later
“Right, I’m ready guys. Lets get going.” Face said casually, as he joined the others in BA‘s van.
They all knew that Face was a good con artist, but they didn’t realize he was so good at conning himself. Face had changed his mind about meeting his uncle at least twenty times since their initial telephone conversation. They had all tried to persuade him that it was too soon to meet and they needed to do more checks, but the manner of Alan’s greeting and his assertion that he would make known to Face the reason he was abandoned, had finally convinced him to go ahead with the meeting. Hannibal had reluctantly agreed on the proviso that the rest of the Team went as back-up. Hannibal knew Face would likely go ahead with the meeting with or without his backing. At least with the rest of the team there, Face had some protection.
Face had arranged to meet Alan at a Coffee Bar in Santa Monica. It was one of Hannibal’s favorite places to meet prospective clients. They had a rented office opposite, which allowed them full view of the café and road outside. There was easy access to the back alley via the men’s toilets and kitchen and the place was crowded pretty much all day, meaning the military or anyone else after them wouldn’t risk making a scene in there. ‘One of Face’s better finds’ Hannibal thought to himself as they drove off.
“Okay, now let’s run over this one more time. Murdock, you’ll go in as soon as we arrive and find a seat with a good view of our usual table. Henry’s promised to reserve it for us. Face did you tell Murdock how he’d recognize Alan?” Hannibal asked.
“Yer, he’ll be wearing a blue Portland Trailblazers sweater and black slacks” Face said.
“When Alan arrives, keep your eyes open for anything or anyone unusual. I’ll be positioned in our office and will let you know if I see anything suspicious. Face, you go in on my command and BA you stay in the back alley with the van, in case Face and Murdock need a hasty retreat.”
“Hannibal, you make it sound like a foregone conclusion that it’s a set-up.” Face said exasperated.
“I’m just covering all our bases, Lieutenant.” Hannibal replied firmly. “We either do it my way, or we don’t do it at all.”
Alan was due to arrive at 15.30, but turned up 5 minutes early. Murdock winked at Henry who, as instructed, sat Alan at the reserved table. Murdock would have recognized Alan straight away, even without the description he’d received. He had the same features as Face, the same strong jaw line and the same piercing blue eyes. His hair was darker than Face’s and his face more rounded and rugged, but despite being in his late 50’s, he still made heads turn when he walked in the coffee bar. ‘Face definitely takes after his uncle’ Murdock thought.
Having been given the go ahead by Hannibal, Face took a few minutes to compose himself before making his way over to the cafe. Through the window he looked over to the reserved table and looked at the occupant nervously studying their watch. This was his uncle. This was the first relative he’d seen in 35 years. The thought overwhelmed him. Although he hated to admit it, he didn’t think he could deal with his family rejecting him again. He suddenly realized he couldn’t go through with it. He was turning to go when Alan noticed him and waved, beckoning him in, a broad smile on his face. Face took a deep breath. ‘Fight or flight?’ he thought. Well he‘d never been a quitter before. He nervously smiled back, before making his way into the cafe.
“I’d have recognized you anywhere.” Alan warmly greeted him.
Face shook his hand before taking a seat. They ordered coffee as Alan began the difficult but necessary task of belatedly establishing a relationship with the man opposite him.
Murdock discretely kept his eye and ear on what was going on. Alan was chatting away effusively, while Face appeared to be listening intently, allowing Alan to do almost all of the talking. After an hour, both men stood up and left the Cafe. Murdock stayed where he was, having one more task to complete before leaving.
“I really hope you’ll be able to join us in Portland soon Richard. Carol and James would love to meet you and I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with information today. You will definitely call me soon?” Alan almost implored, as they stood outside the cafe.
“I promise I’ll call.” Face replied smiling. “We have a job to do in northern California, but when I’m back, maybe we could meet up again.”
“Have you got a number I can take, just in case you forget to call?” Alan asked, grinning uneasily.
