Orphaned in L.A.
Orphaned in L.A.
Summary: What if Bancroft and Stockwell were wrong?
Part I: Detroit, MI; Autumn 1948
Ellie Cooper paused in her pacing, and looked across the counsel chamber to her husband.
`It's such a big step, Richard,' she whispered.
`But such an important one, Ellie,' Richard replied. `You know what Camuglia's like! Drugs, extortion, bribery, disappearances, people shot down in broad daylight! The list goes on and on! But with what I learned through my job as a prison guard, and the payoff you witnessed at that fancy restaurant on our anniversary, we can help put him away for a good long time.'
Ellie sat down at the conference table, and glanced at the district attorney before speaking again.
`I know it's important, Richard.' She took her husband's hands in hers. `But I'm scared. No - make that terrified. You know what he's like. He'll come after us. Can he protect us for the rest of our lives?' she asked, nodding towards the man sitting across from them.
Mitchell Coddington, the DA, shook his head.
`I can try to provide you with an order of protection, Ellie,' he sighed, `but that's only good for a year at most. After that, it can be renewed periodically, but that's up to the judge presiding at the time of the request. There's no guarantee.'
`The whole case hinges on our testimony, Ellie,' Richard reminded her. `Without that, the whole case falls apart. If we refuse to testify, he'll walk. That would put too many other people in danger, both now and down the line. I don't want to have that on my conscience.
`We're going to have to disappear, Ellie. As Mitch says, the police won't be able to protect us forever. I have some contacts among the cons who can provide us with false papers. We'll make a new life for ourselves somewhere else. Are you with me?'
Ellie hesitated. It was a long shot, but their testimony was too important.
`Yes, Richard; I'll go anywhere with you.'
Three Months Later
Richard Cooper sighed with relief as the judge handed down the sentence: fifty years at a federal penitentiary with no chance of parole. He looked at Ellie and smiled. The courtroom began to clear, and he stood to offer his hand to his wife, his eyes shining at her bravery for going through with their testimony at the trial.
As Camuglia was escorted from the courtroom, he turned to look at Cooper.
`You're dead, Screw!' he announced quietly. `I don`t care how long it takes! You`re dead. You and your whole family! Dead!' he screamed.
The guards grabbed Camuglia by the arms and dragged him from the courthouse to the prison van. He was still ranting as it pulled away.
Part II: Los Angeles, CA; April 1958
`Arthur! Time for school!' Liz Mason called up the staircase. `The bus'll be here any minute!'
Five-year-old Arthur Thomas Mason came running from his room, his schoolbag thumping behind him as he methodically climbed down the stairs one at a time.
`Did you wash your hands and brush your teeth after breakfast?' Liz asked, as she did every day. It was part of their morning ritual.
`Yes, Mommy!' Arthur held up his damp hands, then breathed at her so she could smell the minty toothpaste on his breath.
Dick Mason arrived just in time for this performance. He grinned. He knew he was lucky to have a beautiful wife, and a beautiful, quick-witted son.
`Ready for school, Scout?' he asked, grinning.
`All ready, Dad,' Arthur told him proudly. `I've even got my toy robot for show-and-tell!'
Dick ruffled the boy's blond hair, sending the golden strands in all directions. Laughing, Arthur tried to smooth it back into place.
Liz looked towards the door. `Time to go, Arthur! The bus is here!
Arthur's parents walked him out the door and down the front steps.
`Get `em up, Scout!' Dick chuckled, sending his son on his way with a light swat to his rear. The boy giggled as he ran; The Lone Ranger was one of his favorite shows.
Arthur clambered up into the half-sized bus.
`Morning, Henry!' he said, greeting the bus driver.
`Morning, Artie!' the driver returned. `Better get in your seat, now. We got a lot more kids to pick up.'
`'Kay, Henry!' Arthur got into the front seat across the aisle from Henry, and waved out the window to his parents.
Henry chuckled. He knew Artie liked these few minutes alone with him at the beginning of the day. The boy was his first pick-up, and the last one dropped off in the afternoon. For such a young kid, he was smart as a whip.
Making sure the road was clear, Henry pulled away from the curb.
A knock on the door a few hours later drew Liz from the kitchen. Checking the peephole on the door, she saw a tall man with dark brown hair graying at the temples. Wire-rimmed glasses gave him a bit of a scholarly look.
Making sure the safety chain was in place, Liz opened the door.
`Can I help you?'
The man looked at her carefully.
`Mrs. Mason?' the man asked. `Mrs. Liz Mason?'
`Yes,' she answered carefully. `How can I help you?'
`My name's Scarpetta,' the man said. `I have some business with you and your husband.'
`Whatever it is,' Liz replied, `I don't think we want any.' With that, she started to close the door.
