June 01 --- Macavity

Holiday: Hug Your Cat Day

Author's Note: This was the inspiration for "Covenant" and is incorporated into that story.

"He's got to have an accomplice. He doesn't have clearance for that information."

"C-day info gets out all the time, security or not. Hell, half the camp knows before I do!"

"Yeah, but this guy - this guy, Hannibal, is buying up MPCs long before anyone else does. And that isn't the only thing he's dealing in."


"Oh, well, I don't know about that." The major almost physically stepped back. "But cigarettes, booze, meat...the guy's got a handle on everything that pays big on the black market, and he uses that to squeeze even more out of the MPCs."

"But how do you know it's Peck?"

"Because, Hannibal, that kid's living better than a lot of us are! No way in bloody damn hell he can afford that stuff on his pay. A freakin' Cadillac sitting outside his house - house, mind you, not some damn hootch. Tell me how he paid for that!"

"So why haven't you charged him?"

"Because he's too fucking smart, that's why. Nobody can get any proof that he's doing it. He's working with so damn many people around here...hell! By the time we find one, he's moved on to somebody else, and it comes down to his word against some gook's."

Hannibal sat back in his chair. The three other officers - two colonels and a major - continued to complain about the black marketing and the man they knew was behind the biggest 'operation'. Hannibal was uncomfortable with their attitude, although he didn't know the guy.

Not yet.

After another couple of drinks, the talk turned to schemes for catching Peck red-handed. Hannibal decided he had finally had enough. He said his goodnights and headed out into the humid night air. Hot as it was, it was still cooler than the inside of the "Officer's Club", which was, in reality, just another tent. Hannibal pulled a cigar from his pocket, lit it, and started a leisurely walk to his tent.

It was late, and other than the sentries and medical staff, there were few people up and about. Hannibal didn't usually like being out at this time; the sentries, never quite trusting the quiet, were a little too quick with both the trigger and the rifle butt. Seemed like they almost put the greenest guys on guard duty - usual military thinking.

Hannibal was almost to his tent when he caught the soft hiss of voices coming from behind the neighboring tent. His cigar went in the mud as his hand automatically went for his sidearm, and he shook his head, chagrined. Talk about green...

He stepped cautiously along the side of the tent, slowing to a stop as he realized the voices were speaking Vietnamese.

And one had an American accent.

He listened carefully. He couldn't make out everything that was said, but it was clear the two men were setting up a meeting of some kind. Then he heard two words that made things perfectly clear.

American greenbacks.

He had no doubts as to what was transpiring. The very thing his fellow officers had been arguing about in the officers' tent - the complicated money trade. Soldiers would trade their military currency to the locals, sometimes for as much as three times what it was worth. The locals, who couldn't actually use the MPCs, would then trade them back to other soldiers for real American money, again at a rate higher than the military would pay out. Both sides ended up happy - the locals now had money they could actually use, and the soldiers had more spending money than they'd get exchanging through the Army. The only problem being that it was illegal.

Hannibal hesitated. He could step in now and end the deal, take the soldier into custody and scare off his contact. There were only two issues with that. One, the locals - and many soldiers - took these transactions very seriously, and God only knew what either of these guys were carrying. Hannibal couldn't see any reason to get either man injured. The second issue was more convincing - he didn't really have a problem with the exchange.

He did want to find out who this guy was, though. At least whether or not it was someone under his command. With his rep, the last thing he needed was one of his guys brought up on charges. Again.

He stood perfectly still, waiting for the conversation to end, catching a few more details. He didn't know if he'd need the info, but it was always useful to have an ace in the hole. He didn't know how long the two had already been there, but it was only a couple minutes before they finished their discussion and parted. The local disappeared into the darkness, and the soldier slipped quietly away in the opposite direction.

Hannibal followed the soldier.

The soldier made two more stops. Each time he waited behind a tent, and within moments another soldier would step around to meet him. Each time the conversation lasted only a couple of minutes and then the "dealer" was on his way again. Unfortunately, Hannibal wasn't able to get close enough to listen in on these meetings, but he knew what was going on.

After meeting with the last man, the soldier moved more casually, apparently no longer worried about being seen. He moved to the path that ran in front of the hootches and calmly lit a cigarette before moving down the long path. Hannibal watched from the shadows as he stopped at the sentry post and chatted with the guard, laughing at some joke, and then moved on past the perimeter toward the village.

Hannibal waited a moment, not wanting his own passage from the camp to be noticed by the man ahead of him. The way the guy was strolling along it wouldn't be hard to catch up with him. If the guards thought it strange that Colonel Smith was leaving the camp at that time of night, they didn't question him. He smiled to himself. No one questions a 'legend'.

