Summary: Face's family just got larger..
It was the last of July when an older lady approached Father O'Malley of St. Mary's Orphanage in Los Angeles, California. "Father O'Malley? My name is Abbie Ross, and I am looking for my nephew, Richard. He would be fourteen years old now. His mother, Samantha, my little sister, was running from an abusive husband, who unfortunately caught her only a few blocks from your orphanage. My sister and her son had only left the bus depot when he caught her. In the ensuing fight, Samantha was killed, and Richard disappeared. I understand you found a small child crying a block away from this orphanage and took him in?"
"Yes, a small boy who we estimated to be five years old. There was a search for his parents by the police, and when they couldn't be found, we took him in. He was so traumatized that he couldn't remember his name, so we gave him one."
"And what is his name, Father?"
"Alvin Brenner. But he goes by the name of Templeton Smith now. Are you sure this boy is your nephew?"
Abbie handed the priest a copy of his birth certificate and a picture of a four-year-old boy with blond hair and blue eyes. "Is this the boy you found?"
It only took Father O'Malley a second to confirm that the boy in the picture was Templeton. "Yes, this is Templeton! If you don't mind me asking, why did it take you so long to look for your nephew?"
"I was living abroad with my husband in Arabia, and traveling back and forth was not feasible. My husband has since died, and I decided to move back home. The first thing I did on returning home was to find my kid sister, and that was when I learned of her death. There was no mention of her son, so I hired an investigator who led me to Los Angeles and to the Bus depot near your orphanage. Do you know where the boy is, Father?
"Yes, I can give you directions…"
"Great," interrupted Abbie, "as the only living relative he has left, I'm going to take him home with me."
"That is going to be difficult, Mrs. Ross. Templeton has been adopted and is happily living with his family," the priest tried to explain. "Many things have happened in Templeton's life since he was found. He ran away from abusive foster parents and joined the army, and he was sent to Vietnam, where he found a team who has become his family."
"You are kidding; Richard would have only been eleven or twelve; how was he able to get into the army?"
"Templeton has the talent of persuasion. As he told it, he used a fake ID and enlistment papers from a boy who was about to be drafted. He told the recruiters that he had a young face and convinced them into taking him."
"Who are these people he is living with now?"
"The A-Team. It is Templeton's former commanding officer, Colonel John Smith, who adopted him when he learned of Templeton's actual age. He knew a fifteen-year-old couldn't live legally without a parent or guardian."
"Templeton lives on the outskirts of Bradbury, California, located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. He lives in a compound that houses their Investigation Agency, On The Jazz investigation. The phone number is
555-303-5299 ask for John Smith. He can give you directions to their home or meet you in Bradbury."
Abbie thanked the priest and left. She was sure that the priest would call ahead and inform her nephew about her. She just hoped that he wouldn't tell him everything; she wanted to do that for herself.
"Thanks for the head's up, Father. I'll be sure to let Face know," Hannibal said before hanging up.
"Who was that Hannibal?"
"Father O'Malley. It seems that Face's aunt is in town and anxious to meet him, HM."
"His aunt? I didn't know Face had any living relatives!"
"Face doesn't either. She is on her way to Bradbury."
"Facey is outside playing with Charlie and Maggie."
Hannibal nodded and went outside. "FACE!"
Face bounded up a few minutes later with Maggie and Charlie. "You want me, Hannibal?"
"Come in; I have something I need to tell you," Hannibal said as he preceded Face into the house and ultimately into the On the Jazz office. "Have a seat, son."
After Face had sat, he looked expectantly at his father. "Face, I just got off the phone with Father O'Malley. A woman had approached him about his finding a small boy crying some fourteen years ago. That boy was you, son, and the woman is your aunt, your mother's sister."
Hannibal watched as many emotions appeared on his son's face before stopping with anger. "Why did it take her so long to find me?" he asked angrily.
"I don't know, son. That is something you can ask her. She is on her way to talk with you. I expect her to call at any moment."
"Will you go with me, Hannibal? I don't want to meet her by myself."
"I won't leave you, son," promised Hannibal just as the phone rang.
Face watched as his father answered the phone and only heard his side of the conversation to know that he was talking to the woman claiming to be his aunt.
"Mrs. Ross, our place is about five minutes out of Bradbury. Just stay on the road, and you should see us. We will be expecting you... goodbye."
It wasn't long before a light blue car pulled up into the drive, and a middle-aged woman got out. Hannibal was at her side to open the door and escort her in.
"Mrs. Ross?" he asked as he extended his hand.
"I'm John Smith, and this young fellow is Templeton. I believe he is your nephew?"
Abbie Ross looked into the troubled eyes of the boy standing next to his father.
"I think so; he has some of his mother's features."
"Let's get in out of the sun and have a long talk," he said as he took her arm and led the way into the house. "Face, tell Mrs. B that we have company. We'll meet you in the living room."
Face nodded and left.
"Face?" Mrs. Ross asked with a puzzled look on her face.
"That's Templeton's nickname. He got it when he was in Vietnam," explained Hannibal.
Abbie Ross followed Hannibal into the living room and sat on the couch. A moment later, Mrs. B arrived with a cold glass of tea and a plate of cookies which she placed on the end table next to Abbie.
Abbie waited until Mrs. B left to get down to business. She turned to Face and said, "Richard, I'm your Aunt Abbie," only to be interrupted by Face.
"My name is not Richard; it's Templeton or Face," he said rudely.