Scarpetta blocked it.
`I don't think so, Mrs. Mason,' he said smoothly. `Or should I say - Ellie Cooper?'
Liz looked at him, horrified. Backing away, she turned to run.
`Richard!' she screamed. Behind her, the door crashed open as Scarpetta kicked it hard, ripping the chain from the door jamb. In a few steps, he caught up with her.
Dick came running into the living room. He stopped short when he saw Scarpetta with his arm around his wife, a gun at her temple.
Scarpetta grinned wolfishly.
`Did you really think you'd get away with it, Cooper?' he asked. `It took me a long time, but I finally found you.'
`What do you want?' Mason asked belligerently.
`I've got a message for you from Tony Camuglia,' the hit-man said smoothly.
`Camuglia's dead, mister,' the other man countered. `He died in prison four years ago.'
`Yeah,' said Scarpetta. `This message is from his son, Tony Jr. Nobody crosses the Camuglia family and gets away with it. This will make sure no one ever tries it again. Now, turn around and get on your knees.'
The former Richard Cooper had no choice but to comply. Moments later, his wife was kneeling beside him.
Liz looked at her husband, and saw he was thinking the same thing she was. There was no hope for them. She thanked Heaven that there were no obvious signs in the room that a child lived in this house.
Resigned, she closed her eyes, and prayed.
Dear Lord, she thought, please protect our son...
Moments later, two muffled shots broke the morning stillness.
Henry pulled up to the curb outside the Mason house. It was his last stop of the day, and he was glad of it, even though he'd miss little Artie and his endless stream of questions about everything under the sun. He set the brake, and tooted the horn, and waited for the Masons to come out and collect their son.
After a couple minutes, he frowned. Usually, the Masons came out right away; it wasn't like them to leave Artie on the bus like this. He honked the horn again. Still nothing.
He turned off the engine. Turning to his charge, he said:
`Artie, it looks like your parents didn't hear the horn. I'm going to go knock on the door, okay? You just sit tight `til I get back.'
Henry knocked on the front door. As he did, it moved a little, so he pushed it open and looked in the living room.
`Oh, my God!' he said in a hushed whisper, feeling his stomach rebel.
Composing himself, he walked back to the bus and climbed aboard. Looking at the child in the front seat, he took a deep breath.
`Artie,' he began, `I need you to do me a favor, a very important favor.'
`What is it, Henry?'
`I want you to take your schoolbag and go sit in the very back seat of the bus. Take out a book and read for a while, okay? I have to call the bus garage, okay?'
`'Kay, Henry,' the boy said gravely. Dragging his schoolbag behind him, Arthur made his way to the other end of the bus.
When he was sure Arthur was settled, Henry picked up the radio mic and called the bus garage. Speaking quietly, he told the dispatcher what he'd found, and asked her to call the police.
It wasn't long before several police cruisers pulled up, their lights flashing, but without sirens. Little Arthur looked out the window at the spectacle, then went back to his book. Henry, closing the bus door behind him, went to meet the officers. They'd want to question him, he knew.
After a while, Arthur was bored. He'd read the few books he had several times, and was anxious for Henry to come back. He looked out the window again, puzzled by all the strange people going in and out of his house, and it aroused his curiosity.
Going to the front of the bus, he pushed at the doors, but they wouldn't open. Climbing back up to the driver's seat, he tugged at the handle that Henry used to open them. It took him several tries, but he was strong for his age, and eventually he managed to open the doors just enough for him to squeeze through.
Officer Ellen McGrath stood in the kitchen of the little house, shaking badly and sipping at the glass of water she'd been given by her partner. She'd seen bodies before, but they'd all been in the morgue. It was different seeing them at the scene of a crime. She knew she'd be all right; she just needed a little time to get her emotions under control.
As she sipped, she overheard one of her fellow officers calling the station, requesting a coroner to be sent to the house. Once he arrived, the investigation would begin in earnest. Another officer was speaking with the bus driver who'd called in the report.
Ellen's head shot up, and she stared in the direction of the living room.
`Mommy? Wake up!' came the quavering voice of a small child. `Please wake up, Mommy!'
The officers quickly moved into the living room. There they saw a young blond boy, about five years old, kneeling by the body of the woman, shaking her.
`Oh, my God! Where'd he come from?' breathed one of the cops.
`Quick! Get him out of here,' murmured Ellen's partner. She nodded. As the only female officer present, perhaps the kid would trust her.
`What's your name, little boy?' Ellen said quietly. Her heart stopped when he looked up at her, his blue-grey eyes staring. She knew he didn't understand what was going on.
