CHAPTER EIGHT

Face had been right. Hannibal's plan was a very good one. Very simple. The Senator's building had eight entrances on the first floor, and four more into the basement. Obviously too many for the team to cover effectively. The second and third floors each had two stairwells and two sets of elevators. There were fire escapes on each end. The Senator's offices were located just off the central staircase.

The office building opened at 9:00 a.m.; the deadline Stockwell had been given for the latest demand was 11:00 a.m.. By half past eight, the team had made a complete canvass of the building's interior and knew that, other than janitorial staff, it was empty. By quarter to nine, one set of elevators were undergoing 'repairs', and the secondary stairwell was closed for 'painting'. Face and Frankie had checked out the Senator's personal office area, including his calendar. His day was filled with appointments. Hannibal would be watching for anyone attempting to see the Senator without one.

Face, Murdock, and Frankie were stationed at various points on the floor to permit quick access to the only exits they had left available. BA was stationed outside in the van, ready to follow anyone who got past the team inside.

Hannibal took his position in the Senator's outer office, working slowly and carefully on a non-existent electrical problem. The secretary was a little hard to convince that anything was wrong, until BA's timer in the basement went off and the lights and computers started flickering. He had assured Hannibal that as long as he didn't actually touch certain wires, the flickering would continue throughout the day.

The day itself was long and boring. The deadline came and went. Two people came into the Senator's office without appointments; one, a student reporter from the local university who was way too young. The other was an elderly gentleman who was very hard of hearing. Hannibal kept a close eye on the desk while the secretary dealt with each of them, figuring either could be just a diversion, but no papers or envelopes mysteriously appeared on the desk. By the end of the business day, Hannibal was more than ready to call it a day. Unfortunately, they still had to deal with any 'overnight' deliveries.

In a way, this was easier. After making sure no one was lingering in the office when the secretary prepared to lock up, Hannibal said his goodnight to the lady, with his apologies for taking so long to repair the problems. As soon as that good woman disappeared in the elevator, the rest of the team appeared. Face quickly picked the lock and they entered the office. Another quick check, and they were ready for phase two.

Hannibal had considered this part of the operation from a more personal perspective. They could have worked with just one person in the office, another in the alcove down the hall from the office door, and the rest taking a break in the van, switching halfway through the night. But Hannibal did not want Face left on his own. It was hard to admit that he really did not trust his lieutenant any more; he had never thought it could happen. But these were special circumstances. He knew, he hoped, that if this job had come up six months or a year from now, he would never have entertained such thoughts.

More and more he was wishing he had been able to leave Face behind on this one. He should have known there would be problems that first day. But even knowing what he did now, Hannibal couldn't think of a plausible reason to not include him. Not without causing problems with both Face and Stockwell. Nothing short of a physical injury would have stopped the lieutenant from being included, and Hannibal would not have even considered that.

So, for phase two, Hannibal settled on two people in the office, two in a rental car on one side of the building, and BA in the van on the other side. It wasn't ideal, but it would work. The men in the vehicles could sleep, and if anything happened in the office, they could be reached in seconds by radio. Hannibal and Frankie took the first shift and settled in as comfortably as they could without falling asleep.

Face and Murdock waited in the rental car in front of the building, Face stretching out in the front seat, Murdock in back. Face knew he should get some sleep, but he was too excited. He could feel an electricity running through him. Maybe what the others called the Jazz. Whatever it was, it felt good. Hell, it felt great. He kept watching the building, thinking. Seeing it in his mind. So simple. The winning element of any good plan. Simplicity.

"Can't sleep, Face?" Murdock's voice was muffled in the back seat.

"It'll come. Don't worry about it." He didn't mean to sound so clipped, but he didn't need a conversation with Murdock just now.

"What's going on with you, Face? You've been so, I don't know, tense since we started this job."

"You're imagining things, Murdock."

"No, I don't do that anymore, Muchacho. I'm sane now, y'know?"

Yeah, right. "Okay, okay, but I haven't been tense. I've just been concentrating on the job."

"Hmm, how about agitated, perturbed, irritated, provoked, stirred up, worked up, piqued..."

"Murdock, if you don't shut up, I will show you what I'm like when I'm irritated."