"FACE! Apologize at once," ordered Hannibal.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Ross, but this is all too strange for the boy." Hannibal hastened to apologize.
Abbie took a breath before continuing, "Templeton, I'm your Aunt Abbie. Your mother was my younger sister. I know you are wondering why I didn't seek you out sooner, but I have been living abroad for the last fifteen years with my husband. I returned after his death only to discover that my sister was dead and you were nowhere to be found. I hired a private investigator who learned what happened to her and what might have happened to you. You and your mother were running from an abusive relationship. The man she had married was very possessive and abusive. He learned too late to stop her but knew where she was heading and got there first. She and you had only gone a couple of blocks away from the bus depot when he caught up with her, and in the scuffle to get away, she stumbled and hit her head. She died instantly!"
Hannibal watched his son during the explanation, ready to be there if he needed him. He saw the tears quietly fall and pulled him into an embrace.
Abbie paused at his show of emotion. "My investigator couldn't find anyone who remembers you and surmised that you must have run away when you saw the abuser. Father O'Malley identifies that you were the small boy he found wandering near the church."
"How?" Face asked.
Abbie handed him the picture of a woman and small boy standing next to each other. "The woman is your mother, and the boy is you."
Face took the picture and gazed at the woman, who was his mother, and the tears started to fall more rapidly. "Mom!"
"Do you remember her?" Asked Abbie.
"Kind of…she looks familiar, but it was so long ago, I can't be sure."
"What about the boy? Do you remember yourself at that age?"
Face nodded, openly sobbing now as the recognition that he was looking at a picture of his mother took hold. Charlie and Maggie cuddled closely.
"Templeton as your blood relative, I want to take you home with me!" Abbie said quickly.
"NO!" screamed Face as he ran from the room.
"Face has a family, Mrs. Ross," Hannibal stated coldly.
"But I'm his mother's sister, a blood relative, Mr. Smith."
"And I'm Face's legal guardian; I adopted him; he is my son."
"I can give him so much more than you can. My husband left me a wealthy widow."
"I DON'T CARE IF YOU HAVE A MILLION DOLLARS; I'M NOT LEAVING MY FAMILY!" Screamed Face as he returned to confront his Aunt.
His screams brought BA, HM, and Mrs. B running in. "Hannibal, what's wrong? Why is my little brother crying?" asked BA.
Abbie stared at BA and then turned her gaze back to Hannibal. "What did he call you?"
Hannibal replied, "that is my nickname; what is wrong?"
"I won't try to separate you from your son; he has been with his father since you first met him," Abbie said mysteriously.
This time it was Hannibal who looked puzzled. "Mr. Smith, do you remember meeting with a young lady fifteen years ago? You and she were in a relationship before she broke it off, and you shipped out?"
Hannibal paused as he thought back, as recognition came to him. "I had just graduated from West Point and was celebrating when I bumped into this beautiful blonde, and we started talking. She was easy to talk to, and before we knew it, we were dating. She was there visiting relatives for the summer. She suddenly broke it off, saying something had come up at home and she had to return early."
Face held out the picture of his mother that Aunt Abbie had given him. "Is this her?"
Hannibal took the picture and stared at it, taking in each detail before he nodded,
"That's her; that is Samantha!"
"Then you are my real dad?"
Hannibal nodded as his tears began to fall. "How did you know?" he asked Abbie.
Abbie pulled out a stack of letters. "We kept in touch with letters. She mentioned her West Point boyfriend and how she was falling in love with him. She wrote about John 'Hannibal' Smith and your hopes of making the military your livelihood. When she discovered that she was pregnant, she knew it would kill your dreams and opted not to tell you that she was going to have your child. It wasn't until later that she wrote that it was a boy with blond hair and blue eyes.
Our father was furious and would only allow them to live with him unless
she name the boy Richard."
Abbie handed the packet to Hannibal, who noticed a birth certificate among the letters. It listed Face's birthday as being May 1, 1961."
"Son, your birthday is May 1, 1961, which makes you fourteen and not fifteen. So hand your keys over."
Face looked shocked at the news, "but Hannibal, we don't have to tell anyone about my actual birthday. I have a legal license now; who will know that it is a year off?"
"Hand them over, kid, and your driver's license as well," repeated Hannibal as he held his hand expectantly.
After some grumbling, Face obeyed, but he was not happy. Aunt Abbie, couldn't you have hidden that birth certificate from him," whined Face. "I've done well without before now."
Aunt Abbie chuckled; she could see the love and caring in this strange family and knew that her nephew would be well taken care of.
"What are your plans now, Mrs. Ross?" asked Hannibal.
"I don't know, and please call me Abbie; we are family, after all."
"Please call me Hannibal, and why don't you move here? That way, Face can get to know you and learn more about his mother," suggested Hannibal.
Abbie looked at Face and the rest of his family before replying, "I would like that. Can you direct me to the nearest hotel?"
"No, stay with us…please," cried Face. "You can have my room, and I'll sleep on the couch."
"Now that your sleeping arrangements have been settled, it is time for you to meet the rest of our family," Hannibal said as he focused first on BA. "This is BA Baracus."
"His real name is Bosco," Mrs. B added.
"Don't forget Scooter," quipped Murdock.
"Grrrr," growled BA.
"What does BA stand for?"
"Bad attitude," replied Hannibal, "a nickname he picked up in Vietnam."
"Scooter has been my pet name for him since he was a small boy. My name is
"My name is HM Murdock."
