CHAPTER TWO

March, 1969

For the first couple of days after his meeting with the 'entrepreneur', Hannibal kept quiet. He knew how hard it was to get anyone sent stateside early. Next to impossible. If this guy could pull that off, Hannibal knew he had a winner. At least, as far as keeping his team well supplied. And when it could take weeks just to get a new poncho liner, he needed someone who could "expedite" matters. But if Peck was just blowing hot air, well, Hannibal didn't need any more headaches.

Peck had promised within a week, and on the fifth day Harris, the supply clerk, came rushing into Hannibal's office, waving a sheet of paper. Harris was sputtering something about a transfer, wanting to know why Hannibal had done it, worried the colonel was unhappy with his performance, but at the same time, Hannibal could see he was more than happy about getting out of the war zone. Hannibal gave him assurances, swore he'd had nothing to do with getting the transfer put through, and wished him the best of luck. Harris left, happy, excited, and still confused.

Later that same afternoon, Colonel Wrenn came in to the office, stared hard at Hannibal and then walked out. Hannibal realized then he'd made one big mistake in his dealings with Peck.

He'd forgotten that Wrenn was a greedy man.


*****

It took him all of ten minutes to pack up his stuff. The stuff he wanted to keep, anyway. He left the half-case of real beer; his neighbors had been good to him, after all. He did look regretfully at the bed. The cots on base couldn't come anywhere near the comfort of that.

For a moment, as he took a last look around his house, he had second thoughts. Wrenn had given him a lot of freedom, privacy. That meant a lot more to him than the money he'd been sending stateside. A lot more. He knew Smith wouldn't allow that. He might be unconventional, but he was still a lifer. His team came first for him, and he expected the same of every member of that team.

Peck wasn't interested in the one-for-all, all-for-one bit. He did his job in the field, and did it well. After all, fucking up out there meant putting his own life at stake, from one side or the other. But back here, the only team he was concerned about was "me, myself, and I".

He shoved the duffle into the back seat of the Caddy. He was leaving that at the base gates for the new owner. He'd given the guy a real good deal on it; he considered it an investment. The buyer had high family connections in the government. Both Saigon and Hanoi.

He smiled. Yep, me, myself and I.

It was the only team that had never let him down.


*****

The news about Harris was taken well by the rest of the team. Surprise, a little good-natured envy, but everyone wanted to go home and didn't begrudge Harris the unexpected opportunity.

Then Hannibal told them who the replacement would be.

Ray just sat, waiting for an explanation. Typical reaction for Ray. What counted was what he did after that. If he just nodded and went back to what he'd been doing, then Hannibal would know he was okay with it. Maybe not happy, but okay. If he decided to go get in some target practice, well...

Then there was Wiley. A good kid, friendly, smart - and very good friends with Harris. If Wiley put in the requisitions, things usually got done a little faster. He was proud of having that kind of influence. And he was not happy about this. The stick he'd been whittling was now being splintered.

BA was glaring at him. Nothing new there. You had to judge his mood by how deep the glare. And this one was deep. Real deep. Pretty obvious that he'd heard about this guy, all right. And with BA's strict upbringing, Hannibal had known as soon as he'd left Peck's place that BA was going to be a problem. The question was how big a problem.

"Look, guys, so he hasn't got a sterling rep - but that's here, not out in the boonies. I did some checking up, and the guy's solid out there. And if he's half as good with our supplies as he is...at other things, he'll be an asset. So we give him the same chance we give anyone, got it?"

Now he would see.

Ray looked at the ground for a few minutes before standing, and Hannibal felt a sinking feeling. Ray was senior man, and the guys tended to follow his lead. Now he stepped to the door and looked around, pulling out a cigarette. He lit it casually before looking back at Hannibal.

"Well, guess I better make sure the club has plenty of booze for Harris' shindig." Ray nodded and walked out. Not quite a rousing endorsement of Hannibal's decision, but he allowed himself a quiet sigh of relief before looking at the other two.

"BA?"

His sergeant was more blunt. "You gotta be out of your mind, Hannibal. Dude's gonna be nothin but trouble."

"His wheeling and dealing with the locals is over, BA. So's anything that's not connected with us."

"Yeah, right." BA shrugged. "All right. You say he's okay out there, we'll see. But don't expect me to cover his ass on base. He stiff the wrong guy, it's his fight."

