August 29
Play the Players
Holiday: According to Hoyle Day

"That's when I hit him with the coup de grāce!"

"No, Murdock. If you do it then, you'll lose him. He's not ready yet."

Murdock shoved his hat back on his head, flopping against the wall.

"It's no use, Face. I'll never be able to pull this off!"

Face glanced over at Hannibal, who frowned but said nothing. The colonel had more confidence in Murdock than anyone, but even he had reservations about this plan of Face's. Not what the pilot needed right now. Sighing, Face pulled Murdock by the arm and headed outside.

Out under the shade of the big maple, Face let Murdock pace off his frustrations. He'd never done a con on his own before, and Face knew how scary that could be. Especially when failure could mean someone getting hurt. He watched Murdock for a few minutes, trying to figure out how to give him the confidence he so desperately needed. Face knew Murdock could do it, if only -

"Murdock, what did you tell the VA about your pinball machine?"

"Huh?"

"What did you tell them when your pinball machine came? How did you get to keep it?"

"Uh, I just told 'em some cock and bull story about my uncle leaving it to me in his will. Why?"

"Did they believe you?"

"Well, yeah. You know I still got it."

"So when you made that up, did you think they'd believe it?"

"Uh, well, I knew I'd have to tell it just right. The doc, he always wants to think I'll confide in him, so if I act real sincere, he'll accept damn near anything that's not too out there. A couple of the nurses are pretty gullible, so I knew they'd accept the uncle part..." Murdock looked at Face suspiciously. "What are you getting at?"

"You already know how to run a con, Murdock. You do it at the VA every day. Just do the same thing with this guy. Forget about step-by-step. Just play the player."

Murdock looked uncertainly at him. Face grinned.

"You'll be great, Murdock. You've got the story down pat - just go with the flow. Play the player."


*****

Hannibal leaned back in the jacuzzi, puffing contentedly on his cigar. He grinned as Face slid down on the other side.

"That went smooth, Face. Just like I knew it would."

"Well, yeah, other than - "

"Minor setbacks. It all came out right in the end."

"Yeah. Murdock really flew through his part. I - "

"I knew he could do it. Never doubted it. You better watch out, Face." Hannibal chuckled as he climbed out of the jacuzzi. "He'll be taking your job one day."

"What you riling Face up about now, Colonel?" BA grinned at the spluttering heard from the hot tub.

"Oh, just playing the player, BA..."

FINI