And Not to Yield

Nine Chapters / 37,391 words total

Chapter 1 / Words: 5,834

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Rating: T for adult language, violence, and death.

Summary: TM tries to help an emotionally traumatized vet; Rick races to save Agatha from bankruptcy; and TC fights to save Higgins' life.

Disclaimer: As everyone knows the copyrights to the Magnum PI story and characters are completely owed by others, not me. This was just written for fun; although if copyright ownership can be claimed by me for the characters I created in the story then I will cheerfully claim such.

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Background: This story was originally started when the Magnum PI series was being shot in Hawaii. It started out as a screen play focusing on the itinerant character, Bob; whose story is based on actual events that happened on Ohau. The secondary sub-plot concerning Agatha and the missing contract was also part of the original. The story lines were fairly well developed and about fifty percent written when I put it aside; and there it sat for about twenty years, which might have something to do with it being longer than most stories I've seen posted here. When I dusted it off a couple years or so back, I decided to add in another sub-plot revolving around TC and Higgins; I had no idea it would take the twist it did, but I am rather pleased with the way it turned out.

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A few high clouds floated past the bright stars hanging over the beach, deserted except for a small camp fire that glowed fitfully in solitary isolation amid the darkness of a new moon.

Surf sounded in the background as the fire's glow dimly highlighted scrub brush, a small pile of broken branches, and a pair of ragged tennis shoes inhabited by thin bony ankles that extended upwards into a pair of worn trousers. Above this an unkempt mane of reddish hair moved slightly in the evening breeze as the unlit face brooded in shadow.

After a few moments a bottle of cheap wine, grasped by the neck, emerged from the dark followed briefly by a face with eyes closed as the figure drank the last dredges down. The face revealed a man in his mid thirties to early forties, with a uncombed mustache, but smoothly shaved cheeks. As he lowered his arm and tossed the empty bottle away, his eyes opened revealing the maniacal look of someone pushed too far, someone for whom all options but one have been lost.

Raising suddenly to his feet the figure turned and pulled out a small backpack from under a large bush. Reaching into it he pulled out a small cloth wrapped object. As he unfolded the cloth the cheap chrome plating of the small Saturday night special handgun threw off brief sparkling reflections into the surrounding night. Flipping open the cylinder he spun it to assure himself it was fully loaded and then snapping the cylinder back in place, stuffed it into his trousers' waist band and pulled his worn aloha shirt over it. He kicked sand over the fire until it went out and then was quickly swallowed up by the night as he turned and started walking inland.

Agatha Chumley was seated in one of the larger upholstered chairs in the King Kamehameha club's VIP room. The handkerchief which her agitated fingers had knotted up dabbed at her eyes as tears slowly overflowed. "But, Jonathan... Sunday is the very last day..."

"There, there, Agatha..." Higgins patted her on the shoulder as he tried to comfort her.

"But the family will lose everything! Oh..." She sobbed into her handkerchief trying to stifle her anguish.

Higgins knelt down next to her and gently took one of her hands in his. "Now, Agatha. One must have faith. Chin up now."

Agatha looked up wiping tears from her eyes. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Jonathan. Please forgive me for making such a spectacle of myself."

"Now, there's nothing to forgive, dear Agatha." Higgins murmured quietly while continuing to hold her hand.

"But... its just that we've simply looked everywhere and there's no place else left."

"Now, we don't know that. Your uncle was... was..."

"Oh, go ahead and say it, Jonathan." Agatha said while trying to swallow her tears. "He was simply ECCENTRIC! Or why else would he have squandered the family inheritance?"

"Well... towards the end he was obviously not as... as normal as he once was." Higgins said hesitantly.

He started to say more but just then the door burst open and Rick hurried in with a big grin on his face. "Hey, Higgins. That memo about the warehouse we found in the old coot's files..." Rick suddenly glanced at Agatha and a momentary look of contrition came over his face. "Oh... sorry, Agatha..." Then unable to contain his jubilance the grin came back. "But, anyway. I got a contact of mine, who owes me a few favors, to dig through the property tax records... and... I got it!"