“I’m on the move a lot, so it’s best if I give you my cell phone number.” Face replied, handing him a business card, he‘d had specially made. “It’s a shame you couldn’t stay longer. It’s a long way to come for just a few hours.”
“Oh, it’s no problem Richard, I got to see some of the sights this morning. I’m just sorry Carol’s got this damn medical conference in New York to attend, otherwise I would have stayed longer.”
Face hailed a cab for Alan and they shook hands before saying their goodbyes.
Murdock walked up to Face and Alan’s table. “Don’t mind if I take this do you Henry?” He asked, picking up Alan’s cup.
“Is there any point in me asking why you want to take my crockery with you Murdock?” Henry replied in mock annoyance.
“We’re just doing an experiment at the VA on fungus growth at eateries.” Murdock responded with a grin.
“If you could say that a little louder Murdock, maybe you could get rid of all my customers and then you can take all the cups you like, I’ll even throw in the saucers for free.” Henry replied, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. “Just take it.” He added, smiling at Murdock.
Murdock placed the cup in a polythene bag, before leaving via the kitchen.
Murdock came bounding into the van. “I’ve gotta get this cup hidden before Face comes. He won’t be too impressed if he finds were getting Maggie to do a DNA test on his uncle.”
“Yer, well hopefully he’ll never have to know. Anyway Hannibal thinks it’s worth the risk. Said ‘he can’t have the freedom of the team compromised because Face is desperate for a family‘.” BA replied, quoting Hannibal verbatim.
They both knew that Hannibal was doing this as much to protect Face from being hurt than to protect the Team, but he’d never admit it, probably not even to himself.
“Well I don’t know why we’re bothering. If you imagine what Face will look like in about 20 years time, that’s Alan.” Murdock stated.
”Did they get on okay?” BA asked.
“Seemed to. They were both a little nervous to begin with, but Alan seemed genuinely interested in making up for lost time and having Face back in the family. He kept trying to persuade him to visit them later in the week, so he could introduce him to his wife and son and tell him everything he wanted to know about why he was left and why Alan hadn’t got in touch before. Was quite persistent at one stage, but Face managed to put him off.”
“Hannibal ain’t gonna like that. He’s lucky he let him come today.”
“Yer, well you try and stop Face doing what he wants. He’s more stubborn than Hannibal sometimes. I think we’re all gonna have to tread carefully with this one Big Guy.”
Alan called the number as soon as the taxi had turned the corner and Face was out of sight.
“Well?” The man on the other end of the phone greeted.
“He can’t come next week, but he’s promised to call me and arrange something shortly." Alan replied, knowing the recipient of the call was going to be far from impressed with the outcome of the meeting.
“You promised me you’d be able to persuade him to come by next week at the latest. You’re not keeping your side of the bargain Alan. If you’re not careful I may not keep my side and you may find you-know-who face down in a lake very soon. I might even send you a video of his last moments. Would be a bit of keepsake for you and your wife, to go alongside all those sporting trophies he’s won.”
Alan tried to calmly reason with the man.
“Richard said he had a job to do that he couldn’t get out of, but that he would call me as soon as they were done. I even got his cell phone number in case he changed his mind.”
“And why would he change his mind?” The man exclaimed angrily. “You were supposed to be charming him, intriguing him, tempting him with tales of his past, so he’d want to meet you again and learn more.”
“I did. I swear on my life he’ll be coming to visit us within two weeks.” Alan replied, trying to keep his voice low and even so as not to alert the taxi driver.
“I wouldn’t be swearing on your life if I were you Alan, I may take you literally.” The man threatened. “In the meantime it looks like someone will be getting another beating, just to remind you to stay focused, you understand?”
Seconds later he heard a muffled scream in the background, before the phone was cut-off. Alan sighed loudly and closed his eyes briefly, lost in despair.
“Everything all right there?” The taxi driver asked.
“What?” Alan replied abruptly, before forcing himself to calm down. “Oh yes, thank you. It was just my wife anxious to meet a relative she hasn’t seen for a while.” He lied, before losing himself in his troubled thoughts.
END OF PART ONE
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