Face parked his car beside the office and took a deep breath of the fresh morning air as he stepped out. A whiff of coffee wafted from the open door of the office and he guessed that meant Hannibal had already arrived. Face could go straight in there, put his feet up, drink coffee and chat to Hannibal. But he hadn’t arrived dressed in his tracksuit to do that.
He jogged over to the assault course and started warming up with a few stretches. After a while, he noticed Hannibal watching him from the window of the office. Face waved to him, took out and set his stopwatch and grabbed the first rope.
He felt good that morning, almost flew over the course. Being off his feet felt best, swinging on ropes, crawling through tunnels or going hand over hand. Even his least favourite, the twelve-foot climbing wall, came easily.
He landed at the finish, sweating and panting and hit the button on top of the stopwatch as he stumbled to a halt at the end of the zip line. Then he looked at the watch and grinned.
Twenty minutes later, freshly showered, he strolled into the office with a pleased look on his face.
Hannibal sat behind a desk with his feet up on it, reading a newspaper. He nodded to Face.
Face walked to a whiteboard on the wall and picked up the eraser. Carefully he wiped off the numbers 15:47 beside the letters TP and replaced them with 15:36.
“New personal best, huh?” Hannibal said.
Face nodded, trying not to look too smug. He poured a cup of coffee.
“Yep. Less and less chance of any of you catching me now.” He grinned, but then frowned at the entry at the top of the list.
Hannibal saw him scowling at that and chuckled.
“You’re not beating Kahil’s time, Face. Not unless you can somehow become fifteen years younger.”
Face frowned again. Now whose bright idea had it been to invite younger and fitter friends to help them test out the course? Oh yeah, right. His.
He sighed and sat down at his desk. A stack of mail awaited him. Face glanced at Hannibal.
“You know, if you’re going to come in early you could at least do something useful.”
“I made the coffee didn’t I?” Hannibal opened the paper to the sports pages.
Face picked up the stack of mail, started sorting through it.
“Bill. Bill. Bill. Oh, hang on… a booking. Allied Bank wants to send twenty execs on a teambuilding weekend.”
Hannibal folded down his paper and frowned at Face.
“I’m still not sure about all that corporate stuff. I mean, paintball? Come on, Face.”
“Hannibal, it’s the bread and butter. Corporations love sending their guys on teambuilding exercises and they’ll pay silly prices, especially when it’s Colonel Hannibal Smith’s infamous A-Team training them.”
Hannibal ignored Face’s flattery attempts. “We’re doing okay with the bodyguard and security training.”
Face shook his head. “That’s not going to bring in enough money for us to upgrade the accommodation and catering.”
Hannibal frowned. “Face, you said we have to upgrade those to attract the corporate crowd, and now you’re saying we have to attract the corporate crowd so we can upgrade those?”
“It’s… complicated, Hannibal. You just leave that stuff to me. You know I’m the financial expert around here.”
Hannibal snorted and unfolded the paper again, hiding his face behind it. Face sighed and turned back to opening the mail.
Hannibal just didn’t appreciate the subtleties of the business world. Still, Face had to give him credit for the idea for this place.
Seven months ago, in the hills, north west of LA, the team had opened a training facility. Shooting range, driving circuit, two assault courses – the short one Face had done that morning, the other, longer, tougher, going in a circuit around the edges of their land, a gym and dojo for unarmed combat training. Even an area for explosives training, though not just anyone got to book on that.
Some of their customers were bodyguards and security guards. Not security guards like those found at a mall, but men who provided security to business people who had to travel to dangerous places abroad.
The team tried to filter out any obvious mercenaries or anyone just plain nuts, but Face feared a few dodgy characters slipped though. So he’d become keen to build a more respectable client base and had introduced the corporate teambuilding courses.
Hannibal had agreed to the courses, but he didn’t like it. His face became a picture of frozen control when he had to get some accountant or marketing exec to haul his ass over the climbing wall. Face had heard him muttering under his breath about “tourists in safety harnesses.”