"You got what, Rick?"

"A warehouse address! My buddy found his name on the tax rolls for a warehouse over in the old Pali Hai industrial park. See?" He waved a piece of paper in the air as Higgins' smile replaced his puzzled frown.

Agatha's grip tightened on Higgins' hand as she looked searchingly between the two men. "Jonathan... please, what does this mean?"

Higgins turned his smile on her and patted her hand. "It seems, dear Agatha, that Rick has just given us that new place to look."

"Yeah, so come on Higgins. TC's here, we'll take his van and check this place out."

Higgins stood and gave Agatha a brief kiss on her cheek. "Now, chin up. Everything will work out, I'm sure. I don't know how long this will take so why don't you go home and get a good night's rest. I'll call in the morning and let you know what we have found. Shall I arrange a taxi for you?"

"Oh, thank you so very much, Jonathan." Agatha said standing, giving Higgins a kiss on the cheek in turn. "I don't know what I would do without such good friends as you and Rick, you give one so much more hope even when it seems as if there is none. But don't worry about me, my niece, Connie, will be by to pick me up shortly, her exercise class must be over by now."

"All right, then." Higgins patted her on the shoulder. "I'll call you in the morning, good night, dear Agatha."

The Island Hoppers' van's headlights cut a swath through the dark night as it turned off the freeway into a run down warehouse area close to the ocean.

"Well, I still don't see what all the big rush is for." TC looked for street signs as he drove along. "If that old guy's been dead for the last six months any papers that he stashed there will still be there in the morning."

Rick moved up from the back and crouched with his arms resting on the backs of the captain chairs TC and Higgins sat in. "Yeah, but this is important; I even gave up a date with Lani just so..."

"Ha!" TC interjected with a big snort. "Now I know what's going on. Lani just turned you down for the umpteenth time, so you rope Higgins and me in on one of your wild-goose chases just to have someone to share your misery with."

"Hey..." Rick protested. "That's not true..." He looked beseeching at Higgins. "Tell him, Higgins. You tell him."

"Well, TC," a slight smile played at the corners of Higgins' mouth, "while I am quite sure that your observation is correct concerning Rick's romantic success..."

"Come on Higgins. That's not fair..." protested Rick.

"Since the lady in question seems to have quite discriminating taste..." Higgins went on with a bigger smile.

"So, she's an ice princess." Rick grumbled as he stared down at the floor boards.

Higgins and TC glanced at each other and grinned.

"However," Higgins began again more soberly as he looked at Rick and shook his head smilingly, "Rick's most amazing deduction just might enable us to locate that missing contract..."

"Just what is that all about anyway?" TC asked. "I didn't really understand Rick's explanation."

"Come on, TC." Rick complained. "Its like I told you. Agatha's uncle went off his gourd the last couple of years before he kicked the bucket. He blew the whole family fortune financing all sorts of crazy, off the wall schemes. He not only gave money away, but signed loan guarantees. Now the notes are due on these dumb schemes that went belly up, and Agatha's whole family is facing bankruptcy because of the way he set the family estate up. But by dumb luck, one of those schemes he invested in was a genes factory..."

"In a what?" interrupted TC. "A jeans factory? I thought the blue jeans fad was over with. Is this another retro fad, or what?"

"No, no. Not blue jeans... genes! You know, those little squiggly things that make up people and animals and things." Looking confused Rick turned to Higgins. "You explain it, Higgins. I don't know about that stuff."

Laughing slightly Higgins shook his head. "Well, I don't know about that stuff either. But, somehow by some incredible stroke of luck, Agatha's uncle happened to be one of the contributors to a start up capital fund for what has turned out to be one of the most successful genetic engineering companies."

"Yeah," Rick socked TC lightly on the shoulder. "That's what I said. Anyway that company's stock went through the roof a couple of months ago when word got out that they had made some big break through. Isn't that right, Higgins?"