"Sheee..." Murdock grumbled, but shut up. He was beginning to understand why Hannibal was having second thoughts about having Face with them. There had been no joking in that voice.


*****

Morning came without incident. Face and Murdock, besides restlessly pacing the Senator's offices, had had nothing to do except stare at each other. They couldn't talk, for fear of any visitors hearing them. The only excitement had come when the custodians had come to clean. The two men spent a very uncomfortable half hour stuck in the closet. They made a fast but thorough inspection of the room after their release, in case one of the custodial staff had left anything behind, but they found nothing.

Finally they heard Hannibal's knock at the door. Murdock opened it with relief. Sixteen hours in close proximity with Face had become almost unbearable, something he never would have thought possible. Murdock hadn't been around Face as much as the others since he'd come back, but enough so he thought the old Face was making a strong comeback. Now he wasn't sure at all. While Murdock had gotten up occasionally to stretch, Face had been in almost constant motion. Checking the door, the windows, looking through the bookshelves. Other than while stuck in the closet, he had never quit moving. It was even more irritating because Murdock had orders from Hannibal to keep an eye on him.

Today they had to move to a different scenario. Hannibal couldn't work on the electrical again, so Murdock had been elected to go in, ostensibly to see the Senator without an appointment. After watching yesterday's activities, Hannibal was quite sure that Murdock would spend the day waiting.

Thus it was Murdock who had the first hint something was not right. Shortly after the Senator arrived, he came bursting out of his office and conferred in low tones, but with obvious urgency, with his secretary. She seemed to be denying something, and the Senator returned to his office in a huff. Within minutes, the secretary's phone rang, and after speaking for a moment, began telling everyone in the office that the Senator would have to reschedule their appointments. She included Murdock in her 'don't argue with me' look. As he shuffled out the door, he heard her get back on the phone, apparently calling another Senator.

Once outside, Murdock found Hannibal and casually stepped up next to him. He saw the others start moving in.

"What's going on, Captain?"

"Dunno, Colonel, but the Senator's definitely not happy about something, and he's canceling all his appointments. I heard the secretary calling another Senator as I left."

"Damn. I don't like this." Frankie and Face had moved up close now, curiosity and concern showing clearly. Hannibal quickly explained what had happened.

"It can't be our guy, Colonel. There was no way he could've gotten anything past us." Face was adamant, and Murdock agreed.

"Even the janitors - we checked everything out after they left, Hannibal. There was nothing there that wasn't before."

"Okay, okay. Maybe it's something totally unrelated. He is an important Senator, after all." Hannibal knew it sounded more like a hope than a certainty, but he agreed with his men. There was no way anyone had slipped something in under their noses.


*****

Face was practically humming inside. He'd pulled it off so smoothly! He couldn't believe it had been that easy. But then, they were dealing with Face. Face, who they knew like the back of their collective hands. Whose scams they saw through with ease. Who could never lie without their knowing. They knew Face inside and out.

But they don't know me...


*****

Telling the others to wait there and keep an eye on the office, Hannibal hurried out to the van. He filled BA in on things as he dialed Stockwell's number. Five minutes later he hung up, shaken.

"The bastard's done it again, BA. The Senator is calling for an investigation into one of the programs that Stockwell's got an 'interest' in. Some of the projects that weren't really in their purview, additional funding they weren't supposed to have."

"But how did he do it, Hannibal?"

"I don't know, BA. There was just no way he could have."

"Except Face..."

"Murdock was with Face the whole time. He would have noticed if he'd left anything there. Besides, how would Face have gotten hold of that file?"

"The other night, Hannibal."

"We still haven't figured out how we were drugged, BA. We don't know how that happened, we don't know if he left the hotel, we don't know how the papers got to the Senator, and there's nothing we can pin on Face. Yes, it's obviously something he could have done. But did he? I can't accuse him of anything, BA, not without some really hard proof. I can't risk losing him because of a gut feeling. We've been through too much and too many years to do that."

"I know, Hannibal, but if we don't do somethin, soon, we can kiss those pardons goodbye. Not to mention all the problems those papers have gotta cause."

"I know, BA, I know. But there's only one way we're going to get to the bottom of this. And that's to push Face as hard we can without an outright accusation. Push him hard enough and something's got to give."