Chapter 1

Face was trying to enjoy their tranquil surroundings. Heaven knows he deserved it. That was one tough case. But they had sent the thugs packing and BA was driving the victims to a safe house in the city. Then he said he was going to drive himself back to LA. BA would do just about anything to avoid flying home. Face grinned to himself. But the grin slowly faded from his tanned features.

What was she doing?

Just across from where they sat a little girl of about twelve was shuffling from one foot to the other just outside the small shack that passed as a steak house. She somehow reminded Face of an abandoned puppy. She watched intently as people came out holding their little cartons of steak pieces and French fries. It was as though she wanted to ask for some food but she didn't dare approach. And so she hovered and watched. Face frowned to himself. Judging by her pretty sailor suit outfit she belonged to someone but she looked so lost. Did she run away from home? In a spare moment she sauntered over to a trash can and lifted the lid to peer inside. That was enough, Face got up from his seat.

"Hi, are you lost?" he asked.

She jumped away from the trash can and let the lid crash to the ground.

"Its ok, I just want to know if you need help."

She shook her head and began backing away.

"No...fine," she mumbled "I'm waiting for my father. Thank you. Good bye. Thank you."

Before he could stop her she turned and ran. Obviously he couldn't give chase but he felt like it. A well spoken kid in a tattered sailor dress with absolutely no street smarts. She was headed for trouble. Face was self centred in nature he had to be to survive but he hated to see someone vulnerable like that.

He watched until she disappeared around a corner and then slowly went back to his seat.

"It's your round Face," Hannibal grinned.

"Relax lieutenant. We're in the middle of no where, sitting in the sunshine about to enjoy some steak and uncle Pablo's famous hot sauce. We may well enjoy it if it doesn't kill us."

Hannibal put a cigar to his lips and fired it up.

Murdock moved the plastic chair towards him with his foot.

"Come on Face, Hannibal's right. When do we ever get a vacation. Nobody knows we're here, relax buddy."

Face sat but didn't look relaxed.

"Did you notice that kid though?"

Hannibal nodded around his cigar.

"She's probably some local urchin." He said.

Murdock had to agree.

"This place isn't exactly sunset boulevard. You offered her help, there's nothing else you can do. She's probably more savvy than you are Faceman."

Face shook his head. "No, I very much doubt that."

"Face, she's run back to her momma and I'm dying of thirst here. Any chance you could release the bats in your wallet and buy us a drink."

Face had to smile. He got up and headed towards the small steak house. Soon large plates of steak, ribs and salad were brought to their table along with three large beers. The guys tucked in and soon ordered another round of steak but this time with onions and pepper sauce. All talk of the girl was soon forgotten as more beers arrived.

~o~

They had booked into a modest set of apartments just in off the beach. They were comfortable but hardly five star. Even if the last case paid out a handsome dividend Hannibal thought it best to keep their accommodation modest. They didn't need to attract attention.

Within three hours Murdock was talking about food again.

"Ya know guys I gotta a hankering for pizza with them little anchovies and pineapple what about you Face guy."

"If you're buying." Face grinned.

But just after Face reached into his pocket and took out his wallet.

"Get me a steak burger Murdock will ye. Tell em go easy on the mustard."

Some minutes later Murdock was heading back to their building with a bag load of food. They didn't have a steak burger, Face would have to make do with a ham burger. Luckily the take out had Hannibal's order of spare ribs and French fries. He could give Face one of the ribs…

Murdock stopped. All of his senses were suddenly on high alert. He squinted as he tried to peer down an alley just to his left. There it was again.

"Get off me,"

Murdock carefully put the food down and walked cautiously over. He had seen too many traps in his time and so he was mindful of every trash can and garbage pile he passed expecting someone to spring out at him. What he didn't expect was a little figure in a sailor suit to smash into him nearly knocking him over. He would have let her run on by only she looked anxious as though she was about to cry. He was about to address her when a man in a cut off tee shirt and white baggy trousers came running towards them. He hadn't expected to see a man standing in the alley with the kid, that slowed him down.

"You got a problem mac?" Murdock asked.

The man put his hands up and began backing off.

"No problem man, she's all yours."

Before Murdock could say anything more the man turned and fled the scene.

"Hay he has my dads credit card…hay wait,"

Murdock took hold of her shoulder before she could run after him.

"I think your dad is gonna have to cancel his credit card honey,"

She threw her hands up and went to sit on a stone stump nearby.

"Now what am I gonna do, my dads mad enough already. He's gonna kill me for this one."

Murdock looked around the deserted alley. He looked at his watch. It was past 11 at night.

"What….what are you doing out here. I don't even feel safe here. Where do you live?"

The girl looked up at him. "Er, yeah. I'd best be going home now," She smiled. "Thanks for your help."

She began moving off trying to look casual, humming a tune as she looked up at the buildings around her. Her sailor suit outfit was not nearly enough to protect her from the chill of the night air.

"I have food," Murdock called after her.

She stopped.

Murdock walked over and took up the bag. He took out Face's hamburger and handed it to her. The paper was off and she took two massive bites.

"Take it easy," Murdock told her.

"Who was that guy chasing you?"

"He told me he could get me a room for the night. All he needed was a credit card. He asked me the number for it and I thought that would be ok….but then he said he wanted to kiss me."

She put a hand up to her face and giggled at that.

Murdock studied her for a minute.

"How old are you?" he asked.

"I'm 12," she answered around a mouth full of burger.

"I think you'd better come with me," he said.

He looked down as she had taken hold of his hand as they walked together.

"What's your name?"

"Vicky Stubing."

She was answering his questions but not volunteering any information he noticed.

"And you live with your dad?"

She just nodded.

"Do you want a milk shake to go with that burger Vicky Stubing?"

She looked up at him and smiled. "Thank you. I'd love one. You're really nice."

Murdock was beginning to realise why Face was so disturbed by this kid. She had no business being out on the streets. She was just lucky she hadn't come to any harm thus far.