Somewhere in Nevada
H. M. Murdock was a packrat. There was absolutely no doubt about that. It usually didn't bother his teammates, because many years before, they had limited his collecting activities to one large backpack. As long as it wasn't explosive, poisonous, fragile, perishable, or could get them killed or arrested, he was pretty much free to gather whatever he liked and stash it in his precious blue backpack. And stash he did.
Once in a while he got carried away, and the backpack would get overstuffed and would no longer zip shut. Or, it would get so heavy that even Bosco would have a hard time moving it from one spot in the van to another. And then the day of reckoning, always traumatic for the pilot and a major pain in the keister for the team, would arrive.
Face grimaced as he watched his best friend struggle unsuccessfully with the zipper on the backpack as he sat cross-legged on his bed in the motel room. The conman turned to Hannibal. "Great. Looks like it's that time again."
Hannibal looked up from the desk where he was cleaning his gun, and Face chuckled as he saw the gleam flash through the team leader's eye momentarily. "You can't shoot him, Boss."
Hannibal managed to look both indignant and abashed. "I wouldn't do that! I just hate wrestling that damned backpack away from him. He always puts up such a fight. Have we got any more of that knock out juice we used on B. A.?"
Face grinned and nodded, knowing Hannibal would never have mentioned the sedative if Bosco had actually been in the room, but he was out getting some supplies and gassing up the van. Bosco truly hated to fly, but he really despised having his teammates sneak up on him with sedatives. At least Murdock was getting marginally better at catching him, so that was something.
Hannibal lowered his voice. "Okay, here's the plan. When B. A. gets back, we're going to knock the good Captain out, and clean that backpack out. We won't throw away anything valuable, of course. He never seems to understand we'll save his special stuff in the box in the storage unit. But, that backpack has got to be cleaned out and I am not up to having him fight us and start howling and snarling like a pack of wild dogs like last time. The last thing we need is to have somebody call the cops on us."
Face nodded fervently, shuddering slightly at the memories. He realized Murdock probably sensed what was coming, because he had curled himself around the backpack and was faced away from them staring silently at the wall. He knew better than to try to talk to the pilot when he got like this, so he simply left him alone. Face looked at Hannibal. "At least Bosco is bringing back food, so we can do it after dinner. The sedative will work better that way, and he'll probably sleep all night."
Hannibal nodded his agreement and the two men settled in to watch an old western on t.v. while they waited for their sergeant.
An hour later, Bosco had returned, and they were ready to implement their plan. From past experience they knew better than to announce their intentions. They all felt rather bad about simply springing the sedative and backpack cleaning on Murdock, but they also knew if they gave him a chance to resist, it would throw him into a fearsome meltdown which wouldn't do anyone any good.
Face was in charge of seeing that Murdock remembered his medications, and he knew for sure the pilot hadn't taken them yet. He also knew the sedative they were planning to use wouldn't interact with the meds. Murdock was their medic, but Face had helped him deal with his various psych episodes for so long that he had gotten good at dealing with all the different symptoms and meds. It was also why he refused to be the one to give him the injection now. Murdock would never trust him again.
Bosco flatly refused to touch the syringe, even though he secretly felt the revenge might be kind of sweet, so Hannibal did the honors. Face had insisted Murdock eat a cheeseburger and fries, and even though the pilot claimed he had no appetite, he demolished both and drank a chocolate shake as well. He made no fuss about taking his meds, but he also said very little to anyone, and laid back on the bed curling himself once more around the backpack.
Hannibal sighed and resigned himself to being the bad guy. The one good thing about their Captain was that he never held a grudge. Hannibal stopped and thought about Brock Pike and amended that thought. Well, almost never. The man had been dead now for several years, and Murdock still hated him.
He looked at the other two team members, and moving like the well-oiled machine they could be, they quickly sedated Murdock, stretched him out safely and comfortably. Hannibal was pleased that he had managed the injection so swiftly that Murdock had no time to even realize what had happened. His eyes unfocused, and as he lost consciousness, Face tucked him into bed, lying on his side. Hopefully he would sleep through the night.
Actually getting to the cleaning out of the backpack was an adventure in itself, because they never knew what they were going to end up pulling out. They had a system. They would dump the contents out on a large flat surface, such as a table or, in this case, the desk. Then, they would divide up the items and each sort through the inevitable baggies and loose objects, discarding the junk and setting aside the items they knew would actually be important to the Captain.