Not that Hannibal wanted to train nuts and mercs, but being part of the “leisure industry” hadn’t been part of his plan. Face considered it unavoidable. The facility had done okay in its first six months, and had already established a reputation among the more serious clientele. But there just weren’t enough of those people to pay the bills. They needed a steady reliable income for this business to have a real future.
And not just the business, but also the team. They had to find something. After Albania, they had all faced up to the inevitable, that the old days had gone. But they needed something where they could still be a team. They all said they didn’t want to lose that. Face went further, in his own mind at least. Further from “didn’t want to lose” to “couldn’t lose”.
They both glanced up at the sound of a car door slamming. In a moment, BA came in, carrying a box of donuts. He dumped them beside the coffee maker.
“Morning, guys. I been thinking.” He grabbed a quart of milk from the fridge and poured a glass. “We should do some kind of free course for my kids at the youth centre. For the teens, I mean. Get them outta the city for a couple of days, give ’em some fresh air and teach ’em some discipline.”
“Kids?” Hannibal said, going to the coffee machine to start a fresh pot. He sighed, shook his head and took a donut from the box.
“Free?” Face said. BA glared at him. “Ah, yeah, sounds good, BA,” Face said, smiling. “We’ll think about that. Hmm, free courses for deprived kids, charitable, tax deductible. I could work it.”
BA sat at his desk and started eating donuts. Face went on opening mail.
“Fool coming in today?”
“Yeah, be here lunchtime he said. He’s got –” Face gasped as he read the letter he’d just opened.
BA glanced up at him, Hannibal turned from the coffee machine.
“Face, what’s wrong?” Hannibal asked. “What’s that?” He nodded at the letter.
Face held it up.
“An eviction notice.”
Murdock, sitting by the coffee shop window, saw Face weaving through the throng of office workers pouring out of the buildings on their way home. Murdock waved and Face spotted him, waved back and came into the shop. He flopped into the armchair opposite Murdock.
“You been waiting long?”
Murdock waved at the three big coffee mugs on the table.
“‘s okay, I’ve got a book and the barista is cute. What did you find out?”
“Well for one thing that I may need reading glasses.” Face rubbed his eyes. “God my head is pounding.”
“Should have let me come with you to do some of the research.”
“You’re still banned from the hall of records, and I’m not smuggling you in. Go get me a coffee.”
Murdock shrugged and went to the counter. Those people at the hall of records had no sense of humour. Three month ban indeed. He ordered a cappuccino for Face and perused the menu board for a while, before ordering a skinny decaf caramel macchiato for himself. One day he’d work his way through that whole menu and try every different variation and combination they could make.
As he waited for the drinks, he recalled bringing Hannibal here and buying him a white hot chocolate with whipped cream. Hannibal had looked at Murdock bemused, asked if this was a drink or a dessert, then demanded a spoon.
Murdock smiled at the cute, and much too young for him, barista as she placed the drinks on the bar. She smiled back at him and he wondered if he should leave his number when he left. He rejoined Face, who’d retrieved a folder of documents from his briefcase.
“Come on then, spill it. Who’s trying to evict us?”
“Well it wasn’t easy trying to find out who really owns the land. The owner on record is the land management company we deal with. But that’s owned by a holding company and that’s owned by another –”
“Etcetera, etcetera,” Murdock said. “But you peeled that onion didn’t ya, Face?”
“Yes, and guess what’s in the middle of it.” Face held up a photocopied document. Murdock read the letterhead.
“Winthrop, Webster and Farrell Corp.” He looked at Face. “Our Farrell, right? Charles?”
“Well, his family, yes. Murdock, the guy is a nut. He bought up the land management company, via a chain of other companies, three months after we moved in.”
“He bought a whole bunch of companies just so he could throw us off one little bitty piece of land? Wow.” Murdock grinned. “I think I’m flattered.”