"What does the HM stand for?"
"Howling Mad, but my given name is Harry Michael."
"Last but not least, these two," motioning to the dogs, "are Charlie and Maggie. And their job, except for the obvious, is to keep my son's nightmares away," explained Hannibal.
"Unfortunately, Vietnam was a great place to acquire nightmares. He also gets nightmares from his time with his foster parents. Charlie has the ability to chase them away."
"Don't forget Billie, Colonel," Murdock said as he held his dog up. "Billie chases my nightmares away, too!"
"I remember having a dog named Maggie when I was a child. She lived to the age of twelve. Seeing your Maggie brings back my love for my Maggie," confessed Abby.
"Was she a golden retriever, like this one?" asked Face.
"No, she was a cocker spaniel and my constant companion."
Face exchanged a look with Hannibal, who nodded.
"How did you acquire your nickname, Templeton?"
"I gave it to him, Mrs. Ross," spoke Murdock. "With a face like his and his smooth talk, he could get items we needed better than any other supply officer in 'Nam. A talent that carried on when we started helping people while on the run from the military until we were cleared and opened our Investigation Agency. Since we learned of his true age, or what we thought was his actual age, he doesn't go on missions with us like he used to…we miss him."
"I went on a mission with them as soon as school let out for the summer to a wilderness camp for boys in the Colorado Rockies. It was great…until I got caught, but it ended good, and the bad guys are serving time for drug running," pipped up Face.
"You let him go on a mission that involved drugs!" exclaimed Abbie.
"When we accepted that case, we didn't think that he would be in any danger. He was supposed to find out if any of the camp counselors were scaring the kids, and he did. He found out that one, in particular, was the cause of the bad feedback; what we didn't know was that he had a sideline of running drugs. But as Face said, the bad guys were caught, and Face rescued."
"He will not be going on any more missions that even sound like he might be put in any danger!" Mrs. B said firmly.
"Aww…Mama, you said you were thinking it over," whined Face.
"And I have and have determined that until you are eighteen, you have retired from the family business!"
"But I survived Vietnam!"
"If I had known your actual age when you arrived, I would have sent you back so quickly, your head would spin. Face, you were twelve when you arrived in country, and even though we didn't know your actual age, you did and knew the danger you were walking into. The good Lord was watching out for you, son."
"I found you and then the team, my family…that was worth the danger," argued the boy stubbornly.
"You survived the horrors of Vietnam, but you will not survive my wrath if you try and join Hannibal and the team for any mission…are we a clear young man, or would you like a taste of my wooden spoon?" threatened Mrs. B.
"I understand, Mama; there is no need to bring your spoon out," Face agreed quickly.
"Trouble seems to find Facey, without him causing it…like when Charlie was stolen recently," explained Murdock.
"Shhh, Murdock," Face said quickly, trying to stop his big brother.
"What happened?" asked Abbie.
So Hannibal explained that Charlie had been stolen while he and Face were playing and that Face had been injured. "Eventually, we discovered who was behind the theft and made plans to recover Charlie, and only this scamp took off with Maggie to retrieve his dog. We didn't realize that he had left until several hours later," explained Hannibal.
"How did he get there?"
"He took his car with Maggie and drove there. He was going to steal his dog back, but in the end, Charlie was recovered. The bottom line was that the kid put himself in danger and could have been injured. That wouldn't have happened if he only obeyed and let us handle it."
The team and Mrs. B took great delight in informing Abbie of Face's escapades regardless of the embarrassment some of it brought him. They knew that it would be a continual learning experience for him. They continued through lunch and supper to tell her about her nephew, the good and the bad, until nine o'clock when Hannibal cleared his voice. "I think that it is time for Face to go to bed now."
Face looked at his watch and cried out indignantly, "but it is only nine o'clock; during the summer, I can stay up later," he protested.
"I want you well rested for tomorrow," explained Hannibal with a smirk.
"Why?" Face asked curiously.
"So when I wake you up at five, you will be well rested to run my obstacle course. If you think I have forgotten your blatant disobedience in Charlie's recovery, you are sadly mistaken," Hannibal said sternly.
"But Hannibal," whined Face.
Face reluctantly nodded and stomped off to his bedroom to get ready for bed. He would shower and get into pajamas before returning to the living room to sleep on the couch.
While Face was getting ready for bed, Hannibal explained in more detail of the incident that got him in trouble.
"Facey is a trouble magnet, he doesn't always look for it, but as you see, it often finds him."
"And he is going to run an obstacle course as punishment?"
Face nodded gloomily. "Hannibal's courses are always messy and difficult, and I have to run with a heavy pack on my back." Face had returned in time to hear his Aunt's question and answer it.
"You don't believe in corporal punishment then?"
"Only if he deliberately endangers his life…then Mrs. B takes care of him with her wooden spoon," replied Hannibal.
From the look on the kid's face, Abbie knew that Mrs. B's paddlings hurt.
"Yeah, Mama lit a fire into his backside when he was discovered smoking at school; when she was finished, it was my little brother's backside that was smoking."
"Smoking at your age!"
"Everybody smoked in 'Nam," he argued. "You should have stopped me then!"
"Kid, if we had known your actual age back then, we would have stopped many of the things that you did. BA would have made sure you drank milk instead of the beers and the strong alcohol that you often drank. It's a wonder that you didn't become an alcoholic."
"I didn't actually like the taste of the booze I drank, but I had to fit in and keep my disguise in place. A twelve-year-old wouldn't be drinking, but a nineteen-year-old certainly would," Face explained.