Years ago they had rented a storage unit under an assumed name and paid annually on it. Whenever they needed to, they would make a trip to the unit and store things, such as a box with items from the backpack, or whatever they picked up along the way… including gifts from grateful clients and other items of sentiment and importance.
As always, the things Murdock had chosen to collect these past few months proved to be both interesting and bemusing. Among them were an impressive collection of paper airplanes and origami figures, a rather random pile of small pieces of folded gift wrap that obviously did not come from gifts any of them had given or received. He had a baggie full of soda can pop tops, bound with a rubber band. Another contained truly random loose puzzle pieces. Others contained broken crayons, paperclips, seashells, expired grocery coupons, a stack of postcards, and a truly impressive collection of pens from what looked like every motel and public building they had visited in the past three months. They all chuckled when Bosco held up a bag of marbles, and growled, "Proves Fool ain't lost 'em after all!"
Much to their consternation there were also a fair number of random chunks of broken brick and pieces of rock in the bottom. It was the last item that Face found zipped into one of the pockets that gave the conman pause. He stared at the large bundle of tickets in confusion for a moment and flipped through them quickly. "Oh, good grief!"
Hannibal looked up from his pile. "What?"
"Murdock's been playing the Lottery!"
Hannibal raised an eyebrow. "How long has he been doing that?"
Face showed him the bundle. "Looks like months. Probably ever since the last time we cleaned out the backpack. Most of them are scratchers, but there's a stack of Lotto tickets, too. I wonder if any of them are winners?"
"Is there any way to tell?
"Well, yeah. I can look up the numbers. You have six months to collect your prize on the big drawings, and if he won any of the big ones, depending on where he bought it at, some of the states let you collect it anonymously."
Hannibal's eyes widened at that. "Well, we've been traveling all over the place lately. Potentially, those tickets could be from about 10 or 12 different states. You don't think Murdock could actually have a major winning ticket, there do you?"
Face shrugged, "I don't know, Hannibal. It's possible. I need to sit down and look up the numbers."
"Okay, why don't you go ahead and check that out. B. A. and I will finish up sorting this stuff. I think we'll let him keep the planes, the origami, a few pens, the shells, the postcards and the marbles."
Face nodded absently, already engrossed in the information flashing on the screen of his laptop. "Yeah. That should keep him happy." His fingers began to fly over the keyboard, and Hannibal and Bosco knew better than to expect anything more from him for the next few hours.
Hannibal and Bosco placed the things they wanted to keep for Murdock in a small packing box. They figured they would all have a few things to add to the box by the time they were ready to make a trip to the storage unit. They finished up and then turned the t.v. on low, deciding they wanted to wait for Face to see if he would have any information about the tickets.
They didn't have long to wait before they heard a startled gasp from Face. "Holy Sh—!"
Hannibal stared at him. "What did you find?"
Face sat back, his eyes wide with shock. He held up one of the Lotto tickets. "Believe it or not, Murdock won MegaMillions a couple of months ago when we were in Ohio. *
Hannibal grinned. "Seriously? "So, how much did he win?"
"Well, as near as I can figure, it looks as if it comes to about $17 million after taxes."
Hannibal's cigar nearly dropped from his mouth. "Are you kidding me?"
Face smirked. "Would I ever kid about that kind of money?"
Bosco looked at the other two. "Do you think he has any idea he won?"
Face frowned. "I doubt it, because the money is obviously still unclaimed, and he has never said anything about it."
Suddenly it was Hannibal's turn to smirk. "Are you sure about that?"
"What do you mean, Boss?"
"Think about it. What has he been watching every time he gets his hands on the remote? Old re-runs of "WKRP in Cincinnati, right? And he's always wanting to know how the Red Sox and the Indians are doing? Spouting random trivia about Ohio at the drop of a hat? No, gentlemen. I think he was asking in his own way to go back there. I think he wanted to cash in the ticket, but maybe didn't want to tell us."
Bosco huffed, "Why wouldn't Fool wanna tell us?"
A soft, sad answer came from the bed behind them. "That's why. 'Cause I knew you wouldn't believe me. That you'd just figure I was makin' it up or hallucinatin' or somethin'."
The three men turned and stared at their teammate as he watched them blearily from his bed. The cloudiness caused by the sedative could not chase the hurt away from his expression. The silence stretched painfully between them for a long moment.
Finally, Hannibal stepped towards the bed, and knelt down beside the pilot. "I'm sorry Murdock. I'm sorry you felt that you couldn't tell us about something this important. Of course we'll go to Ohio."