"Sounds more than fair, BA." Hannibal smiled as BA rumbled out, undoubtedly headed for the motor pool. So now the two toughest sales were on board. He looked over at Wiley.

"Well, kid? You okay with this?"

Wiley tossed the stick down and carefully folded his knife. "You really want this guy?"

"He's smart, knows how to get things done, has enough time in-country so we don't have to baby-sit. If he can pass muster with you guys on recon, he could be a big asset."

"And if he doesn't?"

"Same as anyone else. He gets reassigned."

"He fixed Harris, didn't he?"

Hannibal hesitated. Just like the guys had said the other night - Hannibal knew Peck had put it through; he also knew he'd never be able to prove it. And Harris and Wiley were buddies. He shook his head.

"Then he'd be a miracle worker, Wiley. I don't think he's that good."

There was a slight flicker in Wiley's eyes. "But good enough you want him on the team. You like him?"

"So far, no. But I don't have to like him. And as long as he does his job..."

Wiley nodded, gave a small smile, and walked out.


*****

"Lieutenant."

Peck closed his eyes, forced himself to relax, and turned.

"Colonel. Long time no see."

"Too long, apparently." Wrenn looked past Peck into the hootch. "A bit different than you're used to."

"I'll manage."

"I'm not so sure. Hannibal Smith does things...differently than I do."

"So I've heard." Peck smiled softly. Waited.

"I was a bit surprised when the transfer orders came in. Unusual for me not to have to sign off on something like that."

"It's an unusual place, Colonel."

"Yes, it is. Different set of rules. I thought you understood that."

"I understand a lot more than you might think, Colonel. Like self-preservation. You and I both know about that."

Wrenn's jaw tightened. "We had an agreement, Peck. A very profitable one."

Peck took a step forward, looking Wrenn eye to eye, inches separating them. "It was profitable. It was also risky. And getting too risky for you. I'm not blind, Colonel." He smiled suddenly. "I simply chose to void our 'contract' first. And in a different manner than you had in mind."

"Something I can help you with, Jim?"

Both men stepped back, turning to face Hannibal, standing on the pathway a few feet away.

"No, Hannibal, just clearing up some details with Peck, here."

"Okay. Speaking of details, Lieutenant, there are some reqs I need you to take care of, ASAP."

"Will do, Colonel." He saluted both officers smartly and strode away.

"So, I trust all your business with Peck is taken care of now, right, Jim?"

Wrenn glanced coldly at his former officer as he turned a corner and disappeared.

"Yeah, Hannibal. He and I are done."


*****


June, 1969

"He did it again! And after he told Hannibal..."

"Settle down, Wiley. So we got snookered. A little. He still did what he was supposed to. And now Hannibal's getting a nice rest. Besides, you got to take credit for the idea." Ray stretched out on his cot and grabbed a magazine.

"He wasn't supposed to go along."

"What difference does it make? He's earned it. Look at all the shit we've got now. He's gotten through more red tape in the last three months than Harris...than anyone could. C'mon, you of all people shouldn't begrudge the man. Or have you forgotten how he pulled your ass out of the fire up on the mountain?" Ray winked at BA, who sat on his cot behind Wiley.

"I didn't need any help. I had that gook covered."

"Yeah, Wiley, he was tremblin so bad he could barely pull his knife out." BA giggled.

Wiley just glared at him, and stalked out of the hootch.

BA looked at Ray, surprised.

"He ain't still mad about Harris, is he?"

Ray shook his head. "Green-eyed devil, BA."

"What? Man, you crazy."

"No, I don't think so, BA. I don't think so..."


*****

"This is the life, huh, Colonel?"

Hannibal looked across the table at Peck and took a sip of his Mai Tai.

"Would've been nice if you'd cleared this with me first."

That damn smile was turned on him again. "Then it wouldn't have been a surprise. Besides, everybody else thought it was a good idea."

"I believe everybody else thought it was a good idea for me. I don't think they realized you were part of the package."

"C'mon, Colonel. Here we are, with one of the best suites at the premier hotel on Oahu, with nothing but beach, booze and broads for the next five days - you really think you could've done this if I hadn't tagged along?"

"I would've managed, I'm sure, Lieutenant."

"Not like this, Colonel. Not like this..."