"I gotta have a dollar."
"A dollar. For Lisse."
"BA, we're out in the boondocks, in the middle of the night, no way of getting anywhere. So why would Lisse need a dollar?" Face was trying to concentrate on the map on the table, annoyed at the interruption.
" 'Cause she lost a tooth. Gotta have a dollar for the tooth fairy."
Face looked up at BA. "The tooth fairy? You're kidding, right?"
BA rolled his eyes. "She's six, man."
"Well, her mom can deal with that when we get her home. She won't know the difference."
"C'mon, Face. That's like sayin she wouldn't know if Santa didn't come on Christmas Eve."
"We'll be meeting Hannibal and Murdock in the morning. She'll be home by tomorrow night. Just tell her the fairy waited until she was home."
"It don't work that way."
"Will you listen to yourself? You sound like Murdock! Now will you leave it, please? I have to find a way out of this place. Can't be dragging her through the swamps, you know."
BA was obviously not happy, and he made sure Face was aware of it as he plopped down on the couch, glaring.
Face went back to his map, trying to concentrate once more on the terrain they would have to cross to get back to civilization. It wasn't as if they could just backtrack, go out they way they'd come in. No, as he'd mentioned to BA, they couldn't take a six-year-old through the swamp. That meant finding a more suitable route through the thickly wooded hills.
Why was it that kidnappers could never settle into a nice penthouse suite? Or a condo in the suburbs?
He swatted at a mosquito buzzing by his ear. He felt some satisfaction knowing that the three men tied up in the shed would be feeding those little beasts tonight and a good share of the day tomorrow. No way was he going to try and drag them along. The cops could come out and get them later. He took another swing at his own tormentor. Dammit. His clothes were still damp and cold and smelled like the rancid water they'd waded through. He was tired and wanted more than anything to just go to bed. But first he had to find them a way out for the morning.
BA continued to glare at him.
Face sighed and pulled out his wallet. "All I have is a five. Will that work?"
"Don't wanna put you out."
Face slammed the wallet on the table and stood, nearly knocking the chair over. BA's scowl turned to shock.
"Look, BA, you want to play tooth fairy, fine. Take the damn money, stick it under the pillow and then pat yourself on the back for a job well done, okay?"
BA stood and walked slowly over to the table. He looked at the wallet and then over at Face, who had turned to stare out the window.
"What's goin on, Face? You know this stuff is important for little kids." He watched Face's back for another moment, then sighed. "Okay, so you didn't do the tooth fairy. I unnerstand that. But you musta read fairy tales and stuff like that, right?"
"Sure, we did. All the neat stories about the good guys beating the bad guys, all living happily ever after."
"Yeah..." BA wasn't at all sure why Face was so upset. "So what's the big deal with the tooth fairy?"
Face's shoulders slumped and he rubbed his forehead. "Nothing, BA. Nothing. I'm just tired and I have a lot of work to do before we can get out of here. Just forget it." He looked up and smiled. "Take the five for Lisse. She gets the Beverly Hills Tooth Fairy this time."
BA looked at him for a long moment before smiling back. He took the five and headed into the bedroom where the little girl slept. Face went back to the table and sat, not looking at the map.
The tooth fairy. Hansel and Gretel. Santa Claus. The good guys always won. The bad guys always lost. The witches melted, the geniis were put back in their bottles, the wicked stepmothers vanished. The princess married the prince and they lived happily ever after.
All the little lies told to children. And they believed them. Hook, line and sinker. If you were good, if you said your prayers, everything would work out.
The tooth fairy. Santa Claus. God.
Nobody told kids the truth. No, fill their heads with crap and then step back, waiting for real life to slap them in the face. And then act surprised that the kid actually believed all that crap.
Even Father Magill.
He shook himself and looked at the map. Time to get back to work.
It was past noon the next day when they reached the small hamlet where Hannibal and Murdock were waiting. Face and BA had taken turns carrying Lisse through the woods, and both were exhausted. All Face wanted was a hot shower, a hot meal, and a soft bed. They got the hot meal, at least, but then had a four hour drive to the home of their client to deliver her daughter.
BA insisted on driving, so to help keep him awake, Hannibal grilled him on their trek and left Face to doze. The last thing he heard was Murdock telling Lisse all about Billy's latest trick, the little girl giggling delightedly.
He didn't wake up until he felt the van come to a stop. He opened his eyes, blearily taking in the large Colonial house, the front door flying open as their client came rushing out.
And then Lisse was standing beside him, blue eyes staring into blue eyes.
"Thank you, Mr. Face."
And then she was gone, smothered in her mother's embrace, the rest of the team standing around them, grinning and laughing.
Face leaned his head back, eyes closed.
"You did good, kid. The good guys won again!"
Hannibal's cigar smoke drifted in the open door of the van. Face opened his eyes, looked at his colonel.
"Yeah, we did, didn't we?"