Part 9:

"I'm Charles Winthrope, from the Governmental Record Authenticity Agency, a sub-division of the Census Bureau," Face said as he peered over his non-prescription glasses and flashed a badge at the receptionist. "This is FBI agent, Roland "Killer" Rogers," Face pointed to Murdock, who, on cue, snarled quietly, "we have followed some leads that indicate that certain, recent, documents that have been kept in this, ummm, establishment have been falsified while the originals were replaced and used in illegal transactions. We will have to look at a number of them and verify that this is or isn't true. So kindly show us where the documents for the last two years are kept," Face continued as Murdock glared relentlessly at the increasingly unaffected receptionist. The older lady turned and motioned them to follow her. After several combinations of right and left turns the woman stopped at a set of three filing cabinets.

"Here you are. I must return to the front, I can't leave my post except for a few moments. I suppose you know what you are looking for," she finished in a sardonic tone and turned to leave then turned back. "Be sure not to make a mess," she said coolly, and left them to their search.

"Hmmm," Face paused for brief moment, considering the woman's reaction.

"Faceman," Murdock caught Face's attention, "I'll take the birth certificates, you take the police reports." They found their respective filing cabinets and set to work.

* * *

Hannibal and BA stepped from the van. Hannibal carried Jordan into the only store in Johnstonmanville, Arkansas, while BA prepared for any trouble. They had decided to go to Johnstonmanville so that no one would recognize them or Jordan as they began to snoop around and look for clues in Millwood.

As they entered the old-fashioned store, Hannibal approached the desk clerk, who seemed to him to be the type that would know about babies. "Excuse me ma'am. I'm Leroy Smithers, this here's," Hannibal said with an extreme Texas drawl and pointed at BA, "my friend, Charley. I's wonderin' if you cain't tell me a few things about babies." The clerk raised her eyebrow a bit at this. Before she could ask too many questions, Hannibal explained, "My daughter's in the hospital in Little Rock and her husband's out to sea - in the Navy you know. It took `er so sudden, I hafta take care of my grand-baby, li'le Bessy-Lou, but I don't know what to do." For added effect he looked at her with this helpless look and added, "Could you spare just a couple hints for an ol' man who don't know what he's doin'?"

The expression on the middle-aged woman's face had changed from skeptical to one of genuine sympathy. `I should get an Oscar for this one,' Hannibal thought to himself. Before they left to return to Millwood both BA and Hannibal had learned how to quickly change a diaper, prepare formula, burp Jordan, and how often and how long she needed to sleep. They also, from the context of the conversation, learned that Jordan was most likely four to twelve months old. They bought enough diapers and formula to last a couple of weeks. As they left the store, the woman stood at the door and waved good-bye. Hannibal grinned at the reflection in the mirror. "I love it when a plan comes together." "EEEEmmp," was Jordan's high-pitched, agreeable response to Hannibal's statement. He continued to rock her back and forth in his arms. Jordan drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

Part 10:

"Hey, Murdock," Face haled his friend quietly (the place felt like a library), "look. This report talks about a man named `Wharton' locked up for the attempted kidnapping of a baby GIRL - this was two months ago. There's no name for the baby listed." Peck's face was a complex composition of discovery and puzzlement bordering on frustration.

"Anyway, they ran a make on this guy - half a dozen governments around the world want this guy for everything from drug and gun running to espionage - he was even implicated," Face paused, his voice dropping in volume out of disgust as he finished his summary of the report, "in slave trading and genocide. There aren't any more reports that have any mention of him. No extradition papers, nothing. In fact, there aren't any reports after that arrest. It is almost as if all police action stopped right after that report - we know that that isn't true: we saw that deputy carry out that kid." Face paced right in front of the filing cabinets as he thought out loud. "Did you find anything?" He stopped, looking hopefully at his pal who did not return the look of discovery that Face had hoped for.