`It's okay; I won't hurt you,' she said, giving him her best smile. But she knew it wasn't working. He had that wary `don't-talk-to-strangers' look in his eyes. She held out a hand and took a step forward, but he scrambled to his feet and darted out the door and around the corner of the house, knowing he needed to hide.
`Catch him!' yelled Henry.
Ellen raced after the child. By the time she reached the backyard, he was nowhere to be seen.
Looking around, she spotted a pair of sneakers disappearing through a small hole in the white picket fence. She knew she'd never fit, so she looked for another way.
There was a picnic table nearby. Grabbing one of the benches, she dragged it to the fence; with its help, she was able to vault the fence.
She found herself at the edge of a sand lot frequently used by neighborhood kids for baseball and other games. Across the lot, there was a fringe of thick bushes; beyond that was a large wooded area.
There was no sign of the boy.
It was as if he'd never existed.
Dejectedly, she made her way back to the house. Her Sergeant wasn't going to like this. It would mean an all-out sweep of the neighborhood, cops and volunteers alike.
Officer McGrath prayed they'd find the child. He wouldn't last long on his own.
Several Days Later
A little boy stood on the sidewalk, staring up at the huge building in front of him. His clothes were torn and dirty; his blond hair was limp and matted, and there were tracks in the dirt that stained his mournful face.
He seemed to remember another building like this, another one with a cross on it. But that had been long ago, and he couldn't recall it clearly. It had been colder then, and dark. Someone had brought him there. Two someones. To celebrate something? He wasn't sure. All he could remember were the happy faces, and the candles, and the beautiful music.
And other music. High-pitched voices. Very high-pitched. On a record he'd gotten from...
o/~ Christmas! Christmas-time is here... o/~
Something pulled at him. Slowly, clutching the hand-rail, he began to climb the steep steps towards the open door...
Sister Mary Margrethe turned at the sound of scuffing footsteps in the silent church. To her surprise, she saw a little boy, ragged and dirty, but with a face the angels might envy. What, she wondered, was a child this young doing, wandering around by himself so late in the evening?
`Hello,' she said quietly.
The child did not smile back, just regarded her with large, serious blue-grey eyes, his lower lip caught between his teeth. He'd seen people in black-and-white outfits like hers before. They'd seemed nice, but...
o/~ Time for fun and time for cheer... o/~
He shrank back when Sister Mary approached. She stopped, dropping to one knee so as not to frighten him, the skirt of her black habit pooling on the flagstone floor.
`What's your name?'
The boy shrugged.
`Surely a big boy like you knows his name?' the nun wheedled.
`A - ` He stopped.
o/~ Want a plane that loops the loop... o/~
`A - `
o/~ `Alvin! Alvin!! ALVIN!!!' o/~
`Alvin,' the boy whispered.
Sister Mary smiled. Now she was getting somewhere.
`How old are you, Alvin?'
The boy looked at his dirty hand. Slowly, he raised it, five fingers spread wide.
`Five years old? Good! Do you have a last name, Alvin?'
Alvin shook his head and shrugged. This puzzled the nun.
`Where do you live?'
Another shake of the head.
`Where are your mommy and daddy?
Sister Mary's heart broke when she saw the child's face crumple, tears making fresh tracks through the dirt on his cheeks. She reached out to wipe them away, but he stepped back again. She could tell he was ready to run.
Dear Lord! she thought. What's happened to you to make you so afraid?
Looking closer, she saw dark circles under his eyes, and a faint hollowness to his cheeks. And if she heard right, the boy's stomach was rumbling.
`Would you like something to eat, Alvin?' she asked gently.
The boy's eyes widened, yet he hesitated. Finally, hunger won out, and he nodded solemnly.
`Good! Let's see what we can find in the kitchens, shall we?'
Slowly, Sister Mary stood, and held out her hand. Alvin hesitated again, but at length wrapped a tiny hand around her index finger. Walking slowly, she guided him through Saint Bartholomew's Church and into the adjacent Home for Boys.
Fifteen minutes later, little Alvin was ensconced on a chair, a thick phone book making it possible for him to reach the mug of soup and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich the sister had fixed for him. She'd half expected him to wolf it down, but he'd just picked at the sandwich, though he'd worked his way methodically through the thick beef-vegetable soup.
Mother Katherine Desmond entered the kitchen just as Alvin set the empty mug back on the table.
`Well, well, well! What have we here, Sister?' she asked, smiling.
`I don't rightly know, Reverend Mother,' Sister Mary replied. `He wandered into the church a little while ago, all alone. He says his name is Alvin, and that he`s five years old, but that's all I can get out of him. He doesn't seem to know his last name, his address, or where his parents are. Other than his name, I haven't been able to get him to speak at all.'
A muffled sob make them look at the distraught boy. The tears were flowing freely again. He wiped at them with the back of his hand, smudging the already filthy mess.