"Yes, and the importance for Agatha's family lies in a stock option clause which allows them to purchase stock, up to the amount of her uncle's original investment, for the original share price of the stock. Since the price today is many times what it was, this will allow them to recoup the losses on their uncle's other investments and still have a handsome amount left over.

"The problem, however, is that to exercise this option the contract must be presented for verification at the time. The deadline is tomorrow midnight, and if the contract is not found before that, the banks will be forced to foreclose on her family's estate to pay off those other worthless loan guarantees, and Agatha and her family will become paupers.

"That's why we must do all we can to help, and why I'm so very anxious to investigate this warehouse, Rick has so fortuitously found, even if it is so late."

"Oh, don't get me wrong, Higgins." TC shook his head. "You know I'll do anything I can to help Agatha, she's a real lady. But," he got a frown on his face and rubbed the back of his neck, "oh, I don't know. Just something doesn't feel right somehow."

"And that isn't the only reason for not waiting for morning," Rick smiled mischievously, "since, Agatha's family never heard of this place, none of them has a key... Get it?"

"Oh, you mean..." TC groaned, looking a little alarmed.

"Yeah. You got it, TC." Rick grinned, holding up a set of lock picks.

Shaking his head and rubbing the back of his neck again, TC growled. "Now I know I don't like this."

"I wish you'd hurry up." TC groused in a quiet voice while he held the flash light on the door lock Rick was kneeling in front of. "TM was always the one who took care of locks, and I don't think even he could open this one. It looks like its been rusted shut for a hundred years. Which is what we are probably going to get if the cops catch us."

"Yeah," chuckled Rick, "who do you think taught Thomas? I was opening locks while he was trying to figure out the secrets of pop bottle caps."

"All right, Mr. Houdini, but it won't be no laughing matter if we're still standing here when the sun comes up, just because Mr. Houdini forgot to bring some oil."

"You just gotta have a little faith, TC; and it would help if you didn't talk so much. Every time you open your mouth that light bounces around so much I can't see the lock."

"You're gonna see all the light you can handle after I rap you up along side your head, Mr. Houdini."

Slightly exasperated, Higgins couldn't stop himself. "Will you two please stop. This isn't the time to indulge in childish games."

"Okay, okay, Higgins. I've just about got it.." The lock suddenly turned with a slow screech and thunk. With a triumphant grin, Rick reached up, turned the door handle, and pushed the door open.

The three slowly pushed their way into the dark interior, the feeble light of the small flashlight played around bouncing off dusty piles of boxes, old furniture, and fixtures.

"Whew... look at all this junk. How are we going to find anything in all this?" TC asked incredulously.

"I would suggest we look for some sort of office, and start our search in there first." replied Higgins.

"Oh, all right, Higgy-baby," TC muttered as he moved the light around. "But it sure is dark in here."

Suddenly there was a faint click and a small bulb hanging from a cord descending from the rafters above, shone a dim light around the interior. "All you have to do is ask." Rick smiled at the other two as he released the pull cord he had swatted at when he walked into it.

"Ah," interjected Higgins pointing to a small door partly hidden in a corner, "perhaps that's the office there."

TC moved to the door and giving it a push slowly entered half a step and then letting out a sudden bellow leaped backward, colliding with Rick who clutched at him to keep from falling down.

"Lord, I knew this place was creepy," moaned TC, wiping sweat from his face, "but, I didn't have any idea how creepy it really is."

"What is it, TC?" Rick warily peered around his friend trying to see what was inside the door.

"Yes, TC, what's going on." asked Higgins worriedly as he hurried over.

"That rat must of been at least ten pounds." TC replied holding a hand over his beating heart to try and slow it down.

"A rat!" exclaimed Rick in disbelief. "I lose ten years of my life because you're scared of a little old rat?"

"It wasn't no little rat." TC replied in hurt tones. "That was a monster. He had to a been a foot tall!"

"You're too much, TC." Rick chuckled slapping his friend on the shoulder. "Why I remember you crawling around in Nam through snakes, spiders, and rats, and never batting an eye. I even remember you eating a rat or two."

"Eating rats is one thing," TC replied indignantly, "when you're starving to death in a cage; it's something else to get attacked by one big enough to take revenge."

