MAY 26
Solo
Holiday: International Jazz Day

It's the group sound that's important, even when you're playing a solo. You not only have to know your own instrument, you must know the others and how to back them up at all times. That's jazz. ~ Oscar Peterson

He moved quickly and silently through the woods. A few more yards and he would have to slow down, move more cautiously. If he was seen, everything went down the tubes. He had to hurry, but it had to be done right. If the timing was off, the others wouldn't have the time they needed. He shook his head; Hannibal and his plans. One day he was going to get them all killed.

He was close to the edge of the woods now, the dicey part. He moved much more slowly from tree to tree, but his hands worked fast and precisely. He could practically do this blindfolded, but he double-checked everything, just the same, before moving on to the next position. He scanned the buildings as he moved, watching the guards, stopping instantly if one of them looked in his direction, moving again as soon as they turned away. He looked anxiously at the borrowed watch as he fastened down the last wire.

Just enough time...


He really, really, really wished Hannibal would think things through just a teeny, tiny, little bit longer before going ahead with them. Given the right circumstances, he could fast-talk his way through people almost as good as Face, but this was definitely not one of those times. There had been a nice little private airport just a few miles further, but no, he didn't have time to get there and pick up a pretty little birdie that would fit right into that little square behind the house. No, instead he had to sneak under the fence and make his way to the Army hangar and steal one that was too big to land.

Well, it had gone okay so far. By the time the few guys around the hangar had realized that that chopper shouldn't be taking off, he was too high for their shooting to matter. And this baby was fast enough he was long gone over the ocean, down close to white caps so they couldn't track him. He smiled as he glanced at the clock.

Smooth as silk...


He glanced at his watch, shaking his head. Hannibal never left enough time for contingencies. He'd been stuck in the trunk of the car a lot longer than they had figured. That goon by the door seemed to think he was glued to it. When he'd finally left, Face had barely had time to slip out of the trunk, run across the lawn and shimmy up the tree before another set had shown up. And that branch reaching over to the window wasn't nearly as sturdy as Hannibal had thought.

Sighing, Face concentrated on the job. The safe was taking some time, but he had a handle on it. He softly whispered a thank you to Richard Feynman. Of course, it would have been so much easier if he'd had time to search for the combination, but he'd had two choices - spend time looking for the combo on the off-chance this guy was that stupid, or spend his time actually getting the safe open. Considering where Hannibal was right now, he'd chosen the latter.

Ah. That last, lovely little click. He smiled, just a little smugly.

It was a gift. It truly was...


Hannibal smiled easily at Charlie Grayson, although it took all his acting skills to do so. They were seated in an overly opulent living room, expensive oils festooning the walls, floor space cluttered with mahogany curios filled with expensive glass and china trinkets. Hannibal felt uncomfortably like he was settling into a foxhole as he had sunk into the overstuffed couch. Everything about this guy was over the top - typical of a low-life thug who made it big in the crime world. You can take the cat out of the alley, but...

They'd been making nice for almost an hour now. Grayson was convinced Hannibal was some bigwig from the Old Country, too ignorant to question the names Hannibal was throwing around like rice at a wedding. Hannibal smiled, genuinely this time. His middle name had to be Blarney. It just had to be.

He glanced at his watch. Almost. He stood and moved toward the large windows that looked over the heavily wooded landscape, casually picking up a glass of wine.

"You have a, how you say, magnificent view, Signore Grayson. Magnifico!"


BA sat in the van, two blocks from Grayson's estate. He hated the waiting, not knowing if anything had gone wrong...he shook his head, looked at his watch. Almost. Almost. His finger moved to the remote.

Now.


Murdock glanced at his watch, but the time didn't matter now. He was waiting for the signal, that first plume of smoke. His neck was already stiff from craning to see as he made his wide circles. He flexed his fingers on the joystick.

There.


He felt the rumble of the first blast almost before he heard it. Pretty damn close there, BA. He swung the door of the safe shut, and stuffed the last papers into the waterproof pouch. Just in case. A quick look out the door, a step to the room across the hall, slide open the window, wait for the second blast.

Go.


The plush room now had at least six people in it, heavily armed. Grayson was white with rage. The second blast had been closer still than the first, and several more delicate china pieces had toppled. Shouting orders, he rushed from the room, leaving one man to guard his guest. Hannibal smiled calmly, and swung a brass swan when his protector turned his back. He pushed the French doors open.

Magnifico.


BA pulled into the alley behind the strip mall. He'd waited until the fourth blast had gone off, confident the rest would blow without a hitch. This was the worst part of the whole plan. Murdock's theft of the Army chopper meant the MPs would be all over the place, but Hannibal figured the last place they'd expect their errant bird to land was the parking lot of a shopping center.

BA shook his head and listened.


Murdock swung in close to the cliff. There was just enough beach at the bottom for him to land this baby - just enough. Hannibal was right - it was the only weak spot in the estate's defenses, but for damn good reason. Only an idiot would try to scale that cliff. Which was why the guys would be rappelling down it instead.

He gently eased the bird down on the sand, squeezing between cliff and surf.


Face waited a split second for the bad guy to turn the corner before taking the leap to the tree by the window. This branch wasn't even as sturdy as the one out front, and he heard it snap. Luckily, it merely twisted downward instead of breaking off, and he sailed with it to the ground. A little rougher landing than he'd wished for, but he was down. He raced through the trees, catching a glimpse of a second running figure.

He grinned as he headed for the cliff.


Hannibal was running for the edge of the estate. He chuckled. Literally the edge. He pulled at his shirt as he ran, reaching for the rope wound about his waist like a girdle. Good thing he had no ego. That rope definitely gave him a paunch - but then he was supposed to be an old man, right? Finally free, he breathed deeply as he wrapped the rope around the tree at the edge of the cliff. Looking back, he saw Face coming at a dead run.

Not a bad guy in sight.


Hannibal looked around. Face was going over the papers he'd purloined from the safe. BA was outside, cleaning up the van. Murdock was flitting around the room, describing his stealth in stealing the chopper, which they'd left sitting in the parking lot surrounded by open-mouthed civilians. Their preoccupation with the machine that had suddenly settled in their midst had easily allowed the team to scramble unnoticed into the van that came racing around the building, and they'd been long gone before anyone would have thought to call the Army. Hannibal nodded happily.

Now, that was the Jazz.

FINI