"You have delayed your bedtime long enough, now go to sleep; and kid, if I get up to check on you in an hour, I had better not catch that television on, or you may be doing fifty push-ups instead of twenty-five! Do you understand me, Lieutenant!"Hannibal said in his Colonel voice.
"Yes, sir, Colonel!"
Mrs. B had made the couch up with sheets and blankets, and Hannibal had left a set of army fatigues lying on a nearby chair along with his army boots. Hannibal wasn't surprised to find Johnny Carson on and Face sound asleep.
"Fifty push-ups before he starts his first run should teach him to go to bed when I tell him to," Hannibal thought to himself.
"ATTENTION!" Hannibal shouted at the sleeping boy at five a.m. the next morning.
Face was up and standing at attention within seconds of the order given. He wasn't even fully awake at the time. His body reacted automatically at the order, which had been drilled into him during basic training.
"Are you awake, Lieutenant?" Hannibal asked quietly.
"No, sir," replied the sleepy boy.
"Open your eyes, Face!"
Face opened first one and then the other to see the stern face of his father and groaned. "I thought I was having a nightmare," he muttered.
Hannibal had to hide his smile at the remark. "You got fifteen minutes to get dressed and into the kitchen for breakfast. If you are a minute late, you will be doing extra push-ups!"
"Yes, sir," Face replied as he continued to stay at attention. He didn't break formation until after Hannibal left, then he slumped back down but only a minute. He hurriedly got dressed and ran to the kitchen, sitting down with a minute to spare. He wasn't surprised to see Hannibal there looking at his watch. "Very good, Lieutenant. You only have to do fifty push-ups before you start the obstacle course today."
Face was in the middle of eating his bowl of cereal when he heard the amount he would have to do. "Fifty! It has always been twenty-five," he complained.
"Who was on Johnny Carson last night, Lieutenant?"
Face groaned. He had thought he had turned the TV off.
"I'm waiting for an answer, Lieutenant?"
"No one, in particular, Colonel."
"I hope it was worth disobeying me yet again when you do those extra push-ups. You have five minutes to finish breakfast before meeting me at the obstacle course…don't be late, or I'll start adding to the number of push-ups!"
Face nearly inhaled the remainder of his cereal before running to the course, only to find Hannibal watering the mud spots even more. "Awww, Hannibal, not more mud…isn't it muddy enough for you," he said without thinking.
"Did you say something, lieutenant?"
"No…nothing important, Colonel, sir," replied Face as he stiffened into attention before saluting his superior officer.
"You will find your pack at the start of the course. Put it on and then drop and give me fifty push-ups!" Ordered Hannibal….you got fifteen minutes.
Face hurried to his pack and, after putting it on, dropped and began doing the required push-ups, only to be stopped after the first five. "Count them off, Lieutenant!"
Face groaned but started over and called out, "Sir, one, sir, Sir, two, sir, etc., until he stopped at the end with Sir, fifty, sir" when he collapsed.
Hannibal gave him a few minutes to catch his breath. He offered him a bottle of water, and once he had taken a few swallows, he bellowed, "Move it, lieutenant!"
Face started at the beginning of the course and began running the course as fast as he could, but before he had finished, he had fallen several times.
"Do it again, and I want a fast finished this time, lieutenant!"
Face returned to the start and dutifully began his run again…and again…and again. Hannibal was pushing him hard, wanting a better time, and Face could not keep up the pace, falling several times by the end of the fifth run. His fatigues were muddied to such an extent that it looked like he had waded in the mud. He was approaching his limit but started back for the tenth time, only to fall in the middle of the course and not have the energy to get up and finish.
"He has reached his limit, Hannibal," BA said before walking to his kid brother and helping him up.
"Can you walk?"
Face nodded only to find out after the first two steps that he could not and started to fall. BA quickly caught him, taking his pack from him and picking him up. "I got you, little brother."
Face only nodded, too exhausted to speak. "You did good, kid," praised Hannibal as BA walked by.
"Take him to my bedroom; he can shower and then recover in my bed," he added to his sergeant.
Mrs. B looked at him and hurried to Hannibal's bathroom to draw him a hot bath. "He's not going to be able to stand for a shower; a hot bath will keep his muscles from stiffening up, " she said.
After the bath water was at the right temperature, she left it to the two men to wash their kid and put him to bed. Face was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillows. Charlie and Maggie made themselves comfortable on the bed next to him. The dogs had been put in the dog pen while Face was running the obstacle course for fear that they would interfere with his punishment run.
Face slept through lunch and woke around three in the afternoon. He staggered out of bed and headed for the kitchen. "Mama, I'm hungry. Can I have something to eat?" he asked as he wearily sat at his place at the table.
"I'll fix you a ham sandwich, and for dessert, you can have a large slice of chocolate cake." Mrs. B told him as she fixed him a late lunch. She placed a large glass of milk in front of him, which he quickly drank half. His sandwich and chips were seated next to him a few minutes later. "Thanks, mama," he said before tackling the sandwich. Soon he was enjoying the cake and finishing the milk.
When he finished his meal, Face laid his head down on the table and was asleep within minutes. Hannibal walked in for a cup of coffee and saw Face sleeping.
"Did he get anything to eat?"
"Yes, he just finished a sandwich, chips, and cake and drank a glass of milk. Hannibal, did you overdo it today, when you made him run so much?" Mrs. B asked quietly.