"Oh, I say, will you two get on with it." Higgins interrupted as he pushed past them. "This juvenile behavior is quite exasperating. I see a desk in here, bring me the light and lets check this out."

"Yeah, TC," Rick grinned as he pretended to push his friend into the office. "Enough of these childish games. I'm sure that 'monster' rat has gone else where looking for others to take revenge on."

"Now I know that lock was rusted shut for a hundred years." TC muttered as he shone the light on the big roll top desk up against the far wall. "Look at all this dust, its been at least that long since this place was last cleaned."

"Hardly that long." Higgins moved over to the desk and bent over the small lock in the center of the roll top where it joined the desk. Giving the lever a twist it clicked open and he and Rick slowly pushed the roll top all the way open.

TC swung the light slowly from one cubby hole to another as Higgins and Rick searched through them. Suddenly Higgins went still as he examined the documents held in a fat envelope. "TC, shine the light here... yes... yes..." He looked up with a radiant smile. "This is it!" he waved the envelope in the air. "We've found it." Reaching out he placed his hand on Rick's shoulder. "Rick, Agatha and her family will be so happy, you've saved them all."

"Ah..." Rick shrugged his shoulders as he looked down at his shoes. "Like TC said, Agatha is a real lady." Suddenly he looked at his watch and his big grin came back on his face. "Hey, we've got time to get back to the club and celebrate, the food we laid on for the luau was really great, and I didn't eat yet."

"Yeah," TC smirked at Higgins. "And Lani is going to be one of the dancers tonight too, I bet."

"Yeah," smiled Rick, "well, that too. Let's get outta this dump."

Smiling, Higgins stuffed the envelope into his inner jacket pocket, and placing his arms around the shoulders of his two friends pushed them towards the door. "I say, Rick. Perhaps if I took the young Lani aside and made mention of your superlative exploits tonight, maybe she would look more favorably upon your suite for her heart."

Rick looked incredulously at Higgins. "You'd do that? You'd do that for me?"

"Why not?" laughed Higgins. "After all, what are friends for?"

As they emerged from the darkness of the small office Higgins suddenly felt TC and Rick stiffen in surprise and stop. Looking up he could dimly perceive dark shapes in the gloom of the dim overhead light.

"Gentlemen," a soft soprano voice issued from the figure on the right, "I believe you have some documents for me." As the words died the figures dressed in dark warm up pants and jackets, with dark ski masks over their heads, stepped forward.

"What the.." muttered TC as he automatically moved forward. A shot rang out stopping him in his tracks.

"Now, none of that, gentlemen." said the figure on the right waving an automatic in its hand. "Get those hands up or the next bullet will be a heart shot." As they slowly raised their hands the leader nodded toward the other two. "Check them for weapons and find those documents."

Rick and TC glanced at each other as the other two dark figures moved up on each side of them. Suddenly from the shadows in front of the leader a large dark shape rushed between his feet causing him to jump involuntarily. With a curse he stumbled into one of the piles of junk littering the floor and almost went down. Startled the other two figures instinctively glanced back and before they could recover TC punched the figure closest to him and Rick threw his into Higgins' surprised arms and then rushed the leader.

Hoping to put the man down quick Rick threw a lightning right cross that had ended many such fights for him before. But his opponent, although still off balance, slipped the punch and twisted out of the way. Knowing he had to above all else disarm his opponent or the fight would be lost, Rick lunged after him and as the gun hand came up chopped viciously at the arm sending the gun skidding along the floor. Suddenly something seemed to explode in his stomach and as he bent over gasping for breath his head exploded and he crashed backward into a pile of old furniture. Instinct threw him sideways as something crashed into the furniture where his head had been. Rolling away from the indistinct shape his unfocused eyes could barely see, he scrambled to his hands and knees trying to lunge to his feet. Instead his side exploded and he went down again. Gasping for air he rolled and managed to get to his feet, clutching at his side where he knew at least one rib was broken.