Murdock reported, "I didn't find a birth record for any baby girls in the last two years. This is a small town, but it is big enough to have more babies born than that - that's according to national statistics, of course. But still, little towns often have a higher birth rate than big metropolises," Murdock explained.

"Murdock, look and see if there were any boys born in the last two years with any part of the name - being JORDAN -," Face finished slowly and became annoyed with Murdock as he continued to "howl" with laughter. "What IS SO funny?" Face inquired in a sardonic tone.

"You, Faceman." Murdock doubled over with another bought of extreme laughter. Face pointed to himself an raised his eyebrows,

"Me?" he asked incredulously.

"Yeah, you - I thought you're supposed to be," he laughed out loud again - it echoed in the seemingly lifeless building (that description, in Face's opinion, applied to the receptionist as well).

"What?!? What'd I do?!?" Face exclaimed, frustrated.

"You-You supposed to be, HA-HA-HA-HAA," Murdock took a breath and finished, "the EXPERT on BOYS & GIRLS." Murdock couldn't stand any more - he laughed so hard he had to hold his sides and had to sit in a near-by chair where he continued to laugh.

Face rolled his eyes. "Murdock!" he called trying to snap his buddy's attention back to the task at hand. "Murdock, you know what I mean. Will you get up from there and be helpful, huh?" the last syllable he punctuated with a small jerk of his head in the direction of the filing cabinets. He waited a moment for Murdock to regain control. "Come on," he grabbed Murdock's right hand and pulled out of the seat and toward the filing cabinets.

"Hey," Murdock, who had abruptly stopped laughing, had another idea. "We didn't look in files concerning property ownership transfer. If Jordan's parents moved here after she was born there might not be a delivery record," he grinned mischievously, "I guess storks don't give receipts, huh?" Face only gave Murdock an "I'll humor you" smile and set back to work looking for any clue to Jordan's alleged predicament. A few moments were spent in silence. " 'fraid we're grasping at straws, Faceman," Murdock soon remarked to his friend, ending the, to him, roaring silence. He glanced around.

"Maybe, but anything that. . ." Face started and was then interrupted.

"Face, look at this," Murdock wrenched an official document from under the filing cabinet next to the one he was looking through.

"What is it?" Face asked expectantly.

"Well," Murdock quickly scanned it. "It is a Millwood fire department report of a woman, a farmer's wife, rushed to the local hospital after delivering her baby on the fire truck, en route. The baby was a girl. Face," looked up at his friend, "this was six months ago. But there isn't a girl baby's birth on record for the past two years. I'm startin' to smell some REALLY old sushi here. I mean . . ." Murdock was interrupted as the receptionist rounded the corner, "Is everything all right, gentlemen." Murdock quickly stowed the paper behind his back and tried to look cruel. "I thought that I heard something." The woman raised an eyebrow. The two men shared a brief glance and then Face responded, "Oh, yeah. Everything's fine. I was, ummm, just, ummm, coughing - the dry southern air, you know. We still have work to do so if you wouldn't mind?" He smiled his winning smile, gestured in the direction she had come, and waited for her response.

"Very well," she replied and left.

"Something just doesn't add up here," Face commented after he was sure the woman was out of ear-shot.

"Tell me about it, Faceman. Look at the signature of the woman taken to the hospital. Look at all familiar?" Murdock continued, seriousness pervading his whole demeanor. Face nodded a negative. "Remember the note?" Murdock finished.

Part 11:

"So what's the verdict, Face?" Hannibal questioned the lieutenant impatiently.

"It certainly looks like it was written by the same person. You see this different little twist on the `r's and the shape of some of the other letters? We can't be positive, of course, but it is something to go on," Face explained after comparing the signature from the pilfered document and the note that they had received with Jordan. The form carried the name "Nancy Charleston." They had all returned from their respective assignments and were convened in their motel room considering all the newly acquired information, how it all fit together to form the truth, and the possible ramifications.

"Did you and Murdock look in the records for any mention of this `Nancy Charleston'"? Hannibal continued to try to put this mess together.