`Something's terribly wrong here, Sister,' Mother Katherine said, frowning. `A child his age should know all that.'
`What can we do, Reverend Mother?'
The Mother Superior considered a moment.
`I'll ask Bishop Magill to make discreet inquiries through his contacts at the police station. See if anyone's misplaced a little boy named Alvin.' She smiled again at the tiny ragamuffin. `In the meantime, why don't you get him cleaned up and ready for bed? He looks exhausted!'
Ruffling the blond hair, she looked at him benevolently.
`I'll see you in the morning, young man!' The sorrowful look he bestowed on her tugged at her heart-strings. `Have a good sleep!' she said gently, then turned to Sister Mary. `Take good care of him, Sister. Good night!'
`I will, Reverend Mother. Good night!'
With a swirl of her long robes, Mother Katherine left the kitchen.
Sister Mary regarded her charge. Yes, a bath was definitely in order. However, first things first.
She picked up the dirty dishes, and placed them in the sink. Before she could start the water running, however, she heard little footsteps, moving fast.
Alvin was halfway across the courtyard of the church before she caught up with him. He may have been tiny, but he was certainly quick. She was out of breath by the time she nabbed him. He fought wildly in her arms, but couldn't get loose.
Getting the attention of a passing novice, Sister Mary asked her to clean up the dishes in the kitchen. That done, she carried the silent, squirming child to the dormitory, intent on her own clean-up chores.
`Please don't struggle so, Alvin,' she pleaded. `I'm not going to hurt you. I promise!' But the child refused to be reassured. Shaking her head, Sister Mary hoped that they wouldn't need to lock him in the dormitory`s private bedroom
He certainly was a handful. She prayed that they would be able to find his family, and quickly. Every child deserved a family, but especially a child as beautiful as this one...
Part III: Facing the Past
John `Hannibal' Smith relaxed as he turned on the evening news broadcast. He sat back, and let his fingers wander to the golden hair of the young man who lay beside him on the couch. They were finally out from under the thumb of General Hunt Stockwell, and had returned to LA, which they had always considered their home.
Yet something about Face bothered him. Yes, he was more self-assured, and he was glad of that. He was proud of the way his lover had taken charge of the successful rescue effort in Hong Kong. But there was something else.
When he analyzed it, he realized it dated back to the previous Thanksgiving. He decided to bring it out into the open.
`What are you thinking about, Face?'
`What do you mean?'
`Something's bothering you, kid; I can tell. And it's been going on for several months now, so it's time to spill the beans.'
Peck hesitated a moment before he spoke.
`Do you believe what Stockwell said, John?'
`About what, Tem?
`About Bancroft being my father?'
`Well, he's got the connections to get into records nobody else can access, so I guess we just have to accept it, much as I don't want it to be that way.'
I guess,' Face sighed. `But something just doesn't feel right. He was so sure, so abrupt when Murdock called him. Like he didn't want us asking more questions.'
`You've got a point, kid,' Hannibal admitted. `It did seem a bit pat.'
`It just doesn't feel right, Hannibal. I just don't feel any bond.' Face shook his head. `Ellen at least knew A.J. was her father before they got re-acquainted with each other. I don't even have that much. My life before the orphanage is like a letter written in invisible ink. I wish I knew what it said,' the younger man sighed.
Hannibal mulled Tem's words over for a while, and then grinned.
`Face, I think I've got an idea,' he said quietly as he picked up the phone and dialed a number in a small farming community called Porterville.
A few days later, the doorbell rang at the large beach-front house, and Hannibal answered the door to admit a small, energetic brunette woman.
`Miss Rogers!' he said. `I'm so glad you could come! How are your aunt and uncle, and Robbie?' he asked as he escorted her into the living room.
`It's Judy, if you remember,' she smiled up at him, `and everyone's just fine. We had quite a turn when we heard about the executions, I'll admit, so it was quite a relief when you called. Sorry if Uncle Jess gave you a hard time, but it was kind of a shock. Guess it just goes to prove that you can't trust everything you read in the newspapers, huh?' she said as she hugged Face, Murdock, and even B.A.
`Now, what can I do for you?' she asked with a twinkle in her eye. `Do you need help with B.A. again?'
B.A. scowled, much to everyone's amusement.
`No, Judy,' Hannibal said quickly. `It's Face this time.'
Judy looked at Face, intrigued. Face almost blushed.
`As I told your Aunt Carrie when we worked for you a couple years ago,' he began slowly, `I'm an orphan. I was raised at Saint Bartholomew's Home for Boys, and later at the Angel Guardians Home. Father Magill once told me that I showed up on their doorstep, aged five, but with no idea of who I was or where I'd come from.