"Mrs. B, I've seen him run my obstacle course more times than what he did this morning without stopping until he got it under the required time. He's just out of practice, that's all. If he was doing it more often he wouldn't have any trouble completing ten tries. I'll put him back to bed and let him sleep until he recovers."
"Come on, kid, let's get you back to bed," Hannibal said as he pulled Face to his feet and led him back to his room. After a quick stop in the bathroom, he had Face under the covers sleeping soundly.
He took Maggie and Charlie to be fed and let out before they rejoined Face on Hannibal's bed.
"Did he survive your course, Hannibal?" asked Abbie as she met him in the kitchen.
"Yeah, he's just really tired from the effort. In fact, I'm proud that he completed nine laps before exhaustion took him."
"Where is he now?"
"In my room, sleeping," replied Hannibal.
"I feel bad about taking his room. I can easily get a room at a motel in Bradbury," Abbie said.
"You will do no such thing. There is plenty of room for you with Scooter and me. That apartment has three bedrooms and two complete bathrooms. We can share a bathroom. I would love to have you join us," Mrs. B was quick to invite.
"If you are sure that your son doesn't mind, I accept your kind offer. That way Face can have his own room back, and Hannibal can have his."
"Then it is settled; after supper, I'll get Scooter to move your belongings to the guest bedroom."
When Face awoke the next morning he was surprised to find himself in his own room and sleeping in his own bed. He moved a bit easier than he did the day before. He put on his robe and slippers and went into the kitchen for breakfast.
"How are you feeling, Facey," greeted Murdock as he helped Mrs. B with breakfast.
"Fine, I feel fine," he replied distractedly. "Hannibal, where is Aunt Abbie?
Has she left already?" He asked in a disappointed voice.
"Why do you ask that, Facey?"
"I woke up in my room."
"Abbie decided to stay with BA and Mrs. B so you can have your room back," explained Hannibal. "Here she comes now!"
"Good morning," Abbie greeted the group as she entered the room.
A chorus of "Good morning" relied.
Then turning to Face she asked, "How are you feeling today, Face?"
"Fine, I'm fine," unaware of the glances between Hannibal, Murdock and BA.
"You're fine, uh kid?"
Face nodded as he buttered his toast.
"Then drop and give me fifty!" He ordered.
"I said for you to drop and give me fifty push-ups now…LIEUTENANT!"
Face hesitated as he looked at Hannibal.
"What's wrong, Lieutenant? If you are really fine as you day, then doing fifty, or even one hundred push-ups should be no problem."
Face paused again and then said, "maybe fine is not the right word. What about I'm feeling better than I did yesterday after running your course?"
Hannibal nodded, "that would be a better choice of words."
"Do I still have to do the push-ups?"
"How do you really feel?"
"I'm sore as hell. That hot bath helped some but I'm still sore and stiff," he admitted. "I don't understand, I had no trouble running your courses before no matter how many times you made us run it and afterwards I was still able to function in the many tasks I had to do daily. But I'm so sore and stiff after only running the course nine times,"
"You aren't used to it, kid, that's all," Hannibal paused as he thought about
the situation. "I think I will reinstate our exercise program to keep us all in tip top condition. Once a week in full gear we will all run my obstacle course, and that includes you too, kid. We will start with fifty push-ups for us and twenty-five for Face. We will start this program Saturday, bright and early."
After a collected groans everybody nodded their agreements, although Face tried to get out of it. "I get a free pass, since I've already run your course nine times yesterday…right Hannibal?"
"Nope…yesterday was punishment, and that doesn't count. You will be participating as well. So everybody needs to get a good night's rest, and that means no late Tonight Show for you, kid or you will be starting the course with fifty push-ups like the rest of us!"
Face reluctantly nodded and returned to his breakfast.
Abbie had looked with amazement at the going ons at the breakfast table. "How did you know that Face wasn't fine?" she asked Hannibal.
"He said that he was fine," and seeing the puzzled look on Abbie's face hastened to explain.
"It is a word that we are familiar with. Face has the tendency not always to be truthful when asked how he is feeling. He will downplay his injuries when they are serious but whine when they are slight. It goes back to when he was in the orphanage. Prospective parents want healthy kids to adopt, not sick or injured ones. So he would always downplay his injuries or sickness if people around wanted to adopt. He has gotten so good at it that he can't stop, even now when he has a family that cares for him," Hannibal added sadly.
"So if he ever tells me he's fine, I need to be on the lookout to see if something is truly wrong with him?"
"Yeah, that sums it up nicely," replied Hannibal.
"Face, I hope you will always be truthful to me if you are hurting," implored Abbie to her nephew.
"Abbie, you need to know that it isn't always injuries that he has trouble telling the truth about. To be such the great scrounger and acquisition officer that he was in 'Nam, and even now, he had to lie to acquire certain items. Now that we can afford to buy the things we may need, Facey hasn't stopped lying. I know that Mrs. B has had heated discussions with him when he has been caught in a lie."
Face turned red, and he squirmed uneasily in his chair at what Murdock had just revealed. "Shhh, Murdock, she doesn't have to know everything," he whined.
"I'm intrigued by all of this; please continue," Abbie asked.
Face groaned at the thought of all of his antics laid open.
"Facey loves bubble bath!"
"Murdock!" hissed Face with embarrassment.
"I think we have embarrassed my nephew enough today, don't you?" Abbie said to everyone present.
"Okay, we will give him a break for now," chuckled Hannibal.