Face scowled, apparently not flattered. “I told you, Farrell’s a nut, he’s obsessed with making life difficult for us. For me.”
Murdock shrugged, thinking Face took too much of the blame onto himself. Yeah, he’d been the one in command in the field when Farrell’s fellow agent and best friend, Dan Collins, had been killed in action. But Hannibal had been in charge of the whole organisation. Murdock felt sure Farrell blamed Hannibal just as much. He sighed. Not their finest hour.
“What’s got into him, do you think?” Murdock asked. “I mean he’s always held a grudge, we know that. But it’s like he’s suddenly got a real bee in his bonnet about it.”
“I don’t know. I guess he just can’t forget it.” Face winced. He hadn’t forgotten it either, Murdock knew. He’d been standing close enough to be hit by blood and brain matter. Murdock hadn’t been that close, and he’d shut his eyes when it happened. But he’d never lose the memory of the shot. Or of Farrell shrieking “Dan!” Over and over and over.
Face sighed and sat back in his armchair, rubbing his eyes again. Murdock looked at him concerned.
“You look tired. You sleeping okay?”
“Never mind that, what are we going to do about this?” Face took a big gulp of coffee. Murdock sipped the foam and caramel syrup topping his drink.
“Didn’t Farrell just get married about six months ago?” Murdock said. “You’d think he’d have better things to do than scheme against us.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively, but Face remained gloomy. “Remind me again why we decided to lease the land instead of buying it. I mean, well yeah, we’d have a mortgage someone could foreclose on. But I don’t think even Farrell could buy an actual bank just to get at us.”
“Murdock,” Face said. “We went over all this, I explained it in detail.”
“Um, let’s pretend I wasn’t paying attention.” Murdock grinned sheepishly and fiddled with a spoon.
“I was talking about your money and you weren’t paying attention? We took a vote.”
“Hey, I trust you, Face, you’re our money guy.”
“Yeah.” Face grimaced. “I thought I was. Listen, we decided to take a periodic lease, so we could use our capital to build the actual facilities. The rent is small. The land isn’t appreciating in value, so we wouldn’t make any capital gain by owning it. And if the business didn’t take off we’d have trouble reselling it.”
Murdock nodded. True, the land wasn’t anything special, scrubby and barren and inaccessible. Perfect for them, but nobody would want to build condos there.
“And rent is expenses,” Face went on, hitting his stride, “so for tax purposes can be set off against…”
Murdock started to feel glad he’d drunk so much coffee. His mind and his eyes wandered to the barista again. Her name badge read ‘Ilsa’. If he left his number, she’d laugh at him as an old fool. He’d given out his number a few times the last couple of months. And always to women who were too young, or otherwise out of his league. To the ones he knew wouldn’t actually call, wouldn’t actually want anything from him. Seeing the track his thoughts had started heading down he quickly suppressed them and turned back towards Face. He tapped a spoon against the side of his cup to bring the lecture to a halt.
“Right, that all sounds good to me, Face. You sure you’ve not been taking financial advice from Dash Goldman again?”
“Kidding.” Murdock said, raising his hands as Face scowled at him. “Well I guess we get our lawyer working on it. Either that or…”
“Well, we’re a little business being crushed by a big corporation and there’s no-one else who can help. Maybe we need to hire the A-Team.” He grinned. Face rolled his eyes.
“I’ve hired the A-Team before. And I really don’t think I got good value for money then.”
“Yeah, but Face, I really don’t think you paid us then.” He smiled, feeling nostalgic. “If only it could be like the good old days. Bust in toting automatic weapons and punch out a few security guards.” He sighed. “Happy times.”
“Well we can’t do that any more.”
“We should sic Frankie on Farrell again,” Murdock said. “He blackmailed a plane and a stack of money out of him last time.”