"What's the matter, old man, getting a little slow in your old age." the taunt came from a dark shape that seemed to dance in front of him. "Need to catch a little air, old man." The sneering soprano voice floated out of the dark around him. "Are you ready yet, because here I come." Rick seemed to slump and moved sideways backwards trying to sucker the figure into moving into the light. As the figure materialized Rick exploded throwing everything he had in a body shot. Again the figure seemed made of smoke and as his blow missed his senses exploded as a blow behind his ear drove him to the floor.

Rolling to his side he curled up into a ball, taking the expected kick to his stomach on a knee. Flipping over he swept out with his right leg, connecting with his opponent's leg and bringing him crashing down. He dove toward the indistinct shape that was twisting away from him. He managed to get one hand on the slick nylon of the warm up pants, then lunging forward got his arms around the surprising slim figure before it twisted in his grasp and slammed a knee into his crotch. Feeling the figure slipping away from his grasp and knowing that he had lost the strength to continue the fight he got a glimpse of the pistol handle ten feet away. With the last of his waning strength he threw his adversary away from him toward another pile of junk and leaped for the pistol. His right leg went out from under him and he landed heavily on his face with his outstretched hand inches from the pistol as he heard the leader crash into the pile of boxes behind him.

Gasping in pain and fighting to remain conscious, his punished body refuse to obey and for a long second he lay frozen. Finally as if in slow motion he forced his body up and as he extended his arm he heard movement behind him and then the fatal click of a hammer being cocked.

"Go ahead. Go for it." the mocking soprano voice came out of the darkness behind him. As he froze again he dimly made out TC straddling his opponent and Higgins being thrown around in a macabre dance as he grimly held on to his. A dark shadow moved past him and scooped the pistol from under his outstretched hand. Then, with a thump, a toy cowboy pistol with plastic mother of pearl grips landed in front of his face. Its hammer was cocked.

"Like they say, no guts, no glory, old man," came the mocking voice.

As Rick lay on the floor in physical and mental agony, the leader pointed his pistol at Rick's head. "All right you two. That's it. Give it up or I'll blow this one's brains out... right now!"

TC, in the process of delivering a final blow, looked up sharply, hesitantly he slowly lowered his arm, got to his feet, and backed away from his opponent, while looking worriedly at Rick's recumbent form.

As Higgins released his grim hold and slowly stepped back, his much younger and larger adversary lashed out with a vicious blow that took Higgins on the side of the head dropping him unconscious to the floor. As TC moved to rush to his side the leader flashed his pistol once more and motioned TC back, while he walked over to Higgins' silent form. Squatting down he went through Higgins' pockets and immediately found the envelope.

"Well, well. What do we have here." Waving the envelope in the air the leader stood up and looked at TC and Rick, shaking his head. "You know, all you had to do was hand them over, I asked you nice didn't I? But oh, no, you two had to play the hero. And look there." Nodding his head at TC's opponent, who was groggily getting to his feet sans his ski mask which TC had ripped off in the fight. "You just had to get a look at one of our faces, didn't you."

Shaking his head the leader looked at Higgins' opponent. "What do think we should do?"

"Waste the bastards far as I'm concerned." he said with a savage laugh.

"And I want to personally do in this one myself." TC's adversary looked at him with hatred.

The leader shrugged, and unzipping the jump suit jacket shoved the envelope into an inner pocket and then zipped the jacket back up. "Well, there you are. Two out of three, so I guess I'll make it unanimous. We'll start with the old has-been here, then Mr. Macho." he said with a nod toward TC. "That'll let the old man there learn about what happens when old men try to play hero." Suddenly the strange soprano voice broke into a maniacal high pitched giggle that froze Rick's blood.

After the giggling fit passed the leader suddenly pointed the pistol at Higgins' unconscious form, TC's eyes went cold as he bunched his muscles in preparation of a suicide leap to try and save Higgins. Before he could move the door to the warehouse burst open and a dim shape dove in, rolled behind a mound of furniture and a shot took out the bad guy standing next to the leader who leaped aside. Another shot took out TC's opponent who had whirled around in confusion and then the dim figure dove behind another pile of boxes maneuvering the leader into a corner. As the leader dashed out of the trap the figure rose up for a shot and two reports blended together as one. The new figure slumped and disappeared in the shadows. The shadow which was the leader seemed to falter before leaping on a box and crashing through a window to disappear into the night.