"But Hannibal, we haven't told her about Facey's skills in picking locks, or picking pockets or breaking into safes, yet?"
"Captain! That's enough….drop it!" ordered Hannibal.
"Hannibal, will you help me find a place in Bradbury to move to," Abbie asked a couple of days later. "The hospitality I've been shown while I've been has been excellent, but it is time I have a place of my own."
"Sure, I'll be happy to. I'm ready whenever you are."
"Can we start now?"
"Yes, we'll take the kid's car, and we can drive around Bradbury and see if anything catches your eye."
"Can you tell me about my nephew, now that Face isn't here to be embarrassed from the information?"
"When Face was at St. Mary's, he had several sets of foster parents, but it was the last pair who was so abusive. His foster father taught him how to pick pockets and pick locks. He made a game out of it, and Face became an expert at it. The foster father then moved on to teach him how to crack saves, listening for the tumblers to open the safe. Once Face had learned all of these new skills, he was sent out to steal, but Face had been brought up as a Catholic and knew it was a sin and resisted, often earning him a beating until he did as be was told. In fact that was led him to join the army…to get away from that abusive father."
"Oh, that poor boy. I had no idea that this could happen. Why didn't the boy go back to St. Mary's?"
"I think he did, but at that time, Father O'Malley wasn't there. He had been sent to another orphanage and was replaced by another who was sterner. He probably took the foster parent's word over Face's and sent him back into that abusive life. So Face escaped by joining the army. He talked the recruiter into accepting him…that is when he became Templeton A. Peck. Eventually, I noticed him, and I had him transferred into my unit where we could protect him from those who sought to abuse him."
There were tears in Abbie's eyes as she heard about the hard life her nephew led before finding a home with Hannibal and his team. "Well that is all behind him and he is now living with people who love and care for him."
"When I first saw Face the feelings I had for him were that of a father and Murdock and BA saw him as a little brother who needed to be protected…sometimes from even himself." Hannibal told Abbie more about the missions Face went on with the team. "He only disobeyed me twice when I gave him a direct order. The first time was when I ordered him to hide in a tree when it became obvious that we were about to be captured by the enemy. I feared what they would do to him during interrogation. We knew that the kid was younger than nineteen that he claimed to be and the torture he would experience could scar him for life. So I ordered that he climb a tree and stay hidden until they had passed in hopes he could make it back to our base where he would be safer."
"He disobeyed you? What did he do?"
"He climbed the tree and hid but instead of heading back to the safety of our base he followed our captors and eventually freed us and other POWs in that camp. When he popped up next to our cage that night, I nearly had heart failure…he saved our lives, but to do it, he put his own life in danger!"
"When was the second time?"
"When he went after Charlie. I know his disobedience came from love…love of the team the first time and of his dog the second time, but his disobedience could have resulted in him being hurt, and I didn't want that."
"Did you punish him for disobeying you the first time?"
Hannibal smiled, "oh, yeah, pretty much in the same manner as I did the last time. He did twenty-five push-ups each time he ran my obstacle course. He did ten laps before I decided that he had been punished enough. BA was there to carry him to the showers while Murdock got him dry clothes. They put him to bed and took shifts watching him. He slept for about twelve hours."
Face was outside with Charlie and Maggie when Abbie and Hannibal came back.
"Did you find a place to live?"
Abbie nodded as she got out of the car and hugged Face before walking into the house. Face looked at her and then back at Hannibal. "You told her more about my childhood, didn't you?"
"Yes, and your time with us in 'Nam. She's your aunt, kid, and she is very interested in you. She loves you and should be aware of why you do the things you do. And this way, you don't have to feel embarrassed when your big brother jokes about it. I'll talk to Murdock and BA to ensure they don't bring up any of your former antics. I'm sure that if your Aunt Abbie wants to know she will ask you, and you can have a private conversation with her."
Face nodded. "Thanks, Dad…but did Aunt Abbie find a house?"
"Yes, more of a cottage than a big house. It is located close to your school, too. You might want to drop by after school sometimes for a visit; I'm sure she will enjoy it."
Soon the papers were signed and the cottage was hers. It was fenced in with a black puppy picket wrought iron fence all around. The previous owners had small dogs and the fence was there for their protection. Face seemed to remember yapping dogs whenever they walked past from the bakery to school.
"Hannibal, I'll be leaving in the morning to go home and get my furniture moved. It shouldn't take more that a day or two. It is already packed up and has been in storage after Mom and Dad passed away, and the house sold," Abbie said at the breakfast table a week later. It was the middle of August, and she wanted to be settled by September.
"Instead of you going alone, why don't you allow Face and me to accompany you? I hate for you to make the trip alone, and to tell the truth, we would miss you too much. If BA doesn't mind, we will take his van. There might be some items we can bring back."
"No trouble, Hannibal. Abbie if you will leave me your house keys I can check out your house and fix anything that might need an update. I'll use Face's car to bet around in."
"I would be honored to have two handsome men accompany me. How about we get an early start tomorrow? We should be back by Wednesday and then with all of your help I can move in and get settled," she added as she looked at her extended family.
They all agreed and Monday morning as, Face, with a backpack in hand, started for the team's van. Maggie and Charlie naturally followed, only to be told, "I'm sorry, Face, but your dogs cannot come. The place I've been renting does not allow pets," Abbie said sadly.
Face was heartbroken at the news, But what if I get nightmares?"