“Yeah, Frankie learnt the art of persuasion from the best.” Face scowled and stirred his coffee. He went quiet, a thoughtful look in his eyes as he stared into the depths of the cup.
“Face,” Murdock said. “I was just joking about Frankie, you know. Blackmail’s not gonna work twice. And, hell, Frankie’s effects company has had a few setbacks these last few months, which could be a coincidence, but… Look, just promise me you’re not thinking of doing anything dumb.”
Face looked up at Murdock, his face a picture of total innocence.
Workers streamed the opposite way now, into buildings, their new workday starting. Some carried ‘wake me up’ coffee, or ‘skipped breakfast’ muffins. Face stood still, letting them pour past him and read the company name engraved in quite small and tasteful letters on a brass plate beside the imposing entrance.
Winthrop, Webster and Farrell Corp.
Of course the names didn’t need to be in huge letters, their position on the outside of the building said everything anyone needed to know about the people who carried those names. That they were different from the workers back at the coffee shop he’d met Murdock in yesterday, for example, who carried their names on their shirts.
As a boy, Face had always been certain that there’d been a big mix up somewhere and really he should be a name on the building kind of person. When he’d finally discovered this was in fact the truth and he was the son of a rich, if crooked, man, he’d felt as if his life had been some sort of grand joke, a practical joke, to cheat him of the life he should have had and make him a name on his shirt guy instead. Sometimes he wished he’d never found out.
Charles Farrell had been born to the life Templeton Peck dreamed of and had Face hated him from the moment he’d laid eyes on the man. Why, he wondered. Envy perhaps? Or more than that? Yes, he’d always wanted to be part of the ‘name on the building’ set, so why, every time he got in sniffing distance of those people did he fill up with disgust? A disgust shared equally between himself and the people he tried so hard to impress.
Face took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. Time to stop putting it off. He strode, with mock confidence, through the doors, nodding his thanks to the doorman. He’d prefer facing a squad of machine gun toting mercenaries to going in there to get sneered at by rich bastards and he knew it probably wouldn’t make any difference. But he couldn’t call himself much of a man if he didn’t try.
He wanted to finish this nonsense with Farrell, once and for all, wanted him out of their lives. Time to force him to quit sneaking around trying to hurt them with money. If he wanted to take a pop at Face, if that would make him feel better, if that would finish it for him, well then he was welcome to it.
Hell, Face thought, maybe I could persuade him to come up to the training facility and they could have a full on knockdown drag-out in the gym. Sort it out once and for all that way. Just anything but this high finance trickery.
Face walked through the bustling lobby to the marble-topped reception desk. A beautiful girl, perfect hair, perfect nails, perfect clothes and, Face frowned a moment, rather smudged eye make up spoke to him in a voice that trembled.
“Welcome to Winthrop, Webster and Farrell, sir, do you have an appointment?”
“No.” He resisted giving her The Smile and kept his expression stern. “My name is Templeton Peck and I want to see Charles Farrell right away.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” Now her voice really shook, but Face had built up too much of a head of steam to pay any attention to it. “He’s not –”
“Let me make this very clear, miss.” He cut her off, not willing to listen to excuses. “I’m not leaving this building until I see Charles Farrell!”
The receptionist burst into tears.
Yet another perfectly groomed and beautiful young woman ushered Face into an office that looked large enough to hold their short obstacle course. Face approached the desk by the windows across a pale blue carpet. A tall, broad shouldered man, in his sixties rose to greet him. Despite some extra bulk around the middle, his conservative dark suit fitted to perfection.
“Mr Peck, I’m Thomas Farrell.” He leant across the desk and gave Face a powerful handshake. “Please sit down. I believe you came here to see my son.”
“Yes.” As Thomas sat in the tan leather chair behind his desk Face glanced at the chair Thomas had offered. It appeared identical, except for the fact he could see the seat had been adjusted to be several inches lower than Thomas’s. Face’s mouth twitched in a half smile. Did he look like an idiot? He didn’t sit.