TC rushed to Higgins while yelling at Rick. "Are you all right, Rick? Answer me."

Rick stumbled to his feet, hardly able to walk, and hobbled over to where TC was bending over Higgins, checking his vital signs. "Don't worry about me," mumbled Rick. "How's Higgins?"

"I don't know. He's breathing and his pulse is steady. But we need to get him to a hospital." Jumping to his feet he headed into the darkness where he had last seen the figure who had saved them. "Can you get the emergency medical kit from the van, I think that guy who saved us got tagged. Use the car phone too and call 911."

In the early morning light the Ferrari was a blur of red candy as it raced into the hospital parking lot and slid to a stop in a slot next to the Island Hoppers van. Magnum jumped out and ran into the emergency room where he immediately spied Higgins in a wheel chair, with TC at the counter. He hurried up to the wheel chair and knelt next to it. Higgins' eyes were closed and he appeared very tired. Magnum placed a hand gently on Higgins' arm and Higgins' eyes slowly opened.

"Why, Magnum. How good of you to come." Higgins said with a small smile.

"Higgins, you don't look at all well. Shouldn't you be in a room for observation or something?" Magnum asked with concern.

"You tell him, TM. I tried getting him to stay until tomorrow, but oh, no, he's got to get back to the estate. Its like trying to reason with an old mule." TC said with disapproval.

"Really, TC, I am quite all right."

"Yeah, like everyone should have a concussion to make them feel so good."

"Higgins, I think maybe TC is right..." Magnum started to say.

"Really, it is a minor injury, nothing more. And all I need is some rest and quiet. Which I can get at the estate just as well as I can here, especially if you two will quit jabbering at me."

"All right, Higgins." Magnum replied as TC shrugged his shoulders in resignation. "But you have to promise to take it easy. Now, just what happened to you last night?"

"We was almost killed is what happened!" exclaimed TC.

"Yes. I'm told that if it hadn't been for that lad's most fortuitous appearance all three of us would be dead now." Higgins shook his head slowly.

"Wait a minute." Magnum said in confusion. "Back up to the beginning. I'm not making any sense of this."

"Its a long story, TM, but last night Rick and Higgins were all hot to get out to some old warehouse to recover some papers for Agatha..."

"The stock option documents I spoke to you about before you went to Maui." Higgins put in.

"Yeah," TC went on, "well, we found them all right. And then some bad guys found us and were just ready to put all three of us on ice permanently, when this guy comes out of no where. You should of seen him TM, he was just like a one man SWAT team. He put two of them down before I could even blink, and then he and the leader shot each other." TC hesitated as he rubbed the back of his neck thinking. "Damnedest thing you ever saw."

"Wait a minute," Magnum interjected looking around the room. "Where is Rick. He's not hurt too is he?"

"No, no." TC looked somewhat exasperated. "He was shook up a little is all. But he was okay last I saw him. I wanted him to come in the ambulance with Higgins and the guy who saved us but he didn't want to, so I came in with Higgins. I thought he was going to follow in the van but he never showed... the police are a little irritated about that too. But, when I called the club looking for him, they said the van was there, and his car was gone. So I had one of the valets bring the van over as Higgy here insisted on going home."

"None of this makes any sense." Magnum shook his head. "Higgins, why would anyone rob you, much less kill all three of you just for those papers? They only have value to Agatha's family. And why hasn't Rick at least called to see how you are? That isn't like him at all. Are you positive he wasn't hurt?"

"I'm afraid, Thomas, that I just don't know. You are absolutely correct that contract only has value to Agatha's family. As for Rick, I am afraid that I was unconscious when most of the action happened."