"I'll be there, son. You will be fine. Now tell Maggie and Charlie goodbye, and let's get on the road."
Face went back into the house with his loyal pets following. He returned a few minutes later and hurried to the back of the van. "I'm going to catch some more sleep on the way," he said before lying down on the soft bench at the back of the van.
Everything was moving along nicely throughout the majority of the trip. Hannibal was entertaining Abbie about the team and all the good they have done before getting their pardons when the phone in the van rung.
"Hello…oh Hi Murdock," Hannibal greeted his friend.
As he continued to listen Abbie could see his expression go from concern
to anger. Don't worry, I think I know where Charlie is," he concluded.
"Don't worry I'll take care of it and I'll be sure to pass your message on."
"FACE!" he shouted angrily.
"What's wrong?" asked Abbie.
"I suspect that your nephew has sneaked Charlie into the van. He probably put him in his backpack. It is too late to turn around, we will just have to make other sleeping arrangements while we are there. I'm sure that San Francisco has hotels or motels that allow pets," replied Hannibal.
Face woke up with a start. He sat up and carefully made it to his seat in the van, Charlie followed.
"What is that dog doing here?"
"I couldn't leave him, Hannibal. I'm sorry I disobeyed you, Aunt Abbie."
"We will have to find another place to stay," Hannibal started to say only to be interrupted by his son.
"I brought his service vest. It allowed him to stay with me in the hospital in Colorado, I thought it might do the same now."
At Abbie's concerned look Hannibal told her the story of Face's undercover assignment and how his ended up in a hospital.
"You were there but it took Charlie to wake me up. I need Charlie, Dad," pleaded the boy.
"It's okay Face. I'll call and check and maybe they will allow it this time. But you could have made your case before we left…but sneaking Charlie in after you were told no was the wrong way to handle it and I expect your father will punish you for it," Abbie added sternly.
And then with a twinkle in her eyes she added, "its only fifteen mikes from my home, Face can run after the van as punishment!"
Face wasn't sure if Abbie was serious and looked anxiously at Hannibal. "You aren't going to make me do that, are you, Dad?"
He thought he had the answer when Hannibal pulled over and stopped by the side of the road, and dejectedly grab the handle of the door to get out.
"Sit down…your Aunt was only kidding. Face everyone at home has been searching for Charlie, they searched the house and compound grounds. Murdock to the skies and BA followed behind us just in case the dog was following behind. They are very upset with you son. The least you could have done was to leave a note so they wouldn't worry," lectured Hannibal angrily.
Face gulped and couldn't look Hannibal in the eye. "I'm sorry, I just didn't want them to call you too soon, or you would have turned around and taken Charlie back," he mumbled.
"Your big brother wanted you to know that you will be having a heated discussion about that with your mother once we return on Wednesday!"
Face winced at the upcoming punishment at the hands of Mama B and hugged Charlie.
The silence that permeated the van as they continued was almost too much for Face to bear. He was excited when they pulled into a small house behind a bigger one. Abbie had gotten the owner's permission to allow Charlie into the house they would be staying in.
Face quickly put a leash on Charlie before asking, "can I take Charlie for a walk, just around the block?"
Hannibal nodded, "just make sure he doesn't wander into any of the lawns."
It had been a busy day for Face and Hannibal as they visited the storage compartments holding Abbie's belongings. They went through everything, noting the stuff that Abbie wanted and the stuff that could be sold or given away. "Face, be a dear and check the contents in these boxes for me, and mark on the outsides where they would go," Abbie asked as she gave him a black marker.
Face quickly opened the first and found it to contain kitchen utensils. He closed it up and wrote kitchen on the outside. He was making great progress. Most of the boxes had been identified as kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, dining room, etc. Then he came to the last box. He opened it and found picture albums and knickknacks. He opened one of the albums and found pictures of his mom in most of the albums, and photos of his mom with Hannibal and those of him and his mom. The emotion was so great that he sat on the floor as tears began to roll down his face. He looked into the eyes of his mother, seeing the love that was taken from him, and cried. Charlie appeared and tried to comfort him and, after a while, walked off only to return moments later with Hannibal and Abbie following.
Hannibal was at Face's side immediately and realized what was causing his son's grief. "He found his mother's photo albums; he mouthed to Abbie."
"I think we will call it a day," Hannibal said as he pulled Face to his feet. "I'll bring the box, and you can go through it at your Aunt's house."
Face nodded and quietly followed Hannibal to the van. Soon they were at Abbie's temporary home. As soon as they entered the house, Hannibal put the box down in the living room next to a sofa so Face could be more comfortable as he looked through the photos.
While Face was looking at the photos, Hannibal made a quick trip to the nearest grocery store for dog food and bowls and, on the way home, stopped at a local Italian restaurant and ordered food for them all.
When Hannibal returned he found that Abbie had sat next to his son and was explaining everything she knew about the photos. Besides the picture albums, Abbie pulled out a stuffed dog that had been his mom's. "This was Cuddles; your mother took it with her wherever she went."
She pulled out favorite books that had belonged to his mom and told him stories of them growing up and the mischief his mother was always getting into. "It seems that you get your tenancy for mischief from your mother."
"Why, what did she do?" asked Face.