“My son is out of the country on business, Mr Peck, perhaps I can help you instead.”
Face looked at him narrowly, suspicious at once of the polite tone. Thomas looked pale and had dark circles under his eyes. Something’s wrong here, Face thought, certain of it now. The sobbing receptionist in the lobby had been led away by one of her colleagues and another had called the executive floor. Moments later Face was on that floor, in the office of the man who controlled this huge corporation.
Face knew men like this didn’t just let in the riff-raff for a chat. He’d expected to have to make a big scene, to yell and insist. And even then, he’d not expected it to work. He’d thought security would toss him out of the door and had just hoped they’d open the door first. Then at least he could go back and tell Hannibal he’d tried. But now he stood, feeling adrift on a sea of blue carpet.
Face brought his attention back to Thomas. He put his hand on the back of the chair he’d not been fool enough to sit in. The leather was unbelievably soft, but it gave Face an anchor and he clung to that, no longer drifting.
“What’s going on here, Mr Farrell?” Face said. “I know something is. Believe me when I say I learnt long ago to smell trouble.”
Thomas looked at him for a while and picked up a fountain pen from the desk, rolled it between his fingers.
“You’re a mercenary, aren’t you, Mr Peck?”
“Something like that,” Face said, guarded, not liking the word, but not interested in a debate on semantics right now.
Thomas tapped the pen on the desk. “My son is trying to evict you from the land where you have some kind of para-military training camp, I believe.”
More words that Face didn’t really like, but he let them pass. Thomas seems to be working his way to the truth, which apparently didn’t come naturally to him. Face would have to be patient and not get him off track.
“I can’t say I approve of him using company funds to pursue his private vendettas. But Charles has always been…” Thomas broke off, looking at Face closely.
After a moment of this Face started to turn away, his patience grown thin.
“I can see I’m wasting my time here. Our attorney will be in touch.”
“Wait. Mr Peck, please,” Thomas called, a hint of desperation in his voice. A hint he had eliminated by the time Face turned back to him. “I believe we can make some kind of arrangement here, about your land.”
“Really? And what kind of arrangement would that be?”
“A business transaction. I have something you want.” He opened a folder and held up a legal document. “This is the freehold deed for the land where your business is based. I could give this to you.”
Face waited, his arms folded now, poker face on, waiting to hear the price. After a moment Thomas went on
“Charles went to Brazil, three weeks ago, to negotiate a land purchase. One week ago, all contact with him was lost.” He paused and Face heard the paper of the deed rattle, before Thomas put it down and moved his hands out of sight. “He was last seen in a small village on the banks of the Amazon, but the last report we have after that is that he vanished into the jungle.”
“Did someone take him?”
Thomas shook his head. “We don’t know. There are bandits in the area, but they’d have issued a ransom demand by now. He… He’s simply vanished.”
Face frowned. “So, why haven’t I heard anything about this on the news?”
“We preferred –” Thomas began, when his intercom buzzed. He scowled and stabbed the button with one finger.
“I am busy!”
“I’m sorry, sir,” the voice of his secretary came through, sounding apologetic. “But Mrs Farrell is here to see you and you said –”
“Oh. Send her in.” He looked up at Face. “My daughter in law. Please excuse me a moment.” Face nodded then turned around as the door opened and a woman in her late twenties came in. She was good looking, but in a way that suggested a lot of expense and hard work had gone into making her that way, her hair, makeup and nails all perfect. Face recognised that her clothes were the very latest high fashion, but also saw at once that they were maternity wear. She had a small baby bump, which she carried off like a stylish accessory.
“Eleanor,” Thomas said, “please, sit.” Solicitous, he took her arm and led her to the chair Face stood beside. Face stepped back from it. She sank into the chair then dabbed at her eyes with a silk handkerchief, which remained dry.
“Is there any news, Thomas?”