"Well, I wasn't, and I don't know what happened to Rick either." TC shook his head in exasperation and rubbed his neck again. "I told you last night, Higgins, that something just didn't feel right. You know, TM, that creepy crawly feeling you'd get up and down your neck in Nam, when you knew that Charlie knew what you were going to do before you did it."

"Yes, but who could have imagined..." Higgins voice trailed off into silence as he looked down at his lap.

"Where is this guy you keep talking about? How bad was he hurt? I'd like to talk with him if its possible." Magnum looked at both Higgins and TC.

"Yeah, you and the police both." TC shrugged his shoulders. "He had some broken ribs, a bump on his head, but apparently nothing else too serious, because as soon as they got finished with him down in the emergency room he split. The cops were up here this morning wanting to know what I knew about him, which is nothing. He was unconscious, like Higgins, when we came in the ambulance and I never had a chance to even talk with him. I mean he looked like a beach bum, raggy ass clothes and tennis shoes with no socks. Pretty unkempt long reddish hair. Thin too like he'd missed a bunch of meals for awhile, you know. "

"Well, what about those guys he shot?" Magnum persisted. "What have the police learned about them?"

"Nothing that I know of." TC replied. "They were both DOA. I supposed they're checking the finger prints and mug shots but who knows if they'll find anything or when."

"Thomas, if you could, I want you to try and find that lad. Get him to come to the estate, at least until he has healed. And tell him that we will do everything in our power to assist him." Higgins reached out and grabbed Magnum's arm.

"Well, I'll try Higgins, but if what TC says is true I don't know if I'd have much of a chance. Street people don't leave much of a trail. And besides, I'm a little more concerned about Rick. And shouldn't we be trying to get that contract back? The expiration deadline is pretty close."

"I'm concerned about Rick and the documents too." Higgins gazed out the glass doors to the parking lot. "But I have the most unusual premonition that we need to focus our efforts on helping this lad..."

"But, Higgins..." Magnum started to say.

"I know, Thomas." Higgins held up his hand. "But whatever reasons Rick has for disappearing are ones he has chosen not to share with us at this time. He is quite capable of taking care of himself, as you well know. He knows he can get in touch with us at any time. As for the documents, I take full responsibility for them. So, what I would like is for you to concentrate on finding our unknown friend. And..." he glanced up at TC, "you have a business to run. You need to honor your obligations to your clients. Of course any assistance you can give during your free time will be much appreciated, but we must keep this disruption to our lives in check. As for me, I can stay at the estate and act as a coordinator, which is another reason I must return."

"Well, all right, Higgins. But what about those documents and Agatha's family?" Magnum asked dubiously.

"I think... I think we needn't be too concerned about them." Higgins replied in a vague and mysterious tone. "I would go and look for the lad myself, but..." he put his hand to head and seemed to slump.

"Okay, come on Higgins. Lets get you back to the estate." Magnum stood up and holding the doors open shook his head and shrugged in exasperation as TC wheeled Higgins out to the van.

"Okay, I know what you are thinking. I was thinking the same thing, too.

"To save Agatha's family from financial ruin the stock option had to be exercised in less than 20 hours. So why was Higgins so insistent on spending the time looking for this mystery guy? After all it wasn't as if any of us would be less grateful 20 hours from now or 20 years for that matter.

"But then, nothing in this case seemed to make any sense, it was all questions like: How had the bad guys known where the contract was just at the precise moment it was discovered? And more to the point, why did they bother stealing a document that only Agatha's family could use? Where did this mystery stranger suddenly come from to save Higgins, TC, and Rick? Where did he learn to handle himself like that? And not least of all: Where was Rick?

"One of the reasons I went along with Higgins was because I could tell that he wasn't nearly as well as he pretended; and trying to argue with him wouldn't do him any good.

"And then too, Higgins was right about Rick. Rick could get in touch with us anytime he wanted. But understanding that didn't make it any easier. After all Rick was my friend, my buddy, my brother. I couldn't help worrying about him.

"However, the main reason I was playing along with Higgins was because of something else I couldn't understand; my little voice wasn't talking to me anymore... instead, it seemed to be talking to Higgins."

---- Dissolve----