`Last Thanksgiving, I was told that a certain person was my father, but... I don't know... It's not that I don't want to believe it; it's more like a feeling that something doesn't add up.'
`That's why we asked you here, Judy,' Hannibal said, taking up the tale. `We've all heard the stories of how hypnosis can unlock suppressed memories. Since you're a hypnosis therapist, we were hoping that maybe you could help us get to the truth of the matter.'
`Yes, it's true,' Judy said quietly. `Hypnosis has been used successfully thousands of times in cases like this. In fact, it's been extremely helpful in bringing unsolved crimes to a conclusion. And I'll be happy to help.' She looked over to the burly black Sergeant. `B.A., could I borrow one of your medallions, please?'
`Sure thing, li'l mama,' he said, pulling off the gold plaque with the number 7 in diamonds. Judy couldn't help but smile; it was the same one she'd used on B.A. before they'd flown down to Venezuela.
`Now, Face,' she continued as she sat next to him on the couch, `I want you to just relax.' Holding the chain so that the medallion was at Face's eye level, she began to twirl it with her fingers, making it spin back and forth, catching the light and making it flicker. `I don't want you to go to sleep, but I do want you to relax completely. Let your mind go back. Can you do that for me?'
`Um-hmmm...' came the drowsy reply.
`Now,' Judy went on, `I want you to count backwards for me. Ten... nine... eight...'
`Eight... seven... six... five... fourrr... threee... t-twooo... `
Judy smiled. `Face, can you hear me?'
`Yesss.' Face's voice was slightly slurred.
`Good! I want you to think back to the day you arrived at the orphanage. Can you do that?'
`Where are you now?'
`On the street,' Face murmured, `looking up at the doors of the church. Something's telling me to go inside.'
`Very good, Face! Now, I want you to go back to the day before, okay?' Face nodded. `Where are you now?'
`Near the boardwalk. Plenty of places to hide here.'
`Why are you hiding?'
`Because I'm afraid.'
`Afraid of whom?'
`The bullies. I tried to get some food someone had thrown away, but they wouldn't let me. They chased me and knocked me down. That's why my clothes are all torn.'
`When did that happen?
`All right, now. Let's go back a little further now, to the day before you were chased. Where are you now?
`On the school bus, of course!'
`Morning or afternoon?'
`Is it moving?'
`No, it's parked outside my house.'
`Why are you still on the bus?'
`Because Henry told me to stay here. Mommy and Daddy didn't come out when he honked the horn, so he went to knock on the door. He came back, but he still won't let me get off the bus. He talked into that talkie-thing of his, and got out again. Now he's talking to some people who came in cars with flashing lights on top.'
Before Judy could ask any more questions, Face continued.
`I'm bored. I want to go in the house and watch some television.' He paused. `It was hard moving the handle Henry uses to open the door, but I got out anyway.' Pause. `Why's the door open? I can't see anybody, but I hear voices in the kitchen.'
`Did you go in the house?' Face nodded. `What do you see?'
`Mommy and Daddy lying on the floor.'
There was an awkward silence, then Face began to speak again.
To the shock of his team-mates, it wasn't the strong, sure voice of their Lieutenant, but the small, desperate voice of a young child.
`Dad? Daddy? Get up, Daddy...'
Voices echoed in his head...
`Mommy? Mommy?? Please wake up, Mommy!!'
`Oh, my God! Where'd he come from?!'
`Quick! Get him out of here!'
`It's okay; I won't hurt you.'
Tears began to roll down Face's cheeks, and Judy saw that he was becoming agitated.
`Good, Face! Good!' she said soothingly. `Now, take a deep breath for me, okay?' They watched as he inhaled deeply, then let the breath out slowly. `All right, it's time to come back. Count forward with me. When we get to ten, you'll be back in the present, with your friends, all right? One... two...three...'
When they reached ten, Face's blue-grey eyes fluttered open. He looked around, taking strength in the sight of his friends and his lover as they watched for any indication that the hypnosis had worked.
Suddenly, his eyes grew wide.
`Oh, God! Hannibal!!' Face covered his mouth with his hand, as if he were going to be sick. `I remember!'
Hannibal put his arms around his lover, and felt him trembling uncontrollably. Silently, he rubbed the younger man's back, not pushing. Face would speak when he was ready.
`I...' Peck swallowed hard. `I got home from school. Mom and Dad didn't come out to the bus, the way they usually did. The driver went to the house, and looked inside. Then the cops came.' He shuddered violently.
`It's all right, baby. I'm right here.'
`I got tired of waiting, so I went in the house.' He shook his head, not believing what he finally remembered. `They were lying on the living room floor. I...I thought they were asleep. Oh, God, John!' Blue-grey eyes looked wildly into caring ice-blue ones. `I tried to wake them up! But I couldn't! There was so much blood...right at the back of the head...'