“Nothing so far, I’m afraid.”
She looked up at Face, seeming to notice him for the first time.
“Oh, you’re busy, Thomas.”
“Actually…” Thomas looked at Face.
Oh don’t you dare, Face thought, don’t you dare.
“This is Templeton Peck,” Thomas said. “I’m hiring Mr Peck to find Charles.”
Eleanor looked at Face again. “Oh, I see.” She didn’t appear impressed.
“Mr Farrell,” Face said. “A word.”
He turned and walked out of the room. He waited in the outer office where Thomas’s secretary sat. She stared at him and he tried a smile on her, but got only a nervous look in return. She fingered a pendant she wore. In a moment, Thomas appeared from his office.
“So, you’re hiring me?” Face said. “When did this happen?”
“Mr Peck, Eleanor has been waiting for good news about her husband for a week now.”
“Okay, cut the sob story. Just tell me the deal.” Face felt quite surprised at the snappy tone of his voice. Of course he felt sorry for the woman, but he didn’t like being manipulated.
Thomas narrowed his eyes at Face, but those eyes still held a hint of fear and desperation. Face calmed himself. He needed to keep a cool head now. When he’d come here he’d expected to be on the back foot in the negotiations. He needed to adjust and make sure he took full advantage of the unexpectedly strong position he held.
“Mr Peck, if you go to Brazil and find Charles I will give you the deed to the land. Bring my son back safe and your business will be safe.”
Thomas’s secretary prepared a dossier for Face, with all the information on Charles Farrell’s last known whereabouts. As she handed it over she leaned across her desk and spoke quietly, glancing at the door to her boss’s office. Face had to bend over to hear her whispered words.
“Mr Peck, do you think that you’ll find Charles?”
“I’ll do my best, erm, Miss…”
“Diane, I’m Diane.” She again touched her pendant and her eyes shone. “Please, bring him back safe. I know he upsets some people, I know. But he’s not really like that, he’s just so –”
She broke off as the door to Thomas’s office opened and Eleanor Farrell emerged, once again dabbing her eyes. She nodded to Face and left the office, sniffing daintily. Diane shot her a poisonous look.
“Bitch.” Face heard Diane mutter very softly.
Oh boy, Face thought, just how many women in this office was Farrell seeing on the side? On the way up here, Face had noticed several women who looked strained, worried and even, like the receptionist downstairs, tearful.
This had the potential for an embarrassing scene. Perhaps he’d insist on delivering Farrell right to the offices, just so he got to see it. Not that I should be laughing about it, Face thought, sobering himself. The guy has a pregnant wife waiting for him. That’s not funny at all.
Thomas Farrell came out of the office a moment later and Diane at once tried to look busy typing at her PC.
“You have the information, Mr Peck?”
“Yes. And the appointment. Tomorrow at noon at LAX.”
“All the paperwork you need for your journey will be waiting. I know someone who can push your visa application through overnight.”
“This better be good,” Murdock said as he answered the pounding at his apartment door. “The Borg just took Picard and – oh hey, Face.”
“Quick, sign this.” Face thrust a piece of paper and a pen into Murdock’s hand.
“What is it?” Murdock looked past Face to a man, wearing motorbike leathers, and carrying a crash helmet. Sadly, he wasn’t also carrying a pizza.
“It’s a visa application for entry to Brazil. Are your yellow fever, typhoid and rabies vaccinations up to date?”
Murdock stared at him. Face scowled back.
“Today, please, Murdock!”
“You did something dumb, didn’t you?”
He signed the paper. Face snatched it back and handed it to the man in leathers, who nodded and left at once, putting on his helmet.
“Okay, Face,” Murdock said. “Come on in and tell me why I’m going to Brazil.”
“Not just you, me too.” Face followed Murdock into the apartment. Murdock flopped onto the couch and waved Face to a chair, but Face stayed on his feet.
“It’s about the land.”