Face grinned. "Sure buddy. You can claim the money anonymously, so using an alias to claim it is no problem. I can have the paperwork all ready before we get there. Have you thought about what you want to do with the money? It's an awful lot of responsibility, you know."
Murdock sat up in bed and his customary sunny grin was plastered across his face once again. "Sure I have!" He began ticking off points on his fingers, his words practically falling all over themselves. "First, I wanna have Faceman invest most of it for me. Then what's left... well, I wanna buy us our own plane so we don't hafta keep scammin' one, and I already talked to Mike about that... He found us a Beechcraft Baron and he's gonna make an offer on it as soon as I give him the word. Also, I got a few other things I wanna do, but I'll tell you about that later. Also, I figure maybe findin' us a-a house someplace might be nice... you know... someplace we could make into a home base. But I don't wanna be the owner. I want us all to own it... the team." The reality of his situation suddenly hit Murdock hard, and a sudden look of fear cut off the word tsunami. His eyes widened, and his expression crumpled.
Face recognized the impending meltdown and rushed to sit next to his best friend. He wrapped his arms around the pilot. "Hey, hey, it's okay. Relax. It's okay now. You're okay. We'll take it slow. Just breathe."
He slowed his own breathing and changed his position so that he was sitting behind Murdock, with Murdock's head propped against his chest. The conman carded his fingers absently through the thick mass of messy brown hair willing his friend's heart to stop its mad race. Murdock began to calm down slowly, and Face was relieved. It was going to be okay.
One Year Later
They say that winning the lottery can ruin somebody's life. Or possibly drive them insane. And maybe that was the key. Maybe you needed to be insane in the first place in order for it not to screw up your life. Because Murdock had made a very interesting discovery. For him, being rich really didn't make that much difference. It was actually kind of fun. He was not a greedy man, and he felt no obligation to show off his new-found wealth to anyone at all. In fact, he didn't even tell anyone other than his team about it, because, well, he really had no one else to tell. Except for his buddy Mike who helped him buy the Beechcraft, and Mike knew very well how to keep his mouth shut. He was a fellow Ranger, and that was all that needed to be said about that.
The house they found was a big old farmhouse style place on the outskirts of Los Angeles. It was set on ten acres, with the house pretty much in the middle. It was close enough to a suburban town to suit Face, but far enough out to feel safe.
Much to Face's delight, Murdock bought Hannibal his own sports car… a brand-new Jaguar, which in Los Angeles would not even raise an eyebrow. Face delightedly and nearly immediately tromped all over the leather upholstery, climbing in and out of the front seat through the window in utter and joyous revenge.
The only other indulgence had been when Murdock had decided they all needed to join a "Something of the Month Club." And join they did. He signed Hannibal up for a Cigar of the Month Club. Face ended up in a Wine of the Month Club… Bosco was enrolled in a Tool of the Month Club. And Murdock himself? Well, he joined the Dr. Seuss Book of the Month Club, because he said he had always wanted to collect the books as a kid, but his father had strictly forbidden any mention of the good doctor anywhere in his presence, and had in fact, once beaten him severely for reciting "Green Eggs and Ham" at the dinner table. The others stared at each other in shock, because it was the only time that any of them could ever remember Murdock mentioning his father in all the time they'd known him.
The house came with several outbuildings, including a garage, which Murdock promptly stocked with every tool and part he could think of, and opened charge accounts at the local auto parts, hardware, building supply, homewares, grocery and toy stores. He had added all three of his friends as signers to the accounts, under their assumed names, of course. The team spent their downtime renovating the house, and the transformation in the pilot was nothing less than astonishing. He still had his battles, but the demons seemed to stay dormant more often than not.
Bosco nearly strangled Murdock when he discovered the official name of the property, when Murdock spent a week wheedling and cajoling the big man into building a sign to put over the gate entrance. It was only when the wily pilot threatened to build the sign himself that Bosco finally relented and went to work.
The next afternoon, Hannibal and Face let the excited pilot drag them down the long dirt road that led to the end of the drive way where Bosco had just finished installing the large metal sign over the driveway. They could read the words backwards as they made their way down the driveway and began to chuckle. They were nearly rolling with laughter as Murdock beamed proudly and Bosco stood glowering at them as they stared at the large metal sign proudly proclaiming their small corner of the world to be "Happy Acres."
A/N: * I know nothing about how Ohio lottery procedures actually work, other than according to a fellow writer who happens to be an Ohio resident, MegaMillions is likely the ticket Murdock would have won on. I do know he could have claimed anonymously there. Please don't flame the author.