Face broke down, sobbing miserably at the realization.
His family had been executed - gangland style.
Hannibal pulled his lover closer, tucking the younger man's head under his chin, and continued to murmur whatever comfort he could. A lot of things made sense now.
He'd learned a lot about the younger man's early life, but the period before his arrival at the orphanage had always been a total blank. And no wonder. The poor child's mind had been protecting itself the only way it could - by blocking out the memories. He knew his lover had been through many horrific experiences, but none of them could hold a candle to that of a young child discovering his murdered parents` bodies.
He sighed. There had to be a way of making this right. Of serving justice, even if it was thirty years too late.
For Tem's sake, he would find a way.
Hannibal looked at Judy, then at Murdock and B.A. They all nodded, understanding the need for privacy. As they passed, each stopped for a moment.
Judy laid a hand on Face's shoulder and looked at Hannibal.
`It'll take time, but he'll be all right. If there's anything more we can do to help, just let me know. My family owes you so much.'
Hannibal nodded in acknowledgement.
`I know you're in pain, Face-guy,' Murdock said solemnly, `but we won't let you go through this alone.'
`That's right, little brother,' B.A. added. `We all here for you.'
Escorting Judy to her car, they left Face to the care of the one person he needed most - Hannibal.
Several Days Later
Officer Ellen McGrath looked up as a young blond man strode into the main police records storage facility. Semi-retired now, she just didn't feel right if she wasn't doing at least something related to law enforcement.
`Good morning, Officer...uh...McGrath,' he said, reading the name-tag of the woman behind the counter. `My name is Maurice Thompson. I'm doing some research into a murder than happened in L.A. - oh, about thirty years ago? I was wondering if you could help me find the proper records.'
`We have a lot of murders in L.A. every year, Mr. Thompson. Can you give me any specifics?'
`Yes,' Face said, consulting a little pad he pulled from the inside pocket of his sports jacket. `It was a gangland-style execution, I believe. The victims were...uh...Liz and Dick Mason.' He shot her a wary look when he heard her gasp. `Is there any way you can assist me?'
`Yes, sir,' Ellen said, her voice sad, but firm. `I know exactly where those records are. If you'll just have a seat at the microfilm reader, I'll bring you the appropriate spools.'
Peck had no sooner laid out his notebooks and pens and made himself comfortable than Ellen was back with several reels of microfilm. She showed him how to load the reader, how to adjust the page position and focus, and how to make copies.
Ellen started to leave him to his work, then turned back.
`Good luck, sir,' she said quietly. `I hope you're able to make more sense out of this than we have over the past thirty years.' Face nodded his thanks, and she went back to her desk.
Face felt a fierce determination as he researched the murders of Liz and Dick Mason. Stunned to find that his parents' real names were Ellie and Richard Cooper, he was filled with a savage pride when he learned that they'd stood up for what they believed in, and testified against Antonio Camuglia, the most ruthless mobster of the late 1940's. Camuglia had died in prison in 1954, and his son, Tony Jr., had taken over leadership of the `family' and responsibility for his father's vendettas. He nodded with curt satisfaction when he read the name of the alleged triggerman: Franco `Itchy' Scarpetta.
When he was satisfied that he'd made photocopies of all the relevant information, he shut down the reader, pulled the last spool off the spindle, and returned it to its box.
`Thank you, Officer McGrath,' Face said, returning the rolls of microfilm as he prepared to leave. `You've been most helpful.'
`Before you leave, sir,' Ellen said hesitantly, `would you mind answering a question?'
`If I can.'
`Well, you see...' Ellen paused. `Well, this was one of the first cases I was ever assigned to. It was a sort of "baptism of fire" for me, being my first murder case. And then, with the little boy running away like that, well... it's a very important part of my life. So, I was sort of wondering what your interest is in such an old case.'
`I...know their son, the boy who disappeared. I want to make things right, if I can, so he can rest easy at night.'
`Really? Who is he?'
`He'd - um - rather not make himself known just now. Maybe never.'
Ellen nodded sadly.
`I understand,' she said. `I really hope you pull this off. I've never forgiven myself for not catching up with him that day.'
`It`s all right,' Face said, taking her hand in his. `Don't blame yourself. Trust me; it all turned out for the best.'
Gathering up the photocopies he'd made, he left to join his Team.
Hannibal, Face, and Murdock pored over the plans of Camuglia's estate, which Face had obtained from the local zoning board. Thanks to Hannibal's contacts at Landers Security, he was able to point out all the security cameras and other alarms. They would still have to make direct observations of the area, in case of any changes, but they were confident that they would be able to keep surprises to a minimum.