“Oh, don’t tell me you went to see Farrell. You know it wasn’t just me told you not to do that. Our lawyer -”
“I tried to see Farrell, but he wasn’t there. He’s in Brazil. He’s missing.”
“Missing?” Murdock said startled. “What’s happened to him?”
“That’s what we’re going to find out. If we bring him back safe and well, his father will hand over the freehold of the land. We’ll be free and clear.” Face smiled. Not his most convincing effort, Murdock thought.
“I hope you got that in writing.”
Face waved his hand, an impatient gesture. “I’m not a fool, Murdock. No offence. The deed is lodged with an independent attorney. He can release it to us when we show up with Farrell. If we come back without him it gets handed back to daddy Farrell.”
“What if Charles is dead?” Murdock asked, seeing one flaw. Face shook his head.
“I don’t think he’s dead.”
“What if he is?”
“Then the corporation keeps the land, but so long as we come back with confirmation, and preferably a body, they won’t evict us.”
“Sounds okay, I guess.” Murdock nodded slowly. “You’re sure Farrell senior won’t try to screw us over.”
“Murdock, he may be a ruthless bastard, but this is his son and heir we’re talking about.”
Murdock nodded again. “You’ve got at least some clue about where Chuck might be? Brazil’s a hell of a big place.”
Face held up a folder. “All in here. But honestly, Murdock, if you ask me, this will be easy.”
“Easy?” A flash of red from the TV distracted Murdock for a second, making him look past Face to see Jean Luc Picard transformed into a Borg. Murdock picked up the remote and turned the TV off.
“I’ll bet he’s just found himself a girl,” Face said, relaxing enough at last to sit down. “And probably some exciting new kind of drink. Ten to one he’s very busy having his wallet emptied in some bar upriver.”
Murdock considered that. “He is kind of uptight. That sort can unravel a bit out in the jungle and go walkabout.”
“Walkabout?” Face frowned.
“Um…” Murdock had picked the word up from Karen Bennett. “Ah, like a sort of vision quest.”
Face snorted. “Double vision more like.”
“And I guess the jungle isn’t exactly full of happy memories for him.” Murdock added. They were both quiet a moment. Not a place full of happy memories for any of them.
“Could he have been kidnapped?” Murdock asked after a while. Face’s explanation seemed a little too glib to Murdock. He wondered if Face really believed it and doubted it. But Face had learnt bluffing from the best.
“No ransom demand so far.”
“Okay, well, if he has been we’ll get him out.” He shook his head. “Geez, Farrell of all people. I wonder what the heck Hannibal will think of that.”
Face at once looked shifty and became seemingly fascinated with his own fingernails. Murdock looked at him narrowly
“I assume you’ve rushed a visa application round to the colonel and the big guy too?”
“No.” Face looked up and then stood. “I think just you and me can handle this. Hannibal hates Farrell, he’d have sent him to jail for shooting Lamba if I’d not –”
“And someone has to stay and run the business while we’re gone. It’s no use saving the place if we lose all our clients.”
“And Hannibal’s been saying for a couple of years now that he needs to take it easy and stay out of the field.”
“Right.” Murdock smiled. “Yeah, he keeps saying it, but it never quite happens does it?”
“I know he’s still in shape, but he’s sixty seven. And he still gets pains from the things that happened in Albania and he’s –”
“We all still get pains. How’s your feet?” He glanced down at Face’s shoes and then back up to his face, wondering when Face would work his way around to the real reason. Face sometimes had to give you a whole bunch of non-reasons before he got to the actual reason. The trick was paying attention until you picked out the real one from the rest.
“My feet are fine. Look, Murdock, Farrell’s father hired me. He never once said the A-Team. He hired me.”
Ah, there it is, Murdock thought.
“So why am I coming along?” he asked.
Face looked at him, his expression serious. Murdock met his eyes.
“You don’t have to come.”
