CHAPTER FIVE

Hannibal, Murdock and BA arrived at the beach house a couple hours after Ronnie had gone. Hannibal had taken one further step before leaving. He pretended to be Face's attorney and put a freeze on each and every one of his assets. It would probably be one hell of a mess to get them opened again, but he was not going to let his friend's resources be further depleted. Or worse, have them disappear altogether. He didn't know what this Cousins fella was up to, or what hold he had over Face, but until he found out what was going on, he was taking over. Face would just have to live with it for a while.

"He's not home, Hannibal. Car's gone."

"Let's just check the house anyway, Murdock. I want to make sure."

BA looked over at the colonel. "He ain't home, Hannibal."

"Maybe he let Ronnie take the 'vette."

"No way, man. He don't let nobody drive that car 'cept him."

"Hmm."

BA shrugged and pulled into the drive. He thought it was a waste of time. Face wasn't home so they oughta be checkin out that other guy's place. But you didn't argue with Hannibal when he made his mind up.

Hannibal knocked at the door with no response. He knocked again, louder. There was a noise inside, then silence. He looked at BA, who popped the door open with one shove.

"Face? Face, you home?"

They heard a mumbled reply from the living room, and hurried in to find Face on the couch, nearly incoherent.

"Face?" Hannibal grabbed him by the shoulders, shook him gently. "Face, what's the matter?"

Murdock picked up the pill bottle from the table. "He's doped up, Hannibal. Some kind of pain killers." He opened the bottle, shook out some pills. "Something's not right, Hannibal. Pills are supposed to be marked. These aren't."

"Let me see those." Hannibal took the pills, looked closely at them. "These aren't legal, whatever they are. Where the hell did he get them? And why?"

"What we gonna do, Hannibal?" BA was looking at Face, frowning in concern.

"Get him up and moving. I'll get some coffee going. We have to wake him up."

BA grabbed the nearly unconscious man up from the couch, drawing his arm over his shoulder. "C'mon, Face, move those feet. C'mon..."

Hannibal was making the coffee, fuming the entire time. He had a damn good idea where those pills had come from. The bottle was for an everyday pain reliever. What was inside was something else altogether. But what? If they couldn't get Face to wake up, they'd have to take more drastic measures. Get that shit out of his system. If that didn't work, they'd have no choice but to chance taking him to the hospital. Damn it.

He listened to Murdock and BA in the other room. He could hear Face mumble something now and then, so maybe he was coming around. He stepped around the corner, and watched as BA practically dragged Face around the room, Murdock asking him questions, saying his name over and over. The mumble would come occasionally but Hannibal wasn't sure if it was a response or just random talking.

The coffee was ready. Hannibal poured a cup and headed into the living room. This was not how he'd planned to spend this night.


*****

Ronnie dropped off Tia very late that night, and headed back to Peck's house. He wanted to be there in the morning when Peck came to, all solicitous of the monster headache he knew Peck would still have. He was reaching the end of his run here. Not that Peck was a problem. He hadn't thought he would be. No, that was coming along just fine. It was those other guys. Those friends of his. The famous A-Team. Peck had done his best to keep them away from him, and Ronnie had no problem with that. But just from his conversation with that colonel earlier today, he knew they were suspicious. He wondered if they had done any checking on him. No real reason to. Not yet, anyway. He'd given no indication he was interested in the reward, and that would be their only concern. How Peck spent his money was nothing to them, regardless of what it had added up to.

He'd been a bit surprised at that himself. He hadn't realized how well off Peck really was, considering his 'life style'. But then, even back in college Ronnie had known Peck would do well. Not only was he great at con jobs, but he was a whiz with figures. Knew his stuff. That was the one thing that held Ronnie together all those years. Knowing that he'd managed to set Peck up for this. For once in his life, Ronnie had thought ahead.

