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The Politeness of Kings
by Mizhowlinmad (HBF), 2010
Summary: Response to the ATSB Quick Pick "Late." Yet another VA breakoutůbut has Face arrived in time?
Disclaimer: The A-Team belong to SJC and Universal. I'm just borrowing them for a very important date. My apologies to Lewis Carroll on this one.
late early out there." ~Yogi Berra
The traffic gods had it out for him.
So did the weather gods, and the clothing gods, and the automotive gods.
There was the usual queue of drivers honking like a gaggle of angry geese, but there'd been the fog, and the fluky flat tire, and what could only be euphemistically called a wardrobe malfunction.
Face eased his foot off the brake, inched forward a little bit more. He carefully studied his reflection in the rear-view mirror. He looked less like a shark of a defense attorney and more like a nervous CPA. It would have to do.
This one was time-sensitive. They had to be out of L.A. no later than 1400.
The lady in the Pontiac blared her horn. He waved a deferential hand at her, smiled, and moved ahead another three feet. Last thing he needed was a bad case of road rage from a plump, fifty-something cat lady.
His exit loomed. He eased the Vette over, going more than a few miles per hour for the first time in about an hour.
The lights in the dash read 1:16. He'd have to work quickly.
Off the freeway, traffic was almost normal, for L.A. By the time the clock read 1:25, he'd reached the familiar stucco V.A. hospital building. He swung the car into the closest open spot, checked his hair one last time, and grabbed the patent-leather briefcase from the passenger seat. The finishing touch was the dark Ray-Bans. High-priced defense attorneys seemed to like those.
He signed in at the front desk. The receptionist must have been new; she didn't recognize him, but sighed deeply when he flicked a brief smile in her direction. They all did.
So far, so good.
The nurse's station at the front of Murdock's wing was another matter.
Two nurses, a blonde and a tall redhead, neither of whom was new, stood engrossed in conversation.
Be calm. Your hair was shorter and darker last time, and you were dressed as a golf pro, remember? Like they'd really recognize you.
He walked down the corridor like he owned it. At his approach, the duo of nurses (Jen? Pam?) looked up, then down, then up again. They tried not to smile, but didn't quite succeed.
"I'm sorry, Mrů"
"Ainsley. Rex Ainsley. Attorney," he said curtly, producing a business card. "I'm in urgent need of Mr. Murdock. You've been following the Hulce trial, I'm sure?"
The one who might have been Pam giggled nervously. "Yes, of course, butů"
"No buts, Nurse. This man's testimony could be a matter of life and death," Face continued, glancing at his watch for effect. "Judge Andretti has already approved the release. His office sent the paperwork yesterday. Now, since time is strictly of the essence, if you please?"
Maybe-Jen shook her head. "This is patient quiet hour, Mr. Ainsley. The new hospital administrator is pretty serious about it, andů"
Face let out a theatrical sigh and removed the Ray-Bans, staring at maybe-Jen with the full force of his clear blue eyes. "Nurse, are you suggesting that naptime is more important than whether or not my client lives or dies?"
"No, butůMr. Murdock? A witness in the Hulce trial? Isn't that some kind of big mob corruption thing?" Maybe-Pam was skeptical.
Face reached for the deadliest weapon in his arsenal: his dazzling smile. "I'm not at leisure to discuss that now, but," he paused, seeing maybe-Pam and maybe-Jen's visible flushes, "perhaps later? After the trial is over?"
"Sure," they replied in unison.
Maybe-Pam retrieved them from the desk, allowing Face to open the door marked "104."
"Thank you. I'll only take a moment."
Murdock's room was dark. Maybe he was taking a nap. But Face doubted it.
"Murdock?" He privately hated these little games of hide-and-seek. "C'mon, chop chop. We're up against the clock here."
Face spotted his quarry; a pair of Converse hi-tops jutted from underneath the bed. Squatting, Face found himself almost at eye level with Murdock, who wore a pensive expression as he squinted hard at a battered paperback copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
"I'm afraid to ask," groaned Face.
His friend held up one hand, unmoving from his uncomfortable- looking spot on the linoleum. "Faceman, you got any idea about all the good stuff in here?"
"No, but you can tell me all about it on the way," Face murmured, scrambling to retrieve Murdock's effects from the bed. "Let's go. Or don't you want to fly to Isla Caballos?"
Calmly, regally, Murdock extracted himself from beneath the bed, yawned, and marked his place in the book. "Hey, you look like a goomba."
"That's the point. I'm a Mafia defense attorney, and you are the star witness. Got it?" He tossed Murdock's leather jacket and cap at him.
"I like trials. Especially the ones where you get the sentence first, then the verdict," agreed Murdock with a loopy grin, pulling the jacket on over a green t-shirt which read Curiouser and Curiouser.
"Right. Can we get outta here?"
Face grabbed a wheelchair from the nurses' station and brought it inside. As he brought Murdock outside, maybe-Jen came running up, out of breath.
"Mr. Ainsley, that was Judge Andretti's office! It's about Mr. Hulce."
Face felt his heartbeat quicken. "What about him?"
"A heart attack, they think. They found him in the men's room."
It was Murdock who spoke. "Well, we don't wanna be late then, do we?" He slapped the side of the wheelchair. "C'mon, tally-ho, to the courthouse!"
"Butůif he's deadů"
"There's no time to lose. Call me if you need anything!" shouted Face over one shoulder as he scooted Murdock down the corridor.
"Faceman, you're gettin' sloppy." Murdock grinned.
"Would you can it?"
"And you were late."
"Murdock, I saidů"
They reached the Vette.
"Am I really gonna get to fly that pretty Lear you scammed?" The grin was wide and manic, like the Cheshire cat's.
"If we're not late," said Face darkly.
"Fifteen minutes. Better hurry."
As much as he could, Face did.
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