They were just putting the final touches on the basic plan when B.A. arrived, pushing a woman in her mid-thirties ahead of him.
`Let me go, you big ox!' she protested. Yanking her arm from his grip, she turned on the other three men. `I hope you have a good explanation for this, otherwise I'm going to charge you all with kidnapping!'
`I'm sorry my friend here had to be so insistent, ma'am,' Hannibal said calmly, `but we didn't have time to send out an engraved invitation. We're on kind of a tight schedule here, and we need your help.'
`What kind of help?' she asked suspiciously.
`Well, we know you work for Tony Camuglia, Miss...' Hannibal paused.
`Raffo. Gina Raffo. And it's "Mrs."'
`Mrs. Raffo,' Hannibal continued. `We'd like to know what your job is in that house.'
`I'm his house-keeper,' she said. `Why?'
`Man, how can you work for slime like him?' Murdock queried. `I'd think a nice lady like you wouldn't spend ten minutes on his payroll.'
`I wouldn't,' Gina agreed, `but I was hired through an agency. When I found out just who my employer was, I tried to quit, but it was too late. He liked my work, so he threatened my family to make sure I stayed on.' She shrugged. `You know how it goes...'
`Yeah, we do, li'l mama,' B.A. growled. `We seen enough of it in our time.'
`Well, Mrs. Raffo,' Hannibal asked, `how would you like to get out of this sleaze-ball's clutches, and at the same time help a young man who lost his parents to one of Camuglia`s vendettas?'
`I'd love to,' Mrs. Raffo said firmly. `What do you want to know?'
Hannibal's eyes lit up with the Jazz as he questioned their guest about the layout of the house and the sleeping arrangements of the residents. Gina Raffo was very forthcoming...
It was one of Hannibal's better plans, and it went like clockwork. The security systems hadn't been upgraded, and B.A. took them out in record time. The few guards patrolling the grounds were handily subdued and left tied to the pillars of the front porch.
The Team swept through the house, rounding up Tony Camuglia and his bodyguards, plus the few `soldiers' who were spending the night. Herded into the study, they were hog-tied and left to await the arrival of the police.
Franco `Itchy' Scarpetta woke with a start when a silenced bullet hit his pillow, inches from his nose. Sitting bolt upright, he found three men standing by the bedroom door, three AR-15`s pointed unerringly in his direction. From behind, a voice hissed at him.
`Get up, slime-ball!' it ordered. Carefully, Scarpetta threw back the covers and got to his feet. `Now step forward.'
As he did, he felt a presence behind him. He shivered as he felt the cold barrel of a .357 Magnum at the base of his skull.
`How does it feel to be on the receiving end, huh, Scarpetta?' the voice hissed again. `Are you nervous? Frightened? Are you beginning to sense what it was like for your victims?'
In the dead silence, Scarpetta heard the scrape of metal on metal, and knew the trigger was being pulled.
`No!' he screamed.
Gasping for breath, Franco was amazed that he was still standing, instead of lying in a bloody heap on the floor. The voice behind him chuckled savagely.
`There's only one bullet in this gun, Itchy-boy,' it said, `and I'm the only one who knows where it is. Feel like playing a little Russian Roulette?'
`Who are you?!' Scarpetta demanded, terror apparent in his voice. `What do you want?'
His eyes widened at the sight of the young blond who stepped in front of him, and he quailed when he saw the merciless steel-grey eyes.
`You can call me Nemesis,' Face said, holding the barrel to the middle of Scarpetta's forehead. `I'm here on behalf of Arthur Mason, the little boy you orphaned when you murdered his parents thirty years ago.'
Franco saw the finger tighten on the trigger.
`Please!' he begged.
`That's enough, Face,' Hannibal called gently.
Face paused, then sighed and nodded, abruptly tilting his gun upwards.
`All right, Colonel,' he said quietly. `But just so you don't forget, Itchy-boy...'
Face slowly lowered the gun to point between Scarpetta's feet. It roared into life, the bullet burying itself into the oak floorboards.
`...I can always get to you...'
Turning, he walked away.
`He's all yours, B.A.'
B.A. nodded curtly as he handed his rifle off to Face, then stepped up to the man who had hurt his little brother so many years ago.
`End o' the line, sucker!' B.A. growled before landing a hard right cross on Scarpetta's jaw.
`Who are you guys?' Camuglia yelled when the Team returned to the study. B.A. unceremoniously dumped Scarpetta onto a couch and proceeded to earn his Boy Scout badge in knot-tying, while Face went for his in safe-cracking.
`You don't want to know,' Hannibal told him, grinning around a cigar. `Suffice it to say that Franco here messed with the wrong people thirty years ago.'