It didn't surprise him when his man eventually walked up to a small house just off the main road. As the man unlocked the door, Hannibal peered around the dark street. Four houses down, the street took a sharp turn to the right; the neighboring houses were close in, with numerous pathways leading off the street into deeper darkness. The infamous Cadillac sat at the back of the house, facing the street. Hannibal nodded his head. The military may know where Peck lived, but they wouldn't easily catch him if he knew they were coming. And Hannibal didn't doubt that somehow, Peck would know.

He waited in the darkness until he saw a light at the back of the house, then he stepped up to the door and rapped hard. He waited only a moment before pounding again. Loud. Before he could raise his fist a third time, he felt the wrong end of a gun stuck in his side.

"Kinda late for visitors, buddy."

"Kinda dark for my birds to shine - buddy."

A split second hesitation and the barrel came away from his side.

"Sorry, sir, you're right - it is too dark to see who's who. Would you like to come inside?"

Hannibal smiled to himself. The kid was good - an apology, a defense, and an olive branch, all in one smooth delivery. He was more than happy to accept the invitation - he wanted to see what else this kid would throw at him.

Based on what his friends had said earlier, Hannibal expected to see a fair amount of creature comforts when he walked in the door. He wasn't sure if he was disappointed or not to see an old couch and a teetering coffee table facing the door. A white sheet formed a wall behind them, not quite blocking a view of an old wrought iron bed. He turned and smiled at the lieutenant.


"I don't need much. Just...privacy. Sir." He smiled slightly, and Hannibal noted it. Cocky, or just confident? "Have a seat, Colonel." He motioned to the couch, while pulling two beers from a crate by the wall. He handed one to Hannibal. "The real stuff, as a peace offering. I really didn't know it was you, sir. I wouldn't have pulled the gun if I had."

Hannibal smiled to himself. The kid knew all the tricks, all right.

"So, Colonel Smith, are you here to arrest me, or do business with me?"

Hannibal, beer half-way to his lips, looked up at him. "You cut right to the chase."

"You followed me, Colonel. People don't usually do that for social reasons."

This time Hannibal allowed himself a long swallow before responding. Peck knew he was being followed, yet went ahead with his meetings just the same. He knew who Hannibal was...and probably knew where Hannibal's quarters were.

"Maybe you should tell me what you want first, Lieutenant." Hannibal was gratified to see the split-second look of surprise. He pressed. "Or maybe I already know. You're getting tired of it. It's routine now, isn't it? The only excitement left is pushing the stakes higher, going for more and more deals, knowing it's drawing attention, doing it anyway. The money doesn't matter any more. It's pushing the envelope, seeing how far you can go without getting caught.

"But you knew you'd get caught eventually. You knew the Army was getting fed up, and..." Hannibal stopped as Peck smiled softly. "Damn it, you knew you were going to get caught, so the trick was to get caught by the right person!"

The smile broadened to a grin. "A case of mutual benefit, Colonel. You think I'm good with the black market, you should see me with the Army supply chain."

"I have a supply officer."

"Yeah, who takes twice as long to get you half as much as you need. I've made his acquaintance. Give me a week, you'll need a good replacement."

Hannibal looked at him, suspiciously. Peck practically glared back.

"Nothing like that, Colonel. He's a good kid, but he belongs behind some desk, not out here. He'll be stateside in a week. You just give me the word."

"I can't authorize a transfer out of here."

"You don't need to." He held up his hand. "Don't ask, Colonel. I'll make sure you have what you need, without screwing over some other combat unit, and you don't ask how I do it. That's the deal."

"You're making terms with the guy that could put you away?"

"No, I'm putting forth an offer that an astute man would realize is golden."

Hannibal stared at him for a quick moment. "Golden, huh?" Cocky little bastard, but... "You'd have to give up this place. My guys stay together. But, uh, you can keep the Caddy."

"I can live with that."

"And no more dealing with..."

"Oh, I won't have time for that. I have something else brewing - completely legal."

"And that would be?"

"An Officer's Club with a little more...ambience. I mean, after all, I'll probably be spending more time there now."

Hannibal couldn't help but chuckle. "All right, Lieutenant. Make it happen. I want to see just how 'golden' you are." Shaking his head, he stood and moved to the door, his host following him out to the dark street. He turned and looked sternly at his soon-to-be lieutenant.

"Just remember, kid, you've made some enemies, and they aren't going to forgive and forget. So I wouldn't get too cocky."

"Even under the wing of the famous Hannibal Smith?"

There was just a hint of sarcasm in the tone and Hannibal didn't like it. " 'The man who carries a cat by the tail learns something that can be learned in no other way'. Mark Twain said that. A very wise man."

"It's something to think about, alright." Peck gave him a cynical smile, and Hannibal lit a cigar, watching this new man of his walk casually away.

"It certainly is, Lieutenant. It certainly is..."