"Yeah, NOTHING, NADA, ZIP, ZILCH, the voids between the stars," Murdock commented from where he was watching Jordan try to crawl across the bed.

BA scowled at Murdock's more than explicit description of what they had not been able to find.

"Murdock's right," Face interjected. "There had to have been hundreds of files missing. It was as if this town slowly ceased to keep records over the last two years. I think something's goin' on and somebody doesn't want anyone to know."

"Somebody knows. We just have to find out who?" Hannibal said. "There are three possibilities I see here: one - someone or someones in high office are up to something and hiding it from the town's people; two - someone has frightened everyone into silence - or almost everyone," amending his previous statement considering Jordan (Charleston?)'s situation, " and three-the whole town is up to something." Hannibal finished and began to chomp on his new but unlit cigar.

"What's the plan, Hannibal?" BA asked, ready for some action.

"I think it's time we sting `the monster.'" Hannibal grinned with the cigar between his teeth as he put on his black gloves.

"Hannibal, we don't even know who or where `the monster' is - much less if there IS a monster," Face commented on Hannibal's plan.

"That's OK. We just have to do a little hunting. Anybody got any buckshot?" Hannibal continued to grin like a Cheshire cat.

"He's on the Jazz, man," BA grumbled as he shook his head.

"Great," Face said, sarcastically.

"Jordan, can you say JAZZ?" Murdock said.

Part 12:

That evening, after stopping the search for "the monster" because almost everyone in the town had gone home and gone to bed, the team decided to take a of couple hours for Hannibal and BA to teach Face and Murdock what they had learned that afternoon. After two tries apiece, Face and Murdock could easily put a diaper on Jordan. The bottle was not a problem. Soon Hannibal and BA went out on patrol for one last check before they hit the sack. Face had finished feeding Jordan who had soon fallen asleep on his chest as he leaned back in the burgundy rocker in the room. He had soon gone to sleep himself so Murdock quietly left the room to talk with Hannibal.

Outside, Hannibal stood about ten feet from the door to the room as he gazed at the night sky and puffed on his cigar. B.A., evidently, was still on his rounds. As Murdock sidled up to the colonel he said, his voice full of wonder, "Beautiful night, isn't it?"

"Yeah," replied Smith. They both continued to watch the sky for a few minutes occasionally looking around for trouble. Then Hannibal looked at Murdock questioningly, "Something you needed, Captain?"

"No-no. I love the stars." Murdock paused. "Actually, I wanted to talk about Face. You see how he is with Jordan? I've never seen him like that. He's not the Faceman we know," as Murdock gestured wildly he grinned, but his features held a dark puzzlement.

Hannibal considered this for a moment. He continued to puff on his cigar pondering how to respond to this statement. "You know, Captain, I don't think that he is any different." Murdock looked at his commander with puzzlement. Hannibal grinned mischievously and added, "He's smitten by a young, beautiful woman," he finished with a wide grin and a brief raise of his eyebrows. "Don't worry, he's fine. I think it's good for him." Hannibal put his arm briefly around Murdock's shoulders as if to convince and comfort him that his friend wasn't going to forget him. It seemed to Hannibal that Murdock was a slight bit envious of his friend's attention to Jordan.

"All clear on the perimeter, Hannibal," BA announced as he returned from his investigation of the grounds.

"Good. Let's get some rest. Tomorrow, we'll shake this town until "the monster" falls out of a pocket somewhere," Hannibal quickly took one last puff of his cigar and put it out. They went inside the motel room.

Part 13:

Except for a loud request from Jordan for her one o'clock feeding, the night had been uneventful. The team was up before dawn, as usual. A cool spring breeze chilled the air.

It wasn't too long before the town was up as well; the people scurried around and made preparations for the day. "Definitely a small town," Hannibal thought. Although everything seemed, to all outward appearances, to be normal, Hannibal knew better. He couldn't put his finger on anything specific, but his gut told him that something was not right. He had gone outside to have another cigar - since he didn't want to smoke around the baby. He was working on a plan.

