If you can say that your job, or even your life, is like trying to herd cats, then this day is for you.
Stockwell strode into the living room, glancing at the papers in the file. No doubt the new assignment would bring more complaints, but he'd gotten used to that. He stopped and looked up, expecting to see the team gathered for their briefing.
The living room was empty.
He looked over his glasses at Carla, who nodded and hurried off. She would, with her usual efficiency, send Ables about the house and grounds until they had the team in tow. It shouldn't be necessary, but...
He wandered out to the patio, surprised and somewhat annoyed to find Hannibal stretched out on a lounge chair, apparently asleep.
"Oh, hiya, Stockwell." So, not asleep after all. "Is it that time already?"
"Past 'that time', Colonel. And so far, you're the only one of your team who's even in sight."
"Hmm. Really?" Hannibal got up slowly and grinned. "Well, guess we should go see where the others are."
"Carla's taking care of that. You and I will wait in the living room."
Hannibal shrugged and sauntered ahead of Stockwell, casually stopping to light a cigar before entering the house. The smoke drifted back over the general.
The two men had barely sat down when BA came bursting in, followed by two rather harried-looking Ables. He was wiping his hands on a greasy rag, his bib overalls looking as bad as the rag. Stockwell didn't frown - he glared.
"Sergeant - "
"Hey, your men said you wanted me here 'now', so I'm here - now. You don't want your furniture all grease, you let me go wash up."
Stockwell took a deep breath, knowing Hannibal was grinning at him like a Cheshire cat.
"Very well, BA. But please - "
"Yeah, I know. You want me here 'now'..." BA grumbled some more as he walked across the room and disappeared down the hall.
"Well, that's one."
Stockwell didn't have a chance to reply before the lights suddenly flashed on - and immediately died. As did the air conditioning.
"What the hell?"
Hannibal chuckled. "Must be Frankie. He's been fine-tuning the security system here."
Just then Frankie was escorted into the room, none too gently, by a burly Able, who frowned at Stockwell.
"Don't worry, sir. We'll have all systems up and running in just a few minutes."
"See that you do, Able Seven."
With a threatening look in Frankie's direction, Able Seven hurried back the way he'd come. Frankie, with an annoyed look of his own, sat with Hannibal on the couch.
"Two more minutes, Johnny. Two more minutes and - "
"You will refrain from fine-tuning the security system, Mr. Santana. Is that clear?"
With a glance at Hannibal - who winked at him - Frankie shrugged. "Sure, General. Whatever you say."
BA came back minutes later, with clean hands and clothes. He sat on the arm of the couch, shooting Stockwell a look that spoke volumes. Hannibal chuckled.
"Two down, two to go. Not bad. You should give Carla a raise."
"Where are Peck and Murdock?"
Hannibal leaned back against the cushions and glanced out the window.
"Well, Murdock's about twenty feet away."
Moments later the front door slammed shut and Murdock came striding in.
"Am I late? I didn't mean to be but we had this one eagle that just wasn't cooperating and - "
"Captain Murdock, what is that smell?"
"Huh?" Murdock stopped and sniffed. "I don't smell anything."
"Uh, Murdock, I think your winged friends left a calling card. More than one, actually." Hannibal frowned. For once, he and Stockwell seemed to agree on something. "Go grab a shirt from Face's room - and Murdock - not one of his silk ones, okay?"
Murdock made a face as he passed behind Stockwell but otherwise said nothing.
"And the lieutenant?"
"I'm not sure exactly. He said something about - "
There was a sudden blast of a car horn from outside, and everyone - including Murdock, still pulling on a silk shirt - rushed to the front window. Face was just climbing out of a gleaming Mercedes.
Hannibal turned and grinned at Stockwell, as the rest of the men hurried out the front door.
"Oh yeah - he was picking up our new transportation." Hannibal headed for the front door, pausing for only a moment.
"Oh, and thanks, General. I like to ride in style."