"Before I tell you let me give you some background information for the story to make sense. To begin with when your mother and I were kids that was a five and dime store called McCroy's within walking distance of our house. Now McCroy's sold shores, clothing, fabrics, toys, cosmetics, household items, penny can, and ours also had a snack bar where they made the best milkshakes. Of course, our favorite section housed the penny candy. They would have large jars of candy...one may contain only jelly beans or licorice, but the one that most kids liked was the one containing the chocolate candy. Now the candy was loose and paid for by the pound. The cheapest was twenty-five cents for a small bag, or you could get a medium size bag for fifty cents and the large bag cost a dollar. At the end of each week, the jars would be empty and replaced with fresh candy. The old, mainly broken bits were sold for a nickel for a medium-sized bag. Sam would be the first in line to buy a medium-sized bag of those broken pieces of chocolate."
After pausing, Abbie continued. "This continued for several weeks until Danny Williams saw Sam enjoying candy and not wanting to buy some for himself decided to take hers, and since he was much bigger, there wasn't much that Sam could do to stop him."
Didn't she tell your parents?" asked Face.
"She went father and told him about what Danny had been doing, but our father was a big believer in our handling our on problems and told her she would have to handle it herself. Now he would have stepped in if Danny had hurt her, but all he did was make her mad."
"I bet that made mom mad, too. What did she do to fix Danny?" asked Face.
"A new product became available called chocolate ex-lax; it was a laxative that boasted of quick results. Sam bought enough so when broken it looked just like the chocolate candy she had been buying on Saturdays at McCroys. She allowed
Danny to take bag and watched as he finished the whole bag as he walked away."
"Face began to chuckled as he visualized the scene. " I bet he was sorry that he ever tangled with my mom."
"Oh, yeah. I overheard my mom and Danny's mother talking about it. Danny was in the bathroom all weekend. Danny had told his mother that Sam had given him the chocolate, and his mother was asking if Sam was having any stomach troubles, too. But the bottom line was Danny never bothered her again, or me for that matter."
Face was laughing so hard that he could hardly breathe by the time the story was over. Once he got his breath back, he asked, "was Sam Mom's nickname?"
"Yes, she never cared too much for Samantha until she got older, but by then, the nickname had stuck that that was we all called her, except for mom and dad and her teachers."
"I took care of a bully, too, Aunt Abbie," bragged Face. "He was a football player who had been bullying kids into doing his homework since grammar school. But I came up with a plan that got him expelled and sent to a military school." Face told his Aunt what had happened at the beginning of the school year. "The best part happened during Spanish class when he turned in his assignment. He had threatened my friends to write a glowing mini biography on him but instead the wrote how he had been bullying kids into doing his homework. He had copied their work in his hand and signed it…it was a confession. His father made good on his threat and sent him to a military school!"
"Like mother, like son, it would seem, don't you agree, Hannibal?" remarked Abbie with a chuckle.
"Now, Face, when you start school after Labor Day, I had better not hear that you have used that ex-lax trick on anyone at school because if you do, Mrs. B will lite a fire in your backside!" Hannibal said sternly.
"I won't…I promise!"
"Come on, son; you need some rest; tomorrow is going to be a long day."
"Okay, just let me walk, Charlie first."
"I'll go with you…you are not familiar enough with this town," Hannibal said as he followed Face and Charlie out. They walked to an abandoned house down the street so Charlie could do his business and then quickly returned home.
The days in San Francisco went by quickly, and soon, it was Wednesday, and they were heading home. A big moving truck followed behind Hannibal as he led the way back to Bradbury and Abbie's new home. They were met by BA and Murdock, and between them and the movers had the truck unloaded and the furniture placed where Abbie wanted them to go in record time. Hannibal paid the movers and even left them a large tip for their help.
Mrs. B came by later with groceries and cooked food to last for a few days. Face was the last to bring his aunt a gift as he walked in with Maggie. "Aunt Abbie, I think Maggie should stay here with you. I noticed that she was by your side most of the time when you were staying with us and that you were constantly petting her."
Face handed his aunt Maggie's leash. "There is food in the pantry for her, and her water bowl is filled in the kitchen next to her food bowl. We will put her bed wherever you like, but I bet she will jump on your bed if you want. She will be a good companion for you; you can keep each other company." Face added before kneeling down and giving Maggie a big hug. "Now, you take good care of my aunt," he said before bolting from the room.
"Hannibal, I can't take his dog," Abbie said.
"You have to Abbie, and I agree, I think Maggie wants to be here with you. She has gotten old and doesn't move as fast as Charlie; she will be better off here with you...if you will take her."
"I want her; she is the same color as my beloved cocker spaniel, also named Maggie."
"Don't worry about Face, he will probably see you and Maggie a lot once school begins.
By the time Face returned to their home he was met by Mama B and her favorite spatula. "Come with me, son…it is time for our heated conversation on your actions Monday."
Face started to follow when Hannibal spoke up, "that needs to be postponed, Mrs. B."
He turned to Face and said in a understanding voice, "why don't you see to Charlie, I know he wants to spend some time with you."
Face nodded as he grabbed a ball and headed outside. Hannibal waited until he had left to talk with Mrs. B. "The reason I asked you to postpone his punishment is because he gave Maggie to Abbie. He realized that Maggie had bonded with his aunt the moment she entered the house and Maggie reminds Abbie of a favorite pet. So Face is a little down at the moment, there is plenty of time to punish him for his lapse of judgment, but for now he needs to play with Charlie and get over his hard decision in giving up Maggie."
Mama B nodded, "I'll give him a reprieve this time but if he ever pulls a stunt like that again I will blister his hide."
"So do you think that Abbie is going to make a nice addition to the family?"
"I think that she is going to fit in nicely!"