The team joined him outside, one by one, as the sun rose. B.A. was the first, but soon left Hannibal alone again to do another look around the suspiciously quiet motel. Soon Murdock appeared at Hannibal's left side and Face, on Murdock's left, was holding Jordan in her basket. He had fed, changed, and burped her while Murdock packed the basket with a couple of extra diapers, a spare bottle, and a towel for after they fed her. At the moment, she was playing with the pacifier and wiggling under the half cover of her blanket. She was wearing the pink little jumpsuit that she had been wearing when they found her, but they had washed it and let it dry over night.

"Captain. Lieutenant," Hannibal greeted his subordinates. Each in turn responded,

"Colonel." Hannibal knew his men - with B.A., a silent nod was a sufficient and natural greeting. With Face, a "Good Morning" or an ordinary address by either his name or rank was the enough. Then there was Murdock, Hannibal would just have to read his mood. This morning Murdock seemed more "normal" than usual - in fact, he had been unusually lucid since they found Jordan. Hannibal took note of it: it was a factor in THE PLAN.

"B.A. out on patrol?" Face asked, looking around.

"Yeah. I think he's restless. It is so obvious that something's going on here even Decker could have seen it," Hannibal answered, gesturing with his cigar. Upon the end of the statement, he thrust the now half gone cigar back into his mouth.

"What's the plan, Colonel?" Murdock asked with his hands in his pockets.

Hannibal smiled mischievously, "You still have that pocket tape recorder, Lieutenant?"

"Yeah, it's in the van," Face responded, confused. "Why?" Both Face and Murdock looked expectantly at the colonel.

"Get it and a duffel bag. Murdock, bring junior there back into the room - we have to offer some cheese to the rat to bring him into the trap," Smith continued. He put out his cigar as Face handed Jordan to Murdock who, along with the colonel, soon disappeared into the motel room with Jordan. After retrieving the requested items from the van, Face soon followed them inside. After a few minutes B.A. returned from watch and went inside as well.

"What now, Hannibal?" he asked as he came in.

"B.A., you have that miniature welder of yours?" Hannibal asked.

"Course, man," B.A. sounded offended.

"We need," Hannibal paused for a brief moment in thought, "you know - the usual. After the three of you return from getting the stuff, Face check us out of the motel and tip them an extra $25 dollars," Hannibal quickly dolled out the orders.

"Why the tip, hmmm?" Face asked incredulously, eyebrows raised.

"For the sheets," Hannibal answered with mischief glinting in his eyes and mystery in his voice. "Here's the plan . . ." and he explained all.

There seemed to be a subconscious thrumming in the air like a constant chord played by a violin. They all knew the sensation well; they had all felt it many times. It was exciting; it was compelling; it was the JAZZ.

Part 14:

Hannibal lit his cigar and strolled into the diner followed by a very angry-looking BA and an otherwise occupied Face. Face reached into the basket he was carrying and adjusted the sheet around the bundle and it cooed in response. The van was parked out front. Hannibal stepped up to the counter and order pancakes and hot coffee for all three. It seemed to them that the whole town was there for breakfast. Perfect. Everything was going according to plan, so far.

Face sat on the closest stool and put the basket on the stool next to him. B.A. stood protectively on the far side of the basket from Face, while Hannibal stood on the other side of the Lieutenant. Both Hannibal and B.A. looked around at the crowd for any sudden moves; Face, seemingly, paying all attention to the bundle that he now rocked gently in his arms. The café was crowded, but everything seemed, to the three, unusually quiet.

"We don't look like a bunch of guys that should have baby - we're bound to be noticed by the right people. Let's take our time. OK, guys?" Hannibal whispered to the other two. They each nodded in agreement. Face turned so that all could see what he was holding. The sound of a baby crying could be heard throughout the almost silent diner.