It would have been different if that girl hadn't screamed. If she hadn't done that, her boyfriend wouldn't have come running. Yeah, life would've been a lot different. If Peck hadn't been there, life would be a lot different now, too. Peck. Drunker than a skunk that night. Higher than a kite, too. Quite a cocktail he'd had. No stranger to booze, but pills? Peck had stayed away from them. Always. If he hadn't gotten so drunk that night, probably never would have tried them. But he was mooning over that girl. What the hell was her name? Leslie? Had enlisted, for God's sake. After all the plans they'd made to go into business together. Enlisted because of some bitch.

So it was a farewell party in Peck's honor, and Peck had drunk himself into near oblivion, and it hadn't taken much to dump a few pills down him. Childish revenge. Ronnie hadn't planned what happened next. It just happened. The girl came wandering over to where the two of them sat, Ronnie listening to Peck's maudlin ramblings, back behind a sand dune. She had on the skimpiest bikini he'd ever seen. Ronnie was hopped up on speed and alcohol. Decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Then her boyfriend showed up. Ronnie couldn't remember everything that happened then, only that it ended with a broken piece of fence board slamming into the boyfriend's head.

Peck didn't even know they were there. He'd been in Never Never Land long before the boyfriend ever showed up. Didn't know anything had happened.

Until afterward. After Ronnie had sat there, looking at the body, listening to the girl's whimpers. After Ronnie had time to think things over. Told the girl what would happen to her if she said anything and sent her scrambling home. And then Ronnie had roughly brought Peck back to consciousness, convinced him that they needed to hide the body. They had to, or instead of a new military career, Peck would be facing the gas chamber. Over the next couple of days it got a little hairy. Peck, filled with guilt and remorse, wanted to turn himself in. Ronnie couldn't let him do that. The girl would've gotten on the stand and told them who really did it. So Ronnie sat on him, telling him how he'd get Ronnie into trouble, too, for helping hide the body. Make him an accomplice. Ruin his life. So Peck kept quiet. And Ronnie knew he had a meal ticket just waiting for him. All Peck had to do was come back from the war alive.

In the end, the girl had given Ronnie up anyway, despite his threats. At least his father's lawyer had kept him from the death penalty. Pleaded out, got prison time instead. Fortunately for Ronnie, Peck never found out. Well, now he was out and taking advantage of that little set up from way back when.

Peck thought he owed Ronnie for saving his skin. He really owed him for screwing up a legitimate - and rich - life. Ronnie figured he'd collect that debt in the next couple of days. He'd have Peck so wrapped up in those 'painkillers' he'd do whatever Ronnie told him. And after wiping Peck out financially, he'd place a call to a certain colonel who was very interested in Peck and his friends. The reward money would be the icing on the cake.


*****

Walking him around and almost drowning him in coffee hadn't done the trick. Murdock pulled out their medical kit. Ipecac. Within the hour Face had gotten most of it out of his system. They'd taken turns holding him over the toilet while he retched. Hannibal wasn't sure who felt worse afterward.

Face was sitting on the couch, showered and dressed in a robe. BA and Murdock were helping him drink down yet more coffee; he was still too shaky to hang on to the cup himself. Still not very coherent. They kept asking him questions, what had happened, where was his car, where was Ronnie, but all he could mumble was, "I don't know."

Around 1:00AM headlights flooded the side of the house; someone pulled into the drive and abruptly stopped. Hannibal opened the door, looked out. Caught a flash of the 'vette as it reversed out of the drive and raced down the road. Damn. Probably the last any of them would see of Mr. Cousins. He would've sent BA after him, but he knew they had to get out of there. Now. After that exit, it didn't take a rocket scientist to know Cousins realized the jig was up. And having an idea of the kind of man he was, Hannibal had no doubt he'd be calling the MP's the first chance he got.

It didn't take long to gather Face's things. He never kept much with him; none of them did. Hannibal went over the house thoroughly one last time, as BA and Murdock half-carried Face out to the van. He noted that Face's briefcase was open, his papers shuffled around, completely unlike the way Face kept things. He no longer felt guilty about his earlier actions.

He locked the door carefully as he left. Too bad. It was a very nice house.