“Hey, quit trying to exclude me!” Murdock said at once, grinning. “You think I’d miss a chance to go to Brazil. The women down there are — oh boy, they are!”
Face rolled his eyes. “Murdock we’re not going to be hanging around on the beaches in Rio.”
“Hey, once we find Farrell and drag him out of wherever he’s getting a cashectomy, we can always come home via Rio. I’m sure Chuck appreciates the glories of the female form as much as we do.”
“You don’t know how right you are,” Face said, chuckling. Then he smiled at Murdock. “Thanks. I really do want you to come with me.”
Murdock stood up and shook Face’s hand.
“I’ve got your back, boss.” He winked at Face. “Now, ‘fess up. The real reason you don’t want Hannibal to come is because Maggie would kill you if anything happened to him.”
Murdock dialled a number from memory and listened to the phone ring. Now how had he ended up with this little job? Ah, yes, because Face was a wuss, plain and simple. Murdock had long suspected it. The phone was answered and Murdock spoke in a rush.
“Hi, BA, me and Face are going to Brazil for a few days, don’t let Hannibal come after us, bye.”
Still, who wasn’t a wuss when it came to BA and the explaining of delicate situations? BA’s voice rumbled down the line like an approaching train.
“You put that phone down, and I’ll come over there and knock you inta Thanksgiving weekend.”
Murdock sighed. A simple “okay, send me a postcard,” had probably been too much to hope for.
Face had said he had to rush off and pack up and make plans and some phone calls and oh, could you ring BA and explain and get him to keep Hannibal from chasing us down there and thanks and he slammed the door behind him. Murdock, left holding the metaphorical baby, had tried the same trick on BA, but BA’s reactions were too quick for him.
“What the heck you talking about, fool?”
Murdock sighed again.
“Charles Farrell’s gone missing down there. His dad offered us the ownership of the training facility’s land in exchange for Face bringing Farrell back.”
“So why ain’t we all goin’?”
Murdock decided that one of Face’s non-reasons would be the most diplomatic option.
“Hey, when you run a business you can’t just rush off out of the country, you know. Someone’s gotta hold down the fort.”
“We got folks booked in for your crazy helicopter flying lessons.” BA pointed out.
Murdock smiled. Some people aspired to fly like HM Murdock. That must mean they were actually crazier than he was. Well they would wait.
“Reschedule ’em for me, would ya, BA?”
“Okay,” BA said, sounding reluctant, but resigned. He paused and Murdock waited. “You sure ’bout this, Murdock? Just the two of you?”
“Sure, we’ve got lots of info about where he was seen last. He’s a blond, six-foot tall, white guy who effortlessly makes fresh enemies everywhere he goes. How hard can he be to track down on the banks of the Amazon?” Murdock could feel BA’s scepticism leaking out of the receiver. Like Face, he eventually had to hint at the real reason. “Look, Face kind of insisted that Big Daddy Farrell hired him, not the team, so he’s the one that has to do it.”
BA went silent again for a while and Murdock waited again.
“Okay,” BA said eventually, the same reluctant but resigned ‘okay’ as before. “I’ll keep Hannibal off your back. And you watch Face’s back.”
“Will do. Thanks, big guy. I know I’m putting you in a tough spot with the colonel.”
“I ain’t scared of Hannibal!” BA protested. Murdock grinned at the outraged tone in his voice. Hannibal just might be the one person in the world that BA was at least a tiny bit afraid of.
“Great! Well, give him my love and see you in a couple of weeks.” He heard BA snort at the “give him my love”.
“Yeah, be careful. And don’t be driving Faceman nuts. An’ make sure he’s got those boots on.”
“Yes, mother,” Murdock said, nodding along to BA’s instructions, his expression serious, despite his teasing words. “Should I make sure he washes behind his ears and doesn’t put beans up his nose too?” He hung up to the reassuring sound of the familiar words.
“Shut up, fool.”