"It's OK, Little One. Shhh, it's OK," Face's tone soothed as he rocked and bounced the bundle gently. Hannibal and B.A. watched the crowded restaurant for any threats, occasionally glancing behind the counter. "Here," Face said soothingly as he put the bottle of formula into the wrapped sheets. His hand was close to the top and his fingers disappeared from view as well. The crying quickly subsided. Soon the meals arrived and Face held the baby in one arm and ate with the other occasionally reaching into the sheet to check on the contents. The whole meal was uneventful, but Hannibal knew that the monster had been bated. They stood to leave.

* * *

"No, don't cry, Jodie," H.M. Murdock soothed. "It's just you an me now; we gotta find us a spot to watch and be quiet, OK? Come on, you don't have to cry," he continued to say as he began to settle in the tree where he sit and watch the diner without being seen; he was protected by the new foliage. Jordan continued to cry and fuss. "I know what it is - you sense the tension of what's happening, right? Now, you know everything's gonna be OK, cause you're part of the A-Team. Right, Jodie?" Murdock picked her up and discovered that sometime in the last twenty minutes she had become very wet. "Great," Murdock groaned, "you should have gone before we left the house. You know, this isn't really a good time for something like this." Murdock held and rocked her, frequently glancing up to be sure everything was going according to plan at the diner. She had stopped crying and was more interested in his antics. "How `bout I sing, huh? `Rock a bye, baby, in the tree top, When the wind blows the cradle will rock," almost as if on cue the breeze picked up and the tree limbs swayed, slightly. "Weeeee," Murdock spoke quietly to Jordan, "when the wind blows the cradle will rock, " Murdock continued to sing quietly, "when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, down will come. . . I'm thinkin' that I better come up with something better to sing considering our current position. Hmmm? Any requests from the audience? Well, let's see? `Twinkle, twinkle'. . . uh oh, " Murdock stopped singing and quickly prepared for the climb down.

Part 15:

"I think that you boys better come along with me," the large man with the shot gun said as he stood up from one of the booths in the back and continued to speak in an almost remorseful tone, "The Boss has been looking for that baby for almost forty-eight hours now. Now, I don't want any trouble so let's go on out to your van, OK?"

"No, it's not OK, Pal," Hannibal responded in a less than patient manner, "Tell me, who IS your boss? "

"Wouldn't happen to be a man named `Wharton' would it?" Face finished for the colonel.

The man sighed, obviously distressed, and said in again a regretful but more forcible tone this time, "Look, just get movin' before we have to do somethin' that isn't so hospitable." The man indicated toward the door with his shot gun.

"Why would we want to do what you say? And what makes you think that we have any intention of doing so?" Hannibal smiled challengingly and shoved his cigar back into his mouth and put his hand on his hip. Face rocked the again crying bundle and tried to shush it.

"Look, Mister, I ain't got no choice - just git movin' huh?" the man responded.

"We can't - it's too easy - we ALWAYS do things the hard way. It's definitely a flaw in our communal character. Now, you go tell you're boss that if he's interested in the baby maybe we can cut a deal. Tell him to meet us at the abandoned barn on farm road 8723, got it?" Hannibal finished with his eyebrows up.

"No - we have to go now. All right boys, this isn't gonna as easy as we thought," the man raised his still distressed voice. At that point seven other large men stood up all over the room, all armed.

"Great, just great, Hannibal. What now?" Face looked at his commander.

"Well, I think that it was Ulysses S. Grant who said that when you're surrounded and out numbered, the best strategy is to surrender," Hannibal explained. He could hear B.A. growling on the other side of Face. "Easy, Sergeant, " he soothed.

"Give Eli there, the baby," the man ordered Face.

"I don't think that that would be such a good idea - she really doesn't know him and I've found that she really doesn't respond well to people who haven't spent time feeding her. She'll just cry and cry and cry and then there's the diapers, burping . . ." Face started.

"Fine, you keep her. Just keep her quiet - the boss don't like noise," the man interrupted. Face pulled the bundle closer to his chest and he readjusted the sheet and it began to coo softly. "Let's go."

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