`Thirty years ago!' the mobster blustered. `What are you, nuts?'
`Well, that is a matter of opinion,' Murdock said, giving a goofy grin.
`Do the names Ellie and Richard Cooper mean anything to you? Ah! I see they do,' Hannibal said at the shocked look on Camuglia's face. He crossed the room, gesturing with his cigar as he went. `Now, I know you're a patient man, pal, and it took you ten years to track them down and have them killed. But what your scungil' of a hit-man couldn't know was that a little boy named Arthur lost his parents that day. We're just tidying up the mess your father created. A little late, I know, but sometimes these things can't be helped.'
`Bingo, Hannibal!' Face said as he turned from the safe, several folders in his hands. There was a broad smile on his face. `Detailed records on almost every dirty deal the Camuglia's have ever done. Plus a key to a safety deposit box at a local bank. I can just imagine what kind of juicy reading the District Attorney has in store for him.'
`Well done, Facey-guy!' Murdock gushed. `Another bunch o' monkeys headin' for the zoo!' B.A. smiled in agreement.
`Let's go, guys!' Hannibal said, nodding. He took the material and placed it in Camuglia`s lap. `We'll call the police from the van.'
A stream of Italian profanity filled the air as they left the house...
A Week Later
Hannibal Smith watched the young blond who paced the living room, unable to sit still. His lover had been this way ever since they'd turned over Tony `The Hammer' Camuglia to the police, along with enough evidence to put him and his `family' away for a hundred years - at least.
He could see how the knowledge of his past was tearing his Lieutenant apart. The culmination of a long-cherished dream had opened a Pandora's Box of conflicting emotions, and he knew the younger man was on the verge of a break-down.
Didn't the Chinese have a saying for times like these? Be careful what you wish for; you might get it.
Enough was enough. It was time to put a stop to this before Face wound up in the VA in Murdock's place.
`Tem, come sit down,' he invited, patting the spot next to him on the sofa. `You need to relax.'
Face kept pacing, oblivious to his lover's words.
Sighing, Hannibal stood. Crossing the room, he grabbed Face by the arm and gently, but firmly, guided him to the sofa, pushing him down onto it before sitting down next to him.
`Hannibal...' Face began, but Smith cut him off.
`It's enough, kid. You're exhausted, and if I'm any judge, your mind's going around in circles right now, with the result that you're more confused than ever. Am I right?'
Sighing, Face dropped his head and nodded wearily.
`It's all so...so difficult, John,' he admitted finally. `So many things have happened in so short a time. I don't know what to make of it all.'
`I know it's hard, Tem,' Hannibal said quietly, `but there's no sense in working yourself into a tizzy over it. At least now we know the truth: Bancroft was mistaken, at best, and Stockwell was out-and-out lying. You had loving parents who would never have abandoned you if they`d had any choice in the matter.
`Tem,' Smith said, looking deeply into his lover's blue-grey eyes, `I've often wondered how, with your background, you could grow up to be the caring, selfless person I love. Now I know that Father Magill was only part of it. Your mother and father set a wonderful example for you. They testified against some of the biggest scum-bags this country has ever seen. They paid a heavy price for it, but they risked everything because they believed it was the right thing to do.'
`But what would they think of me, John?' Face sighed. `A convicted bank robber, on the lam for 15 years, scamming people for whatever we needed...'
`They would understand, baby,' Hannibal assured him. `You're innocent of the charges, you know that, and they would have known it in their hearts, too. Just as Mrs. Baracus did. As for the rest, you did it because you had to, not because you liked it. And you never took more than what the Team needed at any given time.'
Face sighed and nodded, allowing his lover to pull him close again.
`One more thing, Tem,' Hannibal murmured. `I thank God every day those sleaze-balls never found out about you. I'm convinced they wouldn't have hesitated to kill a defenseless child, just to twist the knife, before killing your parents. And my life would have been so much poorer without you in it.'
`You know, John, it's funny,' Face said, staring out the window at the ocean. `Now I finally know my original name, and my original family, but I don't know who I am.'
`I know who you are, Tem,' Hannibal said quietly. `You're the man I love. What name you use doesn't matter to me, as long as you grace my life with your presence.'
Face relaxed into his lover's arms, savoring their strength, and basking in the love of the silver-haired man who held him.
`I'm Templeton Arthur Peck,' he decided. `I've been him much longer than I was ever Arthur T. Mason. I don't know that person any more, and I'll never be the person he might have been.
`I'm Templeton Arthur Peck,' he repeated firmly, turning in his lover`s arms, `beloved of John "Hannibal" Smith. I have two wonderful brothers. And I'm right where I'm supposed to be...'
Holding Hannibal tightly, he sealed that decision with a fierce kiss.
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